Monday, June 30, 2008

Maxwell Street in Chicago

The rough-edged hustlers' heaven on Chicago's Near West Side is no more, thanks to the current Mayor Daley and the University of Illinois at Chicago. A new "Multi Pac" offers a visual and auditory dimension to remembrance that even classics like Ira Berkow's Survival in a Bazaar can't provide. It's a combination booklet, CD, and DVD, featuring and using the title of the classic 1964 Mike Shea documentary "And This Is Free." Footage as old as the 1940s is included, as well as the obligatory "making of..." interview. The CD has 17 tracks.

For getting the feel of a historic place that no longer exists in anything like its original form, this offers unparallelled access. If you have Jewish or African-American research targets with ties to this area, there may be genealogical potential in the narrow sense. Actually, the films (Shea's is only one) have enough random street scenes you might even see an ancestor briefly in the frame. Berkow himself puts it all in context in his introduction to the booklet.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

The Polish Midwest

Sometimes hearing how people found stuff out is as interesting as the stuff they found out. At least when Julia M., graduate student and linguist, goes to Poland in search of the family truth instead of the legend and tells all in her Summer 2008 travel blog:

I grew up believing a legend about my Polish ancestors. The story was that my great grandparents (parents of my maternal grandmother) were both Polish orphans who met on the boat coming over to America. Only a bit of this is true. My uncle (well, my mom’s cousin) Craig La Clair’s research tells quite a different story . . .
She warns that the rest will be boring if you're not related, but when people say that (showing that they're self-aware) it's usually not true. Real bores don't know they are. I don't do any Polish research but I was fascinated by the process of even just finding the town from which her ancestors emigrated.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Hoosier Genealogist Spring/Summer

Contents of the Indiana Historical Society's consistently well-edited semi-yearly -- it's almost like getting a small book in the mail!:

"What Is History? Pulling Sources Together to Tell Meaningful Family Stories," by M. Teresa Baer

"Minister, Educator, and Historian: The Life of the Reverend Henry Bascom Hibben, 1826-1890," by George C. Hibben. A Methodist of the generation after the legendary circuit riders who became a Navy chaplain: "His sermons were prepared with great care, and were masterpieces of eloquence and power."

"Federal Court Records: Researching Hoosier Family History at the National Archives-Great Lakes Region, Chicago, 1817-1859," by Martin Tuohy, who has the gift of making you want to drop everything and head for his repository. "Tenant farmers...are often written out of history by genealogists who rely upon records about land ownership but overlook records about land occupation and use," such as federal ejectment suits.

"'Still with the Hoosiers': The Reminiscences of Solomon Ashley Dwinnell, St. Joseph County, 1835-1836," by Rachel M. Popma -- a Congregationalist who didn't fit in so well and ended up in Wisconsin.

"Legal Documents: Abstracts of the Hamilton County Legal Documents in the Barnes Manuscripts Collection, 1839, 1865-1871," transcribed by Wendy L. Adams and Rachel M. Popma

"State Centennial Celebration: Perry County Commemorates the Indiana State Centennial, 1916," by Bethany Natali

"Just a Country Girl: Stories from an Early Twentieth Century Hoosier Farm Family, Part 4," by Martha Brennan

"Online Publications: Digitized Images and Every-Name Index for the First Order Book of the U.S. District Court for the District of Indiana, 1817-1833," by Doria Lynch. Woo hoo -- go to, and hit Family History, then Family History Publications, then Online Family History Publications.

"Elliott Family History: A 1908 History of the Elliott and Related Families of Jefferson County, Indiana," by David McClure Elliott, annotated by Ken Hixon

"Using City Directories for Genealogical Research," by Geneil Breeze

Friday, June 27, 2008

See Any Chicago Address

Am I the only person who uses this valuable resource but keeps forgetting its internet location? CityNews Chicago's Property Search has a ton of data on any existing Chicago address, including year built, square footage, fire information, tax information, assessed value, usually a photo -- as well as the all-important political (excuse me, "civic footprint") information: elected representatives, precicnct, ward, police beat, community area, and judicial subcircuit. Some info dates back to 2002.

Of course, if you're trying to track Chicago folks from the 19th century, you'll want to visit the Newberry Library's Chicago Ancestors site, "tools" tab, where in addition to online city directory images from 1866, 1870, 1871, 1875, 1880, 1885, 1892, and 1900, you can use tools from the Chicago History Museum to check whether your target address has had a street name change, and how its numbering was altered in 1909.

Thursday, June 26, 2008


What Rootsweb's WorldConnect has been for data exchange, and WeRelate for wikis -- will there be a social networking site for genealogists? AncestralSpace is brand new and so far the two largest groups there are Illinois and Indiana.

I'm not enough of a connoisseur of this genre of web site to know how it measures up, or whether it will take off, or at least be useful enough to its devotees so they don't care whether it does or not. But I have climbed on for the ride.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

West-Central Illinois histories digitized... Illinois Harvest.

History of McDonough County, Illinois... (Springfield: D.W. Lusk, 1878), by S. J. Clarke. 692 pages.

History of Bardolph, Illinois (N.p.: Epworth League, 1911). 136 pages.

Bushnell, Illinois, Centennial, 1854-1954 (Bushnell: Bushnell Centennial Association, 1954). 128 pages.

Galesburg's Mighty Horse Market: Leroy Marsh Sales Barn 1877-1920 (Galesburg, Illinois: s.n., 1954), by Cornelia Thompson. 43 pages.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Southeastern Wisconsin Archives All In One Place?

Well, no, not really. I try not to make a habit of recommending 13-year-old internet resources, but I like the philosophy behind the Online Guide to Genealogical Collections in the Milwaukee Metropolitan Area, produced by the Library Council of Southeastern Wisconsin, Inc., and hosted by the Archives at the Golda Meir Library, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

For one thing, they define their area broadly, including Milwaukee, Ozaukee, Sheboygan, Washington, and Waukesha Counties. And they made the best of it when it became clear that they couldn't list everything available in all those counties: the guide focuses on official records of churches and governmental bodies, and within those

Many records exist which can be of great use to genealogists, but are rarely examined. The Guide contains entires for many of these kinds of records, especially those of civil and criminal courts, fire and police departments, and personnel records...
Just in places where I have research targets, I found delinquent tax lists 1862-1926 for Sheboygan County and assessments for the Town of Plymouth 1861-1877 (at the Sheboygan County Historical Research Center), Kenosha County tax rolls 1856-1965 and assorted church and cemetery records 1839-1952 (at the University of Wisconsin Parkside), and Milwaukee County school censuses 1913-1960 (at the Milwaukee County Historical Society).

The lists are not consistently alphabetized, i.e. Kenosha church records are under "C" not "K" or any of the denominations. But in any case this is a source of inspiration for when you're stuck, and a metaresource: in all cases be sure to check the web site of the alleged repository for up-to-date holdings information before you grab your laptop and head out!

Monday, June 23, 2008

North Central Illinois histories...

...digitized by Illinois Harvest recently:

History of Grundy County, Illinois (Chicago: O.L. Basken & Co., 1882).

History of La Salle County, Illinois: Its Topography..., by Elmer Baldwin (Chicago: Rand McNally, 1877). 552 pp.

The Past & Present of La Salle County, Illinoi
s (Chicago: H. F. Kett & Co., 1877). 653 pages.

Biographical and Genealogical Record of La Salle County, Illinois, volumes 1 and 2 (Chicago: Lewis Pub. Co., 1900). 798 pages.

La Salle County Centennial, 1831-1931: Directory of Former Ottawa Residents (Ottawa: Ottawa Republican-Times, 1931?). 48 pages.

Peru, Illinois Centennial May 25-26, 1935: Commemorating One Hundred Years of Peru's Existence (Peru: Peru Historical Committee, 1935). 63 pages.

La Salle, Illinois: An Historical Sketch (La Salle: La Salle Centennial Committee, 1952). 66 pages.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Northeastern Illinois county histories...

...digitized by Illinois Harvest recently. These are what we now call the "collar counties" of Chicago:

Portrait and Biographical Album of Will County, Illinois... (Chicago: Chapman Bros., 1890). 771 pages.

Genealogical and Biographical Record of Will County, Illinois... (Chicago: Biographical Publishing Co., 1900). 628 pages.

History of Kendall County, Illinois, from the Earliest Discoveries to the Present Time (Aurora: Knickerbocker & Hodder, 1877), by Edmund Warne Hicks. 438 pages. Any ancestors of former House Speaker Dennis Hastert in here?

History of Kane County, Ill., Volumes 1 and 2, by R. Waite Joslyn (Chicago: The Pioneer Pub. Co., 1908).

History of McHenry County, Ill., Volumes 1 and 2 (Chicago: Munsell Pub. Co., 1922).

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Marion County Indiana Probates

If that title doesn't get your juices flowing, maybe you weren't cut out to be a genealogist! The Indiana Genealogical Society blog reports that the Genealogical Society of Marion County has just republished Jane E. Darlington's 510-page Marion County, Indiana, Probate Records, January 1830-August 1852. Which just goes to show that the blog is faster than the website, because GSMC's publications page still lists it as out of stock.

While you're there, check out GSMC's impressive work on cemeteries.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Van Buren Regional Genealogical Society, Michigan

I just caught the note in the Paw Paw Courier-Leader (can't make these names up) that the Van Buren Regional Genealogical Society's annual pot luck meeting and white elephant auction is Monday night the 23rd at the society's mecca, the Webster Memorial Library in Decatur. Besides its namesake county, VBRGS covers the far-southwest Michigan counties of Allegan, Berrien, Cass, and Kalamazoo.

The society has a nice collection of online resources at the Van Buren County GenWeb site, including obituary and cemetery indexes. Its physical resources are in the Webster Library's Local History Room, and they include deed and other fundamental record indexes for several counties. (Check out their online catalog by title.) The Local History Room is itself worthy of note. It also acts as a borrowing agency for Family History Library films. This is a quality of holdings and services I don't see offered at many public libraries of this size. (Decatur's population is under 2,000.) Time to pay them a visit.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Ohio Genealogy News, Summer

If you're not a member of the largest state genealogy organization in the US, here's what you're missing in their magazine:

"Mahoning County Historical Society Archival Library," by Pamela L. Speis, which actually focuses on Trumbull and Columbiana counties as well. As always, a visit will be rewarded by finding unique local records -- for instance, the James Mackey collection. He was a surveyor in the Youngstown area 1849-1901.

"Synopsis of the Year 2007," by OGS Library Director Thomas Stephen Neel

"A Case of Mistaken Identity," by Martha Hamilton, one of the first-place winners in OGS's writing contest, who distinguishes two John Hamiltons in Gallia County.

"2008 OGS Conference a Success," by Kenny Burck, looking back on the April event in Cincinnati

Among the shorter notes, be advised that the Akron-Summit Public Library has made its 1940-2007 Akron Beacon-Journal obituary index available on line. Of course, if you actually go there you can view an obituary index going back another 99 years!

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Western Illinois books digitized

from Illinois Harvest, with individual links:

I remember you, or, Quincy men who are Quincy doers for the good..., by J. St. Bernard (~1912).

Portrait and biographical record of Adams County, Illinois... (Chicago: Chapman Brothers, 1892)

Quincy and Adams County, history and representative men, in 2 volumes continuously paginated (Chicago and New York: Lewis Publishing Co., 1919)

and, moving south down between the Mississippi and the Illinois rivers:

Portrait and biographical album of Pike and Calhoun counties, Illinois... (Chicago: Biographical Publishing Company, 1891)

History of Pike County, Illinois... (Chicago: Chas. C. Chapman & Co., 1880)

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Midwestern Roots in Indianapolis in August

One of Indiana's two genealogy associations, the Indiana Historical Society, will put on Midwestern Roots 2008 on the east side of Indianapolis Friday and Saturday August 15-16, with a full slate of pre-conference activities on Thursday the 14. Speakers of national renown will include Christine Rose ("Using Little-Known and Neglected Sources" and more), Megan Smolenyak Smolenyak ("Cases That Make My Brain Hurt" and more). Also I hope to hear Betty Warren on Indiana marriage laws 1791-1891, Alan January on state hospital records, and Curt Witcher on directories. Pre-conference workshops will include internet research, history lab, library resources, and preparing your family history for publication -- or you can revel in the resources of the Indiana State Archives, the genealogy division of the Indiana State Library, and the IHS's own William Henry Smith Memorial Library. This is the perfect venue for those of us who hesitate to spend the time and money to go to the week-long national extravaganzas (which I also love).

Monday, June 16, 2008

1850 census source

If you're like me and depend largely on HeritageQuest for census searches, you'll be happy to know that Family Search's free "Record Search" pilot site now has the 1850 US Census population schedule returns indexed for Illinois, Michigan, and Ohio, as well as 21 other states including Iowa and Minnesota.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Indiana's Marriage Mill and more

The Northwest Indiana Genealogical Society (Lake and Porter counties in the upper left-hand corner of the state) has published two new books:

Crown Point Justices of the Peace Marriages. Crown Point is the county seat of Lake County, but don't click away just because you think you have no research targets there. NWIGS volunteers were surprised to find that they indexed more marriages of people from Illinois than from Indiana here between 1935 and 1946. All amorous couples needed was a marriage license from wherever they lived, and until 1940 Lake County required no waiting period. 1100 pages. (Hat tip to the Indiana Genealogical Society blog.)

An Index of Land Transfer Records for Crown Point, Lake Co., Indiana, for the Years 1928-1940 -- including the key numbers you'll need at the Recorder's office for 1936-1940 deeds if you find something promising.

These books look like solid work and they're priced accordingly. You may want to recommend that your own library consider purchasing them.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Northwestern Illinois books digitized

From Illinois Harvest. Be advised that their search engine is wacky in that it doesn't respect quotation marks, so any search involving the word "county" will generate thousands of irrelevant hits. My best results come from searching all or most of a book's title. I'll see if I can spare you this nonsense by including the permanent URLs for each book.

Portrait and biographical album of Rock Island County, Illinois
(Chicago: Biographical Publishing Company, 1885)

Past and present of Rock Island County, Ill., containing a history of the county (Chicago: H.F. Kett, ~1877)

Early Rock Island,
by William A. Meese (Moline: Press of Desaulniers & Co., 1905). "I have aimed to collect all data and facts relating to this country up to and including the year 1832."

Historic Rock Island County (Rock Island: Kramer & Co., 1908)

Official Book of the Fort Armstrong centennial celebration, June 18th-24th, 1916
by the Rock Island County Historical Society and the Historical Section of the Davenport [Iowa] Academy of Sciences (Rock Island: E. O. Vaile, Jr., 1916)

and, moving south a bit:

History of Mercer County: together with biographical matter, . . .
by Mercer County Historical Society (Chicago: H.H. Hill & Co., 1882) 912 pp.

History of Mercer and Henderson Counties, by Mercer County Historical Society (Chicago: H.H. Hill & Co., 1882) 1414 pp.

You don't have to be the genealogical equivalent of a rocket scientist to discover that these two books contain a lot of overlapping content. But they can't be identical with one being 50% longer than the other, can they?

Friday, June 13, 2008

Jackson County, Indiana

Jackson County -- that's halfway between Indianapolis and Louisville for you outlanders -- has a newly relocated GenWeb site and a new blog to go with it. Check 'em out, and don't miss the link to online WPA-Era transcribed slave narratives pertaining to Indiana. This is a neglected source for research targets of all colors, as Elizabeth Shown Mills pointed out in one of her presentations at last month's National Genealogical Society conference.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Get your exercise and history too

My friend Todd Volker is masterminding an eight-day 360-mile bicycle tour from Hodgenville, Kentucky to Springfield, Illinois in August -- the Tour de Lincoln. Signup deadline for double-threat fitness and history buffs is 15 July.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

St. Joseph County Indiana library

The New England Historic Genealogical Society's e-News for 4 June (not up on their site yet but free signup even for nonmembers) has an appreciation of South Bend's St. Joseph County Public Library, including its digitized version of the 1875 county historical atlas, the 1936 plat book for the agricultural parts of the county, the county obituary index from 1913 forward, and a 1941-1979 database of local military service. (I can testify that the physical space is nice too.)

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Pamphlets -- not ephemeral any more

In the end-of-May issue of Allen County Public Library's "Genealogy Gems" email newsletter (not yet on line here, but earlier issues are), Cynthia Theusch describes the library's microfiche collection of Pamplets in American History -- more than 17,000 of them, fortunately with a set of printed descriptive indexes, one for each of the five volumes.

Chances are this collection will serve you as context for family history rather than an original source, but you never know. The five volumes as Theusch describes them are thematically organized, and cover
(1) "Revolutionary War, Revolutionary War biography, biography, women, and Indians";
(2) "civil liberties, labor, and tariffs and free trade";
(3) "cooperative societies, finance, the Mexican War, socialism, and the War of 1812";
(4) "Catholicism and Anti-Catholicism and the Spanish-American War"; and
(5) "Mormons and Mormonism, the Civil War, and the European War, 1914-1918."

After visiting this library regularly for almost ten years, I'm still being surprised by what it has.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Fulton County, Illinois

Working under the Illinois Ancestors umbrella, Janine Crandell has gathered a lot of online-only material as well as original documents and transcriptions on Fulton County (my home county in central Illinois) and 13 other mostly central and western counties. If you need the feel of a small town in the 1940s, check out Jan Van Doren on Table Grove and Camp Ellis. She catches it perfectly.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

The war between the states that didn't happen

Thanks to the Wisconsin-based Internet Scout Project, I took a look for Midwestern articles at "The Nineteenth Century in Print: The Making of America in Periodicals." Here's one from The New-England Magazine from November 1835 about the militaristic-sounding border dispute between Ohio and Michigan. (FYI this is just one collection of over 100 in the Library of Congress's American Memory.)

Twenty-three periodicals are represented, from The American Missionary to The United States Democratic Review. The longest run is 1815-1900 for the North American Review. I believe three are still in existence.

Note the difference between search options. You can search full-text, but only in uncorrected OCR, which is barely readable. The main search, on the other hand, is only for authors, titles, and other bibliographic information: it doesn't capture every word. So you could well miss a mention of an ancestral name if that person wasn't an author, title, or subject, and if their name was wrongly read by the OCR automaton.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

An embarrassing question

Have any of you out there ever successfully searched for and retrieved a book from Illinois Harvest using their search form? Feel free to reply to if the matter is too embarrassing for you as well.

Illinois Harvest -- again with the digitized local histories, post 4

Bluffs Yesterday and Today 1871-1971 (Bluffs: Jones Publishing Co., [1971]). Am I just prejudiced against the more recent local histories? Do they provide as much genealogical "meat" as the older ones? Bluffs is on the Illinois River in Scott County.

Cisco, Illinois, 1874-1974, by Cisco Centennial History Committee. I hope this one is good; it's about the Piatt County hamlet where my mom's only sister was born.

Stories of a Prairie Town: History of Rankin, Illinois - Vermilion Co., Rts. 9 & 49 (Rankin: Rankin Central Historical Committee, 1972)

Scrap Book: Amos Williams & Early Danville, Illinois, by "his Woodbury grandchildren" (Danville: Press of Recording & Statistical Corp., [1935?]). Typescript.

Chenoa Community Centennial: A Century of Co-operation, 1854-1954, by Chenoa Centennial Committee

Friday, June 6, 2008

Illinois Harvest -- yet more digitized local histories, post 3

Historical and Biographical Record of Douglas County, Illinois, by John M. Gresham (Logansport, Indiana: Wilson, Humphreys & Co., 1900).

History of Dwight, from 1853 to 1894, by William G. Dustin (Dwight: Dustin & Wassell, 1894?). Dwight, best known these days for being a stop along I-55 between Chicago and Springfield, is in northeast Livingston County.

History of Stark County, Illinois, and Its People (Chicago: Pioneer Publishing Co., 1916), in two volumes. I guess some small counties are bigger than they look.

The Story of Streator, by John Elias Williams (Streator: The Independent-Times, 1912). On the south edge of La Salle County, just lapping the Livingston County line.

Prairie Farmer's Director of Edgar County, Illinois. Not a history but a useful snapshot in time.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Illinois Harvest -- still more digitized local histories, post 2

History of Woodford County, by Roy L. Moore (Eureka: Woodford County Republican, 1910).

The Woodford County History, by the Book Committee (1968). Each individual township gets its own history here. I'm no expert on this county, but the preface speaks of updating the 1878 history, not the 1910 one. What's up with that?

The Pekin Centenary 1849-1949: A Souvenir Book..., by Thomas H. Harris.

Sesquicentennial History Book, 1824-1874 [my reading of the title is Pekin Sesquicentennial, A History, 1824-1974] (Pekin: Pekin Chamber of Commerce, 1974). Clearly there is some disagreement as to the point of origin of this Tazewell County town.

The History of Peoria, Illinois, by Charles Ballance (Peoria: N.C. Nason, 1870).

History of Quincy and Its Men of Mark, by Pat H. Redmond (Quincy: Heirs & Russell, 1869).

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Illinois Harvest -- more digitized local histories post 1

I swear, you can't turn your back on these people! I did, and when I turned around they had added 20 potential genealogy sources to their ever-growing pile of on-line book images. I'll split them into several posts, since Blogger only allows me a certain number of labels per post.

Annals of Knox County: Commemorating Centennial of Admission of Illinois as a State of the Union in 1818, by Knox County (Illinois) Centennial Historical Association (Galesburg: Republican Register Print, [1921]).

The Past and Present of Warren County (Chicago, H. F.Kett & Co., 1877). Most of these late-Victorian books, though useful, have an unpleasantly elitist flavor. This one has an honest-to-god census substitute in back: a complete list of "''voters and taxpayers" (i.e., heads of household, mostly guys) by township, giving for many their political party, profession, "where from," and religious affiliation. Elitism gets its due, as some people have their names in BOLD CAPS, but still -- dang, I wish I had a research target here.

A History of Round Prairie and Plymouth, 1831-1875, by E. H. Young (Chicago: G.J. Titus, 1876) -- hamlets in eastern Hancock and southwestern McDonough counties.

History of Macon County, Illinois, from Its Organization to 1876, by John W. Smith (Springfield: Rokker's Printing House, 1876) -- the county containing the city of Decatur.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Michigan lighthouses

Department of better late than never on my part: If you like lighthouses, cruise on over to John Dempsey's Michigan Civil War Blog for pointers to a couple of interesting stories about Michigan and its 124 beacons, many of them historic.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Jasia's Jackpot

I love the hard-core genealogical journal articles that follow a logical trail of deductions. But I also love hearing how people's finds actually happen in real time, before they're dressed up and the logic all trimmed up and shipshape. Both forms of presentation can be fascinating and great reading.

So I enjoyed reading this post from Jasia's Creative Gene blog about finding the burial place of her Auntie Josie (Lipa) Ronowski, and how she followed up. Read the preceding posts and you'll see that the family mystery remains -- why everyone told her that Josie (actually her father's aunt and godmother, if I've got this right) never married or had children.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Cato Mead in Lee County, Iowa

Marian Pierre-Louis on the APG email list points to an article in the Daily Gate City (Keokuk, Iowa), about a Memorial Day observance involving Cato Mead, one of the few black Revolutionary War veterans buried west of the Mississippi. Originally from Norwich, Connecticut, he came to southeast Iowa in 1840 and lived there six years before his death at the age of 79.

(FYI, Keokuk is at the triple corner of Iowa, Missouri, and Illinois.)