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.

INSPIRE turns 20!

Can you believe it’s been 20 years since INSPIRE was born? Here are a few other highlights of 1998:

  • Google was founded in Menlo Park, California.
  • “E.R.” was the most popular TV show, followed by “Friends.”
  • The song “The  Boy is Mine” by Brandy and Monica was number one for 13 weeks on the Billboard charts.
  • A gallon of gas was $1.15.
  • Windows 98 debuted in June.
  • The Ford Cougar was first produced.
  • Harry Caray died Feb. 18.
  • The band Coldplay formed.

In January of 1998, INSPIRE began as a collaboration between the Indiana State Library, INCOLSA and Lilly Endowments. INSPIRE is a free service for all Indiana residents. Users can access INSPIRE via the internet at school, home, local public library or workplace.

INSPIRE it… don’t Google! Okay, so maybe that’s not quite as catchy as saying “Google it,” but using INSPIRE is your best bet when looking for articles, biographies, history and other resources. Information in INSPIRE databases is vetted and authoritative, so you can rest-assured that you’re getting reliable information and not something that can be manipulated. Did I mention INSPIRE is free!? Tomorrow, from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Indiana State Library, we celebrate INSPIRE with stories about INSPIRE, learning and networking at INSPIRE Day. Here’s to another 20 years and beyond!

This blog post was written by Kimberly Brown-Harden, northwest regional coordinator, Indiana State Library. For more information, email Kim.

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.

Indiana State Library helps create headstone for Civil War veteran

In April, a staff member at the Mount Hope Cemetery in Topeka, Kansas contacted the Indiana State Library with a special request: In 1916, a Union Civil War veteran from Indiana had been laid to rest without a headstone and they were seeking out information in order to provide one for him.

It became my task to compile as much information as I could on the deceased, Thomas J. Raybell, in order to ensure a proper and accurate headstone.

I set to work on researching Raybell, first verifying his full name: Thomas Jefferson Raybell. I also researched his vital statistics. He was born in 1846, most likely in Miami County, Indiana and died June 22, 1916 in Topeka, Kansas. Ancestry.com is a great resource for finding this kind of information. Although, you do need to know the person’s name and have an idea of where they were born, lived, or died and/or a ballpark of those dates; especially if the name is common.

Photo credit Fred Holroyd

Discerning his regiment and company was more difficult. In order to determine and verify his regiment, I cross-checked a combination of the muster rolls, the military records at the Indiana Archives and Records Administration and the Civil War Index website. Eventually, I was able to confirm that Raybell enlisted in Peru, Indiana, serving in Company F of the 109th. This was more difficult in part because the 109th was only in service for seven days in July of 1863! The 109th was organized to combat Morgan’s Raid, an incursion by the Confederate cavalry into Northern states by Captain John Hunt Morgan. They used two captured steamboats in order to cross the Ohio River and there was a battle in Corydon before the raiders moved toward the Ohio border. In the end, federal troops captured Morgan’s raiders in southeastern Ohio.

I’m proud to say that thanks to Fred Holroyd at the Mount Hope Cemetery, the Sons of Union Veterans Topeka and in a small part, the Indiana State Library—Thomas J. Raybell’s headstone has been created and will be installed after 102 years. I hope this gives a small snapshot into what archivists can do!

This blog post was written by Lauren Patton, Rare Books and Manuscripts librarian, Indiana State Library. For more information, contact the Indiana State Library at (317) 232-3678 or “Ask-A-Librarian.”

A letter from Afghanistan

In the Harriet L. Paddock collection, in between folders of genealogical research on the Paddock and other families, is a letter from Bill Castor to Harriet’s father William S. Paddock. During the latter part of 1954, Bill decided to take a trip to Afghanistan, a place that had long fascinated him. In his letter he also recounts his travels through the region including his time spent in Tehran, Iran after the 1953 coup.

The following correspondence is available in the Indiana Digital Collections.

Harriet L. Paddock taught in the Business Department of Butler University for 28 years. She attended Indiana State University, graduating in 1929. She later received her master’s in education from Harvard University and a doctorate from Indiana University.

Her collection of genealogical research and correspondence relating to the Paddock, Lewis, Rea and other families is available to view in the Genealogy Division on the first floor of the library.

“This blog post by Sarah Pfundstein, genealogy librarian. For more information, contact the Genealogy Division at (317) 232-3689 or email spfundstein@library.in.gov.”

Last call for night owls

Join us for another exciting evening of Genealogy for Night Owls tomorrow, May 17, 2017 from 4:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. If you aren’t able to make it to the Indiana State Library to research your family during our regular hours, aren’t sure where or how to get started on your family history or just want to put in some extra hours of research, Night Owls is the perfect opportunity.

We have an evening of fun planned, including an informative tour and sessions available with experts from the Daughters of the American Revolution, the Indiana Chapter of Palatines to America, professional genealogist Betty Warren, the Genealogical Society of Marion County, the Indiana African-American Genealogy Group and the Central Indiana DNA Interest Group. And…it’s free!! Registration is required by today, May 16, 2017. You can register online here.

Future genealogy webinars

Did you make a New Year’s resolution to get started on your family history? Are you wondering how to begin or where to start? The Indiana State Library (ISL) Genealogy Division wants to help you stay on track and meet your goal this year. Perusing your family history can be fun and rewarding. However, for the beginning genealogist, research can be difficult and many wonder how to get started. ISL can help you with this goal.

The Genealogy Division has created a brand new webinar that will be available online in the coming months. This webinar will help you tackle the beginning steps in genealogy research. The webinar will be recorded and available on ISL’s website. Once the webinar is published you will be able to access the recording free and on your own time. Learn about records sets, how to get started and why you might be having road blocks; all from the comfort of your home. Topics to be discussed include the basic principles of genealogy research, where to start and what information you can find in different records. Be sure to check out our website for updates on this and future webinars.

In the meantime, please browse our current collection of webinars and videos.

This blog post was written by Crystal Ward, librarian in the genealogy department. If you would like more information about this webinar or other genealogy events, please contact the genealogy department at 317-232-3689. 

Using maps online

It seems true that the most informative maps to use for local history and genealogy research are maps with the greatest amount of detail. The three most recommended, and requested, maps at ISL are these large scale varieties: plat maps, Sanborn Fire Insurance maps and the 7.5 minute topographic map series. Coverage varies for these maps, but you will certainly find the area you are investigating on at least one of these maps. To the great advantage of researchers (and preservationists) these maps are increasingly being made available online.

The USGS 7.5-mintue topographic maps cover every inch of Indiana ground with editions dating back to the late 1940s. One inch represents 2000 feet, so perhaps they are better described as medium-scale. Regardless, they are detailed enough to pin-point a neighborhood and figure out what the landscape of grandpa’s farm looked like. They are offered multiple places online. You can find them at the USGS Store and also at the USGS’s new online viewer. The maps are free to download either way you go at it.

An Illustrated Historical Atlas of Jackson County, Indiana; Driftwood Township. Map Collection, Indiana Division, Indiana State Library.

Showing even more detail of grandpa’s farm (perhaps even the cows, pigs and grandma, too) are the historical plat atlases. Most of Indiana’s historical plat atlases are available online. Not all of them are online yet, but ISL is working to fill the gap! IUPUI, Ball State, Ancestry and the Indiana State Library are making an effort to digitize these helpful maps. The atlases were published by county, with individual maps of each township. These often have some biographical and statistical information as well. These are great for rural areas. Try looking for plat maps at the following sites:

Indiana State Library Map Collection

IUPUI Historic Indiana Atlas collection

Ancestry.com has a collection called U.S., Indexed County Land Ownership Maps, 1860-1918. This collection includes maps from across the county and covers about 60 of Indiana’s 92 counties.

The Sanborn Fire Insurance maps are the most detailed maps you will find of developed areas. IU Bloomington has a nice collection of pristine pre-1924 Sanborn maps available online: https://libraries.indiana.edu/union-list-sanborn-maps

IUPUI has digitized the state library’s Indianapolis volumes and they host them in their Indianapolis Sanborn Map and Baist Atlas Collection.

And of course, don’t forget there are thousands more maps that haven’t yet been digitized. Investigate the thousands of print maps we hold in the Indiana State Library Map Collection.

Happy hunting!

This blog post was written by Monique Howell of the Indiana Division at the Indiana State Library. For more information, contact the Indiana State Library at (317) 232-3670 or “Ask-A-Librarian” at http://www.in.gov/library/ask.htm.

Finding Indiana birth, marriage and death records online

Birth, marriage and death records form the core of genealogical research. They document the basic facts of a person’s life and familial relationships. However, finding these records can be difficult, particularly as one traces one’s family farther and farther into the past. With that in mind, here are a few pointers to help you find your ancestors’ vital and marriage records:

  1. Know what records are available

Birth certificate of Bernece Tipps, 1908. “Indiana Birth Certificates, 1907-1940,” Ancestry Library Edition. Accessed January 17, 2017.

Indiana did not issue birth and death certificates until 1882 and such records were not mandatory or collected at the state level until 1907. So, before 1882, there are no government-issued certificates recording these life events.

Under Indiana law, birth records are not available to the public for 75 years to protect privacy and identity. If you need a more recent record, see the Indiana State Department of Health Vital Records division for information on how to proceed. If you are researching birth records pertinent to an adoption, see the Indiana State Department of Health for more information on obtaining records.

Marriage records, on the other hand, were issued in each county from the establishment of that county. Because couples could not get married without a marriage license, these records tend to be complete all the way back to 1816 and even a bit before that in certain counties.

  1. Know where to find records

Death certificate of Violet Edwards Commer, 1959. “Indiana Death Certificates, 1899-2011,” Ancestry Library Edition. Accessed January 17, 2017.

Birth and death records are available at the health department in each county as well as the Indiana State Department of Health (1907 forward). There is a small fee to obtain a copy, but a non-certified “genealogical copy” is usually cheaper and sufficient for genealogy purposes.

Marriage records are available at the clerk of court’s office in each county and also at the Indiana State Department of Health (1958 forward). Once again, there is a small fee for copies as well as the option for a non-certified copy.

If you need a copy of your own records, you will need to contact the county where the records were issued. The county of issuance is the only office permitted to certify a record.

  1. Know what research aids are available

Marriage record of Abraham Michael and Winna Smith, 1845. “Indiana Marriages, 1811-2007,” Family Search. Accessed January 17, 2017.

There are a number of databases online that have indexes or full digital images of birth, marriage, and death records. Some are available for free, while others require a subscription or a visit to a library with an institutional subscription.

Database Title Date Range Record Type Source Availability Coverage
Indiana Birth Certificates 1907-1940 Full records Ancestry Library Edition In library/
subscription
Statewide
Indiana Births 1882-1920 Index Ancestry Library Edition In library/
subscription
67/92 counties
Indiana Death Certificates 1899-2011 Full records Ancestry Library Edition In library/
subscription
Statewide
Indiana Death Index 1882-1920 Index FamilySearch Online 67/92 counties
Indiana Deaths 1882-1920 Index Ancestry Library Edition In library/
subscription
67/92 counties
Indiana Marriages 1810-2001 Full records Ancestry Library Edition In library/
subscription
Not statewide
Indiana Marriages 1811-2007 Full records FamilySearch Online Not statewide
Indiana Marriage Certificates 1958-2005 Full records Ancestry Library Edition In library/
subscription
Not statewide
Indiana Marriages 1780-1992 Index FamilySearch Online Not statewide
Indiana Marriage Index 1800-1941 Index Ancestry Library Edition In library/
subscription
Not statewide
Indiana Marriages Early 1800s-1850 Index Indiana State Library Online Statewide
Indiana Compiled Marriages 1802-1892 Index Ancestry Library Edition In library/
subscription
Not statewide
Indiana Marriages 1958-2013 Index Indiana State Library Online Statewide
Marriage License Public Lookup 1993-present Index Indiana Office of Judicial Administration Online Statewide

A list of these databases is also available as a downloadable PDF on the Indiana State Library’s Indiana County Research Guides page.

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.

Evernote Assists Genealogists in Tracking Research

Genealogy remains one area of research where the latest trends in technology are often overlooked, especially in the area of digital organization. Family historians utilize searchable databases, internet searches, and digitization projects, but overlook one very powerful tool of organization: Evernote. In the search for an elusive ancestor or lost records, genealogists often amass a large amount of records or documents in both digital and print form. This collection of records can be gathered and archived with Evernote, a free, web-based downloadable program that allows users to collect and organize all their documents in one place.  Evernote has emerged as a clear winner for genealogy research, “It’s no exaggeration to say that this tool will change your research life. Evernote gives you a place to organize all your genealogical data,” stated Kerry Scott in the November 2015 issue of Family Tree Magazine.

Evernote

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