Friday, November 28, 2008

There's No Such Thing as a Free Lunch, or Free History Either

Writing in Illinois Times, Peter Ellertsen has something to say about volunteering at Lincoln's New Salem State Historic Site near Springfield, Illinois -- where the paid interpreters were laid off in August because of a state budget shortfall: "I can't subsidize the state of Illinois indefinitely when the governor's office and the state legislature aren't living up to their responsibilities."

Here in Indiana, libraries are cutting back hours because of an ill-conceived property tax "relief" law. From where I sit, government is not the problem, the problem is "taxpayers" who want services but don't want to pay for them.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Where Your Ancestors Came From -- New York Newspapers

Not all Midwesterners were born here! Distant cousin Skip Higgins reminded me to visit the unusually named Old Fulton NY Post Cards, a quirky website much expanded since my last visit. For our purposes its most interesting feature its enormous collection of every-word-searchable images of old New York state newspapers. It's free, and I know from my own research that it gets results not found on Genealogy Bank, NewspaperArchive, 19th Century US Newspapers, or America's Historic Newspapers.

It's not always easy to get the information needed to properly cite the search results you find but it is possible. The trick is to use the FAQ-HELP-INDEX button in the far upper right of the home screen, click on the list of newspaper titles, find the title you want in the three-page non-alphabetical list, and look through the individual page PDFs. This same button will lead you to an address for sending donations.

It appears to me that some papers have the sides or bottoms of the pages cut off in scanning. But for quick access to more than 200 upstate New York newspaper titles, I'll take it.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Microhistory and genealogy meet on US 20

How, exactly, did people get from Connecticut to Ohio's Western Reserve in 1817? Over at H-Net, Alden O'Brien of the DAR Museum posted on some of his research, conducted "poring over historical maps on one side of my computer screen with Google maps on the other," as well as some other interesting sources. Part of the route is close to present-day US 20, but that's a gross oversimplification.

This post was on H-Connecticut, "a communications center and discussion forum for Connecticut’s history and heritage communities" sponsored by the Office of the State Historian. This is just one of roughly 150 different history discussion networks (email lists) on the overall site, hosted at Michigan State University. There are lists for Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, and Michigan, as well as the Holy Roman Empire and the culture of industrialization in the South. Check 'em out.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Online Directories at EveNDon

Thanks to a poster on rootsweb's Cook County, Illinois, mailing list, I have learned that the free and ad-free site EveNDon has images (not transcripts!) of city and county directories well beyond their Pittsburgh home base. (Also some other materials I haven't had time to check out.) They accept donations for this great service and offer fee-based lookups and copying services if you have needs in western Pennsylvania.

In our area they have the following directories on line:

ILLINOIS: statewide, Cass County, Christian County, Coles County, Shelbyville, Springfield, and Chicago (12 directories 1844-1900)

INDIANA: Fort Wayne (4 directories 1860-1917), Indianapolis (9 directories 1858-1896), Jay County

MICHIGAN: Detroit, Saginaw

OHIO: statewide, Cincinnati (29 directories 1819-1875), Cleveland

WISCONSIN: Grand Rapids, Milwaukee, Wood County

FYI if your Midwestern roots stretch back to Pittsburgh, they also have 41 Pittsburgh directories 1761-1951.

As a directory aficionado, I would add that if you're in pursuit of everything about a research target, you may need to resort to travel, hired research, or pay sites (such as that can offer every-year coverage. Working people's residences and relationships and business ties change very often, and you could easily miss an all-important clue by skipping even one year of the relevant time period in a directory. This also applies to non-appearances; people randomly disappear and reappear sometimes.

Friday, November 21, 2008

More Ohio Records and Pioneer Families

Ohio Records & Pioneer Families -- "locating and telling the stories of the men and women who were the first settlers of the state of Ohio" -- is supposed to be about pre-1860 Ohioans, but the second issue of 2008 offers some latitude. If you've been holding back on writing up your well-documented antebellum Ohioans, this would be a good time to get 'em done and send 'em off. I'm very fond of the auxiliary table of contents in the form of a county map of the state with counties shaded according to how much material they have in the given issue. Here's the gist:

"Betty's Diary: The Journal of Elizabeth Jennings Nixon 1853-1867," contributed by Brent Morgan -- she was from Marietta

"A Short Biography of Robert Atkin," by Garland Hurst Pilliar -- Ashtabula County farmer

"Barton Sweet, Ohio Pioneer and Country Doctor," by Deobrah Gilbert & Mary Kay Townsend -- of Richland County, with children moving on to Michigan and Bureau County, Illinois. "No information on his parentage could be confirmed. Instead, the names of several inter-related families have been provided in hopes that these may offer clues..."

"Description of the Black Swamp," by B. R. Minton (1843), contributed by Terri Gorney -- there's a nice map, but basically think of a two-county-wide path from Toledo to Fort Wayne, Indiana.

"Columbiana County, Ohio, 1858 Deaths," contributed by Sunda Anderson Peters

"Columbiana County Taxes to Be Collected, 1806," contributed by Sunda Anderson Peters -- from copies of Mss. 1134 Columbiana County Records 1803-1854 abstracted by Carol Bell and held at the Western Reserve Historical Society

"First Families of Ohio: The Early Years" (cont.), abstracted by Kay Ballantyne Hudson

"Revolutionary War Pension Application Abstracts" (cont.), abstracted by Lois Wheeler

"Official Register of Physicians by County, 1896, Wayne County"

"Merchants, Manufacturers & Traders of Ohio, 1885" (cont.)

"Record of the Douglass and Miller Families: Early Landowners in the Firelands," by Thomas Stephen Neel -- Huron and Erie counties

"Oh, the Stories Pictures Do Tell, submitted by Linda J. Hasting, on identifying some Greene County pictures of Wilberforce University students in the 1920s

"Dutch Families in Southwestern Ohio," by Harriet Foley -- including Conover, Barkalow, Lefferson, Monfort, Schenck, Stoutenborough, Vanderveer, Vandervort, Van Doren/Doorn, Van Dyke, Van Harlingen, and Van Horne

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Ohio Records and Pioneer Families

The fourth in the Ohio Genealogy Society's quartet of publications is on a catch-up schedule, but it's still packed. Contents of issue #1:

"The Shellhorns of Portage and Summit Counties, Ohio," by Ted Marshall Minier, an interesting presentation of indirect evidence on the identity of John Shellhorn, aiming to amplify the 1972 Shelhorn Genealogy by Lines and Jones.

"A Letter to My Brother: Louis Breuninger," contributed by Karen Miller Bennett

"Letters Written by John Marsh D'Camp, 1825-1837," contributed by Nina B. Mack

"Records of the George Ruckel Family Bible," contributed by Robert L. Keener

"First Families of Ohio: The Early Years," abstracted by Kay Ballantyne Hudson

"Revolutionary War Pension Application Abstracts," by Lois Wheeler

"The Mystery of Captain Benjamin LeRoy, War of 1812," contributed by Eric E. Johnson

"Official Register of Physicians by County, 1896, Washington County"

"Log Cabin Reminiscences -- Daniel Skinner Family," contributed by Sunda Anderosn Peters

"Residents of Mahoning County, Ohio, Infirmary, 1870," abstracted by Joseclyn Wilms, from the US census

"Merchants, Manufacturers & Traders of Ohio, 1885," abstracted from R. G. Dun's The Mercantile Agency Reference Book -- part of a series, in alphabetical order by towns

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Crossing state lines in South Bend

The October issue of the South Bend Area Genealogical Society's Quarterly Newsletter features a history of the House of David 20th-century religious cult located in Benton Harbor, Berrien County, Michigan, compiled by Ken Reising. Other material:

"Minutes of the September 29, 2008, Members Meeting," including a summary of Matt Baumgartner's talk on Oliver Cromwell.

"Tombstones Recovered" -- an account of the rescue of five tombstones found in the manure pit of a 19th-century barn in Union Township in 2005 and since restored and reset in Lakeville Cemetery.

"List of Telephone Subscribers" from the 18 November 1896 issue of the South Bend Daily Times. The South Bend Telephone Company boasted nearly 600 patrons.

"Newspaper Tidbits" by Richard Berkheiser, drawn from the South Bend Tribune of 29 April 1920.

"1910 Index of Heads of Households for River Park, Indiana," now part of South Bend -- continued from the July issue.

The society's website now hosts the Michiana Genealogical Index, a database of over 900,000 Michiana surnames, mostly from vital records, cemeteries, and newspapers, contributed by Norbert Cramer of St. Joseph, Michigan. Users who want to get the most out of the database should not stop at the overall surname search form, but proceed to the particular event search form in order to get some indication of the original source.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Wisconsin records off the beaten track

Contents of the July 2008 issue of the Wisconsin State Genealogical Society Newsletter:

"Deaths Among the Membership, Wisconsin WCTU, 1923-26," alphabetical

"'Slacker' Lists from World War I," listed by draft board, evidently from the Congressional Record

"Delegates to, and Member Churches of the Wisconsin Baptist State Convention, Fifth Anniversary Convention, 8-10 October 1850," extracted from Minutes of the Fifth Anniversary of the Wisconsin Baptist State Convention held in the Church Ediface of the First Baptist Church, Milwaukee, Wis. (Milwaukee: J. Hamilton for the Convention, 1850). Ah, the headaches of transcribing names! My wife may have an ancestor on this list, but only if what is rendered "J. Moosely" is really "T. Mozley." Without laying hands on the original I couldn't say which is more improbable!

Monday, November 17, 2008

More Midwestern death indexes!

Normally I'm not a big fan of blogs that post only every few weeks, but I make a big exception for Joe Beine's Genealogy Roots blog. Despite the generic title, its posts are always a wealth of information, usually updating various web sites, in this case the Online Searchable Death Indexes and Records Directory (bookmark it -- you'll be back). New items there include material from Illinois (Chicago-area Jewish cemeteries, and Lake County), Michigan (Allegan, Berrien, Cass, Emmet, Grand Traverse, Kalamazoo, Saginaw, and Van Buren counties), Ohio (Huron and Montgomery counties), and Wisconsin (Barron, Dunn, Fond du Lac, and Pepin counties).

Friday, November 14, 2008

Was that old photograph taken in Chicago?

If it was professionally done, you may be able to date it using the Chicago History Museum's nifty tool, Chicago Photographers, 1847 through 1900, as Listed in Chicago City Directories (Chicago: Chicago Historical Society Print Department, 1958). The roughly 80-page typescript runs from Abbey to Zolk, includes ambrotypists and daguerrotypists, and is now on line in your choice of formats at the American Libraries part of the Internet Archive. (For some fun, search on your favorite research counties from their home page.)

Note: these listings, reasonably enough, were taken from the classified business sections of the annual directories. If you have a photo with a name not contained in this book, bear in mind that not every individual listed with a given occupation or business showed up in the classifieds. Search for them yourself, either at the CHM or the Newberry in person, or on line ( has by far the best coverage, although its presentation is sometimes lacking).

Hat tip to the always-concise Newberry Library genealogy news blog.

So many manuscripts, so little time

The Ohio Historical Society's more-or-less-monthly blog "Collections" just announced the availability of 28 new manuscript and audio-visual collections. The descriptions are a little terse, but if you plug in any interesting collection's number at the catalog page you can get a better idea of what's there. It turns out that collection #VFM5693, "War with Mexico Muster Rolls," consists of 7 rolls for the 1st Ohio Volunteer Infantry in that war. Collection #VFM 5699 is Civil War muster rolls, but almost all from Clermont County only. Check 'em out, but also check out the OHS's new hours before you head for Columbus. Amy's Genealogy Etc. Blog has the sad story of the ongoing funding disaster that is slowly engulfing OHS.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

A happy scattering of online Midwestern city directories

If I were doing this as a project for Genea-Blogging 101, I'd probably get some kind of bad grade for being so slow to find this site. Since I'm not, I can just be happy to report that has a bunch of city and county directories online, as one part of their archive of genealogical data and document images.

Most are scanned images, although I found one transcription. Very few places are represented more than once, which means that WHAT'S ON THE INTERNET IS JUST A TASTE, and hopefully it will inspire you to get out more... to actual libraries, that is. Like a census, any individual city directory entry (or non-entry) is subject to error; better to check a few adjoining years for consistency or surprises. One last point -- not all of these scans include the business sections (valuable additional evidence on employers), title pages (essential for proper citation), or the descriptive matter (sometimes useful background).

Of course, one thing only the internet can give you, and DistantCousin offers, is the ability to search for your research targets over all their city directories at once. Here's what they've got:

ILLINOIS: Aurora 1910-11, Chicago 1844 (transcribed -- you can check the original at, Chicago 1855-6 (much easier to navigate than Footnote's version), La Salle County 1917, Pana 1914, and Peoria 1883-84.

INDIANA: Delaware County 1909-10, Evansville 1922, Jay County 1927, Plymouth 1919, Tippecanoe County/Lafayette 1929-30 (with a reverse directory!), Union County 1917, and Wabash city/county 1914-15.

MICHIGAN: Alpena 1920, Battle Creek 1921, Coldwater 1949-50, Detroit 1837, Detroit and Wayne County 1893-94 (business), Gratiot County 1917, Ingham County 1916, Ottawa County 1918, and Saginaw 1923.

OHIO: Canton 1914, Chillicothe 1928, Cleveland 1900, Erie County, 1905, Findlay 1927, Hancock County 1927, Huron County 1905, Lancaster 1924-25, Sandusky County 1905, and Williams County 1916.

WISCONSIN: Fond du Lac 1928, Madison 1911, and Oshkosh 1886-87.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

East St. Louis City Directories

Don't get me started about the wonders of city directories. Illinois Harvest has somewhat revamped its interface -- it has colors but the search function is still idiosyncratic -- and its thematic collections include East St. Louis City Directories. (This is great, but why single out ESL and Champaign County only?) These are not transcriptions, they're full PDF (or text) images for 1900, 1905, 1906, 1907, 1912, 1916, 1924, and 1926. I was able to quickly find my mother's father's second cousin, the contractor Jesse Gedney, at 1717 Illinois, in 1900.

And if you are or would like to become a city directory nut, the most thorough article I've seen is "Effective Use of City Directories," by Kory L. Meyerink, AG, FUGA, at ProGenealogists. Let me know if you've seen better.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Birth and Death in Willard, Ohio

A tip o' the hat to the October 15 issue of NEHGS eNews for highlighting the Willard Memorial Libary's online databases of birth and death announcements. (Willard's not a place you're likely to visit by accident. It's a small railroad town in Huron County, Ohio, south of Norwalk -- about halfway between the east-west arteries of the Ohio Turnpike on the north and the near-interstate-quality US 30 to the south.)

Each database contains just over 10,000 entries from the local newspaper, the Willard Times-Junction. My quick and possibly superficial check didn't find any entries prior to 1950. Volunteers continue to add to the system, but it's not clear whether they're keeping up with the present or moving back into the past, or both. Thanks to them in either case.

On my way out I noticed the library's front page: "Willard Memorial Library SYSTEM LIBRARIES CUT HOURS DUE TO SECOND HALF BUDGET REDUCTION." Something similar has happened at my local library in Indiana. Librarians may not be in a good position to speak out, but as genealogists we should let our elected officials know that libraries are a public service that should not be crippled by short-sighted budget freezes and tax cuts.

Monday, November 10, 2008

More places your Midwestern ancestors went

Keep an eye on Jerry Reed's Free Genealogy blog. Last week he posted about a free online site, the Florida Digital Newspaper Library, housed at the University of Florida George A. Smathers Libraries, with 384 titles from portions of three centuries. These are actual full-page and fully searchable images. My only complaint is that the search function only takes you to the individual page and doesn't highlight the phrase sought. Those 19th-century papers packed a lot of print onto one page!

Friday, November 7, 2008

NGS in Peoria

The November 1 issue of the National Genealogical Society's email newsletter, UpFront with NGS, has a nice Midwestern-centric story by NGS president Jan Alpert, "How Two Planned Family History Projects Brought an Unanticipated Surprise." It seems that her parents met at an Illinois River picnic sponsored by the Bradley University music club . . . (Has "how-your-parents-and-grandparents-met" been a genealogy blogger carnival topic yet?)

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Where some of your midwesterners went

Delia Cothrun Bourne, writing in "Genealogy Gems" #56 (31 October 2008) from Indiana's Allen County Public Library, points us to an eight-volume resource I had never heard of: News of the Plains and Rockies, 1803-1865: Original Narratives of Overland Travel and Adventure Selected from the Wagner-Camp and Becker Bibliography of Western Americana, compiled and annotated by David A. White (978 N474), with 168 original narratives and historians' commentary, arranged topically, with topics including "early explorers, fur hunters, Santa Fe adventurers, settlers, missionaries, Mormons, Indian agents and captives, warriors,
scientists, artists, gold seekers, railroad forerunners, and mailmen."

This isn't in most libraries, according to Worldcat (if you're closer to Chicago, check it out; it is in the Newberry). Ideally these volumes would be useful for general background, or for filling in your research target's likely experiences in the absence of his or her own first-person story. (That's why it's going on my list for my next visit.) But if you're in search of a particular name or names, it is on Google Book Search, in snippet view only.

And apparently it's not the last word. Allen County also has Plains & Rockies, 1800-1865 : one hundred twenty proposed additions to the Wagner-Camp and Becker bibliography of travel and adventure in the American West : with 33 selected reprints. Hi ho, researchers away!

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Your ancestors at work

It's easy to focus on vital records and leave other research opportunities by the wayside. The Indiana Historical Society is offering a November 15 workshop in Indianapolis that sounds like a great corrective:

"Jobs are family destiny. Most immigrants came to America for the freedom to work, especially to work for more money. This two-hour workshop, featuring Indiana genealogy expert Ron Darrah, will show you how to use work records to follow and understand your ancestors. Advance registration is required. For more information, call (317) 234-1830 or e-mail"

Ironically, I have to work that day.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

The Animal of the Nineteenth Century

Did you ever see an old image of "fire horses, noses flaring, galloping to a conflagration pulling a smoking, four-ton, steam-powered, coal-fired pump"? Did it make you wonder? Wasn't the 19th century supposed to be the century of industrialization and the triumph of the steam engine?

Clay McShane and Joel Tarr actually saw that image, and wrote a book based on the paradox it hid in front of everyone's eyes, The Horse in the City: Living Machines in the Nineteenth Century (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2007). "Numerous scholars have written about the triumph of the steam engine in the nineteenth century and ignored the living engine," they write. "This view of the horse is wrong-headed -- the nineteenth century also marked the triumph of the horse. The horse was a flexible, evolving technology and, like its accomplice, the steam engine, was crucial to the evolution of themodern city."{14-15}

I found a nice photo of a livery stable in an ancestral neighborhood of Pittsburgh, but that's really not the point here. You don't understand your city-dwelling ancestors of the 1800s without knowing something about the horses they depended upon, and the vast network of urban and rural facilities that bred, equipped, and fed those horses. (And if you think cars pollute, wait 'til you read about what happened with wood block pavements.)

Monday, November 3, 2008

Indiana Genealogist for September

Contents of the fall issue of the Indiana Genealogical Society's quarterly include:

"An Index Is a Treasure Map -- Do You Dig?" by Harold Henderson, that's me, on how even useful indexes may lead you into error if you don't look at the original documents they point to.

"Military Resources in the Early Republic," by the prolific Ron Darrah, who identifies no fewer than 38 document-generating wars between 1781 and 1859.

"Thomas Jefferson Riley: Native Hoosier and Confederate Soldier," by his great-great granddaughter Mary Kraeszig.

Regional items include "Starke County History Items" (submitted by Peg Bretten); "Indiana Civil War Soldier Adam Record" by Kathy Anne Coppola; "Indiana Civil War Soldiers John Lafayette White and William M. White" [twins], by Keith Rott; "Marriage and Death Notices, Indiana Journal, January-December, 1832," submitted by Ron Darrah (see above), "Items from the Batesville Budget," "Indiana Civil War Soldier James E. English" by Annette Harper, and more.