Archive for the ‘Diaries & Calendars’ Category

Lamb, Wally. The Hour I First Believed. New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 2008. 735 pages with acknowledgements, sources, etc.

A novel! Me read a novel? This is almost unheard of. I generally read biographies and histories.

A friend recommended it and our daughter-in-law had recently read and loved it… The friend said I might appreciate the way the author handled old letters and diaries found in an attic. Well, that certainly caught my attention! Daughter-in-law agreed. Okay, I’ll give it a try.

Wally Lamb had done thorough research. Then he told his story through imagery, flashback, graphic detail, language, sympathy, anger, and other writing techniques: far-out connections and unlikely happenings, sex and family secrets. While I’ve known of some strange “soap-opera” real-life scenarios, I kept thinking no one could/would ever live this kind of life, but the author kept me going anyway. Even the fictionalized biography that was pieced together from the old diaries and letters seemed far-fetched, yet I kept reading.

This book would appeal to a variety of people, including educators, women’s rights advocates, mental health specialists, historians, clergy, and, yes, even genealogists. Particularly significant are the issues dealing with people suffering from trauma and other psychological issues: those caught in situations beyond their control and surviving. Topics include the Columbine shootings, Hurricane Katrina, prison life for women, troubled teens, divorce and love, income struggles, and coming to grips with family history. Even though the setting is very 21st Century, the author even weaves in Civil War medical treatment, Samuel Clemens and Harriet Beecher Stowe. Through all of this, readers come to understand the complex maze of life. The author accomplished his goal.

I read the entire book, in a very short time. Lamb captured my attention and I devoured.

As a family historian, I especially appreciated Lamb’s underground river “too deep for chaos to reach” allowing for ancestral connections. And, with all of the house cleaning I’ve been doing, I appreciated his ability to “unyoke” himself of family property and move on.

I’m glad I read this novel.


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Continuing the series of Iowa’s hidden genealogical treasures:

Genealogy Library at the Prairie Trails Museum
Wayne County Historical Society
Hwy 2 East, PO Box 104
Corydon, Iowa 50060-0104


Website: http://www.prairietrailsmuseum.org
Admission: Adults $5; Jr/Sr High $2; K-6 $1

Hours: depend upon the season; closed during the winter, check website for hours. Also, open by appointment.

This is a great research facility: friendly staff, everything organized and nicely labeled, and a lot of resources to peruse and study.

The first thing that caught my eye in the library was the extensive collection of country school records, some dating to years prior to 1900, though most begin after the turn of the century. The school records are arranged by township, and often they are the teacher’s register identifying the school term, names of students, age, sex, birthdate, attendance record and standing (grade) by subject. The library also has area yearbooks, though many years are missing for some schools.

The library has a collection of birth (beginning 1880) and marriage records (beginning 1851), obituaries (beginning 1890), and cemetery transcriptions (burials 1846 to 1991). The librarians were very pleased to show me their latest completed project: preserving and indexing Probates, Wills and Estates 1851-1925. Awesome!

I estimated that family histories, memoirs, and similar materials filled nearly 16 linear feet.

The library has a nice military section which includes a Civil War ledger (perhaps kept by a company or quartermaster clerk) from Feb 186 to June 1863 with lists of provisions, tools, duty and attendance rosters and deaths; the volume names Capt Carothers, Lt. Malott and Lt. Speer, as well as the enlisted personnel, but does not indicate the unit. The collection includes transcriptions of three Civil War diaries (for Aquilla Stanidfird, Ezra Miller, and M.S. Andrews) and a book 1861-1865 Civil War Veterans, Wayne County, Iowa.

A binder Spanish-American War May 1898 – Nov. 1898, Wayne County Veterans includes a typed copy of an article by Veteran Grant Kelley “Interesting Facts About the Spanish American War” which had appeared in Corydon’s Time Republican newspaper on March 5, 1953. Several three-ring binders and books have information about men and women who served from Wayne County in both World Wars.

Scrapbooks with area newspapers have been indexed. These include newspapers from Corydon (1922-2006), Humeston (1922-2005), Seymour (1890-2005), Allerton (sporadic 1881-2004), Sewal, Lineville (1940s, 1980-2002).

Churches of Wayne County, Iowa was compiled by Ortha Green (pencil date: “1972 or after”). Also, histories of the towns in the county are in the library.

Many photos have been preserved in archival boxes and organized into family, town, and school categories.

Corydon is known for its annual Old Settlers celebration. Materials from these events are kept in this library. Also, some local clubs have donated materials.

While the library has some materials for surrounding counties, the primary focus is Wayne County.

A highlight of the library are the shelves of binders and other information from the Iowa Mormon Trail Association. The trail runs through Wayne County and the land of a specific resident, who has become active in the association and donated many materials to the library. I randomly opened one of the binders and read what a father had written about the death of a child and the family’s destitute situation.

It is unfortunate that this library only has a limited internet presence, and it appears that nothing has been digitized.

However, the library is only part of this awesome facility. For a complete understanding of the history of Wayne County, the researcher also needs to visit the extensive museum. It is outstanding!

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Continuing the series of discovering hidden genealogy resources:

Iowa Women’s Archives
100 Main Library, 3rd Floor
The University of Iowa
Iowa City, Iowa 52242


website: http://www.lib.uiowa.edu/iwa/
Open Tuesday thru Friday, 10:00 a.m. to Noon; 1:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m.

I happened upon this gem as I was surfing the internet. Since we were going to be in Iowa City recently, I wanted to investigate this resource. We met Janet Weaver, the Assistant Curator, who graciously guided us through their facility.

The Iowa Women’s Archives (IWA) was founded in 1992 by Louise Rosenfield Noun and Mary Louise Smith, both well-known Iowa women. The archives now includes more than 1,100 manuscript collections which chronicle the lives of ordinary Iowa women and place them in context with their families and communities. Included are photos, scrapbooks, letters, diaries, speeches, club minutes, newspaper clippings, memoirs, and other materials, some dating to Civil War and 1880s. Topics of special interest involve preserving the Iowa history of Mujeres Latinas, African-American women, and women’s suffrage. However, all topics and all walks of life are represented: artists, legislators, judges, writers, farm wives, young girls, film producers, to list a few.

Collection topics can be found at: http://www.lib.uiowa.edu/iwa/CollTop/#o

Many oral histories are among the original source materials: http://www.lib.uiowa.edu/iwa/topical-holdings-lists/oralhistories/

IWA is privately funded, but is located in the university library, uses student interns to help process the collections and is able to access library conservation staff expertise and resources. However, this creates some confusion because the listings for the collection’s online catalog appear to be intermingled with the university collections.

The repository is constantly receiving new materials and we saw quite a number of boxes waiting to be processed.

During our tour, Janet pulled a variety of items off the shelves for us to see. We were impressed that many very precious, irreplaceable items are now safe and will be accessible for many years to come thanks to the generosity and vision of the founders, supporters and staff.

The archives welcomes visitors and researchers, high school and college students, scholars, and even family genealogists!

Thank you, Janet!

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Some projects just can’t be accomplished in one full swoop.

At one point my office and our basement family room were filled with boxes, as well as our spare bedroom and our store room… in other words, practically our entire basement was a massive storage unit. This was mostly the stuff I had received from my mother as she downsized a couple different times.

Not all of this stuff is paper, but a large percentage is paper. By paper, I mean undocumented research notes, photocopies of documents, notes with more than one surname on a sheet of paper, several different family groups sheets for the same individual—created at different times when my mother found something, loose photos, a few stories my mother has written, more photocopies of documents, and a few original documents. Then, also letters, diaries, calendars, lots of newspaper clippings, scrapbooks, and photo albums. Some of these things were my mother’s, but some belonged to her mother, other things belonged to her uncle and aunt.

Every time we have downsized my mother, for the most part, I have been more interested in the genealogy/family history side than in getting a lot of things: vases, dishes, baskets, silverware, glassware, needlework, etc. Please rest assured, however, I have gotten my share of those things, as well.

So, a few months ago, I purchased a bunch of cardboard file boxes. In fairly small letters I labeled the lids with family surnames. We set up a couple of 5-foot tables and placed the boxes side-by-side on the tables. One by one, I opened each of the many boxes of stuff and sorted as many paper and photographic items as possible into family groups placing the items in the appropriate surname box. I did not make any attempt to further divide the items within the surname or to label the items. I just sorted into the surname group. Otherwise, it would have been much too easy to get bogged down in the detail. These cardboard file boxes were then stacked in the spare bedroom. While sorted by family surname, they remained difficult to access, but certainly in better order than they were previously.

During the marathon sorting session last weekend, Dave and I emptied several file drawers. This past weekend I transferred items from the surname boxes into file drawers labeled with the respective surnames. I have hanging folders in the drawers, so I divided up the items and placed them into the hanging folders. Again, I did not make any other attempt to sort the items. That will come later. For now, I’m just happy to be making the treasures more accessible in the drawers.

I’m making progress—a baby step at a time.

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