Sunday, March 31, 2013

Finding Ancestors in Fort Wayne: The Genealogist's Unofficial One-Stop Guide to the Allen County Public Library Genealogy Center

I once read an article about a woman who moved to Fort Wayne in order to work on her genealogy. I know just how she felt.

When I first went to the Allen County Public Library there, my concept of genealogy consisted of photocopying lots of derivative sources and downloading what little there was on the internet. In those days the stacks were closed and you had to request items on paper slips. Now the Genealogy Center is bigger and better, with open stacks, and I'm older and less ill-informed, in part thanks to the patience of its staff.

Over the years it gradually dawned on me that this is not a normal library. It's big, it contains many unexpected resources on and off line, and to get the most out of a trip there I sometimes need to plan how to make my plan.

Which of the six catalog entry points should you start with? Books? Periodicals? Microtext? Microfilmed newspapers? Digitized Fort Wayne newspapers? The Center's own databases, including three specialized research portals?

How do you get at the mammoth collection of city directories? Or the world's best collection of genealogy periodicals? Which of its holdings may now be available on line? (And where?) No wonder some of my knowledgeable friends had trouble navigating it.

Over the years the center has produced brochures, pathfinders, and an introductory video -- and maintained generous hours and an unparalleled staff of helpful genealogists who are also librarians (or is it the other way around?). This is all good, but nothing quite gives the whole picture.

So I've tried my hand at an unofficial independent guidebook to what I think is the best all-purpose genealogy destination between Salt Lake City and the east coast. This booklet does NOT describe all the center's holdings (I'm not that crazy). It does explain how you can more efficiently find what you need -- even if you never actually manage to show up!

It comes in four parts:
  • Introduction (p. 2), 
  • Before You Go (p. 4), 
  • When You Arrive (p. 11), and 
  • Wait! There's More! (p. 25), with two appendixes that link to a 13-part blog history of the center and include some numbers showing just how far it reaches beyond its Indiana and Ohio homeland.
It's a free 26-page PDF download with live links for on-line use.

I hope it will help as you make plans -- either to attend the Federation of Genealogical Societies 2013 conference there in August, or to visit another time, or to make better use of the library's resources remotely. Let me know of corrections or potentially useful additions.

Harold Henderson, Finding Ancestors in Fort Wayne: The Genealogist's Unofficial One-Stop Guide to the Allen County Public Library Genealogy Center (La Porte, IN: author, April 2013;

Saturday, March 30, 2013

More Indiana repositories en route to FGS 2013

[Cross-posted from the FGS 2013 blog with one typo corrected.]

Unless you fly in, you will travel through Indiana on your way to or from the 2013 FGS conference in Fort Wayne. Indiana is the only state I know of with two high-quality general genealogy magazines, and, as this suggests, the state is also full of local societies and libraries with valuable holdings. Here's a sampling, and we could run several lists like this without running out.

Willard Library
21 First Avenue, Evansville
Tri-state resources for Indiana, Illinois, and Kentucky, plus an alleged ghost . . .

Friends Collection and Earlham College Archives
Extensive manuscript collections and genealogies for Quaker families and meetings. or investigate the Willard Heiss Collection list on line.
This is one of several colleges and universities with relevant genealogy material.

Porter County Public Library
This might be the best genealogy library in northern Indiana if Fort Wayne weren't there too! Good periodical selection.
103 Jefferson Street, Valparaiso

Marshall County Historical Society
123 North Michigan, Plymouth
A half-block of downtown stores repurposed as a history museum and research center, with
indexes, original records, and knowledgeable helpers. and see also

Alameda McCullough Research Library
1001 South Street, Lafayette
In the Frank Arganbright Genealogy Center. An extensive collection focused on Tippecanoe County.
Admission fee. Check site for hours.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Was Your Ancestor Entered in a Better Baby Contest?

The Ultimate History Project has a brief interesting article on the mixed heritage and results of Better Baby Contests that were all the rage just about a century ago. Babies were weighed and scored on a number of supposedly scientific criteria; often there was an anti-immigrant or anti-black subtext to the movement at a time when eugenics had not yet become a dirty word.

But genealogists devour everything. These contests are another potential source of information, as contestants and winners were sometimes pictured and identified in local newspapers. The above article about a Missouri contest appeared in the Quincy (Illinois) Daily Journal in 1915 -- thanks to the Quincy Public Library's awesome newspaper archive. I have seen BBCs with pictures spread across an entire page of a small-town newspaper.

Rachel Louise Moran, "Making Perfect Children," The Ultimate History Project ( : accessed 25 March 2013).

"Additional Awards in Palmyra Round-Up," Quincy Daily Journal, (Quincy, Illinois), Thursday 23 December 1915, p. 8; digital image, Quincy Public Library Newspaper Archive ( : accessed 26 March 2013).

Harold Henderson, "Was Your Ancestor Entered in a Better Baby Contest?," Midwestern Microhistory: A Genealogy Blog, posted 28 March 2013 ( : accessed [access date]). [Please feel free to link to the specific post if you prefer.]

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

New Angles on Southern Indiana

Good things in the current issue of the Indiana Magazine of History take a microhistorical view and use Civil War claims records some of us have never heard of.

Edith Sarra takes a crack at telling three interrelated stories about Patoka Bottoms where Pike and Gibson counties come together -- the massive shantytowns for workers building the short-lived southern extension of the Wabash & Erie Canal, the possible Underground Railroad activities there, and the attempts to drain the bottoms in the early 20th century. One of her points is that standard-gauge historic preservation laws don't have much room for history that is not embodied in surviving buildings.

Stephen Rockenbach chronicles the July 1863 Civil War raid by Confederate John Hunt Morgan on the town of Corydon -- and how the townspeople were later victimized by their own state and federal governments, which never paid a dime in damages to the community.

Several reviews take up recent books about William Henry Harrison, whose role as a pro-slavery Indiana territorial governor was more significant than his one-month presidency in 1841.

Edith Sarra, "Troubled Crossings: Local History and the Built Environment in the Patoka Bottoms," Indiana Magazine of History 109, no. 1 (March 2013): 2-44.

Stephen Rockenbach, "'This Just Hope of Ultimate Payment': The Indiana Morgan's Raid Claims Commission and Harrison County, Indiana, 1863-1887," Indiana Magazine of History 109, no. 1 (March 2013): 45-60.

Harold Henderson, "New Angles on Southern Indiana," Midwestern Microhistory: A Genealogy Blog, posted 26 March 2013 ( : accessed [access date]). [Please feel free to link to the specific post if you prefer.]

Sunday, March 24, 2013

History, History Everywhere

The context folder overflows:

* "Micro-history at its best" is reviewer Christina Lubinski's take on Entrepreneurial Families: Business, Marriage and Life in the Early Nineteenth Century. Author Andrew Popp drew on some 200 John Shaw family letters for an up-close-and-personal account of English international hardware wholesaler of the early 1800s.

* "What has changed [in the last 200 years] and what hasn't?" asks historian/blogger Dan Allosso over at The Historical Society as he wraps up his book, An Infidel Body-Snatcher and the Fruits of His Philosophy. Part of his answer is the same as my mom (and I) would have given: "Day to day life is so much easier now, that it’s hard for readers to appreciate the sheer work that went into staying alive from year to year in the early 19th century." When Civil War pension papers discuss whether a veteran could do "a full day's work," they're talking about an amount of physical labor that few if any of us could perform.

* In the New York Review of Books, Fred Anderson reviews Bernard Bailyn's The Barbarous Years, an unsparing portrait of the first 75 years of European settlement of eastern North America:

Here the years from 1600 to 1675 appear as an American nightmare of savagery, suffering, and squalor. European colonists, seeking to establish order, created "confusion, failure, violence, and the loss of civility as they sought to normalize abnormal situations and to recapture lost worlds, in the process tearing apart the normalities of the people whose world they had invaded."
Whatever the issues with this viewpoint, it's at the very least a necessary corrective to the conventional pieties of old-style genealogy. (My 8-great grandfather got his land in colonial Connecticut by participating in the 1637 expedition that burned to death hundreds of Pequot women and children in their village.) I'm ordering this one now.

Andrew Popp, Entrepreneurial Families: Business, Marriage and Life in the Early Nineteenth Century (London: Pickering and Chatto, 2012).

 Bernard Bailyn, The Barbarous Years: The Peopling of British North America: The Conflict of Civilizations, 1600-1675 (New York: Knopf, 2013).

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

Friday, March 22, 2013

Michigan -- another reason to attend FGS 2013 in Fort Wayne

[Reposted from the FGS 2013 conference blog.]

Is Michigan on your way to or from the 2013 FGS conference in Fort Wayne? Well, if it's not, you may need to consider making a cooling northward detour. Your trip begins . . . at these libraries and archives.

Van Buren District Library
200 North Phelps, Decatur
A lot of library in a small package.

Western Michigan University Archives and Regional History Collections
East Hall #111, Kalamazoo
Library AND archives for southwestern counties.

Archives of Michigan
702 West Kalamazoo, Lansing,1607,7-153-54463_19313---,00.html
Their circulars alone are worth a virtual trip:,4570,7-153-54463_54475_20992---,00.html

Library of Michigan
702 West Kalamazoo, Lansing,2351,7-160-18635---,00.html
Multiple resources for your Michigan research even if you don't get beyond their web page.

Burton Historical Collection, Detroit Public Library
5201 Woodward, Detroit
Over 4,000 manuscript collections, plus maps and photographs extending outward from Detroit and
deep into its multicultural past.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Genealogy education news flash...

Anyone who reads or even just tolerates this blog should check out Angela McGhie's latest posts, "Unexpected Lessons from Tom Jones" over at Adventures in Genealogy Education. based on some exchanges at the APG's Professional Management Conference on Tuesday. That is all.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Winning by Understanding

In a forthcoming book, Scott F. Aikin and Robert B. Talisse propose a new and better idea about what "winning an argument" should mean:

In order to argue well, one must be in a good position to know or have compelling reasons to believe one’s conclusion true.  But one also must know something about those with whom one disagrees.  One needs to know something about their reasons, and why they might (reasonably, perhaps) reject what may seem so clearly true.  Winning at argument, then, isn’t what many people think it is.  To win at argument is not to silence one’s opposition or prove them silly or foolish.  Such ends are served better by rhetoric than by reason.  Winning at argument rather requires something on the order of coming to see, and perhaps even in some ways appreciate, the rationale of one’s opponents.
Read the whole post.

Scott F. Aikin and Robert B. Talisse, "Winning At Argument," 3 Quarks Daily, posted 4 March 2013 ( : accessed 4 March 2013).

Harold Henderson, "Winning by Understanding," Midwestern Microhistory: A Genealogy Blog, posted 15 March 2013 ( : accessed [access date]). [Please feel free to link to the specific post if you prefer.]

Monday, March 18, 2013

New in the Archives and What You Can Do

The Indiana Historical Society processed 278 new collections in October and November, and mentioned 31 of them in the March/April issue of InPerspective. Here are half a dozen that caught my eye. For more information check out the online catalog.

  • Civil War letters from James C. Stuart of Dearborn County, Erastus L. Pollett, and Samuel Sawyer.
  • Scrapbooks, photos, and patient interviews from Billings General Hospital, Fort Benjamin Harrison (1941-1946), an orthopedic center for wounded soldiers.
  • A 1916 "tour book" for Indiana, Ohio, Michigan, Illinois, and Wisconsin.
  • 1968-1972 "hemodialysis scrapbooks" from Wallace S. Sims/Methodist Hospital.
Few of us have the time, proximity, or skill set to be involved with IHS acquisitions, but we can all help index the growing on-line collections at Here are their indexing updates for the Midwest, with percentage arbitrated as of 9 March 2013:

Illinois, Chicago—Catholic Church Records, 1833–1910 [Part A], 20.00%

Indiana, Jefferson County Marriages, 1811-1959 [Part B], 28.87%
Indiana, Vermillion County Marriages, 1811–1959, 43.26%
Indiana, Vigo County Marriages,1811–1959, 3.73%
Indiana, Warrick County Marriages, 1811–1959, 46.26%
Indiana, Whitley County Marriages, 1811–1959, 21.72%

Ohio—County Births, 1856–1956 [Part C], 64.98%

Volunteer here.

Harold Henderson, "New in the Archives and What You Can Do," Midwestern Microhistory: A Genealogy Blog, posted 18  March 2013 ( : accessed [access date]). [Please feel free to link to the specific post if you prefer.]

Friday, March 15, 2013

Missing in Action But Present in His Descendants: William B. Parks (1814-1862) of Waushara County, Wisconsin

Newly published in the Wisconsin State Genealogical Society Newsletter is my article documenting the children and grandchildren of William B. Parks (~1814-1862). Parks was born in New York state, a grandson of Revolutionary War veteran William Berry and Ruth (____) Berry, son of Isaac Parks and Elizabeth (Berry) Parks, husband of Mary (Mead) Parks, father of seven children, and grandfather of 30 grandchildren born between 1867 and 1895.

I foolishly expected that this article would be a quick brief followup to my article on grandfather William Berry, but it was not to be. Even though William B. Parks and his second wife Mary both died relatively young, their children were survivors, and prolific ones at that. Chasing them all down required two trips to Wisconsin. In itself that's never a problem -- it's a great state to research in, and you should so instruct your ancestors.

And then it turned out that there was a Civil War pension file, and that three of William B.'s sons-in-law had pension files as well. Best of all from a genealogical point of view, there was a dispute over whether one son-in-law had officially divorced his first wife, creating lots of trouble for his widow but also creating fascinating affidavits reflecting the way people talked and did things in post-Civil-War rural Wisconsin.

These documents also turned up three not yet fully plumbed mysteries, all involving relatives not lineally descended from William B. -- a potential stepdaughter, a stepgrandchild with an unknown father, and a much-married daughter-in-law who was also part of the larger clan who made the move from western New York to central Wisconsin. Throughout the generations, these folks were more or less "fellow travelers" of the Seventh Day Baptists, so I am way overdue to pay another visit to that denomination's historical society research room in Janesville. It is truly said that research is never done.

Readers of the reference notes will observe that I did my best to follow the advice of Tom Jones to get your people's surnames in the titles of your articles, so that they will be indexed in the Allen County Public Library Genealogy Center's Periodical Source Index. William Berry was my wife's 5G grandfather, and William B. Parks was the first cousin of her 3G grandmother Jerusha (Berry) (Humphrey) Coleman.

The Wisconsin quarterly newsletter is on line but is a member benefit. If you have the right sort of ancestors, I think you'll find it well worth while to join the Wisconsin state society. The current issue also has an article I'm looking forward to reading on the much-neglected agriculture schedules of the US census.

Harold Henderson, "Missing in Action but Present in His Descendants: Civil War Soldier William B. Parks of Waushara County, Wisconsin, and Allied Families Berry, Mead, Bliven, Monroe, Gethers, Haskins, Pells, Dubois, and Morgan," Wisconsin State Genealogical Society Newsletter vol. 59, no. 2 (April 2013):31-44.

Harold Henderson, “William Berry (1753-1839) and His Children and Grandchildren in Massachusetts and New York,” parts 1 and 2, 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, "Missing in Action But Present in His Descendants...," Midwestern Microhistory: A Genealogy Blog, posted 15 March 2013 ( : accessed [access date]). [Please feel free to link to the specific post if you prefer.]

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Learning from the January NYGBR

How do you prove that your great-great-great grandparents were NOT married? How do you deal with a great stroke of genealogical luck? We don't always have to figure these things out for ourselves.

Two articles in the January 2013 New York Genealogical and Biographical Record show how top genealogists dealt with these questions. In both cases they involve nineteenth-century immigrants to New York City and nearby. These folks are not ancestors for most of us, but the research problems presented can happen anywhere.

Melissa A. Johnson correlated indirect evidence with a goodly number of negative search results to reach the conclusion that one of her ancestral couples, surnames Morgan and Geldart, did not marry.

And Donn Devine, CG, who by good fortune received some nifty evidence on the German origins of George Falk (1823-1900), considered whether the Genealogical Proof Standard required an additional search in this particular case.

For those of us who can't attend national conferences or institutes, publications like NYGBR are a relatively inexpensive form of education.

Harold Henderson, "Learning from the January NYGBR" Midwestern Microhistory: A Genealogy Blog, posted 13 March 2013 ( : accessed [access date]). [Please feel free to link to the specific post if you prefer.]

Monday, March 11, 2013

Speaking Alert

Tomorrow night I'll be talking (briefly) at the La Porte County Genealogical Society on how to find your way around the Allen County Public Library Genealogy Center. Start by looking at all six catalogs and finding aids . . .

I posted about other speaking engagements in 2013 here.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Most Viewed MWM Posts January 2013

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

And once again the top finisher ran well ahead of the pack, my unsolicited advice to would-be revolutionizers of genealogy: "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."

1. So You Want to Re-Invent Genealogy? Here's How (January 11)

2. A Sad Day for Chicago Researchers (January 28)

3. More on the Toughest Genealogy Course (January 19)

4.  Some Good Words for Ancestry in General and Ancestry Trees in Particular (January 4)

5.  2013 Updated List of Paid Writing Opportunities (January 3)

Least viewed:

Illinois Probates, Indianapolis Courts, and the Hoosier Genealogist (January 30)

Harold Henderson, "Most Viewed MWM Posts January 2013," Midwestern Microhistory: A Genealogy Blog, posted 8 March 2013 ( : accessed [access date]). [Please feel free to link to the specific post if you prefer.]

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Is the Idea of Libraries in Danger?

 A bestselling English author named Terry Deary recently came out against the idea of libraries in The Guardian newspaper.

"I'm not attacking libraries, I'm attacking the concept behind libraries, which is no longer relevant," Deary told the Guardian, pointing out that the original Public Libraries Act, which gave rise to the first free public libraries in the UK, was passed in 1850. "Because it's been 150 years, we've got this idea that we've got an entitlement to read books for free, at the expense of authors, publishers and council tax payers."
The article itself attracted well over 300 comments, as well as a discussion on the LinkedIn group "Genealogical and Historical Research."

Deary is an extreme case; most authors and municipalities still have a broader notion of the public good. But we should recognize that his attitude is on the rise. In more and more cases, there's a tendency to say that everything should be paid for, that there should be no free public goods available to all and supported by our taxes. (The ongoing attempt to improve public schools by privatizing them can be seen as another aspect.) The recent removal of Cook County, Illinois, record images from FamilySearch appears to have grown out of this mindset. Images of the records are still available for $15 apiece from the county clerk. Note that this is not a case of a clerk charging for copies but allowing anyone to view the records themselves; the records themselves are apparently now a commodity.

Genealogy will be rather different if the idea that everything is for sale comes to prevail. Public libraries and archives, supported by taxes, embody the philosophy that everyone is entitled, up to a point, to learn stuff on their own for free. Mr. Deary's philosophy implies that everyone is entitled only to whatever he or she can pay for.

Alison Flood, "Libraries 'Have Had Their Day,' says Horrible Histories Author," The Guardian, 13 February 2013 ( : accessed 28 February 2013).

Harold Henderson, "Is the Idea of Libraries in Danger?," Midwestern Microhistory: A Genealogy Blog, posted 6  March 2013 ( : accessed [access date]). [Please feel free to link to the specific post if you prefer.]

Monday, March 4, 2013

Making the Best of a Bad Day in the Courthouse

Six thoughts. Others will have other approaches or additional suggestions.

1. Not everyone will be happy to see you, regardless of your demeanor. Prepare to be surprised.

2. In all ways possible, fit into the office routine as you understand it. Many public employees are overworked and under-appreciated; those who deal with the public often must confront amazing ignorance, unwarranted indignation, or both. One way of coping is to stay in their rut. If they can help you without leaving the rut, everyone will be happier.

3. Learn as much as you can beforehand about the history and the records and your rights. Know the difference between what you need and what you want.

4. Let none of that knowledge show. Ask questions instead.

5. If the person in charge is uncertain, read the situation as putting you both on the same side: "How can we find out?"

6. If the person in charge makes a clearly false statement, leave it alone unless it is crucial. If it is crucial, ask the next question in the least assertive way, for instance, "I thought your web site said . . . -- did I read it wrong?" Or any other opportune stratagem that may lead to a boss person who actually cares, or know the facts, or both.

7. Let there be pauses. It can take time to figure things out. Sometimes clerks can produce the desired record shortly after denying its existence.

8. If possible without making the situation worse, introduce yourself, leave a card, and say you'll be back.

9. If it becomes necessary to formally assert your rights, do so as nicely as possible, and preferably to someone in some position of authority, which is rarely the first person you meet on the first day.

Harold Henderson, "Making the Best of a Bad Day in the Courthouse," Midwestern Microhistory: A Genealogy Blog, posted 4 March 2013 ( : accessed [access date]). [Please feel free to link to the specific post if you prefer.]

Friday, March 1, 2013

Fun Things Picked Up Along the Way

Too short to be separate posts, too good to forget:

  • Michigan State University has 42 Civil War collections on line, including letters, regimental records, sheet music, and more. In an illustration of the endless perversity of archiving, some records of Company A of the 4th Ohio are here. (Some "collections" consist of as little as one letter.) Surnames: Austin, Baker, Bostock, Carpenter, Cole, Davis, Eaegle, Farr, Fields, Foote, Goodale, Hardenburgh, Havens, Henson, Hoffman, Jewell, Kennedy, Kirk, Lickley, Lucas, McGowan, McLain, Miller, Nelson, Noble, Outwater, Parkhurst, Parsons, Peck, Pinckney, Porter, Shaw, Stoddard, Thompson, Tooker, Waldron, and Whitman. So the Big 10 is good at something besides basketball.
  •  Three economists claim to have discovered "the first evidence that distinctively racialized names existed long before the Civil Rights Era," using death certificates and census records from Alabama, Illinois, and North Carolina.  

Harold Henderson, "Fun Things Picked Up Along the Way," Midwestern Microhistory: A Genealogy Blog, posted 4 March 2013 ( : accessed [access date]). [Please feel free to link to the specific post if you prefer.]