Unusual sources to use for your family’s story

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

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

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

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

Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Introduction to using Fraktur records in genealogy

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

An example of Fraktur lettering

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

An example of a Fraktur certificate

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Museum of Early Southern Decorative Arts
Collection: Fraktur

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

Pennsylvania German Fraktur and Manuscripts
Free Library of Philadelphia

Pennsylvania German Fraktur Collection
Franklin and Marshall College

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

Ursinus College Fraktur Collection

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

Indiana Legacy: An important tool for finding people of the past

Indiana Legacy allows everyone to search, from the comfort of their own home, for information on individuals going back to the early 1800s. One can research all kinds of pertinent information: birth, marriage, divorce and death.

Indiana Legacy combines existing Indiana State Library databases with VINE, the Vital INformation Exchange. VINE allows libraries to contribute and share records that they possess. Each record displayed shows the record type with an ID number, the name of the person, date, place and source of the record. Finding information this way saves a great deal of time and effort because you are looking at a transcript of the original document with the added benefit of knowing where an exact copy can be obtained.

And if you have difficulties or see a mistake that you can correct, please do so by using the Chat with a Librarian option located on the main Indiana Legacy page. All contributions are suggestions are welcome.

This post was written by Joan Gray, Indiana State Library.

So, what about those genetic DNA tests you can take nowadays?

Do you know who your ancestors are? Do you know which countries they came from? Did you know that taking a DNA test will help you discover your own ethnicity estimates?

I’d like to briefly highlight five major DNA testing companies in order to acquaint you with what each company has to offer. There are many more DNA testing companies available, but this article will compare five major companies. But first, let’s briefly talk about the basics of DNA. I’m not a science person, so this will definitely be a very basic explanation. I went into a DNA test without any knowledge of DNA except that I knew it as the carrier of genetic information and that our DNA is arranged into chromosomes, grouped into 23 pairs. I could also recognize the double helix images of DNA structure.

It’s important to keep in mind that siblings in a family do not inherit the exact same DNA from their parents as another sibling inherits. When I first had my DNA tested it was after my sister had hers tested. Remember now, I told you I’m not a science person, so I assumed that my ethnicity estimates from my DNA would be the same as my sister’s ethnicity estimates. We have the same mother and father, so I thought we would have the same ethnicity estimates. Wrong! I’ve been hooked and fascinated with DNA genetics ever since.

I later learned that everyone gets half of their DNA from their mother and half from their father. Which DNA is inherited from each parent is totally random. Inherited DNA is reduced each generation, as you can see by a table from 23andMe, “Average Percent DNA Shared Between Relatives,” that summarizes both the average percent DNA shared for different types of relationships, and the expected range of percent DNA shared. For example, we inherit 50% DNA from each parent, about 25% DNA from each grandparent, about 12.5% DNA from each great-grandparent, and so on.

Ancestry has a great article on understanding inheritance:

“By understanding how DNA is inherited, you can see how and why you have some DNA segments that match your relatives, and others that do not, why you may or may not have inherited DNA segments associated with a certain ethnicity, and why getting multiple people in your family tested can help you discover more of your family’s genetic tree.”

Let’s talk ethnicity estimates. To date, no ethnicity gene has been found in the human genome. Your own ethnicity estimate is just that, an estimate. It is based upon comparing your DNA with known members of different ethnicities in the testing company database. By this comparison they will estimate how closely your DNA matches with each ethnic group. All of the testing companies I’m comparing will give you ethnicity estimates. The picture below is a screenshot of my own ethnicity estimate from Ancestry. I took my DNA test from Ancestry about eight years ago. The screenshot shows that my DNA is about 70% from Ireland. On the right side of the screenshot and directly underneath Ireland, there are particular regions and towns of Ireland where they estimate my ancestors lived. Then it estimates that I have 20% DNA from Scotland, 8% DNA from England and Northwestern Europe and about 2% Germanic Europe.

My sister and I had researched our genealogy long before we each took a DNA test. Plus, with family history and stories passed down, we knew we had strong ties back to Ireland. With the maiden name of McNamara, that’s a given. We also have these very Irish surnames on our family tree: Murphy, Farrell, McKeown, Kelly, MacMeehan, Flannery and Murray. We also have our great, great, great grandfather Patrick MacDonald born in Glencoe, Argyll, Scotland around 1790. As a young man he went to Ireland and married Susan Murray. They lived and raised their family in County Monaghan, Ireland before emigrating to Ontario, Canada. You’ll note that County Monaghan is one of the areas mentioned in my ethnicity estimate above.

Below is a screenshot from Ancestry that shows a comparison of the ethnicity estimates for me and my sister. There are some very real differences here. She has 8% DNA from Germanic Europe, where I only have 2% in my DNA. It’s interesting to note that we also have many German names in our tree, including Metz, Demer, Spitzmesser and Burkhardt. She seems to have inherited more of the German DNA and about twice as much English and Northwestern European DNA in our family than I have inherited.

Along with ethnicity estimates, all of the companies I will be comparing also name relatives that are genetic DNA matches. My matches include thousands of people on Ancestry that share some of my DNA, thus we are related to one another. This was mind boggling to me! They are listed from closest relation – my sister – to matches that share less than 1% DNA with me. Unfortunately, I have not had much time to explore these matches other than the cousins I already know about. Interestingly though, a distant cousin, unbeknownst to us, contacted my sister a few years ago and they’ve been emailing ever since. This distant cousin lives in Ontario, Canada and is related to our Scottish MacDonald clan that emigrated there in the 1800’s. She has been able to fill us in on a lot of that family history that we had not known before, along with sharing some photographs too. It’s up to each individual as to how much you want to pursue the DNA matches you find out about.

According to Genetics Digest, there are three essential tips you must know before buying a DNA Test.

  1. Buy from a company that protects your data.
  2. Find a test that reveals when and where your ancestors appeared.
  3. Follow the science and genetic experts.

I would like to add that it’s important to look over each company’s website and learn about what they offer. Read the FAQ’s and comments from users. Also, decide what is important to you and what you hope to learn by having your DNA tested. The price of the kits range from $79 -$99, but keep an eye on their websites around different holiday times for sales on the kits.

One more thing to consider before taking a DNA genetic test is that there might be information disclosed to you that you weren’t expecting: adoptions, illegitimacies, name changes and non-paternal events, where parentage may be unexpected. It is suggested to be emotionally prepared for whatever the results of the testing shows.

I have prepared a chart that compares these five different DNA testing companies: MyHeritage, Ancestry, Living DNA, Family Tree DNA and 23andMe. The comparison chart covers such criteria as the number of geographic regions each test company covers, health and well being upgrade availability, personal traits upgrade availability, exploration of ancient ancestry, advanced DNA testing availability, ability to upload DNA test results to other company sites, ancestry timeline, tracking possible migration routes, cost and other features.

Additionally, here is just a sampling of some of the DNA related books we have in our Genealogy Collection. Come visit us sometime and take a look at them. As of this writing in April of 2021, we are open, but require patrons to make an appointment first. You can make an appointment by calling us at 317-232-3689 or through our Ask-a-Librarian service.

Also, if you are interested in learning more about this fascinating subject, we invite you to attend our “Virtual DNA Workshop” scheduled to take place in May of 2021.

The Indiana State Library Genealogy Division and the Central Indiana DNA Interest Group are partnering to present a “Virtual DNA Workshop” from 11:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. on Saturday, May 8, 2021. This is a free event, but registration is limited to the first 200 people. It will take place via Zoom.

The workshop will focus on using various DNA tools to understand how people are connected to their DNA matches. Speakers from CIDIG will cover topics on understanding genetic genealogy; reviewing DNA results; comparing shared matches; building family trees based upon DNA matches; and using various DNA tools to analyze matches. Using the Zoom chat feature, attendees will be able to submit questions during the sessions and during the panel discussion at the end of the program. You will find a full description of the three sessions at the registration link below.

If you miss this May workshop, don’t despair. The State Library and CIDIG will be partnering again in the Fall of 2021 to present another DNA Workshop.

You can register for this free event here.

Disclaimer: The author of this blog and the Indiana State Library in no way endorse any of the DNA testing companies referred to in this blog. The existence of the provided links do no imply endorsement of the services or products of these companies.

Bibliography:
23andME
Ancestry DNA
Central Indiana DNA Interest Group
Family Search Wiki. DNA Basics
Family Tree DNA
International Society of Genetic Genealogy; Genetics Glossary
International Society of Genetic Genealogy; Wiki, Autosomal DNA statistics 
Living DNA
My Heritage DNA

This blog post was submitted by Genealogy Division librarian Alice Winslow. For more information, contact the Genealogy Division of the Indiana State Library at 317-232-3689 or submit an Ask-a-Librarian request.

Genealogy research in print materials

Genealogy research is so much easier than it’s ever been, thanks to the many subscription services and free databases available to researchers in their homes at any time of day or night. These databases, however, contain only a small fraction of the genealogical information available to family historians. If you have exhausted the online resources available on your family, or if you are looking for new and interesting sources for research, it may be worthwhile to look at print materials.

This series of books documents the descendants of the Mayflower passengers.

Genealogy libraries have a wide variety of print materials, and not just books. Our collections also include vertical files, maps, family trees, Bible records, manuscript collections, photograph and more. All of these materials contain family histories, indexes to records, research notes and all sorts of information on individuals and families.

If you visit a genealogy library, there are so many books and materials available that it’s easy to lose track of what you’re looking for as you browse through so many interesting-looking books. So it’s helpful to have a research plan, even before you visit a library.

As part of your research plan, you can identify which ancestors you want to research, and in what time period and geographic area they lived. That way, you can more easily identify which books and reference materials will help with your research and which ones will not. You may also want to consider books about families that are connected to yours.

Researchers of connected families may have written about your family in their books.

You can also search a library’s catalog online before you visit to see if they have books on a specific family or topic. If you are interested in a broader search for potential research materials, WorldCat is a great place to start.

WorldCat main page.

WorldCat is a shared library catalog that includes libraries from around the world. You can search by title, author or any subject or surname that interests you. Not every library participates in WorldCat, but many libraries are included. This can help you find if anyone has ever written a book on your family, and if so, which libraries own it.

When you visit a library and begin to research in the books that interest you, also take a peek at the books shelved around the books you want. While searching the catalog definitely helps you find the books you want, you may also find something on the shelves that you didn’t know you needed until you see it. You may also find books with alternate spellings of your family name that you did not consider while searching the catalog.

Names often changed spelling over time, so considering alternate spellings may lead to resources you otherwise might have missed.

To make organizing your library research easier when you get back home, as you take notes on the materials or make copies from the books, copy the information from the title page so you know what book you got the information from. And if you check a book and do not find anything relevant to your research, note that as well.

So, if you are interested in expanding the scope of your genealogy research, consider branching out into print materials. There is so much more that you can discover about your family tree!

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

Using food as a cultural touchstone in genealogy

I have a cookbook that was my grandmother’s. The cookbook, “Food for Two,” was acquired during her engagement to my grandfather. I also have handwritten recipes from another grandmother. These items are among my most treasured family heirlooms.

I have memories of my grandmothers making gingerbread cake, johnny cakes in the pan – fried in lard, beef and homemade noodles. Saturday evenings I watched my great grandmother make communion bread for Sunday’s service.

Though my life is surrounded by living memories of sharing food and life with family, I have also wondered what my ancestors’ lives were like. What their occupations were, what their environments – the places they lived – looked like, what music they listened to and I wondered what did my ancestors eat? All the things that make a life full.

My family has no sheen of the gentry on it and some of them lived in London. My ancestors who lived in London lived near the river Thames, and the river provides. And what does it provide? Eels. Eels from the Thames river. Cooked eels, eel pies and jellied eels.

Like many Midwesterners, I have plenty of Irish heritage, too. I have wondered: What did the Irish eat?

Even though corned beef is often associated with our Irish ancestors, it was not beef they were eating – that was for the wealthy British landowners. Potatoes – also often associated with our Irish ancestors – were brought in to feed the poor, Irish tenant farmers. Of course, when the cheap food source of potatoes failed in Ireland; many Irish migrated to America.

But when families have plenty of food, they use food to show love, celebrate, tell stories and heal.

Recently, foodways were used to bring healing to the native peoples in Minneapolis during the COVID pandemic.

Family foodways can turn into family businesses and then influence and change the surrounding culture as the Chili Queens of San Antonio did.

Food can be about survival, too. Michael W. Twitty explored his family’s experience of slavery through food.

Sometimes the recipes and the food are a clue in family history, as it was for Cuban-American, Genie Milgrom.

What will your family foodways tell you about your family history?

Books about foodways in the Indiana State Library’s collection to explore:
“Dellinger family : American history and cookbook,” ISLG 929.2 D357M
“Keaton Mills family cemetery, Egeria: an era: family stories and cookbook,” ISLG 929.2 M657MA
“Weesner family favorites: a recollection of old and new recipes,” ISLG 929.2 W3983R
“The cooking gene: A Journey Through African American Culinary History in the Old South Twitty,” Michael W., available as an e-book
“Historical Indiana cookbook,” ISLI 641.5 K72H
“Farm fixin’s: food, fare & folklore from the pioneer village,” ISLI 641.5 F233
“Aspic and old lace: ten decades of cooking, fashion, and social history,” ISLI 641.5 B295
“Pennsylvania Dutch cookbook of fine old recipes: compiled from tried and tested recipes made famous and handed down by the early Dutch settlers in Pennsylvania,” ISLM TX721 .P46 1971
“Quaker cooking and quotes,” ISLI 641.5 B655q
“Cooking from quilt country: hearty recipes from Amish and Mennonite kitchens,” ISLI 641.5 A215C
“The Catholic cookbook; traditional feast and fast day recipes,” ISLM 641.5 K21C
“Consuming passions being an historic inquiry into certain English appetites,” ISLM TX645 .P84 1971
“Rappite cookbook,” ISLO 641.5 no. 29

Online Sources about foodways to explore:
Jellied Eels
What the Irish Ate Before Potatoes
Is Corned Beef Really Irish?
Medieval Cookery
The Sifter A Tool For Food History Research
Historic Cookbooks on line
Generations of Handwritten Mexican Cookbooks Are Now Online
Mexican Cookbook Collection
Recetas: Cooking in the Time of Coronavirus

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

Newly-digitized images from the Genealogy Division

Working at home during the pandemic has changed the way we approach our daily tasks. While we can’t do some things that we can do on-site from home, there are still a lot of projects that can be completed. Fortunately, I was able to upload several digitized images from multiple collections in our holdings during this time. Below are some of the images from two of the collections.

Vesper Cook grew up as Dorothy Vesper Wilkinson in Peru, Indiana. She was the curator of the Miami County Museum for 20 years and wrote some local and family histories. Her collection contains some of her research along with numerous photographs.

The photographs are of not only her immediate family, but also of her extended family as well as several her mother’s friends as teens and young adults.

Katherine Parrish was born in Indianapolis in 1921. She attended Shortridge High School and Butler University. She later married Milton Mondor. Her father was John P. Parrish, an architect who help design buildings at Stout Field along with several other buildings around Indianapolis, while her mother grew up in the area known as Nora.

The Mondor Collection has numerous family photographs, both intimate as well as staged. Most of them are of her immediate family but her parents’ extended family is also represented in the collection.

There are also photographs of John P. Parrish’s social life and his career as an architect. There are photographs of buildings around Broad Ripple and Washington Township as well as the hanger and administration building at Stout Field. He also sent many postcards home with images of the Murat Gun Club at Shiners conventions in the 1920s.

To view more digital images from the Genealogy Division check out our Digital Collections page.

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, part deux

Last November, I wrote about some of the research and activities we partake in as librarians in the Genealogy Division of the Indiana State Library. I asked the question, “Have you ever wondered what the librarians do all day and all year long?” Do you think we get bored or get tired of researching? Actually, working in the Genealogy Division is a very interesting and fun job! Let me tell you about some of the interesting research we’ve come across throughout this year. 2020 has been an interesting year, to say the least, and our patron’s queries did not disappoint.

Newspapers
Many times we try to find articles about ancestors in the different newspaper databases we have at the State Library. Hoosier State Chronicles offers free, online access to high quality digital images of Indiana’s historic newspapers. We also have other newspaper databases that are free to use within the library. Those include Newspapers.com, NewspaperArchive and the Indianapolis Star, which covers 1903 to the present.

Sometimes it’s the non-related articles on a page that truly catch the eye! Take for instance the article below, titled “Duck eats yeast, quacks, explodes; man loses eye.”

Here’s an informative article found in the Indianapolis News about a cyclone demolishing the towns of Jasper and Huntingburg, Indiana in June of 1890:

In Vincennes, The Western Sun wrote about an earthquake that hit on Dec. 16, 1816, just five days after Indiana became the 19th state of the United States.

One might also learn through advertisements in the newspapers that an ancestor was the owner of a local distillery supplying corn whiskey, rye whiskey, gin, etc., for Knox and the surrounding counties in Indiana. This ad is from the Dec, 30, 1816 issue of the Western Sun:

City directories
City directories are another useful tool used in locating information about ancestors. Since the federal census is conducted every ten years, that can leave a gap in knowing the location of an ancestor, especially if the ancestor lives in a different state listed on the subsequent census. A city directory usually includes an individual’s address, their occupation, spouse’s name and other helpful information. Be sure to take a look at the Table of Contents of a city directory. There is a wealth of information contained within the first 100 pages before the name and address listings. Many of these sections contain names of people. For instance, the fire department section names the captain of each fire station. The police department section names all of the current policemen that year and their specific job assignments. Looking through these first sections can also give you a flavor of the time period in which your ancestors were living. Here are examples from the 1890 Indianapolis Polk City Directory:

The advertisements within the city directories are also helpful in giving the flavor of the period. Sometimes you might just find an advertisement for a business that your ancestor owned or was working as an employee. We found advertisements of M.H. Farrell Monuments and Statuaries and McNamara, Koster & Co. in several Indianapolis City Directories. These were companies owned by ancestors of one of our patrons. Imagine their delight in seeing these from 1894, 1895 and 1897 Indianapolis Polk City Directories:

Very basic patron question opens up a can of worms
One of our genealogy librarians was assigned a basic question, which was to find the parent names of a man born in Indianapolis in 1883. The patron had a small bit of pertinent information that was helpful. This basic question ended up uncovering a wealth of information about his ancestor the patron had no idea about. Through the database Fold 3, our librarian found internal letters between FBI agents pointing to FBI files on this ancestor. The files related to the time the ancestor was a yeoman in the U.S. Navy during World War I and were also related to his involvement being a very strong and vocal advocate for an Irish Republic. The Irish Republic came into being in 1916. It then became the Irish Free State in 1922. The ancestor also believed in and marched with the Suffragettes.

The ancestor died in 1925 at the early age of 42. An obituary stated: “Episcopal divinity student; ordained Episcopal clergyman; yeoman in the United States Navy during the war; ardent advocate for an Irish Republic when moral and physical courage were the essentials; National Counsellor and co-organizer of the Friends of Irish Freedom in the United States; Archimandrite of the Greek Orthodox Church in North America; Graymoor Friar and student for the Catholic Priesthood: death.”1 Despite the pleasantries of this 1925 obituary, the ancestor had a brutal and tragic end to his life under mysterious circumstances.

Frankford Yellow Jackets football team
This year, we received an emailed photo of a 1927 Yellow Jackets team. The patron was pretty sure the team was from Indianapolis and was asking for help with identifying the building behind the steps where the team posed for the photo. One of the pictured players was an adopted ancestor of his wife. After discussion about the photo and not coming to any conclusion, we referred the photo to the librarians in our Manuscripts and Rare Books Division. Unfortunately, they were not able to identify the building either. As hard as we try, sometimes we are not able to find the answer to every question we are asked.

Through our research though, we found that this team was actually the Frankford Yellow Jackets, an NFL team from Philadelphia during the years of 1924-31. Frankford is a neighborhood in the Northeast section of Philadelphia. The Frankford Yellow Jackets won the NFL Title in 1926. Unfortunately, the team began to decline mainly due to financial hardships brought on by the Great Depression of 1930. Another reason for their decline was due to a 1931 catastrophic fire that damaged the Frankford Stadium. The team then had to find a different location to play their home games.

The 1931 season, which would be their last, ended on a good note, though. The Yellow Jackets defeated the Chicago Bears 13-12 at Wrigley Field on Oct. 26, 1931. As an added tidbit, this apparently marked the last time a Philadelphia-based NFL team would win an away game over the Bears until the Eagles beat them in 1999. The Yellow Jackets were involved in another piece of history in that during their short time in the NFL, their player, Ignacio Molinet, became the NFL’s first Latino player. In 1931, the Frankford Athletic Association was unable to find a buyer for their team; thus, they returned the franchise to the league. In 1933, the NFL granted an expansion franchise and the new owners named the team the Philadelphia Eagles, and as they say, the rest is history.

Marriage records
The past few years, and especially this year, we have received hundreds of phone calls and emails from patrons and county clerk offices requesting information about marriage records. This is due to the Federal Real ID Act that was passed in Congress in 2005. “Beginning Oct. 1, 2021, a Real ID-compliant driver’s license, permit or identification card will be required to board commercial airplanes or enter certain federal facilities. A Real ID is indicated by the star in the upper right-hand corner of your driver’s license, permit or state identification card.” The Real ID documentation checklist can be accessed here.

If your current name does not match the name on your identity document (e.g., birth certificate) additional government-issued documentation will be required. This is where marriage records come into play. Any person who has been married and changed their name will have to acquire a certified copy of their marriage record(s) as part of the documentation needed to obtain a BMV Real ID. All original marriage records are kept within the county where the couple applied for their marriage license. The County Clerk Offices are the only place you can obtain a certified copy of your marriage record. We do not have any original marriage records at the Indiana State Library, nor can we certify a marriage record. What we can do is look up the couples names and year of marriage, usually on Ancestry’s Indiana Marriage Certificate Collection, and view a digitized copy of the marriage record. By viewing this copy we can help patrons and county clerk offices verify in which county the original record should be, along with verifying the exact date of marriage. Again, the marriage record is kept in the county clerk’s office where the couple applied for the marriage license. If the couple were married in a different county, the record goes back to the county where they applied and is filed there. For a complete county listing with contact information access the Directory of Courts & Clerks in Indiana.

COVID-19 quarantine time
During the COVID-19 quarantine time, we worked remotely at home five days a week. In addition to answering patron questions over the telephone and through our online Ask-A-Librarian service, we worked on some of our yearly projects. One of my projects is to find free online books that match the books in our Genealogy Collection. When I find an exact match in an online copy of one of our books, I send the link to our Cataloging Division and they add the link to the catalog record of that book. As you can imagine, it is a slow-going process, but well worth making books more easily accessible for our patrons.

Another project that a few of us in the Genealogy Division are working on is editing some of the records in the Indiana Marriages Index through 1850. There are 4,000-plus records in this index where the actual marriage date is unknown. Through research and a bit of sleuthing, we can usually locate the exact date of marriage and edit the record in the database so it is correct and will help our patrons.

One activity that all of us in genealogy took part in during the quarantine was watching pertinent genealogy webinars to learn as much as we can about different genealogy-related topics. One of the areas of interest that I felt I needed to know more about was World War I. Through The United States World War One Centennial Commission and The Doughboy Foundation, I was able to view several free and very informative webinars. The webinar “The Hello Girls: America’s First Women Soldiers” was excellent! This was the first time I had heard of these brave women. There is also a book by the same title authored by Elizabeth Cobbs. I highly recommend viewing any of these free webinars if you have an interest in World War I.

Fun names
As I shared in my November 2019 blog entry, we always run across interesting names during our research. Here are a few more to entertain you: Jacob Earpouch, Poeta Whitcomb, Minervabel Moof, Cyrenia Shurp, Bazil Liles, Ebenezer and Thankful Puffer, Permelia Agee, Colon Presser, Blandena Bumpus, Abner Flummerfelt, Harlem Pentecost, Daisy Buster, Erastis Colip, Pinkie Berry, Floyd Iven Buffenbarger, Goldy Tash, Siragusa Gandolfo, Weeney Feeney, Fred R. Begun and LaVona Vivien Pombert.

We never know what kinds of interesting topics we’ll receive from patrons who need our research help. We get a very wide variety of questions. This certainly keeps us on our toes and gives us lots of research adventures!

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

1. The Tablet, Brooklyn, NY 6 Jun 1925

Newspapers, a great source for family history… and other tidbits

Newspapers are a great source for genealogy and history information. They can provide new details about your family through obituaries, human interest stories and the society pages. Newspapers can also provide background stories and unexpected context that flesh out your ancestors’ lives and experiences. So, here are some examples of the family history information to be gleaned from newspapers.

Indianapolis Times, March 21, 1936, page 12

Vital records articles cover birth, marriage and death information. These can include vital statistics columns from local hospitals, marriage announcements in the society pages and obituaries. Those columns give you biographical details on specific ancestors and can help you outline familial structures. Obituaries are a particularly good source for details, as they often name parents, siblings and children. They are especially useful prior to the use of birth and death certificates.

Jasper Weekly Courier, June 1, 1894, page 4

Legal notice articles also provide insight into your ancestors’ lives. Court notices may list all the cases being heard in local courts or they may list cases where public notice is required, such as name changes. These columns also include listings of land transfers, so if you are researching property or trying to figure out exactly where your ancestors lived, these articles can help.

Richmond Palladium, June 29, 1921, page 4

Society pages document the doings of the members of a community. In big cities, these columns often focus on the lives of the rich and famous, but in smaller communities everyone is covered. Do you want to know what they ate at the annual community picnic?  Interested in what your great-grandmother got at her wedding shower? These articles are for you! Beyond knowing the minute details of your ancestors’ lives, those who attended momentous life events were often close friends and family, giving you an idea of who your ancestors knew and with whom they associated.

Indianapolis Times, February 23, 1934, page 30

Even advertisements tell us about our ancestors’ lives. Grocery ads, clothing ads, car ads, etc., show us the products people of the past bought and used. Some products are still on the market today, but many are things that are no longer available. Relatedly, columns covering fashion, cooking and housekeeping also show how people lived.

Daily Wabash Express, November 24, 1889, page 6

Local news columns show details about the past, from weather forecasts to crime reporting to local election results. These articles show the day to day events our ancestors experienced as well as local responses to and state and national events. They provide a contemporaneous perspective on past events.

Looking for newspapers? All the images used in this article were taken from Hoosier State Chronicles, the Indiana State Library’s free digital newspaper database. We also offer access to several subscription newspaper databases in the library, as well as the world’s largest collection of Indiana newspapers, accessible on microfilm.

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

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.