Special offers in honor of July 4th

Genealogy bargains this weekendSeveral subscription-based databases are offering free access to specific holdings in honor of the 4th of July holiday. It’s a great chance to stay cool and dig into some research this weekend!

On Ancestry.com, you can access their records from the original 13 colonies now through Sunday, even if you’re not a subscriber.

The New England Historic Genealogical Society’s American Ancestors website is offering its Great Migration database free of charge through July 8.

You can freely search the Revolutionary War records at Fold3, the military database now through July 15.

If you have ancestors involved in establishing the U.S. now is the time to research them! I’m hoping to spend some time with the Great Migration database this weekend and see if I can find my early New York ancestor.

I learned about these special offers from Thomas MacEntee’s Genealogy Bargains newsletter. If you don’t subscribe, you’re missing out! (It’s another free resource.)

Update on the Livescribe pen

In a comment on my blogiversary blog post, reader Maria Tello mentioned that she would like to hear an update from me on how I use my Livescribe pen for genealogy.

The Livescribe pen is a smart pen with a voice recorder in it that links the recording with the notes you are taking. So you can touch an area of your notes (taken in its special notebook) and hear what was being said when you took the note.

I bought my Livescribe Echo in 2013 and enthusiastically used it to take notes at conferences. In my blog post about it, I mentioned the ways I could see using it for genealogy.

True confession: The Livescribe pen is gathering dust in my desk drawer. It’s lost its luster for me. I realized that I never took the time to go back and listen to the recorded notes, which made the notes I did take less valuable (since I took fewer notes, assuming I’d listen to them).

I really do think it could be a very valuable for doing oral history interviews. I just haven’t used it that way.

It’s worth noting that since I bought my Livescribe Echo, the company has the Livescribe 3, which links with an iPhone/iPad app (as well as Android devices). It uses your device’s voice recorder, which makes the pen smaller. And the notes you take in your notebook are transmitted to the device. They can even be transcribed easily. I won’t be rushing out to buy it, since it turns out its utility for me wasn’t quite what I anticipated, but for those taking a lot of notes, I think it’s worth checking out.



My grandfather’s handwriting analysis

Getting my grandfather's handwriting analyzedAs I mentioned last month, I sent a handwriting sample (a 30+ page letter) to certified handwriting analyst Nancy Douglas of Write Meaning. I’d seen her booth at RootsTech and was fascinated by the service she offered.

The letter was from my paternal grandfather, Dave Adams, to his fiancee (my grandmother), Beatrix Rasco. It was a sort of confessional: Dave wanted to give Bea full disclosure about his personal family history prior to their marrying. It was sent just a month before their wedding date.

Well, Nancy didn’t disappointed. She provided me with a six-page (singled-spaced) report detailing the personality traits revealed by my grandfather’s handwriting. She took into account the content of the letter and applied it to what she saw in the handwriting.

I read information like, “Dave’s capital letters are often embellished with large loops. Your grandfather was a showman who liked to attract attention and recognition.” And “His personal pronoun ‘I’ shows his mother and father were both very influential in his upbringing.”

She included photos of individual letters and words to illustrate what she meant. It was such a fun report to read!

I was in my twenties when my grandfather passed away. We lived in different towns and while I spent time with him, I don’t feel I knew his personality well. And growing up I certainly never thought about what he was like as a young man.

I think this handwriting analysis is going to be a wonderful springboard for conversation with my 84-year-old father. I have a hard time pulling stories out of him about his family and childhood. I think by bringing up what Nancy gleaned from my grandfather’s handwriting and asking him about it, I’ll hear some great stories about my grandfather.  I’ll also discuss the analysis with my mother and get her perspective on my grandfather’s personality.

Reading Nancy’s report made me want to have my own handwriting analyzed. I think I’ll treat myself to that this summer!

I paid $100 for my grandfather’s handwriting analysis, which feels like a huge bargain for what I received. If you some letters hanging around and curiosity about their writer, I encourage you to give it a try!


Civil War pension records: a treasure trove

Civil War Pension Records are a treasure trove of informationAfter hearing an excellent talk at the NGS conference on what can be found in Civil War pension records stored at the National Archives, I placed an order for the records of three of my four Civil War veteran ancestors. (The fourth fought for the Confederacy, so his pension records would be with his state.) The fee was $80 per ancestor for the complete file and the application process was fairly straightforward. At the end, I was warned to expect it to take 45 to 120 days before I received any information.

Imagine my surprise (and delight) to receive a thick envelope from the National Archives in Washington D.C. today! It contained the pension records for my great great great grandfather, Richard Anderson Jeffries (1823-1914) who served in the Missouri infantry, Company D, 18th Regiment from 1861 to 1864.

I haven’t had a chance to go through the packet yet, but a glance shows me  that there are multiple applications for pensions as well as physicians’ affidavits.

I’m anxious to pore over it and unravel the story these documents tell. Luckily for me, Certified Genealogist Julie Miller, in her excellent talk, Anatomy of a Military Pension, gave step-by-step instructions on how to properly process the information found in these files. So I have my work cut out for me and I can’t wait!

If you have Civil War ancestors who fought for the Union and you have at least $80 to spend, I encourage you to hop over to the National Archives website (that link takes you directly to the application form starting point). If you have information on your ancestor’s military service (I found mine through Ancestry and Fold3), it’s easy to apply to receive a copy of the pension file. Those files have not been digitized, so the only way to look at them is to go to the National Archives or send away for them like I did.