Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Women Teachers on the Frontier

Sometimes the problem is not so much locating a source, but knowing that such a source even exists in the first place! My son turned up Polly Welts Kaufman's Women Teachers on the Frontier (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1984) in connection with his history project, but it's also an interesting kind of genealogy source. I didn't find it on Google Books or Internet Archive, but hard copies are available at reasonable prices on AbeBooks. And Worldcat shows many copies in Midwestern libraries, both public and college.

The book is not some simplified narrative, it's a publication directly derived from relatively little-known original sources, in this case records of the National Popular Education Board of the 1850s, residing largely in the Connecticut Historical Society -- diaries and letters of women teachers who seized the opportunity to go on their own to the frontier, earn a living, and help civilize and bring Protestantism to it.

Don't expect to find your New England or New York ancestress here (although that is possible). Do expect to find outsider accounts of the Midwestern frontier, especially in Indiana and Illinois -- and do also expect take into account their inevitable bias toward "uplift" and a certain brand of religion.

A similar source that I had already heard of and looked into are the letters from men in the American Home Missionary Society. For more information on them, you can start where I did, with John Beatty's article in the September 2007 issue of the Allen County Public Library Genealogy Center's e-zine "Genealogy Gems."

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Milwaukee Marriages 1822-1876 on line

Research Buzz alerts us to a new on-line resource from the Milwaukee Public Library Digital Collections, already well worth a visit: the Milwaukee County Marriage Certificate collection. Here's part of the admirably clear and thorough description:

In the 1960s a box of marriage certificates created between 1822 and 1876 was found at the Milwaukee County Courthouse. The box also included some miscellaneous documents pertaining to the marriage such as permission to marry slips, authorizations, and land deeds. The information in these documents include a parent giving permission for an underage child to marry, an affidavit of there being no impediment to marriage, information on the closeness of the blood relationship, and written permission for the clerk to hand the marriage license to a third party for delivery. These documents generally do not have standardized information, but can be quite interesting. Many of these documents were not in very good condition. Research by the Milwaukee County Genealogical Society (MCGS) indicates that most of these certificates are not recorded at the Milwaukee County Courthouse. Some of the records appear in the Wisconsin Pre-1907 Marriage Index and some do not.

The certificates and accompanying documents were filmed in 1966. The Milwaukee Public Library owns a set of these microfilmed marriage certificates. In 1999 the MCGS arranged to have the records refilmed, adding location citations. In 2000 MCGS volunteers created alphabetical indexes for bride and for groom. Roger Cobb with Lois Molitor acted as project coordinators. Over 42,000 names were put into the database that produced the indexes. Unfortunately, the original copies that were filmed in 1966 have vanished. . . .

Most of these documents were created in Milwaukee, but there are a few from other locations. The number of certificates created outside of Milwaukee County is minimal.

In short, if you have Milwaukee people, visit this site yesterday!

Friday, November 26, 2010

Civil War Memory and more

The on-line general-interest history journal Common-Place is always interesting, but this is special. I can see that it's going to open up a bunch more blogs for me to keep an eye on!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The Past Is Still Another Country...

I didn't expect to find that much genealogically relevant in Tony Judt's Postwar: A History of Europe Since 1945 (New York: Penguin Press, 2005). But it's hardly ever a mistake to read someone who can say something this obvious and make it new -- make you really realize it for the first time:

"Throughout recorded history, most people in Europe -- as elsewhere in the world -- had possessed just four kinds of things: those they inherited from their parents; those they made for themselves; those they bartered or exchanged with others; and those few items they had been obliged to purchase for cash, almost always made by someone they knew." (p. 337)

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Association of Professional Genealogists

A big thank-you to those readers who are members of the Association of Professional Genealogists (APG) and who, in a pre-Thanksgiving surprise, elected me to a two-year term on the organization's board. (And I hope that any reader who is not a member will consider becoming one.) I expect to learn a lot, but here is where I started (from my pre-election statement):

Over the past three years I have benefited from listening and participating on APG's email list, from reading the quarterly, from attending the Professional Management Conference, from involvement in the Great Lakes Chapter -- and from working the table at conferences! I'd like to put my experience to work, and build on past volunteers' accomplishments, by helping APG become both more inclusive and more professional.

Inclusive: by making transparency a priority, including prompt publication of board and EC minutes.

Professional: by encouraging, recognizing, and eventually requiring continuing education among members -- or in some other appropriate way acting on Tom Jones's critique published in the December 2007 APG Quarterly. His point was that for genealogy to mature, its professional organization needs to ask more of its members than just to pay dues and subscribe to a code of ethics.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Kansas on-line indexes

Even the on-line world is turning to materials a bit beyond the usual vital records in the usual vital places. These happen to be in Kansas, a frequent destination point for dwellers in the "old Midwest." Doctors' licenses, fraternal order notices, letters from home, and more, searchable thanks to the Kansas State Historical Society. Don't give up on your Kansas research target without checking these.

Hat tip to ProGenealogists, maybe the most hard-core genealogy blog out there, for the initial tip.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Census Dates of Record

Thanks to the Region Roots blog from Lake County (Indiana) Public Library for posting this handy reference guide to the official census dates of record for the fifteen US censuses currently publicly available (1790-1930). For a quick handy bookmark you can't beat it.

These dates are more important than the date when the census taker showed up at your ancestor's household. If the census taker and the informant understood the census instructions and followed them, each census entry should reflect the household composition as of the date of record, not the date the census taker was actually there.

Of course not everyone followed the instructions, but in figuring out what a record means, the first step (ideally) is to know the rules under which it was created. If you want to know all about the rules involved in the creation of what may be the #1 most used genealogy source, one useful reference is the Census Bureau's 2002 publication Measuring America, available for free on line in Part 1 and Part 2 in PDF format.

Monday, November 15, 2010

working in Indianapolis

Indianapolis is not my native habitat -- it's farther away than Chicago, and the only reasonable way to get there is to drive -- but nevertheless I wind up there at least once a month. It contains three of the four premier genealogical repositories in the state, and two of them are just across Ohio Street from each other: the Indiana State Library with its arsenal of microfilmed Indiana newspapers and county records (including many FHL films on permanent loan), and the Indiana Historical Society with its own living history presentations for the public (complete with a clock that runs backwards) and an archive of primary source collections. Just being able to cross the street from one to the other is somewhat intoxicating.

Hopefully some day the third member of this research trinity, the Indiana State Archives -- currently relegated to a leaky warehouse on the east side of town -- will return to its original downtown neighborhood and a facility worthy of its own remarkable and irreplaceable holdings.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Chicago, Edinburgh, and Gopnik

In case you haven't noticed, even a short piece by Adam Gopnik is roughly equal in intellectual content and stimulation to a semester's undergraduate college course. His review of a new biography of Adam Smith in the 18 October New Yorker is good on many levels, but as someone with family roots deep in both cities I especially enjoyed this:

Edinburgh [in the 1700s] was commonly called the Athens of Britain, though it really was more like an eighteenth-century Chicago. It had a slightly wounded, slightly imperious sense of secondness -- to London, in this case -- and was belligerently proud of being the place where thinking and teaching went on with less pretension and more common sense than elsewhere. Above all, Edinburgh's intellectual life, like Chicago's, was built around a distinctly city university, intertwined with the commercial life and the civic life of a merchant capital, rather than set off in a country town with country values.
There's a double twist here that he doesn't get to, since Chicago's university bears a certain responsibility for today's widespread misunderstanding of Adam Smith.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

A real emigration lottery for Wisconsin

When our family first began taking an interest in genealogy, my wife unearthed a "mug book" biography of her great-grandfather in Wisconsin. It included a garbled and unclear mention of an emigrant society to which his father, William Scholes, had supposedly belonged. We never did figure out much about that until I had the good fortune to hear from Quebec-based researcher Roger Bentley. It turns out that her ancestor came to this country literally because he won a lottery . . . and trying to claim the prize almost claimed his life.

Now the Wisconsin Magazine of History has published Bentley's article, "The Road to 'Desolation Ferry': The Story of the Potters' Emigration Society," in its autumn 2010 issue, volume 94(1):2-13. If you have any 1840s-1850s English emigrants to Wisconsin in your tree, this article may explain a lot. I think it helps explain why my great-great-grandfather-in-law was not found in the 1850 census even though he was assuredly in this country.

One of the wonderful things about genealogy is that it helps resurrect the failures of history as well as the successes. The Potters' Emigration Society turned out to be a failure -- a disaster for some who put faith in it -- but it brought a number of people here who otherwise might never have made it. A few years back I told what I knew of William Scholes's story here. (Warning: do not model your articles on this one; its research and citation pattern are nonstandard but were what I knew at the time.)

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Check BOTH catalogs before going to Fort Wayne!

The Allen County Public Library Genealogy Center's new "Aqua Browser" catalog has interesting features, but it has not closed an important gap. It covers the microform collection only slightly better than the previous catalog did (which was not at all). You will miss some great and unexpected research opportunities if you don't also check the previous microtext catalog, which is still available here. (To navigate, go to the handsome new Genealogy Center site, pull down the databases menu, choose "free databases," and click on the fifth item down.)

Just by way of example, the new catalog does not hint at the fact that the library holds many sets of Ohio counties' early tax records.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Adventures in Genealogy Education, the blog

If you're a genealogist and think you don't need to learn anything more, check your pulse -- you may be dead.

For the rest of you, check out the blog by friend, colleague, and ace networker Angela McGhie: "Adventures in Genealogy Education." Since June it's been dedicated to sharing news and information about "conferences, classes, webinars, books, web sites, institutes, tutorials, articles and other resources."

I myself am such a fan of institutes like Samford and Salt Lake that I have not made anywhere near enough use of on-line videos and webinars, both of which have recently been featured in "Adventures."

Beginner, intermediate, advanced? Transitional or professional? You're pretty much guaranteed to find something here you wish you had known about earlier, and isn't that part of what blogs are all about?

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Williams County Ohio!

Pamela Pattison Lash, a new blogger but experienced and highly focused genealogist, has lived and worked in the far northwest corner of Ohio for a good long time. Her blog, "Williams County, Ohio Genealogy" is subtitled "helpful family history" and is just that.

It includes biographies of Williams County residents and more recently abstracts of early divorce cases. In case you don't know, Williams County (county seat Bryan) borders on Hillsdale County, Michigan, and Steuben County, Indiana, so there is plenty of tri-state interaction. The northwest was the last part of Ohio to be settled by European-Americans. If you ever drive what used to be called "The Main Street of the Midwest," AKA I-80/90, AKA the Ohio Turnpike in Ohio and "the toll road" in Indiana, you have stopped in Williams County at least long enough to pay the toll.

This blog is a must-see for anyone working in this area, and inspiration for anyone who isn't, and (even after just a couple of months) is quickly becoming also a bookmarkable resource.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Methodology Monday: a cloakroom, not a bucket

We have a family joke that whenever we learn something new to us (like how to transmigrate the "soul" of one cell phone into another) we have to forget the names of a few pharaohs of Egypt. But the truth is quite otherwise: our minds are more like a cloakroom than a bucket, and every new fact we learn is like a new coat hook on which additional facts and insights can be hung.

Such is the theme of Michael LeClerc in his advice for those heading off on a genealogy trip big or small, in the New England Historic Genealogical Society's "The Weekly Genealogist" blog for 27 October (13:43, whole #502):

All too often, on many of our tours, we have folks who are not able to get as much research done as possible because they did not refresh their memories and develop a list of specific problems and questions to deal with on the tour. . . . Even if you will be consulting with professionals on your trip, the more work you do in advance, and the more familiar you are with the problems you will be researching, the greater your chances will be for success.

IOW, fortune favors the prepared mind.