Great Sources


I’m settling into a new office at work, family members are moving out of long held homes, and I’m still piecing through a collection of materials from my Great Aunt’s passing. It’s fascinating what you can find at  times like this—long lost photos, documents you had to hunt down or send away for because no one knew they actually had them tucked away, and odds and ends you would never have thought to look for.

A handful of interesting examples we’ve found include:

Grandma Shea’s Sears charge card giving me an address I hadn’t had before and a glimpse into the history of credit cards that I had never thought about–it’s a metal plate. I’d never seen one like it.

20160109_153935

Grandpa Johnson’s ration card (1942), a sobering bit of United States history:

johnsonwmerationbooka

Or 3rd Great Grandfather Cornelius Packer’s Naturalization papers… Yes, I had already tracked the packet down at the Archives of Michigan but the journey is just as important as the document in hand and I needed that experience of researching at the Archives:

packer2ndnatpapers

Have you found anything interesting or odd?

Happy hunting!

Jess

 

So the summer got away from me—with major work projects, a career crossroads, and the follow-up from the eventual decision—I’ve been a bit stuck in my own head and not venturing out enough in the world or in my research…. However, I made it through and I’m on the road in Springfield, Illinois for FGS2016.

SpringfieldSunset

Springfield, Illinois Sunset

Yesterday was Society Day at the Federation of  Genealogical Societies’s Conference and I spent a great deal of time soaking up ideas for encouraging society growth, creative programming, and all around building excitement for societies and institutions. And I am reminded that I have gotten so much help, training, and solid research assistance from most of the genealogical societies I have connected with, whether as a member or visitor. They are tremendous resources.

In my second start in genealogy in the late 1990s, I had the good fortune of stumbling into the Western Michigan Genealogical Society—an established, extremely active, and nationally involved (#ngs2018gen! woot!) society. They do so much right—they are forward thinking, very welcoming, and (again) so active! Over the years I have participated in annual seminars, informative monthly meetings, bus trips, indexing projects (yes, Sue, I owe you files still!). They work with their local library on history programs and lock-ins, they have a writers group, educational classes, and a DNA special interest group—If I lived locally I’d probably try to do everything. As it is, I travel an hour to get to meetings (not nearly as often as I’d like).

That said WMGS isn’t the only society I belong to. There are societies that I belong to because they cover areas I’m researching, or focus on ethnic groups that I’m working with, or they are a national society offering a great overview of the national scene—along with a fabulous journal.  I can’t belong to every society that I would like to but I shoot for as many as possible. Again, they are totally worth it. For example:

I know many societies are looking for more involvement and fresh ideas in hopes of rebuilding membership and gaining community notice—pretty much the theme of Society Day—but to all the hard-working officers and volunteers that have all but single-handedly dragged their societies along for years… good on you and thank you! It’s time for more of us to step up and make all of our societies more successful.

Happy hunting (joining and volunteering),

Jess

PackerAlbum27One of my winter projects was to write about my family’s experiences during the height of the Tuberculosis epidemic in the late 19th and early 20th century.  That means I have a nice list of resources I’d suggest for people researching in this era. My primary focus has obviously been Michigan but if you’re researching a TB patient or anyone involved in the epidemic—activists, medical staff, etc.—consider that there could have been a comparable organization in the area you’re researching.

Track down the Tubercular hospitals, such as the Michigan State Sanatorium (pictured above), for which you can find:

  • Patient records held by the Archives of Michigan and available with death certificate of patient.
  • Historical collections regarding the hospital held by Howell Carnegie Library
  • Reports of the Board of Trustees held by the Library of Michigan, some available through Google Books
  • Michigan Official Directory and Legislative Manual. Includes a short history of the Sanatorium with a listing of the Board of trustees.
  • Tuberculosis Hospital and Sanatorium Construction by Thomas Spees Carrington, National Association for the Study and Prevention of Tuberculosis, New York, 1911.

Find out how the locale you’re researching responded to the epidemic. For Michigan that includes State reports and Legislation:

  • Report of the Tuberculosis Survey of the State Board of Health compiled under the supervision of John L. Burkart, by the authority of the State Board of Health, Lansing, Michigan, 1917.
  • Public Health (quarterly periodical) by the Michigan State Board of Health, Lansing, Michigan. 1907-1951.
  • Michigan Tuberculosis Association Records, held by Michigan State University Archives and Historical Collections.
  • Ralph H. Childs/Grand Rapids Anti-Tuberculosis Society Collection held by Grand Rapids Public Library.

Broader discussion of the treatment of Tuberculosis:

  • The Open Air Treatment of Pulmonary Tuberculosis by F. W. Burton-Fanning, Cassell and Company LTD, 1909.
  • Clinical Tuberculosis by Francis Marion Pottenger, Second Edition, 2 Vol., C.V. Mosby Company, St Louis, 1922.

It’s fascinating and often heartbreaking research.

Happy hunting,

Jess

O0019I forget how interesting it is to look through a newspaper like The Chicago Defender, a current and historic African American newspaper, because it’s not something I have normal access to. I spent most of the first day of a recent WMGS bus trip to Allen County Public Library’s Genealogy Center, searching Proquest’s African American Historical Newspapers (available for on-site use) for news of Bradley County, Arkansas. The Chicago Defender had fairly regular columns sharing news from Arkansas including a column specifically on Warren. It featured the comings and goings of many of my collateral and direct line families, society news, the occasional obituary, etc. My favorite finds include those related to my Great Aunt Rachel C. (York) Elliott. A few examples include:

Mar 30, 1957

Mrs. Henrietta Moman and Mrs. R. C. [Elliott] motored to Little Rock to visit Mrs. Elliot’s brother, Fred York, who is ill in the University hospital. We hope he gets well soon.

Immediately followed by…

The Usher board sponsored a tea in the home of R. C. Elliott. Union Hill Baptist Church usher board was co-sponsor. It was a great success.

Sep 27, 1958

Mrs. T. R. Alexander and Mrs. R. C. Eliott motored to Little Rock on business last week and reported that the trip was very successful.

Fellow Bradley county researchers, if you’re looking for a little more color to your family stories and haven’t dived into this resource there are entries on Mount Olive and Union Hill families in particular with heavy coverage of the Feaster, Wilfong, Webb, Steppes, Terry, Phillips and related families and I definitely didn’t go through everything available–mostly focusing on Mrs. Mattie M. Burnett’s run as columnist (very) roughly from 1952-1962. There’s definitely earlier runs with different columnists as well.

Happy hunting,

Jess

Family History Month has turned out to be an eventful and fun one for me. I never followed up on my experiences at Western Michigan Genealogical Society’s Got Ancestors?! program but it was yet another success for WMGS with great presentations by D. Joshua Taylor. I’d recommend any of his talks but the Friday night presentation “Genealogy in Prime Time,” while giving a lot of fun and interesting information about Josh’s work on Who Do You think You Are? and Genealogy Roadshow, really resonated with me when it came to the message of providing the story—that’s what gets people hooked on, not the long lists of names and dates. Saturday’s presentations were equally informative and entertaining. As an Archivist I wanted to get up and cheer when Josh presented on researching in archives. And in his presentation, “Census, Vital Records and Locality Searching,” I was reminded that I haven’t spent nearly enough time exploring the census non-population schedules.

Additionally, I had a lot of fun at Family Tree Talk at Capital Area District Libraries South Lansing Branch. The group had great questions and I’m really hoping to visit again as more of a participant.  They meet on the third Saturday of the month at 2 pm.

I also had a great experience presenting for the Mid-Michigan Genealogical Society last night. They normally meet on the fourth Wednesdays, February-June and September-November (with November’s date bumped earlier to stay away from the Thanksgiving holiday).  Their next meeting will be November 18th featuring a speaker on Scottish Ancestry.

I have also learned from another project that I really wish I had French Canadian Catholic ancestry! What beautifully detailed records in the Drouin Collection! In baptismal record alone you get: Name, parents name with mother’s maiden name, father’s job, birth date, baptism, godparents, godfather’s occupation, and sometimes explanations of how they are related to the child. Combine that and the marriage records and if you’re careful (and the handwriting is legible) you actually may be able to go back in a straight line on your ancestors.

SampleDrouinThe sample document is a baptismal records for Rose Anna Herminise Plamondon, naming her the legitimate child of Louis Plamondon, shoemaker, and Adelina Lapierre of St. Jean Baptiste Parish in Montréal, Quebec Canada. It also names her godparents as Jean Baptiste and Rose Anna Plamondon, brother and sister of the infant.

Happy hunting,

Jess

While I am plotting possible roadtrips… I’m also trying to make full use of the resources I have access to at home so I’ll be talking about a few databases I’ve found—some within Ancestry and some outside it—in a few posts.

SSDIIn case you missed it—and thank you Anne and Jeff for bringing it to my attention—Ancestry.com added a new and fabulous database at the end of July. The U.S., Social Security Applications and Claims Index, 1936-2007 expands on the information in the Social Security Death Index (sample to the right) including parents’ names, actual death dates; and various forms of the name (married names, middle names) used at different times in the person’s life.

YorkEdSandyI haven’t had time to fully mine this resource but my find of the week is the transcript of my Great Uncle Edward Sandy York’s application. Other than finding out his middle name was Sandy (after his father), it is also the first document I have found that has offered a possible maiden name for my 2nd Great Grandmother Agnes. He listed her as Agnes Ingram.

This is a particularly useful resource for maiden names, married names you might not have heard before, residences to explore, etc. For one of my cousins it listed two extra married names opening up a whole other line of inquiry.  Login in at home or head out to your library or archives and dive in to this new resource.

Happy hunting,

Jess

When you feel like you’ve run out of records and the trip to New York seems impossible to plan right now… what do you do? I tend to start researching the locations, ideally to unearth more records. For this particular branch of the tree that meant researching Jefferson and St. Lawrence Counties in New York.  By looking through the St. Lawrence County Historical Association’s website I discovered the NYS Historic Newspapers project—a fabulous resource for New York researchers! Again, newspapers are the perfect resource for finding out the dirt on our black sheep relatives—what sells in the news business has not really changed… scandal and crime being top of the list. And that’s how I learned another piece of Michael O’Shea’s story.

OSheaMWatertownReunion18860428I was aware of Michael’s existence. He was an Irish immigrant and tailor in Upstate New York. I believe he is a close relative of my 3rd Great Grandfather, Patrick Shea or O’Shea and I know the men married sisters, Amy and Theresa McCumber, and the two couples were listed consecutively in the 1850 United States Census in Philadelphia, Jefferson County, New York. I had already found evidence that Michael and his wife were buried at St Patrick’s Cemetery in Rossie, New York (as was Patrick). But that was pretty much the total of my information prior to finding the newspapers.

Upon searching the NYS Historic Newspapers, I learned that Michael stopped by the hotel of George McLear in Rossie for drinks twice on the 21st of April 1886 and then while walking home that night fell into the Indian River. He was first reported missing but his body washed ashore days later.

OSheaMHisdeathwasnolossIn response, his widow, Amy, filed a civil suit against the hotel owner for serving Michael. The story plays out in articles in a number of the region’s newspapers in two counties as the case was tried, overturned and pursued again later by Michael’s daughter Rosanna. Ultimately the O’Shea’s lost the case when the defense persuaded the jury that Michael wasn’t that drunk and it had been a very dark night to be out walking without a lantern and it was likely just an accident.

His history of drinking didn’t serve the family well either as the defendant in the first trial remarked, “his death was no loss to the plaintiff as he was a worthless fellow and did nothing to support his wife.”

Ouch!

Happy hunting,

Jess

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