Thursday, January 31, 2008

Indiana identities in NGSQ

We're used to reading technical articles about ferreting out who's who in colonial New England. The new (December) issue of the National Genealogical Society Quarterly (available in many libraries, but on-line only to members) brings an eastern Indiana detective story of the same kind by Dawne Slater-Putt, M.L.S., CG, of Huntertown.

It starts with two Fayette County, Indiana, census records, and the kind of conclusion we're all tempted to jump to.

1850: Eleanor Nash, age 16, in the Fayette County, Indiana, household of Richard and Margaret.
1860: Eleanor Saxon, age 27, in the same household with three Saxon children.

Eleanor must've married a Saxon and been widowed, right? Well, Fayette County records show no such marriage, and they do show Eleanor Nash marrying a Joseph Turner in 1857. Uh-oh.

This is the point where most amateurs throw up their hands and look for another line to study. Slater-Putt is a pro, and she finds the answer after "research on extended Nash and Saxon families in several counties in two states and careful evidence analysis," laid out in nine closely reasoned pages of text. No spoilers here, and yes, it's technical, but it's exactly what we need in order to make sure we're telling stories about the right ancestors.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

All things Michigan and Polish

That's Jasia's long-running blog Creative Gene. Whether she's hosting a blog carnival about contacting living relatives, mulling over whether to renew her local genealogical society membership, persuading her brother to get a DNA test, or giving us a snapshot of Detroit in 1908, this is a Midwestern genealogy blog worth keeping track of (you can get it by email).

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Jewish Genealogy conference in Chicago

The 28th IAJGS International Conference on Jewish Genealogy will meet at the Chicago Marriott Downtown Magnificent Mile 17-22 Aug 2008, welcoming all levels of genealogical interest. According to a December 1 press release, sixteen special interest groups (covering Germany, Poland, Ukraine, and Litvak [Lithuanian]) and at least sixteen smaller "birds of a feather" groups will get together as well. The sponsoring umbrella group's website is here.

For those for whom Chicago is a genealogical destination as well, Mike Karsen, president of the co-host Jewish Genealogical Society of Illinois, has a Guide to Jewish Genealogy in Chicagoland.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Genealogy at the Newberry Library in Chicago

Long a magnet for Midwestern genealogists, these days Chicago's Newberry Library also has a significant web presence. Its Chicago Ancestors site (blogged here) is unique AFAIK; most of the library's voluminous holdings are now catalogued on line; and the Local and Family History Department's Newberry Library Genealogy News is a uniquely useful source for upcoming meetings, library events, and research tips. On that same page you can scroll down for links to articles like Jack Simpson on the history of German street name changes in the Bucktown neighborhood and Grace Dumelle on Chicago school records.

Back in the physical world, the library will host two genealogy events open to the public this Saturday (2 Feb): Ginger Frere will give an introduction to genealogy at 9:30 am, and Jeanne Bloom will speak on "Genealogy and Writing" at the Chicago Genealogical Society meeting at 1:30 pm. (Future CGS meetings are here.)

Out-of-towners with plenty to read, and better things to do than try to drive and park in downtown Chicago, should know that the Newberry is a short bus ride (or a brisk 20-minute walk) north of the Loop commuter train stations, which come in from as far as Kenosha, South Bend, Joliet, and Aurora. Directions and links here.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Searching County Biographies on line, part 1

Dennis Partridge reports on his blog Genealogy Research that he's adding biographies from John Forkner's 1914 History of Madison County, Indiana, to the free online site Access Genealogy. Anyone who can remember, or imagine, being confronted with a ten-pound century-old book full of biographies of the upper and middle crust of a given county, in no particular order, with no index of any kind, will want to thank him.

As of 27 Jan 2008, AG claims to have 14,478 biographies in its biography center. The collection is searchable by surname; some individual titles are searchable and browsable, but not all. There's also a feature allowing you to browse biographies in which a given state is mentioned.

It's not clear how many different books (as opposed to individual biographies) they have included (Partridge says he's halfway through the Madison County inputting process). Most listings appear to be transcripts retyped from the originals. Some listings give better citations than others. At one extreme, there's full citation information and page images for the 1897 History of the Scandinavians and Successful Scandinavians in the United States covering Iowa and Wisconsin. At the other extreme, the biographies pertaining to Ida County, Iowa, are said to have been "extracted from numerous sources" not given, although there's an email address to contact the compiler.

Given the possibility of typing errors, best research procedure would be to use this as a finding aid (and what a finding aid it is!) and following up by consulting the underlying books, when you can get to Salt Lake City or Fort Wayne or wherever tells you they're available.

Midwestern coverage, as far as I can tell, is reasonable but not lavish. Two book titles are listed separately under Wisconsin. Otherwise, the state browse function produces 2659 hits for Illinois, 2625 for Ohio, 1553 for Indiana, 696 for Wisconsin, and 658 for Michigan. Most of these are mentions of the state in biographies published elsewhere. (I see this as a feature rather than a bug.)

This is by no means the only free site where the late 1800s and early 1900s county histories are being indexed and made available, either in transcriptions or images, but it has the merit of making them searchable across the board, not just within each book. That's a great help when you're looking for that pesky relative or ancestor who moved around a lot.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Region Roots blog from Lake County, Indiana

"Indiana Librarian" blogs once or twice a week from the Lake County Public Library in Merrillville, covering a mix of local resources (such as the Calumet Regional Archives), national resources (Clifford Neal Smith's Federal Land Series), beginner information (getting started with online genealogy), and local meetings (on 2 Feb Lake County Genealogist Marlene Polster will give a slide show on publishing your genealogy).

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Plain City gets noticed

You'd think Garrison Keillor had a hand in naming Plain City, a small town straddling the line between Union and Madison counties just west of Columbus, Ohio. I haven't had occasion to work there, but in this week's NEHGS E-news, the oldest and largest US genealogical society takes note of the local library's burial database.

The database is arranged alphabetically, and for most entries it gives name, death date, death place, burial date, and cemetery (or where removed to if not local). The underlying source or sources of the database aren't given, but will be of interest if you find leads here. (I have rarely consulted an original record that didn't somewhere tell more than the on-line version!) On the plus side, in placing it online, the librarians appear to have resisted the impulse to mix in information (such as "wife of...") that "everybody knows" but that does not actually appear in the original document.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Kannel, Gilles, Ingli

Three intertwined Midwestern families from western Germany (Gilles) and central Switzerland (Kannel, Ingli) are chronicled in Jeff Kannel's 547-page book The Kannel, Gilles, and Ingli Families of Plum City, Wisconsin, published Sep 2007. According to the news release at the Kenosha Writers' Group it's based on 15 years' research and contains "168 pages of genealogical information," as well as plenty of local, national, and international historical context. (No word on whether it footnotes all statements of fact that aren't common knowledge, but we can hope!) The families spent time in Highland (Madison County), Illinois; Fond Du Lac County, Wisconsin; and Plum City (Pierce County), Wisconsin.

Ordering information at a PDF link on the Kenosha Writers' Group site. As of 23 Jan, it wasn't on


My goal here is to post regularly about genealogy news and research and resources involving Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Wisconsin, and Michigan, and their neighbor and feeder states. That's more or less the region also known as the Midwest; the Old Northwest; Region V; everything between St. Louis and Pittsburgh, Mackinac and Cincinnati; or "pretty much any place you can drive to from my house in 5 or 6 hours."

If you need to be convinced that this is fascinating stuff, or if you want to read long essays about what I did today, you're in the wrong place. If you're looking for national and international news, Dick Eastman's newsletter is indispensable.

But if you want to learn and comment along with me about which counties to hope your ancestors lived and died in... what major libraries and repositories are offering... what recent articles, books, or blog posts touch on our region... then please stay tuned!