Monday, November 12, 2007

Saturday at the FHC

Before the SDGS meeting on Saturday, I spent an hour and a half at the San Diego Family History Center in Mission Valley. My goal was to explore WorldVitalRecords and Footnote databases on the FHC computers a bit more and actually start to collect information about my ancestors and Seaver people.

Attentive readers will recall that I explained how to access the Premium Databases at the FHC in my recent post "Hey San Diegans - Go to the FHC!" These databases are free to access at the Family History Centers and include WorldVitalRecords, Footnote, Godfrey Library, etc.

I also noticed on the computer screen an icon for "New FamilySearch." I clicked on this and got a sign-in box for LDS members. It looks like New FS is rolled out to this FHC but it is still reserved for LDS church members.

I input the surname "Seaver" in the WorldVitalRecords search box and got a long list of WVR databases that contained the term. I looked at the Everton's Pedigree Chart collection and the Leland Meitzler Ahnentafel collection first. They had a few, but none of them had a Seaver in a #1 position.

I wanted to check the Revolutionary War Pension Files for soldiers named Seaver. I read and downloaded the full set for Ichabod Seaver and Robert Seaver (neither of which are my ancestor). Each was about 20 pages long. In the Footnote viewer, you see a film strip of about 15 pages below the image of the page you are looking at. You can choose any image from the film strip. It takes a while for the image to appear - often up to a minute (at least on this FHC computer). I copied the page images as JPG files to my flash drive directly - they were in the 200 kb to 600 kb size range. The connection to Footnote got hung up at least three times in an hour - I had to start over from the Windows screen each time. I don't know if that is a Footnote problem or an FHC computer problem - I suspect the latter.

One of the real benefits of the Footnote store of Revolutionary War Pension Files is the indexing of them. While you can't search for a "firstname lastname" combination, you can search for any number of names or key words. I put "Norman Seaver" in the search box (with and without the quotes - it didn't change the results). Norman is my 5th great-grandfather and was an officer in the RevWar. He doesn't have a pension file. But he was mentioned in several depositions by other soldiers in the same unit. Those pension files also describe the actions taken by the unit and may be the only information available about the unit's actions in more detail than the soldier's service record.

Consequently, researchers should collect not only the full pension file for their ancestor, they should also search for their soldiers who did not have a pension file. They may have been mentioned by another soldier or they may have written an affidavit themselves.

It appears that these records are all transcriptions by a clerk when the pensions were applied for. I didn't see any original documents here - letters, Bible pages, etc. There may be some, especially Bible pages, in some files. The images of the pages are remarkably "clean." It appears that the Archives or Footnote have used some sort of photo enhancement program to remove blotches, tears, dirt, etc. from the papers in the files. They are all gray-scale pages - dark gray writing on a light-gray background. There is some light writing - but these areas probably could be enhanced by a photo enhancement program.

I can see that I have lots more of this type of information to collect from Footnote and other Premium Databases at the FHC. CVGS will start running research trips again to get more of our members back in the FHC to search these new resources.

1 comment:

Joe said...

See my tip for searching names at Footnote in my recent blog post here: Confederate Civil War Service Records for Alabama, Texas and Virginia Now Online You could try putting AND between the first and last names.

Also, someone left a comment about searching Footnote there.