Thursday, May 31, 2012

Getting around in Rome, Wild West nuns, and more history items of potential interest

* Orbis at Stanford is the coolest thing I've seen in a while: a model of travel in the Roman Empire. "By simulating movement along the principal routes of the Roman road network, the main navigable rivers, and hundreds of sea routes in the Mediterranean, Black Sea and coastal Atlantic, this interactive model reconstructs the duration and financial cost of travel in antiquity." . . . Help me out, here, techies: how hard would this be to implement for, say, Connecticut in 1670, or Indiana in 1830? (Hat tip to Planetizen Newswire.)

* Farther west than this blog usually goes, the New York Times foretaste of Anne M. Butler's Across God’s Frontiers: Catholic Sisters in the American West, 1850-1920 looks spicy. (Hat tip to Legal History Blog.)

* In which historians discover that there is always more of it, at The Historical Society -- and then they discuss family history too.

* You've heard of house histories -- how about a history of the multistory luxury co-op at 1540 North Lake Shore Drive on Chicago's Gold Coast, complete with the full history of the underlying land, vignettes of Chicago life in the course of its existence, and profiles of movers and shakers who lived there? Grace Dumelle's Heartland Historical Research Service has published the 113-page book. (Full disclosure: I did some work on it as a subcontractor.)

The History of 1540 North Lake Shore Drive, Chicago, Illinois (Chicago: Heartland Historical Research Service, 2012).

Harold Henderson, "Getting around in Rome, Wild West nuns, and more history items of potential interest," Midwestern Microhistory: A Genealogy Blog, posted 30 May 2012 ( : accessed [access date]). [Please feel free to link to the specific post if you prefer.]

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Common source vs. obscure source SMACKDOWN!

In the course of a volunteer local abstracting project, I recently came across the roster of 71 individuals who bought items at the estate sale of Valentine Cattron in early October of 1840 in La Porte County, Indiana.

I was thinking what an obscure record this is. Many people do genealogy for years without going near a probate file (yes, I was one of them). By contrast, everyone uses the census, early and often. And -- hmmmm! -- this obscure record, buried in a microfilm reel of loose papers in a probate case, was created only a few months after the 1840 census.

One way -- by no means the only way -- to evaluate a source or a research tool is what it can find for us. Did the 1840 census pick up everyone who attended that sale? Or can this obscure sale list expand our reach? Why not find out? (Note that the timing of this test favors the census; an 1845 sale of similar size might well catch even more people not in the county for either 1840 or 1850.)

After working the census index and reading through two counties (the deceased, like every other ancestor, lived near a border), and very conservatively counting everyone who was doubtful as "identified," I still ended up with sixteen individuals who bought at the sale but who were not enumerated in the 1840 census.

16 missing out of 71 is 22.5 percent. Call it one out of five. That's a lot, especially if your guy is one of them. That's a reason to index or abstract those sources and make them available, and to use them when you can. (There are other reasons, but that'll do for today.)

BTW, we can crowdsource this if anyone has the leisure time. The sixteen purchasers who do not appear in the 1840 census in either Porter or La Porte counties, according to me, are James P. Cain, Isom Campbell, Hezekiah Cattron, John Eaheart, Edward Evans, Wm. Lynn, Daniel Mahony, Daniel Main, Samuel Maine, James McCord, Samuel Parkinson, John Pattee, Wm. Petro, E. J. Simmons, Edwin A. West, and Daniel Wooley. Let me know if you find any of them -- or if you've wondered where they were hiding in 1840!

(A good word for's indexing, too: I did find one individual in the read-through who I had missed when working the index, but I think I should have been able to find even him by creative searching.)

Why would they be missing at census time? Most, I suspect, were "hidden" in relatives' households, because only household heads were named in 1840. Some were probably elsewhere in June but not in October. And perhaps some were missed, or fell victim to bad handwriting and random spelling.

La Porte County, Indiana, estate no. 160, Valentine Cattron, sale record 1-2 October 1840, loose papers; microfilm E1, 48th item on roll, County Clerk, La Porte.

Harold Henderson, "Common source vs. obscure source SMACKDOWN!" Midwestern Microhistory: A Genealogy Blog, posted 30 May 2012 ( : accessed [access date]). [Please feel free to link to the specific post if you prefer.]

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Newspapers tie Midwesterners back to New England, and a double dose of Henry

Newspapers tie Midwesterners back to New England in two articles in the spring edition of the New England Historic Genealogical Society's popular magazine, American Ancestors.

Patricia Dingwall Thompson unearths a hostage-taking episode near Detroit in the War of 1812. "Living in Montana, I connected with a man in Missouri who owns a handwritten family account of events that occurred in Michigan. I then found historical corroboration from a man in Florida, the Bentley Historical Library at the University of Michigan, and a database supplied by NEHGS in Boston."

Patricia Bravender describes how she used family reunion notices in newspapers to untangle some of her Hines ancestors, many of whom ended up in Lorain County, Ohio.

Readers also get a double dose of New England Historical and Genealogical Register editor Henry B. Hoff:

* a nice appreciation of the New York State censuses of 1855 and 1865, and

* a methodological smorgasbord (mostly from the Register's table) of "When Do You Think It's Proved?" (In my perfect world that show would replace WDYTYA.)

Hoff sees some gray areas in the landscape of proof: "Since every genealogist is different and every genealogical situation is different, there are still many instances when genealogists disagree on whether to categorize an identification or a connection as definite -- or with a modifying word such as probably, likely, perhaps, or possibly."

All in American Ancestors, vol. 13, no. 2 (Spring 2012):
Patricia Dingwall Thompson, "From Family Myth to Historical Account: The McMillan Incident in 1814 Detroit," pp. 25-27.
Patricia Bravender, "Establishing Kinship with Family Reunion Announcements," pp. 38-41.
Henry B. Hoff, "Weighing the Evidence," pp. 33-34, 41. 
Henry B. Hoff, "Appreciating the New York State Census," pp. 54-55.

Harold Henderson, "Newspapers tie Midwesterners back to New England, and a double dose of Henry," Midwestern Microhistory: A Genealogy Blog, posted 29 May 2012 ( : accessed [access date]). [Please feel free to link to the specific post if you prefer.]

Monday, May 28, 2012

The toughest genealogy course you can take?

I haven't taken every possible genealogy course, but I suspect that the Advanced Evidence Practicum is the hardest. It's being offered for the second year 14-18 January 2013 at the Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy. (Registration opens 9 AM Mountain Time, Saturday morning June 2.) The following was published earlier this week as a guest post on Angela McGhie's blog Adventures in Genealogy Education, and benefited from her editing:

Want to spend a week solving the toughest genealogy problems, a new one every day?

That describes the most challenging genealogy course I've ever taken, the Advanced Evidence Analysis Practicum at the Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy (SLIG). Oh, I learned more in the advanced methodology classes given annually by Elizabeth Shown Mills at the Institute of Genealogy and Historical Research (IGHR) at Samford University and Thomas W. Jones at SLIG. I could not have functioned in the practicum without them. But the level of difficulty in the practicum is something else because I had to apply that knowledge repeatedly, and found out right away whether I had headed in the right direction or found the answer. I also had to adjust to very different record environments and kinds of problems than I was used to working on.

The course actually grew out of the 2011 session of Tom Jones' Advanced Genealogical Methods class at SLIG. He gave a couple of homework assignments involving a problem to be solved, with evidence provided. We enjoyed the challenge and wanted more of this type of assignment. One day four of us were sitting around and somehow the idea was born of trying to design a whole course consisting entirely of this kind of homework. Now two of that group are coordinating the 2013 course, one is the director of SLIG, and I'm the only one remaining with a purely student's-eye view.

The format of the Practicum course is simple. Every afternoon a different expert, usually a board-certified or accredited genealogist, presents the initial evidence for a genealogical case that they have worked on and solved but not yet published. In some cases, all the evidence and documents are provided and the students analyze and correlate it, trying to come to a well-grounded conclusion. In other cases, some evidence remains to be found, either on line or in records at the Family History Library. Where off-line records are required (as they were in four of last year's five cases), the information is available in digitized files on request if the student can figure out exactly what s/he needs (since even the Family History Library can't be expected to create two dozen copies of those particular microfilms everyone will be wanting). The following afternoon, the group reconvenes to discuss their research and evidence-evaluation adventures with the expert and find out how they approached and solved the problem. And then it's time for the next case to be introduced.

The format differs from most genealogy institutes in that there are five faculty members (experts), so you deal with a new personality every day as well as a new problem. The 2013 lineup of instructors is mostly different from last year, but my main sense last year was, “I had no idea there were so many different ways to be equally excellent!”

Compared to the usual SLIG class schedule, this course looks light. So few hours in the classroom! But few of us had time for anything else. (I had invested in some evening lecture sessions but ditched most of them because the problems were so tough, and one of my main approaches to such problems is to spend a lot of time fussing.) Most participants found it both educational and humbling. Questions of research strategy arose that I'd never heard discussed so specifically anywhere else. If you've been through an advanced course or the equivalent, and want a truly challenging workout in a friendly setting, this is the course for you.

If you're still wondering whether this course is a good fit, name three of your favorite articles from the National Genealogical Society Quarterly. If you can't think of any, or if you don't enjoy reading the Quarterly, maybe you're not ready. Because this course is like being dropped down the rabbit hole into the middle of one of those articles, and having to claw your way out.

[Also now available: Melinda Henningfield's take on the same course.]

Harold Henderson, "The toughest genealogy course you can take?" Midwestern Microhistory: A Genealogy Blog, posted 28 May 2012 ( : accessed [access date]). [Please feel free to link to the specific post if you prefer.]

Sunday, May 27, 2012

New on Midwest Roots

I've added nine more free lookups at Midwest Roots for a total of sixteen.


* La Porte, Indiana, city directories for 1971, 1984, 1987.

* Index to the Justice of the Peace records for New Durham Township, La Porte County, Indiana,1879-1906. (Surnames listed on web site.)

* Harold Henderson, comp., In Court In La Porte: An Every-Name Index to the First Legal Proceedings in La Porte County, Indiana [prior to 1836] (La Porte:, 2011).


* DAR-transcribed St. Joseph County, Indiana, marriage records 1830-1855, 1886-1906 (not the originals).

* Eric Pumroy with Paul Brockman, A Guide to Manuscript Collections of the Indiana Historical Society and Indiana State Library (Indianapolis: Indiana Historical Society, 1986).

* Charles Alexander Martin, ed., Alumnal Record DePauw University (Greencastle IN: DePauw, 1910).

* Dorothy L. Riker, comp., Genealogical Sources Reprinted from the Genealogy Section of Indiana Magazine of History (Indianapolis: Indiana Historical Society, 1979).

* Ronald L. Baker and Marvin Carmony, Indiana Place Names (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1975)


* Almost 100 Flint-Thrall family letters 1870-1898, mostly from, to, and about southern Illinois.

* 1931 yearbook of Tilden Technical High School, Chicago.

* Edward Callary, Place Names of Illinois (Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 2009).


* Walter Romig, Michigan Place Names (Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1988).


* Margaret R. Waters, Dorothy Ruiker, and Doris Leistner, Abstracts of Obituaries in the Western Christian Advocate 1834-1850 (Indianapolis: Indiana Historical Society, 1988).

* Karen Livsey, Western New York Land Transactions, 1804-1824, Extracted from the Archives of the Holland Land Company (Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing, 1991).

Harold Henderson, "New on Midwest Roots," Midwestern Microhistory: A Genealogy Blog, posted 27 May 2012 ( : accessed [access date]). [Please feel free to link to the specific post if you prefer.]

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Weekend wonderings: discursive endnotes

Why do so many publications at the state level continue to use endnotes rather than footnotes? Is there an insoluble layout issue here that I don't understand?
The spring issue of the Ohio Genealogical Society Quarterly includes an annotated transcription of Caleb Swan Walker's autobiographical fragment from 1861 to 1863, chronicling almost daily his experiences in Clermont County just east of Cincinnati and in Dennison General Hospital with wounded soldiers. Annotations are necessary because what was obvious to Caleb is no longer obvious to us. When he alludes to "Hon John McLean" dying on 4 April 1861, an editorial endnote identifies McLean, citing sources. Likewise when Caleb dined with C. W. Deland at the Burnet House, we learn who and what they were.

This kind of diligent well-sourced detail work has been my favorite feature in the Ohio Civil War Genealogy Journal, and I hope the new OGSQ will keep it up after OCWGJ goes away next year. (And, yes, I know they need material and I owe them a bunch about my Ohio relations.) Doing such annotations right is a difficult and underappreciated part of genealogy and microhistory, because the closer we get to the past the more mysterious it can be. (I blogged last month about a less thoroughly annotated Illinois treasure.)

The downside for me is that in this case the annotations appear in endnotes. So they are (a) essential to the enjoyment of the read, and (b) several pages away! I await the graphically-gifted genealogist who can make this kind of annotation work better.

Polly Day Staley et al., "Caleb Swan Walker's Autobiography, 1861-1863, Clermont County and Dennison General Hospital," Ohio Genealogical Society Quarterly, vol. 52, no. 1 (Spring 2012):39-52.

Harold Henderson, "Weekend wonderings: discursive endnotes," Midwestern Microhistory: A Genealogy Blog, posted 26 May 2012 ( : accessed [access date]). [Please feel free to link to the specific post if you prefer.]

Friday, May 25, 2012

Hidden in plain sight: Indiana Historical Society manuscripts

As a member of the Indiana Historical Society, every other month I get a newsletter, INPerspective, in the postal mail from the society. I always turn to the page near the back full of fine print that says, "New in Collections and Library," and look at the manuscript collections that have recently been "processed, cataloged and made available for research," as we say in archive world.

In the May/June issue, my eye fell on "Martindale Family Papers, 1839 to 1948," IHS collection M 1026. I went to the "Manuscripts and Visual Collections" page and then to the on-line finding aid for this collection. Hello, any researchers in Warren County? That was the home base for this family. The bulk of the collection is financial papers and accounts for their farm and business operations, but also some World War I information, including "a panoramic photograph of the all black 317th Trench Mortar Battalion, 92nd Division taken upon their return home."

At this point I took a look at a nearby collection in the M's: "Methodist Episcopal Church Cicero Circuit Records 1845-1861," IHS Collection SC 2553. Of course it helps to know stuff, like where Cicero is. This collection consists of just one notebook, about the circuit centered in Jackson Township, Hamilton County, Indiana: "Minutes are largely concerned with the licensing of preachers and exhorters. In other sections of the book are a list of members; marriages 1845-1849; baptisms 1847-1848; and genealogical records of the Bowman and Gipps (Kipps) families." Anybody got a mid-19th-century brick wall in Hamilton County?

The point? You never know until you look. It's true for books, web sites, and most of all archives.

Note: Many of the collections listed on the IHS web site don't have on-line finding aids. Do yourself a favor and stop by their actual building soon (Tuesday-Saturday). It's also the best parking deal in downtown Indy.

Harold Henderson, "Hidden in plain sight: Indiana Historical Society manuscripts," Midwestern Microhistory: A Genealogy Blog, posted 25 May 2012 ( : accessed [access date]). [Please feel free to link to the specific post if you prefer.]

Thursday, May 24, 2012

To finish the job, go off-line

Experienced genealogists frequently admonish novices, "Not everything is on line." We're usually thinking of manuscripts, or the wall-high shelves of books in county offices, many not even microfilmed yet. But we can't even complete as simple a task as locating old newspapers entirely on line.

Recently I needed to locate newspapers published in November 1915 in three adjacent Indiana counties: Blackford, Delaware, and Jay. None of these are on line anywhere that I have looked.

Always my first place to check is the Indiana State Library's "Indiana Newspapers Holdings Guide," and I found a total of FOUR titles, just waiting for me the next time I get to visit the biggest collection of Indiana newspapers on earth.

Piece of cake, right? Not if I had stopped there.

Next I went "across the street" (as if I were in Indy!) and found a FIFTH title at the Indiana Historical Society.

Then I went to my own listing of newspaper microfilms held at the Mishawaka Penn Harris Public Library Heritage Center and found a SIXTH (significantly closer to home than Indianapolis for me).

Nothing more at the Library of Congress.

Done yet? Not so much. Then I went off-line.

I remembered that in her new book on Indiana research (part of the NGS series on Genealogy in the States) Dawne Slater-Putt mentioned a book, Indiana Newspaper Bibliography. This book is not on line; I had to check it out of my local public library. Sure enough, the compilers had located a SEVENTH title, held only at the Blackford County Historical Society (whose web site is not specific about what dates they hold) -- and an EIGHTH, held only at the Jay County Recorder's office.

Of course, Indiana Newspaper Bibliography was published in 1982, and the papers may have migrated since. But as far as I know, no on-line resource for Indiana newspapers matches this 30-year-old book.

Genealogy doesn't get a lot simpler than looking up where old newspapers are. But in order to do the job right -- in order to find 100% of what I was looking for instead of just 75% -- I couldn't rest content with the information available on line.

John W. Miller, Indiana Newspaper Bibliography (Indianapolis: Indiana Historical Society, 1982).

Harold Henderson, "To finish the job, go off-line," Midwestern Microhistory: A Genealogy Blog, posted 24 May 2012 ( : accessed [access date]). [Please feel free to link to the specific post if you prefer.]

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Indirect evidence tour de force in the new NYGBR

Back in February I blogged about Susan Farrell Bankhead's article on the Chaplin family of Cortland County, New York, in the New York Genealogical and Biographical Record. Now the second and concluding part is out in the April issue. Many of these folks ended up in Jones County, Iowa, just southwest of Dubuque, but some ended up in California.

What I liked best in this second part is the way the author used real history and not mug books to explain why Cortland County was an unpromising place for a poor man in the 1830s. It's one thing for genealogists to use mug books as sources to be tested (rather like on-line trees); it's quite another for us to quote them on the assumption that their version of history is true. In addition, Bankhead used yet another little-appreciated part of the US census -- the statistical reports! -- to place the Chaplin family in economic context.

NYGBR is a state journal as well as a top-line professional journal, so it is just as interested in straightening out lineages as in methodology. Both are well exhibited in this issue's lead article, Carolyn Nash's "Steffen Eckers and Styntje Jans Snedeker, Progenitors of the Westchester County Ecker/Acker Family, and a Relationship to Jochem Wouters van Weert." (Try reading that out loud if you are not Dutch.) Using indirect evidence, she gets from Steffen Eckers' death by 1674, "leaving two unidentified children by an unnamed daughter of Jan Snedecker," to being able to name all three. His wife is proved by elimination, and knowledge of Dutch law and custom is critical. Virginia's got nothing on early New York for lost records!

Carolyn Nash, "Steffen Eckers and Styntje Jans Snedeker, Progenitors of the Westchester County Ecker/Acker Family, and a Relationship to Jochem Wouters van Weert" [first installment], New York Genealogical and Biographical Record, vol. 143, no. 2 (April 2012):85-94.

Susan Farrell Bankhead, "Joseph and Daniel Chaplin of the Town of Virgil, Cortland County, New York" [concluded], New York Genealogical and Biographical Record, vol. 143, no. 2 (April 2012):122-132.

Harold Henderson, "Indirect evidence tour de force in the new NYGBR" Midwestern Microhistory: A Genealogy Blog, posted 23 May 2012 ( : accessed [access date]). [Please feel free to link to the specific post if you prefer.]

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Lidie Harkness Newton, an appreciation (possibly off topic)

Last week I grabbed a 50-cent used paperback from our local library's perpetual-book-sale rack, just because I had enjoyed something else the author (Jane Smiley) had written. It never occurred to me that this fiction would anything more than a pleasant escape. But sometimes fiction can get us closer to the human side of history than non-fiction can.

Set in the 1850s in Illinois and Kansas and Missouri, The All-True Travels and Adventures of Lidie Newton begins as a coming-of-age story and a bit of a love story -- and then everything changes. Both the heroine-narrator and the reader find themselves suddenly in deep water. Not until I finished it did I realize the Lidie was a bit like Voltaire's Candide in that picaresque tale. But unlike Candide she's a very real person as well as a vehicle for the author.

Smiley's lesson is a good deal more subtle than Voltaire's. In my mind, few issues in all of history, and none in American history, are more clear-cut than the fathomless moral evil that was human slavery and its ongoing aftermath. Smiley sets her story in the middle of a boiling conflict over slavery, and uses Lidie's adventures to show the human faces of an "issue" and compel the reader to pay a different kind of attention. No, she didn't change my mind, and I don't think she meant to. It's more about what you do with your assurance, maybe, or . . .

Actually, maybe we can't even have this conversation until you've read the book too.

Jane Smiley, The All-True Travels and Adventures of Lidie Newton (New York: Knopf, 1998).

Harold Henderson, "Lidie Harkness Newton, an appreciation," Midwestern Microhistory: A Genealogy Blog, posted 22 May 2012 ( : accessed [access date]). [Please feel free to link to the specific post if you prefer.]

Monday, May 21, 2012

Good lessons in NGS Magazine April-June 2012

You could get a darn good genealogical education just by reading every issue of the National Genealogical Society Magazine for a few years. The lessons are readable, bite-size, and engaging. This quarter, four how-to pieces stood out for me:

* Debbie Mieszala on plagiarism and how not to commit it. BTW, although I have heard rumblings to the contrary, there is NOTHING about blogging that makes plagiarism either necessary or acceptable. By linking as well as giving credit, bloggers can if anything credit their sources more easily than pen-and-paper writers can.

* J. H. Fonkert on using newspapers to (almost literally) bring an ancestor back to life. His own grandfather provides the example. I wanted to say that this works best when the ancestor is engaged in work that actually appears in the newspaper, but we won't know until we look!

* Kathy Petlewski on immigration research, a very helpful piece with a sequel promised. I especially appreciated the discussion of oft-neglected ports of entry Galveston and New Orleans. One point I would add: the several "waves" of immigration in US history have had their roots in politics. Going back to the presidency of John Adams, changing tides of political opinion (including episodes of fear and racism) have changed the immigration laws and often determined when a "wave" of immigration began and ended. (Those waves in the pool where we research aren't natural, dude. There's a wave machine out there.)

* Patricia Walls Stamm with a solid article on research planning. I appreciate these, because this is something I struggle with on a daily basis.

I also enjoyed records-oriented pieces by Claire Prechtel-Kluskens (did you know there may be Compiled Military Service Records for your Civil War ancestor that did not get filed in his "jacket"? and how to find them?), Bryna O'Sullivan on using Confederate pension applications in African-American genealogy, and Harold Hinds on autograph books, yet another underused genealogical resource.

This magazine alone is worth NGS's annual dues -- and as readers here know, NGS offers many other benefits as well!

All in NGS Magazine, vol. 38, no. 2 (April-June 2012):
Debbie Mieszala, "Stop, thief! A plagiarism primer," 17-20.
J. H. Fonkert, "The threshing engine: Newspapers breathe life into a photo," 25-31.
Kathy Petlewski, "Reference Desk: An overview of immigration records," 48-53.
Patricia Walls Stamm, "Targeted Research Plans," 44-47.

Harold Henderson, "Good lessons in NGS Magazine April-June 2012," Midwestern Microhistory: A Genealogy Blog, posted 21 May 2012 ( : accessed [access date]). [Please feel free to link to the specific post if you prefer.]

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Weekend wonderings for your comment

I see that Rootstech 2013 once again will not compensate most speakers. I attended 2012 and enjoyed the energy of the festive exhibit hall more than most of the talks. Most developer presentations seemed pretty advanced; most genealogy presentations not so much. A friend who's more techie than I am didn't find a lot of interaction between the two tracks.

Which makes me wonder. Will the best speakers -- and the best-prepared ones -- respond to this call for papers? How will the non-compensation policy advance the goal of bringing genealogists and developers together, rather than just having separate tracks?

Yes, I'm a member of the Genealogical Speakers Guild, and, yes again, I'd rather be paid than not. But I also do plenty of volunteering, and I might be more ready to volunteer to speak at Rootstech if I could figure out the strategy.

Harold Henderson, "Weekend wonderings for your comment" Midwestern Microhistory: A Genealogy Blog, posted 20 May 2012 ( : accessed [access date]). [Please feel free to link to the specific post if you prefer.]

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Ramping up the web site

This past week I've added a couple of features to my Midwest Roots web site -- sixteen available presentations (formerly known as lectures), and seven books in which I will do free lookups within reason. In the right-hand column of any page, you'll see the picture of the sandhill cranes at Jasper-Pulaski, and below that a list of categories. Click on whichever one suits your fancy, but "presentations" or "free lookups" will show what's available -- everything from old court records and place names to a talk on the ten (genealogical) commandments.

I hope to add soon some lookups in unpublished materials I've indexed. In all cases, as usual around here, the content is mostly but not exclusively Midwestern.

Other somewhat recent additions are four "unfindables," my indexes of library resources not easy to locate either on line or in person: in Fort Wayne, microfilmed small-city directories in Illinois, Indiana, and Michigan from the early 20th century; and in Mishawaka, a sizeable collection of out-of-county microfilmed Indiana newspapers.

Harold Henderson, "Ramping up the web site" Midwestern Microhistory: A Genealogy Blog, posted 19 May 2012 ( : accessed [access date]). [Please feel free to link to the specific post if you prefer.]

Friday, May 18, 2012

Don't confuse me with the facts!

Writing over at the American Historical Association's blog AHA Today, Allen Mikaelian considers the implications of Jonathan Gottschall's book The Storytelling Animal: How Stories Make Us Human for historians (including, IMO, genealogists):

Facts have little to do with being human, when compared to all that story has accomplished. The public’s inclination toward an engaging story over and above things that historians value, like contingency and complexity [not to mention evidence -- HH], isn’t just a matter of personal choice or intellectual laziness—it’s a successful, hard-wired evolutionary adaptation that allowed societies to be built and genes to be passed on.
That gulf separating the careful historian from a general reading public has deep and functional roots. Historical thinking, if Gottschall is right, is not just an “unnatural act,” it’s the kind of thinking that would have, in the wilds from which we emerged, gotten us killed (or at least kicked out of the gene pool).
By all means read the whole thing. Mikaelian goes on to discuss some new attempts in history teaching to get students acclimated to other important aspects of historical thinking in addition to good storytelling.

I'm perfectly happy to commit the unnatural act of trying to think about evidence as well as story. But as genealogists -- who in this context are also public-oriented historians -- we need to be sure we don't lose sight of the stories, and our audience.

Allen Mikaelian, "Historians vs. Evolution: New Book Explains Why Historians Might Have a Hard Time Reaching Wide Audiences, Getting a Date," AHA Today, posted 9 May 2012 ( : accessed 16 May 2012).

Jonathan Gotschall, The Storytelling Animal: How Stories Make Us Human (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2012).

Harold Henderson, "Don't confuse me with the facts!" Midwestern Microhistory: A Genealogy Blog, posted 18 May 2012 ( : accessed [access date]). [Please feel free to link to the specific post if you prefer.]

Thursday, May 17, 2012

"If you can't say anything nice, then don't say anything at all." . . .

That's what everyone's grandmother said, and that's what prudent genealogists have taken to heart. Maybe too much.

Other academic disciplines thrive on controversy; most genealogists avoid it like the plague. We might even favor the plague! (And if you think genealogy isn't or shouldn't be academic, then compare other hobbyists: think about the endless arguments over baseball statistics.)

There are good reasons to go along with grandma, especially in a field with a never-ending influx of novices. It's just good sense to explain citations or military records or whatever in a friendly way, suggesting improvements rather than wielding a condemnatory red pencil. And at any given time, we might have to call on a colleague for advice or research help in a remote-to-us part of the world -- why risk being snubbed in your hour of need? (This is particularly an issue since there are relatively few "real jobs" in genealogy, defined as those that include health insurance or some simulacrum of a pension.) Besides, it's kind of nice to be in a situation where everyone pats you on the back whether you deserve it or not.

So when we come across a substandard book or article, a soporific lecture, an offensive blog post, or a genealogist disciplined for malfeasance such as plagiarism, we prefer to look the other way. That keeps things quiet and civil -- at least on the surface. But underneath, it's all whispers and innuendo, often with a wink and a nudge rather than even naming the supposedly offending individual, or the offense. Sometimes, worse yet, we sail along thinking we're doing fine because no one dares tell us that we're messing up. (Some friends and I set up a writing group a couple of years ago just to be able to receive and give substantive criticism. Now a few of us have been wondering where there could be a "lecture group" that would do the same.)

It's true that I come from an argumentative family, and an argumentative "other life" before genealogy. But is there no middle way? Can we critique the substance constructively and specifically in public, without getting into personalities, or devolving into the all-abuse-all-the-time mode of many political blogs' comment sections?

This all came to my mind when I saw that Rachal Mills Lennon had reviewed Harold E. Hinds Jr.'s recent book, Crafting a Personal Family History: A Guide Plus a Case Study of the Hinds Family in New York's Adirondack Mountains, in the April 2012 issue of the New York Genealogical and Biographical Record. I subscribe to the magazine, have admired Lennon's articles and web site, and own a signed copy of the book, purchased last fall at the Minnesota Genealogical Society's North Star conference. So I was curious how the review would look.

Guess what? It's critical. It's substantive. She takes issue with many particular items in the book -- nothing personal. It's an aspect of genealogy that I haven't seen enough of. What do you think?

Harold E. Hinds, Jr., Crafting a Personal Family History: A Guide Plus a Case Study of the Hinds Family in New York's Adirondack Mountains (Elizabethtown NY: Essex County Historical Society, 2011).

Rachal Mills Lennon, review of Crafting a Personal Family History, in New York Genealogical and Biographical Record, Vol. 143, no. 2 (April 2012):155.

Harold Henderson, "'If you can't say anything nice...,'" Midwestern Microhistory: A Genealogy Blog, posted 17 May 2012 ( : accessed [access date]). [Please feel free to link to the specific post if you prefer.]

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Two more tempting books

Published just in time for the National Genealogical Society's gathering earlier this month in Cincinnati is Indiana by Dawne Slater-Putt. It's part of the NGS Research in the States Series. (Actually, it's so new it's not in NGS's on-line store yet.) It starts with accounts of early Indiana history and settlement and account of major archives, libraries and societies. The bulk of the book describes the following two dozen types of resources:

Aids to Research
Atlases, Gazetteers, and Maps
Biographical Sources
Business and Occupational Records
Cemetery Records
Censuses and Census Substitutes
Church Records
Court Records
Ethnic Groups and Records
Genealogical and Historical Periodicals
Institutional and Prison Records
Internal Improvements
Land Records
Military Records
Naturalization and Immigration
Probate Records
School Records
Tax Records
Vital Records
Voter and Election Records

I bought this book at NGS, have already read it from cover to cover, and look forward to referring to it often in the future. It will be available in either hard copy or PDF. I can imagine a few minor improvements for later editions, but I can't imagine having written such a comprehensive book myself.

Reviewed in the online magazine of early American history, Common-Place: David Jaffee's A New Nation of Goods, focusing on pre-Civil-War rural northeast and New England. Emory University historian Jonathan Prude writes,

Jaffee combines the specialized expertise of an antiquarian with the more capacious concerns of an historian. Thus, heeding antiquarian impulses, he recounts precisely how clocks, tables, and chairs were fabricated; he provides biographies of many who did the fabricating; and he traces the provenance of a good number of the resulting artifacts.
"Antiquarian" is rarely a term of praise among historians. But given my microhistorical and genealogical interests, that word puts this book pretty high up on my want list.

Dawne Slater-Putt, Indiana (Arlington VA: National Genealogical Society, 2012).

David Jaffee, A New Nation of Goods: The Material Culture of Early America  (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2010).

Harold Henderson, "More tempting books," Midwestern Microhistory: A Genealogy Blog, posted 14 May 2012 ( : accessed [access date]). [Please feel free to link to the specific post if you prefer.]

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Moderately Recent Blog Posts I Have Enjoyed #2

Diana Dretske at Illuminating Lake County History posted a detailed appreciation of John Easton's 1844-1846 store ledger from the hamlet of Half Day. I became acquainted with the ledger's transcription when I had a research interest in the immediate area; I was unaware of its near-obliteration when the purchasers of Easton's property later used it as a scrapbook in which to post newspaper clippings! Good reading and images both for people interested in Lake County, Illinois, or in the enormous potential of this under-used resource.

The indefatigable Judy Russell at The Legal Genealogist asks the key question of relevant officials. She doesn't put it this way, but I will: Since Ancestry's advertising often does not encourage genealogical education, and since it hosts many erroneous trees, how can the company hope to make clear the limitations of its new autosomal DNA test when test results are being connected to those same erroneous trees? Is this anything more than the 21st-century version of pasting scrapbook items onto a potentially valuable genealogy resource and just making everyone more confused than before? If you think I'm over the top on this, Judy is more judicious than I and has done her homework. Read her post and draw your own conclusions.

In an earlier post I uncritically repeated's statement at Wednesday night's NGS conference reception that the company has 10 billion records. James Tanner at Genealogy's Star does some badly needed investigation and finds this kind of claim to be more promotional than informational.

Please note: I am a long-time and continuing subscriber to Ancestry and have benefited enormously from its work. But it should be possible to earn a profit and educate the public at the same time, and I believe that genealogists in general (and professionals and bloggers in particular) have a role to play in encouraging its executives to keep both objectives clearly in view.

Harold Henderson, "Moderately Recent Blog Posts I Have Enjoyed #2" Midwestern Microhistory: A Genealogy Blog, posted 15 May 2012 ( : accessed [access date]). [Please feel free to link to the specific post if you prefer.]

Monday, May 14, 2012

Hoosier Zion

I've been reading L. C. Rudolph's 1963 book, Hoosier Zion: The Presbyterians in Early Indiana (full text available at Internet Archive,, if that works better for you than a physical copy).

It's not just about religion and not just about Indiana. Rudolph is writing from a particular angle about the culture clash that created the Midwest among other places -- between Yankees and Southerners. (Of course both terms have to be broadly defined, since Scotch-Irish folks might appear on either side.) The author has enough distance to tell the story from both sides, and a narrow enough focus to keep it close to the ground. Indiana was the most difficult non-slave state for the Presbyterian missionaries, so in some ways it makes the best story. It's worthwhile just to remember that there was a time, around 200 years ago or a little less, when Americans were very concerned about what sort of society was going to emerge in the "West" and that would presumably dominate the country.

"Exotic" is the literal word for Presbyterian ministers in early Indiana. It was not that they had lost out; they had never really been there at all. Now they came late and mostly from the East, entering as Yankees into the hog and hominy belt. If the Appalachian settlers were culturally limited, it led them not so much to regret their limitation as to demand that their churches conform to it. These frontiersmen had no basic aversion to doctrine, but it had to appeal to their ego and be presented movingly "in a storm." (p. 49)

(These stories are of genealogical interest to me because my maternal grandfather's Thrall and allied families were from New England by way of Ohio, who settled largely in southern Illinois in the early 1800s. Although Methodist rather than Presbyterian, they had one foot on each side of the divide.)

Later on, the book focuses more particularly on Presbyterians, their doctrine, and their role in promoting education in a state that was not very friendly to the idea at first.

Rudolph also helped abstract and index the American Home Missionary Society letters from Indiana, Indiana Letters: Abstracts of Letters from Missionaries on the Indiana Frontier to the American Home Missionary Society, 1824-1893, some of the original sources on which the book is based. So it is possible to locate and read the original (microfilmed) letters by name and/or by place. And, yes, the Allen County Public Library Genealogy Center does have the entire 385-roll collection for all the states. Has anyone indexed the letters from Illinois? or Michigan?

L. C. Rudolph, Hoosier Zion: The Presbyterians in Early Indiana (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1963).

L. C. Rudolph et al., Indiana Letters: Abstracts of Letters from Missionaries on the Indiana Frontier to the American Home Missionary Society, 1824-1893, 3 vols. (Ann Arbor MI: University Microfilms, 1979).

Harold Henderson, "Hoosier Zion," Midwestern Microhistory: A Genealogy Blog, posted 14 May 2012 ( : accessed [access date]). [Please feel free to link to the specific post if you prefer.]

Sunday, May 13, 2012

NGS Day Four (Saturday the 12th) -- the end . . . or is it?

Leaving the Saturday midafternoon lecture, we walked past the windows that overlook the exhibit hall. The vendors and organizations were taking down their booths.

The little world of the conference was being dismantled before our eyes. "Our revels now are ended." I don't suppose any non-genealogist would be able to take what we genealogists do as serious reveling, but we enjoy it.

My talk on indirect evidence was well-attended and well-received. Other events I saw:

David Lambert, the "online genealogist" of the New England Historical and Genealogical Society, gave a quick outline of emigration from New England and wound up with an eloquent appeal for the listeners not to lose any more stories, and write them up before it's too late.

Michael Hait alerted his audience to the many state and local sources for genealogy records available OUTSIDE OF and They may not be immediately obvious to search engines, and the sites themselves may not be logically organized, but being able to access the records from home is worth some extra effort. In Chester County, Pennsylvania, the recorder of deeds has deeds online from 1960 forward. Elsewhere, in the county archives portion of the site, are indexes to deeds 1688-1830.

Having shown the good stuff out there, he also reminded us not to let internet availability determine our research plans! Most records aren't on line and won't be soon.

Word in the hallways is that during the conference APG, BCG, Indiana, Kentucky, Germany did well in attracting new members. (I did not do a comprehensive survey.)

I had hatched nefarious plans to take Thomas Jones, Elizabeth Shown Mills, and Barbara Vines Little home with me -- or rather, to purchase CDs of their talks to listen to in the car on the five-hour drive home. Unfortunately, the demand was such that the good folks at Jamb had run out of all the ones I wanted. I will get them later on by mail. So our revels really aren't quite ended, now or ever.

Harold Henderson, "NGS Day Four (Saturday the 12th)," Midwestern Microhistory: A Genealogy Blog, posted 13 May 2012 ( : accessed [access date]). [Please feel free to link to the specific post if you prefer.]

Saturday, May 12, 2012

NGS Day Three (Friday the 11th)

At this stage of a national conference, many of us are operating like the elevator we tried to ride down in our hotel this morning: arriving at the 3rd floor, it announced the 1st floor, but never actually reached the first floor (we got out and took the escalators). Like that elevator, we're still in action, but not necessarily functioning on all cylinders due to information and sociability overloads.

My talk on the Indianapolis Orphan Asylum and its records was cordially received. It was part of an all-day same-room Indiana track, beginning with Dave McDonald on Indiana history and settlement patterns, and ending with Michael Lacopo on tips and advice in hard-core research in the state. His tour of courthouse records was very informative, especially the figures that less than 5% of 19th-century Hoosiers left wills, and perhaps four times that number had probates. "You can never have too many records."

For me as spectator Friday was Law Day. Michael LeClerc gave a virtuoso performance on Advanced Probate, minus his slides which had just been eaten by Dropbox. Two of many points to remember: read Inheritance in America, and be aware that when an estate has to be re-administered or is contested, the case may go direct to the appellate court without any obvious signals in the regular probate records.

After lunch Debra Mieszala gave the most fact-packed lecture I have yet had a chance to hear this week, on taking the "awww" out of the law library. I am looking forward to upgrading my legal knowledge and application. Knowing the difference between slip laws, session laws, code books, and annotated statutes will definitely help. (They're all good, but in different ways.)

The evening was spent in many pleasant conversations in the Hyatt lobby, the NGSQ centennial reception, and the ProGen Study Group dinner. Tomorrow is the last day of a conference that on Tuesday seemed like it would last forever.

Harold Henderson, "NGS Day Three (Friday the 11th)," Midwestern Microhistory: A Genealogy Blog, posted 12 May 2012 ( : accessed [access date]). [Please feel free to link to the specific post if you prefer.]

Friday, May 11, 2012

NGS Day Two (Thursday the 10th)

Games conferencegoers play: Many vendors and groups have little ribbons that can be stuck on in layers so that they trail down from your NGS nametags. Some folks compete to get the longest string of ribbons. My friend Michael Hait doesn't go for that, but he does have two ribbons that you don't see the same person wearing very often: one identifis him as a speaker (two talks Saturday), the other identifies him as attending his first national conference!

Other things that came my way today:

Jana Sloan Broglin explained Ohio's fantastically complex systems of distributing land in the state. I believe sixteen different systems were tried out. She gave accompanying glimpses of the relevant American history and idiosyncratic Ohio pronunciations (Newark = Nurk, Putnam = Putman). In some counties you need to know both the metes-and-bounds land system AND the rectangular survey system (or an experimental variant) in order to research land records. In her home county of Fulton (as well as Williams and Lucas), early deeds in the northern part of the county have to be sought in Michigan, a result of the Ohio-Michigan War ("a cow died"). If you love land records -- and genealogists pretty much have to -- you'll love Ohio!

Stefani Evans carefully described an ongoing project under the title "Red Herrings and a Stroke of the Dead Palsy," which included a monumental red herring in which a Revolutionary War regiment's record somehow migrated 500 miles! I took away this quote: "If we don't look at each detail in each document, we're going to reach wrong conclusions." Stefani's reflective style itself was a reminder that, as researchers, we need to remain calm in the midst of conflicting and ambiguous records.

The Association of Professional Genealogists' "Gathering of the Chapters" had representatives from all over the US. Many chapters cover a wide area, and the new availability of GoToMeeting and GoToWebinar should make it easier to meet and greet without enduring long car trips. We even had a five-week-old "member" in attendance.

The "night at the library" -- the renowned Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County -- was in full swing when I left early, having located one of my coveted obscure articles. The genealogists outnumbered the staff, who were good-natured about the crowd, and in my case went the extra mile to find a periodical that the regular retrievers couldn't.

Tomorrow's my turn to do some talking instead of listening, with a talk in the 9:30 am slot (Indianapolis Orphan Asylum), so it's early to bed...

Harold Henderson, "NGS Day Two (Thursday the 8th)," Midwestern Microhistory: A Genealogy Blog, posted 11 May 2012 ( : accessed [access date]). [Please feel free to link to the specific post if you prefer.]

Thursday, May 10, 2012

NGS Day One (Wednesday the 9th)

Some folks sleep through the opening plenary session; today they missed the amazing story of the 1848 Cincinnati panoramic daguerreotype and the details of everyday life it captured -- now that it can be digitally and microscopically examined. Check it out.

Later on . . .

. . . Jeanne Bloom explained proof arguments. “If you want to break through a brick wall, write down what you know and it will reveal the holes in your argument." In an interesting analogy she also compared the elements of a proof argument to the loom, warp, and woof that go together to make up a tapestry.

. . . Marie Melchiori gave an always-helpful introduction and review of ways of accessing military medial records in the National Archives, followed by a series of examples that left us wanting to camp in the National Archives for a year or two. "You don't ever use one set of records as an end result, you use them as a stepping-stone to others." Thus the file of a US medical officer who later served for the Confederacy included a postwar request for amnesty, opening up a new record set for investigation.

. . . The annual writing contest of the International Society of Family History Writers and Editors (ISFHWE, nevertheless frequently pronounced "Ifshwee") remains open until June 3. Visit ISFHWE for more information and to download the PDF informational package.

. . . I haven't heard and haven't asked about the conference attendance this year. But at the two booths where I'm volunteering, the Indiana Genealogical Society and the Association of Professional Genealogists both had successful days making new friends and acquiring new members too.

. . . in my continuing series of scheduling train wrecks, the Ancestry "VIP Reception" came at the same time as the Geneabloggers' meetup. I finally ended up at Ancestry, where I heard that they now have 10 billion records on line. Their $99 autosomal DNA program is coordinated with Ancestry trees, so the results may (for example) actually name your (alleged) fourth cousin. Their new semantic index for city directories is a major improvement over OCR in that the computers can now understand which words are names, which occupations, etc. Among newly added collections is a 1798 London land tax never microfilmed or digitized. They're emphasizing mobile devices more and more. Their 1940 census indexing reportedly continues to involve "select offshore vendors" who are indexing "almost every field."

Harold Henderson, "NGS Day One (Wednesday the 9th)," Midwestern Microhistory: A Genealogy Blog, posted 10 May 2012 ( : accessed [access date]). [Please feel free to link to the specific post if you prefer.]

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

NGS Day Zero (Tuesday the 8th)

Cincinnati, National Genealogical Society --

Arriving at a conference is the best of times and the worst of times -- you don't know where ANYTHING is, but old friends pop up at random intervals. I knew I was in the right place when the registration clerk said, "The elevators are right over there by the brick wall."

FamilySearch held a blogger-appreciation-and-encouragement dinner, inviting bloggers to join their "Blog Ambassador" program for the 1940 census indexing project. We also learned that Chief Genealogy Officer David Rencher has started blogging, but it will be his observations, not official FamilySearch stuff. The food was local and excellent, although the "Chip Wheelies" would not fit well into a long-term low-calorie regimen.

Several of us had to leave (reluctantly) in the midst of Paul Nauta's presentation, but not before we learned that FS has 530 million images on line (37% from the US) and 1.7 billion indexed (63% from the US).

We whizzed down one flight of stairs to the Association of Professional Genealogists' roundtable on mentoring. (I was a panelist along with Stefani Evans, Jay Fonkert, and Claire Bettag; Craig Roberts moderated.) From the APG point of view, mentoring takes many forms, some of which we can facilitate more easily than others. Claire suggested that APG needs to emphasize that the mailing list, the webinars, the mentoring discussion sessions are all in fact forms of mentoring although they don't all bear the label. Craig reported his finding that when someone asked him to mentor them it rarely worked well, whereas when he took the initiative and offered to mentor someone else that worked better. It was also suggested that I put forth a book on the subject, but a later blog post will have to suffice for now.

As is usually the case with APG roundtables, the participants stuck around and talked afterwards. It was a good hour after the end of the formal program before the last three holdouts actually left the room, still talking (but you knew that) and realizing that tomorrow is another day filled with enough formal conference activities that Tuesday will seem like an oasis of tranquility.

Harold Henderson, "NGS Day Zero (Tuesday the 8th)," Midwestern Microhistory: A Genealogy Blog, posted 9 May 2012 ( : accessed [access date]). [Please feel free to link to the specific post if you prefer.]

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Moderately Recent Blog Posts That I Have Enjoyed

I don't pretend to cover the profusion of genealogy blogs, nor to produce a legitimate "best of" list, hence the title. But I did enjoy these in their different ways.

Debbie Parker Wayne ("Deb's Delvings in Genealogy") did something I almost never do -- commented on a newsworthy development in genealogy -- and in her soft-spoken way cut right to the bone.

Joy Neighbors ("A Grave Interest") gave a nicely illustrated appreciation of Oak Hill Cemetery in Crawfordsville, Montgomery County, Indiana.

Chris Staats ("Staats Place") inquired about the various pronunciations of his surname. I'm thinking there may be ways to research this if you can find the right records. (If only some of his male-line forebears had written rhyming doggerel about themselves!)

Judy G. Russell ("The Legal Genealogist") offered a touching remembrance of the least-known member of her family who shared a May 5th birthday. This post is also a model for those bloggers who want to combine personal reminiscences with good source-citation practices. May their tribe increase!

Harold Henderson, "Moderately Recent Blog Posts That I Have Enjoyed," Midwestern Microhistory: A Genealogy Blog, posted 8 May 2012 ( : accessed [access date]). [Please feel free to link to the specific post if you prefer.]

Monday, May 7, 2012

Proving In-Laws without Direct Evidence (NGSQ)

If there's anything harder than finding parents without direct evidence, it's finding in-laws! That's the task addressed by Nancy Peters, CG (SM) in her article in the December issue of the National Genealogical Society Quarterly.

Mr. and Mrs. Conrad Peters lived in Monroe County, New York, for most of the second half of the 19th century. There was no marriage record -- indeed, no document of any kind naming her parents -- and the records that did exist sometimes called her Gertrude, and other times Catherine.

Combining civil and church records with a knowledge of German culture and naming patterns resolved that last issue and showed that Conrad had just the one wife. And an 1847 baptismal record named the married parents as Conrad Peters and Gertrude Eberle. The Peters and Eberle families lived near one another and associated in church affairs and baptisms. In the Civil War, Conrad Peters and George Eberle served together in Company I of the 108th New York volunteer infantry, but George died at the notorious Andersonville prison in 1864.

George's parents were named in his 1843 baptism as Christopher Eberle and Catherina Kunz. In 1865 the federal government paid Catherine Peters a benefit due to heirs of deceased volunteer soldiers. George had never married and his parents were deceased at this time. Since New York law provided that siblings would inherit from those who died without a will, parents, or children, this payment strongly implied that Catherine was his sister and Christopher and Catherina therefore her parents.

Arguably, this might have been enough to establish Conrad Peters's in-laws, but the author found baptismal records for this Eberle family in Leimen, Waldhambach -- now better known as part of  the Palatinate. Christopher Eberle's handwritten signatures on documents there and in New York helped prove it was the same family, and the church record included a Gertrude born to the couple at the right time to be Mrs. Conrad Peters.

All the evidence now pointed the same way, except for one contradictory item. A surviving fragment of German civil records said that that baby Gertrude had died the same day! On closer examination, though, the civil recorder had probably miscopied a priest's note that referred to a burial record for an older man on the next line of the church register.

Note that this last conclusion was not made in a vacuum. Mistakes in records are always possible; what made it a probability in this case was the weight of all the other evidence linking the families and linking Gertrude Eberle to Conrad Peters.

Nancy Peters, "Using Indirect Evidence to Find In-Laws for Conrad Peters of Monroe County, New York," National Genealogical Society Quarterly 99 (December 2011): 281-93.

Harold Henderson, "Proving In-Laws without Direct Evidence," Midwestern Microhistory: A Genealogy Blog, posted 7 May 2012 ( : accessed [access date]). [Please feel free to link to the specific post if you prefer.]

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Why We Don't Write

Last week at the Indiana Genealogical Society gatherings, newsletter editor Linda Herrick Swisher and quarterly editor Rachel Popma made multiple pleas for additional contributions, so that they can publish news and articles -- rather than indexes and the like that were once staples of genealogy publication, but now belong in on-line databases. When I got home, the spring issue of the Ohio Genealogical Society Quarterly had arrived, containing a similar request from editor Susan Dunlap Lee.

Why do they even have to ask?

Writing is one of the best ways to think through a tough problem, or to see what research options we've overlooked. It's also the best way to explain our research to others and to preserve its results, with both on-line and print options. The Board for the Certification of Genealogists specifies that no genealogical statement can be considered proven without "a soundly reasoned, coherently written conclusion," although obviously some will be longer than others.

So why do they even have to ask?

Partly it's because we're perfectionists -- there's always one more resource, one more road trip that might make our narrative tree even better.

Partly it's because we enjoy starting new projects more than the endless detail work required to actually complete the old ones.

Partly it's because writing is rarely as well or thoroughly taught as dribbling a round ball or throwing a pointy one. It's easier to go to extremes -- pretending either that anything put on paper is a valuable self-expression on one hand, or that it's important to follow all the rules (including bogus ones like never splitting an infinitive or ending a sentence with a preposition) on the other.

Partly it's because writing does force us to think about what we have done, and whether it really makes sense. (Just as I suspect that folks are reluctant to cite their sources,not out of fear of the comma police, but because citation requires us to understand the source we're looking at instead of briskly moving on to the next one.)

In order to fulfill our potential as genealogists, we have to overcome these obstacles, some of them larger than others for different ones of us, but all present to some degree. There's no substitute for practice and coaching, whether by a group of peers or by a stern but compassionate editor. And there's no substitute for reading good writing either.

But mainly, even if you're only writing blog posts, there's no substitute for thinking. Cogent thoughts poorly expressed are relatively easy to fix. Confused thoughts, no matter how elegantly expressed, are more difficult to deal with. Of course, writing them out in plain language will help de-confuse them, so it's all good.

And our state editors are going to be so happy to see us!

Susan Dunlap Lee, "Immediate Need for Articles," Ohio Genealogical Society Quarterly 52, no. 1 (Spring 2012): 52.

Harold Henderson, "Why We Don't Write," Midwestern Microhistory: A Genealogy Blog, posted 6 May 2012 ( : accessed [access date]). [Please feel free to link to the specific post if you prefer.]  

Saturday, May 5, 2012

So many sources, so little time

I'm going to use this heading to accumulate sources that I run across when I'm supposed to be doing something else -- and because I kept on doing that something else, I can't tell you anything more about the sources than where they exist.

As far as I know, like most sources, they aren't on line. Some are immediately useful; some I have no idea what I would do with them, it's just wonderful that they're out there.

At Western Michigan University's Archives & Regional History Collections: microfilm, "Kalamazoo Airport Register, 1920-1941."

At the La Porte County (Indiana) Historical Museum, in a binder on the library shelves: Fern Eddy Schultz's 1987 map series of changing La Porte County and township boundaries, from the legal descriptions at the time. So far I have not found anything comparable on line (that is, a full series of documented maps showing a particular county's township boundaries and their changes), although this handsome Bay County, Michigan, site comes close.

"Kalamazoo Airport Register, 1920-1941," microfilm, Western Michigan University Archives & Regional History Collections, Kalamazoo.

Fern Eddy Schultz, historical boundary maps of La Porte County, Indiana, townships, 1987 binder; La Porte County Historical Museum, La Porte.

Marvin Kusmierz, "Michigan Map History Relevant to Bay County, Michigan," updated October 2005, Bay-Journal: Portal to the Past and Present of Michigan's Great Lakes Bay Region ( : accessed 23 April 2012).

Harold Henderson, “So many sources, so little time,” Midwestern Microhistory: A Genealogy Blog, posted 5 May  2012 ( : accessed [access date]). [Please feel free to link to the specific post if you mention it on line.]

Friday, May 4, 2012

Sergeant John Smith in The Genealogist

We all get to cheer whenever another John Smith is pulled out of the swamp of ancestral ambiguity -- and that's what Gail Blankenau does in the lead article of the Spring 2012 issue of The Genealogist, a twice-yearly magazine published by the American Society of Genealogists.

This Revolutionary veteran left no birth, death, pension, land, probate, or cemetery records -- but he did leave four notebooks of a journal of his four years at the war. (In addition to hard fighting, as first sergeant he was involved in training the Rhode Island regiment of black soldiers.) Historical information is brought in to good effect, as are eight children and 37 grandchildren.

Two Smith sons settled in Washington County, Ohio; a grandson continued on to Alabama, where a great-grandson ended up fighting against the country his great-grandfather had helped establish.

Gail Blankenau, "Sergeant John Smith of Rhode Island, With Descendants Early in Washington County, Ohio," The Genealogist 26, no. 1 (Spring 2012): 3-23.

Harold Henderson, “Sergeant John Smith in The Genealogist,Midwestern Microhistory: A Genealogy Blog, posted 4 May 2012 ( : accessed [access date]). [Please feel free to link to the specific post.]

Thursday, May 3, 2012

History books of potential interest to genealogists

Three books that looked promising to me, out of the huddled masses reviewed in The American Historical Review 117, no. 2 (April 2012): 533, 543, 525

An Illinois woman's struggle in the 1860s and later to give allegedly insane people the right to a jury trial before being immured in an asylum:
Linda V. Carlisle, Elizabeth Packard: A Noble Fight (Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 2010).

How non-snooty restaurants rose along with the middle class:
Andrew P. Haley, Turning the Tables: Restaurants and the Rise of the American Middle Class, 1880-1920 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2011).

A family story about crossing racial boundaries in St. Louis and New Orleans (although without as much historical context as one reviewer wanted):
Julie Winch, The Clamorgans: One Family's History of Race in America (New York: Hill and Wang, 2011).

Harold Henderson, “History books of potential interest to genealogists” Midwestern Microhistory: A Genealogy Blog, posted 3 May 2012 ( : accessed [access date]). [Please feel free to link to the specific post.]

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Lecturing -- as if blogging wasn't enough!

My current brochure describing available genealogy lectures is posted at Midwest Roots. We've got orphans, the great research state of Indiana, colliding sources, Sherlock Holmes, death by probate (NOT), and more.

If you want to hear a sample, my web site is not that sophisticated yet. Feel free to drop by the National Genealogical Society conference in Cincinnati at 9:30 AM Friday (Indianapolis Orphan Asylum) and Saturday (Indirect Evidence) . . .

Harold Henderson, “Lecturing -- as if blogging wasn't enough!” Midwestern Microhistory: A Genealogy Blog, posted 2 May 2012 ( : accessed [access date]). [Please feel free to link to the specific post if you mention it on line.]

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

The Indians had a property system too

McGill University historian Allan Greer gets down to the details of how European property rules took over the New World in an article in the April issue of the American Historical Review. It was not a case in which the Native Americans had no concept of property and the Europeans imposed it, he writes. Both groups had private/family ground where they grew crops, and various common areas that belonged to the larger group. There wasn't anything just lying around in either hemisphere that was free to all or in some kind of state of nature.

One way the European system won out was the practice of letting stock run free. "When settlers proclaimed, in effect, that the Indians' deer, fish, and timber were open to all, colonists included, yet the hogs and cattle roaming these same woods remained [the settlers'] private property, they were indeed attempting a wholesale appropriation."

By the time the settlers got around to actually fencing the Indians out, it was all over. The settlers' free-ranging hogs and cattle had destroyed both the native gardens and wildlife in the area. "Privatization of land was not the main mechanism by which indigenous territory came into the possession of colonizers; by the time that sort of enclosure occurred in many places, dispossession was already an accomplished fact, thinks in large measure to the intrusions of the colonial commons."

Greer cites a book I would like to read: Virginia DeJohn Anderson, Creatures of Empire: How Domestic Animals Transformed Early America (New York, 2004).

Allan Greer, "Commons and Enclosure in the Colonization of North America," American Historical Review 117, no. 2 (April 2012): 365-386.

Harold Henderson, “The Indians had a property system too,” Midwestern Microhistory: A Genealogy Blog, posted 1 May 2012 ( : accessed [access date]). [Please feel free to link to the specific post.]