Monday, March 31, 2008

What is pioneering, really?

Utne Reader points to Eula Biss's precise, thoughtful reflections on urban "pioneering" in Chicago's northeasternmost neighborhood, Rogers Park.

The word pioneer betrays a disturbing willingness to repeat the worst mistake of the pioneers of the American West [including today's Midwest] — the mistake of considering an inhabited place uninhabited. To imagine oneself as a pioneer in a place as densely populated as Chicago is either to deny the existence of your neighbors or to cast them as natives who must be displaced. Either way, it is a hostile fantasy.
Her reflections are coupled with reflections on those earlier pioneers, as presented by Laura Ingalls Wilder, whose children's books don't duck away from confronting the racism ("The only good Indian is a dead Indian") that dominated her childhood environment.

Victoria Freeman's book Distant Relations: How My Ancestors Colonized North America is longer, a bit less nuanced, and focused more on New England, but makes some of the same points explicitly in the context of her ancestors, including interpreter-general Thomas Stanton and John Eliot, the apostle to the Indians. This is genealogy concerned with understanding the past, not glorifying it.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Northeastern Ohio heritage online

Diane Haddad at Genealogy Insider mentions Ohio's Heritage Northeast as a favorite website, and I can see why.

OHN combines into a single searchable database archival collections from Cleveland State University (the hosting institution), Akron-Summit County Public Library, Cleveland Public Library (a genealogical force in its own right, home of the excellent Cleveland Necrology File), Oberlin College Archives, Rodman Public Library (in Alliance), Westlake Porter Public Library, Cuyahoga County Public Library, Shaker Heights Public Library, the Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities, and the Syracuse (New York) Public Library. (The last two institutions aren't in northeast Ohio, but they share relevant material.)

You can choose which of the several dozen collections to search: they run from Akron Banknotes (locally printed money from the Civil War era) to Yesterday's Lakewood, and include Cleveland postcards and ethnic groups including Blacks, Polish Americans, German Americans, Irish Americans, and Hungarian Americans. Most are collections of images but there is some text. Unfortunately, it's sometimes hard to tell from the collection title what you're going to get, and I haven't found a way to simply browse a collection.

Be prepared to spend some time here. I don't have a lot of folks in NE Ohio, and let's just say it's taken me quite a while to write this post!

Saturday, March 29, 2008

More Illinois sources on line

Illinois Harvest is digitizing books from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign library faster than I can keep up with (check the tag cloud for previous posts). Recent additions of potential genealogical and microhistorical interest:

Portrait and Biographical Record of Macon County, Illinois. Chicago: Lake City Publishing Co., 1893. 736 pages on the city of Decatur and its immediate hinterland.

The Indian tribes of the Chicago region, with special reference to the Illinois and the Potawatomi, by William Duncan Strong. Chicago: Field Museum of Natural History, 1926.

A Visit to the Illinois Eastern Hospital. Chicago: H.O. Shepard, 190_. That's the mental institution better known as "Manteno," where a grandaunt of mine was later an inmate.

Army Life of an Illinois Soldier, including a Day by Day record of Sherman's March to the Sea, by Charles Wright Wills. Wills had a busy war, serving in the 8th Illinois Infantry, 7th Illinois Cavalry, and 103rd Illinois Infantry. Use this link to the American Libraries site; the others bring up a 404 Not Found error on my machine.

Chicago Daily News National Almanac for the years 1892-3, 1896, 1898-1905, 1909-9, 1911-17, and 1919-23.

Illinois State Gazetteer and Business Directory for the Years 1864-5, Embracing Descriptive Sketches of All the Cities, Towns and Villages Throughout the State... [well, you get the idea]. Chicago: J.C.W. Bailey, 1864. 846 pages. Downstate coverage is good, including even a brief mention of the still-unincorporated hamlet of Summum in SW Fulton County.

Two of Edwards' annual Chicago city directories, volume 12 for 1869-1870, and volume 14 for 1871.

Industrial Chicago, volumes 1-5. Chicago: Goodspeed, 1891-1894. Volumes cover "the building interests" (v1&2), "the manufacturing interests" (v3), "the commercial interests" (v4), and "the lumber interests" (v5).

Album of Genealogy and Biography, Cook County Illinois, for 1897, 1899, and 1900, although I'm not sure the later volumes add much to the first one. As in all such high Victorian productions, expect to find only the rich and well-known telling their own highly selective versions of the story. If you need George Pullman's take on the Pullman Strike, you can find it here in all its rigid, archaic glory.

The book of Chicagoans: A Biographical Dictionary of Leading Living Men and Women of the City of Chicago. Chicago: A.N. Marquis, 1905 and 1917.

Remember, these are digital images of the originals, totally searchable -- the gold standard AFAIK.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Invitation to some inquests

Thanks to my Pittsburgh friend (and 5th cousin once removed) Jan for pointing out a post by Lisa Alzo at The Accidental Genealogist. (It's blog "for genealogists who like to write, and writers who happen to be genealogists!" -- how did I miss that one?) Lisa writes about The University of Pittsburgh Archive Services Center's Coroner Case File Project, preserving and making available Allegheny County coroner's inquest files from 1887 to 1973.

She's hoping that one o f these files will shed light on a probable murder among her relatives, but from some of the comments in the accompanying wiki I wouldn't count on it. One browser of the files reports, "I think that some of my case files [more than 100 years ago] that were ruled suicides were actually misdiagnosed or just plain wrong. In one file a man was found in the Allegheny River, his feet bound and stab wounds in his chest. The coroner ruled it a suicide..." Moral: always evaluate official sources with a wary eye.

These files are an unusual source for unusual circumstances (or, perhaps, for historical background). Similar files covering shorter time spans are also available through the Illinois State Archives' regional depositories for the Illinois counties of Cook, DeWitt, Macoupin, Vermilion, and Wayne.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

The Indiana genealogy portal to end all Indiana genealogy portals

Many thanks to the Indiana Genealogical Society blog for mentioning the remarkable collection of resources at Hoosier Heritage: Indiana History and Genealogy Online. This site goes far beyond the average and the obvious and includes such links as 19th Century Indiana Physicians, H-Indiana: H-Net Discussion Network for Indiana History, a clickable county-by-county map of Indiana Public Libraries, Genealogical, and Historical Societies, Civil War Indiana, and (inevitably) Celebrating Indiana Automotive History. If you can't find anything here for your Indiana research, you're in the wrong state.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Ohio Historical Society spring seminars

The Ohio Historical Society -- located north of downtown in Columbus in that exceedingly strange concrete building at the fairgrounds -- has an excellent educational lineup this spring. The full list of affordable no-motel ways to learn is at OHS's episodic blog. One of my favorite offerings, given that the survey map of Ohio looks like a crazy quilt:

More Land Office Records in Ohio
May 15, 2008, 6:30 – 8:30 pm

This course will identify where public land offices were located in Ohio and describe what records kept at each office provide necessary information to determine who first purchased land, and when payments were made. Emphasis is on the description of land survey (field notes and measurements), entry, and payment records at the Ohio Historical Society and how to best use them.

If you're just going there to research, beware their drastically limited library hours and check here first. (Scroll way down.)

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Military records can surprise

Darlene Shawn in the Norman [Oklahoma] Transcript says it better than I can:

Do not miss the opportunity to learn more about your ancestors by searching for their military papers. You never know what you may learn....

My ancestor Solomon L. Beaver (Bever) had remained in Ohio when he was discharged from the Union army and remarried without the benefit of divorcing his first wife who lived in Indiana with his five children. The pension papers were filled with affidavits from two women who were trying to get a pension based on Solomon's military service.

Unfortunately, my female ancestor, Mary Blair Bever had remarried before the death of Solomon so she was not entitled to a pension nor was his second unlawful wife. However, the five children by the first marriage did receive a pension from their father's service.

Someday all these papers will be digitized; meanwhile the price of ordering them recently doubled. They're still a genealogical bargain .

Monday, March 24, 2008

Where did they go? More maps -- Kansas

The episodic blog from the Kansas Council of Genealogical Societies links to a nice set of maps of county formation in the state. Too cool.

Sunday, March 23, 2008


I love maps and I love genealogy, and always the twain should meet. But how about a local map puzzle on a genealogy site? The Ashland County Chapter of the Ohio Genealogical Society is the only place I've seen that has an online jigsaw puzzle map of its 15 constituent townships.

Every state and county should do likewise. In the meantime, it just doesn't get any better than this.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Local News from the Past

Like many libraries, Fremont Public Library in north suburban Mundelein (Lake County), Illinois, has a symbiotic relationship with the county genealogical society. The Lake County Genealogical Society's Research Facility (AKA the genealogy room) is on its second floor, and Fremont's web site lists and distinguishes three different Lake County genealogy web sites.

For the past ten years (apparently), Fremont has done something else so simple and so valuable that I can't believe it's the only one. Under the heading, "Local News from the Past," they've posted the "local" items from the weekly Lake County Independent from a century earlier -- 1 Jan 1897 through 23 Aug 1907, and I hope they haven't given it up now!

This listing was an enormous help in sorting and following my Burdick, Knigge, Aynsley families in the area -- like watching a movie unfold, sometimes plotless and sometimes with a plot you know the end of, as relatives gather around a sickbed.

Quite a few basic genealogy sources are like this. Preparing them week after week won't get you published or win any ingenuity rewards in the prestigious journals, but without them it would be just that much more difficult to have the resources to be ingenious with.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

The Minds of the West, first take

Where better to get buyer's remorse than when you buy a book or CD amid the excitement of a genealogy meeting? It's a definite risk. I picked up Jon Gjerde's The Minds of the West: Ethnocultural Evolution in the Rural Middle West 1830-1917 at the DuPage County gathering last month, and I'm about a quarter of the way through and still happy.

Gjerde has some interesting and deep things to say about the nature of the Midwest, starting back when it was (as the title suggests) simply "the West," and caused no end of worry to fretful New Englanders and nativists in general. More on that later. Right now I'm noticing how vividly he shows how genealogy and history are just opposite ends of a whole spectrum of ways to study the past, and how the big picture and the little picture are both valid and shed light on each other.

Instead of just talking about the family factor in migration, he uses the diary of Sarah Browne Armstrong Adamson to follow her feelings in the later 1830s and early 1840s as her children move on from their Fayette County, Ohio, home to greener pastures in faraway Iowa -- and then when she hears that her daughter and granddaughter have died there. {83-85} Suffice to say it's the kind of grieving white people don't do any more.

The diary was transcribed by Carol Benning and reposes in the archives of the Cedar Falls [Iowa] Historical Society, which offers lots of regular genealogical fare including census records, marriage records, probates, directories, and a name-by-name Civil War roster.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Down by the old mill stream . . .

. . . in Sheboygan Falls, Wisconsin, is where you'll find the Sheboygan County Historical Research Center, literally within earshot of the 24/7 waterfall created by the old dam.

Among local research places I've visited, SCHRC is distinguished by efficiency (even when confronted with the daunting surname of Smith), friendliness, thorough cemetery transcriptions, and a collection of local deed abstracts (a bargain at $5 per search, $1 a page -- not many local centers go this deep). Check out the full list of holdings.

And September 25-27 SCHRC will host a conference on "The Dutch-American Experience in Wisconsin: 1840-Present."

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Civil War books

The Michigan Civil War Blog analyzes Civil War Interactive's new voter list of best Civil War books, looking for Michigan connections. (I'll need to check out the Kansas one.) I observe that the rankings seem to fluctuate pretty sharply. (How many people vote on these, anyway?) Grant's Memoirs, a finely crafted book from a Midwesterner without whom we might not have the Union as we know it today, polled 7th last time and now falls to 38th. Read it anyway.

April in St. Louis

The St. Louis Genealogical Society's April 12 conference (PDF) -- billed as "the largest such single-day event in the Midwest" -- has nine speakers in 15 sessions. If I could make it, I'd want to attend

Paula Stuart-Warren, CG, on ancestral places of origin and old settlers' organizations

Ann Carter Fleming, CG, CGL, on St. Louis research (she co-authored Research in Missouri)

Tom Pearson on Illinois internet research

Scott Holl on resources for German genealogy at the St. Louis County Library

These regional-level conferences are more affordable and accessible than the nationals, and if going there is too much, you can pre-order audio CDs of specific presentations now.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Taught to the tune of a hick'ry stick

According to its website, the Country School Association of America is "for people who wish to preserve schools, create or maintain museums, promote living history programs, and allow children of all ages to experience schooling as it was many years ago." CSA will hold its 8th annual conference June 16 at Miami University in Oxford (Butler County), Ohio. They're still open to presentation proposals, and entries in the contest for best essay, book, web site, thesis, or video on any aspect of country schooling (prize $300) .

A highlight of the conference will be a visit to the William Holmes McGuffey Museum. McGuffey taught at Miami U. from 1826 to 1836 and wrote the first four of his famous readers there. Among other things, the conference site links to a male-line genealogy of McGuffey, which does at least have footnotes.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Another place you wish your ancestors had died... Evansville, Vanderburgh County, Indiana, home of the Browning Genealogy Database of more than half a million obituary records compiled by the late Charles Browning. (Could you ask for better evidence that all genealogy is local?)

I happened onto this resource years ago because a prolific branch of Morgan cousins of mine moved from SE Illinois to SW Indiana about 1920. Thanks to Mr. Browning's lifelong labors, I know a lot more about them than I ever expected to. And thanks to Arlene Eakle and Nashville librarian Taneya, whose posts reminded me.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Gems from 1844 and 1860

Illinois Harvest (previously blogged here) has recently digitized two goodies:

First, we have the 1903 "Souvenir [re]Publication" by T.F. Bohan of the General Directory and Business Advertiser of the City of Chicago for the Year 1844, with a Historical Sketch and Statistics extending from 1837 to 1844, by J. W. Norris (Chicago: Ellis & Fergus, 1844).

True to the title, the actual directory of individuals occupies only 45 of the 132 total pages; much of the rest is business cards. Somehow the history is padded out to 16 pages, including this passage from page 6: "What the destiny of Chicago is to be, the future can alone determine. Judging by the past, it seems difficult to assign a limit to its advancement." My step-grandmother's maternal-line ancestors, the then-prominent Lowe family, are well represented.

NOTE: Images of the 45 directory pages only are available at Old Directory Search, which also has Cleveland and Ohio City 1837, and Monroe (Green County), Wisconsin, 1891.

And then there's the 994-page Illinois State Business Directory 1860, compiled by Smith and DuMoulin (Chicago: J. C. W. Bailey & Co., 1860).

I'm not sure their downstate coverage is that great, but if nothing else this cross-section of business life just before the Civil War can add color to just about any Midwestern story. The list of businesses covered is worth the price of admission alone: Artificial Limbs, Mnfrs. of; Axe Helves, Mnfrs. of; Basket Makers; Bathing Saloons; Bell Hangers; Bird Stuffers; Brass Cocks and Gauges; Candle Moulds (Metallic) Mnfrs of; Chandlers; and so many more.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

A find and a meta-find

Check out Tim Agazio's Genealogy Reviews Online, wherein he discovers an unusual genealogy resource and ends up with a bouquet of Italian immigrant stories from the West Side of Chicago.

Midwestern celebrity roots

Paula Stuart-Warren of Zimmerman (Sherburne County), Minnesota, blogging at Paula's Genealogical Eclectica, is happy to hear that the BBC's "Who Do You Think You Are?" may be coming to NBC.

whenever I see an obituary of some singer or actor that has mention of upper Midwest roots, I do some research to just see where that person fit into the history of the upper Midwest. It has been interesting to see what the ancestral towns are and what the rest of the family was doing in times past.
Past projects she's worked on professionally include the Beach Boys and John Berryman. Hmm, there's no obituary yet, but does anyone have the genealogical scoop on how Dave Letterman's Midwestern roots make him funny? Or long-lasting?

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

What could be nicer than a June Saturday in Terre Haute?

...with genealogy on the menu from 8 to 5, of course. The Wabash Valley Genealogical Society will hold its first annual seminar June 21, featuring Shirley Fields (Indiana State Genealogical Society treasurer) on state indexing and family recognition projects, Kandie Adkinson (Kentucky Land Office Division supervisor) on Kentucky land patents, and Beau Sharbrough on what he's learned working for GENTECH,, and now (Hat tip IGS blog.)

WVGS has a bi-state reach from its Terre Haute HQ: Clark, Crawford, and Edgar counties in Illinois; and Clay, Greene, Parke, Putnam, Sullivan, Vermillion, and Vigo in Indiana. Its website includes links to a 1904-1951 Vigo County marriage index and a twentieth-century Terre Haute newspaper obituary index, both under the auspices of the Vigo County Public Library.

The library adds an especially nice touch: online, PDF-format booklets listing, describing, and evaluating the best research resources for each local counties. My relatives ducked Vigo County but spent a lot of time in Parke and Vermillion, so I look forward to stopping by one of these days.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Another source for local histories online

You haven't felt true research despair until you get a ten-pound leather-bound county history and biography from, say, 1880, plopped on your library table. No index. No system. No useable table of contents -- but somewhere inside those gold-tipped pages there might be a biography, or even just a passing mention, of your ancestor (at least if he was male, respectable, settled, and cooperative with the company then churning the books out).

Nowadays, the main problem is keeping up with all the different places you can find these potential genealogical treasures every-word searchable on line -- better than an index! The large and growing web site Rays Place ("Explore New England's Past") by Ray Brown includes township-level histories for New England states, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and the Midwestern states of Ohio, Illinois, and Michigan. Michigan is new (hat tip to MoSGA Messenger).

I looked at Clyde Township, Allegan County, Michigan -- home to Fennville, now an up-and-coming art and foodie colony -- and compared Ray's rendition of its published 1880 history with that offered by Michigan County Histories.

MCH has more histories, and you can search across them all; it also has images of the original pages. But to get to Clyde Township you have to do some searching within the overall 1880 volume.

Ray has transcriptions (with the occasional typo) and no page numbers, but you can get right to the individual town's history if you know which one you want.

For professional-type citation purposes MCH would be preferable. Ray offers additional services in providing links to GenWeb and Linkpendium information for each county, a real bonus if you don't know those sites already.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

In 1866

"All the agricultural and mineral wealth of the great West turns toward Chicago, as certainly as the needle to the magnet." {745}

John B. Rice was mayor. {770}

My great-grandfather Charles Schriber, just back from the Civil War, was a salesman for soda water manufacturers W.H. Hutchinson & Sons at 243 West Randolph. {1063}

The Newberry Library's ever-growing Chicago Ancestors site now includes a browseable PDF version of Edwards' Annual Director [sic] to the Inhabitants, Institutions, Incorporated Companies, Manufacturing Establishments, Business, Business Firms, etc., etc., in the City of Chicago, for 1866 (Chicago: Edwards, Greenough, and Deved, 1866).

Even if you have no research targets in its range, the ads are an education in themselves. Enjoy.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Missouri shows 'em how

I left Missouri out of my definition of the Midwest, but it just keeps knockin' at the door...

Surely the most active of genea-institutional blogs -- of almost any genealogical blog, for that matter -- is the MoSGA Messenger, official blog of the Missouri State Genealogical Association. Their indefatigable blogger(s?) don't just stick to the Show-Me State, and often you'll find tips here that aren't on every other blog and mailing list. Recent posts have included McPherson, Kansas; the Washington State Library's free ask-a-librarian service (I've used it, it's great); an upcoming Sisson family reunion in Springfield, Illinois; and the National Genealogical Society's recently added members-only perk of viewing recent issues of the NGS Quarterly.

Speaking of Missouri, it just became even a state I wish I had more deceased relatives in: Joe Beine's Genealogy Roots Blog reports that the ongoing indexing and digitization of state death certificates is now complete from 1910 through 1957.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Coming up in Fort Wayne

Indiana's Allen County Public Library's "Genealogy Gems" e-zine for 29 Feb announces a monthly fourth-Saturday series of "Tree Talks":

22 Mar -- Melissa Shimkus on census research

26 Apr -- John Beatty on Indiana church records

26-27 Sep -- Marie Varrelman Melchiori, CG, CGL, on military records -- this one's $50 including a dinner and dinner talk Friday night. "Space is limited so it is certainly not too early to
register." Check out Melchiori's website; the first, third, and fourth topics on her list are the ones scheduled.

A glimpse of the future, with free Ohio death certificates as well

The Ohio Historical Society has long held statewide death certificates from 1908 through 1953, indexed in two batches, 1913-1935 and 1936-1944; you're on your own if you need 1908-1912 or 1945-1953, and in any case actual copies cost $7 apiece sent by snail mail.

But Family Search Labs is on the case too. Their site is not for the timid: "FamilySearch Labs showcases new family history technologies that aren't ready for prime time. Your feedback will help us refine new ideas and bring them to market sooner. Have fun playing with these innovations and send your feedback directly to our development teams."

Your fun can include keeping up with their blog, volunteering to help index, or delving into Record Search (free registration required), where among other things you can search the full run of Ohio death certificates and view images of the originals for free, and browse the as yet unindexed 1905 state census of Wisconsin. I've happily made discoveries on both. They also have browseable the Illinois, Diocese of Belleville, Catholic Parish Records 1729-1956. That's a time span Midwesterners rarely get to work with.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

The Midwest as it might have been

I write to you from near the boundary of Assenisipia and Metropotamia...

Check out Thomas Jefferson's version of the Northwest Territory at Strange Maps. (Hat tip to Sam Smith for the pointer.)

Here's how it really happened, plus a slightly different version of Jefferson's map, all on John Lindquist's awesomely well-documented site. Looks like this is the one to bookmark, but also check out Illinois Trails, which has a number of early Northwest Territory maps, plus some genealogical leads if you have research targets that early in this part of the world.

Don't miss a chance at Civil War pension files

I had seven children by Mr. Smathers, six of whom were living when he died, only four of whom were under 16 years at that time…. I have no family record of the dates, but I have carried them in my mind all the time. I don't think I could possibly be mistaken as to the date of the birth of any of my children.

Terry Snyder at Desktop Genealogist shows why you really want those Civil War pension files for any ancestor or relative that has one. It's not necessarily about the military part -- it's a glimpse of lives that weren't recorded or remembered in any other way.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

New stuff at the Indiana Historical Society

The March/April IHS print newsletter INPerspective lists new collections and books on hand as of October-November, including

This Place We Call Home: A History of Clark County, Indiana (2007). "This book stands out among similar county histories."

"Slavery Cases in the Indiana Supreme Court" (2007). This pamphlet is also on sale at the state Supreme Court bookstore's website, which says that it "examines several cases presented to the Court between 1816 and 1863 and how, through them, the Court worked to uphold the constitution’s prohibition on slavery in the face of considerable public opposition."

Illinois Central Railroad Collection, from roughly 1870s-1960s with items from Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, and Ohio operations.

KKK Indiana Membership Ledger for various towns, surnames S-Z.

If you aim to drop in sometime, bear in mind that (like some other repositories) they keep Tuesday-Saturday hours. Don't try the door on Monday!

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

When conference blogs go good

Blogs designed to promote an institution or an event tend to lack character IMHO. So I'm especially happy to report that the NGS conference blog for their big Kansas City event May 14-17 just posted more than a dozen crackerjack ideas, locations, and links for conducting Kansas and Missouri research nearby.

I have my eyes on Swiss immigrant David Joss in Buchanan County, Missouri (my gg grandfather's brother) and Stephen Cooper in "Bleeding Kansas" (my great-grandfather's first cousin). And there are others. But frankly the conference itself looks so full of learning opportunities that I don't know when I'll find time or energy to hit the repositories. Which courthouses will be open 24-7 that week?

Monday, March 3, 2008

More blogging in the act of finding ancestors

David Suddarth of Minnesota has a newish blog, Ancestral Journeys, where he tackles some tough questions having to do with conflicting evidence about his Suddarth, Stroud, and Douthit ancestors in Crawford and Perry counties, Indiana; Wayne County, Illinois; and Stoddard County, Missouri, in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Most perplexing is the question of when in the early 1860s Benjamin Suddarth was born, since the census and his father's pension records don't agree with each other, and of course at that date Indiana didn't keep official birth records.

I always find it useful when other folks are generous (and courageous!) enough to share their step-by-step reasoning process in these hard cases. After all, if you can find someone who's never dealt with conflicting evidence, you've found someone who hasn't seen much evidence yet!

Get railroaded for free

Genealogy conferences and travel can run into real money. If you're on a tight budget and anywhere near the public-transit-commuting fringes of the Chicago area (Kenosha, Woodstock, Elgin, Aurora, Joliet, South Bend), consider the Newberry Library's free two-day spring workshop May 30-31, "Railroad Ancestors." (Advance registration is required.)

So many genealogy programs are beginner stuff; this looks to be a step up, provided of course it would help if you have relevant research targets! Friday speakers are Martin Tuohy on government records for railroad workers, Jim Metlicka on Railroad Retirement Board records, and Craig Pfannkuche on Chicago and Northwestern Railroad archives. Saturday it's all Paula Stuart-Warren all the time, on railroad history, indexes and finding aids, and "Midwestern River People." Her blog is here.

The Newberry is home to the massive Pullman Company archives, blogged earlier.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Blogging in the act of finding ancestors

If I actually read all the good blogs that describe the proprietor's own research struggles, I'd never get any work of my own done! But ever since I read this post from Jennifer's "But Now I'm Found: Genealogy in Black and White" from Chicago/NW Indiana, I've kept her widget on my protopage home page collection for easy checking:

"I am so excited!" she wrote. "I received an email from someone who had the actual receipt naming my great-great-great grandfather."

Actually, the receipt doesn't just name her great-great-great grandfather Solomon; it's a receipt for him acknowledging his being sold.

Read the whole thing.

Michigan Genealogist covers everything from Virginia to Ontario

Michigan Genealogist (PDF) isn't a publication of the Michigan Genealogical Society, because there isn't one (the only statewide genealogy organization is a council of local groups). It's the quarterly newsletter of the state's Department of History, Arts, and Libraries, and it's an on-line publication.

The fourth issue of 2007 -- mostly written by librarians and archivists with reference to their employer's holdings -- covers an amazing amount of ground. The following is a selection:

"Map Guide to German Parish Registers," by Kendel Darragh

"Researching Your Ontario Ancestors"

"Using Online Indexes to Michigan Land Records," by Gloriane Peck

"Research with Probate Records," by Kris Rzepczynski

"The First Three Years of the Michigan First Vital Records Act" (i.e., 1867-1870), by Charles Hagler

"Virginia Genealogy Sources for Michiganders" (this is not a joke!), by Edwina Morgan

"The Birth and Death of Lansing's Black Neighborhoods," by Robert Garrett

And where else are you going to learn that the Library of Michigan holds a microfilm index to the 1855 state census of -- Illinois?

Saturday, March 1, 2008


The Newberry Library's always-informative blog points to a recent Washington Post story about Pullman porters, and uses that news peg to remind us of the Newberry's gargantuan 2500-cubic-foot of Pullman company papers, most of which are open to researchers. Here is the 808-page guide to the collection (PDF). The company employed an unusually diverse workforce, so the genealogical possibilities are good if you know what you're doing.

My closest brush with the collection so far has been reading Susan Eleanor Hirsch's fascinating 2003 book based on it, After the Strike: A Century of Labor Struggle at Pullman. It's a history with a complex argument, and real people make regular appearances:

In 1940 the upholsterer Tillman Davis took action and accused his foreman of discrimination against black workers in assigning overtime. Davis, who had been hired as a helper-apprentice at the Calumet Repair Shop after the 1922 strike, experienced the best that Pullman repair shops had to offer black men....but he was not satisfied with less than complete equality. The shop manager threatened Davis with a thirty-day suspension for insubordination unless he retracted the charge and apologized for the language he used. Davis readily apologized for the way he had made his charge but refused to retract its substance. He accepted the thirty-day suspension and returned to the shop, a symbol of black assertion but also a reminder of management's power in the absence of a real union. {157-158}