PAM files, a ‘hidden’ source of genealogical treasures

The Genealogy Division of the Indiana State Library has 12,210 PAM files. Wow, that’s a lot of PAM files, but what is a PAM file? PAM is a shorten form of the word pamphlet. These type of files are also sometimes known in other libraries as clipping files, vertical files or family files.

What kind of information can I find in a PAM file?
You can find family information, photocopies of family Bible pages, family trees, newspaper clippings, cemetery information, city information, county information, state information, photocopies of original records, research notes and some genealogical newsletters.

Tracing Your Ancestors in Britain; call number: [Pam.] ISLG 929.12 NO. 3

Where are the PAM files located?
The PAM files cabinets are located by the elevators in the Genealogy Division reading room in the Indiana State Library.

Revolutionary Soldiers in Indiana, A-Z; call number: [Pam.] ISLG 973.34 I UNCAT. NO. 1-3

How can I find PAM files?
You can either search the Evergreen online catalog or browse the filing cabinets.
To search the catalog, try this:

Start with the Evergreen Indiana Advanced Search. For the subject type the last name of the family you are wanting to find plus the word “family.” For the format, select “All Books,” for the shelving location select “Genealogy Pamphlet,” and for the library, select “Indiana State Library.”

Folder title: Scranton (PA) Republican Almanac; call number: [Pam.] ISLG 974.802 S433 NO. 1

To browse the cabinets, first select the cabinet you are interested in browsing. Next, look for your family surname or subject in alphabetical order. A list of subjects and their cabinet locations is below:

  • Family surname cabinets: 929.2
  • United States Military, Revolutionary War cabinets: 973.34
  • United States Military, War of 1812 cabinets: 973.5
  • United States Military, Civil War cabinets: 973.7
  • Geographic locations cabinets, Northeastern states (New England): 974
  • Geographic locations cabinets, Southeastern states: 975
  • Geographic locations cabinets, South Central states: 976
  • Geographic locations cabinets, Kentucky: 976.9
  • Geographic locations cabinets, North Central states: 977
  • Geographic locations cabinets, Ohio: 977.1
  • Geographic locations cabinets, Illinois: 977.3
  • Geographic locations cabinets, Indiana: 977.2
  • Geographic locations cabinets, Indiana Counties: 977.201
  • Geographic locations cabinets, Indiana Cities: 977.202

Enjoy exploring the PAM files, you never know what you may find!

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

Why use the Indiana State Library? Researchers, teachers and students, we’re here for you!

Here at the State Library, we do a variety of things. Our library’s print and online resources cover a wealth of subjects and the assistance we provide gives patrons and data users a vast array of options for finding answers to their questions. Librarians and staff here are cross-trained in assisting with answering questions about genealogy, Indiana history, general reference, data about Indiana, specifics about library usage and research in federal and state government documents, among other topics.

Our library fits a few different categories.

  1. We are considered a research library, and many of our employees have belonged to the ACRL, the Association of College and Research Libraries. Although we are not an academic library – a library associated with a college or university – we do provide access to several in-depth special collections such as our Genealogy, Indiana, Rare Books and Manuscripts, cage and Holliday collections. The State Library is a research library in the broader sense of the term.
  2. We are considered a special library by the American Library Association definition because we are a library that operates within a state government. If you view the history of the library, you’ll see that we were originally created to serve our state legislature. The library’s mission has grown over the years. For a brief period beginning in the 1930s, the library was part of the Indiana Department of Education. We now serve under the executive branch of state government and we are open to the public.
  3. We are also a government information library. Several of our librarians consider themselves to be government information librarians. We handle requests about federal and state government documents and data on a regular basis. The government documents collections here include our Federal Depository Library Program collection, our Indiana state documents collection and our State Data Center collection.
  4. Our focus is on Indiana history. Many of the patrons we serve are looking for the history behind a certain person, group of people or Indiana location. Our history resources include original census records going back to the first census in 1790, county histories and maps of Indiana available from before statehood in 1816, rare family history volumes from residents of Indiana and surrounding states and the largest collection of Indiana newspapers in the world. Indiana history is one of our specialties here, so Indiana State Library staff are happy to help with history questions. Our building is also a living historical artifact. Built in 1934, it contains beautiful architectural details that you’ll need to visit to see. Contact us for a tour of the State Library!

*A friendly research tip, while you perform your research here, remember to collect information on the sources you view. This will ensure you do not repeat research you’ve already done and it helps while you’re creating citations for your reference lists and works cited pages.

In addition to our research collections, we also house the Indiana Young Readers Center and the Talking Book and Braille Library, both services of federal library programs through the Library of Congress – the Indiana Center for the Book and the National Library Service for the Blind and Print Disabled, respectively.

Last but not least, the Indiana Historical Bureau shares our building and is a part of our organization. The Bureau manages the state markers program and runs a highly educational research blog. Their website contains excellent resources for educators here.

The Indiana State Library and Historical Bureau can also direct you to additional resources at the Indiana Archives and Records Administration, a partner agency. Discover more about its holdings here.

This blog post was written by Katie Springer, reference librarian. For more information, contact the Reference and Government Services Division at 317-232-3678 or submit an Ask-A-Librarian request.

New military materials in the Genealogy Division Collection at the Indiana State Library

The Indiana State library’s Genealogy Collection has several newly-added resources for people researching their military ancestors in print, along with new items available in the library’s digital collections.

“Finding your Father’s War; A Practical Guide to Researching and Understanding Service in the World War II U.S. Army” by Jonathan Gawne is a nice handbook for someone who wants to learn more about their ancestor’s Army service in World War II.

The book contains a brief history of the army leading up to World War II, along with explanations of the various army units, insignia, awards and terms for those who may not already be familiar with the organization of the U.S. Army. There are also sections that discuss the distinct types of records and where to search for information about an ancestor’s military service.

Both the series “Union Casualties at Gettysburg,” along with “Confederate Casualties at Gettysburg,” a comprehensive record by John W. and Travis W. Busey contain a trove of information for someone researching their ancestors or a unit that fought at the Battle of Gettysburg. The authors organized the volumes by state, then by regiment and unit listing the wounded and the killed. Some entries for the wounded contain biographical information about the individual soldier that goes beyond the end of the Civil War. There are multiple appendixes that go over statistical information, the locations of field, general and convalescent hospitals treating the wounded and burial locations for each side.

In both “Borrowed Identity; 128th United states Colored Troops” and “Voices from the Past; 104th Infantry Regiment, USCT Colored Civil War Soldiers from South Carolina,” John R. Gourdin uses Civil War pensions to create biographical entries that contain surnames along with family relatives, friends, clergy and prominent members of the communities where the soldiers where living when they applied for their pensions.

In the Genealogy section of the Indiana State Library’s Digital Collections several images from the Kuhlenschmidt collection (G118) have been digitized. The images feature Albert Henn, Henry Kuhlenschmidt, and others as they served in World War I.

More photos from the collection can be viewed here, here and here.

The Betty Montoye Collection (G038) contains photographs and postcards from World War I along with the discharge papers for Paul Castleman and Oscar Ross.

More photos from the collection can be viewed here and here.

For more information about these and other new materials pertinent to your military ancestors check our online catalog and 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.”

Back to the future, 1950s Style

Hey daddy-o, you’ve got it made in the shade! Word from the bird says something happened recently that’s the living end. If you know what happened, some might say you’re the ginchiest. If you don’t know, you are going to flip your lid when you find out. So, if you’re hanging out in your pad, you might want to hop on the internet and take a look at what all the fuss is about. On April 1, the long-awaited 1950 U.S. census was released to the public with great fanfare! It’s all copacetic now. You dig? You’re a cool cat now that you’re in the know.

Yes, you heard it right. After waiting 72 years, the 1950 U.S. census was just released to the public. Your first question might be, “Why did it take 72 years to be released?” According to The Pew Research center, the most common explanation is that 72 years was the average lifespan at the time this law was established. The U.S. Census Bureau states, “The U.S. government will not release personally identifiable information about an individual to any other individual or agency until 72 years after it was collected for the decennial census.” If you are interested in the nitty gritty of the 72-Year Rule you can visit this National Archives blog titled, “Census Records: The 72-Year Rule.”

Not to dampen the excitement of searching for loved ones and ancestors in the 1950 census, but there are a few things you need to know first. If you’re used to searching the censuses previous to the 1950, you know that it’s a “fairly” easy thing to do by using Family Search, Ancestry, My Heritage, etc. because the previous censuses have all been indexed by names. Currently, this newest census will still need to be indexed to be able to search by names. The indexing is taking place as I write and some say it might be finished by the end of this month. Indexing of the 1940 census took about five months to complete when it was released in 2012.

Near the end of 2020, the National Archives and Records Administration announced they would have a dedicated website for the 1950 census that would include a “name search tool powered by artificial intelligence.” In other words, this AI is “handwriting recognition technology.” Along with searching by name, one can also filter by state, county/city, or enumeration district (ED) number. I was excited to see if I could find my parents and sister on this census. The “census gods” were with me on my very first search, which was on the National Archives site. I popped in my father’s name, city, county and state and his census page came up right away! There was just something amazing about seeing my parent’s names and my sister’s name on her very first census. Unfortunately, my luck ended there on the NARA site with searching for both sets of my grandparents by their names and living in Indianapolis at the time. I had to revert to searching by address and enumeration districts. The AI handwriting recognition technology is off to a great start, and I can imagine it will only improve greatly in the years to come.

A 1950 Census page from Indianapolis, Washington Township, Marion County, Indiana.

Genealogist Steve Morse has a great page to help with locating the enumeration district of your ancestor. The Unified 1950 Census ED Finder was a great help to me in finding the ED’s where my grandparents lived in 1950. Once I discovered the ED and clicked on the number, it took me to a different screen where I could select the viewer I wanted to use: NARA viewer, FamilySearch viewer or Ancestry viewer. I found the Steve Morse site the easiest to use in finding the ED and then being able to choose the viewer right from that page was a stroke of genius! I chose Ancestry and was taken to the beginning of the pages of that particular ED. Then I searched through those approximately 20 pages for the correct address to find my grandparents. One can actually search this way from the 1870 through the 1950 Census using this ED Finder.

Numerous websites have sprung up to help you navigate this census. The online Family Tree Magazine has a great 1950 Census Research Guide. It includes tips on how to prepare for your research and what questions were asked on this census that include household information and employment questions. This article also includes the history and creation of the 1950 census, recording the census, tips and tricks on searching through this census and a list with links to 1950 census research resources.

Family Search has a very informative wiki about this census, Family Search Wiki: United States Census 1950.

If you’re so excited you’re ready to jump out of your skin, you can even sign up to volunteer to help transcribe the 1950 census! WOW, wouldn’t that be a fun thing to tell your grandchildren all about! Family Search is looking for volunteers to help with reviewing by becoming a part of The 1950 U.S. Census Community Project.

Ancestry, along with the other sites are currently indexing the census, but you can still try searching by name or you can explore maps in their 1950 census district finder to help you find your ancestors. You can visit Ancestry’s Welcome to the 1950 U.S. Census webpage for even more resources. Ancestry also released a new tool called the Census District Finder that will help in finding enumeration districts. Here is a short video by Amy Johnson Crow explaining how to use the Census District Finder on Ancestry and a link to a few more short videos about using the 1950 census.

One can also search the 1950 census for free on MyHeritage. Here is a helpful blog on My Heritage, “Jump-Start Your 1950 U.S. Census Research with the Census Helper.” You might also want to take a look at the United States Census Bureau.

In our Genealogy Division, as we’ve been searching for our ancestors, we discovered some fun comments in the “notes” section of the census pages that were written by the enumerators:

“A youngster grabbed the sheet from my lap and had torn it quite badly before it could be taken from her. The last name is spelled Buckanaber. I spelled it as it sounded to me and was incorrect.”

“I know these people. I have reported all information possible at this time as they are in Sarasota, Florida. They make the trip every winter.”

“In my opinion the price value given is about $2,000 to high.”

If you’re waiting with great anticipation for the release of the 1960 census, you’ll have to keep your excitement to a minimum until 2032. I’m pretty stoked about it myself because it will be the first census in which I appear. But for the time being, happy hunting in the 1950 census.

Please contact Indiana State Library librarians and staff. We’re here to help!

Indiana State Library
315 W. Ohio St.
Indianapolis, IN
317-232-3675

Genealogy Division     317-232-3689
Reference Division      317-232-3678
Indiana Division          317-232-3670

Or use Ask-A-Librarian 24/7.

This blog post was written by Alice Winslow, Genealogy Division librarian.

Find your ancestors using the Indiana State Library’s Digital Collection of Company Newsletters

Company newsletters can provide details about your ancestors’ lives. The details are not just limited to work life, either. Company newsletters contain wedding and birth announcements, obituaries and reports on employee sports teams, employee clubs and other social events.

The Indiana State Library Digital Collection contains 43 company employee newsletters to explore for information about your ancestors, including: Bell Telephone News, Dodge News, MagnaVoice and Studebaker Spotlight.

To start searching, it helps to know the following: the name of the company – or at least the industry – your ancestor worked for, the residence of your ancestor and the approximate time period your ancestor would have worked for the company. If you do not already know this information about your ancestor, you may be able to find their place of work mentioned in an obituary. Also keep in mind that variations of names could be used in company newsletters, such as initials or nicknames – and don’t forget to search those as well.

I will use my own family as an example of how to search the collection. I knew that my great grandmother worked for Perfect Circle in the 1950s and I knew that the Indiana State Library had the Perfect Circle company newsletter featured in the digital archives; however, I didn’t want flip through each and every issue with hopes that I would find her. How was this going to work? It turned out that it was super easy, barely an inconvenience.

So, how did I do it?

I just went to the Indiana State Library’s collection of Company Employee Newsletters and in the search bar in the upper left hand corner, I typed her name, “Sara Martin.”

My returned results showed three issues of The Circle – the company newsletter for Perfect Circle – at the very top of the results.

I clicked on one of newsletter titles, “The Circle, 1952-12-19,” and I saw the exact page – or pages – where my search results could be found. To the right of the page are the thumbnails of pages in the newsletter that I’ve selected. At the top of the thumbnails is the phrase “2 Results found in.” This lets me know that my two keywords “Sara” and “Martin” were found together on a page. There is also a vertical red bar to the left of the page where those results were found.

On this page, I clicked on the blue expand button at the top right of the page. I can see my search result is a photo of my great grandmother in the EEA Women’s Chorus that was formed at Perfect Circle.

The Circle, Dec. 19, 1952, page 9

I was inspired to try other names from my family, like Brammer and Swank. I found a baby photo of my dad.

The Circle, March 7, 1952, page 8

And a photo of my grandmother.

The Circle, July 1956, page 14

I even found out where the whole Brammer family went for Thanksgiving in 1952.

The Circle, Dec. 19, 1952, page 7 and 8

The Circle, Dec. 19, 1952, page 8

Sometimes what is found isn’t all that exciting, but rather more informative, such as service years anniversaries. The International Harvester 20 years service award for my grandfather is seen below.

I H News, Sept. 9, 1966, page 3; Allen County Public Library Digital Collections

Explore the Indiana State Library’s Digital Collection of Company Newsletters, and I hope with a few easy clicks you will find your family, too!

Other online Indiana company employee newsletters to explore:

Allen County Public Library Digital Collections
International Harvester Employee Publications
The Co-worker (Wolf & Dessauer)
GE News
Candid Camera (General Electric news supplement.)

Ball State University Digital Media Repository
Gear-O-Gram Magazine (BorgWarner Corporation)
IUPUI Digital Collections/Indiana Memory:
AllisoNews (Allison Transmission)

Indiana Historical Society Digital Collections
Bursts and Duds (Crane Naval Surface Warfare Center Newsletters)

Michiana Memory Digital Collection
The Oliver Bulletin (Oliver Chilled Plow Works)
Chatter (South Bend Lathe Works)
Red Ball (Ball-Band, later known as Uniroyal)

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

Data science professional development opportunities year in review

In 2021, there have been a healthy amount of professional development offerings for Indiana residents interested in developing their data skills. With many of us working remotely for part of the year, these offerings can be explored from work or home.

Earlier this year, Indiana’s Management Performance Hub hosted Indiana’s Data Day virtually over two days in March. You can watch the event here on the MPH website.

The MPH also offers a free ongoing proficiency program in data skills. You can take the classes online and earn points here.

In April, the Indiana SDC Program, IGIC and GENI co-sponsored a webinar with Lorraine Wright, “GIS in the 1700s! Indiana’s Historic Land Record Field Notes Digitized into Online Maps.” The recording is available here on YouTube.

The Census Bureau made several opportunities available upon the release of the 2020 Census PL-171 redistricting data in August. These data provided the basic final counts for the 2020 Census down to the census block level. Take a look at the Census Academy here, with the most recent video at the top of the page, The Comprehensive Course for Accessing 2020 Census Redistricting Data. View additional recorded webinars going back to 2016 here.

In October, also co-sponsored by IGIC and GENI, the SDC offered a webinar for accessing the data, “Accessing Data for Local Redistricting.”

In November, for Indiana Library Federation attendees, the SDC Program provided “Finding and Using Indiana’s Data Access Points, Census and More.” Thank you for those of you who were able to attend under challenging circumstances!

This month, the Indiana State Data Center hosted its annual training meeting online. Our three speakers from the Census Bureau were Andrew W Hait, Ronald Williams and Michael B Hawes. Recordings of these sessions will be available soon and each session will be eligible for one LEU for Indiana library staff.

In the summer of 2022, the Census Bureau will release a file called the DHC, or the Demographic and Housing Characteristics file. This will contain what has been called in the past – Summary File One, or SF1 data – for the 2020 Census. The State Data Center will provide access to the data and training for retrieving the data upon release.

This blog post by Katie Springer, reference librarian. For more information, contact the Reference and Government Services Division at 317-232-3678 or submit an Ask-A-Librarian request.

Resource spotlight: Biographical Directory of the United States Congress

The Biographical Directory of the U.S. Congress is a biographical dictionary of all present and former members of Congress. Researchers can look up anyone who has served in Congress by their name, position, state, party, year or Congress. The directory, first published in 1859, contains valuable information about the more than 13,000 individuals who have served in Congress. The publication became an online database to allow researchers to search more easily. The image below is the directory’s current homepage, though a new website design will be coming soon.

The searching feature is very simple. Users can search by name, state, political party, position or year. The features allow for broad information gathering. A researcher can easily find every member of Congress from their state over time or discover who was serving in Congress during a particular period. Users can also research individual politicians as well. For example, searching for John Tipton produces one match. The user can see Tipton’s position(s), political party, state and time served in Congress, even before viewing his biography page.

The biography section contains a brief bio and portrait of the Congressman or Congresswoman. The biography page also includes a Research Collections section that lists the repositories of primary source materials and an Extended Bibliography for published biographies.

The Research Collections section lists the locations of the individual’s primary sources. For John Tipton, the Indiana Historical Society and Indiana State Library both have collections. The Indiana State Library has 8,000 items in their John Tipton collection. The section is an excellent starting point for tracking down where a politician’s papers are located, but it is important to know the Research Collections list is not conclusive. For example, searching the directory for Schuyler Colfax lists several repositories of his manuscripts, but does not mention the Indiana State Library’s collection. The database is an excellent resource, but should not be considered one-stop researching.

The Biographical Directory of the U.S. Congress has long served as a useful resource for researching the history of Congress and its members. The directory is updated every new Congress and has advanced from its initial printed format to its current online database. More changes are on the horizon, too. The website will soon have a revamped, more vibrant and engaging redesign. At the time of this writing, the new design is not live yet, but below is a sneak peek at how the directory will eventually look. The Biographical Directory of the U.S. Congress is an excellent resource to know. Researchers can locate any current or former members of Congress and discover primary and secondary source information with ease.

This blog post was written by Indiana State Library federal documents coordinator Brent Abercrombie. For more information, contact the Reference and Government Services at 317-232-3678 or via “Ask-A-Librarian.”

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.

Adventures in photo sleuthing

Have you ever stumbled upon a stack of old family photographs and found yourself fascinated by informal snapshots and formal portraits taken decades before you were born? Your eyes take in their outmoded dress and staged poses and scan their faces looking for a flicker of recognition and find none. You wonder who they were, flip over the images and learn, much to your dismay, that the back is blank. After a moment’s disappointment, you decide you’re going to rectify your ancestors’ oversight and find out who these nameless people were, even if you’re a little fuzzy on the how.

As an archivist, I work with a lot of family photograph collections. If I’m very fortunate, some enterprising relation took the time to label a good portion of the photographs with names, dates and even locations. Most of the time, I’m not that lucky.

So, where do you start when you can’t identify most of the people in your photographs? Just keep reading. I’ll walk you through my process for researching and caring for enigmatic family photographs with examples from the recently processed Lucile Johnson photograph collection.

1. Rage at the skies

"Thor," Disney/Marvel; Imgur

Quickly move through the stages of grief.

  • Denial: No way an entire box of photographs only has seven identified photos!
  • Anger: I can’t believe no one thought to get more information from the owner when they were alive!
  • Bargaining: “Hey, Bob. You like unnecessarily complicated puzzles and hate cleaning the breakroom. I’ll trade you! No?”
  • Depression: Stare at photos hopelessly for 10 minutes. Maybe shed one lonely tear.
  • Acceptance: After you’ve sufficiently lamented, accept your fate. You’re doing this thing.

"Thor: Ragnorak," Disney/Marvel; Tenor2. Get to know the family

“The King and I” (1956); 20th Century Fox; Tenor

I was fortunate when it came to the Lucile Johnson photo collection because a previous staff member had already assembled a brief bio for Lucile – also spelled Lucille – so I knew she was born in Vincennes, Indiana in 1908 and her mother’s name was Bertha Johnson. She also worked at Wasson’s department store in Indianapolis. While I generally give my predecessors the benefit of the doubt, I always try to verify such facts, especially when they don’t include sources, because people make mistakes. It’s a fact of life. Regardless, surveying the photographs before taking a deep dive into a family history is good practice.

Lucile Johnson working Coty counter at H.P. Wasson’s, 1946; Indiana State Library

Flip through the photos
Keep in mind who, what, when and where as you do this. Are you noticing the same faces or places over and over again? Do certain people appear together in multiple photographs and do they look like family (e.g., multiple generations, similar facial features, etc.)?

Make an effort to keep the photos in original order – it could be important
Someone may have had a very good reason for organizing them the way you found them. Or someone could have just tossed them in a box. Either way, you should pay attention to it and decide whether you should retain that order or reorganize the photographs later.

Gather low-hanging fruit first
Handwritten notes or printed information may be even more important if they’re scarce. Many older photographs such as cartes de visite and cabinet cards have information about the photographer printed on the fronts or backs, often including the location of the studio. A handwritten caption noting an event or a person’s name on one photograph could be the key to identify several images in a series.

In the Johnson photo collection, the only consistent notations I found were estimated dates in square brackets a previous librarian must have assigned in pencil. Square brackets are often used to denote information added by archivists to differentiate them from notes written by creators or owners.

3. Form connections

“Sherlock,” BBC; Hartswood Films; Kansas City Public Library

When I’m trying to connect the dots, I look for obvious relationships and repeating clothing and backgrounds. If you’ve elected to reorganize your photographs, you can begin by physically grouping the photographs based on event, place, time period, format or another factor that makes sense to you.

Find familiar faces
Identify commonalities. If you have recognized the subjects in one or two photographs, search for them throughout the images. Make note of dates, locations, their companions and events.

Right away, while looking through Lucile’s photographs, I could see that many of the snapshots were part of a series taken together based on the people, clothing, places and/or time period. A photograph identifying a man named J. H. Moyer, allowed me to pick him out in several other photographs and later, make educated guesses as to his companions.

Left: J.H. Moyer (green) walking street, 1941; right: J.H. Moyer with group, including Lucile, (yellow); Indiana State Library

Pay attention to notable places
Based on several snapshots, Lucile and a group of friends seemingly went on holiday together when they were young ladies. For many Hoosiers, the round building in the background is instantly recognizable as the iconic West Baden Springs Hotel in Orange County. Your own familiarity with common landmarks, legible signage or even a Google reverse image search can all lead you to successfully identifying places in your photographs.

Lucile (yellow) with five friends at West Baden Springs Hotel, ca. 1922; Indiana State Library

Date the images
You can narrow down or even pinpoint when a photo was taken by observing details such as fashion, architecture, insignia, signs, photo formats and more. This blog post from the National Archives walks you through the process step-by-step.

Draw a family tree
If you’re faced with a convoluted family or you’re a visual person, creating a family tree is a must. It doesn’t have to be fancy, but I do recommend using a pencil with an eraser if you’re doing it by hand because you’re going to make mistakes. You can also find family tree templates to print out or take advantage of online tools or software. Unless you have an eidetic memory like Barbara Gordon, notes and family trees may be crucial for the next step.

4. Investigate

"Sherlock," BBC, Hartswood Films; ImgurSearch genealogy databases
Once you have a person’s name and a few other details – an approximate birth or death date, a place they may have lived, a close family member – you can start online sleuthing. Genealogy databases, newspapers, digital collections and cemetery projects are the bread and butter of this research. If you don’t want to spring for subscription databases, which is legit, start by searching free databases like FamilySearch and Find A Grave to find your person and identify their social bubble.

While researching Lucile Johnson and her mother, Bertha, I easily located birth and early census records and discovered a mystery. At first glance, the birth certificate was just like any other, informing me Lucile Marie Fox Johnson was born in Vincennes, in Knox County, Indiana on Aug. 12, 1908. Her mother’s name was listed as Bertha L. Johnson and her father’s name was listed as O.W. Wait, what?

Lucile Johnson birth certificate, 1908; ancestry.com

Now, I’m a manuscripts librarian, which is just another term for archivist, so only a small fraction of my job is doing genealogical research, unlike our dedicated and talented genealogy librarians. I must confess I had to Google the acronym to figure it out. If you, like me, have never encountered this before, O.W. on an old birth record means “out of wedlock.” And that’s when I knew this research was going to get a lot more interesting. A baby born to an unmarried young woman in a small town in the Heartland in the early 20th century? There’s a story there. I just had to hope I could find the records to tell it.

"Detective Pikachu," Warner Bros. Pictures; TenorThe question became, how do I discover the identity of Lucile’s father when his name doesn’t appear in most typical records? One possible clue came from Lucile’s own name – Lucile Marie Fox Johnson. A middle name of Fox in the early 1900s was less likely to be a parent’s attempt at whimsy or an indication of their love of vulpine creatures and far more likely to be a surname, usually familial. It seems important to note that a surname as a middle name was often the maiden name of the mother, when a child’s parents were married. In Lucile’s case, it could indicate a pointed statement from her mother to ensure the world knew, as the people in Knox County surely did, who her father was. Keep this in mind, as we’ll come back to it.

While continuing to gather more information on Lucile M. Johnson, I also came across Lucile Moyer Pasmas’ death certificate and gravestone. In the photo collection, there are a few photographs of people identified as Moyers, so I looked closer. The birthdate, birthplace, mother’s name, profession, and place of residence – Indianapolis – on the certificate match Lucile M. Johnson. What caught my attention was the father line, which listed Unknown Moyer. It lines up with the O.W. on her birth certificate, which made me certain I had found the right Lucile. However, her father was a Moyer? I supposed it could be true. I did have those photographs, but then what was the origin of Fox on her birth certificate? And if her father wasn’t a Moyer, Lucile may have married one instead.

Lucille (Johnson) Moyer Pasmas death certificate, 1993; ancestry.com

Crowdsource and consult the experts
About this time, I enlisted the aid of the library’s incomparable genealogy supervisor, Jamie Dunn, to help me locate marriage records for Lucile’s presumed first marriage to Ford D. Moyer. I’m not going to get into that saga here, but you can view the results in the collection finding aid’s biographical note. Jamie didn’t locate the elusive marriage record I hoped to find, but she did discover the identity of Lucile’s father, which brings us to the next resource to utilize – other people. Take advantage of living memory and ask your older relatives what they remember. Message your cousin group chat. And don’t be afraid to contact local genealogy pros at the cultural institutions in your area.

Check local newspapers
Newspapers contain much more than news articles. They also publish birth and marriage announcements, obituaries and legal proceedings. In my case, small town newspapers proved they are, in fact, excellent sources for tidbits about local families. Jamie discovered several notices in the Vincennes Commercial and other papers, which tell us that Bertha Johnson was in fact not pleased with the behavior of her baby’s father and sued him for bastardy in Knox County the same year Lucile was born. He was, it turns out, named Fox — Frank P. Fox, to be precise.

The case was moved to Daviess County at Fox’s request, possibly hoping for a more impartial jury since he and Bertha were both from Vincennes. If that was his intent, it backfired. The jury ruled in Bertha’s favor and awarded her $500 in child support. The Daviess County Weekly Democrat, reporting on the story, also noted that Fox was the same man who hit a child with his car near Wheatland, Indiana, killing him. The newspaper ended by saying, “He is quite well known here.” Absolutely savage.

Left: Vincennes Commercial, Nov. 25, 1908, p. 3; Center and right: Washington Weekly Democrat, May 22, 1909, p. 4;  June 5, 1909, p. 3.

If you’re researching someone from Indiana, Hoosier State Chronicles allows anyone to search dozens of Indiana newspapers at no charge. To use subscription databases like Newspapers.com and Ancestry, avoid paying for individual memberships and contact your public library or historical society. They often maintain database subscriptions you can use in-house or from a state IP address for free, as well as collections of newspapers in print or on microfilm, in addition to other resources.

Don’t trust everything you read online
Treat everything you read on the internet with at least as much suspicion as the expired yogurt in your fridge. No database is perfect or will have every record. The records they do have are often rife with errors, which is often why you’ll see so many different spellings for the same person’s name. Database volunteers are human. Census takers are human. So are journalists and coroners and amateur genealogists. And as we all know, humans aren’t perfect.

Don’t just assume that the Bertha Johnson you found listed in a marriage record is your Bertha Johnson. Johnson is almost as common a surname as Smith and Bertha was a very popular first name among the Gilded Age set. Like a bank verifying your identity, recognize key distinguishing information for your person like birth date, mother’s name and birthplace and check them against the sources you find as much is possible. And if you can’t confirm something, even when you’re 99% certain about it, allow for uncertainty. ::hops off soapbox::

5. Get organized

"Mary Poppins," Disney; GiphyWhen you’ve reached a stopping point in your research, don’t quit there. Organizing and taking care of your old photographs means that they’ll still be there for your son or granddaughter.

If you’re not maintaining the original order, try grouping them in a logical way. I often organized photo collections by subjects arranged from specific to general, then chronologically within each subject, as I did with Lucile’s collection. Subjects included Lucile’s childhood photographs, portraits of her and her mother, Johnson extended family photos, vacation snapshots, pictures of pets and miscellaneous photographs as a catch-all for the random or unidentifiable images. At other times, I might organize by format or date, separating the more fragile tintypes, ambrotypes and daguerreotypes from paper photographs.

A few housekeeping notes

  • Photographs are light sensitive and will fade if left out so they should be stored flat or upright to prevent bending in opaque, acid-free enclosures, envelopes and sleeves.
  • Always handle photographs by their backs or edges as the oils on our skin can damage the image.
  • Don’t store photographs in musty basements or hot attics. Keep them in spaces with mid-level humidity, 15% at the lowest and 65% at the highest, and below 75 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • If you can, avoid doing anything permanent to the photos like writing in pen or using adhesives to stick it in a scrapbook. For more information, check out this blog post from the National Archives on the care and storage of photographs.
  • And lastly, consider donating your photo collection to an archive. If you’re downsizing, lack storage space or don’t have anyone to leave your collection to, an archive could be a viable option depending on the content. Archives keep the materials safe, ensuring their survival for future generations, while allowing the public, including your family and researchers, to access them as needed.

"Parks and Recreation," NBC Universal; TenorThis blog post was written by Rare Books and Manuscripts librarian Brittany Kropf. For more information, contact the Rare Books and Manuscripts Division at 317-232-3671 or by using “Ask-A-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.