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Archive for the ‘Original documents’ Category

Continuing in the quest to find hidden genealogical resources:

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

712-732-7111
Open Thursday 2-4 p.m. and by appointment
http://www.stormlake-ia.com/bvchs/resources.htm

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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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 literally hundreds of old letters?

What do I have:

  • All of the Christmas letters described in a previous post
  • Letters that my uncle sent to his parents while serving in World War II
  • Letters exchanged between my parents before they married as well as some intermittent correspondence in their early married years
  • Letters between Dave and me during our courtship and our early married years while Dave was in the military
  • Letters Dave and I sent to family and friends during our three years in Germany. It is probably very unusual to have copies of all the letters sent, but I had a typewriter in Germany and had access to carbon-sets… these consisted of 6 sheets of paper with carbon paper between the sheets. I typed a letter every week and sent copies to family members, retaining the final carbon copy for our own records. At least three family members also saved all of the letters sent to them, and now we have those copies, as well. Many times, I wrote individualized notes at the end of the letters to family members, so we now also have those notes.
  • The letters Dave and I received from family and friends during our years in Germany
  • Many letters my aunt sent to my parents over the years
  • Other miscellaneous letters that my grandmother saved from her family

    The plan: sort, scan, place in archival sheet protectors, and transcribe.

    Priority: All (including envelopes) need to be sorted, scanned and placed in archival protection ASAP. Especially important is being sure we have additional copies in case disaster strikes the originals!!!

    The transcription process can be done later.

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  • Recently while working on a writing project I realized that our family might not realize what they held in their hands when they find this Bible (wrapped in Tyvek in our home safe)… writing the story of a family Bible was needed:

    Warren and Nancy McNeill Family Bible, Holy Bible, (New York: The American Bible Society, 1828); original owned in 2014 by Marieta (Pehrson) Grissom (Indianola, IA 50125).

    The Bible is 4½” by 7½” by 2¼” thick, and has a well-worn leather cover. In somewhat dilapidated condition, it is possible other pages are missing, however, the birth page is in tact and secure in the binding of the volume.

    The person(s) who wrote the entries was literate, but not accustomed to writing, as evidenced by the inconsistent capitalization and punctuation, and difficulty judging how much space it would take to record a date and having to continue to another line.

    The birth dates (1832 to 1850) of all known children of Warren and Nancy (Deem) McNeill are recorded in various inks and handwriting. (Transcribed below, punctuation and capitalization are as found on the Bible page.)

    Orren McNeill Was Born August the, 21. 1832
    Norman McNeill Was Born August the, 30. 1834 and Died the 22 of January 1835 [this is the only evidence we have of Norman’s existence]
    William Anderson McNeill Was born November the 14: 1835
    Solomon McNeill Was born April the 22 1839
    Alford McNeill Was born May the 26: 1841 [note the spelling of Alfred’s first name]
    Henry Clay McNeill Was born June the 1: 1847
    Margaret Lavina McNeill Was Born November the 8 1850

    Warren (1810-1868) and Nancy (1812-1870) were my great-great-great grandparents; I’m descended through their son Alfred.

    This Bible is OLD! How many of us have artifacts that have been touched by so many generations? How many of us have actual samples of penmanship by a family member 180+ years ago?

    The McNeill Family Bible apparently passed from Warren and Nancy McNeill to their son Alfred McNeill, to his daughter, Edith (McNeill) Morrill, to her son, Ernest Morrill, then, to his cousin, O. R. Pehrson, a grandson of Edith’s brother, Leonard, in approximately 1984. My mother, Thelma Pehrson, gave it to me in July 2006.

    This Bible is a family treasure; it must be preserved and saved for the generations!

    McNeill Bible - inside enh

    McNeill Bible cover

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    I’m on a roll with sorting and organizing! And the roll has gained such momentum that I want to work on it during nearly every spare moment! This is a good thing. I’ve tried to explain previously the enormity of the project I am facing; only my husband really knows. Let me assure you; it is huge!

    My mother was typical of many (perhaps most) genealogists. She loved to do research and she did a considerable amount. Problems: 1) Mom only documented some of her sources and 2) she had difficulty organizing the information she found. For the most part she used the notebook method, but I’ve found multiple notebooks on the same surname, with much of the same information. To complicate the situation, she created a new family group sheet every time she worked on the family. I find photocopies of the same obituaries in multiple places. And, it isn’t unusual to find information for a completely different family surname stuck in the wrong binder. On top of that, I’m finding Mom was notorious for making notes for multiple surnames on the same piece of paper. Oh, my!

    It isn’t just my mother’s collection I’m dealing with. My grandmother collected and saved, and my mother inherited a collection from her aunt and uncle. So, when I brought home the boxes, scrapbooks, photo albums, and binders from my mother, the contents was the conglomerate from all of these people. As I’ve worked on the materials, I’ve realized that my mother was overwhelmed!

    Filing has never been my favorite activity, but I’ve been spending hours doing just that, and sort of enjoying it. I’m filing everything from Mom’s binders and boxes of loose papers into hanging folders in my file drawers. Some people would wonder “Why!” Why shouldn’t I just enter everything directly into a computer program? I’ve asked myself that question, also. However, I concluded that it is easier to get all of the information sorted using a filing system, first. That way when I enter someone into computer software, I’ll have everything that I know about that person in hand and won’t have to keep flipping from one person to another.

    Mom should have owned stock in sheet protector manufacturing companies. Recently I told my husband that I can foresee the end of using large quantities of sheet protectors. I can see using archival sheet protectors for original documents; not for every family group sheet! I also told him that I foresee the eventual end of using hanging folders.

    I hope I’ll live long enough to get these files scanned and the data entered into computer software. My goal to eventually write several books. Every step takes me closer to leaving something meaningful for future generations.

    For now I need to get back to sorting and filing!

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    I have recently read two books about Iowa’s pioneer women:

    Riley, Glenda. Frontierswomen: The Iowa Experience. Ames, Iowa: Iowa State University Press, 1981.

    Riley, Glenda, ed. Prairie Voices: Iowa’s Pioneering Women. Ames, Iowa: Iowa State University Press, 1996.

    I was thrilled to discover these books. They are about Iowa pioneer women, not just Midwestern women, not Nebraska women, not Minnesota women, but Iowa women. I read them in publication order, however, I think they could be read in either order. I enjoyed both.

    Difficult as it is to bracket this in our minds, the Iowa frontier period is generally considered to have only lasted 40 years: 1830 to 1870. Furthermore, we have become accustomed to learning about the pioneer period through the eyes of men. It is refreshing to realize that women had voices, also.

    Prairie Voices is original source material: the diaries, memoirs, and letters with the voice of specific women. I enjoyed reading the words the women wrote: the color, the emotion and the determination.

    In Frontierswomen, the author weaves the stories of basically the same women into a narrative divided into topical areas dispelling stereotypes frequently associated with women on the frontier. She discusses the westward trek, work women did (both in the home and outside), diversity and commonality, education and strong-mindedness, and the influence of war in their lives.

    Anyone with pioneer women ancestors who lived in Iowa, even for a short time, would find these books enlightening and compelling. In some cases, you could nearly just substitute the name of your own ancestor into the story. No matter, you’ll develop a new perspective and appreciation for these women and their lives.

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    Another installment in the hunt for genealogy treasures in Iowa.

    The Frontier Heritage Library & Museum
    Pottawattamie County Genealogical Society
    622 4th Street
    Council Bluffs, IA 51502

    phone: 712-325-9368
    email: pcgs@pcgs.omhcoxmail.com
    website: http://www.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~iapcgs/

    What a treasure this society has! Original records! Shelves and shelves of them!

    Pottawattamie County Genealogical Society members, Bob Anderson (current President), Barb Christie and Marilyn Erwin met us at the library. The society formed in 1992 and they purchased this building in 2001. A renter in part of the building helps pay the mortgage. The building has a back room, equipped with a small kitchen, that can be used for large meetings or small conferences. Everything was well-lit and neatly organized. A large, inviting conference table is the perfect place for researchers to work.

    Pottawattamie County is “double wide” compared with most Iowa counties and had two court houses until 1993 when the clerk’s office in Avoca was closed. The Avoca court house was built in 1885, the building was placed on the National Register in 1982 and is now a museum.

    The goal of the society is to “furnish a One-Stop Research Center for all information on Pottawattamie County.”

    After the county records were microfilmed, the originals went to the dumpster due to lack of storage space. This group retrieved them!!! As a result this library has many original records: marriage and death records, will books, probate packets and probate books, insanity records, divorce records, law and equity books, district court books, guardian bond books, delinquent real estate tax lists, court calendar books, juvenile court records and more. Some to 1919 and others to about 1940. In addition, they have all of the original records from the Avoca court house. They told us that often the staff in the county offices sends researchers to this facility.

    We also saw Council Bluffs city directories beginning in the 1880s, a large collection of area school yearbooks, obituary extracts beginning 1857, town histories for the surrounding area, and abstracts of deaths and marriages from The Frontier Guardian newspaper (1849-1852). They have some original newspapers from surrounding communities. And, they have notebooks with clippings of birth announcements and other notebooks of obituary clippings and cemetery indexes. In addition they have a selection of Pottawattamie County maps.

    A big surprise: they told me that ONLY ONE township of this extra-large county is on Ancestry.com for the 1895 Iowa state census. The library has the entire census on microfilm and they don’t understand why Ancestry does not have the other townships.

    Another surprise was seeing the Gale Biographical Index Series from 1979 and early 1980s here. This is a nation-wide index to thousands of biographies and it is rare to see it in a small library.

    The library has a small (15-20 linear feet), but growing collection of family histories.

    These volunteers are very dedicated and have accomplished amazing things. They have abstracted many marriage records as well as court house records from Avoca and prepared these publications for sale. They especially enjoy answering queries; helping other researchers find their ancestors.

    Thank you! We enjoyed our visit.

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