Books I'd like to read, as reviewed in the American Historical Review 119(1) February 2014:
Robert M. Lombardo (Loyola University Chicago), Organized Crime in Chicago: Beyond the Mafia (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2013). According to reviewer Robert C. Donnelly of Gonzaga, this book treats a sensational subject sensibly. It "deflates the theory that organized crime in the United States was imported from Italy, and . . . provides ample evidence to prove that organized crime in the city evolved from social structure, frontier immorality, and political corruption." (p. 195)
William E. Farr (University of Montana, Missoula), Blackfoot Redemption: A Blood Indian's Story of Murder, Confinement, and Imperfect Justice (Norman: University of Oklahoma Pres, 2012). Convicted in 1880 Montana for a murder in Canada, Spopee (Turtle) spent more than three decades in an insane asylum in Washington, DC, before being discovered by a Sioux delegation and pardoned. The story and its context are grim (Spopee could not communicate at all with his lawyers); reviewer Blanca Tovias of the University of Sydney describes the writing as "knowledgeable, attentive to detail, and vivid." (p. 187)
M. Michelle Jarrett Morris (University of Missouri), Under Household Government: Sex and Family in Puritan Massachusetts (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2013). This book draws on 500 court cases in Suffolk and Middlesex counties between 1660 and 1700. According to reviewer Gloria Main (University of Colorado, Boulder) it is also distinguished from its predecessors by "using genealogical means to uncover the kinship relations of the principals and witnesses in criminal trials involving illicit sex." Main also has a genealogical complaint: "Genealogical research succeeds only when individuals can actually be traced, but surviving records favor those owning land, paying taxes, joining a church, and baptizing children. Morris has combed local archives, but among those she left undisturbed, regrettably, are church records." (p. 169)
Harold Henderson, "Organized crime, Blackfoot redemption, and illicit Puritan sex," Midwestern Microhistory: A Genealogy Blog, posted 6 March 2014 (http://midwesternmicrohistory.blogspot.com : viewed [date]). [Please feel free to link to the specific post if you prefer.]
Thursday, March 6, 2014
Books I'd like to read, as reviewed in the American Historical Review 119(1) February 2014:
Monday, March 3, 2014
Most genealogical questions, according to Thomas W. Jones in Mastering Genealogical Proof, ask about relationship (R), identity (I), or activity (A). Of course we can think of much more tangled ones, but usually they are "supporting questions" enabling us to better answer one of the basic ones. (p.8)
After a Facebook discussion the other day, I wondered how this idea checked out at the top end of the field in 2013. Classifying articles this way turned out to be more difficult and more subjective than I expected, and I never found anything that quite fit "activity." Activity-type questions may end up in DAR applications more often than in published articles.
The New England Historical and Genealogical Register (NEHGR) and American Ancestors Journal: R 14, I 3, A 0, others 2.
The New York Genealogical and Biographical Record (NYGBR): R 10, I 1, A 0, and others 3.
The National Genealogical Society Quarterly (NGSQ): R 11, I 3, A 0, others 2.
The Genealogist (TG): R 6, I 1, A 0, others 0.
Totals: R 41, I 8, A 0, others 7. Roughly three-quarters ask about relationships. The "others" are generally individual life stories, or ask what would usually be supporting questions, such as, "Where was he buried?"
How does this play out in less formal publications like NGS Magazine, American Ancestors (NEHGS), and some state magazines? What questions do their articles answer? Your turn!
Harold Henderson, "Methodology Monday: The questions we ask," Midwestern Microhistory: A Genealogy Blog, posted 3 March 2014 (http://midwesternmicrohistory.blogspot.com : viewed [date]). [Please feel free to link to the specific post if you prefer.]
Saturday, March 1, 2014
Digitized newspapers are everywhere, but so many different outfits -- both free and commercial -- are getting in on the act that it can be hard to keep with which ones are available where your ancestors lived. Kenneth R. Marks over at The Ancestor Hunt has a series of listings by state, including Wisconsin, Illinois, Ohio, Michigan, and Indiana, as well as New York, Pennsylvania, Kentucky, Tennessee, Alabama, Mississippi, New Jersey, Massachusetts, and Maine. I haven't used them all . . . yet.
Harold Henderson, "On-line newspapers by state," Midwestern Microhistory: A Genealogy Blog, posted 1 March 2014 (http://midwesternmicrohistory.blogspot.com : viewed [date]). [Please feel free to link to the specific post if you prefer.]
Wednesday, February 26, 2014
Want more? Do you need the lowdown on Indiana's divorce laws? Waste no time in scrounging the internet: join the Indiana Genealogical Society and read Thompson's thorough source-cited explanation as just the first of your member benefits. Do it now and get your money's worth, as all annual memberships expire at the end of the calendar year.
Meredith Thompson, "Indiana's Pre-1940 Divorce Laws," Indiana Genealogist 24(4):13-20, December 2013.
Harold Henderson, "Indiana divorce laws guide!," Midwestern Microhistory: A Genealogy Blog, posted 26 February 2014 (http://midwesternmicrohistory.blogspot.com : viewed [date]). [Please feel free to link to the specific post if you prefer.]
Monday, February 24, 2014
In colonial New England, the classic genealogy dilemma -- "Where did they come from?" -- takes on a standard form: "Where in England?" Christopher Robbins and other researchers had Nicholas Robbins's 1650/1 will, a 1635 ship list that was a close match, and a tall brick wall across the ocean, consisting of far too many local English parish records to go through one at a time.
Technology came to the rescue, allowing him to search consolidated on-line indexes. The resulting parish registers in Kent matched the family almost perfectly. The author sought local help and was amply rewarded by an unpublished Ph.D. thesis with additional material on the family. Read the whole thing in the October NEHGR -- either on line if you're a HisGen member, or in any good genealogy library's collection.
But technology is not a cure-all. Without careful correlation between records, bigger and better indexes just offer ways to make bigger mistakes. Correlation is more fruitful when we have a family unit (or a group of associates). One match could well be a coincidence. Two or three are much more likely to be a breakthrough.
Christopher Robbins, "New Evidence for the English Origins of Nicholas Robbins," New England Historical and Genealogical Register 167 (October 2013):245-50.
Harold Henderson, "Methdology Monday (NEHGR): Connecting across the Atlantic in the 1600s," Midwestern Microhistory: A Genealogy Blog, posted 24 February 2014 (http://midwesternmicrohistory.blogspot.com : viewed [date]). [Please feel free to link to the specific post if you prefer.]
Saturday, February 22, 2014
Genealogy periodicals don't get enough respect as research sources. And the Periodical Source Index (PERSI) -- once a print volume, now a virtual entity, but always based at the Allen County Public Library Genealogy Center in Fort Wayne -- is almost the only way to get at them in bulk. (And that's important because people often publish where they are living and not where the ancestors were.)
Having used it for years, I recently learned that it has always been designed as a subject index -- not a title index nor an every-name index. This means that when you title your great new article, putting more than three surnames in the title will not help! The rule is that up to three principal surnames covered in the article or transcription qualify as "subjects" to be indexed; beyond that, not. I'm sorry if I misled anybody on this point.
The general subject headings PERSI uses are:
* census records
* church records
* court records
* land records other than deeds
* military records
* miscellaneous records
* naturalization records
* passenger lists
* probate records other than wills
* school records
* tax records
* vital records
* voter records
Now and again folks ask for a checklist of important source types so that they don't miss any. There is no such animal, and no checklist you can run down in any given case and be sure you haven't missed something. But for a quick rundown of generally available record types, here you have it!
When you think about it, there is an awful lot of research that never gets known beyond the local or state periodical level. I would hesitate to start a sweepstakes for the "most underused" record type, considering that there are so many contenders, but genealogy periodicals are very much underused in my experience. I think the new Find My Past interface will entice more of us to use them (it's already got me going!). Those of us who live close enough to visit the Allen County Public Library Genealogy Center on a regular basis can use that search function, and then locate the promising originals on our own on the site -- #1 in the world for genealogy periodicals. For this purpose I would rather be in Fort Wayne than in Salt Lake City!
Harold Henderson, "What I knew about PERSI that wasn't so," Midwestern Microhistory: A Genealogy Blog, posted 22 February 2014 (http://midwesternmicrohistory.blogspot.com : viewed [date]). [Please feel free to link to the specific post if you prefer.]
Monday, February 17, 2014
There's a strange idea out there that "genealogy" is boring and technical, while "family history" is the fun story-telling stuff. If any article can refute this notion, it's Paul Graham's lead article in the December National Genealogical Society Quarterly, "A Love Story Proved: The Life and Family of Laura Lavinia (Kelly) Combs of Atlanta and Augusta, Georgia."
Graham, whose work is showing up everywhere these days, is one of the few who hold both the AG and CG credentials. This article, which won NGS's 2012 Family History Writing Contest, carefully marshals a variety of indirect evidence to clarify and confirm a long-standing story that Mary Combs, a free woman of color, sold her property in Atlanta in order to purchase the freedom of her enslaved husband -- a tale that had stumped previous writers and historians who tried to verify it.
This is a great article for those who are new to the specific challenges of African-American research, or who are beginning to suspect that there's a whole world of genealogy out there beyond just chasing names on Ancestry or looking them up in indexes.
Just to start, Graham had to get the name straight. No African-American Mary Combs appeared in local records, but Laura Combs did. No deed stating that she bought or sold the city lot exists. But a neighbor's 1854 deed identified her as its owner, and a tax list the following year showed that Laura Kelly, under the name of her legally required guardian -- that same neighbor -- paid taxes on property worth $1000. And the white Combs women who lived on the property in 1859 owned a slave named John.
Already a trail snaking through property records (but not "Mary's"), tax records (under another name altogether), and a city directory.
If you want to know how Graham figured out the rest, join the National Genealogical Society and read the article on line, or make your way to the nearest good genealogy library. We can't even begin to tell the story without having done the technical work.
Paul K. Graham, "A Love Story Proved: The Life and Family of Laura Lavinia (Kelly) Combs of Atlanta and Augusta, Georgia," National Genealogical Society Quarterly 101 (December 2013): 245-66.
Harold Henderson, "Methdology Monday (NGSQ): Paul Graham reopens a chapter of African-American history in Georgia," Midwestern Microhistory: A Genealogy Blog, posted 17 February 2014 (http://midwesternmicrohistory.blogspot.com : viewed [date]). [Please feel free to link to the specific post if you prefer.]