Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Obituary help for southern Indiana's Scott and Clark counties

An online twofer from Jeff Harmon of Franklin:

Obituary and Death Notice Index to The Chronicle, Scott County, Indiana 1880-1978

Index of Obituary and Death Notices in Clark County, Indiana Newspapers 1872 - 1900 (by Diane Henley, in print since 1992)

Hat tip to Cyndi's List What's New.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Methodology Monday with slave ancestors

This month Transitional Genealogists discussed online Curtis G. Brasfield's "Tracing Slave Ancestors: Batchelor, Bradley, Branch, and Wright of Desha County, Arkansas" (National Genealogical Society Quarterly 92 [March 2004]: 6-30). As the author writes in the introduction, this family reconstruction involved three techniques "for solving any difficult genealogical problem:

"Broadening the research to include community and kinship groups, rather than focusing on the parentage of a specific individual

"Recognizing the indirect evidence that records provide, rather than seeking only those records that specify relationships directly

"Combining information from multiple records to reveal evidence not found in any single record, rather than analyzing each record separately from the others."
The article steps through oral history, original post-emancipation records (vitals, 1870 and 1880 censuses, land and probate records, Freedmen's Bureau records), identifying the slave owner (slave census schedules, tax records, estate records, and deeds), finishing with my favorite, "interweaving the evidence," where he pulls together the evidence identifying 22 individuals in two families, name by name. This article is a tour de force of interest to anyone with a tough problem, whether it involves slave research or not.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

More resources in Kalamazoo

In addition to this previously blogged site, Kalamazoo County, Michigan, has a diligent genealogical society with a wide variety of unusual resources searchable on line, including insurance applications, suicides, peddling permits, and vigilance organizations.

They recently got a nice writeup from Valerie Beaudrault in the NEHGS's E-News (#470, 17 March), which actually has more detail on the resources than I could find on the KVGS web site.

Current projects in the works include databases of non-residential burial permits, women voters 1917-1936, and Kalamazoo County coroner's inquests. Volunteer here to help.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Indiana Genealogist March 2010

The new quarterly issue of Indiana Genealogist has some treats -- a nice going-away present from editor Annette Harper, who has acquired a job.

Judy Lee transcribed a Civil War journal of unknown origin and has found evidence to attribute it to Gillis J. McBain (1829-1914), a Canadian who died in Idaho. In between, he served as sergeant and sergeant major in Company G of Indiana's 73rd infantry. Like most 19th-century diaristsm McBain is laconic and rarely tells us what we most want to know. Nevertheless he still conveys the soldier's unique mixture of boredom, discomfort, and terror. As a postscript, there' s a shorter journal of his train travel west in 1882.

James R. Miller offers an introduction to philatelic genealogy in Indiana, which consists of using stamps and envelopes as evidence, not trying to determine the family tree of a given stamp. It reminded me uneasily of the old envelopes we destroyed as children in the name of "collecting" the stamps stuck to them.

Jay B. Wright does a clear and concise job of distinguishing between the related but distinct sins of plagiarism and copyright violation. You can do both, or neither, and you can also commit either one without committing the other. Read it, don't try it!

Monday, March 22, 2010

Methodology Monday with more spiral research

The research day that rudely pushed blog posting aside also provided some fodder. One of today's projects involves several lawsuits with almost two dozen people suing and being sued, many of them related and the rest probably so. The lawsuits themselves appear to have vanished from official custody at some point in the past century or two, so it's especially important to glean all possible information from the relevant property records. (Naturally the lawsuits were about property and inheritance!)

The first time I hit the deed books I didn't yet have all the family names; when I returned with a full list of names (from one especially informative deed) I found four more deeds. One had actually been recorded in response to the conclusion of one of the lawsuits. Another was a deed of trust spelling out various descendants' shares resulting from a partition suit (one of the missing lawsuits). Now those deeds have suggested that certain additional lawsuits indexed in the clerk's office may be relevant. Hopefully they have not absconded too.

We always berate ourselves for having to go back -- and we should if it was just inadequate preparation -- but often doing so is part of a natural and necessary learning process. We are chronological animals, and as someone said, time is nature's way of making sure that everything doesn't happen all at once.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Moving on

Writing 55 years ago in the first chapter of The Age of Reform (pp. 41-42), "The Agrarian Myth and Commercial Realities," historian Richard Hofstadter tries to inoculate us against the "professional optimism" of the mug books. In this passage he's talking more about Yankees than German and other immigrants:

What developed in America was an agricultural society whose real attachment was not to the land but to land values. . . .

For farmers who had made out badly, the fresh lands may have served on occasion as a safety valve, but for others who had made out well enough on a speculative basis, or who were beginning a farming "career," it was equally a risk valve -- an opportunity to exploit the full possibilities of the great American land bubble. Mobility among farmers had serious effects upon an agricultural tradition never noted for careful cultivation: in a nation whose soil is notoriously heterogeneous, farmers too often had little chance to get to know the quality of their land; they failed to plan and manure and replenish; they neglected diversification for the one-crop system and ready cash. There was among them little attachment to land or locality; instead there developed the false euphoria of local "boosting," encouraged by railroads, land companies, and farmers themselves; in place of village contacts and communal spirit based upon ancestral attachments, there was professional optimism based upon hopes for a quick rise in values.

Read the whole thing.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

A partial solution to a chronic problem

If you're in northern Indiana and need newspapers from southern Indiana, don't overlook the Mishawaka Heritage Center in downtown Mishawaka (South Bend's "twin city"). They have a surprisingly large collection of newspapers from other parts of the state. Just by way of example, here are their holdings of microfilmed newspapers for Clay County, Indiana:

Bowling Green
Clay County Review February 1877-December 1878 + scattered 1879-1883
Clay County Democrat 1859-1864 scattered
Clay County Advertiser September 1854-June 1855
Clay County Citizen August 1855-May 1856
Clay County Weekly Herald March 1874-February 1877

Western Mirror 1877-1881

Clay City
Independent February 1881-December 1885

And of course don't forget that if you know the exact date when your ancestor did something bizarre enough to excite Victorian newspaper editors, you might find it anywhere: it may have been reprinted across the state or country as filler.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Becoming American

David Laskin, author of the forthcoming The Long Way Home: An American Journey from Ellis Island to the Great War, writes on History News Network,

Why would an Italian peasant from Puglia who shunned the central government in Rome proudly tell his kids about the first time he voted for an American president? Why would a Jew who smuggled himself out of the Pale in a hay-cart in order to avoid military service under the Russian tsar enlist in the United States Army? Why the profusion of American flags hung outside Polish-American homes on U.S. national holidays? The answers have shades of difference for each group, but the common factor is opportunity: not only the obvious peacetime opportunities of paying jobs, social fluidity and basic human rights, but also the wartime opportunities provided by military service.

Read the whole thing. Something to think about when tracking these or other immigrants.

Friday, March 12, 2010

The Two Commandments?

Part of our discussion of standards on the Transitional Genealogists Forum list made me think of what one should tell a beginning genealogist if you both were in a hurry. My candidates are The Two Commandments:

1. Don't believe everything you see; check it out.

2. Remember where you found stuff; somebody's bound to need it again.

If you cut out the elaborations (after the semicolons), it's only ten words!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Czechs and Slovaks resource in Illinois

Is Grace DuMelle, genealogist and longtime "genealogy and local history assistant" at the Newberry Library, warming up for another Chicago genealogy book? In the Newberry blog she calls attention to a little-known resource: "Tucked away on a side street in Cicero, Illinois is a treasure trove of materials relating to Eastern European heritage and the impact of its peoples' immigration to Chicago, the Midwest, and beyond. It's the library of the Czech and Slovak American Genealogical Society of Illinois (CSAGSI)." Read the whole thing.

Monday, March 8, 2010

More online indexes from Joe Beine

As the physical libraries shrink, the online repositories grow. Can they ever catch up? Joe Beine does his part at Online Death Indexes and Records. New additions in the Midwest include:

Illinois: DeKalb, DuPage, and Will counties

Indiana: Marion, Sullivan, and Union counties

Michigan: Monroe and Tuscola counties

Ohio: Fulton and Wood counties

Wisconsin: Dodge, Jefferson, Outagamie, and Rock counties

Friday, March 5, 2010

Google news archive

I still haven't figured out just what Google News Archive covers, but I've seen New Zealand papers and Washington State supreme court abstracts there. If you have any mobile target, it's probably a good bet for a search.

Remember one annoying property of older newspapers: so much of their content was snipped from other papers. Search engines like this can turn that annoyance into an asset. An exact-phrase search on "Indianapolis Orphan Asylum" turned up an 1884 news item about the Indianapolis Orphan Asylum in the Bluffton Weekly Chronicle, reprinting material from the Indianapolis Journal. But watch your search term: "Indianapolis Orphans Asylum" got nothing.

Bear in mind, also, that in some cases such as pay-per-view or snippet-only views, GNA may serve just as an index. You can specify only full view in the search if you want.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Detroit social history for your genealogy

The Allen County Public Library's free e-zine "Genealogy Gems" comes to my mailbox on the last day of every month. Most welcome in this month's issue was John D. Beatty's explanation of why the genealogy department carries a lot of social history. In writing up his family, he used

Richard J. Oestreicher’s book, Solidarity and
Fragmentation: Working People and Class Consciousness in Detroit,
1875-1900 (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1986), and Olivier
Zunz’s The Changing Face of Inequality: Urbanization, Industrial
Development, and Immigrants in Detroit, 1880-1920 (Chicago:
University of Chicago Press, 1982), both offered statistics on the
numbers of immigrants in Detroit, placing immigration in the context
of other Midwestern cities. Oestreicher also compared the wages of
skilled laborers by occupation versus unskilled laborers. No, my
immigrant ancestors were not mentioned by name in these books, but I
gained a better understanding of the ethnic German east-side
neighborhood where they resided.

I should look into these sources for my grandmother's brother's family and in-laws who grew up in Detroit.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Genealogy on the corner in Dayton

I'm a fan of Herstoryan's exploration of the corner of Brown and Hess streets in 1879 in Dayton, Montgomery County, Ohio.