Sharing your family story

When my oldest brother was a toddler, my grandfather would prop him up on his lap and spoon feed him a concoction he liked to call “coffee soup.” It was made from soaking soda crackers in sugary coffee. My grandfather lived through the depression and dishes like this were popular because they made the most out of a few kitchen staples when times were tough. Grandpa Harold passed away before I was born but the coffee soup story just happens to be one of my brother’s favorite memories to share.

I heard so many stories of my grandfather’s exploits growing up that he became sort of a folk hero in the family. I’m grateful to be a part of a family of fantastic storytellers. In fact, every time my family is together we tell stories. We dig up our most precious, most hilarious and special memories and recount them together. The facts may change as we age and our memories fade, but we all work together to put the important moments of our lives into context and bond over our shared history.

I never realized the true value of these stories until recently. Research has shown some surprising psychological benefits to family story telling, particularly with the younger generation, but the advantages last through all stages of life. Stories that focus on overcoming or facing challenges build resilience and fortitude when we are faced with difficulties of our own. Strong family narratives have been shown to help mitigate both stress and anxiety during tough situations.1  They help us to form our identities and find a sense of belonging.

Right now, as we manage the challenges presented by COVID-19, many of us are searching for ways to connect and make meaningful use of the time spent with family members. One way to do this is to plan some multi-generational bonding through sharing your family story. Stories can be told almost any time and in any place. Even mundane activities, like car rides, can be opportunities to share a story. If you are looking for some inspiration here are a few storytelling project ideas you may want to try with your family.

Interview a family member

David and Margaret Worton wedding, Genealogy Division, Indiana State Library

Interview a family member and record their story to pass along for generations. With just a little preparation and time you can uncover the challenges, triumphs and adventures that make up your family member’s life story. If you need help, the UCLA library has a Conducting Oral Histories with Family Members guide. This is a fantastic resource for each step of the project from preparing for the interview, organizing questions and making a recording.

Family Tree Magazine has a list of 20 open-ended questions to ask your relative during a family history interview. For an even more extensive interview, the My Heritage Blog has a list of 117 questions. You could use these lists for inspiration by creating some questions of your own based on what you want to know most about your family member’s life. You may get more out of the experience if you send the interviewee the questions in advance so that they can think about their answers ahead of time. Always respect their decision if they choose not to share certain information. This builds trust and will make them more comfortable sharing the rest of their story with you.

For those who would like to interview a family member that doesn’t live in the same household, there are a number of technological solutions like smartphone apps that record telephone calls to recording a video interview. Just be sure that the person you are interviewing approves of being recorded first. You don’t have to have a recording device, though. A piece of paper and a pencil to write down responses is all you really need to capture their story.

Work together on a family tree craft project
If you have some paper and old magazines on hand, Kinderart offers a tutorial on how to make a family tree collage. Since trips to the craft store may be a challenge right now, it’s convenient that most of the supplies required are items that many people already have handy. As you craft the tree you can tell stories about each person represented. Discuss their lives, pass on stories you’ve been told, or talk about any memories you have of them. This is a fantastic project for all ages and the end result is a work of art that could be displayed and cherished for generations.

Explore family photos

Nancy H. Diener collection, Genealogy Division, Indiana State Library

Open up your photo albums, digital photo gallery or those boxes of photos hanging out in the closet and go through them together. Talk about the people in the photos and tell stories about their lives. Some families have many of photos going back generations that they can share while others have more recent family photos on digital devices, like phones or computers. Recent memories are just as important for story building as those passed down over time. So don’t worry if you don’t have access to older family photos. Either way, this is a great opportunity to pass on and make memories.

Through email, text or social networking sites you could share the photos electronically with those you live apart from to create a connection and conversation across distances. For example, my grandmother has been adding her family photos to her Facebook newsfeed. She recently shared photos of her grandparents and later told me stories about the pictures. I would have never heard those stories if she hadn’t added these photos on social media. An added bonus is that now multiple family members have digital copies of these pictures, too.

Share your own story
Begin journaling or sharing your own life experiences. You have many irreplaceable family memories that only you can share with your loved ones. If you need help getting started the FamilySearch has a blog post with nine writing tips on how to tell your personal story.

As author Robin Moore says, “Inside each of us is a natural-born storyteller, waiting to be released.” Our memories are some of the most valuable gifts that we can share with one another. They are free, easy to pass on and they have the power to connect generations of family members together. Now is a great time to think about how our family stories have shaped and guided us throughout our lives and to create new stories for the future.

1 Feiler, B. (2013, Mar 17). “The stories that bind us: Children who know their family’s history are better at facing challenges.” New York Times (1923-Current File) Retrieved from https://search-proquest-com.ezproxy.ilibrary.org/docview/1815060551?accountid=46127

This blog post is by Dagny Villegas, Genealogy Division librarian.

You joined what?! Not your average lineage societies

People choose genealogy as a hobby for many different reasons: to find out how an ancestor was involved in history, to explore family stories or to honor and preserve family culture and heritage. Some, however, pursue genealogy in order to join a lineage society.

What is a lineage society? A lineage society is a group that has requirements to join based on your ancestry. To join a society you will have an application to fill out, a membership fee to pay and you will need to provide genealogical documentation for your ancestor. Some lineage societies operate by invitation only.

To help a new potential member, many lineage societies will provide a list of qualifying ancestors on their web page.

A (very) brief history of lineage societies in the United States
After the American Revolution, Americans reveled in the newness of their country and rejected old world ways, including the elitism of genealogy and pedigree.

So, it should not be surprising that the first lineage societies, in what was to become the United States, were military based, such as the Ancient and Honorable Artillery Company of Massachusetts.

However, after the centennial celebration of the nation in 1876, Americans were eager to demonstrate their patriotism by showing their family involvement in the history of the nation. This resulted in the founding of the some of the best known genealogical lineage societies. For example, the Daughters of the American Revolution, founded in 1890, and the General Society of Mayflower Descendants, founded in 1897.

Today, for many Americans, the idea of a lineage society may be old-fashioned and stuffy, but that isn’t necessarily the truth. After the recent popular culture explosion of genealogy from the 1970s to present – where all ancestors of all types are celebrated – there is now a lineage society for everyone.

I hope you enjoy perusing some of the more unusual lineage societies I have discovered. Please visit the Genealogy Division of the Indiana State Library if you would like to explore your own curious lineage.

A Collection of Curious Lineage Societies
Associated Daughters of Early American Witches
This society was founded in 1987. A potential member must prove descent from an ancestor who was officially accused, tried, convicted or executed for the practice of witchcraft in Colonial America prior to 1699. The society website includes a list of qualifying ancestors.

Descendants of the Illegitimate Sons and Daughters of the Kings of Britain
This society was founded in 1950. A potential member must prove descent from an illegitimate child, grandchild or great-grandchild of a king of England, Scotland, Wales, Great Britain or the United Kingdom.

Flagon and Trencher
This society was founded in 1963. A potential member must prove descent from an individual who conducted a tavern, inn or ordinary in the American Colonies, prior to 1776. The society website includes a list of qualifying ancestors.

National Society of Saints and Sinners 
This society was founded in 2010. A potential member must prove descent from a saint. The society website includes a list of qualifying ancestors.

Society of Descendants of Lady Godiva
Established 2014, a potential member must prove descent from Lady Godiva. The society website includes a list of qualifying ancestors.

For more Information
The Hereditary Society Community of the United States

For further reading:
“The History of American Lineage Societies” by Kathy Petlewski, MSLS; Lineage Societies: Leaving a Legacy for Future Generations, by Kimberly Ormsby Nagy, MD, PLCGS; NGS Magazine April–June 2019, available in the Genealogy Division reading room.

“Your Guide to Lineage Societies” by Lynn Betlock, American Ancestors, vol. 19, Summer 2018, available in the Genealogy Division reading room.

“Family Trees : a History of Genealogy in America” by François Weil. ISLG 929 W422F. Genealogy Division, Indiana State Library.

“Roots Quest: inside america’s genealogy boom” by Jackie Hogan. ISLG 929 H7148RO. Genealogy Division, Indiana State Library.

For further research:
“Witches, Rakes, and Rogues: true stories of scam, scandal, murder, and mayhem in Boston,1630-1775,” by D. Brenton Simons. ISLG 974.402 B747si. Genealogy Division, Indiana State Library.

“Tracing Your Ancestors from 1066 to 1837: a guide for family historians,” by Jonathan Oates. ISLG 929.12 O11tr. Genealogy Division, Indiana State Library.

“A Who’s Who of Your Ancestral Saints,” by Alan J. Koman. ISLG 929.102 K81W. Genealogy Division, Indiana State Library.

“Magna Carta Ancestry: a study in colonial and medieval families,” by Douglas Richardson. ISLG 929.72 R522m. Genealogy Division, Indiana State Library.

“Plantagenet Ancestry: a study in colonial and medieval families,” by Douglas Richardson. ISLG 929.12 R522p. Genealogy Division, Indiana State Library.

“The Taverns and Turnpikes of Blandford, 1733-1833,” by Sumner Gilbert Wood. ISLG 974.402 B642W. Genealogy Division, Indiana State Library.

“A Sketch of Fraunces’ Tavern and Those Connected with Its History,” by Henry Russell Drowne. [Pam.] ISLG 974.702 N567 NO. 1. Genealogy Division, Indiana State Library.

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

New year; new genealogical you

The start of a new year generally means new goals, usually dealing with health goals or organizing one’s life in one way or another. If you’ve been thinking about how you could apply that to your genealogical research or want to try new things here are some suggestions for genealogy resolutions for 2020.

Photograph of Olive, Iris, Zula, Bernard and Eunice Chambers, children of Fred H. and Gladys (Sinnett) Chambers from the Indiana State Library’s digital collections.

Back up your data
If you’ve been putting off backing up your genealogy research for “later,” 2020 is a good year to tackle backing up your research. Losing genealogy data due to a hard drive crash or from an unexpected event like a house fire can be devastating. Whether you decide to back up your information in the cloud or with a hard drive keeping copies of your research in different places will help eliminate the chance of massive loss of one’s research.

Visit an institution that you have not been to before
As most researchers realize after doing genealogy research for any amount of time, not everything is available on the internet. Many materials can only be accessed in a library, archives or other local organizations since they are often under copyright and cannot be digitized. Often, regional or local institutions may have materials relating to local families in the area that larger institutions don’t have in their collections. Taking the time to visit area libraries or historical societies where your ancestors lived may yield new information or new clues if you’ve hit a brick wall.

Attend a genealogy conference
Attending a conference is a great way to pick up tips and new research techniques. Many regional and national conferences offer a wide variety of topics and presenters for a fairly reasonable price. Or perhaps attend a conference with a more narrow focus, generally on one specific topic or field of genealogy.

Some larger conferences offer a virtual pass, where, for a reduced rate, you can watch a selection of talks from the comfort of your home. The National Archives has a yearly Virtual Genealogy Fair that is free, the videos are available on YouTube and you can download the handouts to your computer.

Take a DNA test
Genetic genealogy has become a popular area of research. DNA kits from Ancestry and 23andMe are popular gifts for people wanting to learn more about their ethnicity or to connect with family members. The three big companies are the aforementioned Ancestry DNA and 23andMe, along with MyHeritage. For more information about the field of genetic genealogy check out the International Society of Genetic Genealogy.

Prioritize your resolutions
After you’ve created a list of things you would like to accomplish go through and identify the ones you want to tackle first. Perhaps you weren’t able to get through everything you wanted to last year, or you have one goal you really want finish, like scanning and organizing your family photos and other genealogical materials. Create realistic goals and timelines for completing each task, and have a plan in place on how you are going to accomplish everything you want to finish in the coming year.

Blog written by Sarah Pfundstein, genealogy librarian, Indiana State Library. For more information, contact the Indiana State Library at 317-232-3689 or “Ask-A-Librarian.”

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.

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.

How to find more of yourself at the Indiana State Library

Life’s Questions
Have you ever wondered where you come from? Maybe your question is less about origin and more about why you and your family are they way they are. It could be that you’re interested in history or tradition or maybe you’re seeking answers to life’s biggest question – “Who am I?” Whatever the reason might be, know that you’re headed in the right direction of discovery when you start with genealogy. DNA testing and genealogy research help you go beyond what you know from relatives or general historical documentation. Genealogy research and workshops are provided for free by the Indiana State Library. By saying “yes” to further discovery at the library, you are saying “yes” to the next individual step into your personal family history.

“What does this mean for me?”
If you’ve started to think about family heritage, you might be wondering how to begin. There are so many people, dates, locations and events to sort through, that it would be almost impossible to do it alone! That is the exact reason why ISL’s genealogy collection, with more than 40,000 print items, exists. With an extensive collection and resources to aid you in your genealogy journey, you will not have any trouble glimpsing into the history of your fellow Hoosiers. From marriage and birth records to death databases and indexes, there are many ways to begin with the basics. A “Researching Hard-to-Find Ancestors” guide is available for free. Manuscripts from the past are available to browse on the website as well. Online resources like webinars and videos are located easily under the Collections & Services, Genealogy Collections tab for your convenience.

This blog post was written by Jenna Knutson, University of Indianapolis student. 

Found in the Genealogy Division: From one pioneer to another, a special inscription

In 1887, John H. B. Nowland wrote a special inscription to Emily Stewart Cravens in the book, “Sketches of Prominent Citizens of 1876, with a few of the pioneers of the city and county who have passed away.” Both Nowland and Cravens were pioneers from Indianapolis’s early days.

In the mid-to-late 19th century, Indianapolis was slow-growing and a small enough large town for the people who populated it to be friendly, neighborly and still very much of hard-working pioneer attitudes. The streets were dark and muddy; lined with taverns and cold houses lit by candle light. The 1830s saw the budding start of manufacturing and construction of factories and all was flavored with Gemütlichkeit from German immigrants who started arriving in the 1840s.

Nowland was born in Kentucky and came to Indianapolis late in the year 1820 with his pioneering parents, Matthias Nowland and Elizabeth Byrne. The first abode the family lived in was a cabin in the middle of Kentucky Avenue. Nowland, after spending some time in Washington D.C., returned to Indianapolis. He worked for various Indianapolis newspapers and wrote two history books about Indianapolis: “Early Reminiscences of Indianapolis” and the aforementioned “Sketches of Prominent Citizens of 1876.” He died in 1899.

Cravens, born in Maryland, was the daughter of William Stewart and Sophia Doud. Her father, William Stewart, a bookseller from Hagerstown, Maryland, arrived in Indianapolis in 1853 and set up a book shop on Washington Street with Silas T. Bowen. In 1871, Emily married Junius Cravens, a dentist of Indianapolis. She died in 1932.

How did the two meet? Maybe in her father’s book store or through a literary club, such as the Fortnightly Literary Club, to which Emily Stewart Cravens belonged. Whatever the connection, the lady obviously deserved more than just a simple signature from Mr. Nowland.

I have tried my best to transcribe the poem Mr. Nowland wrote to Mrs. Cravens in 1887. My note in parentheses, the poem follows:

In Indianapolis you will find
People of every grade and kind
Black and white all mixed together
Muddy sheets in rainy weather
Full markets and but little money
Pretty girls as sweet as honey
And many a bargain if you (word unknown) it
Here’s Indianapolis how do you like it

January 1st 1887

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

Photograph family record of Henry Curtis and family

Chart after repairs and cleaning

This remarkably complete “Photograph Family Chart” shows the parents and children of Henry Curtis and Elizabeth Bever. The chart was created by J. Boller Sexington and is not dated. Although many examples of charts similar to this exist in libraries and private collections, this chart is unique in that every photograph slot is filled. The decorative elements on the chart are a mix of watercolors and ink.

This chart recently underwent minor repairs in the library’s conservation lab to clean the chart itself as well as straighten the photographs. As seen in this before photo, many of the images had moved with time and been reattached with tape. Also, the top edge of the chart had sustained several tears.

Back of chart before repairs

In order to repair the chart, all the photographs had to be removed. Once removed, the photographer’s marks as well as background details in the images were revealed.  These details provided more information about the family, but sadly, most people were not identified. The photographs are a mix of tintypes and albumen prints, primarily from photographers in Illinois. Some were cut down to better fit in the chart.

Selected images from the chart

Once the chart was cleaned and repaired, the photographs were remounted – without tape! – and realigned. The chart is now available to researchers in the Genealogy Division of the Indiana State Library.

Curtis family in the 1860 Census.  Illinois.  Tazewell County. 1860 U.S. Census, population schedule. NARA microfilm publication M653, roll 232. Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Record Administration, n.d.

Further research on the Curtis family revealed that Henry was born in New York, while Elizabeth was born in Ohio. They married in 1838 in Fountain County, Indiana, and lived in Indiana until about 1850, when they moved to Illinois. They eventually settled in Tazewell County, Illinois, where most of the photographs were taken. Since many of the photographs are unlabeled, they images may be of Henry and Elizabeth’s children, or they may be of later members of the Curtis family.

As named on the photographic chart, Henry and Elizabeth’s children were: Henry, Martha, Michael, Hiram, Margaret, Phebe, Mary, Thomas and Emily. Henry was the son of Joseph Curtis and Martha Mattison and Elizabeth was the daughter of Michael Bever and Margaret Zumwalt.

This blog post is by Jamie Dunn, Genealogy Division supervisor.

Spotlight on new purchases in the Genealogy Division

The Genealogy Division at the Indiana State Library recently acquired some new materials. A portion of the new materials are a selection of books by Thomas P. Lowry. These books deal with Civil War Army officers and doctors behaving badly.

The material in these books is drawn mainly from records held at the National Archives, Court Martial Case Files 1800-1894 and from materials in Record Group 94.

“Bad Doctors; Military Justice Proceedings Against 622 War Surgeons” (G 973.7 A11L) is a listing of doctors who went AWOL, were drunk on the job and who were subjected to courts-martial, among other things, as was the case with George H. Mitchell, a surgeon with the 88th Pennsylvania. “He went AWOL whenever he felt like it; he got into fistfights; he stole food; he stole building supplies. He was court-martialed three times. Was denounced by Lincoln’s judge advocate general, dismissed by Lincoln, reinstated by the governor of Pennsylvania…” There are sections on Navy and Confederate surgeons as well as a chapter on ten surgeons who were notable for their exploits as well as the documentation surrounding them.

“Utterly Worthless; One Thousand Delinquent Union Officers Unworthy of a Court-Martial” (973.7 A11Luw) is similar to “Bad Doctors,” because it lists offenders by last name with a short description of the offence. One of the noteworthy listings is for Maj. Henry Roessle of the 15th NY Cavalry, who was dismissed on May 25, 1864 “for gross neglect while in charge of the pickets, causing the loss of 11 men and 45 horses.”

“Tarnished Scalpels: The Court-Martials of Fifty Union Surgeons” ( 973.7 A11 Lts) and “Tarnished Eagles : The Courts-martial of Fifty Union Colonels and Lieutenant Colonels” (973.7 A11 Lte) both contain 50 cases that go into more detail than the previous books mentioned. Each person has a chapter detailing to their actions and the outcomes using the materials found in the National Archives, some of the chapters even include images.

All of these materials are available for use in the genealogy area.

Blog written by Sarah Pfundstein, genealogy librarian, Indiana State Library. For more information, contact the Indiana State Library at 317-232-3689 or “Ask-A-Librarian.”