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  • 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

  • Ben Moore -- Back for His 10th Summer!

    Sunday, Jun 15, 2014

    by Dawne

    “What did you do on your summer vacation?” If assigned a report on this topic, school librarian BenBen Moore June2014 Moore might report that he spent his summer on a “busman’s holiday,” working as a reference assistant at the Allen County Public Library.  Ben, librarian for Smith-Green Schools in Churubusco, is helping patrons 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. weekdays in The Genealogy Center for his 10th summer. This year he is also working at the Ask desk in Reader’s Services part time in the evenings.

    Ben started working summers in The Genealogy Center back in 2005 when the main library departments were temporarily housed in the Renaissance Center building (now Citizens Square) during renovation of 900 Library Plaza. He said he applied for a summer job at the library and expected, since he was a teacher at that time, that he might be assigned to Children’s Services. Instead, he found himself in Genealogy. Ben said he remembered coming to what was then called the Genealogy Department with his grandmother when he was a boy and he found the subject interesting, but wasn’t really “a genealogist” when he started working summers in The Center. He has since dabbled in working on his family history.

    He said he very much enjoys helping the patrons of The Genealogy Center every summer and finds the variety of their questions interesting.

    Posted by: ACPL Genealogy Center

  • More One-on-One Consultations!

    Thursday, Jun 12, 2014

    The Genealogy Center will offer two afternoons of Consultations with a staff member to try to help you break down a brick wall or to just to just gain a greater understanding of some aspect of research. Sessions will be offered in 30-minute blocks, on Tuesday July 8th and Wednesday August 9th, from 2pm to 4pm in The Genealogy Center. Call 260-421-1225 or send an email for an appointment. Indicate that you are requesting a Consultation, and provide information concerning the nature of your quandary. A staff member will be assigned and you will be contacted with a time for your consultation. Be sure to bring your research notes to your consultation. Space is limited, contact us soon to take advantage of this offer!


    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

  • Remembering D-Day

    Friday, Jun 06, 2014

    by Delia

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

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

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

    Posted by: ACPL Genealogy Center

  • Discover Your Family Stories at Senior Circle

    Wednesday, Jun 04, 2014

    Seniors who stay active and productive often have longer and happier lives. The Lutheran Health Network is offering Senior Circle 50+ Health and Activity Expo on Thursday, June 12, 2014, from 9A to 3P at the Ash Center, 1701 Freeman Street, Fort Wayne. They will offer free and low cost health screenings, demonstrations of various activities (golfing, painting, and more), and at 11:30, our own Curt Witcher, The Genealogy Center Manager, will present "Discovering Your Family Stories." Family stories can be the origin of an interest in family history, as well as the culmination of years of research. Whether one is just beginning to delve into one's ancestry or has devoted long hours of digging, sharing family stories is one of the most pleasurable aspects. For more information, call 260-425-3087 or visit Lutheran Health Net Expo. Make plans now to attend!

    Posted by: ACPL Genealogy Center

  • Discover Ancestry!

    Sunday, Jun 01, 2014

    There you are, watching television, and a commercial for Ancestry.com comes on. Someone just types in a name. All sorts of information and all manner of connections appear, and suddenly, they know all about a grandfather’s World War I service. But when you go online, it may not seem so simple.

    On Wednesday, June 11, 2014, as part of our "Digital Discoveries" series, Delia Bourne will present Discovering Ancestry. She will demonstrate search techniques that will make your searches much more successful. Attend this free class, Meeting Room A, from 3P to 4P. To register, call 260-421-1225 or email us. See what Ancestry has to offer!

    Posted by: ACPL Genealogy Center

  • Search Strategies for Online Databases

    Thursday, May 29, 2014

    • By Dawne

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

    Posted by: ACPL Genealogy Center

  • Celebrate Memorial Day!

    Monday, May 26, 2014

    by Delia

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

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

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

    Posted by: ACPL Genealogy Center

  • Additions to Our Military Heritage

    Friday, May 23, 2014

    Two new databases have been added to The Genealogy Center’s Our Military Heritage, both highlighting the 52nd Kentucky Mounted Infantry. The first is a searchable roster gleaned from Union Regiments of Kentucky, Vol. 3 by Capt. Thomas Speed (Courier-Journal Job Printing, 1897, pages 650-656), which was transcribed and reformatted by Jim Cox, who had allowed us to post it. Each listing provides name, rank, company, and the place and date the soldier mustered into the regiment.

    The second database, also provided by Jim Cox, is 52nd Kentucky Mounted Infantry, Company A, Pensioners. This alphabetical listing provides the names of the soldiers and widows who received pensions, and his or her state of residence, along with the date of application, and application and certificate numbers.

    Both of these are wonderful additions to Our Military Heritage and our thanks go to Jim Cox for his wonderful work!

    Posted by: ACPL Genealogy Center

  • Lincoln's Boyhood in Indiana

    Tuesday, May 20, 2014

    He was born in Kentucky and started his professional life in Illinois, but Abraham Lincoln spent his boyhood, 1816 to 1830,  in Indiana. Learn more about these years in Lincoln's life on Wednesday, May 21st, when William Bartelt will present the 2014 Rolland Lecture "Recollections of Lincoln's Youth in Indiana," in Meeting Room A at 7 PM. Bartelt is the author of 'There I grew up': Remembering Abraham Lincoln’s Indiana Youth (Indiana Historical Society Press, 2008) and is a recipient of the Indiana Historical Society’s Hoosier Historian Award for contribution to historical scholarship. He is currently president-elect of the Evansville Museum, a trustee of the Indiana Historical Society, a member of the Indiana Library and Historical Board, a Director of the Abraham Lincoln Association, a member of the Friends of the Lincoln Collection of Indiana board of directors, and past president of the Newburgh Museum Foundation. The lecture will be preceded by a brief Annual Meeting of the Friends of the Lincoln Collection of Indiana.

    The program is free and open to the public. Join us on Wednesday evening to learn more about Lincoln in Indiana!

    Posted by: ACPL Genealogy Center

  • Summer Time Sundays: Closed

    Tuesday, May 20, 2014

    The Genealogy Center, like all agencies of the Allen County Public Library, will be closed on Sundays for the summer, May 25, 2014, through August 31, 2014. Except for July 4th, we will be open the rest of the summer, 9A to 9P on Mondays through Thursdays, and 9A to 6P on Fridays and Saturdays.

    Posted by: ACPL Genealogy Center

  • Closed Memorial Day, May 26

    Sunday, May 18, 2014

    The Genealogy Center, like the other Allen County Public Library facilities, will be closed Monday, May 26th, in observance of Memorial Day. We are also closed Sunday, May 25th, as that starts the summer Sunday closing. We will be open Saturday, May 24th, 9A to 6P, and Tuesday 9A to 9P.

    Posted by: ACPL Genealogy Center

  • The Peter Graber Collection

    Friday, May 16, 2014

    A Review by John

    The Amish are a visible part of the rural community in northern Allen County, Indiana, and indeed throughout northeastern Indiana. Because this sect does not keep church records and has little written history, their story has not been told to any great extent. Some time ago, Josiah Beachey discovered in an attic a forgotten trove of historical letters, written in German, from various Amish congregations dating from 1848 to 1925. Many of the letters are connected to Peter Graber (1811-1896), an Old Order Amish bishop who moved from Stark County, Ohio, and established the sect in Allen County in the mid-nineteenth century. In translating these letters and bringing them into print in his book, The Peter Graber Collection (Hicksville, Ohio: The Author, 2012), GC 977.201 AL5grp, Beachey lifts the veil, at least a little, on the history of the Amish community.

    Letters in the book pertain to Amish communities in the following locations: Stark, Fulton and Wayne counties, Ohio; Adams, Lagrange, Daviess, Allen, and Howard counties, Indiana; and Johnson and Henry counties, Iowa. Some of the letters bear the signatures of multiple men, apparently elders in a particular congregation. They contain words of advice and encouragement and include the names of many congregation members, some of whom had committed various infractions. Sometimes the letters offer a glimpse into how the Amish coped with historical events outside of their control. For example, during the Civil War after the establishment of a draft, Peter Graber wrote from Allen County on 5 January 1864: “Precious children, now I want to let you know about the draft up to the present date, and no one knows what is going to happen, for one says they are going to start drafting today, others say they have put it off for 20 days, others say they won’t draft at all. So no one really knows what is going to happen.”

    Other letters deal with issues of church governance. Jacob Schwartzentruber of Johnson County, Iowa, wrote to Graber, “How many levels of confession or punishment do you have in your church?” He then outlines the steps for penance, including asking for pardon, standing up and making a public confession, and “the highest confession, on your knees, and taken with a handshake and the kiss of peace.”

    This volume makes an interesting addition to our collection of congregational histories and offers insights that deserve closer reading and attention.

    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

  • Mother's Day!

    Sunday, May 11, 2014

    by Delia

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Posted by: ACPL Genealogy Center

  • Lindenwood Cemetery Listings Updated

    Thursday, May 08, 2014

    Thanks to the efforts of the members of the Allen County Genealogical Society of Indiana, we now have the Lindenwood Cemetery Index up to include 2013! Lindenwood is one of the largest and oldest cemeteries in Allen County with burials starting in 1860, and is listed on the National Historic Register. Many local pioneers and settlers are buried here including members of the Hanna and Hamilton families, as well as a few infamous folks, such as Homer Van Meter, but it’s the everyday ancestors whose citations can really help local family historians. Thanks to ACGSI for this great update!

    Posted by: ACPL Genealogy Center

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

    Monday, May 05, 2014

    by Delia

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

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

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

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

    Posted by: ACPL Genealogy Center

  • It's May First!

    Thursday, May 01, 2014

    by Delia

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

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

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

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

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

    Posted by: ACPL Genealogy Center