Sunday, May 30, 2010

ISGS is blogging!

The Illinois State Genealogical Society has a blog, under the stewardship of versatile geneablogger Thomas McEntee. Keep it on your radar screen -- the Memorial Day offering is a list of the state archives' online veterans' databases.

Friday, May 28, 2010

ALL the laws of Illinois

Do you need to know what the divorce law was in Illinois in 1851? 1887? Western Illinois University and the Illinois State Library have digitized a great many of the publications of the Laws of Illinois going back to the beginning of statehood, and including private laws (such as provision made for the case of Edward Mlodzianowski, a Polish exile who died intestate in Morgan County 8 October 1840). There's genealogical gold here.

Hat tip to Research Buzz and the Rinn Law Library blog.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

My recommendations for hiring a professional in a specialized area?

From time to time, clients (or non-clients!) ask me for recommendations as to who they should hire that specializes in some area of research that I don't (often overseas). Not being omniscient, usually I am more comfortable with recommending places to look than I am with recommending specific individuals. Three particular places come to mind:

Board for Certification of Genealogists (BCG)

International Commission for the Accreditation of Professional Genealogists (ICAPGen)

Association of Professional Genealogists (APG)

APG is a professional membership organization; a member has to pay dues and sign a code of ethics (it's at the bottom of the application form).

ICAPGen or BCG credentials are earned by passing different rigorous tests (described at the links).

The same person can be a part of any one, two, or three of the above. If I were looking in online marketplaces (such as Ancestry's ExpertConnect) or in particular libraries' or archives' list of researchers, other things being equal I would tend to favor someone with an earned credential, or failing that at least someone who was serious enough to join a professional organization. (The higher and harder the brick wall in question, the stronger my tendency to do so.)

Of course it is possible that someone with none of these affiliations might do an excellent job of research, but the odds are not as good.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Methodology Monday with IGHR record

Samford University Library's Institute of Genealogical and Historical Research, a one-week intensive premier genealogical learning opportunity, reports on Facebook that it will have a record 306 students and faculty next month.

Six states make up just over half the group: Alabama, Georgia, Texas, Maryland, Florida, and California. Thirty Midwesterners are expected: 12 from Illinois, 10 Ohio, 4 Indiana, 4 Wisconsin, 0 Michigan.

If you think this might be a possibility for you in future years, click on the individual courses for details.

Saturday, May 22, 2010


SepiaTown: From Here to Then is a mapped photo collection, open to additions -- a cool idea without much Midwest coverage yet. (Search on "Chicago" and start zooming out, and you will see some.) Can you help add to this would-be "world-wide window on the past"? With good citations too?

Monday, May 17, 2010

Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society!

The Internet Scout Project brings the welcome news that more than half a century of Illinois' quarterly historical journal (1950-2006) has been digitized and is browsable by issue. This may not be the ideal situation, but it's way better than having boxes full of the magazine around the house (as I did for years) and having to browse every issue manually, provided you could locate it.

There are many wonderful microhistorical sources in this archive. One of my favorites is in the Autumn 1982 issue, "Eight Weeks on a St. Clair County Farm in 1851: Letters by a Young German," but the link now has mysteriously quit working for me. Another goodie is in the winter issue of that year, when Edward R. Kantowicz wrote at length on the French Canadian settlements in Kankakee County.

Although this site has no index of its own, it can be searched via Google, using first site: as the search term, and then at the bottom of the resulting search page, clicking on "search within results" and inserting what you actually want to find.

Friday, May 14, 2010

The Winning of the Midwest

My wife's great-grandfather Sam Scholes was county clerk of Green Lake County, Wisconsin, until the 1890 election, when a Democratic Party tide swept him out of office. That garden-variety genealogical fact didn't mean much to me until I read Richard Jensen's history, The Winning of the Midwest: Social and Political Conflict, 1888-1896 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1971). As he tells it, that election turned in large part on the dominant Republicans' letting the anti-liquor crusaders take over the party and alienate Germans and other immigrants.

[UPDATE AND CORRECTION Friday afternoon: The hot issue, as Jensen correctly explains and I didn't, was the Bennett law to enforce teaching of English in schools. This issue aroused the same crusading zeal and the same resistance from the same groups, provoking just enough of them to either stay home or vote for the Democrats -- hence my confusion. Beneath both issues nativism was also an element. This is a good example of why blogs are like indexes: go to the source, don't take our word for everything!]

Of course this book is almost two generations old itself now. It's social history told through politics and statistics (with 27 tables, such as "Unskilled as Proportion of Non-Farmers by Politico-Religious Groups, Illinois 1877-1878"), which seems kind of retro in itself. And the shadow of the 1960s campus revolts looms large just behind the story. The division Jensen sees clearest is that between crusading moralists (in that era, the prohibitionists) and countercrusading pluralists (the party bosses), and he is no fan of crusading.

The history I was brought up on assumed that Altgeld and Bryan were heroes, and that the 1896 Bryan-McKinley Presidential election was a contest between the good-guy crusaders and William McKinley's business cronies. (The good guys lost, of course, but they got to write the history books.) The story Jensen tells is quite different and more thought-provoking. Check it out, but don't even try to fit these people into today's shopworn categories. They won't fit.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Hoosier Faiths

It's a huge quirky book from 1995, back when it made sense to publish such books -- L. C. Rudolph's Hoosier Faiths: A History of Indiana's Churches and Religious Groups. The hugeness is obvious (710 pages), the quirkiness is buried a little deeper. According to Rudolph, about 40 percent of Hoosiers can be found in either Catholic or Methodist churches. For reasons not explained, they occupy about 5 percent of this book. Perhaps he judged there was enough material on Catholics and Methodists already, as compared to Rappites, the Christian and Missionary Alliance, and the International Church of the Foursquare Gospel.

Anyone who undertakes a gigantic task of this sort can wind up force-fitting it into overly rigid categories. Rudolph keeps it loose. Many of the 52 chapters are conventionally denominational, as the above examples suggest. But when the subject spills out of those containers, he goes with it, producing chapters on Rationalists, Ethnic Catholics, Science and Religion, and Middletown (the pseudonym of Muncie in the Lynds' landmark work of 20th-century sociology).

A conventional element that serves genealogists well is Rudolph's focus on individuals in each of these movements. And you just don't know what you may encounter around the bend. If you're not a devotee of obscure century-old sociology, for instance, you may not know that Angola (Steuben County) was founded by the unchurched for the unchurched. (It didn't last.)

Monday, May 10, 2010

Musings on Methodology Monday

One of the ancillary pleasures of working on Ancestry ExpertConnect is the camaraderie and information in the GoogleGroup discussion of the experts. (It's what they call us, we can't help it, OK?) And one thing I've picked up there is that there are two kinds of genealogists: the answer-seekers and the process-oriented. Some won't bid on a project unless they're sure they can "help," that is, find an actual ancestor. Others will bid if they see they can do something, that is, go through records that need to be gone through (or dealt with in more creative ways) even if they don't yield the prize.

Of course we'd all rather find new ancestors, but the emphasis is different. I don't judge one way or the other. In the long run, as Craig Scott says, we're judged by what we find. But there's a lot of process along the way. So maybe we need both kinds.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Your old genie newsletters rendered useful, at least in Chicago

Today was going to be the day for a long leisurely post about a quirky compendium on the history of religion in Indiana, but there's no time. Fortunately, the good folks at the Newberry have just posted on their blog good news that speaks to one of my long-held pet peeves: unindexed local genealogy newsletters and magazines.

They contain great information but there is rarely any way to go back and find it, even if you know it's there. (PERSI is great but doesn't help much on this because it is not an every-name index, using mainly article titles. For you newbies, get on HeritageQuest through your local library to learn about it.)

Basically, the Newberry has mapped all specific locations mentioned the Chicago Genealogist going back to 1969 on their site, with links to references to the articles so it's possible to follow up if you can get hold of the print edition. Read the original post for all the details and credits to the interns.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Genealogy with Suspense, and Some Gore

What would you get if you crossed the National Genealogical Society Quarterly with Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine? Maybe something like Echo Park. The plot of Michael Connelly's highly competent 2006 genre novel centers on a nifty genealogical problem -- of identity. (The cops know the killer, but they don't know who he is.) And here I thought I was reading it to take a break!

Monday, May 3, 2010

Methodology Monday with the March 2010 NGSQ

The National Genealogical Society Quarterly has a new academic home, having moved from the University of Alabama Department of History (1987-2002) to Gallaudet University Research Institute (2002-2010), and now to Boston University's Center for Professional Education (2010-?).

The first issue of 2010 brings us Roberta King's lengthy discussion of research resources in Nebraska, along with two tough-as-nails identification studies.

Mary Collins, CG, combines about ten points of evidence to argue that Lizzie (Evans) Davis (1836-1893) of Greene County, Georgia, was the daughter of John Evans and Rachel Sanford. Melinde Lutz Sanborn marshals the evidence that six records of a free black woman named Zipporah in colonial Boston all refer to the same single person.

Both of these proofs from indirect evidence are extremely difficult to outline in a step-by-step manner, but I'm going to keep trying. Indeed, Collins contends that the sum of evidence in this case was greater than its parts.