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  • Another African American Collection Is Growing

    Tuesday, Feb 19, 2013

    Recently, additions have been made to the Marsha Smiley African American Collection! This wonderful collection, gathered by Fort Wayne African-American historian and researcher, Marsha Smiley, includes area African-American fraternal organizational material and memorial cards, and is hosted on The Genealogy Center's Free Databases website. Our appreciation to Ms. Smiley as she continues to add to this material, creating a growing collection for those searching the African-American community in Fort Wayne!

    Posted by: ACPL Genealogy Center

  • Bread Upon the Water

    Saturday, Feb 16, 2013

    by Delia

    Back in the mid-1990s, when The Genealogy Center was still the Genealogy Department, staff members were trying to add material to our collection. We realized that there were some areas in the United States for which we had very little -- or nothing at all -- as research sources. So my colleagues and I began writing letters (before email!) to various archives and societies, seeking information about sources they had, for donation, if possible.

    We received some really nifty stuff in return. Some we had to purchase, but many were gifts from different locales, schools, churches, historical societies and businesses.

    A few days ago, there was a package addressed to me, and inside were two volumes for us as donations, a very nice letter telling me that the archives to which I'd sent a request more than 15 years ago was now able to send material, and a copy of my original letter! It was great to know that the requests I had sent then were still bearing fruit!

    And, of course, this is also a reminder that we are still looking for those local items that make our collection such a great resource: church directories and histories; school yearbooks of any year or location; business, town and neighborhood histories; and, naturally, family histories. If you're not sure we'd want it (though undoubtedly we will), just email us.

    And thank you, to all who have donated in the past. We couldn't do it without you.

    Posted by: ACPL Genealogy Center

  • Announcing Additions to the Genealogy Tracers Database

    Tuesday, Feb 12, 2013

    The Genealogy Tracers of Cleveland, Ohio, have added more to their Obituaries and Memorial Programs database, hosted by The Genealogy Center. These documents add a wealth of information for the subjects of each item, as well as family and community members. The Genealogy Tracers continue to gather and add more items on a regular basis, expanding this database so that it is beneficial to those in Ohio and other states. The material is available on our Free Databases page!


    Posted by: ACPL Genealogy Center

  • And, Yes, We're Open!

    Saturday, Feb 09, 2013

    by Delia

    The Uniform Monday Holiday Act of 1968 created Washington's Birthday on the third Monday of each February. Washington was born February 11, 1731, but due to Great Britain's change from the Julian to the Gregorian Calendar in 1752, which not only moved the calendar forward eleven days, but also made January 1st the start of the new year, instead of March 25th, he switched his birthday to February 22, 1732, to reflect this change. His birthday became a holiday for Federal workers in the District of Columbia in 1879, then expanded to all Federal workers in 1885. Lincoln's birthday (February 12) has never been an official holiday, but businesses began using the term Presidents' Day, and several states made their official holidays "Presidents' Day."

    Whatever you call it, The Genealogy Center will be open its regular hours, 9A to 9P, and staff members will be here to answer questions and guide you in your research. Presidents' Day has traditionally been a great day for researchers, so come on in!

    Posted by: ACPL Genealogy Center

  • Finishing Our Shift

    Tuesday, Feb 05, 2013

    Good news! The shift is over! To provide room for expansion in our book stacks, a project was undertaken to shift material, creating room for growth. A great deal of planning to streamline the process was done before a single book was moved, and the result is amazing! In just two and a half months, our staff moved almost 75% of our book collection!

    Books for Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri and Wisconsin (977.4 thought 977.8) joined the Western state books in the compact shelving, and the rest of general United States material and Eastern states spread into the space created, leaving top shelves and some bottom shelves free for future expansion.

    To create space in the compact shelves for these Midwestern states books, European material was moved from the south set of compact shelves to the western part of the north set of compact shelves.

    Click to view the new Genealogy Center layout.

    Posted by: ACPL Genealogy Center

  • Getting Back to Basics: Hitting the Books

    Wednesday, Jan 30, 2013

    by Delia

    Recently, I had a customer ask what The Genealogy Center has on the computers. She said she always comes for the extensive collection of books, some of which are one of a kind, and the microfilm collections, but she was noticing more people coming in and spending the whole day on the computer, so she wondered what we had that she couldn't get at home.

    We have an excellent collection of subscription databases, including Ancestry, Fold 3, American Ancestors, Origins Network, Slavery and Anti-Slavery Archive, and Archives Unbound. I showed her their location on our On-Site Databases page and explained each of them. She was happy to know what we had and said she'd try them on her next visit.

    But her question made me think. We all love having information instantly, just sitting at the glowing screen and pulling data from various wide-flung archives and databases. But we need to be careful about neglecting the book and microfilm collection as we research. Yes, Ancestry does have all of the Federal Census online and it's searchable. But sometimes it's just better to browse the pages using microfilm. Yes, Fold 3 does have many military records, but not everything. And, yes, some of our books have been digitized and are available at Internet Archive or Family History Archive. But those constitute only a small part of the collection.

    So the next time you visit, be sure to spend some of your time curling up with a good book or two or a hundred. We receive new volumes of local and regional records and histories, military and family histories every month. Take a few minutes to search the catalog before you arrive. There is a great deal of information awaiting you between the covers!

    Posted by: ACPL Genealogy Center

  • Before We Open....

    Sunday, Jan 27, 2013

    By Dawne

    When the doors of the library open at 9 a.m. (or noon on Sunday) and you enter The Genealogy Center, you will see one or two librarians seated at the Ask desk, working on projects and waiting to welcome patrons. Guest passes are there for you to collect and the librarians are ready to answer your questions about where to find materials, the layout of the department, and where to begin your research. Computers, copiers and printers are humming and ready to go. Have you ever thought about what goes on before the library opens in the morning to get the area ready for you to do your research?

    An Environmental Services housekeeper is the first to begin the day’s preparations in The Genealogy Center, dusting and cleaning counters and around computers and starting to turn on machines. This starts before 8 a.m.

    The day-shift librarians “clock in” at 8. They continue the task of turning on lights in the catalog and copier alcoves and powering up the machinery, including copiers, printers, catalog stations, the registration computer, public service computers, print station computer, microtext scanners and Ask desk computers and printers. Currently, the public service computers are left on overnight to receive updates, but this has not always been the closing routine. If everything in the department needed to be powered on, there would be somewhere in the neighborhood of 120 buttons to press!

    One of the first tasks of the librarians is to print the day’s guest passes. These are sheets of paper that have temporary library card numbers for our non-ACPL-cardholding patrons to use to log into the computers. If we are running low on copy/print cards, one of the librarians might prepare a stack of cards. Occasionally someone takes some old guest passes or other paper and cuts it into quarters to make scrap paper for customers who come into the department on a whim without bringing supplies. We also restock the boxes of golf pencils that we keep for the same reason, and the handouts that we have at the Ask desk.

    A full-time shelver comes on duty at 8:30 a.m. and begins cleaning the glass on the copiers and the digital sender, and adds paper to all of the copiers and printers. This is also the time for routine maintenance on microfilm and fiche readers and printers. Service is no longer available on some of the old readers, and the Allen County Public Library's Maintenance staff have been trained to repair them.

    Once or twice a week, The Center staff, those who are familiar faces and the behind-the-scenes crew who process and catalog the collection, gathers for a 30- to 40-minute meeting during the 8 a.m. hour to touch base on public activities and events, library issues and other topics.

    If there is time left, the librarians start cleaning the spam messages out of the Ask a Librarian email queue and answering the questions that have come into that mailbox overnight. Then the door locks click, the elevator bells ring and the sound of footsteps coming up the stairs can be heard – it’s time to welcome the day’s patrons to The Genealogy Center!

    Posted by: ACPL Genealogy Center

  • Plug-In Your Armchair Genealogy: Researching from Home

    Thursday, Jan 24, 2013

    This session takes the armchair research of the past - letters, queries, Interlibrary loan and phone calls - and gives it a modern twist. There's so much that can be found through the Internet to advance your research, even if you do not subscribe to a single commercial (for-pay) database!

    Meeting Room A, 2:30 PM - 3:30 PM.

    To register for this free class, send an email or call 260-421-1225.

    For more information, see our WinterTech brochure.

    Posted by: ACPL Genealogy Center

  • The Challenge of Missing Census Pages

    Sunday, Jan 20, 2013

    By John

    The recent effort of Ancestry to correct some of its birthplace entries in the census database is to be applauded. For many years we have known that census takers wrote "IA" for Indiana in the birth fields on the 1850 and 1860 censuses. Abstractors transcribed it incorrectly as "Iowa." A recent announcement herald that these earlier errors have been corrected.

    There is still more to be done to make federal census images more complete. When Ancestry and other companies digitized the federal census records, they used the microfilm versions of those records, instead of going back to the original volumes. (The originals are only available for early census to 1870; the later schedules have been destroyed). Unfortunately, when the original films were created, some errors occurred and a few scattered pages here and there were never filmed. They still exist in the original volumes in the National Archives and Records Administration, but researchers using the census databases will not find the names on those pages, since they have never been digitized.

    Here's a story that illustrates the challenge. More than a decade ago, the late George Fitzgerald, a local Fort Wayne genealogist, undertook some research on George McCulloch, a Fort Wayne banker and later Secretary of the Treasury in the Lincoln administration. He searched the 1850 census, but couldn't find him (a younger man with that name was listed, not the 40-year-old banker from Maine). Where was Hugh? George went to the National Archives in Washington, D.C., examined the original 1850 register for Allen County, and discovered that page 159 of Wayne Township, Allen County, had never been filed due to camera operator error. There he found Hugh McCulloch along with six other households, all of which were later transcribed and published in the "Allen County Lines," vol. 26, no 4 (June 2002).

    In my research over the years I have discovered that other census pages were inadvertently missed. In 1820, a number of pages were left out of the microfilm of the Virginia census, now transcribed online, as well as in the "Virginia Genealogist," vol. 18, no. 2 (April-June 1974). Unfortunately, the accompanying household data was not abstracted.

    I feel certain that there are other missing pages here and there in the microfilm editions that resulted from camera operator error many years ago. If a company such as Ancestry were to digitize these lost pages, they could truly lay claim to having the most complete census records extant. However, locating and correcting these omissions could be a herculean task.

    In any case, it is worth noting that if you absolutely cannot find someone who you feel should be on the federal census, it may be that you are encountering a missing page. While not a widespread problem, such errors do exist.

    Posted by: ACPL Genealogy Center

  • March Madness, Genealogy Style: Telling Your Story

    Thursday, Jan 17, 2013

    As we spend time searching for our ancestors, we often forget that we and others around us have important stories to share. This year, March Madness, Genealogy Style will examine the various ways these stories can be saved and documented for future generations. Classes include:

    Monday March 4, 2013, 2P-3P, Meeting Room A
    Gathering & Writing the Stories of Your Life -- Beginning Steps
    Curt Witcher

    Tuesday March 5, 2013, 2P-3P, Meeting Room A
    Did It Really Happen That Way? Documenting Oral History
    Delia Bourne

    Wednesday March 6, 2013, 2P-3P, Meeting Room A
    Insuring Our Story: Recording & Transcribing Oral History
    Melissa Shimkus

    Thursday March 7, 2013, Heirlooms & Artifacts – Meeting Room A
    11A – 12N: Tracking Heirlooms & Telling Their Stories
    Dawne Slater-Putt
    2 P – 3 P: Beyond the Family Bible: Making the Most of Heirlooms and Artifacts in Genealogical Research
    John Beatty

    Friday March 8, 2013, 10A-11A, Meeting Room A
    Writing Personal History
    Dawne Slater-Putt

    Saturday March 9, 2013, 10A-11A, Meeting Room A
    Creating a Family History Storybook
    Cynthia Theusch

    For more information, see brochure. To register for any or all of these free events, send an email or call 260-421-1225.

    Posted by: ACPL Genealogy Center

  • Getting a Snack....

    Wednesday, Jan 16, 2013

    Starting Monday, January 21, 2013, the Dunkin' Donuts on the first floor of the Allen County Public Library's main branch will close an hour earlier Mondays through Thursdays, at 8 PM instead of 9 PM. As usual, of course, no food or beverages are allowed in The Genealogy Center.

    Posted by: ACPL Genealogy Center

  • Australian Research Expert to Speak March 15, 2013

    Monday, Jan 14, 2013

    Liz Pidgeon, Local and Family History Librarian at Yarra Plenty Regional Library, in Melbourne, Victoria, will offer "Researching Australian Family History, with Additional Tips for Finding Your American Ancestor in Australia." She will provide an introduction to research in Australia, and an overview of sources, including archives, genealogy and family history societies, convict research, military resources, and libraries, including the National Library's Trove website. She will also be available for research questions after the lecture.

    Liz began as Librarian Cataloguer at YPRL in 1991 and was involved in the early implementation of digitization programs. In 2005 she was appointed as Local and Family History Librarian co-ordinating local and family history services for the region as part of the Community Engagement team. Responsibilities include overseeing collections, developing partnerships with local history groups and councils, and promoting the value of local and family history to the community through network meetings and programs in the library. She has a long time personal interest in both local and family history, and is actively involved in the preservation of photographs and stories. She has also been a Creative Memories Consultant for over 10 years.

    This one-hour class starts at 2:00 PM and will be held in Meeting Room A.

    To register for this free event, send an email or call 260-421-1225.

    Take advantage of this rare, and free, opportunity to hear and meet with an expert from Down Under!

    Posted by: ACPL Genealogy Center

  • If the Record is Blowin' in the Wind

    Friday, Jan 11, 2013

    by Melissa & Delia

    Recently, a researcher was bemoaning the fact that one of the recent natural disasters that have befallen this country destroyed the county facility where she had hoped to search for records on one of her families. Imagine her happiness when it was pointed out to her that the original records may have been destroyed, but various organizations and authors had already published books and articles which indexed and transcribed the marriage, probate and deed records that she needed and that we had those books here in The Genealogy Center!

    While examining original records is always preferable, in many cases where floods, hurricanes, tornadoes and other events have made that impossible, the past and current activities of local genealogical and historical societies, lineage societies like the D.A.R., the W.P.A., and individual authors have recorded this precious information.

    Of course, preservation activities within the community are always advisable. Libraries or local societies can make contact with the court clerk and investigate scanning or microfilming the records for storage elsewhere. But for records lost in the past 20 to 30 years, don't forget our genealogical predecessors who have already paved the preservation way.

    Posted by: ACPL Genealogy Center

  • Who's Your Mommy?

    Monday, Jan 07, 2013

    by Delia

    Congratulations! You found your ancestor in the 1880 census, a 14-year-old boy living with his parents and several siblings, both older and younger! You gleefully place these new names on your family chart and proceed on with your research. Right?

    No, of course not! You realize that this young man may well be the son of the head of the household (he's listed as the man's son, after all), but that woman might be his mother, or may be someone his widowed (or divorced) father may have married after the boy's mother died.

    Since you've already tried getting a full death record to see if his parents are listed (no, the space is blank), and his obituary (not mentioned), you know you have to try another few tricks. You look for will and/or probate records, but, although the father's will mentioned his children by name, the woman died before her husband.

    You look for marriage records and find a record for the father marrying a woman of the correct first name a year before the oldest child in the family was born. But as you check further and discover the father married again, in 1872, to a woman with the same first name as his first wife. You find a cemetery listing for the first wife (you ignored it before, thinking she was still alive in 1880), and all of the pieces are falling into place. A close examination of church records verifies your theory: Your ancestor was the son of the 1880 head of household and his first wife. And you have successfully resisted the urge to jump to a conclusion without all of the facts.

    NOW you can add those names in the proper places!

    Posted by: ACPL Genealogy Center

  • Artifacts Can Aid and Supplement Research

    Thursday, Jan 03, 2013

    by Dawne

    The Genealogy Center received an email query from fellow genealogy librarian Marcia Ford of the Kokomo and Howard County (IN) Public Library Genealogy & Local History Department, recently, asking if we could identify the object in the picture featured with this entry. Marcia had been sent the photo by a colleague, whose friend found the object with a metal detector. It is rectangular, about two inches wide and three inches tall with a hole in the top and small tabs on the sides. Its legend reads “XMAS GREETING ’91” and what looks like “__ESA ARMSTRONG.” Underneath that, “FT. WAYNE, IND.” is clear. There may be a smaller embossed message below this, but it isn’t readable from the picture.

    After some research, it seems likely that this metal tag was once attached to a hat box. The name on the tag isn’t “___ESA ARMSTRONG,” but “JAMES A. ARMSTRONG.” According to The Illustrated Milliner, Vol. 11, pp. 175-176, published in 1910, James A. Armstrong established Adams & Armstrong millinery firm in Fort Wayne in 1886 and shortly after bought out his partner and changed the name of the company to The James A. Armstrong Millinery Co. The 1890-1891 Fort Wayne City and Allen County Directory published by R. L. Polk Company, shows James A. Armstrong, wholesale milliner, with his shop at 109 Calhoun Street.

    It may be that this tag was attached to the hat boxes containing hats ordered by women to complement their holiday finery, or to the boxes of hats purchased as gifts, or both. In effect, the tag probably served as an advertisement for the James A. Armstrong Company. Without locating an intact hat box from that company for the 1891 holiday season, or a photograph of one, it is not possible to know for sure whether the mystery of this item’s identity has been solved, but this seems like a reasonable possibility.

    The full text of the 1910 issue of The Illustrated Milliner that includes the article mentioning the James A. Armstrong Company is available online at the HathiTrust Digital Library. It even includes a photograph of James! James A. Armstrong added C. T. Pidgeon and W. S. Turner to his firm in 1894, then sold out to his partners and moved to Denver, Colorado, in 1902. According to the article, he planned to retire from the millinery business at that point, but because “Denver held such alluring prospects for a first class jobbing millinery house,” he changed his mind about retiring and established Howland & Armstrong in Denver. That firm was dissolved in 1902 and Armstrong, with a former Fort Wayne partner, W. S. Turner, formed the Armstrong Turner Millinery Company in Denver, which was still in business at the time the article was written in 1910.

    Heirlooms and artifacts sometimes can tell their stories if we are observant and think creatively about sources in libraries and elsewhere that might help us decipher available clues. In this case, old city directories were instrumental in unlocking a possible answer to the mystery of the metal Christmas greetings tag.

    Posted by: ACPL Genealogy Center

  • New Year Goals

    Sunday, Dec 30, 2012

    by Delia

    When I first started researching, I would make up my New Year's goals for genealogy. Initially, the list was full of "Find great-grandmother's brother's wife's maiden name," and "Figure out what happened to Harry." Those were all great goals, but, really, I was going to work on those anyway. New Year's goals should encourage us to do something different, to make a change for the better in our research techniques, our documentation standards, or our policies about sharing material. So here are a few goals you might want to consider:

    Pledge to investigate new information thoroughly, and evaluate the source for authenticity and accuracy.

    Pledge to add the new information to your research compilation along with detailed citations that include the source person or document, and where the source is located.

    Pledge to submit something of your research to posterity, such as write and submit a well-documented article to a genealogical society journal or scan old family photos to a disk and submit to a historical society or to The Genealogy Center's Family Resources.

    Pledge to talk to an older relative and really listen, learning more about his or her life experiences, and record or transcribe what you hear.

    Pledge to join a genealogical society. As more and more people are connected only electronically, we are losing the benefits of sharing our research triumphs and failures with others.

    Pledge to attend a genealogical conference at least once. Aside from valuable classes and vendors on display at a conference, the networking opportunities and problem-solving discussions are invaluable. Genealogists are among the most friendly of conference attendees, willing to converse with others about various research sources and techniques. Of course, I might mention that the Federation of Genealogical Societies' annual conference, Journey Through Generations, will be in Fort Wayne August 21-24, 2013.

    Last, pledge to be on the watch for others who may be interested in researching their family trees, and aid them as they begin. You may be able to introduce a friend to the wonders of family history.

    Posted by: ACPL Genealogy Center

  • New Year's Closings

    Wednesday, Dec 26, 2012

    Like other Allen County Public Library facilities, The Genealogy Center will close at 5PM on Monday, December 31st (our hours that day will be 9AM to 5PM) for New Year's Eve, and will be closed all day on Tuesday, January 1, 2013. We will reopen our regular hours, 9AM to 9PM on Wednesday, January 2nd. Take the time we are closed to create your Genealogy New Year's Goals!

    Posted by: ACPL Genealogy Center

  • The Gift Everyone Wants: To Be Heard

    Sunday, Dec 23, 2012

    by Delia

    Of course, we as genealogists value the tales of our ancestors, whether he was a Baptist deacon, she was a missionary, he was a bank robber or she was labeled a lunatic for disagreeing with her husband. Of course, the farther back we go, the more interesting they become.

    But the ancestor sitting right in front of us doesn't seem nearly as interesting. He or she is old, crotchety and complains a lot and maybe there's that medicinal smell that reminds us of our own mortality. When a question about the past arises, the facts might get embellished or the speaker will go off on some tangent, telling every conceivable part of the backstory and struggling to reconcile the dates and events to match the story.

    A colleague recently shared this with me, and as I read through the poem, I thought about the people whose stories I had heard, and while I wished I had actually recorded those tales, I was happy that I had listened and remembered. Those accounts were good for me to hear and good for someone else to tell.

    At this time of gift-giving, we often hear others worry what to give to an older relative, usually resorting to bath robes and lotions. This year, let's advise these non-family historians that the best gift they can give to an older relative is uninterrupted listening time. And, in return, the gift might just come back as a greater understanding of the family.

    Posted by: ACPL Genealogy Center

  • Emancipation Proclamation Panel Discussion on January 13, 2013

    Friday, Dec 21, 2012

    by Jane

    To commemorate the 150th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln’s signing of the Emancipation Proclamation, the Lincoln Financial Foundation Collection's Lincoln at the Library program will present “Lincoln’s Gamble: The Emancipation Proclamation.”

    This panel discussion of the context and effects of the Proclamation will be held on Sunday, January 13, 2013, in the Main Library's Meeting Room A, from 2:00 to 3:00 in the afternoon. Panelists will offer varying perspectives—political, historical, and cultural—on the Proclamation and will address questions from the audience. “Lincoln’s Gamble” is sponsored by the Friends of the Allen County Public Library.

    Posted by: ACPL Genealogy Center

  • We're Tweeting!

    Wednesday, Dec 19, 2012

    By Dawne

    The Genealogy Center has joined the ranks of Those Who Tweet. Interested individuals can go to and log in as usual, or sign up for a free Twitter account, to follow @ACPLGenealogy. The Genealogy Center Twitter account joins this blog, the The Genealogy Center website, the department’s Facebook page and the electronic magazine, Genealogy Gems, as another way to reach out to patrons and let them know what’s happening at The Genealogy Center. Tweets will mention programs, special events, genealogy tips, news and more.

    Posted by: ACPL Genealogy Center