Thursday, June 30, 2011

State and Regional Genealogy Journals version 2.0 is up

. . . at my site and soon if not already at Michael Hait's. We have included all the additions and corrections received so far; keep 'em coming!

Sunday, June 26, 2011


In order to take care of business, this blog will be hibernating -- well, estivating -- for a few months, with postings only when I can't bear to keep my mouth shut. I commend you to Angela McGhie, Michael Hait, Kimberly Powell, and whoever they in turn recommend.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Indianapolis Orphan Asylum 1851-1940

For those with an interest, my feature article about the Indianapolis Orphan Asylum, entitled "Early Midwestern Orphanage," has just been published in the Spring/Summer issue of The Hoosier Genealogist: Connections, published by the Indiana Historical Society. The society holds about three dozen volumes of detailed records from the asylum's 99-year history, which when incorporated into a planned database should be of great interest to many genealogists, some of whom may not even know it. (Children came mostly from central Indiana, but some were adopted as far away as Kansas.) Regular readers already know that this is one of two quality genealogy magazines published in the state.

From what I have seen, the asylum's records also contradict the historical stereotype of such institutions as primarily warehouses for children. In fact, most of its children were placed in new homes or back in their families. And the records sketching out why children arrived there in the 1890s and early 1900s document the terrible stories of ordinary people down on their luck in a society with a minimal safety net.

Monday, June 20, 2011

State and Regional Genealogy Journals: The List

Michael Hait and I have compiled a list of state and regional genealogy journals, with writers' guidelines when available, and posted it on both of our web sites. We hope this will help in three ways:

* encourage writers to submit their family histories (or portions thereof) for publication.

* encourage editors to seek out, prefer, and prioritize histories that are backed up with good documentation from original sources.

* enhance general awareness of the importance of state-level publications in publishing and preserving these accounts.

Please let either or both of us know about potential additions to the list and additions to each listing. We have not been able to consult paper copies of every journal, so accurate information on additional journals' guidelines, standards, and future plans is especially welcome.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Slavery and emancipation resources in Illinois

Dave Bakke, a columnist for the State Journal-Register newspaper in Springfield, Illinois (home of this September's FGS meeting), has called attention to the state archives' database of servitude and emancipation records (1722-1863). The database (not new) includes information from a variety of sources in nine southern Illinois counties on 1301 men and 929 women, and instructions on how to obtain the original records there indexed.

The same column brings news that University of Iowa law professor Lea VanderVelde is working on a book about slaves in the Land of Lincoln, and in the process helping upgrade the database. She'd like to see it include, for instance, material documenting the role of African-Americans in the lead mining district that includes Jo Daviess County in the state's far northwestern corner.

In her background reading, it sounds like VanderVelde is learning what genealogists should already know: that the late-19th and early-20th-century county histories are far from inclusive. "Many of the frontier histories have been whitewashed, creating an ‘amnesia’ about the slaves and indentured servants in free states.” While culling them for clues and additional sources, we would be ill advised to rely on them for information on anyone who wasn't prominent or conventional, or on the outline of the history they tell.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

IGHR Samford Day Four: states' opportunity

One highlight of Thursday:

Tom Jones observed that in his view, state-level genealogy journals have an opportunity to fill a big gap in the genealogy literature, by publishing well-documented portions of family histories that are not difficult enough to be of interest to national publications.

This strikes me as a good idea for several reasons:

(1) For the author, it's a lower-cost method of publication than in book format. Publication is a method of preservation.

(2) For the author, it doesn't take as long to see results if you write up two or three generations than if you have to wait until you have done them all.

(3) If the article's title mentions the most relevant surnames, the article will be picked up in the periodical search index PERSI (which does not index every name within a journal) and thus will be much more accessible to future genealogists, perhaps more accessible even than a book.

(4) For the readers, well-researched and documented accounts of other families are likely to be of more interest than abstracts of local records -- which are better placed on line anyway, where they will be more accessible.

I know that the supply of such writings can be a problem. But the genealogical public is growing and genealogical education opportunities are expanding. (See, for instance, Angela McGhie's blog, Adventures in Genealogical Education, and many of Kimberly Powell's posts at So there ought to be more people out there who can do this.

The potential writers need to make writing a priority. And the state editors have to ask, and be willing to select wisely.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

IGHR Samford Day Three

The homework for Course Five is mounting up. Highlights of Wednesday:

Elissa Powell introduced us to the existence of the website, for self-publishing your own printed magazine.

You cannot be considered a genealogy geek unless you know the meaning of the superscript "b-2" when used as a generation indicator.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

IGHR Samford Day Two

Highlights (both of my readers have probably surmised that I'm taking Tom Jones's writing class this year):

As a rule, articles submitted to the National Genealogical Society Quarterly can be made one-quarter shorter just by trimming fat (without substantive revision).

The following book dedication constitutes the strongest case for the serial comma: "I dedicate this book to my parents, Mother Teresa and the Pope."

IGHR Samford Day One

I can't begin to list all the friends and discussions and plans -- not if I want to get my homework done. So my posts about this week at the Institute of Genealogy and Historical Research will be verrry selective.

Fact of the Day, from Tom Jones: The Family History Library has two copies of the 1820 census, one microfilmed by the Census Bureau back in the day, the other filmed by the National Archives. So far as he knows, nobody has compared the two.

Quote of the Day, from Strunk and White's Elements of Style, p. 17, per Tom's syllabus (I can't find my copy!): "Vigorous writing is concise. A sentence should contain no unnecessary words, a paragraph no unnecessary sentences . . . . This requires not that the writer make all his sentences short, or that he avoid all detail and treat his subjects only in outline, but that every word tell."

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Required reading for those who don't use deeds

Among its many other offerings, the Allen County Public Library Genealogy Center has a blog. Recently librarian Dawne Slater-Putt, CG, contributed a two-part post, "Digging into Deed Records," full of examples of genealogical information of all kinds that can be found in deeds -- and in some cases can only be found there.

IMO -- she didn't put it this way at all! -- genealogists who don't use this readily available record type are cheating themselves, and quite possibly creating their own brick walls.

Friday, June 10, 2011

passing along Midwestern topics for FGS

Even though I just registered to attend it, I've been delinquent in mentioning that we have a national genealogy conference coming to the Midwest -- the Federation of Genealogical Societies in Springfield, Sangamon County, Illinois, September 7-10. Now Paula Stuart-Warren has given me a prompt in her conference news blog, listing the fifteen presentations with Midwestern content!

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Compulsory reading for Michigan researchers

I don't know why it took me so long to notice the Van Buren District Library Local History Collection's blog, Southwest Michigan Genealogy & Local History. The current series, "My Great-Grandfather Had Three Death Certificates!" is enough to justify the cost of admission (time only, of course) all by itself. This blog focuses on the southwest quadrant of the state but contains information of value to all Michigan researchers. Enjoy!

Monday, June 6, 2011

Noir in Lawrence County Pennsylvania

Thanks to Kerry Scott for mentioning Diarmid Mogg's Small Town Noir blog on Facebook for us slowpokes to notice. It focuses on small-time criminals, complete with mug shots, from the small Rust Belt city of New Castle, Lawrence County, Pennsylvania -- northwest of Pittsburgh and right next to Ohio, so I hereby nominate it as an honorary portion of the Midwest. But it goes beyond the rap sheet to chronicle what he finds about "the rest of the story."

Needless to say, this is not your grandmother's genealogy (unless she was picked up for forging checks). But it's a real and little-noticed part of history. I'm not aware of comparable blogs from other places, although the Chicago Homicide database (blogged here in 2009) has some similar qualities.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Spring 2011 American Ancestors: SDBs, methods, and more

The current (spring 2011) issue of the New England Historic Genealogical Society's popular publication, American Ancestors: New England, New York, and Beyond, heralds the addition of back issues of the Pennsylvania Genealogical Magazine to the NEHGS web site. Inside are numerous articles. I was struck by two with Midwestern angles, and one of methodological interest:

Shellee A. Morehead provides "A Genealogist's Guide to Seventh Day Baptists," a branch of the Baptists from Rhode Island founded in 1671. Many members settled in or near Milton, Rock County, Wisconsin as they moved west from New York and New Jersey; today their historical center is in Janesville. Although never large, this sect was exceptionally cohesive and generated good records. Those who stuck to their conviction that worship should be held on Saturday also found it convenient to live in clusters. So there was a good deal of intermarriage as well as an early well-developed system of national newspaper communication. You could have SDBs in your tree without knowing it, and Morehead provides a table of surnames and locations (although at least one later location in North Loup, Nebraska, is absent).

Sherill Baldwin outlines the hard-to discover life of Rev. E. W. Dunbar (1823-1893), an effective preacher and popular hymn author, who also did time in Minnesota for bigamy.

Even those without Huguenot ancestry will find methodological interest in Oliver Popenoe's research chronology explaining how he managed to break a brick wall and add generations of prosperous French ancestors to his tree. Two intertwined strategies are noteworthy: he spent a lot of time researching the papers of an unrelated patron of his known ancestor; and early on in his research push he established a web site to document it. Together the classic broaden-the-search strategy and the 21st-century approach got the job done.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Free biographies from National Academies Press

I'm still on the National Academies Press mailing list -- relic of a former life -- and today received this email. Anything that's free is worth a look, right?

As of June 2, 2011, all PDF versions of books [URL added by me] published by the National Academies Press (NAP) will be downloadable free of charge to anyone. This includes our current catalog of more than 4,000 books plus future reports published by NAP.*

Free access to our online content supports the mission of NAP--publisher for the National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, Institute of Medicine, and National Research Council--to improve government decision making and public policy, increase public education and understanding, and promote the acquisition and dissemination of knowledge in matters involving science, engineering, technology, and health. In 1994, we began offering free content online. Before today's announcement, all PDFs were free to download in developing countries, and 65 percent of them were available for free to any user.

And it turns out that they have a section of "Biographical Memoirs" -- more than 90 volumes. I sampled George Ledyard Stebbins (who shares a surname with a distant ancestor of my wife) in Volume 85 (2004). His biography included useful mention of his parents. It was one of 20 in that volume. The description of the series is also hopeful:
Biographical Memoirs is series of essays containing the life histories and selected bibliographies of deceased members of the National Academy of Sciences. The series provides a record of the life and work of some of the most distinguished leaders in the sciences, as witnessed and interpreted by their colleagues and peers. They form a biographical history of science in the United States.
Even if NAP has nothing else for genealogists and historians (which I doubt -- happy hunting!), this looks like a resource for people with accomplished ancestors or relatives.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

NGS magazine

The Midwestern items in the current NGS Magazine include some examples in my evidence article and Carol Cooke Darrow's "Why was Joseph Gosling buried in Ann Arbor?" which reveals an unusual Michigan source for researchers.

Some other articles of methodological interest in this issue:

Jessica Albert's "Using OCR to search city directories by address" (applicable only to on-line images);

John P. Deeben on using unit records of combat organizations to overcome WWI veterans' record loss;

Claire Prechtel-Kluskens on innovative ways of using Soundex codes in searching; and

Robert Erland's case study of researching an unknown frequent witness on known relatives' records.