Archive for the ‘Research’ Category

Continuing the series of Iowa’s hidden genealogical treasures:

Museum of Danish American, Genealogy Center
NOTE: fka The Danish Immigrant Museum, Family History & Genealogy Center
4210 Main Street
PO Box 249
Elk Horn, IA 51531-0249

May – October
Tuesday-Friday, 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
Saturday, 10:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.

November – April
Tuesday – Friday, 10:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.
Daily admission is free for museum members; $5 for non-members

Website: http://www.danishmuseum.org

Two genealogy friends and I stopped by the library unannounced and Michele McNabb, Librarian-Manager, was extremely gracious and spent considerable time with us.

Michele told us that they like to think this is THE place to do Danish research, outside Salt Lake City. One third of the patrons of this library are Danes trying to find American cousins.

She said that online resources for Danish records have exploded in the last five years but not all have an English-language interface. Many Danish records have been digitized and can be found through sources such as Arkivalieronline on the Danish state archives webpage, http://www.sa.dk/ao/ at no charge. While not complete, these records include church, census, probate, civil, fire insurance, and court records. In addition, AO has started digitizing military records. She recommended using the Danish research guide to Arkivalieronline that can be found at familysearch.org. Beginning in 1868 Danish immigrants had to register with the Danish police when leaving the country. Currently, transcriptions of records from 1868 -1905 are online at http://www.emiarch.dk/search.php3?l=en. An English-language portal to transcriptions of many Danish censuses may also be found at http://ddd.dda.dk/ddd_en.htm.

The Danish Brotherhood in America was a national fraternal organization, which also offered insurance to its members between 1882 and 1995 (the organization became less active after 1975). The membership records for this group have been microfilmed and are available at this library, using database finding aids. A corresponding women’s group, The Danish Sisterhood of America, also has informative records, but these are only available by contacting the organization at http://www.danishsisterhood.org/DanishHTML/default2.asp.

The library offers research as well as translation services which could be very beneficial for Danish descendants who have old letters written in the native tongue.

The library’s collection includes ten file cabinets of vertical files and approximately forty linear feet of family histories (many have little or no documentation), and a large number of biographies, memoirs and collections of letters. Many three-ring binders contain clippings from the area newspapers including:
Audubon County Journal 1897-1995: clippings of weddings, anniversaries, and birthdays.
Audubon County Journal 1897-1995: obituaries
Audubon County Journal 1897-1921: Kimballton & Elk Horn News Columns
Kimballton-Elk Horn Record 1916-1921; 1926-present
The Danish-American obituary index is a nationwide collection of obituaries and funeral notices of immigrants and their descendants.

As is often the case with specialized libraries, the catalog for this library is not accessible through WorldCat.

For the past eight years, a private company has funded young interns to come from Denmark to Elk Horn for a semester of work in the library and other museum departments.

Through a grant from Denmark several Danish-American newspapers, including The Danish Pioneer, Bien, Dannevirke and Bikuben, have been digitized and should be searchable from the museum webpage, http://www.danishmuseum.org in late autumn of 2013.

Background information on Danish immigration, lists of useful genealogical links and other resources are at http://www.danishmuseum.org; Library and Genealogy.

Even though none of us have any Danish ancestors, we came away believing that if we did, we’d find them here.


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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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Continuing the series of Iowa’s hidden genealogical treasures:

C. G. Brisee Genealogy Library
PO Box 273
401 North Street
Irwin, Iowa 51446

Hours: call for appointment

Websites (all are in progress):
http://www.chaseyourtale.com – database site
http://www.picsadilly.com – family album site
http://www.hometownvistas.com – town album site
http://www.genealogicaldocuments.com – documents
http://www.thecemeterysite.com – cemetery photos
http://www.briseelibrary.com – online card catalog
http://www.irwinconsolidatedschool.com – for alumni

Special collections:
The Torpey Letters
The Woodin Family Files
The Hoskins Family Files
Powers Memorial Library (IOOF)

Geographic focus:
New England
New York
United Kingdom

In late 2004, Adrian and Leslie Brisee submitted a bid for an old brick school house advertised on eBay. Even though theirs was the lowest ($5,000) of three bids, the school officials liked their proposal the best. Adrian and Leslie proposed moving from Albany, New York, to small town Iowa and transforming the old school house into a genealogy library (Adrian’s hobby) and a doll showcase (Leslie’s hobby). The library is named for Adrian’s father, avid genealogist and book collector, whose family had lived in the Albany area since 1637.

Eight trip loads of books, shelving, and household goods went into the 30-34 room school house in 2005. Today the collection includes thousands of books and periodicals. Some rooms have specific designations: Iowa Room, National Room, Family Room. One room has many materials from New England. Another room houses most of the 500-600 family Bibles. The overall collection includes hundreds of family histories, boxes and boxes of obituaries/death notices, scrapbooks, New England Town Clerk reports, school and university yearbooks and alumni directories, DAR lineage books, a Rutland, Vermont publisher’s original book pages, Board of Supervisors Proceedings, all of the Who’s Who and Who Was books 1899 to 2004, phone directories, plat maps, Adjutant General’s reports, Grand Lodge books of IOOF, War of the Rebellion Official Reports of the Union and Confederate Armies (he does NOT have all 153 volumes, but does have many), and much, much more.

Two genealogy friends joined me on this “field trip.” Adrian told us that we got to see some of their attic/archive space that is not usually open to the public. However, we did not see their living quarters in the lowest level of the building. As he showed us around the building, he also explained to us some of the information that can be found in some of the items he collects. While they are obscure resources, some enlightening information can be found. I’ll be writing about some of these in future posts.

There is no charge to use the library, but donations, either financial or additional resources, are appreciated. The couple welcomes researchers and groups. Recently, an Irwin high school class reunion had visited. Since purchasing the building, Adrian and Leslie have heard some interesting and humorous tales from some former students about their school days.

Leslie has two rooms of the school dedicated to her doll collection. This is mostly Barbie dolls dressed in clothing that Leslie has made. The dolls are then arranged in vignette or shadow-box-like settings, some with names and complete stories. We were impressed and amazed!

Only a few key rooms are heated and the building is not air conditioned, so visitors should plan accordingly.

I have heard about this library for several years, yet still was unprepared for its enormity! I cannot imagine such a personal collection, I’d be overwhelmed. Nor can I imagine moving half way across the country into an old school house. More power to them!

Thank you to Adrian and Leslie!

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Continuing the series of Iowa’s hidden genealogical treasures:

New Virginia Public Library
504 Book Alley, PO Box 304
New Virginia, Iowa 50210

Hours: Tuesday 4:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m.
Wednesday 9:00 a.m. – 11:00 a.m. & 1:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m.
Thursday 4:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m.
Saturday 9:00 a.m. – 12 Noon.

Website: http://www.newvirginialibrary.org/

The library’s website says they have “a local history collection.” Those words don’t even begin to describe the wonderful collection. I had heard the collection existed, but was totally unprepared for its enormity and detail.

Leota Houlette (1921-2009) was a life-long Warren County resident. She lived primarily in the New Virginia area and was very interested in its history. Was she ever! I estimated that the collection of three-ring binders fills 27 lineal feet of shelf space in two steel cabinets. The binders are arranged chronologically beginning with 1836 and are filled with everything imaginable relating to the history of New Virginia and its citizens. Some notebooks contain multiple years and sometimes one year requires two binders.

Examples of things I found in the binders are:

photocopies of Bible records
land entry information
family group sheets
birth announcements
deaths and obituaries
many articles of general interest
photocopies of a Civil War letter
copies of parts of a Civil War pension file
excerpts from a diary

The list could go on and on and on! Items have been saved from Des Moines newspapers, the New Virginian, Indianola, Osceola, and Winterset newspapers. Some items are handwritten, some are typed, and some are photocopies. It is obvious that when people discovered that she had started a collection, they gave her more and more. Leota’s collection became more like a centralized repository for everything related to New Virginia and the people.

The librarian told me that about ten years ago the Friends of the Library took over the collection and have continued to update it, primarily with vital records: births, marriages and deaths.

I noticed a third steel cabinet contained a large box with many rolls of microfilm. The librarian told me that the notebooks up to 1980 have been microfilmed. The label on the boxes I looked at indicated that this was done by The Advantage Companies in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Stickers on the outside of the steel cabinets refer to Heritage Microfilm. As the Friends of the Library can afford to, they get more binders filmed. The microfilm company has the original silver copies and the library has the only other copy of this valuable collection. I was disappointed to learn that the State Historical Library does NOT have a copy.

Other items I found in the local history corner of this small-town library were:

Virginia Booster 4-H Club scrapbooks
Women for a Better Community scrapbook
Future Homemakers of America scrapbook
New Virginia Saddle Club
1979 Architectural Survey of New Virginia
Girl Scouts scrapbooks
Virginia Jolly Jills 4-H club scrapbooks
Bay View Club 1930-1960
New Virginia Melody Makers
New Virginia House of the Month with house histories
a dozen or more ledger books from local general stores and other businesses, at least one dating to 1881
Hazel Ridge telephone information dating to early 1900s
Zylphia Felton – 4 books of newspaper clippings
five other books donated in memory of various people by the Bay View Club – of clippings of weddings, obituaries, 50th anniversaries and such
New Virginia High School yearbooks 1940-1961
Interstate 35 school Travelogs and Road Runners 1967-1982
several family histories
Warren County history books
7th and 8th grade school records Sept 1917 – Nov 1917, Sept 1919 – May 1919 (includes name of students, attendance, and in some cases grades)
a few local church histories

A cover sheet in Leota’s notebooks announces the beginning of a new year, and on that cover sheet is the following:

Behold the World of the Old
Let your heritage not be lost
But bequeath it as a memory
Treasure and Blessing
Gather the lost and the hidden
And preserve it for thy Children
—–Christian Metz 1846

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Continuing the series of Iowa’s hidden genealogical treasures:

Norwalk Easter Public Library
1051 North Avenue
Norwalk, Iowa 50211
Phone: 515-981-0217

Hours: Monday thru Thursday 10:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.
Friday 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
Saturday 9:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

Website: http://www.norwalk.iowa.gov/Departments/Library


While the genealogy and history materials in this library are few, I found a couple gems, and some other materials to note.

The library has school yearbooks for the local school system dating since 1966. More libraries should be collecting yearbooks. Sometimes they seem too current to be collecting, but they contain someone’s ancestors and they include photographs. In our digital age, it is possible that paper photographs may become a rarity.

I also found four books in this library that I found very interesting:

Clark, Charles B. and Roger B. Bowen. <em>University Recruits: Company C, 12th Iowa Infantry Regiment, U.S.A., 1861-1866. Elverson, PA: Mennonite Family History, 1991.

Hawthorne, Frances E. African Americans in Iowa: A Chronicle of Contributions 1830 – 1992. Des Moines: n.p. 1992. This is 75 pages plus bibliography, typewritten with comb binding. I found it interesting that this manuscript was in this predominately white small-town library. However, it is a true gem. I was impressed with the author and the content. After my visit to this library, I found further information about the author, Frances Hawthorne, and understand that she is an expert in African American Studies.

Luick-Thrams, Michael, editor. Enemies Within: Iowa POWs in Nazi Germany. n.p. 2002.

Wubben, Hubert H. Civil War Iowa and the Copperhead Movement. Ames: The Iowa State University Press, 1980. When we think of the Civil War, we think of a unified effort on each side, but the Copperhead Movement consisted of a group of people trying for a negotiated peace rather than war. This is a must read for anyone studying the Civil War and wanting to understand the Northern dissenting side, as well.

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Continuing the series of Iowa’s hidden genealogical treasures:

I visited this fascinating museum twice. During my first visit I discovered some interesting records and wanted to know more, but the curator, Becky Allen, was out of town. I emailed her and set up an appointment with her. When I walked in, she immediately recognized me. We have talked previously at a couple of area church dinners! What a small world! Becky is the Curator and her husband is the Treasurer for the museum.

Becky is very enthusiastic and loves to tell “John L.” stories. The large, inviting museum with its exquisite displays is divided into five sections: 1) John L. Lewis with his days of labor unionization and politics, 2) coal mining in the area, 3) Old Lucas town, 4) the theater, which also has some old maps, and 5) the library. On my first visit I was intrigued with the many exhibits. On my second visit, I was most concerned with the library. For more information http://www.coalmininglabormuseum.com/main2.html.

The library contains scrapbooks from the community and a nice mining book section, however, I found some genealogical treasures here! Original records! Not indexed; not microfilmed!

Some of these records include
1) Lee Hart Drug Store ledger 1907-1909
2) Norman Baker Ledger, July 1900 – Aug 1902
3) Justice of the Peace Records for Lucas, approx. 1910-1941

However, the most exciting records were
4) United Mine Workers Association Local Union #799 Financial Secretary’s book 1926 – 1956 with records of dues paid, date of admittance and whether by card or initiation, death benefits paid and to whom
5) photocopy of UMWA LU#799, which was chartered 1899, meeting minutes 1903-1907
6) Secretary’s record of UMWA #1933, Chariton for 1901-1915
7) five huge ledger books for UMWA District #13 financial records, 1920s to possibly 1951

Combining the information I found in several sources, it appears UMWA District #13 included the following unions (but no guarantees that this list is all inclusive):
10 Valley Junction
43 Clarkdale
55 Des Moines
56 Colfax
87 Williamson
97 Oskaloosa
152 Ottumwa
154 Newton
178 Beacon
201 Brazil
206 Seymour
242 Avery
275 Cloverleaf
372 Rathbun
387 Jerome
390 Williamson
392 Coalville
422 Oakdale
479 Mystic
534 Flagler
536 Hamilton
553 Centerville
601 Spring Hill
634 Mystic
692 Lockman
718 Jefferson
775 Cincinnati
788 Hartford
793 Albia
799 Lucas
812 Exline
840 Snider
845 Diamond
869 Boone
875 Numa
885 Bussey
907 Rainbow
910 Blakesburg
916 Hiteman
933 Swan
942 Rider
948 Des Moines/Ivy
981 Pershing
1039 Fraser
1047 Des Moines
1110 Dawson
1121 Hocking
1136 Des Moines
1139 Des Moines
1140 Des Moines/Economy
1422 Carlisle
1504 Melcher (Dallas)
1873 Streepyville
1907 Bloomfield
1933 Chariton
2433 Ogden
2460 High Bridge
2482 Durfee
2485 Shuler
2652 Darbyville
3492 Four Mile
3585 Haydock
3593 Sheriff
3771 Harvey
3802 Rexfield (New)
3845 Madrid
4330 Moran/Woodward
4875 Herrold
5480 Cummings
5629 Drum & Monkey
5634 East Madrid
6571 Summerset
6654 Knoxville
6686 Des Moines
6740 Indianola
6748 Kirkville
6967 Pella
6987 Hamilton

I asked about a map showing all of these locations, but there isn’t one in this museum.

Just as I was nearly ready to leave, Becky remembered some boxes in the back room. Five file boxes containing pension files for union members deceased in the 1960s and 1970s. These files contain their application for pension, records of payments and death benefit/beneficiary information. Oh, my goodness!

Becky also told me some rather disappointing news: they do not have staff to do research for people. So, if you want to research these records you either need to visit yourself or find someone who can visit for you. I think a job waits a volunteer who lives in the area!

Thanks, Becky and the other members of the Museum commission! You truly have a wonderful facility.

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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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