Archive for the ‘Libraries’ Category

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.)

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Iowa Masonic Library & Museum
813 First Avenue S.E.
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52402


As prepared as I try to be for these visits, when we arrive I never seem as prepared as I thought I was. I had emailed ahead and had made arrangements to meet with William R. (Bill) Krueger at this facility. My knowledge of this organization was/is very scant. I brought information about my grandfather who was a Mason. My grandmother was a member of the Order of the Eastern Star. I did not understand that these were two separate organizations, so I brought information about my grandmother, as well. I am now more educated.

The building housing the Grand Lodge of Iowa is, in fact, a very grand one, with marble and pillars, wide hallways, high ceilings, stained-glass windows. Very elegant!

Inside we met Bill and he showed me the limited genealogy information on the membership cards housed in the administrative offices. The good news, of course, is that they have these cards; lots of them! This facility is the best resource for this information.

They also have annual reports of the proceedings of the Grand Lodge of Iowa; many of the early ones (1844-1853) list names of members. They are seeking ways to scan these and make the images accessible.

Then we proceeded to the library, which contains more than 150,000 volumes. It is huge! It is available to the public, however, arrangements should be made ahead of time.

Oh, my! This is an awesome library. The library is so comprehensive that scholars come here to research for major projects! For example, a University of California, Berkeley, business economy major used the library to write his M.A. thesis on how Masonry affected the economy after the Civil War.

Located in Cedar Rapids the library contains typical publications for the area: city directories, railroad conductors reports, opera house programs (1886-1910), and materials for area colleges. The library also features a Civil War collection including a signification Abraham Lincoln collection. I can’t begin to describe all of the items housed in this library; I repeat: 150,000 volumes! Check their online catalog!

My husband is a Landscape Architecture graduate of Iowa State University and we were surprised to discover that this library has the entire book collection of ISU Landscape Architecture Professor Robert Harvey, one of my husband’s favorite professors. Note: this is in the Masonic Library in Cedar Rapids, not the Iowa State University Library in Ames.

So, you never know what you are going to find and where you will find it!

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Iowa Lakes Genealogical Society
c/o Spencer Public Library
21 East 3rd Street
Spencer, Iowa 51301


This was a first! My reputation preceded me with this group. The Society had a regular meeting the Saturday prior to my visit. The members were reviewing the National Genealogical Society Quarterly that had just arrived in their mailbox and discovered that the visitor expected next week was the author of an article in the Quarterly. One member took the publication home with him and read my “Genealogical Research in Iowa” article! He was ready for my visit! I was surprised!

Four society members met with me and we had a great conversation about their society and their individual genealogical pursuits, as well as lunch at a local restaurant afterwards.

The Iowa Lakes Genealogical Society includes Clay, Dickinson, Osceola and O’Brien Counties. The group was organized in 1977 and was the beneficiary of Charlotte Brett’s genealogy collection, which today contains over 1,200 books and periodicals. The collection is nicely arranged on shelves in the Spencer Public Library on both sides of tables where the society meets and researchers can work. To access a shelf list of the collection, enter “genealogy” in the public library card catalog.

The society helps sponsor the library’s subscription to Ancestry.com. The Spencer area newspapers through 1936 have been digitized and are available through NewspaperArchive.com. Today the society is updating cemetery gravestone information. As with many groups they struggle with whether to update with print publications or whether to go with free online places such as Find-A-Grave and the Clay County USGenWeb site.

This group is very fortunate to have a quality collection and space for it in a beautiful public library. Thanks to Sharon, Donald, Jean and Mary, this was truly an enjoyable morning!

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Continuing in the quest to find hidden genealogical resources:

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

Open Thursday 2-4 p.m. and by appointment

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!

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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.

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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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