Friday, July 31, 2009

Bookends Friday: Orphan Trains

On the morning of October 1, 1854, forty-five children sat on the front benches of a meetinghouse in Dowagiac, Michigan. Most were between ten and twelve years old. . . For the last couple of weeks notices had been running in the newspapers, and bills had been posted at the general store, the tavern, and the railroad station asking families to take in homeless boys and girls from New York City. The children had arrived on the train from Detroit at three that morning and had huddled together on the station platform until sunup . . . .
If you have the slightest genealogical interest in orphans, half-orphans, or abandoned children, Stephen O'Connor's 2001 book Orphan Trains: The Story of Charles Loring Brace and the Children He Saved and Failed will keep your attention all the way through. The author manages to tell three intertwined tales: the life of Brace, a classic New England reformer; the stories (those that are recoverable) of many of the children themselves; and the way nineteenth-century Americans, including Brace's Children's Aid Society, thought about the problem of children without competent or affluent parents.

Because the big surprise here is that Brace's basic ideas have not been jettisoned at all. They are still at the heart of our foster care "system"; only the trains are missing. The past is not dead; it isn't even past.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Social Science Research Network? What?

Sometimes as a genealogist, you can feel like a dog underneath a banquet table -- so many of the succulent scraps of information are out of reach, requiring access to those few libraries that have access to JSTOR or NBER papers. But the Social Science Research Network has thousands of papers anyone can download for free (PDF). And some of them are even relevant to our work. Here are four titles I picked up in a few minutes of searching:

"'Social Equality Does Not Exist among Themsleves, nor among Us': Baylies vs. Curry and Civil Rights in Chicago, 1888," by Dale

"History in the Law Library: Using Legal Materials to Explore the Past and Find Lawyers, Felons, and Other Scoundrels in Your Family Tree," by Metzmeier (2008, Kentucky)

"Anglo-American Land Law: Diverging Developments from a Shared History. Part II: How Anglo-American Land Law Diverged after American Colonization and Independence," by Thomas (1999, BYU)

"'The Most Esteemed Act of My Life': Family, Property, Will, and Trust in the Antebellum South," by Davis and Brophy (2009) -- on antebellum probate practices in Greene County, Alabama -- a county that was both wealthy and unburnt.

I'm sure there's more. Arf!

Hat tip to this post from the Samford University Library's Institute of Genealogical and Historical Research on Facebook.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

She fought the law, and sometimes won

H-Net has a very handy review of A. Cheree Carlson's new book from University of Illinois Press, The Crimes of Womanhood: Defining Femininity in a Court of Law. Carlson tells the stories of six prominent 19th- and early 20th-century cases involving women. Reviewer Tamar Carroll highlights the case of

Elizabeth Parsons Ware Packard, a Presbyterian minister's wife who drew her husband's ire when she took up Swedenborgianism, a mystical philosophy "at odds with traditional Christianity," and tried to convert to Methodism, more amenable to her newfound spiritual beliefs (p. 24). Before she could do so, Rev. Packer had her confined in the "maniac" ward of the Illinois State Hospital, where she remained until the superintendent released her three years later . . . . Upon her release, her husband took away Packard's clothes and locked his unrepentant wife in the nursery of their house; she managed to slide a note out the window frame to a neighbor, who sought judicial intervention.
What happened next? Read the whole thing. Sometimes clever lawyers were able to use 19th-century notions about feminity to win their clients' freedom.

For those of us who graze the banquet table of history, the review usefully contrasts and compares other books and articles on the legal perils of 19th-century women.

Hat tip to Legal History Blog.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Chicago Genealogist Summer 2009

The new issue of Chicago Genealogist has several goodies:

"Thomas Hatton Gravestock," by Richard Gravestock -- a warts-and-all account of the author's grandfather, a high-living saddler who deserted the British army and emigrated to the US, where he ended up with a family in Boston and one in Chicago.

"Illinois Staats Zeitung -- Part III, June 1872," translated by Virginia Dick. This German-language newspaper covered more than just German news!

"The University of Chicago: Remembering a Time," by Raymond E. Johnson, a memoir of Roseland and the U of C, 1939-1942.

"Harrison Technical High School: 1941," tr. Thomas J. Draus. List of graduates.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Methodology Monday with Tony Burroughs

Chicago's own Tony Burroughs has a nice post at AC360. Much of it pertains to the stringent methodological requirements of doing African-American genealogy successfully, and one part should be required reading for all genealogists:

Many are unaware of the vast amount of records that exist, and the scarcity of those that are digitized or even catalogued. One institution alone, the National Archives, has only 125,000 scanned images on their website out of 4 billion documents in their collection. That’s one page for every 34,000 documents.
Very crudely put, your odds of finding what you're looking for on the internet alone: 33,999 to 1.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

If you lost your job, would you chop up your garage for kindling wood?

I didn't think so. But that's approximately what the state of Michigan will do unless the legislature steps in -- try to save on the state budget by dismantling the Library of Michigan, said to be the tenth largest genealogical library in the US. If you live or work in Michigan, take a minute to visit the Western Michigan Genealogical Society and ponder what you can do. Anyone in NW Indiana want to share a drive to Lansing on August 5?

Friday, July 24, 2009

Bookends Friday: The Legacy of Conquest

"The past isn't dead -- it isn't even past." Faulkner could have been inscribing the moral of Patricia Nelson Limerick's 25-year-old survey, The Legacy of Conquest: The Unbroken Past of the American West. She does a rip-roarin' job of skewering the one-sided and inadequate history that most of us were taught in school and that too many genealogists rely on today.

Her main point is that we tend to divide the past into two compartments: the distant past of the frontier, and the recent past up to today. But these compartments make no sense; it's all one story, and it's still happening.

The American West was an important meeting ground, the point where Indian America, Latin America, Anglo-America, Afro-America, and Asia intersected. In race relations, the West could make the turn-of-the-century Northeastern urban confrontation between European immigrants and American nativists look like a family reunion. . . .

. . . the working of conquest tied these diverse groups into the same story. Happily or not, minorities and majorities occupied a common ground. Conquest basically involved the drawing of lines on a map, the definition and allocation of ownership, and the evolution of land from matter to property. The process had two stages: the initial drawing of the lines (which we have usually called the frontier stage) and the subsequent giving of meaning and power to those lines, which is still underway. . . .

The contest for property and profit has been accompanied by a contest for cultural dominance. Conquest also involved a struggle over languages, cultures, and religions; the pursuit of legitimacy in property overlapped with the pursuit of legitimacy in way of life and point of view. In a variety of matters, but especially in the unsettled questions of Indian assimilation and in the disputes over bilingualism and immigration in the still semi-Hispanic Southwest, this contest for cultural dominance remains a primary unresolved issue of conquest. {27}
Many of these points apply equally to the Midwest and other earlier-settled parts of the country, but they stand out more in the West because its history is closer in time and has been ardently fictionalized by Hollywood and pulp authors.

Another way to put it is that real history pays attention to more than just one point of view. Much of the old history paid little attention to those who weren't guys and who weren't white. But those people are ancestors too.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Summer Hoosier Genealogist

Lots of good stuff in the Spring/Summer 2009 issue of The Hoosier Genealogist: Connections, from the Indiana Historical Society:

"Research Serendipity," by Sharon Ogzewalla

"A Popular Outlet for Spare Time," by Mary Owen, on Indiana women's clubs from about a century ago

"'To Make Up a Soldier's Life," by Rachel M. Popma -- letters to the Tipton Times from Spanish-American War soldiers

"Court Papers: Abstracts of the Delaware County Legal Documents in the Barnes Manuscripts collection, 1864-1892," by Wendy L. Adams and Melinda Moore Weaver

"Prescriptions, Poetry, and Prose: The William Daviess Hutchings Papers, Scott and Jefferson Counties, 1855-1914," by Geneil Breeze

"Hoosier Baptists, Part 1: Anti-slavery Associations, 1826-18302 and African American Associations and Death Notices from Annual Minutes, 1848-1912", by Timothy Mohon

"The Crooks Family" by Constantina Lyla Spath (Delaware County)

"The Indianapolis Gardeners Benefit Society," by Cathy Born

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Recapturing women's lives in northern Wisconsin

The National Genealogical Society's quarterly Magazine may live in the shadow of its scholarly cousin the Quarterly, but it's a distinguished publication in its own right -- distinguished enough to justify NGS membership in its own right IMHO. One of my favorite regular columns nestles right inside the back cover: "Writing Family History" by historian Harold E. Hinds Jr. of the University of Minnesota, Morris (who under no circumstances should be confused with yr blogger).

In the April-June issue, Hinds highlights Joan M. Jensen's 2006 book Calling This Place Home: Women on the Wisconsin Frontier, 1850-1925. Although closely focused in space, it displays many techniques for reconstructing women's lives from a time when they were not always well documented in obvious places. Hinds places it on the same shelf as the genealogical texts by Carmack (A Genealogist's Guide to Discovering Your Female Ancestors) and Schaefer (The Hidden Half of the Family: A Sourcebook for Women's Genealogy). I recommend the review and look forward to reading the book -- maybe there'll be more to blog about then.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Hundreds of archives, thousands of archives . . .

Terry Abraham of the University of Idaho has a great site for finding archives you need to look into at Repositories of Primary Sources. (I know, I know, sources are original or derivative; only information can be primary or secondary. Hide your eyes while clicking.)

The links are organized by continent and then (in this part of the world anyway) state or province). There is a form to submit if you find a broken link or want to suggest a new one (check his guidelines first, though). And bear in mind the comforting thought that items wind up in archives by the most circuitous paths, and the information you need may be housed thousands of miles from where the person in question ever lived.

Illinois: about 104 listings, from Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum to Wilmette Public Library.

Indiana: about 68, from Alameda McCollough Library (recently blogged here) to Wabash College.

Michigan: about 64, from Adrian College. United Methodist Archive to Western Michigan University. Special Collections.

Ohio: about 92, from Akron-Summit County Public Library to Youngstown Historical Center of Industry & Labor.

Wisconsin: about 44 , from Alverno College to Wisconsin Veterans Museum.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Methodology Monday with who visited whom

This month's morsel for the Transitional Genealogists Study Group to read and discuss on line is an article by Victor Dunn from the September 2005 issue of the National Genealogical Society Quarterly (free download for NGS members): "Social News as a Clue to Ancestry: Hester (nee Rogers) Cunningham of Virginia and West Virginia."

When pretty much all else failed, two little words in an humble and somewhat erroneous unindexed social note in the 29 August 1885 Martinsburg (WV) Independent provided the clue that enabled Dunn to identify Hester's parents: "Miss Mary Kyle, of Winchester, is visiting her sister, Mrs. J. B. Cunningham." As Dunn writes, for genealogist on such a cold trail, no source is too obscure, no record too hard to read, no detail too small to follow up.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Ohio summer quarterly

Contents of the Ohio Genealogical Society Quarterly for Summer 2009 (volume 49, number 2, if you're counting). If you can't find something to your taste in this varied issue, maybe you need a tastebud transplant!

"Locating Kingdom of Hannover Records for 19th Century German Immigrants in Ohio," by Verna Forbes Willson -- first prize winner in this year's OGS writing contest: "My first and often repeated advice to other researchers is to not put too much faith in what others have told you but try as hard as possible to find the truth and preserve it."

"2008 First Families of Ohio Roster," by Karen Miller Bennett, CG(SM)

"The Reverend Henry Miller Herman," by Kathryn Young Ellis

"1904 Deaths in Cincinnati, Ohio, with Burials Outside of Hamilton County," tr. Kenny R. Burck and Doris Thomson

"Mining for Historical and Genealogical Gems," by Patricia Donaldson-Mills, with an extended transcript from an 1831 Brown County case, James Taylor vs. Duncan McArthur, including depositions from surveyors in the area in the 1790s.

"Elizabeth Scranton," obituary transcribed from the Alliance Review by Lois Adams Bender

"Ohioans on the Move: Portrait and Biographical Album, Sedgwick County, Kansas, Part 2," tr. Dan Spellman

"Lemuel C. Scholfield, Debtor or Deadbeat?" by Mari M. McLean *

"Yearbooks and Reunion Books: Genealogical Windfalls from Former Veterans' Societies," by Eric Johnson

"A Monthly Time Book, Wabash and Erie Canal, 1838-1840," tr. Terri Gorney

"Identification of an Old Soldier: Ira B. Sawyer," by Sandra Sawyer Lawrence: "Ira's story was
so intriguing I sent for his Civil War pension records.... What a surprise I had when I received nearly a ream of paper from the National Archives," most of it about Ora, "a woman I knew nothing about."

* Footnoted.

112 pages, including about 29 pages of written text (stories or articles) as opposed to transcriptions and lists.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Transactions of the Illinois State Historical Society!

Thanks to the St. Clair County (IL) Genealogical Society Quarterly for this alert:

Approximately 30 volunes of Transactions of the Illinois State Historical Society are available online at The Internet Archive ( Among the published articles are transcriptions of pioneer letters [and] historical essays on a variety of subjects.
I own a few of these volumes -- collections of papers from ISHS annual meetings early in the 20th century -- and they can have cool old stuff. Trouble is they weren't well indexed before.

The new (volume 32, number 2) issue of this quarterly includes 1888 death register extracts, 1825 plats of Illinois City and Belleville, 1858 Belleville tax list, and part of a 1913 marriage index.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Wisconsin's online state publication

The second online quarterly issue of the Wisconsin State Genealogical Society Newsletter has been posted. (A print version is still available on request.) The state society page itself is set up as a wiki, and the word is that "almost 190" people have signed up. What the newsletter really needs is contributions. In her column, president Mary Rieder particularly requests articles about Wisconsin families, up-to-date cemetery transcriptions, upcoming events, and resources of interest to Wisconsin researchers. July issue contents:

"What's Up in Your District?" a compendium of reports from local societies around the state.

"Come Wiki With Us," by Mary Rieder, introducing the site's features.

Two installments of "Get To Know Your Wisconsin Resources":

The Barron County Genealogical Society's library is now housed in a commodious if somewhat remote old jail cell.

Useful research information on the Catholic Diocese of Green Bay Archives, covering all 16 counties of northeast Wisconsin.

"Florence County: Special Schedule of Surviving Soldiers, Sailors and Marines and widows from the 11th (1890) census," tr. Mrs. John M. Irvin

"Museums on the Lawns," a report on Minda Powers-Douglas's presentation on cemetery symbolism to the Green County Genealogical Society.

"Waushara County: North Dakota Cemetery..." tr. Wayne and Alta Guyant

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Genealogy in social media

A wee bit of civil controversy appeared on the Association of Professional Genealogists mailing list last week (under the heading, "Facebook for Genealogists genealogywise"), as posters took note of the increased popularity of Facebook among our crowd, and the appearance of Genealogywise, which is basically facebook for genealogists.

Do these sites add value beyond sociability and (for practicing professionals) exposure? (There are other sites but I haven't done them -- in fact, the burden of having to track multiple social media was one issue discussed.)

On Facebook, the Geneabloggers group distributes blogging tips and invitations to various carnivals, which are convenient although probably just as doable by e-mail.

On Genealogywise, which is pretty new, the groups so far consist of people listing their surnames or asking if anyone has heard of anything that will solve their problem. For those who are (in Tom Jones's juxtaposition) more interested in genealogy than in ancestors, it was interesting to see Ginger Smith's post in the Indiana Genealogy group of some images from the handwritten grantors index to Putnam County deeds, Volume 3, April 1824 - Aug 1863, for surnames beginning with the letters T-Z. She invites visitors to post their transcriptions.

Of course, it's not like Indiana doesn't already have a major transcription project under way, but doing this kind of thing on Genealogywise might attract some new participants . . . and get people thinking about the stupendous mountain of valuable records out there (the deeds themselves) that are undigitized and likely to remain so.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Methodology Monday with Citations!

Mary Dudziak on the Legal History Blog just put in a plea for better citations to records in archives:

One citation had the author and recipient of a letter, and its date. That's all. The bibliography disclosed the collections consulted, so I could narrow it down to a couple of possible collections. But the citations contained no box or file numbers. It should have been easy to find the letter, but it was not in any of the files I examined.
Of course, the less often recognized reason for fuller citations is to evaluate the source, in terms of physical characteristics, provenance, creator's veracity and skill, and more.

Dudziak encourages her readers to stand up to penny-pinching editors who gut citations, referring them to US and Canadian archival guidelines. They might want to check out Evidence Explained while they're at it.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Could this be the next Albion's Seed?

Oxford University Press has just published New Zealand historian James Belich's Replenishing the Earth: The Settler Revolution and the Rise of the Angloworld, 1783-1939. It's in few libraries as yet, and I haven't seen a copy, but the OUP summary and generous blurb from Jared (Guns, Germs, and Steel) Diamond make me verrrry interested.

Belich is working in the same megahistorical zone as Diamond: why does today's world look as it does instead of some other way? Why didn't Chinese "discover" America, or North Americans "discover" Europe? Here's the key paragraph of the summary:

Between 1780 and 1930 the number of English-speakers rocketed from 12 million in 1780 to 200 million, and their wealth and power grew to match. Their secret was not racial, or cultural, or institutional superiority but a resonant intersection of historical changes, including the sudden rise of mass transfer across oceans and mountains, a revolutionary upward shift in attitudes to emigration, the emergence of a settler "boom mentality," and a late flowering of non-industrial technologies--wind, water, wood, and work animals--especially on settler frontiers. This revolution combined with the Industrial Revolution to transform settlement into something explosive--capable of creating great cities like Chicago and Melbourne and large socio-economies in a single generation.
IOW, among other things, Belich seeks to explain the Midwest (and similar regions worldwide such as Argentina, Australia, and Siberia). If it's up to its billing in substance and style, it may indeed rank with masterpieces like David Hackett Fischer's Albion's Seed and William Cronon's Nature's Metropolis. And for those whose ancestors peopled these places, it will be equally required reading.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Research resource in that county where Purdue is

Maybe they were already all around and I just didn't notice them as much -- local, specialized genealogy libraries. A friend of a friend speaks well of one I haven't been to yet: The Tippecanoe County Historical Association's Alameda McCullough Research Library, about four blocks from the public library in Lafayette. Hours are somewhat limited and admission is $4, but here according to their web site you'll find "marriage applications and marriage records, probate and estate files and books, naturalization records, and mortgage books," as well as "guardianship books, funeral home records, Civil War enlistment data, and obituary indices." It's on my to-see list.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

NW Indiana naturalizations in 3 area codes

Check out the Region Roots blog from the Lake County (Indiana) Public Library in Merrillville for the quick version of where to look for naturalizations of people in the county. Short version: they could be next door, on the south side of Chicago (Great Lakes branch of the National Archives), or on the east side of Indianapolis (state archives). I have a feeling that in some cases this handy outline may be just the beginning of an even longer and more convoluted story . . .

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Got Eugenics?

If this pseudo-science crops up in your research, check out this H-Net review of two new books on its history. (Indiana was the first state to mandate sterilization of supposedly defective individuals.)

Monday, July 6, 2009

Methodology Monday with Cynthia at ChicagoGenealogy

The indispensable Cynthia of the lookup site is also the blogger at ChicagoGenealogy. She doesn't post real often, but it's worth the wait.

9 June: how to find a Cook County marriage license with only a newspaper listing and not a number.

4 July: a post for anyone interested in unrecorded Cook County births, passport applications, or The Devil in the White City.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Metro Midwestern Aerial Views

Need a way to while away the long weekend?

Shirl Kennedy at The Resource Shelf alerts us to, which offers the ability to compare aerial photos from different years. In the Midwest, Iowa has the best coverage; elsewhere earlier years are available mainly in metropolitan areas: Milwaukee, Green Bay, Chicago, Indianapolis, Detroit, Cleveland, Columbus, and Cincinnati. The other non-metropolitan Midwestern area with deeper time coverage is the scenic southern part of Illinois. Of course, those who want to see the landscape from the air prior to the 1930s are out of luck!

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Illinois Summer Quarterly

A striking cover photo highlights the main feature and makes the summer issue of the Illinois State Genealogical Society Quarterly stand out.

"The Coles County Poor Farm Cemetery," by Sally M. Smith. "I discovered that, yes, the cemetery is there, but you can't get to it. It's overgrown with weeds and the only way in is to go through the police gun range on the Coffey farm."*

"The Association of Graveyard Rabbits," by Julie Cahill Tarr. (Currently there are five.)

"Bingham-Gracey-McGahey Family Letters," transcribed and annotated by Phyllis J. Bauer. Includes pictures and a genealogical summary.*

"Confessions of an Eclectic Researcher," by James E. Byrne.

"Schwemm Families: Connecting the Dots," by Patricia S. Schultz.

"Can You Find St. Charles in 1865?" by Harold Henderson (that's me). Unraveling's faulty indexing of that year's state census in Kane County.*

"Ask the Retoucher!" by Eric Curtis M. Basir

"Faces from the Past: Identifying Photos with Marge Rice."

"Family Bible Collections," tr. Kristy Lawrie Gravlin. Conklin, Patten, Lawhorn/Hill, Cassingham, Brown, Hampton/Conley, and Crawley family Bible records, which will eventually go into ISGS's third volume of this nature.


Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Law, Society, and Politics in the Midwest -- 12 books and counting

Some days blogging is like a chain reaction. This time around the Legal History Blog alerted me to the new book Democracy in Session: A History of the Ohio General Assembly, by attorney David M. Gold, an attorney with the Ohio Legislative Service Commission. (Yes, this could be of genealogical interest -- and anyway, if Andrew Cayton says it contains "a host of colorful characters and anecdotes," I'm all for it.)

Poking around the book's website in turn revealed that it's the twelfth in a series of books on Law, Society, and Politics in the Midwest being published by Ohio University Press/Swallow Press. FYI the other titles are:

The Fairer Death: Executing Women in Ohio

American Pogrom: The East St. Louis Race Riot [1917] and Black Politics

The Black Laws: Race and the Legal Process in Early Ohio

Frontiers of Freedom: Cincinnati's Black Community 1802-1868

The History of Indiana Law [on my shelf the last 13 months thanks to Maia's Books]

The History of Michigan Law

The History of Nebraska Law

The History of Ohio Law

No Winners Here Tonight: Race, Politics, and Geography in One of the Country's Busiest Death-Penalty States [Ohio]

A Place of Recourse: A History of the U. S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio, 1803-2003

The Rescue of Joshua Glover: A Fugitive Slave, the Constitution, and the Coming of the Civil War [1854, Wisconsin]

Check out their individual pages, and then either your local bookstore or WorldCat, depending on the state of the exchequer.