Great Sources


Needless to say, the pandemic has totally thrown my year, but I’ve been sitting on a version of this post for a while. I’m not sure I’ll be able to get back into a more normal run of posts anytime soon, but I will endeavor to at least post more.

Some of you know I was working on a presentation on occupational records and resources for a Virtual Genealogical Association webinar last week. It was another presentation that was truly meant to get researchers out and about looking for information in libraries, archives, and museums. Then… pandemic. But, in the retooling of the presentation, I found so many interesting and cool online resources that I really thought they were going to have to cut me off for going too long. Suffice to say, there is much that can be done online—but you should also be making the list of places to visit when it is safe for you to do so too.

I’ve talked about examples of occupational records/resources on the blog before: Henry R. Massy’s  Police Force Application, Grandpa Bailey’s work photo from Kirkhoff Manufacturing, labor union publications. But being in lockdown gave me time to explore other resources. For example, did you know that Ancestry has record sets like U.S., Baseball Questionnaires, 1945-2005—a collection of self-completed surveys including the likes of Roger Marais, Ken Griffey, Jr  (and Sr.), or former Detroit Tiger Brad Ausmus. Or maybe you need a record set more down to earth? They also have a collection called Wisconsin, Employment Records, 1903-1988—including the four occupations for which one needed a license: education, barbering, watchmaking, and boxing.

Family Search has a variety of collections like the Certificates of admission to the Guild of barbers, surgeons and chandlers, Shewsbury, 1745-1792 (UK), the Business license records (Pike County, Ohio), 1816-1854, 1877, or the Peddlers and Show Licenses, 1852-1866 (Decatur County, Georgia).

Clippings from WorldCat.org entry for the Arkansas Borad of Barber Examiners files of inactive barbers, series III, 1937-1994 from the Arkansas State Archives and a photo of the catalog entry for Fred Elliott, barber.

Searches in WorldCat or ArchiveGrid can net more collections—such as the Arkansas State Board of Barber Examiners files of inactive barbers, series III, 1937-1994 at the Arkansas State Archives including a picture of my Great Uncle Fred Elliott. But so can a search on Google. That’s how I found a number of industry journals with mentions of family members. Like the notice of the fire at my 4th Great Uncle H. R. Rothwell’s barrel, cask and box factory in Chicago, Illinois in on June 9th 1908 in The National Cooper’s Journal  and The Barrel and Box.

Clippings from Barrel and Box, July 1908

“But I only have Farmers!” I hear you. I know. I have my fair share, but check out the community your family is from to see if any of the farm books or store ledgers for the area survived. I can’t promise they’re out there, but it’s worth a look—especially if you’ve hit a brick wall.

Or maybe your find is waiting for a building renovation and will find its way to Facebook, like this. It a grocer’s card that a pizza joint in my mom’s hometown found while renovating. I totally wanted it to be our George, but then it settled in that there were three George Porter’s in town at that time (and we’re only related to two of them)—needless to say that’s the one we have no claim to. But, wow!  What a neat job-related find sitting out there on social media for someone.

Happy hunting!

Jess

Labor Day commemorates the American Labor Movement and the contributions of workers to the country. In the past in the blog I’ve focused on the range of occupations in my family and encouraged people to think about what their own relatives did in life. But I’m hoping that researchers are going the extra steps to read up on those occupations and see if your families were involved in unions and other pro-labor organizations—whatever their occupations. I’ve come across subjects that were stone masons, teachers, railroad workers, auto workers, porters, farm workers, etc.

Remember, we’re looking for more than dates. We’re looking for the stories as well. Were they organizers? Members? Strikers? Negotiators? What were the realities of their work life that unions sought to improve?

If you know the union or organization your subjects were associated with you can look them up in Worldcat.org, Archivegrid, or Google to find possible collections to explore possibly including journals such as the The Stone Cutters’ Journal  below (available on Google Books) or more detailed record sets.

Cover of the February 1922 issue of the Stone Cutters' Journal.

Here are a few examples of collections that may be of use:

Note: Multiple institutions may hold different collections for the same organizations.

What other groups might your families have been members of?

Happy hunting!

Jess

There are lot of reasons to take advantage of the educational opportunities offered through the genealogical communities—local, regional, or larger. Keeping up with new resources, learning new shortcuts, or having it hammered home that there are places where there are no shortcuts. But another reason I have heard echoed at many an event is the simple reminder that there is work to do still. So, this weekend saw me wandering through New England records after seeing a couple of great presentations by David Allen Lambert of the New England Historic Genealogical Society at the 2018 Abrams Foundation Family History Seminar hosted by the Archives of Michigan and the Michigan Genealogical Council last week.

I’d been neglecting my New England lines lately and this was a good kick to get me checking my documentation and filling out parts of the tree I hadn’t worked on since very early in my research—meaning it needs a lot of clean up. Most of the weekend was spent on the Laphams, Gilberts, and Johnsons whose lines trace back into Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire and Rhode Island. Not only did I track down the collaterals that I had missed before, but it confirmed something I had been told but never located good sources for… that Hannah Johnson Gilbert DuBois’ father did serve in the Revolutionary War. As is happens his widow, Mary Joiner, had a hard time getting her pension so it turned out to be a nice sized file of information including the extract below confirming their marriage.

Proof of marriage between David Johnson and Mary Joiner from Mary's Widow's Pension Application.

Find out what’s happening around you–Conference keeper is a good resource: http://conferencekeeper.org/–and get inspired to do the work!

Happy hunting,

Jess

P.S. Thanks all who sat in on my TB & Genealogy talk, you were a great audience and I hope it gave you some ideas for your own research!

It’s one thing to know the bare facts of a story but a totally different thing when you find a more personal or intimate view of a person. This was a heartbreaking find tucked among my Great Aunt June’s belongings.

The following is an entry from my 2nd Great Aunt Ethel Augusta Packer’s diary. She was born 12 November 1887 in Oxford, Ontario to Cornelius and Flora (Massy) Packer. The family came to Michigan and settled in a house on 163 Shirley St, in Grand Rapids around 1891. At the time of the entry she was twelve years old and stricken with tuberculosis. She died the following September just short of her thirteenth birthday. My grandmother was named after her.

January 18, 1900 Entry from Ethel Packer's Diary.

It reads:

Freddie Ellingham is sick and so am I and he sent me two oranges. I am setting up and I have been in bed six  weeks. Papa is sitting by the bed reading my story book and mama making me a tidy. I have taken my medicine good all day to day. I had me bed drown up by the window to see the children snow ball.

For more information on the TB epidemic in the late 19th and early 20th Century check out this post.

Happy hunting,

Jess

DNAimage

I’ve been an advocate for DNA testing from the moment it became affordable (to me) as a fabulous source for crowd-sourcing research, possibly confirming theories and outright conquering brick walls. And as I started presenting more, I’ve tried to remind people that you do have to be ready for what you find. While DNA can confirm your research, it can also completely undermine it.

My family has now confirmed that one of my close relatives is not the genetic child of the man that raised them. Needless to say, after working on these lines for 20+ years, this was a surprise. I can’t say I didn’t have an inkling that something was up (based on matches over the years—or lack thereof), but I assumed that any discrepancy was farther up the line. But now that a few more close relatives have tested, I’m starting to research a new line and luckily the relative with the “new” father seems to be taking it in stride. That whole experience—which really, we’re still working through—has put me in the middle of a lot of DNA discussions, found me attending every DNA related class/webinar/discussion I can squeeze in, and forced me to re-evaluate how I use my DNA results. In fact, this may just end up being a DNA focused year for me.

With that in mind if you’re in a similar position, just getting started with DNA testing, or have tests but don’t know what to do with the results, here’s a few things I’ve found and wanted to share—especially for Michigan area researchers:

I think it’s going to be a fascinating year!

Happy hunting!

Jess

Note: If you have DNA SIGS in your area, have go-to DNA resources people should know about, etc. Feel free to post to comments!

I’m settling into a new office at work, family members are moving out of long held homes, and I’m still piecing through a collection of materials from my Great Aunt’s passing. It’s fascinating what you can find at  times like this—long lost photos, documents you had to hunt down or send away for because no one knew they actually had them tucked away, and odds and ends you would never have thought to look for.

A handful of interesting examples we’ve found include:

Grandma Shea’s Sears charge card giving me an address I hadn’t had before and a glimpse into the history of credit cards that I had never thought about–it’s a metal plate. I’d never seen one like it.

20160109_153935

Grandpa Johnson’s ration card (1942), a sobering bit of United States history:

johnsonwmerationbooka

Or 3rd Great Grandfather Cornelius Packer’s Naturalization papers… Yes, I had already tracked the packet down at the Archives of Michigan but the journey is just as important as the document in hand and I needed that experience of researching at the Archives:

packer2ndnatpapers

Have you found anything interesting or odd?

Happy hunting!

Jess

 

So the summer got away from me—with major work projects, a career crossroads, and the follow-up from the eventual decision—I’ve been a bit stuck in my own head and not venturing out enough in the world or in my research…. However, I made it through and I’m on the road in Springfield, Illinois for FGS2016.

SpringfieldSunset

Springfield, Illinois Sunset

Yesterday was Society Day at the Federation of  Genealogical Societies’s Conference and I spent a great deal of time soaking up ideas for encouraging society growth, creative programming, and all around building excitement for societies and institutions. And I am reminded that I have gotten so much help, training, and solid research assistance from most of the genealogical societies I have connected with, whether as a member or visitor. They are tremendous resources.

In my second start in genealogy in the late 1990s, I had the good fortune of stumbling into the Western Michigan Genealogical Society—an established, extremely active, and nationally involved (#ngs2018gen! woot!) society. They do so much right—they are forward thinking, very welcoming, and (again) so active! Over the years I have participated in annual seminars, informative monthly meetings, bus trips, indexing projects (yes, Sue, I owe you files still!). They work with their local library on history programs and lock-ins, they have a writers group, educational classes, and a DNA special interest group—If I lived locally I’d probably try to do everything. As it is, I travel an hour to get to meetings (not nearly as often as I’d like).

That said WMGS isn’t the only society I belong to. There are societies that I belong to because they cover areas I’m researching, or focus on ethnic groups that I’m working with, or they are a national society offering a great overview of the national scene—along with a fabulous journal.  I can’t belong to every society that I would like to but I shoot for as many as possible. Again, they are totally worth it. For example:

I know many societies are looking for more involvement and fresh ideas in hopes of rebuilding membership and gaining community notice—pretty much the theme of Society Day—but to all the hard-working officers and volunteers that have all but single-handedly dragged their societies along for years… good on you and thank you! It’s time for more of us to step up and make all of our societies more successful.

Happy hunting (joining and volunteering),

Jess

PackerAlbum27One of my winter projects was to write about my family’s experiences during the height of the Tuberculosis epidemic in the late 19th and early 20th century.  That means I have a nice list of resources I’d suggest for people researching in this era. My primary focus has obviously been Michigan but if you’re researching a TB patient or anyone involved in the epidemic—activists, medical staff, etc.—consider that there could have been a comparable organization in the area you’re researching.

Track down the Tubercular hospitals, such as the Michigan State Sanatorium (pictured above), for which you can find:

  • Patient records held by the Archives of Michigan and available with death certificate of patient.
  • Historical collections regarding the hospital held by Howell Carnegie Library
  • Reports of the Board of Trustees held by the Library of Michigan, some available through Google Books
  • Michigan Official Directory and Legislative Manual. Includes a short history of the Sanatorium with a listing of the Board of trustees.
  • Tuberculosis Hospital and Sanatorium Construction by Thomas Spees Carrington, National Association for the Study and Prevention of Tuberculosis, New York, 1911.

Find out how the locale you’re researching responded to the epidemic. For Michigan that includes State reports and Legislation:

  • Report of the Tuberculosis Survey of the State Board of Health compiled under the supervision of John L. Burkart, by the authority of the State Board of Health, Lansing, Michigan, 1917.
  • Public Health (quarterly periodical) by the Michigan State Board of Health, Lansing, Michigan. 1907-1951.
  • Michigan Tuberculosis Association Records, held by Michigan State University Archives and Historical Collections.
  • Ralph H. Childs/Grand Rapids Anti-Tuberculosis Society Collection held by Grand Rapids Public Library.

Broader discussion of the treatment of Tuberculosis:

  • The Open Air Treatment of Pulmonary Tuberculosis by F. W. Burton-Fanning, Cassell and Company LTD, 1909.
  • Clinical Tuberculosis by Francis Marion Pottenger, Second Edition, 2 Vol., C.V. Mosby Company, St Louis, 1922.

It’s fascinating and often heartbreaking research.

Happy hunting,

Jess

O0019I forget how interesting it is to look through a newspaper like The Chicago Defender, a current and historic African American newspaper, because it’s not something I have normal access to. I spent most of the first day of a recent WMGS bus trip to Allen County Public Library’s Genealogy Center, searching Proquest’s African American Historical Newspapers (available for on-site use) for news of Bradley County, Arkansas. The Chicago Defender had fairly regular columns sharing news from Arkansas including a column specifically on Warren. It featured the comings and goings of many of my collateral and direct line families, society news, the occasional obituary, etc. My favorite finds include those related to my Great Aunt Rachel C. (York) Elliott. A few examples include:

Mar 30, 1957

Mrs. Henrietta Moman and Mrs. R. C. [Elliott] motored to Little Rock to visit Mrs. Elliot’s brother, Fred York, who is ill in the University hospital. We hope he gets well soon.

Immediately followed by…

The Usher board sponsored a tea in the home of R. C. Elliott. Union Hill Baptist Church usher board was co-sponsor. It was a great success.

Sep 27, 1958

Mrs. T. R. Alexander and Mrs. R. C. Eliott motored to Little Rock on business last week and reported that the trip was very successful.

Fellow Bradley county researchers, if you’re looking for a little more color to your family stories and haven’t dived into this resource there are entries on Mount Olive and Union Hill families in particular with heavy coverage of the Feaster, Wilfong, Webb, Steppes, Terry, Phillips and related families and I definitely didn’t go through everything available–mostly focusing on Mrs. Mattie M. Burnett’s run as columnist (very) roughly from 1952-1962. There’s definitely earlier runs with different columnists as well.

Happy hunting,

Jess

Family History Month has turned out to be an eventful and fun one for me. I never followed up on my experiences at Western Michigan Genealogical Society’s Got Ancestors?! program but it was yet another success for WMGS with great presentations by D. Joshua Taylor. I’d recommend any of his talks but the Friday night presentation “Genealogy in Prime Time,” while giving a lot of fun and interesting information about Josh’s work on Who Do You think You Are? and Genealogy Roadshow, really resonated with me when it came to the message of providing the story—that’s what gets people hooked on, not the long lists of names and dates. Saturday’s presentations were equally informative and entertaining. As an Archivist I wanted to get up and cheer when Josh presented on researching in archives. And in his presentation, “Census, Vital Records and Locality Searching,” I was reminded that I haven’t spent nearly enough time exploring the census non-population schedules.

Additionally, I had a lot of fun at Family Tree Talk at Capital Area District Libraries South Lansing Branch. The group had great questions and I’m really hoping to visit again as more of a participant.  They meet on the third Saturday of the month at 2 pm.

I also had a great experience presenting for the Mid-Michigan Genealogical Society last night. They normally meet on the fourth Wednesdays, February-June and September-November (with November’s date bumped earlier to stay away from the Thanksgiving holiday).  Their next meeting will be November 18th featuring a speaker on Scottish Ancestry.

I have also learned from another project that I really wish I had French Canadian Catholic ancestry! What beautifully detailed records in the Drouin Collection! In baptismal record alone you get: Name, parents name with mother’s maiden name, father’s job, birth date, baptism, godparents, godfather’s occupation, and sometimes explanations of how they are related to the child. Combine that and the marriage records and if you’re careful (and the handwriting is legible) you actually may be able to go back in a straight line on your ancestors.

SampleDrouinThe sample document is a baptismal records for Rose Anna Herminise Plamondon, naming her the legitimate child of Louis Plamondon, shoemaker, and Adelina Lapierre of St. Jean Baptiste Parish in Montréal, Quebec Canada. It also names her godparents as Jean Baptiste and Rose Anna Plamondon, brother and sister of the infant.

Happy hunting,

Jess

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