Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Database of the Week: HeritageQuest Online

This week's database is HeritageQuest Online. HeritageQuest Online is a database that contains a collection of six core data sets that has its own features and rules about how searches can be formatted. Let's look at each data set and its different rules.

The first set is the U.S. Federal Censuses Collection. This set features the original images of every existing federal census in the United States, from 1790 through 1930. There are name indexes for many decades, and the collection covers more than 140 million names. This collection does not support the use of Boolean operators in searches, so users couldn't do a search using connectors such as "and", "not", and "or". Searches do not have to be case sensitive, though, meaning a search for 'George' is read the same way as a search for 'george'.

The second set is the Books Collection. This set includes more than 7 million digitized page images from over 28,000 family histories, local histories, and other books. The titles have been digitized from HeritageQuest's microform collections, as well as from the American Antiquarian Society. Users can search with Boolean operators in this collection. Users can also use wildcard characters in their searches. One wildcard character is the asterisk (*), which matches zero or more characters. For example, a search on 'Sam*' will give results that include 'Sam', 'Samantha'. 'Samuel', etc. Another wildcard character is the question mark (?), which will replace a single character. A search on 'Eli?abeth' will bring back results on 'Elisabeth' and 'Elizabeth'.

The third set is the Periodical Source Index (PERSI). PERSI is published by the Allen County (Indiana) Public Library. It is considered the most comprehensive index of genealogy and local history periodicals and contains more than 2 million records covering titles published around the world since 1800. PERSI supports the use of Boolean operators to find multiple terms. Users can also utilize double quotes around a phrase ("like this") to search for an exact phrase.

The fourth set is the Revolutionary War Records Collection. This set contains original images from pension and bounty land warrant application files, which help to identify more than 80,000 American Army, Navy, and Marine officers and enlisted men from the Revolutionary War era. This set does not support the use of Boolean operators, but it does allow users to use the asterisk wildcard character in searches. This set also does not require searches to be case sensitive.

The fifth set is the Freedman's Bank Records Collection. This set has more than 480,000 names of bank applicants, their dependents, and heirs from 1865-1874. This particular collection can help those who want to trace African American ancestors prior to and immediately after the Civil War. This set does not support the use of Boolean operators but does allow asterisks and question marks to be used as wildcard characters, as listed in the Books Collection paragraph. This set also uses a tool called Soundex searching. Soundex searching is a system of indexing names by the way they sound rather than how they are spelled. So, a Soundex search for 'Smith' would return results of 'Smith', 'Smyth', 'Smitty', and perhaps other closely related names. This is a good tool for searchers who are not sure how to spell a particular name.

The sixth set is the LexisNexis U.S. Serial Set. This set records the memorials, petitions, and private relief actions made to the U.S. Congress, back to 1789 through 1969. There are more than 480,000 pages of information available in this set. This set does support the use of Boolean operators and the asterisk and question mark wildcard characters.

HeritageQuest Online is a terrific database for anyone interested in conducting genealogical research. This database could also be used by anyone who needs historical primary resources. For more information about this database, please visit the HeritageQuest Online info page, which also contains the descriptions of the sets that were used in this blog posting. Next week's database is Learning Express Library, which features practice tests and skill-building courses.

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