A year in the life of a librarian in the Genealogy Division of the Indiana State Library

Have you ever wondered what the librarians in the Genealogy Division at the Indiana State Library do all day and all year long? I sometimes get a glazed over response from people when I tell them what I do for a living. Most times, though, people react with great interest and they have many questions. I feel like I could talk about genealogy and what I do for hours! There are always new and interesting questions we receive from patrons who are inquiring about one or more of their ancestors.

We recently researched individuals who were performers in the travelling circuses and vaudeville acts of the late 1800s. Talk about a challenge in trying to research people who were constantly on the move and went by several different stage names! We are definitely always up for a challenge and happy to guide and help any patron with their research. Due to time constraints, we are sometimes unable to conduct in-depth research, but we are most definitely available and happy to help with less comprehensive research on ancestors.

In this case, we were able to find information about a particular travelling circus they were performing in throughout the states of Indiana, Illinois and Ohio around the year 1900. With the ancestors using stage names sometimes as their real names, it has been difficult trying to track down their places of death and burial.

Sometimes we uncover unfortunate incidents, like when we learned of the demise of two-thirds of a 12-generation family tree chart that included an ancestor who arrived in America on the Mayflower in 1620. A rodent that may or may not have been the family pet escaped his caged home and was thought to have gone on to rodent heaven. However, several weeks later said rodent was found living the life in a cozy little nest of shredded family tree material! He was most assuredly on a mission to erase 12 generations of a family tree. Thankfully, though, those brave people aboard the Mayflower have been well documented along with five to six generations that followed after them. Piecing together the names on the one-third of the salvaged family tree chart and researching in our numerous books about the people on the Mayflower has made this research not as daunting as one might think.

Speaking of books in our Genealogy Collection, we have some very intriguing books to complement our death record index books. Several of the Indiana counties have published coroner record books. Most of the entries I’ve read in the coroner’s reports are descriptive and they don’t mince words. For example, one ancestor I researched this year has an entry in the Decatur County Indiana Coroner’s Inquest Record Book 1, 1873-1900. Herman Demer, born June 9, 1852 in Germany, came to America and made his way to Indiana where he married and eventually became the father of six children. He died on April 1, 1896 in Greensburg in Decatur County, Indiana. The coroner’s entry reads:

“Report and verdict of the Coroner of Decatur County as to the cause of the death of Herman Demer at crossing of Vine Street and the track of CCC & S & L Railroad in the city of Greensburg, Indiana on May the 1st 1896 after hearing the evidence of 10 witnesses in this case…

 

“I do find that as the mail train No 11 from Cincinnati came into this city on said date running at the rate of 20-25 miles an hour and at the crossing above named the engine of said train struck the deceased Herman Demer together with his horse and wagon, killed the horse instantly and demolished the wagon, and so injured and mangled the deceased Herman Demer that he died in a few minutes after being hurt and I do find that the accident was due to the fast rate the train was being run by engineer William Nagle at the time of the accident.

 

Would call the attention of the authorities to the fact that all trains are being run at to great speed through this corporation. May 7, 1896. Signed, George W. Randall, Coroner Decatur County Indiana.”

Old newspaper articles also could be very blunt in their accounts of events. There was another ancestor research I helped with that became quite a gripping tale as I searched in our online newspaper databases. The female ancestor had been a well-beloved fixture in the community for years. One morning on the farm, sometime in the 1880’s, she went out to feed the pigs and had her apron pockets full of pig feed. The newspaper article stated they believed she suddenly had a heart attack and collapsed in the pig pen. In the process of collapsing, the feed was scattered all over her upper torso and hands. I’ll leave it at that and let you figure out the rest. The newspaper article went into very gruesome detail, as was the custom of the times.

Another book we have with an entirely fascinating title is “The Georgia Black Book: Morbid, Macabre & Sometimes Disgusting Records of Genealogical Value” by Robert Scott Davis. The title either grabs your senses and pulls you in or it repulses you as you firmly say, “No thank you!” The contents include names of horse thieves, liars, convicts, murderers, murder victims, insane asylum inmates and more. It covers the period of 1754 through 1900 mostly. A few chapters on murders cover the 1823-1969 time frame. It contains the names of over 13,500 people. I haven’t actually researched inside this book for any patrons, but earlier in the year I got pulled in by the title alone. This is just one of many intriguing books we have of genealogical value.

As librarians in this division, we are always searching different types of indexes looking for particular ancestor names for our patrons. Reading through these lists of names can sometimes be quite amusing and charming at the same time, along with coming across some tongue-twisters, too. Here is just a small sampling of the names we’ve come across: Mr. Orange Lemon, Methusala Stickie, Mrs. Pearl Wilkymackey, Thomas Batman, Mary Popsichal, Cincinnati Meek, Pierre A. Poinsette, Balthazar Zumwald, Reason Shook, Adonijah Rambo, Rosebud Alcorn, Sophronia Boeckelman, Waty Winkler, Hannah Hairclipe, Fergus Snoddy, Permelia J. Threldheld, Dorman E. Stufflebeam, Thomas Cottongin, Lucy Meltaberger, Landrum Leak, Woods Cotney, Orval Fifield Upthegrove, Knotley Tansel, Peyton/Paten Tansel and Stark Tansel.

I think it’s safe to say that librarians who work with genealogy love history. Having the opportunity to research during different time periods of our country’s history and also learn about the history of countries where people emigrated from makes history come alive. Learning about history from our school books is one thing but then delving into the lives of real people that lived through particular times, makes history more authentic and palpable. For instance, in researching an American Civil War Soldier from Putnam County, Indiana who died of dysentery in a makeshift hospital far from home, brought a human realness to history for me. In this research I also learned that during the American Civil War, 95,000 soldiers died from dysentery.

We all learned long ago in school that the pilgrims came to America in search of a place to live peacefully without religious, and other forms, of persecution. Later, people came to America fleeing cultural persecution, political upheaval, land and job shortages, famines and continued religious persecution. When I research actual people that left their families and homes in the only country they probably ever knew, it most definitely makes history come alive. It has brought a new sense of awe and utmost respect to all of the immigrants that came here in search of a better life. I can’t even begin to imagine the bravery it must have taken to leave everything they ever knew for the dream of a better life.

We have the following book, and many more like it, that are great history and genealogy resources: “History for Genealogists: Using Chronological Time-Lines to Find and Understand Your Ancestors” by Judy Jacobson.

In the preface of this book, I fully agree with what the author states about the importance of seeing ancestors in the historical context in which they lived:

“…In my research I try to understand why people made the choices they made, what type of people they were, and how they came to be that was. I like to see their world through the eyes of those ancestors. … This book is designed as a handy reference to provide researchers with what I consider to be a critical but often overlooked dimension to their genealogical research: an historical context.”

For example, hundreds of years ago, and even more recently, there were many occupations that no longer exist today. If you would like to read through an entertaining list of occupations from yesteryear, you can access that link here. I am including a small list of some of the more curious names of occupations below.

I hope you have enjoyed reading about a few of the interesting research topics and related items that we conduct year round in the Genealogy Division of the Indiana State Library. There’s always some new topic or ancestor that is fascinating and intriguing.  Come in and visit us sometime or send us a question through the Ask-A-Librarian interface on our library website. We are happy to help.

This post was written by Alice Winslow, librarian in the Genealogy Division of the Indiana State Library.

Using genetic genealogy to advance your research at the Indiana State Library

The secrets to untold stories, answers of the past and tales of exciting and dangerous journeys unfortunately live in the past; or do they? There are many ways to perform research to discover the past, and in the process, better understand one’s genealogy. One of the most exciting ways to further your research is to have a DNA test done. This aspect of genealogy can provide you with the key that unlocks the secret door to the past and the lives of your ancestors.

DNA testing provides you with all sorts of new and interesting information. You now possess the unrefined gold mine of adenine, thymine, guanine and cytosine which form this wonderful thing called a chromosome! But, what does all this mean? How do you know what these types of chromosomes mean and how do they play into your genealogy? The most important thing when gaining new information is to understand what it means and how to appropriately use it.

To help make sense of it all, the Genealogy Division of the Indiana State Library collects books pertaining to DNA research. These books are on display in the Genealogy Reading Room and cover a wide variety of topics, from making sense of your test results to researching specific ethnic and national groups through DNA. The library also partners with the Central Indiana DNA Interest Group to offer DNA consultations on the second Saturday of each month. These consultations, which are made by appointment only, allow patrons to receive practical research advice from genetic genealogy experts. Visit the library’s events page for more information!

This blog post was written by Sara-Elisa Driml, University of Indianapolis student.

Helping librarians that serve the incarcerated – the Fall 2019 Institutional Workshop

Part of the mission of the Indiana State Library is to provide library services to state government and its branches and employees, as well as to provide specialized library services and training. One of the specialized populations that our Statewide Services Division serves are the prison and institutional librarians across the state. The Indiana State Library provides resource sharing services (e.g., interlibrary loan and book delivery) to the institutions. Additionally, Statewide Services staff provide continuing education to correctional staff, who are required to attend training to maintain American Correctional Association accreditation. To aid these special libraries, the Indiana State Library’s Professional Development Office staff provides site visits throughout the year. Finally, the library hosts an annual workshop where the correctional librarians can gather, network and learn about topics that can help them serve the incarcerated.

Each year, the morning of the workshop begins at the Indianapolis Public Library’s bookstore, where library staff and other nonprofits are invited to “shop” the books remaining after the public sale at no cost. State library staff are present to assist institutional libraries in shipping their materials back to their facilities via the InfoExpress courier service. This year, prison library staff gathered 50 large bags full of books, many of which were like-new popular titles – including James Patterson and Stuart Woods – to fill the shelves of their facility’s library.

The afternoon workshop was held in the Indiana State Library’s History Reference Room. Nicole Brock, ISL’s resource sharing coordinator, provided an overview and refresher on the state library’s resource sharing services. Wendy Knapp, ISL’s deputy director of Statewide Services, gave a presentation on library trends and the future of libraries as a whole, which helped prison libraries understand the current issues and climate of the profession.

Dr. Elizabeth Angeline Nelson (left) and Dr. Susan B. Hyatt

Finally, our featured speakers were Dr. Susan B. Hyatt and Dr. Elizabeth Angeline Nelson, two faculty members from the IUPUI School of Liberal Arts. Hyatt and Nelson have both worked within institutional walls on education and research projects, including the Inside-Out Prison Exchange Program and the Indiana Women’s Prison History Project. Correctional staff learned about these programs and were encouraged to think about ways they could support continuing education in their libraries, of which many already hold or are seeking college degrees.

Attendees left with three contact hours which they can apply to their continuing education requirements. Planning has already begun for next year’s workshop and book giveaway, tentatively scheduled for Nov. 23, 2020. For more information on the workshop, contact Statewide Services or subscribe to the Institutional Libraries Listserv here.

This post was written by Jen Clifton, Library Development Office supervisor, Indiana State Library.

Genealogy: More than just something that sounds like the blue guy from ‘Aladdin’

Have you ever been curious about your family’s history or heritage? If so, DNA tests are a great way to learn more about your genetic history. However, after receiving your test results, it can be difficult figuring out what to do next. There are a lot of different resources promoting family history research, but making sense of that information can be tricky and time-consuming if you aren’t aware of the right resources.

Genealogy Division, Indiana State Library

The Indiana State Library is the perfect place to begin or further your genealogy research. The Genealogy Division at the Indiana State Library is one of the largest collections of family history information in the Midwest. With more than 40,000 print items – family histories, indexes to records, how-to-books, cemetery transcriptions, family history magazines, military pensions and more – in the collection, the library is the perfect place to start or supplement your research.

If you’re interested in researching your family’s history, but don’t know where to begin, fear not! The Genealogy Division of the Indiana State Library offers 30-minute individual consultation sessions with one of the reference librarians on the second Saturday morning of every month.

This blog post was written by Jordan Nussear, University of Indianapolis student.

“Wake Up, Woods” chosen as Indiana’s National Book Festival title

Every year, a list of books for children and youth representing the literary heritage of the 50 states, the District of Columbia and the U.S. Virgin Islands is distributed by the Library of Congress’s Center for the Book during the National Book Festival, which takes place annually in Washington D.C. Indiana’s selection is always by an Indiana author and usually includes other Indiana connections, like being set in Indiana or celebrating Indiana’s culture and heritage.

The 2020 National Book Festival selection from Indiana is “Wake Up, Woods” published by Rubber Ducky Press, written by Michael A. Homoya and Shane Gibson and illustrated by Gillian Harris.

“Wake Up, Woods” pairs informational text with clever verses to inform and delight the reader about plants native to North American forests. “Wake Up, Woods” is not only written and illustrated by Hoosiers, but each of the plants highlighted in the book are native to Indiana and can be found in the spring time in parks and preserves – and even in shade gardens around yards. Detailed illustrations, lilting verses and scientific explanations make “Wake Up, Woods” an important text for anyone wanting to wake up to the wonder around them when visiting the woods. This is an excellent nature book to share with young readers and is perfect for the classroom, or to tuck in a backpack before a hike.

Bloodroot, an Indiana native plant, is the first plant featured in “Wake Up, Woods.”

Adriane Doherty, owner of Rubber Ducky Press, said, “It is such an honor for Rubber Ducky Press to have ‘Wake Up, Woods’ selected by our state’s Indiana State Library’s Indiana Center for the Book to represent Indiana at the Library of Congress National Book Festival. We are so very proud of all the work done by the contributors and, especially, illustrator Gillian Harris and authors Michael A. Homoya and Shane Gibson. And, of course, none of this would have been possible without the drive and determination from the people of the Indiana Native Plant Society.”

The book came about through the diligent work of the Indiana Native Plant Society, whose dream it was have a picture book celebrating Indiana’s native plants in the springtime.

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

Gaming in the library; soft skills webinar announced

On Friday, Nov. 8, the Indiana State Library held a small gaming demonstration for library employees. The event was designed to help librarians and library employees begin to explore the use of board games in a library setting; especially the games’ ability to help promote the development of soft skills. It was held in conjunction with the American Library Association’s International Games Week. In the future, we hope to bring this type of discussion to library communities as a training opportunity.

In 2007, two librarians whom I consider pioneers in the use of games in libraries, Jenny Levine and Scott Nicholson, had the idea to attempt to set a world’s record for the number of people playing the same game at the same time at libraries. This day became National Games Day and libraries around the United States were encouraged to hold events to promote and play games and, if possible, help set this record. Five years later it was re-branded International Games Day and five years after that, on the tenth anniversary, it was expanded and re-branded again to International Games Week. For a full history, check out their website.

As I wrote about in my last blog entry, “Fun and games or secret career-building tool?,” games of all types can help the players learn and practice skills that are coveted by many employers. The participants at this event got a chance to discover and discuss these concepts and the consensus was to bring this discussion to the larger Indiana librarian community. Join me on Wednesday, Nov. 27 at 10 a.m. for a webinar on this topic: “Engagement with soft skills – using board games at the library to engage patrons and improve career readiness.” Please see our calendar for this event and for other training opportunities.

This post was written by George Bergstrom, Southwest regional coordinator, Professional Development Office, Indiana State Library.

INverse poetry archive now accepting submissions

INverse, Indiana’s poetry archive, celebrates and preserves a diverse range of Indiana poetry for future generations of Indiana writers and readers. The archive is a collaboration of Indiana Poet Laureate Adrian Matejka, the Indiana State Library and the Indiana Arts Commission.

Residents of Indiana are encouraged to submit poems to the archive annually between Feb. 1 and April 30. During the current inaugural year, submissions are being accepted from now until April 30, 2020. The archive is conceived to be a repository for all Hoosier poets, from amateur to professional.

For information about the annual timeline, eligibility criteria, the eligibility review process and for instructions on how to submit poetry, please visit the INverse poetry archive website. Questions about the submission process can be directed to Stephanie Haines, arts education and accessibility manager at the Indiana Arts Commission. Questions about the state library’s plan to make the archive available to the public can be directed to either Bethany Fiechter or Brittany Kropf of the Rare Books and Manuscripts Division.

Funding for this program comes from the Indiana General Assembly.

This blog post was written by John Wekluk, communications director, Indiana State Library. For more information, email the communications director.

Do a browse! It’s fun and everyone is doing it!

Here at the Indiana State Library – and at many public libraries across the state – we make commercial newspaper databases available for research. The great thing about these databases is that they are keyword searchable. Need to find Uncle Ned’s obit? Done. Need to find articles about the 1960 election? Done. Want to pull up everything the Indy Star has ran on elephants? Done. Research has been revolutionized. I support it 100%.

However, one thing these databases take away is the joy of browsing. Will students know the stumbling dumb fun of coming across something they weren’t even looking for?

If you enjoy the hunt, we have two resources here that keep the browse tradition alive: the clippings files and the Indianapolis Newspaper Index.

The Indianapolis Newspaper Index offers some great moments of discovery. For example, do you know about George and Perry? 

Now you want to know more!

What about Mount Lawn, where folks are living in pioneer log cabins!? Mount Lawn has a sad little Wikipedia page, and not much to be found with a Google search, but here in the card file it called out to me, a lover of log homes, and I wanted to know more.

Indianapolis Star Magazine December 6, 1953, page 21

You can also come into the library to browse our clippings files on the second floor. These are literally articles “clipped” from newspapers. They aren’t just tossed in a drawer; we have subject headings – which are fun to browse and useful, too. The subject headings under “charities” points us to some other ideas:

Charities
– 1939, 1940-49, 1950-59, 1960-69, 1970-79, 1980-89, 1990-99, 2000-
– Community Centers (contains material on American Settlement, Kirshbaum Center, Boys Club, Northeast Community Center, Lawter Boys Club, Hawthorne Community Center)
See also
Indianapolis, Flower Mission
– Community Centers – Christamore
– Community Centers – Flanner House
– Community Centers – Fletcher Place
– Goodwill Industries
– Indianapolis Day Nursery
– Salvation Army
– Suemma Coleman Home
– Wheeler Mission

Did you know you can also browse our online catalog? While you can’t enter our stacks, you can browse the Evergreen Catalog by call number. Say you find a book that looks relevant to your research topic and want to “look” at the shelf around it. Select Advanced Search, then select the Numeric Search tab, then utilize the “Call number (shelf browse)” option and plug in the call number of the book you found.

Happy hunting!

This post was written by Indiana Collection Supervisor Monique Howell

“Fall & Winter along the South Shore Line” on display at Indiana State Library

Out of the vault and on display, “Fall & Winter along the South Shore Line” is now ready to be viewed at the Indiana State Library. The exhibition includes ten of the library’s collection of colorful large-scale Chicago South Shore & South Bend Railroad posters. The South Shore Line commissioned artists in the late 1920s and early 1930s to design their eye-catching advertising posters. The posters on display were designed by artists Ivan V. Beard, Emil Biorn, Otto Brenneman, Oscar Rabe Hanson and Leslie Ragan.

Featured with the poster exhibit is a display of Hoosier artists’ holiday cards depicting vibrant and festive scenes. The cards, designed by such notable artists as Wayman Adams, Gustave Bauman and Floyd D. Hopper, were given to their friends and family for Christmas and New Year’s during the 1920s and 1930s.

The South Shore posters, and many others in the library’s collection, are being digitized for online access through the Indiana State Library Broadsides Collection.

The “Fall & Winter along the South Shore Line” exhibit is free and open to the public during regular business hours and will remain on display in the Exhibition Hall through January 2020. The Indiana State Library is located at 315 W. Ohio St. in downtown Indianapolis. For hours of operation, directions and parking information, click here.

The South Shore Line continues providing service as an electrically powered interurban commuter rail line under the authority of the Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District between Millennium Station in downtown Chicago and the South Bend International Airport in South Bend.

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

Dorcas Campbell, banking pioneer

Dorcas Elisabeth Campbell was born around 1896 in Fairland, Indiana. Little is known about her early life, but after completing high school she spent several years doing social work in various places throughout the country. Eventually, she directed her professional interests toward banking and received a degree from the University of Michigan in 1934. This was followed in 1937 by an MBA from New York University, where she also taught.

By the 1940s, Campbell had worked her way up the banking ranks and was elected vice president of the East River Savings Bank in New York City, making her one of the few women in the country to hold such an elevated position at any banking institution, as both banks and financial concerns of all sorts were traditionally seen as residing in the exclusive domain of men. Campbell fervently sought to change that.

In 1944 she published “Careers for women in banking and finance” (ISLI 331.48 C187c), the cover of which features an ancient coin bearing a profile of the goddess Juno Moneta, overseer of all things financial in ancient Rome. The word “money” derives from Moneta and Campbell was distinctly reminding readers that women have long possessed strong ties to the world of finance as protectors of funds.

Campbell prefaced her book by encouraging the reader to take a quiz on personal attitudes regarding women in the workplace and then to re-take the quiz after finishing the book to see if opinions changed after reading the arguments laid out in her book.

While her book mainly focuses on women as potential bank employees, Campbell spent much of her career writing financial advice columns that advocated for women to be more involved in their own finances. Her columns appeared in numerous publications during the ’40s and ’50s, a period which saw many women enter the workforce due to labor shortages caused by the second World War.

In the Aug. 14, 1950 issue of the Dunkirk Evening Observer, out of New York, Campbell says, “Since more and more women are working and since women often outlive their husbands and thus inherit money, it’s essential that they learn how to handle it successfully… On the job, women earn less than men and therefore have to do more with their money. As inheritors, they must know how to hang on to it.”

A May 22, 1946 article in the Coshocton, Ohio Tribune, featuring an interview with Campbell, spent as much time discussing her physical appearance as it did her banking advice, underscoring prevalent attitudes toward professional women. Expressions used in the article to describe Campbell included referring to her as a “diminutive banker in skirts” with “a pretty little finger” and a “tender heart.”

In 1949, Campbell made a guest radio appearance on the “Eleanor and Anna Roosevelt Program,” where the former first lady interviewed her about women and financial literacy. A transcript of that interview is available through the George Washington University’s Eleanor Roosevelt’s Papers Project.

Campbell died in New York City on Sept. 21, 1959 after complications from an operation. She is buried in Franklin, Indiana. In honor of her death, her good friend and fellow female financial pioneer Sylvia Porter wrote an obituary in which she reminisced about the time they first met at a banking convention where they were the only two women present who were not wives of any of the attending bankers. As Potter remembered, “We were viewed as freaks.” Potter finishes the homage to her friend and colleague with this:

Sure, the sex and age barriers still exist. There still are men who won’t accept the obvious fact that the brain has no sex. The discrimination in pay between men and women for identical jobs is still infuriating. Nevertheless, the progress from 1939 to 1959 has been breathtaking. Dorcas Elisabeth Campbell’s career reflected that progress, and by her intelligence and the high standards she set for herself, she helped make that progress. As so many of the men bankers who came to say farewell to her remarked, ‘That was a person.’” 1

This blog post was written by Jocelyn Lewis, Catalog Division supervisor, Indiana State Library. For more information, contact the Indiana State Library at 317-232-3678 or “Ask-A-Librarian.”

1. The Progress-Index; Petersburg, Virginia, Sept. 29, 1959.