Saturday, July 30, 2011

Dreaming Genealogy

If you have been doing genealogy long enough it inevitably comes - the Dream about doing genealogy. Some of mine are rather pleasant, I'm driving through the mountains toward a little town and down below is a beautiful lake or river. I get out and start wandering through the town when I find a small little storefront genealogy society. I go inside and it is just full of all the documents I've ever tried to find. In fact this has happened to me to some degree. I've been through beautiful country in Tennessee, West Virginia, and Kentucky. This is my favorite part of the research trip. I love to visit new places that are off the beaten path. Of course the goal is to find that one piece of paper that proves an ancestor, but don't discount the whole experience.

Take some time to take photos or drive through the countryside. Cemetery hunting is the best way to see where your ancestors lived. I take in everything and take photos of everything, even the little hole-in-the-wall library or the country store I stopped at for directions. It gives me a record of the places I visited in case I want to go back. My first research trip on my own I visited the little town of Williamsburg in Whitley county, Kentucky and then traveled across the state line into Tennessee to Campbell county. What beautiful country! I imagined what it was like for my greatgrandmother, Mary Emily Reeves, to have been born and raised here in the 1840s. I drove around one whole day just looking for where her father, George, was buried to no avail. But when I go back I'll know where to look next. I know he's there somewhere. That trip created an unforgetable memory. I did find that little hole-in-the-wall genealogy society that had a large collection. I spent a whole day there and made loads of copies. I visited the aged courthouse and wondered if my family had ever walked its halls. I also found that beautiful lake just outside of town - in La Follette, TN - where I just had to stop and stare. I use the photo now as my screensaver.

A message for those that just do their genealogy on the internet you're missing something very important just sitting in front of that computer. Take the time and plan that research trip no matter if it's just for a day. I've just spent a day driving to southern Indiana and relish it every time. Take the time and really enjoy the fun part of genealogy. Stop and smell the wildflowers along the way.

See the photo of my Dream Lake at the bottom of this blog page.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Miscellaneous Books at the Recorder's Office

I made a discovery today! It wasn't concerning my own genealogy but something none the less that made me want to shout. Two years ago I discovered the Miscellaneous books at our local Brown County Recorder's Office. I had looked at them only quickly enough to check on someone elses' sources. At the time I was researching the topic "Horse Thief Detectives in Brown County." It was published in the March 2011 edition of Indiana Genealogist of the IGS quarterly. I had used the Miscellaneous Books then to get names of those involved in the creation of the organizations. I had also checked them when I was helping to compile a Church History for one of local churches that had burnt, the Grandview Apostolic Church. Little was known about the early people that had established this church and I thought I could at least get the names of the Trustees.

I started on another research topic this month, the Fox Hunts that occurred in Southern Indiana and namely the one that occurred here in Brown County in 1925. We recently had a large panoramic photo donated to our Archives of the Fox Hunt that occurred here in 1925. I was hoping to find evidence of local Fox Hunting Clubs that might have been organized during that time. I couldn't find anything easily in the index under Brown County Fox Hunters so I decided to take the time to look through the whole index to see if maybe there was a listing under any other names.

As I started in the A's I noticed the types of filings that were listed in the index. There were Elections of Trustees for churches and other organizations, Appointments of County positions, Articles of Association by cemetery associations. All this great stuff is in the Miscellaneous Books. Then I started noticing other things that I hadn't seen before such as: Guardianships, Estates, Last Will and Testaments, Survivorship Affidavits, Affidavit Stating Heirs and even Divorces. I starting taking notes to see if any these had been recorded anywhere else. I double checked my list with the Will Books and Probate Books that had been compiled years ago and are at our local library. Of my list of 17 entries in Miscellaneous Book 5 for 1924-1932 about half of these I couldn't find anywhere else. This will be an ongoing investigation to check even more sources to see I have overlooked something. But, I surmise that some of these entries refer to events that might not have occurred in our county but needed to be recorded here for legal purposes.

But what a find! Consider this as an alternate source in case you can't find a record elsewhere. Or maybe as a record "to add to" your primary source documents. Whatever your need is please be sure to check on these little known sources that are hiding in plain site.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Death Records in Indiana

Looking for a death record in Indiana can sometimes be a bit daunting and other times like cutting butter with a hot knife. It all depends on the county you are looking in. First of all, Indiana only started recording deaths as well as births and full marriage information in 1882. So most dates can be found after this year. In the 1930s the WPA was established and one of their better projects was to index Birth, Death, and Marriage Records. Not all counties were indexed by the time the WPA was terminated though. I'll share some of my experiences in several counties.

Let's start in Hamilton county, as usual there's always one book of death records at the local County Health Dept. that always came up missing some years ago and Hamilton county is one of those places, as well as Brown county. What's nice is that when the WPA indexed the death records at least most of these lost books got in the index before they came up missing. Unfortunately Brown County didn't get that lucky, we have no alternate resource for this missing book. Hamilton county is one of those counties though that are very protective of their death records. You have to jump through hoops to get the information. But by the time I had visited their office for the tenth time they had gotten to know me and even let me go in the backroom to look at the books myself. Now Brown county is just the opposite, when you walk in their office they have a card file for visitors to look through which has all the death information on them. Then if you want a copy of a death certificate you can pay for one. The only problem is they won't put the family information on the certificate. You have to photocopy the index card for that. Bartholomew county also has the index card system that visitors can look through. Monroe county is more like Hamilton county, they are very protective of their records and you have to give them your life's history to get a death record. Literally you have to fill a long form for every death record you want a copy of. The only good thing is they don't charge a fee if it is for genealogical purposes. Johnson county is more lenient about visitors viewing their death records if you let them know it is for genealogy. They will give you the book and set you at a table and you can copy off the information yourself. Morgan county is more like Monroe county, they are protective of their records but not overly so. Jefferson county is more like Johnson county, they will let you look through the books yourself if you tell them it is for genealogy.

The last place that I have had problems with is Marion county. I feel like if any of my ancestors died in Indianapolis or thereabouts they fell into a black hole. But there are two resources there that are a little different. The county health dept. is a lot more visitor friendly. They have a special day set aside for genealogical requests. You'll have to check their website for more information. The most daunting was the Indiana State Health Dept. It was just like working with any big corporation, they don't seem to have time for you. I've heard from other researchers about this one too, not just my own experience. They can't seem to find death records in their own files and they ask you to go the the State Library first to find the death record in the index that you are looking for. I hope someday they will become more genealogist friendly.

As for other counties in Indiana you will have to contact them and sort of feel them out before you visit to know what kind of experience to expect. If writing for a death record always give plenty of information about yourself and your ancestors. Send a SASE too so they don't have to mess with that part. Always be courteous and thank them. As the old saying goes, you can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Finding Greatgrandmother Ferguson

Have you ever gotten a document that you thought would help but only helped to confuse you further? That was the way it happened when I was trying to find the origins of my greatgrandmother Rose Etta Ferguson. Actually I found two of them equally bewildering, but ultimately I was able to use them with a little detective work. The first piece of documentation I sought was her death record. Her son, my grandfather, George A. Dunn, gave the information on the death record. According to his info she was born in 1865 in Madison, Jefferson County, Indiana. That part was true - at least that was what was in the family stories. Also her father was listed as Dave Ferguson but no mother was listed. From there I went to get her obituary but found that didn't help much only giving names of children and the approximate time she had moved to Johnson county. I made an attempt to look her up in the census. I did find a Dave Ferguson in Jefferson county in 1880 but with no daughters by that name. I felt that it was the right family or some sort of family to Rose Etta but I needed more. Next I decided to get her marriage record to my greatgrandfather, George M. Dunn. They being married sometime after 1882 in Indiana I had a good chance of finding a complete marriage application with more family data reported on it. What came next was amazing but it helped me to finally find her. On their marriage record her name was listed in 2 ways. At the top it read George M. Dunn to Lusetta Ferguson, married Feb. 15, 1892. At the bottom where both signed she had written Rosetta Ferguson. If this little piece of information hadn't been on there I never would have found her and what's more amazing is that whoever chose to index these marriages had enough common sense to include both names. Thank you, whoever did that, you saved my life!!!! The next piece of information that was puzzling was her father's name was listed as John B. Ferguson and mother as Lydia Lovell. So now I had to decide, who did I trust to report the correct information? My grandpa who said his name was Dave or Rosetta herself who said her father's name was John - did she give the info or did her husband? I never would have doubted my grandfather before until now. So I took all this information and combined it to help me look for Rose Etta Ferguson in Jefferson county. There she was in the 1880 census living with her father, John B. Ferguson and mother, Lydia Ann, under the name Lusetta at about the right age. The next piece of information that helped tie it all together was this Dave Ferguson I had found earlier turned out to be John's brother and was living nearby. It's curious how names can be changed around but still have a ring of truth to it. There's one question I have never found the answer to - why did Rose Etta change her name from Lusetta? No one in my family ever seemed to know about her other name. All it took was some odd pieces of information and with some good hard detective work the true facts came to the surface.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Genealogy as your Hobby

Have you ever read historical accounts of the times your ancestors were living? I think most genealogists wonder at one time or another what their life must have been like. Genealogy is much more than putting dates and faces to a name on your family tree. But the truth is, genealogy is a hobby that you can fashion to your own requirements. You can strictly keep it to dates and places or you can fashion it into a full-blown family history. The choice is up to you. But I think the first time you take a look at one of those 100+ year old documents you will be smitten. Recently we had a visitor at the Brown Co. Archives. She had driven down from Michigan to find proof of a relationship link of her John Kirts to a James Kirts. That would help provide proof of a link to a Revolutionary War soldier, Conrad Kirts. She wanted to get in the DAR. Sometimes I frown at these research requests and think she's missing the fun part. So we helped her gather as much linking evidence as possible, but still couldn't find the best proof possible. We did prove that land passed from James to John Kirts, but with no details to spell out their relationship. I'm not sure what kind of evidence that the DAR needs, but hope she got enough to make her case. As she was leaving our conversation turned to the DAR, where she gave me this last bit of information, "If I can prove this link to Conrad Kirts then he'll be my 8th entry into the DAR." My jaw dropped. I guess she did find her way of having fun with genealogy.