Weekly Planner: Start a Preservation Project

Do your loved ones know the significance of items you would like preserved for posterity? Are they aware that that bundle of yellowed letters you have stashed away are letters your grandfather sent home while he was away in the service? Or that that those crumbly old recipes sticking out of a cookbook belonged to your great-grandmother? Do they know that the old stack of postcards in the closet contain correspondence from a special uncle, or that a favorite aunt made the sampler in the dining room drawer as a wedding gift? Take the time to not only make sure these items are preserved in a safe environment, but also that their significance is noted so that it won’t end up in the trash or on the table at a yard sale some day.

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Identifying a Fraternal Uniform, by Maureen Taylor

20080212 Sandras fraternal-resize.bmpBack in February, Juliana Smith posted a photo to the 24/7 Family History Circle blog. It is owned by Sandra Luebking and it shows a man in an interesting outfit. Several folks have weighed in with their opinions. Now Juliana’s asked me to comment on the image. I love a good puzzle.

A photograph represents a person’s life and this one is no different. It’s the history behind the image that often solves the mystery. For instance, the combination of the single gold lined border around this picture, the simple drapery and single table date this picture to the period 1860-66. If it has tax stamps on the back, that time frame can be narrowed from 1 August 1864 to 1 August 1866. Having a time frame is an important first step.

Luebking’s relative is Henry Smith of Port Huron, Michigan. According to the 1870 census he was a cabinet maker who listed his place of birth as Prussia. In the nineteenth century more than 50 percent of men were members of a fraternal organization. As a tradesperson, Smith was a likely candidate to be initiated into such group.

The big question is which one? Each organization had its own symbolism. The challenge is finding data on these groups and then locating images of men wearing the specific garb. One person commented that he could be an Odd Fellow or a Maccabee. His cap resembles the one in a link that is provided. It’s possible, but there could be other groups in Port Huron in the 1860s. The trowel on the table indicates he’s likely a member of a Masonic group. His garb could be area or chapter specific since there was variation in attire depending on rank and group. Based on the simplicity of his accessories I think this image documents his initiation. Sandra owns a real family history treasure!

Finding more information about fraternal society symbolism, can be hit or miss. Unfortunately, resources can be tough to find. “Stories in Stone: A Field Guide to Cemetery Symbolism and Iconography,” by Douglas Keister, devotes a chapter to “Secret Societies, Clubs, and Fraternal Organizations” that includes images of some symbols that are found in cemeteries. These images may help to identify symbols found in photographs and on heirlooms.

I’d like to create an online album of fraternal uniforms and symbolism. If you have something you’d like to share, send it to me at photodetective@email.smugmug.com using the password ambrotype. Continue reading

Mining the Blogs, by George G. Morgan

Who would have thought fifteen years ago that there would be so much genealogical information on the Web. At that time, many people didn’t even know about the Internet. However, the explosive growth each year makes genealogical research one of the top uses of the Internet. Now, that certainly doesn’t mean that everything is on the Web. On the contrary, only a small percentage of genealogically- and historically-important documentary evidence has been digitized or even indexed on the Web. We still need to visit libraries, archives, churches, courthouses, and many other repositories in order to access and evaluate the original documents.

One of the most significant developments on the Internet since 1994 has been the online Web Log, more commonly known as a blog. In actuality, a blog is simply a type of Web page that can incorporate any kind of media: text, photographs, graphic art, video clips, sound files (such as MP3s), and may be exclusively audio, such as a podcast. Blogs are often much like a diary or they can be a running account of related information.

A blog is a simple means of communicating using any of a variety of word processor-like software that quickly produce Web page format for your blog. Since you’re reading this article, you’re most likely familiar with the Ancestry 24/7 Family Circle blog. You can also keep up with the latest news on Ancestry.com through the Ancestry blog. I personally maintain two blogs each week–the Web page/blog for the Florida Genealogical Society (Tampa) and The Genealogy Guys Podcast.

There are blogs on an abundance of genealogical subjects; you just need to learn where to find them. One of the most interesting genealogy blogs is The Genealogue, by Chris Dunham. Not only are there humorous postings there, there are weekly research challenges that can help sharpen your skills. However, one of the most valuable pieces of content is the Genealogy Blog Finder. You can access the Finder by clicking the link at the top of The Genealogue page or go directly to the site through this link.

The Genealogy Blog Finder is organized in directory style into twenty-eight categories. Click on any category and start exploring the most recent edition of the blog, vlog, podcast, or whatever. You can tell the focus of the blog by looking at the description. You can also tell, by checking the date, the last time it was updated. Some blogs are updated daily, others weekly or monthly, and some have just seemed to stall.

Receiving Updates from Blogs
Almost every blog has a small orange icon beside the name link. These are links that allow you to subscribe to the blog and receive it automatically each time it is updated. There are two easy ways to subscribe. Here are a couple ways you can do this: Continue reading

Tips from the Pros: Records of the GAR, by Mary Penner

Civil War Union veterans might have wanted to forget their miserable and often gruesome war experiences, but they didn’t want to forget their comrades and the bonds they formed. That’s why thousands of vets joined the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR). Formed in 1866, the organization’s membership peaked in 1890 when more than 409,000 men were on the GAR rosters. The last member died in 1956.

How can you discover if your ancestors joined the GAR? Start at the cemetery. Local GAR posts frequently placed markers at members’ graves. Obituaries also often mention GAR membership. Members joined posts where they lived, so focus your search for records at locations near your veteran’s post-war homes. GAR records were maintained at the local level, so there is no central national repository for the club’s records. Check with the state archives or state historical societies for records. Some records might be at local libraries or museums.

The information in the records varies, but you might find membership rolls, lists of member deaths and burials, account books, letters of application and other correspondence, and meeting minutes.

Well aware of their own mortality, GAR members established a second-generation organization in 1881. This organization, the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War, still exists today and you can find some helpful information about the GAR on the group’s website. 

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Your Quick Tips, 31 March 2008

Women Who Lost Citizenship
This idea came to me after reading about women’s rights in the newsletter:

Did you ever think that your American-born grandmother might have lost her U.S. citizenship? If she married a man who was born in another country (an alien) it could have happened. From between 1922 and 1931 (when the law was changed) thousands of American women lost their citizenship. Many of these same women went to federal courts and went through the naturalization process to reclaim their citizenship, as one of my relatives did. The papers that I found for her were at the National Archives in Chicago.

Mary Patricia Continue reading

Photo Corner, 31 March 2008

Commodore Perry OwensContributed by Conni R.
This is my great-great-grandmother’s brother, Commodore Perry Owens. He went out West and was a lawman. 

Click on an image to enlarge it.

Heier Contributed by Kendra (Robinson) Hoffman, Beatrice, Nebraska
This is my husband’s great-great-grandparents, Heier “Henry” and Emma (Shoegfka) Hoffmann, with their daughter Thekla Lena, taken in Germany about 1871, shortly before they immigrated to the U.S. The story handed down about Henry is that he had been the head blacksmith to King Wilhelm (later Kaiser Wilhelm I) in Berlin, and was responsible for inspecting every nut and bolt of his carriages. Henry and Emma settled in Dodge County, Nebraska, where he homesteaded. They also lived in Box Butte Co., Nebraska, for many years, where Henry was a blacksmith. Emma was the mother of thirteen children, and died at age 39 in Box Butte County.