Ancestor Searching Newsletter, Volume 3, # 7

Civil War Maps: For those who have researched their Civil War ancestors and located service records, there still may be some nagging questions about their military careers. For instance, you might like to know where they marched and the battles involving their unit. Luckily, there are now several sites on the Internet that contain large collections of Civil War maps. Some of these may indicate the location of forts or artillery pieces. Possibly, a POW camp or even parts of battlefields. Other maps such as state and regional, can be full of names and locations of old towns, bridges, river landings, etc. that may have some connections to the soldier travels. Also, many of these same websites will offer pre-war and post-war maps with potentially valuable clues or pieces of information about war regions.

Civil War maps available online include hand-drawn as well as printed maps. In many cases, more than one map can be found on major battles that took place during the war years. With enough detail included on the map, where an ancestor’s unit was located will most likely be marked.

One of the first places researchers look on the Internet for Civil War maps is the Library of Congress website. Currently, there are over 2,200 maps and charts along with 76 atlases and sketchbook. A great number of these files are in MrSID, DjVU or JPEG2000 format. These three particular formats compress the images without the loss of detail. To view these files online, doesn’t require special software, usually. However, should the files be downloaded to personal computers, a special viewer will be necessary. The Library of Congress’s Wavelet Compression Technology page has useful information on viewing the downloaded files. Lizardtech offers FREE,  two separate Plug-ins. One is DjVu Browser Plug-in and the other is the ExpressView Browser Plug-in. These viewers decompress ONLY the enlarged portion of an image being viewed. It’s best to open the software first, then the file to view.

The Gilmer Civil War Maps Collection at the University of North CarolinaChapel Hill website contains the war images of 161 Confederate Army maps. This collection can be searched by keyword, such as a town, county or river.

Maps in the National Archives are held by the Cartographic and Architectural Records Section. Upon arriving at the Archival Research Catalog, click on the yellow search button. Searching “maps and charts”, select digital files only and indicate a date range (optional). To purchase maps from the National Archives, go to the “Ordering Reproductions of Maps, Plans and Aerial Photographs” page. Copies are placed to private vendors and not the Archives itself. The National Archives maintains a collection of more than 8000 Civil War maps.

The US Military Academy Digital Library online collection contains 40 viewable Union and Confederate maps, mostly Virginia locations. Again, searching by keyword is available as well as the capability to enlarge sections of maps to view fine details. ‘Colonial and Federal Era Maps’ and ‘West Point Maps’ can also be found.

Lastly, the Official Military Atlas of the Civil War is available online from two locations. The University of Alabama Map Library and on the Civil War research page at Simmons Games.

Genealogy Workshop

Fact: The US Geological Survey’s Geographic Names Information System (GNIS) has over 2 million place names in the United States within the database.

Tip: ER Mapper offers a FREE ER Viewer that will open large JPEG2000 as well as other files.

Genealogy News

From the Allen County Public Library’s genealogy newsletter, ‘Genealogy Gems’ . . .

“International Black Genealogy Summit
Allen County Public Library, Fort Wayne, IN
October 29-31, 2009

This momentous event signifies the first time that all of the black historical and genealogical societies in the U.S., Canada and the Caribbean will come together to celebrate the joys and challenges of black genealogy.

The idea to host this event is the brainchild of two visionaries:  Marjorie Sholes, professional genealogist, FGS Delegate and former President of the California African American Genealogical Society; and Curt Witcher, former President of the National Genealogical Society and the Department Manager for the Historical Genealogy Department of the Allen County Public Library.

http://www.blackgenealogysummit.com/welcome.html

Frazine Taylor has a new book out entitled Researching African-American Genealogy in Alabama: A Resource Guide. Frazine is the Head of Reference for the Alabama Department of Archives and History (ADAH) and very experienced in researching African-Americans in pre-Civil War records.

From Dick Eastman’s Newsletter comes the following news: “TGN CEO promises to open Ancestry.com to developers"

Ian Lamont reported recently in The Standard that the CEO of The Generations Network, the company that owns genealogy site Ancestry.com, has pledged to open up the platform to outside developers.

In an interview, The Generations Network CEO Tim Sullivan said Ancestry.com was committed to opening up the platform, which has been developed over the last 10 years. "We will absolutely open up our platform," Sullivan said. "It's on our roadmap." However, Sullivan added that that it was unlikely to happen in the next six months, owing to other unspecified priorities for the company. He also did not describe what opening up Ancestry.com would entail, or how long it would take.

If the Application Programming Interface (API) is built and if enough developers become interested, this could become monumental news for genealogists. The only program that can interface directly with Ancestry.com right now is Family Tree Maker which is also owned by The Generations Network. However, once the API is in place, other programs and even other web sites theoretically could access the databases stored on Ancestry.com and use the information in many different ways. I can envision several new applications that could utilize Ancestry.com's data. However, there are many "ifs, ands, and buts" between now and a date when all this could happen. Don't hold your breath waiting for this.

You can read a bit more about the recent interview at http://www.thestandard.com/news/2008/09/30/tgn-ceo-promises-open-ancestry-com-developers