Sunday, February 26, 2012

Cleaning Up The Letter G

I've started a project cleaning up my database. Whenever I finish a letter of the alphabet, I'll write a blog post to report about what I learned about the surnames that start with that letter.

This week I made it through all the G surnames in my genealogy database. Here's what I learned:
  • Found death date of Alexander Hamilton Fish in Randolph County, Illinois on 21 September 1879. Information also included his place of birth in Warren County, New York. I was unable to find any more information about his wife Abigail Morse. [I know, not the letter G. But this was found at the library this week.]
  • Found George Griffith and Magaret Morse in the 1900 census. They had moved to Indiana. Then I lost them again.
  • From a family history, I had learned that Buchanan Elbridge Washburn had been killed in a railroad accident in 1884 in Denison, Texas. He had married Deborah Elizabeth Grove in 1879 in Gallia County, Ohio. I had never found them in the census, but I received an Shaky Leaf and found them in 1880 in Densison. Then I found the second marriage of Deborah to Alexander Campbell on FamilySearch and was able to track her to 1900. Then I tracked Alexander to his death in 1923. 
Next up is the letter H. It will take a few weeks to get through the Haefner, Heinrich and Hillis families along with all the collateral lines. 19 more letters!

Other letter cleanups:

Thursday, February 23, 2012

10 Tips for Researching at ACPL

On Saturday, March 24, Geneabloggers from the Midwest will be descending on Fort Wayne, Indiana for research at the Allen County Public Library and a party at my house.

Over half of the attendees have indicated that this is their first visit to the library. Some are putting together research plans for their ACPL trip as part of their February goals. So I decided to write an insider’s guide to the library to help them maximize their results.

The following are 10 tips for getting the most out of your research trip from home and at the library. Even if you aren't planning a visit to ACPL, you can still conduct a ton of research from the library's online databases and digitized books.

1. Familiarize yourself with the library.

At Home: Take time to explore the Genealogy Center’s website. Watch the library's Orientation video. Check out their State and Subject Snapshots to view the highlights of their collection. Learn how to search their print and microtext catalogs (PDF).

At ACPL: If you have the option, take the tour. Otherwise, pick up the map of the library and the map of the microfilm collection at the “Ask Here” desk upon entering the library. Walk around and explore where everything is located before you start researching. Also don’t be afraid to ask the librarians on duty for help locating materials.

2.    Research in local history books.

At Home: Search the online catalog for the locations where your ancestors lived. Make sure to check links to Internet Archive for books that have been scanned. For example, Volume 2 of History of Dearborn, Ohio and Switzerland Counties, Indiana (1885) is available online.

At ACPL: Local histories are shelved using the Dewey decimal system. You can browse the books easily if you know the pattern. Books that are general to the state are listed as XXX.X, county level books are XXX.X01 and city books are XXX.X02. (The Xs here represent the call numbers specific to a location.) For example, Indiana books are 977.2, Indiana county books are 977.201 and Indiana city books are 977.202. County and city books are then arranged alphabetically.

Note: Indiana books are in their own special section. When you enter the library, turn right and the Indiana collection will be in the stacks to your right.

3.    Research in the Family Histories. 

At Home: Search the catalog for family histories by typing the surname you are seeking and then “family.” For example: “Lyons Family” or “Eiswerth Family”. Look for links to Internet Archive for books that have been scanned.

At ACPL: The family history books are to the left of the entrance. They are arranged alphabetically by the principal surname in the book. Searching in the catalog will bring up many books that won’t be found just browsing the shelves for a specific surname.

4. Research in online databases

At Home: Check the lists of the library’s subscriptions and online databases. They have a number of subscription databases that are free to search within the library, including Ancestry, Fold3, Heritage Quest and more. They also have many free databases to use at home or at the library. These include Indiana Resources, African American Gateway, Our Military Heritage and others.

At ACPL: Feel free to bring your own laptop, tablet or other device and use the library’s WiFi. Otherwise you can use the many computers in the department. If you don’t have a library card, ask a librarian for a temporary number. It will last for 24 hours and give you access to the library’s computers. Printing from the library’s computers costs 10 cents (using a print card charged with paper currency) or you can save any images you find to a flash drive.

Note: If you have your family tree online at Ancestry, you will not be able to access your tree. The library automatically logs into the ACPL library account and you cannot access another account on the library’s internet. (Actually you can find your tree if you search for someone in your tree, but that can be a pain.) If you have a tablet or smartphone with the Ancestry tree app, you not have a problem.

5. Take a break

Note: There is no food or drink permitted in the department to protect the collection.

At Home: Check out the map for restaurants (PDF) within walking distance of the library.

At ACPL: Remember to take a break to stretch and refuel your body. Take care of yourself so you can research at your best.

6. Research in Genealogy Periodicals

Note: ACPL has the largest collection of genealogy periodicals in the country (probably the world). They maintain an index of articles called the PERiodical Source Index (PERSI) based location and surname. Articles are not indexed by every name, but by overall topic.

At Home: Search for your ancestors’ surnames and locations on PERSI. It is available through Heritage Quest (if your local library has access) and Ancestry. Make sure to check the ACPL catalog to make sure they have the periodical you are seeking and to record the call number.

At ACPL: The newest editions of periodicals are located on the East wall of the department (turn right when you enter the library and go straight back to the wall.) They are organized alphabetically. When the library has enough issues of a periodical, they bind them into a book and put them on the shelves based on location or topic. Searching in the library’s catalog should help you determine if a periodical has been bound or not by whether or not it has a call number.

7. Research in Microtext Collection 

At Home: Check the microtext catalog and newspaper holdings to view the library's collections. Many of these items, but not all, can also be found in the library’s main catalog.

At ACPL: If you want to save or print an image from microfilm, use the readers connected to computers. Bring a flash drive to save your images. Currently printing from microfilm is free, but that could change. Or you can just view microfilm from the many other readers in the Microtext Reading Room.

Note: Check the binder at the Microtext Ask Desk to find out what FHL films are on loan to ACPL.

Extra special tip: The Microtext Reading Room is cold (probably from having the lights turned low). Bring a sweater if you plan to spend a lot of time with microfilm.

8. Research in City Directories

At Home: Search the catalog and microtext catalog to find what city directories the library has in its collection. They have a large collection of directories from across the country.

At ACPL: Older directories are available on microfilm. Modern directories are available in book form in the western part of the department (to your left as you enter the library, past the family histories).

9. Ask the librarians

At Home: The Genealogy Center’s website has bios of some of the librarians that you might meet during your visit. If you have a question about the department, you can contact them before your visit.

At ACPL: Can’t find the materials that you are looking for? Ask. Can’t figure out the microfilm readers? Ask. Want some research advice? Ask.

10. Stay in Touch with the library

At Home: Sign up for the library’s free monthly e-zine filled with information about their collection and upcoming events. Follow the Genealogy Center’s blog and “Like” them on Facebook. Check the event calendar for programs that might interest you.

At ACPL: Come back to research again. Or move to Fort Wayne.

Some extra special tips:
  • If you can't find a book on the shelf, check the oversize section. Or ask a librarian. Or ask the people researching and possibly find a cousin using the same book.
  • ACPL has open stacks. Find and take the books you want to use from the shelves to a table. Want a bunch of books? Use the convenient black carts. When you are done with the books, put them on the wooden carts by the tables for the staff to return. Microfilm has a special table for returns.
  • Fort Wayne is on the Eastern time zone and follows daylight savings. 
  •  Library Hours:
    • Monday-Thursday: 9AM - 9PM
    • Friday-Saturday: 9AM-6PM
    • Sunday: Noon - 5PM (closed Memorial Day to Labor Day)
    • Check ACPL website for closings due to holidays and professional development
  • Parking is $1 per hour in the library lots (PDF). Maximum charge is $7. You can pay by credit card or cash at the kiosk on the first floor by the checkout area. ACPL library card holders get free parking. Street parking is free on the weekend.
  • There are 4 copiers in the department. Copies cost 10 cents. Currently they take change, but will soon only take copy cards than can only be charged with paper currency.
Have any other questions? Leave a comment or send me an email at

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Cleaning Up The Letter F

I've started a project cleaning up my database. Whenever I finish a letter of the alphabet, I'll write a blog post to report about what I learned about the surnames that start with that letter.

Only took me a week to get through the letter F. Here's what I found:
  • I had lost Thomas Farrell and his wife Alice Maud McCormick in Canada. So I looked for the in the United States. And guess what? I found them in Detroit. The immigrated in the 1880s and Thomas died in 1895 so I had to use birth and marriage records for their children to confirm that I had the correct family.
  • I had previously learned from a distant cousin that Mary Bank had married a man with the surname Felix. But I never learned his first name. I searched the 1900 census for a Mary Felix and found one with the correct age living in Williamsport, Lycoming County, Pennsylvania. I went back again to the St. Boniface church records and found the burial record of Mary Bank Felix. So I was able to track Mary and her husband, Henry, to their deaths.
6 letters down. Only 20 more to go! Should be able to finish the letter G by the end of the week since I have no direct surnames in my family tree that start with G.
Other letter cleanups:

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Cleaning up the Letter E

I've started a project cleaning up my database. Whenever I finish a letter of the alphabet, I'll write a blog post to report about what I learned about the surnames that start with that letter.

I thought I would never get through the letter E. When your grandfather with an E surname marries your grandmother with another E surname and you have lots of research on their families, it makes for an awful lot of people with E surnames in your database. I didn't find many new things about the E surnames since I just found all the Eiswerth family in German records over the summer. But I did find a few things:
  • I finally took the time to analyze and find the correct 1910, 1920 and 1930 censuses for Agnes C Eiswerth. It would have been easier if there weren't 2 Agnes C Eiswerths in Lycoming County, Pennsylvania. It also would have been easier if the Williamsport city directories would list Agnes and help me track her through the years. 
  • I disproved the family story of 3 Eiswerth brothers coming to America. I thought it was just a nice story until I found my 2nd great grandfather's brothers, Jacob and Charles, in Lycoming County. So I had this nice story of 3 brothers coming to America and settling in Lycoming County, Pennsylvania. I even wrote about it in the Eiswerth family history I wrote last summer. But then Ancestry had to give me one of their shaky leaves for their brother Marcus. It was the 1900 census and I figured it was just going to be a false hit of someone born in the same month and year as Marcus. But then I found Marcus's second marriage to Dora Travis in the St. Boniface Church records that Ancestry digitized. The marriage record gives his parents as Lewis Eiswerth and Theresa Westrich. And once again I have to admit how much I love those shaky leaves.
Next up is the letter F.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Radio Shows and Interviews

I've had the pleasure of being featured on another blog and even a radio show in the past week.

On Monday, I was featured as part of Gini Webb's "May I Introduce To You" series on Geneabloggers. Gini does a wonderful job introducing everyone to the numerous genealogy bloggers. It was  a pleasure to be a part of her series.

On Saturday, I was part of a panel on FGS radio - My Society. The topic for the show was "RootsTech Resources for Genealogical Societies." It was a pleasure to join host Thomas MacEntee along with J Paul Hawthorne of the Computer Genealogy Society of San Diego and Tony Hanson of the Dallas Genealogical Society. I was there in my capacity as Vice President of the Indiana Genealogical Society. You can listen to the recording on the BlogTalkRadio website or subscribe to the show on iTunes.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Covertly Gathering Family Stories - Part 4

Just because some family members won't share their memories with you, doesn't mean they have to be lost forever. You just have to go around them and find the stories another way. This week I've shared the stories that my grandmother recorded, my plan to expand on them with my aunts, uncles and dad, and the results thus far.

Now to show the treasure my family has given me.

Here's the story written by my grandmother that I sent the family for week 4:

Whenever something was needed at school, my kids volunteered to bring it. Cakes, pies, bread, cookies, costumes – you name it! Once I had to take a sheet off the bed and wash it, so it could be used for a movie the next day. Once they even brought a guest speaker home without telling me first. El had been working on a science project and had papers and leaves all over the dining room. We had to seat our guest at the kitchen table that day.

And here is what it became (I turned the names into initials here to protect the innocent):

Whenever something was needed at school, the nuns would volunteer the Eiswerth children. They knew how creative E was and how she would get things done, so they kept asking her to do more. It was a compliment, but all the work made it seem like a punishment.

The Eiswerth kids would come home and tell their mom that they needed all kinds of things for school the next day. Cakes, pies, bread, cookies, costumes – you name it! Once E had to take a sheet off the bed and wash it, so it could be used for a movie the next day.

About every year in May, E would cut bunches of flowers off the lilac bushes and the kids had to walk them down to the nuns to put in the church.  They always made the old church smell great on Sunday when the family went to mass.  

El once brought a big jar of beans to school. The kids would guess how many beans were in the jar--a penny a guess--probably to make money for a "mission baby". On the way to school, she dropped it, the beans went all over the place and she bawled her eyes out all the way to school.

Every year at St. Boniface Junior High, the students had to do a science project. Then they would set it up in the basement of the school on Washington Boulevard for guests to come and admire their good work. One year, El decided to do “Leaves of Pennsylvania Trees” for her science project. She had the whole family collecting leaves. They even went to state parks. She had several leaf and tree books to look up what she found and categorize them in a big scrapbook.

El won a prize at St Boniface and was invited to display her charts and leaves at the Bucknell University Science Fair in Lewisburg, PA! The family loaded up the car and while they were on their way, J almost hit a bicyclist who came out in front of us at Brandon Park. El won "Honorable Mention" there. She kept the leaf scrapbook during her 35 years of teaching and only threw it out when she retired. The leaves were still intact.

The Eiswerth dining room table was a place that was always loaded with homework papers, school projects, wet winter clothes, etc. They family only ate there when company visited. One time the Eiswerth children came home with a guest speaker from school without telling their mom first. This was at the same time that El had been working on her leaf science project and had papers and leaves all over the dining room. They had to seat their guest at the kitchen table that day.

When MJ was supposed to play an angel in a Christmas play, E made her the best wings in the class. The base was 2 wire hangers, so they were nice and even, too. They were so nice that the nun asked MJ to let the smaller girl in the front wear them. She really didn't want to do it, and told the nun that. But the nun won and MJ had to give up her beautiful wings. When she came home from school that day, MJ told E what had happened. E shared that the same thing had happened to her when she was a child. Her mother made her a gorgeous set of wings, snowy white trimmed in tinsel. Five minutes before the play started, her wings disappeared, probably given to someone in the front row.

Eventually, E asked the kids not to volunteer HER for much as she was very busy.  The nuns knew that and would send a paper home asking her for what she could do in the future.  
I am truly amazed at how just a few lines from my grandmother can expand into a rich story of my dad's childhood. I was even able to add my grandmother's memories of her childhood angel wings when I aunt remembered hers and her mother telling her the story of when she had to give hers up.
Tomorrow I'll send out story #6. I can't wait to read their memories. It's going to make an amazing book at the end of the year.

Covertly Gathering Family Stories - Part 3

On Tuesday, I wrote about the stories my grandmother wrote (even though she tells me that she doesn't remember anything). On Wednesday, I wrote about my plan to get more out of those stories from my dad, aunts and uncles. Today I'm going to share some of my results.

So I had this wonderful idea and plan to circumvent my grandmother and still get the family stories. My dad lives in Ohio, one uncle is in Alabama and the rest are in central Pennsylvania. I lucked out that 6 of the 7 siblings have email. I knew that some of them would share more than others and that was perfectly fine.

But would it work? I can't even begin to describe how amazed I am with the returns so far.

On Thursday, January 5, I sent out an email warning my relatives of my new, brilliant plan to get the family involved in my genealogy adventures. I received a few positive responses and started thinking that this just might work. If I could just put names with the stories, I would be happy.

On Friday, January 6, I sent my family the first mini story:

We had worn out furniture too. I remember when a priest dropped by for a visit, I tried to hide a broken spring and by standing one of my children in front of it. To my surprise, the priest picked up the little one and sat down on that chair. The spring always let you know it was there!

The responses started coming back. Not only did I learn who the priest was (my great grandmother worked as his housekeeper) and how my grandmother was embarrassed by that chair's broken spring and would often make the kids sit in it when they had company over, I also started getting stories about the kids visiting their grandmother when she moved to Susquehanna, Pennsylvania in order to continue working for the priest.

Those 3 lines became over a page of family memories.

The next week I sent out another story:

Once my family made a trip to Susquehanna. After getting 7 kids ready for the trip, I forgot to change my shoes. As we sat talking in the rectory, one of the kids asked, “Why are you wearing your dirty sneakers?”

The first week I only received memories from 2 of the 7 siblings. The following week I received 10 emails from 4 of the siblings. Story number 2 became a collection of stories about visiting Susquehanna (and how they never visited as a family since it took too long to get there). They even incorporated another of my grandmother's stories about leaving my uncle at home because they thought he was in the car with the rest of them.

Once again a few lines turned into a page of memories.

My aunts are sharing these stories with my grandparents and sending me their responses as well. As for my uncle who doesn't have email? My aunt called him to get the scoop on when he got a gash in his head at school so we could add his side to the stories.

Tomorrow I will share one of the stories that we created. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Covertly Gathering Family Stories - Part 2

Yesterday I wrote about the stories my grandmother wrote in a family history. Since my grandmother won't answer my questions about her family, I was happy to discover these stories and learn more about her life. But the problem with the stories was that she never identified who she was talking about. She would just refer to other people in the story as "her brother," "her daughter," her "uncle," etc. Since I knew if I asked her directly, she would tell me that she didn't remember, I had to find another way to get the details.

That's when I decided to crowd source the stories. Who else would remember these events? My dad, aunts and uncles!

Here's what I did:
  1. I typed up all the stories from the book.
  2. The whole narrative is just a collection of random mini stories. They aren't in any chronological order ans she skips back and forth between her childhood and raising her own children. So I split the narrative into the little stories and put them into a spreadsheet. (I am only using the stories of her children for this project since they obviously won't remember their mom's childhood.)
  3. I added a column to the spreadsheet for a date.
  4. Each Friday I send a mini story out to my dad and his brothers and sisters.
  5. Over the weekend, they send me back their version of the story and other memories that the original story triggered. They give me all the details that I was missing. They also use "reply all" on the email so that they can build off of each other.
  6. On Monday, I write up the new story that we have created from just a few lines.
I have enough stories to get through the middle of November, which is perfect because at the end of the year, I'm going to put all the stories together in a book along with some family photos. It's going to be an amazing family heirloom.

Now you might be wondering how effective this technique has been. Stay tuned to tomorrow's post when I share how 4 lines of text turned into 2 pages.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Covertly Gathering Family Stories - Part 1

In the late 1990s, a cousin published a family history on my paternal grandmother's family. It included entries for all of my great-great-grandparents' descendants. Everyone was supposed to write an entry about their lives and send in for the book. 

There are many mistakes in the book regarding dates and places, but the best part are the individual entries. During my 2012 organization project, I went back to the book and added source details from the book to my database. I was amazed at all the stories that my grandmother wrote about her childhood, grandparents, parents, and children. Whenever I ask questions, this grandmother says she doesn't remember. So I was so happy to find these stories again. She tells stories about her childhood, her parents, her grandparents, her children and more. What a treasure trove to have these stories.

She states that she was inspired to write down her stories for her children after reading Asafetida: That Was My Bag by Peggy Masters Hobrock published in 1973. So of course I had to purchase a copy of this book on Amazon.
This book is a collection of stories about life in the early 1900s. The author compares her childhood to her current life. They are very witty and entertaining and the book takes you back in time to a life before modern conveniences. The stories are all less than a page and include titles such as:
The Beer Man
The Telephone
Wash Day
The Parlor
The Outhouse
The Honeydippers
Sex Symbol

After reading the book, I can see that my grandmother was inspired by these stories and used a similar writing style. (Of course, she didn't write anything about sex.) The author didn't give names of the people involved in her stories so neither did my grandmother. 
That's the biggest problem I have with these family stories. My grandmother came from a family of 7 children and then she had 7 children. So when she says her brother did this or her daughter did that I have no idea who she is talking about. But I found a solution to my grandmother not giving me the names and not sharing her stories with me. Stay tuned to tomorrow's post.

Disclosure: The above link is an Amazon affiliate link to a book that costs 25 cents used. If you purchase through that link, I'll get a small portion of your sale at no cost to you. (So about 1/10 of a cent.)