Newspapers provide a wealth of knowledge concerning the everyday life of our ancestors. Besides articles concerning daily and historical events, newspapers also published notices pertaining to visits from family members, births, marriages, divorces, deaths, property being probated, and other details. Paper of Record.com, a database available at the Genealogy Center, provides digital access to historical newspapers from across the globe.
It is the book for which most everyone eagerly awaits in the spring (or fall), and the only one that you could write in without getting into trouble. It is the yearbook, filled with photos and description of students, teachers, and staff in various activities. School yearbooks started at the college level and many were collections of student essays, poetry and fiction, altering over the years to become memory books we know today, and descending through high school, then elementary schools. The Genealogy Center’s extensive collection of local school annuals is a popular draw for current and former residents of the city as they locate themselves, parents or friends. Older yearbooks can also bring a grandparent to life for a younger member of the family, adding information about interests and activities, or can verify the presence of the student in a given place at a specific time.
The Genealogy Center actively collects Allen County school yearbooks, and is happy to receive donations of yearbooks from any location, so when you know someone looking to dispose of their old annuals, or if you are thinning your own book shelves, please remember that we’d be happy to find space for these important resources in the collection.
If you’ve ever followed a family through the census or city directories, and suddenly find that they have moved to a different address on the same street, it may be that they did not move at all, but that the city had changed street numbering systems. As some towns grew, houses or buildings were often just numbered as they were built, counting out from the town center. This became a problem when additional buildings were inserted. Most cities eventually went to a more organized system, usually counting each block as one hundred, and numbering buildings in a correspondingly appropriate position within the hundred and assigning even and odd numbered sides to the streets.
The Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps may be able to help you to determine the corresponding old and new street numbers. When a city was in the process of making such a change, the maps would print both old and new building numbers, so if you encounter such a situation, check to see if Fire Insurance Maps were made for the city. The Genealogy Center has Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps in the Library of Congress, which will help you determine if maps were issued for the city you are searching. The maps will also provide answers if the street name itself has changed, and can help you determine exactly where your ancestor lived.
Ancestry.com is an online database available at the Genealogy Center, where you can access the 1790-1930 Census, Passenger Lists, Military Records, Family Trees, and much more. Once you find the record you have been searching for years to discover, you might want a copy of it for your records.
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To determine where we should look for records, we need to know the county and state our ancestor lived. As we search, we need to review histories and maps of the county and state to see when and how the boundaries changed.
States changed their boundaries more than we think. For example, Kentucky settlements were a part of Virginia until Kentucky became a state in 1792, but continued to have boundary disputes with Tennessee until 1820. The northwestern portion of Virginia split in 1863, forming West Virginia. Colonial Louisiana included sections of ten other states, including Minnesota.
County boundaries changed more frequently than state boundaries. Present day Indian River County, Florida has changed county boundaries six times since being Indian Lands. Sections of Mellette County, South Dakota were formerly part of Cheyenne and Jackson Counties.
To begin determining changes in county and state boundaries, you can search the following books:
When Flickr first became available online, many individuals rushed to post photos to share with friends and family, then genealogists discovered they could backup family images as well. Now Flickr can be used not only to protect our ancestral photos, but for actual genealogical research. The Commons on Flickr is a photographic archive where many genealogists are discovering their ancestors images online. Several public repositories’ images can be searched on Flickr such as The Library of Congress, Smithsonian, State Library and Archives of Florida, and the New York Public Library. Besides searching images on the Commons site, you can share stories and discuss the photos available on the site. Another great source for you to use!
You can even Google people’s names, although you might be surprised to learn that your ancestor from the 1700s has a Facebook page and that you can get a background check on him with credit rating for a low fee! If you get such hits, obviously it is someone with the same name. You probably will have the best luck searching for someone with an unusual name. Googling “Dawson Pompey,” for example, brought to light photographs of his family members that someone had posted online.
A more planned approach to Internet searching might include looking at the homepages of public libraries, university libraries, genealogical and historical societies and courthouses in the specific areas where your ancestors lived. Any of these entities may have databases specific to the area online, or even digitized images of records, tombstone photos, and more. At the very least, you can discover the addresses and hours for the libraries and courthouses you want to plan to visit in the spring or next summer!
Cemeteries, funeral homes, colleges, fraternal organizations, governmental entities, ethnic groups, family associations and many other businesses and organizations have their own websites. And every website you land on often will have links to still more websites that may help your search.
In addition, you can look for other people to be your “legs” in a distant locale while you are snowbound. Local genealogical societies or libraries may have volunteer or for-a-fee research services. The Board for Certification of Genealogists and Association of Professional Genealogists have lists of researchers with specialties in geographic or subject areas that you can hire to further your research.
Just because you can’t take a road trip does not mean your genealogy project has to come to a screeching halt. Light the fire, pour the cocoa and grab the laptop – it’s time to hit the highway … the armchair research highway, that is!
If cold and snowy weather is keeping you from taking that genealogical research trip you are dreaming about, why not take a “virtual” research trip by doing some armchair research?
Until quite recently, armchair research meant writing letters to people researching the same family lines and sending forms to courthouses for copies of birth, marriage and death records. While these still are worthwhile pursuits, the Internet has opened up a whole new world for genealogical research from home, or from your local library.
The Genealogy Center’s website has a number of databases and collections of links that anyone can access from anywhere – you do not need to have an Allen County Public Library card. Access to these is from the gray bar running down the lefthand side of the Genealogy Center’s home page. Check back often because material is being added regularly!
The links in the top part of the white quadrant in the center of the page are for subscription-based databases, such as Ancestry.com, HeritageQuestOnline.com and Footnote.com. To access those, patrons need to be inside one of the Allen County Public Library’s buildings. But if you don’t live in Fort Wayne, call your local public library and ask about these databases – many libraries have subscriptions and you may be able to use these databases for free by driving to your closest library!
From home, you might try doing some creative keyword searches in the search box of your favorite Internet browser, such as Google or Yahoo! Try putting quotation marks around words that belong together in a phrase to help narrow your search to the most relevant “hits.” For example, “Allen County Indiana” will keep those three words together in the search instead of bringing up everything in cyberspace that has each of those words somewhere in the record.
Check back tomorrow for Part 2 of Armchair Research.
Think you might be related to one of our American Presidents? Of course, you will have to research your own family to establish a link, but Ancestors of American Presidents, published in 2009, provides ancestral tables for each President, lines of descent from royalty to Presidents and First Ladies, and charts outlining relationships between various Presidents. The 1993 American Presidential Families also provides essays on the life of the family in the White House, pedigree charts, and descendants.
City directories fill in gaps in our research by providing information on our ancestors during time periods not covered by other records. We can see where are ancestor lived, possibly marital status, or a hint at migration or death, as well as occupational information.According to the 1850 Census, John Hagey of Philadelphia, PA was a confectioner, as were other members of his household who served the same occupation. The same John Hagey is employed as a clockmaker in 1860. Upon initial review, this appeared to be a drastic change in occupation, but using Philadelphia city directories, the answer was found.
In the 1838 Commercial City Directory, John Hagey owned a clock, watch, and jewelry business, but by the 1840 directory, he’s a confectioner in the Hagey & Nice Company that specializes in confectioners. From 1840 to 1860, his various sons are also in the directory as confectioners. The 20 year snapshot of John Hagey’s company and life provided in the city directories shows a man who shared his business with family and may have returned to his previous profession of clockmaker as he aged.