Step-by-Step: My Intractable Problem

nose in bookA dose of my own medicine! On 12 February I blogged about steps to solve problems using a research plan. But, I think an example is so much better to illustrate the value of compiling our work, especially when we are trying to solve our intractable genealogical problems. This post outlines, step-by-step, how I built a research plan using the methodology outlined in the blog post “Strategic Thinking: A Research Plan.”

I admit I have done much research on my Friedrich Eilers (FE), some of it targeted and some of it “grazing.” This is my attempt to formalize the output, focus on the process and give my some research discipline.

As we know the Genealogical Proof Standard exhorts us to do reasonably exhaustive “REsearch,” not exhaustive “search.” The implication is, of course, that “researching” is far more disciplined and expects the genealogist to select the record sets that are most likely to provide the needed information.

I am seeking to identify Friedrich Eilers, who was the groom in the second marriage to my great-grandmother Eda/Ida (van Hoorn) Berg in October of 1861 and who after November 1862 was never referred to again in any known document in connection with my family.

I have taken the steps from the previous post and sequentially attached the report as I built it-step-by-step.  To make it easier for you to see what I added, I have changed the type face to red for the items that apply to that particular step of this methodology and which have been added after the previous document. Let’s see how it works.

Phase 1: Recording all you know.

1. Start fresh. Act (and think) like you have never seen this problem before.
comment: I took a yoga class and focused on “dispassionate observation.” It works for me.
document: be-rp-1

2. Clearly state your research question and write it down. Make your individual of interest unique in the world using the “known facts of the case.” Write your question at the top of a blank document. Make it 14 pt. font and bold.
comment: I make research questions very specific in the description of the individual. Keep in mind that identity comes before relationships. If I want to know the parents of X, I first have to clarify the identity of X. Therefore, I usually start with “Identify X who did so-and-so and such-and-such.” I don’t think I make great research questions, so you are on your own here.
document: be-rp-2

3. Gather together every shred of evidence that you already have that relates to the individual or his/her relatives, business associates etc.
comment: I don’t have much, but I was surprised at how many documents I needed to get the timeline filled with the pertinent sources.
documents: I did this concurrently with no. 4 below.

4. Document by document, write what you know, based on what you have. Start with the citation and then summarize what is contained within the source. Transcribe and abstract any documents with handwriting. If your document is a census, record the neighbors of at least 10 families in each direction. Label this section “Background.”
comment: I have followed Ida for years, but I looked at everything again. Notice that there is a gap between 1864 and 1871 where I have nothing.
document: be-rp-4

5. Note whether the “thing you are holding in your hand,” the source, is an original, derivative or authored work; whether the information is primary, secondary, or indeterminable; and whether the evidence is direct, indirect or negative in response to your research question. Don’t stop with just categorizing your documents. Instead, analyze the quality of your sources.  If there is a need and ability to obtain a better record, i.e. closer to the event, enter it on your Research Plan.
comment: This implies that you have a Research Plan set up already on your document. If you haven’t done so, type a heading of “Research Plan” at the bottom of your document. Record your sources you need to obtain to improve the quality of the ones you have.
document: be-rp-5

6. As you are doing no. 5 above, identify all FAN Club members and place in a table with the date of interaction and the role your ancestor played in that interaction. Label this “FAN Club.” keep the interactions in chronological order–you are building a timeline.
comment:  My FAN Club consists of people who have interacted with Ida but not with Friedrich. I have no known FAN Club members for FE, but that’s what we are trying to solve. Should I find any, that will be a huge clue.
document: be-rp-6

7. Add known dates of importance of your individual of interest to your timeline. Depending on your problem, there may be [timelines of] other key individuals (in a separate column) you wish to add to your timeline [of your person of interest].
comment:  FE gets added with the hope I can fill out more information about FE candidates as I begin to research. I didn’t make red the whole table, but you get the idea.
document: be-rp-7

8. If appropriate, take your timeline and expand it to a table, which includes all people you think might be relevant to your investigation–family, candidates for identity (for example, all your possible John Smiths), business partners, and other members of the FAN Club you developed in item 7 above. Add their events to their timeline as well.
comment: For now, without doing the actual research, I anticipate that I will have multiple candidates for FE. A German name in a German area cannot be unique.
document: be-rp-8

Phase 2: Research researching

9.  Identify the sources that are most likely to yield salient information based on what you know. Add the list to your document and label this ”Research Plan.” Each resource should include a draft of the citation. Put the citation in bold.
comment: I already had five sources I needed to obtain by the time I finished with the known information, so I reprioritzed and added to the list of five. Certainly some of these could fall off the list as I gain more information. A basic principle of research is that you start in the US, yet my biggest clue is the birthplace in Germany, Ober Gleen. That’s a bit of a conundrum.
document: be-rp-9

10. Review Part 2 of Val Greenwood’s book for a list of types of sources.  Place “likely suspects” on your research plan.
comment: I know Stephenson County pretty well and some documents just do not exist, e.g. newspapers before 1890. Greenwood lists the following: newspapers, vital records, censuses, probate records, wills, guardianships, land (local and federal), other court records, church records, military and cemetery and burial records. I believe that I have either addressed by placing on my research plan or exhausted all these more typical records. I have added a narrative at the bottom of the document for the searches in each record type so I have an explanation of why I am not pursuing those sources.  It would be better if I had these as citations. In the future, I need to move some of my past research log information over to fill this out.
document: be-rp-10

11. Read the FamilySearch wiki for your particular locality for additional resources. [2]
comment: The FS wiki is a go-to place for me for locality research. Research every jurisdictional level: country, state, county, court. If you do a lot of research in one area, consider writing a locality guide so you don’t lose all this fabulous work you are doing. consider also Cyndi’s List and Linkpendium.
document: be-rp-11

12. Conduct a locality or topical search in Family Search and Ancestry catalog (this is different than the wiki mentioned  in 11.) Click through every entry in the catalog to identify film you ought to order or if the film has been indexed or uploaded and not indexed.
comment: I have looked at the Ober Gleen Family Search catalog before, but now I see that FS has added an index! This is a very “bright shiny object” for me and I must, for now, let it go. I need to complete these other tasks before I get to points 14 and 15. Your Research Plan might be getting quite long right now.
document: be-rp-12

13. Review the National Genealogical Society (NGS) States series to determine if your state is included. These wonderful books are an overview of resources and repositories that are state specific and which include archives and repositories you may not have thought of. Record any likely repositories.
comment: Illinois has a terrific state series book but I wonder if I am over looking the surrounding states?  Stephenson County is on the border of Wisconsin; could FE have lived in WI and been visiting or doing business in Freeport for some other reason? I think I need to widen my area of focus–but that will be for another day.
document: be-rp-13

Phase 3: Researching
To this point, we have just been building (adding to) our research plan, now we start looking at some of the resources we identified.

14. Based on your research plan, conduct the research of your top priority source. If you think of a new resource to check, just add it to your research plan in priority order. Always write out a skeleton citation.
comment: The bright shiny object calls!! 
confession:  There are two approaches: I could look in census records in the US or look in the Ober Gleen birth records. The census records are hard because there is so little information–I don’t even have a birth year for Friedrich.  Assuming there are multiple FEs in Ober Gleen, I am going to work the Ober Gleen records first and fill out the table that is in landscape mode. 

15. Do your on site research. If you cannot travel, then enlist a friend or hire a genealogist in the area. Revisit your research plan and add new sources (as citations) as they are identified.
comment: And just like they show on television– I hopped on a plane and flew to Salt Lake City to meet with the German expert.  I (driving a big black SUV) found a parking place right in front of the library! No one was in the library except for THE expert on Ober Gleen records (probably Fritz Juengling!).  He already had found what i was looking for, translated it and gave me a very nice Family Group Sheet and pedigree chart scribed in lovely calligraphy–NOT! 🙂
document: be-rp-15

Findings at this point, are the following:

There is only one Friedrich Euler/Eiler who appeared in this time frame in Ober Gleen. He is my top candidate. The rest of the Fred/Fritz/etc. Eilers/Eilerts etc. just do not have the Ober Gleen connection that is so necessary for this resolution.

  1. It is not known where Friedrich Euler was born. he does not appear in the Ober Gleen birth records; however, from the point of the birth of his first child in 1842 to his emigration in 1860, Ober Gleen appeared to be his residence.
  2. Friedrich Euler and  Gertraud Schoenhals had six children, five of which were born before they married.
  3. Friedrich Euler and Gertraud Schoenhals finally married in 1855
  4. Friedrich immigrated in 1860 to Illinois. It is not known why he picked Illinois as no FAN Club member has yet been identified as living in Illinois and he appeared to travel alone.
  5. Friedrich married Eda Berg in 1861 in Stephenson County, Illinois.
  6. Gertraud and the children emigrated in August/September of 1862.
  7. Eda used the Eyler surname in November of 1862 and then never used it again.
  8. In 1872, son John (Johannes, b. 1848) married Rosina Hoffman in Stephenson County, firmly placing at least one family member in the county.
  9. There is no divorce noted in Stephenson County for FE and IB.

16. Order those FHL films you identified in your catalog review or better yet, take a trip to Salt Lake City and do your research there in the company of research experts who can help.
comment: I am going to quit now. I have other things to do, but I have made real progress on this “intractable problem.” There are many things yet to research before any conclusions can be drawn, but I have built a great summary document to build upon in the future.

17. Re-conduct old research. We are smarter now then we were five years ago.
comment: When I was a baby genealogist I was told to “really study your sources so you got all the information from them.” What people didn’t tell me is that it didn’t matter how good I thought I was THEN, I am better now and you probably do have to re-review your sources, especially those related to your tough problems.

18. Check the family trees in Family Search and Ancestry. Yes, I know they are rift with errors and are usually undocumented, but they can offer clues and should be used.
comment: In looking at the trees, no one identified that Friedrich and Gertraud emigrated.  They recognize that Johannes and Heinrich did, but no one connects the passenger lists of the family or Friedrich. So the trees, for this study did not provide any clues i could build on.  

19. Record ALL searches, including those that yield nothing. Constantly update your research plan. Record all your findings including your negative searches. Label these Negative Findings.
comment: This is the part that can really help you, should you have to put the research down to do other things–like laundry.  I am not satisfied with how the research paper ends…it is rather messy and needs some work to gather the information together in a more coherent form. But, that, too, is for another day.

20. Repeat.

What you have now, even if you did not solve your problem is a document which:

  1. Documents your  known information
  2. Identifies gaps in your existing sources
  3. Sets you up for the analysis of your documents
  4. Serves as a summary of your work to date and even if you set it down, you will have this terrific record of your findings for later
  5. Records where you searched and found nothing so you won’t redo that work, unless you decide to re-energize no. 17, and
  6. Outlines your next steps

Whew! If you got to the end of this blog–congratulations!  You get the gold star.

Happy hunting!


What I have done since the last post: worked on this blog! I also conducted the second session of the online Certification Discussion Group; worked on a client report, and worked in “fits and starts” on my DNA problem.

[1] A gentleman in a presentation I gave on determining identity asked “He’s a second husband with no children, why do you even care?” My response was, “Friedrich Eilers is an itch I cannot scratch.”

[2] FamilySearch wiki:




clock-6I am happy to announce that today I received notice from the Board for Certification of Genealogists (BCG) that my portfolio which was submitted in mid-October has been deemed worthy of conferring onto me the title of Certified Genealogist. I am still a bit giddy.  I also realize that I will probably forget to do some critical thing in the “fog” of jubilation. As I am leaving on Sunday for Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy (SLIG), I am vulnerable to forget to pack all I need for their cold weather.  Yikes!

I will not stop this blog because I have reached this goal.  Like all goals, you need to develop the next before you have attained the last.  And, that is certainly true for me.  I will discuss goal assessment in the near future.

I thank all the readers for supporting this blog and my efforts to become certified.  With certification comes not only the pride of attaining a difficult goal, but also the responsibility to model to others the good work of a certified genealogist.

Happy Hunting!


What I have done since the last blog post: I started bullet journaling because I found myself wasting a lot time and I needed a tool to keep me focused. Except for today– it’s done a good job. I listened to three webinars; attended an APG online discussion, developed my research plans for my trip to Salt Lake City and had lunch with a friend I had lost track of.  It’s been, for me, a good day.

Certified Genealogists: By the Numbers

statisticsI thought it would be interesting to crunch some numbers related to the “density” of those individuals who hold the Certified Genealogist credential by state.

If you decide you are interested in sharing this post, please do not copy the data, the bullets or the conclusions but rather link to this site. You are welcome to make your own observations and I would enjoy knowing what you think.

How I gathered the data:

  1. I took a count of all Certified Genealogists (CG) on the website of the Board for Certification of Genealogists® (BCG).[1] I realize that some CGs elect to not post their information on the site which would warp the numbers downward. Should I get the  numbers I will correct and repost.
  2. I used the population numbers for the states from the 2010 census. [2]
  3. To make the results more understandable I based the numbers on 1M people of  the state’s population . To “read” the density numbers and using Delaware as an example, 7.796 means there are 7.8 CGs (rounded) for each 1,000,000 people in the state of Delaware in 2010.

Here are some interesting fun facts:

  1. Eight states have no listed Certified Genealogists on the BCG website: Alabama, Alaska, Kansas, Montana, Nebraska, South Dakota, West Virginia, and Wyoming.
  2. The states with the most CGs are California & Virginia (19 each), Utah (18), Massachusetts & New York (10 each).
  3. The five states that have the highest density of CGs per 1M people are:
  • Delaware                7.796
  • Utah                        6.513
  • DC                           4.986
  • New Hampshire   3.033
  • Maine                     3.011
    I thought it interesting that the “densest” state (Delaware) is ~2.5x more dense than the 5th. That is a big gap. It is no surprise to me that Utah and DC are as dense as they are. Obviously lower populated states have a bit of an advantage here.
  1. The five states that have the lowest density of CGs per 100,000 population and have at least 1 CG are:
  • Washington         0.149
  • Michigan              0.202
  • Louisiana             0.221
  • Oklahoma            0.267
  • Texas                    0.318
    Again I thought it interesting that the 5th least dense state (TX) is ~2x more dense than the lowest state (WA).
  1. Of course, I am very interested in the state of Washington as we recently “lost” a CG to Utah (50%). WA has the lowest density number of all states recording a CG—WA would have to increase its numbers of CGs to 51 to equal Delaware, the densest state! Washington would have to increase its number of CGs to 7 just to get to average!
  2. The average number of CGs per 50 states + DC is 4.22 CGs per state.
  3. The average density of CGs per all 50 states + DC is 1.08, or about 1 CG per 1M people.
  4. Colorado is most “average” of all the states at .99 per 1 M people.

Hope you thought this was interesting! I did.

Happy Hunting!


What I have done since the last posting: submitted an article to the Family History Writing contest; submitted my Case Study from my portfolio to NGSQ (it’s now out for peer review); and submitted lecture proposals to the Northwest Genealogical and to APC/Professional Management Conference for 2017. But most importantly, I attended (and had a very fun time) at the rehearsal dinner, the wedding and the dinner of my daughter to Michael Shannon in Boston! The bride was gorgeous. So much fun!

Note: Certified Genealogist is a registered trademark and the designations CG, CGL, and Certified Genealogical Lecturer are service marks of the Board for Certification of Genealogists ®, used under license by Board certificants who meet competency standards.

[1] US Government, Census Office, “Population Distribution and Change, 2000 to 2010,” ( : accessed 19 December 2016) 2.

[2] Board for Certification of Genealogists, “Find a Genealogist,” ( : accessed 19 December 2016). I inserted the code for each state and counted the numbers of certified individuals listed.

Footnotes! Footnotes! Footnotes! Part 2

How do you manage footnotes while you are writing so their inclusion does not halt the flow of your writing?

footnotesI struggled with this while I wrote my Kinship Determination Project (KDP) and Case Study for my portfolio for certification for the Board for Certification of Genealogists. [1]

In the end, I employed two basic techniques.

First, I internalize information as I do my research and take copious notes. Before I started writing, however, I also reread several key documents I had deemed critical to the research question. Then, I started writing. I do not consider myself a great writer, but once I “get going,” I do not like to stop. Here is what I do to accommodate my “with the flow” approach to citation inclusion.

I write three, four or even ten paragraphs before I pause. At those pauses, I go back to what I have written, do some rough editing and insert a “dummy citation.” Yes, it could be a real footnote if I have all the information handy, but instead of pulling out the document and figuring out how to cite the evidence, I insert number for the footnote and insert a code for the source, for example, DR HJB. This would tell me I needed to cite the death record of Henry J. Bode at that location. There may be many of these “dummy citations.”

I enter a footnote everywhere I think a footnote is needed. For every dummy citation I put where I think/know the information is found.  I rarely leave one blank.

Then I  continue writing.

At a (later) time of “citation inspiration,” I return to what I have written and start entering “real” citations. I dig out the source, confirm that it actually supports the statement, check Evidence Explained to see if there is any construction guidance and then build the citation. [2] If the content does not support the statement I am making, I have two choices: I can rewrite the paragraph so it is supportable or I go looking for a source that supports the statement.

This process allows me to keep up with the flow of writing, but also reminds me of a need for a citation. How do you handle the flow and the citation timing?

You might find it interesting to read my first blog on this topic, Footnotes! Footnotes! Footnotes!

Happy hunting!


What I have done since the last post: worked on my Timelines presentation for the Olympia GS to be given in March. I have a “never-evers” presentation I need to put together for February. I am excited about some great speaking opportunities that are coming my way for 2017.  I listened to some webinars on Legacy. I thought Gena Philibert-Ortega’s on “Social History” was particularly good.


[2] Elizabeth Shown Mills, Evidence Explained: Citing History Sources from Artifacts to Cyberspace, third edition (Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing, 2015).

Footnotes! Footnotes! Footnotes!

Do you manage your footnotes or do they manage you?

When writing my Kinship Determination Project (KDP) for my portfolio, I had trouble keeping  the footnotes “complete and accurate.”[1] They should add “consistent’ to this rubric.

I thought I had a plan. I didn’t; or the one I had didn’t work so well; or maybe it worked as well as could be expected.

Nevertheless, I thought I would outline my process. Hopefully, you can find some ideas you can use or perhaps learn from my mistakes.

I would also be interested in how you manage your footnotes when writing  a footnote intensive paper. I would like to improve this process.

Note: I don’t use RefNote or any specialized software. I used Word.

I did OK for most of the KDP in keeping my footnotes consistent.   I attained what consistency I did have by keeping a record in Word of every type of footnote and using the style as a template for future footnotes of the same type.  The footnotes were arranged by record type in the Word document–all the death footnote types were together, all the electronic ones were together, etc.

But, I learned as I wrote and some things shifted in the footnote creating inconsistencies.

Every footnote was entered as a full footnote. I did not make it a shortform, even if I knew there was a similar reference before it, until I was completely done with the paper. If I knew (or thought) that a footnote was previously used, I put the letters SF, for “short form,” at the beginning of the footnote.  If the footnote was a candidate for Ibid., I put that at the beginning as well. But I  did not convert it to a SF or an Ibid. until the very end of the writing process. Reason? I was moving around paragraphs of information right up until the end.  At one point I removed about 1000 words from my KDP. I knew I had to be careful. It also didn’t matter if I made a mistake because I knew I had to check every one.

By the time I got to the end of writing the document, inconsistencies in my formatting of even the typical footnote templates, had slipped in. I had also knew that there were consistencies, even if accurate.

So, I re-reviewed every footnote at the end of writing the paper. (Which I think you would have to do anyway.) Here is how I reviewed all my footnotes:

I first made sure that all footnotes were the same font type, size and black in color.

Starting with footnote number 1 and going in order:

  1. I made all my footnotes into endnotes and copied them into a single Word document (I called this document the “Endnotes”). Then I changed the document with endnotes back into one with footnotes.
  2. Working back and forth between the document and the Endnotes, I checked to make sure that footnote #1 was accurately reflecting the content of the cited work, complete and in a format that was most consistent with the narrative.
  3. I re-checked each one against Evidence Explained [2] so I knew where I deviated and why.
  4. I used the Find feature to see if I had any duplicates of that footnote. Since even the most typical footnote had a unique identifier, this was not hard. (Obviously, the first footnotes were unique, so this happened later in the writing.)
  5. On the Endnotes, I changed the color of that particular footnote to green, when I was completed with checking for correctness, accuracy, consistency.
  6. Repeat, until you find a source that has already been cited. Create the shortform. Copy the shortform and paste into the Endnotes, under the first full citation.
  7. As you go, adjust the footnotes to include Ibid., if appropriate.
  8. When you are done, all Endnotes will be green; all shortforms and Ibid.s will be entered and you will have checked all against other similar footnotes for consistency. And you will have checked each type against Evidence Explained.
  9. Pat yourself of the back and repeat for the Case Study! [3]

I hope it doesn’t sound confusing. It went quite smoothly and quicker than I thought.  I am visual so the color coding was essential. The Find feature was a godsend. If I discovered an inconsistency, I could identify all of the affected footnotes and change them one-by-one.

That describe how I handled them when the document was finished.  Next we will look at how I did ciations during the writing process so they didn’t put a full stop on the flow of the writing.

Happy hunting!


What I have done since the last posting: I know it has been some time since I posted but I have traveled to the Eastern time zone 3 times in about 10 days.  Plus made presentations in about 10 venues. I also am Seattle Genealogical Society’s president.  It’s been an active fall, but is now winding down as we get ready for our daughter’s wedding in Boston.  Looking forward to it and to a little relaxation afterwards.

[1] “Rubrics for Evaluating New Applications for BCG Certification, revised 18 January 2016,” Board for Certification of Genealogists ( : accessed 9 November 2016).
[2] Elizabeth Shown Mills, Evidence Explained, Citing History Sources from Artifacts to Cyberspace, third edition (Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing, 2015).
[3] I wanted to make this a 12-step program, but I just couldn’t come up with two more steps to my process! 🙂



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,] Downers 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!