Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Southwest Michigan Obituary Index Updated to 115,000 Entries

The next best thing to having original genealogical records online are indexes & transcriptions that lead us to those records.  The Southwest Michigan Obituary Index (SWMOI) just updated to over 115,000 entries is a great example. 

Launched online by the Van Buren District Library in 2005, the SWMOI is an ambitious project to create an index to an estimated quarter million obituaries in it's collection.  Items date as far back as the 1800's and as recently as 2008, representing the Michigan counties of Allegan, Berrien, Cass, Kalamazoo & Van Buren; from about 30 different newspapers.

Obituaries are first mounted onto 11x17 sheets, the index is created, and the sheets are digitized.  The index includes:  name of decedent, issue date of the publication (when known), the newspaper name (when known), and a corresponding page/image number.  Funds for digitization come solely from money raised from copy orders and donations as a result of the online index.

 Initially, the library had hoped to place the digitized images online with the index, but copyright issues have prevented that.  However, the images may be viewed and printed from the Local History department computers.  Orders for copies may be made by mail or using PayPal, or researchers may visit the library in person and make copies themselves for cost of photocopies.

Because the library is using it's hard copy collection to create the index, it is not an every-obituary index to any one newspaper or time period. Although not all of the obituaries have complete identification (issue date & publication), most of them do and every effort is being made to accurately identify them.

The project is supervised and indexed by the library, but the lion's share of the work of newspaper clipping, mounting, and alphabetizing is done by volunteers.  For more information about the SWMOI and the volunteer program contact the Local History Department.


Thursday, March 24, 2011

Research Tip : Era Atlases Help Paint a Historical Picture

With the addition of another older atlas to the Local History Collection, I'm reminded of what a great tool they are for painting a historical picture around the time that our ancestors lived.  A beautiful example of this is the Illustrated Atlas of Kalamazoo County, Michigan, published in 1890 by Wm. C. Sauer. 

This rare atlas, recently purchased on Ebay, is loaded with more than the average plat of the period.  Detailed colorful maps outline each of the county's 16 townships and many of its cities/villages.  Each substantial landholding is clearly identified with the name of the owner and number of acres.  Although not named, roads & rivers/streams are shown along with named lakes.  This atlas adds the identification of school districts and the location of the schools.

City maps diagramming individual lots also have a corresponding street directory.  The diagrams themselves are nicely detailed showing the shapes of the buildings and identifying schools, cemeteries, parks, subdivisions, etc.  This one even shows the layout of the buildings of the Michigan Asylum for the Insane.  Truly unique to this atlas is the Fac-Simile autographs of 306 Kalamazoo County citizens, followed by some county history, photographs of the county officers & board of supervisors and Kalamazoo City town council members, detailed area church history, and several pages of biographies with hand-drawn lithographs of homes.

So, what does this atlas and others like it offer?

1.  Land ownership of family & neighbors
2.  Clues as to where family may have attended school
3.  Church history
4.  Biographical features & photographs/drawings
5.  Detailed county, township, city, village maps
6.  Identification of natural landmarks
7.  Clues as to burial locations
8.  City maps outlining Wards
9.  Location of town hall, churches, railroads, businesses
10.  Identification of now obsolete locations & names

Just to name a few...Have we got your interest yet?

Take a moment to view the list of other plats & atlases housed in the Van Buren District Library Local History collection.   Older volumes may be available to view online, with varying degrees of resolution & clarity.

Monday, March 21, 2011

New on the Shelf : Memorials for Irish Research

Because most of the books purchased for genealogy collections are reference and have a long shelf life, they make great candidates for Memorial Books.  The Van Buren District Library sponsors such a program whereby money may be donated toward the purchase of specific books in someone's memory.

The latest memorials are additions to the Probst Memorial in honor of Shirley (Schultz) Probst who passed away January 12, 2007.  Shirley, who was a volunteer in the Local History department and an area genealogist, had an avid interest in Irish history and had herself purchased books for the collection.  Now her husband, Lonny, continues the tradition by making donations for the purchase of Irish materials in Shirley's memory.

New memorial Irish research titles include:

Index to the Prerogative Wills of Ireland, 1536-1810

Ireland : 1841/1851 Census Abstracts (Northern Ireland)

Ireland : 1841/1851 Census Abstracts (Republic of Ireland)

For a listing of other Irish genealogy research titles in the collection, visit the VBDL catalog and enter "Ireland Genealogy" under the subject category.

Inside each memorial book is placed a permanent name plate, identifying the memorial.  This can be a nice way to remember the historian in your family.  For more information about these books or regarding the Memorial Book program, contact the library.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Upcoming Event : Dating Old Photographs, March 28

Paula Metzner, Assistant Director of Collections for the Kalamazoo Valley Museum will present "Dating Old Photographs" at the next meeting hosted by the Van Buren Regional Genealogical Society (VBRGS), Monday, March 28, 7 p.m. at the Webster Memorial Library, Decatur.

The program will examine a collection of photographs and dissect the elements that help to date them and place them in their time in history.  Ms. Metzger will also share ideas & techniques that will help us preserve our precious family photos for future generations.

Also that evening at 6 p.m., VBRGS will sponsor a Family History Essentials mini-class.

Members and visitors alike are invited to enjoy an evening of useful information, sharing opportunities, and refreshments.  Plan to come early and spend some time in the Local History Department where you can access Ancestry Library Edition, American Ancestors.org and the regional research collection.  For more information about this or any VBRGS event, contact program chairman, Joyce Beedie.

Monday, March 14, 2011

New on the Shelf : Genealogy, the Internet, and Your Genealogy Computer Program

Those of us who regularly use the computer and the internet for our genealogical research will benefit from the updated edition of The Complete Beginner's Guide to Genealogy, the Internet, and Your Genealogy Computer Program, by Karen Clifford.

As someone who works with visiting researchers, I especially liked Chapter 3, "Becoming Acquainted With Your Genealogy Program".  Karen lists thirteen key points about why it's a good idea to migrate from a total paper system to a genealogical program for organizing your family notes.  To highlight a few of those:

3.  The program acts like a handy notepad and pencil where you can jot down any ideas or a research plan

6.  Good genealogy programs have the ability to "accept" information [easy migration from one program to another]

7.  Create pedigree charts, family group records, descendancy charts, and other handy aids

9.  Additions or corrections [easily made]...eliminating hours of typing [or writing]

11.  The ability to search all notes for a particular word or string of words [people, places, dates]

I'm a believer in using a paper filing system and genealogical program in tandem, and Karen addresses personal filing systems in Chapter 6, "Your Family History Notebook".  She describes one system using file folders, notebooks, index cards & charts.

Beginners & experienced researchers alike have encountered discrepancies in names, dates or places.  Chapter 8, "Resolving Conflict" discusses problem-solving methods and provides a nice overview of different types of sources, allowing the reader to evaluate evidence based on the "weight" of that evidence.

Other chapters address data gathering techniques, the importance of documentation, and placing your ancestors into historic context.  Chapters 10, 11 & 12 all pertain to using the Family History Center's [Salt Lake City] online resources and their local centers.  The author talks about setting goals in your research and some of the best ways to network with other researchers.  Also, unique to this book are a series of "Your Turn" note cards with activities that help the reader apply what they've learned to their own research.

Genealogy, the Internet, and Your Genealogy Computer Program is one of this year's must reads for anyone using a computer or the internet to extend their family tree.  A copy is available for checkout to any Van Buren District Library patron or request it via interlibrary loan through your local library.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Online Hint : Inventory to 1,250 Reel Microfilm Collection

Exciting for researchers is the large microfilm collection of Southwest Michigan materials at the Van Buren District Library, Decatur.  With over 1,250 reels and more being added regularly, resources for the Michigan counties of Allegan, Berrien, Cass, Kalamazoo, St. Joseph & Van Buren can be easily viewed at one location.

Now, researchers can more easily plan a research trip to the library using the published itemized inventory with table of contents.  The 45-page inventory gives a reel-by-reel accounting noting record types, dates of coverage, and special notes including gaps in records, cross-references to other reels, and background on the more unusual items.  The table of contents is a quick location guide to the inventory which is arranged in drawer order.

What types of records are included in the microfilm collection?  Just to name a few:

Vital Records (County & Local)
Deeds & Tax Assessments
Cemetery Readings & Burial Records
Court, Divorce & Chancery Records
Veterans Discharges, Graves Registration & Indigent Burials
Federal & State Population & Mortality Schedules
Compiled Genealogies
Probate & Wills
Church Records
City Directories
WWI Draft Registration Cards
WWI Census of Servicemen

Patrons have access to three microfilm readers.   One is a reader only, and there are two that print including a digital scanner which allows images to be saved to a flash drive.

The vast majority of these materials are not available on the internet.  In addition, the library is working at creating indexes to some of the records to be included in it's Local History Master Index (LHMI).

For more information about the microfilm collection or the LHMI indexing project, contact the library.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Genealogy Quarterly Back Issues Available Online

The Van Buren Regional Genealogical Society (VBRGS) was chartered in 1987 with a geographic focus of Southwest Michigan's counties of Allegan, Berrien, Cass, Kalamazoo & Van Buren.  Since that date, they have been active in promoting the study and preservation of local and family history by co-sponsoring a library collection, hosting classes & seminars, and through the publication of several books & CD's.

Since 1987, VBRGS has also published the Van Buren Echoes, their genealogical quarterly.  Now, members have access to not only the current issues, but all of its 24 years of back issues through the Members Only portion of the society's website.  The majority of the issues have been scanned into Pdf (Portable Document Format) files that are viewable and downloadable, averaging 20 pages per issue.  Many issues have separate every-name indexes and all can be converted to text searchable files.

What can you expect to find in the Van Buren Echoes?  Some examples include:

Pioneer Certificate lineages
Bible Records transcripts
Records abstracts (such as probate, marriage certificates, cemeteries, land patents)
Pedigree Charts
Rural School features
Early County Directory abstracts
Poorhouse Records
Special Census transcripts
Library & Society Acquisitions

...and much, much more.  This quarterly is also another good way to keep up with the latest news in the genealogical community and Southwest Michigan historical resources.

Membership is required to access the online Echoes, but at a very reasonable price of $17 per year for a single membership.  Subscribing is easy, by mail or through PayPal.  VBRGS will be adding more content to their Members Only portion in the coming months including their pioneer certificate files.  For more information contact VBRGS.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Upcoming Event : Michigan Antiquarian Book & Paper Show, April 3

The 53rd annual Michigan Antiquarian Book and Paper Show will be held Sunday, April 3, 2011, at the Lansing Center, 333 E. Michigan Avenue, Lansing, Michigan, 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.  The event is sponsored by the Mid-Michigan Antiquarian Book Dealers Association and is advertised as the Midwest's Largest show of its kind.

Admission is $4.50 for adults, which gives you access to a football stadium size room full of between 150 & 200 tables & vendors of books, postcards, photographs, magazines & comic books, trading cards, maps...pretty much anything that could be published on paper.  Of course, there is plenty of items of interest for those doing family history & genealogy.

I have attended this event in past years and spent the entire day walking up and down aisles, still not having time to visit every booth.  Because it's inevitable that you will find things to buy, you might want to consider bringing a backpack or a wheeled cart so that you don't tire of carrying your treasures.  Because it's a significant walk from parking to the show, you probably won't want to lug things back to your car during the day, as I didn't.

What can you expect to find?  I won't predict that for you, but will say that I came away with things for our collection such as telephone/city directories, school annuals, postcards, cemetery listings, Michigan history, a couple of rare local history items, among other things.

For more information about the show including a free copy of the 2010 bookseller directory, visit www.curiousbooks.com or contact them by e-mail.