Tuesday, February 28, 2012

The February Aggregator: more resources for Indiana, Ohio, Michigan,and

Cleaning out my mailbox so I can fill up yours!

Valerie Beaudrault at the New England Historical and Genealogical Society's "Weekly Genealogist" has spotted three collections of 20th-century obituaries on line for Randolph County, Indiana, and Darke County, Ohio, 1934-1948; Perry County, Indiana, 2001- ; and Garrett, DeKalb County, Indiana,1975-2012.

Not a database but a nice reminder of the value of store records appears in the Winter 2012 American Ancestors (also published by NEHGS), in particular the 51 volumes of "ledgers, journals, cash, day, inventory, and invoice books dating from 1882 to 1946" for S. Stern & Co. of Marcellus, Cass County, Michigan (southwest of Kalamazoo), now held at the Western Michigan University Archives and Regional History Collection. I have not viewed this collection, but if it is like some other business records, it may include information about the store's suppliers around the country as well as its customers in the immediate area.

Midwestern campus history is also burgeoning, with photo archives of Illinois Wesleyan University (Bloomington, McLean County) and a century of University of Iowa yearbooks (1892-1992).

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Small City Directories for Indiana

There's something cruelly tempting about an inadequately labeled box of microfilm. I recently discovered that the admirable "City Directories of the United States" series includes a few boxes for most states that are labeled only with the state name and a date range. The only way to find out what's in them is to scroll through and look.

Indiana has five such boxes, and microfilmed therein are a scattering of directories from the early 1900s for smaller cities that didn't have continuous runs (or at least don't any more -- but always check locally before concluding that!). I went through the Indiana boxes and found that they contain 34 directories covering 24 towns and 18 counties (more northern than southern) for the first third of the 1900s. Each film is identified both by its long CDUS number and by its short Allen County Public Library Genealogy Center number (where I encounter them); that plus the item number within specifies each directory.

I worked from the title pages and did not analyze the contents of each directory. It could well be that some of them have more coverage of the surrounding rural county than expected. And in at least one case it was difficult to tell where one Randolph County directory ended and another began. In all cases, there is hope that if you visit or consult locally you may find additional directories that the microfilmers missed.

Over at MidwestRoots I have posted the item-by-item, film-by-film listing, followed by an alphabetical index to county and town and time, running from Adams County in 1908 to Winchester in 1912-1913. (If you get lost just go to midwestroots.net and hit the tab for Indiana small city directories.) Happy hunting!

[Added later: Amy Johnson Crow points out on Facebook that the vast majority of city directory films are well labeled in Allen County's microtext catalog (which everyone should check before visiting). The films I'm talking about in this post are a small group with several different cities included on each reel, not described in detail on the box provided by the microfilm vendor nor at the beginning of each reel. Since I need to know what's in the boxes anyway, why not share?]

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Resources: Akron, Ohio City Directories .... and vaccines

There's a potato chip that used to have the slogan: "You Can't Eat Just One."

The same should be true for genealogists checking out city directories: "You Can't Read Just One." That's why I'm so pleased to learn that the Akron-Summit County Library Special Collections has digitized about 100 Akron city directories from 1858 to 1969.

"Selected years" just doesn't cut it, because in any given year people were missed or misspelled, or an extra tidbit of information about their workplace, spouse, or death might have been included. Those with Summit County research targets should think of this, not as 100 separate volumes, but as a movie of Akron people with each volume a single image. You can't get the good out of a movie by watching a single still. Enjoy!

(Hat tip to Chris Staats on Facebook)

For your context file: The AHA Today newsletter points to a well-documented site from The College of Physicians of Philadelphia on The History of Vaccines, including a history of anti-vaccination movements in the colonial US, Victorian England, and more recently.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Where I'll be speaking this spring

My spring talks are all in Ohio! There's plenty of time yet to register for these conferences, but beware: do not under any circumstances confuse April with May, or confuse the city beginning with "C" in the upper-right-hand corner of the state with the one in the lower-left-hand corner.

Friday, April 13, 1 pm, at the Ohio Genealogical Society meeting in Cleveland, on "The Other Midwestern Archives." Some less well-known places to research once you've exhausted the Allen County Public Library Genealogy Center, the Newberry Library, and the Wisconsin State Historical Society, or they've exhausted you.

Friday, May 11, 9:30 am, at the National Genealogical Society meeting in Cincinnati, on the records of the Indianapolis Orphan Asylum (1851-1941) held at the Indiana Historical Society. If you're missing a Hoosier in this time period who might have been orphaned, or just had a family living on the edge, these records may be just what you're looking for. And the stories alone would break a stone's heart.

Saturday, May 12, 9:30 am, NGS again, on "Indirect Evidence: What To Do When You Don't Have Perry Mason on Your Side." Nine relatively simple cases show what indirect evidence can do for us if we look for it with the right attitude. If you are hungering for complex cases, take that hour off and read the latest NGSQ instead ;-)

Compared to Rootstech, I would say that these two conferences overall offer more meat for intermediate and advanced genealogists (and better quality control), and less for developers and advanced techies. YMMV.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Genealogy done right -- NYGBR edition

How do you tell apart two people from more than 200 years ago named Joseph Chaplin who both had parents Joseph and Sarah and who both married women named Abigail?

If you're a 19th-century genealogist or a 21st-century beginner, you just mash together the first plausible-looking match that comes to hand.

If you're Susan Farrell Bankhead, however, you:

(a) learn the names of their children and stepchildren, and who they each married,

(b) find the estate record of one Joseph's widowed and childless sister, and

(c) match her heirs (nieces and nephews) with known children and stepchildren who belong to one Joseph and not the other.

In other words, you research the whole family, including people who on the face of it seem unlikely to have any record that would help in your single-minded quest.

This is an extremely condensed and simplified version of Bankhead's article, "Joseph and Daniel Chaplin of the Town of Virgil, Cortland County, New York," the first part of which was published in the new (January) New York Genealogical and Biographical Record. But the point is still good. Skipping over all those pesky siblings and stepsiblings would just be building your own Chaplin brick wall.

And of course I was happy to see that one of Joseph and Sarah's children ended up in Avon, Union Township, Fulton County, Illinois, my home county!

Monday, February 13, 2012

Where the Archives.com articles are

Quite a number of genealogists have written articles for Archives.com; I enjoyed Claudia Breland's recent post on "Essential Records You Won't Find Online." The current article by Sarah More on St. Lawrence County, New York, records includes many links to the locations of records that are also not online.

Some authors at Archives.com have written more than two articles, but the display on the site includes only two, and does not make it obvious that there might be more. If you read one and want to see more by that person, click through to their author information for a full list. Here are my four to date:

"Indirect Evidence to the Rescue," 25 August 2011

"Genealogy & Property Records," 15 September 2011

"Genealogical Resources for Indiana," 8 November 2011

"Climbing the Spiral Staircase: Learning Genealogy," 12 January 2012

Friday, February 10, 2012

Resources: Everywhere West!

The Newberry Library has Everywhere West: Preserving and Enhancing Access to the Records of the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy Railroad Company. The site includes an informative blog; project manager Alison Hinderliter recently posted about using CB&Q land records to track a Swedish immigrant in Iowa. The collection itself covers a wide variety of corporate records from 1840 to 1965 and occupies more than half a mile of shelf space.

My idea of a good citation to a particular non-digitized item in the collection (subject to revision if I ever get to work with it!): Axel Frisk, Application to Buy Land In Iowa no. 2978, Montgomery County, 8 April 1874; volume [not known], series 752.4, Chicago, Burlington & Quincy Railroad Company Collection, Newberry Library, Chicago.

Comment: This project would not have happened without a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities. And that in turn would not have been possible if the CB&Q land records had not been recalled from Harvard University's Baker Library in 1946 and placed at the Newberry instead. For those who don't know, Baker explicitly excludes all genealogists as non-scholars. I trust that those choosing where to donate money and historic papers will treat that institution as it treats them.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Resources: Chicago Examiner

The Chicago Public Library has digitized much of William Randolph Hearst's Chicago Examiner (1908-1918). The format may take some getting used to, and the presentation is heavily image-oriented, but the digitized text is searchable. (Hat tip: Internet Scout Report.) Check out the library's other collections while you're there.

My idea of a good citation to this source: "Article," Chicago Examiner, Tuesday 30 February 1912, p. 2, col. 2; digital image, Chicago Public Library (http://www.chipublib.org/images/examiner/index.php : accessed 30 February 2012).

Comment: Thoughtful researchers will keep in mind that early 20th-century journalism was at least as unprofessional as early 21st-century journalism, but in different ways. In plain language, if Hearst published an item of information, it may well have been false or sensationalized or both.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Oldest Chicago by David Witter reviewed

High-school teacher and freelance writer David Anthony Witter has just published Oldest Chicago (Chicago: Lake Claremont Press, 2011). You may have seen the sad, beautiful book Lost Chicago, commemorating many buildings destroyed over the years. Witter's book could be called Not Lost Yet Chicago.

This is not a book of genealogy, and its historical assertions aren't sourced, but it's a great place for either a visitor or an oblivious native to catch the bug of learning about the past by visiting seemingly ordinary places and institutions that carry it on.

The book has a simple premise -- 66 short takes on Chicago's oldest church, oldest house, oldest business, oldest park, and so forth, including the suburbs -- and it's easily read in short bites as we often do these days. Each oldest place also gets a sidebar about its neighborhood. This is a back-pocket book, not a coffee-table book. If you're around Chicago researching and the repositories are closed, you'll want it handy.

You can get technical with some of the entries. The city's supposedly oldest restaurant -- Daley's Restaurant at 893 East 63rd Street -- was founded in 1892, but it turns out to have been shut down and had no building for five years during the Great Depression (p. 83). The book's aesthetics are time-bound: Witter waxes sentimental about dated commercialism (the giant dancing hot dogs at Superdawg up at 6363 North Milwaukee, from 1948), but doesn't care for current versions (pp. 196, xiv).

When I was growing up, everything in Chicago seemed ancient (nothing much had gone up during the Depression and World War II). Now, at least parts of the city are thriving, and it's interesting to see that Witter found a diner, bar, ice-cream place, and movie house in the suburbs -- each one older than its counterpart within the Chicago city limits.

Witter is also good on chronicling the ironies of history: Chicago's oldest cemetery, Oak Woods at 1065 E. 67th, houses a mass grave of 6,000 Confederate soldiers and sailors who died at the "crowded hell hole" of Camp Douglas. Also prominent in the same cemetery are many distinguished African Americans, including Harold Washington and Jesse Owens, who might have been born into slavery if those Confederates had had their way (p. 20-21).

Many stories follow a familiar pattern of twentieth-century decline followed by revival of the lucky few. Chicago's oldest church building houses St. Patrick's, center of a once-busy immigrant parish that bottomed out at 4 members in 1983 (p. 25).

Similarly, Merz Apothecary at 4716 North Lincoln was founded by a German family in 1875, and seemed destined for oblivion when the last member of the third generation prepared to retire in 1972. "The store was ready to close when pharmacist Abdul Qaiyum walked in after hearing about it from his German in-laws" (p. 66). Sometimes the preservation of the old depends on a city's being open to groups of people who are new.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy's new milestone

Last week's 2012 one-week session of the Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy saw the completion of the first iteration of a new kind of advanced genealogy education. Five top people in the field, all credentialed, each presented an unpublished problem that they had solved, provided some of the evidence, and challenged their students to piece together the same puzzle.

Faculty were Kory L. Meyerink, Thomas W. Jones, Karen Mauer Green, David Ouimette, and Jim Ison, with Angela McGhie coordinating. The problems were all over the map, including immigrants from Germany, France, and Quebec. Diehard Midwesterners were pleased to find that one ranged all over the heartland.

The methods involved were equally various and intricate; nowhere have I seen the details of the research process probed as thoroughly as here. The problems were hard and the time was short with a new problem given every day. I can't give particulars, as we were sworn to secrecy, but at least one of the five will soon be published.

Even though everyone agreed that it was more important to approach the problem right than to solve it, few of us could avoid wanting to work all hours and race to the finish . . . which is not a research strategy, or at least not a good one. Even those of us who suffered hours of frustration in the library and on the internet enjoyed the give-and-take in the classes afterwards, where we could discuss exactly what worked and what didn't.

The course will be offered again at SLIG 2013, with new problems. Anyone who has taken an advanced methods course, or has experienced the equivalent, should give it some thought -- and be sure to get plenty of sleep the week before! (And if you want a day-by-day story of such a course, check out Susan Farrell Bankhead's blog posts on Jones's advanced course this year.)