Saturday, July 28, 2012

Collection Highlight : "Pictures Speak a Thousand Words"

Mr. & Mrs. Tim Rose of Wayland
Pictures bring everything to life.  Photos are what our families enjoy even when we can't get them interested in the rest of the "genealogy stuff."  Images play a large role in the portrayal of our family history, thus we seek them, covet them, protect them.

There are a number of ways to smoke out those prize photographs...Here comes the standard lecture about using checklists in your research.  Create for yourself a checklist of places, online & off, to search for images.  One good launching point for an online search would be the Photographs & Memories section of Cyndi's List, genealogy's online yellow pages.

Don't get locked into looking just for ancestors.  Fluff out your family story with imagery of their home, church, town scenes, business, local park, or anywhere that they may have spent time.  You can do this through the use of things like post cards, history books, online resources, and special collections.  My favorite online place for photo searches in Google Images where I've had tremendous success in locating photographs of individuals, tombstones, buildings & maps. 

Some of the resources that I frequent in the search for images or art work for my family history scrapbooks are Ebay, encyclopedias (especially Britannica), pictorial histories, historical & genealogical societies, archives, and definitely the public library.

Ivor-Dale Farm Resort
The Local History Collection has a large photograph collection with connections to Southwest Michigan [Allegan, Berrien, Cass, Kalamazoo, St. Joseph & Van Buren Counties] peoples, places and events.  To date, the index identifies over 10,000 subjects ranging from class composites, post cards, street scenes, and individuals to businesses, parades, and disasters.  

Aerial view, Hamilton
The Photograph Index is available to view online through the VBRGS website along with information regarding the collection's arrangement, copy request information, and duplication policies. 

Photographs may be viewed in person by consulting the online index, making a list of those items of interest, and visiting the Local History Collection.  It is recommended that you contact us in advance of your visit to insure access.

As large as the Photograph Collection is, the library and VBRGS are always seeking the addition of other images.  These can be in the form of quality digital images, duplications, or originals.  If you are considering the donation of photographs with relevance to Southwest Michigan for the Local History Collection,  contact us for more information.   

Nameless Picture of the Day
 unidentified couple
donated by Mrs. Max (Blanche) Howe, Decatur

 Can you identify the couple in this tintype photograph?  Please contact us if you have any information and we will publish it in a future blog. 

Monday, July 16, 2012

VBRGS Celebrates 25 Years - Ancestry Day a Rousing Success!

Loretto Szucs
260 plus eager family historians descended on the town of Lawrence, Michigan, Saturday, July 14, for a day-long special event at the Van Buren Conference Center sponsored by the Van Buren Regional Genealogical Society (VBRGS) in celebration of its 25th anniversary.

Four "Ancestry Day" presentations were made by nationally known genealogists Loretto Szucs and her daughter, Julianna Smith, representing the online family history giant,  The sessions, designed to highlight some of the key elements of Ancestry and how best to utilize them, were energetically given with enhanced projected display on three large wall screens. 

Julianna Smith
Those in attendance were treated to morning refreshments of donuts & coffee and a banquet luncheon.  All were provided with a folder including the day's syllabus materials, a complimentary VBRGS quarterly & select brochures.  Also provided, while supplies lasted, were complimentary issues of the American Ancestors magazine made available by the New England Historic Genealogical Society (NEHGS).

Also available for the day were large vendor tables sponsored by VBRGS and NEHGS (hostess Judith Halseth), where visitors had opportunity to view or purchase from a large array of genealogy & local history books, explore membership options, and ask general questions.

Toni Benson
As part of the 25th anniversary celebration, during lunch a 30-minute society overview was given by the group's immediate past president, Toni Benson, including a slide show of photographs & exhibits from VBRGS's illustrious history, and also stressing the crucial role that genealogical societies still play in preservation and access.

Special recognition was given to Joyce Beedie, VBRGS president, and Ann Flora, program chairman, for their integral part in planning the day's events.  Other volunteers for the day included:  Jerry Anderson, Conrad Burton, Carol Kesteloot, Robert Cooley, Faith Rogers, and Pam Pender.

All-in-all, the day was a huge success and a new highlight in VBRGS's long history.  Stay tuned as they continue to foster community interest in their activities & collection.

Nameless Picture of the Day
Photographer - Horton's Studio, Gobleville
"Mrs. J. B. Mason #3 Allegan, Otsego" written on back

Can you identify the man in this cabinet card?  Do you have knowledge of the photographer?  Please contact us if you have any information and we will publish it in a future blog.  Please include the photo's catalog number with your e-mail. 

Monday, July 9, 2012

Online Hint : American Ancestors a Major Player for Web Family History Research (Part 1)

In your effort to leave no stone unturned in your search for family history nuggets, you'll want to make sure to add American Ancestors to your online research arsenal.  Formerly known as New England Ancestors, American Ancestors is the official website of the New England Historic Genealogical Society (NEHGS), the oldest continuous family history society in the U.S. 

If you say that you don't have New England ancestry or that you have done all of that area's research ready to be enlightened.  First of all, the reason why the website is no longer called New England Ancestors is because the society realized that their title gave the wrong impression of their mission statement & geographic coverage.  Taken literally, New England would only encompass the original 13 states/colonies.  The states of New York and Pennsylvania are not historically considered part of New England, but have always been a primary focus of NEHGS, and in recent years they have cast their net much wider to include the entire United States. 

Some New England area resources have been available in a variety of forums for years, online & off, in the form of transcriptions, indexes, extracts & abstracts.  Now, the NEHGS brings to their website what we all seek - images!  Whether it be from their massive manuscript collection, select vital  & court records, or images of genealogy's most authoritative journals, American Ancestors is becoming a serious contender, going up against industry giants, Family Search and others, and doing so at a very reasonable rate of less than $80.00 for an annual subscription.

Judith H. Halseth, Ed.D - Courtesy of
For several years, the Van Buren District Library (VBDL) in Decatur has been endowed with a gift institutional membership in the NEHGS, including access to American Ancestors, thanks to the continuing gift of Dr. Judith H. Halseth of Paw Paw, society ambassador and former trustee.  VBDL is pleased to announce that Dr. Halseth has recently renewed this gift for another year thus allowing free access at any of the library's public computers. 

During this multi-installment post, we will take a few examples from this blogger's family history to illustrate the many useful components of American Ancestors online.  See you next time to begin the hunt.

Nameless Picture of the Day
Photographer - J. C. Holmes, Poor's Block, Decatur
From the collection of Judith (Brown) Grime

Can you identify the young woman in this carte-de-visite photograph?  Do you have knowledge of the photographer?  Please contact us if you have any information and we will publish it in a future blog.  Please include the photo's catalog number with your e-mail. 

Monday, July 2, 2012

Southwest Michigan Genealogy Loses Two Good Friends

This last week saw the loss of two of the area's more noted genealogists & historians, Ann Burton of Decatur and Ken Hartman of Dowagiac.  Both had made their mark and were known for their devotion to the preservation of family and local history.  Both had donated 100's of hours not only here in the Local History department, but in a variety of other ways.

Ann (Mullin) Burton was born November 25, 1932, in Logansport, Indiana, the daughter of Ernest & Margaret (McCain) Mullin and passed away on June 25, 2012.  After graduation from Niles High School [Michigan] in 1950, she married Conrad Burton in 1952 in Indiana. 

Along with many other interests, Ann had been a lifelong genealogist, a hobby/passion that she and her husband shared all of the years since his retirement from the Armed Forces.  Together they formed their own publishing company based out of their home in Decatur, Glyndwr Resources, under which they published family histories and local records compilations. 

Ann, along with Conrad, were founding members of the Van Buren Regional Genealogical Society in 1987.  She served in many capacities in the society's early years including as research chairman, librarian, and participated in several group cemetery walks. 

Some of the written works include Michigan Quakers : abstracts of fifteen meetings of the Society of Friends, 1831-1960, The Gard Family Papers, 1815-1878, and select cemetery transcriptions for Cass & Van Buren County.  For more than a couple of decades, she published a family history one-name study journal, Craig-Links.

Ann was a a meticulous researcher and a literal "Friend of the Library."  Her time spent in the library, whether in the Local History Collection or helping with the annual Friends of the Library book sale, has been appreciated by many.

Kenneth Ross Hartman was born, August 22, 1934, in Dowagiac, Michigan, the son of Preston & Vivian (Barns) Hartman and passed away Wednesday, June 27, 2012.  In 1954, he married Mable Krager in Dowagiac.

I first got to know Ken when he was invited to make a presentation regarding Cass County rural schools at a Monday night meeting of the Van Buren Regional Genealogical Society.  During that first night, it was evident to us all that Ken was passionate about preserving local history.  For this project, he had plotted out all
of the known schools on a county map, numbered them and created a corresponding list.  We now have this map along with other information he collected in the Bess Britton Michigan One-Room Schoolhouse Collection.

Ken later spent Wednesdays volunteering in the Local History Department of the Van Buren District Library where he fully enjoyed assisting visiting researchers in locating materials for their family histories. 

Both Ken and his wife Mable have been big supporters of the Local History Department, donating their time and expertise in working with others and on special projects.  Ken was fun to talk to and energetic, something that was somewhat catching.  He will be missed.