Writing the family stories… I’ll probably be writing for the rest of my life. My mother is 98 years old; hopefully, that means I will be privileged to write many stories.

This winter I’m digging into a story that will eventually be published in the Iowa Genealogical Society’s Hawkeye Heritage. Genealogists know it is when you start writing you realize what research you still need to do. I tend to start writing with some completed research to get some “words on paper,” then I continue writing as I research. Contrary to what many writers advise, I spend considerable time on a section: writing, editing, rewriting, then, when I’m temporarily satisfied, I move on to the next section. With my current project, the story is complicated by the fact that I’m suspicious of the main character’s integrity: can I believe everything he said? His 318-page Civil War pension file has formed the core of the story… No doubt there is a reason for this many pages. As I search for answers, the time for completing this project is extending and the scope is expanding. Fortunately, no set deadline.

As a proofreader for the National Genealogical Society’s NGS Magazine I have the advantage of reading each issue literally cover-to-cover a few months before the general membership receives their copy. The October-December 2015 issue has an article, “Scrivener: An Organizational Tool for Genealogical Writers,” by Melissa A. Johnson. When I read the article I was immediately enthralled! I researched the software, tried it out for a few days, watched some YouTube videos, and was sold! The more I work with Scrivener, the more I appreciate its capabilities! Oh, how I wish I had known about this product when I was writing the “Guide for Iowa Research” for the National Genealogical Society’s Quarterly!

For now: challenging subject and exciting new software! Love it!


For a few days last week during the latest winter weather, I tackled more of the boxes in my back storeroom. These are boxes of research notes and memorabilia from my mother, my grandmother, my mother-in-law, two great-aunts, and our own lives with children and grandchildren. At one time, boxes filled a spare bedroom, the storeroom, and the shelves in my office.

Good news: 11 four-drawer filing cabinets have some empty space.

Net result in this latest effort: nine boxes emptied, two overflowing boxes went to the recycle bin, one large garbage bag to the dumpster, a stack to our shred box and the remainder filed. And, I still have room in the filing cabinets for more!

While we continue to have items in the spare bedroom, the storeroom and on the shelves in my office, I see hope for getting the remaining items out of the spare bedroom soon. Also, the storeroom is beginning to see “the light of day”… pun intended; this room doesn’t have any windows!

Three years since my December retirement date; I continue to chug along like “The Little Engine that Could.”

More stuff! Overhead projector transparencies! A while back I looked at one section of my office library shelves and realized that two entire 45-inch shelves were filled with 3-ring binders of old presentation materials. These are from the years when I enjoyed giving genealogy presentations to various local groups. I spent hours and hours researching and preparing for these public speaking events.

Specifically, the notebooks on my shelves dated 1999 through 2004. The binders were full of my notes, reference materials, handouts, publicity flyers, and the transparencies. I remember how I carefully stored them in sheet protectors and discretely numbered each one in case I ever dropped the pile and had to put them back in order! I wonder how much money I spent on boxes of blank transparencies and sheet protectors? To each event I generally transported a screen and a very nice, but large and cumbersome overhead projector purchased at an Iowa Genealogical Society garage sale (when I began using PowerPoint, I donated the projector back to IGS–they probably didn’t want it any more than I did).

My strategy with the overflowing binders on my shelves:

1) since I no longer enjoy preparing and giving presentations, and
2) since some of the material is out-of-date,

I decided to scan and toss! The likelihood that I will give any more presentations is very small, but, just in case, I will not have to start from scratch should I want to reference any of this material.

As I went through the binders I was quite surprised to discover some valuable information that I can use for reference in my upcoming writing projects; thus, it was worth the time to review my research from more than a decade ago! And, by scanning it, I can reference what I need without having the notebooks cluttering my office.

I admit it: I saved some paper materials from four of my favorite presentations, but the transparencies have gone to the landfill to deteriorate over the next million years. Too bad we haven’t always been as aware of the permanency of these materials as we are today.

More “stuff!” This time it was the stack of notes and syllabus materials from all of the conferences I have attended. As most of the material went into our recycle bin, I made a spreadsheet of the conferences, dates, topics, and primary speakers. Interesting! I have attended conferences regularly since 1999: most Iowa Genealogical Society (IGS) fall conferences, IGS spring conferences, five national conferences, some regional conferences and two national institutes. In all, the list includes 35 educational events in 17 years.

Not only did I learn from the speakers, I developed many contacts through networking with other attendees. I always paid for the expensive conference meals so I could sit at tables with other serious genealogists and ask my questions. When vendors lugged books to the conferences, I overspent my budget to purchase abundantly! Once home, I studied many of them cover to cover. I also purchased tapes from the national conferences and have listened to many over and over.

My parents always encouraged me to “take advantage of opportunities!” Today I am a much better genealogist for having attended, listened, talked, and studied.

If planning a trip to a research library other than in Des Moines, we tend to think we need to go to Salt Lake City, Fort Wayne, Indiana, or Independence, Missouri. Those are the “big” libraries that everyone talks about.

Recently Dave and I spent 2½ days researching at the Wisconsin Historical Society in Madison, Wisconsin. This was our third visit and definitely most intense. It was on our first visit here that Dave discovered resources for Grisham/Grissom in Shelby County, Indiana. You may ask, Indiana resources in Wisconsin? Well, it gets even better… Louisa County, Virginia, resources in Wisconsin!

The Wisconsin Historical Society (WHS) has amazing resources. Have you heard of the Draper papers? Lyman Draper worked for WHS in the 1800s, but travelled extensively throughout the Daniel Boone territory of Virginia, North Carolina, Kentucky, Tennessee, and Missouri, and neighboring areas… essentially, throughout Appalachia (others refer to it as the Trans-Allegheny West). He was gathering information about anyone and everyone for books he planned to write. He never got around to writing the books, but his notes, mountains of them, are held at the WHS.

Dave and I were not researching in the Draper papers, so why were we so enthralled? Well, WHS became a repository for other resources from the Appalachian region, then it became a repository for resources from everywhere! For example, WHS has nearly every book ever published for historians and genealogists researching Warren County, Iowa. You might say, well, Iowa is a neighboring state. That doesn’t matter. WHS collects/purchases material from all over.

On this trip, Dave and I were researching Louisa County, Virginia, and neighboring Hanover County; the holdings at WHS are extensive! Literally, we both worked as fast as possible for two days and we only worked in these two counties. Our last half day, we finally ventured into other areas.

Prior to our trip, I had thoroughly researched the WHS card catalog and I had prepared spreadsheets listing the items we needed to look at. BUT, and we already knew this, WHS shelves are OPEN. Therefore, as we looked for the books on the spreadsheets, we also looked at neighboring books on the shelves and found even more materials to look at that I had not found as I prepared for our visit.

Another awesome thing about this repository: use of the scanners is FREE. Just provide your own flash drive and you are set to scan away! If you need to use the microfilm readers, they are also state-of-the-art.

I met briefly with a genealogy friend at the library. I asked about the economic impact of the library to Madison. As far as he knows, no one has placed a dollar figure on it, but it is apparent the impact is enormous. In our case, we stayed three nights in a hotel, spent some money in two shopping areas, and ate evening meals at local restaurants. However, we brought snacks for lunch so we didn’t have to take a long lunch break. We could not eat in the library, but could eat in the hallway. Water bottles are allowed in the library.

WHS is located on the University of Wisconsin—Madison campus. We visited during a school break, so the library was not open in the evening. During the school year it is open until 9:00 p.m.

Now, we just have to process all of the information we gathered. That will take much longer than our WHS visit.

Check out the WHS website at: http://www.wisconsinhistory.org. You may be surprised with what you find; better yet, plan a visit.

[I don’t usually cross-publish, but I am also submitting this for publication in the Warren County [Iowa] Genealogical Society newsletter.)

This was a difficult post to title, should I go with Davenport Public Library which is where the collections are housed? Should I title it Scott County Iowa Genealogical Society? Or, should I title it Richardson-Sloan Special Collections Center? All were possibilities!

Richardson-Sloane Special Collections Center
Davenport Public Library
321 Main Street
Davenport, Iowa 52801

Scott County Iowa Genealogical Society
PO Box 3132
Davenport, Iowa 52808-3132
email for the corresponding secretary: scigscorsec@yahoo.com

Researchers will find

    23,000 books
    18,000 rolls of microfilm
    74,000 photos
    2,000 linear feet of archives and manuscript collections
    A special tab on their website for “Genealogy and History”
    A blog featuring items in the Special Collections Center

This repository is a genealogist’s heaven! By MY estimate, this is the largest collection of genealogy and local history materials in Iowa except the State Historical Society. Extensive listings and finding aids are available on the library’s website. However, I was told that not everything is listed online! Call for more even detail.

While the Scott County Genealogical Society maintains ownership of its collection, it is located within the Richardson-Sloane Special Collections Center. Like one stop shopping, only in this case “one stop researching!

Also of note, every spring the Scott County Iowa Genealogical Society and the Rock Island County Illinois Genealogical Society co-sponsor the one-day Quad Cities Genealogical Conference with a nationally recognized speaker.

We have visited this library twice and I have been amazed with the collection both times. A significant benefactor, an active genealogy society, and a supportive public library and community can accomplish great things!

This is a MUST VISIT library!

Genealogical Society of Linn County, Iowa
Lower Level
813 1st Avenue S.E.
PO Box 175
Cedar Rapids, IA 52406-0175

URL: http://gensoclinncoia.weebly.com/
email: GenSocLinnCoIA@aol.com
Facebook: Genealogical-Society-of-Linn-County-Iowa

This is another example of not knowing what you are going to find! When we entered the door of the Masonic Library (see previous post) we noticed a sign directing us to the lower level for the genealogical society. What? I had NO idea the local genealogical society collection was in this building! So, after our tour of the Masonic Library, we headed downstairs.

This is a gem, hidden in plain sight! Why I had not tried to locate the local genealogical society is beyond me, but obviously I was supposed to find it.

Jeanette Haars, the president, was on volunteer duty this day. What a lovely lady, and she is so proud of their collection. She took me through the library and even showed me their spacious, hidden workroom. What a lucky group to have such a facility. Recently I met Bonnie Dodge, the librarian for this society, at the Iowa Genealogical Society Spring Conference, and she told me that the society pays a nice sum as monthly rental for the facility; so there are trade offs, spacious area for a fee.

This society was organized in 1965 and will be celebrating their special 50-year-anniversary on May 2!

The collection here exemplifies fifty years of hard work and dedication! And, their Internet presence exemplifies their intention to continue for many years to come. In addition to the partial listing on their website, I am listing some of the other items I saw that genealogists might find helpful:

    City Directories
    Obituary collection
    Funeral cards
    Scrapbooks, indexed
    Funeral home records
    Military information
    Cedar Rapids churches
    Cedar Rapids schools & country schools
    High school and college yearbooks
    Marriage clippings
    Histories of Linn County towns
    Plat books
    Some adoptions
    Approximately 90 linear feet of family histories
    Many books for other states and other countries

Most genealogy facilities are experiencing the need to update microfilm readers/printers as the ones we’ve used forever have become obsolete; parts are no longer available. My husband and I were impressed with theST View Scan II film reader we saw here. This society was able to purchase this expensive machine as a 50-50 fundraiser: one-half with grant money and one-half with member contributions. My husband was so impressed with the machine that he has contacted the company for more information.

Congratulations to the Genealogical Society of Linn County on where you have been and where you are headed!