Archive for the ‘Warren County (Iowa) Genealogy’ Category

I have been a member of the Warren County Genealogical Society (Indianola, Iowa) since 1979. I was newsletter editor for several years and know that finding content can sometimes be a struggle. Thus, I frequently write articles for the newsletter.

In this post I am highlighting two of my most memorable articles: the one I wrote after my mother-in-law passed away in 2008 and the one I recently wrote remembering my mother. Both joined WCGS shortly after I joined and both taught us many lessons.

Here are links to the articles:

Thelma Pehrson WCGS Member Since 1979

Willa Jean Grissom-some things we can learn from her life

The articles can also be found under the “My Publications” tab at the top of this page.


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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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Over the past few weeks, besides organizing my library, I’ve been sorting through more boxes. In fact, I have emptied twenty boxes!

What did I find? What did I do with all of it?

Well… One box was filled with Jack and Jill magazines from the 1950s. I looked through some of the issues, then I checked the Internet and found that the magazine is still published and that old issues have very little value. In addition, the issues in my collection were filthy! They felt so grungy that I hated to touch them. I remember they were stored in my parents’ attic for years. Then, when they moved from the farm into town, Mom gave the magazines to me and I have had them in various storage places for more than 25 years. They went into our recycle bin.

Another couple boxes had my old workbooks from elementary school. They were just as dirty and yucky to touch as the magazines. Into the recycle bin they went.

The scrapbooks that I made in elementary school were in the similar condition. Nothing creative here, just mimeographed seasonal designs on construction paper that we cut out, perhaps colored or added some paper fasteners to in order to make moving arms/legs, or paper doilies for a lace effect. Our creations were displayed around the classroom for a week, then we pasted into the scrapbook. Recycle bin.

I had to make decisions, and I just could not keep something that no one would want to touch.

Some boxes included papers from a charter member of our local genealogy society; her daughter gave the items to me after her mother passed away. Where possible I incorporated these items into my collection. I was able to give a few things to the Iowa Genealogical Society. But, still other papers went into the recycle bin. I knew the daughter had given as much as possible to the local historical society before she gave things to me. Some genealogy reference items dating from the 1970s and 1980s were simply out-of-date. I also found a box of items from my great aunt, also a charter member. Those items were treated much the same as those from the other charter member.

The sorting, however, also had some bright sides. I found some family genealogy papers. Many of these papers were in good shape and I was able to file them. My work earlier this fall, to create hanging files, paid off! Now, I could just file papers where appropriate!

As I work through this sorting process, I’m finding it easier to sort through printed material and other papers than to sort through artifacts or photographs.

While twenty paper/file boxes might seem like a lot; this was just a drop-in-the-bucket. Remember, I’ve said before, this project is huge… overwhelming. I’ve been tackling it one piece at a time. I’m definitely making progress, wonder what I’ll work on next…

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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 locating Iowa’s hidden genealogical treasures:

The Milo Public Library has twenty-one three-ring binders of obituaries. I was a member of a committee of five people who researched and wrote Milo 1880-1980. During the research phase of this project I had access to a community member’s scrapbook. So I guess I actually started this obituary collection in 1979 when I had access to this resource. I typed/transcribed all of the obituaries contained therein. Then, another community member and Warren County Genealogical Society member, Doris Young, continued the effort by saving obituaries from the newspapers and organizing them. It appears that she has been working on this collection for more than three decades–this has been a huge undertaking for her. Not only has Doris saved obituaries for Milo area people, she expanded it to the entire southeast Warren County area. Furthermore, she expanded her collection to include relatives of people who have ever lived in this corner of the county. Since she is a long-time community member, she recognizes names of former community members, and could include all of these people. When possible she has even collected out-of-state obituaries.

Doris has done a very nice job of labeling each obituary in the upper right corner of the page with name of deceased, name of cemetery, town/state where the deceased lived. In 1997 she started adding age of deceased. Most obituaries are dated; very few are sourced with the name of the newspaper. Each book is indexed by name of deceased.

In addition, Doris has photocopied two books kept by Rev. Charles S. Fair, and included them in the library collection. 1) Obituaries and Wedding Records 1895-1911, Hammondsburg, Belmont Zion, and Plainville (Goode Chapel) by Rev. Charles S. Fair. 2) Weddings 1891-1916, Blue Ridge, Missouri; Homer, Indiana; Milo, Iowa; Osceola, Iowa; and Pleasanton, Iowa, by Rev. Charles S. Fair.

The library also contains several of the local histories that are found in many of the area libraries.

Doris Young should be commended for the work she has done to retain genealogical history for the Milo community!

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Recently our Warren County Genealogical Society experienced the rare opportunity to hear from both of our local librarians.

Our meeting consisted of a brief talk by Joyce Godwin, Librarian of the Indianola Public Library (IPL) about the genealogy collection there. She said that the shelf list (with 132 family histories) is in process of being updated. She also told us that between the two libraries (IPL and Dunn) all of the extent newspapers for Warren County are available on microfilm. However, both libraries have been told that once their reader/printers need repair, parts are not available. When state funds for microfilming current newspapers were cut, the two libraries began funding the project so microfilming would continue for Indianola newspapers.

Cyd Dyer, Librarian for Dunn Library, then talked to us about her facility. She worked very closely with Dr. Joseph Walt as he was writing Beneath the Whispering Maples, a history of Simpson College (1995), so she has a very clear idea of what the archives contains for the history of the college. She particularly enjoys research questions that she receives.  She said, “Finding the answers for someone is like the sun coming out.”

Cyd lead our group on a rare tour of the college archives. What a treat that was! While we didn’t see much of what is hidden away in labeled boxes, it still was an awesome feeling just to be in those rooms, knowing that we were surrounded by treasures.

One time she was asked if she could find Jack Trice’s football jersey number (THE Jack Trice of Iowa State University fame). She found a football program from 1923 when Simpson played Iowa State, listing Jack Trice’s number as 37. George Washington Carver attended Simpson and the archives has several items relating to him. Even though a fire destroyed many items, she is always happy to research if a family tradition indicates that someone attended Simpson at any time, even the Simpson Music Conservatory or the Simpson Academy.

The Indianola Public Library and Dunn Library have a joint online catalog. An IPL library card also allows holders to check out books from both libraries.

IPL has a subscription to Heritage Quest that card holders can use on their home computers. Dunn Library has subscriptions to many databases but these must be accessed at computers within the library. While Dunn Library is not oriented to genealogy, the college has a strong history department and since the two fields overlap, this library has a wealth of historical context information for the researcher.

Dunn Library is located a mere five blocks from our house, easy walking distance, partially through beautiful Buxton Park. The Indianola Public Library is only 3 blocks further down the sidewalk.

Helpful links:

Dunn Library, Simpson College, Indianola, Iowa

Indianola Public Library, Indianola, Iowa

Cyd Dyer (left) and Joyce Godwin (right)

Cyd Dyer (left) and Joyce Godwin (right)


Entrance into the archives

Entrance into the archives


Cyd in one section of the archives

Cyd in one section of the archives


Sometimes I even see our 2 1/2 year old granddaughter out walking with her nanny when I’m in this neighborhood. My sunshine for that day!

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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)


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