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Archive for the ‘genealogy’ Category

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!

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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.

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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!

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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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Continuing the series to find hidden genealogy resources in Iowa:

Jamaica Public Library
316 Main Street, PO Box 104
Jamaica, Iowa 50128
Phone: 641-429-3362

Email: jampublib@netins.net
Hours: Monday thru Thursday, 1:00 to 6:00 p.m.

No website, but an Internet search for Guthrie County Iowa Genealogical Society will find the Guthrie County Historical Village. The Home page gives the Jamaica Public Library and a synopsis of the genealogy collection.

I had heard about this library from a couple of my friends at the Iowa Genealogical Society. By now, I get tips from friends about places I should visit… I love that!

SETTING: Jamaica, small town, population 200, in the far northeast corner of Guthrie County. The exterior of the building is deceptive. At one time one part of the building was the fire station and the other part was a grocery store. Interior walls between the two adjacent main street buildings have been removed to create nearly 1600 square feet of nice library space.

BACK STORY: Many years ago several people attended a beginning genealogy class. As the group discussed the possibility of creating a library, one of the members, the librarian of the Jamaica Public Library, offered her library to house the collection. Thus, the current collection was born.

TODAY: The director was helpful to show us the collection, however, he is a librarian, not a genealogist. So… we dug into the collection.

COLLECTION DESCRIPTION: approx. 141 linear feet of family histories (100+), county and town histories, veterans’ records, obituary notebooks, exchange newsletters from other Iowa societies as well as from other states, genealogy reference books, plus another 12 linear feet of Iowa reference books; plus 14 drawers of 3×5 vital record cards; plus 7 drawers of 3×5 index cards of obituary index; plus 3 more boxes of death records, plus 2 drawers of card catalog entries; plus 2 4-drawer files with century farms, pioneer projects, funeral sermons, and family files; plus 4 boxes of funeral programs/cards; plus 5 drawers of newspaper and census microfilm. I was pleased to see several resources for Virginia, Pennsylvania, Kentucky, Tennessee, North Carolina, Ohio, Indiana and Illinois, as well as surrounding Iowa counties. This collection is amazing!

And, did I forget to mention… the librarian thought they had original Wills tucked away upstairs? Eventually, during our 2-hour visit, he took us upstairs to look at something else. Then, we saw the “Wills.” These are actually the original probate packets still in their original drawers! Of course, these have been microfilmed; that is why the county offices could dispose of them, but it is always more exciting to touch the real thing.

I was thrilled to find one thing in particular… A few months ago I was trying to find a specific society newsletter; I had looked and looked, asked and asked as many people as I could think of. Mystery solved! I found it here!

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What to do with piles and piles of Christmas cards received over the years?

We’re talking about many of the cards my mother has received in recent years as well as the cards Dave and I have received over the years.

The good news: most cards are bundled by year, either secured with a rubber band or placed in separate plastic grocery bags; not helter-skelter in boxes.

More good news: I have a plan: save all letters and extensive notes written on cards from relatives and special friends and verify the year is written on the letter or note. (You might be surprised how often people do not include the year when they write.) Then file them in my genealogy files under the name of the sender.

The cards with mere signatures: recycle. A group at our church saves postage stamps for a mission project; a couple grandchildren will help us cut the stamps off the envelopes and we will donate them; the remainder of the envelopes: recycle.

The not-so-good news: I estimate I’m only about half way through the collection that I know about; this doesn’t include the ones I will find as I go through more boxes.

Remember, I’m still in the sorting stage with all of our boxes. For the most part, I have not started scanning. I’m chipping off the iceberg, one piece at a time.

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Over the past few weeks, besides organizing my library, I’ve been sorting through more boxes. In fact, I have emptied twenty boxes!

What did I find? What did I do with all of it?

Well… One box was filled with Jack and Jill magazines from the 1950s. I looked through some of the issues, then I checked the Internet and found that the magazine is still published and that old issues have very little value. In addition, the issues in my collection were filthy! They felt so grungy that I hated to touch them. I remember they were stored in my parents’ attic for years. Then, when they moved from the farm into town, Mom gave the magazines to me and I have had them in various storage places for more than 25 years. They went into our recycle bin.

Another couple boxes had my old workbooks from elementary school. They were just as dirty and yucky to touch as the magazines. Into the recycle bin they went.

The scrapbooks that I made in elementary school were in the similar condition. Nothing creative here, just mimeographed seasonal designs on construction paper that we cut out, perhaps colored or added some paper fasteners to in order to make moving arms/legs, or paper doilies for a lace effect. Our creations were displayed around the classroom for a week, then we pasted into the scrapbook. Recycle bin.

I had to make decisions, and I just could not keep something that no one would want to touch.

Some boxes included papers from a charter member of our local genealogy society; her daughter gave the items to me after her mother passed away. Where possible I incorporated these items into my collection. I was able to give a few things to the Iowa Genealogical Society. But, still other papers went into the recycle bin. I knew the daughter had given as much as possible to the local historical society before she gave things to me. Some genealogy reference items dating from the 1970s and 1980s were simply out-of-date. I also found a box of items from my great aunt, also a charter member. Those items were treated much the same as those from the other charter member.

The sorting, however, also had some bright sides. I found some family genealogy papers. Many of these papers were in good shape and I was able to file them. My work earlier this fall, to create hanging files, paid off! Now, I could just file papers where appropriate!

As I work through this sorting process, I’m finding it easier to sort through printed material and other papers than to sort through artifacts or photographs.

While twenty paper/file boxes might seem like a lot; this was just a drop-in-the-bucket. Remember, I’ve said before, this project is huge… overwhelming. I’ve been tackling it one piece at a time. I’m definitely making progress, wonder what I’ll work on next…

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