The Year Was 1934

Dust storm SD 1934.bmpThe year was 1934 and in Europe the seeds of World War II were being sown. On 30 June, the “Night of 1,000 Knives,” Hitler and his SS forces assassinated hundreds of members of the SA (Germany’s storm troopers), many of whom had helped Hitler in his rise to power. In August, Hitler declared himself “der Fuehrer”–the leader–of Germany.

In the years preceding 1934, the U.S. was experiencing increasing numbers of dust storms. For years now, the prairies of the Great Plains had been over-farmed and over-grazed. In the midst of drought, the winds picked up the loose topsoil devastating the farming region.

After a particularly strong May 1934 dust storm, the San Antonio Express (San Antonio, Texas) reported the following:

“Engineers who counted the particles in the Middle Western air yesterday estimated that a total of 300,000,000 tons of dust, previously Minnesota, Dakota, and Illinois top soil in which wheat and oats had been planted, had been lifted by the stiff winds and taken fog-like across the country.”

According to that same newspaper, the storm traveled all the way to the East Coast, “almost obscuring the sun with its eerie haze.” The cloud was estimated to be 1,500 miles long and 900 miles wide and stretched from Boston to Washington. Continue reading

Photo Corner

Ena Daisy Barden, born 23 August 1914 in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada. Contributed by Bernice E. Kirk, Meota, Saskatchewan, Canada
This is my mother, Ena Daisy Barden, born 23 August 1914 in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada.

Click on an image to enlarge it.

Blanche and Charles Smith, with daughter, Audrey, taken in 1920Contributed by Heather Adam, Adelaide, South Australia
These are my grandparents, Blanche and Charles Smith, with my mother, Audrey, taken in 1920. Blanche lost her first baby in the Spanish flu epidemic in 1918.

Photo Corner: WWI Era

20080418 Catherine E Hughes 1917-1919 w-Doughboys!.bmpHere’s a photo of my grandmother, Catherine E Hughes (second from the left in the bottom row) of Minooka, PA with some other girls and doughboys. The photo would be from 1917-18.  They are probably at one of the camps to which the boys from home were sent for training before going overseas.
My grandmother was born in 1892. She would have been twenty-five years old at the time of this photo. Again, a guess, but I think the others in the photo are in their twenties.
Thank you for your interest in family photos.
Most sincerely,
Kate Brundage

Click on the image to enlarge it.

37 Million* historical French–Canadian names launch online: Drouin Collection logo.bmp346 years of Quebec vital records searchable online for the first time – largest collection

  • Largest collection of French-Canadian records in existence
  • Famous names descended from those listed include Celine Dion, Madonna, William Shatner and John Labatt
  • Original images available

(Montreal, QC – April 8 2008), Canada’s leading family history website, today announced the online launch of the fully searchable indexes for the historic Drouin Collection, which contains Quebec records spanning 346 years from 1621 to 1967.

Starting with 29 million names for the years 1850 to 1967, the indexes will include 37 million names in baptism, marriage and burial records, and also a compilation of church records from Ontario, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and various New England states, when complete in mid-2008.

Included in The Drouin Collection are the ancestors of some of Canada’s most famous French-Canadians and Quebeckers such as Pierre Trudeau, William Shatner, John Labatt and Henri and Maurice Richard. (original images available)

Family history enthusiasts can also trace their lineage back to the founding families of Quebec and Acadia, which includes that of Zacharie Cloutier, a common ancestor of distant cousins Celine Dion, Madonna and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall. (Cloutier family tree / original images available)

From the early 1600s, the Catholic parishes of Quebec kept meticulous records of their members’ baptisms, marriages and burials. The Quebec Government soon required the Catholic Church to provide it with copies of all its records and in doing so became the central holder for Quebec’s vital records. 

In 1899 a lawyer named Joseph Drouin founded The Drouin Genealogical Institute, using Quebec’s vital records to research and sell family genealogies. His son Gabriel assumed stewardship in 1938, dedicating himself to microfilming and indexing Quebec’s vital records; this important work formed what became the Institute’s principal reference collection.

The collection remained the property of the Institute until Gabriel’s death in 1980, after which it was sold to the genealogist Jean-Pierre Pepin who created The Drouin Institute, which was dedicated to preserving the collection intact and in Quebec.

Recognising its historical significance, secured the right to host the collection online.  It launched the original images – more than 12 million in total – in 2007, and in partnership with The University of Montreal has now indexed the collection to make it searchable online for the first time.

The Drouin Collection can be searched in French or English language by name, date, place, church or institution, and religion. Continue reading

Weekly Planner: File That Pile

Don’t feel guilt-ridden. It happens. If you’re starting to see large stacks of papers popping up around your workspace, break them down into smaller piles, perhaps sorting by surname first. Then grab a pile each day and spend a half hour filing and making sure information has been entered in your family history database. A half hour a day won’t seem like much and soon you’ll have your files in order again.

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Using Ancestry: U.S. IRS Tax Assessment Records, by Juliana Smith

IRS Tax Lists-Excise.bmpOn the day before the 15 April tax deadline, there aren’t a whole lot of people with the “warm and fuzzies” for the IRS, but this year family historians may soften their opinion of that particular government institution thanks to a new database at In last week’s newsletter you may have seen links to a new database–U.S. IRS Tax Assessment Lists, 1862-1918. (Click on the image to enlarge a sample from this collection.) This week I had a chance to dig deeper into this database and I’m ready to share what I’ve learned.

About the Records
Because of the cost of the Civil War, the American government was in need of money. As a result, the first income tax (for individuals) was enacted by Congress in July of 1862. Most of the Confederate states were not initially taxed, but as they came under federal
control, taxes were imposed.

This income tax was challenged after the war, but it was not until 1895 that the Supreme Court ruled that the tax was unconstitutional. (In 1913, the sixteenth amendment would re-impose the income tax.) Upon the 1895 ruling, the individual tax returns of our ancestors were destroyed, but the assessors’ lists were retained because they included references to licenses and other taxes. Those that survived the years were eventually microfilmed by the National Archives. Within these records–in addition to income taxes–you’ll see taxes on watches, pianos, carriages, estates, silver, billiard tables, and
securities, as well as various other items. Continue reading

Burned Counties, by Michael John Neill

The courthouse burned. What do I do? Research in “burned counties” that have suffered a record loss may be possible, but it requires persistence and a willingness to turn over as many stones as possible. This week we take a look at some techniques that may be helpful.

Get Beyond the Destruction
Determine exactly what records were destroyed. Was it the entire courthouse? Was it a certain office in the courthouse? Were some records housed offsite and not destroyed? Do not assume that all county records were burned just because someone told you so, or because you read it on a message board or website.

Were any records re-recorded after the incident? Deeds and other records of property ownership may have been recorded again after the fire. (Remember landowners generally kept the original deed; the courthouse has a copy.) For records that were created in the normal course of business after the destruction, keep an open mind. Pay particular attention to deeds and other documents where ownership of property might have been an issue, especially ownership before the fire. These documents may specifically mention former owners or imply who those owners were.

Settlements of estate or some court records may mention events and relationships as they were before the fire. Search carefully for estate settlements of any family members who died without descendants—even if the death was fifty or more years after the records were destroyed. These records could be located a significant distance from the burned county. The records of the disbursements from their estate may mention heirs and or relationships dating back a hundred years. Continue reading