Friday, May 29, 2009

Chicago Genealogist Spring 2009

The bulk of the latest Chicago quarterly is occupied by another installment of Virginia Dick's translations of obituaries and news items from the German-language Illinois Staats Zeitung, including the discovery in March 1872 of the "carbonized remains" of Franz Heiselmann, a chimney sweep who died in the October 1871 Chicago Fire "when a burning house fell in on him on Division Street, from which he wanted to save a sick woman." The lingering aftermath of the fire plays a role in several of the excerpts.

In "Examination of Title," Craig Pfannkuche fills in the family facts around an old abstract of title from a property on the north side of 36th Place just west of Rockwell Street, including Corwith and Putman families.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Reasonably exhaustive Thursday in Common Pleas

What does it mean to complete a "reasonably exhaustive search," as required by one of the five prongs of the Genealogical Proof Standard? When this was debated last year on the Association of Professional Genealogists mailing list, one working definition came up: if you described your search, and if a top genealogist said, "But did you look at X?", and you hadn't looked at X, then your search was not reasonably exhaustive. Even though this reminded me of the joke that my dad, a math teacher, liked to tell ("Mathematics is what mathematicians do"), it actually makes some kind of sense.

Hoosier researchers can add an obscure Indiana court to the list of things to look at. From 1853 to 1873 Indiana counties had, in addition to the circuit courts that persist to this day, a Court of Common Pleas, which had jurisdiction over probate cases as well as law and equity cases and criminal matters (except felonies and debts over $1,000). (A brief accessible description is on page 377 of the History of St. Joseph County, Indiana, at Google Book Search, although I think its description of the jurisdiction is incomplete.) So if you know your Indiana research target was in court during the decades surrounding the Civil War -- or if you hope he or she was because you need the records, any records -- your search is not going to be reasonably exhaustive until you ask too see those order books and case files ("loose papers").

I have seen Common Pleas order books interfiled with Circuit Court books in clerk's offices that were otherwise models of conscientious record maintenance and preservation. From one decade to the next, does anyone know to ask for them? They may be even more neglected than mortgage books (as compared to deed books).

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Secrets of eastern Indiana

Don't overlook college campuses in your tour d'horizon of local resources. I'm not thinking of just the archives and special collections for the moment (although I did blog one set here), but the humble catalog itself. For instance, Ball State University in Muncie has possessed itself of several series of microfilmed records from Delaware County, Indiana: marriage, property, probate, and circuit court order books. And that library is usually open until 3 am, which is more than you can say for the off-campus variety! These goodies are collectively numbered 2303 in Bracken Library's microfilm numbering system.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Wisconsin leapfrogs into the 21st century

I hope someone more cosmopolitan can correct me, but isn't Wisconsin the first state genealogy society to put its flagship publication on line? The move was dictated by finances but it's also a visual upgrade, and it coincides with a push to publish readable articles in addition to compiled and abstracted records. It's a combined January-April 2009 issue, 52 pages in PDF format available to members. Join at Wisconsin State Genealogical Society. Included in this quarter's contents:

"Dane County -- Inventory from the Lower and Upper McFarland Cemetery"

"Fond du Lac County -- Rienzi Cemetery Study: A Search for Unmarked Graves," by new co-editor Tracy Reinhardt. Another precedent question: who else, where else, has tried to study how many unmarked burials a particular cemetery contains?

"Fond du Lac County -- FDL Public Library Seefeld Local History Room"

"Marquette County -- Thomas Mozley Writes from the Wisconsin Frontier: 'If I am spared I shall see for myself,'" by Harold Henderson (that's me)

"Wood County -- Governor Awards Marshfield Public Library for Genealogy Database"

Friday, May 22, 2009

Black Sheep Friday in Ohio and Indiana

Two places to stop by if your family has a black sheep:

At the Ohio Historical Society in Columbus you can peruse two cubic feet of "Copies of cost bills and indictments for individuals sentenced to the Ohio Penitentiary, 1834-1874," as well as a wide variety of other documents and secondary sources.

At the Indiana State Archives, something more personal and indexed, with pictures: "In the early 1900’s the Board of State Charities conducted interviews with inmates at the Indiana State Prison in Michigan City, Indiana. Each prisoner was given the opportunity to give his side of the story. The men often named family members and others involved in the crime for which they were sentenced, and discussed whether or not attempts had been made to secure a parole or pardon." The name index is on line; for the rest, get thee to Indianapolis.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Flying trip to eastern Indiana

Things I wish I had known a week ago:

* Indiana Genealogical Society has the useful collection of local addresses, URLs, and phone numbers for preparing your on-site visits.

* Quick no-nonsense overview of Wayne County resources here
For more in-depth information, Arnold L. Dean's advice. (Grantee indexes only up to 1869!)

* Wayne County Clerk's office (that's in Richmond if you're new around here) has a simple digital index to its marriage licenses, currently stretching from 1811 through 1903.

* The Morrison-Reeves Library has a database (converted from cards) indexing some portions of area newspapers. Their holdings include some indexes only found locally, others you may find closer to home via WorldCat.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

SBAGS April Quarterly

The South Bend Area Genealogical Society's quarterly leads off with accounts of the first three programs of the year: veterinarian and sometime national speaker Mike Lacopo in January on research ("reconstruct the entire family unit"), Gary Gabrich in February on Hungarian immigrants (the Magyar Haz in South Bend was in 1911 "the largest Hungarian cultural house in the entire United States"), and Jeff Bockman at the March Michiana Genealogy Fair on two topics: researching with maps, and researching without birth certificates.

Oh yes, and there are articles too:

Ken Reising on "The Mishawaka Fire of 1872"

Toni Cook on "Photos of Phoebe Ward Dunnahoo Cemetery Located" -- photos from 1940 taken shortly before the small family cemetery was relocated.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Sanborn fire insurance maps on line

If you don't have access to a university library, you won't find too many of these fanatically detailed and carefully coded building-by-building Sanborn city maps on line. There are a few exceptions that I know of (anyone able to add more to the pot?):

INDIANAPOLIS: the IUPUI collection has selected years starting in 1887.

KANSAS CITY, MISSOURI: at the Kansas City Public Library's historical collection. They list some additional states with on line access to the public.

MISSOURI: 390 communities via the University of Missouri digital library!

: 54 pieces of maps near railroad lines, part of the Central Wisconsin Digitization Project.

Most of the time, most researchers who recognize the extreme value of these beauties will have to proceed the old-fashioned way and get themselves to a good library.

UPDATE: The Newberry Library blog has posted numerous online links for these maps!

Monday, May 18, 2009

Methodology Monday on the far side of the Ohio River

I suppose all genealogists start out looking for records that will tell them the answers to their questions. And sooner or later we encounter ancestors who thoughtlessly failed to leave any such records. At that point we either have to take up tiddlywinks or figure out how to build a convincing case from what a lawyer might call circumstantial evidence, using what the pros call the "genealogical proof standard."

But it's one thing to rattle off the 5 elements of the GPS (research exhaustively, cite, correlate, resolve contradictions, and write) and it's another thing to actually do it. When is the proof good enough? I need examples, and the March 2009 issue of the National Genealogical Society Quarterly opens with a nice one by Sarah R. Fleming on "indirect evidence for the parents of Joseph Rhodes [1809-1851] of Graves County, Kentucky." (No, it's not on line. If you or your library don't subscribe, why not?)

No known evidence says who Joseph's parents were, perhaps because Graves County had two 19th-century courthouse fires. But Benjamin and Sabrina (Edens) Rhodes were married in time to be his parents and were in the area when he was born; a young man in his age range was in their household in 1820 and 1830; Joseph and Benjamin bought adjacent parcels of land in Graves County in 1831 . . .

There's more but that will do for a start. As the evidence piles up the question begins to form in your mind, if they weren't father and son, what were they?

Read the whole thing to see how it adds up -- and how the author unearthed the puzzle pieces in the first place by "backtracking Joseph's possible relatives across state and county lines for four generations and finding pertinent records." Nobody ever said it would be easy.

Friday, May 15, 2009

St. Clair County (Illinois) Quarterly

As is often the case in local publications, most of the space in the first 2009 issue of the St. Clair County Genealogical Society Quarterly is filled with valuable record transcriptions that don't make terribly good reading: "Extracts from Death Register book II 10 July 1886-31 December 1887," "Marriage Index 1912," and "Funeral Card Collection Additions."

But this issue of the quarterly also has some connected text. Society newsletter editor Tom Pearson wrote one-page digests of two recent programs at the society's monthly meetings. In February, Lillian E. Nolan, Headquarters Air Mobility Command Historian at Scott Air Force Base, noted among other things that base newspapers are an often-overlooked source of information on rank and file personnel, and bound volumes of past issues are kept in the Historian's office for those who call with questions. The March speaker, Gerald Perschbacher ("Researching Your Roots in Germany") recommended books by Dan C. Heinemeier, including A Social History of Hesse: Roman Times to 1900.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

4 new books from Chicago

The University of Chicago Press, either as publisher or distributor, has four books out that look relevant to various parts of Midwestern family history. I haven't seen any of them -- yet!

The Frontier in Alaska and the Matanuska Colony, by historian Orlando Wilson, on a 1930s government-encouraged migration of farm families from the cutover regions of Michigan, Wisconsin, and Minnesota to a new frontier. The book includes "several case studies of these original families, dispelling many frontier myths and describing the reality of pioneering in Alaska."

My Kind of Midwest: Omaha to Ohio, by John Jakle, longtime professor of geography and landscape architecture at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Includes "Some Family History of My Own." This is on my must-read list, based on my acquaintance with his Common Houses in America's Small Towns: the Atlantic Seaboard to the Mississippi Valley.

My Kind of County: Door County, Wisconsin, by geographer John Fraser Hart. Yes, these are two in a series from the Center for American Places, now a department of Columbia College Chicago. Hart is what every county needs: a knowledgeable outsider with an insider's feel for the place. Includes "A Historical Tale."

Selling the Race: Culture, Community, and Black Chicago, 1940-1955, by University of Chicago historian Adam Green. How commerce helped create a common African-American culture around midcentury.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Online Military Records

Who knew Joe Beine has an Online Military Indexes and Records site to go with his vital records sites? Not me! Fortunately I see that it's been updated. The free sites dealing with individual states include:

Illinois data from Revolutionary War, War of 1812, Mexican War, Civil War, and World War I.

Indiana data from Revolutionary War, War of 1812, Mexican War, World War I, and World War II.

Ohio data from Revolutionary War, Civil War, Spanish-American War, World War I, and World War II.

Michigan data from Civil War, Spanish-American War, and World War I.

Wisconsin data from Civil War.

Missing from this site, however, is the relatively recent Michigan bonanza of Civil War resources (blogged here March 5) just as you would find them if you visited the archives in person -- i.e., largely unindexed.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Coming up at Allen County Public Library

If just researching there isn't enough of a draw, three upcoming multiple-day programs may just entice you to Fort Wayne:

22-23 May, Climbing Your DNA (PDF) with Roberta Estes

18-20 June, 2009 National Palatines to America Conference

29-31 October, International Black Genealogy Summit: Reconnecting Lost Links

Monday, May 11, 2009

Methodology Monday with Calvin Snell

Most of us have learned how ancestors can be proved -- sometimes have to be proved -- by combining a wide range of documented indirect evidence into a case and writing out the argument, when no document appears stating the relationship in question straight out. But what happens when there is such a direct-evidence document, and the less formal sources all contradict it?

In the March 1995 issue of the National Genealogical Society Quarterly, Tom Jones documented just such a situation in the case of Calvin Snell of Lake County, Ohio, and concluded that the will was wrong or at best misleading. First he had to establish that there was no evidence of two different Calvin Snells in the area at that time. Then he had to correlate the various kinds of secondary information and indirect evidence that contradicted the will. The tables systematically comparing what different sources said are worth some study.

Those of us who have just worked our way out of the habit of trusting everything we find tend to become "evidence snobs." It's interesting to note that some of the information the author ferrets out and analyzes comes from what looks to be, and is, a fairly low-quality source: sketchy material on the Snell family compiled by an unknown person at an unknown time from unknown sources. The point is that good genealogists don't believe anything without reservation -- even an original signed will -- and they also don't decline to examine anything either. You just have to document its character as well as possible and weigh it in the balance along with all the other clues gathered.

Read the whole thing. This was the first article discussed by the Transitional Genealogists Study Group last year.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Ohio Civil War Genealogy Journal #2 of 2009

Contents of the second issue of volume 13, more proof if any was needed of the inexhaustibility of just one period of one state's genealogy and history:

Harryette Mullen, "'Freedom for All': Sgt. William Wallace Strange"

Gwendolyn Mayer and Michael Elliott, "Marcus C. Horton Post #515, GAR, Garrettsville OH"

Leslie Korenko, "Jacob Rush: 3rd OVC at Munfordville KY"

Rev. David J. Endres, "An Ohio 'Holy Joe': Chaplain William T. O'Higgins," with letters*

Sheri Taylor Bockelman, "First, They Were Men: My Ancestors in the Civil War"*

"Ask the Experts," including discussions of Ohio casualties and the 47th, 101st, and 6th OVI

Dorene Paul, "General Henry A. Axline, Father of the National Guard of Ohio"

Michael Elliott, comp., "1883 Census of Pensioners, Auglaize County, Ohio"


Thursday, May 7, 2009

New sources for Wisconsin

The March-April issue of the Wisconsin Historical Society newsletter Columns notes two batches of documents recently placed on line at Turning Points in Wisconsin History:

300 pages of a total of around 3000 pages of records of the Anti-Saloon League focusing on the league's "secret infiltration of taverns in 1917-18," including "private investigators' reports of drinking in Delavan and Oconto Falls." (Query: can we see the PIs' expense reports?)

documents on Hispanic history in Wisconsin, including a history of migrant farm workers a century ago, "a social worker's mimeographed report on the Mexican-American community in Milwaukee in 1930, and a 1968 account of the founding of Obreros Unidos, a migrant workers' labor union."

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Are You Looking for a 1950s Motorcycle Geek?

ResearchBuzz reports that Google Book Search has just the research tool you need to look for a mid-twentieth-century motorcycle enthusiast or dealer, or anybody who might get his or her name in the magazine known first as American Motorcycling (January 1955 to June 1970), then as AMA News (July 1970 to August 1977), and finally as American Motorcyclist (September 1977 to December 2007) -- published from central Ohio by the American Motorcycle (now Motorcyclist) Association.

The first issue on the site is called volume 9, number 1, and the issues for 1980 and 1981 are missing, so perhaps there is more to come. Also I can confirm ResearchBuzz's statement that the search across all issues is wonky. Search within a given issue seems OK. Researchers, let's ride.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Can you get by with the library version...

...of Genealogy Bank? On the official blog, Tom Kemp advises a questioner that the individual subscription version ("Genealogy Bank") has more than 3800 newspaper titles [most, of course, are not full runs], whereas the library version ("America's Genealogy Bank") has about 2200 titles in its "Historical Newspapers" section.

I compared the Genealogy Bank newspaper source list as of 2 May with my local library's newspaper source list from America's Genealogy Bank, for Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, and Wisconsin. Overall GB has 35 titles in those five states, AGB 79. Both have weaker coverage of Michigan than the other states.

Let's make that specific. If you're like me and try to cheap out by using the library version, as of 2 May you would miss the following titles (date ranges vary and are at the site linked above) --

in Illinois, Centralia Sentinel, Chicago Herald, Chicago Times, Daily Inter Ocean, Illinois Advocate, Illinois Emigrant, Latin Times, Nauvoo Expositor (one issue only), Noticia Mundial, Quincy Whig, Sol de Chicago (one issue only), Sunday Times, Vida Latina, and Vorbote.

in Indiana, Amigo del Hogar, Indiana Centinel, Indiana Democrat, Indianapolis Sentinel, New Albany Daily Ledger, Terre Haute Express, and Wabash Courier.

in Michigan, Grand Rapids Press, Jackson Citizen Patriot, and Kalamazoo Gazette, and Weekly Detroit Free Press and supp...The Household.

in Ohio, Cincinnati Commercial Tribune, Cincinnati Daily Enquirer, Cincinnati Daily Gazette, Democratic Herald, Elyria Republican, Greene County Torch-Light, Ohio Republican, Painesville Telegraph, Plain-Dealer, Spirit of the West, Supporter, Western Herald, Wooster Republican.

in Wisconsin, Guardia, Jeffersonian Democrat, Milwaukee Journal of Commerce, Milwaukee Sentinel, Wisconsin Chief, Wisconsin Free Democrat.

Obviously this list will change, and obviously not all titles are of equal interest or cover comparable date ranges. Where the two services overlap I didn't see any differences in the date ranges covered. I don't own stock in this company, I don't work for them, and at present I'm not even a subscriber. But if you're watching the pennies now you can better judge what the effect may be on your research, and of course you can compare the two sites for your areas of interest.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Methodology Monday in Indiana Courthouses

Not all evidence analysis takes place after we've found it. In 1981 Indiana State Archivist John J. Newman gave a talk at the state historical society's spring family history symposium. The society still sells the text for $1 as a 16-page pamphlet. How many of today's PowerPoint lectures could be translated into this lasting format, or would hold up as well a generation after they were given?

Newman's unsparing indictment is that "genealogists usually fail to manage their research." His recommendation, from the pre-internet days, is to plan to spend "several hours in your home [county's] law library" in order to save "many more hours in the field." {1, 8}

If, as he suggests, you learn what's in the "order books, entry dockets, issue dockets, appearance dockets, general entry, claim and allowance docket, complete order books, civil pleadings, probate proceedings," and more, then you'll be in a position to ask the clerk "for a location of a record, not where information can be found." And that's a big difference.

Newman, John J. "Research in Indiana Courthouses: Judicial and Other Records." Indianapolis: Indiana State Historical Society [1981]. Includes material from a 1979 presentation on county records as well.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Antiwar records?

Regardless of personal beliefs, genealogists depend on records created by the actions of intrusive governments, paternalistic churches, and wars. If US history had been more peaceful, we'd have fewer documented ancestors; if the country had had a state church, we might have more.

In this context it's interesting to read Ron Briley's review at History News Network of We Who Dared to Say No to War: American Antiwar Writing from 1812 to Now, an anthology edited by Murray Polner and Thomas A. Woods, Jr. I haven't seen the book. Briley generally approves of the editors' documentary work, and their observation the opposition to war historically has come from all points in the political and regional spectrum. Briley notes that the editors failed to collect much material on the opposition to two significant military episodes: the series of expansionist wars against various Indian tribes, and the Korean conflict (evidently still the "forgotten war").

Are there genealogically useful records to be quarried from this tradition? I don't know. Chicago was not a hotbed of support for the Union cause in the Civil War, nor for US entry into World War I. And if memory serves, the Midwest leaned isolationist in the runup to World War II.