Archive for the ‘Iowa’ Category

Continuing the series of Iowa’s hidden genealogical treasures:

Iowa Yearly Meeting of Friends, State Office
411 College Avenue
Oskaloosa, Iowa 52577



As the name indicates, this is the state office for the Society of Friends (Quakers) in Iowa. I was greeted by Mary Thury who graciously showed me the vault where original records are kept. This is the treasure chest since Quaker records are some of the most informative for genealogists.

Fortunately, most of the records have been microfilmed. Mary told me that microfilm copies are available at their office, at the State Historical Society of Iowa, Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania, and Earlham College in Indiana. Mary gave me a 17-page listing of the records on microfilm. It is very comprehensive with monthly and quarterly meeting minutes, women’s minutes, men’s groups, memberships, birth and death records, Sunday school records and ministers’ and elders’ records.

Their website gives a list of all churches that are currently a part of the Iowa Yearly Meeting: http://www.iaym.org/churches.

While in Oskaloosa, I also visited Wilcox Library on the William Penn University campus. The Quaker Room contains many published materials for Friends research including the set of Encyclopedia of American Quaker Genealogy by William Wade Hinshaw and several Willard C. Heiss abstract books.

Because many Quakers were among the earliest settlers of Nantucket Island, and then migrated south to North Carolina, some other books also caught my eye:

Coffin, Louis, editor. The Coffin Family. Nantucket, Mass: Nantucket Historical Association, 1962.

Thompson, Ruth F. and Louise J. Hartgrove, compilers. Abstracts of Marriage Bonds and Additional Data, Guilford County, North Carolina 1771-1840, Vol. I. Greensboro, NC: The Guilford County Genealogical Society, 1981.

Thompson, Ruth F. and Louise J. Hartgrove, compilers. Abstracts of Marriage Bonds and Additional Data, Guilford County, North Carolina 1841-1868, Vol. II. Greensboro, NC: The Guilford County Genealogical Society, 1983.


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Continuing the series of Iowa’s hidden genealogical treasures:

Mahaska County Genealogy and Historical Library
Nelson Pioneer Farm
2211 Nelson Lane, PO Box 578
Oskaloosa, Iowa

Phone: 641-672-2989 (phone answered year round)

Website: http://www.nelsonpioneer.org

Facility open May through September or by appointment.

I was very fortunate on the day of my visit. Information I had indicated that the facility was open until the end of October. In reality it isn’t. The curator happened to be working outside that morning and contacted the librarian who was able to come help me.

The library has numerous county district court docket books, probate indexes and inventories, which have most likely been microfilmed and are available elsewhere. I saw militia registration books, family histories, area newspaper clippings, such as birth, marriage, and a large collection of obituaries and cemetery indexes along with pictures of the stones at Centennial/Dunsmore and Spring Creek Friends Cemetery. Also, don’t underestimate the military collection which includes Civil War and WWI letters. The shelves include Oskaloosa city directories and phone books as well as pictures and year books for schools and William Penn College/University. Mahaska County Farm Bureau Women’s Committee records, pictures, scrapbooks are found here. Also included are funeral memorial cards from Bates, Garland-VanArkel-Langkamp, and Powers Funeral Homes.

In addition, the library has a large collection of country school records, original cards for WPA cemetery surveys, Quaker yearly meeting minutes, sizeable collection of information on coal mines and some information on underground railroad. I also found early naturalizations, assessors books, and in the back room is a large collection of original newspapers.

There is no computer in this library and apparently the society has not made any plans to digitize anything. The library is not heated during cold weather except when someone has an appointment to visit.

This is an exceptional library that needs greater accessibility, more technology, and more climate control with a stonger emphasis on preserving the collection.

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Continuing the series of Iowa’s hidden genealogical treasures:

Rod Library Special Collections and University Archives
University of Northern Iowa
Cedar Falls, Iowa 50613-3675
Telephone: (319)-273-6307


A genealogy friend and I visited with Gerald Peterson, Archivist. He told us that if anyone had any connection with UNI, whether student, faculty or staff, there is a good chance he can find something about the person, often a biographical record. Mr. Peterson said he can probably find something “even if grandpa was a night watchman in 1912.”

To understand the collections, the researchers need to be aware of the historical progression of names for the school:

Iowa State Normal School, 1876–1909
Iowa State Teachers College, 1909–1961
State College of Iowa, 1961–1967
University of Northern Iowa, 1967–present

For decades this was the Iowa school to attend for future teachers. The friend with me on this excursion is a UNI graduate, is the daughter of a school superintendent and continues to substitute teach after retiring from a career of teaching. Education is in her blood and this was the natural place for her to get her education. This is typical of many Iowans.

Aside from normal college archival materials (student newspapers, yearbooks and alumni yearbooks, extracurricular programs, master’s thesis and Ph.D. dissertations, student records) the archives also has a good collection of Iowa county histories published from the 1870 through the early part of the 20th century, as well as histories of small towns, a nearly complete collection of city directories for Waterloo and Cedar Falls, and an extensive collection of books by Iowa authors.

Researchers never know where they are going to find that missing piece of information to complete a puzzle.

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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 Iowa’s hidden genealogical treasures:

Osceola Public Library
300 South Fillmore Street
Osceola, Iowa 50213
Phone: 641-342-2237
Hours: Monday, Wednesday 9:00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m.
Tuesday, Thursday, Friday 12:00 – 5:00 p.m.
Saturday 9:00 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.

The Clarke County Genealogical Society (CCGS) maintains its library collection in the Genealogy and Local History Room inside the Osceola Public Library. It is always nice when a genealogical society can have its own space inside a public facility. This means the collection is available during the open hours of the library, which is usually many more hours than if it were separate location. It is also advantageous when the space for the society can have a workroom atmosphere, with table, a couple chairs, etc. I liked this room because the table was on casters and could be rolled around to wherever I wanted to work.

Aside from the physical aspects of this facility, the collection was extensive.

Items from the Osceola Sentinel 1901-1936: I was impressed that someone has photocopied all of the community news items, school notes, as well as marriages and deaths, and other items of interest from this local newspaper. Two indexes of this collection has been created: one for deaths and another for marriages.

Country schools: Fifteen comb-bound books contain an extensive collection of photos and information of the country schools, arranged by township. An index can be found in a separate 3-ring binder.

Old age assistance records for 1935 and 1936: These records are arranged by township, then in alpha order. The information includes the individual’s full name, birthdate, place of birth, father’s name, mother’s maiden name and some include their post office and some identify sex.

I found two books indicating that Fern Underwood spearheaded a group to compile records of all Clarke County veterans of all wars and this includes clippings, biographies, photos and whatever else was found or submitted.

Fern Underwood also edited at least sixteen volumes of Recipes for Living which appears to consist of stories that were submitted to Fern for publication from people in the Osceola United Methodist Church “to raise money for the budget… to share lives… to benefit from the wisdom gained as each person has experienced life…”

As I perused the small room, I found Forster Funeral Home Records (Woodburn, Iowa) for 1911 to 1959, plus “shipped in cases” for 1917 to 1964. Webster (fka Ridgeway) Funeral Home records for 1885 to 1953.

I found two drawers with Probate Index cards for the Probate Case Files in the Clarke County Courthouse, two drawers for their card catalog, and ten drawers of index cards to the various obituary books. Other items include a collection of obituary books, more than twenty lineal feet of family histories, a nice selection of materials from surrounding counties, some Cherokee Indian books, and information for other states, especially New England, Kentucky and Maryland.

From previous experience with this genealogical society, I know that the members are interested in the wider world of genealogy and this is evidenced by the fact that they appear to be members of the New England Historic Genealogical Society (NEHGS) and the National Genealogical Society (NGS). I was impressed to see the quarterlies for these societies on the shelves. (And, that means that my claim to publication fame is on their shelves–my article that was published in the September 2009 NGS Quarterly.) It is unusual to find these quarterlies in a county genealogy library.

When I arrived I was directed to this room in the lower level of the library. I spent considerable time there looking over all the materials without seeing another person. Later I wanted to get something photocopied and began wondering around the rest of the lower level. Imagine my surprise… as I began to ask the lady sitting at the desk about getting a photocopy, I looked at her and said, “I know you! You are a member of the genealogical society! I’ve given programs to your group.” She was just as surprised as I was. Yes, she is Diane Shough and we had met previously. With that surprise introduction, we began excitedly talking genealogy, even though she is the children’s librarian.

After I left I realized that CCGS has microfilm and I didn’t see any in their room, so I emailed Diane and she sent me a list of what they have. She explained that I didn’t see it because they have it in their computer room along with their reader/printer.

Microfilm collection: Osceola newspapers 1862-1869, 1883-2010 (early years have lots of missing papers, but from mid-1883 they are nearly complete)
Vital Records, Births 1880-1937; Deaths 1880-1921, 1931-1935; Delayed Births 1942-1946; Marriages 1852-1929; Marriage Applications 1968-1869; Divorce 1906-1957; Wills Books 1-5; Early probate case files boxes 1-4; Naturalizations (District Court) 1870-1925, in addition to federal and state censuses for Clarke County and some for nearby counties.

Regarding the Osceola newspapers, they also have the most recent 30 years of bound newspapers. The newspaper microfilm has been digitized and is available for use on computers in the library, but because of needing copyright permission, it is not available on the internet.

This library has a significant collection, including several items that may not be found elsewhere. Researchers can find a lot of information here, making it worth the visit.

And, there were three tubs of unprocessed materials in the room!

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Continuing the series of locating Iowa’s hidden genealogical treasures:

Recently the Iowa Genealogical Society (IGS) posted an item on Face Book about a book in their library “Farmers of Iowa: A List of Farmers of Each County With Postoffice[sic]”, 1892. It was touted as a census substitute, and we are all always looking for a way to find our relatives who should have been enumerated in 1890.

When I arrived at the library the next afternoon, I couldn’t find the book on the shelf; a friend of mine was already looking at it.

The book lists every Iowa county, then every post office within the county. Names of farmers receiving mail at that post office are then listed alphabetically. What about farmers living near county lines? If they live in the county, but receive mail at a post office in an adjoining county, they are found at the end of the county listing, with the name of the post office where they receive mail.

The book appears to be a photocopy of pages 1495 through 2033 from an unknown source and these pages have been placed in hard cover. I could not find publisher information, except “State Historical Library, Des Moines, Iowa” was stamped on the title page where publisher name/city/state information is usually listed.

While at the IGS library I photocopied the Warren County pages, but I have twelve more counties to do.

This resource does not provide any further information regarding the household and it should not be assumed that the people listed are landowners. Nevertheless, if I found someone listed, I would start looking for land records and plat maps.

Later at home I checked around online for this helpful resource. It is in the State Historical Library of Iowa (SHSI) in the Reference section catalogued as LOC F619 .F3 and Dewey 917.77 Io9. It is not listed on Ancestry, except for Jasper County’s portion. Not digitally on Family Search, though the Family History Library does have it on microfilm (#1024846, item 4) so the film can be ordered. Not on Genealogy Bank. A few county webmasters have placed the pages for their county on USGenWeb. On OCLC/World Cat I only found the book at the Davenport Public Library; its OCLC number is 10812679. Not at Archive.org. Not on Fold3.com. I also checked card catalogs for a few Iowa colleges and universities–nothing (I should have caught them with OCLC/World Cat, but thought I’d try the other angle, also.)

Apparently this IS a rare book!


[no author]. Farmers of Iowa: A List of Farmers of Each County With Postoffice[sic]. [Des Moines, Iowa: State Historical Library.] 538 pages.

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Subtitle: “The Biography of Grant Wood’s American Masterpiece”

Former director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City (1967-1977), Thomas Hoving walks the reader through a step-by-step analysis of the famous painting, teaching the reader techniques to use when viewing any painting. He also provides detail about the artist and how the masterpiece fits into Grant Wood’s career.

The book is easy to read, even if the reader is not familiar with the other paintings and artists (mostly European) the author uses for example and comparison. (I simply skimmed past the art I wasn’t familiar with.)

After reading the book I can see the optical illusion in the fork, the reflection of the fork in the overalls, the shadows indicating time of day, the elongated facial ovals and other vertical elements, the oversized hand and long thumb holding the inadequate fork, the lighting rod bulb replicated in the man’s shirt collar button, the ringlet of hair that escaped the tight hairstyle, the rickrack and calico of the woman’s dress, the lace curtains in the window, the common snake plant and begonias on the porch, the stylized background trees, the peaked roof that points to the man and woman, the value of repetition, and many other details I would have never seen. Most importantly I understand the need for the Gothic window and the staunch farmer and woman.

I have found it particularly interesting that Grant Wood felt he needed to copy the impressionists and to study in Europe, then realized he needed to paint what he already knew–the farm life of the Middle West, becoming a leader in the Regionalist movement. Which reminds me, there are even hints of movement in the painting.

I enjoyed the book and recommend it to even the novice art observer wanting to better understand this masterpiece. This book was recommended by the staff at the American Gothic House that I wrote about earlier.

Be sure to read the endnotes. I read them after reading the rest of the book; the endnotes could be distracting if read while enjoying the book.


Hoving, Thomas. “American Gothic, The Biography of Grant Wood’s American Masterpiece.” New York: Chamberlain Bros., a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc. 2005.

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