Recently while working on a writing project I realized that our family might not realize what they held in their hands when they find this Bible (wrapped in Tyvek in our home safe)… writing the story of a family Bible was needed:

Warren and Nancy McNeill Family Bible, Holy Bible, (New York: The American Bible Society, 1828); original owned in 2014 by Marieta (Pehrson) Grissom (Indianola, IA 50125).

The Bible is 4½” by 7½” by 2¼” thick, and has a well-worn leather cover. In somewhat dilapidated condition, it is possible other pages are missing, however, the birth page is in tact and secure in the binding of the volume.

The person(s) who wrote the entries was literate, but not accustomed to writing, as evidenced by the inconsistent capitalization and punctuation, and difficulty judging how much space it would take to record a date and having to continue to another line.

The birth dates (1832 to 1850) of all known children of Warren and Nancy (Deem) McNeill are recorded in various inks and handwriting. (Transcribed below, punctuation and capitalization are as found on the Bible page.)

Orren McNeill Was Born August the, 21. 1832
Norman McNeill Was Born August the, 30. 1834 and Died the 22 of January 1835 [this is the only evidence we have of Norman's existence]
William Anderson McNeill Was born November the 14: 1835
Solomon McNeill Was born April the 22 1839
Alford McNeill Was born May the 26: 1841 [note the spelling of Alfred's first name]
Henry Clay McNeill Was born June the 1: 1847
Margaret Lavina McNeill Was Born November the 8 1850

Warren (1810-1868) and Nancy (1812-1870) were my great-great-great grandparents; I’m descended through their son Alfred.

This Bible is OLD! How many of us have artifacts that have been touched by so many generations? How many of us have actual samples of penmanship by a family member 180+ years ago?

The McNeill Family Bible apparently passed from Warren and Nancy McNeill to their son Alfred McNeill, to his daughter, Edith (McNeill) Morrill, to her son, Ernest Morrill, then, to his cousin, O. R. Pehrson, a grandson of Edith’s brother, Leonard, in approximately 1984. My mother, Thelma Pehrson, gave it to me in July 2006.

This Bible is a family treasure; it must be preserved and saved for the generations!

McNeill Bible - inside enh

McNeill Bible cover

Recently as I purchased still another book with a spiral binding, I realized that I needed a creative way to label the numerous spiral binders on my shelves.

A member of a Facebook group called “The Organized Genealogist,” I posed the question to the group. Responses included 1) using key tags and 2) punching holes in the books and placing them in a 3-ring binder. I didn’t like the latter suggestion because it requires binder investment and space investment (since binders take up more shelf space). I kind of liked the key tag idea, yet it didn’t seem like quite the perfect solution either.

Then I posed the problem to my husband along with the group’s suggestions. His ingenuity amazes me!

We save slats from old mini-blinds to use as plant markers in our garden and flower beds. He suggested trimming some of them, punching holes in the top and bottom, labeling them appropriately, and attaching them to the wire binding using zip ties (cable ties, Home Depot electrical department smallest ones 100/$3.99). The zip ties can be tightened close to the spiral and nothing is left to flop around.

Ta Da! Inexpensive and works great!

spiral binder labels

Digging, finding, writing about hidden genealogy resources in Iowa.

Research Center, Sioux City Public Museum
607 4th Street
Sioux City, IA 51101


I prefer to make appointments before I visit; sometimes it just doesn’t happen. This was one of those times. While hunting, at the last minute, for some materials to take on this trip, I happened across a newspaper clipping I saved from the July 9, 2014 Des Moines Register “History Digitized at Research Center.” (Metro Edition, p. 8a)

Thus, I walked into the Research Center cold. Once I explained my project Tom Munson (whose photo appeared in the newspaper article) was ready to help.

The museum and research center are located in the heart of downtown Sioux City and are obviously part of a downtown revitalization project. The building was formerly a J.C. Penney’s department store. In 2005 the city selected the building for the museum, in 2010 the moving began, and the museum and research center opened in April 2011. The commitment of the city and the abundant space for the museum and research center are enviable. The building offers excellent climate control for the collections.

Tom explained that the Research Center does NOT have vital records; these can be accessed at the court house. And, the center does NOT have the newspaper microfilm as this can be accessed at the public library.

Still, the holdings of the Research Center are amazing. And the detailed list of the holdings is even more amazing! More than 60,000 items are included on the Subject List which can be found on their website. The list also functions as a finding aid for the staff with subject/title, collection #, and location. The online version is updated about once a year.

With over 30,000 black & white photos in the collection, Tom said that many people use the resources here for creating house and business histories. The center also has all of the Sioux City directories that were ever printed (1871-2009), tax registers (1857-1880) and original Sanborn maps (1902-1919, 1924-1948-1968) all of which are also helpful in creating house and business histories.

Topical newspaper clipping collections include quality of life topics, i.e., business, churches, and clubs, as well as the people. One collection has more than 600 oral histories that were recorded 1978-1981 and nearly a hundred more that were recorded more recently.

Original records include the naturalization records for Woodbury County (1860s-1940s). A resource that I have not seen elsewhere is a collection of Sioux City jail registers (1899-1940s).

The Daily Commercial Reporter was a publication that included everything legal that happened in town. Some volumes (probably 1924, 1925, and 1926) are missing, otherwise the center’s holdings cover 1915-1998; however, this is not indexed yet. Another project waiting to be indexed is a collection of obituaries from the Sioux City Tribune (1893-1907).

The center has all of the Central High School yearbooks 1905-1972, about half of the East High School yearbooks, Bishop Heelan High School yearbooks for 1951-2011, and about 70% of the Morningside College yearbooks.

While this is not considered a genealogy center Tom said, “If you have family here or family that was ever here, we will have something for you.” I believe it!

Dust & Grime

I have written about the shelving in my genealogy room, approximately 110 linear feet of shelving, most of it is the heavy duty steel, office type. Unfortunately, no adjustable shelves, but three-ring binders fit comfortably with 3+ inches of clearance at the top (enough room to pile loose papers on top of the binders). Fortunately, the shelving is a cream color, not a warehouse grey.

It has been twelve years since we added onto our house and created my lower level genealogy room. While moving items from the shelves to the filing cabinets, I have made an interesting discovery. Dust and grime have settled into the tops of my notebooks, scrapbooks, photo albums and piles of papers! Imagine that!

It is a good thing I am moving most of the notebook materials and loose papers into the filing cabinets. This should be a safer environment for them.

By the way, the filing cabinets are sitting on 2″x4″ blocks to allow ventilation under them, and we have two dehumidifiers in our basement and keep a close eye on their function.

However, what about the scrapbooks and photo albums? Currently many of them are laying on my shelves, gathering dust and grime. As I’ve toured Iowa’s various repositories I’ve noticed that many archives store scrapbooks in preservation boxes. I have too many scrapbooks in too many odd sizes to do this within my retirement budget.

However, while visiting another archives, I noticed many of their scrapbooks were wrapped in something and laying on the shelves. I asked the archivist what they use for wrapping their scrapbooks. Tyvek was the answer. Light bulb flash in brain: what about using the tyvek product that is used in home construction? Would that be any cheaper than ordering tyvek from a preservation company?

I started my research, reviewing websites for three archival supply companies (Gaylord, Hollinger Metal Edge, and Light Impressions), pages for building construction materials (Lowe’s and Home Depot) and searched for general information on “tyvek.” Findings: Materials from both the archival supply companies as well as the building construction companies are labeled “tyvek.” DuPont owns the rights to the tyvek product name. Tyvek is a light weight, pH neutral, high-density polyethylene (HDPE) product that protects from water, dirt, dust, UV rays, and is resistant to tearing, mold, and mildew. Sounds like the perfect product for preserving scrapbooks!

My husband thought I’d have to buy a roll 12 feet wide and miles long costing hundreds of dollars. But I discovered that Lowe’s sells a 3′ x 100′ roll of DuPont Tyvek HomeWrap for $35.99. This fits my budget!

Would an archivist agree with my thinking? I submitted a query to the Association of Professional Genealogists (APG) email list. A respected archivist responded, “You are correct. Tyvek is tyvek.” Another professional responded with the reminder, “The only difference is that the Tyvek used on buildings has a logo on it. As long as that side isn’t facing the item you’re protecting (I know, you didn’t need me to tell you that), you’re fine.”

Hurrah! Looks like I have figured out how to keep dust and grime out of my scrapbooks and photo albums. Looks like I need to find hours in the day to do another project!

Continuing our exploration for hidden genealogy resources in Iowa:

Dutch Heritage Room, DeWitt Library
Northwestern College
101 7th Street SW
Orange City, Iowa 51041


Aah, Orange City! I had never been there, but I’ve always lived near Pella, an earlier Dutch community. The Dutch settlement of Orange City was established as a colony of Pella.

Greta Grond and Doug Anderson were especially helpful as they explained the Dutch heritage of the area. Besides the usual college records, the archives includes a large collection of Tulip Festival scrapbooks covering 1936-1990 as well as other Sioux County histories, memoirs and genealogies. Henry Hospers was the initiator of the group who moved from Pella to Orange City and he was a long-time newspaper publisher. His collection is held here. A digitization project of their collections is continuing and being placed on their website.

The archives also holds a collection of RCA (Reformed Church in America) church records for disbanded churches in Iowa, North & South Dakota, and Minnesota. Check the online Finding Aids for more information.

Another significant piece of information is that De Volksvriend, a Dutch language newspaper founded by Henry Hospers and published from 1872 to 1951, has been digitized and is available online through the National Library of the Netherlands. An explanatory page for non-Dutch speakers and a link to the images is found on the archives website. A helpful article about De Volksvriend is “Dateline Orange City, Iowa: De Volksvriend and the Creation of Dutch American Community in the Midwest, 1874-1951″ by Robert Schoone-Jungen, Annals of Iowa, volume 69, Summer 2010, pp. 308-331. This newspaper is particularly significant because it served as a communication hub: correspondents from many other Dutch settlements used this newspaper as a means of communicating with each other.

I don’t usually purchase books during these visits since it could break my budget, but this time I purchased Images of America: Orange City by Doug Anderson, Tim Schlak, Greta Grond, and Sarah Kaltenbach (Charleston, South Carolina: Arcadia Publishing, 2014). Filled with many photographs, it is very helpful for understanding the community and the heritage.

Before we left town we had eaten our picnic lunch in the Windmill Park and purchased Dutch letters and three different kinds of meat. Everyone we met in the park, in the shops and at the college seemed so genuinely welcoming.

All in all, it was a delicious experience!

Continuing the series to find hidden genealogy resources in Iowa:

Greater Sioux County Genealogical Society
Sioux Center Public Library
102 South Main Ave
Sioux Center, Iowa 51250



There is more here than meets the eye!

Recently I had the opportunity to visit with Wilma J. Vande Berg in the genealogy alcove at the public library. And, I agree with the people who told me that Wilma is the “know-all” person for Sioux County genealogy!

Let’s go back a little, to July 2003. because it is amazing this genealogy area even exists today. In July 2003 someone threw lighted firecrackers into the book drop and burned the library down! Fortunately, the genealogy materials were in the basement in a vault-like room surrounded with concrete walls. Soon after the fire was extinguished the genealogy file drawers were pulled from their cabinets, piled into a trailer and hauled to Wilma’s walkout basement where she worked with fans and ventilation for months to remove the odor. In the meantime, the city had bigger problems: salvage what they could and build a new library. Wilma said that approximately 50,000 books were sent to Chicago in refrigerated trucks to be freeze-dried and restored.

I liked the way the genealogy area is arranged: work tables and chairs in the center with shelves of genealogy materials on three sides and filing cabinets along the fourth side. The area is welcoming and well organized. It also shows a dedication of the library (and by extension, the community) to the needs of genealogists–to preserve the past.

Wilma showed me the vertical files with about 9,000 surname files, very impressive. She said that when researchers come in they can usually find their family name in these files.

Organized onto the shelves and tucked in an archival storage area are many other items of interest: WWI and WWII soldiers, photos, original newspapers, family histories, newspaper indexes, etc. Be sure to check the website for a more complete listing of their holdings.

She showed me their marvelous DRS 3000 Digital Retrieval Workstation that loads microfilm to a computer where it is viewed on a computer monitor. The images can then be zoomed in or out and lightened or darkened, as needed, and sent to a printer. Later I did an internet search for this system and discovered that this specific one is no longer made. However, I recommend that other genealogy or historical groups investigate this kind of option. As I’ve traveled around the state a common comment has been that “we can no longer get parts to fix our microfilm reader/printer.” I was certainly impressed with the workstation concept.

Many Sioux County newspaper images can be accessed through http://siouxcounty.newspaperarchive.com, however, the public library board is working with another company to move the images to a site which should be less prone to problems.

GSCGS certainly has a dedicated group of volunteers. It is always nice to see such a group effort. Wilma said they have anywhere from six to ten people who come on Wednesday afternoons to work. They work a while, then have coffee!

She also has several people who are working on a project to post obituaries onto their website. Currently they have about 23,600 obituaries online adding about 500 more every month.

Besides the dedication of so many volunteers, the website is the real hidden treasure here. It is nice how GSCGS is using something already in existence, the USGenWeb/IAGenWeb project instead of creating a new website for researchers to find. There can be real advantages to “one-stop shopping.” As I tried to use their website, however, I had difficulty finding the huge obituary collection; then I saw it… the obit icon on the left side of the screen! So obvious, but I couldn’t find it. Be sure to dig… you may be surprised at everything you will find.

There is more here than meets the eye!

A Bountiful Harvest: The Midwestern Farm Photographs of Pete Wettach, 1925-1965 by Leslie A. Loveless, University of Iowa Press, Iowa City 52242, 2002

Sometimes we are lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time. Recently, a friend handed my husband a book saying, “This book has Marieta’s name on it!” It didn’t really, but she suspected I’d be interested. My friend was helping a family downsize their mother’s things. This book was among the collection.

As I read the book, I was fascinated by the story and I was fascinated by the photographs.

Pete Wettach preserved images of Iowa farm families in the 1930s, 1940s, into the 1960s. By day he worked for the Farm Security Administration (later the Farmers Home Administration) which helped small farmers purchase land. Pete had ample access to the families as he travelled from farm to farm visiting his clients and helping to guide the families in their farm and household management decisions. While not an official government photographer, Pete was interested in the story that could be told about the lives of the people he worked with, so he often set up his camera and family members posed for photographs. In the evenings, Pete would develop the negatives and print the pictures, then he would sell many of his photos to the farm magazines. Sometimes the families had the privilege of basking in momentary stardom when their friends saw their picture in a popular farm publication.

In A Bountiful Harvest, Leslie Loveless does a great job helping the reader understand the significance of Pete’s labor of love.

Several facets of this book hit soft spots with me. First, with her Brownie camera, my mother also took some pictures showing rural farm life beginning in the 1930s. Second, I grew up on a farm during the second half of Pete’s freelance photography career. Third, I have also had a darkroom, developing negatives and printing pictures, a couple times in my life. And, finally, the very last page provides information that could help genealogists with a little used resource. After doing a little more research, I plan to write about this.



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