Friday, December 4, 2009

Three Reasons You Need Local History Books

In our heart of hearts, we know the benefit digging into local history books. But with more information available online, we may be less inclined to head for the library. Also, as Rita Marshall points out in her article, "Three Reasons You Need Local History Books," when were are enjoying a great bit of success in our research using other resources, it's easy to bypass the often "thick, somber history books detailing a town's history." And yet, local histories often contain hidden gems we that are hard to anticipate. The article offers insight into different ways local histories might be used. It's also important to note that many local histories can be found online at no charge; it's worth entering the title into your favorite search engine to see if the book you seek is offered in full text format -- some offer previews only. However, not all local histories will be offered online, free or otherwise, which means, back to the library: it's worth the trip.

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Thursday, February 5, 2009

Licensed Ordinaries: Liquor Licensure Throughout American History

Although hard to imagine today, there was a time when towns were required by law to have a tavern and tavern ownership was a government appointment . . . "with perks." Seems THAT tradition goes back a long way. In her article, "Licensed Ordinaries: Liquor Licensure Throughout American History," Judy Rosella Edwards shares the background of early "ordinaries" and their role in the community.

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Friday, January 16, 2009

Weathering the past

A column earlier this month on, "What does the weather have to do with genealogy," encourages us to examine how weather may have affected our ancestors. The article notes, the 1595 writings of a minister named John King, "Our years are turned upside down; our summers are no summers; our harvests are no harvests." The article continues: Something was happening to the earth which greatly affect our ancestors. Temperatures were getting colder. The article goes on to explore the "Little Ice Age," and what was happening during this time period. My own family lived through the 1930s dust storms and I remember my mother telling how she just cried trying to keep the dust out. Many suffered lung damage and died  -- those caught outside in the storm, if they didn't perish, may have been blinded. So, indeed, weather has something to do with genealogy.  Again, local area histories and local newspapers, in addition to family letters and journals, are a good place to begin exploring the weather in your ancestors' time and place.

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Thursday, January 15, 2009

Myths of the Fathers

We all have them -- stories of family connections to famous (or infamous) people. In her latest article, "Myths of the Fathers," Gena Philibert-Ortega offers some practical ideas for verifying the fact or fiction of those stories.

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Thursday, November 6, 2008

Online State Encyclopedias

Researching the local area history of one's ancestors is key to genealogy research, and local area histories for your town and county interest are a primary resource. In her article, "Online State Encyclopedias," Gena Philibert-Ortega offers another resource along with links for those available. Like the author, I have benefited greatly in my own research with use of The Texas Handbook Online, an absolutely stellar reference, and while not all states offer such a resource, many do.

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Monday, September 22, 2008

Ohio county histories online

Those with Ohio ancestry will no doubt be interested in a web site highlighted recently in The Norman Transcript,featuring local area histories for Ohio counties. The site, "Heritage Pursuit The Place For Historians And Genealogists," hosts two separate home pages, each offering different Ohio counties and databases. Most, if not all, of these county histories were published by W. H. Beers of Chicago and offer information about the townships within the counties, as well as biographical sketches of some individuals who lived in those counties at the time they were written. The county histories can be accessed by surname or other choices the researcher may make. The entire site can be searched or you can make a selection which includes individual counties, some specific databases within some counties, and various family trees that are applicable to the lineage of the webmaster. If you have Ohio ancestry you may want to check out this site to see if your ancestor is listed.

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Monday, August 25, 2008

Local area news can inform your genealogy

If you have early Michigan ancestry, you might be interested in the Detroit Free Press article, "This week in Michigan history: Cholera epidemic ravages Detroit." On Aug. 24, 1834, a second wave of the cholera epidemic struck Detroit, the article reports. Hundreds of Detroiters are believed to have died in August and September 1834 of cholera, which results from a bacterial infection of the intestine and can cause acute diarrhea, shock and severe dehydration in a short time. . . . City officials typically rang a bell when someone died. The custom was discontinued when the ringing became so frequent that it caused panic. The cholera epidemic, which first appeared in 1832, returned to Detroit several times from 1849 to 1865.

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Saturday, July 5, 2008

Denver Public Library digitizing important frontier documents

Although my ancestors did not arrive in Colorado until the late 1930s, I am very interested in the digitization efforts of the Denver Public Library, and particularly interested in how the neighborhoods developed. A recent article in the Denver Post, "Library to preserve documents of 19th-century Denver," reports more than 100 volumes of documents housed in the Denver Public Library can tell when great-great-grandma married great-great-granddad and where they lived and how their frontier neighborhood developed.

Now these fragile books, dating from 1859 to 1900, are being digitized for "an excellent resource for our genealogy and house history customers," said Jim Kroll, the manager of the library's Western History/Genealogy Department.

The digital "repository of private and public records" will detail the stories of each Denver community, he said. The digitized records will be accessible through the library's web site. The records I need between 1939 to the present have been harder than hen's teeth to acquire through the county, so I have looked to the marvelous Denver Public Library and have great interest in their continued efforts.

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Thursday, July 3, 2008

County boundry changes in Colonial Virginia

Identifying county boundary changes can often lend a new perspective to research. In her article, "The First Eight Counties of the Colonies," Melissa Slate discusses county boundary changes in Colonial Virginia. One of the most interesting . . . and sometimes challenging . . . aspects of genealogy is pinpointing ancestors in time and place. Geographical boundary changes, regardless of county, state, or country being researched, may suggest looking across the line for that elusive ancestor.

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Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Place names and boundary changes can direct research

"I grew up at Coles Station, Illinois. We all said "at" because Coles Station is not much of a town — so we never really felt like we were 'in Coles Station,'" writes Judy Rosella Edwards, in her article, "Coles Station: The Ever-Changing Place Name." The article shows how one small town not only changes names over the years, but is claimed at different times by different counties. This story is repeated over and again in genealogy and underscores the importance of local area research. Not only do county boundaries change when new counties were formed, as we see in the census maps, but individual towns may be claimed by one county and then the other for economic or political reasons. And communities along state border lines always deserve close examination; where the research seems to suggest an ancestor migrated from one place to another, it may be they never moved an inch, but the borders changed. Such details are significant in finding people at different times and in locating documents. Even today, in various parts of the world, wars are changing boundary lines, countries come and go and place names are changed to suit the new regime. There is much more to the geography of the world than the lay of the land.

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Friday, March 7, 2008

Researching the history of early colleges

"All too often we think of college as a modern invention and mostly for urbanites," but you might be surprised at how many young people of the 1800s pursued a college career and returned home to work in their own communities. In her article, "Great-Great-Grandpa's Alma Mater," Judy Rosella Edwards suggests researching the origin of early local colleges may be one way to learn more about your ancestors. First, you might be surprised to find an ancestor did attend college, and then knowing the type of college they attended and where may suggest new avenues for research.

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Friday, February 29, 2008

Searching Women's Manuscript Collections

March is National Women's History Month. Once again, honoring this celebration of women, Gena Philibert-Ortega in her article, "Searching Women's Manuscript Collections," aims at helping you find the writings of women who were part of your ancestors' community. As the author points out, in the absence of today's media, many women wrote about items of interest and the comings and goings in their own communities. Your ancestors may be among those chronicled by someone other than a family member, and it is certainly worth the investigation, to say nothing of the historical interest.

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Tuesday, January 29, 2008

March is National Women's History Month. Once again, honoring this celebration of women, Gena Philibert-Ortega in her article, "Searching Women's Manuscript Collections," aims at helping you find the writings of women who were part of your ancestors' community. As the author points out, in the absence of today's media, women of the past wrote about the comings and goings in their own communities. Your ancestors may be among those chronicled by someone other than a family member, and it is certainly worth the investigation, to say nothing of the historical interest.

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Friday, December 14, 2007

Denver Public Library grant holds promise

As a Denver native, an article in the Cherry Creek News, "Digitizing Denver's Historic neighborhoods," was of interest. The Institute of Museum and Library Services has awarded the Denver Public Library's Western History/Genealogy Department a grant in the amount of $778,000 for the Library's Creating Communities: Digitizing Denver's Historic Neighborhoods project.

"We are extremely pleased that the Denver Public Library will become the home of the archival records of the City of Denver," said Jim Kroll, manager of the Western History/Genealogy Department. "The project will create a centralized digital repository of materials about Denver."

According to Kroll, manuscripts, photographs, published narrative, cartography, audio and video recordings and newspaper clippings from private sources will be linked with the public records to provide in- depth information about the history of Denver and its neighborhoods.

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Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Gold Between the Census Returns

We've all heard about "gold fever," mining boom towns, those who made it rich and those who went bust. But who were these miners? In her article, "Gold Between the Census Returns," Judy Rosella Edwards suggests local biographical histories as one resource for identifying those who tried their luck but then returned and took up their lives. By way of example, the article points to just one resource in Livingston County, Illinois that profiles a number of former minders. Local county histories also contain biographical sketches, and even if you ancestor is not profiled, the histories and the sketches mention many other people, as well. The value of these histories is that so many exist, published in earlier time periods when the subjects themselves or someone closely related provided the information. It was from one fo these biographical sketches that we learned from a son's biography that his father came from Ireland to America as an indentured servant in the early 1700s. As the article points out, "While the stories are brief, they probably are not documented anywhere else." Truly, there is gold in these resources.

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Monday, August 20, 2007

North America Local and County Histories to Go Online

As noted on the FamilySearch web site, three genealogical libraries have pooled their collections in a massive digitization effort. Thousands of published family histories, city and county histories, historic city directories, and related records are coming to the Internet. The Allen County Public Library (ACPL) in Fort Wayne, Indiana, Brigham Young University Harold B. Lee Library, and the Family History Library in Salt Lake City announced the joint project today. When complete, it will be the most comprehensive collection of city and county histories on the Web—and access will be free at

Once digitized, the collections will have "every word" search capability, which allows users to search by name, location, date, or other field across the collection. The search results are then linked to high quality digital images of the original publication. Digitization efforts have begun. New additions will be noted and hyperlinked in the Family History Library Catalog at as they are digitized.

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Thursday, May 3, 2007

Genealogy in the Park

GenWeekly welcomes a new writer, Judy Rosella Edwards. Her first article, "Genealogy in the Park," provides a nice blend of research tips and local history to illustrate the point that local area parks may be a good place to look for research clues. Many parks are named for an individual in the community, either someone who is distinguished in some way or someone who has donated money to build the park -- a story to discover if that someone is your ancestor. Edwards suggests that parks, like cemeteries, can be "read" by those who can see beyond the grass and trees. And you might even want to look beyond the park . . . consider applying the same principle to the names of streets and buildings in your area of interest. The article suggests a new way to look beyond the books at local area history.

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Monday, January 22, 2007

Local area research is "limitless" in its value

Oftentimes it is information indirectly associated with our ancestors that provide vital clues, and local area research is an important step in the research process. However, as Karan Pittman points out in her article, Don't Forget Local Histories, "Regional, local and county histories don't always enjoy the best reputation, but they can be invaluable to the researcher when used correctly." The article is focused on helping readers makes the most of these valuable resources.

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GenWeekly -- Delivering a Fresh Perspective for Genealogists