Monday, November 26, 2012

New on the Shelf : Italy & Ireland

The genealogy/local history department is adding quite a few new titles to its collection this and next month.  It's kind of an early Christmas for us...

Not enough can be said about the benefits of research guides, especially those that focus on family history in countries outside of the United States.  There's so much to learn in terms of record types, access, online resources, and in many cases, language barriers.  To our shelf of non-U.S. research guides we now add, Finding Your Italian Ancestors : a beginner's guide, by Suzanne Russo Adams.

The headings listed in the book's Table of Contents include:
  1. Getting Started
  2. Beginning Your Search in the United States
  3. Finding Your Place of Origin
  4. Italian Civil Records : 1866 to the Present
  5. Pre-Unification Civil Records
  6. Ecclesiastical Records
  7. Reading the Records
  8. Records in Italian Archives
  9. Researching Italian Ancestors Online
Other sections include a Timeline of Italian History, Sample Letters, a list of Societies & Research Resources.

Having no known Italian ancestry myself, I know little about researching in Italy other than the great differences between European and American records.  Because of this, if I were to begin research there, Finding Your Italian Ancestors would be the first book I would read.  

The added bonus - many European records, including those for parts of Italy, have been microfilmed by the Family History Center (FHC), Salt Lake City.  Some have been indexed, transcribed and added to the FHC website.  Those that haven't been uploaded to the internet yet may be available on microfilm loan to your nearest Family History Center affiliate.  Search the FHC catalog to search for records available from your ancestral homeland.  The Van Buren District Library is one of the licensed microfilm loan affiliates of the FHC.  Contact us for more details about to order & view microfilm on loan from Salt Lake City.

Finding Your Italian Ancestors may be checked out from the library with a valid patron library card, request a copy through MelCat if you are a Michigan resident, or inquire at your local library.

The latest addition to the Irish section of the department is Irish Marriages : being an index to the marriages in Walker's Hibernian Magazine 1771 to 1812, by Henry Farrar. 

This latest memorial for local history friend Shirley Probst who passed away in 2007, helps flesh out Irish vital records during a period in which civil registration records either didn't exist or have been subsequently destroyed. 

The Walker's Hibernian Magazine was published only for the dates 1771 thru July 1812 and included thousands of English & Irish marriages.

There's not much in the line of further explanation to the notations in this book.  An example of an entry from page 111:

"Cussing, George, aet. 78, Greenwich = Bailder, Hannah, aet. 22, of Deptford, the gentleman's 5th wife - April 1798"

It appears that George was age 78 when he latched onto a 22 year-old bride as his 5th wife.  Lucky George...

There is also a number in the margin for each entry, the above example listed as "283."  Since this is an index to marriages in another source, it is assumed that this page number must somehow correspond to the Walker's magazine. 

The images of Irish Marriages may also be viewed on the Internet Archives or searched with an subscription.  For a list of other Irish family history resources in the Local History Collection, visit the VBDL catalog and search using the words "Ireland" and "Genealogy."

Nameless Picture of the Day
 unknown couple
Photographer - McCollum, Dowagiac

Can you identify the young couple shown 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.   

Saturday, November 17, 2012

New on the Shelf : Settlers of the Beekman Patent

The Van Buren District Library is pleased to announce the addition to its Local History collection of Settlers of the Beekman Patent, Dutchess County, New York : an historical and genealogical study of all of the 18th century settlers in the patent, by Frank J. Doherty.

This ten-volume set is probably the most exciting genealogical reference set to hit the shelf since the release of The Great Migration series by Robert Charles Anderson.  It actually is still a work in progress, with current volumes published only through the letter "R."

Don't make the same mistake that I first made when I read about this set, thinking that it was exclusive to Dutchess County families.  It's scope is much broader.  Following in an excerpt from the book's introduction:
The settlers of the Beekman Patent were not the earliest settlers in Dutchess County but were some of the first to venture inland away from the Hudson River...The settlers came from all directions, the Dutch from New York, Kingston and Albany; the German Palatines from Rhinebeck; the Quakers from Long Island and Massachusetts, and others from Connecticut and Rhode Island and other places...These records will include family histories plus data on where the person lived, what their occupation and what involvement they had in the local civil and military affairs.  When possible we will include information on deaths and burials and removals from this area.  We have tried to include all Beekman settlers who were here by 1790 and who were found in any kind of records to that timeThese families we have carried through the 1810 census...
The project was initiated because of a personal interest as the author & his wife had purchased a house within the patent that had previously been a residence of authoress, Pearl Buck.  Inspired by the history of his own home, Doherty embarked on a project by which he scavenged for any surviving written record pertaining to the settlers of the patent, which was scant.  He then began the process of assembling family, local, military, and court records from other available sources. 

In addition to compiled family data, the entire first volume of the set is dedicated to the history of the Beekman Patent itself.  Doherty provides listings of sources used in the publication of the set, and also includes maps and nice every-name indexes to each volume.

Our acquisition of Settlers of the Beekman Patent series has been made possible through a memorial for local genealogist, Ann Mullin Burton, who passed away early this summer.  Ann would have wholeheartedly approved of the addition of this set to the Local History Collection.  She and her husband, Conrad, have also played key roles in the addition of other genealogical reference sets to the department including the American State Papers and Genealogical Abstracts of Revolutionary War Pension Files.

Anyone with New York State ancestors or families who migrated through the state should add Settlers of the Beekman Patent to your genealogical research checklist.  To whet your appetite, following is a partial list of those families featured in volume 8:
  • Lee
  • Lent
  • Leonard
  • LeRoy
  • Lester
  • Lewis
  • Light
  • Lighheart
  • Linderbeck
  • Lindsey
  • Lobdell
  • Lockwood
  • Losee
  • Lossing
  • Lovejoy
  • Loveless
  • Luckey
  • Lyon
  • Mabie (Hey, that's one of mine!)
The set is available for viewing anytime during Local History department regular business hours.  Volumes 1 thru 7 are also available to search through the American Ancestors subscription website sponsored by the New England Historic Genealogical Society.  American Ancestors is accessible in the Local History department.  Contact us with any questions.

Nameless Picture of the Day - Identified!
Identified as - Jane Elisabeth Canning

The following information provided by Don & Joan Lyons of Dowagiac regarding the above cabinet card published in the November 10 post :  
       Wow, did you amaze me when you posted this picture : P003-0057.  It is Don’s great grandmother and we have the original photo and vintage frame in our library room.
       She is Jane Elisabeth Canning. Born May 31, 1859 in Pen Yan, NY. {of Irish parents}  Married Edward Karnes on Apr. 12, 1890. He was born in Cass County Mi and they lived in Decatur, MI.  They had 3 children: Blanch (Karnes) Stevens, Harley and Ray Karnes.  She died March 29, 1940 in Decatur, MI

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Creating Indexes and How You Can Help

Last time we talked about the importance of indexes, the different types, and the Local History Master Index (LHMI), the first search tool for the Southwest Michigan regional family & history collection housed by the Van Buren District Library. 

Amelia Castle
On November 2, the LHMI reached the 1 million record mark and continues to grow.  The hundreds of smaller indexes that comprise the whole database have come from dozens of indexers.  It's birth about five years ago began with combining the many indexes which had been created by long-time area genealogist, Amelia Birdsall Castle of Dowagiac.  For many years, Amelia had compiled and marketed in book form indexes to cemetery, vital, church, local history & land records focusing primarily on Cass & Van Buren Counties.  All of those digital indexes were donated to the library when Amelia moved out of state to her new home in  Arkansas.

Indexes have been created in many formats including Word Perfect, and the array of Microsoft products - Word, Works, Excel & Access.  All have been "dumped" into Access where searches can be made by last name, first name, year, and source. 

The LHMI indexes more than just personal names.  Entries include businesses & companies, historic buildings & sites, organizations & clubs, streets & other geographic references, churches, and schools.  We're even indexing the wonderful old advertisements that appear in directories, yearbooks & newspapers.  In recent weeks, the department has fielded requests for information pertaining to the Colonial Hotel in South Haven and the Rebekah Lodge of Decatur.  In these and other similar cases, searching the LHMI provided a list of hits referencing these topics.

Indexers for the LHMI don't have to live in the area to help with the project.  We've had volunteers as far away as Arizona, California and New York.  The only things required to become an indexer is a computer (no internet access necessary), a program to index into, and time.  Everything else is provided by the library including detailed instructions. 

Volunteers also may take their choice of the type of records they wish to index.  Is your interest in a specific location, or a particular type of record?  There is indexing to be done from typed pages, and those that have experience reading handwriting can work from handwritten records.  Many who have done indexing have enjoyed the added bonus of locating information about subjects or persons of interest to them.

The importance of indexes cannot be overstated.  And, I would argue that hand-generated indexes have a higher rate of accuracy and completeness than machine-generated indexes.  As we are all historians, we know better than a machine what type of information we seek and what should be indexed.

In 2011, the volunteer force from the Local History department generated a combined 1,991 volunteer hours, the lions share of which were at home workers.  Consider becoming a volunteer indexer this winter.  There are no deadlines, no whip cracking....just appreciation. 

For more information about the LHMI or about how to volunteer as an indexer, please contact us.

Nameless Picture of the Day
 unknown woman
Photographer - McCollum & Cunningham, Dowagiac

Can you identify the young woman 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.  

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Southwest Michigan Database Reaches 1 Million Mark

Indexes...something that family & local history researchers rely heavily upon...basically come in three general formats.  First, there are the paper indexes, generated to accompany a book or collection.  Second, in the last twenty plus years or so we've seen the rise of databases that allow searches by name.  The third form of indexing is the ability to search across millions of web pages using a web browser or search tool. 

Smart historians learn to make the most of all three as all of them have benefits and limitations, and no one of them can yield all possible results.  Admittedly, I have leaned toward the tangible...preferring to have an index in my hand and being able to browse through an alphabetical list of names.  This is still effective for single or a handful of items.

However, picture a regional collection such as that of the Van Buren District Library.  There are literally thousands of resources, the bulk of which directly relate to the six Southwest Michigan counties of Allegan, Berrien, Cass, Kalamazoo, St. Joseph and Van Buren, and have not yet made their way to the internet.  Imagine that you may be visiting for the day or a few hours.  It's not practical to go down the shelves checking every individual index, or scanning through pages that are not indexed.  And, what about those items that are not even on the open shelves?

Enter the Local History Master Index (LHMI), a database created by the library to index items within the collection.  A work in progress, indexing is being done by volunteers working at the library or at home.  All of the indexes, now numbering well over 400, are merged together into one database for in-house searching.  As of yesterday [November 2], the LHMI reached the 1 million record mark. 

The LHMI was designed to be a "first search" tool for visitors, potentially saving them hours of research time and also leading them to resources they might not have otherwise located.  It has been extremely rewarding for me, as a librarian, to see the glee on people's faces when they locate names of interest in our database. 

Some of the things that have been indexed so far:
  1. 110 Cemeteries
  2. Plat Books
  3. Family Histories
  4. Newspapers
  5. Vital Records
  6. Regional, County & Local Histories
  7. Tax & Voter Lists
  8. Funeral Home Records
  9. Yearbooks
  10. Directories
  11. Photographs
  12. Family Files, Pedigree Charts & Pioneer Certificates
  13. Naturalization Records
  14. Scrapbooks
  15. Church Records
  16. Military 
  17. Van Buren Echoes
  18. Poorhouse Records
  19. Census & Mortality Schedules
  20. Wills & Estates
  21. Manuscript Collections
  22. Obituaries
  23. Schools
  24. Historic Site Inventory
The LHMI is available for search on the Local History computers, and soon will be available in a new format at the rest of the VBDL branch locations at Bangor, Bloomingdale, Covert, Gobles, Lawrence & Mattawan.  Each record within the database is searchable by surname and first name.  Results provide a complete bibliographic record of the source, the page number, and some associated dates. 

The question has been asked, "Will the LHMI be available on the internet?"  Although it is currently only available on site, it is our hope to eventually be able to place it online.  Until then, we encourage visitors to the collection.  After all, even when the index goes to the net, the resources themselves are still here at the library.

Not everything is indexed yet, but work continues.  Next time we'll discuss in more detail how items are indexed, what things remain to be indexed, and how you can volunteer to help by indexing at home.  Contact Local History with any questions.

Nameless Picture of the Day
 unknown girl
Photographer - Boughton, Decatur

Can you identify the girl 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.