Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Find your Midwesterners in Pittsburgh

Thanks to ResearchBuzz for pointing out a very interesting subset of genealogically valuable material within the historical gold mine that is Historic Pittsburgh: 125 city directories 1815-1945.

As city directory digitizations go, this is a wonderfully well designed site. Let me count the ways:

* it includes actual images of directory pages, as opposed to error-prone transcriptions.

* it offers a long run of consecutive years, which is required for good research, given that directories often missed people in any given year.

* it keeps pages in their actual sequence, rather than mechanically rearranging them in numerical "order," or even conflating different directories of the same year, as Footnote sometimes unfortunately does.

* it allows searches of ancillary matter such as addresses -- making it possible to find extra residents at a given address, even if the city was too large to have had a criss-cross directory organized by address. So this new format is far more than a mere convenience and travel-saver; it is a powerful research tool.

Right now I'm recalling the long afternoons I spent cranking microfilm following my wife's Boren ancestors in the Pittsburgh directories. They were hard-working but not well off, and they moved every year. Happy New Year, and use this fine resource in good health!

Monday, December 28, 2009

Ohio online!

The winter issue of Ohio Genealogy News contains good news for researchers (as well as a full program for the 22-24 April OGS conference in Toledo and glimpses of the Big Three Repositories in that northwesern quadrant of the state):

(1) Via the University of Cincinnati Libraries, the city's birth records (1874-1908) and death records (1865-1908) will be digitized and available on the web beginning in August 2010.

(2) The Archives and Rare Books Library at the U of C has posted indexes to information from two compilations by Lois Hughes: Wills Filed in Probate Court, Hamilton County, Ohio, 1791-1901, and Hamilton County, Ohio Citizenship Records, 1837-1916. Original copies can then be ordered.

(3) Via the Ohio Historical Society, issues of thirteen selected Ohio newspapers published between 1880 and 1920 are being digitized and uploaded to the Library of Congress Chronicling America web site. Check the site as they become available. Locations to be included are Canfield, Perrysburg, Marion, Akron, Canton, Mount Vernon, Springfield, Hillsboro, Logan, and Marietta.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Michigan researchers reading list

James P. LaLone gave would-be Michigan researchers a nice present with his list of books relevant to the state. The list is on GenealogyWise, the new social networking site for genealogists. If the link doesn't work, you may need to sign up and join the Michigan Research Group.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Department of Minutely Detailed Information in upstate New York

The 1892 New York State census, one of the most useful tools not yet fully indexed on line, for Delaware County is microfilmed in two volumes. Volume "1" starts with the Town of Harpersfield and proceeds through Walton." Volume "2" started with Andes and proceeds through Hancock. And I don't care what they call it, it is FHL microfilm 0,832,853.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Indiana from 1850 to 1880

"Machinists and blacksmiths in Lafayette were paid about $1.50 a day in 1850, $2.00 in 1860, and $3.00 by 1865. By 1870 their pay had fallen to $2.50 and by 1879 to $2.25 and $2.00." {440}

"The average length of the school term doubled in the fifteen years after the civil War. In 1866 it was only 68 days; in 1879 it was 136 days. . . . Within some counties there were great differences. for example in Cass county in 1876 terms in different townships ranged from 200 days to 80 days." {476}

If these passages make your eyes light up, then you don't need much incentive to read Emma Lou Thornbrough's 1965 Indiana in the Civil War Era, 1850-1880, from the Indiana Historical Society. A lot of detailed work has been done in social history in the last two generations, but her no-frills style and inclusion of politics puts the story of the state in a useful context. If your people were in Indiana this early, you'll learn something you didn't realize you needed to know.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Bookends Friday: Second Home

What institutions affected poor children the most in the 1800s and early 1900s? Churches? Check. Public schools? Check. And number three? According to Timothy Hacsi, it was orphanages, then better known as "orphan asylums." {1}

As it turns out, in his fascinating book Second Home: Orphan Asylums and Poor Families in America, we learn that your ancestors don't need to have been orphaned to have spent time in such places. They served to help poor families hold themselves together and reunite by offering what was in effect temporary child care for a few weeks, months, or years: "By the 1870s and 1880s...the vast majority of asylum children had at least one living parent, and many had two living parents." {94} (Note: this book isn't easy to find, so enjoy the GoogleBooks partial preview. There's also an insightful review in the October 1999 issue of the American Historical Review if you can gain access to the right sort of library.)

Unlike other institutions created early in the 1800s (prisons, insane asylums, reformatories), orphan asylums didn't usually aim to "fix" their clients, only to help them. If anything those who ran the orphanages, after close acquaintance and frequent interaction with poor parents and their children, came to reject the widespread American notion that anyone who is poor must be lazy, drunk, or otherwise deficient in character. With some exceptions (like Michigan's state school), they did not undertake the utopian project of removing poor children permanently from their families in order to "save" them. Because their goals were usually more humble, they succeeded where their more ambitious institutional cousins failed.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Find FHL Films Locally

Note to northwest Indiana researchers: before you spring for $5.50 to borrow a film from the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, check out this listing of FHL films on "extended loan" to the Valparaiso Family History Center. You too can cause an "extended loan" by borrowing a film three times in a row. This is a nice listing in that it fully enumerates individual items within each film.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Book Review Blog

Sarah Kirby, fellow ProGen alum and neighbor (if you count everyone living somewhere not too far from the edge of Lake Michigan as neighbors), has added a section of "Genealogy Publication Reviews" to her web site , focusing at this point on books or things that started out as books.

If you don't have enough stuff to read already, check it out. If you have a yen to contribute a review, drop her a line via the site. This could be to genealogy book reviews what Miriam Midkiff's city directory site is to city directories!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Guardians and Nurses in Northwest Indiana

The seemingly indefatigable Northwest Indiana Genealogical Society has just put up two new 20th-century databases in its online archives section:

Guardian Bond Books, Lake County (1919-1934)

Register of Trained Nurses, Lake County

Each database is prefaced by a full explanation of how it came to be, how the original records were created, and where they can be found.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Ohio Records & Pioneer Families #4

The last 2009 quarterly issue of ORPF leads off with one of those resources that can place people in great detail -- a transcription of John Willis White's day book, a list of people he worked for in Wayne and Holmes counties between 1838 and 1841. There's also a centerspread of photos of the unfortunate situation at the Nave-Millsboro Cemetery in Springfield Township, Richland County, Ohio in August.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Watchdog Wednesday with The Posterity Project

Gordon Belt has a Tennessee-based take on how public history (and hence genealogy) is faring as the "Great Recession" continues. Check out his December 4 posting: if you live or work in affected states, you need to know; if you don't, you need to give thanks.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Department of Minutely Detailed Information in NW Indiana

Few things are more annoying to the time-challenged genealogist than a batch of big heavy index books in sequence with no dates on them. If that happens to be your predicament in the Lake County, Indiana, Recorder's office, and you're looking for a mortgage, I can help. The deed indexes are all nicely labeled, but mortgages are another matter. In the General Index of Mortgages there, roughly speaking,

Book 2 = 1878-1889
Book 3 = 1889-1896
Book 4 = 1896-1901
Book 5 = 1901-1905
Book 6 = 1906-1909
Book 7 = 1909-1911
Book 8 = 1911-1913
Book 9 = 1913-1915
Book 10 = 1915-1916
Book 11 = 1916-1918
Book 12 = 1918-1919
Book 13 = 1919-1920

(Book 1 was wedged so tightly into its slot that I didn't even try to dislodge it. Fortunately my research targets were post-1878.) I was mostly looking at the mortgagor books, not mortgagees, but Lake seems to like to keep the two sets of index books in similar date ranges.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Context files: what kind of house did your ancestor live in?

If you had any ancestors who were able to build themselves a home in the late 1800s, they may have used a mail-order pattern like those collected in a book just digitized by the University of Illinois: Palliser's American Cottage Homes. And if your idea of a mail-order architectural pattern book is "drab and boring," take a look.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Watchdog Wednesday with Paula Stuart Warren, CG

Minnesota-based genealogist, lecturer, and blogger Paula Stuart Warren, CG, takes aim at the insane results of current privacy laws over at Paula's Genealogical Eclectica.