Your Quick Tips, 02 February 2009

Institutional Records at the State Historical Society
My father’s family had all been placed in state homes and the mother institutionalized. I found one Aunt in Minnesota. I wanted to know more about the circumstance surrounding why they had been taken away from their parents. My father had told stories that he knew. For years I kept most of the stories in my head and a few years back began to search for them. I found a lot of them thanks to ancestry, but the story was yet to be found. I found the institution where they had lived was closed in 1976 (Sparta Wisconsin) and after a trip back there found all the records were placed in boxes and were stored at the State Historical Society. It took a copy of my fathers death Certificate and communication with the head historian to find some of the answers. Now I have a much better understanding of what took place back then and the laws of the times.
Maybe this will help someone else.

Pre-1850 Census Records
I enjoyed your article about using early census records.  I happen to be among those who find them useful, as you do.  They’ve helped me determine approximately when the mother died, for example.  In one case, I could infer that the missing brother had moved in with his flock, thus explaining why he had disappeared from a certain census.

One other comment I would offer is this–during that period, many children did not attend school past the early grades, especially on the frontiers.  So if the family was large, children past the age of fourteen – or even younger – went to work and live on other farms where they could earn a little money, or at least be given board.

As you mentioned, there were numerous other instances of people living with other than their nuclear family.  After the influx of Irish immigrants, many families took in extras as servants, especially in upstate New York.  Also, each town had a committee for the poor, and the solution to caring for the indigents was often to pay a certain family for taking them in. There seemed to be far more flexibility in living arrangements in those times, especially for teenagers between school and marriage. For example, a girl might be sent to her sister’s house to care for a passel of babies, a boy to help on his uncle’s farm. Teens did not enjoy a life of leisure, as many do now.   

Thanks for all your thoughtful articles!

Shirley Roemer

Curl Up with a Good Book
Here is the best tip that I can give. If you want to know what it was like for your ancestors, instead of automatically doing a name search and then moving on to the next research target, grab a warm drink, snuggle under a blanket, and read an entire old book. I just spent several days reading, “Forty-two years amongst the Indians and Eskimo: pictures from the life of the Right Reverend John Horden, first bishop of Moosonee.” It was fascinating and inspirational to read of the love and dedication to service that Rev. Horden had for the northern people of Canada. Gone is an idealized vision of what life was like in the days before cars. For whoever decided to make these old accounts available to everyone, thank you! I have a renewed vision of what joyful and unselfish service looks like.

Cheryl Horn

AWJ Editor’s Note: Forty-two years amongst the Indians and Eskimo is among the local histories available to Ancestry members.

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One thought on “Your Quick Tips, 02 February 2009

  1. Institutional Records.
    My great grandfather was institutionalized in New York State. He died in 1906. The records are now under the control of the Department of Education. They refuse to give me any information even though I provided them copies all kinds of documentation. Their reason? “patient confidentiality”. If you can understand this you are better than I – he’s been dead 103 years ! ! ! ! ! ! Please give me a logical reason, I would appreciate it.

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