Thursday, October 27, 2011

Upcoming Event : Dick Eastman at Bristol, Indiana, November 5

The Elkhart County Genealogical Society is sponsoring a day-long family history event featuring Dick Eastman, nationally recognized conference speaker, Saturday November 5, 2011, at the Rush Memorial Center, Bristol, Indiana.

Mr. Eastman will give four lectures during the course of the day:
  • Genealogy Searches on Google
  • The Organized Genealogist
  • The Latest Technology
  • Photographing Old or Delicate Documents and Photographs
Snacks and lunch are included in the cost of the registration which is $25.00 if you catch the early-bird registration before October 29.  Registration after the 29th or at the door will be $30.00.

Dick is perhaps most known as the author of Eastman's Online Newsletter, a daily genealogical blog viewed by about 60,000 individuals a month and currently has over 18,000 e-mail subscribers.  With subjects ranging from what's in the news online to upcoming events & announcements, Eastman's Online Newsletter Standard Edition is available as a free subscription by e-mail.  There is also a Plus Edition requiring a paid subscription. 

Visitors to the site are able to read past postings and search for topics of interest.  Dick devotes many of his posts to technology-related topics, most of which are for the Plus Edition subscribers, including controversial opinions about the future of digitization and the "paperless" family historian.

Spending the day with fellow genealogists and and enjoying informative timely lectures is always a great way to spend a Saturday.  Grab a friend or two and make the trip to Bristol.  Who knows, you may make a family connection with the person sitting next to you...

Visit the Elkhart County Genealogical Society website for a registration form or contact them for more information.

Nameless Picture of the Day
 unknown child (side hair part suggests it's a boy)
Photographer - Brown's Cabinets, Kalamazoo

Can you identify the child in this photo?  Are you familiar with the photographer's name?  Please contact us if you any information and we will publish it in a future blog.  Please include the photo's catalog number with your e-mail.   

Monday, October 24, 2011

Collection Highlight : Tri-County Telephone Company Sales News

On the face, this title doesn't sound too exciting, but if it's one thing I've learned it's that local history treasures don't necessarily always come in shiny packages.

The Sales News, a monthly newsletter published by the Tri-County Telephone Company, South Haven,  begins with the November 1, 1932 issue.  The collection that was donated to the Local History Collection includes everything through the Christmas issue of 1939 in two nicely bound blue volumes.

The Tri-County Telephone Company is a familiar name as we have collected 15 of their telephone directories for Southwest Michigan and continue to look for others.  Until now, however, the company has been a faceless entity.  The Sales News certainly brings the people and history to life.

Some examples guaranteed to tantalize you:

The January 1936 issue includes about 160 full names of employees, ranking their station sales for 1935.  The March 1936 issue includes a page entitled the "Office Dog" and within are biographies of some of the employees.  For Howard Johnson [no, not the motel] we find:

 Johnson, Howard - Douglas Ave, Bangor - Mr. Johnson, member of our So. Div. Const. crew was born at Bedford, Michigan.  He was educated and has spent most of his life at Battle Creek.  He is of Dutch and Swedish descent.  He acquired his first telephone experience as an employee of the Michigan Associated Telephone Co. before becoming a part of the Tri-County organization.  Mr. Johnson likes to hunt; he is an enthusiastic baseball fan.  He is married and thinks his two children are mighty fine.  His hobbies are that powerful "4" Whippet Sedan!

We learned a lot about Mr. Johnson, his family and his ancestry in this one small paragraph.  But, what do we genealogists want more than anything else?  Vital about this entry in that same issue:

Hear Ye! Hear Ye! On Saturday, February 15th, old Grandpappy Stork visited the Robert Eberhard home at Allegan, knighting Bob with the ancient and royal order of fatherhood for the third time and leaving in Mrs. Eberhard's care a bouncing ten pound baby boy.  The other two Eberhard girls are also boys, but old Grandpappy Stork is getting old and sometimes gets the orders mixed.  Three boys! A Grand Family!...

No history, you say?  Guess again.  The September 1933 issue's lead article is entitled "Grand Junction," written by Florence Lee, C.O. manager, and starts out:

If we could turn the sands of time backward or look into a magic crystal at the place where Grand Junction stands today, I think we would say with the poet "This is the forest primeval."  In 1817, the Michigan central Railroad was built; and the year following, the Pere Marquette...As the railroad crossing was completed, a small town seemed to spring into being almost as the mushrooms do, overnight.  The first general store was built by Conrad Crouse, and it was followed slowly by several others.  In the southwest corner of the R. R. intersection stood a large building which was called an Eating House and which was used mainly by railroad hands and traveling men...There was a large sawmill east of town, owned and operated by John A. Write...It was not an ideal place for the town for it was nothing but swamp.  None of the houses had foundations--they had to drive piles into the mud and build their houses up on the piles to keep above the swamp...
The article continues on for another two and a half pages.  This article in its entirety will be reprinted in the Van Buren Echoes published by the Van Buren Regional Genealogical Society.

The point to be made here is that you now have another item to add to your checklist of sources to consult for possible information about your family.  There are no doubt other newsletters like this around, for businesses of all kinds.  Seek them out.  You may be pleasantly surprised. 

Visitors may view the Sales News anytime during Local History business hours.  Contact the library for more details.

Nameless Picture of the Day
unknown Civil War veteran
Photographer - Udell, Three Rivers

Can you identify the man in this photo?  Are you familiar with the photographer's name?  Please contact us if you any information and we will publish it in a future blog.  Please include the photo's catalog number with your e-mail.   

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Collection Highlight : Phillips Family Genealogy Donated

The Van Buren Regional Genealogical Society (VBRGS) has recently announced that it is the recipient of the gift of a large manuscript collection pertaining to the Phillips and related families of Southwest Michigan.  The gift was made by Gerald Phillips of Portage, Michigan, whose families were early pioneers of the Hamilton Township area of Van Buren County.

The collection, consisting of 36 volumes, consists of biographies, photographs, newspaper items & obituaries, charts, records transcriptions, copies of original documents, and rural school items compiled by Phillips who has arranged the entire collection by family line and has neatly placed them in sheet protectors.  Upon receipt of the collection, VBRGS president, Joyce Beedie, spent several hours re-packaging it from three-ring binders into neat & more space economical clasps, creating detailed cover sheets and labels for each of the volumes.

Mrs. Beedie also created a Master List to the collection, outlining which families are contained in each volume.  This Master List will be published in the November issue of the VBRGS quarterly, Van Buren Echoes.  Although the collection has yet to have an every-name index, this list will quickly enable researchers to locate specific family lines.  The every-name index is soon to come as Mr. Phillips has agreed to begin work on that project this winter.

The main families included are Phillips, Phelps, Rose and Tumbleson with the following collateral lines (note the letters in parenthesis indicate to which family line the family belongs):

Andrews  (Phi)
Andrews  (R)
Baker  (R)
Barnhart  (Phe)
Benson  (Phi)
Bigelow  (R)
Borden  (Phi)
Bourchier  (R)
Bowker  (R)
Bridge  (R)
Britten  (Phi)
Brumbaugh  (T)
Camerer  (R)
Clapp  (R)
Clapper  (Phi)
Clare  (Phi)
Colchester  (R)
Collet  (T)
Cooper  (Phe)
Curtis  (R)
Cutler  (R)
Daubeney  (R)
Davenport  (R)
DeClifford  (R)
DeLouvaine  (R)
deWytewell  (R)
Dilsaver  (R)
Elliott  (Phi)
Eyestone  (R)
Fitzgerald  (T)
Flagg  (R
Frazee  (Phe)
Garfield  (R)
Godfrey  (Phi)
Hankeford  (R)
Hartshorn  (T)
Hobbs  (R)
Hoghe  (T)
Howard  (T)
Jessup  (Phi)
Johnson  (Phi)
Kemmer  (R)
Kidder  (Phi)
Kitson  (R)
Linn  (R)
Low  (Phi)
Manners  (R)
Mauper  (Phe)
McAlpine  (Phi)
McGowan  (R)
Meachum  (Phe)
Meeker  (Phe)
Meese  (R)
Metzgar  (T)
McGivney  (Phi)
Miller  (T)
Mueller  (T)
Parmenter  (R)
Plantagenet  (R)
Potter  (R)
Pratt  (Phi)
Pulver  (Phi)
Robinson  (Phi)
Russell  (R)
Schaeffer  (R)
Scherer  (T)
Schoolcraft  (R)
Schram  (R)
Seman  (Phe)
Sibson  (Phi)
Small  (Phi)
Suits  (Phi)
Sweet  (Phe)
Thom  (T)
Thoroman  (T)
Whistler  (R)
Wineland  (T)
Wyland  (T)

The Phillips Family Genealogy is housed as part of the Local History Collection of the Van Buren District Library.   As a manuscript, it is housed in storage, so researchers planning to view it should contact the Local History Department in advance of their visit to inquire about access. 

This large donation is one of several that have been accepted by VBRGS and the library in recent years, all pertaining to Southwest Michigan families.  For more information about the local history manuscript collections, or to inquire about making a donation of Southwest Michigan related materials, contact the Local History Department.

Nameless Picture of the Day
unknown man
Photographer - H. L. Bingham, Kalamazoo
Can you identify the man in this photo?  Are you familiar with the photographer's name?  Please contact us if you any information and we will publish it in a future blog.  Please include the photo's catalog number with your e-mail.  

Monday, October 17, 2011

Upcoming Event : Putting Together A Genealogical Lineage, October 24

So, you've been doing your family history a while and you've compiled some great information, perhaps to the point where you think that you have "finished" portions of it.  If so, it's time to put your family line to the test.

Celebrate Family History Month, October 24, 2011, 7 p.m., at the Webster Memorial Library in Decatur, with the Van Buren Regional Genealogical Society (VBRGS) when they present "Putting Together a Genealogical Lineage," a program given by Toni Benson, local history librarian for the Van Buren District Library.  

A lecture designed to make us stop, dissect, and analyze the pieces of our genealogical puzzle to make sure that they do, indeed, fit together, this is an important topic for researchers of all levels of experience.

"Putting together a formal lineage is a method that we should all use to determine if our family data is accurate and complete," says Benson.  "Even if you have no plans to publish or apply to a lineage society, this structured approach to genealogy is a must do." 
 The lecture will include a demonstration of the step-by-step process for compiling a family lineage and some of the best research tools, online and off.  There will also be handouts and a question & answer period, as well as some discussion about the process of applying to various patriotic and military lineage societies. 

"Many of us think our genealogy is complete," added Benson.  "Washing your family line through this process will highlight those areas that need additional work and point out inconsistencies."   

Mrs. Benson has been a genealogist for 29 years and has compiled dozens of accepted genealogical lineages including ten of her own as part of her 25-year membership in the National Society Daughters of the American Revolution.   She has also assisted many prospective DAR, SAR, and Mayflower Society members with their lineage applications, as well as those who have applied for a VBRGS Pioneer Certificate

Immediately preceding this program will be a Family History Essentials mini-class, entitled "Genealogy Magazines as a Research Tool," beginning at 6:15 p.m.  Contact VBRGS with any questions.

Nameless Picture of the Day
 unknown man
Photographer -  Northrup, Bangor

Can you identify the man in this photo?  Are you familiar with the photographer's name?  Please contact us if you any information and we will publish it in a future blog.  Please include the photo's catalog number with your e-mail.  

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Society Initiates Michigan School House Memory Project

Did you attend a Michigan rural school?  Does your grandmother's diary mention time she spent as a rural school teacher before she married your grandfather?  Perhaps included in your family pictures is a group of students standing in rows in front of a small frame or brick school, and even though you don't know all of the students' names, you know that your Dad is front row center.

The Van Buren Regional Genealogical Society (VBRGS) has begun a "One-Room School Memory Project," whereby they are seeking submissions from those individuals who have memories to share of the rural school experience in Michigan.   In August, they announced the project to be in collaboration with the Bess Britton Michigan One-Room Schoolhouse Collection housed in Van Buren District Library local history department.  The first installment of the project, submitted by Diane Tichenor featuring Toad Hollow School in Kalamazoo County, was published in the August issue of the VBRGS quarterly, Van Buren Echoes.

"VBRGS wishes to support the efforts of the library in their pursuit of information about any Michigan rural school," indicates Joyce Beedie, society president.  "We also want to help increase awareness about the school collection so that more people may participate in the project by sharing their memories, stories, school records, and pictures."

School memories are another one of those areas of local history that are truly unique and priceless.  As the rural school generations pass away, we risk losing a very important part of our cultural history, and you may be able to fill a page in history that no-one else can.  Every person's memories are unique.  Your memories might include names of students and teachers, courses that you took, games played at recess and in the classroom, discipline methods, duties and responsibilities of the students, teachers & board members, class plays & picnics, life before indoor plumbing, and the list goes on an on...

Submissions to the "One-Room School Memory Project" will be considered for inclusion in future issues of the Echoes.  All original material will then be turned over to the library for inclusion in the project archives.  Visit the project website for more information about how to submit information.  Contact the local history department for any questions about the Bess Britton Michigan One-Room Schoolhouse Collection which now represents just over 4,700 Michigan schools.

Nameless Picture of the Day
Mystery Solved!
In our September 9 post, we had a photo of an unknown farm (catalog #M1814), somewhere on U.S. 12, submitted for identification by Erika Bonaparte:

Connie Ashcraft saw the posting and thought she recognized the home as one that she frequently drives past, located at 62734 Territorial Road, Lawrence; she took four photographs of the house and submitted them to us, one shown below;  after close scrutiny, we are of the opinion that this is the same house; what do you think? 

 62734 Territorial Road
 Thank you to Connie for assisting us with a probable identification of this farm home

Monday, October 10, 2011

Collection Highlight : Local Newspapers Are Rare & Precious History (Focus on Lawrence Times)

Did you know that a significant amount of local history has been lost because small hometown newspapers have not survived?  Perhaps you thought that all newspapers were in some way "preserved by law" and that they are all available for research.  Sadly, not so.  Newspapers were usually published by an individual or small local business.  Back issues may not have been archived and even if they were, when the newspaper went out of business, chances are the archives was sold or destroyed. 

What value does the local newspaper have in our research?  First, realize that newspapers 100+ years ago were very different from today's publications.  Everything then was much more personal, and much more blunt with a "tell all" mentality.  If Aunt Jennie came to visit from Flint, it was in the paper.  If your neighbor's baby had the measles, chances are it made the local jottings.  When farmer Smith had a bumper crop of wheat, there was a prideful note.  And, when Mrs. Jones was found to be an adulteress, the details of who, what, when, where & maybe even why were public knowledge.  So, ask yourself again - what value does the local newspaper have in learning more about our families?

A good example of a small circulation paper that is in part in peril of being lost to time is The Lawrence Times, published in the village of Lawrence, Michigan, under various additional titles:  The Lawrence Advertiser, The Lawrence Lyer, Van Buren County Visitor, The Promoter, and The Lawrence Herald.  It was under the name of The Lawrence Advertiser that the paper's earliest history can be traced back as early as 1875, and the last issues were published in 1961 under the name of The Promoter.  Approximately 86 years of continuous publication...

Up to 2002, only 14 issues (not years but issues) had been preserved by microfilming.  At that time, the Van Buren District Library initiated the Newspaper Preservation Project, and in partnership with the Courier-Leader, the Van Buren County Historical Society, and the Archives & Regional History Department at Western Michigan University, sought to put together as many surviving issues of the Lawrence newspaper as possible for a filming.  This was done by combining the holdings of the four facilities, and seeking out other issues through a series of press releases.

The success of the project is that several decades of the newspapers as well as some miscellaneous issues were identified, organized and filmed.  However, even through this public effort, about 30 percent of the newspapers are still "missing."

This is truly a loss.  You may be asking "what can be done?"  More issues of this newspaper are still out there somewhere, in attics, trunks, walls of homes, and basements.  The next time you go through your family papers and you encounter a clipping or an entire issue of a Lawrence newspaper, consider that you may have the only surviving piece of that history.  To be helpful, it doesn't have to be an entire issue or even a whole page.  The following items, even if undated, could be very useful:
  1. Obituaries, wedding announcements or other social items clippings
  2. Scrapbook that may have items from the newspaper pasted in them
  3. Items of a National or Michigan nature clipped from the paper that may have local items on the back
  4. Any article reflecting a prominent citizen, criminal activity or historical event
 If you, or someone you know, is interested in local history and may have some of these items (God bless the packrats!), let them know about the library's Newspaper Preservation Project.  Or, contact us and we will follow up on any leads.  For an inventory list of surviving Lawrence Times newspapers, view the library's Microfilm Collection Index, keeping in mind that even some of those issues listed may have been in poor condition or incomplete at the time of filming.    To be sure, let us know about any Lawrence newspapers you may locate so that we can be sure that it has been preserved in its entirety. 

Nameless Picture of the Day
 unknown boy or girl (hair part suggests boy)
Photographer - M. V. Chapman, Benton Harbor

Can you identify the child in this photo?  Are you familiar with the photographer's name?  Please contact us if you any information and we will publish it in a future blog.  Please include the photo's catalog number with your e-mail.  

Friday, October 7, 2011

Southwest Michigan Obituary Index Partners With Ancestry

At the Librarian's Luncheon at Ancestry Day in Fort Wayne, Indiana, July 23, it was announced that would launch a new beta site, Member and Institutional Collections, the concept being that it would be an environment where libraries, historical & genealogical societies, archives and individuals could upload "collections."  Since we have been looking for an updated online environment for the Local History Collection's large indexes, this announcement was of great interest.

Several years ago, the Van Buren District Library launched it's online version of the Southwest Michigan Obituary Index (SWMOI), with entries from the Michigan counties of Allegan, Berrien, Cass, Kalamazoo & Van Buren.  The online home for those years has been the Van Buren County GenWeb site, sponsored by the Van Buren Regional Genealogical Society (VBRGS).  The site's webmaster, Joan Jaco, has done a marvelous job maintaining the index and its updates during that time.  It's drawback, however, is that searchers didn't have the opportunity to do a fill-in-the-blank search for an entry by key terms such as last name, first name, date, etc.

Over the last few weeks, working with the Ancestry project manager, Mark Weaver, the SWMOI's nearly 119,000 entries have been uploaded and fully indexed allowing for a similar search format as researchers have come to expect on the rest of Ancestry's community of search screens.  Although the original database includes fields for last name, first name, issue date of newspaper, newspaper code and page, at this writing only a search by first & last name seems to be enabled.  However, we are working with Ancestry to make all five fields searchable.  More about that later...

The Member and Institutional Collections site is not yet accessible through the main pages.  Anyone, with or without a membership, can access the beta site for free.  To access the SWMOI database click here, or access it through the VBRGS or Van Buren County GenWeb sites.  Also, the Southwest Michigan Marriage, Engagement, Anniversary & Divorce Announcements Index was added today, just short of 4,000 entries, and is fully searchable. 

Keep in mind that these are only indexes and don't include images themselves at this time.  Ordering information is included with the databases.  And, since this is a beta site, expect things to change often as all of the bugs are worked out and improvements are made. 

Eventually, when the beta testing is finished, the Member and Institutional Collections will become part of the main collection of Ancestry community of databases.  This also means that it will make its way to becoming Google searchable.

For the Local History Collection, if all goes well it will mean online access to others of its large indexes including the Michigan Schools Every-Name Index, the Southwest Michigan Military Registry, and perhaps the Local History Master Index which will soon be going over the 2 million record mark.

For more information about the SWMOI and Ancestry partnership, please contact us.

Nameless Picture of the Day
 unknown woman
photographer - W. H. Blair, Martin

Can you identify the young woman in this photo?  Please contact us if you any information and we will publish it in a future blog.  Please include the five character catalog number with your e-mail. 

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Research Tip : Revenue Stamps on Photographs Identify Time Period

Photograph identification is undoubtedly one of the hurdles that you are trying to clear in your family history research.   Perhaps you have inherited boxes full of pictures and sit and go through them, begging the images to tell you who they are...

In the Local History manuscript collection is a small photograph of a man & woman, unidentified, with the photographer name of Porter & Boughton, Decatur, Mich.  It seems at least that we have a location. 

One of the key components of photo identification is determining what type of photograph it is, thus narrowing down the time period by knowing the history of that particular kind of photography.  The carte-de-visites, a type of photograph that was patented in France in 1854, are small in size, usually measuring 2 1/2 by 4 inches including the backing made of thick paper or a card board.  By the 1870's, the carte-de-visite began to disappear and were replaced by the larger cabinet cards.  Based on this description we can identify the photograph in question as a carte-de-visite.

So, now we know where it was taken, and that it was taken between 1854 and the 1870's.  But wait, this photograph has another clue - an orange two-cent stamp is adhered to the back.  It reads "U.S. Internal Bankcheck," also known as a Revenue or tax stamp.  During the Civil War there was a variety of stamp taxes including one for photographs, a tax of two cents to five cents, depending on the retail cost of the photograph.

According to an article written for Family Chronicle magazine in September/October 2006 entitled "Revenue Stamps on Family Documents," usage of such photograph tax stamps was unique to a very specific time period, namely between August 1, 1864 and August 1, 1866.    "There were no stamps printed especially for photographs, so any of the documentary tax stamps were accepted.  The photographer was supposed to cancel the stamp.  Often, a pen cancellation or rubber stamp impression will reveal an exact date for the photo."

So, if a carte-de-visite with a tax stamp on the back is included in your box of unknowns, you can at least fairly closely identify the date it was taken, which might help you decide if it is grandpa Harold & grandma Maude or great-grandpa Hiram and great-grandma Isabelle.

Our unidentified carte-de-visite is shown below as our Nameless Picture of the Day.

Nameless Picture of the Day
unidentified man & woman 
Photographer - Porter & Boughton, Decatur
dated between August 1, 1864 & August 1, 1866
Can you identify the couple in this photo?  Are you familiar with the photographer's name?  Please contact us if you any information and we will publish it in a future blog.  Please include the photo's catalog number with your e-mail.