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Archive for the ‘Scanning’ 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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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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  • 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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    We’ve watched the bride-to-be grow up; we are good friends with her parents. Now I have met the mother of the groom and my genealogy reputation had preceded me.

    Beth lives in Michigan where a few people are board certified genealogists and many people are members of APG (Association of Professional Genealogists). I’d love to live close to so many active, professional-level genealogists! I could learn so much from them.

    I invited her to see my genealogy room; I don’t do that often. I learned a couple significant things during her visit.

    1) It is obvious that we can not write a book about each one of our ancestors. Beth told me that she attended a presentation where the speaker explained how to handle this dilemma… pick one of the people in a family group to write about, then pull the others in as you tell the story.

    2) She asked if I had made an inventory of my family keepsakes. She said that somewhere she heard that we should all do that. For me the problem is two fold: I have so much and it is strewn all over the house. I understand what she is saying: how will our children know what is a genuine family heirloom. I need to work on this!

    Beth saw my rows of overflowing bookshelves and the stacks of books and papers on my countertops. She did not see inside the cupboards. I showed Beth the storeroom next to my genealogy room, the room with 7 four-drawer filing cabinets and bunches of tubs and boxes. However, she did not see my other storeroom, which also has numerous file storage boxes.

    Beth explained that she has scanned or saved electronically much of her research. Most of mine is paper. Much of mine was collected either before or early in the electronic era. I’ve inherited so much from so many people; much is duplicated, but needs to be sorted and organized. If I scan everything, will my family look at it? I suspect the only thing they will keep are finished books. IF that is the case, I shouldn’t waste a lot of time scanning everything; I need to focus on writing those books.

    In our conversation we agreed on the importance of determining what will happen to our research, so we don’t leave our precious work to the whim of our children. My situation is overwhelming for me; what would it be like for our children?

    Beth, I look forward to corresponding with you and seeing you again! What else will I learn from you?

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    Finding Iowa’s hidden genealogical treasures:

    Iowa Labor Collection
    State Historical Society of Iowa
    402 Iowa Avenue
    Iowa City, Iowa 52240

    319-335-3916

    http://www.iowahistory.org

    Three of us met with Mary Bennett, Special Collections Coordinator and long-time staff member who has worked with this collection since the beginning. The project began in 1974 at the time of the nation’s bicentennial. People realized the need for saving the rich historical heritage of Iowa’s working class people. As a result, more than 1,100 people were interviewed on audio tape. The people represented 75 occupational groups and 15 major urban areas. Of these 769 interviews were completely transcribed and entered into an index. The original transcripts were microfilmed and copies are available at the SHSI facilities in Iowa City and Des Moines and one copy is available for inter-library loan. This became a model project.

    Some of the oral project deficiencies: only 124 women were interviewed and only a few Blacks and Hispanics were included. However, regarding the women, many of the men talked about the role of women in their interviews. Of the people interviewed, the earliest birthdate was 1875, but most were born after 1915. The interviews included specific questions, but participants were also allowed to digress. The last question was “What did the union mean to you?” Mary said that question brought some very emotional responses.

    The dream is to digitize the audio and to create links to it on the website because she said that the tone of voice, colloquialisms, character of the person, and emotions just could not be captured in the transcriptions. The Iowa Labor Center, which is also located at the University of Iowa, and the Iowa Federation of Labor are working together attempting to find funding for the next phase.

    The oral histories formed the basis for the current Iowa Labor Collection. In 1999 through assistance from Senator Tom Harkin the group was able to secure a grant of $360,000 from the Institute of Museum and Library Services to process, catalog and expand the collection. Today the Iowa Labor Collection has grown to more than 1,000 linear feet in the Special Collections area of SHSI and is considered one of the top five labor collections in the United States. Mary said that it grows by nearly 100 linear feet per year.

    Among the items included in today’s collection are labor union meeting minutes, lists of jobs, lists of union members and whether dues were paid, scabs lists, grievances, contracts, newsletters, and political campaign issues.

    Iowa’s strong labor foundation is due in part to John L. Lewis and the United Mine Workers who were concerned about the unsafe working conditions and child labor in the many coal mines in Iowa. The concern spread to other industries. One specific incident in 1947 involved 100,000 workers and the Right-to-Work Law being challenged by Iowa Governor Robert Blue. During this incident the governor experienced the power of the unions. The labor movement carried to Maytag and agri-business and many other areas. Records from many of these areas are included in the SHSI collection.

    To access the list of people involved in the original oral history project and the list of holdings, go to: http://www.iowahistory.org/libraries/collections/iowa-city-center/iowa_labor_collection/default.htm. If the individual’s name is underlined, it contains a hyperlink to further information about the interview. I have found it a little challenging to navigate the labor collection, so I’m providing step-by-step procedures:

    Iowahistory.org –> Libraries –> Manuscript & Audio Visual Collections –> Iowa City Center –> Iowa Labor Collections
    Then be sure to check the various topics on the left hand side of the screen.

    A hardcover book that serves as an index to the labor oral history project is:

    Weaver, Janet, Howard Spencer and Mary Bennett, compilers. Iowa Labor History Oral Project Index. Iowa City, Iowa: State Historical Society of Iowa, 2003.

    This book is found in the State Historical Society libraries.

    Since the initial project, other organizations have added to the oral history collection. The Earth Watch Project interviewed 125 owners of century farms in northwest Iowa. These interviews have been transcribed, summarized and indexed. Many genealogists would not think of checking in Iowa City for information about an ancestor living in northwest Iowa. The Iowa Medical Society interviewed 75 “house-call” physicians, during which doctors interviewed doctors. These are only two other examples. The archives has more: Junior League in Cedar Rapids, musicians on steamboats, Welsh, Buxton, Glenwood residents and polio in Iowa. In addition, Mary said that the Hoover Library has a series of World War II interviews.

    Don’t ever be surprised at what you may find! Leave no stone unturned.

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    Finding Iowa’s hidden genealogical treasures:

    Special Collections and University Archives
    The University of Iowa Libraries
    100 Main Library
    125 West Washington
    Iowa City, Iowa 52242

    319-335-5921

    http://www.lib.uiowa.edu/spec-coll/

    Staff member, Jacque Roethler, explained to us that this collection includes rare books, manuscripts, and the university archives.

    The manuscript collection includes a large variety of items as diaries, Civil War letters, and pioneer documents to Chautauqua, State Hail Insurance ledgers and other business records. Jacque especially encouraged us to use the Resources section of their website to select Collection Guides and Digitized Collections as well as http://www.lib.uiowa.edu/spec-coll/resources/findingaids.html for finding materials. She indicated that we may be very surprised at what we find. For example, if your ancestor was a farmer and purchased hail insurance, he may well be listed!

    The world-renown University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop is held on this campus. So, as we were walking through the aisles, it was not surprising to learn this repository collects books by Iowa authors defined as 1) born in Iowa, or 2) lived in Iowa for at least twenty years.

    Jacque explained that they are beginning to use Crowdsourcing as a means for transcribing many of their popular collections. The university is digitizing Civil War diaries, letters and other items, then letting interested individuals transcribe them. To access the ability to do this, go to the home page of Special Collections –> Digitized Collections –> Iowa Digital Library –> DIY History. She said they have some users who are very passionate about helping with this project.

    The university archives includes Board of Regents items, as well as faculty and staff employment records. Forty-five file drawers contain the latter material, which she said gets a lot of use. To maintain these files, they have a crew of clippers, who continually check area newspapers for university-related articles. In addition they have files for alumni and former students. The collection includes programs from all kinds of university events, i.e., art shows and theater productions to athletic competitions. All things that should be found in an archives associated with an educational institution can be found here.

    Jacque said that researchers can use library scanners and save images to flash drives, or they can bring in a camera. She also explained that soon some enhancements will make text fully searchable on their website. And, finally, she indicated donations to their collection are welcome.

    Genealogists, do not underestimate the depth of this collection even if you do not have a direct connection to the university!

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    One of my “retirement” activities has been to assist with the Warren County Genealogical Society’s new website. Since I thrive on figuring out new technology, this is fun for me.

    Recently, while continuing with my ongoing sorting project, I discovered that Dave and I had taken pictures of Lacey Cemetery in 1979. This is particularly significant because the cemetery, according to one of the Belmont Township Trustees, is being allowed to “return to nature.” In other words, they are not maintaining it.

    The township has many cemeteries to maintain and this one has a less than stellar historical event associated with it. However, to Dave and me this is a moral and ethical issue about respecting the memory of the people who are buried there. It should be maintained!!!

    We had the negatives for our pictures, so we scanned them. Then, we returned to the cemetery and took current pictures of as many of the stones as we could find. In fact, we have made two cemetery visits, just to verify that we had all the correct information.

    Then, I scanned the page from the Cemetery and Death Records of Warren County, Iowa, that the genealogical society published in 1980. I have software that allows me to convert my scanned PDF file to a WORD document, and then I was able to copy it into the web page.

    To get the photos all lined up and looking pretty, I learned how to use Table Press.

    I am thrilled with the results (and with all the things I’ve learned) from continuing my sorting projects!

    The link for the site is: (you may have to register to access it, but this part of our website is FREE to use, just register)

    http://www.warrencountygenes.com/home-2/cemeteries/lacey-cemetery/

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