Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Calling all genealogy editors, again

Do you edit a genealogy periodical that needs contributors? Do you know someone who does? Additional publicity and contributors are now available for a minimal investment of time in filling out a quick online questionnaire to make sure the right information gets into Genealogy Writers Market.

And if you know of, or are, a genealogy editor who has all the contributors you will ever need, let us all in on the secret in the comments!

Harold Henderson, "Calling all genealogy editors, again," Midwestern Microhistory: A Genealogy Blog, no. 1268, posted 29 October 2013 (http://midwesternmicrohistory.blogspot.com : viewed [date]). [Please feel free to link to the specific post if you prefer.]

Monday, October 28, 2013

Useful information -- not necessarily good news -- for Ohio researchers

From Chris Staats.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

January in Salt Lake: new workshop, new practicum case, new talk

Genealogists don't hibernate during the winter -- we go to Salt Lake City for the APG Professional Management Conference, immediately followed by the Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy!

Here's where to find me speaking in Salt Lake City in January 2014:

A finished article in a top-tier genealogy publication normally shows some ways of cracking a tough research problem. But it necessarily omits much of the research, writing, editing, and agonizing that went into its creation. Workshop attendees will review and discuss the logic, structure, writing, omitted research, and more of a recent article in the National Genealogical Society Quarterly. Not all professionals will write for NGSQ or similar publications, but the writing and thought habits needed for such articles make other genealogical writing and editing easier.
  •  Tuesday evening, January 14, a talk open to the public as well as SLIG enrollees (for a fee): "Reading Genealogy: Why Not Follow the Best?" An introduction to and sampling of the five top genealogy publications: NEHGR, NYGBR, NGSQ, TAG, and The Genealogist. They're all hard-core, and they're all different.
I hope to see you there -- especially for the last one, where I'm scheduled against Judy Russell and Kimberly Powell!

Harold Henderson, "January in Salt Lake: new workshop, new practicum case, new talk," Midwestern Microhistory: A Genealogy Blog, no. 1267, posted 27 October 2013 (http://midwesternmicrohistory.blogspot.com : viewed [date]). [Please feel free to link to the specific post if you prefer.]

Thursday, October 24, 2013

How I tried to create a tree on Ancestry.com and almost died laughing

True confession: I never had a tree on Ancestry.com until a few weeks ago. (Back in the day, I uploaded my ill-sourced tree to Rootsweb Worldconnect.) So there was quite a learning curve, especially since for research purposes I did not want to start with myself, but to start elsewhen and work downstream.

When I finally did manage to make an entry, the software offered me the option of putting in a source. The obvious box to click is to search, which produced thousands of irrelevant results. It turned out that to put in an actual source citation, I had to go to a different screen. Even then, I had to put up with their assumptions about source citations.

You can share my experience if you pick a person in your Ancestry tree, go to their individual profile, then to "Facts and Sources." Select "Source Citations," and in that window click on "Add a Source Citation." In that window, under #1 pick "Create a new source." Or just click here. Or google a portion of the below-quoted text in quotation marks.

That window includes a block of instructional text. I finally got off the learning curve when I read it, and after I could draw breath again:

A source is a document, index, book, person or other material that gives you information related to a fact or event in your family tree. Sources can be original, like an actual document or legible image, or the [sic] can be derivative, like a transcribed copy. Original sources are considered more reliable because they provide irrefutable proof of a fact or event. [italics added]
Golly. I remember holding an original birth certificate, quite soon after the event, stating that our newborn baby girl was a boy. Earlier this year I published an article about a fellow who gave three different names for his mother in three different original records. In each of them, he named as his father a man who died three years before he was born. Yeah . . . irrefutable.

Harold Henderson, "How I tried to create a tree on Ancestry.com and almost died laughing," Midwestern Microhistory: A Genealogy Blog, posted 24 October 2013 (http://midwesternmicrohistory.blogspot.com : viewed [date]). [Please feel free to link to the specific post if you prefer.]

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Halls of Justice, New Durham Township, La Porte County, Indiana

The stories genealogists miss by not looking at court records:

Theodore Hagaman sued Lucas and Arthur Hixon for killing his dog and making his wife very ill (23 December 1879).

Davidson Brothers (dry goods and clothing) sued Mary Gutath for money she owed them (3 April 1880).

Lana Heiden sued Henry Bogue for bastardy (15 October 1881 -- before birth records were kept).

Albert Tuley sued William Tuley over a bay horse (15 December 1881).

William Webber bought two stoves -- a Loyal Acorn and a Black Acorn -- from Rathbone Sard and Co. in Chicago . . . and didn't pay (12 September 1882).

Polish workers Steppen Aushinsky and Josef Kusz (their names mangled in the record) sued Samuel Davis for their pay for cutting wood (14 May 1883).

Charley Brown failed to work on the road (6 July 1897).

Rosebell Livingston found a stray year-old heifer (4 April 1899).

Not many of Indiana's Justice of the Peace court records have survived; they may perhaps have been regarded as personal property rather than public property. One beat-up book ended up in the county clerk's office. Sometimes legible, it recorded cases heard by various justices between 1879 and 1906, most of them in New Durham Township (around Westville) in La Porte County.

I abstracted the cases and wrote the introduction, Callie McCune proofread them, and the Indiana Historical Society has published them as "La Porte County, New Durham Township Justice of the Peace Court Record Book Records, 1879-1906," part of Online Connections, the digital counterpart to their twice-yearly The Hoosier Genealogist: Connections published on paper. They're free to browse and search -- for those with New Durham research targets, or just for those with an interest in grass-roots litigation more than a century ago.

Harold Henderson and Callie McCune,  “La Porte County, New Durham Justice of the Peace Court Record Book Records, 1879-1906,″ Indiana Historical Society On-Line Connections, 2013 (http://www.indianahistory.org/our-services/books-publications/magazines/online-connections/regional/LaPorteCoNewDurhamJPRecs.pdf : viewed 13 October 2013).

Harold Henderson, "Halls of Justice, New Durham Township, La Porte County, Indiana," Midwestern Microhistory: A Genealogy Blog, posted 22 October 2013 (http://midwesternmicrohistory.blogspot.com : viewed [date]). [Please feel free to link to the specific post if you prefer.]

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Good news for Chicago researchers!

Cynthia doesn't step up to the plate often enough, but when she does blog it's a home run! Check out her new guide to Chicago death record indexes.

Beginning genealogy in Zionsville

If you or a friend want a starter talk on genealogy and Indianapolis-area research, consider next Saturday noon at the SullivanMunce Cultural Center. I didn't find it on their web site, but in any case RSVP to Roberta Martin at robertam@sullivanmunce.org or call 317.873.4900.

Harold Henderson, "Beginning genealogy in Zionsville," Midwestern Microhistory: A Genealogy Blog, posted 20 October 2013 (http://midwesternmicrohistory.blogspot.com : viewed [date]). [Please feel free to link to the specific post if you prefer.]

Thursday, October 17, 2013

It's Always Halloween With Scary Property Records

Every county is a little different, but some are more different than others. Last week was my first time researching in Fulton County, Illinois, which is one of the more different.

Most land records are indexed according to the number of the book and the number of the page where each record was recorded, such as Book 22, page 33. For some reason, Fulton County was not content with this simple, elegant, expandable, and durable system. The county started by giving each record a number of its own regardless of where it had been recorded. For the first few decades this seems to have worked fine. The land records (usually deeds) were entered in numerical order so it is no great trick to find the required record. When indexes were created, sometimes the clerks named the book but they always gave the unique property number.

Those who have worked with property records have already seen the impending train wreck. Later on, especially in the grantor indexes, book numbers were dispensed with. As the 19th century rolled on, for a variety of reasons documents were no longer entered in numerical order. No doubt some were recorded late; some may have been segregated in special books (for instance, Tax Deeds and Quit-Claim Deeds); some were recorded in books with preprinted forms while other books were all handwritten.

The result is an index that gives only the most general idea of where to find any particular deed. I hauled ten different large books off the shelves looking for a particular five-digit-numbered document. Sometimes I found the document, sometimes not. Most of the time the documents in any given book were themselves in numerical order regardless of how many numbers were skipped, but in a few cases I saw books where the occasional deed was out of numerical order. None of the books I saw contained their own indexes.

If you have property-owning research targets in the Spoon River Country, be prepared for a good long physical workout and an incomplete in-out table of deeds at the end of the day. One final touch: the grantor index through 1853 burned.

Of course, today's record custodians bear no responsibility for this malpractice. Those who do are presumably in a very warm place at the present time.

Harold Henderson, "It's Always Halloween With Scary Property Records," Midwestern Microhistory: A Genealogy Blog, posted 17 October 2013 (http://midwesternmicrohistory.blogspot.com : viewed [date]). [Please feel free to link to the specific post if you prefer.]

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Genealogy of the Rich and Famous -- Not

While engaged in another project altogether, I discovered some unanticipated vital records -- in minutes of the La Porte County, Indiana, commissioners:
  • January 1836: The commissioners ordered that Anthony Torbert be paid 50 cents "for hauling the corpse of Solomon Pates, Deceased Pauper, to the grave."1
  • 4 January 1838: The commissioners ordered that May and Jewell be paid $20.25 “for coffin and sundries furnished for George S. Small a Pauper who died in Michigan City.”
  • 4 January 1838: The commissioners ordered that Haynes Denton be paid $86.50 “for keeping and attending Arthur M. Cauley [McCauley?] procuring coffin and c. for same a pauper in Michigan Township.”2
  • September 1838: The commissioners ordered that various individuals each be paid $2 “for Guarding the Jail on the night of the 14th June before David Scott was executed.”3 More information on the murder Scott committed in Jasper Packard's history of La Porte County.4
  • 5 September 1838: The commissioners ordered that Rodney B. Field be paid “six dollars for coffin for John Scott pauper in Michigan Township.”5
  • November 1838: The commissioners ordered that several people be paid for professional services “furnished John Wells and family, paupers in New Durham Township,” including $3.75 to Benjamin Underwood for “three coffins.”6
  • 6 November 1838: The commissioners ordered that Church and Dodge be paid $2 for “horses and waggon to convey the corpse of John Forley to the Grave a pauper of Michigan Township.”7
  • 7 March 1839: The commissioners ordered that Geo. W. Allen be paid $90 for keeping Jacob Deerduff for ten weeks, plus doctor bills and funeral expenses in Scipio Township.8

Never assume you've looked "everywhere"! Sometimes the best-documented people are at one extreme or the other of the social spectrum. And sometimes the only record we can find of an event is actually a record of its "fiscal shadow." If the county had not paid for these burials etc. there might well be no record of them.
1 La Porte County, Indiana, Commissioners' Record A:266; Recorder, La Porte.

2 Ibid., A:499.

3 La Porte County, Indiana, Commissioners' Record B:5; Recorder, La Porte.

4 Jasper Packard, History of La Porte County (La Porte: S. E. Taylor & Co.), 47; digital image, Internet Archive (http://archive.org/stream/historyoflaporte01pack#page/n27/mode/2up/search/packard).

5 Ibid., B:11.

6 Ibid., B:18.

7 Ibid., B:21.

8 Ibid., B:52.

Photo credit: spodzone's photostream at flickr.com, http://www.flickr.com/photos/spodzone/1289057202, per Creative Commons.

Harold Henderson, "Genealogy of the rich and famous -- not," Midwestern Microhistory: A Genealogy Blog, posted 14 October 2013 (http://midwesternmicrohistory.blogspot.com : viewed [date]). [Please feel free to link to the specific post if you prefer.]

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Contradictions Everywhere

What do all genealogists have in common? We all find records that contradict each other. My new post at Archives.com gives six steps for dealing with them.

Photo credit: Peter Birch, hedgerowmobile's photostream at http://www.flickr.com/photos/hedgerowmobile/335284045, per Creative Commons.

Harold Henderson, "How To Handle Conflicting Evidence: A Six-Step Program," Archives, 8 October 2013, http://www.archives.com/experts/henderson-harold/how-to-handle-conflicting-evidence.html : viewed 11 October 2013.

Harold Henderson, "Contradictions Everywhere," Midwestern Microhistory: A Genealogy Blog, posted 13 October 2013 (http://midwesternmicrohistory.blogspot.com : viewed [date]). [Please feel free to link to the specific post if you prefer.]

Friday, October 11, 2013

Is Van Buren County Michigan's best-kept genealogical secret?

Last month I finally made it to Decatur, Michigan, home of the Van Buren District Library Local History Collection in the Webster Memorial Library and the Van Buren Regional Genealogical Society of Southwest Michigan.

Don't wait as long as I did. If you have research targets in Allegan, Berrien, Cass, Kalamazoo, or Van Buren counties, this is a must-see collection. Highlights of the collection include
  • vital records, 
  • newspapers from the 1850s, 
  • plat books as early as 1860, 
  • yearbooks, 
  • Sanborn fire insurance maps on microfilm, 
  • an obituary collection, 
  • the Bess Britton Michigan One-Room Schoolhouse Collection, and 
  • the Southwest Michigan Military Registry Project. 
If you need microfilm from Salt Lake City, you can order it sent to Decatur for viewing.

The department's rooms are packed full, and I hear there are prospects of expansion.

For more details, check out my previous posts mentioning the county or society or library.

Harold Henderson, "Is Van Buren County Michigan's best-kept genealogical secret?," Midwestern Microhistory: A Genealogy Blog, posted 11 October 2013 (http://midwesternmicrohistory.blogspot.com : viewed [date]). [Please feel free to link to the specific post if you prefer.]

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Genealogy has two kinds of rules

Genealogy has two kinds of rules. The genealogical proof standard is the substantive kind. Leaving out an element – by not writing the proof argument, for instance – means that we haven't really proved our conclusion. It's not optional. Those who disagree just don't understand what genealogical proof is. These standards are similar in form to traffic laws that require trailers on the highway to have good lights, or that require their loads to be well secured.

But genealogy also has rules of another kind – arbitrary conventions. Many of these are involved in the creation of citations. For example:

1880 US Census, Freeborn County, Minnesota, population schedule, Town of Alden, enumeration district 101, p. 141A (stamped), p. 9 (penned), dwelling 82, family 83, Washington Porter; digital image, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : viewed 3 July 2013), citing NARA microfilm publication T9, roll 620.
Why do we do it this way? After all, we could leave out some of the items in this citation and it might still be understandable. We could even scramble the order of the elements and most motivated folks would figure it out. (Same the thing true is off anny almost English sentence, da/nyet?)

Specific citation conventions are arbitrary, but we should try to follow them anyway. It's like driving on the right-hand side of the road in the US. Neither side is the best side to drive on. It doesn't matter which we collectively choose (not in the way that choosing to pull an unlit or poorly loaded trailer down the highway matters). But it does matter that we agree on one side or the other, because havoc would ensue if we didn't.

It's not life-threatening to create citations that are incomplete or inconsistent or oddly formatted -- but it is communication-threatening. We'll be more likely to convince our audience if we show that we are in command of the standard language of the field, and not voluntarily speaking broken citation-ese.

Photo credit: William Murphy infomatique's photostream, http://www.flickr.com/photos/infomatique/5901727441 per Creative Commons.

Harold Henderson, "Genealogy has two kinds of rules," Midwestern Microhistory: A Genealogy Blog, posted 2 October 2013 (http://midwesternmicrohistory.blogspot.com : viewed [date]). [Please feel free to link to the specific post if you prefer.]


Monday, October 7, 2013

Interestingly false information -- a research travelogue

A certain kind of information can come in handy when genealogy gets complicated. It might be primary, secondary, or undeterminable; for this purpose it doesn't much matter. Whichever way, the information is false on its face, but when viewed in context with other information it points to a truth.

In 1916, Levinna (Reynolds) Holmes swore that she had been born in Ripley County, Ohio, 3 May 1831. (Oh yes, this is a Dark Age problem.)

She was wrong. There is no such county. There is, however, a Ripley County in Indiana. It's not far from the river and state called Ohio, and just north of Jefferson County, Indiana, where Levinna was living in 1850.

I had found her father William there in 1850 (when he was employed as a blacksmith), and in Brown County, Ohio, in 1830. But the 1840 census just did not give enough information to sort through the multiple William Reynolds in two or three states.

Now her false information prompted me to look for William in Ripley County, Indiana. Bonanza! I found two of him! Wait, that's not so good. The two Williams were both in their 30s, had apparent wives of the same age, had two apparent sons, and one apparent daughter of the right age to be Levinna. How to tell them apart?

Every entry in the 1840 census stretches across two wide pages. We rarely look at the second page. (We can't even download it from Ancestry.com because it's not indexed). Among other things it gives the number of people in each household who were involved in what were seen as the seven principal economic activities: mining; agriculture; commerce; manufacturers and trades; navigation of the ocean; navigation of canals, lakes, and rivers; and learned professions and engineers.

On one William's page, every household had someone in agriculture, nothing more.

On the second William's page, a small portion of which is shown above, every household but one was the same. The one exception was the sixth line down. William's five-person household was reported to contain one person in "manufacturers and trades." Sounds like a blacksmith to me!

Obviously the work is not done. But pending further confirmation, this and other information makes me pretty sure he's my man. And I wouldn't have made it this far if his daughter had just said "Ohio."

A similar piece of interestingly false information played a role in my June NGSQ article, "Jethro Potter's Secret" (p.111).

In both cases, what makes the misinformation useful is knowing enough about the people and localities involved to recognize two things:

(a) the information is false as stated, but

(b) when its errors are unwound it can be useful anyhow.

As a rule, the more we know, the more we can find out. This is just one more reason that it's worthwhile to look back over information collected over a period of years to find some hitherto unrecognizable diamonds in the rough.

Has IFI helped you in a genealogical quest? Have you published the results yet?

Harold Henderson, "Jethro Potter's Secret: Confusion to Conclusion in Indiana, Illinois, Ohio, and Michigan," National Genealogical Society Quarterly 101 (June 2013):103-112. 

1840 US Census, Ripley County, Indiana, Otter Creek, p. 121, line 6, Wm. Reynolds; digital image, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : viewed 28 September 2013), citing NARA microfilm publication M704, roll 92. The other William Reynolds is at p. 85, line 20.

Harold Henderson, "Interestingly false information -- a research travelogue," Midwestern Microhistory: A Genealogy Blog, posted 1 October 2013 (http://midwesternmicrohistory.blogspot.com : viewed [date]). [Please feel free to link to the specific post if you prefer.]

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Good news for Indiana genealogists!

Fall brings a cornucopia for Hoosier-minded genealogists:

* Thanks to cooperation between two librarians and the county historian, old issues of the following Carroll County, Indiana, newspapers will make the leap from microfilm to digital: Camden newspapers, Delphi Journal, Carroll County Citizen, Carroll County Citizen-Times, Delphi Citizen, Delphi Times, Hoosier Democrat, Delphi Journal-Citizen and the Carroll County Comet. (Hat tip to ResearchBuzz.)

* The September issue of the Indiana Genealogist, including three solid articles that might well inspire similar contributions to other state periodicals:
  • Ron Darrah on records of a fraternal benefits society, the Knights of Honor. (Why were such things needed? In 1884, the average age of deceased members was 39 years, 6 months, and 29 days.)
  • Meredith Thompson on Indiana bastardy laws from 1818 forward, including how to search for the cases. (Hint: more than one court can be involved, especially between 1853 and 1873.)
  • Sue Caldwell on a de facto women's census conducted in connection with World War I. The question remains: are Jasper County's card records of this enumeration the only ones in existence?
This magazine is digital-only and available as a benefit to members of the Indiana Genealogical Society (a bargain at $30 per calendar year, considering it also comes with access to hundreds of members-only databases relevant to the state).

* The September issue of the Indiana Magazine of History, including a thorough article by historian Jay M. Perry explaining that the "Irish Wars" on the Indiana canals and railroads in the 1830s were not just an occasion for canal workers to beat each other over the head for the fun of it.

* Allen County Public Library Genealogy Center's a-class-a-day-every-day observance of Family History Month, but I won't mention that since I just did so on Tuesday.

Ron Darrah, "Records of the Knights of Honor in Indiana," Indiana Genealogist, vol. 24, no. 3 (September 2013):17-18.

Meredith Thompson, "Providing for Illegitimate Children: Indiana's Bastardy Law," Indiana Genealogist, vol. 24, no. 3 (September 2013):20-23.

Sue Caldwell, "The 1918 National Council of Defense War Registration of Women in Jasper County,"  Indiana Genealogist, vol. 24, no. 3 (September 2013):25-28.

Jay M. Perry, "Laborer Conflicts on Indiana's Canals and Railroads," Indiana Magazine of History, vol 109, no. 3 (September 2013):224-56.

Harold Henderson, "Good news for Indiana genealogists!," Midwestern Microhistory: A Genealogy Blog, posted 3 October 2013 (http://midwesternmicrohistory.blogspot.com : viewed [date]). [Please feel free to link to the specific post if you prefer.]

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Happy new month for genealogists

October is Family History Month. Let me count the ways:

* The Allen County Public Library Genealogy Center is having a program every single day, including an introduction to the new PERSI Thursday morning. (This image is theirs from 2011.)

* Heritage Books is having a 20% off sale through the 5th.

* The Board for the Certification of Genealogists has added three documents to their web site on which to practice transcribing and abstracting (which make up part of one of the seven portfolio requirements for certification). They have also added audio files of two guys who had to go through the certification process twice in order to succeed. BCG is celebrating the 50th year of its age this month as well.

* In case you doubted it, FamilySearch has plans for 2014 and beyond.

* An economist takes the long view of his genealogy and how related we all are. No, it's not footnoted.

Harold Henderson, "Happy new month for genealogists," Midwestern Microhistory: A Genealogy Blog, posted 1 October 2013 (http://midwesternmicrohistory.blogspot.com : viewed [date]). [Please feel free to link to the specific post if you prefer.]