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
  • Genealogy & Geography

    Monday, Jul 28, 2014

    by Delia

    When I was in high school, I lived for a time in Texarkana, Arkansas-Texas. My mother had grown up there, and my grandmother lived there until she died. It was an interesting place, with the state line going right down the middle of town. That was the name of the street: State Line Avenue. We moved there in late summer, and before we actually had a house, I was registered to go to Arkansas High, but the house we moved into was on the Texas side. Every day, I had to drive across the state line to go to school. There were two different states, two different counties and two different cities. There were also different laws, especially of the blue variety: One could purchase liquor by the bottle in Arkansas, but not by the drink; one could not buy liquor by the bottle in Texas, but could join a “private club,” and get liquor by the drink (a private club was a legal fiction and anyone could be a member on the manager’s approval). When we lived in Texas, we went to church in Arkansas, but later, when my parents moved, they lived in Arkansas (lower taxes) but attended church in Texas (same tithe). My cousin, an Arkansas resident, attended church, married and had her wedding reception in Texas. And a number of Arkansas relatives are buried in Texas. So what’s my point? The county line and state line meant nothing to those of us who lived there. You crossed it several times a day, important for legal purposes, but not of much importance in our daily lives.

    When you are seeking information on your ancestors, take a few minutes to look at maps. Many researchers examine plat maps. They show land ownership at the time of publication. But we also need to pay attention to the ponds, lakes, rivers and streams. These were valuable for water and transportation, but could also be barriers. Study county maps over the years to see how roads developed, what settlements came and went, where schools, churches and cemeteries were located, and how the railroad or canal moved through the area. Examine state maps to note where the roads and railroads went. What towns or villages were closest to your ancestor’s residence? Even if that place is in a different county, he or she may have gone there on a regular basis. In the late 1800s and early 1900s, people would catch a train to go to a city several counties away to do business, make purchases or for entertainment.

    Many also visited neighboring states on a regular basis, even if they didn’t live in Texarkana! There were a number of places, referred to as a “Gretna Green,” where eloping couples would marry without family or neighbors knowing. Our ancestors visited health spas, sanitariums, and visited physicians in neighboring states. Or someone might find employment elsewhere and move away for a while. We need to examine maps of all sorts, and look them with fresh eyes as we contemplate what our forebears might have been doing.

    So take a few minutes to examine older, and current, maps of your ancestors’ home areas. Study the water courses and terrain. See where the roads led. And think about your ancestors’ lives.

    Posted by: ACPL Genealogy Center

  • The Reference Interview: Specifically

    Tuesday, Jul 22, 2014

    by Delia

    Recently, a customer came in seeking information about parks in Fort Wayne. He was very clear the minute he walked in the door that information on the parks, of which Fort Wayne has a plethora, was his interest. We asked if he was interested in a specific park, but no, he wanted all of the parks. We have a great deal of material on local parks, including photographs, books, old newspaper clippings and pamphlets. We produced a lot of material for him to browse through, and he examined it all over the next couple of hours. We got distracted with other customers, but when we saw him leaving, we asked if he had found what he needed. Well, no, he hadn’t, he answered dejectedly. He was really looking for a piece of sculpture that was supposed to be in one of the parks. With that idea, we asked a few questions about the sculpture and found what he wanted, information on a piece of sculpture that was sitting on the lawn of the Performing Arts Center! He thought he knew what he needed, and felt he was being very specific about what he wanted.

    Another time, an experienced researcher arrived for what she indicated was her first time here. The staff member on the desk provided a quick orientation to The Genealogy Center, complete with map and various guides, then asked, “So what are you looking for today?” She answered, “My family history.” The staff member, said, “No, I mean, what specifically are you looking for today?” And she answered, probably thinking the staff member wasn’t paying attention, “My ancestry.” Once they settled the definition of what the question meant, the researcher was provided with several good sources with which to start and was soon happily, and successfully, researching.

    Both of these scenarios happen on a regular basis. When you arrive, whether you realize it or not, we may subject you to a “reference interview,” where we ask questions to determine exactly what you want. It may feel that we are trying to stall you while we think. While that might be the case sometimes, we are really just trying to get a better handle on what you need. It’s also important for you to think about what you want. You may think that by asking for material on parks or a specific war or a specific place, you will find what you need, but if we have some clarification about what your ultimate goal is, we may have a better suggestion.

    So come on in and visit us, and answer our questions, so that we may help answer yours!

    Posted by: ACPL Genealogy Center

  • Questions & Answers & Ethics

    Thursday, Jul 10, 2014

    by Delia

    We really don’t care.

    Sounds mean, doesn’t it? I don’t intend it to be. We care that you have an enjoyable experience here at The Genealogy Center. We want to help you find information to further your family or historical research. We care when you hit a brick wall and will do all that we can to help you break through it.

    But we don’t care if your great-grandparents were married two months before their first child was born. We understand that the situation might have been difficult, and perhaps embarrassing, for them and the family. We at The Genealogy Center have seen plenty of that kind of situation, including in our own families, so we aren’t judging you or your ancestors.

    Do you have an ancestor who spent time in a mental institution? How sad for that person and the family, but we don’t look askance at you because of it.

    Have a criminal in your background, or someone who so scandalized his or her congregation that an excommunication resulted? We think, “Cool! Just think of the interesting records!”

    Adoptions can be the worst in terms of acquiring information. Many court systems severely regulate the freedom of the records, and, even when the documents become more available, well-meaning clerks may continue to “protect” everyone involved by blocking access. By the time people come into the library seeking sources, they have learned to not even say the word adoption, so they verbally dance around, asking but not quite asking questions. We finally ask if this is an adoption, then proceed to ask even nosier questions: Do you know how old the mother was? Do you have any clues as to the father’s situation? Do your adoptive parents have any information? And in all of this, we have to try to convey that, although we want to help, we aren’t taking notes to share with others later. We sympathize that it is a difficult situation, and a difficult type of search, but the most we would ever do is to try to develop new ideas for the future, or perhaps share a research option in a forum like this one, with all pertinent identifying information deleted.

    All of this is to reassure you that your search is no one’s business but your own. We might indicate to a researcher that we recently had a similar situation and discovered a new source. We could share a complicated search strategy with our colleagues, so they can assist others in the future. But we won’t break your confidence. That is our ethical standard.

    So when you come to us to ask for research assistance, remember that our ethical standards guarantee that we will keep your confidences, and that, beyond asking questions to try to aid your search, we don’t care to judge your family.

    Posted by: ACPL Genealogy Center

  • Look Again

    Monday, Jul 07, 2014

    by Delia

    “The other day, I looked at that document again, and noticed….”

    I’ve heard that many times from our customers, and have experienced it myself. One looks at a document for the umpteenth time, but for the first time notices a piece of information that answers a question or opens a new line of thought on research.

    The first time I experienced it, years ago, was when I was trying to make sense of a family story that stated that a husband and wife died at the same time (supposedly murdered), leaving the children for the grandparents to raise. In the family Bible, I had noticed that the death dates for the two were really months apart, but was told by an older relative that there had been a mistake in the Bible. After examining the difference in the dates multiple times, I finally noticed that the wife’s supposed death date was three days after her last child was born, leading me to conclude that she may have died from postpartum infection. This cast doubt on the whole story of the murders, so I could back up completely and start over.

    Then recently, a customer told me that she’d been re-examining records for siblings of an ancestor, and one actually had a birth place listed! She’d been concentrating on her direct ancestor and had totally missed this in earlier perusals. Again, this opened up a whole new avenue for research.

    Sometimes, when we acquire a new document, we are so busy gleaning just what we need right now, that we barely see what else might be noted, so multiple examinations are often helpful. Also, as we gain experience in research or new insights into the family dynamics, information we failed to note earlier may become of greater import.

    So I make a habit, at least once a year, to browse through the various research and original documents I have in my possession, either in print or digital format. I try to think about each person as I do this. If I know or knew the individual in life, I contemplate what his or her life was like, challenges faced and how that person fit into the family and society. If this is an ancestor from further back, I contemplate what the documents tell me and consider that person’s life and times.

    The benefits of this process are twofold. It allows me to re-examine my research in light of knowledge gained, which often yields new possibilities to energize the search. It also allows me time to remember that each of these people was not just a name with dates, but an individual who lived a life which, while vastly differing from my own, was still similar in terms of happiness and tragedy. Making our ancestors live in our imaginations is what family history is all about.

    Posted by: ACPL Genealogy Center

  • Honor the Veterans of the War of 1812

    Wednesday, Jul 02, 2014

    There are two exciting ways in which you can honor all War of 1812 soldiers in the month of July!

    On July 1st, the Federation of Genealogical Societies launched a major fundraising campaign for the Preserve the Pensions Project, seeking to raise an average of $1,812 each day for the 31 days of July. The pension files have never been microfilmed and these original records are in danger of deterioration. So far, the Preserve the Pensions Project has digitized and made available pension records for surnames A through Ha, but there are many records left to digitize. This is a costly process and your aid is needed. If you would like to participate in preserving this valuable part of America’s documented history, you can make a single contribution or become a monthly contributor to the Preserve the Pensions project.

    The Federation of Genealogical Societies and cemetery website BillionGraves also announced a joint project to image all of the gravestone markers for participants of the War of 1812. “The images from these markers, coupled with the Federation’s current project to raise the funds to digitize the 7.2 million images of the pensions for those who participated in the War of 1812 are a natural fit,” said D. Joshua Taylor, President of FGS.

    Hudson Gunn, President of BillionGraves said, “This July our focus is to see that the nation’s military headstones are documented and preserved for future generations. Headstones from early American history are quickly deteriorating, making it only a matter of time before they are lost forever. We are very pleased to have the Federation lend its help to spread this message for the War of 1812 veterans.” It is estimated that as many as 350,000 men may have served in the war. Although it is impossible to know how many may have cemetery markers, there could be as many as 50,000 to 80,000 markers for these veterans.

    BillionGraves and the Federation of Genealogical Societies are asking anyone with knowledge of a cemetery marker for a War of 1812 veteran to upload the image of the marker to the BillionGraves website using their free mobile application during the month of July to honor and remember the service of those who served in the “Second Revolution.”

    If you upload an image for a War of 1812 veteran during the month of July or anytime thereafter, please publicize it on Facebook or Twitter by using the hashtag #1812today and/or #warof1812 and/or #billiongraves. The Federation will also be posting the progress toward the fundraising goal of $1,812 per day on Facebook and Twitter, so check often and pass the word!

    The efforts from these two organizations will provide a very valuable asset for those researching 1812 veterans. With the Federation raising awareness of the project to digitize the War of 1812 pension records during the month of July and BillionGraves making the cemetery markers of War of 1812 veterans immediately searchable, it should be an exciting month for all genealogists and historians – everyone wins!

    Posted by: ACPL Genealogy Center

  • Five Reasons to Visit The Genealogy Center This Summer

    Saturday, Jun 28, 2014

    by Sara

    1. Road trip! It’s summertime, the weather is grand, and now is the time to pursue your hobby, and introduce your kids or grandkids to family history. Take a trip this summer, locate a family cemetery or attend a reunion, and don’t forget to stop by our library while on your trip. You never know what you might find! We have a large collection of non-digitized material from all 50 states, Canada and the British Isles, as well as other countries. Check our print and microtext catalogs for details.

    2. We have historical and current city directories!  Are you trying to locate persons who live in various U.S. locations? Use our nationwide city directory collection to track down old Army buddies, college classmates, high school sweethearts or to help plan a reunion.

    3. Attend a class, ask a genealogical question, or schedule a one on one consultation. We offer monthly how-to classes on a variety of genealogical topics and 30 minute scheduled genealogical consultations. See our website for details. While you are here, be sure to ask our librarians your burning questions, like how do I find grandpa Bob’s military records or great-grandpa Joe’s immigration record. Our librarians are also experienced genealogists and want to help you!

    4. Order records from your ancestral village in Europe or a far-away state on microfilm from Family Search. Because we are a Family Search Affiliate, you may request the order be sent here, so that you can view those microfilmed records on our microfilm viewers, make prints for free, or save images to your USB drive.

    5. Use our in-house use only databases such as, Fold3, African American Historical Newspapers, Newspaper Archive, American Ancestors, and others.  On these free-to-use-here databases, you can find your relatives in census records, immigration papers, military lists, newspaper articles and obituaries and much more. And remember, should you have questions while using the databases, our librarians are only a few steps away, ready to assist.

    P.S. We have tons of other cool stuff. Don’t forget to check out our Abraham Lincoln, Memorial Day, and 1950’s Memorabilia exhibits!

    Posted by: ACPL Genealogy Center

  • Vacation Diary

    Saturday, Jun 21, 2014

    by Delia

    Now, I know all of you are going on a genealogy vacation this year. You’ll go visit court houses, cemeteries, churches, make contact with some distant cousins, maybe even take in a conference, or visit The Genealogy Center in Fort Wayne, Indiana. Good for you! We’re hoping to see you! I know that you will take copious notes as you research and add them to your paper or digital files. Again, good for you!

    But what if you (gasp!) take another type of vacation, one with only a few libraries and cemeteries along the way? What if you go to the Grand Canyon or Yellowstone? Maybe your have a huge family reunion with lots of cousins at some resort. Or even, my favorite, you visit the overpriced land of the famous Mouse in central Florida to spend a week standing in lines and sweating. But once your trip is over, what do you have except a lot of photos, a few postcards and a handful of souvenirs? This year, keep a trip diary for your vacation. You can use a small tablet and pen or use your digital tablet to note highlights of your journey.

    When recalling a vacation, it’s easy to remember the big memories such as visiting the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial (the St. Louis Arch) or Zoo Atlanta, but you might also want to remember the great tour guide at the Warren G. Harding Home, the terrific barbecue place in Murfreesboro or how miserable changing a tire in the driving rain at mile marker 81 on Interstate 30 in Arkansas can be. Take a few minutes during the day to keep notes and/or write an account of the day each evening. Record your impressions and feelings, what your companions said and did, and what you saw – or smelled – during the day. Later on, you can create a trip scrapbook, either in paper or in digital form, adding photographs and souvenirs.

    In a perfect world, all of your friends and neighbors would be clamoring to view your vacation diary. In reality, maybe not. First and foremost, this is the type of record to keep for yourself, so that you will be able to recall of those golden, and not-so-golden, moments. But eventually, your descendants may be very interested to know what you did on your summer vacation – in 2014!

    Posted by: ACPL Genealogy Center

  • Preserve Military Pictures, Documents & Memories at Our Military Heritage

    Saturday, Jun 21, 2014

    By Dawne

    Ephraim-Dunn-markerAre you familiar with the Our Military Heritage area of The Genealogy Center’s website?  This area of our website is a place to preserve military documents, photographs and any other type of ephemera that can be digitized, with a goal of making the material available to researchers and preserving it for future generations.

    The documents and photos at Our Military Heritage are from all branches of the military and from conflicts of all time periods, from wars during America’s Colonial period through the Gulf and Afghanistan wars of recent days. There is also material from peacetime military service.

    Some examples of the types of material that can be found in the Our Military Heritage collection are Civil War letters and pension files, World War II unit histories and rosters, photos of military markers for all time periods for Maplewood Cemetery in Williams County, Ohio, and individual soldiers’ photos from Afghanistan. These are just a few of the items that individuals have allowed The Genealogy Center to digitize and add to the page.

    Please consider allowing The Genealogy Center to scan your military letters, diaries, soldiers’ pension files, photographs and other material to add to this growing collection.

    Posted by: ACPL Genealogy Center

  • Physical Memories

    Monday, Jun 09, 2014

    by Delia

     Do you have memory boxes? You know what I mean. They can be elaborate wooden or plastic boxes, highly decorated and elegant, or, often more likely, they can be shoe or paper boxes. They might be memories of a specific person (high school boyfriend comes to mind), or a specific time (that trip across the U.S. with friends), or a specific activity (softball). In these boxes you might place a napkin with the name of the restaurant you went to on prom night, or a series of post cards, or awards and clippings. Maybe these items were sitting around during or after the time they were gathered, then you put them away as other people and activities took precedence. They were items to keep, but maybe not display anymore. You might look at them once in a while, and the box gathers dust as you move to another apartment, another house. Every time you move, you think, I should just throw that away. But you don’t. They were nice memories. They are important to you.

    But what will they mean to your heirs? When you are gone, will your family understand what these items meant to you? Will they look inside the box, pluck out one or two items that they might be able to use, then dump the rest in the dumpster? Is that where you want these items to end up?

    First, next time you pull out the box to look through, take a few minutes to make a list identifying each item, such as, “Red ribbon, second place, track meet, junior year at Concordia High School, Fort Wayne, Fall 1989” or “ash trays stolen from restaurants, Spring Break trip, Kentucky to Florida, 1978.” Yeah, I know. It wasn’t very nice, but it’s your collection! If you don’t identify them, no one will understand their significance.

    Next, take a few minutes to show them to interested family members. While I wouldn’t suggest trying to tell your son-in-law while he’s grilling those steaks on the Fourth of July, you might tell your soccer-star grandson that you’d like to show him your keepsakes from when you played football in high school. Your mutual interest in sports may whet his curiosity and he may wish to preserve them, and pass them along, after you are gone.

    Take the initiative to preserve your memories! Start now!

    Posted by: ACPL Genealogy Center

  • Do Your Have the Right Name?

    Tuesday, May 13, 2014

    by Sara

    The family always said your great-grandmother’s maiden name was “O’Toole.” But was it really? Have you collected documents about her that would list her maiden name, such as her marriage license, death certificate, obituary, or her children’s marriage licenses, birth and death certificates, and so on? You might be surprised to find out that her surname was listed as “Towle” instead, which sounds similar and could be a variant spelling. Or maybe she had a first marriage to someone named O’Toole, rather than that being her maiden name. These are some of the many reasons why you should try to confirm the first and last names you have been given by viewing official records about your ancestor, especially those where she would have been present at the time of the record creation (like her marriage license).

    This happened recently to one of our patrons, when she learned that a family story was not quite correct. She told me her great-grandmother’s maiden name was “Nancy Delong”*.  She was interested in finding Nancy’s parents, but had looked in all the counties in which Nancy had lived with her husband and found no one with the Delong surname. She wondered aloud to me if Nancy might have dropped out of an alien space ship, or just why else she couldn’t find her. When this happens, it's a red flag that something is wrong (besides an impending alien invasion)! The answer could be one of several possibilities:
    1. The spelling of the name could be off, a little or a lot, in the records; perhaps because the name was misspelled, the handwriting was unreadable, or the same name night be spelled differently, such as Smith vs. Smythe.
    2. The reported name of the family is incorrect.
    3. The family may have changed their name – but this happened very infrequently.
    4. They were in a different location than expected.
    5. The family IS there in the expected records, even though the patron reported being unable to find them, indicating that the patron needs more education in how to search in that databases or source.

    To find out what was going on in this case, we chatted about the patron’s ancestor further and in the course of that conversation, I asked her several questions:
    1. How did she know Nancy’s maiden name? She said it was passed down through the family. Had she verified this information with official records? No. (Red flag!)
    2. Where had her great-grandparents had married? She thought it was in Knox County, Indiana. I advised her to try to locate the marriage record, as that is the simplest way to learn a woman’s maiden (or previous married) name.

    When she found the marriage record, the name was spelled “De Lorngne.”  Aha! If the name was verbally passed along in the family, this name is similar-sounding to Delong, depending on pronunciation and regional accents. Do we know which one was her actual maiden name at this point? No, but finding more records about Nancy should clarify it further. A search of Nancy’s children’s marriage records seemed to confirm that Nancy’s maiden name was Delorgne, but with several more variant spellings.  All those were noted, so that when the patron looks for this family in further records, she will have a list of alternate spellings to search under. This, as well as learning to search effectively in genealogy databases, will help make her search more successful. For example, to find records in the Ancestry database under all the variations of this family’s surname, she should search using the “Soundex” and “Phonetic” options; under both names, DeLong and DeLornge (which are not Soundex equivalents); and with and without a space between the De and L.

    Back to the hunt for Nancy’s parents: Armed with the new version of the surname and list of alternate spellings, the patron was able to search more creatively in the census and find a possible brother living nearby to Nancy and her husband in Illinois. He had the same birth state listed as Nancy did (New Jersey) and the same uncommon surname, so it seems promising that they might be related. More research should be done to confirm or deny this theory, while continuing the search for Nancy’s parents.
    Have you looked and looked for your ancestor under the name you were given for that person, and come up empty?  Is it possible that the name you were given was wrong or that you are not searching effectively to find all possibilities?  When you think creatively, ask for help, and learn better search techniques, you can break through many a brick wall!

    * Name changed to protect privacy.

    Posted by: ACPL Genealogy Center

  • Family Faith Is Important in Research

    Sunday, Apr 20, 2014

    by Delia

    Over the next few weeks and months, three major religions celebrate very important holidays: Easter on April 20th, Passover on April 22nd and Ramadan starts June 28th. Whether you are a member of these faiths, a different faith, or none at all, chances are that some of your ancestors have some religious affiliation, practiced those religious customs, and were active in religious related activities.

    Some families have strong ties to their faith, passing it down through the generations. Other families seem to join, and abandon religious ties with each move or new generation. This loss of knowledge can be detrimental to family history researchers. Religious records of the past can supply needed information when a courthouse has burned. But knowing the religious beliefs and activities of our ancestors can add a tremendous depth of knowledge to understanding our progenitors.

    So take some time to ask living relatives to recount faith-based activities from their youth. Ask what they remember of their own parents’ and grandparents’ beliefs and practices. And record your own faith activities for future generations.

    Posted by: ACPL Genealogy Center

  • Who's the Oldest Person You've Known?

    Sunday, Mar 23, 2014

    by Sara

    Have you seen the television commercial for insurance that asks, “Who’s the oldest person you’ve ever known”? My answer to that question is my great-aunt Thelma who just celebrated her 101st birthday! She attributes her longevity to clean living and laughter. Thelma is a selfless, giving person, who spent over 20 years caring for her bedridden husband in their home, rather than sending him to a nursing home. My childhood memories of her are of a jolly, happy, joking woman who, looking back on it, had a cross to bear, but I don’t remember ever hearing her complain or indulge in self-pity. She still plays the piano, by ear, never having had lessons, and played and sang “Tie Me To Your Apron Strings Again” and “Show Me the Way to Go Home” the last time I saw her. She inspires me!

    I’ve known many others who were also long-lived, including my grandma Fannie, who lived to the ripe old age of 97. She was probably disappointed when she died, because she told us that she wanted to live forever, or at least until she was 115. Grandma loved to spoil her grandchildren, so she bought us lots of presents “just because,” fixed our favorite foods whenever we visited, and implored our parents not to punish us when we were naughty. Fannie’s best friend from childhood, Lottie, also lived well into her nineties. Grandma’s older sister, great-aunt Mary died at age 95. She told everyone at the end that she was grandma’s “younger” sister. That sure steamed grandma. Mary did have a bit of senility late in life, but we’re pretty sure, since the sisters never really got along, that she was fully aware that she was older than Fannie. Mary was so vain about her age, that on her tombstone, she arranged for there to be no birth date, just her name and the word, “Passed.”

    What did these four grand-dames have in common? For one thing, they all lived in and around Bedford, Indiana most of their lives. For another, they were all born in the earliest years of the twentieth century, in a very different era and time. Why did they live so long? Was it the water? (Grandma believed her well water from deep out in the hills had special healing properties). Was it genes? (Only 2 of the 4 were related by blood). Was it good luck? We may never know. No matter the reason, we are thankful that we had them around for so long!

    Who is the oldest person you’ve known? Or the oldest person you’ve uncovered in your family history research?

    Posted by: ACPL Genealogy Center

  • Filial Piety: False Tradition Exposed!

    Monday, Mar 17, 2014

    by John

    The term for today is “filial piety,” also known as filiopiety. The dictionary defines it as “relating to an excessive veneration of ancestors or tradition.” As genealogists who spend a lot of time researching our forebears, it is very easy for us to fall into the trap of filial piety – in our thinking, in our writing, and in the way we evaluate evidence. Venerating one’s ancestors has many gratifying aspects. It is, after all, biblically sanctioned, since the Old Testament is full of references to Abraham and the patriarchs. Moreover, our nineteenth and twentieth century forebears were fond of boasting when they compiled genealogies and obituaries or drafted sketches for inclusion in county histories.

    Beware! One of our tasks as genealogists is to evaluate the evidence we find from many different sources and viewpoints. We can sometimes spot filiopietistic writing in a genealogy or county history when an ancestor’s deeds appear too “golden,” his or her character is “beyond reproach,” or his or her accomplishments are touted too reverently. If we are reading a county history about an ancestor who was deceased at the time, the information was derivative and likely provided by a child, grandchild, or descendant, in order to give the family an air of status. Even people submitting autobiographical information tended to put the “facts” in the best possible light. When we encounter such stories, we, as genealogists, can avoid getting burned by keeping on our guard. By comparing the information from published sources with other sources – preferably direct sources of information in original records – we can often expose the hyperbole for what it is.

    I can find filiopietistic writing in accounts of my own family. In the 1893 Biographical and Historical Memoir of Elkhart and St. Joseph Counties, Indiana, one of my third-great uncles provided information about his father, my third-great grandfather, Dempster Beatty.  Dempster, he said, had settled near Niles, Michigan, and entered “300 acres of land.” He was “a man of excellent education and great strength and integrity of character.” After settling in Indiana, he “was an early justice of the peace and was one of the judges of the county of Kosciusko.” He “lived to the age of 75 years.”

    Do these stories square with reality? A search of the deed records of Cass County, Michigan, for example, shows that Dempster only owned 120 acres, far less than the 300 boasted of in the history. False tradition, exposed! He did become a justice of the peace for a short time, but was never elected judge. Another falsehood exposed. His tombstone shows his death in 1852 at the age of 71, not 75. The account is filiopietistic, since the writer wanted the family to appear more elite than the historical record suggests. It was only natural for him to boast – everyone else was doing it.

    When we go to write our own family histories, we need to be careful in several ways. First, we should not accept uncritically the information provided in a county history or obituary. We need to constantly evaluate each piece of evidence we uncover and compare it against other sources of information. And when we go to write, we have to be carefully that filial piety doesn’t creep into our own writing. Our ancestors were people, just like us, with many of the same foibles and faults. The best genealogists don’t try to hide behind such writing, but present all of the evidence, evaluating each source and judging its origin and quality.

    The best genealogies are those that are fully documented and in which the evidence is carefully evaluated using the genealogical proof standard.  When we find an article that is filiopietistic, the fact that it was written in such a manner is historically important. By all means cite and quote the source. But then deconstruct it, if possible, into smaller components and compare each boastful statement with other sources, especially those recorded at the time your ancestor lived. If we do this, we can keep filial piety in check. Our historical and genealogical writing will be all the better for doing so.

    Posted by: ACPL Genealogy Center

  • Our Personal New Year Genealogy Goals

    Thursday, Jan 02, 2014

    by Delia

    Around The Genealogy Center, when we talk of New Year goals, it's usually what we are planning for The Center. What new sources we'd like to acquire, what new databases might be available, planning for programs and events, and whether we need to shift material again.

    But all of us also have our personal research, which isn't done on work time, and we all have goals in mind for the new year and we thought you'd like to see what we, as fellow genealogists are doing.

    John, who will celebrate his 30th anniversary with The Genealogy Center in 2014, wants to complete all of the pieces of the portfolio for the submission to the Board of Certification of Genealogists and, if the judges approve, become a Certified Genealogist. That will be quite an accomplishment!

    Sara would like to scan all of her family photographs and save copies to the "cloud," as well as to a CD. She'd also like to organize the physical copies of the pictures and store them in a more archival environment than the shoe-boxes in which they currently reside. See? We, too, keep our precious material in places we shouldn't!

    Cynthia's plan is to digitize all of her family records and documents. Sounds simple, but doing it well will take time and patience.

    Dawne will continue to work on her writing and wants to reanalyze documents she found in her early years of research. Re-evaluating is often a path to additional clues.

    Melissa plans to take some road trips to further her investigation of her husband's and her own ancestry. Genealogy road trips can be time consuming, but are often the only way to discover obscure information.

    My plan is to identify and document items inherited from my parents, my aunt and my husband's family. I may know what these things are now, but my daughter will have no clue as to the importance of these objects unless I take the time to do this now.

    And Curt? Well, he's a very busy person. His personal research goal for 2014 is to actually find the time to do some personal research. He's still looking for that 25th hour of the day for that!

    So as you see, we all have different plans for the New Year. Share your goals with us, either as a comment here or on our Facebook page!

    And have a happy, research-successful New Year!

    Posted by: ACPL Genealogy Center

  • Ornamants for Your Family Tree

    Friday, Dec 20, 2013

    by Delia

    No, not the breakable glass ornaments, nor the plastic ones of your favorite cartoon, sports or movie characters. And not for that green (or pink or silver) tree that appears every year in December. And not just people who celebrate December, either. The ornaments I mean are the the people and facts with which you decorate your family tree, either on paper or electronically.

    The holidays are an ideal time to reconnect with relatives to gather facts and oral reminiscences. Ask an older relative about holidays from his or her youth such as the kinds of gifts requested, given and received; family food traditions; shopping; or attendance at parties or religious events. You will please your interviewee with your interest, and the stories shared will add substance to your family portrait. Ask a new in-law about their family traditions, adding to your information about this new family member and making him or her feel included. And, who knows? You might like to incorporate a new family tradition to your own.

    Of course, you will want to record these shared memories, either by recording the speaker, or at least preserving the memories in print to be shared with future generations. So remember to take the time to decorate your family tree!

    Posted by: ACPL Genealogy Center

  • The Butcher, the Baker and the Candlestick Maker

    Friday, Nov 22, 2013

    by Delia

    Many of us see the same occupations over and over within our families. Farmers tended to beget farmers. Miner's sons followed their fathers into the mines. Sons of doctors often traced their fathers' footsteps into the medical profession. Teachers, both male and female, may appear in other lines. We may have a general idea of what our ancestors' professions entailed, but perhaps not the details. Other times, we may have no idea what an occupation may be. The Genealogy Center has a number of sources to aid you in understanding your ancestors' work lives.

    Of course, if you run across an usual job title, one fast and easy method to discover what that occupation entails is to check an unabridged dictionary or check an Internet search engine and easily discover that a cordwainer is someone who works with fine leather, often a shoe maker. But to discover that a girdleier is one who makes belts or shashes or a shuttleworker is a weaver one may have to use Trades and services of Colonial times ( 973.2 T675).

    There are also directories and lists of practitioners of various occupations, such as Patsy Page's Directory of Louisiana physicians, 1886 (976.3 P14D) and the 1881 and 1896 editions of The Bankers' directory and list of bank attorneys (929.11 R15B). There are also volumes from societies that cater to certain professions, such as the 1941 and 1949 editions of  Roster of the Maine State Grange Patrons of Husbandry (974.1 G75RO). There are also business records available, like that for Sand Lake, New York's Lumberman's account book, 1839-1843 (974.701 R29LU) and the Finis Hurt Store account book, 1889-1890 (976.901 AD1WL) in Adair County, Kentucky. 

    But one of the best ways to understand your ancestor in his or her profession could be to read diaries from other members of that profession, such as Laurel Ulrich's A midwife's tale: the life of Martha Ballard, based on her diary, 1785-1812 (974.101 K37U) and The 1805 diary of the Rev. Dr. James Muir: minister of the Old Presbyterian meeting house in Alexandria, Virginia (975.502 AL27MUI). Of course, these diaries may also provide biographical information the people in the area.

    So when you want to understand your ancestor, take some time to investigate his or her occupation to add a deeper understanding of their lives.

    Posted by: ACPL Genealogy Center

  • Recreational Activities

    Saturday, Nov 16, 2013

    by Delia

    Our ancestors worked hard all week, on the farm, in the shop or factory. At the end of the day, they went home, ate dinner and went to bed. On the weekends, they attended religious services.

    Well, not really. They did have many chores, no matter the station in life, but there was often time for play, and they did play. And The Genealogy Center owns sources on all manner of play in our ancestors’ lives.

    Our national pastime, baseball, is represented nationally in a number of sources, including The baseball necrology (973 L512BN) by Bill Lee, The biographical encyclopedia of the Negro baseball leagues (973 R453BI) by James A. Riley, and Today's News (973 AL512TA), the journal of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League Players' Association. But there are also volumes relating to locations, such as Larry Lester and Sammy Miller's Black baseball in Kansas City (977.802 K13LES) and Robert Ashe's Even the Babe came to play: small-town baseball in the dirty 30s (971.502 SA28AS). 

    Basketball is not forgotten in our collection, with Todd Gould's Pioneers of the hardwood: Indiana and the birth of professional basketball (977.2 G737P) and Rankine Smith's The history of basketball in New Brunswick, Canada, 1892-1985 (971.5 Am596H).

    A number of sources pertain to sports in academia, such as Ken Kessinger's Sioux Falls Washington High School sports heritage, 1899-1989 (978.302 SI7KE), and Jim O'Brien's Hail to Pitt: a sports history of the University of Pittsburgh (974.802 P687HAI). 

    But it's the more unusual accounts of recreational activities that catch my interest. Norman Peterson's Index of about 11,000 1911 Michigan and Wisconsin billiard hall & saloon merchants (977.4 P442I) provides a list of what towns in those states hosted the dreaded pool halls that lured men into drink and play. And From buckskin to baseball; glimpses of Tiogans at work and play (974.702 T49FR) provides just the sort of overview to a community at play that should interest all researchers.And some are rife with history, such as Timothy McCann's Sussex cricket in the eighteenth century (942.2501 SU82P, V.88), and William Perkins Bull's From rattlesnake hunt to hockey; the history of sports in Canada and of the sportsmen of Peel, 1789 to 1934 (971.3 B87FR), which was limited to a thousand copies in 1934.

    So when you are investigating the lives of those that have gone before, pay attention to what they did in their free time to add another layer to the stories of their lives.

    Posted by: ACPL Genealogy Center

  • Celebrate Veterans Day by Honoring (and Researching) a Veteran

    Sunday, Nov 10, 2013

    by Delia

    So, maybe you’ve got the day off to celebrate Veterans Day. You could go to the various sales and spend some money. You could sleep late, relax, watch television all day. But, really, it’s Veterans Day, a day set aside to honor all veterans. So you could…

    • Organize information about the various veterans in your family history, making sure that you have all of the facts you can locate about his or her service. The Genealogy Center is open regular hours (9A to 9P) to make research convenient.
    • Or just pick one veteran, gather photographs, service records, pension information and a brief biography to be published in a journal, or send a digital copy to The Genealogy Center for inclusion in Our Military Heritage website.
    • Research a veteran, using websites like Fold3, Ancestry or FamilySearch. Write a letter (or an email) to a county court house to see if the officials there have the veteran’s discharge papers, or to a library to get the veteran’s obituary.
    • Seek out a veteran, a relative, friend or neighbor, asking about military service, as well as other biographical details of his or her life. You can preserve these details in various ways, including sending us a copy for Our Military Heritage. Just being asked will remind the veteran how much that service is valued.
    • Add a World War II veteran into the National World War II Memorial Registry. This website allows you to honor any WWII veteran with his or her name, service, photo, etc. This is a great way to insure a veteran's service is remembered.
    • Or you can place flowers or a small flag on the grave of a veteran. Go ahead and take a photo while you are at it, note the information on the headstone and add any details you know. Send the photo and notes to Find a Grave or Billion Graves

    So you can just take the day off, or you can really use Veterans Day to recall our veterans!

    Posted by: ACPL Genealogy Center

  • My Birth Certificate is Not Online (And Neither is Yours)

    Monday, Sep 16, 2013

    by Sara

    Birth records can be found in many forms, but birth certificates remain the most restricted to genealogists. A living person’s birth certificate will not be posted online, unless that person or another family member has scanned it and made it available online. And we recommend that you do not post your birth certificate on the Internet, even on websites like Facebook, Ancestry trees or elsewhere, due to the high risk of identity theft. Hospitals, doctors, government officials, and businesses are prohibited from publishing full birth certificates for the living online because of privacy laws.

    If you need to order a copy of your own birth certificate, you must contact (in person, by telephone or mail) either the official state vital records office or the county health department in the state or county where you were born. You may also order a copy online via the Better Business Bureau accredited website, Vitalchek. Each state has differing laws, but generally speaking, the person named on the certificate, his/her parents, other close relatives, or his legal representative are the only persons authorized to request a copy of a living person’s birth certificate. Adopted persons seeking copies of their original birth certificate should consult our guide to Adoption Research for more information on how to begin their search.

    For deceased individuals, privacy laws vary from state to state concerning who can access historical birth certificates. In Indiana, the law states that anyone can request the birth certificate for a person who was born 75 or more years ago and is now deceased (with proof of death provided). Only close relatives or legal representatives can request birth certificates for deceased persons born less than 75 years ago. Keep in mind that some states did not start issuing birth certificates until the early twentieth century; so if you are seeking birth records from the nineteenth century and earlier, you may need to look at other sources such as church records as alternatives. To learn more about state laws regarding birth record availability, consult a reference book such as Ancestry’s Red Book or Handybook for Genealogists, or the Where to Write for Vital Records website from the Centers for Disease Control.

    Other sources of historical birth records include online databases, compiled books, and microtext in local libraries. A few states have begun posting historical birth certificates from the late 1800s and early 1900s online on genealogical websites such as Ancestry or FamilySearch, but Indiana is not one of those states. Other states such as California, Kentucky, Minnesota and Texas have released indexes to birth records for individuals born up to and including the 1990s, which would include living persons. These indexes are available on Ancestry or FamilySearch as well. They often provide limited information abstracted from the original birth certificate, such as the child’s name, date of birth and birth location, but they do not include all the information from a full birth certificate. The Genealogy Center has many print, online, and microtext indexes to historical birth records from a variety of states. We also have copies of most Allen County, Indiana birth records from 1887 to 1920, and Fort Wayne birth records from 1882 to 1920 on microtext.

    Caution should be exercised when attempting to order copies of birth certificates over the Internet. Many websites claim to offer “birth records” in exchange for a large fee, but actually will send you reports compiled from telephone directories and voter registration databases, instead of the official birth certificates. Do not fall for this false advertising and do not pay such sites any money unless you know exactly what you are getting in return. Only order birth certificates from a reputable source, such as from the state vital records office or county health department, following the links on the Where to Write for Vital Records website, or using the VitalChek website.

    Posted by: ACPL Genealogy Center

  • Tickets? Passport? Research?

    Tuesday, Jul 16, 2013

    by Sara

    Recently we had a visit from a patron who only had about 30 minutes to spend in The Genealogy Center to find the birth date and birth place of his immigrant ancestor. The patron explained that his sister was currently in Greece on vacation and needed the information TODAY so she could search for the family at the General Archives of Greece. This ancestor, let’s call him “Demetri,” came to this country from Greece around 1890* (*details changed to protect patron privacy). We were able to help the patron find Demetri’s birth date from his tombstone via the free website, Find a Grave, and from a World War II Draft Registration (found on Ancestry), although the two dates did not match exactly. A specific place of birth for him was not found, although it might have been possible, had the patron more time to spend on this question. While the patron seemed satisfied with what was found, I’m not sure how successful the sister’s search was at the Greek Archives, with only this sketchy information. What could this family have done differently to ensure greater success?

    Just as you apply for a passport, make your plane reservations, and arrange hotel accommodations all way in advance of your departure date, you need to do your genealogical homework beforehand for an overseas research trip as well. The most important thing you can do to prepare for your trip is to start researching your immigrant ancestral origins as soon as possible. There are many factors outside of our control that can make your particular ancestor search easier or harder. Finding an ancestor who came to the United States within the past 120 years is generally easier because more records were created and have survived from that time period. The search can be complicated by an immigrant’s decision to Americanize their name, and by political upheaval in Europe that has resulted in geographic boundary and town name changes. You will want to look for records created after the immigrant’s arrival in America that provide clues of immigrant origins, specifically, those that might show an ancestor’s date of birth, parents’ names, and/or birth place in the old country. Types of U.S. records to consult include: ship’s passenger lists, naturalization records, death certificates, marriage licenses, Social Security applications, obituaries, organizational records, land records, employment records, newspaper articles, probate records, family papers or Bibles, and church records - most of which are not typically available on the internet. Remember to research all members of the family who immigrated (father, mother, their children, siblings of the parents, cousins, etc.) because if you find where one of them originated, chances are the rest of the family was from the same place. This research may take some time to complete, but will be worth the time spent, if it helps you find your immigrant origins, right? Armed with this data, you can then travel to the old country with the correct information and increase your chances of success in foreign archives and libraries. You might also be able to pre-arrange a visit to your ancestral village(s) of origin.

    A second important task you should complete before your trip is to find the website for or current information about any foreign libraries/archives you wish to visit; check their hours, location, and holdings; and try to set up an appointment via email or telephone for a specific date and time to look at specific records. Not doing this can lead to upsetting situations, such as arriving at an archives on a Monday, only to find out that the building is closed to the public on Mondays or that the English- speaking archivist is only in the office on Wednesdays.

    We want your next family history trip to be a success. So remember to plan ahead for possible future trips, come and see us in The Genealogy Center, and start researching your immigrant ancestor today!

    Posted by: ACPL Genealogy Center