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Saturday, December 29, 2012

New Year - New Focus

The New Year is rapidly approaching.  What do you have on your "to-do" list that did not get done in 2012?  My list is not so bad, if I trim it back to the most important tasks.

Let's decide what tasks, when completed, will give you the most bang for your buck.  For instance, speaking of research and genealogy, Grab your research tick list.  You know the one I mean.  The list that you should have for every lineage that your are working on. What?  You don't have one?  No wonder you are not farther along on your family history research.

Step one for the New Year : Start a tick list, research chart, spreadsheet, or whatever you want to call it.  One per family line is a good start.  Go through your researched data and find out where all the holes are.  Do you have a birth, marriage and death record for everyone in each family line?  If not, then that should go on your tick list.  Start a research plan for each item that you need to find.  Think about where you would find that data.  Have you already looked at certain sources without success?  Be sure to make a note of those on your research plan, as a reminder of where you've been.  Saves time in the long run.  Make a note of sources that you have not checked, on-line or in repositories such as libraries, historical societies, courthouses, county record offices, etc.  As you search each of those, make note of the date, time and place, and of course, what you have found, or did not find.  Keep it up until you find that vital information that you are missing.

Along the way, you might come across other information of interest for your research.  Don't pass it up.  Jot it in your log, make a copy or scan it if possible, and add it to your "folder" of data.  Then continue on your original search for your data that is missing.  You will eventually find it.  Don't give up.

You might, however, get tired and weary if it happens to be a piece of information that doesn't seem to want to be found.  That's OK.  We all hit those brick walls.  Put it down for a while.  Start on another search for missing data.  Perhaps you need to find marriage information for someone in the same family.  Make a research plan and follow through with it.  You can always come back to the first search project when you feel refreshed.

Here's the up side.  Sometimes you find what you were originally looking for while researching for information on another individual.  Missing a date of death?  How many times have I found a death date mentioned in news articles and documents while researching under another family member.  It happens more than you think.  I call those my "BINGO" moments.  It's like getting a two-fer researching on a single individual. You end up smiling big on those days.

Ready, set, go......get yourself organized for the New Year.  Stay on track.  Document your sources.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Mocavo Scanning Project

Mocavo, the new kid on the block in the world of genealogy, has a new endeavor.

Free scanning service :

Mocavo Announces Free Scanning Service! Get your records in to us to help us with our goal to make family history accessible to everyone!

from their advertisement, "From now until the end of the year we will scan your documents, send you a digital copy, and put them online at Mocavo — for FREE! We will even send your materials back to you, if you choose.  We work with our community to bring all of the world’s genealogical information online for free putting everyone’s family history within reach.  We are bringing lots and lots of historical information and databases to Mocavo; but, don’t let us have all the fun.  Join in!"

Thursday, November 8, 2012

School Yearbooks - Searching On-Line

 School Days, School Days....

Did you ever think that you would be able to look at old school yearbooks....on-line????

Rah, Rah, Rah,

Guess you can!  I usually browse school yearbooks at Memory Lane through Classmates


Explore the world's largest
online yearbook collection.

Search for friends, family, and favorite celebrities!

 You might be able to browse free for a short time, but of course they always want you to pay a fee, and make you feel like you are getting access to just about everything.  I must say that the subscription fees for this website are not as high as others, but still you must make that commitment.

well, well, well,  Move over Memory Lane... now, one of the newest kids on the block for family and genealogy researching has stepped up to the plate... take a look...

Mocavo has arrived with access to school yearbooks, for FREE.  yes, indeed, and they are added more everyday. take a look 
Yearbooks Are Here : Search Our Collection for Free
Mocavo has put nearly 3.5 million pages of yearbooks from high schools and universities online for free. We want to build the biggest collection online!
On this website you can search by Name, date, location, school, whatever and also eliminate terms and words.  I was really surprised at the amount of school yearbooks that they have.  You can also find rosters of persons in military units in this section.  No kidding.  I found a few of them just by searching for family surnames.  Very cool.
Try both Mocavo and Memory Lane at  If you are looking for a photo of a relative, this just might be the place to come.  Good Luck!

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

The Family Black Sheep Records

Once in a while you may came across some person in your research that suddenly disappears from the census, directories and other resources.  What happened to them?  Well, if they were easily confused by the local laws, or maybe were lured into some activities that brought them to the dark side of life.  You know who I am talking about, don't you?  Yes, it's those black sheep in the family.  Usually just a misunderstanding, or a consequence of hanging around with the wrong folks,  that ends up with someone staying a while in the local jail or state prison.  So how do you find out if there are really there?

First you might want to do a quick search of the local newspapers to see if they are mentioned on the police blotter pages, or similar articles.  Otherwise, you might want to visit certain databases to see if they are included in a roster of jail residents.Court records may include naturalization papers, probate records, guardian cases and coroner inquest reports.  Let's look at a listing for the state of Illinois, put together by the Illinois State Genealogical Society :

History of the Illinois Court System ,  found just from a Google search, can direct you to lots of background on the judicial system in the State.  There is a terrific timeline, calendars and schedules of courts, court forms, lists of court interpreters, court reporter transcripts, court facilities information, lists of judges, attorneys and mediators, court rules and additional websites.

Black Sheep Ancestors  This is a great website to search court records, prison records, execution records, asylum records and biographies of famous criminals from the United States, United Kingdom and Canada.

Illinois County Courthouse Directory  Address and location list of all county clerk and recorder offices.

National Archives - Great Lakes
A wide variety of information on court records and state attorney records

IRAD Databases - Court Databases  criminal court records, court proceedings, jail registers.

Don't forget to check the US Federal Census indexes for the state prisons.  I found a cousin in the 1930 Census of the State Prison of Missouri in Jefferson City.  You never know who you might find.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Election Day....Use Voter Registration Records for Your Research

It's Election Day here in the United States of America.  Why not use some of the accumulated records available to the public.  Where do you find this information?, of course.

a blurb from Ancestry : Why Use Voting Records:
Voter registers are great records to use as “census substitutes”, since they will usually contain the names of heads of households and other adults. They are useful when census records are either not complete or non-existent, and are usually available in between census years. Because voter registers were published on a fairly consistent basis and are generally state-wide, they are useful for tracking individuals over time and place.

Check Ancestry ( ) for the Search tab.  Scroll down to Card Catalog and you can find voter registrations for various areas.  Let's looks at a few.

California, Voter Registrations, 1900-1968:  I looked in the Napa County, Aetna District :

Notice that you can get the name, age and address of each registered voter.  Good information.

Also on, I found voter information for the county of Richmond, Georgia :

This states the date of each registrant, name, reference to oath, race and residence time period.

Georgia, Returns of Qualified Voters and Reconstruction Oath Books, 1867-1869

For more recent voter information, lists can be purchased from most states.
The Georgia Office of the Secretary of State has voter registration lists available :

Voter Registration Lists and Files

Voter registration lists and files are available to the public. The files contain the following information: voter name, residence address, mailing address if different, race, gender, registration date and last voting date. Pricing is set by the Secretary of State. Such data may not be used by any person for commercial purposes. (O.C.G.A. §21-2-225c)

Many more older and up-to-date voter lists are available.  Just search the Internet for them.  You will find a treasure of information.

Voter registration lists can provide some very interesting information for your ancestors.  It can make you feel proud when you see that your family members took their citizen rights and privileges very seriously, and took advantage of their ability to vote.

Regardless of your political views, I hope that you, too, take advantage of your rights in this country.  Vote and get involved in your communities.  Make life as beautiful as possible for yourself and your neighbors.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Books And Periodicals as Resources

Websites can be such fun to navigate when searching for data for your family tree.  But, don't forget that there are still  so many resources that are not on the Internet.  Books and periodicals can provide such great clues when trying to break through those pesky brick walls.

There are many older history volumes that have been digitized and are accessible online.  Many more have not been, and can still be accessed through inter library loans.  Here are some great websites to browse that may just have what you are looking for regarding Illinois and the world :

   Books We Own
       You can contact book owners and ask them to look in their volumes for family names, dates, etc.
   BYU Family History Archive
       Harold B. Lee Library at BYU Digital Collections
   Genealogy Book Links
       Biographies and Family Genealogies
   Google Books
      Search for any book, with the ability to locate it, read it online, download, or order.
   Illinois Periodicals Online
      A digital imaging project at Northern Illinois University
   Internet Archive
      A digital archive containing video, audio, music and texts

Have some fun exploring with these and many more.  You never know what you might find.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Become an Indexing Volunteer for FamilySearch

Do you wish that there would be more free data out there to help you and every other family history buff?  Well, there is some available, but you can help to make even more available for yourself and everyone else.

FamilySearch, one of the leading organizations that provides free vital records and genealogical data online, has begun to digitize the information transcribed from the many microfilms that they have in Salt Lake City at the Family History Library.  They have the films posted on their website initially, without being indexed.  They are available for browsing.  But now volunteers are able to help in the efforts to transcribe the information from the images, and make this information searchable through the FamilySearch index.

If you would like to help in this endeavor, just sign up through  They would be happy to assist you with enrolling as a volunteer.

I currently assist in the indexing project with the Italian records that have been microfilmed.  It is a very rewarding experience, and I am so happy to be a part of this great project.  It can't be done over night, but if many more volunteers chip in, just think of the many records that can be made available for you and everyone else around the world.

Here is a part of a press release from FamilySearch earlier this year:

Join this exciting community effort to make records searchable online and ensure our ancestors are remembered by
Current and Completed Projects
To view a list of currently available indexing projects, along with their record language and completion percentage, visit the FamilySearch indexing updates page. To learn more about individual projects, view the FamilySearch projects page.
New Projects Added
  • Argentina, Mendoza, Ciudad de Mendoza—Registros Parroquiales, 1665–1922
  • Brasil, Rio de Janeiro—Cartões de Imigração, 1900–1965 [Parte 3C]
  • Brasil, Rio de Janeiro—Cartões de Imigração, 1900–1965 [Parte 3D]
  • Colombia, Antioquia, Sonsón y Rionegro—Registros Parroquiales, 1814–2008
  • México, Coahuila, Matamoros y Torreón Registros Iglesia Católica
  • México, Durango, Gómez Palacio, Cuidad Lerdo, Mapimí, Cuencamé—Registros Parroquiales, 1708–1963
  • Micronesia, Pohnpei—Civil Registration, 1948–2009
  • Peru, Chiclayo y Lambayeque—Registros Civiles, 1873–1950 [Parte A]
  • Ukraine, L'viv—Roman Catholic Diocese Church Book Duplicates, 1600–1948 [Part 1]
  • U.S., Puerto Rico—Censo Federal de 1940
  • U.S., Indiana, Saint Joseph County—Marriages 1811–1959
  • Украина, Киев—Метрические книги русской православной церкви, 1846–1848 [Часть C]
View the FamilySearch projects page to see the full list of available projects and to learn more about how to participate in various projects.
Won't you please consider joining me?  Please be a volunteer to help make more records searchable.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Family Photos and What To Do With Them

So you have been handed a box of old family photos, or perhaps a car load of family photo albums filled with memories of years past.  What do you do with them?

First of all, count yourself very lucky.  So many have stories of boxes of photos having been thrown in the dumpster simply because they did not have any meaning to those who found them.

Don't handle them with your greasy fingers.  Some feel it is a myth that oils from your fingers can damage photos.  I, however, feel it is important to be careful.  Wear a pair of cotton gloves that will protect your photos while you sift through them.

Invest in a few good quality archival pens.  These acid free pens can be found at most craft and scrapbook stores.   They allow you to write on the back of each photo without the worry of damage from using the generic pencil or ink pen.  If you know what the photo depicts, such as date, location and perhaps persons, be sure to record that on the back of the photo using the archival pens.  If you have no information, or only partial information of the subjects in the photos, record what you can.  Place these in archival envelopes, divided into groups by subjects, persons, etc.  Make a mental note of who in your family may be able to help identify what is in the photos.  When your finished with this part of organization, make a phone call to contact those persons who may be able to help you.  Meeting in person is the best way to have a great conversation about family and the photos in question.  Be sure to take along a notebook.  There may be some great stories that are attached to those photos, and you don't want to miss an opportunity to record what you learn from these conversations.

The photos themselves need to be preserved.  Purchase good quality clear, archival sleeves to protect the photos from harmful elements in the environment.  Photo shops, craft stores and even big box and discount stores carry these types of photo storage pages.  They are cheaper if you buy them in larger packages, and you can always use extras.

Invest in a good scanner/copier/printer, or take the photos to a place that allows you to scan on their equipment.  You can save the images on a flash drive, compact disc, external hardrive and your computer's memory, too.  Having this extra copy is most important.  If something should happen to the original photo, you will always have the scanned copy that you have made.  Personally, I keep at least two scanned copies of each photo.  When I save the digital copy, I always give each photo file a name that can be descriptive of what is on the photo and when it was taken.

If you have damaged photos, faded photos, or just plain old photos that show their age, you might want to invest in a photo image program that allows you to make corrections to the photo.  These programs are great tools to have.  You can make an old photo look like new by enhancing the image, making corrections to highlights, shadows and brightness and correcting hues of coloration.  Photoshop is the "go-to" programs for most hobbyists.  However, you can always get by with other programs that are less expensive, such as Corel and Kodak.  Do a little shopping in this area.  Try some that may have free trial periods until you find one that fits your needs and comfort level.

Lastly, don't forget to share those photo images with family.  What a great gift to give at Christmas, anniversary or birthday.  Write a story to go along with the photo collection gift.  It will give it more meaning.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Keeping Organized

This is a post that I should read, and reread from time to time.

Keeping yourself organized and focused....yeah right.  So everyday I make a list of things that I need to do, and those things that I'd like to do.  Do I complete everything on that list?  I wish.
Is it impossible to complete everything on that list? No.  So why don't I get everything done when I would like to?  Easy.  I lose my focus, which makes me disorganized, and I fail at meeting my goal.

What should I do to keep myself as productive as I can?  Stop screwing around and get back to business.  Organize my priorities, focus on the top items of importance on a daily basis, and carry out my plan without getting distracted and lured off course.  Is this possible?  I hope so.

I had signed up to participate in a program where I had agreed to post on this blog every day during the month of November.  Well, here it is the 2nd day of November, and this is the first post of the month.  Oops.  Gosh, not even 24 hours had gone by and I was not able to abide by the agreement that I had made with myself and that blogging program.  Am I a failure?  Well, I could say "yes", but then that would be very negative on my part.  I'll let this one day slip by, then I will regroup and give myself the encouragement to jump back in the saddle and post everyday in November of 2012, just like I had agreed to.

So, now that I have made a public confession, I can carry on knowing that I need to become more organized.  Getting back in the game, getting back to business, knowing that I do have some faults I  can overcome will become my goal.  Can I do it? You bet I can.

My goal will be to write everyday on this blog on relevant issues regarding my experiences with genealogy and historical research.  There are so many things that I have uncovered over the past 10 years of research.  It's time to share it all right here.  Hopefully, others will learn from what I have done, and learn from my mistakes, too.  Onward!  Til tomorrow's posting.  Get ready world.  This blogger is going to get organized and post her heart out.

Toodles, til tomorrow.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Illinois State Genealogical Society Conference - Rockford, Illinois

This past Friday and Saturday, I spent my time in good ol' Rockford, Illinois.  The ISGS hosted their Fall conference at the Clock Tower Best Western Center.  The speakers were great....meaning  John P. Coletta and others.  So much to see, much more to learn.

I have written previously about how important it is to attend these conferences.  Large or small, one day or four days, there is always something that you take away from these gatherings of professionals involved in preserving history and family stories.

In addition, the vendors and organizations that participate by showing their wares and sharing their knowledge are just great.  The Genealogical Society of Winnebago and Boone Counties co-hosted this event.  Their display table featured so many of the wonderful programs and projects that they had completed.  Cemetery transcriptions, vital records abstracts, mapping projects and newsletter publications are just a hint of the holdings of such a society that can be so useful to the family historian.  Likewise, the Illinois State Genealogical Society had an impressive display of their projects, and provided an opportunity for every visitor to donate to the funds used for the digitization of the War of 1812 records.  Fold3 and the Federation of Genealogical Societies are involved in a matching fund program for this most important venture.  Won't it be  wonderful for everyone to view the military records of ancestors living during that time period.

I was fortunate to win a nice book in the door prize event, a publication by the Kane County Genealogical Society.  I will be sure to donate it to my local historical society's research library.  The was a White Elephant table that was showered with publications from historical and genealogical societies throughout the state.  I picked up a few that I thought would be of interest to me.  I can always put them back on the next White Elephant table after I am finished with it.  I am sure that someone else would be able to use the valuable information that can be found in these magazines and articles.

Before I left Rockford, I stopped in to visit the main Rockford Library in the city, next to the river. What a nice facility.  The third floor housed the local history collections.  I entered the impressive archive room and asked to see some high school yearbooks from the 1940s.  I was asked by someone who found my name on the Generous Genealogists listing to help them find a photo of their relative who just might have attended high school in Rockford.  Sure enough, I found the senior photo.  Wonderful.  I quickly made two copies of the page and another copy of the title page of the yearbook.  This kind of thing makes me feel so good, just being able to help out someone who is in need of my help, and they can't be on site to get it for themselves.  I took advantage of this type of services many years ago, and was immensely  grateful for the help that I received.  It feels good to pay it forward.

Just to repeat myself, be sure to take a trip to a conference.  Nearby or far away, you will never regret it.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Another FUN Genealogical Society event

On Saturday, I attended the Chicago Genealogical Society's "Dark Alleys of Chicago Family History" tour.  What a fun time.  Craig, the group leader on this trip, wanted everyone to focus on the relatives in our family trees who "did not behave themselves".

He lead us on a bus tour of very interesting, historically significant city locations that were associated with some the darker sides of the Chicago landscape.  Remember Richard Speck, the creepy guy that murdered/raped seven nurses on the south side in the 60's?  He was finally arrested at the apartment complex at 617 Madison Street, now called the Presidential Towers, in 1966.

We stopped at the site of the famous Haymarket Massacre in 1886, and stood on the very same brick paved alley where the event occurred.

We passed by the home of former Chicago Mayor, Carter Harrison, at 314 South Ashland, where he was assassinated in 1893.  After that, the site of the Black Panther Raid of 1969 was on tap.

The next stop was one of sorrow, as we approached the neighborhood of the terrible school fire at Our Lady of the Angels, which took the lives of many children and nuns in 1958.  There was a funeral in progress at the church, now a mission, so we could not get off the bus at this point.
Other points of interest that we visited included : the Biograph Theatre, where John Dillinger was gunned down; The site of  the St. Valentine's Day Massacre where the Capone gang takes care of the Dion O'Banion/Bugs Moran gang.  Later the conversation turned to Emma Goldman, the Free Love Anarchist from Russian descent.  Passing by the area of Lottie's Pub and Margie's Candy and Ice Cream shop enlivened the group, although we could not stop in  due to time constraints.  Various areas were of significance since they were sites of Hollywood movie shoots.

Stopped at the Newberry Library right in front of Washington Park, where John Wayne Gacy used to pick up some of his young victims.  Nice guy.  That is where we sat and had lunch...a nice Panera Bread menu of sandwiches, chips, cookies and drinks.

After dining, we continued on our tour, going on to the south side sites, passing by the areas of the Holy Name Cathedral, Iraquois Theatre ( where the horrible fire took so many lives in 1903 ), the Maxwell Street area, and past the Prairie Avenue area where those with fat wallets lived in the time of the Marshall Field family.  And, some of those homes are still there, standing tall and fine.

On Wabash Street, we stopped at the now empty lot where the Four Deuces Club, otherwise known as the headquarters of Al Capone, was located.  And we discussed the notorious "Baseball Bat dinner" where Capone swiftly beat the heads of two of his dinner guests who were less than faithful to their boss.  That incident happened at Michigan and Cermak.  I had to tell my short tale of passed relatives who lost their lives trying to hone in on some of Capone's business.  It did not turn out so well for them, but they had one of the finest funerals in the St. Louis area in 1927.

We tried to enter the gated area of the Stephen Douglas tomb, however, it was locked and guarded by a dog who was more interested in getting petted than biting.  The area of Camp Douglas is now housing and buildings of the first university of the area, as requested by Mr. Douglas, himself.  Incidentally, the Confederate soldiers who passed away while incarcerated at Camp Douglas are buried in Oak Woods Cemetery.

Driving further on the south side we came upon the Chicago Union Stock Yards where a few race riots have occurred over the years, namely 1919-1920.  There is a very nice memorial there for the members of the Chicago Fire Department who have passed in the line of duty.  We were unable to visit the home of Bobby Franks at 5052 South Ellis, the site of the Leopold-Loeb murder of Bobby.  It was getting late, almost 4 p.m. by now, so we headed back to the Ogilivie Transportation Center where we began our tour at 9:30 a.m. that morning.

It was a very long day, but I learned so much and really enjoyed being a passenger on a nice, posh bus, being escorted around a town so rich with history.

Recommended reads as a followup for this trip:  Return to the Scene of the Crime (Cumberland House, Nashville, Tenn. 1999), and Return Again to the Scene of the Crime (Cumberland House, Nashville, Tenn. 2001), in addition to "If Christ Came to Chicago" by William T Stead, Laird and Lee, 1894.

So just another reminder, Join a few local societies to add to your educational enrichment and understanding of the past.  You won't regret it!

Sunday, September 30, 2012 featured speakers

Greetings.  Last post I reviewed why it was important to join local historical and genealogical societies.  So, here is a review of a society conference that I attended this weekend.

The Fox Valley Genealogical Society hosted their 2012 conference in Naperville, Illinois on Saturday, September 29.  I was fortunate to attend and was pleased to be in the presence of Juliana Szucs Smith and her mother, Loretto Dennis "Lou" Szucs.

They collaborated on four presentations regarding  It was fabulous.  Although I knew about 90 percent of what they had to offer as far as general information and genealogy research, they also revealed some new views and tips for using this wonderful website.

Juliana talked about getting starting on, including global searches, category searches, individual collections and using the online trees.  It was very basic, but I am sure that any novice in the subject surely appreciated this presentation.

Lou followed her daughter with a presentation on what's new at  She pointed out that when viewing the home page of Ancestry, you can check the "What's happening at" section.  All new records will be listed, which are many, and it is always advisable to visit this section at least once per month.  Yes, Ancestry is loading data that fast on this website. She also advised the conference attendees that exploring the many tabs on the home page can reveal some items that you just might have missed before.  The LEARNING tab was most important on her "must visit" list.  It takes a user from the basics of where to start searching for family history, to webinars, and the Family History Wiki, which most people don't even know is there for their use and education.  She had accolades for the MY CANVAS publishing tab, stating that is enables a user to produce their own books, but also posters and custom tree charts.  The SHOP tab features Family Tree Maker, Mobile Apps, Books and Gift Memberships.  The Biographical Sources (found under Stories, Memories and Histories) contains many http selections, such as the "History of the Swedes of Illinois".  Other features that she commented on included:
  Border Crossings                                          Jewish Collections
  Census                                                        African American Collections
  Directories                                                   Maps, Atlases and Gazetteers
  Military                                                        Naturalizations, Passenger Lists, Passport Records, etc.

After a break for lunch, and some serious shopping at the vendors setups and white elephant table, which I did visit and found some wonderful resources to bring home with me, the presentations continued.

Juliana presented Getting the Most from Your Family History Finds, where she outlined the importance of thinking outside of the box (or in my case, outside of the crate).  Looking for the hidden treasures and clues in the documents that you gather through out your search, forming timelines, studying geographic history, using spreadsheets to evaluate the evidence that you have uncovered in your much more to just collecting dates and places.  She suggested being a collector of addresses using census, military draft records, directory and vital records, and placing those in a timeline to see how often your ancestors had moved in their lifetimes.  Lastly, she talked about immigration and passenger lists, and the wonderful "hidden" clues that are so often overlooked on those documents.

This lead to the last presentation by Lou, entitled They Became Americans, Finding Naturalization Records and Ethnic Origins.  Finding the first immigrant of your family and following that person through their paper trail of Passenger Lists, Naturalization Papers, Alien Registrations, etc.
She shared some of her favorite websites that she consults for this type of research:

NARA at Chicago -
Cook County Circuit Court Naturalizations -
Family History Library -
Illinois State Archives -
Illinois State Genealogical Society -
Immigrant Ships Transcribers Guild -
Roots Web -
The Ships List: Passengers, Ships, Shipwrecks -

It was a nice conference, not too far to drive, and I enjoyed the presentations, the people I met at the lunch table, the vendors that I patroned and the wonderful Fox Valley Genealogical Society members who made this Saturday event a success.  Looking forward to the next conference on my schedule in late October in Rockford.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Joining Genealogical Societies

Have you ever wondered who else might be researching in the same family lines or the same geographic area that you are?  Just take a look at some of the many websites dedicated to genealogical societies.  There are probably at least 2 or 3 that just may have the help that you are looking for to break down those brick walls.

With the Internet at hand, you are able to google just about any subject, surname or geographic area and the results will be amazing.  Take a look at Cyndi's list  at 

Search the Categories/Societies and Groups section.  There you will find, in alphabetical listings, the many groups that are available to you.

I am posting this subject today because I was remembering the nice meeting I had at the Oak Brook Heritage Center this past Saturday.  A group of 15 or so people gathered there to meet and learn about what the group, Pursuing Our Italian Names Together (POINT) Chicago Chapter Uno, was all about and what we could learn from one another as we talked about the common thread we shared....Italian ancestry and the need to learn about the history, culture, language and kinship resources available to all of us.  In just 2 hours, we all made some sort of connections to each other.  We relished in the luck of each other's searches, and gasped at the research challenges that lay ahead of each of us.

If you ever get a chance to attend a local genealogical conference, please do.  You will come back with information that you never knew existed.  You will meet up with others who are searching the same ethnic areas that you do.  You will see what new publications are available at libraries and book stores.  And, yes, there is always something to eat, too.

So, here's one this coming weekend.  The Fox Valley Genealogical Society is hosting a Genealogy Conference on Saturday, Sept. 29.  If you are in the Chicago area, take some time to stop in.  Listen to a lecture, or two.  Talk with a few of the vendors that will be there.  Review books and publications that just may have a few secrets to enhance your research.  You'll be glad you did.

Til next time, in October.  Keep warm.  It's getting cold out there.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Giving a Presentation on Researching Family History

Last weekend I presented a program for a local social dedicated to the restoration of an old "settler" home from the 1840s.  I was asked to do a free presentation at the local library for about an hour.  They wanted me to tell the audience how to research their family history.

Well, you know that this topic cannot be tackled in less than an hour.  So, I decided to use an example of how to answer a historical question about a nearby area, then use the results of that research and apply them to research the genealogy of particular persons living in that area.

So, OK, before I put everyone to sleep, I had to inject a little humor and get the interest of the crowd.  The following is my Research Rules of the Road.  Most are common sense, but need to be stated nonetheless.

Don't believe everything you hear
Don't believe everything you read
Names are almost always spelled several ways
Nicknames were used since the dawn of time
People lie about their age
People lie about their occupations and income
People embellish stories
Most families have at least one Rotten Apple
You don't have to be married to have a baby
Some people forget to get a divorce before marrying a second, third, fourth....time

Once everyone prepares for their family research while keeping these topics in mind, there should be no reason to be shocked when you find out that your ancestors were are HUMAN.  They made unfortunate decisions in their lives just like we do today. But, they survived through it all, just like we continue to do.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Upcoming POINT meeting in Chicago area

Well, after a nice trip to the Family History Center in Salt Lake City, we have all come to one conclusion.....we really need to have a resurrection of the Chicago POINT in Person groups.  Previously there were three chapters, Uno, 8 and 27.  All had come to a screeching halt.  Why?  People just get overwhelmed and are not able to carry on due to LIFE.

There is a new enthusiasm now.  We will have a meeting to be held at the Oak Brook Heritage Center, maintained by the Oak Brook Historical Society.  The building is the former Butler School, built in 1921.  In it's heyday, it was thought to be the best school in the state.  It also served as the community center for the residents of this area.  Oak Brook itself did not become incorporated until 1958.  The farming/dairy/horse breeding area was known by many names.  Some called it Brush Hill.  Others called it Fullersburg.  And many thought of it as an extension of Downers Grove, Hinsdale and Elmhurst, which are all now neighboring towns and villages.

We are very fortunate to be able to meet in this old building which is undergoing renovations and restorations.  Saturday, Sept. 22 from 10 a.m. until 12 noon, the POINT Uno group shall meet and provide coffee and donuts.  We will talk about what interests us, how we wish to conduct meetings and what other locations will be of interest to the group for future meetings and activities.

There is already talk of having a November meeting at the Italian Cultural Center in Stone Park, where there are a couple of museums and a nice research library, in addition to beautiful grounds.  The Center holds many festival-type events every year, including Christmas Cookie baking and Italian language classes for children and adults.

If you are of Italian descent, or you have an interest in Italian genealogy and history, please stop by our meeting on the 22nd of September, 2012. 10 a.m. sharp.

The address of the Oak Brook Heritage Center/Old Butler School is :
1112 Oak Brook Road, Oak Brook, IL 60523
on the north side of the street, next to the Oak Brook Village Hall, at the intersection of Spring Road and Oak Brook Road.

Coffee and donuts, come one, come all.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Oklahoma Indian Territory on-line

This week I read the post from Dick Eastman which included information about the Oklahoma Archives and their addition of wonderful information that has been added to their website.

The gateway to Oklahoma newspapers is really nice. You can search and browse them for FREE.

In addition, they have added Territorial Incorporation records, covering the years 1890 to 1907.
This is great if you have anyone in your research data that may have owned or worked for a company in this area.  The incorporation of the business records should be listed here.

For those who are studying the general history of Oklahoma, there is a listing of the governors, counties and county seats to present time.  The state constitution is also listed.

Route 66 repositories in Oklahoma are also listed.

There are links for Oklahoma and all digital data on the web.  Just click and go, which include Oklahoma birth and death certificate resources.
Of course, it is not a free service.  Charges are about $15 to $40 depending on what you need.

I took a quick look at the Chronicles of Oklahoma

here is the lead-in to the section about the Italians that settled in Oklahoma during the territorial days of this area : In Indian Territory the majority of early-arriving Italians settled in the coal-mining counties of present eastern Oklahoma in the mid-1870s. In that decade, coal mines began operating in Pittsburg County, Choctaw Nation, Indian Territory. In need of cheap labor, the coal companies hired immigrants, primarily men, from southern and eastern Europe. They were primarily farmers and uniformly Catholic. The first northern Italians arrived in 1874, and the first southern Italians arrived in the late 1870s.

The article goes on to say that when the era of petroleum began to overtake the coal industry, many of these immigrants lost their jobs and headed to larger metropolitan areas, both in Oklahoma and further away to New York and Chicago, as well as other cities.

I am so glad that this State, which was once an area of little available archival information, now has a place on the web.  And, I look forward to seeing much more becoming available in this website.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Last Full Day in Salt Lake City, and the Most Productive Day Yet

Our last morning coffee and rolls with POINT group gathering this morning on the lobby level of the Plaza Hotel....and a very productive day, ending with a delightful dinner and closing talk by Ruth Lapioli Merriman.  To describe the day in one word....AWESOME

Thumbing through the volumes of foreign language heritage books, I discovered that I actually can, well almost, read the many pages of history, heritage and genealogy records.  Hungarian is supposed to be the most difficult language to master.  How can that be?  My grandparents spoke it.  It can't be that hard, can it?  Maybe.  I had much better luck with the Italian texts since I have many years of hard work and study on that language.  There are so many things to read about when it comes to foreign names and their meanings, the locality of popular surnames, etc.

In the late morning, Ruth Merriman presented a program showcase of Internet websites for Italian research.  Apparently there has been an explosion of new websites for Italian research.  I have nine pages of those listed from her class today.  Some of my favorite include:  Index Mundi, a list of all population centers with geographical information and links to satellite photos.  Provincial Archives of Mantova, Milano, Cremona, Como, Pavia and passenger arrival records  (Buenos Aires)  Italian Archives website, a fantastic site to direct you to many, many records in Italy

There are way too many websites to mention here, but I'll be sure to blog about those others in my coming posts.

In the midday, I was able to do some of my magic and translate some records of 1870 Atti di Morte of Neirone, Genova from the Tribunale di Chiavani.  I  thought that I might find records for one of my clients.  I found family names, but -not the same family.  One town over, and voila!  I searched the records of Moconesi, Morte di 1866-1873.  This batch held the long-awaited records that I had been searching for.  It contains references to a smaller town called Gattorna....just what I had been searching for.  Fantastic.  So now I can look at these on-line, and translate to my heart's delight.  Just swell.

I am sad to be leaving tomorrow afternoon.  However, I must admit, one full week of this research and being away from home is about all I can take.  I want to sleep in my own bed, hug my pups and kiss my husband, who I've left to the dogs (so to speak).  I wonder if anyone fed the fish in the pond?  Did we get any rain at home, or do all of my potted plants need to be rescued?  Time will tell.  Back home again tomorrow evening, and a sip of my favorite wine before I get back to the regular grind.

If you ever get the chance to visit Salt Lake City, and you have an urge to find out all about you, I highly suggest that visit the Family History Center Library and Museum.  Don't forget to stroll the Temple Square and view the marvelous gardens.  Take a walk along the new City Creek Center shopping mall with beautiful fountains.  This is such a clean city.  Bravo to the local community leaders.  You are doing a great job.  I will be back.  Next February for Rootstech.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Making Research Progress at the FHL in Salt Lake City

What a great day.  Paola gave a really nice presentation about marriage records in Italy.  Little tidbits of information that I had known, but needed gentle reminders.  Introducing our group to some wonderful ways to discover the location of little known places in Italy.

Here are just a few of the on-line resources to help with locating Italian communi :

http:// italiano

digitized books for geographical dictionaries can be found at
   just type in the subject search for the region you are looking for, ie.Dizionario geographico de Toscana, or fill in with other regions...Napoli, Sicilia, etc

You can also search for "searchable" formats online.

There are also records called AGP (Ave Grazia Plena).  These are institutes for the care of abandoned children.  Using Google search (or other search engines) may help to locate those.

On a personal note, I was able to locate a client's Irish ancestor in the 1820, 1830, 1840, and 1850 census records in Washington, D.C.  He never appeared again.  His wife is noted as a widow in 1860.  Now I have a good idea of when he passed away, and the recorded burial listings from one of the oldest cemeteries in the city have records of many with the same surname.  I just may have gotten a step closer to solve a research problem.

I took a long walk during the evening to visit the prettiest outdoor shopping mall I have ever seen.  Salt Lake City's City Creek is just lovely.  Fountains, flowers and live music.  A very restful place to take a stroll and buy a sandwich for dinner.

Tomorrow will be my last full day of research, plus a pre-planned dinner with the group of POINT members who traveled here for the conference.  Can't wait.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Day 2 POINT conference

Tuesday proved to be a good day for research.  First,  Ruth Merriman gave a great seminar and review for deciphering parish records.  She reminded everyone that most Roman Catholic church records, and yet many Protestant records, also, are written in Latin.  And, the clergy did not always have the best of handwriting.  That is understandable, I guess.

So the review of basic Latin words and phrases was very helpful.  And, for added help, you can always refer to the FamilySearch website :  There are lots of learning guides, including a fabulous one for basic Latin words to help with translating the old documents.

After a few hours of research on the third floor of the library, my eyes were red and sore.  The third floor is full of US and Canada books.  Finding texts full of cemetery transcriptions completed by the various DAR societies across the nation felt like living in a "candy land".  Lots of texts were full of obituaries, county histories, biographies, census abstracts and so much more.  If you plan to browse this area, be sure to plan ahead for exactly what you'd like to research.  Check out the library's catalog of books on their website.  Wow.

I was reviewing the notes that I had taken when we were treated to the guest speaker, Stan Lindaas.  He gave us an overview of what he considers to be the most important pit stop in the library.  On the second floor, there are many films covering the US and Canada.  In addition, Stan pointed out the four valuable reference tables that should never be missed.  Each one holds such great stuff.

Table One : County Court references, Township atlases, and general organization of counties in census years.
Table Two : Dictionaries dating from 1838, Black's Law dictionary, US Research Outlines, Gazetteers, The Source, Passenger Manifests helps, etc. References for Naturalization (Philadelphia, New York, Chicago and Cook County Courts) etc.
Table Three : Land and Property references, Military Service records references, etc.
Table Four : Native America references, Biblio and History of Newspapers 1831-1936.

Stan and his wife, Rachel, are partners in their research business, Heritage Consulting, locating in Salt Lake City.  They are not affiliated with the Family History Library.  They include pedigree charts, family group sheets and copies of supporting documents.  Stan said they have specialized in US, England, Canada, Western Europe, Russia and Latin America research for probate, heirship, adoption resources, family genetics research, document transcriptions and can provide general research assistance.  Stan and Rachel have a website :  Should you need help at any time with your research, I would not hesitate to contact Stan and Rachel.

And my taste buds still remember how we ended our day at Caputo's Deli and Restaurant.  They have the best Italian "grub" I've ever had.  And the hotel was kind enough to shuttle us back and forth during the evening.  When in Salt Lake City, I'd be sure to check out Caputo's for a nice snack or meal. Caputos is located at 314 west South, Salt Lake City, 801-531-TONY.  You can even call ahead for your order.

We had a research lecture about reading and indexing the Italian Records for FamilySearch.  We will also met with others in the group who are researching their families in the same provincial areas.  Time to compare notes, and discovered someone that I just might be related to!  oh boy, more cousins!

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

FHL Day One POINT conference

Day one was wonderful. I had a nourishing breakfast, then, off to the library just around the corner.  The Library has many, many computers for patrons to use.  You can bring your own laptop, Kindle, Nook, Sony Reader, Nook, whatever...or just use their systems already set up for you.

I did a quick search of the published family histories that they have on hand.  I did not count them all, but I would venture to say that they number in the MILLIONS.  No kidding.  I saw many possibilities for my research for clients and myself, so I jotted down those call numbers to refer to later in the week.

We had a fantastic speaker, Paola, who gave us a lesson in the early laws of Italy regarding marriage.  Very interesting.  Apparently, Mom and Pop, had to give their approval of their child's choice for their mate, unless the union had already been arranged by the parents.  Very stiff rules were in place.

Napoleon had a lot to do with the proper recording of vital records.  That guy knew what he was doing.  His intent was to make sure that all records within his conquered lands, which included most of old Italy, were noted in the same form and fashion.  Names of persons, places of births, dates, parental information, etc., including witnesses had to be included.  This makes it nice for those of us who want to search these records hundreds of years later.  Hooray for Napoleon, huh?

In addition, Paola gave some great tips on how to determine where one would find the records that they are looking for.  Are they in the local town hall, the Province tribunal, the Courthouse...?  All depends on the age of the document.  After 70 years, most have moved onto the larger archives of the "state", aka province and larger court archives.  But not always.  Isn't that always the case?

After a brief lunch, and back to the library, I started to look into a client's research problem.  Finding the birth place and record of the birth of a certain great grandfather.  Turns out after I had exhausted the archive indexes, that particular part of Italy did not start to record their civil vital records until 1866.  The date that I was looking for was 1865.  Darn.

I searched for the approximate area of another client's ancestral hometown.  Pinpointing it to just east of Salerno, and finding that not very many records were available for the timeline that I was interested in, I turned my attention to the recorded family histories of the surname.  Bingo.  I took down the call numbers of those books, just before the overhead speaker announced, "the library will be closing in 15 minutes".  So tomorrow, I'll pick up where I left off.

A nice genealogist met with us at the Plaza hotel and gave a very informative presentation on where the most valuable books for research are held.....2nd floor, please.  What a nice guy with tips to expedite the research we all had in our "to do" notes.  I rapidly took notes and now I know where I'll head before doing any other research.

A nice evening was had by all as we were transported to Caputo's deli/restaurant where we had our choice of Sicilian delicacies.  Yum.  Along with a glass of red wine.  Back to the hotel to plan the next day's research.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

A Week in Salt Lake City

Thanks for letting me take off some time since the last post.  Family health issues came into play for a while, but all seems better now.  So, it's back to researching family history and having some fun.

I am spending a whole week in Salt Lake City, attending the POINT 2012 conference (Pursuing Our Italian Names Together).  A great organization to join, for those of us who have Italian heritage.  We'll talk about that a little more later.

Meanwhile, here in Salt Lake City, the local "play-land" for historians and family history buffs is the Family History Library.  It is owned by the Mormon Church, aka LDS ( Church of the Latter Day Saints ).  Part of their beliefs is that they should identify and honor their ancestors, and allow them to be "baptized" in the afterlife, so that they will be saved from the original sin that we are born with (according to most Christian religions, due to the sin of Adam and Eve).  In order to accomplish this task, the LDS has sent liaisons with photographers all over the world to photograph the many civil and church records from every town and village where they were welcome.  Imagine a large mountain vault chocked full of microfilms.

But wait, there's more....The LDS has recently begun to digitize the microfilmed records and have posted those on their website.  This information is absolutely FREE.  Can you keep your excitement down to a low roar, please.

This week I will be attending a daily seminar regarding Italian research topics.  Then, my afternoons and evenings will be full of researching data from historical records in the Family History Library.  Here is the link to the website for Family Search:
Family History Search
Visit it and enjoy it.  Click on every available tab.  Take a minute to explore, and listen to the flicks on various topics regarding family history research.

Tomorrow evening I'll post the fantastic findings that I know I'll find.  Sit tight!

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

More about death records

In the "days of old" death certificates may have been produced by local police, coroners, doctors, or whoever was appointed that task.  When living in rural areas, I have found that the local carpenter became the person who measured the corpse and hand made the coffin.  Visitation was quick when they did not have mortician.  Usually the parlor of the deceased person became the location of the wake for family, friends and neighbors.  Then burial often happened the day after the death.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Death Records

Records about a deceased person are the most unreliable vital records.  Why?  The person who can verify the reported information is no longer living.  Persons that volunteer information for death certificates, obituaries, burial, etc, can often be upset, which can hinder their ability to give correct information.  In addition, the person(s) who offer information may not know very much about the deceased person.  Many death certificates contain incorrect information such as the date and place of birth and names of parents.  The death certificate only certifies the date of the death of the deceased. The other data can only be considered clues, and must be verified by a family history researcher.  Let's look at a death certificate:

This is my grandmother's death certificate.  She was living with my parents at the time of her passing, as she was suffering from cancer and needed someone to take care of her everyday needs. This is a very inclusive certificate.  It has information about her date and time of death, where she was born, parent names, spouse name and address, cause of death, physician name and address, place of burial, etc. Fortunately, most of the information in this certificate is correct. The surname of her father is not spelled should be "Haselbacher".    Information could have been more precise with the exact place of birth, but as an example of a death certificate with adequate information, this is considered to be a good source to use for family history researcher.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

More Recent Marriages

Now that I have shown a few of the older marriage documents, I'll show you some that are more recent, or at least not in the 1800s.
This is a page from the Ohio County Marriages, found at, from 1921.

These are not the marriage licenses themselves, however, it is an index book chocked full of wonderful information that was necessary to have recorded when the couple applied for their license.  Names of the spouses and where they lived, place of birth, parents' names, number of marriage of each spouse, who officiated the ceremony and date.  What great information.  Be sure to make good use of Family Search.  They are digitizing their filmed images with great speed.

Friday, March 30, 2012

For Richer or Poorer

As I said before, marriage documents can have some really interesting information contained in them.  Take a look at the marriage documents of Ernst Chrisitian Reif and Catherine Foy of Ogle County, Illinois.  Ernst is the oldest brother of Julia Reif, who I featured in my last post about marriage documents.  Take a peek:

 Here's the "cover" page of a marriage document from 1863 in Ogle County, Illinois.  Ernest C. Reif and Catherine Foy.  It gives the date that the license was applied on and the date of the returned document and entered in to the county records (October 1 and November 2, respectively), along with the officiate of the  county office.  In this case it was the deputy county clerk.

 Page 2 has the license form showing that Ernst Reif came to apply for the license himself, showing that he also signed for the license. The deputy county clerk signed on October 1st.  The primary county clerk must have been on vacation!  Where do you go in 1863 for a vacation?  Perhaps he was serving in the Civil War?  This form was to be folded in half as you can see the "landscape" positioning of the cover which repeats the record numbers from the original cover page, plus the names of the intended spouses, with the same date (October 1st, 1863) and the same identity and signature of the deputy county clerk.

This is the certified copy (date 3-23-2009) from the Ogle County Clerk.  This form has the "meat" of the event.  This is the marriage certificate, stating that Ernest C. Reif and Catherine Foy were united in marriage in the fourteenth of October in 1863 by a Minister of the Gospel in Forreston, Illinois. It is signed by the Rev. R. K. Bloom.  Once again, the deputy county clerk signed the certificate, and it also states that this event had to take place and the form returned to the clerk within 30 days, or a fine of $100 would be levied.  That was a lot of money back in the days of the Civil War.
This marriage record does not give much information on the couple themselves, like their place of birth or ages. Neither does it give any information on their parents.  I think it really depended on the  county and what information that they required from the couple. We have to accept what we get and and go from there.  On Monday, (yes, it will be April already) I'll post yet another marriage document.  We will see if we get any further information about a bride and groom.  Til then...happy searching.

Monday, March 19, 2012

From This Day Forward....

So, finally I am able to post a little about our research in to marriage records.
Where do we start? If you know the exact date of a marriage, you can easily find the records of the event in on-line databases and church records.  If it was a civil marriage, there could be a notation about the court or location of the wedding.  Church records are great for gathering more information than you ever expected, as those will contain parents' names and witnesses, too.

If you don't know the date of the wedding, but can calculate an approximate string of years, do a quick search of the newspapers from the areas around the bride's place of residence.  Of course, this does not always provide the information that you may be looking for. I would also suggest a search of the county and state records that the couple were living in during the first years of their marriage.

Newspapers can be searched on-line: provides many digitized newspapers from across the nation is another site that provides many newspapers, but for a price has a wonderful database that is constantly growing with SSDI, newspapers, books, obits and documents.  This also has a fee.

Try your local library databases.  Most  libraries have a link to which will guide you to a wide array of newspaper archives.

Google news archives search will produce so much from which to choose.  You will want to narrow your search after you see how much information will be matched to your initial search.

Next Friday, March 23, I will show you what you can find in on-line databases for wedding information.

NOTE:  I will be posting every Monday and Friday each week, but with shorter blogs.  This will enable me to focus on individual documents and discuss what I find in my own research, and those of my clients ( with names disguised for privacy issues ).  See ya on Friday!