Evidently this is going to be Catching Up With Fellow Midwestern Bloggers week. Diana Dretske at the Lake County (Illinois) Museum and Archives posted on Lake County seat Waukegan's 150th anniversary as a city. Of course its actual age as an identifiable place goes back at least to 1695. Her Illuminating Lake County, Illinois History blog is consistently festooned with wonderful images from that history.
Tuesday, March 31, 2009
Monday, March 30, 2009
Kathy Brady-Blake, CG, of the Chicago area, has been posting this past week about the massive Centralia (Marion County, Illinois) coal mine disaster of 25 March 1947 at Kathy's Genealogy Blog. One of the 111 miners killed that day in the underground mine was her grandfather Anton Skrobul.
Friday, March 27, 2009
If you have research targets in central Illinois' Sangamon County (county seat Springfield), you can't have been pleased by that genealogical society's decision in December to disband due to loss of membership. Fortunately their archives and publications have been inherited by the Decatur Genealogical Society of nearby Macon County. DGS's March-April newsletter reports that SGS's former president Dan Dixon was instrumental in making the transition. The 81 publications are available for sale here. The Decatur society maintains its own genealogical library, opened three days a week by volunteers, and said to be "one of the largest private genealogical libraries in downstate Illinois."
Hat tip to Jeanne Larzalere Bloom.
Thursday, March 26, 2009
Dick Eastman says "Legend Seekers" is a good show -- TV watchers in much of southern and central Illinois, and Indianapolis and Bloomington, Indiana, will get to see for themselves as early as tonight.
Check out the January issue of Common-Place for background and even some methods. Not much directly pertaining to the Midwest in this issue, but Christopher Grasso gives a lengthy preview of his book on how belief and unbelief wove together in the US in the early 1800s. If you want hard-core research, click on Eastern Illinois University professor Charles R. Foy's article, "Uncovering Hidden Lives," whose work in archives on both sides of the pond has helped produce the Colored Mariner Database (not yet on line) of almost 10,000 African American, Native American, or mixed-race Atlantic mariners in the 1700s. For instance:
A compilation of naval records had provided me with the story of four slave sailors on a ship from St. Thomas who found themselves in Portsmouth during the American Revolution due to a broken ship rudder. The seamen convinced naval officials of their rights under the English law not to be forced to continue to work as slaves on the ship. The case was particularly interesting because it involved slave sailors from throughout the Atlantic: North America, the British West Indies, Calabar, and St. Thomas. But what happened to these men once they left the ship in Portsmouth was unknown. A review of court, tax, land, and church records in the Portsmouth City Records Office provided no information on the men. However, a search of records for warships in Portsmouth at the time the men landed there yielded a significant discovery: one of the men had been subsequently impressed onto a naval ship! While we might not know the details of these men's lives after they gained their freedom, the fate of this unfortunate sailor reminds us that in the eighteenth-century Anglo-American maritime world, freedom from enslavement did not always mean freedom from coerced labor.Surely this is where the always-permeable border between genealogy and history dissolves altogether.
Also don't miss Byron Le Beau's discussion of Currier & Ives's not terribly realistic but still informative visual record of the 19th century including the Civil War.
Wednesday, March 25, 2009
For references to books, and a large helping of short articles by Joseph A. Ranney, author of the most recent book (Trusting Nothing To Providence), check out Wisconsin Legal History at the Wisconsin state bar page. Nothing here to cut and paste into your Wisconsin family's genealogy, but lots of sources and ideas and background, from roistering circuit riders to angry farmers. Here's a snip from the latter -- read the whole thing:
Another Jacksonian feature of the Wisconsin Constitution was Article VIII, section 10, which prohibited the state from financing or supporting public improvements of any sort. Because state aid was not available, early railroads had to look to private investors and municipalities for the huge sums of capital they needed to build and operate their lines.12 The Milwaukee & Mississippi Railroad developed the device, copied by many other railroads, of issuing stock in return for municipal bonds or individual promissory notes that were secured by mortgages.13 A large portion of the notes and mortgages passed into the hands of eastern financiers.14(Hat tip to Legal History Blog.)
The depression of 1857 forced every railroad in Wisconsin into bankruptcy. Most farmers who had purchased railroad stock had relied on railroad dividends to pay their promissory notes; when the dividends dried up, the easterners who held the notes foreclosed on thousands of farms throughout Wisconsin. Farm mortgage leagues were formed to resist the foreclosure threat, and they became a force in state politics. Between 1857 and 1868 the Legislature passed a series of laws giving farm debtors various substantive and procedural defenses in foreclosure actions; however, the Wisconsin Supreme Court struck down all of the laws, in most cases because they impaired the obligation-of-contracts clause of the U.S. Constitution. Throughout the 1860s the leagues tried to defeat the supreme court justices at the polls and obtain a more sympathetic court, but they failed narrowly at each election.15
Tuesday, March 24, 2009
Two book reviews from social history spotlight books that can illuminate genealogy too:
Jeannette Keith reviews Jack S. Blocker's A Little More Freedom: African Americans Enter the Urban Midwest, 1860-1930. It's clear the book contains much detail on the northward migrations of African Americans, including case studies of their lives in Washington Court House (Fayette County), Ohio; Springfield (Clark County), Ohio; and Springfield (Sangamon County), Illinois. He also discusses lynchings and race riots. In the words of the reviewer, "In their reaction to antiblack collective violence, African Americans in the Midwest demonstrated that they did indeed have a little more freedom than they might have had in the South. Black newspapers crusaded against mob rule, as did black self-help groups ranging from Sunday school conferences to women's clubs. Most strikingly, African Americans armed themselves for collective self-defense." The review is detailed and the book promises more.
Christopher J. Manganiello reviews Jeff Wiltse's Contested Waters: A Social History of Swimming Pools in America. Your immigrant ancestors may have played a role in getting municipal swimming pools started. The reviewer summarizes: "Boisterous and naked working-class boys and men bathed in Philadelphia, Boston, and Milwaukee rivers because urban tenement housing offered limited indoor facilities. When these bathers offended Gilded Age citizens’ Victorian sensibilities, reformers justified the establishment of bathing pools on public health arguments."
Monday, March 23, 2009
Just in case y'all don't track the comments, Kris Rzepczynski of the Library of Michigan reports the search problems fixed, and I'm happy to confirm that. The advanced search will do some intricate things if you need it to. ... It also looks like they are adding some post-1920 years. Enjoy!
I admit I was a little taken aback that the new University of Chicago Press title American Boundaries: The Nation, The States, The Rectangular Survey was written by an architect (Bill Hubbard Jr. of MIT). But the more I poke around in it the more I think I'm going to enjoy sitting down and reading it through. And of course in theory it should be of interest to all of us who have research targets in public-land states. If I get it read (not a given under current circumstances) you'll hear more.
Saturday, March 21, 2009
The much-publicized rollout of Michigan death records 1897-1920 quickly led to server overload -- now apparently fixed -- but the defective nature of the search engine offered has been much less noted, if at all. (I am a big fan of Seeking Michigan.org and blogged about its Civil War archives back on March 5.)
When I attempt a simple search in quotation marks for "Floyd Glover" I get a very long list of people who have Floyd in their first names with no Glover and Glover in their names with no Floyd. So I move on to advanced search, which looks like a really powerful setup.
In advanced search, you first need to moved "Death Records 1897-1920" from the lower left-hand box to the right-hand box, so as to be searching only this one collection. (As you attempt a search and then move back to this screen, you'll have to move it back again -- don't forget!) Then you can turn your attention to the four interconnected search boxes. On the left-hand side of each box you can choose search mode: all of the words, the exact phrase, any of the words, or none of the words. On the right-hand side of each line you can choose your search term. In addition to 16 generic search terms usable in all the Seeking Michigan collections, you can search for first name of deceased, last name of deceased, city/village/town, county, death year, birth year, age, father's last name, or father's given name.
A simple test will show the problems with this seemingly powerful array of search tools. Say you want to browse the death records of Clinton County, and put "Clinton" in as the search term, and "county" as the search field. Result: a long list of results starting with people with "Clinton" as their first name! The exact same list of results appears for any search mode except of course "none of the words."
Using "1899" as search term with "death year" as search field produces a list of people with 1899 as either birth or death year.
The end result of this impressive array of search engines is that the only people I could find were my Mitzelfeld/Mitzelfeldt relatives by marriage, because their name is so rare.
I trust that the Michigan folks can take this back to their contractor and get the search interface to measure up to its tremendous potential. Right now it's an inferior browsing tool.
Friday, March 20, 2009
Longer ago than I care to admit, Cyndi's List called my attention to the Floyd County, Indiana, Genealogy Trails web site. Like the far-southern-Indiana county's GenWeb site, it has many useful tidbits produced by volunteers, but of one item they have a goodly amount of a kind of record I don't see much of: indentures from the mid- and late 1800s in Floyd and neighboring Harrison counties, many for apprenticeships. Clearly these are legal documents and they seem to be faithfully transcribed, but the site doesn't identify either the transcriber(s) or the location(s) of the original documents.
Thursday, March 19, 2009
There's a good meeting scheduled for Kalamazoo nine days from now, but if you just can't make it, don't despair -- there's an excellent online site for that county, combining indexes and digital images of original records. You're going to wish your ancestors camped there in 1830 and never left.
Let me count the goodies at the bare-bones site kalamazoogenealogy.org:
vital records indexes and images (page by page in the original books), with a link to local library information;
cemetery transcriptions and (some) images;
directories (for the city, nine between 1860 and 1915), transcriptions and images;
school yearbooks 1859-1976, transcriptions and images;
Schoolcraft Express obituaries 1917-1972 with a link to the Kalamazoo Library database; and
I found useful information about my only relative in the county, a peripatetic stonecutter, and his wife and children. Those of you with more relations here will have a blast.
Wednesday, March 18, 2009
Let's briefly break out of the all-Midwest-all-the-time-groove and note that the classic 1981 adoption resource, Reg Niles' Adoption Agencies, Orphanages and Maternity Homes: An Historical Directory: Volumes 1 and 2, is on line -- for personal use only: "No more than one or two states is to be printed by any individual, organization, company, or entity. No portion, nor the whole, may be duplicated or distributed in any manner, saved in any way, or for any reason, without [the author's] express written permission."
The listings themselves are alphabetical by state, then alphabetical by town. This is a US and Canada resource, with 9,262 entries in almost 500 pages. (Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, and Wisconsin listings cover 68 pages.) The author endeavored to cover every 20th-century adoption agency, every maternity home, and every orphanage or children's home with more than 15 beds -- all as of about 30 years ago, of course. Also included are adoptive parents' groups and adoptees' rights groups. Different names for the same institution are cross-referenced, and relations between institutions explained when known. Information is dated so that the reader can judge its currency. I can see why pre-digital researchers would have guarded their copies carefully.
(Hat tips to Reg Niles, Deb Mieszala, and Jeanne Larzalere Bloom.)
Posted by Harold Henderson at 3:30 AM
Tuesday, March 17, 2009
This quarter's NGS magazine has quite a bit of Midwestern material.
Ronald Ames Hill writes about some of his adventures in ferreting out old court records for his award-winning Ball family history, in Henry County, Indiana, and Muskegon County, Michigan. In both cases the county clerks falsely claimed that records had been lost to fire. Hill writes, "I make such requests in a very determined manner. I never say I am doing family history. I never ask if they have such and such. I simply say 'I want to see such and such.'"
Michael D. Lacopo of northern Indiana gives an overview of "Beginning Swiss Mennonite Research," including two key denominational archives in North Newton (Harvey County), Kansas, and Goshen (Elkhart County), Indiana.
David McDonald, CG, has an engaging piece on "Going beyond the Usual Records in Wisconsin," including some unusual collections of Wisconsin archives. The jail register for Dane County, for instance, offers not just names, addresses, and physical descriptions, but also "commentary about the conduct and demeanor of thei nmates, along with remarks on the heritage, drinking habits and frequency of custom within the jail system."
Claire Prechtel-Kluskens writes about Extension Service annual reports found in the National Archives at College Park, using Fairfax County, Virginia, and Lake County, Ohio, as examples of the down-home facts that can be gleaned from supposedly remote federal records.
Joseph F. Martin reports on Calumet and Hecla mining records -- "a mother lode of information" from the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, in this case Houghton County.
Monday, March 16, 2009
For the first issue of 2009, ORPF is strong in the north central and southwestern counties. Also, it includes an interesting source from the late 19th century -- a record from a farmers mutual insurance company.
"Bibles Found in the Home of John W. Immel, Burbank, Medina County, Ohio," submitted by Carol Immel Nelson
"Pigman Family Record," submitted by Tom Neel
"The Bissells of Trumbull County, Ohio," by Susan L. Simon*
"Hole Family in Two Montgomery County Histories," by Daniel H. Reigle
"Wood County Marriages, 1820-1856," tr. Lolita Guthrie, first installment
"First Families of Ohio: The Early Years," abstr. Kay Ballantyne Hudson
"Revolutionary War Pension Application Abstracts," abstr. Lois Wheeler
1896 Register of Wyandot County Physicians
"Ohio Births Documented in Civil War Pension Files," abstr. Michael Elliott
"Farmers Mutual Insurance Company of Cardington, Morrow County, Ohio," submitted by Ila L. LaRue
"The War of 1812 Pensioners in the Pension List of 1818," tr. Eric Johnson
"War of 1812 Soldiers Mentioned in Firelands Pioneeer," submitted by Sunda Peters
Friday, March 13, 2009
From the current issue of Chicago Genealogist:
"Illinois Staats Zeitung Translations," translated from the German by Virginia Dick and submitted by Gail Santroch. First of a series, obituaries and news items 1861 through March 1872.
"Of Wealth and War: Samuel Lowe Writes Home," by Harold Henderson. Identifying the people Samuel asks after in an 1863 letter to my step-great-grandmother reveals something about Chicago society of the time as well as the ongoing war.
"Anna L. Smith: Chicago Suffragette," by Craig L. Pfannkuche with Nancy Merriman. Anna (1872?-1949) worked her way up in the feminist movement and the Democratic Party and by the 1930s had switched to Republicanism. "Anna's contributions to political freedom of action for women in Chicago have been overlooked by historians of women's progressivism in Chicago."
Thursday, March 12, 2009
An absorbing and diverse mix of articles in this quarter's Indiana Genealogist, as well as a timely reminder to would-be contributors that there could be something in it for them to contribute an article to the quarterly. The 2008 Elaine Spires Smith Family History Writing Award ($500) will be given to the best article over 1000 words received for the magazine in 2008 that wasn't a transcription or abstract. Fourteen are in the running; the IGS publication committee will judge.
Why don't more state and regional publications try something like this? It's a low-cost incentive to get us out of our databases and onto our word processors!
March's contents include:
Ron Darrah, "Indiana World War II Genealogy Can Be Tricky," a quick and informative trip around the difficulties of tracking the Greatest Generation. The Indiana legislature made it considerably harder in 2007 by closing off most access to AGO Form 53 certificates from the WW2 Bonus Act.
Robert de Berardinis, "Four French Naval Infantrymen at Fort Vincennes Who Wanted to Become Settlers."* The author has so much to say about the intricacies of eighteenth-century French records on both sides of the Atlantic that it's possible to lose sight of the infantrymen. I know there's some real meat here, because I understood it a lot better the second time I read it.
Rhonda Dunn, "Finding Proof of Family Lore, or, The Search for Redeeming Qualities in My Mean Ole Great-Grandpa, George Dunn." Still some mysteries here, but good evidence that family history can tell less than ideal stories about our ancestors without flinching.
Timothy Paul Reese, "Isaac D. Robbins of Dearborn County, Indiana." Robbins, the author's great-great-grandfather, had an eventful Civil War in the 26th Indiana Volunteer Infantry.
Plus listings of "When They Came to Gary," Indiana Civil War soldiers buried in Crawford County, Pennsylvania, and more...
Wednesday, March 11, 2009
I've long been a fan of the federal census agricultural schedules, and been sorry that they aren't available after 1880. But there's good news for those genealogists with post-1880 Illinois farmers in the tree: the Illinois State Archives' regional archives depositories (previously blogged here in January and here in February) have "agricultural statistic [sic] schedules" for ten counties, which cover non-census years and some well after 1880. Please note I haven't used these yet, so I'm going by the following description:
Schedules list 77 agricultural factors for each farmer in a township. Factors include: acres farmed; previous year’s crop yield; acres of pasture, woodland, uncultivated land, and city real estate owned by each farmer; the number of the various types of livestock owned, died, and killed; the amount of dairy products sold; the amount of wool shorn; the number of pounds of honey produced; with township summaries.
If that doesn't have you drooling, you're an impostor, not a genealogist. Most importantly, I suspect these will be reports of the actual farmers, not just landowners -- if that guess is true, this could be a gold mine for those researching transitory tenant farming families.
Counties available in their respective IRAD repositories and dates:
In northern Illinois, Carroll (1910-1912) , and Ogle (1891-1893).
In central Illinois, Christian (1881-1896), Henry (1877-1881), Macon (1878-1883), Macoupin (1881-1910), Montgomery (1877-1893), and Woodford (1877-1897).
In southern Illinois, Marion (1877-1878) and Williamson (1877-1886).
These came from the county clerks, so if you're working a county not listed above, perhaps they retain those records in a back room or basement somewhere. It can't hurt to ask.
Tuesday, March 10, 2009
Editors tend to resist publishing articles that provide a "research travelogue" -- "first I looked here, and then that led me to..." but for those of us still struggling to figure out how to do good research, a travelogue or two is most welcome. National Genealogical Society president Jan Alpert provides one involving the Neill families, possibly related, of Peoria and Schuyler counties, Illinois in the January issue of UpFront with NGS. There's no magical revelation or clear conclusion, but I find it interesting to see how someone else goes about a project starting with a clue or two from a Civil War pension file.
Monday, March 9, 2009
I don't get to Cincinnati nearly often enough. But now their well-reputed library is coming to me...and to those of you lucky enough to have ancestors in the lower left-hand corner of Ohio. The Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County has PDF images of Cincy city directories 1819-1894 in their Digital Library. As far as I can tell, they have done everything right: reproduced a steady run of directories so that researchers can cross-correlate finds from one to the next; made images rather than transcriptions; and carefully distinguished between different directory publishers and date styles.
Saturday, March 7, 2009
Christopher Capozzolo at Legal History Blog points to an interesting article, "The Art of Book Reviewing," by historian Bruce Mazlish of MIT, first published in 2001. The general points will be familiar to a reader of the relevant chapter by Elizabeth Shown Mills in Professional Genealogy, but the details and the slant are different. It had never occurred to me that professionals in history or social science get just the same amount of systematic training in how to review books as we genealogists do -- none. Make the most of it!
Friday, March 6, 2009
For many archival purposes, the Wisconsin Historical Society has divided the state into 14 Area Research Centers (ARCs), where a surprising variety of records that you might only otherwise find in courthouses reside, including vital, tax, school, property, probate, cemetery, business, and other record types. Check out this overall map and pick your spot -- every center operates a little differently. If your main interest is pre-1907 vital records, there's a statewide index here.
The university library at Stevens Point appears to be especially active genealogically speaking. Among other things they maintain the Stevens Point Area Obituary Index, a collaboration between the university archives, the Portage County Public Library, and the Stevens Point Area Genealogical Society. If you find a research target therein you can request a copy ($10 for up to 5 requests, but be sure to read their terms of service carefully -- clearly they have to deal with a lot of clueless people and you don't want to be one of them). The index is said to cover the following newspapers and date ranges: Stevens Point Weekly Journal 1872-1920, Stevens Point Daily Journal 1895-1980, Stevens Point Journal 1981-, Gazette 1878-1923, Portage County Gazette 1999-, and Wisconsin Pinery 1864-1890.
BTW, after I wrote this post I received the new issue of the always excellent NGS Magazine, which contains a meaty, detailed account of Wisconsin's ARCs by native son and veteran researcher David McDonald, CG. Check it out!
Thursday, March 5, 2009
You're going to be sorry your ancestors didn't all flock to Michigan to join the Union Army...
I blundered into a fantastic archival collection on line at Seeking Michigan -- digital images of original Civil War records in 1486 folders, each containing (as far as I looked) between 25 and 85 documents. According to the collection description, "The records document the history of Michigan soldiers in the form of muster rolls, letters, lists of dead, monthly returns and other materials sent to the state Adjutant General during the war. Funded by the National Historical Publications and Records Commission." The Library of Michigan and the Archives of Michigan and the Leota and Talbert Abrams Foundation are involved.
If you have a research target who served in a Michigan unit in the war, and you know which one, you can conduct archival research on him from your desktop. (From the lists I saw it's obvious that many men not living in Michigan saw service there.) The interface isn't ideal, but if you click on printable version, that image is much easier to navigate and very detailed.
I can't tell if this is everything, but it's enormous. It's not indexed but it is organized by unit. Folder titles are searchable so browsing is probably the way to get started. To browse this collection, hit "advanced search," in that window move "Civil War Records" from the box on the left to the box on the right," and hit search. And pretty much wherever you land you'll find a surprise. I just found a bunch of Mexican War records!
Wednesday, March 4, 2009
Two wonderful articles combine genealogical and microhistorical chronicles with deep thoughts about race and intermarriage in the Midwest. They're just out in Frontiers: A Journal of Women Studies, unfortunately available only if you have access to an amazing bookstore, or a library that subscribes to the journal itself or to Project Muse (hat tip to the Legal History blog):
"'They Found Her and Left Her an Indian': Gender, Race, and the Whitening of Young Bear," by Jim J. Buss, historian at Oklahoma City University (volume 29, issue 2&3, page 1). It was a famous story in the 1800s -- Frances Slocum, taken from her Pennsylvania home as a young girl in the 1780s, rediscovered by her brothers some sixty years later, having made a good life as an Indian wife and mother. The story was retold not just because of its inherent fascination, but because it called into question the racist ideas that justified clearing Indians from the Midwest. Buss reviews the retellings and shows how they often describe a mixed-race society in central Indiana in 1840 even though the authors wanted to deny the possibility of any such thing. He's working on a book to be titled The Winning of the West with Words: Clearing the Middle Ground for American Pioneers. Some of the 19th-century versions are recorded at this Rootsweb site -- but keep in mind that a characteristic vice of us genealogists is to take those stories as gospel truth.
"Miengun's Children: Tales from a Mixed-Race Family," by Susan E. Gray of Arizona State University (volume 29, issue 2&3, page 146). Regular readers will recognize her as author of The Yankee West. Working with some data provided by genealogists, she tells a collective biography of the children of a Lakota man (Miengun/Payson Wolfe) and the daughter of missionaries (Mary Jane Smith), and how the children made their way in the world of the late 1800s and early 1900s -- a world that wanted to pigeonhole them either as uncivilized Indians or as civilized white people. These folks aren't as famous as Frances Slocum/Young Bear was, but their struggles in Oklahoma and northern lower Michigan may be closer to our own experience. Gray is working on a book also: Lines Descent: Family Stories from the North Country.
Tuesday, March 3, 2009
Late last year there were several interesting posts at H-Connecticut on overland migration routes through New York state and Pennsylvania to the Western Reserve of Ohio some 200 years ago. Here's a taste, from the post by Alden O'Brien of the DAR Museum:
There were two main routes to Ohio: thru NY State on a variety of new
turnpikes, and thru Pennsylvania on the "Forbes Road". Roots and Routes
lists some published diaries c 1810 detailing travel on the Forbes road.
I hadn't encountered Roots and Routes before. They say they're
"about family history, heritage travel and more.Our idea is to
use the cultural connections, great migrations, settlements and
symbolic landscapes of North America to inform these popular
avocations and make them more meaningful."
Monday, March 2, 2009
If you have a research target in Indiana during the Civil War years, and they weren't poor, the Mishawaka-Penn-Harris Public Library's Heritage Center has a source for you: the 42-reel microfilm set Indiana Internal Revenue Lists for the years 1862-1866. Yes, Virginia, there was an income tax during the Civil War (that was back when they paid for wars themselves instead of laying off the bill on future generations). I've worked with these lists a tiny bit at the Great Lakes branch of the National Archives in Chicago, and they are real records -- that is, not organized or indexed for our convenience. You need to know where your folks were and where various towns were, in order to figure out the geographical layout of the districts used. And those with little or nothing won't show up here -- it's not a census substitute.
Sunday, March 1, 2009
I'll be giving an introduction to the variety of genealogy blogs (of all things) at the monthly meeting of the La Porte County [Indiana] Genealogical Society, 910 State Street, 7:15 pm Tuesday, 10 March 2009. (Yes, it's mostly ready to go, but it's never too late to offer advice in the comments.)