Saturday, June 18, 2005

Week-odd & end

An under-utilized research source is the online Access to Archival Databases system of the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA). The AADS makes available electronically about 400 databases consisting of millions of records. These represent only a portion of the National Archives' voluminous holdings of government documents. Topics covered range from AIDS to tax returns of private foundations to various military records.

Genealogists will find fascinating many of the databases, but the military records are especially useful. The largest of the military records databases is the World War II Army enlistment records. This database consists of nearly 9 million records, searchable online. Data in the records includes date and place of enlistment, educational level, civilian occupation, marital status, and race.

The one downside is that by NARA's own admission, about 35% of the enlistment records suffer from some scanning error. NARA says that less than 5% of errors are name errors. In fact, my experience is that while the number of name errors is low, those errors are significant; most mis-scanned names are rendered unintelligible. Other errors are "intuitively correctable" by users, says NARA. And some 13% of the original source documents could not be scanned at all. All that having been said, it's still an excellent resource.

The military records also include records of World War II POW's, Korean War casualties, and Vietnam War casualties, as well as Vietnam War decorations.

Our cousins at The LifeTimes Family Research Center in McLean, Virginia, have extracted data by surname from the World War II enlistment records and have begun posting data on their site, Our Lifetimes. The first one available today is the Brayboy surname, posted right here.

A Little More on Nathaniel Brown

Got an e-mail message asking for any detail on Nathaniel Brown. Here's all I know: Nathaniel Brown apparently was born in North Carolina around 1787. He may have married one Elizabeth Smith in Oglethorpe County, Georgia, in about 1815, although I'm not certain that this is the same person. Nathaniel Brown first appears in GA census records in 1830 in Talbot County. At that time, he's enumerated with two children (a boy & a girl) each between 10-15 years old, and a woman [presumably his wife], 40-50 years old. His age is given as 40-50 years old, which would be consistent with a birthdate in the 1780's.

Nathaniel Brown next appears in the 1850 census for Talbot County, where he's listed as head of a household that includes 26 year old John Searcy, 19 year old Emilia Searcy, and William, 3, and Mary, 1. No occupation is given for Nathaniel Brown.

According to court records in Taylor County, Nathaniel Brown at one point owned more than 2,600 acres in Appling, Baker, Dooley, Marion, and Taylor Counties.


Chris said...

I agree that the ADD is an under-utilized resource, and NARA is partly to blame. Every time I visit I have to wend my way through a series of links to find the World War II enlistment records. I haven't found any way to permanently identify the page and bookmark it (your link above has already expired). NARA's system of series and file units may excite archivists, but I'm sure many casual researchers leave the site before they ever reach their destination. (Don't get me started on the state and county codes.)

Great blog.

Craig Manson said...

Chris, you're absolutely right! NARA needs to improve the functionality and utility of all their on-line databases. Thanks!