Tuesday, June 30, 2009

June Indiana Genealogist

Three big articles in the new issue of Indiana Genealogist, flagship publication of the Indiana Genealogical Society:

"Who Was Not Jessie's Father?" by Dawne Slater-Putt. The author, who is a Certified Genealogist, takes on puzzle of the parentage of Jessie Armentha Fordyce, daughter of Martha A. Saxon and, as it turns out, neither of the two men she married. Jessie was born 15 January 1883 in Miami County, and was five months old when her mother married Melchior Elsenhans.

"New History of the 99th Indiana Infantry," compiled by Meredith Thompson from the 1900 book of that title. In addition to a quick summary, the article reunites the sketches and photographs of some of the 942 men in the company. Company members came from the NW quadrant of the state.

In the regular "In-Genious" section, Marjorie Weiler-Powell distinguishes indexing, abstracting, extracting, transcribing, and translating.

In the latest news, a man from Danville, Illinois, is the first person to have three certified ancestors who served from Indiana in the Civil War, making him the first "triple" member of the Society of Civil War Families of Indiana.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Methodology Monday with deeds instead of probate

You can find some interesting stuff in genealogy newsletters these days, premier among them being UpFront with NGS from the national Genealogical Society. The June issue has more than one interesting article, but I was riveted by Jane Atkinson Andrews' account of how she used deeds to figure out an inheritance situation in the 1840s and 1850s in Wayne County, Ohio (or at least that's where it started) and get her in-laws sorted out. She writes,

"One particular group of transactions piqued my interest: ten deeds from ten different grantors to the same grantee, recorded in consecutive order. (Wayne County, Ohio, Deed Book 44:540-46; Various grantors to John Q. Andrews, Quitclaim deeds recorded 10-12 Dec 1854; Wayne County Recorder, Wooster; FHL microfilm 420,936.)

"This was an estate property settlement, but for whom? How were the grantors related to each other and to the deceased? What was their connection to the grantee? Careful reading of the deeds provided answers to these questions and more."

If you can stop reading there and turn on the TV, you're not a genealogist.

Friday, June 26, 2009

You'll wish your ancestor stopped in Shawano County Wisconsin

In case you're wondering, this is the county just WNW of Green Bay, on the way to Wausau. Check out the Shawano County resources, including 80,000+ obituaries, and (one of my personal faves) plat maps from 1898, 1905, and 1911.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Ohio Records & Pioneer Families 2009 #2

The new issue of ORPF features Wood, Erie, Ashland, Trumbull, Warren, Gallia, and Morgan counties:

"John Hormell, Sr., 1743-1823," by Stanley W. Aultz

"Bible Records of Joshua Cope Baker Found in North Baltimore, Ohio," by Cheryl Warren Conkle

"Wood County Marriages, 1820-1856," comp. Lolita Guthrie

"First Families of Ohio: The Early Years," abstr. Kay Ballantyne Hudson

"Revolutionary War Pension Application Abstracts," comp. Lois Wheeler

"The Bissells of Indiana," by Susan L. Simon* -- the second installment, last time they were in Trumbull County, Ohio

"Invalid Pensioners Living in Ohio During 1850," by Eric Johnson

"Letter to James Lamson Gage from James Gage," tr. Jonathan Scouten Robertson

"Ohio Births Documented from Civil War Pension Files," abstr. Michael Elliott

McCarley & Davis Family Bibles of Gallie County, OH," by E. Paul Morehouse

"Camp Avery: A Forgotten Outpost in Northern Ohio," by Eric Johnson. The monument to the War of 1812 outpost apparently is near the Ohio Turnpike, but just where we do not learn.


Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Civil War pre-sesqui in NW Indiana

If you just can't wait for the outbreak of the 150th anniversaries of the Civil War, c'mon over to La Porte County, where the historical society has an encampment and "Civil War Ball" June 27, songs of the war August 1, and a talk August 8 on La Porte County Civil War veterans (including two Confederates) by county historian Fern Eddy Schultz. My information comes from the society's June "Oldletter," but information on the first two events is on the website. If you come to visit their research library, bear in mind they're closed Sunday-Monday and charge a small admission fee.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Need foreign words?

The Resource Shelf points to a fine aggregation of translation resources from the Association of College & Resarch Libraries. I doubt that these are real substitutes for hiring a professional, but the authors conclude, "There are many free Web sites that allow educated nonprofessionals to produce quality translations, if they are willing to dig into the wealth of the Internet and create their own set of tools."

Monday, June 22, 2009

Methodology Monday with online databases

Joan Young has a well-balanced article on this vexed and vexing subject in Rootsweb Review's June issue. Much good advice here, IMHO, including this paragraph:

"Pay no attention to who submitted the data, but rather to the evidence itself. Even respected genealogists make errors occasionally and may not have access to all the information you possess."

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Eavesdrop on the lawyers

Texas-based researcher Debbie Parker Wayne has a nice list of legal books and resources with genealogists in mind, including some by state (there's something for all five of our focus states). This is more than just a law dictionary, it includes current statutes as well as some histories of pertinent matters like marriage and inheritance laws.

Maybe this post belongs under methodology, as Tom Jones makes a strong case in his lecture "Inferential Genealogy" that you have to know the law in order to interpret the evidence, or even to recognize it as evidence. So in Wayne's phrase, you probably do have "ancestors hidden in the statutes."

Breaking news: Just out from Stanford University Press is Lawrence M. Friedman's Dead Hands: A Social History of Wills, Trusts, and Inheritance Law. I haven't seen it, and the blurbs focus on current hot-button issues -- leaving it open whether he goes back far enough, and deep enough, to interest genealogists. But any book with a title like this has real potential. Hat tip to the Legal History Blog.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Eavesdrop on the historians

Need some quick reconnaissance on the latest historical books? Check out H-Net Reviews. You won't always find the titles you want, but when you do your colleagues will wonder how you got to be the first to know.

Also keep an eye on the online historical magazine Common-Place, which is doing additional reviews now. Matthew Mason highlights Charles Ball's 1837 autobiographical account of the internal US slave trade. Readily available on line, it "matches better-known slave narratives both in the adventure of his escapes and the power of his testament to slave resistance," and it reinforces current scholarship which focuses more on this trade than on the plantation.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Midkiff's Online Directory Finder!

Blogger Miriam Midkiff has done more than have a great idea, she's implemented it in the Online City, County, and Rural Directories Website, and the accompanying blog. Find 'em by state and county; today US & Canada, tomorrow the world.

If you [heart] city directories as much as I do, and you know an online city or county or rural directory that's not linked there, let her know from the website main page.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Western Reserve Historical Society Library

It looks like my career of driving through Cleveland without stopping may soon come to an end. Reviewing Ann Sindelar's article on the Western Reserve Historical Society for last week's post on Ohio Genealogy News led me to just books, periodicals, and manuscripts galore, but also online databases. For instance:

an index to Cleveland's 1907 voter registration records, from a time when registration was required by law. Note that the online index serves as a pointer to additional information at WRHS that is not indexed, such as the registrant's age, length of residence, and signature.

an index to marriage and death notices in the Jewish Independent and Jewish Review and Observer 1889-1964.

an index to nine volumes of Bible records copied in nine volumes at WRHS.

an index to northeast Ohio servicemen's photographs (and sometimes articles) from the Plain Dealer, 1940-1955.

There's much more, including a listing of WRHS's holdings of obsolete Ohio paper money, including "demand notes, scrip, post notes, certificates of deposit, counterfeits, capital stock and fractional currency from over 100 Ohio cities." This is statewide: I found items described from Granville, Marietta, and Kenton. (The originals are in the Vault.)

If you start digging for the really good stuff in their manuscript lists, be aware of peculiarities in the search functions. For instance, title searches are for the first word in the title; names that appear later on are not indexed. Bulldog searching will be called for.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Methodology Monday with a hungry bulldog

Sometimes you don't need abstruse methodology so much as an attitude. If you can vividly imagine yourself as a hungry bulldog and the evidence you seek as a steamy bowl of dog food, you're just less likely to quit on it!

Recently I had a state marriage return which appeared to have been signed by the county clerk -- as in, the man's signature with "county clerk" printed underneath that line in small type. It was easy to jump to the conclusion that it had been a civil ceremony.

Eventually I came across a county return form for the same event, which made it quite clear that the person signing the first return was in fact the minister who had performed the ceremony! Now I'm off to investigate his denomination -- not that the happy (?) couple stuck around, but just to know which species of minister they went to in their hour of need. But I should have been bulldogging more records of that marriage in the first place.

Just to switch metaphors -- as ESM would say, what a land mine I had left lying there in the meantime!

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Weekend Warriors -- Help Indiana's volunteers help you

Ron Darrah, long-time volunteer at the Indiana State Archives and always a festive presence at Indiana Genealogical Society gatherings, has gone public in the current IGS newsletter (read it yourself in the members-only section if you're a member; if you aren't, why not?): the volunteers have tens of thousands of records in databases ready to go online, but the state archivist is stalling on doing so. Volunteers are the backbone of the state archives; it seems little enough to ask that state government do its part in preserving and making known Indiana's history.

It may be that he or his boss the governor don't know how many people care about this. Below is their contact information, and below that is the list of databases being held up, from the IGS Blog.

Indiana State Archivist James Corridan 317/232-3691 or jcorridan@icpr.in.gov

Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels 317/232-4567 or www.in.gov/gov/2631.htm

Department of Correction (DOC) Databases
--Jeffersonville (DOC-Jeffersonville) 11,995 records
--Old State Prison North (Indiana State Prison North Inmate Index 1858-1897) 10,574 records
--New State Prison North (DOC-Prisoners) 34,428 records
--Boys School (DOC - Boys School) 12,376 records
--Girls School (DOC - Girls School Inmates) 5,670 records
[NOTE: Girls School files will be added in the future, as well as databases for the Reformatory from 1897 forward.]

Military Databases
--World War I - Book of Merit 1,626 records
--World War II - Gold Star 3,461 records
--Civil War - 200,000 records [proofing is nearly done]
--National Guard - 37,000 records [now at the letter K--there is the potential to reach approximately 100,000 records when complete]
--Early soldiers - approximately 20,000 records
--Mexican War - 4,783 records
--United Spanish American War Veterans Files - underway
--Upcoming Spanish American War - underway

Orphans and Foster Children Databases
--Foster Children Files - 10,691 records
--Foster Parent Applications - 1,462 records
--Orphanages and Other Licensed Institutions for Children 922 records
--Juliana Work - 4,628 records

Court Records Databases
--Marion County Loft 1 - 27,578 records
--Marion County Loft 2 - 23,614 records
--Marion County Loft 3 - 36,000 records [still increasing]

Naturalization Databases
--The Naturalization database that is currently online contains approximately 23,540 records. There are several additional smaller counties ready to be added. In the near future the volunteers hope to have more counties proofed and ready to be uploaded, including Marion County (23,226 records) and St. Joseph County (approximately 39,000 records). These two counties, along with various other counties (with considerably smaller tables) will triple the size of the current online Naturalization database.

Land Records Databases
--LaPorte-Winamac land office 18,785 records
--Fort Wayne land office 73,250 records
--General Land Office (Reserves) 2,579 records [already on the Indiana State Archives website]
--Vincennes land office 100,000+ records [soon to be finished]
--Terre Haute-Crawfordsville land office approximately 20,000 records [soon to be finished]

Friday, June 12, 2009

Ohio Genealogy News Spring 2009

Somehow the spring issue of Ohio Genealogy News got stuck at the bottom of my pile, which is too bad because it's a goodie:

"Armchair Sleuthing in the Internet Age: Reconstructing Family Stories," by Gail G. Whitchurch

"The Western Reserve Historical Society Library -- An American Family History Research Center," by Ann Sindelar. Besides library materials including the top periodicals, this Cleveland repository also boasts over 5000 manuscript collections, including Civil War and Shaker materials and papers of "local historians Charles Whittlesey, Joel Blakeslee, Alfred Mewitt and Winifred Wolcott," and Marion Turk's Channel Islands Genealogical Papers on "several hundred Channel Islands families from their earliest settlement to the 20th century." More on these resources next week.

"Cemetery Chronicles" from Trumbull, Henry, and Fairfield counties, by Lolita (Thayer) Guthrie

"George Washington's Valet Honored in Champaign County Cemetery," by Doris Hayden Gorgas

"Diocese of Toledo Parish Records and Ohio Tax Records Online" at FamilySearch Labs

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Hundreds of Illinois archives on line

The Illinois State Historical Records Advisory Board has a search page for archives in the state -- searchable by county, city, or any of five regions. (It's based on a 1996 survey that has been updated.) Far southern Illinois has 19 archives, eastern 46, western 64, northwestern 46, and the six-county northeastern region 204. Chicago alone has 76 archives listed, from Adler Planetarium to the William Wrigley, Jr. Company. (And if you think "archives" is just a funny word for "library," you have some surprises coming.)

On Saturday, October 24, at least some of those archives will come to you. According to the H-Illinois email list edited by the indefatigable Tim Draper of Waubonsee Community College, the Chicago Archives Fair will be held from 11 am to 2 pm that day on the lower level of the Harold Washington Library at 400 S. State in the Chicago Loop (OK, technically, just outside of the Loop, since the el runs in front of it). Information and contacts at Chicago Area Archivists.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Mitchems of Harrison County, Indiana

You might recognize Harrison County as the home of Indiana's first state capital, Corydon. But did you know it was also home to a group of emancipated black slaves even before statehood? In the spring issue of Traces of Indiana and Midwestern History, descendant Maxine F. Brown sketches out the story of Paul and Susannah Mitchem of Virginia, North Carolina, Kentucky, and finally Indiana. They freed dozens of slaves, and many of the emancipation papers are in early Harrison County deed records. Many of these people took the Mitchem name, so it could be a severe genealogical challenge to sort these folks out. Associated surnames Brown mentions include Meachum, Vincent/Vinsett, Carter, Cousin, Finley, and Powell.

PERSI tells me that Kentucky Ancestors did a several-part series on this story back in the 1990s; I don't know if anyone has dug into it from a genealogical as well as a historical point of view. Another starting place would be the 54 prominent signatories (not named in this article) to a letter to the then territorial governor, complaining that free black people were being "lry loose among us." The Northwest Territory was free by law, but that didn't mean the white people there were particularly enlightened.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Down on the farm

Most of our ancestors, and research targets in general, were farmers. For a sense of what they thought, or what "improvers" wanted them to think, the National Library of Agriculture has voluminous online resources: digitized searchable copies of the annual Report of the Commissioner of Agriculture 1862-1888, the Report of the Secretary of Agriculture 1889-1893, and the (newly available) Yearbook of the Department of Agriculture 1894-1937 and 1938-1992. Here's the overview of their list of publications. As near as I can tell, these are every-name searchable but as time goes on there tend to be fewer individuals named.

These are "context" or "background" resources, not likely to be means of finding or locating an elusive research target. But if you know your person was a farmer in this era, or a particularly skilled or specialized one, these books may well contain detailed information about their work. I found articles on celery culture in Kalamazoo, timber on the prairie, "sheep husbandry in the west" (1862 from Logan County, Illinois), and how Raleigh Township, Wake County, North Carolina was improving its roads in 1894. You just never know! Ongoing issues include stock improvement, fencing, and local farm organizations. Actually I got so distracted I almost didn't have time to write this post.

Hat tip Resource Shelf.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Methodology Monday with Albert Field in NGSQ

We "transitional genealogists" will be discussing Margaret J. Field's article published in the June 2003 National Genealogical Society Quarterly, "From the Black Hills to the Berkshires: Lessons in Using Indirect Evidence to Find the Ancestors of Albert Field." (NGS members can download a copy.) Starting from known facts at Albert's 1901 death in South Dakota, the author used census evidence to arrive at a hypothesis for Albert's parents back in Massachusetts. But no record ever turned up that named them outright, and the indirect census evidence was thin. Albert's hypothetical father and mother didn't produce any direct evidence either.

Brick wall? No. But building a brick road wasn't easy. The author makes three recommendations in this situation: Re-assess the accuracy of the information. Look for overlooked clues. And after that, expand the search.

Without spoiling the suspenseful ending, I can say that being able to correlate nuggets of information across half a century is a big help in a project like this.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Illinois State Info from the Library of Congress

The Library of Congress Digital Reference Section has produced an Illinois State Guide to digital resources on the LOC site. It comes in four parts: under "American Memory," 23 collections to search with samples of what's in them pulled out; 9 "Related Resources"; 8 "External Links"; and a brief, quirky "Selected Bibliography" that manages to omit Robert Howard's pedestrian but standard Illinois: A History of the Prairie State, Donald Miller's brilliant City of the Century, and William Cronon's modern-day classic Nature's Metropolis. If you don't find something to make your heart beat faster and distract you from what you should be doing, you may not actually have Illinois research targets, you may only think you do!

No other midwestern state has such a detailed guide, but LOC has functionally similar resources for every state. More on some of these later.

Hat tip to the Resource Shelf, which posts more items every day than will fit on my little protopage viewing widget!

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

"Sanborns" in Chicago

Last week I had a good three-stage learning process at the Chicago History Museum's Research Center [formerly the Chicago Historical Society's library] about what detailed fire-insurance-type maps (AKA "Sanborns") are available and where. Do note CHMRC's hours (not extensive) and admission fee ($5 a day or $15 a year).

First, I was introduced to a 1916 map -- black and white, copied from microfilm -- available on computers there and useful for orientation.

Second, there is Robinson's Atlas of the City of Chicago, Illinois, from 1886, which has been republished in full, free and online, in the Encyclopedia of Chicago. This is not the most user-friendly interface but it's manageable. Use the little slider bar verrry carefully.

Start with the Atlas Map close to the extreme left end. Magnify that map (you'll want to magnify everything) to ascertain which section, township, and range of the 1886 city includes your address. (Mine was Section 7, Township 39, Range 11, AKA 7-39-11, lying south of Chicago, north of Madison, east of Western, and west of Ashland, AKA 0 to 1200 North and 1600 to 2400 West in today's numbering scheme, which was not in use in 1886 but it helps to know it.)

Then return to the slider bar and slide it along until you get to the volume associated with your desired neighborhood or address. (Mine was volume 4.) At this point you may find that for no particular reason the map has rotated 90 degrees so that the east-west streets are going up and down. Use the rotator function to get the city headed in the right direction for a change. Then magnify magnify magnify and find the large-type plate number for your subarea. (Mine was 19.)
Continue along the slider to your desired plate number and magnify it as far as you can to see your chosen neighborhood, building by building.

Third, having done this, you can tell plenty but not as much as a full-dress fire insurance map can tell you. For that, visit CHM in person and use their on-table looseleaf binder of indexes to figure out which of their hard-copy atlases are available for which areas and which dates. (Not all areas and dates are covered by a long shot, but most areas seem to get some coverage for at least one date.) These are full-color, with notations on the type of roofing, the size of the water mains, the nature of construction (wood, brick, stone), the number of stories, and on and on. (EOC also has a nice short article by Richard Harris on some more sophisticated ways to "read" the maps.)

If you're the kind that wants icing on your cake, review the looseleaf binder again and then ask for the file folders of readily available images sorted by street name, church name, etc., in hopes of getting a ground-level view of your neighborhood back in the day. I didn't luck out but it's well worth trying.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Methodology Monday in Maine and Illinois

The spring issue of New England Ancestors brings us Eben W. Graves, author of The Descendants of Henry Sewall, 1576-1656, writing about how researchers on two coasts and two continents put together John J. Sewall of Barry, Pike County, Illinois, and John Jenks Sewall of Bath, Sagadahoc County, Maine.

I think it's fair to say that while the internet made the process of assembling evidence much faster, it didn't change the logic of the conclusion that they were the same person. The names being the same was only the beginning. Several different records showed convergences, including a long-lost letter from 1896 -- but records being what they are, the resemblances between the two men were not perfect.

I think the conclusion is valid, but the evidence mentioned is all positive -- did anyone in the crew try to disprove the hypothesis by looking for John Jenks Sewall dying young, or living in Maine at the same time John J. Sewall was in Illinois?