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

Friday, June 18, 2010

Books for Genealogy?

Books? Use books to do genealogy?

It’s an old concept, but despite frequent reminders, beginners and experienced alike often forget not everything for finding family history is online and not all that is online is easily found.

So it was a delight to hear one of our Local History volunteers – one who has attended several of our “how to” genealogy classes where books are mentioned and sometimes displayed – exclaim as she helped with relocating some materials the other day – “I didn’t know that was here. I need to come back in and look at these books.”

And next day she did come back and look through them, apparently finding some new information.

Volunteers now helping with some changes to the collection are LuAnn Scott and Lisa Gentry.

The library’s genealogy and local history-hunting classes are off for the summer but those interested in getting started on their family history or in tackling some of the research problems they have encountered are welcome to come on in! If you want to be sure the Local History Specialist is in on a particular day, call ahead, 812-522-3412 ext 256.

Among the books that can help with some things not in all cases online are those related to Ohio and in particular restored Hamilton County marriage records (the courthouse really did burn – three times between 1814 and 1884, according to the Genealogical Society there) and various other Cincinnati and Hamilton County government and church records. German settlers weren’t the only ones who stopped in the Queen City on their way to Jackson County and other points west.

All 2000 pages of Gateway to the West – excerpted from Ohio newspapers – also are on the shelf … or you can search the full text of the books online without charge on Google Books, then come into the library to look for more – again without charge.

Information is … where you find it!

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Timelines Book

Check out a brief look at a book newly cataloged in the Local History area at the Seymour Library ...

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

If You Don't Do Genealogy Today ...

... then when? If you don't come to a beginning genealogy class in May ... then when?

Sure, you have lots of other things to do. But if your family history is something you've always planned to seek out, there's no better time -- and you owe it to yourself.

When you find out about your family -- or families, actually, because every generation you go back adds a new female line for each male, new stories, new surprises -- when you find out about your family you may look at yourself differently.

You may not always be proud of every action of every one of your ancestors, but you may gain understanding. Most likely you will find many actions in which to take pride -- actions never mentioned in the family but actions that show up in the records when you read between the lines.

Every Thursday is Genealogists Day Out at the Library ... where beginners and more experienced researchers alike participate in GenTalk, to share what they have found that works or what they know about a place they have researched.

Join us in May and June when we return to basics -- how to set up your genealogy, how combine searching records in person with searching online where resources grow each day no matter in which states your ancestors resided.

You can register for the free classes by calling 522-3412 ext. 240 or drop by in case there's an open seat in the classroom. Not required but helpful are basic computer experience (the library also offers free computer classes to help you get started with that) and a JCPL library card.

Here's the class schedule for May and June -- with an evening class for those who can't come during the day:
Tuesday, May 4, 6:30-8 pm -- Beginning genealogy
Thursdays, 10-11:30 am:
May 6, Beginning genealogy
May 13, Searching databases
June 10, Beginning genealogy
June 17, Searching databases

Let us know if you need a different day or time and we'll try to set up a class.

Now's the time ...

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Classes for March & April

Here's a look at GenTalk classes and discussions planned for 10 am Thursdays in March and April. More March details in a couple of weeks ... although the titles are pretty self explanatory.

March 4 - Getting started with census & directories
March 11 - Mining obituaries & published histories
March 18 - Using other databases
March 25 - Organizing & regrouping
April 1 - Tracing tricky ancestors
April 8, 15 - No classes, local history specialist away from the library. You still can come and research on your own!
April 22 - Googling for genealogists

April 10 I'll be attending the annual conference of the Indiana Genealogical Society at the Genealogy Center in Fort Wayne. I hope some of the rest of you can go as well. Dick Eastman, whose online newsletter you've probably seen, will be the featured speaker.
April 29 - Genealogy software: uses & choices

Friday, February 5, 2010

County Records Update

The high cost of preserving records essential to Jackson County's past -- records important for both official business and historical research -- became the main topic of discussion Thursday at the latest meeting of the Jackson County Commission on Public Records.

Actually storing the records also was touched on. Afterward the Commission secretary, County Clerk Sarah Benter, gave me a quick guided tour of the record storage areas she and the folks in her office have straightened over the past several months. The room appears lighter and cleaner as well.

Attending the meeting as Jackson County Historian, I was the only visitor joining the four of seven commission members present. With a quorum they were able to conduct the little business to come before them Thursday.

During the discussion the county recorder, Traci Hubbard, said it costs about $2,500 each to preserve the deed books in her office by having the pages given an acid bath and then encapsulated before being returned to book form. The process also doubles the size of the record books.

Space use and needs have been discussed for years by the county commissioners and council members who conducted another hearing last fall and promised a professional study of space would be underway soon. As far as anyone knew, no action has been taken toward that study.
The record commissioners are more understanding than I, even though I know the county commissioners have many other things about which to be concerned. The records have been neglected for years. Few elected to the offices make time to learn about the old records or to care for their preservation.

Clerk Benter has been an exception. While she is the first to say the changes she has made are not perfect, I will be among the first to say the changes are welcome. I haven't had a chance recently to research in the basement storage area, but I was impressed with the changes since last time I visited.

Sarah and her crew now have a system for the files back to 1911. It's a bit convoluted but it seems workable to follow across a run of records here, then move around the corner along another run before jumping to another area where the numbers continue in order. Hooray! And plans are to add years to the case numbers on the boxes.

For my purposes, I wish the same order existed in the pre-1911 records. I still want to find Seymour Barmore's 1860s divorce packet. But what a job it must have been to organize the folders back to 1911 from the stacked and sagging chaos in which they had been stored. The files now should be much easier for Sarah and her clerks to access. She said some of the files are needed almost daily.

Sarah also is responsible for some of those big old books that are hard to handle. Most of them now are vertical, rather than stacked on top of one another, and will be at least a bit easier to locate and maneuver. She re-used some of the old shelving to get books off the floor in another storage area. It's a great start.

The re-organization also will give whoever follows Sarah Benter in the office a year or two of breathing room before storage becomes a problem again. Well done, Sarah!

And thank you or caring about the records and the people who use them. We can only hope the next person in the office becomes as knowledgeable about the records as you have -- and that those who use the books will show respect in handling them and will take time to return them to their proper place.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Genealogists' Days Out in February

Genealogists' Day Out @ the Seymour Library will continue on Thursdays this month. Remember you can come for an hour or stay and research all day.

If you want to join the computer classroom discussions at 10 am, we'd appreciate having you call the library at 522-3412 ext. 243 to register ... but if there's room in the class, you're welcome to sit in anyway. We will understand if the weather is bad that you might not want to venture out.

GenTalk this Thursday, February 4, will find us talking about ships and immigration. Tell us what you know that may help others in the class. We will all learn together!

February 11 we will concentrate on how to search Heritage Quest Online and Ancestry Library Edition. There's a lot more than census to help find ancestors on these sites. The Books section has directories and county histories as well as family histories. The Revolutionary War section has scanned images of pension application papers. The Freedman's Bank and the Serial Set have many more names.

February 18 we will take a look at finding more print and online articles as well as book chapters to help with your research. Even if your ancestor's name isn't in the article, you may learn about the place the ancestor lived or the occupation or some other bit of information that can break through a stone wall. Many articles give tips on how to look a particular kind of information or record.

February 25 will find us exploring more online databases that we can access for free or for fee. You can visit the library's local history website at to view some of the databases. Bring any questions or comments you have on using the databases.