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.”

Reading outside the genealogy box

Genealogist and family researchers often use indices, original records or newspapers, in their quest to complete a family tree. However, there are a lot of books of interest to genealogists for the pure enjoyment of the subject. These books might not help locate an ancestor but they will inspire a love of family history research and perhaps get a researcher excited about researching again after taking a break.

With this thought in mind, I decided to buy a few books that are related to the subject of genealogy but were not research materials. When I look for books to purchase to help genealogists research I often come across books that look really interesting, but not super helpful to researchers. Then I started to think outside of the box of traditional research materials.

Perhaps you are stuck in rut with nothing exciting or interesting to read. Well, now is the time to read outside of the box and take a look at some books that might inspire you.  The Genealogy Division of the Indiana State Library now has a small circulating collection for you to check out. These new purchases are kept in the Genealogy Division as part of the display called “Reading Outside The Box.” We are asking you to read outside the genealogy box and give these books a chance. We think you might like them and find them interesting.

The books featured in this blog, “Queen Victoria’s Gene: Haemophilia and the Royal Family” by D.M. Potts and W.T.W. Potts, “Roots Quest: Inside America’s Genealogy Boom” by Jackie Hogan and “The New York Times Book of the Dead: 320 Print and 10,000 Digital Obituaries of Extraordinary People,” are currently in our collection and available for check out via Evergreen.

This blog post was written by Crystal Ward, librarian in the genealogy department. If you would like more information, please contact the genealogy department at (317) 232-3689. 

Tips, tricks and mobile apps… oh my!

There’s a plethora of mobile apps available these days that can be of great benefit in your genealogy research. Here are just a few suggestions recommended by professional genealogists. This list is by no means exhaustive. Have fun picking and choosing which apps will work best for you!

All things note taking, organization and management

The Notes app on your iPhone, iPad and iPod touch allows you to quickly write a thought manually or ask Siri to start a note. You can also create a checklist, format a note, add attachments, add a photo or video, pin a note and scan and sign documents.  You can use iCloud to update your notes on all of your devices. Access Apple Support here for tips and instructions on using the different features of Notes. Available only on Apple iOS.

Google Keep is compatible with iPhone and Android. It is pre-installed on most Android devices with the Google services enabled. You can take quick notes, make lists, standard checklists, pin notes, color code notes, use voice notes, share notes, set reminders and it syncs with your Google account, thus syncing across devices. Available on both Apple iOS and Android.

Evernote can handle all types of notes including typed text, audio, photos, videos, content from websites and a lot more. Imagine finding a great article or document about an ancestor on the internet; it can easily be saved with Evernote. You can save parts and even full pages from the internet. Evernote is free if using it on one or two devices. If you need to use Evernote on more than two devices, or upload more than 60 MB a month, there is a paid plan available. Available on both Apple iOS and Android.

Trello is a free project management app that makes it easy to organize, write, collaborate and deal with task management. It uses customizable boards, lists and cards to help with organization and visualization of everything on which you’re working. You can upload photos, videos and files to share. Trello lets you add power-ups like apps of calendars, Evernote, DropBox and so much more. Available on both Apple iOS and Android.

GedView “is a viewer and recording tool for your genealogy database when you are out and about researching local records, or visiting locations such as graveyards looking for information. It acts as a way to quickly check up on family relationships, dates and locations of events, sources of information and view your notes, or record newly found information while out researching. You can either build your tree directly on your device, or can import a GEDCOM file from any genealogy application/service.” Available only on Apple iOS.
Price: $4.99

Google Drive comes with 15GB of free storage space. You can have all of your files within reach across your devices. “All your files in Drive – like your videos, photos and documents – are backed up safely so you can’t lose them. Easily invite others to view, edit or leave comments on any of your files or folders.” Available on both Apple iOS and Android.

A Drop Box Basic account is free and includes 2 GB of space. You can also earn more space on your Dropbox Basic account. Using Dropbox is like using any folder on your hard drive but the files you put into Dropbox will automatically sync online and to any other devices linked to your account. DropBox can be used as a backup for your documents, photos, etc. Available on both Apple iOS and Android.

All things about researching records of ancestors and creating a family tree

Genealogy research apps are a fantastic way to do research on-the-go. The following free apps are highly-recommended:

Ancestry
FamilySearch Tree
FamilySearch Memories
My Heritage

For those not familiar with these apps, Family Tree Magazine recently covered the basics regarding the use of the apps. The article can be read here. All apps are available on both Apple iOS and Android.

All things photo, video and audio

Google Photos allows for basic photo editing. Google Photos uses facial recognition as opposed to tags. Photos are organized by date so they are easily found by using the timeline. You can create photo books and albums, which are shareable. You have unlimited cloud storage of photos less than 16 megapixels and video shot at 1080p or lower. If you need to store larger images or higher resolution video, you can do this for a fee. Google Photos is also a great app to use for backing up your photos. Available on both Apple iOS and Android.

PhotoScan by Google Photos is another free app that allows you to scan those old family photos and documents you may come across unexpectedly. The app takes four images of an item and “stitches” the four images together to give you a composite image that is comparable to an image you would get using a flatbed scanner. Google touts that PhotoScan can “create enhanced digital scans, with automatic edge detection, perspective correction and smart rotation.” Available on both Apple iOS and Android.

CamScanner is a mobile scanner that makes it easy to scan, archive and share anytime and anywhere. This app has the ability to auto enhance images and to perform auto edge cropping. It also features optical character recognition (OCR) and supports syncing between your devices. Available on both Apple iOS and Android.

Adobe Photoshop Fix is extremely helpful to use with those old family photos that might need some restoration. The spot heal tool will correct small blemishes and a clone stamp tool will fix larger or more serious image problems. There is also a smooth tool to use when there is graininess in a photo. A variety of editing tools can be found in the adjust tool. Available on both Apple iOS and Android.

Storypix allows you to create a video with audio narration from one or several photos. You can also add scenes, use the zoom function and add text captions to enhance your story. Your new video is also shareable. Available on both Apple iOS and Android.

Adobe Spark is a free graphic design app that allows you to create web pages, video stories and exciting graphics. With graphics you can add text and apply design filters to your photo. With web pages you can assemble words and images into beautiful web stories. Video stories allows you to easily add photos, video clips, icons and your own voice. Available only on Apple iOS.

All things miscellaneous

Find A Grave is the world’s largest grave site collection. “Find the graves of ancestors, create virtual memorials or add photos, virtual flowers and a note to a loved one’s memorial.” This app allows you to search or browse cemeteries and grave records looking for ancestors. Available on both Apple iOS and Android.

Billion Graves is an interactive app for genealogists all over the world. “The goal of BillionGraves is to create digital maps of every cemetery near you.” If you want to participate, “collect photos and map out your entire local cemetery or just portions of it. Others can see what you’ve mapped and use your work as research. In turn, you can access the locations and information for graves other people have mapped. Within this app, you can collect photos of headstones around you and upload the photos. The more people who map grave sites, the more easily future genealogists can find the ancestors they’re looking for.” Available on both Apple iOS and Android.

Pinterest is described by its CEO as a “catalog of ideas” or a visual search engine. “It is part search engine, part organization tool, and part social media site…” Here is a great article from Family History Daily titled, “Why You Should Start Using Pinterest for Genealogy Right Now (and How to Do It).” Available on both Apple iOS and Android.

“For your digital book and document collection, the app Book Crawler is a helpful tool for research and organizing. Book Crawler is a great tool to gather information about sources such as author, publication and publish dates that may be hard to find. Within this app, you can log, search and organize publications. The built-in ISBN scan can record bar codes of any books you may be interested in at a bookstore or library. Book Crawler can access your local library’s database to check the availability of books you want to check out. But at its soul, this app can help you view and organize your collection.” Available only on Apple iOS.

Google Translate is great for family history. You use your phone’s camera to hover over text in a foreign language or you can take a picture of the text. Google Translate will translate and write out the text for you in your language of choice. It can translate between more than 100 languages. You can also translate entire websites. Available on both Apple iOS and Android.

Google Earth lets you explore the world from above with satellite imagery, showing 3-D buildings in hundreds of cities and 3-D terrain of the whole earth. Take a look at the towns where your ancestors originated. Available on both Apple iOS and Android.

Feel free to share any other mobile genealogy apps that you find helpful.

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

Real ID and Indiana marriage records

In 2013, the federal government issued minimum standards of documentation required for individuals to obtain a state-issued ID or driver’s license. These standards were known as Real ID. The standards have been phased in over time, but beginning in October 2020, Real ID-compliant identification will be required for certain activities, such as boarding an airplane or entering a federal building. For more information on Real ID, check out these articles from the Department of Homeland Security and the Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles.

Included in the list of required documents to obtain a Real ID is documentation of legal name changes. This includes name change due to marriage. So, if you changed your name when you got married, you will need to provide a certified copy of your marriage license when renewing your ID. This includes all marriages, even if you are now divorced.

Photo courtesy of the Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles.

If you do not have a certified copy of your marriage license, you can obtain one from the Clerk of Court’s office in the county where you obtained your marriage license. In Indiana, only the county clerk’s offices are able to provide certified copies.

If you do not remember where you obtained your marriage license or if you have contacted the county and they cannot find the record, you can search for your post-1958 Indiana marriage license in several places, depending on the year of marriage.  The Indiana State Library’s Indiana Legacy database includes the “Indiana Marriages, 1958-2017” index. As the title suggests, this index contains all marriage licenses issued in Indiana between 1958 and 2017, including the names of both parties, the marriage date, and the county that issued the license. This database does contain some known OCR issues, so if you find an error in a record, please let us know so we can correct it.

For marriages that took place between 1993 and the present, you can also check the Indiana Supreme Court Division of State Court Administration’s Marriage License Public Lookup. This database is updated regularly and includes marriages as recent as two weeks ago.

If you have an Ancestry.com account or if your local public library has Ancestry Library Edition, you can also search the Indiana Marriages, 1917-2005 database, which contains full scans of Indiana marriage records from the Indiana State Archives. Be aware that this database’s title is somewhat misleading, as the scans actually cover 1961-2005.

Unfortunately, there is not a statewide index to Indiana marriages pre-1958. The most complete sources are on FamilySearch, the Indiana Marriages, 1780-1992 and Indiana Marriages, 1811-2007 databases. These databases are free for you to use at home, but you will need to create an account.

If you are having trouble locating your marriage license through these resources, please contact the Indiana State Library Genealogy Division at 317-232-3689 or Ask-A-Librarian.

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

Preserving Indiana family history one county at a time

Last year the Genealogy Division at the Indiana State Library began a project to repair and rebind heavily worn and used materials in our print collection. We sent many books to the bindery, and made some Indiana county materials temporally unavailable. We worked quickly with our local book binding company to make sure that most materials were out of circulation less than a month. Last year we worked on Indiana print materials from counties A-C. This year we will again send out materials that are in need of some specialized care from our local bindery. For a short period of time, some print books in the Indiana counties from C-F will be temporarily unavailable. The counties affected are Clinton, Decatur, Daviess, Delaware, DeKalb, Elkhart, Fayette and Floyd.

Here is an example of the well-worn condition.

This ongoing project helps to ensure that our print collection will withstand the test of time and heavy use by family researchers. We understand that this might limit the availability of some materials that might be helpful to your genealogy research. This project will begin again in the first part of April and the items should be back by the first part of May. While some books from each county are sent out, not all books from that county will leave the library. If you plan to research in these particular counties you will still have plenty of books to choose from, as well as, our excellent databases and some online services that can help fill in the gaps. Researchers in these counties are encouraged to contact Crystal Ward before April, should you like to use these books before access is restricted.

The picture on the left is an example of how the books look when they leave the library and the finished product when they return is on the right.

We understand that this might be inconvenient to some and we are working as fast as possible to get the books back to the library. If you would like to know more about book binding and book repair, I have included a few links to some valuable information.

The Guild of Book Workers is one of my personal favorite organizations. They are the national organization for all the book arts. They have helpful guidelines on book binding but also promote book binding as an art form.

The Society of Book Binders is another good organization specializing in book binding.

If you check out the Indiana State Library preservation web page you will find many valuable resources about book repair and preservation.

This blog post was written by Crystal Ward, librarian in the genealogy department. If you would like more information, please contact the genealogy department at (317) 232-3689. 

New year, new genealogy resolutions

If your New Year’s resolutions for 2019 include genealogy research, the Indiana State Library Genealogy Division can help! Whether you are starting your research for the first time or are a seasoned researcher, we have many resources and ideas for you. Here are just a few ways you can get started in 2019:

Read a genealogy book

Besides family histories and ethnic and geographic-based genealogy resources, the Indiana State Library also holds many books that cover the various practical aspects of genealogy research, such as genetic genealogy, organizing your research and research techniques. Check out our catalog for a selection of holdings.

Watch a webinar

The Indiana State Library offers free prerecorded webinars on genealogy topics such as Genealogy 101, vital records and wills and probates. Taught by Genealogy Division librarians, these webinars provide an overview of research techniques and resources with an emphasis on the materials and databases available at the state library.

Check out a new-to-you digital resource

Cited by Family Tree Magazine as being among “…the best state-focused websites for genealogy,”[1] our many digital resources can help with your research. As an added bonus, many of these resources are accessible from home.

  • The Indiana State Library Digital Collections contain full scans of materials from our collection, including manuscripts, family bible records, maps, Indiana government documents and more.
  • Hoosier State Chronicles contains nearly a million fully-searchable digitized Indiana newspaper pages covering a wide time period and geographic area.
  • Indiana Legacy collates many of our databases in one convenient search interface, including the Indiana Biography Index, the Indiana Marriages 1958-2017 database and the Indiana Newspapers on Microfilm holdings guide.
  • Indiana County Research Guides provide an overview to genealogical research in each of Indiana’s 92 counties, including a summary of our print materials and links to free online resources for each county.

Ask a librarian

The librarians at the Indiana State Library are available to answer your research questions even if you can’t visit the library in person. We offer an Ask a Librarian service where you may email or live chat with a librarian. We love to hear from our patrons and would be more than happy to consult our resources or provide research tips regarding your genealogy, whether you are just starting out or are working on a long-term brick wall.

[1] Rick Crume, “Cyber States,” Family Tree Magazine, December 2018, 18-21.

This blog post is by Jamie Dunn, genealogy librarian. For more information, contact the Genealogy Division at (317) 232-3689 or send us a question through Ask-a-Librarian.

A sad death

This November, as we remember those who served in our military forces, as well as the 100th anniversary of Armistice Day, the Genealogy Division has made some new materials available through our Indiana Digital Collections about an Indiana soldier, Fred C. Hurt, who served in the Spanish-American War. These materials are a part of the G034 Nancy H. Diener Collection which was recently processed by staff.

Fred Carlton Hurt was born in Waynetown, Indiana on July 28, 1876 to Dr. William J. and Susan C. Hurt. Fred followed his father’s career path and entered the Indiana School of Medicine. While he was in his second year of medical school he decided to enlist in the U.S. Army Hospital Corps. Fred joined the U.S. Army as a private on June 14, 1898 in Indianapolis and was sent to Camp Thomas in Chickamauga, Georgia.

During his time there he wrote home to family and his fiancé Gertrude Jachman, telling them about camp life, and his work tending to the sick, which he really seemed to enjoy. Fred also wrote about how he was expecting to be shipped out either to Puerto Rico or Cuba and was anxious to go.

Fred wrote that the camp was rife with disease and understaffed. In late July, he wrote “At present we have 150 men men (sic) who are bad sick. There are only 10 men who go on duty at one time to take care of 150.” Fred himself would succumb to typhoid fever at Fort Monroe in Virginia on Aug. 18, 1898.

Inside of medical tent with personnel at Fort Monroe.

Fred’s family in Waynetown were unaware that anything was wrong until the received a telegram sent collect that Fred was dead, his body was later shipped home collect and the family was billed $117. His father William sends letters to various government official trying to rectify that matter and get reimbursed for the funeral expenses and transport of his son’s body home as well as back pay owed to his son. On May 1,1899 he sends a letter to Charles B. Landis a representative from Indiana’s 9th District asking him to look into the matter.

On March 21, 1900, a letter from the Treasury department states that they have approved payment to William J. Hurt to amount of $112.17 for back pay and reimbursement of expenses involved with the transport and burial of Fred C. Hurt.

Receipt from treasury department.

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.”

2018 Genealogy and Local History Fair recap

On Saturday, Oct. 27, 2018, the Indiana State Library was abuzz with genealogists and representatives from historical organizations, genealogical societies and libraries, who were all in attendance for the 2018 edition of the Genealogy and Local History Fair. The theme this year was “Digging Up the Dead,” as we learned how to examine, decipher, and interpret death records, death research and other interesting facets of mortality in history.

Lisa Alzo during one of her three presentations.

Internationally-known speaker Lisa Alzo presented “Murder, Mayhem and Town Tragedy,” “Cause of Death: Using Coroner’s Records for Genealogy” and “Diseases, Disasters & Distress: Bad for Your Ancestors, Good for Genealogy.” Sarah Halter, executive director of the Indiana Medical History Museum, presented “What Killed Your Ancestors?,” which examined 19th century medicine, the accuracy of information and names of certain diseases and what they mean.

Sarah Halter presenting “What killed your ancestors?”

In between sessions, attendees were able to mingle with fellow genealogists, vendors and exhibitors, as well as explore the beautiful Indiana State Library building and view the library’s most recently-installed exhibits. “The Practice of Medicine” and “The Business of Death” are both currently on display in the first floor Exhibit Hall and in the second floor Great Hall of the state library. In addition to items from the library’s collections, “The Practice of Medicine” showcases items on loan from the Indiana Medical History Museum. If you happened to have missed the Genealogy and Local History Fair this year, there is still time to catch these great exhibits, which will be on display through the end of January 2019.

Attendees browsing vendors in the Great Hall.

We hope to see you at the next Genealogy and Local History Fair on Oct. 24, 2020, as we focus on “The Women in Your Family Tree,” while commemorating the 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage and examining the sometimes hard-to-research half of your family tree.

This blog post was written by Stephanie Asberry, deputy director of public services, Indiana State Library.

Genealogy for kids

Are you looking for a fun, meaningful and ongoing activity you can do with your children? Here’s an idea the whole family will enjoy and it just might turn into a lifelong adventure! Why not get the family involved in some genealogy research by connecting your children to their grandparents, great grandparents and other ancestors down the line?

First of all, it is best to define genealogy in easy to understand terms. It’s the story of the family members that came before them. Explain that these people are their ancestors. Genealogy entails tracing back your family lines and studying your family history and family relationships. It is the story of where they lived, who they married and how many children they had. Genealogy can begin with a search for the vital records of ancestors. These records include the dates and places of birth, marriage and death. Ask children why these might be called vital records and why they are considered so important.

Ask your children, “If you want to discover your own genealogy and family history, who do you think you should start with?” Should you start with grandparents? Parents? Of course, they should begin with themselves because they know the most about themselves. It is also logical to start with themselves to be able to see how they connect to other family members down the line. A packet, “My Journal: All About Me,” can be accessed here. Finding out facts and other information about you and your family involves research and a good researcher should gather the appropriate supplies to help them be successful. They will need a notebook or paper and pencil to write down the information they find. A folder will come in handy to hold the notebook and any papers. Some optional items might include a computer, a camera or a video or audio recording device. The linked packet also contains helpful definitions related to genealogy and helpful websites and books. A list of starter questions to ask family members is included in the above mentioned packet. Children should also be encouraged to come up with some of their own questions to ask about the things they would like to know regarding their family members.

Kids will have fun answering questions about themselves and recording the information. Once they have answered the basic questions about birth date and where they were born, they can then delve a little deeper with answering questions like, “My name was chosen for me because…” or “I was named after…”

Their next steps will involve asking questions about parents. It’s important for children to know that it’s okay if they are not able to find out information about a parent or grandparent. It’s good to emphasize that everyone has one or more “holes” in their family genealogy that can’t be filled in at the moment. Some searches for family members can be ongoing for many years. Encourage children to just continue on with the family members they do have information about.

Now it is time to move on to gathering information about grandparents. Sometimes a visual chart can help children understand the connections between themselves and their parents and grandparents. Explain that maternal grandparents are the parents of the mother. This is easy to remember with the “ma” at the beginning of the word maternal, as in your “ma.” The paternal grandparents are the parents of the father. This is easy to remember with the “pa” at the beginning of the word paternal, as in your “pa.”

A very basic beginning family tree example.

By learning about grandparents and understanding what their lives were like, children learn and understand more about themselves and their immediate family. Hopefully, children will discover that they share some of the same traits, characteristics and talents that a grandparent might have. Helping children see similarities and connections will make it fun and relevant for everyone.

An interesting project that children will enjoy is gathering pictures of family members at approximately the same age and making comparisons between the family members.

A baby picture comparison of a grandfather, two of his children and three of his grandchildren.

As mentioned before, the linked packet has a list of suggested questions to ask. Questions such as “What kinds of games did you play?,” “What part of childhood do you think most about now?,” “How is the world different today than it was when you were growing up?” and “What is the most important thing that has happened to you?”

At this point, much information has been gathered. The concept of a family tree or pedigree chart can now be introduced. Some people show their family history using a family tree or a pedigree chart, which are diagrams of the members of a family. With each of these, lines are used to show how people are related. For example, the lines show people who are married or have children. There is an unlimited variety of family tree and pedigree chart templates that can be downloaded for free from the internet.

Example of a family tree.

Example of a pedigree chart.

For older children, you can now add in a discussion and some research about the immigration of ancestors. With the subject of immigration currently in the news daily, there could be some great discussions about immigration in the past and present. Ask about the connections between immigration and genealogy. Probe a bit and ask what they think are some of the causes for people immigrating in the past and now. Perhaps life may have become too difficult in their native country. It could be because of lack of means for earning an income and needing to live in a place where there would be better work opportunities available. Immigrants come because of violence, war or religious persecution in their native country. They may come looking for a better life and future for themselves and their children. They may come to join other family members that came before them.

For many of us, all of our long ago ancestors were immigrants to North America at some point in time, with the exception of those who are full-blooded Native Americans. The immigration story of each of our ancestors is part of each person’s family history. It can be powerful for children to learn about their ancestors’ struggles and stories of survival.

It’s important to ask children questions before, during and after their research. It will help deepen their critical thinking skills. Bloom’s taxonomy of learning progresses from remembering, understanding, applying, analyzing, evaluating and creating. Helping children engage in higher level thinking skills will help them develop into stronger learners and critical thinkers.

Here are just a few example questions that could be asked:

  • How can I connect this information to my own life? How are my ancestors similar; dissimilar?
  • What would you do if you lived in another country in 1800 and could not find a job to support and take care of your family? Explain your answer.
  • Why do you think your ancestors settled in a particular region or city? Explain.

I hope these tips will help you engage your children and family by facilitating a personal connection to learning about your family’s past. I also encourage you and your family to check out the genealogy titles for kids featured throughout this blog post. You can find the titles and authors by clicking on the pictures.

This blog post was written by Alice Winslow, librarian, Genealogy Division. For more information, contact the Indiana State Library Genealogy Division at (317) 232-3689.

Dealing with difficult ancestors: Tips and tricks for finding those elusive family members

Sometimes in genealogy research, the pieces just don’t come together. No one seems to be living where you expect them to be, records have gone missing and you just can’t make any connections between generations.

Although not exhaustive, this guide introduces some search techniques that may help you find those elusive ancestors.

Write down everything you know about the person.

Writing down his or her life events in chronological order shows where you may have gaps in your research, such as census records you have not yet found. A timeline also suggests places to look for additional records if your ancestor lived through a war or other major historical event. Noting the places where your ancestor lived provides clues to the geographic area where your ancestor’s parents may be found.

Filling in those three missing censuses may well hold the key to John Whittaker’s family. Note the place of birth as Pennsylvania, meaning John’s parents lived there at some point. Also note the biographical details of marriage in a Catholic church and burial in an Independent Order of Odd Fellows cemetery.

Don’t just note places of residence. Fill in social details such as religious affiliation, political affiliation, club and society membership and other details you may know about your ancestor. These details will be useful later.

Looking at your timeline, information such as your ancestor’s birth date and place provides indirect details about his or her parents. For example, the place of birth tells you where the family was living at the time, while the date of birth tells you the minimum likely age of the parents.

Look at the pre-1850 censuses.

1840 United States Federal Census. Greene County, Tennessee. Accessed July 9, 2018. Ancestry Library Edition.

The early censuses are often overlooked because they do not provide the level of detail of later censuses. However, these records are not completely unhelpful to genealogists. If your ancestor was old enough to be an adult in these censuses, look for him or her.  Women in the pre-1850 censuses are more difficult to find, as they were not often heads of households, but they do turn up occasionally.

If your ancestor was still a child in 1840 or earlier, if you know where he or she was living in 1850 or if you know where he or she lived as a child, search the censuses in that area for individuals with the same last name. Try tracing those individuals to the 1850 census or later to see if they could be related to your ancestor. Also look at the family composition of the various households with your ancestor’s surname in the early censuses to see if there is a male or female of the appropriate age.

Make sure you have found all relevant censuses.

If you are trying to connect your ancestor to his or her parents, do not look at censuses in which he or she is a child only. Sometimes elderly parents lived with their adult children, so you may be able to find the parents there. Also depending on the census, you may find further clues concerning your ancestor beyond just age and place of birth.

Trace the siblings of your ancestor and their descendants.

Jacob Myers family tree. Ancestry.com user casvelyn. Accessed July 9, 2018. Ancestry Library Edition.

Sometimes the siblings of your ancestor provide more detailed information than your ancestor with regard to parentage. Maybe a younger sibling had a death certificate, whereas your ancestor died too early. Perhaps one or both of the parents are living with a sibling in later censuses. Another sibling’s family could have written a more detailed obituary. Looking at the siblings’ birth information can also provide evidence for other places your ancestor’s family may have lived, particularly if the family moved frequently.

Look in the county records where your ancestor lived throughout his or her life.

County records such as wills, probates, deeds and court records are full of direct and implied relationships. Will and probate records outline what happened to a person’s property after he or she died. Although many people did not write a will, most owned enough property to have the estate go through the probate process. If your ancestor died young, he or she may have left property to his or her parents. Otherwise, looking at wills and probates for individuals with your ancestor’s surname may help you to find his or her parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles or siblings.

Will of Philip Erbaugh. Clerk of Court, Miami County, Indiana, Vol. 8, p. 66. Accessed July 9, 2018. Family Search.

Deed records do not always name the relationship between the seller and the buyer, but there are some family clues to be found. If someone sells a piece of property for $1 or “for love and affection,” there is a good chance of a family relationship between the individuals.

Criminal and civil court records may note familial relationships if someone sued other members of his or her family or if a family member testified at a trial or helped to pay bail or fines. Court records are rarely indexed by the names of all involved, just the plaintiffs and defendants, so looking at cases involving individuals with the same surname as your ancestor may be necessary.

Check county histories.

Eli H. Dunn. “History of Knox and Daviess County, Indiana.” Chicago: Goodspeed, 1886.

Most county histories contain a section of brief biographies of local residents. Even those that do not usually contain information on early or prominent residents of the area. These biographical sketches provide many details about your ancestor’s life, including spouses, children, parents, career, education and social affiliations. Many county histories are available online through sites such as Google Books, Internet Archive and Hathi Trust.

Look at newspapers.

Rushville Republican, September 30, 1959, p. 8. Accessed July 9, 2018. Newspaper Archive.

As more and more newspapers are digitized and indexed, it is easier than ever to search the newspapers for your ancestor. Through newspapers, you may be able to find an obituary or death notice for your ancestor. You also may be able to find articles about religious or social affiliations. For example, if your ancestor attended a Methodist church picnic or helped out at a Masonic Lodge fish fry, he may have been a member of that church or fraternal organization. Depending on the area, newspapers may also contain information about vacations, hospital stays, weddings, funerals and many other everyday aspects of your ancestor’s life that cannot be found anywhere else.

Check online trees.

Looking at family trees that other researchers have posted online can help you to see if you have overlooked anything in your research. Try to use trees that have citations so you know where the person got their information. If the trees do not have citations, but do contain new information, think about sources that might provide that information and check them to see if you can find proof.

There are many websites where individuals can post family trees, so you may need to check more than one to find new information about your ancestor. Simply searching for “[ancestor name] family tree” or “[surname] family tree” can find many trees that are publicly available.

This blog post is by Jamie Dunn, genealogy librarian. For more information, contact the Genealogy Division at (317) 232-3689 or send us a question through Ask-a-Librarian.