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  • When There’s No Final Resting Place

    Monday, Nov 03, 2014

    by Delia

    We genealogists love cemeteries, don’t we? Our friends and family might think we are a bit strange in our enthusiasm for these cities of the dead. We wander among tombstones, seeking ancestors or just reading interesting inscriptions. We note ages and dates, letting them suggest a story. It might be when several children in a family died at the same time, suggesting illness or disaster. Or maybe we marvel at an older woman buried beside a young husband who died many years before her. We visit long-deceased ancestors, allowing them to speak to us concerning their lives. And sometimes we seek in vain to locate those final resting places.

    But what will happen in the future, when there are no resting places? Although cremation has long been a part of the funeral customs of many cultures, modern cremation in the western world is less than 150 years old. For many years, a majority of those who were cremated were placed in niches in mausoleums in local cemeteries, which still provided a place of memorial. But the scattering of ashes removed the probability of a physical memorial and record for future generations to determine just where someone ended up.

    I’ve known a number of people through the years who have had their ashes scattered. One couple had their ashes scattered in the enclosed garden of their church, and had very small metal memorial plaques placed there. This was fine until part of the garden was repurposed and one of the plaques was lost. Another man I know hired a small plane to take him up over the mountains near where his mother had lived so he could scatter her ashes. He did not realize that one is supposed to toss the ashes in their plastic bag out of the plane’s door so that the force of the wind would break open the bag, allowing the ashes to descend. He opened the bag to pour the ashes out, and the draft blew most of them back into the plane. I am not sure what he did after vacuuming his mother from the inside of the plane, but there’s no marker.

    This has all come to mind recently because my father-in-law died. He wanted to be cremated and his ashes placed, with no stone or marker and no ceremony, at the graveside of his second wife. However, they had separated before their deaths and her family really did not want my father-in-law in their family plot. So my husband and his sisters decided to place his ashes at the graveside of a sibling who died long ago, but, as per his wishes, with no marker. This disturbs the genealogist in me and I finally decided that once they placed the ashes, I would add him to the Find a Grave website within that cemetery, with a notation that his remains are with his child. While looking on the website to see how it might be done, I discovered that the website organizers already have a part of their site dedicated to Cremated or Cemetery Unknown. I browsed through the 167 entries and noted that most provided more information than many entries in Find a Grave, often including obituaries.

    So if you know someone who has been cremated, you might want to take a few minutes to add that information to this website, so that future researchers will know where all of their ancestors rest.

    Posted by: ACPL Genealogy Center

  • Family Lore - Truth, Fiction or Something in Between?

    Monday, Oct 06, 2014

    by Dawne

    I have touched on this topic in The Genealogy Center’s blog previously: Family stories – oral tradition – is something virtually every family has. We might grow up hearing the same old stories whenever the family is gathered. We might even have repeated those stories to our children and grandchildren. But often it was when we first began doing genealogy and tried to pin down older relatives about specific details, or to substantiate the stories with records, that we realized there might be a difference in what we thought we knew about the family and what was actually true.

    Many patrons come to The Genealogy Center with a family tradition that they have Native American ancestry. In some cases this might be true. But Great-Grandma usually wasn’t a Cherokee princess. The Native American blood might be further back than the family story holds. The connection might be Miami or Chickasaw or some other tribe and not the more well-known Cherokee. And the relative might be one by marriage, rather than by blood. It’s also quite common that the patron is able to trace his or her ancestry back to an immigrant without ever finding a trace of Native American blood. In this case, it could be that the family story was in error about which ancestral line had that ethnicity. And DNA tests might indicate that there is no Native American ancestry at all. For some reason, it is a very popular family tradition to be part Native American.

    So should we dismiss all those family stories we learned on our grandparents’ laps as bunk? Not necessarily. It has been said – and I believe it – that many, if not most family stories have some element of truth to them. A folklore professor I had in graduate school maintained that family stories are told for a reason – they represent some quality that is important to the storytellers and to the family. That reason alone might be enough to write them down for future generations.

    Consider the information a friend of mine, Rhonda Stoffer, head of Indiana History and Genealogy Services at Marion Public Library in Marion, Indiana, received from her mother-in-law. Rhonda’s mother-in-law had never met her grandfather and asked Rhonda to find out more about him. She told Rhonda that his name was George Brown and he was a baker from Joliet, Illinois. She knew he was a baker because she remembered seeing a photograph of him wearing a baker’s hat. Rhonda found the right George Brown in the 1900 and 1910 census schedules, but in both cases, he was shown as a tin plate worker and not a baker.

    Rhonda continued to research the family and discovered that George Brown’s father had died in the 1880s and his mother remarried twice – the second time to a man with the surname BAKER. Baker was the surname that George Brown’s mother was using when she died, and the one she is buried under. The family now believes that someone’s comment “and he was a Baker” about the mother’s third husband is how the family story of George Brown being a baker by trade began. The identity of the man wearing a baker’s hat in the photograph seen by Rhonda’s mother-in-law is unknown.

    Genealogy Center Librarian Delia Bourne has a lecture on attempting to substantiate family stories that is titled “Did It Really Happen that Way? Documenting Oral History.”  While waiting for Delia’s talk to come back around in our programming circuit, take a look at a recent post by Elizabeth Shown Mills, CG, in Quick Tips: The Blog @ Evidence Explained titled “Finding the ‘Core Truth’ in a Tradition.” Her article provides tips for analyzing family stories to get to their possible elements of truth. 

    Posted by: ACPL Genealogy Center

  • Genealogical Road Trip to New York

    Thursday, Oct 02, 2014

    by Sara
       
    Last fall, I embarked on a genealogical road trip with my mom and her brother to New York State. Apart from observing lovely scenery along the way and the autumnal colors peeking through the trees in the Finger Lakes Region, we spent our time visiting the usual genealogical tourist attractions of court houses, libraries, museums and graveyards. Because we had done some (but not all) of our homework before we left, we also knew that New York has county or town historians that should be visited as well.

    The New York County historian usually has an office in the county office buildings with regularly scheduled hours (but be sure to call ahead), while town historians may work out of their homes at irregular hours. In general, county and town historians often have published and manuscript copies of genealogical print materials, as well as original county or town records such as deeds, wills, marriage records, and so on. Our experience was very positive, though it did vary from office to office. We gained copies of county records, and we also accessed family files for several ancestral families, which contained good clues for us to follow up on. Many of the historians were knowledgeable about the immediate area and its records, and could refer us to other useful repositories if needed. A list of historians is available online.

    We did not do all of our homework, however, before embarking on this trip. I am embarrassed to say that we showed up at two repositories with mistaken information about the hours they were open to the public. As a genealogy librarian myself, I should know better! We drove through Syracuse on our way out and found out that the Onondaga Historical Museum was closed on Tuesdays, so we missed out that day. On the way back, we got there at 2:30 p.m. and found out the archives had closed at 2, while the museum stayed open until 4. We were able to gain access for a few minutes because the librarian was still in the building, but were very rushed, and felt terrible for inconveniencing the staff. A few days later, we had another incident of bad planning. I did not realize that the Historic Huguenot Street in New Paltz had separate archives and library buildings, with different hours and staffing, both of which required advanced appointments. We were able to use the library by virtue of an appointment set up a few days before, but missed out on the Archives, which was very disappointing.

    We were very lucky that in two of the three situations, it worked out that we were able to access the materials that we driven cross-country to view. You might not always be that lucky. A thorough perusal of the websites of these organizations would have provided us with the necessary information, although sometimes hours of operation can be hidden several pages deep on a website. In addition, it is a good idea to find a telephone number and call ahead, just to be sure. Also, you might peruse a guidebook about genealogical research in the particular state you intend to visit so that you are informed of any research peculiarities of that area before you arrive. So, take a lesson from my sad experiences and be sure to plan ahead for your research trips to avoid disappointment.

    Posted by: ACPL Genealogy Center

  • Take Advantage of Regional Seminars for Motivation & Learning Opportunities

    Tuesday, Sep 16, 2014

    by Dawne

    A few weeks ago, I attended the McHenry County (IL) Genealogical Society’s seminar on the same day that my colleague, Cynthia, attended Abrams Foundation Family History Seminar in Lansing, Michigan. Both took place on a Saturday and both featured some nationally-known genealogy speakers as well as some talented and knowledgeable local or regional speakers. Then a week or two later, our manager spoke at Midwestern Roots down in Indianapolis and Cynthia attended that seminar. That was three superb learning opportunities less than a day’s drive away within a couple of weeks.

    This is not an unusual occurrence. Especially from Spring to Fall, local, regional and state genealogical societies around the country sponsor partial day or day-long seminars and bring in one or more of the nationally-known genealogy speakers to anchor their programs. What this means for you and me is the opportunity to learn from these national experts, as well as hear from local experts on a variety of topics with which they have familiarity, commune with other like-minded individuals (our fellow genealogists), and get motivated by new ideas, techniques, sources and technology!

    National conferences are terrific! I would always recommend that if you have the opportunity to go to one, you do so! But sometimes it is difficult to clear the calendar for about a week’s worth of time and travel to a distant location for a national conference. Or the personal budget doesn’t allow a week’s worth of hotel nights and meals out, combined with the registration fee for a national conference and the airline or gasoline expense to get there. That’s where these regional events can shine. There are many of them. Chances are good there have been several of them within a day’s drive of you this summer. Registration fees usually are modest. Sometimes a box lunch is included. You might need to get up very early on seminar day to drive there, or pay for a hotel room the night before, but you won’t have the expense of multiple hotel nights.

    To find a seminar near you, consult the following resources:

    •    Federation of Genealogical Societies/Society Events listings
    •    Eastman’s Online Genealogy Newsletter/Calendar of Genealogy Events
    •    Conference Keeper

    Posted by: ACPL Genealogy Center

  • Occupational Surnames

    Monday, Sep 01, 2014

    by Delia

    On this Labor Day, we as genealogists might want to give some thought to the occupations of our ancestors, and how those occupations may be reflected in the surnames we search. Some occupational surnames come readily to mind, such as Archer, Baker, Bowman, Brewer, Butcher, Carpenter, Farmer, Fisher, Hunter, Mason, Miller, Miner, Singer, and the ubiquitous Smith. But there are many more like Buller (a scribe), Chandler (a candlemaker), Gage (an assayer), Nadler (one who made needles), Pease (a grower of peas), Plowright (a maker of plows), and Slater (person who covered roofs with slate), which also defined someone by their labor.

    When you encounter a new surname in your research, take a few minutes to examine the meaning of the name to see if it reflects a progenitor’s work life. Many occupations were passed down through generations, so the meaning of the name might provide clues to the family origins.

    In the meantime, enjoy your Labor Day holiday!

    Posted by: ACPL Genealogy Center

  • Making Genealogical Connections via Facebook

    Thursday, Aug 14, 2014

    By Dawne

    Sometimes when I tell people what a fan I am of Facebook, I hear that it’s such a waste of time, or kids’ stuff. That hasn’t been my experience with this social media outlet at all. I have long been a fan of Facebook for a number of reasons:
    •    It helps me keep in touch with friends who live all across the country
    •    It allows me to keep the family bonds strong with my first cousins – who used to be like brothers and sisters to me when I was small. I love seeing the pictures of their children and grandchildren!
    •    It helps all of us – friends and family – keep up with what is going on in one another’s lives.
    •    It helps me strengthen the networking contacts I have made in the genealogical world.
    •    It has allowed me to post ancestral photos so that interested family members can see them.
    •    The special interest groups, such as Technology for Genealogy and Ancestry.com’s Facebook page have allowed me to learn.

    Some time ago, I was contacted by someone who saw the small family tree I have on Ancestry. She is my third cousin and we became Facebook friends. Since that time, we have sent private Facebook messages back and forth numerous times about our common ancestors and have shared stories and pictures more publicly. We discovered that we knew some of the same members of the older generations of our family when we were children. The personal stories of these people we have been able to exchange are priceless!

    Not very long ago, this cousin posted a video of a family reunion she attended the previous weekend, panning around the crowd and narrating, showing the “old timers” – the oldest generation – in attendance. She “tagged” me and two other distant cousins in her post and comments on the video thread. One of the two names caught my eye – that of another third cousin I DID know.

    My family spent a week each summer in western Pennsylvania when I was a child, visiting my father’s relatives. For two of three summers, we stayed at the home of this woman’s parents. She was a teenager at that time and I was a pre-teen. We hung out together and had a lot of fun. But I hadn’t had contact with her since I was about 12 years old. Our mutual cousin, who posted the video, has never met either of us, but found us through her interest in family history.

    I posted on the thread, “Is that the Linda ***** who was the granddaughter of Jane and Andy Lawrence?” She responded in the affirmative and I sent her a friend request, which she accepted. Imagine if you can, how much fun we have had the past few days reconnecting and exchanging memories, not only of the fun times we spent together as kids, but of those older relatives who are now gone. And now we are sharing photos, too, and news of the still living older members of our families who had largely lost touch.

    Between the connections that can be made with friends and family, the institutional pages (like The Genealogy Center’s Facebook page) that give news of those facilities and organizations, the family or surname pages where pictures and stories are shared, and the special interest pages where you can get help on everything from choosing a scanner to how to research ancestors in a particular state, I’m convinced that Facebook can be a valuable learning and enrichment tool, as much as it can be a venue for posting cat pictures and pithy quotes.

    Posted by: ACPL Genealogy Center

  • Thousands Opted to Marry Secretly in Michigan

    Friday, Aug 08, 2014

    by Cynthia

    While searching The Genealogy Center’s catalog for basic information on Michigan, I discovered “It Happened in Michigan: Remarkable Events That Shaped History” by Colleen Burcar (GC 977.4 B892IT). The table of contents of this book included the chapter “Thousands Vowing ‘I Do’,” which seemed intriguing. What did this mean? The author noted that beginning at the end of the 17th century through a change in law in 1925, thousands of people from neighboring states went to Michigan to marry because there was no waiting period. In 1897, Michigan adopted a secret marriage law (Act 180 of 1897) that allowed the issuance of marriage licenses without publicity. 
     
    Issuance of Marriage License Without Publicity (Section 551.202  - excerpt of Act 180) stated that if a couple wanted anyone other than the judge of probate to perform a marriage, the judge of probate could issue a permit, as long as the official was legally competent to perform marriages in the state. However, only the probate judge could make a record of the marriage. The law also stated that the judge’s records and the copy that was filed in the State of Michigan’s Public Health Department were permanently sealed and could not be opened unless one of the couple produced legal identification to get a copy of their marriage record.

    The cost of a “secret” marriage was three dollars. Two dollars were for the judge’s service and one dollar was forwarded to the state register to be added to the state general fund (Section 551.202). 

    St. Joseph, Michigan, was a well-known wedding site of choice for individuals from other states. Thousands took advantage of the no waiting period. The majority of the marriages performed there were for residents of Chicago. On April 30, 1925, Michigan Governor Alexander Grosbeck took a huge step toward discouraging people from other states from coming to Michigan to be married. His new statute required a five-day waiting period after the license application.

    While researching what was meant by secret marriages, I found that only two states have passed legislation on secret marriages; Michigan and California. If you are having trouble finding a public record of a marriage in Michigan for an ancestor or a collateral relative, he or she may have had a secret marriage. 

    A circulating copy of Burcar’s book is in Readers’ Services (REA 977.4 B89I).

    Posted by: ACPL Genealogy Center

  • Preserve the Pensions

    Wednesday, Jul 30, 2014

    By Dawne

    Two hundred years ago hundred years ago next month – on August 24, 1814, the British burned Washington, D.C., during the War of 1812. The centennial of this sometimes-forgotten war is being recognized throughout the end of this year. One ongoing project that is significant for genealogists is the Preserve the Pensions Project spearheaded by the Federation of Genealogical Societies (FGS).

    FGS and its partners are raising money to digitize the 7.2 million pages of War of 1812 pension files that are among the most-requested record types at the National Archives research facility in Washington, D.C. These records are in danger of deterioration. Once digitized, the records will be freely accessible to everyone. As the images are scanned, they are being uploaded to the Fold3 website.

    Ancestry.com, as one of FGS’s partners in the Preserve the Pensions Project, has offered to pay for half of the total cost of digitizing the record collection. Toward this end, Ancestry is matching every donation from an individual or society. Pages cost 45 cents each to digitize, so a donation of $45 will preserve 100 images. Counting the Ancestry match, 200 pages will be digitized for a donation of $45.

    Contributors can make their donations in the name of an ancestor and donations are tax deductible. For more information and to make a donation to this worthwhile project, visit Preserve the Pensions website.


    Posted by: ACPL Genealogy Center

  • Genealogy & Geography

    Monday, Jul 28, 2014

    by Delia

    When I was in high school, I lived for a time in Texarkana, Arkansas-Texas. My mother had grown up there, and my grandmother lived there until she died. It was an interesting place, with the state line going right down the middle of town. That was the name of the street: State Line Avenue. We moved there in late summer, and before we actually had a house, I was registered to go to Arkansas High, but the house we moved into was on the Texas side. Every day, I had to drive across the state line to go to school. There were two different states, two different counties and two different cities. There were also different laws, especially of the blue variety: One could purchase liquor by the bottle in Arkansas, but not by the drink; one could not buy liquor by the bottle in Texas, but could join a “private club,” and get liquor by the drink (a private club was a legal fiction and anyone could be a member on the manager’s approval). When we lived in Texas, we went to church in Arkansas, but later, when my parents moved, they lived in Arkansas (lower taxes) but attended church in Texas (same tithe). My cousin, an Arkansas resident, attended church, married and had her wedding reception in Texas. And a number of Arkansas relatives are buried in Texas. So what’s my point? The county line and state line meant nothing to those of us who lived there. You crossed it several times a day, important for legal purposes, but not of much importance in our daily lives.

    When you are seeking information on your ancestors, take a few minutes to look at maps. Many researchers examine plat maps. They show land ownership at the time of publication. But we also need to pay attention to the ponds, lakes, rivers and streams. These were valuable for water and transportation, but could also be barriers. Study county maps over the years to see how roads developed, what settlements came and went, where schools, churches and cemeteries were located, and how the railroad or canal moved through the area. Examine state maps to note where the roads and railroads went. What towns or villages were closest to your ancestor’s residence? Even if that place is in a different county, he or she may have gone there on a regular basis. In the late 1800s and early 1900s, people would catch a train to go to a city several counties away to do business, make purchases or for entertainment.

    Many also visited neighboring states on a regular basis, even if they didn’t live in Texarkana! There were a number of places, referred to as a “Gretna Green,” where eloping couples would marry without family or neighbors knowing. Our ancestors visited health spas, sanitariums, and visited physicians in neighboring states. Or someone might find employment elsewhere and move away for a while. We need to examine maps of all sorts, and look them with fresh eyes as we contemplate what our forebears might have been doing.

    So take a few minutes to examine older, and current, maps of your ancestors’ home areas. Study the water courses and terrain. See where the roads led. And think about your ancestors’ lives.

    Posted by: ACPL Genealogy Center

  • The Reference Interview: Specifically

    Tuesday, Jul 22, 2014

    by Delia

    Recently, a customer came in seeking information about parks in Fort Wayne. He was very clear the minute he walked in the door that information on the parks, of which Fort Wayne has a plethora, was his interest. We asked if he was interested in a specific park, but no, he wanted all of the parks. We have a great deal of material on local parks, including photographs, books, old newspaper clippings and pamphlets. We produced a lot of material for him to browse through, and he examined it all over the next couple of hours. We got distracted with other customers, but when we saw him leaving, we asked if he had found what he needed. Well, no, he hadn’t, he answered dejectedly. He was really looking for a piece of sculpture that was supposed to be in one of the parks. With that idea, we asked a few questions about the sculpture and found what he wanted, information on a piece of sculpture that was sitting on the lawn of the Performing Arts Center! He thought he knew what he needed, and felt he was being very specific about what he wanted.

    Another time, an experienced researcher arrived for what she indicated was her first time here. The staff member on the desk provided a quick orientation to The Genealogy Center, complete with map and various guides, then asked, “So what are you looking for today?” She answered, “My family history.” The staff member, said, “No, I mean, what specifically are you looking for today?” And she answered, probably thinking the staff member wasn’t paying attention, “My ancestry.” Once they settled the definition of what the question meant, the researcher was provided with several good sources with which to start and was soon happily, and successfully, researching.

    Both of these scenarios happen on a regular basis. When you arrive, whether you realize it or not, we may subject you to a “reference interview,” where we ask questions to determine exactly what you want. It may feel that we are trying to stall you while we think. While that might be the case sometimes, we are really just trying to get a better handle on what you need. It’s also important for you to think about what you want. You may think that by asking for material on parks or a specific war or a specific place, you will find what you need, but if we have some clarification about what your ultimate goal is, we may have a better suggestion.

    So come on in and visit us, and answer our questions, so that we may help answer yours!

    Posted by: ACPL Genealogy Center

  • Questions & Answers & Ethics

    Thursday, Jul 10, 2014

    by Delia

    We really don’t care.

    Sounds mean, doesn’t it? I don’t intend it to be. We care that you have an enjoyable experience here at The Genealogy Center. We want to help you find information to further your family or historical research. We care when you hit a brick wall and will do all that we can to help you break through it.

    But we don’t care if your great-grandparents were married two months before their first child was born. We understand that the situation might have been difficult, and perhaps embarrassing, for them and the family. We at The Genealogy Center have seen plenty of that kind of situation, including in our own families, so we aren’t judging you or your ancestors.

    Do you have an ancestor who spent time in a mental institution? How sad for that person and the family, but we don’t look askance at you because of it.

    Have a criminal in your background, or someone who so scandalized his or her congregation that an excommunication resulted? We think, “Cool! Just think of the interesting records!”

    Adoptions can be the worst in terms of acquiring information. Many court systems severely regulate the freedom of the records, and, even when the documents become more available, well-meaning clerks may continue to “protect” everyone involved by blocking access. By the time people come into the library seeking sources, they have learned to not even say the word adoption, so they verbally dance around, asking but not quite asking questions. We finally ask if this is an adoption, then proceed to ask even nosier questions: Do you know how old the mother was? Do you have any clues as to the father’s situation? Do your adoptive parents have any information? And in all of this, we have to try to convey that, although we want to help, we aren’t taking notes to share with others later. We sympathize that it is a difficult situation, and a difficult type of search, but the most we would ever do is to try to develop new ideas for the future, or perhaps share a research option in a forum like this one, with all pertinent identifying information deleted.

    All of this is to reassure you that your search is no one’s business but your own. We might indicate to a researcher that we recently had a similar situation and discovered a new source. We could share a complicated search strategy with our colleagues, so they can assist others in the future. But we won’t break your confidence. That is our ethical standard.

    So when you come to us to ask for research assistance, remember that our ethical standards guarantee that we will keep your confidences, and that, beyond asking questions to try to aid your search, we don’t care to judge your family.

    Posted by: ACPL Genealogy Center

  • Look Again

    Monday, Jul 07, 2014

    by Delia

    “The other day, I looked at that document again, and noticed….”

    I’ve heard that many times from our customers, and have experienced it myself. One looks at a document for the umpteenth time, but for the first time notices a piece of information that answers a question or opens a new line of thought on research.

    The first time I experienced it, years ago, was when I was trying to make sense of a family story that stated that a husband and wife died at the same time (supposedly murdered), leaving the children for the grandparents to raise. In the family Bible, I had noticed that the death dates for the two were really months apart, but was told by an older relative that there had been a mistake in the Bible. After examining the difference in the dates multiple times, I finally noticed that the wife’s supposed death date was three days after her last child was born, leading me to conclude that she may have died from postpartum infection. This cast doubt on the whole story of the murders, so I could back up completely and start over.

    Then recently, a customer told me that she’d been re-examining records for siblings of an ancestor, and one actually had a birth place listed! She’d been concentrating on her direct ancestor and had totally missed this in earlier perusals. Again, this opened up a whole new avenue for research.

    Sometimes, when we acquire a new document, we are so busy gleaning just what we need right now, that we barely see what else might be noted, so multiple examinations are often helpful. Also, as we gain experience in research or new insights into the family dynamics, information we failed to note earlier may become of greater import.

    So I make a habit, at least once a year, to browse through the various research and original documents I have in my possession, either in print or digital format. I try to think about each person as I do this. If I know or knew the individual in life, I contemplate what his or her life was like, challenges faced and how that person fit into the family and society. If this is an ancestor from further back, I contemplate what the documents tell me and consider that person’s life and times.

    The benefits of this process are twofold. It allows me to re-examine my research in light of knowledge gained, which often yields new possibilities to energize the search. It also allows me time to remember that each of these people was not just a name with dates, but an individual who lived a life which, while vastly differing from my own, was still similar in terms of happiness and tragedy. Making our ancestors live in our imaginations is what family history is all about.

    Posted by: ACPL Genealogy Center

  • Honor the Veterans of the War of 1812

    Wednesday, Jul 02, 2014

    There are two exciting ways in which you can honor all War of 1812 soldiers in the month of July!

    On July 1st, the Federation of Genealogical Societies launched a major fundraising campaign for the Preserve the Pensions Project, seeking to raise an average of $1,812 each day for the 31 days of July. The pension files have never been microfilmed and these original records are in danger of deterioration. So far, the Preserve the Pensions Project has digitized and made available pension records for surnames A through Ha, but there are many records left to digitize. This is a costly process and your aid is needed. If you would like to participate in preserving this valuable part of America’s documented history, you can make a single contribution or become a monthly contributor to the Preserve the Pensions project.

    The Federation of Genealogical Societies and cemetery website BillionGraves also announced a joint project to image all of the gravestone markers for participants of the War of 1812. “The images from these markers, coupled with the Federation’s current project to raise the funds to digitize the 7.2 million images of the pensions for those who participated in the War of 1812 are a natural fit,” said D. Joshua Taylor, President of FGS.

    Hudson Gunn, President of BillionGraves said, “This July our focus is to see that the nation’s military headstones are documented and preserved for future generations. Headstones from early American history are quickly deteriorating, making it only a matter of time before they are lost forever. We are very pleased to have the Federation lend its help to spread this message for the War of 1812 veterans.” It is estimated that as many as 350,000 men may have served in the war. Although it is impossible to know how many may have cemetery markers, there could be as many as 50,000 to 80,000 markers for these veterans.

    BillionGraves and the Federation of Genealogical Societies are asking anyone with knowledge of a cemetery marker for a War of 1812 veteran to upload the image of the marker to the BillionGraves website using their free mobile application during the month of July to honor and remember the service of those who served in the “Second Revolution.”

    If you upload an image for a War of 1812 veteran during the month of July or anytime thereafter, please publicize it on Facebook or Twitter by using the hashtag #1812today and/or #warof1812 and/or #billiongraves. The Federation will also be posting the progress toward the fundraising goal of $1,812 per day on Facebook and Twitter, so check often and pass the word!

    The efforts from these two organizations will provide a very valuable asset for those researching 1812 veterans. With the Federation raising awareness of the project to digitize the War of 1812 pension records during the month of July and BillionGraves making the cemetery markers of War of 1812 veterans immediately searchable, it should be an exciting month for all genealogists and historians – everyone wins!

    Posted by: ACPL Genealogy Center

  • Five Reasons to Visit The Genealogy Center This Summer

    Saturday, Jun 28, 2014

    by Sara

    1. Road trip! It’s summertime, the weather is grand, and now is the time to pursue your hobby, and introduce your kids or grandkids to family history. Take a trip this summer, locate a family cemetery or attend a reunion, and don’t forget to stop by our library while on your trip. You never know what you might find! We have a large collection of non-digitized material from all 50 states, Canada and the British Isles, as well as other countries. Check our print and microtext catalogs for details.

    2. We have historical and current city directories!  Are you trying to locate persons who live in various U.S. locations? Use our nationwide city directory collection to track down old Army buddies, college classmates, high school sweethearts or to help plan a reunion.

    3. Attend a class, ask a genealogical question, or schedule a one on one consultation. We offer monthly how-to classes on a variety of genealogical topics and 30 minute scheduled genealogical consultations. See our website for details. While you are here, be sure to ask our librarians your burning questions, like how do I find grandpa Bob’s military records or great-grandpa Joe’s immigration record. Our librarians are also experienced genealogists and want to help you!

    4. Order records from your ancestral village in Europe or a far-away state on microfilm from Family Search. Because we are a Family Search Affiliate, you may request the order be sent here, so that you can view those microfilmed records on our microfilm viewers, make prints for free, or save images to your USB drive.

    5. Use our in-house use only databases such as Ancestry.com, Fold3, African American Historical Newspapers, Newspaper Archive, American Ancestors, and others.  On these free-to-use-here databases, you can find your relatives in census records, immigration papers, military lists, newspaper articles and obituaries and much more. And remember, should you have questions while using the databases, our librarians are only a few steps away, ready to assist.

    P.S. We have tons of other cool stuff. Don’t forget to check out our Abraham Lincoln, Memorial Day, and 1950’s Memorabilia exhibits!

    Posted by: ACPL Genealogy Center

  • Vacation Diary

    Saturday, Jun 21, 2014

    by Delia

    Now, I know all of you are going on a genealogy vacation this year. You’ll go visit court houses, cemeteries, churches, make contact with some distant cousins, maybe even take in a conference, or visit The Genealogy Center in Fort Wayne, Indiana. Good for you! We’re hoping to see you! I know that you will take copious notes as you research and add them to your paper or digital files. Again, good for you!

    But what if you (gasp!) take another type of vacation, one with only a few libraries and cemeteries along the way? What if you go to the Grand Canyon or Yellowstone? Maybe your have a huge family reunion with lots of cousins at some resort. Or even, my favorite, you visit the overpriced land of the famous Mouse in central Florida to spend a week standing in lines and sweating. But once your trip is over, what do you have except a lot of photos, a few postcards and a handful of souvenirs? This year, keep a trip diary for your vacation. You can use a small tablet and pen or use your digital tablet to note highlights of your journey.

    When recalling a vacation, it’s easy to remember the big memories such as visiting the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial (the St. Louis Arch) or Zoo Atlanta, but you might also want to remember the great tour guide at the Warren G. Harding Home, the terrific barbecue place in Murfreesboro or how miserable changing a tire in the driving rain at mile marker 81 on Interstate 30 in Arkansas can be. Take a few minutes during the day to keep notes and/or write an account of the day each evening. Record your impressions and feelings, what your companions said and did, and what you saw – or smelled – during the day. Later on, you can create a trip scrapbook, either in paper or in digital form, adding photographs and souvenirs.

    In a perfect world, all of your friends and neighbors would be clamoring to view your vacation diary. In reality, maybe not. First and foremost, this is the type of record to keep for yourself, so that you will be able to recall of those golden, and not-so-golden, moments. But eventually, your descendants may be very interested to know what you did on your summer vacation – in 2014!

    Posted by: ACPL Genealogy Center

  • Preserve Military Pictures, Documents & Memories at Our Military Heritage

    Saturday, Jun 21, 2014

    By Dawne

    Ephraim-Dunn-markerAre you familiar with the Our Military Heritage area of The Genealogy Center’s website?  This area of our website is a place to preserve military documents, photographs and any other type of ephemera that can be digitized, with a goal of making the material available to researchers and preserving it for future generations.

    The documents and photos at Our Military Heritage are from all branches of the military and from conflicts of all time periods, from wars during America’s Colonial period through the Gulf and Afghanistan wars of recent days. There is also material from peacetime military service.

    Some examples of the types of material that can be found in the Our Military Heritage collection are Civil War letters and pension files, World War II unit histories and rosters, photos of military markers for all time periods for Maplewood Cemetery in Williams County, Ohio, and individual soldiers’ photos from Afghanistan. These are just a few of the items that individuals have allowed The Genealogy Center to digitize and add to the page.

    Please consider allowing The Genealogy Center to scan your military letters, diaries, soldiers’ pension files, photographs and other material to add to this growing collection.

    Posted by: ACPL Genealogy Center

  • Physical Memories

    Monday, Jun 09, 2014

    by Delia

     Do you have memory boxes? You know what I mean. They can be elaborate wooden or plastic boxes, highly decorated and elegant, or, often more likely, they can be shoe or paper boxes. They might be memories of a specific person (high school boyfriend comes to mind), or a specific time (that trip across the U.S. with friends), or a specific activity (softball). In these boxes you might place a napkin with the name of the restaurant you went to on prom night, or a series of post cards, or awards and clippings. Maybe these items were sitting around during or after the time they were gathered, then you put them away as other people and activities took precedence. They were items to keep, but maybe not display anymore. You might look at them once in a while, and the box gathers dust as you move to another apartment, another house. Every time you move, you think, I should just throw that away. But you don’t. They were nice memories. They are important to you.

    But what will they mean to your heirs? When you are gone, will your family understand what these items meant to you? Will they look inside the box, pluck out one or two items that they might be able to use, then dump the rest in the dumpster? Is that where you want these items to end up?

    First, next time you pull out the box to look through, take a few minutes to make a list identifying each item, such as, “Red ribbon, second place, track meet, junior year at Concordia High School, Fort Wayne, Fall 1989” or “ash trays stolen from restaurants, Spring Break trip, Kentucky to Florida, 1978.” Yeah, I know. It wasn’t very nice, but it’s your collection! If you don’t identify them, no one will understand their significance.

    Next, take a few minutes to show them to interested family members. While I wouldn’t suggest trying to tell your son-in-law while he’s grilling those steaks on the Fourth of July, you might tell your soccer-star grandson that you’d like to show him your keepsakes from when you played football in high school. Your mutual interest in sports may whet his curiosity and he may wish to preserve them, and pass them along, after you are gone.

    Take the initiative to preserve your memories! Start now!

    Posted by: ACPL Genealogy Center

  • Do Your Have the Right Name?

    Tuesday, May 13, 2014

    by Sara

    The family always said your great-grandmother’s maiden name was “O’Toole.” But was it really? Have you collected documents about her that would list her maiden name, such as her marriage license, death certificate, obituary, or her children’s marriage licenses, birth and death certificates, and so on? You might be surprised to find out that her surname was listed as “Towle” instead, which sounds similar and could be a variant spelling. Or maybe she had a first marriage to someone named O’Toole, rather than that being her maiden name. These are some of the many reasons why you should try to confirm the first and last names you have been given by viewing official records about your ancestor, especially those where she would have been present at the time of the record creation (like her marriage license).

    This happened recently to one of our patrons, when she learned that a family story was not quite correct. She told me her great-grandmother’s maiden name was “Nancy Delong”*.  She was interested in finding Nancy’s parents, but had looked in all the counties in which Nancy had lived with her husband and found no one with the Delong surname. She wondered aloud to me if Nancy might have dropped out of an alien space ship, or just why else she couldn’t find her. When this happens, it's a red flag that something is wrong (besides an impending alien invasion)! The answer could be one of several possibilities:
    1. The spelling of the name could be off, a little or a lot, in the records; perhaps because the name was misspelled, the handwriting was unreadable, or the same name night be spelled differently, such as Smith vs. Smythe.
    2. The reported name of the family is incorrect.
    3. The family may have changed their name – but this happened very infrequently.
    4. They were in a different location than expected.
    5. The family IS there in the expected records, even though the patron reported being unable to find them, indicating that the patron needs more education in how to search in that databases or source.

    To find out what was going on in this case, we chatted about the patron’s ancestor further and in the course of that conversation, I asked her several questions:
    1. How did she know Nancy’s maiden name? She said it was passed down through the family. Had she verified this information with official records? No. (Red flag!)
    2. Where had her great-grandparents had married? She thought it was in Knox County, Indiana. I advised her to try to locate the marriage record, as that is the simplest way to learn a woman’s maiden (or previous married) name.

    When she found the marriage record, the name was spelled “De Lorngne.”  Aha! If the name was verbally passed along in the family, this name is similar-sounding to Delong, depending on pronunciation and regional accents. Do we know which one was her actual maiden name at this point? No, but finding more records about Nancy should clarify it further. A search of Nancy’s children’s marriage records seemed to confirm that Nancy’s maiden name was Delorgne, but with several more variant spellings.  All those were noted, so that when the patron looks for this family in further records, she will have a list of alternate spellings to search under. This, as well as learning to search effectively in genealogy databases, will help make her search more successful. For example, to find records in the Ancestry database under all the variations of this family’s surname, she should search using the “Soundex” and “Phonetic” options; under both names, DeLong and DeLornge (which are not Soundex equivalents); and with and without a space between the De and L.

    Back to the hunt for Nancy’s parents: Armed with the new version of the surname and list of alternate spellings, the patron was able to search more creatively in the census and find a possible brother living nearby to Nancy and her husband in Illinois. He had the same birth state listed as Nancy did (New Jersey) and the same uncommon surname, so it seems promising that they might be related. More research should be done to confirm or deny this theory, while continuing the search for Nancy’s parents.
    Have you looked and looked for your ancestor under the name you were given for that person, and come up empty?  Is it possible that the name you were given was wrong or that you are not searching effectively to find all possibilities?  When you think creatively, ask for help, and learn better search techniques, you can break through many a brick wall!

    * Name changed to protect privacy.

    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

  • 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