Researching Long Distance via RAOGK

May 10, 2010

by Dawne

The situation happens to everyone eventually – you discover a record that you need copied, a quick look-up to be done, or a photograph of a tombstone – but it is in a distant state and you can’t get there yourself. Sometimes the easiest way to get record copies is through corresponding directly with the courthouse or library in the distant location. But in other cases, that can be expensive and/or take more time than you would like.

Another option is to hire a professional researcher to do the task for you. The Association of Professional Genealogists and the Board for Certification of Genealogists have lists of available professional researchers on their websites. Many libraries and courthouses also have lists of researchers who have placed their names with the facilities. But often these professionals require a multi-hour retainer to make the job worth their while, and if you have just a quick look-up to be done, this doesn’t really suit your needs.

Photo of gravestone of Mary, wife of Samuel Rhodes, died March 18, 1856, aged 50 ys. 6 mo. 11 ds. (Old Huntertown Cemetery, southeast corner of Dunton and Cedar Canyon Roads, Perry Township, Allen County, Indiana) that Dawne recently took and sent as a Random Act of Genealogical Kindness.

What to do? See if a volunteer will do the small (but significant to you!) job at the cost of any out-of-pocket expenses. Contact the genealogical society in the area where you need the look-up done and ask whether it has members who will do such work. Or go to the website of Random Acts of Genealogical Kindness (RAOGK) at and see whether anyone has registered to do lookups in the area in which you are interested.

Volunteers on the RAOGK have agreed to do one free genealogy research task at least once a month in their local areas. Those who take advantage of this service must pay the out-of-pocket expenses such as record fees, copy fees, postage, parking fees and the like. They also would like a thank you, of course. The RAOGK boasts more than 4,000 volunteers, with a volunteer in every state and many other countries.

Whether or not you are successful in finding someone who will perform a Random Act of Genealogical Kindness for you, consider adding your name to the list as someone who will do a look-up in your local area. One look-up a time, once a month, we can make long-distance genealogical research easier for everyone and perhaps even bank some good karma for our own genealogical endeavors!


Printing from Ancestry.com

April 22, 2010

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.
Read the rest of this entry »


Ellingham Family Papers

April 5, 2010

(and other long records in the library catalog)

by Aaron

Here in the Genealogy Center, we own a number of very large and comprehensive compilations of significant research created by individuals who have committed decades to their respective projects. One such recently cataloged set is the Lewis Ellingham’s Family Papers. Its 363 volumes contain thousands of surnames, accompanied by pedigree charts and genealogical tables encompassing hundreds of years. However, there is no index to these volumes. So how does one find information about specific names of interest?

In the Allen County Public Library catalog, type the surname you seek followed by the word “family” (searching it as a subject and limiting your search to the Genealogy Center will help).

The results you get will look like this.

You’ll notice that the Ellingham family papers (#3 above), includes 158 volumes–volumes 206 through 363. When you click on the Details button, you see this.

Then click on the Catalog Record tab.

This very long screen of information is easily searched by using the Find command in your browser. In the most common browsers (Internet Explorer and Firefox), hold the Ctrl key down and strike the F key. A box will appear on your screen. Enter the surname you are looking for in that box.

When you press enter, the browser will locate the text in the record, and in this instance you will know there is a significant reference to a Deetz family in vol. 276.


Boundary Changes

March 25, 2010

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:

Red Book

The Handybook for Genealogists

Map Guide to the U.S. Federal Censuses, 1790-1920

Atlas of Historical County Boundaries Series


Vital Records Tip

March 16, 2010

When searching for a vital record in a specific county, first verify that the county/ state collected records in that specific time period.

For example, looking for a birth record in Allen County, IN for 1854 will produce no results because birth records were not collected until 1882.

Sources for determining when a locality began collecting vital records are:

Red Book
The Handybook for Genealogists
vitalrec.com


Now how do you spell that?

March 12, 2010

One of the first things we, as genealogists, need to learn is that our ancestors’ names were not always spelled correctly, and you may even find the same person’s name spelled several different ways in the same document. The spelling of some names have only “recently” been standardized. Not everyone could spell his or her own name, and not all clerks could spell either! Regional pronunciations might alter a person’s name, or an individual might change it to adapt to surrounding population or for simplicity. These variations may, or may not lead to lasting changes, and may not be an instantaneous or single change. It may take several generations, and the advent of modern record keeping, before a name becomes permanent.


What’s your name?

March 5, 2010

Running across nicknames and name variations as you research is always a challenge. You can hope that the legal records will list the person’s real name, but if you use newspapers, diaries, or personal reminiscences, you might run across shortened names such as Jack (John? Jackson?), Bert (Albert? Herbert? Hubert?), or Nellie (Cornelia? Eleanor?). Sometimes, these shortened names become the real names of descendants (Hamilton is called Hammie, then a great-nephew is christened Hammie). The hard ones are those that can be a name or define a relationship (Sissy for Cecelia or sister). Nicknames can describe physical appearance (Red, Shorty), or some other characteristic (Lucky or Tex). First and middle names could be switched at will, or new names adopted, as with a Queenie and a Narcissa who both changed their names to Mary. Nicknames provide an added dimension to an ancestor, so remember to check all of the possibilities.


Armchair Research, Part 2

February 25, 2010

by Dawne

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!


Armchair Research, Part 1

February 24, 2010

by Dawne

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.


City Directories

January 21, 2010

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.

1859 Philadelphia Directory

1859 Philadelphia Directory

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.

To access the Genealogy Center’s listing of city directories, you can search the microtext catalog or search the print catalog using search terms of town, state, “directory.”


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