Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Research Tip : "How To" Genealogy Books for Beginners & Advanced

It doesn't matter how many years you've been at it, whether you've been doing it for yourself or semi-professionally, or whether you've written books & articles and given public lectures...genealogy is a lifelong learning process.  In order to make us better family history detectives, we must make the commitment to continue educating ourselves...not only in the latest & the greatest, but in basic, solid research methodology.

There are many ways to accomplish this and my advice to you - try them all.  However, today we will put the focus on "how to" books that are often mistakenly labeled as for beginners only.  None of the book titles that I will share with you are strictly for those just starting out their family history.  All, in different ways, arm you with outlines of the best resources out there, common and obscure alike.

To be a successful family history detective, you need to do four main things:
  1. Identify a resource type
  2. Locate it
  3. Retrieve all pertinent information
  4. Evaluate it
The books listed here, will help you with all of these, but the most important is the indentification.  If you don't know about the existence of a source, then how can you look for it?  For example, did you know that there were Rural Survey's taken in the 1930's & 1940's that resulted in very detailed descriptions of homes & property, and that many of these records still exist?  Now, how can you seek these out if you don't know they exist in the first place?  That's where the education part comes in.  [More on Rural Surveys in a future blog]

Take the time this winter to build on your research skills and read one or more of the following books.  Even if you think that you "know it all" already, I will bet you that you will have at least one "Ah-Ha" moment when you discover something new or are reminded of something old:

Obviously, this is only a sampling of titles available.  Stop in to your local library and inquire about genealogy handbooks.  If what you want isn't on the shelf, request it via interlibrary loan.  All of these titles and more are available for checkout from the Van Buren District Library with a valid patron card.

Nameless Picture of the Day
 unknown Michigan National Guard soldier
Photographer - Sievert, Kalamazoo

Can you identify the National Guard soldiers 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, November 21, 2011

Collection Highlight : "Progress," Paw Paw High School Newspaper

Newspapers play an important role in our family history research, and many of us have spent time either in front of a microfilm reader or a computer searching for obituaries, marriage & birth announcements, or other tidbits pertaining to our families.  Perhaps you've enjoyed reading the "locals" columns in the old hometown newspaper.

In this quest to learn the most about our families, keep in mind that there are various categories of newspapers.  Among those are business & trade, ethnic, organizational, and one that has touch us all...schools.  The Local History Collection recently added to its manuscript collection a few issues of a four-page school newspaper entitled "Progress" from Paw Paw, Michigan, published in 1887. 

These small papers have the appearance of the typical small-town newspaper of the day, and were published by the Public Schools of Paw Paw, E. M. Russell, editor.  They include advertisements from local businesses, the January issue includes:
  • Criterion Spring Company
  • S. T. Bowen's Clothing Hall
  • Covert & Bartram Drugs and Groceries
  • L. W. Osborne Furniture Dealer
  • G. W. Koons Harness, Collars, Bridles Whips, etc.
  • The Double Store of Jay Comings
  • G. E. Chappell, School Books and Supplies
  • Henley, Artist Tailor
In each issue, published monthly, there is an honor roll of students divided into interesting categories such as Olympian, Excelsior, 6's and 7's, Wide Awakes, and Bee Hive.   In the February issue is a feature article about the Electric Society and its fifty members.  There were editorials, prose, educational sniplets, lists of visitors to the schools, and reports from all age groups like this one:

"By a Second Grade Busy Bee [by Eddie Snow] - Well, I must tell you what I did yesterday.  Harry took me home with Arthur Burk's horse.  I went over to a lady's house and had some popcorn and an apple.  I played with the little girl there, then I went home and had some supper.  I went into the sitting-room and took my slate and drew a picture of my sister.  Then I played with Harry.  Well, I will be a good boy in school."

It wouldn't be surprising if these Paw Paw school newspapers from 1887 were the only surviving issues.  What a piece of local history!  My school journalism class published a high school newspaper with the name of "Turkey Talk," among others, and typically there were only 50-100 of them circulated at the time.  Some of them went into the trash before the day was out, and how many of them do you suppose have survived these 30+ years?  Recently, when my brother moved to a new home, he did some major housekeeping and I heard from him, too late, that he threw out dozens of issues of his high school newspaper, not realizing that historians would salivate over them.

So, two things for you to remember.  First, seek out those unusual short-run newspapers & newsletters that may hold precious history for you.  Second, gather up those old school newsletters out of your trunk, read through them one last time, chuckle a little bit, then donate them to the appropriate local history collection.

For more information about "Progress" or newsletters from other schools in the Local History Collection, contact us.

Nameless Picture of the Day
 unnamed conductor, Ganges
Photographer - Porter, Allegan

Can you identify the conductor 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, November 18, 2011

World Vital Records, Don't Pass It By!

In the August 18, 2011 post, we announced that the Van Buren District Library is providing to its patrons free access to the online genealogical powerhouse, World Vital Records (WVR).  This has been made possible by an anonymous gift of a one-year subscription by a local Local History patron.
The following is a WVR testimonial from Joyce Gash Rossler Beedie, Van Buren Regional Genealogical Society  president:

"I get excited when I can locate a small town or neighborhood newspaper online and I was pleased to see the large quantity of these papers on the World Vital Records website.  I have many ancestors who resided in Illinois, both in the Chicago area and downstate, and this site has a wonderful collection of the papers from those areas.  I was also pleased to see the date range of the papers in the collection.  There are many that date prior to 1900 as well as ones with more current issues dates.

When I was a kid I remember my family subscribing to the South End Reporter (Chicago, IL) and the paperboy would throw it on the stoop.  It was the neighborhood daily paper and was always full of the latest goings on.  I did not know if this paper had been archived or even where to start to look for the old editions so I was amazed to see it at WVR.  The years that are available are 1912 – 1977.  Needless to say I have looked back in time and found articles that mention my parents, aunts, uncles and cousins; I also found my grandparent’s marriage under the article titled “Marriage Licenses” in the paper from January 25, 1927.   This was the first time I have been able to pinpoint an approximate year for their marriage. 

Searching this site was very easy and the results are clearly presented making it easy to disqualify searches that do not pertain to your research.  The newspaper pages are also searchable and, when commanded, the area of the page where your ancestor appears is highlighted.   The only trouble I encountered was when I was searching for my surname “GASH”.  The search results show not only the surname of GASH but all the references to a severe wound and advertisements that include the word CASH.   I also found that this site does not show every hit when doing a surname search from the home page.  I suggest that you also do surname searches of specific databases on this site that are of interest to your research.

I hope you give World Vital Records a spin and happy genealogy trails to you."
If you haven't had a chance to try it out, add World Vital Records to your list of online family history search sites this winter.  For more information about how to access through the Van Buren District Library website, contact the library.

Nameless Picture of the Day
unknown boy
Photographer - A. D. Lacy, Benton Harbor

Can you identify the boy 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, November 14, 2011

Collection Highlight : Discovering the Peoples of Michigan series

In one lecture that I've given several times, "Looking Under Every Rock : lesser-known sources that can yield results", I feature a contemporary set of books entitled Discovering the Peoples of Michigan, published by Michigan State University Press.

Since 1991 with the release of the first title, Ethnicity in Michigan, some 30 titles have been released focusing on various ethnic groups, their migration, and their contribution to the history of the State of Michigan.  Although primarily social history, this series offers some great gems of family history possibilities. 

In any given volume, expect to find a map of the state showing either ethnic concentrations or settlements, chronologies, detailed bibliographies, and yes, family history & photographs.  Each volume is penned by a different author, and each comes with an index.

For example, in the Germans in Michigan volume, opposite of page 1 is a delightful photograph with the following caption:  "William and Alvinia Schnettler's wedding, 1910.  Left to right:  Fred Peters and Emma Zube, Charles Zube and Lena DuRussell, William Zube and Helda Pett, and the bride and groom.  The farmhouse remains standing at the corner of Finn and German Roads near Munger [Michigan]."

Why should you add this series to your Michigan family history checklist?  The obvious reason is to check the index for family names, but there's more meat to these than that.  All of the volumes are less than 100 pages and would be a quick evening read, providing you with useful information that may lead you to more family history discoveries, not least of which is a better understanding of your family's social history...helping to insure that you have "looked under every rock".

Titles have been published to date for the following Michigan ethnic & religious groups, with more to come:
  • African Americans
  • Albanians
  • Amish
  • Arab Americans 
  • Asian Indians
  • Belgians
  • Chaldeans
  • Copts
  • Cornish
  • Dutch 
  • Finns
  • French Canadians
  • Germans
  • Greeks
  • Haitians
  • Hungarians
  • Irish 
  • Italians
  • Jews 
  • Latinos
  • Latvians
  • Lithuanians
  • Maltese
  • Mexicans and Mexican Americans 
  • Norwegians
  • Poles
  • Scandinavians
  • Scots
  • South Slavs
  • Yankees
All of these volumes as well as the Discovering the Peoples of Michigan Reader are part of the Local History Collection of the Van Buren District Library, and may be checked out with a valid library card.  For more information contact the library, or inquire at your local library.

Nameless Picture of the Day
 unknown man - carte-de-visite
Photographer - Garrison, Udell Gallery, 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.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Family History Center Microfilm Ordering Goes Online in Michigan

As a licensed microfilm loan site of the Family History Center (FHC), the Local History department has been awaiting the news that Michigan has been added to the list of states that allows patrons to order their own microfilm online using FamilySearch's Microfilm Ordering service.  The good news came this week.

This means that those of you that have been or are thinking of ordering microfilm on loan into your local Family History Center in Michigan may place the order yourself using a credit card or PayPal. 

Why will the microfilm loan program remain an important part of genealogical research?
  1.  A common misconception about the FHC is that "all of the microfilm is either already online or will be soon."  Due to issues such as copyright, permissions & restrictions, a fair percentage of  the multimillion reel collection won't see the light of internet any time soon, if ever.  In some cases, transcripts of the records have been done, but the images will not follow. 
  2. You've heard me reference the "browse factor" before.  Using the search & locate system of online databases robs us of the ability to browse through records seeking those people whose names may be misspelled or who we may find by accident, what I call "incidentals."
 The negative part of the online ordering system is that it is now the only act in town.  Patrons will no longer be able to order & pay for their microfilm any other way that through the internet.  Some are unwilling or uneasy about using online payment sites.  We're told, however, that there is no work around for this.

The process for online order requires the following steps:
  1. Create an account (click on Create New Account button)
  2. Enter required personal information including an e-mail address, create a login & security key
  3. Confirm your account by checking for the link in your e-mail
  4. Create an Order
    1. Select loan type (short or extended term)
    2. Search for and enter a microfilm number
    3. Add item(s) to cart
    4. When finished go to Checkout where you may review/revise your order
  5. Enter billing & payment information
  6. Read the Microfilm Agreement information and click Accept
  7. Complete your order & print out a copy for your records
Account holders are notified by e-mail at every step of the loan process, or you may track the progress in your account:
  1. When the order is placed
  2. Status of the order, whether pending, processed or backordered
  3. When it is shipped
  4. When the film arrives at your local family history center
  5. When the film has been returned to Salt Lake City
Lastly, for those centers that hold microfilm on Indefinite Loan such as the Van Buren District Library,  we will be able to upload a listing of our inventory by film number so that anyone using the FHC catalog may see that we have that film currently in our collection by selecting Show Locations.

Other states have also gone live with the Online Film Ordering service, so visit the website to learn more.  Patrons with questions regarding microfilm loan to the Van Buren District Library may contact us for pricing and details.

Nameless Picture of the Day
 unknown man
Photographer - Frank P. Ford, 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.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Online News : Attention Social Security Death Index Users!

In the world of access to records of interest to family historians, we continuously play a game of ping-pong, records become available, records are taken away.  We are experiencing this with state level vital records as more and more of them are being closed for "privacy" or "national security" reasons.  It's happened with the Bureau of Land Management's offerings of United States land patent documents, the website has been up and down several times pending litigation, and each time we lose something more.

Now it's happening to what is probably the largest single online resource of all, the Social Security Death Index (SSDI).  It was announced in the last few days that as of November 1, 2011, [lots of warning there] the Social Security Administration who maintains the Public Death Master File (DMF) will no longer use state death records to add new entries to the database.  The DMF is what is used to create the SSDI, a free resource that we've all come to use in tracking post 1950's deceased persons.

To add insult to injury, they will not only stop adding those supplied by state death records, amounting to about a million records a year, but an estimated 4.2 million records will be removed from the existing SSDI.  All pursuant to a decision based on Social Security Laws which indicates that death certificates can only be used to correct information already in the DMF, not supply it. 

I don't know how soon this will affect the existing databases available for free through sites such as Rootsweb, Ancestry, Genealogy Bank and others, but my advice to researchers would be to do your SSDI research as soon as possible.  Millions of records may disappear with the next online update.  However, it would be terrific if those sites would now maintain two SSDI's, the old one still holding records to be deleted, and a new one which would reflect deaths from the November 1st date forward. 

We will keep our fingers crossed that the current online hosts of the SSDI will somehow maintain the soon-to-be deleted listings.

News of this potential records access catastrophe is spreading quickly so be sure to pass the news on to your friends & colleagues.   To learn more about the changes coming to the Social Security Death Index, read the November 1 post of Steve's Genealogy Blog.  This was forwarded to our local genealogical society by the Michigan Genealogical Council, and outlines the current laws effecting this change, and summarizes the results.

Nameless Picture of the Day
 "Singing Sam", taking the mail at Earl Wiest Resort,
Indian Lake, Dowagiac
Real photo postcard 

Can you identify "Singing Sam" in this photo?  Do you know any history of Wiest Resort?  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.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

New on the Shelf : American Women in the Revolutionary Era

The National Society Daughters of the American Revolution(DAR), since its beginnings in 1890, has spearheaded among other things, the preservation of family history through its members’ documented lineages, a massive library collection, and the publication of countless books.

The most recent of their accomplishments is America’s Women in the Revolutionary Ear, 1760-1790 : a history through bibliography, compiled by Eric G. Grundset.  Work on the project began in 1989 and the large three-volume set (over 3,000 pages) was released earlier this year.

The first two volumes is broken up into 51 chapters.  Some sample chapters include:
  • Native American Women (Chapter 5)
  • Women's Rights and Legal Status (Chapter 12)
  • Women In and With the Military and Naval Forces (Chapter 26)

Then in Volume 2, the chapters are broken down by state and entitled for example:  “The Women of Vermont During the Revolutionary Ear.”  Within that chapter you can find the categories of:
  • Captivity Narratives
  • Historical Fiction
  • Homelife of Vermont Women
  • Girls in Vermont
  • discussion about specifically-named women

The third volume or Part 2 is entitled “Authors and Chronology of Publications,” offering first an alphabetical list of authors, followed by a chronological list of publications by date, all pertaining to the history of women during the years surrounding the American Revolution. Listings includes resources from books, periodicals, websites, and art, among other things.  

From the set's Introduction:  “The project staff and the National Society Daughters of the American Revolution salute the Revolutionary Era women and girls who helped found the United States of America, and who for far too long were relegated to the shadows and footnotes of historical literature.  This publication tells their stories through bibliography in hopes that future researchers and writers will continue to fill in the gaps and broaden our knowledge of the roles and lives of our female predecessors during the Revolutionary Era.”

Being a bibliography (defined as "A list of the books [materials] of a specific author or publisher, or on a specific subject"), one might not find an ancestor's name in the indexes, but then again you might.  You can certainly expect to be rewarded by lists of resources that could lead to a direct reference to your female ancestor, comment on her home, ancestry or trade, or at least place her into historical context...definitely a reference to add to your research checklist.

The set is available for viewing in the Local History department of the Van Buren District LibraryContact the library with any questions.  

Nameless Picture of the Day
 unknown woman
Photographer - H. S. Bigelow, Dowagiac

Can you identify the woman 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.