Why no posts lately?

clock-6I have been obsessed about working on my portfolio for the Board for Certification of Genealogists! That’s why!🙂

Ever since I got home from my summer sabbatical to the Midwest, I have been working on the portfolio with a vengeance.  I cannot (or won’t) tell you when it gets submitted, but I have yet to push the button that sends it off to BCG.

Here are some of the topics I am going to cover in the future:

  • Methodology used to keep the footnotes very consistent
  • What would I do differently?  what would I do the same?
  • What were the “wrap-up tasks” I did in the final days before getting it out the door?
  • Did I incorporate a lot from my summer trip into the document?
  • What resources were most valuable to completing the portfolio?
  • and others that I can only imagine at this point.

After I get those blog posts done (and perhaps interspersed with them), I plan on starting a new series that mirrors Liz Covart’s “Doing History” series.  I have her permission to use the titles of the series, review her content, apply her topics to genealogy and then write about it.  She has assured me that in November and December she will be interviewing genealogists for her regular series, Ben Franklin’s World.  If you are not familiar with her podcasts,take a minute to check out her website. Her reviews of books on topics related to history of the early United States sustained me on my driving trip through the Midwest.  Her sub-series on “Doing History” is sponsored through the Omohundro Institute of Early American History and Culture.

So, stay tuned to get inundated (well, probably not.)

Happy hunting!


What I have done since the last posting: worked on my portfolio, spoke to the Sno-Isle Genealogical Society (Solving Family Myths) and the Susan Woodin DAR (Finding Dirk: Insanity in the 19th c.). I also made the invitations to a party in Boston to celebrate my daughter’s wedding. I listened to Paula Stuart-Warren talking about finding information in historical journals.  She spent much time talking about JSTOR.

The Importance of Good Note-Taking

courthouse-hardin-iaAt one of my first repositories [1] I visited on my 6 week Midwest trip this summer, I realized I had not really thought about how I should record the findings or lack thereof.  Realizing I would visit a large number of repositories, I stopped and gave it some thought. Here is how I took notes and gathered documents from courthouses, libraries, archives and other repositories.

I record my findings in a Word document. For my Midwestern research trip just completed, I created a separate documents for each geographic area where I researched: northern Iowa, southern Iowa and Illinois. Each document became a journal of my journey. At the top of the page, I titled the document with the name of the region and then I listed the repository and office name, if appropriate, and location, e.g. Hancock County Courthouse, Clerk of the Court, Garner, Iowa. This is in bold and dated. It also might include names of individuals who were particularly helpful along the way.

I then typed what I was looking for (e.g. deeds from 1895-1954) and the name of the person(s) of interest. This exercise formulated the research question for that particular repository and forced me to focus on the individuals who I might find in that particular repository. It also served as a reminder if I went off topic to do some “bright shiny object” research! All this could be done in advance.

Early in my journey, I mostly looked for deeds and I found many. For deeds, I recorded the grantee, grantor, the date of filing, the volume and page number and sometimes the locational information from the index entry.  I did this for all the dates of interest for each of the person(s) of interest. Then, I  gathered the deeds themselves.

An aside:
Most of the courthouses I visited preferred me taking a photo rather than making a photocopy.  A photocopy bends the bindings too much on fragile documents and a photograph can be taken in place and takes no staff time– or paper and ink. That was not true in Illinois courthouses where I could not even take my computer or phone/camera into the building.

If I took a photo, I always asked if they wanted me to pay them for the number of photos taken as if I had made a photocopy. Two courthouses willingly took my money.  Most did not want to be bothered, but I think they appreciated my asking.

But, back to the recording…. Once I found the deed based on the information I had obtained from the index, I would copy it or take a photo,. I then changed the color of the index entry to green. If I didn’t find it (rare), I changed it to red.  It stayed in black type if I decided not to pull it.  I didn’t pull all the deeds I identified. Certainly if there were any anomalies to the deed or it’s recording, I would expand my notes.

For each document type, I made sure I had all the information necessary for a citation by taking a “stab” at writing it up. Then I made sure I captured all the necessary info in the photo for each unique deed.

In Iowa, the county courthouse is the repository for many of the documents genealogists seek.  It was usually my first stop.  The Recorder holds the deeds and the vital records.  The Clerk of the Court holds the naturalizations, probate records and court filings.

Sometimes the office does not have the record but the records has instead been moved to a historical society, genealogical society or even in one case, to a person’s home to be indexed. I make a note of that and the contact information.

I record positive and negative findings.

If I were to start again here are some recommendations:

  1. I would create a separate Word doc for each repository and if a courthouse, for each office of the court.
  2. I would be as diligent about recording negative findings as I was at the end of my trip at the beginning.
  3. I would note if I took a photo of a particular document.
  4. I would be more prepared to take advantage of access to vital records.  (These could only be transcribed; no photos.)
  5. I generally did an online catalog search the night before visiting, but I still made some rookie mistakes such as trying to take my computer into the IL courthouse or arriving 30 minutes before they opened.
  6. I would do more organizing of the past day’s findings at night–but I admit, I was exhausted!

I hope these experiences help you.  Perhaps you have some recommendations to share with me?  I would love to hear them.  Just make a comment in the comment section.

You also might like to hear about how historians record their findings.  Check out this episode of Ben Franklin’s World, hosted by Liz Covart, one of my favorite podcasts which I listened to while driving. I was happy to hear that of all the many systems discussed, a Word document seemed to be the best for Liz and her expert guest.

Happy Hunting!


What I have done since the last post: yoga, cleaned out the car and getting charged up to work on my KDP tomorrow.

[1] Hardin County (Eldora, IA) Courthouse, 2016; photograph taken 9 August 2016 and privately held by Jill Morelli, Seattle, WA. Ms. Morelli took the photograph on her genealogy research trip to the Midwest in July-September 2016.

Home again!

jacobson-chris-funeral-arrangementsI have now arrived home and am faced with the work of analyzing the mounds of information which I “harvested” on my trip through the Midwest. “Harvest” is the best word, because I recognize that my itinerary and timeline did not allow me to take as much care as I might want with each document at the time I gathered it.

So how will I do this?

  1. I have to focus on my portfolio for certification; therefore, I will separate the items which pertain to the portfolio first.  There are three documents or sets which are important:
    1. Naturalization papers (first and final papers) of John/Jan Cornelius Bode.
    2. Church papers from Christian Reformed Church, Leighton, Iowa, founded by my ancestor in 1895. This is a more arduous task as transcription may be in order and there are many pages.  It is possible also that nothing from these documents will make the portfolio.
    3. Study the will I found in courthouse and compare to online version which I am using in my transcription element of my portfolio. They are different, but how different?
    4. Negative findings are important too.  I have to figure out how these work into my paper.
  2. I need to incorporate my new findings about Dirk Bode into my “Finding Dirk!” presentation which I am giving in October.
    1. New photos taken at the Peoria site of the buildings
    2. New photos taken of the grave of Dirk
    3. information from the conservator
    4. Information found in the probate and conservator packet including that the family visited Dirk while in the asylum, sent Christmas presents annually and “pin money” for him.
  3. Everything else.
    1. Scads of deeds, photos and even the funeral director’s notes on the automobile procession for my grandfather’s funeral (see above.) [1]
    2. Newspaper notices of the bankruptcy of my grandfather, particularly the loss of his bank in 1931/1932. (Note to self: actual court documents may be in NARA in St. Louis.)
    3. Investigation of the individuals at the Elgin Insane Asylum, looking for evidence of PTSD.
    4. Article on what one might find in court minutes at the county level. (I have no idea who might like to publish this one.)

I think that’s enough for a while!  (Couple the above with a 1 week vacation in the San Juans with friends from OK, a 3 part Beginning Swedish Genealogy class starting October 26 and a number of Saturday presentations and seminars, including one in Indiana with Anne Staley–I think I will have a very busy Fall.)

Happy hunting!


What I have done since the last post:  traveled to Seattle–14 hours of driving time from my brother’s place in WY.  And unpacking the car–which is no mean feat when you realize I have been living out of it for six weeks. I am glad to be home, as is my cat!

[1] Kenneth F. Boughton, “Funeral Arrangements,” notes for the procession for Mrs. Chris Jacobson, (MS, Britt, Iowa, 7 September 1941); privately held by Betty (Jacobson) Anderson, [address for private use,] Donners Grove, Illinois, 2016. Ms. Anderson is the daughter of Mrs. Chris “Emma” (Anderson) Jacobson.

Repositories I Know & Love!

deeds-in-courthouse-iaI have been on a research “sabbatical” for six weeks this summer, traveling from Seattle to Chicago and back. As I traveled, I researched my family in Minnesota, Iowa, and Illinois.  The trip was a testament to the need to look beyond the internet to find information about our ancestors.

I’d like to say that I was super prepared for each repository and had a written plan for each I visited. But, that would be a lie. Sometimes I had a written plan–3-4 items I wished to find, but sometimes, I was thinking about it on the drive to the building. The latter “Last Minute Planning” did not occur often. I did identify a problem that each repository could possibility assist with; I usually knew what specific record I wanted and I had a methodology for taking notes (the latter I will cover in a blog post later.)

I had some basic themes:

  • find naturalization records for:
    • my paternal grandfather (Chris Jacobson) and
    • my maternal great great grandfather (John C. Bode).
    • my maternal great grandfather (Hendrik J. Bode)
  • Obtain probate records for Henry Bode and church records in Leighton, Iowa.
  • Verify residence of Eda Berg and her family between 1862 and 1871.

Here is a list of all the repositories I visited. There is only one that I visited “online” while on the road!

  1. BYU Harold Lee Library, Provo, Utah: in my previous post I noted that I should have done research here, but didn’t know the extent of their holdings until too late.  Oh, well.  That happens too.
  2. Ostfriesen Genealogical Society of America Library, Minneapolis, MN: New this year was the index to the “Quellen und Forschungen”, the journal of the genealogical society in Ostfriesland’s journal. I was excited as this journal is very difficult to search since there is  not even an index for individual issues and it is written in German. OGSA also had the new Weener OSB. Result? No findings for the “fam” in Q & F (surprising because they owned land.) and nothing new in the OSB.
  3. Newspaper archives of the Britt News-Tribute, held by the Summit newspaper system in Forest City, IA: Great success here! Found my grandfather’s declaration of bankruptcy and my other grandfather’s first advertisement for his new business. While these are filmed, it was far easier to skim the originals as the films were so dark.
  4. Hancock County IA Courthouse: Good documentation here.  No naturalization of my paternal grandfather, but picked up lots of deeds and probate records.
  5. Garner, IA, Public Library: newspapers, plat maps. They had the newspapers from number 3 above on film, but they were too dark to read.
  6. Hardin County Courthouse: This repository was a goal. Probate, deeds and naturalizations. LOTS of deeds here. A deed with my great grandmother’s name established her residency in the county in December of 1871, a previously undocumented date. Now, why can’t I find them in the 1870 census?
  7. Cerro Gordo County Courthouse: Went looking for my grandfather Jacobson’s naturalization records but they had been moved to library. See no. 8.
  8. Mason City Public Library: naturalizations (Grandfather’s naturalization not there. I have now narrowed my repositories down to 97 counties in which to look!)
  9. Wright County Court house in Clarion, IA: found some land records.
  10. Grundy County Courthouse in Grundy Center, IA: Found the probate for my great grandfather in this surprise location. See no. 19 below. I also found, land deeds and naturalizations of collaterals.
  11. Wellsburg, IA Public Library: general genealogical search of collection; I thought they had tax assessments. of the county They did…for the wrong years & the wrong township; others thrown away. But, I had some fun conversations with two Ostfriesen cousins.
  12. Butler County Courthouse in Allison, IA: Found probate, and deeds
  13. Franklin County Courthouse in IA: Probate, deeds and naturalizations. Found that great grandfather (Ryke Berends Rykena) was certified insane by court late in life and son was named guardian.  Access to these records was, of course, restricted . Next task: figure out the access laws for Iowa mental health records.  (Note to self: probably dementia.)
  14. Northern District Bankruptcy Court in Cedar Rapids, IA: I looked for bankruptcy records of John Bode. Clerk stated that records were moved and then thrown away after they were moved to KC NARA. That sounded suspicious.
  15. [Online] NARA catalog in Kansas City, MO: for bankruptcy documents (need to check more thoroughly, but may have bankruptcy documents that no. 14 thought were thrown away.)
  16. Iowa State Historical Society in Iowa City, IA: Iowa has two state repositories and the collections are not exactly identical! I had just a little time in Iowa but more time in Des Moines. While in Iowa HS, I first identified if the record was also available in Des Moines (no. 17 below).  Since I had scheduled more time in DM, I postponed any research that I could do there.  I found a terrific dissertation on the banking crisis from 1929 to 1933 from an Iowa perspective.  My grandfather’s bank one of 7000 private banks in the country in 1930; his bank failed in 1931/2. This was not “research”, which implies analysis.  This was “harvesting.”
  17. Iowa State Historical Society in Des Moines, IA: Spent laborious time looking for the naturalization records of my paternal grandfather Jacobson. There are 99 counties in Iowa. I reviewed the naturalization records of seven of them.  Knowing that my grandfather was also not naturalized in Hancock means I have 91 to go.
  18. Des Moines Genealogical Society Library in Des Moines, IA: The Library is located across the street from the Historical Society. Susan gave me a very nice tour of their holdings.  Alice (CG), Rikkie (on-the-clock) and I discussed certification.  What I needed was in the Iowa State Historical Society (no. 17 above) so I did no research at the GS, but I did put a donation in the cup.
  19. Mahaska County Courthouse in Oskaloosa, IA: I was looking for probate and land records here and found nothing.  I thought that Henry might have owned a farm or a house in Lieghton (pronounced “Lie-ton”) but it appears that they either used a parishioner’s house or a house bought by the congregation. No probate here but I found the probate packet for him in no. 10 above.
  20. Christian Reformed Church in Leighton, IA: Big time win here! Henry, Ed and Dorothy were so helpful!  I was given the deluxe tour of the church and although the original church had been torn down, my guides showed me the items that had moved from the original church where my great grandfather preached, including the Bible.  Then, we went to the bank and rooted around in their original church books. Good people.
  21. Swenson Research Center in Rock Island IL: This was a short stop but Jill Seaholm was very gracious, giving me an indepth tour of the research area and stacks.  Interesting to talk to her about what they accept and reject.  Came away with some great additions for the SGS library. My goal was to meet Jill and establish a relationship. Goal achieved.
  22. Stephenson County IL Court house, in Freeport IL: BINGO! Although I found nothing on the elusive Freidrick Eilers, I found the naturalization of my maternal great grandfather.  But, the big coup–they handed me the probate packets for Dirk Bode (insane). My presentation on insanity just got an added dimension.
  23. Freeport Public Library: (a bit of a stretch to count this one) hot and humid outside and so I decided to visit the FPL. I researched derivative naturalization for children in the 1800s.  My great great grandfather got his citizenship on 13 December 1859 and my great grandfather was just 14 at the time!  He and his siblings became citizens using “derivative naturalization”.
  24. Bartonville IL (Peoria) Hospital cemetery for the mentally ill, in Peoria, IL: Memorable surprise find here! Is a cemetery a repository?  It is when it has my ancestor who was confined to an asylum for his entire adult life. Death certificate not found….anywhere. only two “documents” give direct evidence of his death– a probate document in Stephenson County and his tombstone.
  25. Bartonville IL (Peoria) Museum:  I found some great maps which showed which buildings were present when Dirk was there. Christine was incredibly knowledgeable and helpful and changed my view of what happened to Dirk. There really are no records available for Dirk.  They do not exist because they were thrown away years ago.
  26. Abraham Lincoln Library in Springfield, IL: The presidential library has many newspapers and I reviewed several looking for the elusive Friedrick Eilers (not found), and the original newspaper of the obituary i have (not found) and references to Eda Berg and her family (nada, nothing).
  27. Illinois State Archive: This was a late add to the list.  The WPA transcribed court minutes for Stephenson County in 1940. These records are held at the Illinois State Archives.  I had a great time reviewing these records.  While I learned lots about the community, I found no Bergs, Bodes or Eilerts.
  28. This is totally a late add:  Why didn’t I think of my Aunt Betty!  My cousin and I poured over her albums and loose papers.  I even found the mortuary’s folder which included who would drive the cars to the cemetery, who would be in which cars and the order of the procession.

How did I do?

  • naturalization records for:
    • my paternal grandfather (Chris Jacobson) : not found
    • my maternal great great grandfather (John C. Bode) found
    • my maternal great grandfather (Hendrik J. Bode): his was a derivative naturalization
  • Obtain probate records for Henry Bode and any church records: found
  • Verify residence of Eda Berg and her family between 1862 and 1871: no new info except a verification of their residence in Iowa in late 1871..


Bonus items received but not anticipated:

  • Probate and conservator packets on Dirk Bode
  • seeing Dirk Bode’s tombstone
  • holding Henry Bode’s Bible and seeing his lecturn.

It’s been a great trip!  I am now mentally to head home.  I will be leaving the conference on Saturday and heading back to Seattle.

Happy hunting!



Consider Researching at BYU Library

BYU LibraryThe subtitle for this posting could be “Why you might do your research in Provo, rather than the Family History Library in SLC.”

What?! Heresy!

Yesterday, I had the opportunity to tour the Religion & Family History section of the Brigham Young University Harold B. Lee Library located in Provo, Utah, where I am attending the BYU Family History & Genealogy conference. And, I was very impressed.

Here is why it may be reasonable for you to do your genealogy research at this library especially if you are looking at film.  Here are some of the benefits:

  1. The library received a large number of duplicate films (not complete) from FHL many years ago. These are now a part of their permanent collection.
  2. Any film that is requested to be delivered to the BYU library is then held permanently in the Library’s collection–forever. It is not returned to FHL
  3. If you order film and have it delivered to the BYU library, you pay no fee. (However–there is no special expedited service for BYU.)
  4. The Library serves an academic community and therefore, their online databases include over 35 different newspaper databases plus hundreds of others that are helpful to genealogists.
  5. The hours the library is open are much longer than FHL.
  6. The library has terrific equipment which is very sophisticated — multiple scanning machines, film readers, copy machines, slide and book scanners, etc.
  7. You can reserve a scanner in advance and online.

To find if your film of interest is in the BYU library: Using the FHL catalog, find your film.  Click on the hyperlink that refers to finding the film at WorldCat.  If BYU comes up–the film is held in their collection.

THAT’S why you might find it more reasonable to research in Provo instead of Salt Lake City, especially if you find yourself in Provo.

Happy Hunting!


What I have done since the last posting: It has been some time since I last posted, but I have been concentrating on preparation for two conferences (BYU and OGSA), planning for the OGSA conference and prepping for my next 6+ week research “sabbatical” to the MIdwest.

SCGS Jamboree! Last Day

Jam roundtableI was filling out the evaluation of the conference and was struck how difficult it was to outline the TWO things I liked best about the conference. So, here are my expanded thoughts and why you ought to go next year.  (And why I will be going.)

Things I like about Jamboree!:

  • Jamboree has a unique “feel.” It is casual, and fun!
  • The volunteers are truly helpful. Example, the program Chair came by before each of my sessions to make sure everything was OK. This was after two tech guys had already instructed me about how to use the microphones and “rules” concerning video taping (Blogging your Family History) or audio taping (Fire Insurance Maps) and two other volunteers and introduced themselves as they would be monitoring the room.
  • There is a good mix of local, regional and national speakers.
  • There is a good mix of beginning, intermediate and advanced sessions.
  • The round tables are an innovative idea (that’s the pic) to learn from experts and get specific help on specific topics. (I went to the tables for Scandinavia, Italy and Japanese.)  I learned the most at the Italy table; but, had the most fun at the Japanese table with Linda Harms Okasaki talking with a daughter of an internment camp detainee and the map her mother (?) drew of the camp housing.  I decided I could chair the Scandinavian table.
  • Blaine Bettinger’s DNA in Annual Review, was superb.  I had no idea how fast things were changing, but was thrilled (cheap thrill, I admit) when a change he explained to us in his review, was followed up the next day by the formal announcement that I received as an email!  Cool.
  • but, the best thing? Is seeing old friends and catching up with their lives, connecting FB friends with real people and making new ones.  I always love that part.  Nothing is warmer than walking into a hotel and seeing three of your friends there and getting (and giving) big hugs around.

This is a good sized conference, with a nice set of options for all levels that doesn’t overwhelm the beginner or first timer.

Happy Hunting!


What i have done since the last posting: Attended the 2016 SCGS Jamboree! Reviews to follow. You can always tell when I am having a great day or a great conference–I just cannot find the time to blog.🙂

OTC Quick Tip! Document Work

For those of you on the clock (OTC)….

One of the portfolio submission requirements is to transcribe, abstract and develop a research plan for two documents–one that is BCG supplied and one that is a personal choice.

BK NC Research LearyHave you read North Carolina Research: Genealogy and Local History? [1] Helen F.M. Leary, CG, FASG, editor,  does a super job of laying out strategies for assessment of documents in Chapter 2.”Designing Research Strategies,” co-authored with Lee Albright. Two types of genealogists might find this book of interest….those who are beginning their genealogical careers and those who want to verify their work by consulting with “a master.”

This  is a great resource  and I am starting to use it more and more.  Did I mention that I don’t even have North Carolina ancestors?—my folks traveled straight away from NYC into the Midwest, but this book is a terrific resource for all aspects of genealogy.

Happy Hunting!


What I have done since the last post: Worked on the program for the Ostfriesen Genealogical Society biennial conference, presented to a Mercer Island retirement group, and worked on my case study and took a new client….my first related to house histories.

[1] Helen F.M. Leary, CG, FASG, ed., North Carolina Research: Genealogy and Local History, 2nd ed. (Raleigh: North Carolina Genealogical Society, 1996)

You can buy the book new for $55 from the NCGS.  I got mine used. Here is the link to the Society: http://www.ncgenealogy.org/shop/books/north-carolina-research-genealogy-local-history-2e-detail