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  • Do You Know Where Important Family Documents Are Located?

    Friday, Feb 06, 2015

    by Sara

    Every so often, a patron visits The Genealogy Center and tells us their own version of the following sad story: “My parent/spouse/sibling is seriously ill and unable to communicate with us, and we need to find her birth certificate, marriage certificate, or military discharge papers in order to qualify for Medicaid, Social Security or Veteran’s Administration benefits.” Often the relative cannot locate the paperwork at the ailing person’s home, and does not know when or where the event took place, so they don’t know where to start. Sometimes we librarians get lucky and find a clue in an online or print index that helps pinpoint for the patron where to look. This strategy doesn’t always work, because few 20th century vital or military records are not online due to privacy concerns. In cases where the event location is unknown, we may have to send the patron back home to seek more information. We might ask them the following types of questions to help clarify the situation: Does another relative or friend of the family know more about the original event and when and where it took place? Is the event on record at the church or synagogue the family attends currently or attended at the time of the event? Is it notated in a photo album or old letter? Might it have been listed in the local newspaper? And is that local newspaper indexed, or would the patron have to scroll through the microfilmed copy of the newspaper page by page, looking for the article? And so on. We can only hope that one of these new avenues of research yields results. Sometimes a county by county, state by state search is necessary when folks married in an unexpected location and there is no state-wide index.

    Don’t let this happen to you! Organize your family’s important paper documents today. Talk with your family members and gather information now. To that end, every person should make a designated location for their important documents, be it a file drawer, strong box, home safe, safety deposit box, or other safe place. After determining where this file will be kept, they should inventory their paperwork and acquire any important personal documents that they are missing now, while they are still able to do so. To request birth, marriage, death and divorce records, contact the county clerk, health department or vital records office in the county where the event took place. Military records are usually filed at the National Archives, and most military veterans or next-of-kin are entitled to their records free of charge.  After acquiring the documents, persons should let their spouse, children or a trusted friend know where these documents are stored, either within the house or at another location.

    Since this is not a situation that I want to find myself in, my family is busy getting our own papers together. My parents have gathered all their documents in one place and notified their children of that location. We also recently requested my dad’s military records from the National Archives. Now, I just need to work on putting together my own documents and leaving them in a safe place for future generations. What about you?

    Posted by: ACPL Genealogy Center

  • It's What We Do

    Tuesday, Jan 06, 2015

    We love making your day. 

    A new customer came in this morning.  He had very little information about his father and grandparents.  He knew that his father was born in South Bend, Indiana area; that his had later changed his name legally to his stepfather’s name, which was done in New Jersey.  Our customer also knew his grandmother’s maiden name. 

    Within ten minutes, staff helped him to find his father in the 1930 census (at age 2) with stepfather and mother living in New Jersey.  Another search found a marriage record with the mother’s maiden name as well as her father’s name.  From there, we found our customer’s grandfather’s immigration record which noted that he had arrived over with his family when he was 8 years old.  More information was discovered about this customer’s great grandparents, including where they lived in the Netherlands.  When he left, our happy customer said he’d always wondered about his grandfather and his family, and was making plans to be back to do more research.

    We always look forward to assisting you in finding more information and records to add to your family history.


    Posted by: ACPL Genealogy Center

  • Have You Taken the Time to Write Down Your Holiday Memories and Traditions for Future Generations?

    Thursday, Dec 25, 2014

    By Dawne

    On Sunday, December 14th, I joined with the women in my family for our annual “Cookie Day.” This has been an on-again, off-again tradition in my immediate family for many years. When I was a child, my paternal grandmother and her four daughters-in-law would gather on a Saturday in early December for and have a day-long marathon cookie-baking session.

    As far as I know, Cookie Day began with my grandmother, but I guess I don’t know that for sure. Maybe she baked cookies with her mother. I wish I’d known to ask. Grandma died just two years before I became obsessed with this wonderful … ahem, “hobby” of ours.

    Cookies weren’t the only goodie Grandma, Mom, and her sisters-in-law produced on Cookie Day, either. There was smooth chocolate fudge, with and without nuts, and popcorn balls made with Karo Syrup tinted red and green. And I think there were sweet breads among the day’s products as well. The women made hundreds, probably thousands, of cookies. Each one took some home, and the rest were put in containers and stored on the large, unheated glassed-in porch on the side of my grandparents’ house. Periodically during the season, when guests were expected, or just when the selection at-hand grew sparse, a grandchild was sent to the porch with a large plate to gather a few cookies of each type from the containers to bring back in to replenish the stash in the house.

    A highlight for many of the 13 grandchildren of the family was our contribution to Cookie Day – frosting and decorating the cut-out sugar cookies. Of course this was frosting made with confectioners’ sugar and tinted with food coloring, not purchased pre-made in container like I do now to save time.

    Mom revived Cookie Day several years ago when she, my sister, my sister-in-law and I all ended up living in close enough proximity to make it possible. At its rebirth, it was much like the older version – we gathered and baked as many varieties of cookies as we could in one day. But our tradition has since evolved into a new one. Over the years we discovered that, even more than the cookie-baking, we enjoyed the visiting and the laughing that we did on Cookie Day. So now we all bake some cookies in advance, and we gather on Cookie Day to have lunch together and have a cookie exchange instead. It makes for a hustle-bustle-rush ahead of time to get the cookies finished, but on the actual Cookie Day, we can slow down and take our time to enjoy one another’s company and reminisce.

    Do you have holiday traditions that are dear to your family? Of course you do. Are there some that have evolved over the years? Have you written about these special family events and memories so that future generations will know about them? Traditions that span the years and the generations are the cords that bind our families together. I encourage you to write about your family traditions. This is a wonderful season to do so – when the memories of holidays past and the loved ones with whom we shared them feel close.

    Recently Judy Russell, The Legal Genealogist, wrote a blog post about a different kind of holiday memory. Here’s a link to her post for additional inspiration.

    Posted by: ACPL Genealogy Center

  • Thanksgiving and Family Stories

    Wednesday, Nov 26, 2014

     Thanksgiving

    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

  • When There‚Äôs No Final Resting Place

    Monday, Nov 03, 2014

    by Delia

    We genealogists love cemeteries, don’t we? Our friends and family might think we are a bit strange in our enthusiasm for these cities of the dead. We wander among tombstones, seeking ancestors or just reading interesting inscriptions. We note ages and dates, letting them suggest a story. It might be when several children in a family died at the same time, suggesting illness or disaster. Or maybe we marvel at an older woman buried beside a young husband who died many years before her. We visit long-deceased ancestors, allowing them to speak to us concerning their lives. And sometimes we seek in vain to locate those final resting places.

    But what will happen in the future, when there are no resting places? Although cremation has long been a part of the funeral customs of many cultures, modern cremation in the western world is less than 150 years old. For many years, a majority of those who were cremated were placed in niches in mausoleums in local cemeteries, which still provided a place of memorial. But the scattering of ashes removed the probability of a physical memorial and record for future generations to determine just where someone ended up.

    I’ve known a number of people through the years who have had their ashes scattered. One couple had their ashes scattered in the enclosed garden of their church, and had very small metal memorial plaques placed there. This was fine until part of the garden was repurposed and one of the plaques was lost. Another man I know hired a small plane to take him up over the mountains near where his mother had lived so he could scatter her ashes. He did not realize that one is supposed to toss the ashes in their plastic bag out of the plane’s door so that the force of the wind would break open the bag, allowing the ashes to descend. He opened the bag to pour the ashes out, and the draft blew most of them back into the plane. I am not sure what he did after vacuuming his mother from the inside of the plane, but there’s no marker.

    This has all come to mind recently because my father-in-law died. He wanted to be cremated and his ashes placed, with no stone or marker and no ceremony, at the graveside of his second wife. However, they had separated before their deaths and her family really did not want my father-in-law in their family plot. So my husband and his sisters decided to place his ashes at the graveside of a sibling who died long ago, but, as per his wishes, with no marker. This disturbs the genealogist in me and I finally decided that once they placed the ashes, I would add him to the Find a Grave website within that cemetery, with a notation that his remains are with his child. While looking on the website to see how it might be done, I discovered that the website organizers already have a part of their site dedicated to Cremated or Cemetery Unknown. I browsed through the 167 entries and noted that most provided more information than many entries in Find a Grave, often including obituaries.

    So if you know someone who has been cremated, you might want to take a few minutes to add that information to this website, so that future researchers will know where all of their ancestors rest.

    Posted by: ACPL Genealogy Center

  • Family Lore - Truth, Fiction or Something in Between?

    Monday, Oct 06, 2014

    by Dawne

    I have touched on this topic in The Genealogy Center’s blog previously: Family stories – oral tradition – is something virtually every family has. We might grow up hearing the same old stories whenever the family is gathered. We might even have repeated those stories to our children and grandchildren. But often it was when we first began doing genealogy and tried to pin down older relatives about specific details, or to substantiate the stories with records, that we realized there might be a difference in what we thought we knew about the family and what was actually true.

    Many patrons come to The Genealogy Center with a family tradition that they have Native American ancestry. In some cases this might be true. But Great-Grandma usually wasn’t a Cherokee princess. The Native American blood might be further back than the family story holds. The connection might be Miami or Chickasaw or some other tribe and not the more well-known Cherokee. And the relative might be one by marriage, rather than by blood. It’s also quite common that the patron is able to trace his or her ancestry back to an immigrant without ever finding a trace of Native American blood. In this case, it could be that the family story was in error about which ancestral line had that ethnicity. And DNA tests might indicate that there is no Native American ancestry at all. For some reason, it is a very popular family tradition to be part Native American.

    So should we dismiss all those family stories we learned on our grandparents’ laps as bunk? Not necessarily. It has been said – and I believe it – that many, if not most family stories have some element of truth to them. A folklore professor I had in graduate school maintained that family stories are told for a reason – they represent some quality that is important to the storytellers and to the family. That reason alone might be enough to write them down for future generations.

    Consider the information a friend of mine, Rhonda Stoffer, head of Indiana History and Genealogy Services at Marion Public Library in Marion, Indiana, received from her mother-in-law. Rhonda’s mother-in-law had never met her grandfather and asked Rhonda to find out more about him. She told Rhonda that his name was George Brown and he was a baker from Joliet, Illinois. She knew he was a baker because she remembered seeing a photograph of him wearing a baker’s hat. Rhonda found the right George Brown in the 1900 and 1910 census schedules, but in both cases, he was shown as a tin plate worker and not a baker.

    Rhonda continued to research the family and discovered that George Brown’s father had died in the 1880s and his mother remarried twice – the second time to a man with the surname BAKER. Baker was the surname that George Brown’s mother was using when she died, and the one she is buried under. The family now believes that someone’s comment “and he was a Baker” about the mother’s third husband is how the family story of George Brown being a baker by trade began. The identity of the man wearing a baker’s hat in the photograph seen by Rhonda’s mother-in-law is unknown.

    Genealogy Center Librarian Delia Bourne has a lecture on attempting to substantiate family stories that is titled “Did It Really Happen that Way? Documenting Oral History.”  While waiting for Delia’s talk to come back around in our programming circuit, take a look at a recent post by Elizabeth Shown Mills, CG, in Quick Tips: The Blog @ Evidence Explained titled “Finding the ‘Core Truth’ in a Tradition.” Her article provides tips for analyzing family stories to get to their possible elements of truth. 

    Posted by: ACPL Genealogy Center

  • Genealogical Road Trip to New York

    Thursday, Oct 02, 2014

    by Sara
       
    Last fall, I embarked on a genealogical road trip with my mom and her brother to New York State. Apart from observing lovely scenery along the way and the autumnal colors peeking through the trees in the Finger Lakes Region, we spent our time visiting the usual genealogical tourist attractions of court houses, libraries, museums and graveyards. Because we had done some (but not all) of our homework before we left, we also knew that New York has county or town historians that should be visited as well.

    The New York County historian usually has an office in the county office buildings with regularly scheduled hours (but be sure to call ahead), while town historians may work out of their homes at irregular hours. In general, county and town historians often have published and manuscript copies of genealogical print materials, as well as original county or town records such as deeds, wills, marriage records, and so on. Our experience was very positive, though it did vary from office to office. We gained copies of county records, and we also accessed family files for several ancestral families, which contained good clues for us to follow up on. Many of the historians were knowledgeable about the immediate area and its records, and could refer us to other useful repositories if needed. A list of historians is available online.

    We did not do all of our homework, however, before embarking on this trip. I am embarrassed to say that we showed up at two repositories with mistaken information about the hours they were open to the public. As a genealogy librarian myself, I should know better! We drove through Syracuse on our way out and found out that the Onondaga Historical Museum was closed on Tuesdays, so we missed out that day. On the way back, we got there at 2:30 p.m. and found out the archives had closed at 2, while the museum stayed open until 4. We were able to gain access for a few minutes because the librarian was still in the building, but were very rushed, and felt terrible for inconveniencing the staff. A few days later, we had another incident of bad planning. I did not realize that the Historic Huguenot Street in New Paltz had separate archives and library buildings, with different hours and staffing, both of which required advanced appointments. We were able to use the library by virtue of an appointment set up a few days before, but missed out on the Archives, which was very disappointing.

    We were very lucky that in two of the three situations, it worked out that we were able to access the materials that we driven cross-country to view. You might not always be that lucky. A thorough perusal of the websites of these organizations would have provided us with the necessary information, although sometimes hours of operation can be hidden several pages deep on a website. In addition, it is a good idea to find a telephone number and call ahead, just to be sure. Also, you might peruse a guidebook about genealogical research in the particular state you intend to visit so that you are informed of any research peculiarities of that area before you arrive. So, take a lesson from my sad experiences and be sure to plan ahead for your research trips to avoid disappointment.

    Posted by: ACPL Genealogy Center

  • Take Advantage of Regional Seminars for Motivation & Learning Opportunities

    Tuesday, Sep 16, 2014

    by Dawne

    A few weeks ago, I attended the McHenry County (IL) Genealogical Society’s seminar on the same day that my colleague, Cynthia, attended Abrams Foundation Family History Seminar in Lansing, Michigan. Both took place on a Saturday and both featured some nationally-known genealogy speakers as well as some talented and knowledgeable local or regional speakers. Then a week or two later, our manager spoke at Midwestern Roots down in Indianapolis and Cynthia attended that seminar. That was three superb learning opportunities less than a day’s drive away within a couple of weeks.

    This is not an unusual occurrence. Especially from Spring to Fall, local, regional and state genealogical societies around the country sponsor partial day or day-long seminars and bring in one or more of the nationally-known genealogy speakers to anchor their programs. What this means for you and me is the opportunity to learn from these national experts, as well as hear from local experts on a variety of topics with which they have familiarity, commune with other like-minded individuals (our fellow genealogists), and get motivated by new ideas, techniques, sources and technology!

    National conferences are terrific! I would always recommend that if you have the opportunity to go to one, you do so! But sometimes it is difficult to clear the calendar for about a week’s worth of time and travel to a distant location for a national conference. Or the personal budget doesn’t allow a week’s worth of hotel nights and meals out, combined with the registration fee for a national conference and the airline or gasoline expense to get there. That’s where these regional events can shine. There are many of them. Chances are good there have been several of them within a day’s drive of you this summer. Registration fees usually are modest. Sometimes a box lunch is included. You might need to get up very early on seminar day to drive there, or pay for a hotel room the night before, but you won’t have the expense of multiple hotel nights.

    To find a seminar near you, consult the following resources:

    •    Federation of Genealogical Societies/Society Events listings
    •    Eastman’s Online Genealogy Newsletter/Calendar of Genealogy Events
    •    Conference Keeper

    Posted by: ACPL Genealogy Center

  • Occupational Surnames

    Monday, Sep 01, 2014

    by Delia

    On this Labor Day, we as genealogists might want to give some thought to the occupations of our ancestors, and how those occupations may be reflected in the surnames we search. Some occupational surnames come readily to mind, such as Archer, Baker, Bowman, Brewer, Butcher, Carpenter, Farmer, Fisher, Hunter, Mason, Miller, Miner, Singer, and the ubiquitous Smith. But there are many more like Buller (a scribe), Chandler (a candlemaker), Gage (an assayer), Nadler (one who made needles), Pease (a grower of peas), Plowright (a maker of plows), and Slater (person who covered roofs with slate), which also defined someone by their labor.

    When you encounter a new surname in your research, take a few minutes to examine the meaning of the name to see if it reflects a progenitor’s work life. Many occupations were passed down through generations, so the meaning of the name might provide clues to the family origins.

    In the meantime, enjoy your Labor Day holiday!

    Posted by: ACPL Genealogy Center

  • Making Genealogical Connections via Facebook

    Thursday, Aug 14, 2014

    By Dawne

    Sometimes when I tell people what a fan I am of Facebook, I hear that it’s such a waste of time, or kids’ stuff. That hasn’t been my experience with this social media outlet at all. I have long been a fan of Facebook for a number of reasons:
    •    It helps me keep in touch with friends who live all across the country
    •    It allows me to keep the family bonds strong with my first cousins – who used to be like brothers and sisters to me when I was small. I love seeing the pictures of their children and grandchildren!
    •    It helps all of us – friends and family – keep up with what is going on in one another’s lives.
    •    It helps me strengthen the networking contacts I have made in the genealogical world.
    •    It has allowed me to post ancestral photos so that interested family members can see them.
    •    The special interest groups, such as Technology for Genealogy and Ancestry.com’s Facebook page have allowed me to learn.

    Some time ago, I was contacted by someone who saw the small family tree I have on Ancestry. She is my third cousin and we became Facebook friends. Since that time, we have sent private Facebook messages back and forth numerous times about our common ancestors and have shared stories and pictures more publicly. We discovered that we knew some of the same members of the older generations of our family when we were children. The personal stories of these people we have been able to exchange are priceless!

    Not very long ago, this cousin posted a video of a family reunion she attended the previous weekend, panning around the crowd and narrating, showing the “old timers” – the oldest generation – in attendance. She “tagged” me and two other distant cousins in her post and comments on the video thread. One of the two names caught my eye – that of another third cousin I DID know.

    My family spent a week each summer in western Pennsylvania when I was a child, visiting my father’s relatives. For two of three summers, we stayed at the home of this woman’s parents. She was a teenager at that time and I was a pre-teen. We hung out together and had a lot of fun. But I hadn’t had contact with her since I was about 12 years old. Our mutual cousin, who posted the video, has never met either of us, but found us through her interest in family history.

    I posted on the thread, “Is that the Linda ***** who was the granddaughter of Jane and Andy Lawrence?” She responded in the affirmative and I sent her a friend request, which she accepted. Imagine if you can, how much fun we have had the past few days reconnecting and exchanging memories, not only of the fun times we spent together as kids, but of those older relatives who are now gone. And now we are sharing photos, too, and news of the still living older members of our families who had largely lost touch.

    Between the connections that can be made with friends and family, the institutional pages (like The Genealogy Center’s Facebook page) that give news of those facilities and organizations, the family or surname pages where pictures and stories are shared, and the special interest pages where you can get help on everything from choosing a scanner to how to research ancestors in a particular state, I’m convinced that Facebook can be a valuable learning and enrichment tool, as much as it can be a venue for posting cat pictures and pithy quotes.

    Posted by: ACPL Genealogy Center

  • Thousands Opted to Marry Secretly in Michigan

    Friday, Aug 08, 2014

    by Cynthia

    While searching The Genealogy Center’s catalog for basic information on Michigan, I discovered “It Happened in Michigan: Remarkable Events That Shaped History” by Colleen Burcar (GC 977.4 B892IT). The table of contents of this book included the chapter “Thousands Vowing ‘I Do’,” which seemed intriguing. What did this mean? The author noted that beginning at the end of the 17th century through a change in law in 1925, thousands of people from neighboring states went to Michigan to marry because there was no waiting period. In 1897, Michigan adopted a secret marriage law (Act 180 of 1897) that allowed the issuance of marriage licenses without publicity. 
     
    Issuance of Marriage License Without Publicity (Section 551.202  - excerpt of Act 180) stated that if a couple wanted anyone other than the judge of probate to perform a marriage, the judge of probate could issue a permit, as long as the official was legally competent to perform marriages in the state. However, only the probate judge could make a record of the marriage. The law also stated that the judge’s records and the copy that was filed in the State of Michigan’s Public Health Department were permanently sealed and could not be opened unless one of the couple produced legal identification to get a copy of their marriage record.

    The cost of a “secret” marriage was three dollars. Two dollars were for the judge’s service and one dollar was forwarded to the state register to be added to the state general fund (Section 551.202). 

    St. Joseph, Michigan, was a well-known wedding site of choice for individuals from other states. Thousands took advantage of the no waiting period. The majority of the marriages performed there were for residents of Chicago. On April 30, 1925, Michigan Governor Alexander Grosbeck took a huge step toward discouraging people from other states from coming to Michigan to be married. His new statute required a five-day waiting period after the license application.

    While researching what was meant by secret marriages, I found that only two states have passed legislation on secret marriages; Michigan and California. If you are having trouble finding a public record of a marriage in Michigan for an ancestor or a collateral relative, he or she may have had a secret marriage. 

    A circulating copy of Burcar’s book is in Readers’ Services (REA 977.4 B89I).

    Posted by: ACPL Genealogy Center

  • Preserve the Pensions

    Wednesday, Jul 30, 2014

    By Dawne

    Two hundred years ago hundred years ago next month – on August 24, 1814, the British burned Washington, D.C., during the War of 1812. The centennial of this sometimes-forgotten war is being recognized throughout the end of this year. One ongoing project that is significant for genealogists is the Preserve the Pensions Project spearheaded by the Federation of Genealogical Societies (FGS).

    FGS and its partners are raising money to digitize the 7.2 million pages of War of 1812 pension files that are among the most-requested record types at the National Archives research facility in Washington, D.C. These records are in danger of deterioration. Once digitized, the records will be freely accessible to everyone. As the images are scanned, they are being uploaded to the Fold3 website.

    Ancestry.com, as one of FGS’s partners in the Preserve the Pensions Project, has offered to pay for half of the total cost of digitizing the record collection. Toward this end, Ancestry is matching every donation from an individual or society. Pages cost 45 cents each to digitize, so a donation of $45 will preserve 100 images. Counting the Ancestry match, 200 pages will be digitized for a donation of $45.

    Contributors can make their donations in the name of an ancestor and donations are tax deductible. For more information and to make a donation to this worthwhile project, visit Preserve the Pensions website.


    Posted by: ACPL Genealogy Center

  • 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 Ancestry.com, 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