I 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!
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Hancock County IA Courthouse: Good documentation here. No naturalization of my paternal grandfather, but picked up lots of deeds and probate records.
- Garner, IA, Public Library: newspapers, plat maps. They had the newspapers from number 3 above on film, but they were too dark to read.
- 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?
- Cerro Gordo County Courthouse: Went looking for my grandfather Jacobson’s naturalization records but they had been moved to library. See no. 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!)
- Wright County Court house in Clarion, IA: found some land records.
- 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.
- 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.
- Butler County Courthouse in Allison, IA: Found probate, and deeds
- 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.)
- 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.
- [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.)
- 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.”
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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”.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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).
- 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.
- 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.