Thursday, January 31, 2013

Sources? What's That?

There's nothing like being at the forefront of genealogy education. James Tanner reports from his front-line duty aiding a patron at a Family History Center:

"We focused on one family where the ancestors of both the husband and the wife were missing. I asked her where she had looked for information about her family and she gave me a blank look as if to say, what did I mean where did she look."

Read the whole thing over at Genealogy's Star. I don't always agree with Tanner's theoretical ideas, but his point here is spot-on: when we talk about the importance of "sources" we may think we're starting at the beginning, but we are already assuming a whole lot of stuff that many newcomers to genealogy do not know.

That would explain why so many emails to proprietors of unsourced trees go unanswered. And it shows once again that teaching is something that it is easy to do -- or appear to do -- but it is hard to do well.

Harold Henderson, "Sources? What's That?," Midwestern Microhistory: A Genealogy Blog, posted 31 January 2013 ( : accessed [access date]). [Please feel free to link to the specific post if you prefer.]

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Illinois Probates, Indianapolis Courts, and the Hoosier Genealogist

Included in the new Hoosier Genealogist: Connections (Fall/Winter 2012), published twice a year by the Indiana Historical Society, are Randy Mills on writing memoirs ("Give yourself permission to write that lousy first draft"), Christina R. Bunting on the old French Lick resort, more on John Wooden's boyhood, and Cathy Callen on mysterious relative (or is it relatives?) Allen H. Neff.

The Neff article is interesting in that the author still has questions about the fellow's identity, and a new on-line index from the Indiana State Digital Archives might help by making Marion County court records more accessible.

Meanwhile, west of the Wabash, FamilySearch now has on line more than 1.1 million images of probate records from 44 Illinois counties (none of the big ones unless you count Rock Island and Champaign)! These are browseable and include the print indexes, but the images themselves are not indexed, so it takes some work to get to the original images.

Harold Henderson, "Illinois Probates, Indianapolis Courts, and the Hoosier Genealogist," Midwestern Microhistory: A Genealogy Blog, posted 30 January 2013 ( : accessed [access date]). [Please feel free to link to the specific post if you prefer.]

Monday, January 28, 2013

A Sad Day for Chicago Researchers

The Cook County birth, marriage, and death records on FamilySearch no longer have images available. I noticed this in passing on Sunday, wondered if it was a glitch. Sadly, it's not. Cynthia has a good explanation and links at ChicagoGenealogy.

Those of us in the trenches rarely have the opportunity or occasion to notice this, but digitization is not a process free of negotiation, politics, secrecy, and spin. For obvious reasons the powerful parties involved rarely disclose exactly what's going on or what was traded off. The note on FamilySearch Wiki to which Cynthia links is opaque, referring only to "provisions and guidelines of a newly revised contract" and the promise of "an additional 4.7 million records for FamilySearch patrons." What records? Will those images be available? (And, most alarmingly, did this change in contract have anything to do with the widely held but false view that open records promote fraud?)

Cynthia is ever optimistic. It's very hard for me to see this as a win for genealogy, but then we don't know what the alternatives were. And we probably never will. Gather ye images while ye may!

Harold Henderson, "A Sad Day for Chicago Researchers," Midwestern Microhistory: A Genealogy Blog, posted 28 January 2013 ( : accessed [access date]). [Please feel free to link to the specific post if you prefer.]

Getting Places in the Old Midwest

Somewhere Bill Bryson writes that Midwesterners are never happier than when they're arguing over how to get from point A to point B. But it's easy to forget how recent is our ability even to do that!

Juliette Kinzie's Wau-Bun: The "Early Day" in the North-west recounts more than one trip between central Wisconsin and Chicago in the early 1830s where their party spent significant time being completely lost, no cabins in sight, and low on food.

My son's new compilation of Selected Readings on the Life and Work of Frances Ann Wood Shimer includes her tales of travel to Mount Carroll (Carroll County), Illinois in the early 1850s, when the train west of Milwaukee stopped at Janesville, and nobody in Freeport seemed to know even where Mount Carroll was!

Travelers' accounts are valuable supplements to history, among other things because they mention facts that we want to know but the residents just took for granted.

Harold Henderson, "Getting Places in the Old Midwest," Midwestern Microhistory: A Genealogy Blog, posted 28 January 2013 ( : accessed [access date]). [Please feel free to link to the specific post if you prefer.]

Friday, January 25, 2013

Ask Not What Your Professional Organization Can Do For You...

Last week Barbara Mathews made a detailed post to the Association of Professional Genealogists' members-only list explaining the many issues with Ancestry's rendition of Massachusetts town records and how to deal with it and get around at least some of the problems.

For me that post alone was almost worth the $65 annual dues. While few posts there are as thorough and authoritative, there's lots of help requested and received on the list.

 (Full disclosure: I'm on the list a lot, and I'm a member of the APG board. Even fuller disclosure: these are my own unofficial opinions and the 2500 or so other APGers may disagree!)

But while we all have to decide what to do with our limited supply of money, APG is not just a consumer product. We decide whether to subscribe to or Scotland's People based on whether the benefits to us (including intangibles) will exceed the costs. Same as buying a bag of gummi worms. And that's as it should be.

Deciding to join APG involves more than that calculation. It's also a decision to identify with and support a profession. And a profession, if it's worth anything, is not just a group of people who sell a product or service -- it's also a group of people who uphold the profession's standards.

To take an obvious example: A merchant may sell those books with fancy covers and vaporous language inside that purport to be a "history of your surname." No professional genealogist worthy of the name would have anything to do with that. Of course professionals often seek to earn money, but there are also things they won't do for money.

As Michael Hait wisely pointed out in a recent blog post, APG and the profession (as well as other genealogy societies) are in part what we put into them. So I wouldn't want anyone to join simply because of great posts like Barbara's. We need members; we need volunteers; we need folks who take genealogy seriously and will help build up the profession in innovative ways. But if you're all about getting the most for the cheapest, please look elsewhere.

Harold Henderson, "Ask Not What Your Professional Organization Can Do for You...," Midwestern Microhistory: A Genealogy Blog, posted 25 January 2013 ( : accessed [access date]). [Please feel free to link to the specific post if you prefer.]

Thursday, January 24, 2013

"I Learned So Much"

Thoughts after the SLIG Advanced Evidence Practicum: We tend to think of learning as something that either sticks or doesn't stick. That's not the whole story. A lot of the skills we want to learn have to be called into action at the right time. You can know that X is the right thing to do in Y situation. But actually doing X in the Y situation is something else altogether.

Developing a good habit is not a binary process, where first you haven't learned it and then you have. It's a long-term process of some steps forward and some back, in genealogy or anything else.

Harold Henderson, "I Learned So Much," Midwestern Microhistory: A Genealogy Blog, posted 24 January 2013 ( : accessed [access date]). [Please feel free to link to the specific post if you prefer.]

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

SLIG 2014!

Those who attended the concluding banquet of the Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy last Friday received the flyer announcing the twelve courses that will be available 13-17 January 2014, a short walk from the Family History Library.

Five of the twelve were offered in 2013:

Paula Stuart Warren, "American Research and Records"

John Phillip Colletta, "Writing a Quality Family Narrative"

Thomas W. Jones, "Advanced Genealogical Methods"

Angela McGhie and Kimberly Powell, "Advanced Evidence Analysis Practicum" [hardest course ever ;-]

Judith Hansen, "Problem Solving"

Seven are new additions for 2014:

J. Mark Lowe, "Research in the South"

Karen Mauer Green, "New York Research"

Carolyn Barkley, "Scottish Research"

Richard G. Sayre and Pamela Boyer Sayre, "Advanced Research Tools: Land Records"

Maureen Taylor, "Comprehensive Photo Detecting"

Kory Meyerink, "Researching in Eastern Europe"

Apryl Cox and Elissa Scalise Powell, "Credentialing: Accreditation,Certification, or Both?"

Early-bird registration ends 31 October 2013. I'm not saying which one(s) I want to take. But if you can't find a topic essential to your genealogy on this list, you might be reading the wrong blog!


Harold Henderson, "SLIG 2014!," Midwestern Microhistory: A Genealogy Blog, posted 23 January 2013 ( : accessed [access date]). [Please feel free to link to the specific post if you prefer.]

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Organizing Your Article: One Resource

One frequent topic of discussion (at least when I was around) in the Salt Lake City hallways and restaurants around last week's Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy was "How do I organize my article?" -- whether it's about people or best practices or hard-core genealogy.

Now, we weren't talking about numbering systems here, but about how we tell the story that precedes the genealogical summary and any needed proof arguments. How do we entice the reader? (Even expert professionals would rather be enticed than have to plod.) How do we make it as easy as possible for them to get into the story before we arrive at the technicalities and the begats?

In journalistic parlance this storytelling is more like feature writing than hard news, so we can't really look to most journalism for guidance. And in fact every story is different, and each individual story can be told in many different ways. Some leads are more engaging than others, some conclusions leave you ringing like gong.

There is no general answer on how to do it. But fortunately one of the great nonfiction writers of the last half-century, John McPhee of the New Yorker, has just published an article in said magazine describing his own struggles to organize narrative articles far more complex than any we are likely to attempt as genealogists. (It's paywalled so check it out in any good library or bookstore.) His frank and detailed account of his struggles may spark some ideas or inspire some experiments. And if you haven't read any of his books or articles -- that read so fluently and yet took so much angst to create -- you have many more pleasant surprises ahead as well.

John McPhee, "The Writing Life: Structure,” The New Yorker, January 14, 2013, p. 46 

Harold Henderson, "Organizing Your Article: One Resource," Midwestern Microhistory: A Genealogy Blog, posted 22 January 2013 ( : accessed [access date]). [Please feel free to link to the specific post if you prefer.]

Monday, January 21, 2013

The Genealogists' Neighborhood

A few years ago, a product whose name I have forgotten produced a TV commercial based on the premise that several star professional football players lived in adjoining houses in the same neighborhood, and would encounter each other while going out to walk the dog or fetch the newspaper. The houses looked significantly more middle-class, closer together, and less exclusive than would be likely for anyone in that income and fame bracket, but never mind. The point was to create a readily recognizable community.

Attending a genealogy conference or institute is a bit like living in one of those commercials -- with fellow genealogists as neighbors, rather than large violent men. We encounter colleagues and idols at every turn. The setting is apart from normal daily life -- no dishes to do, no opportunity to borrow a cup of sugar from the author of "The Children of Calvin Snell" -- but it is real in its way.

Typically we start by attending the same classes together. Over time as we develop specialties and responsibilities, there are fewer occasions to share the same experience or the exhilaration of beginning. But there are also new ways to collaborate and keep in touch at a distance. The neighborhood was always fictive, but the friendships can be real.

Harold Henderson, "The Genealogists' Neighborhood," Midwestern Microhistory: A Genealogy Blog, posted 21 January 2013 ( : accessed [access date]). [Please feel free to link to the specific post if you prefer.]

Saturday, January 19, 2013

More on the Toughest Genealogy Course

Your tutors: William Litchman, Thomas W. Jones, Jay Fonkert, Stefani Evans, and Marke Lowe. Your task: figure out their genealogy puzzles, one a day, until the week ends and the 2013 Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy closes shop until next January.

Last year I described the 2012 version of this Advanced Evidence Practicum as the toughest genealogy course I ever took, but now, after this second round (with different problems) I think it may be the toughest course I ever took in any subject. For me it re-emphasized the difference between being able to say what the right research step is, and being able to recognize the situation and do it in real time. It can be crushing to work for 23 1/2 hours and come to late-afternoon class discussion with 16 fellow students and the puzzle-poser, and learn how and where your research went off the tracks. But if genealogists can be mules, this two-by-four definitely gets their attention.

Some think that doing "speed genealogy" reinforces bad habits. Others say that getting prompt decisive responses to research mistakes will reinforce good habits. The course will be back for a third incarnation next year at SLIG, under the careful coordination of Angela McGhie and Kimberly Powell.

Meanwhile, a lot of potential variants on the practicum model are being discussed around the tables in Salt Lake City. Look for them -- and related approaches to advanced genealogy education -- to start popping up in the not too distant future.

Harold Henderson, "More on the Toughest Genealogy Course," Midwestern Microhistory: A Genealogy Blog, posted 19 January 2012 ( : accessed [access date]). [Please feel free to link to the specific post if you prefer.]

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Ohio Research on Your Way to FGS in Fort Wayne

Besides containing one of the premier genealogy libraries -- the Allen County Public Library Genealogy Center -- and hosting next year's Federation of Genealogical Societies conference, Fort Wayne is also surrounded in every direction by other useful repositories. The following (by me) was just posted on the FGS 2013 conference blog, third in a series of short posts on ways to pack in extra research on your way to or from the conference in Fort Wayne. 

 If Ohio is on your way to or from the 2013 FGS conference in Fort Wayne, the Buckeye State offers a variety of research stopovers en route. (Travel note: Drivers with the option may find US 30 west of Mansfield more direct and less expensive than the Ohio Turnpike.)

Western Reserve Historical Society Research Library
10825 East Boulevard, Cleveland
Focus on Cleveland and the Western Reserve. Check website for hours and fees for non-members.

Cleveland Public Library
325 Superior Ave., N.E., Cleveland
Don't miss their guide to genealogy resources and records:

Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Center
Spiegel Grove, Fremont
Famous for its ever-growing obituary collection, located at the south edge of Fremont on well-shaded
grounds beautiful enough to keep your non-genealogist companions pleasantly occupied.

Ohio Genealogical Society Library
611 State Route 97 West (South side) Bellville (just east of I-71)
The newest genealogical library around, with many unique resources. Fee for non-members.

Columbus Metropolitan Library
96 South Grant Ave., Columbus
Home to the State Library of Ohio's genealogical collections and much more.

Ohio Historical Society
800 East 17th Ave., Columbus—archives/archives-library
1.6 million objects and 70,000 cubic feet of records -- a unique source of information in all formats.

Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County
800 Vine Street, Cincinnati
Strong in “local history and culture, river history, genealogy, and African American history.”

Harold Henderson, "Ohio Research on Your Way to FGS in Fort Wayne," Midwestern Microhistory: A Genealogy Blog, posted 17 January 2013 ( : accessed [access date]). [Please feel free to link to the specific post if you prefer.]

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Food for Thought on Immigration

Interesting results from three economists based on information from 195 countries and methodology that I am not competent to describe:

We show that birthplace diversity is . . . positively related to economic development even after controlling for education, institutions, ethnic and linguistic fractionalization, trade openness, geography, market size, and origin-effects.
Their introduction cites other papers pertaining to the 1870-1920 migration boom in the US. All this is not directly related to genealogy, but it is indirectly related to the extent that our "common-sense" assumptions about immigration and emigration in history can be wrong, and insofar as possible it helps us think about the particular if we have a better idea of what the general facts seem to be. These findings certainly suggest that, whatever else it does or did, the nativist response to immigration was not likely to lead to prosperity. The kind of common sense their research supports is this:
The reason why birthplace diversity could be bene…ficial for productivity is due
to skill complementarity. People born in different places are likely to have dif-
ferent productive skills because they have been exposed to different experiences,
different school systems, different "cultures" and thus have developed different
perspectives that allow them to interpret and solve problems differently. These
differences can be complementary and lead to higher productivity.

Alberto Alesina, Johann Harnoss, and Hillel Rapoport, "Birthplace Diversity and Economic Prosperity," third draft, January 2013, National Bureau of Economic Research Working Paper no. 18699 ( : accessed 14 January 2013). 

Harold Henderson, "Food for Thought on Immigration," Midwestern Microhistory: A Genealogy Blog, posted 16 January 2013 ( : accessed [access date]). [Please feel free to link to the specific post if you prefer.]

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Genealogists and Historians, Together Again?

Jacqueline Jones, who worked along with Mark Lowe, CG, and others on the Lionel Richie segment of Who Do You Think You Are? wrote about her experience in Perspectives on History. I cringed when I saw the title ("A Historian among Genealogists") but she was positive:

My work with the WDYTYA producers and with Lionel Richie reminded me that information about specific family trees holds mass appeal. Genealogical excursions back in time, combined with scholarly analysis of the time period in question, can produce powerful stories that reveal great deal not only about particular families, but about the great drama of human history. Such collaborations, carried out in a  spirit of mutual respect, could very well prove fruitful for the historical enterprise, and for everyone involved.
Jones is the Walter Prescott Webb Chair in History and Ideas and the Mastin Gentry White Professor of Southern History at the University of Texas at Austin.

Jacqueline Jones, "A Historian among Genealogists: Working on Who Do You Think You Are?," Perspectives on History vol. 51, no. 1 (January 2013): 9-10.

Harold Henderson, "Genealogists and Historians, Together Again?," Midwestern Microhistory: A Genealogy Blog, posted 15 January 2013 ( : accessed [access date]). [Please feel free to link to the specific post if you prefer.]

Monday, January 14, 2013

Janus Day: Looking Forward, Looking Back

Looking back: in 2012, I got certified, spoke at a national conference, and finished publishing my first "big-time" article (on my wife's 5G grandfather William Berry and his children and grandchildren).

What's up for 2013? I'd like to do less and do it better, but the specifics remain elusive.

My top professional priorities are researching, writing, and editing -- preferably for pay! Other priorities include education (in the most general sense), giving back to the profession, and speaking.

I won't say never, but in the coming year(s) four kinds of activities are going to receive what the courts call "strict scrutiny": those that require flying, those that require me to get other people to do things, those involving mostly "busy work," and those based on the dubious notion that I'm the only person who can do X.

(Hat tip to Michael Hait, whose more specific blog post inspired this one.)

I can't predict publications, but I do aim to produce a couple of booklets in the next year. It's easier to tell when and where I'll be speaking:

February 12 on citations at an Illinois State Genealogical Society webinar.

March 10 on the Allen County Public Library Genealogy Center at the La Porte County (Indiana) Genealogical Society.

April 6 on indirect evidence and William Berry research in Lafayette, Indiana. Indianapolis genealogist and blogger Ron Darrah will have the other half of the program.

April 26 on Indiana research at the Ohio Genealogical Society in Cincinnati.

April 27 on property and probate records at the Indiana Genealogical Society in Bloomington. (Those who don't use these records -- which included me up to four or five years ago -- will find that they weren't really doing genealogy before.)

May 8 on advocacy for preservation and open records at the Association of Professional Genealogists luncheon at the National Genealogical Society in Las Vegas.

May 10 on "Are We There Yet?," a case study on proof, in the BCG track at NGS Las Vegas.

June 15 on "Welcome to the Other Midwestern Archives" at the Northwest Indiana Genealogical Society in Crown Point.

June 18 on "Organize Your Stuff As You Dig for Your Roots," at the La Porte County (Indiana) Public Library.

August 22 on Indiana research at the Federation of Genealogical Societies in Fort Wayne.

August 23 on "Welcome to the Other Midwestern Archives" at FGS in Fort Wayne.

August 24 on speaking ideas at FGS in Fort Wayne (sponsored by the Genealogical Speakers Guild).

See you around!

Harold Henderson, “William Berry (1753-1839) and His Children and Grandchildren in Massachusetts and New York,” in 2 parts, American Ancestors Journal, third and fourth annual supplements to The New England Historical and Genealogical Register 165 (October 2011): 368-78 and 166 (October 2012): 365-74.

Harold Henderson, "Janus Day: Looking Forward, Looking Back," Midwestern Microhistory: A Genealogy Blog, posted 14 January 2013 ( : accessed [access date]). [Please feel free to link to the specific post if you prefer.]

Friday, January 11, 2013

So You Want to Re-Invent Genealogy? Here's How

Maybe you think the internet has altered the fundamentals of genealogy research. Maybe you think BCG and ICAPGen and the Genealogical Proof Standard are boring and old hat. Maybe you have a new universal theory of everything family, unlike anything ever before thought of. Maybe you want "real proof." Whatever.

I think you're wrong, but you might be on to something. Certainly the Genealogical Proof Standard -- currently the only game in town -- is open to improvement, as is any specific genealogical conclusion.

Of course the odds aren't good. Over a couple thousand years, there were only two real game-changers in physics -- Newton and Einstein -- as compared to who knows how many bogus perpetual-motion machines.

But if you're still up for the challenge, I have a few suggestions that might make your life and everybody else's a little easier.

First, understand what's been done in the past, if only so that you can explain why it was wrong. Even a transformative theory, like Einstein's, included Newton's results within it. Even scientific revolutions don't start from scratch.

Second, don't wallow in outdated and imprecise terminology ("primary source," "preponderance of the evidence") without first acknowledging its issues and explaining how and why it helps.

Third, practice first, preach later. Lay off the endless theorizing and pontificating (at least in public). SHOW US how your new approach is different and better by applying it to a specific family or problem, writing up the results, and publishing them -- in one way or another -- for others to analyze and evaluate. (Actually, the odds that you have something to contribute to the field are pretty good. But in my experience the collective process of figuring out what that something is will go better if we can start with something specific.)

And don't quit your day job.

Harold Henderson, "So You Want to Re-Invent Genealogy? Here's How," Midwestern Microhistory: A Genealogy Blog, posted 13 January 2013 ( : accessed [access date]). [Please feel free to link to the specific post if you prefer.]

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Genealogy Education on the Cheap

Sometimes you have to spend money to save money -- that would be the case if you're perplexed about how to learn more about genealogy and are not already a member of the Association of Professional Genealogists. The new (December) issue of the APG Quarterly -- a member benefit, not available in stores -- includes my article enumerating more than a dozen ways to learn without spending too much. (I do serve on the board, but do not receive a commission on new memberships.)

I can mention two ongoing good places to look. One is Angela McGhie's blog, Adventures in Genealogical Education. The other -- which I somehow neglected to mention in the APGQ article -- is's free "Expert Series" with short articles with all kinds of advice and information. My latest contribution over there is on "Resolving the Paradox of Research Planning."

Harold Henderson, "Genealogy Education on the Cheap," Midwestern Microhistory: A Genealogy Blog, posted 10 January 2013 ( : accessed [access date]). [Please feel free to link to the specific post if you prefer.]

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Tidbits from the History Table

Book reviews lead to expenditures, of time or money or both. In this case I found potential goodies dealing with the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

The current American Historical Review has an interesting review of Cathleen D. Cahill's Federal Fathers and Mothers: A Social History of the United States Indian Service, 1869-1933. Several levels of interest here. One has to do with unintended consequences: "Federal lawmakers assumed after the Civil War that the Indian Service would eventually work itself out of existence as native assimilation occurred." The other has to do with bureaucracy in general, and has relevance to almost any genealogy work: "It is this lower level of bureaucracy that literally determines what the actual policy of the government will be and rarely does it coincide with what the policy initiators envisioned."

Over at the blog US Intellectual History, Tim Lacy posted some reflections on Jackson Lears's Rebirth of a Nation: The Making of Modern America, 1877-1920. Short version: "The book is worth at least half of a graduate education in the fields of social, cultural, and intellectual history.  . . . should be on the shelf of every single historian who proclaims to study or teach post-Civil War history." (So far I'm wishing that Lears could have been a little less judgmental, but not sure how that would have worked.)

Meanwhile, William Cronon's outgoing address as president of the American Historical Association called attention to the facts that new students have no experience of off-line research, do little reading for pleasure and less of full-length books. His conclusion for historians: remember to tell stories, and the past is the greatest story of all: "Our core business is RESURRECTION: to make the dead past live again. ... Other professionals can afford to be boring. We cannot."

David E. Wilkins, review of Federal Fathers and Mothers, American Historical Review, vol. 117, no. 5 (December 2012):1598-99.

Cathleen D. Cahill, Federal Fathers and Mothers: A Social History of the United States Indian Service, 1869-1933 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2011).

Tim Lacy, "Rebirth of a Nation: Reflections, Ruminations, and Reactions," US Intellectual History, 27 December 2012, : accessed 31 December 2012.

Jackson Lears, Rebirth of a Nation: The Making of Modern America, 1877-1920 (New York: HarperCollins, 2009). 

David Austin Walsh, "Highlights from the 2013 Annual Meeting of the American Historical Association: Dispatches, Day 2," History News Network ( : accessed 4 January 2012).

Harold Henderson, "Tidbits from the History Table," Midwestern Microhistory: A Genealogy Blog, posted 9 January 2013 ( : accessed [access date]). [Please feel free to link to the specific post if you prefer.]

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

The Language for NGSQ!

According to Joshua Foer, writing in The New Yorker,

Among the Wakashan Indians of the Pacific Northwest, a grammatically correct sentence can't be formed without providing what linguists refer to as "evidentiality," inflecting the verb to indicate whether you are speaking from direct experience, inference, conjecture, or hearsay.
Sounds like a language made for genealogists . . .

Joshua Foer, "Utopian for Beginners," The New Yorker, 24 December 2012, pp. 86-97 (quote p. 89).

Harold Henderson, "The Language for NGSQ!," Midwestern Microhistory: A Genealogy Blog, posted 8 January 2013 ( : accessed [access date]). [Please feel free to link to the specific post if you prefer.]

Monday, January 7, 2013

What's Old in Indiana This Month?

Some new and not-so-new things I've learned about Indiana lately:

Eva Mendieta writes about Mexican-American mutual aid societies in Indiana Harbor (now part of East Chicago). Their records are not always well preserved -- the records of the Benito Juarez Society, founded in 1924, were retrieved from the basement of a bar and are now in the Latino Collection of the Calumet Regional Archives at Indiana University Northwest -- and the stories they tell are not always happy. When many Mexicans were forced out of the area during the Depression, the societies fell on hard times.

Ron Darrah describes the history and records of the Citizens' Military Training Camp Program that took place between the World Wars.

The Indiana Historical Society has added a digital collection of photos from Whitley County a century ago -- the Oliver Frank Kelly Glass Plate Collection -- including some shop interiors. Also new are several collections of Civil War letters (in addition to the 500 or so it already holds), from Lawrence N. Cox (21st Indiana), Francis M. Kalley (14th), Franklin J. Moore (43rd), John E. Moore (115th), and Tillman Moore (31st) -- as well as papers of Zenas Harrison Bliss, who first seved in the 9th Vermont Infantry and then captained Company K of the 28th United States Colored Troops, an Indiana regiment that served in Texas 1864-1865.

Not exactly news, but still true: the Indiana Genealogical Society will hold its annual conference Saturday, April 27, in Bloomington, with feature speaker Joshua Taylor and auxiliary speakers Lou Malcomb, Curt Witcher, and yours truly on "Probate Will Not Be the Death of You" and "Land and Property: The Records No Genealogist Can Do Without."

Eva Mendieta, "Celebrating Mexican Culturre and Lending a Helping Hand: Indiana Harbor's Sociedad Mutualista Benito Juarez, 1924-1957," Indiana Magazine of History, vol. 108, no.4 (December 2012):311-44. 

Ron Darrah, "Did Grandpa March in the CMTC?," Indiana Genealogist, vol. 23, no. 4 (December 2012):32-34, : accessed 29 December 2012.

Harold Henderson, "What's Old in Indiana This Month?," Midwestern Microhistory: A Genealogy Blog, posted 7 January 2013 ( : accessed [access date]). [Please feel free to link to the specific post if you prefer.]

Saturday, January 5, 2013

More Online Ohio Deaths!

Collected in Joe Beine's Genealogy Roots Blog for the counties of Belmont, Columbiana, Geauga, Henry, Lorain, Stark, Summit, and Trumbull.

Most Viewed MWM Posts November 2012

Once again it's time for the monthly popularity contest, listing the most-viewed blog posts made here during November.

I'm happy to see that #1 ran well ahead of the pack: "Cut-and-paste genealogists are free to spread unsubstantiated, dubious, false, or absurd information -- and will remain free to do so. We can build however we want. But what we can't do is build poorly, glory in it, and expect respect from those who know better."

1. Misteaks (November 24)

2. A Day in the Life: Probate (November 29)

3. Sowing Primary and Secondary Confusion (November 14)

4. We'll Always Need Advanced Genealogy Education (November 2)

5. Lost Causes in NGS Magazine (November 6)

Least viewed:

Disasters Are Part of Genealogy, Too (November 1)

Harold Henderson, "Most Viewed MWM Posts November 2012," Midwestern Microhistory: A Genealogy Blog, posted 5 January 2013 ( : accessed [access date]). [Please feel free to link to the specific post if you prefer.]

Friday, January 4, 2013

Some Good Words for Ancestry in General and Ancestry Trees in Particular

Eight years ago I was searching, as hard as I knew how, for one of my granddaughter's great-great grandfathers. From his approximate birthdate in the 1920 census, I knew he should be in the WWI draft registrations . . . but I didn't know where. At that time I used a genealogy database, and with unusual faithfulness at the time I entered the following:

. . . did not register for the WWI draft in Atlanta, Georgia; Tuscaloosa, Alabama; or Mayes, Carter, Cherokee, Muskogee, Tulsa, or Wagoner counties, Oklahoma (including the cities of Tulsa and Muskogee).
I conducted this search in August 2004 at the Allen County Public Library Genealogy Center, using (if memory serves) the best available interface: a card catalog file of registrants organized geographically by draft board. It took a while. (Now I wish I had a picture of it!)

Recently I picked up this thread and quickly found him in Ancestry's on-line index -- he was in a different Oklahoma county, with a fairly informative draft card as these things go.

In addition, I was alerted to some information on a public user tree on Ancestry. Not only had the tree owner found information we didn't have, s/he had post images of the sources they used as well. These were derivative sources but they were a good start, especially given that they named said great-great grandfather's father!

Many of us complain regularly about both Ancestry the megabusiness and the often dubious contributors to public family trees. But we should also keep those complaints in perspective: compared to what alternative?

Harold Henderson, "Some Good Words for Ancestry in General and Ancestry Trees in Particular," Midwestern Microhistory: A Genealogy Blog, posted 4 January 2013 ( : accessed [access date]). [Please feel free to link to the specific post if you prefer.]

Thursday, January 3, 2013

2013 Updated List of Paid Writing Opportunities

Read the publication first, then inquire or submit something appropriate. Expect to be edited. This list will be updated as needed, in hopes that it will outgrow the size of a blog post!
** indicates editor is certified by BCG or accredited by ICAPGen.


Association of Professional Genealogists Quarterly


** "Expert Series"

Crossroads, published by Utah Genealogical Association


The Hoosier Genealogist: Connections, published by Indiana Historical Society

Indiana Genealogist (one prize per year), published by Indiana Genealogical Society


Pegasus, published by Dallas Genealogical Society beginning Spring 2013


Internet Genealogy

Harold Henderson, "2013 Updated List of Paid Writing Opportunities," Midwestern Microhistory: A Genealogy Blog, posted 3 January 2013 ( : accessed [access date]). [Please feel free to link to the specific post if you prefer.]

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

More Indiana Deaths!

Joe Beine is at it again! Special alert for the Indiana counties of Adams, Fayette, Franklin, Hancock, Knox, and Kosciusko!

The "True Source"

There are a few activities where it's socially acceptable to think hard in American society -- playoff contingencies, chess, and genealogy among them. Genealogy can be a window on what I like to call "folk epistemology" AKA how we think most of the time.

Elizabeth Shown Mills includes a list of "problematic concepts" in the indispensable first chapter of Evidence Explained, including "definitive sources, "direct sources," "final conclusions." In his blog Planting the Seeds Michael Hait recently provided us with an amusing tour of several classic fallacies and how they appear in genealogy.

On LinkedIn there has been a usually cordial discussion that never quite dies called "The only TRUE source . . . ", under "Genealogical and Historical Research." In addition to the usual confusions created by the obsolete and imprecise terms "primary and secondary sources," many commenters there seem irresistibly drawn to the notion of a "true source." The term is not defined but it's probably close to ESM's "definitive source." My guess is that -- no matter how often someone tells us the obvious, that any source can be mistaken -- we really really want there to be a source somewhere, like a will or an original marriage record or an official anything, that would supposedly allow us to lay down our burden of proof and stagger off the field.

IMO that runs deeper than actually making a fallacious argument. It's more like an assumption embedded in language itself -- and equally hard to uproot. Happy New Year anyway!

Harold Henderson, "The 'True Source'," Midwestern Microhistory: A Genealogy Blog, posted 2 January 2013 ( : accessed [access date]). [Please feel free to link to the specific post if you prefer.]

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

"Who Freed the Slaves?"

A nice New Year's Day pick-me-up from historian Aaron Astor of Maryville College in east Tennessee. He asks his students, "Who freed the slaves?"

Aaron Astor, "Teaching Emancipation," The Historical Society, posted 1 January 2013 ( : accessed 1 January 2013).