printer icon Print this Page

This Website was paid for by - Auer Endowment -

Allen County Public Library Genealogy Center

Our Blog

Blog Search

Search our genealogy center's blog


Please select a category below

Meet Our Librarians Expand your search with our team.


Make a Donation You can help with the growth of the Allen County Public Library Genealogy Center

Make a Donation
  • Black History Month Images Revealed -

    Wednesday, Feb 22, 2017

    By Kay

    Have you ever wondered just what some of those images are that we used in our flyer for Black History Month 2017? Let's take a look.

    Susan Baptist, of Whitehaven, Tennessee, was a projectionist, showing training films for the troops as well as more popular motion pictures. At the time of this photo, taken by the U.S. Army Signal Corps for morale purposes, she had been in the WACS nine months and learned to operate the projector since enlisting. This image is part of the Visual Materials from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People Records (Library of Congress). I was unable to find anything else about Ms. Baptist.

    For further reading on African American women’s contribution to the war effort, read “When the Nation was in Need: Blacks in the Women's Army Corps during World War II,” By Martha Putney.

    And finally, three African American women at a polling place, one looking at a book of registered voters, on November 5, 1957, in New York City or Newark, New Jersey. This image is from the digital collection at the Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. 20540 USA. Read more about the challenges African Americans faced to vote in “Blackballed: the Black Vote and US Democracy,” by Darryl Pinckney.

    Posted by: ACPL Genealogy Center

  • Black History Month Images Revealed - Harlem Hellfighters

    Sunday, Feb 19, 2017

    By Kay

    Have you ever wondered just what some of those images are that we use on our advertising for Black History Month?. Let's take a look at some of the images used in the making of our flyer for Black History Month 2017.

    The 369th Infantry Regiment, aka the Harlem Hellfighters, formerly known as the 15th New York National Guard Regiment, was an infantry regiment of the United States Army National Guard during World War I and World War II (1913-1945). The Regiment consisted mainly of African Americans, though it also included a number of Puerto Rican Americans during World War II. It was the first African American regiment to serve with American forces in World War I. Before that, if an African-American wanted to fight, they would have to join the forces of France or Canada. This unit was given numerous nicknames: The Black Rattlers, the Men of Bronze and Hell Fighters.

    In the beginning, the regiment was relegated to labor service duties instead of combat.  On April 8, 1918, the unit was assigned to the French Army, and finally, on May 8, 1918, the 369th was sent to the trenches. From then on they fought. The unit was awarded two Medals of Honor and a regimental Croix de Guerre. The most celebrated man in the 369th was Pvt. Henry Johnson, a former Albany, New York, rail station porter, who earned the nickname "Black Death" for his actions in combat in France. “While on night sentry duty, May 15, 1918, Johnson and a fellow Soldier, Pvt. Needham Roberts, received a surprise attack by a German raiding party of at least 12 enemy soldiers.

    “While under intense fire and despite his own wounds, Johnson kept an injured Needham from being taken prisoner. He came forward from his position to engage an enemy soldier in hand-to-hand combat. Wielding only a knife and gravely wounded, Johnson continued fighting until the enemy retreated.

     “For his valor, Johnson became one of the first Americans to be awarded the French Croix de Guerre avec Palme, France's highest award for valor. Johnson was posthumously awarded the Purple Heart in 1996. He was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross in 2002, with the official ceremony taking place in 2003.” (from the Army website.)

    For more information, visit, Harlem’s Blog, American National Biography Online, ArmyMil, and the U.S. Army website, or read "Harlem's Rattlers and the Great War: the Undaunted 369th Regiment and the African American Quest for Equality" by Jeffrey T. Sammons.

    Posted by: ACPL Genealogy Center

  • Black History Month Images Revealed - Malcolm X & Martin Luther King

    Wednesday, Feb 15, 2017

     By Kay

    As we celebrate Black History Month in February, we always create some kind of flyer, poster, slide, or advertisement. Have you ever wondered just what some of those images are that we use. Let's take a look at some of the images used in the making of our flyer for Black History Month 2017.

    "Education is our passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs to the people who prepare for it today.” 
    Malcolm Little, May 19, 1925 – February 21, 1965, was also known as el-Hajj Malik el-Shabazz, but most of us are probably more familiar with him by another name: Malcolm X. Malsolm was an African-American Muslim minister, a human rights activist, and a controversial person. To some he was a courageous advocate for African-Americans, while others accused him of preaching racism and violence. In either case he was one of the most influential African Americans in our history. He was assassinated on February 21, 1965. Read more about him on, U.S., or read “The Autobiography of Malcolm X, With the assistance of Alex Haley.” You can also view the Spike Lee movie Malcolm X.
    Malcolm X

    "I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: 'We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal."
    Martin Luther King Jr., January 15, 1929 – April 4, 1968, was an American Baptist minister and activist who was a leader in the Civil Rights Movement. He used nonviolent disobedience to lead the civil rights struggle in the 1950s and 1960s. In 1964, he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. He was assassinated on April 4, 1968. For more on his life, read “The Life of Martin Luther King, Jr.: Leader for Civil Rights,” by Michael Schuman.

    Posted by: ACPL Genealogy Center

  • Black History Month Images Revealed - Mary Church Terrell

    Sunday, Feb 12, 2017

     By Kay

    As we celebrate Black History Month in February, we always create some kind of flyer, poster, slide, or advertisement. Have you ever wondered just what some of those images are that we use? Let's take a look at some of the images used in the making of our flyer for Black History Month 2017.

    Mary Church Terrell, September 23, 1863 to July 24, 1954, was one of the first African-American women to earn a college degree. She was a teacher and an activist for civil rights and suffrage, as well as a founding member of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. In 1896, Terrell became the first president of the newly formed National Association of Colored Women.

    On October 18, 1891, in Memphis, Church married Robert Heberton Terrell, a lawyer who became the first black municipal court judge in Washington DC. Her autobiography, “A Colored Woman in a White World,” is her autobiography, which she finished in 1940. She also lived to see the Supreme Court's decision in Brown v. Board of Education, holding unconstitutional the racial segregation of public schools.

    Read more about Mary Church Terrell at and Black, or read “Just Another Southern Town: Mary Church Terrell and the Struggle for Racial Justice in the Nation's Capital,” by Joan Quigley.

    Posted by: ACPL Genealogy Center

  • Black History Month Images Revealed - Dred Scott

    Monday, Feb 06, 2017

    By Kay

    As we celebrate Black History Month in February, we always create some kind of flyer, poster, slide, or advertisement. Have you ever wondered just what some of those images are that we use? Let's take a look at some of the images used in the making of our flyer for Black History Month 2017.

    Dred Scott, c. 1799 – September 17, 1858, was an African American slave who unsuccessfully sued for his freedom, and that of his wife and their two daughters in the Dred Scott v. Sandford case of 1857. Dred Scott's journey to freedom took 10 years and numerous trials. In the end, the Supreme Court’s majority opinion was written by Chief Justice Roger B. Taney, a staunch supporter of slavery. It stated that because Scott was black, he was not a citizen and therefore had no right to sue. The decision also declared the Missouri Compromise of 1820, legislation which restricted slavery in certain territories, to be unconstitutional.

    Following the ruling, the Scott family was deeded to Taylor Blow, who freed them on May 26, 1857. Scott worked as a porter in a St. Louis hotel, but his freedom was short-lived. He died from tuberculosis in September 1858. Scott was survived by his wife and his two daughters.

    For more information about the case, see Missouri Digital Heritage. For more information on Dred Scott and other African American History, visit the PBS Resource Bank. Or read “Mrs. Dred Scott: A Life on Slavery's Frontier,” by Lea VanderVelde.

    Posted by: ACPL Genealogy Center

  • Black History Month Images Revealed - Dido Elizabeth Belle

    Monday, Jan 16, 2017

    by Kay

    In February, we will be celebrating Black History Month. We always create some kind of flyer, poster, slide, or advertisement to mark the month, but have you ever wondered just what some of those images are that we use? Let's take a look at some of the images used in the making of our flyer for Black History Month 2017, starting with this one.
    Sometimes when people see something, they don't actually look at it. Around 1779, a painting was finished which requires a closer look. Originally titled "The Lady Elizabeth Murray," it hung in Kenwood House, located in England - at least until 1990. Then someone looked at it and started to ask questions; I know I did when I first saw it. I remember saying to myself, "There's a story behind that painting."

    At first your eyes encounter a young white girl with a slight smile on her face. She’s seated on a bench, she has a ring of flowers on her head and a book on her lap. She is quiet. Then your eyes wander to the other girl in the portrait. This girl is not quiet. She is actually laughing, she's up to something, she's in motion; it appears that she has been caught in the act of standing up. She seems to be having fun. It’s almost as she has a secret and she’s not going to tell us what it is. And, she is black. Oh sure, there are other old paintings with black people in them, but there is a difference with this one. To me, this painting suggests the two girls are on equal footing; there is a shared affection between them. They are both dressed in the height of fashion in some very luxurious dresses and they are both also wearing pearls. This is more than just a painting of a slave and her mistress. This painting forces us to ask questions. Who are these two? Where is the black girl hurrying off to? Why is she pointing to her cheek, why does she have basket of fruit in her arms? Is the white girl gently holding her back or urging her onward?

    Here's what we know: This is a portrait of Dido Elizabeth Belle and her cousin Lady Elizabeth Murray. At the time of this painting both Dido and Elizabeth were around 18 years old. They grew up together, were cousins, companions and friends. Dido and Elizabeth were left with their uncle, William Murray, the first Earl of Mansfield after their mothers died. They both seemed to have arrived on their uncle’s doorsteps around 1766 - separately. The big difference was that Dido was illegitimate and her mother was a black slave while Elizabeth's mother was white and married. It seems that the Earl had great affection for both of his nieces, making sure that they were both well cared for.

    It was during the time Dido lived in the Earl's household that he made some landmark judgements in England. You see not only was he a Lord, he was also Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales. One of the cases which was brought before him was the Somersett Case (1772). He held that slavery had no basis in common law and had never been established by legislation in England, and therefore was not binding law. This case paved the way for ending slavery in England. Did Dido play a part in his decision? We will never know.

    "Belle," a movie loosely based on Dido’s, life was released in 2013. There are not too many facts out there about Dido's life, she left no journals or diaries that we know of. What we do know is she married and was the mother of three boys. And, we know she died at the age of 43. Sad to say, we can only visualize her life based on the lives of the people around her and an intriguing painting which was left behind. The portrait of the two girls now hangs in the Murray families Scottish residence, Scone Palace.

    For more about Dido, read Dido Elizabeth Belle by Fergus Mason and Belle: the Slave Daughter and the Lord Chief Justice by Paula Byrne, or check out the movie, Belle.

    Posted by: ACPL Genealogy Center

  • Thanksgiving

    Monday, Nov 21, 2016

         Thanksgiving Day is often considered the most “genealogical” of holidays. Generations of family members gather together, remembering stories and enjoying treasured food traditions. Those of us with Pilgrim ancestors often like to remember their connections to Plymouth Colony on this day. Indeed, Thanksgiving remained a most New England holiday well into the mid-nineteenth century, and it only took hold slowly and cautiously elsewhere in the United States.
         The first Thanksgiving was observed in Indiana on December 7, 1837, when Governor Noah Noble issued a proclamation for its observance. Fort Wayne was still a frontier town, and while some of its New England settlers remembered the way the holiday was observed in their former home, they found the experience to be very different here.
         A glimpse of the difference can be seen in the letters of Hugh McCulloch, a native of Maine who headed the Fort Wayne Branch of the Indiana State Bank, and his fiancée, Susan Man. The two had gotten engaged earlier that year, and Susan, a school teacher, had returned to her home at Plattsburgh, New York, to make plans for their wedding and to visit with her family. That year, Susan enjoyed a huge gathering with extended relatives, while Hugh attended a church service without mentioning any special meal or celebration. Susan wrote of her feast, “Genl. Moore, the aged Father & Uncle sat at the head of the table, and between 40 & 50 relatives were seated at the same table.” (Susan Man to Hugh McCulloch, 2 December 1837, McCulloch Papers, Lilly Library, Indiana University). She made no mention of the menu, but she added, “After we had dined, his grandchildren gathered around his chair and while one played on the accordeon [sic], the other sang Thanksgiving hymns & anthems.” 
        Hugh, in his reply weeks later, appreciated the spirit of Susan’s celebration. “There is something in that day observed as it is in New England & some parts of N. York, which excites in my mind peculiar interest. The uniting of families & friends who have long been separated, the good feeling & liberality which seems to fill every breast have ever made me regard it as the best day of the year.” (Hugh McCulloch to Susan Man, 31 December 1837). Not until 1863 did Indiana join other northern states in a coordinated observance of the holiday, and it was only after the Civil War that families regularly feasted on that day.
         May your Thanksgiving be a genealogical one. 

    Posted by: ACPL Genealogy Center

  • Life and Genealogy are Learning Experiences

    Monday, Apr 11, 2016

    I recently did a presentation on Famous Female Hoosier Writers for Women’s History Month.  In preparing for the presentation, I read works of authors and journalists I was not as familiar with and learned more about these amazing women.  I chose this presentation topic because, while I was familiar with some of the authors and journalists I wanted to discuss, I also saw it as a learning experience.  I am one of those people who loves to learn and thrives on learning new things each and every day.  Life is about discovery!  This love of learning and discovery is why genealogy works so well for me.  I am constantly learning about new places to search for information, new sources, and new information for my own family tree.  

    I hope to remind you all that genealogy is a learning process.  There are proper forms of methodology and research, but everyone has to start somewhere.  When I am researching a historical event or figure, I begin with Wikipedia.  While I would NEVER use Wikipedia as a source, I use it to get a rough idea of the event or person and then use the sources list to learn more.  It is the same with genealogy.  When people begin their genealogy research, they usually jump at the chance to use other people’s trees listed on Ancestry and other websites.  This is okay!  I have heard people getting angry with beginners for doing this.  The thing that everyone needs to remember is that while the beginners are doing further research they will learn not to trust the trees.  It is a learning process of discovering that not everyone does sound research and many people will put family lore on their trees as solid truth.  The same is true with Wikipedia.  I learned very quickly that I could not trust the material in the written sections but I could use the sources listed to help further my research.  I always try to find a primary source or an excellently sourced secondary source.  To determine how accurate or credible a resource is, research the publisher and the author and check the footnotes, endnotes, and the bibliography.  

    If you would like more information on the women writers I researched, here is a link for further reading:   

    Posted by: ACPL Genealogy Center

  • What Made You Start Your Family History

    Monday, Feb 01, 2016

    by Allison

    Whether you are a novice or an expert, your genealogy start-story is one to be proud of and to share.  As the newest librarian on the ACPL Genealogy Center staff, I would like to introduce myself by sharing my own start-story.  

    Like many youngsters, I often went to pay my respects at the cemetery with my family.  Perhaps unlike most people, my maternal grandmother would take me for hours just to wander the local cemetery in Plymouth, Indiana, the town where my mother was raised.  She wanted to show me the names, dates, and symbols.  While she had no interest in genealogy, she instilled a love of cemeteries in me at a very young age. They are places to love, respect, learn, and be at peace.  While death is never a happy subject, having the ability to retain a connection with deceased friends and family is a good thing.  My parents were not as enthralled with cemeteries as my grandmother and I, but they would go and clean out the family plot in the Catholic Cemetery of Fort Wayne and put fresh silk flowers out every season.  

    At age sixteen and I went to the cemetery with my parents and other relatives to perform the annual change of the silk flowers.  Since there were more than enough people helping with the family plot, I began to wander through the section to look at the different stones.  I was astonished when I discovered a grave stone with my father’s name on it!  My father, Edward, was named after his grandfather, Edward.  My father is alive and well while his grandfather had been buried since 1955.  I had no idea who the third Edward could have been.  After my initial shock, I realized that the dates were off.  This Edward was only 9 years old when he passed away!  He was also born almost twenty years after my great-grandfather.  Something did not add up.  

    I went back to the family plot and asked my family members if they knew anything about it.  They were all surprised and went back to the grave to see for themselves.  None of them had any idea who the child was and how he was related to our family.  That was the day I became a novice genealogist.  I wanted to know everything about this child and why he wasn’t in our family plot if he was a relative.  Unfortunately, my paternal grandparents were deceased by this time.  I could not ask them any questions.  I had to turn to the Allen County Public Library Genealogy Center for help.

    I still remember walking into the library and being overwhelmed.  I had no idea where to start.  Luckily for me, there was a librarian at the desk who was willing to assist me in my beginning search.  The interesting thing was that I did not want to start with me, which is the recommended way to begin genealogy.  I was bound and determined to figure out who the child with my father’s name was and how he was related to us.  Thankfully, the librarian helped me find information on the child’s death.  This led me to his parents’ names.  The grand mystery was solved.  The third Edward was the nephew of my great-grandfather with the same name.  His brother honored him by naming his son after him.  It was easy to link the brother to my family since he died the same year as the child and is buried in our family plot.  It was also interesting to discover that the child was buried next to his mother who died long after the child.  In fact, she remarried and had a long life before finally settling next to her little boy.  

    While I was able to solve the family mystery, it opened up a door of many more mysteries.  Why did my great-grandfather’s brother die so young?  Who were these family members?  What did they do?  What other family members can I find?  The simple family mystery in a cemetery many years ago has led me to spending over half of my life doing genealogy research.  I was hooked!  

    What is your genealogy start-story?  Have you shared it with your family?  Sometimes learning about the family mysteries and skeletons in the closet are the best ways to pique someone’s interest in learning more about genealogy.  I look forward to working with all of you!

    (We welcome Allison to The Genealogy Center! Read more about her and the rest of the public service staff.)

    Posted by: ACPL Genealogy Center

  • Pearl Harbor Source

    Sunday, Dec 07, 2014

    by Delia

    December 7, 1941, termed by Franklin Roosevelt as “a day that will live in infamy,” saw the deaths of 2500 Americans and the injury of 1200 others. The events of that day resulted in the United States participation in the war that was already raging in Europe. There is a great deal written about the events of that day, in books, in periodicals and, now, online, with many opinions concerning what actions led up to the attack, and the results that followed.

    As a genealogist, I am more interested in the toll on the people who were serving in the military and endured the attack. First-hand accounts abound, many owned by The Genealogy Center for those researching or just interested. One interesting source for Pearl Harbor research is the “Pearl Harbor Muster Rolls” on Fold3. Each ship and section is divided by year, then by date of muster. Before the war, muster was usually taken quarterly, an alphabetical list providing name, service number, date of enlistment, rank and when the service man had arrived. The Report of Changes provided name, service number, date and place of enlistment and any changes to the service man’s status, including reassignment, illness or death. The September 30, 1941 Muster Roll for the USS Arizona is 38 pages of names, from to Hubert Aaron to Loyd M. Zimmerman. The December 31st Muster Roll has only one page, with the Report of Changes for December 7th and December 31st which contains a total of 83 pages, with most of the changes listed as: “Missing since action against enemy, Dec, 7, 1941 at Pearl Harbor; next of Kin not notified,” including Hubert Aaron and Loyd M. Zimmerman.

    Of course, these rolls and changes are not solely about the attack. Muster rolls from the 1930s and throughout the war are included. If you have a serviceman in the South Pacific during World War II, this is an excellent source of information. But all of us should think about the many lives lost that day. Each had a name. On this anniversary, get to know a few.

    Posted by: ACPL Genealogy Center

  • Thanksgiving and Family Stories

    Wednesday, Nov 26, 2014


    When I was a child, Thanksgiving was all about the feast. My mother would have been preparing for several days, and was up early on Thursday to get the turkey in the oven. She made a number of dishes that were traditional, and often added a new one, which might or might not become a regular. We daughters (there were no sons) would do our assigned tasks and, when we lived in California, Daddy would pick roses for the table. We would sit down to eat about 1 p.m., and might be sitting there an hour later, having finished eating and were just talking. If we had any relatives with us, we might be sitting there for several hours, chatting and laughing over old stories. As the family expanded and various relatives married, sometimes the new family members did not understand why we’d sit in hard chairs at the table and talk. Wasn’t it time to get back to the game on TV? Some never quite got it. I wish I had had some of these questions to spark their interest.

    You can use these questions any way you like. Ask everyone each of these questions or make a game of it, with each person selecting a question at random and record them (video, audio or transcription). You and your guests may not spend two more hours chatting after dinner like my family, but you may put off the football game just a bit longer and share stories as well as your meal.

    Five questions for older relatives:
    1. Describe the ways your family celebrated Thanksgiving when you were a child? How did your traditions change as you grew older?
    2. Pick a school year. Describe a typical day, and describe an event that was un-typical.
    3. Did your family celebrate Halloween when you were a child and teen? What did you do?
    4. When did you first get your driver’s license? How difficult was it to get one? Describe your driving lessons.
    5. Who was the oldest person in your family when you were a child? A grandparent or great-grandparent?

    Five questions for younger relatives to get them thinking about their life story, and sharing it:
    1. How does your family celebrate Thanksgiving? What are your three favorite parts of the celebration?
    2. Describe your first day of school this year: What grade, school, and teacher? What did you wear? What did you eat for lunch? What was the biggest surprise of the day?
    3. What did you do for Halloween this year? What were your best Halloween memories of your life?
    4. Do you have your driver’s license or learner’s permit? Describe the process and any anecdotes.
    5. Who is the youngest person in your family right now? Tell how you first met him or her?

    Posted by: ACPL Genealogy Center

  • Six Things to Know for the Fourth of July

    Friday, Jul 04, 2014

    • The Declaration of Independence was written by five people: Thomas Jefferson of Virginia, the main author; John Adams of Massachusetts; Robert Livingston of New York; Roger Sherman of Connecticut; and Benjamin Franklin of Pennsylvania. It was submitted to the Continental Congress on June 28, 1776. No minutes were kept of the writing of the document, nor of the discussions that took place during the following days.
    • Although July 4th is celebrated as Independence Day, John Adams always felt it should have been July 2nd, the date the document was approved by Congress.
      John Hancock, President of the Second Continental Congress signed first, and his was the largest signature, making his name a synonym for the word “signature.”
      Benjamin Franklin, at 70, was the oldest signer, and Edward Rutledge of South Carolina was the youngest at 26 years.
    • John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, the only two Signers to become President, both died on July 4, 1826, the 50th anniversary. As he was dying, Adams comforted himself by noting that Jefferson still lived, but Jefferson had actually preceded him in death by five hours.
    • Fifth President James Monroe died on July 4, 1831, and Calvin Coolidge, the 30th President, was born on July 4, 1872.
    • In 1870, Congress made Independence Day a holiday for federal employees, but it wasn’t a paid holiday until 1938!
    • The Genealogy Center’s Our Military Heritage has biographies, unit histories and rosters, individual biographies and other information on Revolutionary soldiers, as well as photos, letters and other material on soldiers from all American conflicts.You can add material on your family’s military ancestors to this great site as well. Contact us for information. And take a few minutes today to remember what our nation’s founders have provided for us.

    Posted by: ACPL Genealogy Center

  • Remembering D-Day

    Friday, Jun 06, 2014

    by Delia

    Today is the 70th anniversary of D-Day. On June 6, 1944, the well-planned invasion by the Allied Forces against the Nazi regime that had overtaken Europe landed along a 50-mile stretch of beach on the north coast of France. More than 156,000 soldiers from the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, Norway and Free France participated. Of these, 10,000 became casualties (killed, wounded, missing) that day, and many more in the days following.

    There are many published accounts of D-Day, both personal reminiscences and historical overviews, in books, periodicals and online, and we have all seen documentaries and movies highlighting June 6, 1944 (who can forget “Saving Private Ryan?”). Our World War II veterans are dwindling in number, and we all should see that their memories are preserved before they are lost. If you know a Vet, whether a D-Day survivor or not, please take this day to arrange to preserve his recollections.

    Also take a few minutes to remember the many who didn’t make it off of those beaches. Their stories must be told by other servicemen and by their families.

    Posted by: ACPL Genealogy Center

  • Search Strategies for Online Databases

    Thursday, May 29, 2014

    • By Dawne

      It’s common and it’s frustrating to perform a search in an online genealogy database and not find the person or family being sought. The next time this happens, try these strategies:
    • Read the description of the database. What are its parameters? Most likely the marriage database that is titled “Indiana Marriage Collection, 1800-1941” does not include all counties’ marriages for all of the years between those inclusive dates.
    • If the parameters of the database are not described, do a “spot-check” with a common first name (John) or last name (Smith) and the year or county needed. If you get no results, such as in a marriage database, you can be relatively certain that county – or that year’s – marriages are not included.
    • Check for the source of the information in the database. Its source might give you a clue as to how complete the database is.
    • Consider alternate spellings for your ancestor’s name – both first name and surname. This might include common ones, such as Steven and Stephen, but also those foreign prefixes like Mc, O’ and de that might have been seen by the indexer as a middle initial. (John McDonald might have been indexed as John M. Donald, for example.)
    • Use wildcards. Some databases allow “?” in place of a single letter and “*” in place of several letters. This will allow you to search for Jens?n and get Jenson and Jensen results in the same search. Or Pax* will bring back Paxon, Paxton, and any other surname beginning with “Pax."
    • When searching for a family with a common surname, such as in the census, search for the person with the most unusual given name in order to narrow the results. James and Elizabeth Jones had children named William, James, John, Zora and Jennie. Searching for Zora might help pinpoint this family more easily than using the name of James, the father.
    • Omit the first name – or surname – of the target individual and use other parameters, such as age, place of birth and place of residence. You can search for all Johns living in a particular county and state in 1910 who were born circa 1856 in Tennessee, for example.
    • Search using no target name, but adding parents’ first names or father’s surname and mother’s maiden name. This is especially useful to find second marriages for daughters of the couple.
    • Take your “blinders” off and expand your search beyond what you think you know. Maybe the family was living somewhere you didn’t expect at the time of a census enumeration.
    • In the census, browse page by page in rural areas instead of searching for a name.
    • Consider that surnames and given names might have been reversed on the census schedule and therefore might have been indexed that way.
    • Perhaps the most important tip is to think “person” instead of name: Age, birth place, gender, residence. In some cases, people have been enumerated on the census with completely wrong surnames, not just misread or differently-spelled surnames.

    Posted by: ACPL Genealogy Center

  • Celebrate Memorial Day!

    Monday, May 26, 2014

    by Delia

    The first day set aside to honor fallen war dead in the United States was in 1866, when the Ladies Memorial Association of Columbus, Georgia, passed a resolution to set aside one day a year to honor fallen Confederate dead, and invited ladies in the other Southern states to join with them. The date chosen was April 26th, to commemorate the day in 1865 when Confederate General Joseph Johnston surrendered to General W.T. Sherman in North Carolina. Women in other former Confederate states joined the April 26th observance, but a few states chose other dates in honor of more local Confederate heroes. In Columbus, Mississippi, local women went to decorate the graves of Confederates who died at the Battle of Shiloh and noticed that the resting places of the Union fallen were bare and neglected, so they decorated those graves as well.

    In 1868, John A. Logan, Commander of the Grand Army of the Republic, called for a national Decoration Day to honor the Union dead. May 30th was chosen because it did not honor one specific battle. Participation grew, and the name gradually changed to Memorial Day. Observance changed to the last Monday in May under the Uniform Monday Holiday Act in the 1960s. It is believed by some that the purpose of the day has been lost by many Americans who now see the holiday weekend as just the beginning of summer, but many still observe the day with parades, lowered flags and decorating the graves of soldiers with flags and flowers.

    Take a few minutes today to honor the memory of our country’s fallen dead.

    Posted by: ACPL Genealogy Center

  • Mother's Day!

    Sunday, May 11, 2014

    by Delia

    Happy Mother’s Day! For many children, this is the day you call, send a card or take your mother a gift. If you are a mother, this is the day your small children bring flowers from your garden and your adult children brave every other family in the country to take you out to eat. But Mother’s Day actually has an interesting history with roots in the Civil War.

    Ann Reeves was born in Virginia in 1832. She married Granville Jarvis in 1850 and moved to what is now West Virginia. Over the next seventeen years, the couple had about a dozen children, although, due to childhood diseases, only four lived to adulthood. In 1858, Ann established Mothers’ Day Work Clubs in towns in her area to promote sanitation and combat disease. During the Civil War, Ann encouraged the Clubs to maintain neutrality, providing aid to both armies. After the war, the Clubs promoted a renewal of friendship between former enemies.

    Elsewhere in the country, temperance groups were also promoting a day to honor mothers who should band together to fight the demon liquor, but they had no connections specifically to Ann’s activities. In her later years, Ann continued her activities promoting health and sanitary conditions, as well as being active in other social causes to educate children and improve their lives. As a widow, she moved to Philadelphia to be near her children, and died there on May 8,1905.

    Two years later, Ann’s daughter Anna Jarvis, organized a private memorial service for her mother, and in 1908, two public services were held. One was in the Andrews Methodist Church, where Ann taught Sunday School for many years, and the other, attracting 15,000 attendees, was held in Philadelphia’s Wanamaker Store Auditorium.

    In the following years, Anna continued to promote a day to recognize mothers and their contribution to civilization, and to promote peace by honoring women who had lost or were at risk of losing sons in military conflicts. In 1914, Woodrow Wilson established the second Sunday in May as an official day of observance in honor of women whose sons had perished in war.

    One early tradition was the giving and wearing of flowers by mothers: red if the wearer’s mother was still alive, white if the wearer’s mother was deceased. In recent years, pink flowers were worn by pregnant women.

    Mother’s Day is celebrated all over the world, but not always on the second Sunday of May. It’s March 8 in many Eastern European countries, and the fourth Sunday in Lent in Great Britain and Ireland. It’s celebrated on the vernal equinox (March 21) in many Arabian countries, and the end of May or early June in France, the third Sunday of October in Argentina, the last Sunday of November in Russia, and, like the US, the second Sunday of May in Australia.

    My own mother is gone now, although she received from me the requisite white corsage for many years. Now, I take the second Sunday of May to remember her, my grandmothers, my great-grandmothers and all of the wonderful women on my family tree. You know, half of my ancestors are mothers!

    Posted by: ACPL Genealogy Center

  • It's Cinco de Mayo (Fifth of May)!

    Monday, May 05, 2014

    by Delia

    Do you have plans for celebrating Cinco do Mayo? Like St. Patrick’s Day, one doesn’t have to actually have the appropriate heritage to participate in Cinco de Mayo festivities! But what are you actually commemorating?

    By 1861, following the Mexican-American War of 1846-1848, the Mexican Civil War of 1858 and the Reform Wars of 1860, the Mexican territory was in dire financial straits, and placed a hold on paying off foreign debts. Britain, Spain and France all sent naval forces to compel payments. The British and Spanish negotiated with Mexico and returned home, but the French, seeing an opportunity to gain influence in the Western Hemisphere, landed a large French contingent at Vera Cruz, forcing President Benito Juarez and his government to retreat. The French fought their way to Puebla, near the Mexican forts of Guadalupe and Loreto. There, on May 5 (Cinco de Mayo), 1862, the Mexican army of about 4500 faced and defeated the 8000-strong French. But one battle did not win the war, and the Mexicans continued to resist the French invaders until 1867, when high ranking French leaders of the invasion were executed and Juarez reestablished his government.

    Cinco de Mayo is not “Mexican Independence Day,” nor is it even a national holiday in Mexico. Mexico’s actual Independence Day, September 16th, celebrates the beginning of Mexico’s War of Independence in 1810, and is the national holiday in Mexico.

    Cinco de Mayo has been celebrated by the Latino community in California since the mid-1800s, and spread to other Hispanic communities in the western United States. It began to become more popular in the rest of the U.S. in the mid-twentieth century, but really gained popularity when various companies promoted it as a holiday. Now, while it’s still marketed as a time for anyone to party, it’s also used as a vehicle to highlight Mexican history and culture. So, go ahead and enjoy the fiesta!

    Posted by: ACPL Genealogy Center

  • It's May First!

    Thursday, May 01, 2014

    by Delia

    The month of May. For many it signals the end of the school year and the start of summer, genealogy travel and other, less important vacations. But the first day of May has a long tradition of festivals and feasts, starting in the pre-Christian era with the Germanic festival Walpurgis and the Celtic Beltane. Both celebrate spring and planting with bonfires to banish the long winter nights and dancing around a Maypole (Maibaum in Germany), and the crowning of a May Queen in Britain. As these lands became Christianized, the Church tried to associate May 1 with the Virgin Mary, but for many it remained a secular holiday to celebrate the fertility of the land, the flocks and the people. And in early England, May 1 was the first day of summer, with June 21, the Solstice, celebrated as Midsummer, when planting was finished.

    Although traditions were similar, many regions added specific regional touches, such as Bulgaria’s Irminden, which is associated with protection from lizards and snakes, and Arminden in Romania, celebrated to insure the protection of crops, farm animals and people.

    Settlers in the United States and Canada handed down their own traditions to their descendants, although in Canada it may be celebrated later in the month, as the weather warms. May baskets, filled with flowers and candy and left for the recipient to find, became popular in some areas of the United States.

    May 1 was also chosen as International Workers’ Day to commemorate the Haymarket Massacre of 1886 in Chicago, and is celebrated as Labor Day in many countries. It is also associated with the Russian Revolution of 1917.

    So think about your ancestors today. They may have crowned a Queen of May, either Catholic or agricultural. Maybe they danced around the Maypole to celebrate fertility or just have a good time. They could have demonstrated for an 8-hour work day or rejoiced the coming of spring. Or a bonfire might have been lit, to drive away winter or just barbecue some ribs. Take a few moments to celebrate May Day.

    Posted by: ACPL Genealogy Center

  • Book of Ages: A Review

    Tuesday, Apr 29, 2014

    by John

    Sometimes a book that at first glance would not seem a perfect fit for The Genealogy Center has value to historians and genealogists alike and is, on closer examination, a welcome addition to our collection. Jill Lepore’s new biography of Jane (Franklin) Mecom (1712-1794), Benjamin Franklin’s younger sister, is a case in point. Titled Book of Ages: The Life and Opinions of Jane Franklin (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2014), GC 973.3 L55bo, the book is the first such biography of Jane, whose ordinary life in eighteenth-century Boston was greatly overshadowed by that of her more famous brother. Some of the tools that Lepore uses to reconstruct Jane’s life could be employed by anyone undertaking micro-historical research during this time period, including genealogists.

    I’ve become an unabashed fan of Jill Lepore, a professor of American History at Harvard and the author of a number of books, including, among others, New York Burning, a history of the New York Slave Rebellion of 1741, and The Name of War, a history of King Philip’s War, both of which are also in The Genealogy Center’s collection. Other titles in the library’s main collection reveal the author’s keen intellect and often acerbic wit as she relates modern and often-distorted perceptions the past with the complex nuances of the historical record.

    Lepore begins her biography of Jane Franklin with a study of Jane’s so-called Book of Ages, a bound manuscript in which she recorded the births and deaths of members of her family, much the way other families would record such events in a family Bible. Lepore assembles a chronological narrative using this book and Jane’s extant correspondence with her brother to fill in the details. Jane was an avid reader, a person with strong opinions about current events, but also a person who, in contrast to her brother, often lived in humble circumstances. Hence this work gives us a glimpse of an average person in the eighteenth century, perhaps in some ways not unlike our own ancestors. Jane followed a trade by making soap, using a family recipe. She advertised in the local newspapers and attended church. She endured the mental instability and economic failure of her husband and sons. She mourned the passing of nearly all of her children and many of her grandchildren during a life that spanned almost the whole of the eighteenth century.

    Even with the surviving correspondence, there are many gaps in Jane’s life that Lepore fleshes out using other records, including local newspapers, published sermons of ministers associated with Jane’s church, and other writings from contemporaries. Lepore also uses the tenacity of a genealogist in attempting to locate missing letters in the private collections of her descendants and determining what other papers may have gone to family acquaintances after her death. Indeed, this search for direct evidence – and how some of Jane’s letters were bowdlerized by later Franklin scholars thereby altering her original expressions – is as intriguing as the story of her life. Lepore not only includes a brief genealogy of Jane’s family in her appendix, she also writes of the interest that both Benjamin and Jane shared in genealogical research. Franklin at one time visited their ancestral home in Ecton, Northamptonshire, where he copied the epitaphs of his ancestors. Later, in old age, he asked Jane to share what she knew about their extended kindred in New England, which Jane appeared to relish in compiling. Interest in one’s ancestors and kindred, it seems, did not germinate in the nineteenth century. For these and other reasons, including Lepore’s writing style and the process of her meticulous research, genealogists and historians alike will find Book of Ages a fascinating read.

    Posted by: ACPL Genealogy Center

  • Professional History and Professional Genealogy

    Friday, Mar 28, 2014

    by John

    Historians who teach in academia and professional genealogists have had, at best, a peripheral and tenuous relationship. For much of the last half century, academics have viewed genealogists as amateurs whose work is provincial, at best. They viewed with derision the activities of earlier generations of genealogists whose interest in historical research was almost solely geared toward gaining admittance into hereditary societies. They also faulted genealogists for being so focused on specific families that they failed to place them into historical contexts and thereby give their work deeper meaning and relevance. This disdain continued into the 1970s, when many academics began to focus their own work on specific communities, using them as microcosms for understanding larger historical trends or the social and cultural dynamics of families. Works such as Kenneth Lockridge’s A New England Town: The First Hundred Years, Dedham, Massachusetts and John Demos’s A Little Commonwealth: Family Life in Plymouth Colony broke new ground for their use of local records (the same used by genealogists), but these and other studies did little to bridge the gulf between the two disciplines.

    For its part, the field of genealogy underwent a major metamorphosis during the same period, becoming more professionalized and increasing the scope of what genealogists researched. All families, regardless of race, ethnicity, and social status, became subjects of scholarly interest, leaving the old stereotypes of WASP-ish exclusivism in the dust. While plenty of newcomers continued to produce work that lacked documentation, a new wave of genealogical scholars, both professional and amateur, began to apply new standards of documentation to their work. The Board for Certification of Genealogists established a means for granting professional credentials, and through its promotion of the Genealogical Proof Standard, it provided new benchmarks for evaluating genealogical evidence.

    This evolution became evident in a variety of publications. Journals such as The American Genealogist, the National Genealogical Society Quarterly, the New York Genealogical and Biographical Record, The Genealogist, and the New England Historical and Genealogical Register began to publish articles that embodied high standards of documentation and deductive reasoning. Robert Charles Anderson and a team of other researchers produced the highly-acclaimed Great Migration series that raised the bar for all newly-published genealogical books. His accompanying Great Migration Newsletter offered advanced discussions of how to evaluate evidence at the New England town level, and in doing so he offered new insight about the process of English immigration that extended well beyond what had appeared in academic works.
        The publication of Anderson’s first installment, The Great Migration Begins: Immigrants to New England, 1620-1633, proved to be a seminal event in getting academics to take notice of a professional genealogist’s work. The noted Puritan historian Roger Thompson of the University of East Anglia, hailed it as “invaluable to future researchers in many specialisms” and a “marvel of the age” for the new century; see Roger Thompson, review of The Great Migration Begins: Immigrants to New England, 1620-1633, by Robert Charles Anderson et al, Journal of American Studies 30 (August 1996): 298-300, specifically 300. Gloria L. Main of the University of Colorado at Boulder echoed the praise, recognizing Anderson’s high evidentiary standards for his work. “Although anyone can practice genealogy, just as anyone can practice history, professional genealogists hew to stricter rules of evidence and more rigorous citation practices than even professional historians… As a consequence of the rigor and discipline that have come to mark professional genealogists’ efforts, their work furnishes excellent material for social historians, although they may not condone the ways historians use it;” see Gloria L. Main, review of The Great Migration Begins: Immigrants to New England, 1620-1633, by Robert Charles Anderson et al, William and Mary Quarterly LIV (October 1997): 857-861, specifically 856.

    While this recognition marks significant progress, a gulf endures between genealogists and academic historians. Some genealogists, while appreciating the macro-research of academics, have faulted some assessments of micro-evidence, alleging that some community studies have fallen into the trap of “same name, same person.” By failing to follow the Genealogical Proof Standard or accepting as evidence secondary works now considered of dubious value, these university-press studies have failed to meet professional genealogical standards. Many professional historians, while accepting the value of such works as the Great Migration, also admit that they do not read genealogical journals.

    Other attempts at bridging the continuing divide have had only limited success. Conferences featuring both academic historians and professional genealogists as speakers have led to some conversations but have not paved the way for many interdisciplinary projects. If the gulf has begun to narrow, it remains a slow process. In a recent blog post, genealogist Elizabeth Shown Mills, who has also written academic works, discusses the progress of the dialogue in an insightful article: Elizabeth Shown Mills, “QuickLesson 18: Genealogy? In the Academic World? Seriously?” Evidence Explained: Historical Analysis, Citation & Source Usage ( posted 9 January 2014).
    What may bring the groups even closer together is the prospect of joint advocacy for record preservation and digitization. The rise of such websites such as Ancestry, Fold3, and FamilySearch, and the plethora of digitized records contained in them, while geared for genealogists, has also proven of value to academic historians. Many smaller websites with localized focuses have followed suit.
    As proof of this trend, one might consider an article by Loren Schweninger, a professor emeritus in History at the University of North Carolina, Greensboro, appearing recently in the William and Mary Quarterly, volume 71, no. 1 (January 2014): 35-62. Titled “Freedom Suits, African American Women and the Genealogy of Slavery,” the article explores how mixed-race descendants of free white women used the courts to win their freedom in antebellum Maryland. Significantly, Schweninger uses a number of sources found on websites traditionally associated with genealogists to develop his thesis, and the result is a well-researched study that could have found a home just as easily in the National Genealogical Society Quarterly.
    Historians and genealogists can join forces by demanding that historical records be made more publicly accessible without restrictions and supporting efforts to make more documents available digitally. Indeed, records once stored behind archival walls and under the exclusive purview of academics are increasingly finding wider audiences through digitization, which can only help the research interests of both groups.

    Libraries like The Genealogy Center at the ACPL can also play a role in bridging the divide by collecting the publications of both academic historians and genealogists and providing access to historical and genealogical websites. Both are fundamental components of our collection-development policy, and we encourage both historians and genealogists to use our resources.
    The two groups have far to go to achieve full cooperation and mutual respect. But the gulf is not insurmountable. More articles like Schweninger’s will bode well for the future.

    Posted by: ACPL Genealogy Center