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.