Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Brown County, Wisconsin, and its neighbors

As far as I can tell, the Wisconsin Digital Collections are just too big to understand in one gulp. Today I'm intrigued by the "subcollection" called "Brown, Door, Kewaunee, Oconto, and Shawano Counties: Historical Atlases, Directories, Plat Maps, and High School Yearbooks." The coverage area is basically the great cheesehead town of Green Bay and the counties north and east of it.

At first I was disappointed, as the yearbooks didn't seem to be browseable. But if you do a full-text search of the entire 86-volume subcollection, you can then browse throughout whichever yearbooks where you happen to have a hit. (The Okato for 20 December 1922 includes a receipts-and-expenditures statement for the preceding football season, itemized game by game, naming referees, umpires, and suppliers. Can you imagine?)

Naturally my fave is the 1874 Green Bay and Fort Howard Directory, compiled and arranged by (I swear it's true) J. Alfred Dull. The school yearbooks and newspapers are from the 1909-1929 time period. Brown County has four years' atlases, the earliest being an 1889 plat book. Door County has four atlases 1899-1923, the earliest including a directory of landowners by township. Kewaunee and Shawano each have two atlases. Don't you wish every state was like Wisconsin?

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Barberton Births and Deaths 1938 forward

A link on the Akron-Summit County Public Library website led me to this online index of relatively recent vital events in Barberton, just southwest of Akron in Summit County, Ohio. It's a work in progress of the Barberton Health District (includes Norton) with records being entered monthly, and eventually to be entered back to 1909. (Although at one point the database is said to cover only up to 2001, I found an entry for 2003.)

Separate search engines for births and deaths work similarly. The main engine works only if you enter first name, last name, and full event date. You can select a secondary engine that will produce all results for a given surname. Otherwise, no browsing, but this is still a partial local substitute for censuses not yet available. Search results may include both parents' full names. You can crown a successful search by ordering an official (certified) birth or death certificate for $27 through VitalChek.

Monday, December 29, 2008

The American Midwest: An Interpretive Encyclopedia

This year a kind and generous Santa brought me The American Midwest: An Interpretive Encyclopedia, an 1891-page behemoth edited by Richard Sisson, Christian Zacher, and Andrew Cayton. (Cayton, as faithful readers of this blog already know, wrote the wonderful Frontier Indiana.) Their "Midwest" is more inclusive than this blog's: besides Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, and Wisconsin, it includes Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska, and both Dakotas.

The encyclopedia's 22 chapters each contain many individual articles by expert authors with additional reading suggestions. They run from geography to small-town life to military affairs, but its index has no entry for "genealogy." It's all relevant, of course, but of particular interest to genealogists may be "Cultural Geography" (p. 145), "Peoples" (p. 177), "Language" (p. 278), and the brief sketch of "State and Local Historical Societies" (p. 654). As a fan of Cayton's "General Overview" (p. xix), I'll give him the floor:

The conquest, settlement, and development of what we call the Midwest is one of the most important events in the past quarter millennium of human history. In the nineteenth century, millions of people entered this interior region, forcibly displaced thousands of American Indians, and established a society that dominated North America and much of the globe throughout the twentieth century. This breathtaking transformation amounts to one of the most all-encompassing and significant revolutions in the history of the world. ...

The Midwest in fact is not the land of the bland, but a collection of disparate communities held together, more or less, by a civic culture that transcends (or at least ignores) differences...

Read the whole thing.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Akron City Directories 1859-1969!

The Akron-Summit County Public Library Special Collections has done several wonderful things in digitizing Akron city directories. The most wonderful thing is that they did it at all, making this great research tool available to those who no longer live conveniently in northeast Ohio. But that's not all the goodness by any means. Let me count the ways:

First, they did them all or almost all (1911 and 1916 are still on the way), not skipping or selecting years. (The earliest is a partial edition from 1859; the latest is 1969. In between they have most years including a complete run 1877-1910.) Yearly coverage is critical for researchers just as it was for contemporaries. It enables us to confirm family members' presence, location, and occupation; even if they don't move (and most people rented and moved almost every year), their occupation may change or be described differently or include the employer's name. Unlikely-looking listings can be double-checked and perhaps confirmed in adjacent years. Family linkages may be suggested if people circulate through the same addresses in different years.

Second, they put each one in PDF format, making it easy to browse from one page to the next just as if browsing the physical book -- unlike Footnote's city directories, which often interleave two or three directories from the same year (with several "page 35" entries in a row), and sort the unnumbered pages strangely.

Third, they made them every-word-searchable with OCR (subject to the limitations of faded pages and worn type), so that the diligent researcher can pursue neighbors by searching on street names and numbers even in the absence of a criss-cross directory.

This is the best online city directory collection I've seen yet -- if you have nominees from elsewhere I'd love to see 'em. I'll be burrowing into my database, hoping to find some research targets who lived in or near Akron. (Hat tip to Kelly Holderbaum for pointing it out!)

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas and Genealogy Reference To You

This may be superfluous if y'all already read Dick Eastman's newsy blog/newsletter. Jack Simpson, the curator of local family history at the Newberry Library, has started a blog to update his recently published book Basics of Genealogy Reference: A Librarian's Guide. As I blogged in October, it's aimed at librarians but quite possibly of interest to serious genealogists as well.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Michigan Genealogist, 4th issue of 2008

From the Michigan Department of History, Arts, and Libraries comes the state's closest thing to a statewide genealogy publication, Michigan Genealogist #4 (PDF) for 2008:

There's advance notice of six Saturday-afternoon sessions 4 April 2009 called "Learning More at the Library of Michigan," specific topics to be announced in February. Free but registration required due to limited seating. ... Be aware that many residents of northern Indiana and northwest Ohio may be closer to Lansing than to their own state capitals! Based on a flying visit last month, the Library of Michigan is the easiest state library to reach by car that I've ever seen (getting out of town is a little trickier) and it looks like a wonderful place to work.

The library is getting microfilm sets of city directories 1936-1960, which is big news if you're a devotee or someone who's pining away waiting for the 1940 census to be made public in 2012. LOM now has these for Toledo, Columbus, Indianapolis, and eight smaller Indiana cities.

And a Christmas Eve present for those with Michigan medical ancestors: special collections librarian Gloriane Peck lists a number of biographical books on hand that cover public health nurses, Jewish physicians, black medical graduates of the U of M, and women physicians, plus two directories from 1885 and 1893. Check out this useful set of descriptions, even if you have to search for them closer to hand.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Online resources at both ends of Indiana

In northern Indiana:

In Elkhart County, the Wakarusa Public Library Historical Room has a few photographs, maps, books, and articles on line, plus a goodly number of obituaries including full transcribed text from local newspapers. (I can't tell how many are indexed, but just two of them have birthdates before 1800.) The other items are browseable as well as searchable, the obituaries are only searchable. We all buzz right over to the obituaries, but if you have research targets there don't forget to check out the three plat maps of land ownership in Olive Township (the east half of congressional township 36 North range 4 East of the 2nd principal meridian) for 1874, 1892, and 1915.

Just a few miles south of Wakarusa near the Kosciusko county line, the Nappanee Public Library’s Evelyn Lehman Culp Heritage Center Collection has a similarly searchable set of obituaries.

In southern Indiana:

In Washington County (northwest of Louisville KY), Salem's Crown Hill Cemetery was founded in 1824. The city of Salem has its history and records on line, complete with a location map within the cemetery. (Two burials from 1824 are recorded.) This is the way on line cemeteries should be. The history refers to a cholera epidemic in 1833, and you can confirm that by searching for burials by date: six in 1832, 47 in 1833, eight in 1834. The site also links to the Washington County Historical Society's John Hay Center, with a genealogical library. (Hay was born here and is best known for being Abraham Lincoln's personal secretary.)

(Another hat tip to Valerie Beaudrault of the New England Historic Genealogical Society's eNews for spotting the above resources.)

Also in virtual southern Indiana, right on the Ohio River, the Vanderburgh County genweb site has a new look and includes links to the Willard Library in Evansville and to the famous Browning obituary collection.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Ohio Records and Pioneer Families #3, 2008

One of OGS's four quarterlies, this time out Ohio Records and Pioneer Families focuses on Cuyahoga and Williams counties, along with Erie, Richland, and Preble:

"Joanna Wickham & Seth Doan Family, Cleveland OH" submitted gby Melissa Danielsson

"Norman & Electa Hale Hills, Erie County, Ohio," submitted by Linda Hills, including a discussion of farms displaced in 1941 for wartime construction.

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

"Revolutionary War Pension Application Abstracts," abstracted by Lois Wheeler

"Official Register of Physicians by County, 1896 -- Williams County"

"Merchants, Manufacturers & Traders of Ohio, 1885"

"Divorces, Richland County, Ohio, 1848-1859," abstracted by Missy Derrenberger. Admit it -- these always make good reading. By my count 11 of the 28 divorces were sought by men.

"Josephine Wilson Photographs, Preble County, Ohio," submitted by Diane VansKiver Gagel

"Elizabeth Meily Spitler," by Sarah June Black, age 12

"War of 1812: Ohio Raised Regiments for US Army," submitted by Eric Johnson

"Ohio's Forgotten Military Cemeteries," submitted by Eric Johnson

If you've got old Ohio goodies and an itch to write them up, action editor Susan Dunlap Lee wants to hear from you: "Articles are needed NOW for future issues."

Friday, December 19, 2008

Porter County, Indiana Genweb's new look

In northwest Indiana, Porter County GenWeb has a new address and searchable obituary transcriptions (with full citations available), biography transcriptions (so far from the 1882 and 1894 mug books mostly), and Pearl Stoner Johnston's abstracts of wills and probates 1839-1880. Steve Shook is the coordinator. More is promised, including plat maps.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

You wish your ancestors stopped in Kane County, Illinois

This northern Illinois county, now a cluster of Chicago suburbs, is the only county I know where the county recorder has put its tract books on line. Tract books, in case you slept through that part of genealogy class, are property records organized by a particular tract of land. Not all counties have 'em, at least not back to the beginning.

Kane County's tract books consist of typed abstracts of property transactions -- to research the actual deeds you have to go there. And they're not indexed by name, so you need either to be really lucky (not me) or know exactly where your ancestor was (more specifically than just the township!). So it may or may not substitute for (or prepare for) a trip to the courthouse.

That's the beauty of property records -- they weren't created with us genealogists in mind. That's also the horror of them -- they weren't created with us in mind. Now, what I'd really like is to see the grantor-grantee indexes digitized!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Ohio Genealogy News on township records

Ohio Genealogy News isn't the big-name magazine of the Ohio Genealogical Society (that would be the Quarterly, of course), but it could stand comparison with most states' flagship publications. Lately it's been zeroing in on under-used record types with good nuts-and-bolts methodology articles. This month it's township records. If you're not an OGS member and can't afford to add another membership, check out a library copy. Contents include:

"Digging for Gold in Town and Township Records," by Tom Neel

"Township Records -- An Overlooked Treasure," by Diane V. Gagel

"History of Townships in Ohio"

Next April is the OGS's 50th anniversary conference in Huron (Erie County), with Ohio-born Ian Frazier (author of the incomparable Families) as keynote speaker. This issue highlights north-central Ohio research options nearby, including the Firelands Historical Society, Sandusky Library and Archives Research Center, and Clarence S. Metcalf Great Lakes Maritime Research Library in Vermilion. I had no idea this last place existed, let alone that they have "over 125 linear feet of manuscript materials such as diaries, journals, and ships' logs," plus the full run of Inland Seas (quarterly journal of the Great Lakes Historical society) and bound copies of Marine Review 1884-1931. It's all about the history of Great Lakes vessels and shipping, so the genealogy relevance is mainly for those with a lake connection somewhere.

Dang. We drive through northern Ohio on a regular basis. It's going to be hard to make any time if I have to stop at a repository every few miles!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Illinois' fall quarterly

I'm looking forward to catching up with this issue, which arrived during my hiatus. A lot of material here, including some from my home county!

Illinois State Genealogical Society Quarterly
40(3), Fall 2008

"Personal Journals, Diaries, and Old Letters in Genealogical Research," by Bryan L. Mulcahy

"Confessions of a Puzzled Genealogist," by Oriene Morrow Springstroh

"Joseph Bigham, Jr. -- His Remembrances of the Bigham Family History," tr. Phyllis J. (Bigham) Bauer. (Montgomery County) "As soon as I could make letters I had to jot down on paper fathers accounts as he could neither Read or write."

"Richard F. Sutton's Story: A Revolutionary War Soldier -- Part 2," by Raleigh Sutton

"Faces from the Past -- Identifying Photos with Marge Rice"

"Sarah S. (Miner) Boyd," by Mark A. Miner (Fulton County)

"West Aurora [Kane County] School District finds lists of earlier graduates...," from the Aurora Beacon News

"Gravestone Recording: How to Conduct a Project -- how to Use the Data," by John E. Sterling

"Ask the Retoucher!" by Eric Curtis M. Basier

"1864 Award Winners at the Kendall County, Illinois Fair" [just in case you missed it the first time]

Monday, December 15, 2008

Toledo Treasures

(Whew -- 18,000 words later, it's good to be back!)

If you have research targets in the tri-state area, specifically Toledo, Old Toledo Yearbooks is for you. In form it's a blog, but if you click on the tabs or the items in the right-hand menu called "pages," you can see six entire scanned yearbooks from various schools from 1907, 1918, 1922, 1936, 1940, and 1942. "The Scroll" yearbook for St. Ursula Academy includes handwritten notations that appear to be the jobs or engagements the young women had following graduation. Questions? You can leave a comment on the blog.

The unnamed blogger also appears to have another Toledo-related blog/site, Life with Blue Grandma, with entries from the daily diary of Mary Helen Harris of Toledo. She kept a diary from 1931 to 1972; unfortunately only five months have been posted, and none since last January.

Friday, December 5, 2008

American Social History Online and Hiatusville

This blog will be living in Hiatusville until I complete the report I'm working on. In the meantime, I'd appreciate it if someone can figure out how to search American Social History Online efficiently. It's gotta have boatloads of useful material.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Boone County Indiana genealogy

Boone County is what takes up most of the distance as you drive from Lafayette to Indianapolis on I-65 -- county seat Lebanon. The genealogy society there has a new web site (still under construction, the best part is a complete list of cemeteries in the county along with which library if any has records thereof). They also have a new blog -- the second entry links to an up-to-date article about managing research. (Hat tip to Cyndi's List.)

A few days ago we had notice of the disbanding of the Sangamon County, Illinois, Genealogical Society, it's good to see one working to adapt. Being able to research and plan research on line shouldn't be the end of collaboration, but it's got to mean doing things in new ways.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Resources for the Olden Times

In the Midwest, "olden times" are before statehood. In the October-December 2008 NGS Magazine, Dian VanSkiver Gagel, immediate past president of the Ohio Genealogical Society, describes colonial and territorial records for the Midwest and elsewhere. (I had never thought about the research implications of the fact that Minnesota was under at least seven different jurisdictions prior to 1857!)

Gagel also mentions what sounds like a useful resource if you're working in this time period: Michal Chiorazzi and Marguerite Most, eds., Prestatehood Legal Materials: A Fifty-State Research Guide, including New York City and the District of Columbia, 2 volumes (New York: The Haworth Information Press, 2005). Worldcat shows it mostly in law-school libraries, although among more accessible Midwestern libraries, it's also available at the Library of Michigan, Allen County Public Library (Fort Wayne), Milwaukee County, and Grand Rapids.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Six more reasons to join IGS!

The Indiana Genealogical Society has added six new databases to its members-only resource section. In addition to the six public databases, members now can search 28 Indiana databases: 7 of county records, 3 church records, 8 military records, 8 school records, and 2 miscellaneous (what I would call political records). Your idea of how to categorize them may vary.

These are databases, not original images, so they're most valuable as searching tools and pointers to the original source, which should be checked to guard against typographical and other errors. In order to browse any given database, just bring up the blank search form and click the search button.

Among the new offerings are enumerations from Marion County, and the list of deceased Methodist ministers (as of 1917) from northern Indiana, taken from the notoriously under-indexed book History of the North Indiana Conference by Herrick and Sweet.

Hat tip to the IGS blog. Membership page is here.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Ohio City Directories before 1850

I've blogged before about the Morgan Bibliography of Ohio Imprints, but their ongoing project of indexing all 16 city directories from the five Ohio cities that published before 1850 -- Cleveland, Cincinnati, Columbus, Dayton, and Steubenville -- deserves its own mention. These are indexes, not images. The unique advantage here is that you can search across all directories.