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  • It's Cinco de Mayo (Fifth of May)!

    Monday, May 05, 2014

    by Delia

    Do you have plans for celebrating Cinco do Mayo? Like St. Patrick’s Day, one doesn’t have to actually have the appropriate heritage to participate in Cinco de Mayo festivities! But what are you actually commemorating?

    By 1861, following the Mexican-American War of 1846-1848, the Mexican Civil War of 1858 and the Reform Wars of 1860, the Mexican territory was in dire financial straits, and placed a hold on paying off foreign debts. Britain, Spain and France all sent naval forces to compel payments. The British and Spanish negotiated with Mexico and returned home, but the French, seeing an opportunity to gain influence in the Western Hemisphere, landed a large French contingent at Vera Cruz, forcing President Benito Juarez and his government to retreat. The French fought their way to Puebla, near the Mexican forts of Guadalupe and Loreto. There, on May 5 (Cinco de Mayo), 1862, the Mexican army of about 4500 faced and defeated the 8000-strong French. But one battle did not win the war, and the Mexicans continued to resist the French invaders until 1867, when high ranking French leaders of the invasion were executed and Juarez reestablished his government.

    Cinco de Mayo is not “Mexican Independence Day,” nor is it even a national holiday in Mexico. Mexico’s actual Independence Day, September 16th, celebrates the beginning of Mexico’s War of Independence in 1810, and is the national holiday in Mexico.

    Cinco de Mayo has been celebrated by the Latino community in California since the mid-1800s, and spread to other Hispanic communities in the western United States. It began to become more popular in the rest of the U.S. in the mid-twentieth century, but really gained popularity when various companies promoted it as a holiday. Now, while it’s still marketed as a time for anyone to party, it’s also used as a vehicle to highlight Mexican history and culture. So, go ahead and enjoy the fiesta!

    Posted by: ACPL Genealogy Center

  • It's May First!

    Thursday, May 01, 2014

    by Delia

    The month of May. For many it signals the end of the school year and the start of summer, genealogy travel and other, less important vacations. But the first day of May has a long tradition of festivals and feasts, starting in the pre-Christian era with the Germanic festival Walpurgis and the Celtic Beltane. Both celebrate spring and planting with bonfires to banish the long winter nights and dancing around a Maypole (Maibaum in Germany), and the crowning of a May Queen in Britain. As these lands became Christianized, the Church tried to associate May 1 with the Virgin Mary, but for many it remained a secular holiday to celebrate the fertility of the land, the flocks and the people. And in early England, May 1 was the first day of summer, with June 21, the Solstice, celebrated as Midsummer, when planting was finished.

    Although traditions were similar, many regions added specific regional touches, such as Bulgaria’s Irminden, which is associated with protection from lizards and snakes, and Arminden in Romania, celebrated to insure the protection of crops, farm animals and people.

    Settlers in the United States and Canada handed down their own traditions to their descendants, although in Canada it may be celebrated later in the month, as the weather warms. May baskets, filled with flowers and candy and left for the recipient to find, became popular in some areas of the United States.

    May 1 was also chosen as International Workers’ Day to commemorate the Haymarket Massacre of 1886 in Chicago, and is celebrated as Labor Day in many countries. It is also associated with the Russian Revolution of 1917.

    So think about your ancestors today. They may have crowned a Queen of May, either Catholic or agricultural. Maybe they danced around the Maypole to celebrate fertility or just have a good time. They could have demonstrated for an 8-hour work day or rejoiced the coming of spring. Or a bonfire might have been lit, to drive away winter or just barbecue some ribs. Take a few moments to celebrate May Day.

    Posted by: ACPL Genealogy Center

  • Book of Ages: A Review

    Tuesday, Apr 29, 2014

    by John

    Sometimes a book that at first glance would not seem a perfect fit for The Genealogy Center has value to historians and genealogists alike and is, on closer examination, a welcome addition to our collection. Jill Lepore’s new biography of Jane (Franklin) Mecom (1712-1794), Benjamin Franklin’s younger sister, is a case in point. Titled Book of Ages: The Life and Opinions of Jane Franklin (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2014), GC 973.3 L55bo, the book is the first such biography of Jane, whose ordinary life in eighteenth-century Boston was greatly overshadowed by that of her more famous brother. Some of the tools that Lepore uses to reconstruct Jane’s life could be employed by anyone undertaking micro-historical research during this time period, including genealogists.

    I’ve become an unabashed fan of Jill Lepore, a professor of American History at Harvard and the author of a number of books, including, among others, New York Burning, a history of the New York Slave Rebellion of 1741, and The Name of War, a history of King Philip’s War, both of which are also in The Genealogy Center’s collection. Other titles in the library’s main collection reveal the author’s keen intellect and often acerbic wit as she relates modern and often-distorted perceptions the past with the complex nuances of the historical record.

    Lepore begins her biography of Jane Franklin with a study of Jane’s so-called Book of Ages, a bound manuscript in which she recorded the births and deaths of members of her family, much the way other families would record such events in a family Bible. Lepore assembles a chronological narrative using this book and Jane’s extant correspondence with her brother to fill in the details. Jane was an avid reader, a person with strong opinions about current events, but also a person who, in contrast to her brother, often lived in humble circumstances. Hence this work gives us a glimpse of an average person in the eighteenth century, perhaps in some ways not unlike our own ancestors. Jane followed a trade by making soap, using a family recipe. She advertised in the local newspapers and attended church. She endured the mental instability and economic failure of her husband and sons. She mourned the passing of nearly all of her children and many of her grandchildren during a life that spanned almost the whole of the eighteenth century.

    Even with the surviving correspondence, there are many gaps in Jane’s life that Lepore fleshes out using other records, including local newspapers, published sermons of ministers associated with Jane’s church, and other writings from contemporaries. Lepore also uses the tenacity of a genealogist in attempting to locate missing letters in the private collections of her descendants and determining what other papers may have gone to family acquaintances after her death. Indeed, this search for direct evidence – and how some of Jane’s letters were bowdlerized by later Franklin scholars thereby altering her original expressions – is as intriguing as the story of her life. Lepore not only includes a brief genealogy of Jane’s family in her appendix, she also writes of the interest that both Benjamin and Jane shared in genealogical research. Franklin at one time visited their ancestral home in Ecton, Northamptonshire, where he copied the epitaphs of his ancestors. Later, in old age, he asked Jane to share what she knew about their extended kindred in New England, which Jane appeared to relish in compiling. Interest in one’s ancestors and kindred, it seems, did not germinate in the nineteenth century. For these and other reasons, including Lepore’s writing style and the process of her meticulous research, genealogists and historians alike will find Book of Ages a fascinating read.

    Posted by: ACPL Genealogy Center

  • Preservation Week: Pass It On!

    Saturday, Apr 26, 2014

    Sunday starts the American Library Association's Preservation Week. This year, The Genealogy Center's focus is not only on preservation of artifacts, but also your family's stories and events. 

    The week starts on Sunday, April 27, with Heirloom Succession Planning, presented by Amy Beatty, C.E.S., G.P.P.A. She will show you how to create an accurate cataloging and historical system of your family’s personal property as an addendum or supplement to a will, helping to recognize items in terms of sentimental rather than financial value, while preserving family history. The session starts at 1 PM in Meeting Room A.
    On Monday, April 28, Curt Witcher will present ‘To Infinity and Beyond:’ Ensuring Our Family Histories Live Well Beyond Our Years. He will focus on how to organize and prepare one’s paper archive for deposit in a library or archive as well as how to ensure that digitized materials in cloud storage spaces are successfully handed-off to interested parties or institutions. The fun starts at 2 PM in Meeting Room A.
    John Beatty follows that on Tuesday, April 29 with Archives 101: Organizing and Preserving the Heirloom Paper in Your Life, to offer guidance on how to preserve and arrange those precious documents so that they can be kept safe for today and passed down to the future. Be there, 2 PM, Meeting Room A.
    You've worked with paper, now what about the digital material that you have? On Wednesday, April 30, Sara Allen will offer Archives 102: Organizing the Bytes in Your Life. This class will offer advice on how to get all of that precious data on your hard drive, USB and phone safe and in order for when you need it. Buzz on in at 2 PM in Meeting Room A.
    We're really excited about An Evening of Storytelling on Thursday, May 1.
    Telling the stories in our lives is not only a great way to engage people in learning their about their families and ancestors, it is a terrific way to “pass it on.” Several members of the area community will show us how easy it is, and , we hope, inspire you to participate  at a later date. The show starts at 6:30 PM in Meeting Rooms A&B.
    On Friday, May 2, Mari Hardacre will be Using iMovie to Capture Family Memories. Sh will show you how to use the iMovie app for Apple mobile devices to take photos and videos and edit them into short movies to share with family and friends. Please bring your iPhone, iPod touch, or iPad running the latest operating system (iOS 7) and download the iMovie app (cost $4.99) before the workshop, if possible. (Please call 260-421-1225 in advance to let her know your model and operating system.) She'll get you plugged in at 2 PM in Meeting Room A. 
    Then on Saturday, May3, Cynthia Theusch will present Up in Lights: Your Family History on Screen. Why not create a special video that can be saved to a DVD and distributed to family members? Even non-genealogists and children will enjoy watching your family story and learning about their family’s past. The action will start at 10 AM in the Globe Room.

    So make some time this week to preserve your heritage, and Pass It On!

    Posted by: ACPL Genealogy Center

  • Something New in Our Catalog!

    Wednesday, Apr 23, 2014

    by Delia

    When you check The Genealogy Center's Catalog, you usually find a list of books with call numbers or a list of microform indicating the number of rolls or sheets in that document. Occasionally, there will be a hot link to a digitized version of our print volume at Family History Books or Internet Archive. But now, there's something new!

    We are lucky that researchers donate material to us. Over the years, people have donated large family tree wall charts. We accepted these items, because we could see the historical value, but folding them to bind into book form would damage the chart, and the cost of binding them in their original sizes was prohibitive, so how to handle them was always a quandary. But now, thanks to our digitizing partners, like Internet Archive, when you search the catalog now, in place of the call number, you may see the word "Website." Click on the hot link and you will be taken to a digitized image. Printing from the image would result in an extremely small view, but you can save the item to a USB and take that to a place that can print posters to obtain a full sized copy. Click example to see one of these catalog records, and its link, and be on the lookout for more online documents!

    Posted by: ACPL Genealogy Center

  • Family Faith Is Important in Research

    Sunday, Apr 20, 2014

    by Delia

    Over the next few weeks and months, three major religions celebrate very important holidays: Easter on April 20th, Passover on April 22nd and Ramadan starts June 28th. Whether you are a member of these faiths, a different faith, or none at all, chances are that some of your ancestors have some religious affiliation, practiced those religious customs, and were active in religious related activities.

    Some families have strong ties to their faith, passing it down through the generations. Other families seem to join, and abandon religious ties with each move or new generation. This loss of knowledge can be detrimental to family history researchers. Religious records of the past can supply needed information when a courthouse has burned. But knowing the religious beliefs and activities of our ancestors can add a tremendous depth of knowledge to understanding our progenitors.

    So take some time to ask living relatives to recount faith-based activities from their youth. Ask what they remember of their own parents’ and grandparents’ beliefs and practices. And record your own faith activities for future generations.

    Posted by: ACPL Genealogy Center

  • Birth Record Substitute

    Thursday, Apr 17, 2014

    by Delia

    We all want to find birth records for our ancestors – nice, neat little forms that will precisely state the child’s name and birth date and place, along with the parents’ names. If we’re lucky, parents’ ages, occupations and birth places, the child’s weight and length, and the number of children the mother had already had might also be included. Alas, many states did not keep birth records until around the turn of the twentieth century, and even then, children born at home might not be registered with the county.

    There are many substitutes for birth records, but one that is a contemporary source created by the person who delivered the child, is the midwife’s record. Midwives records varied by the midwife herself, and most often contained the medical or financial notes of her practice, naming the mother, the father who would be financially responsible for fees, and medical notes on the birth. Some midwives also served in the role of doctor or nurse, so other injuries, illnesses and deaths may also be noted.

    Few of these records still exist, since when midwives ceased practice, their families often disposed of the records. But some did survive and may be available through various sources. The Genealogy Center has several of these records, in books and on microfilm. These are listed in the book catalog under the midwife’s name as well as the location in which she lived and practiced, or in the microtext catalog, under the location. Some records may also be found in the Periodical Source Index (PERSI), also under the midwife’s name, as well as the location, with the keyword “midwife.”

    It is also possible to locate midwives’ records through WorldCat’s advanced search, with a subject of “midwives,” and another subject of the location. You may wish to limit the format to “books” and “archived material” to be sure to locate material that may only be available in one particular location.

    Although searching WorldCat will aid you in locating manuscript material, you will also want to contact local and state historical societies and libraries to see if they hold any of these valuable sources.

    Posted by: ACPL Genealogy Center

  • Closed on Sunday, April 20th

    Sunday, Apr 13, 2014

    The Genealogy Center, like the rest of the Allen County Public Library system, will be closed on Sunday, April 20, 2014, in observance of Easter. We will be open our regular hours on Friday and Saturday, April 18th and 19th, and will reopen on Monday, April 21st at 9A.

    Posted by: ACPL Genealogy Center

  • Discovering Your Female Ancestor: April 9!

    Tuesday, Apr 08, 2014

    Researching female ancestors can be difficult. Women usually lost their birth surnames when they married, and were often only referred as "Mrs. Husband's Name." Women couldn't vote until the 1920s, and usually were not naturalized. But there are many "hidden" sources that can assist you in understanding the laws and situations that affected whether or not she might be named in various documents and other clues that will be shared with you when Melissa Shimkus presents "Discovering Your Female Ancestors" at the Allen County Genealogical Society of Indiana Meeting on Wednesday, April 9th, at 6:30 pm in Meeting Room A. The Society welcomes guests, so join them and Melissa for this informative and entertaining session!

    Posted by: ACPL Genealogy Center

  • Unexpected Benefits to Researching Family Occupations

    Thursday, Apr 03, 2014

    by Sara

    In your search for your family history, have you gone beyond just recording names, dates and places?  It is interesting and worthwhile to try to flesh out other details of our ancestors’ lives, including such information as church membership, hobbies, club memberships, military service, residences, and occupations of our family members.  Sometimes these details will provide clues that lead you to further records about your ancestor. All of this description about their lives helps to humanize the persons we are researching and will provide great reading for future generations perusing the family history we have left behind.  

    Beyond genealogical reasons, knowing our ancestor’s work history and occupation can have far-reaching health and legal ramifications.  Several months ago, I helped a gentleman in The Genealogy Center to document his deceased father’s work history.  We reviewed Fort Wayne City and Allen County Directories for the 1940s (we have a complete run of these directories for all years published) and made copies of his father’s entries, which listed his employer. In the course of our conversation, I learned that the patron had seen a notice in the Journal Gazette that former employees of the Joslyn Manufacturing and Supply Company (now defunct) were being sought by the United States Department of Labor in regard to benefits that may be due to them or their heirs because of hazardous work conditions. This company was located on Taylor Street in Fort Wayne, and in the 1940s manufactured rods made of uranium to be used in the atomic bomb. Many former employees, including this patron’s father, developed health problems after working with the uranium. In order to claim benefits, he explained to me that he was accumulating paperwork for the government: including proof of employment (from the directories); Social Security Administration Earnings Information; death certificate; medical records; and related records.  

    The patron recently returned to the library and gave me an update. He sent in the required paperwork and his mother, as surviving widow, was awarded compensation.  He is now helping several of his dad’s buddies also gain benefits. The government is actively looking for other affected workers and their families.  If you or your family may have been affected, while working at the Joslyn Manufacturing Company from 1943 to 1952, look into this program. For additional information, contact the Labor Department's Paducah Resource Center at 866-534-0599. The same program also has compensation available for workers in other energy-related fields.  See the Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Program Act website for list of companies.  

    If this patron hadn’t known where his dad had worked, he might have missed out on legitimate money owed to his family.  What might you learn about your ancestors’ occupations?

    Posted by: ACPL Genealogy Center

  • More Entries for the Evangelical Messenger Obituary Index

    Monday, Mar 31, 2014

    "The Evangelical Messenger" was a weekly newspaper published in the 19th and 20th centuries devoted to church news of The Evangelical Church in the United States. For many years, one of our great volunteers has devoted herself to indexing the obituaries appearing in The Messenger. These obituaries are rich in family information on the descendants, which may include maiden names, children, parents and residences, as well as much more, and are valuable to anyone searching members of this denomination. She has now sent yet another year (1937), which is now searchable! We thank her for this wonderful contribution!

    As an aside, she has single-handedly entered 173,356 citations into this database over the last few years. This is a great example of what one person can accomplish and contribute to family history.

    Posted by: ACPL Genealogy Center

  • Professional History and Professional Genealogy

    Friday, Mar 28, 2014

    by John

    Historians who teach in academia and professional genealogists have had, at best, a peripheral and tenuous relationship. For much of the last half century, academics have viewed genealogists as amateurs whose work is provincial, at best. They viewed with derision the activities of earlier generations of genealogists whose interest in historical research was almost solely geared toward gaining admittance into hereditary societies. They also faulted genealogists for being so focused on specific families that they failed to place them into historical contexts and thereby give their work deeper meaning and relevance. This disdain continued into the 1970s, when many academics began to focus their own work on specific communities, using them as microcosms for understanding larger historical trends or the social and cultural dynamics of families. Works such as Kenneth Lockridge’s A New England Town: The First Hundred Years, Dedham, Massachusetts and John Demos’s A Little Commonwealth: Family Life in Plymouth Colony broke new ground for their use of local records (the same used by genealogists), but these and other studies did little to bridge the gulf between the two disciplines.

    For its part, the field of genealogy underwent a major metamorphosis during the same period, becoming more professionalized and increasing the scope of what genealogists researched. All families, regardless of race, ethnicity, and social status, became subjects of scholarly interest, leaving the old stereotypes of WASP-ish exclusivism in the dust. While plenty of newcomers continued to produce work that lacked documentation, a new wave of genealogical scholars, both professional and amateur, began to apply new standards of documentation to their work. The Board for Certification of Genealogists established a means for granting professional credentials, and through its promotion of the Genealogical Proof Standard, it provided new benchmarks for evaluating genealogical evidence.

    This evolution became evident in a variety of publications. Journals such as The American Genealogist, the National Genealogical Society Quarterly, the New York Genealogical and Biographical Record, The Genealogist, and the New England Historical and Genealogical Register began to publish articles that embodied high standards of documentation and deductive reasoning. Robert Charles Anderson and a team of other researchers produced the highly-acclaimed Great Migration series that raised the bar for all newly-published genealogical books. His accompanying Great Migration Newsletter offered advanced discussions of how to evaluate evidence at the New England town level, and in doing so he offered new insight about the process of English immigration that extended well beyond what had appeared in academic works.
        The publication of Anderson’s first installment, The Great Migration Begins: Immigrants to New England, 1620-1633, proved to be a seminal event in getting academics to take notice of a professional genealogist’s work. The noted Puritan historian Roger Thompson of the University of East Anglia, hailed it as “invaluable to future researchers in many specialisms” and a “marvel of the age” for the new century; see Roger Thompson, review of The Great Migration Begins: Immigrants to New England, 1620-1633, by Robert Charles Anderson et al, Journal of American Studies 30 (August 1996): 298-300, specifically 300. Gloria L. Main of the University of Colorado at Boulder echoed the praise, recognizing Anderson’s high evidentiary standards for his work. “Although anyone can practice genealogy, just as anyone can practice history, professional genealogists hew to stricter rules of evidence and more rigorous citation practices than even professional historians… As a consequence of the rigor and discipline that have come to mark professional genealogists’ efforts, their work furnishes excellent material for social historians, although they may not condone the ways historians use it;” see Gloria L. Main, review of The Great Migration Begins: Immigrants to New England, 1620-1633, by Robert Charles Anderson et al, William and Mary Quarterly LIV (October 1997): 857-861, specifically 856.

    While this recognition marks significant progress, a gulf endures between genealogists and academic historians. Some genealogists, while appreciating the macro-research of academics, have faulted some assessments of micro-evidence, alleging that some community studies have fallen into the trap of “same name, same person.” By failing to follow the Genealogical Proof Standard or accepting as evidence secondary works now considered of dubious value, these university-press studies have failed to meet professional genealogical standards. Many professional historians, while accepting the value of such works as the Great Migration, also admit that they do not read genealogical journals.

    Other attempts at bridging the continuing divide have had only limited success. Conferences featuring both academic historians and professional genealogists as speakers have led to some conversations but have not paved the way for many interdisciplinary projects. If the gulf has begun to narrow, it remains a slow process. In a recent blog post, genealogist Elizabeth Shown Mills, who has also written academic works, discusses the progress of the dialogue in an insightful article: Elizabeth Shown Mills, “QuickLesson 18: Genealogy? In the Academic World? Seriously?” Evidence Explained: Historical Analysis, Citation & Source Usage ( posted 9 January 2014).
    What may bring the groups even closer together is the prospect of joint advocacy for record preservation and digitization. The rise of such websites such as Ancestry, Fold3, and FamilySearch, and the plethora of digitized records contained in them, while geared for genealogists, has also proven of value to academic historians. Many smaller websites with localized focuses have followed suit.
    As proof of this trend, one might consider an article by Loren Schweninger, a professor emeritus in History at the University of North Carolina, Greensboro, appearing recently in the William and Mary Quarterly, volume 71, no. 1 (January 2014): 35-62. Titled “Freedom Suits, African American Women and the Genealogy of Slavery,” the article explores how mixed-race descendants of free white women used the courts to win their freedom in antebellum Maryland. Significantly, Schweninger uses a number of sources found on websites traditionally associated with genealogists to develop his thesis, and the result is a well-researched study that could have found a home just as easily in the National Genealogical Society Quarterly.
    Historians and genealogists can join forces by demanding that historical records be made more publicly accessible without restrictions and supporting efforts to make more documents available digitally. Indeed, records once stored behind archival walls and under the exclusive purview of academics are increasingly finding wider audiences through digitization, which can only help the research interests of both groups.

    Libraries like The Genealogy Center at the ACPL can also play a role in bridging the divide by collecting the publications of both academic historians and genealogists and providing access to historical and genealogical websites. Both are fundamental components of our collection-development policy, and we encourage both historians and genealogists to use our resources.
    The two groups have far to go to achieve full cooperation and mutual respect. But the gulf is not insurmountable. More articles like Schweninger’s will bode well for the future.

    Posted by: ACPL Genealogy Center

  • Who's the Oldest Person You've Known?

    Sunday, Mar 23, 2014

    by Sara

    Have you seen the television commercial for insurance that asks, “Who’s the oldest person you’ve ever known”? My answer to that question is my great-aunt Thelma who just celebrated her 101st birthday! She attributes her longevity to clean living and laughter. Thelma is a selfless, giving person, who spent over 20 years caring for her bedridden husband in their home, rather than sending him to a nursing home. My childhood memories of her are of a jolly, happy, joking woman who, looking back on it, had a cross to bear, but I don’t remember ever hearing her complain or indulge in self-pity. She still plays the piano, by ear, never having had lessons, and played and sang “Tie Me To Your Apron Strings Again” and “Show Me the Way to Go Home” the last time I saw her. She inspires me!

    I’ve known many others who were also long-lived, including my grandma Fannie, who lived to the ripe old age of 97. She was probably disappointed when she died, because she told us that she wanted to live forever, or at least until she was 115. Grandma loved to spoil her grandchildren, so she bought us lots of presents “just because,” fixed our favorite foods whenever we visited, and implored our parents not to punish us when we were naughty. Fannie’s best friend from childhood, Lottie, also lived well into her nineties. Grandma’s older sister, great-aunt Mary died at age 95. She told everyone at the end that she was grandma’s “younger” sister. That sure steamed grandma. Mary did have a bit of senility late in life, but we’re pretty sure, since the sisters never really got along, that she was fully aware that she was older than Fannie. Mary was so vain about her age, that on her tombstone, she arranged for there to be no birth date, just her name and the word, “Passed.”

    What did these four grand-dames have in common? For one thing, they all lived in and around Bedford, Indiana most of their lives. For another, they were all born in the earliest years of the twentieth century, in a very different era and time. Why did they live so long? Was it the water? (Grandma believed her well water from deep out in the hills had special healing properties). Was it genes? (Only 2 of the 4 were related by blood). Was it good luck? We may never know. No matter the reason, we are thankful that we had them around for so long!

    Who is the oldest person you’ve known? Or the oldest person you’ve uncovered in your family history research?

    Posted by: ACPL Genealogy Center

  • Filial Piety: False Tradition Exposed!

    Monday, Mar 17, 2014

    by John

    The term for today is “filial piety,” also known as filiopiety. The dictionary defines it as “relating to an excessive veneration of ancestors or tradition.” As genealogists who spend a lot of time researching our forebears, it is very easy for us to fall into the trap of filial piety – in our thinking, in our writing, and in the way we evaluate evidence. Venerating one’s ancestors has many gratifying aspects. It is, after all, biblically sanctioned, since the Old Testament is full of references to Abraham and the patriarchs. Moreover, our nineteenth and twentieth century forebears were fond of boasting when they compiled genealogies and obituaries or drafted sketches for inclusion in county histories.

    Beware! One of our tasks as genealogists is to evaluate the evidence we find from many different sources and viewpoints. We can sometimes spot filiopietistic writing in a genealogy or county history when an ancestor’s deeds appear too “golden,” his or her character is “beyond reproach,” or his or her accomplishments are touted too reverently. If we are reading a county history about an ancestor who was deceased at the time, the information was derivative and likely provided by a child, grandchild, or descendant, in order to give the family an air of status. Even people submitting autobiographical information tended to put the “facts” in the best possible light. When we encounter such stories, we, as genealogists, can avoid getting burned by keeping on our guard. By comparing the information from published sources with other sources – preferably direct sources of information in original records – we can often expose the hyperbole for what it is.

    I can find filiopietistic writing in accounts of my own family. In the 1893 Biographical and Historical Memoir of Elkhart and St. Joseph Counties, Indiana, one of my third-great uncles provided information about his father, my third-great grandfather, Dempster Beatty.  Dempster, he said, had settled near Niles, Michigan, and entered “300 acres of land.” He was “a man of excellent education and great strength and integrity of character.” After settling in Indiana, he “was an early justice of the peace and was one of the judges of the county of Kosciusko.” He “lived to the age of 75 years.”

    Do these stories square with reality? A search of the deed records of Cass County, Michigan, for example, shows that Dempster only owned 120 acres, far less than the 300 boasted of in the history. False tradition, exposed! He did become a justice of the peace for a short time, but was never elected judge. Another falsehood exposed. His tombstone shows his death in 1852 at the age of 71, not 75. The account is filiopietistic, since the writer wanted the family to appear more elite than the historical record suggests. It was only natural for him to boast – everyone else was doing it.

    When we go to write our own family histories, we need to be careful in several ways. First, we should not accept uncritically the information provided in a county history or obituary. We need to constantly evaluate each piece of evidence we uncover and compare it against other sources of information. And when we go to write, we have to be carefully that filial piety doesn’t creep into our own writing. Our ancestors were people, just like us, with many of the same foibles and faults. The best genealogists don’t try to hide behind such writing, but present all of the evidence, evaluating each source and judging its origin and quality.

    The best genealogies are those that are fully documented and in which the evidence is carefully evaluated using the genealogical proof standard.  When we find an article that is filiopietistic, the fact that it was written in such a manner is historically important. By all means cite and quote the source. But then deconstruct it, if possible, into smaller components and compare each boastful statement with other sources, especially those recorded at the time your ancestor lived. If we do this, we can keep filial piety in check. Our historical and genealogical writing will be all the better for doing so.

    Posted by: ACPL Genealogy Center

  • Potawatomie Travel Journal of 1838 Now Available Online!

    Monday, Mar 17, 2014

    by Delia

     A new original document has been added to The Genealogy Center's Native American Gateway that details the journey of removal of a group of Potawatomie from Indiana to Kansas in 1838. Entitled “Journal of an Emigrating Party of Pottawattamie Indians from the Twin Lakes in Marshall County, Iowa (sic) to Their Homes on the Osage River in the West Territory,” this handwritten document details a journey known as The Potawatomie Trail of Death.

    By the 1830s, the federal government already was moving many Native American groups from all over the eastern United States to lands in the west. In the early 1830s, most of the Potawatomie had signed treaties and had already moved, but Chief Menominee’s band at Twin Lakes, near Plymouth, Indiana, refused to leave. Indiana Governor David Wallace instructed General John Tipton to utilize the Indiana Militia to gather the Band for the journey.

    The Potawatomie, conducted by William Polk, left their home September 4, 1838, and arrived at Osawatomie in eastern Kansas on November 8, 1838. The heat of late summer, the scarcity of water, and the poor quality of the provisions all contributed to make the reluctant emigrants miserable and susceptible to disease. Forty-two of the 859 Potawatomie died during the journey, and more died after arrival from disease facilitated by exhaustion. Deaths are recounted day by day, such as “A child died to-day” (September 10th), “A child died since we came into camp” (September 10th), and “A very old woman … died since coming into camp” (September 12th), but no one, other than chiefs, are identified by name.

    The typed cover of the bound photocopy that The Genealogy Center owns states that these Potawatomie were from Twin Lakes, in Marshall County, Iowa, but the handwritten, original cover properly says “…in Marshall County, IA.” The old abbreviation for Indiana, before Iowa was a state, was “Ia,” hence the error in transcription. Both covers further indicate that the journey was “conducted by Wm. Polk, Esq.,” and, written in a different hand, “Property of Judge William Polk, if called for. S.M.” It is assumed by some that Polk is the author of the diary, but that statement seems to be in dispute.

    It has been reported that the Allen County Public Library owns or owned the original journal. However, when queried by a customer recently, all the staff of The Genealogy Center could locate was the negative image photocopy that had been bound. When it was realized that we had such an important document, steps were immediately taken to digitize it and post it on our Native American Gateway page, both for preservation, but also to make the fascinating original document readily available to all.

    There are several online sources that can provide more information concerning this document, and the forced journey described, which I have used in the writing of this piece. They are The Pottawatomie Indians of Elkhart and South Bend, by Richard Dean Taylor (2005), the Indiana Magazine of History article on the event (December 1925, last updated 2012), and Wikipedia.

    Take a few moments to examine this original document to see the events of one who was there.

    Posted by: ACPL Genealogy Center

  • Preservation Week, April 27th to May 3rd: Pass It On!

    Thursday, Mar 13, 2014

    This year's American Library Association Preservation Week’s theme is “Pass It On,” which devotes an entire week to the care and preservation of documents, artifacts and information. To celebrate Preservation Week, The Genealogy Center is offering a week of events designed to capture, preserve and disseminate the information and heirlooms of your family. Classes are:

    *Sunday, April 27, 1-2 p.m., Meeting Room A.
    “Heirloom Succession Planning” – Amy Beatty, C.E.S., G.P.P.A.

    *Monday, April 28, 2-3 p.m., Meeting Room A.
    “‘To Infinity and Beyond:’ Ensuring Our Family Histories Live Well Beyond Our Years” – Curt Witcher

    *Tuesday, April 29, 2-3 p.m., Meeting Room A.
    “Archives 101: Organizing and Preserving the Heirloom Paper in Your Life” – John D. Beatty

    *Wednesday, April 30, 2-3 p.m., Meeting Room A.
    “Archives 102: Organizing the Bytes in Your Life” – Dawne Slater-Putt

    *Thursday, May 1, 6:30-8 p.m., Meeting Rooms A & B.
    “An Evening of Storytelling”

    *Friday, May 2, 2-3 p.m., Meeting Room A.
    “Using iMovie to Capture Family Memories” – Mari Hardacre

    *Saturday, May 3, 10-11 a.m., Globe Room
    “Up in Lights: Your Family History on Screen” – Cynthia Theusch

    To register for any of these free events, send an email or call 260-421-1225.

    Posted by: ACPL Genealogy Center

  • Indiana Genealogical Society Conference Here on April 5th!

    Tuesday, Mar 11, 2014

    Residents of Indiana and surrounding states have a unique opportunity in less than a month to hear nationally-known genealogical lecturer J. Mark Lowe, CG*, present here at the Allen County Public Library. Mark will give four lectures at the Indiana Genealogical Society Conference on Saturday, April 5.

    Mark is a Board-certified genealogist from Robertson County, Tennessee, who works full time as a researcher, author and lecturer. He did research and was featured on camera in the hit genealogy program “Who Do You Think You Are? and has also worked on the television programs “African American Lives 2” and “UnXplained Events.” He is an engaging and popular speaker and very knowledgeable on a wide variety of topics. His presentations for this conference will be:

    • Pioneers of the Frontier: Using Online Newspaper to Find Early Settlers
    • Quick, Complete and Accurate: Document Analysis for Researchers
    • Finding Freedmen Marriage Records
    • Out on a Limb: Trapped by Bad Research

    A second track of lectures for the day is technology-based and will feature:

    • Apps and Programs for Genealogy, by The Genealogy Center librarian and IGS Recording Secretary Dawne Slater-Putt, CG*
    • Cousin Bait: Using the Internet to Reel in Family Treasures, by IGS Vice President Tina Lyons
    • Preserving Your Family History in Print and Online, by Indiana Genealogist editor Rachel Popma
    • Scanning, Digitizing and Records Preservation: High Tech Results on a Low Tech Budget, by IGS Publications Committee Chair Diana Biddle

    The cost is for the day is $30 for IGS members and $40 for non-members. Interested individuals may register online at, or print the form and mail it to the society.

    *“CG” & “Certified Genealogist” are service marks of the Board for Certification of Genealogists®, and are used by authorized associates following periodic, peer-reviewed competency evaluations.

    Posted by: ACPL Genealogy Center

  • It's Time for March Madness, Genealogy Style

    Sunday, Mar 09, 2014

    Every year, The Genealogy Center celebrates spring with March Madness, Genealogy Style. This year, we are offering a full week of Skill Building sessions to aid researchers who are just starting, those who need to start in a new direction, and anyone who may feel the need of a refresher. Classes include:
    • Sunday, March 16, 1pm-2pm., Meeting Room A. “Starting, or Starting Again: Having Fun Finding Family” – Curt Witcher
    • Monday March 17, 2pm-3pm, Meeting Room A. “What's So Vital About Vital Records?” – Delia Bourne
    • Tuesday, March 18, 2pm-3pm, Meeting Room A. “Tallying the Census: Counting Down Its Uses” – Melissa Shimkus
    • Wednesday, March 19, 10am-11am, Meeting Room A. “Using Tax Records in Genealogical Research” – John Beatty
    • Thursday, March 20, 10am-11am, Meeting Room A.“Read All About It! Historical Newspapers for Your Research” – Delia Bourne
    • Friday, March 21, 10am-11am, Meeting Room A. “More than a Prayer: A Look at the Records of American Churches” – Curt Witcher
    • Saturday, March 22, 10am-11am, Meeting Room A. “Breaking Down Ancestral Brick Walls” – Sara Allen
    For session descriptions, see the brochure. To register for any of these free classes, call 260-421-1225 or send us an email. Join us to build your knowledge, your skill and your success!

    Posted by: ACPL Genealogy Center

  • Finding the Women in Your (Ancestors') Lives

    Friday, Mar 07, 2014

    As part of The Genealogy Center's Celebrating Women's History Month, Melissa Shimkus is presenting "Finding Her: Our Female Ancestor," on Thursday, March 13th, 2:00pm to 3:00pm, in Meeting Room A. She will discuss how our female ancestor may have interacted within her community, and how to use that interaction to locate more information about her. Although this is a stand-alone presentation, it can be considered as the first of a two-part series on researching women in our ancestry. The second part, which is also a stand-alone presentation, is "Discovering Your Female Ancestors," to be presented at the Allen County Genealogical Society of Indiana monthly meeting, April 9th, in Meeting Room A at 7:00pm. This presentation will focus on how understanding a woman's legal standing can lead to locating the female whether or not she is named in a document. The public is invited to attend the ACGSI meeting and hear Melissa as she shows you how to expand your search to find Her.

    Posted by: ACPL Genealogy Center

  • New Family Resource Online - An Example of What's Possible!

    Thursday, Mar 06, 2014

    There’s a new set of records on The Genealogy Center’s Family Resources page: Kincaid and Related Families of North America. Containing more than 109,000 names, this new database is based on the research of Michael B. Clegg, Associate Director of the Allen County Public Library, and many other researchers who have shared information with him during the past 40 years of research. A simple name search is possible from the database’s introductory page as well as The Genealogy Center’s federated search (enter the surname in the “Search Our Free Databases” box on our homepage). One can also use the advanced search feature found on the collection’s introductory webpage.

    This wonderful addition to our collection is an example of how The Genealogy Center can help you preserve and share your own files. Utilizing the Next Generation of Genealogy Site Building Software, we can incorporate your GEDCOM-compatible files to create a searchable and viewable location for your research.

    If you are interested in contributing, please contact us at Genealogy@ACPL.Info for more information.

    Posted by: ACPL Genealogy Center