Thursday, March 31, 2011

Midwesterners in NGS Magazine January-March issue

If you're hungry for Midwestern genealogy, the current issue of the National Genealogical Society's NGS Magazine has four treats for you:

(1) Jennifer Holik-Urban's story on her WWI great-great uncle Michael Kokoska, who died in France but was eventually laid to rest in his family's plot in Bohemian National Cemetery in Chicago;

(2) Nancy Neils Wehner's story on tracing her WWII Navy grandfather, who enlisted in Omaha, trained near Chicago, and was finally assigned to Tank Ship LST-599 in Evansville (Indiana);

(3) Cari A. Taplin on her northwestern Ohio Sly family's "relationship" to the southern Ohio Slye family of TV cowboy Roy Rogers; and

(4) a bouquet of identity-determination case studies ranging over several states from Minnesota's J. H. Fonkert, CG.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Ohio Genealogy News Spring 2011

The Ohio Genealogy News -- the genealogy newsmagazine that outdoes some other states' quarterlies -- focuses on Civil War genealogy research this quarter. But I'd say the whole issue is worth it for explaining where to find the Cleveland District Round Table's index to the Cuyahoga County probate record images that FamilySearch has posted only in browseable form.

In other news, Ohio Genealogical Society's 50th annual conference begins later this week in Columbus. See you there!

Friday, March 25, 2011

Lillian is back!

It's time for a second peek into the daily life of 90-some years ago in the rural northwestern corner of Illinois, in the second volume of Lillian's Diaries: Whispers from Galena's Past, Volume 2, 1920-1925. So far I have only been able to find volume 1 on Amazon; volume 2 should be there soon. My review of volume 1, with some thoughts on what diaries do and don't give us, was published in the Utah Genealogical Association's Crossroads quarterly in December (available here to members).

According to Lillian's editor and cousin Sheryl Trudgian Jones, this volume has more researcher-friendly appendages than the first, including a map of Jo Daviess County, Ilinois; a glossary; and hundreds of surnames from the diaries. Excerpts from the diaries also appear in Jones's blog, "Leaves on the Trudgian Tree," as I noted in an earlier post.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Old times in new media

Check out the blog-linked tweets quoted from original historical documents of the Civil War, as described in Salon. Hat tip to ResearchBuzz.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Our Savage Neighbors

I can't think of many nonfiction books that were so gruesome and depressing that I deliberately quit reading them, but I almost did that halfway through Peter Silver's Our Savage Neighbors: How Indian War Transformed Early America (New York: W.W. Norton, 2008). So it's not for everyone.

Most of the book is a close and careful reading of what people wrote and said about the ongoing Indian guerrilla wars in Pennsylvania and nearby colonies from about 1750 to 1785 -- so it will be of interest to anyone with ancestors or relatives in that unprecedentedly diverse and turbulent society of English, Germans, Irish, Indians, and other groups.

Silver draws many interesting and provocative ideas from this material, among them:

  • Diversity itself, he finds, did not lead to mutual tolerance and understanding -- indeed, often the opposite as people reacted against their neighbors. However, having an outside enemy sometimes did. {xviii-xix}
  • Even a few people who were willing to use violence had inordinate power to shape events. Their actions often set off a chain of revenge that led to major changes and wars, as in the case of the Paxton boys and the 1782 genocidal massacre of pacifist Christian Indians by white Americans at Gnadenh├╝tten in what is now Tuscarawas County, Ohio. {xxv-xxvi, 265ff.}
  • Racial prejudice as we know it played very little role on the white side of the Indian wars of the 1700s (racism as we know it was not invented until the following century). {294ff.} More important were fear and greed for land.
  • "Somehow, out of such unpromising beginnings, one of history's most self-consciously tolerant societies was made. The idea of 'the white people' may have helped some people to feel greater sympathetic identification with other Europeans -- even as it made a few, like the Quakers, into cultural villains, and drove up negative feelings toward all Indians." {xxiii}

Friday, March 18, 2011

Nineteenth-century credit reports

You'll never get to eyeball these records unless you can convince the gatekeepers at Hahvahd (Business School, Baker Library) that you're a "scholar," a word they use in opposition to "genealogist."

So you might as well learn what you can from historian Dan Alosso's critical examination of this original source that seems to resemble death certificates in that it contains a mix of primary and secondary information -- or to put it another way, a mix of first-hand knowledge and gossip, with the power to make or to ruin local businesspeople who depended on out-of-town credit.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Peoria Public Library genealogy

One of our family's iconic photographs shows my three sisters sitting on the steps of the old Peoria (Illinois) Public Library building with their books. It was our go-to library when growing up (usually we had way more books than this), even after the old building was demolished and replaced with a plain-vanilla modernist structure. When our own children were young we lived within walking distance.

All of this to explain why I'm especially interested to learn that the library's new genealogy section is opening (at a time when many libraries are retrenching).

Sunday, March 13, 2011

1895 Civil War Atlas

The Internet Scout Project alerts us to Baylor University's digitization of a beautiful resource on an often less than beautiful event. It's the 1895 War of the Rebellion Atlas, with 175 plates and designed to accompany the complete textual record of the armies on both sides (available in libraries with large collections and strong shelving, also via Cornell University).

Thursday, March 10, 2011

March 19 in Valparaiso

I'll be on the program in nine days at the Northwest Indiana Genealogical Society meeting at the public library. C'mon down and say hello if you're within a few hundred miles ;-)

Saturday, March 19, 2011
The March meeting will take place at 10:00 am at the Porter County Public Library, Valparaiso Branch, located at 103 Jefferson Street, Valparaiso, Indiana [map]. Join us as Harold Henderson, professional genealogist, will speak on "Proving Stubborn Name Changing Ancestors."

It's a case study about when we can consider that something is proved -- original title "Are We There Yet?"

Monday, March 7, 2011

An outsider's critical view of genealogy

My old friend and former colleague Jim Krohe holds forth on a regular basis at Illinois Times in Springfield (soon to be host of the annual Federation of Genealogical Societies meeting in September). Last month his column had some provocative words and thoughts on genealogy as currently practiced. They aren't mine, but sometimes it's instructive to learn what an outsider sees when he takes a look:

Most family “histories” aren’t, having very little history in them. They are genealogies, family trees that focus (often obsessively) on the who and the when, not the where the why and the how. . . . At best, genealogies are to the family history what the road map is to the Michelin guide. Genuine family histories – that is, an objective rendering of facts, scrupulously verified and placed in the context of broader social and economic realities of respective eras – are rare.

Read the whole thing at the above link.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Genealogy Research Options after Ancestry ExpertConnect showed its power 24 January by announcing the closure of its popular online marketplace for genealogy research, ExpertConnect. No explanation was offered; the shutdown will be complete on 18 March.

In the six weeks since, everybody has been scrambling, especially those seeking professional genealogy help. I hope to write elsewhere about the professional angle, but here's the landscape for genealogists who are looking for research help or who think they might be in the future, with the readily accessible Ancestry ExpertConnect marketplace gone.

By far the biggest list of professional researchers and their qualifications is at the Association of Professional Genealogists. Currently, however, the site offers no place for people seeking help to post their needs and invite bidders. The same can be said on the local and regional level, where many state organizations maintain lists of researchers (such as Ohio and Indiana), as do many repositories (such as the Newberry Library and the National Archives).

But the marketplace idea is not dead, and Ancestry ExpertConnect showed that it can work if a sufficient number of buyers and sellers can be brought together. A number of smaller sites, some in existence prior to Ancestry ExpertConnect and some new, do list professionals and offer seekers the ability to post their wants and needs and receive bids on them:

Genealogy Freelancers

Genlighten (lookups only at this point)




Directory of Genealogists

I won't go all Consumer Reports on you and try to describe or rank the above; the web sites will tell you a lot. Obviously each of them (and some even newer counterparts in the UK) faces the same challenge in making a market as APG does -- trying to generate even a significant fraction of the traffic that naturally passed ExpertConnect's doors at Ancestry.

(Full disclosure: I am a professional, and an APG member and board member; I was on ExpertConnect for more than a year, and I am signed up on most of the above sites as well.)

Thursday, March 3, 2011

The Revolution in LaGrange County, Indiana

The following message appeared on Rootsweb mailing lists recently:

The LaGrange de Lafayette Chapter of the DAR will honor Revolutionary War soldier DAVID COWAN with a grave marker presentation and ceremony in 2011. Seeking descendants of David and Esther Smith Cowan to invite them to the grave marking ceremony and reception.
David and Esther Cowan moved to LaGrange County, Indiana in 1835. They had the following children: Smith who married Sarah Teft; Esther who married an Aldrich; Celinda who married a Pray; Elisha who married Elmina Tucker; John who married Sarah Harding; Jonathan; Phoebe who married Enoch Leighton; Lucy; Amy Angel who married Curtis Harding; and Marenus. Also the McClaskey, Crampton and Cook families can be counted as descendants along with Aldrich, Pray, Harding and Leighton.
David Cowan was born 1765 and died July 24, 1851. Esther Smith Cowan was born 1767 and died March 22, 1848. They are buried in Eagley Cemetery, Van Buren Twp, LaGrange County, IN along with children Phoebe & Enoch Leighton and John Cowan.
DAR chapter is also seeking any Cowan family history, stories and anecdotes about the family. Please contact Barbara Yurs at 260-562-3375 or or Sharon at for further details.

A check of the DAR Genealogical Research System shows him with the surname Cowing and a birth year of 1764, but these are small differences and the other information tallies. Evidently he was a New Englander.