Saving Indiana Genealogy: Social Media Outrage Is Not Enough

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Indiana flagIndiana State Librarian Jacob Speer recently announced that the proposed Indiana state budget would cut the Indiana State Library’s budget by 24% and eliminate the genealogy department. (You can read his full announcement here.)

The Indiana Genealogical Society is urging Indiana residents and non-residents alike to make their voices heard. In situations like this, we often think only of the state’s residents as having a say in the matter. However, out-of-state people need to be heard as well. We don’t have votes, but we have something else: money.

I don’t live in Indiana, but I do a fair amount of research there, including trips to the Genealogy Department at the Indiana State Library. I’m guessing that the state likes the dollars that I spend on hotels, food, shopping, and gasoline while I’m there. And I’m guessing that they like the money from all of the other out-of-state visitors as well.

Social Media Outrage Is Not Enough

Here’s the thing. The message is being passed around on Facebook, Twitter, and on various blogs. People are commenting, “liking,” and sharing the message with others. That’s all well and good. We need more people to be aware of this issue!

We can’t let our outrage end with a comment on Facebook.

We — each of us — needs to take the time and contact the appropriate people in the Indiana legislature. Indiana residents can find their legislators here and members of the House Ways and Means Committee here. If you live out of state, it is suggested that you contact Rep. Timothy Brown, the Chair of the House Ways and Means Committee. (His page has contact info and a link on the left-hand side of the page to send email.)

It only takes a few minutes to make your voice heard beyond Facebook.

Here’s My Message

I sent the following message to Rep. Brown. Your message doesn’t have to be this long. I encourage you to send something. And I thank you in advance for doing so.

Dear Rep. Brown,

I am writing to you today concerning HB 1001, the Indiana State Budget. I am someone who spends time researching at the Indiana State Library (ISL). The proposed cuts to the ISL would be devastating and far-reaching.

The elimination of the Genealogy Department at the Indiana State Library would have a negative financial impact on the state of Indiana. I live in Ohio. When I come to do genealogy and local history research at the ISL, I typically spend 2 or 3 days in town. While I’m there, I stay at a hotel and eat in local restaurants. I shop. I put gas in my car before heading back to Ohio. All of that is new money in your state, and all of it goes away if there is no genealogy department at the Indiana State Library.

The ISL has materials that are unique; many of the materials are not found anywhere else and are not online. These materials fall outside of the scope of the Indiana State Museum and the Indiana Historical Bureau. The Indiana Historical Society is a private entity. The Indianapolis Public Library is a local institution and has already declared that they will not spend resources on maintaining a genealogy collection.

Having the materials currently in the ISL Genealogy Department in one place, with the knowledgeable staff at ISL, is an incredible resource for Indiana history.

Let’s be clear — the resources in the Genealogy Department are not just for finding your family history. There is local history, social history, and military history. In short, it is the history of the people of Indiana.

Indiana will be celebrating its bicentennial in 2016. I have heard state officials talk about encouraging people to “come home to Indiana.” How ironic  and how tragic it would be if they were to come home, only to find that the history of their state — their history — is gone.

I urge you to restore funding to the Indiana State Library and preserve the Genealogy Department. The dollars spent on the Genealogy Department have a positive financial impact on the state of Indiana in bringing in out-of-state people such as myself. It is also vitally important that the people of Indiana be able to discover their state’s rich history.

Thank you.

Are Your Ancestors the Average of 5 Records?

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“You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” ~~Jim Rohn

Jeff Goins included this quote in a recent newsletter and it got me thinking. If we are shaped by the people whom we surround ourselves, what about our ancestors? No doubt that they were influenced by other family members and the neighbors.

But what about our perception of our ancestors? What shapes that “sense of identity” that we form about them? Since we can’t speak directly to most of them, we have to rely on the records they left behind.

The question we need to consider is “What records are we surrounding them with?”

The 5 Records

There are 5 basic records that we look for and tend to be the ones we spend the most time with:

  1. Birth record
  2. Marriage record
  3. Death record
  4. Census
  5. Either an obituary or a tombstone

These can be great records. We need to look for them! (I won’t go into why we need to look for our ancestors in every census; I’ll leave that soapbox for another time!) The problem is when we stop with these records.

The Problem With Averages

Averages don’t give a complete picture. They don’t reflect the high points and low points. They don’t show the oddities. They only show the middle ground.

The 5 basic records put together a framework — an average — of that person. But there are so many more records that can fill in the highs and the lows, the everyday facts and the outlier events.

Military. Probate. Church. Court. Newspapers. Diaries. Land. Tax. School. Guardianship. Pension. Institutional. Organization. Business. License. Letters. Each of these — and many more — will add something new to the equation and can change that “average” view that you have.

It’s easy to fall into a rut with your research. Don’t feel bad — it happens to all of us! Take a look around and ask yourself if you’re letting your ancestors be the average of just 5 records. Then ask yourself what will be record #6 and beyond.

Are your ancestors the average of 5 records

52 Ancestors Challenge 2015: Week 3 Recap

Posted in 52 Ancestors Challenge on by .

52ancestors-2015-03It’s Week 3 of the 52 Ancestors Challenge and participants are going strong!

A Note About Posting Links

One of the benefits of blogging about your ancestors is finding cousins. Make it easy for them to find you and your post! When you post your link in the comments, include the ancestor’s name and a brief description (maybe the location or an interesting tidbit). For example:

RAMSEY, John of Perry County, Ohio. He came to a fiery end.

Also, please wait until the weekly recap to post your links. Adding your links on the recap posts keeps them all in one place and makes it easier for people to browse. (Again, make it easy for your cousins to find you!)

On With the Good Stuff

The Week 3 theme of “Tough Woman” brought out the stories of perseverance — either in our ancestors or in us trying to find them!

Hollie Ann Henke on Relativity told how her ancestor wanted to be a Superwoman. Karen Ramon of Diggin’ Up Dead People wrote about her grandmother, who saw the loss of siblings and, later, her own children. Amy K. showed just because your ancestor was related to a famous family doesn’t mean that she’ll be easy to research. Wendy of Jollett, Etc. showed how hard it is to research your ancestor when there are so many with the same name.

My contribution this week was about Amanda Wilson Lowers, who my grandma described as “a big, husky, raw-boned female and I was half afraid of her.”

Who did you write about this week? Leave a link in comments below! Also, be sure to go back and look at the contributions from Week 1 and Week 2. There are some incredible posts out there!

week3-twitterUpcoming Optional Themes:

  • Week 4 (Jan 22 – 28) – Closest to your birthday
  • Week 5 (Jan 29 – Feb 4) – Plowing through
  • February themes

Amanda Wilson Lowers: A Raw-Boned Female (52 Ancestors #3)

Posted in 52 Ancestors Challenge, Memories on by .

Amanda Wilson Lowers was the second wife of my 3rd-great-grandfather Philip Mason. They were married just 12 days after her divorce from Weeden Lowers was granted. She intrigued me even before that discovery. My Grandma included a wonderful story about her in her memoirs. (Grandma had a LOT of stories. This one is among my favorites.) “Granny Mandy” came to help after my Grandma’s brother Harold was born in March 1909. I’ll let Grandma tell you what happened…

Granny Mandy

I know my aunt Laura came to stay with us for awhile, and she and Mother would sew a lot and then my mother’s grandfather’s wife came to stay with us until Mother was strong after the baby was born. The reason my mother didn’t call this old lady “grandmother” was because she was her grandfather’s second wife.

She was a big, husky, raw-boned female and she rubbed snuff. She was quite a yarn teller and I was half afraid of her. She teased me a lot and every time she would take my little baby brother to take care of him, she would make the awfullest face and say, “Kikee, Kikee, I’m goin’ to throw him in the swamp,” and many times I went to sleep with the frogs croaking: ker-ching, kerchunk, kerchunk.

Well, I thought for sure she meant just what she said. One day Granny Mandy (that’s what they called her), she went down the walk to the little house at the end and, while she was in there, I sneaked up real gently and turned the button on the door. Sometimes when I was in there, the button would get across the door, but I would reach my finger in the crack and turn the button. But poor old granny had rheumatism in her fingers and the joints were big and she couldn’t get her finger through the crack.

At first I thought of her crooked finger. I’ll go back and unlock the door. And then the little imp that sits on your shoulder said, “Let her work to get out.”

So I ran to the house. I was in the house quite awhile and Mother called me and asked where Granny was, and I said, “Oh, I shut her up in the privie.” Mother said, “What did you do that for? You go let her out right this minute.” I said, “I will if she will promise not to throw my baby brother in the swamp.”

So I went out and Granny was sure doing some hollering. I run up and turned the button real quick and away I run, back to the house to my mother. Granny comes in with a little switch, going to give me a little switching. So Mother told her why I shut her up. Poor old soul said, “Oh, you poor baby, didn’t you know Granny was only teasing you?” And she wanted to hug me and love me, but I didn’t want her to. I didn’t quite trust her.

Philip Mason and Amanda Wilson Lowers Mason

Philip Mason and Amanda Wilson Lowers Mason

Amanda Wilson, daughter of William L. and Anna Wilson, married Weeden Lowers in Ritchie County, West Virginia on 1 January 1878.1)Weeden Lowers and Mandy Wilson marriage record, Ritchie County, West Virginia marriage volume (unnumbered volume), page 37, digitized by West Virginia Archives and History. They divorced 21 June 1894.2)Pension file of Philip Mason, File # 467,962, National Archives, Washington, DC. Amanda died sometime after 1914, the date of her last statement in her Civil War pension file.

References   [ + ]

1. Weeden Lowers and Mandy Wilson marriage record, Ritchie County, West Virginia marriage volume (unnumbered volume), page 37, digitized by West Virginia Archives and History.
2. Pension file of Philip Mason, File # 467,962, National Archives, Washington, DC.

February 2015 Themes for 52 Ancestors

Posted in 52 Ancestors Challenge on by .

It looks like the themes really helped in the first two weeks of 2015! It’s not too early to start thinking about which ancestors you’d like to write about next month. So, to spark some ideas, here are the optional themes for February:

52 Ancestors February 2015 Optional Themes

Week 6 (Feb 5-11) – So Far Away. Which ancestor is the farthest from you, either in distance or in time/generations? Which ancestor have you had to go the farthest away to research?

Week 7 (Feb 12-18) – Love. Which ancestor do you love to research? Which ancestor do you feel especially close to? Which ancestor seemed to have a lot of love? (My 3rd-great-grandmother Matilda Debolt Skinner Crossen Brown McFillen seems to fit this bill!)

Week 8 (Feb 19-25) – Good Deeds. Does this mean a generous ancestor or one you found through land records? You decide :)

Week 9 (Feb 26-Mar 4) – Close to Home. Which ancestor is the closest to where you live? Who has a story that hits “close to home”?

The weekly recaps will be posted on Thursdays; you can add your links then. I look forward to seeing your posts!

52 Ancestors Challenge 2015: Week 2 Recap

Posted in 52 Ancestors Challenge on by .

52ancestors-2015-02Bloggers are a creative bunch of people. Not only does writing about our ancestors open us up to new possibilities with our research, even playing with words gets us to think about who to research. I had a feeling that the optional weekly themes would do that, and it was certainly evident with the Week 2 theme: King.

Several people went with the “royalty” route. Niki Davis on Rooted in Foods gave a brief history of one of her possible ancestors, Robert the Bruce. Valerie Hughes on Genealogy With Valerie used “king” as a location and wrote about Francis Thornton Strother because he was born in King County, Virginia. Penny Bicknell on A Branch Too Far went through the origins of the word “king,” which lead her to highlight her grandfather. Similarly, Yvonne Demoskoff of Yvonne’s Genealogy Blog wrote about her ancestor Louise Roy, because “Roy” means “king” in French.

I, too, went with the surname. I wrote about my third-great-grandmother Mary Ann King, daughter of Alexander and Nancy (Payne) King and wife of John Murnahan.

Who did you write about this week? Leave a note with a link in the comments below. (Be sure to include the person’s name and a little bit about them. It makes it easier for others to scan through and spot names that they’re researching!)

week2-twitterUpcoming Optional Themes:

  • Week 3 (Jan 15-21) – Tough woman
  • Week 4 (Jan 22 – 28) – Closest to your birthday
  • Week 5 (Jan 29 – Feb 4) – Plowing through

Mary Ann King Murnahan: The Bare Bones of a Life (52 Ancestors #2)

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This post was for Week 2 of 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks. Theme: “King.” (See what I did there? )

Mary Ann King, my 3rd-great-grandmother, is one of those ancestors for whom I don’t have a ton of information. I only have the bare bones of her life.

She was born 1 December 1820 in “Nicholas county, Virginia.”1)Historical hand atlas containing map of Gallia County, and histories of Lawrence and Gallia counties, Ohio, (Chicago: H.H. Hardesty, 1882), p. 22. This is according to a county history published in 1882, which makes me wonder about the place. Did they mean Nicholas County which was Virginia when Mary Ann was born, but turned into Nicholas County, West Virginia in 1863? Did they mean Nicholas, Fluvanna County, Virginia? To figure that out, I’ll need to research her parents, Alexander and Nancy (Payne) King, as well as her siblings.

Mary Ann married John Murnahan on 24 June 1838 in Lawrence County, Ohio.2), Ohio, County Marriages, 1789-1997, John Murnahan and Mary Ann King marriage, Lawrence County marriage vol. 1-3, p. 276. Together, they had 10 (count ‘em – 10!) children:

  • Elizabeth Jane, born 3 July 1840 (my great-great-grandmother)
  • Nancy, born 4 April 1842
  • Sarah, born 16 June 1844
  • John M., born 26 September 1846
  • Mary, born 24 January 1850
  • Missouri, born 1 August 1853
  • America, born 19 September 1856
  • Sophronia, born 28 December 1858
  • Levi, born circa 1859
  • George, born 1 January 1862

Mary Ann lived with her daughter America and her family in Lawrence County in 1900.3)Wilson Lewis household, 1900 federal census, Lawrence Twp., Lawrence County, Ohio, ED 70, sheet 16A, nos. 270/275. That census is the last record that I have for Mary Ann.

References   [ + ]

1. Historical hand atlas containing map of Gallia County, and histories of Lawrence and Gallia counties, Ohio, (Chicago: H.H. Hardesty, 1882), p. 22.
2., Ohio, County Marriages, 1789-1997, John Murnahan and Mary Ann King marriage, Lawrence County marriage vol. 1-3, p. 276.
3. Wilson Lewis household, 1900 federal census, Lawrence Twp., Lawrence County, Ohio, ED 70, sheet 16A, nos. 270/275.

Instead of Failing, Read the Instructions

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“When all else fails, read the instructions.”

How often have we heard that adage? How about reading the instructions before — and instead of — failing? It’s a strategy we should use in our genealogy.

It’s easy to be lured into searching a new website or a new database because its title seems to include everything. When we don’t find what we’re looking for, we go away thinking that our ancestor wasn’t <fill in the blank> — wasn’t born in that place during that time, wasn’t married in that state, wasn’t buried in that cemetery.

The problem with that conclusion is that it could be totally and completely wrong. Fortunately, there is a way to get around this.

read-instructionsRead the instructions.

A friend of mine on Facebook shared that FamilySearch has updated its collection of Ohio death records: Ohio, County Death Records, 1840-2001. Death records for Ohio through 2001?! Awesome!

There’s just one drawback. It doesn’t cover every county for all of those years. From the description of this database:

Index and images of death records from county courthouses. In some instances we did not have rights to publish images of records included in the index. Most of the records in this collection are death registers created before statewide death certificates in 1908. Death certificates issued by the state are published in the collection called Ohio Deaths, 1908-1953.1)FamilySearch, Ohio, County Death Records, 1840-2001. Accessed 13 January 2015.

This is our clue that this doesn’t have all of the death records for the entire state of Ohio from 1840-2001. Unfortunately, there’s no direct link to tell what is included. For that, we can browse the collection and look at what is included for individual counties. Belmont County has death certificates ranging from 1940 through 1982 (for some letters). Athens County has Death Records, 1867-1908 and Soldiers burial records, 1898-1912. Delaware County only has Death Records, 1867-1907.

Let’s say I’m looking for someone who I think died in Ohio in 1960. If he died in Belmont County, I might find them in this collection. If he died in Delaware County, I won’t. It isn’t that he didn’t die in Ohio. He just died in a county in a time that isn’t included in this collection. That’s a big difference than “he didn’t die in Ohio.”

It’s Everywhere

My example is from FamilySearch, but it could be any website – commercial or non-profit. Ideally, there’s a page (or at least a paragraph!) describing what is in that database and where it came from. Look for links that say “Learn more” or “About this collection.”

Archives have followed this pattern for years. It’s common practice to name a collection with the date of the earliest record and the date of the newest record that it contains. “Smith family papers, 1830-1912.” Sometimes they will add to the title “[bulk 1861-1895]” to indicate that most of the records are in this time span. (Yes, the Smith family papers has something dated 1830 and 1912, but most of the papers are from 1861-1895.) However, sometimes it’s in the collection’s description and not the title.

Yes, Even Books

You would think that a book that’s titled Franklin County, Ohio, cemeteries, vol. 2 Madison Township2)Franklin County Genealogical Society. Franklin County, Ohio, cemeteries, vol. 2 Madison Township. Columbus: by the society, 1980. would contain readings from all of the legible tombstones in those cemeteries. So you turn to the back of the book for the index, look for your ancestor and don’t find them. Well, they must not be buried in Madison Township (or maybe they have an illegible stone); either way, there’s no tombstone to find. Right? Wrong.

In the section for Union Grove Cemetery is this notice:

“Stones with death dates through 1920 were included in this reading.”

If your ancestor might be buried in Union Grove. But if he died after 1920, he’s not in this book.

Explore Before You Search

So often, we see a website or a new database whose title tantalizes us and brings visions of finding that Brick Wall Ancestor. We dive right in, doing search after search. Sometimes we find what we’re looking for, but often we walk away without any new information. What’s worse is that we leave thinking that our ancestor wasn’t part of whatever that collection was about.

It’s normal to be excited about a new database or a new book. But don’t set yourself up for failure. Take a minute or two and explore what that database or book is all about. You’ll have much more success this way.

References   [ + ]

1. FamilySearch, Ohio, County Death Records, 1840-2001. Accessed 13 January 2015.
2. Franklin County Genealogical Society. Franklin County, Ohio, cemeteries, vol. 2 Madison Township. Columbus: by the society, 1980.

Major Changes to the Genealogy Dept. at Columbus Metropolitan Library

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If you’re planning on doing any genealogy or local history research at the Columbus Metropolitan Library after February 1, take notice. The Genealogy and Local History department is going to be closed starting February 1 until sometime in April when they will reopen in a temporary facility in Whitehall (about 15-20 minutes east of downtown). Materials in the temporary facility will be limited. (See details below.)

If you’re planning on researching there during the OGS conference, please check with them first to see if they’ve opened in the temporary facility.

This is from an email I just received from the Columbus Metropolitan Library (emphasis added):

From Columbus Metropolitan Library:

We’re transforming Main Library to create a 21st century library for you. The renovation begins Feb. 1, 2015 and you’ll see significant changes to our Local History & Genealogy services.

The Local History & Genealogy division at Main Library will close on February 1. Staff will be available for phone and email reference (

Local History & Genealogy services will reopen in April at a temporary location in the former Whitehall Branch at 4371 E. Broad St., once the new Whitehall Branch at 4445 E. Broad St. opens to the public.

Full Local History & Genealogy services will be back and better than ever once the transformation of Main Library is complete in August 2016.

What you need to know:

The Collection

We’re digitizing portions of our collection so they will be available online.

The entire map collection will be available online. No physical maps will be available at the temporary location.

Columbus local history and Ohio genealogy books will be available and the collection of physical books will be smaller at the temporary location. Call or check the catalog before you visit.

The rest of the collection will be stored and returned to the shelves when services move back to Main Library after the renovation.


Microfilm will be unavailable until Local History & Genealogy services reopen at the temporary Whitehall location in April.

Only microfilm of Columbus genealogy records, the Columbus Dispatch and other Columbus newspapers will be available at the temporary location.

The rest will be available through a request process:

  • Requests for microfilm must be made at the temporary Local History & Genealogy Whitehall location.
  • The requested microfilm will be pulled from storage at Main Library and sent to the Whitehall location.
  • You will be called when the requested microfilm is available to be viewed at the Whitehall location.

Main Library’s Local History & Genealogy staff will be at the temporary Whitehall location, ready to help you with all of your research needs.

Visit our website for up-to-date information.

"An enhanced front plaza will greet customers along Grant Ave." Image courtesy of the Columbus Metropolitan Library.

“An enhanced front plaza will greet customers along Grant Ave.” Image courtesy of the Columbus Metropolitan Library.

52 Ancestors Challenge 2015: Week 1 Recap

Posted in 52 Ancestors Challenge on by .

52ancestors-2015Welcome to a new year of 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks! For those of you who are new to the Challenge this year, I hope that you enjoy it as much as I did last year! To the veterans of the Challenge, I hope you continue to find it rewarding.

This year, we’re shaking it up a bit with optional weekly themes. This week’s theme was “Fresh Start.” I enjoyed seeing everyone’s take on it. Some focused on ancestors who made a fresh start. Ms. Genealogy wrote about her ancestor Hugh Brawley, who left Scotland to make a fresh start in Pennsylvania. Cheri Hudson Passey’s great-great-grandfather may or may not have had a fresh start somewhere. Julia Dumas’s 3rd-great-great-grandfather Pierre Jacques Caire is her most recent immigrant to the U.S.

Other bloggers opted to look at ancestors who they wanted a fresh start with their researching. That’s what Eileen Souza decided to do with her 3rd-great-grandfather Peter Strausser.

I used a little bit of both. Stephen Amos Hibbs made a fresh start in Iowa after being a Confederate sympathizer in West Virginia. He’s also the brother of my 3rd-great-grandmother, rather than an actual ancestor of mine. It’s part of my fresh start this year on the collaterals in my family tree.

Who did you write about for Week 1? Leave a comment below with a link. We’d love to read it!

week1-twitterUpcoming Optional Themes:

  • Week 2 (Jan 8-14) – King
  • Week 3 (Jan 15-21) – Tough woman
  • Week 4 (Jan 22 – 28) – Closest to your birthday
  • Week 5 (Jan 29 – Feb 4) – Plowing through