Monday, May 23, 2011

New on the Shelf : The Rare and the Wonderful!

I couldn't resist a flashy title for this blog post, just to be sure to get your attention.  One of the most gratifying things about my job in the Local History department is when we acquire the rare or one-of-a-kind items that are truly historical.

Recently added to the shelf was Van Buren County Farm Map Book and Business Directory, 1928.  I've written about plat books & atlases in a previous post, stressing their historical significance and how they enable us to "visualize" our ancestor's lives.  This particular plat is so rare that I have yet to locate the existence of it in any other library collection in the United States.  I also didn't encounter it when I did the research for my book, Toni's List : a bibliography of Southwest Michigan local/family history resources and their repositories, which was an inventory of 52 library collections.  Before this, there had been no known Van Buren County plat book between 1912 & 1933.

The book includes a plat for each township, although there is none for Geneva Township.  Shown are the names of landowners, roads, lakes, and villages.  This one also has the added bonus of 19 pages of advertisements from area businesses including The Wolf Auto Company of Decatur, one that I had never heard of.  

We will be working at indexing this "new" plat book for the Local History Master Index (LHMI).  If you are interested in assisting with this or other indexing projects, contact us.

The other unique addition to the collection is Dr. Albert D. Hurlbut Record Book of Mother's Care & Births, Grand Junction, Michigan, 1883-1914.  A photocopy of this book was donated by Dorothy Armintrout of Allegan, indexed by volunteer Judy Grime of Williamsburg, and includes reference to 472 births. 

In my May 19 post, I discussed the importance of vital records alternatives.  Births are particularly difficult in most states because of privacy laws, so if you can't access a birth certificate [remember to check all three levels of government] seek out other alternatives like this book.  It is in the doctor's own handwriting, which is unfortunately typically poor, but includes dates and names of the mothers.  The index has been added to the LHMI.

Both books are available to view in the Local History Collection anytime during it's research hours.