Sunday, December 22, 2013

Family Tree for Kids class

Holidays are a great time for family recipes. Using your grandma's recipe, written in her handwriting, is a way to remember holidays shared with her.  In addition to using family recipes, gathered families tell stories and take and share photos. A regret of many people is that they didn't get some of those family stories from their grandparents and other relatives when they had the chance. Now, when they are interested in family history, they have lost a valuable resource.

That is why the library is offering the My Family Tree for Kids classes in December. Besides having a chance to visit with relatives, students are out of school, and starting a family tree is a great activity. Organizations such as 4-H and Scouts have projects or badges that involve genealogy, so students can get a head start!  It is thanks to the Friends of the Library that we can offer these classes for free.

Our classes will be offered on Saturday, December 28. The morning class, from 9:30-11, is open to grades 3-6, and the afternoon class, from 2-3:30, is open to grades 7-12. The registration deadline says December 22, but if you know someone in 3rd-12th grades who is interested in learning genealogy, they can still sign up! Give us a call at 522-3412 x 1243 or register online at

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

New ST ViewScan machines

If you haven't visited the local history section recently, you should stop by and see the two new ST ViewScan machines.

They are easy to use, with a single switch to turn on the ViewScan.  The monitor is vertical, so you can view an entire newspaper page at once.  You can view, crop and edit from the same screen, without having to toggle back and forth between programs, and several crops can be saved to the same page.  Then, cropped articles can be printed, emailed or saved to a flash drive.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Genealogy in Family History Month

Two GenTalks, two repeat sessions of online genealogy searching and a session on research at courthouses and other government facilities are planned at the Seymour Library for October -- Family History Month.

The GenTalks are where we discuss our genealogical successes -- how we solved a problem -- as well as the places where our ancestors have stonewalled us. Sometimes a suggestion or two from others at the session for finding the elusive ones can work wonders to get us thinking of new ways to succeed.

GenTalks will begin at 6 pm Wednesdays, October 13 and 20, in the Seymour Library meeting room. Registration isn't required but is appreciated by calling 522-3412 ext 243 for either or both sessions. Questions can be addressed to me, the local history specialist, at 522-3412 ext 240.

The Family History Mystery series will continue with Gathering Clues Online: More Census, Lots of Records, and All Those Books. These sessions in the computer classroom at Seymour will meet at 10 am Thursday, October 14, or 6 pm Tuesday, October 19. The October 19 session will be more or less a repeat of the first and you are welcome to sign up for one or both. The class is repeated to give participants a choice of hours.

More and more genealogy can be done online every day, as long as you pay attention to the sources. Those in my classes hear me say again and again the theme from the X-Files: Trust No One! That applies especially to data entered without sources but you need to check the sources as well. You may have a different interpretation of what's there.

What makes online genealogy so much fun is that you can do in a weekend what once may have taken years. You just have to think of the various ways to search! And you probably will have more than a couple of windows open at a time. That's what we will be talking about -- more than about specific databases. Sign-up can be done by calling 522-3412 ext 243.

The final class for the month is Courthouse and Government Navigation Basics at 10 am Thursday, October 21. Government records are my favorite because I often have found so much more than I expected. Government records can help put flesh on the ancestral bones, giving a more complete picture of how the families lived.

What are you going to do to observe Family History Month? Hope you can join us ... !

-- Charlotte

Friday, August 13, 2010

Family History Mystery Series Starts

The Jackson County Public Library’s popular and free Family History Mystery classes will begin again in September as the Seymour Library also introduces its reorganized reference and local history area.

Registration for the classes is open now and is encouraged to help with planning by calling the library at 522-3412 ext. 240. Researchers also are invited to stop by for a tour of the new area.

Our researchers have more room to spread out now. Researchers looking for families any place in the United States and in some other countries will find material they can use in their searches. Online databases and microfilm supplement the print collection.

The local material is in the same shelves it has been for several years. Surrounding counties, military and Indiana state materials plus non-circulating “how to” volumes also are along the north wall of the area behind the Information Services Desk.

Family histories are on the shelves on the south side of the local history area as are city directories and phone books from years past. The Indiana Magazine of History also is on those shelves while materials for other Indiana counties, other states and the colonies are in nearby shelves. Yearbooks still may be requested at the IS Desk.

The library has local newspapers and local government records among its microfilm holdings in the same area.

In addition to classes this fall, the library will continue its GenTalk series of roundtable discussions focusing on moving past the stone walls that hold back research. Those sessions will begin at 6 pm Wednesdays, September 22, and October 13 and 20 during Family History Month.

Individuals are invited to bring their charts and tell how they have gotten to the point they are unable to move past in their research. The group then will suggest possibilities for finding additional information and generations.

The Family History Mystery series will focus first on Puzzle Pieces: The Census, Obituaries, Directories and Your Ancestor in Time and will present ideas for finding information and organizing search results. That class will meet in the computer classroom at 6:30 pm Wednesday, September 8; 10 am Thursday, September 16; or 6:30 pm Tuesday, September 28. The class is repeated to give participants a choice of days and hours.

The second Family History Mystery class will focus on Gathering Clues Online: More Census, Lots of Records, and All Those Books. Participants may choose between a class at 10 am Thursday, October 14, or 6 pm Tuesday, October 19. With a timeline underway, participants will learn where to look for more information about their ancestors.

The third class will consider Courthouse and Government Navigation Basics at 10 am Thursday, October 21. Records kept by various government entities can help create a fuller picture of an ancestor’s life. Land records, apprenticeships, taxes, military service and court actions are among records that also include births, marriages and deaths.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Data Mining = Detail 'Gold'

It took me 20 years to find some of the basics about my father’s cousin Harvey. Then I ran his name through Google Books ... and I ran his wife’s maiden name ... and then, for good measure, I ran his employer’s name.

When I was a little kid not much interested in jewelry, Harvey’s widow sent my father a locket with no photos inside and a pair of gold cuff links – all gold in color but I still don’t know if they have monetary value.

I was more interested in the story that Harvey had been a gold miner – maybe in Washington or Oregon or even Alaska. That spelled adventure to a kid. Still does! I’ve seen two versions of Call of the Wild! And I have to wonder if Harvey read the novel that came out when he was a young man and decided to light out ...

My father didn’t know much about Harvey who was a couple of decades older. From obits and courthouse records BW (before web), I learned a bit about Harvey’s family. Sad. His mother was committed to a state hospital. His little sister died of illness at age 13. His younger brother eventually joined the mother at the state hospital after a series of events around his hometown that must have embarrassed a young man in the early 1900s.

From a WWI draft registration I found Harvey in Alaska and connected him to his father in St. Joe, MO ... where I found his father’s new family and more sadness. Again from court records I learned that Harvey occasionally returned to Indiana to take care of his mother’s and his brother’s affairs ... including her funeral. I began to like Harvey when I read that he purchased gravestones for his mother and his sister – who were buried in separate cemeteries.

From funeral records I learned that Harvey’s widow, Grace, nearly 40 years later sent money for the funeral and burial of Harvey’s brother, although I don’t believe she ever met him. These were people who took care of what they saw as obligations.

In the small farm community where Harvey grew up I found a letter he had written from Alaska to a friend who shared it with the local newspaper which had been indexed by the library. That letter gave me a timeframe and clues to a place, an employer, and an occupation. I dabbled deeply in online sources that then were becoming available and kissed a few frogs that did not morph into Harvey.

I assumed Harvey and Grace had retired to Cincinnati, Ohio, where she once had lived. From an Ohio death certificate for Grace I learned the sister’s married surname and contacted her family. With a telephone call I learned that Harvey had died in the state of Washington not long after I was born. His widow had returned to Cincinnati to live with her sister, which explained why my efforts to find Harvey there had been so frustrating. Before that weekend ended, a helpful researcher in Washington had emailed me Harvey’s obit.

But I still didn’t know much about Harvey’s life. Grace’s grand-nephew (I believe) thought that, when he had accompanied his grandmother on visits, the couple had existed in pretty hard circumstances, but he had been a little boy and didn’t remember a lot. I’m not a name-date-place collector. I wanted details.

How did Harvey meet Grace? When and where were they married? Why did they leave their Alaskan island for Washington? Census excursions answered some of those questions. Grace was enumerated in 1920 as a 43-year-old single nurse in a native village on the opposite side of the same huge island where Harvey, 38, had been an electrician at a copper mine in his 1918 draft registration.

From the Alaska State Library Google found online photos of the copper mines, of the native village where Grace lived, and of the marble quarry where Harvey and Grace spent 1930.

Enter Google books. The first thing I remember finding was a lawsuit about a contested election: James Wickersham versus Charles Sulzer. I’m not sure it was even separated out as Google Books at that time. Could the Mr. Sellers mentioned in that document from the Government Printing Office possibly be the Harvey I was researching? I’d never heard anything about him doing anything besides mining and I was skeptical. He was a marble quarry watchman in 1930.

From online newspapers I learned that indeed Harvey had been more or less a campaign manager for Sulzer who had been elected to Congress from Alaska Territory. Google found a photo of Sulzer campaigning with two younger men, one of whom I feel sure is Harvey.

Googling the names told me that Sulzer was a brother of the New York governor who fought Tammany Hall and that he died before returning to Washington DC to take office after winning a contested election race against James Wickersham. The lawsuit I had found was against Charles Sulzer, deceased. It provided some campaign details from the parties’ varying viewpoints.

But I still didn’t know what Grace was doing in Alaska until I googled her maiden name. I learned that Grace’s arrival and assistance had been greatly anticipated by the head nurse who had written a profile of the village as well as describing her work for the publication of the Presbyterian organization that sponsored them. Without Google Books I never would have found that connection.

I also found that Charles Sulzer had written agricultural experiment station reports on the garden at the copper mine for some of the years that Harvey had been employed. Who knew you could grow vegetables in Alaska? Okay, I’ve learned a bit about Alaska since then – especially Alaska Territory. Love those government publications!

Best of all I learned – again by searching Google Books – that Harvey had been a weather observer for years, reporting temperatures and precipitation for his isolated location. The end of the reports gives me a possible time for Grace and Harvey’s move to the Lower 48.

I return irregularly to these online publications that grow by the day. My hope is to “data mine” more of the detail “gold” I almost certainly would not have found without searching Google Books.

© 2010 Charlotte Sellers