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Lee County government records research is different! Since you never know where you are going to find some of the records, this blog post contains the latest news!

I visited the Recorder’s Office in Fort Madison today, 5 March 2015. I had a nice conversation with the Recorder and an assistant. Today, land records (deeds, mortgages, etc.) were being unpacked from being moved to Fort Madison from Keokuk.

Back story: Because a common court house location for the county has never been resolved, Lee County has two court houses: one in Fort Madison (North Lee) and one in Keokuk (South Lee) for holding court and storing court records. In addition, at one time Lee County had two of every kind of county office, as well: Recorder’s office, Auditor’s office, Treasurer’s office, etc. In an effort to reduce this duplicity, resolution for the county offices has been a goal for several years.

My experience: I have researched in Lee County for at least 15 years. At first, I researched Vital Records, as well as Land Records at a county office building (not the official Court House) in Fort Madison since my family members lived in the northern part of Lee County. Then, about four years ago when I visited to check on some land records, I was sent to Keokuk to the office there; all land records for the entire county were then located in Keokuk.

Today: ALL Land records as well as ALL Vital Records (Births, Marriages and Deaths) for ALL of Lee County are located in the county office building in Fort Madison.

In the meantime, no change in court records as these are not under “county” jurisdiction. Court continues to be conducted at both Fort Madison and Keokuk and court records continue to be stored in those respective locations.

Word to the wise, i.e., genealogy researcher: call ahead before going on location to do research in Lee County. (Currently the phone number is 319-376-1790, but the website may be more helpful: http://www.leecounty.org, though I noticed tonight that the latest move has not been noted on the website yet.)

More digging, finding, writing about hidden genealogy resources in Iowa.

Cherokee Area Archives
c/o Cherokee Public Library
215 South 2nd Street
Cherokee, Iowa 51012
712-225-3498
Open: Monday-Friday 1:30-4:00 p.m.
Email: archives@iowatelecom.net

http://iagenweb.org/cherokee/resources/archlib.html

The archives was established in 1980 by twenty-six people who felt a strong need to preserve the area’s records. The archives had several homes before settling into a comfortable, basement room at the public library. Today many volunteers continue to preserve the records.

Volunteer Marilyn Rietsma helped me survey nearly everything in the room. We opened boxes and drawers and I tried to take it all in. The people who organized this room and preserved these records are to be commended.

    * Birth transcription books 1880-1953; births from newspapers 1872-1896; births on cards 1953 to current
    * Marriages transcriptions 1879-2012, plus cards for brides
    * Death transcription books 1880-2014; actual death certificates 1972-1996
    * Cemetery records, including a list of those buried at the Mental Health Institute cemetery
    * Funeral home records 1914-1944
    * Meriden Cemetery Society records 1903-1972
    * Cemetery burial records 1859-1965
    * 104 drawers of obituary envelopes
    * 22 file drawers of vertical family files
    * 10 drawers of photos of individuals
    * 75 preservation boxes of photos, clippings, diaries and other items cross referenced to 2 drawers of index cards with names of places and things and 3 drawers of index cards with names of people
    * open vertical files of Cherokee clippings
    * collection of plat maps and atlases
    * a few Sanborn maps
    * 110 original land patents
    * old phone books, 1906, 1909, then 1939 to current
    * Dr. L. S. Brewer (of Quimby) financial journals
    * Assessors books
    * Census records
    * Declaration of Intent for Naturalization and Final Papers
    * Hotel registers 1881-1882, 1890-1893, 1920-1940, 1925-1932, 1968-1976
    * Property tax books 1858-1880
    * Deed patent records on cards and in notebooks
    * Chamber of Commerce minutes
    * 5 cash books/ledgers, one for Jonas Whitney who apparently operated a saw mill 1801-1850
    * Pritchard Education Fund records for 1939

Everyone with Cherokee area ancestors should find information in this archives!

(While at the Cherokee Public Library, I also recommend visiting the library’s genealogy room. It is separate from the archives and holds several resources, including a large DAR collection. In addition, the Cherokee newspapers have been digitized and are available on the Cherokee Public Library website at http://cherokee.advantage-preservation.com/.)

Continuing in the quest to find hidden genealogical resources:

Buena Vista County Genealogical Society
221 West Railroad
Storm Lake, Iowa 50588

712-732-7111
Open Thursday 2-4 p.m. and by appointment

http://www.stormlake-ia.com/bvchs/resources.htm

Energy! We met with Kristen Watts; she is young and energetic! Kristen recently became librarian after my long-time friend, Janice Danielson, needed to downsize and move out-of-state. Janice had been librarian for years, perhaps twenty years or more. She knew this library backwards and forwards, but we were impressed with Kristen’s knowledge, skills, and ideas.

Located in an old building that is part of the historical society, this library is stuffed to the gills. Two collections are especially large: original probate files and original newspapers.

The probate files occupy many filing cabinets and have been indexed (publication available for purchase from the society).

The Storm Lake newspapers have been digitized by Advantage Preservation and are available on the Storm Lake Public Library website: http://stormlake.advantage-preservation.com/. The Alta Advertiser newspapers have not been digitized, however, the society has created a finding-aid index of births, marriages, deaths, and major events. The library also has copies of the Aurelia Sentinel newspaper published in neighboring Cherokee County.

Kristin explained that sometimes the volunteers feel a little like orphans, accepting whatever someone else doesn’t want. However, this has given them an “edge;” they have a unique collection.

The society’s cemetery survey publications were created in 1988-1990 and desperately need to be updated. Kristen said work is progressing. She is scanning the current publications and converting the PDF files to WORD documents using a free version of ABBYY finereader 6.0 Sprint. Then she is walking the cemeteries and adding the new information to the document. Sometimes the conversion process isn’t perfect, so she has a little cleanup to do, but it is so much faster and easier than retyping everything.

She also had another technology tidbit: she purchased Dragon Naturally Speaking 9.0 to index newspapers. (This is a voice recognition software that automatically converts the words of a speaker to text. It is my understanding that the user “trains” the software for the specific voice.) I asked her if she has any problems with this and she said some words are a problem, but overall it works great for her. Wow!

Other categories of holdings include (my husband estimates up to 12-14 liner feet for many of these categories):

    *School yearbooks
    *Buena Vista County histories
    *Other Iowa County books
    *Town histories
    *Church histories
    *Civil War and other military information
    *Local society records
    *Phone directories
    *Information for other states

The collection is significant.

When Kristen showed me the obituary collection I was surprised. Each obituary is placed in an envelope and the envelope is labeled with the deceased’s name, birth & death date and the source information: name and date of the newspaper. This was the first time I’ve seen the “envelope” system; I can see some advantages.

This library has moved above and beyond with equipment for library patrons to use: a laptop with printer and a hand scanner as well as the more common copy machine, fiche reader, and microfilm reader.

It was a pleasure to meet Kristen and to pick up several innovative, forward-thinking ideas! While we didn’t see other volunteers during our visit, it was obvious other dedicated people are helping in this endeavor.

Motto derived from the society’s award-winning Fourth of July parade float one year: Got ancestors, we’ve got answers!

Another installment in the series to find hidden genealogical treasures buried in Iowa repositories:

Appanoose County Historical and Coal Mining Museum
100 West Maple
Centerville, Iowa 52544

641-856-8040

http://www.appanoosehistory.com

An interesting article about coal mining in the Spring 2013 issue of Hawkeye Heritage (IGS publication)(1) convinced me that we needed to visit this museum.

The museum, housed in a stately old post office building, includes a scale model coal mining operation as well as other coal mining items. The museum also features a Mormon Trail exhibit, and many exhibits relevant to pioneers living in early southern Iowa.

The hidden gem here, however, was in the library: what appears to be a complete set of the Report of the State Mine Inspectors from the early 1880s through 1968. These reports contain a gold mine of information for anyone researching the mining industry in Iowa. Kinds of information that may be included:

    * List of fatal accidents with coroner and juror reports describing accident, manner of death & name of mine, date, name of victim, age, and often marital status
    * List of non-fatal accidents with less information
    * Improvements made to specific mines
    * Names of all mines and locations
    * Descriptions of each county, the mines, railroad facilities for shipping, thickness of mineral deposits, and production quantity
    * Descriptions of each mine in each county
    * Lists of abandoned mines
    * Summary of work completed
    * New mines opened
    * Mines destroyed by fire
    * Strikes
    * Scale testing
    * Complaints

I was elated to find such a complete set of the reports. I have seen miscellaneous volumes as I’ve wondered around, but never this many! (Note: I have also found a few volumes online via Google.) Researchers with Iowa mining ancestors (not just coal, but all minerals) would be remiss to miss this repository.

Reference:
(1) Nollen, Carl, “Iowa’s Coal Mining Museums and Their Resources For the Family Historian,” Hawkeye Heritage, Vol. 47, Issue 1 (Spring 2013), Des Moines: Iowa Genealogical Society, p 15-18. To access this article, go to http://www.iowagenealogy.org ->Library, ->Collections, ->Publications.

Another installment in finding Iowa’s genealogical treasures.

Appanoose County Genealogical Society
PO Box 684
Centerville, Iowa 52544-0684

email: acgs2005@hotmail.com

When I sent an email to prepare for my visit, the response was pleasantly prompt. I was impressed!

Most societies would be very envious to have access to a room like this. However, at one time in the past the spacious room had lent itself to mischief. Probably twenty years ago, the entire microfilm collection was stolen! The current genealogy “brain-i-ac” (description by the librarian at the front desk when we visited) was a dispatcher for the local police department and was doing research for the department when the film disappeared. The police department raised the money to replace the collection! The microfilm no longer resides in the spacious room, but is under the watchful eye of the librarian.

In addition to the film being housed close to the librarian, several valuable genealogy books are stored under the librarian’s desk, out-of-sight of the casual browser.

All that still does not detract from the resources in the genealogy room. I was impressed by the many binders of photocopies of local records. Most of these weren’t transcriptions (prone to possible error), but copies, probably from microfilm, of the records. Yes, researchers could look at the microfilm, but many still like paper! Below is a list of many records reflected in this collection:

    *Adoption Records Index 1850-1926
    *Birth Records photocopies 1880-1934; index only 1937-1981
    *Burial Permits (late 1880s and 1890s)
    *Circuit-District Court Records (microfilm index)
    *Civil War Discharges 1861-1865
    *Death Records photocopies through Book 5 (1935); index only through Book 10
    *Declarations of Intent & Naturalizations
    *Divorce Records 1906-1971
    *Early Pioneer Stores (photocopies of stories from local newspapers)
    *Funeral Home Records (1893-1917)
    *Marriage Records
    *Miscellaneous Early 1900s Bonds (microfilm index)
    *Old Age Assistance Tax Records
    *Persons Subject to Military Duty (1877, 78, 80, 81, 82, 83, 84, 85, 86, 89, 90, 91, 96 & 99)
    *Postoffices and Postmasters of Appanoose County, Iowa 1846 to 1988
    *Probate Index 1852-1988
    *Veterans Grave Registrations

When I checked the USGenWeb site for Appanoose County, I found that the society has several of the above publications available for purchase.

I saw a book that I wish I had in my library… it would be a good reference book. I’m fairly confident this book has not been digitized because it has been reprinted and is available on Amazon.com for purchase:

    Ingersoll, Lurton Dunham. Iowa and The Rebellion. A History of the Troops Furnished by the State of Iowa… Philadelphia: J. B. Lippencott & Co., 1866.

A book that I was not familiar with would make interesting reading, but I wonder about its credibility:

    Kirkland, Frazar. The Pictorial Book of Anecdotes of the Rebellion or the Funny and Pathetic Side of the War. Hillsdale, Michigan: W. E. Allen & Co., 1888.

I enjoyed digging through the shelves here and wished I had ancestors to research in these records. The depth of the county records collection was beyond what I often find as I visit repositories.

Continuing in the series to highlight hidden genealogy treasures.

Monroe County Genealogical Society
203 Benton Avenue East
Albia, Iowa 52531

I am continually amazed, and very pleased, with the number of public libraries that devote significant space to the genealogy collection of the local genealogical society. The Albia Public Library is stuffed to the gills with books and periodicals on the main floor, barely an inch to spare on most shelves and stacks of paperback books at the ends of shelving. But the Monroe County Genealogical Society is privileged to have a large room on the lower level with ample space for its valuable collection, work space and meeting space. As with many groups with tight budgets, this society functions quite well with furniture and shelving salvaged from other places. They have a good photocopier, but sometimes struggle with keeping their microfilm readers operational.

Rosalie Mullinix met me at the library. I met her initially at an Iowa Genealogical Society event, then mentioned her in a blog post several months ago after visiting the Monroe County Historical Society. She is an energetic woman who knows many of the society’s resources inside and out. I brought along a little research that I could do while visiting on this day and was amazed how quickly she found a newspaper article buried in a set of notebooks. These binders hold clippings from a local newspaper column called “Looking Back.” She says the articles include considerable information for researchers and the society members are currently working on an index for the collection. This newspaper column originated as “Touches of the Past” and its creator got paid for it by the newspaper. When she was no longer able to continue, the local society took it over as a fundraising project. Most of the columns exhibit extensive research. In all, the series ran for nearly twenty years.

Over the years, dedicated volunteers have worked diligently to gather the records and stories. I estimated the collection included approximately 15 linear feet of family histories. These are mostly lined up across the top row of shelving, with many other records filling the lower shelves. Across the room are many card catalog drawers filled with obituary cards: thousands of them. The collection also includes the county vital records, genealogy resource books, military information, naturalizations, records for surrounding counties, and newspaper microfilm. The collection is strong and thorough.

The Monroe County Historical Society is across the street. The two groups work well together and their collections are complementary.

I was surprised when Rosalie said that the number of queries the society receives has increased considerably. She said that at one time she might get five queries in a year; now she may get five queries with each trip to the mail box. She added that most researchers are looking for pre-1900 information.

Rosalie explained that recently the society president has created a Facebook page for the society. Otherwise, neither the historical society nor the genealogy has a significant internet presence. But she said, some individuals have created websites that include area towns, such as Georgetown, Hiteman, Melrose, Georgetown and Weller.

To round out my visit, I was pleased to find the family I was researching on a page in one of the family histories on the shelves. I gleaned a few tidbits of new information! I like that!

Another installment in the occasional series of looking for hidden genealogy gems:

Knoxville Public Library
213 East Montgomery
Knoxville, Iowa 50138

Library phone: 641-828-0585

The genealogy collection housed here belongs to the Marion County Genealogical Society and is one of my favorites. Over the years I’ve researched here a number of times tracing several ancestral family members who lived in Marion County prior to 1900. I have always been very impressed by the large amount of material packed into a very tiny room.

Upon arrival, I immediately noticed that the room looked awesome, as it is much better organized than I have ever seen it before. Just as we were beginning to look more closely at the collection, the president of the genealogy society happened to stop by to do a look up. We had a nice conversation. She explained their society is small, but active and that last April the handful of members totally reorganized the tiny room and made a complete inventory. She showed me a red notebook tucked away on a shelf with the list.

Besides an older microfilm reader that is sometimes a little touchy, they also have a film/computer reader/printer. The president told me the society is trying to bring the newspaper microfilm up to current. She also mentioned that the group would like to update its cemetery book and asked how my home county (neighboring Warren County) is doing ours.

Are any genealogical gems hiding here? Yes, this place has them; the collection is inclusive. The microfilm collection (inc. court records, wills, probates, guardianships, divorces, equity, etc. to about 1920), deed records and mortgages, and the newspaper collection are mostly detailed on lists on the Marion County USGenWeb page. The newspaper collection, however, is more current than indicated on those lists. The open shelves include funeral home records, obituaries, local histories, and family histories. In addition, I saw some books of Iowa interest here that I typically only see at the State Historical Society of Iowa (SHSI) and perhaps the Iowa Genealogical Society (IGS).

A brochure available for researchers in the genealogy room only gives a postal mailing address for the society:
Marion County Genealogical Society
PO Box 385
Knoxville, Iowa 50138-0385

Why didn’t I think of this prior to visiting? I should have brought a couple of my published articles to give to them, as they relate to people I researched here. (Note to self: assemble copies and prepare to give to them; I anticipate we’ll be travelling back through Knoxville in the near future as we continue our hidden treasure search.)

Anyway, it was good to visit this collection again, though I didn’t have any specific research to do on this day.

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