Resource spotlight: Biographical Directory of the United States Congress

The Biographical Directory of the U.S. Congress is a biographical dictionary of all present and former members of Congress. Researchers can look up anyone who has served in Congress by their name, position, state, party, year or Congress. The directory, first published in 1859, contains valuable information about the more than 13,000 individuals who have served in Congress. The publication became an online database to allow researchers to search more easily. The image below is the directory’s current homepage, though a new website design will be coming soon.

The searching feature is very simple. Users can search by name, state, political party, position or year. The features allow for broad information gathering. A researcher can easily find every member of Congress from their state over time or discover who was serving in Congress during a particular period. Users can also research individual politicians as well. For example, searching for John Tipton produces one match. The user can see Tipton’s position(s), political party, state and time served in Congress, even before viewing his biography page.

The biography section contains a brief bio and portrait of the Congressman or Congresswoman. The biography page also includes a Research Collections section that lists the repositories of primary source materials and an Extended Bibliography for published biographies.

The Research Collections section lists the locations of the individual’s primary sources. For John Tipton, the Indiana Historical Society and Indiana State Library both have collections. The Indiana State Library has 8,000 items in their John Tipton collection. The section is an excellent starting point for tracking down where a politician’s papers are located, but it is important to know the Research Collections list is not conclusive. For example, searching the directory for Schuyler Colfax lists several repositories of his manuscripts, but does not mention the Indiana State Library’s collection. The database is an excellent resource, but should not be considered one-stop researching.

The Biographical Directory of the U.S. Congress has long served as a useful resource for researching the history of Congress and its members. The directory is updated every new Congress and has advanced from its initial printed format to its current online database. More changes are on the horizon, too. The website will soon have a revamped, more vibrant and engaging redesign. At the time of this writing, the new design is not live yet, but below is a sneak peek at how the directory will eventually look. The Biographical Directory of the U.S. Congress is an excellent resource to know. Researchers can locate any current or former members of Congress and discover primary and secondary source information with ease.

This blog post was written by Indiana State Library federal documents coordinator Brent Abercrombie. For more information, contact the Reference and Government Services at 317-232-3678 or via “Ask-A-Librarian.”

Unusual sources to use for your family’s story

When researching genealogy, a way to make our ancestors’ stories really interesting is to search out each and every nugget of information we can find. When searching for these bits of information, you’ll need to think about who your ancestor was, what your ancestor did, where your ancestor was and when your ancestor lived. Answering these questions can lead you to some unusual resources. Let’s look at some of these resources.

Photo by Benny Mazur. “Notch-ear.” License agreement.

One of the earliest forms of livestock Indiana pioneers kept were pigs. Pigs could be left to roam and forage in the woods and then captured when it was time for butchering. At butchering time, to know whose pig was whose the pioneers would make different notches in the pigs’ ears. The owner of the pigs could then register their stock mark at the county courthouse.

I was fortunate to find my ancestor Absalom Hoover’s stock mark in the pamphlet files in the Genealogy Division of the Indiana State Library. My ancestor’s stock mark looks like this: “Absalom Hoover Stock Mark, a crop off the right ear and a Slit in the left Recorded 11th March A.D. 1835  Saml Hannah Clk” Wayne County, Indiana, Stock Marks, Record A, Mar. 1815-Apr. 1822, call number: [Pam.] ISLG 977.201 W UNCAT. NO. 6.

Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

As I found out, my ancestors were not just farmers, but also tavern owners. You may discover that your ancestor was also a tavern owner. To start your search for a tavern owner ancestor, search the Flagon and Trencher Society’s Ancestors lists. Once you have determined your ancestor was a tavern owner, you can search for tavern histories and petitions to open a tavern in court records. My ancestor Enos Veal was a tavern owner in New Jersey. Using the Family Search database – free with registration – I was able to find his tavern petition in the Early Courthouse Records of Gloucester County, New Jersey.

Evelyn Lehman Culp Heritage Collection, Nappanee Public Library, Nappanee, IN.

If you have relatives that lived in Delaware County in Indiana, a fun resource to use is the What Middletown Read database. In this database, you can search by name to see what your ancestors read. For example Maggie Gessell read 115 items, one of which was “When Charles the First was King: A Romance of Osgoldcross, 1632-1649.” There is supplemental information on the database about Maggie Gessell, so from this database alone – I know that Maggie’s mother was Narcissa Gessell, her son was Arthur C. Osborn and she was divorced. From the Transcribed Ledger data on the database, I also know that she lived at 418 E. Jackson St. and was once known as Mrs. Maggie Vance.

The Daily Banner, Greencastle, Putnam County, 9 April 1968 page 1. Contributed by DePauw University Libraries via the Hoosier State Chronicles database.

The places our ancestors lived are full of events that our ancestors experienced. When my father was a teenager in Richmond, Indiana in the 1960s he experienced a gas explosion that could be heard and felt all over town. To find out more about this event, I checked the GenDisasters database. I found the event and discovered that it happened in April of 1968. To learn more about the disaster, I searched the newspaper databases provided by the Indiana State Library. You can search the following databases at the library: Newspaper Archive and Newspapers.com; the Hoosier State Chronicles is available for use from your home. I also could have searched the city of Richmond newspapers on microfilm in the Indiana Division of the Indiana State Library for even more information.

I encourage you to try some of these unusual resources to complete the picture of who you ancestors were and what your ancestors did.

Additional online sources to explore:
Index to Livestock Marks Registered in Hendricks County, Indiana (1824-1848) – provided as a free resource from the Allen County Genealogy Center.
Stock Marks Recorded in South Carolina, 1695-1721
Stock Marks of Tyrrell County, North Carolina 1736-1819
Stock Marks Aren’t Just Brands – Use them to Identify People
Some Early Indiana Taverns – Indiana Magazine of History, Volume 1, Issue 2, June 1905
Tavern Keepers 1797-1862 – Delaware County, N.Y.
Little pilgrimages among Old New England inns; being an account of little journeys to various quaint inns and hostelries of colonial New England
Records relating to Taverns – State of New Jersey Department of State
Tavern Petitions, 1700-1923 – Chester County Pennsylvania Archives

Sources to explore at the Indiana State Library:
“Index to Livestock Marks Registered In Hendricks County, Indiana (1824-1848)” – provided as a free resource from the Allen County Genealogy Center
“Stockmarks, Kosciusko County, Indiana, 1836-1863. Townships: Franklin, Jackson, Plain, Turkey Creek, Wayne, VanBuren,” [Pam.] ISLG 977.201 K UNCAT. NO. 3
“Stock mark record book Warrick County, Indiana,” ISLG 977.201 W295ST
“Pike County, Indiana register of stock marks,” ISLG 977.201 P636HP
“Stock marks [Decatur County, Ind., recorded 1822-1871],” ISLI 977.201 D291S
“Wayne County, Indiana, stock marks, Record A, Mar. 1815-Apr. 1822,” [Pam.] ISLG 977.201 W UNCAT. NO. 6
“Warren County, Indiana : stock marks recorded Oct. 1827 to May 1931,” ISLG 977.201 W286DW
“Curtis Gilbert’s list for marks and brands on stock [taken from his account books at Fort Harrison, Sullivan County, Indiana],” [Pam.] ISLG 977.202 F UNCAT. NO. 1
“Old taverns: an interesting pamphlet descriptive of historic taverns, ordinaries, inns, hotels and houses of entertainment as well as customs and rates,” [Pam.] ISLG 976.901 H323 NO. 2
“The taverns & turnpikes of Blandford: 1733-1833,” ISLG 974.402 B642W
“A sketch of Fraunces’ tavern and those connected with its history,” [Pam.] ISLG 974.702 N567 NO. 1
“Washington Hotel and Tavern ledger, 1789-1793, Princess Anne, Somerset County, Maryland,” [Pam.] ISLG 975.201 S UNCAT. NO. 1
“Taverns and travelers inns of the early Midwest,” ISLI 647.94 Y54t
“What Middletown Read: print culture in an American small city,” ISLI 028 F324w

This blog post is by Angi Porter, Genealogy Division librarian.

Introducing the born-digital Indiana state documents collection

Archive-It is a web archiving service that the Indiana State Library first started using in the spring of 2020 to collect online publications from Indiana state agencies. Archive-It is built at the Internet Archive, the digital library that is also the home of the Wayback Machine, where old websites are saved. For organizations that wish to save selective online content and create curated collections, Archive-It provides the tools necessary to capture, store and access.

The Indiana State Library collects printed publications from state agencies, but until recently we did not have a good solution for capturing and preserving online versions. Working from a priority list of Indiana state agencies and their web pages with known born-digital publications, we created the separate collections. Then test crawls were done to see if the Archive-It web crawler captured the desired content and linked documents. Test crawls are an opportunity to make sure the web page will play back correctly in the Wayback archive and that the amount of data collected stays within our subscription’s allocation.

Once the Indiana State Library Archive-It collections hold content, metadata is added for specific web pages, continuing publications or specific reports. For example, in December 2020, the Final Report of the Next Level Teacher Compensation Commission was issued online. A copy of this born-digital report resides in the collection Governor, Indiana. The screenshots below show the steps to access the report at the Wayback archive.

Click the “Captured 2 times” link

Click one of the date links

Access the full PDF of the report

For our new online state documents collection, we’ve been able to capture many state agency web pages and their linked publications. This is a continual work-in-progress as content is regularly captured through new crawls of the web pages. As this collection grows, we hope that these reports, brochures, newsletters, maps, fact sheets and online content will complement our historical collections of printed Indiana state documents.

This blog post was written by Indiana Division librarian and state documents coordinator Andrea Glenn. For more information, contact the Indiana Division at 317-232-3670 or “Ask-A-Librarian.”

‘The Biggest Little Library Conference’ is almost here! 

The 2021 Association for Rural and Small Libraries conference, themed “The Biggest Little Library Conference,” is almost here!

When:  Oct. 20-23, 2021
Where:  Nugget Resort in Reno/Sparks, Nevada

This year’s conference will be a combination of in-person and select virtual sessions.  The ARSL Conference Committee is in the process of building the schedule and selecting keynotes. Be sure to check the official 2021 ARSL Conference page for the most up-to-date conference information.

Early bird registration begins on Wednesday, July 7

Registration rates are very affordable. If you are not able to attend in person, the virtual price is a bargain. Check out the schedules and program descriptions below:

When I attended in 2018, there were so many presentations I wanted to see and, despite a few being repeated, I ran out of time to see them all. Looking at the preliminary schedule for 2021, there is something for everyone. You might have the same problem of not being able to attend every session you want to attend, because there are so many great ones. The pre-conference workshops look fantastic. They include planning library space; what will be different in a post pandemic library; and effective staff development on any budget. This year’s presentations look to be practical and reflect what libraries are doing and what obstacles they are facing. Topics include: telehealth visits in the library; mental health and libraries; tweens and STEAM; and re-thinking summer reading. There is also a leadership institute track during every session.

If you have a chance to attend in-person, it’s an awesome time to network with other librarians. There are libraries out there that only have one staff person, which is why this group is so important. It can be very lonely working by yourself, but having the support and guidance of this group is amazing. There are many informal times to gather including a welcome reception, dine-arounds and roundtables. When I went in 2018, the dine-arounds were a wonderful time to try out local restaurants along with fellow attendees. I met some very cool librarians from states all over the country, including Colorado, Illinois, Iowa, New York, North Dakota, Texas, Washington and Wisconsin. There was such an overwhelming feeling of camaraderie among attendees who shared successes, encouraged each other and learned new things from passionate professionals.

In 2020, the ARSL conference was entirely virtual. I was able to attend virtually last year and found the conference app, Whova, to be very nice. You could watch the sessions either on your computer through the Whova website or on your mobile device through the conference app. On this year’s schedule, there are a few sessions which are both virtual and in-person and some are virtual only. A new feature called Spark Talks is included this year. All of the topics look amazing and very relevant. Last year, attendees were able to view the sessions they missed. Hopefully, this will be an option as well for this year.

Whether you can attend virtually or in-person, this is one of the very best library conferences I have attended. I highly recommend attending this conference; you will not be sorry you went. Hope to “see” you there!

In case you want to start planning, the location for 2022 is to be decided, but 2023 will be in Wichita, Kansas.

The Association for Rural and Small Library organization is approved for LEU/TLEUs. Which means their conference is automatically approved for LEU/TLEU credit. If you need further information, please consult the state library’s Approved Training Provider page or contact certification program director at the Indiana State Library, Cheri Harris.

This post was written by Northeast regional coordinator Paula Newcom, Professional Development Office.

Adventures in photo sleuthing

Have you ever stumbled upon a stack of old family photographs and found yourself fascinated by informal snapshots and formal portraits taken decades before you were born? Your eyes take in their outmoded dress and staged poses and scan their faces looking for a flicker of recognition and find none. You wonder who they were, flip over the images and learn, much to your dismay, that the back is blank. After a moment’s disappointment, you decide you’re going to rectify your ancestors’ oversight and find out who these nameless people were, even if you’re a little fuzzy on the how.

As an archivist, I work with a lot of family photograph collections. If I’m very fortunate, some enterprising relation took the time to label a good portion of the photographs with names, dates and even locations. Most of the time, I’m not that lucky.

So, where do you start when you can’t identify most of the people in your photographs? Just keep reading. I’ll walk you through my process for researching and caring for enigmatic family photographs with examples from the recently processed Lucile Johnson photograph collection.

1. Rage at the skies

"Thor," Disney/Marvel; Imgur

Quickly move through the stages of grief.

  • Denial: No way an entire box of photographs only has seven identified photos!
  • Anger: I can’t believe no one thought to get more information from the owner when they were alive!
  • Bargaining: “Hey, Bob. You like unnecessarily complicated puzzles and hate cleaning the breakroom. I’ll trade you! No?”
  • Depression: Stare at photos hopelessly for 10 minutes. Maybe shed one lonely tear.
  • Acceptance: After you’ve sufficiently lamented, accept your fate. You’re doing this thing.

"Thor: Ragnorak," Disney/Marvel; Tenor2. Get to know the family

“The King and I” (1956); 20th Century Fox; Tenor

I was fortunate when it came to the Lucile Johnson photo collection because a previous staff member had already assembled a brief bio for Lucile – also spelled Lucille – so I knew she was born in Vincennes, Indiana in 1908 and her mother’s name was Bertha Johnson. She also worked at Wasson’s department store in Indianapolis. While I generally give my predecessors the benefit of the doubt, I always try to verify such facts, especially when they don’t include sources, because people make mistakes. It’s a fact of life. Regardless, surveying the photographs before taking a deep dive into a family history is good practice.

Lucile Johnson working Coty counter at H.P. Wasson’s, 1946; Indiana State Library

Flip through the photos
Keep in mind who, what, when and where as you do this. Are you noticing the same faces or places over and over again? Do certain people appear together in multiple photographs and do they look like family (e.g., multiple generations, similar facial features, etc.)?

Make an effort to keep the photos in original order – it could be important
Someone may have had a very good reason for organizing them the way you found them. Or someone could have just tossed them in a box. Either way, you should pay attention to it and decide whether you should retain that order or reorganize the photographs later.

Gather low-hanging fruit first
Handwritten notes or printed information may be even more important if they’re scarce. Many older photographs such as cartes de visite and cabinet cards have information about the photographer printed on the fronts or backs, often including the location of the studio. A handwritten caption noting an event or a person’s name on one photograph could be the key to identify several images in a series.

In the Johnson photo collection, the only consistent notations I found were estimated dates in square brackets a previous librarian must have assigned in pencil. Square brackets are often used to denote information added by archivists to differentiate them from notes written by creators or owners.

3. Form connections

“Sherlock,” BBC; Hartswood Films; Kansas City Public Library

When I’m trying to connect the dots, I look for obvious relationships and repeating clothing and backgrounds. If you’ve elected to reorganize your photographs, you can begin by physically grouping the photographs based on event, place, time period, format or another factor that makes sense to you.

Find familiar faces
Identify commonalities. If you have recognized the subjects in one or two photographs, search for them throughout the images. Make note of dates, locations, their companions and events.

Right away, while looking through Lucile’s photographs, I could see that many of the snapshots were part of a series taken together based on the people, clothing, places and/or time period. A photograph identifying a man named J. H. Moyer, allowed me to pick him out in several other photographs and later, make educated guesses as to his companions.

Left: J.H. Moyer (green) walking street, 1941; right: J.H. Moyer with group, including Lucile, (yellow); Indiana State Library

Pay attention to notable places
Based on several snapshots, Lucile and a group of friends seemingly went on holiday together when they were young ladies. For many Hoosiers, the round building in the background is instantly recognizable as the iconic West Baden Springs Hotel in Orange County. Your own familiarity with common landmarks, legible signage or even a Google reverse image search can all lead you to successfully identifying places in your photographs.

Lucile (yellow) with five friends at West Baden Springs Hotel, ca. 1922; Indiana State Library

Date the images
You can narrow down or even pinpoint when a photo was taken by observing details such as fashion, architecture, insignia, signs, photo formats and more. This blog post from the National Archives walks you through the process step-by-step.

Draw a family tree
If you’re faced with a convoluted family or you’re a visual person, creating a family tree is a must. It doesn’t have to be fancy, but I do recommend using a pencil with an eraser if you’re doing it by hand because you’re going to make mistakes. You can also find family tree templates to print out or take advantage of online tools or software. Unless you have an eidetic memory like Barbara Gordon, notes and family trees may be crucial for the next step.

4. Investigate

"Sherlock," BBC, Hartswood Films; ImgurSearch genealogy databases
Once you have a person’s name and a few other details – an approximate birth or death date, a place they may have lived, a close family member – you can start online sleuthing. Genealogy databases, newspapers, digital collections and cemetery projects are the bread and butter of this research. If you don’t want to spring for subscription databases, which is legit, start by searching free databases like FamilySearch and Find A Grave to find your person and identify their social bubble.

While researching Lucile Johnson and her mother, Bertha, I easily located birth and early census records and discovered a mystery. At first glance, the birth certificate was just like any other, informing me Lucile Marie Fox Johnson was born in Vincennes, in Knox County, Indiana on Aug. 12, 1908. Her mother’s name was listed as Bertha L. Johnson and her father’s name was listed as O.W. Wait, what?

Lucile Johnson birth certificate, 1908; ancestry.com

Now, I’m a manuscripts librarian, which is just another term for archivist, so only a small fraction of my job is doing genealogical research, unlike our dedicated and talented genealogy librarians. I must confess I had to Google the acronym to figure it out. If you, like me, have never encountered this before, O.W. on an old birth record means “out of wedlock.” And that’s when I knew this research was going to get a lot more interesting. A baby born to an unmarried young woman in a small town in the Heartland in the early 20th century? There’s a story there. I just had to hope I could find the records to tell it.

"Detective Pikachu," Warner Bros. Pictures; TenorThe question became, how do I discover the identity of Lucile’s father when his name doesn’t appear in most typical records? One possible clue came from Lucile’s own name – Lucile Marie Fox Johnson. A middle name of Fox in the early 1900s was less likely to be a parent’s attempt at whimsy or an indication of their love of vulpine creatures and far more likely to be a surname, usually familial. It seems important to note that a surname as a middle name was often the maiden name of the mother, when a child’s parents were married. In Lucile’s case, it could indicate a pointed statement from her mother to ensure the world knew, as the people in Knox County surely did, who her father was. Keep this in mind, as we’ll come back to it.

While continuing to gather more information on Lucile M. Johnson, I also came across Lucile Moyer Pasmas’ death certificate and gravestone. In the photo collection, there are a few photographs of people identified as Moyers, so I looked closer. The birthdate, birthplace, mother’s name, profession, and place of residence – Indianapolis – on the certificate match Lucile M. Johnson. What caught my attention was the father line, which listed Unknown Moyer. It lines up with the O.W. on her birth certificate, which made me certain I had found the right Lucile. However, her father was a Moyer? I supposed it could be true. I did have those photographs, but then what was the origin of Fox on her birth certificate? And if her father wasn’t a Moyer, Lucile may have married one instead.

Lucille (Johnson) Moyer Pasmas death certificate, 1993; ancestry.com

Crowdsource and consult the experts
About this time, I enlisted the aid of the library’s incomparable genealogy supervisor, Jamie Dunn, to help me locate marriage records for Lucile’s presumed first marriage to Ford D. Moyer. I’m not going to get into that saga here, but you can view the results in the collection finding aid’s biographical note. Jamie didn’t locate the elusive marriage record I hoped to find, but she did discover the identity of Lucile’s father, which brings us to the next resource to utilize – other people. Take advantage of living memory and ask your older relatives what they remember. Message your cousin group chat. And don’t be afraid to contact local genealogy pros at the cultural institutions in your area.

Check local newspapers
Newspapers contain much more than news articles. They also publish birth and marriage announcements, obituaries and legal proceedings. In my case, small town newspapers proved they are, in fact, excellent sources for tidbits about local families. Jamie discovered several notices in the Vincennes Commercial and other papers, which tell us that Bertha Johnson was in fact not pleased with the behavior of her baby’s father and sued him for bastardy in Knox County the same year Lucile was born. He was, it turns out, named Fox — Frank P. Fox, to be precise.

The case was moved to Daviess County at Fox’s request, possibly hoping for a more impartial jury since he and Bertha were both from Vincennes. If that was his intent, it backfired. The jury ruled in Bertha’s favor and awarded her $500 in child support. The Daviess County Weekly Democrat, reporting on the story, also noted that Fox was the same man who hit a child with his car near Wheatland, Indiana, killing him. The newspaper ended by saying, “He is quite well known here.” Absolutely savage.

Left: Vincennes Commercial, Nov. 25, 1908, p. 3; Center and right: Washington Weekly Democrat, May 22, 1909, p. 4;  June 5, 1909, p. 3.

If you’re researching someone from Indiana, Hoosier State Chronicles allows anyone to search dozens of Indiana newspapers at no charge. To use subscription databases like Newspapers.com and Ancestry, avoid paying for individual memberships and contact your public library or historical society. They often maintain database subscriptions you can use in-house or from a state IP address for free, as well as collections of newspapers in print or on microfilm, in addition to other resources.

Don’t trust everything you read online
Treat everything you read on the internet with at least as much suspicion as the expired yogurt in your fridge. No database is perfect or will have every record. The records they do have are often rife with errors, which is often why you’ll see so many different spellings for the same person’s name. Database volunteers are human. Census takers are human. So are journalists and coroners and amateur genealogists. And as we all know, humans aren’t perfect.

Don’t just assume that the Bertha Johnson you found listed in a marriage record is your Bertha Johnson. Johnson is almost as common a surname as Smith and Bertha was a very popular first name among the Gilded Age set. Like a bank verifying your identity, recognize key distinguishing information for your person like birth date, mother’s name and birthplace and check them against the sources you find as much is possible. And if you can’t confirm something, even when you’re 99% certain about it, allow for uncertainty. ::hops off soapbox::

5. Get organized

"Mary Poppins," Disney; GiphyWhen you’ve reached a stopping point in your research, don’t quit there. Organizing and taking care of your old photographs means that they’ll still be there for your son or granddaughter.

If you’re not maintaining the original order, try grouping them in a logical way. I often organized photo collections by subjects arranged from specific to general, then chronologically within each subject, as I did with Lucile’s collection. Subjects included Lucile’s childhood photographs, portraits of her and her mother, Johnson extended family photos, vacation snapshots, pictures of pets and miscellaneous photographs as a catch-all for the random or unidentifiable images. At other times, I might organize by format or date, separating the more fragile tintypes, ambrotypes and daguerreotypes from paper photographs.

A few housekeeping notes

  • Photographs are light sensitive and will fade if left out so they should be stored flat or upright to prevent bending in opaque, acid-free enclosures, envelopes and sleeves.
  • Always handle photographs by their backs or edges as the oils on our skin can damage the image.
  • Don’t store photographs in musty basements or hot attics. Keep them in spaces with mid-level humidity, 15% at the lowest and 65% at the highest, and below 75 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • If you can, avoid doing anything permanent to the photos like writing in pen or using adhesives to stick it in a scrapbook. For more information, check out this blog post from the National Archives on the care and storage of photographs.
  • And lastly, consider donating your photo collection to an archive. If you’re downsizing, lack storage space or don’t have anyone to leave your collection to, an archive could be a viable option depending on the content. Archives keep the materials safe, ensuring their survival for future generations, while allowing the public, including your family and researchers, to access them as needed.

"Parks and Recreation," NBC Universal; TenorThis blog post was written by Rare Books and Manuscripts librarian Brittany Kropf. For more information, contact the Rare Books and Manuscripts Division at 317-232-3671 or by using “Ask-A-Librarian.” 

‘Frog Raising for Pleasure and Profit’

Recently, a professor in the Department of Wildlife Ecology and Conservation at the University of Florida contacted me about our copy of “Frog Raising for Pleasure and Profit.” First written as a series of pamphlets in the 1930s, the title was eventually published as hardback books beginning in the 1950s. The professor and his colleagues were not even aware of a 1960 edition, which we have here at the Indiana State Library. As he stated, “My co-author and I have scanned libraries, book stores, online services, etc. for a long time and have been unable to find another copy with that date.” That we had such an unusual book, immediately led me down the research rabbit hole.

Americans have an entrepreneurial spirit, and during the Great Depression of the 1930s people were looking for a way to make money, and advertisements for raising frogs looked promising. Albert Broel, the founder of the American Frog Canning Company and author of “Frog Raising for Pleasure and Profit” promised a steady stream of income and all you needed was a small pond and a few pair of breeders to get started. Broel said that frog farming was “perhaps America’s most needed, yet least developed industry.” Broel’s lessons for one dollar per chapter or $14.95 for all 22 chapters, included details on habitat, breeding and canning in order to prepare giant bullfrogs for market. It also included tasty new recipes.

Broel came from Europe after World War I, settling in Detroit to practice naprapathy, a holistic wellness field, but was dismissed from the medical profession for practicing without a license. He moved to Fremont, Ohio and started growing frogs on a 100-acre farm, experimenting with canning frog meat. Broel incorporated his company as American Bullfrog Industries with promises to employ more than 100 people. The company produced its first canned frog legs in January 1933, but by April, Ohio state agricultural officials declined to license the facility and Broel moved his operation to Louisiana. He purchased 12 acres and built a cannery and slaughterhouse, and several acres of frog ponds. A pair of large frog statues with electric lights for eyes greeted visitors and the complex became a tourist attraction.

Broel made a success of his frog canning company and his printed lessons on frog farming. In the 1930s, he was advertising in newspapers and magazines throughout the country.

The Kokomo Tribune reported in 1935 that “lots of croaking can be expected” at swamps outside the Indiana city, where a local breeder was to start raising frogs to sell to Broel’s cannery.

The Tampa Daily Times reported in 1934, that “If you have never eaten frog meat you have a real treat coming to you because it is somewhat like the breast of chicken, only many folks think it is much more tasty and digestible.”

In what the New Yorker called “the frog-farm craze of the thirties”, Broel was a giant. He canned frog legs for market and dreamed up recipes all which he included his lesson plans. There were delicious treats like baked apples with bullfrog meat and American giant bullfrog cocktail.

The Frog business was profitable for Broel, but not as easy as he advertised. Broel stated that a few pairs of breeding bullfrogs would produce tens of thousands of tadpoles and in one generation the frog farmer would have enough to sell to canneries. But raising frogs is labor intensive and requires more than just a pond for the frogs to live in. They are actually fragile amphibians, vulnerable to disease and easy targets for predators, like birds and snakes. Frogs only eat live prey so frog farmers need to have a supply of minnows, bugs or something else that can be kept alive to feed to their frogs. Frogs will also eat their own tadpoles, so larval, and young frogs often need separate ponds to prevent larger frogs from eating the new stock. It takes about 1.15 pounds of live prey to produce a bullfrog with legs big enough to can. In 1934, the Missouri Department of Agriculture estimated that imported frog meat costs between $2.70 and $3.20 per pound, while domestically farmed frogs can cost up to $12.70 per pound to raise.

In the mid 1930s, the U.S. Postal Service indicted Broel and his employee, Sylvester Schutt, for mail fraud and the Federal Trade Commission also ordered Broel to cease and desist from making what it called misleading claims in his frog advertising. They were accused of falsely stating in marketing materials that frog farmers who paid for their course could make more than $360 billion.

Broel sent a letter to an Ohio newspaper, The Fremont Messenger, denying the charges and taking “entire responsibility for all matters connected with literature disseminated by the American Bullfrog Industries.” Eventually, all criminal charges were dismissed, and Broel entered into a settlement with the FTC, agreeing to stop saying that a certificate from his course made someone a “qualified frog culturist,” and to stop sayin that frog meat could cure certain diseases. Despite the bad press, Broel’s ads still appeared across the country, and he continued to operate the cannery for a few more years. By the late 1930s, Louisiana law prohibited hunting frogs in April and May, reducing the number of frogs available for Broel’s cannery. He shut the cannery down citing health issues and the difficulty of getting enough frogs. Broel’s daughter, Bonnie Broel, wrote in her 2007 memoir “House of Broel: The Inside Story” that Broel continued selling breeder frogs. “We knew that if there were brown bags in the fridge, there were frogs in there” and “If I couldn’t take a bath there were frogs in the bathtub.” Bonnie Broel also stated that eventually her father sold the land, using the money to buy real estate in Detroit, where he retired.

This blog post was written by Marcia Caudell, supervisor of the Reference and Government Services Division at the Indiana State Library.

New Tech and VR kit options from the Indiana State Library

Ch-ch-ch-changes. The Indiana State Library’s Professional Development Office has updated our circulating technology and virtual reality kits! Tech and VR kits can be checked out for up to 30 days and be used in patron programming.

Tech Kit
The Tech Kits are filled with technology and robotics devices that can be used with your patrons. Reservations for the kits can be made online. Public libraries that would like to check out the Tech Kit need to complete the online Moodle course “Tech Kit Training.” The course can be taken at your own pace, is worth one TLEU and must be completed before reserving the kit. You’ll need to create a free Moodle account to access the training. Tech kits can be checked out for up to 30 days, will be sent through InfoExpress and will arrive in two clear totes.

Tech Kits contain one each of the following:

  • Bloxels
  • Code and Go Robot Mouse Activity Set
  • Cubelets
  • Dash Robot
  • Dash Challenge Cards
  • Lego WeDo
  • Snap Circuits
  • Squishy Circuits
  • Star Wars Droid Inventor Kit

Want to learn more about the devices? Take a look at the manufacturer websites:

VR Kit
The State Library now has Oculus 2 virtual reality equipment! The kit can be checked out for up to 30 days and can be used for patron programing. To check out the kit, you’ll need to contact your regional coordinator to schedule an in-person training when the kit is dropped off. You can learn more about the Oculus Quest 2 here.

The kit comes with:

If you’d like to learn more about the Tech and VR kits, as well as the NASA@MyLibrary STEM kits and Breakout Boxes, check out our Continuing Education website.

This blog post was written by Courtney Brown, Southeast regional coordinator from the Indiana State Library’s Professional Development Office. For more information, email Courtney.

Beyond the shelves – library services available to Hoosiers

As an Indiana public library cardholder, you may have access to more than what’s on the shelves of your local public library. Many public libraries in the state participate in services that enable them to borrow or request photocopies from other Indiana libraries at little to no cost to you. Here are some of the services the Indiana State Library helps make available to Indiana residents:

Evergreen Indiana – Evergreen Indiana is a growing consortium of over half the public libraries in the state who share a catalog and lend items freely between their member libraries. Many items on the shelves of other participating libraries can be reserved and delivered to your home library. You can check here to see if your public library is participating.

Interlibrary loan – The Indiana State Library also sponsors a few other resource sharing services including SRCS, the Statewide Remote Circulation Service. By searching SRCS, you can see items in the catalogs of hundreds of public and academic libraries and request them to be delivered to your library. Some libraries participate in the Indiana Share program and can borrow items through the OCLC network, including harder-to-find items held by out of state libraries.

Reciprocal borrowing – Over half of the state’s libraries participate in some type of reciprocal borrowing agreement. Some may have a local agreement with neighboring library districts, and others participate in the Statewide Reciprocal Borrowing Covenant. This means a cardholder at any of the participating libraries can show their valid card at any other participating library and borrow an item. This is helpful if you live closer to another public library than your home library, prefer another local library or travel frequently.

PLAC – Individuals may purchase a PLAC card – which stands for Public Library Access Card – at any public library to obtain borrowing privileges at any other public library in the state. Patrons must first have a valid library card, or paid non-resident card, from a public library before purchasing a PLAC card. The current fee for the service is $65 for a year.

Cards for non-residents – Not a resident of a public library district? You still have the option to purchase a card from the public library system of your choice. Public libraries can serve non-residents for a fee, or possibly for free, per their policy or agreements with neighboring townships. The fee you are charged is based on the cost per capita to serve patrons which is normally obtained through property taxes. That means a card typically comes to about $40-$100, depending on the district. Many libraries issue free cards to K-12 students who don’t reside in the library’s service area but attend a district school. Additionally, some libraries offer a temporary, reduced price for three or six-month non-resident cards for vacationers or temporary residents.

InfoExpress – How do library books get around the state? The Indiana State Library currently contracts with Indianapolis’ NOW Courier who employees a network of independent couriers to provide a special delivery network just for libraries. Every weekday, drivers around the state pick up and deliver library materials to nearly 400 public, college and school libraries.

What about e-books? – Lately, we’ve been getting a lot of questions about which libraries lend e-books to patrons in other districts. We can’t answer that because it really depends on the library, the service and their contract with the e-book provider. Some are able to extend their e-book collections to PLAC, reciprocal or non-resident card holders, while others are not. E-books are also usually not able to be loaned via interlibrary loan due to the electronic rights management that prevents the file from being shared. Are you hoping to borrow e-books or e-audiobooks through one of these services? Be sure to check with the library whose collection you are hoping to access before obtaining or purchasing a card. Please be aware that changes can be made at any time (e.g., due to a contract ending or a change to the terms of service). We also suggest you check out the thousands of e-books available via INSPIRE.

What else should I know?
Not all libraries participate in all of these services. Please speak with the circulation staff at your library for a better understanding of what is available. There may be a small fee assessed for the cost of service, especially if photocopies are requested or a book needs to be borrowed from outside Indiana. Your library staff should discuss this fee with you before borrowing an item or charging for a photocopy. Please also understand that certain items will not be available, due to their popularity, format or condition/age. For example, it would be hard to find the latest James Patterson at any library, and not all libraries lend DVDs to others due to the risk of damage during transportation.

We hope all of these services encourage you to visit your local public library to check out all they have, or all they can borrow, for you!

This blog post was written by Jen Clifton, supervisor, Statewide Services Division. 

 

Introduction to using Fraktur records in genealogy

The term Fraktur refers to a style of handwriting or typeface. The name for the lettering comes from the Latin word fractūra, meaning broken; as in the “broken” way in which the letters are formed as compared to other hand writing and type styles which contain more curves.

An example of Fraktur lettering

However, the Fraktur that will be examined in this blog post refers to folk-art certificates, these certificates use the Fraktur style of writing along with decoration. These Fraktur certificates were produced by the Pennsylvania Dutch. The Pennsylvania Dutch were the German speaking immigrants that settled in Pennsylvania in the 17th and 18th centuries. Many of these Pennsylvania Dutch later made their way into the Midwest.

An example of a Fraktur certificate

The certificates of the Pennsylvania Dutch include baptismal certificates, birth records, marriage certificates and family registers. The most common of these certificates are the baptismal certificates, known as Taufschein/e, and birth records, known as Geburts Schein.

These Fraktur certificates of the Pennsylvania Dutch are part of the long history of illuminated texts that reaches back to the Middle Ages. The Fraktur records are personal ceremonial documents kept by the family, not an official vital record made by church or state. As a folk art, the first Frakturs were hand made by schoolmasters and clergymen. In later periods, the Frakturs included decorative printed certificates that the families could fill out with names and dates.

As the use of the German language or the Pennsylvania Dutch language decreased in later generations of Pennsylvania Dutch; the use of the Fraktur certificates also decreased.

Books and magazines about Fraktur in the Indiana State Library’s collection to explore:
“The Genealogist’s Guide to Fraktur : for genealogists researching German-American families,” call number: ISLG 929.13 E123GFR

Der Reggeboge. The Rainbow (magazine) Volume 54, 2020. Number 1 & 2 – Fraktur Fest, call number: ISLG 974.8 R154 v.54 #1/2

“Virginia Fraktur; Penmanship as Folk Art,” call number: ISLG 975.5 W973V

The Pennsylvania Dutchman (magazine), call number: ISLG 974.8 P415D

Pennsylvania Folklife (magazine), call number: ISLG 974.8 P415d

“Pennsylvania German Folk Art, by John Joseph Stoudt,” call number: G 974.8 P415pp v. 28 (currently in cataloging)

“Pennsylvania German Illuminated Manuscripts” by Henry Stauffer Borneman, call number: G 974.8 P415g v. 46 (currently in cataloging)

“The Heart of the Taufschein: Fraktur and the Pivotal Role of Berks County, Pennsylvania,” call number: ISLM GR110.P4 A372 v.46

Online sources about Fraktur to explore:
The Pennsylvania German style of illumination
This is the best online source of the history of Frakturs.

Revolutionary War Frakturs, the U.S. National Archives
Many widows sought to claim pensions from the government. These frakturs are those that were sent to the government to prove their relation to the deceased soldier and support the widows’ Revolutionary War pension applications.

Pennsylvania Folklife Vol. 28, No. 1
Article: “Taufscheine – A New Index for People Hunters,” page 29

Pennsylvania Folklife Vol. 28, No. 2
Article: “Taufscheine – A New Index for People Hunters – Part II,” page 36

The Pennsylvania Dutchman, Vol. 3 No. 10
Article: “Johann Valentin Schuller  – Fractur Artist and Author.” An example of the types of articles you can find about Fraktur in the Pennsylvania Dutchman magazine.

Museum of Early Southern Decorative Arts
Collection: Fraktur

Pennsylvania German Broadsides and Fraktur
Penn State University, Rare Books and Manuscripts in the Special Collections Library

Pennsylvania German Fraktur and Manuscripts
Free Library of Philadelphia

Pennsylvania German Fraktur Collection
Franklin and Marshall College

Pennsylvania German fraktur, broadsides, and related drawings
Library of Congress

Ursinus College Fraktur Collection

This blog post is by Angi Porter, Genealogy Division librarian.

Celebrate Pride Month with books with Indiana connections for young people

Pride Month has been celebrated in the United States every June since the 1970s. This special month commemorates the Stonewall riots of 1969 and demonstrates how lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer Americans have strengthened the country. Celebrations oftentimes include parades, workshops, picnics, parties, concerts and memorials for members of the community who have been lost to hate crimes or HIV/AIDS. Celebrate by learning more about this commemoration through this guide put together by the Library of Congress.

The Indiana Young Readers Center has assembled this list of books with Indiana connections so that people of all ages can engage with stories about people from the LGBTQ community.

“All Out: The No-Longer-Secret Stories of Queer Teens throughout the Ages” edited by Saundra Mitchell
Edited by Indiana native Saundra Mitchell, this is a collection of historical fiction for teens. Seventeen young adult authors across the queer spectrum have come together to create a collection of beautifully written diverse tales. From a retelling of “Little Red Riding Hood” set in war-torn 1870s Mexico featuring a transgender soldier to two girls falling in love while mourning the death of Kurt Cobain to forbidden love in a 16th century Spanish convent to an asexual girl discovering her identity amid the 1970s roller-disco scene, “All Out” tells a diverse range of stories across cultures, time periods and identities, shedding light on an area of history often ignored or forgotten.

“Out Now: Queer We Go Again!” edited by Saundra Mitchell
A follow-up to the critically acclaimed “All Out” anthology, “Out Now” features 17 short stories from amazing queer YA authors: Vampires crash a prom; aliens run from the government; a president’s daughter comes into her own; a true romantic tries to soften the heart of a cynical social media influencer; and a selkie and the sea call out to a lost soul. From teapots and barbershops to skateboards and VW vans to “Street Fighter” and Ares’s sword, “Out Now” has a story for every reader and surprises with each turn of the page! This collection is also edited by Indiana author, Saundra Mitchell.

 

“You Should See Me in a Crown” by Leah Johnson
Liz Lighty has always believed that she’s too Black, too poor and too awkward to shine in her small, rich, prom-obsessed Midwestern town. But it’s okay – she has a plan that will get her out of Campbell, Indiana, forever – one that revolves around financial aid that unexpectedly falls through. Liz is devastated until she remembers that her school offers a scholarship for the prom king and queen. Though author Leah Johnson currently lives in Brooklyn, New York she was born and raised in Indianapolis and is a tried and true lifelong Hoosier.

 

“Keesha’s House” by Helen Frost
Keesha has found a safe place to live, and other kids gravitate to her house when they just can’t make it on their own. They are Stephie – pregnant and trying to make the right decisions for herself and those she cares about; Jason – Stephie’s boyfriend, torn between his responsibility to Stephie and the promise of a college basketball career; Dontay – in foster care while his parents are in prison; Carmen – arrested on a DUI charge, waiting in a juvenile detention center for a judge to hear her case; Harris – disowned by his father after disclosing that he’s gay; and Katie – angry at her mother’s loyalty to an abusive stepfather. Helen Frost lives in Fort Wayne, Indiana and has published dozens of books for young people. In this novel, Frost weaves together the stories of seven teenagers as they courageously struggle to hold their lives together.

“Will Grayson, Will Grayson” by John Green and David Levithan
One cold night, in a most unlikely corner of Chicago, Will Grayson crosses paths with… Will Grayson. Two teens with the same name, running in two very different circles, suddenly find their lives going in new and unexpected directions, culminating in epic turns-of-heart and the most fabulous musical ever to grace the high school stage. Told in alternating voices from two YA superstars, this collaborative novel features a double helping of the heart and humor that have won them both legions of fans. John Green lives in Indianapolis.

 

“Tessa Masterson Will Go to Prom” by Emily Franklin and Brendan Halpin
Lucas and Tessa’s friendship is the stuff of legend in their small Indiana town. So, it’s no surprise when Lucas finally realizes his feelings for Tessa are more than friendship and he asks her to prom. What no one expected, especially Lucas, was for Tessa to come out as a lesbian instead of accepting his heartfelt invitation. Humiliated and confused, Lucas also feels betrayed that his best friend kept such an important secret from him. What’s worse is Tessa’s decision to wear a tastefully tailored tuxedo to escort her female crush, sparking a firestorm of controversy. Lucas must decide if he should stand on the sidelines or if he should stand by his friend to make sure that Tessa Masterson will go to prom.

This blog post was submitted by Indiana Young Readers Center Librarian Suzanne Walker.