Where History Meets Family History, by Juliana Smith

This morning as I was digging our minivan out of the snow following a storm that struck yesterday, my mind wandered through memories of snowstorms past. Like many Chicago-area natives, I have vivid memories of the Blizzard of 1967. As a young child I could remember walking down the driveway staring up in awe at the towers of snow my dad had created as he shoveled our driveway. I recall not being able to use the side door for weeks as it remained covered with a huge snow drift. Upstate New Yorkers weathering the recent storms there will doubtless recall this winter for decades to come, with more than ten feet of snow on the ground in some places. That’s unimaginable!

We often hear weather events like these called “character builders,” and I guess that’s a good assessment. As we adapt to the environment we live in, it helps to shape who we are. In some cases, it may also alter the course our lives take.

An 1876 article in The Constitution of Atlanta, Georgia, after reporting on a particularly violent storm in Iowa in July of that year and the fatal floods that followed, reported,

“The terrific storm in Iowa, of which, the telegraph brings us an account, carried death and destruction to all in its pathway. If such storms are frequent in Iowa it is one of the best states in the Union to emigrate from. Come down to Georgia where we keep all our water in the Augusta canal.” Continue reading

Starting Pre-1850 Census Searching, by Michael John Neill

The difficulty with American census records before 1850 is that only the heads of household are listed. All other members of the household appear, but are hidden under tally marks. This week we look at finding a family in the 1840 census. Future columns will discuss additional situations and problems with using census records before the 1850 enumeration.

General Suggestions for Pre-1850 Census Searching

  • Have maps so that the relative positions of all counties, states, and other political jurisdictions involved are readily available. Maps should be contemporary to the problem under study. Current maps may lead to incorrect conclusions.
  • Consider all reasonable matches when performing searches. Don’t assume the first “close” match is the right person or family. Use adequately broad search parameters (consider also performing separate wildcard and Soundex searches) to make certain that all reasonable matches to the desired person have been returned. You may want to include adjacent states if necessary.
  • Use all known and extant post-1840 records to determine which individuals likely were living in the household in a given census year, what their approximate ages were in that year, and where they probably were living. Keep in mind that census-takers occasionally make mistakes, tally marks can be put in the wrong column, and that names can easily be spelled incorrectly. 
  • Compare the age groupings of the located families with the known ages of the individuals.
  • Remember that the oldest male in the household is not necessarily the head of the household. 
  • Pay special attention to female heads of household.

Continue reading

Tips from the Pros: Winter Photo Woes, from Maureen Taylor

photographs.jpgYour hands aren’t the only things that are affected by cold weather. The changes in temperature and humidity from summer to winter can cause problems for your family photos. Too much humidity can cause tintypes to rust and mold to grow on paper prints, but dry air isn’t good either. Try to keep your photographs in an area of your house away from water pipes, fireplaces and heat sources like radiators. An interior windowless closet is best, but if you don’t have someplace like that, don’t despair. You can create a buffer from those temperature and humidity fluctuations by nesting acid and lignin free boxes. Store your photos in the center container. You can purchase appropriate boxes from library and museum suppliers.

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Your Quick Tips, 19 February 2007

Organizing Genealogy Contacts in Outlook
I use Outlook to store my genealogy contacts. First I assigned a new category in the “Master Category” list called “genealogy.” Then for each genealogy contact I put their surname interest in the name of their “company” in all caps, and the word family (in lowercase) after the surname. 

Now when I open my contact folder I can choose to sort it by “Category,” and then within that category sort by “company name” and I have the listing all organized and it is easy to find folks at a glance!  

Kristina Kuhn Krumm
Columbus, OH Continue reading

The Year Was 1832

Black HawkThe year was 1832 and it brought cholera to the shores of England. The disease arrived by ship and killed more than 3,000 people in London. In April, reports began of its arrival in Paris, and its spread continued north to Ireland and Scotland, before crossing the Atlantic to the U.S. 

Common treatments prescribed in the treatment of cholera were calomel, opium, bleeding with leeches, quinine, morphine, camphor, and mustard plasters. Therapies varied widely and the cause of the disease was still unknown at this point.

The epidemic first arrived in North America in June 1832. Fears of the epidemic had preceded its arrival and a quarantine station had been set up on Grosse-Ile, an island in the St. Lawrence River. It is estimated that more than 10,000 immigrants, predominantly Irish, are buried on Grosse Ile, victims of cholera and typhus epidemics. 

1832 marked the beginning of the Black Hawk War when Sauk and Fox Native Americans, under the leadership of Black Hawk, returned to lands in Illinois and parts of Michigan Territory (now in Wisconsin) that they had ceded in an 1804 treaty. Their arrival spread fear among the settlers now living in the area and a militia was called up. (Notable among the militia was a young Abraham Lincoln.) Black Hawk surrendered to officials in August at Fort Crawford, Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin.  Continue reading

Photo Corner

Jennie Buffo Matthews) and my mother (Betty Matthews Farmer), on Illinois Street in Marseilles, IllinoisContributed by Pat Oxley
The photo was taken Christmas 1930 and is of my grandmother (Jennie Buffo Matthews) and my mother (Betty Matthews Farmer), on Illinois Street in Marseilles, Illinois.

John Michael and Ester Whetstone Minier, 1870sContributed by Benny E. Nasser
John Michael and Ester Whetstone Minier who had seven sons that fought in the Civil War on the Union side, photo is from the late 1870s.

Ancestry Posts Collection of British Phone Books 1880-1984

directory.jpgAncestry has just posted a collection of British phone books published between 1880, the year after the public telephone service was introduced to the UK, and 1984, from the historic phone book collection held by BT Archives. The books contain more than 71 million records. Below is information taken from the database description.

The database currently contains 772 phone books published between 1880, the year after the public telephone service was introduced to the UK, and 1984, from the historic phone book collection held by BT Archives. Whilst this collection does not currently contain fully county coverage, earlier directories generally cover wider geographic areas due to lower comparative levels of telephone ownership.

The current releases (1 and 2) have a particular geographic emphasis on the following parts of the UK:

  • London
  • The South East
  • Eastern Counties
  • North West England
  • The Midlands
  • Scotland
  • Ireland Continue reading

Interesting History Sites

Over the course of my research into various years for The Year Was…, I’ve run across some interesting sites that I thought I’d share with those of you who share a passion for learning more about the life and times of our ancestors. Here are a few: 

The History Box
This site includes a wealth of information on New York City–a combination of transcribed articles and links to articles online–all pertaining to the history of the city. Among them I found descriptions of Election Districts and Ward boundaries from 1869, “American Seaman’s Friend Society: Institution and Timeline 1859,” and an article on “New York City’s Places of Amusement.” These are just the tip of the iceberg. If you’ve got ancestors in “the big apple” you’re sure to enjoy this site.

Wessels Living History Farm
Ever wondered what life was like for your farming ancestors in the 1920s, ‘30s, or ‘40s?  The website for the Wessels Living History Farm provides this information in its website, geared toward educating children. Pest and weed control, transportation, emerging and available technology, farm life, and several other topics are covered through a series of interviews for each decade, including the Dust Bowl Years and Pearl Harbor.

GenDisasters.com: Events that Touched Our Ancestors Lives
This site is just what the title would suggest–a database of historic disasters that may have impacted our ancestors lives. Categorized by the type of disaster and cross-referenced by location, entries typically include a transcribed newspaper account of the event. Events range from  well-known disasters like the Eastland Disaster in Chicago to more obscure tragedies like the man who was fatally injured when his folding bed collapsed on him. While still in the early stages, the site is promising. They are looking for volunteers to transcribe materials that will be added to the site.

Hope you enjoy these sites as much as I did!



National Genealogical Society: One Year–One Million Names Online!

Received the following press release from the National Genealogical Society. Congrats to NGS for this impressive milestone!

Arlington, VA–12 February 2007. Just under a year since the first Member Ancestry Chart (MAC) became available to members on its website (http://www.ngsgenealogy.org ), the National Genealogical Society (NGS) today uploaded the millionth ancestral name from its MAC collection. All of the names are searchable, including separate entries for women’s maiden and married surnames.

After a decade of dedicated work by over 100 NGS volunteers, the entire MAC collection is being made available to members online, using a database designed by NGS member Linda Gouaze and an excellent online software application designed completely in-house by Gayathri Gopiram, NGS’ Information Technology Specialist. The MAC collection is joining the Family Bible Records collection and the National Intelligencer abstracts in the rapidly expanding Members-Only section of the NGS website, http://www.ngsgenealogy.org Continue reading

E-Book: Searching on Location Available Through Lulu.com

In its first foray into the world of e-books, Ancestry has made Anne Balhuizen’s Searching On Location available through Lulu.com. Paper copies of the book retail for $9.95, but the e-book is priced at only $4.95. Published in 1992, Searching on Location includes practical advice and common sense advice to help you prepare for researching on the road, whether it be interviewing relatives or visiting a local cemetery, courthouse, archive, library, or museum. It includes methodologies, tips, and a handy checklist for better organizing your on-location research.