The National Institute for Genealogical Studies

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20th Century Migrations

Getting ready to depart from home in Oklahoma for the trip to California. Near Muskogee, Oklahoma. Library of Congress.

Getting ready to depart from home in Oklahoma for the trip to California. Near Muskogee, Oklahoma. Library of Congress.

By Shannon Combs-Bennett, Student

Once again there was a lot of great information put forward in Module 5 and 6 of the US: Migration Patterns course. However, I found the information in Module  6 to be very enlightening. That module focused on migration patterns  for 1920 and forward. A subject that I have not really given my full attention to since most of my research is in the early 1800s and before. Bad on me!

Of course I remember the unit from US History class about the migration that occurred during the Great Depression; how the “dust bowl” effected farmers and they packed up their lives and moved west. I also remember reading The Grapes of Wrath in English class. However, through this course I learned quickly that there was more to movement and migration in the US during the 20th century than what took place during the 1930s.

Anyone who had taken extended road trips across the US knows that the federal highway system was slowly replaced by the interstates to get people where they were going quicker. What I didn’t internalize until now was how many of these highways followed the old migration routes. But it makes sense doesn’t it?  If the route is already there why not create a better road on top of it! It especially hit home that I was traveling the footsteps of my ancestors when I drove these roads (some of them I have driven frequently over the last few decades).

Most importantly I was thrilled to see our instructor included a timeline at the end of the last module. I am seriously contemplating laminating it and putting it on my desk for a quick sheet when I need to look up important historical facts for the US that influenced migration. She broke it into five sections which correspond to modules 2-6 in the course.  It was interesting to compare sections of the timelines that overlapped because it provides an idea of all the different possibilities that influenced people and their lives at those times.  Once again, our ancestors lived complex lives in evolving situations, much like many of us do today!

Well I am off to take the exam, wish me luck.  See you online!

Some Thoughts On Researching US Occupations

Railroad parts. Baldwin Locomotive Works. Blacksmith and helper forging and hammering tools, March 1937. National Archives and Records Administration. Flickr the Commons.

Railroad parts. Baldwin Locomotive Works. Blacksmith and helper forging and hammering tools, March 1937. National Archives and Records Administration. Flickr the Commons.

Each  individual  researcher’s  quest  to  understand  their  ancestor’s  “life’s work”  will  have  its  own  twists  and  turns. There  is not  one  record  or  one repository  that  will  give  you  all  the  answers. Before you begin your  research using a specific record, have a general idea what might be found in that record.

For  example:  If  you  are  working  in  county  land  records  what  type  of information  would  you  expect  to  find  about  a  person’s  occupation? Here are just a few examples:

  • their stated occupation (i.e: blacksmith, yeoman, trader, etc).
  • location   of   where   they   practiced   this   occupation   (where  they purchased or rented their land).
  • location  of  where  they  last  practiced  their  occupation  (statement  of  a location other than the current county of residence).
  • any partnerships or corporations.
  • where they learned their trade.
  • where they might have acquired their tools.
  • any business difficulties, bankruptcy, sheriff sales, etc.
  • did  they  buy  and  sell  land  repeatedly,  possibly  as  a  means  of  an income (land speculator).

A land record has more to tell than the description of the land, and names of   the  grantee/grantor. You  must  evaluate it  with  a critical eye.

Repositories  are  numerous  and  the following  is  a  short list  of  repositories that you should  be using:

And where are you going to find an occupation listed in these repositories?Just  about  anywhere.  The   following   is   a   list   of   record   types   that   may   be found   in   these repositories:

  • census records
  • vital records
  • land records
  • military records
  • pension records
  • naturalization records
  • directories
  • local histories
  • biographical sketches
  • church records
  • company records
  • social histories
  • correspondence
  • images

At  each  repository,  reference  book,  website  or  record  the  researcher  will often be directed to another repository, reference book, website or record, that  can  offer  more  and  different  information.  The clues,  if  not  stated directly,  are  often  found  in  the  footnotes  and  bibliographical  sections. These new sources can lead you deeper and deeper into a subject. As in all aspects  of  genealogical  research  it  is  important  not  to  overlook  a  clue, resource or opportunity for more information.

To learn more about researching occupations in the United States, please consult our course, US: Occupational Records.

 

Working for the Railroad: A Few Tips

 

Barclay Railroad, Locomotive 2 with Tender and Cars. SMU Central University Library. Flickr the Commons. https://flic.kr/p/jXucRF

Barclay Railroad, Locomotive 2 with Tender and Cars. SMU Central University Library. Flickr the Commons. https://flic.kr/p/jXucRF

 

Spending this Labor Day holiday weekend researching your family tree? Good! Consider learning more about  the occupations of your ancestors. For many, railroad jobs figure prominently in their  family’s story. Here’s a few tips for researching railroad employees from our course US: Occupational Records.

The development of the railroad system in the United States opened up new frontiers. It employed people in all aspects from surveying and construction to the porter, conductor and engineer. Some of these individuals worked directly for a specific rail line while others worked for companies that contracted with the rail lines.

The first place to begin research for a railroad employee that was employed after 1937 is the Railroad Retirement Board.

The Railroad Retirement Board was formed in the mid-1930s, under the Railroad Retirement Act of 1935  and began maintaining records in 1936. Until 1964, Railroad workers received a special Social Security number, numbers starting with 700 to 728, and a separate pension plan. The Board’s primary function is the administration and payment of railroad pension funds.

The Railroad Retirement Board maintains a genealogy web page with helpful information for researching railroad employees. They will perform a search of their records for a fee. For more information about what is available and how to request a search, see their website. Please note: the Railroad Retirement Act did not include street, interurban, or suburban electric railways.

If your family member worked for a railroad before 1936 the Board does not have those records. To locate a record before the inception of the Railroad Retirement Board you will need to know the name of the rail line and the current company name. This is necessary before the researcher can access the proper archived records. To find archival collections, use the online catalog ArchiveGrid.

The mobility of these employees makes placing the individual in a time and place more difficult. Railroad employees moved with the work. In addition, the records might indicate that they were changing companies, when in reality there was a company name change or merger.

There are several tools that will assist the researcher in locating rail lines that employed a specific individual before 1937.

First, you can search  directories of railroad employees. The directories, such as the Biographical Directory of Railway Officials of America  that was issued between 1885 and 1922, gave a listing of mid to senior employees in the railroad industry. This was followed by  Who’s Who in Railroading. These books include short biographical sketches.

Second, determine what rail lines were active in the area that the individual lived. This is easily done with the use of maps. Because of the continuous growth changes in the rail lines it is important that the map you use is of the same time period that you are researching. Many of these maps are available online, including a  large collection from the Library of Congress  based on Railroad Maps of the United States: A Selective Annotated Bibliography of Original  19th-century  Maps in the Geography and Map Division of the Library of Congress.

Lastly,  search US Federal Census records which may list the person’s occupation  as “railroad” or possibly something more specific like, conductor . In  later years, the name of the railroad company may also appear in the occupation columns.

 

Go West!

Wagon train. Library of Congress. http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/2012649800/resource/

Wagon train. Library of Congress. http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/2012649800/resource/

By Shannon Combs-Bennett, Student

Through the next two modules in the course US: Migration Patterns  we continue to travel west across the US.  In Module 2 we were in Colonial America, Module 3 we expanded to the Mississippi River, and in Module 4 we saw the explosion of westward migration to the Pacific Ocean.  I remember reading about that last stage in American history during school.  For those Americans in the crowd, do you remember your US History classes?

Let’s admit it,  Manifest Destiny and Westward Expansion may not have been the most interesting thing in our lives while we were in high school.  However, as genealogists, plotting our family’s trail across the US we should realize that those ideas were a driving force for many people to move from one coast to the other.  Of course, it is also sort of awesome to read about trails that you have actually traveled yourself.

For those of you who do not know what Manifest Destiny was, let me try to explain it briefly.  Trust me, there are volumes written about this way of thought, but I think it is crucial to understand why droves of people left their homes in the Eastern US and headed west.  In a nut shell those who believed in this concept felt that the United States should (and eventually would) possess all of the land from the Mississippi River to the Pacific Ocean.  Many believed it was their God-given right to control and civilize the whole continent.  You can read more about the philosophy of Manifest Destiny and the resulting Mexican American War on the National Park Service website from the Chamizal National Memorial.

I found it particularly interesting to learn about emigrant aid companies for the first time.  To be honest, I knew these groups of people existed since I had run into them before, but I had not stopped to really analyze what they were.  These organizations recruited from groups of people who could travel together and paid for them to move across the country.  These organizations could be companies looking for workers, government agencies, or religious intuitions.  The Harvey Girls were mentioned which made me go find the old movie to watch!

On to the next section.  I am excited to learn more about 20th century migration.  See you online!

Call for Proposals: Course on Researching New York Ancestors

Statue Of Liberty by Bill Longshaw/Courtesy of Freedigitalphotos.net

Statue Of Liberty by Bill Longshaw/Courtesy of Freedigitalphotos.net

 

The National Institute for Genealogical Studies is looking for a course author to write a 6-8 week curriculum on researching New York Ancestors. This course should include, but not be limited to, the following topics:

  • Generalized history of New York State with timeline.
  • General discussion of record groups available for researching family history (church records, land, probate, vital records, cemetery, census, directories, newspapers, immigration/emigration, etc.).
  • Repositories in New York, Canada and the United States for researching pertinent records.
  • Internet sources for research.

This course will be for family historians beginning a search for their New York ancestors. The course content will include 2 assignments per week and a final exam consisting of 25-30 questions. The course should  be completed and turned in no later than 6 months from date of contract.

The course author must have a comprehensive knowledge of the topic. All source citations for text and images must conform to the standards found in Evidence Explained. Course is to be submitted in Microsoft Word and be proofread. Formatting of the course will be done by The National Institute for Genealogical Studies.

To submit an outline for consideration or to inquire about this opportunity, please email admin@genealogicalstudies.com. The successful applicant will receive a retainer to write the course upon acceptance of course outline and then final payment within 30 days of completion and approval of the course.

The History Behind Migration

American progress. Library of Congress. http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/97507547/resource/

American progress. Library of Congress. http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/97507547/resource/

By Shannon Combs-Bennett, Student

The first module of US: Migration Patterns was packed full of useful information.  Facts and tid-bits that I had not heard before, or at least not stopped to consider when looking at the bigger picture of US migration patterns.  I actually read this module several times through.  Each time I did I made a note in the margins about statements that related to my personal research, and I am sure you will too.

Of particular interest was the long list of records presented that might be left behind as our ancestors moved westward.  Some I am sure you can guess.  Of course there could be bible records, censuses, personal manuscripts, or vital records.  Some of the more unusual ones (that I will be checking on) were emigrant aid companies, fort records, occupation records, voting registers, plus many others.  Once again reminding me that our ancestors did not live in a vacuum.  They were people who lived full lives and left a paper trail if you know where, or how, to look.

If you have read any of my blog posts in the past you may remember me harping on how important it is to know all types of history and geography.  Which is why I was literally yelling “YES” as I read Module 1 and came to the section on history and geography.  Our instructor, Beverly Whitaker, does an excellent job driving home the point that you need to understand the history of the US, from colonial to current times, to understand the motivations our ancestors had to migrate.  Plus, the routes they took were dependent on geography.  Being able to look at a map and understand why settlements began where they did or why certain routes were taken will aid you in your searches.  In fact, the two influenced each other in ways that casual observers may not realize.

For example, in my family one of my lines migrated from Maryland to Kentucky and then onto Indiana.  Why?  Well, they were Catholic first off and after the Revolution there were Catholic settlements springing up in Washington County, Kentucky.  Single men moved first then later the larger family groups moved to join them.  In my family the main moves happened after the War of 1812. They moved to Kentucky, stayed for a few years, and then when bounty lands opened in Indiana they moved up there in large groups. Most of the family stayed there, but there were a few branches that had itchy feet. There is even a ‘49er in my family!

I have to say this first module was a great set-up for the rest of the course.  Each of the following five modules focus in on a specific time period for American migration.  Should be fun, and I will see you online!

My Next Course: US Migration Patterns

Coburg, Nebraska Terr. & vic., 1884-85. Library of Congress. http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/2005693379/resource/

Coburg, Nebraska Terr. & vic., 1884-85. Library of Congress. http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/2005693379/resource/

By Shannon Combs-Bennett, Student

Through my research I have learned that my ancestors never stayed in one place too long.  Some of you may be among the small few that had ancestors arrive on these shores and stay put, but for the majority of people, that didn’t happen.  There was always new places, new adventures, new land, and new opportunity just waiting over the horizon.

Understanding why people moved once they arrived in America can be critical to unlocking a few of those pesky brick walls.  I have studied a lot about why people immigrated to the US but not as much time on why they then kept moving west.

For those of you who have read my blog posts before you know that my family is mainly from the  state of Indiana.  They came there from Europe and from eastern United States.  While my direct line stayed in Indiana (for over 100 years until my parents left) many of their extended family kept moving west.  Some landed along the Mississippi.  Others made it all the way to California.  In this course I hope to learn more about why they moved, how they got there, and any other motivations that may have gone into that decision.

By looking at the introduction for the course US: Migration Patterns  I see that we will cover everything from Colonial American migration through the 20th century.  Then there are the mention of maps.  I love maps!  They really drive home what was physically done when combined with text and I think that will help me learn more about the routes and migration patterns we are learning.

It is never an easy decision to uproot your family.  Even today moving long distances is an arduous task that most people only do it if there is a job or family motivation.  We have trucks and pavement after all and if we think it is a massive undertaking imagine what our ancestors thought!

So wish me luck on my migration adventure and I will see you online!

Planning a Cemetery Trip

 

Copyright 2013 Tami Pelling. Used with permission

Copyright 2013 Tami Pelling. Used with permission

by Tami K. Pelling, PLCGS. Staff, The National Institute for Genealogical Studies

Just  as  many  of  our  ancestors  frequently  visited  cemeteries  on  Sunday  afternoon  to  enjoy  a picnic, tend to the care of a gravesite, or pay respect to their loved ones—we follow in their footsteps. A picnic in the cemetery as a child with my great aunt, Lucille, is a memory that I will always treasure.  Another  childhood  memory  that  I  hold  just  as  dear  is  traveling  from cemetery to cemetery with my mother and Lucille to place flowers on  graves of family members—every holiday, birthday, and anniversary—of course, during the warmer months. So now that it’s summer, you might be ready to plan your own cemetery trips.

But first, a bit of caution. Safety first!  It doesn’t matter whether you are visiting a big city cemetery or a pioneer cemetery surrounded  by  cornfields and  woods. Safety cannot be emphasized enough–take someone with you and bring a fully charged cell phone!

In planning a cemetery trip, the first item on the agenda is to learn the location of the cemetery or cemeteries you wish to visit and determine if they are located on private property, governed by a trustee, association, organization, or corporation. If you are unfamiliar with the area, you may wish  to  contact  one  of  the  local  funeral  homes,  genealogical  or  historical  society,  library,  or government office to determine ownership. At the same time, inquire whether the cemetery has an office along with contact information. It is important to remember if the  cemetery  is  located  on  private  property  and  the  landowner  does  not  allow  access  to  the cemetery,  you  can  be  charged  with  trespassing. The landowner should be contacted prior to the visit to gain  permission to access the cemetery and discuss any  restrictions.

Second, consider what your purpose in going to the cemetery. Do you wish to locate the gravesite of your ancestors? Are you looking to survey, transcribe, and photograph the cemetery? If your visit to the cemetery is to locate the gravesite of your ancestors, a cemetery map should be obtained. If a cemetery map is not available, print a satellite view of the cemetery from Google Maps. The satellite image of the cemetery will allow you to study the surrounding area. If children will visit the cemetery with you, remind them of proper cemetery etiquette. Children can be an asset—prepare index cards with the names of the individuals you seek. These items allow the children to help search for the gravestones, place and assist in their letter identification and/or reading skills. If your purpose is to photograph your ancestor’s gravesite or the entire cemetery, you should determine if photographs are allowed. Some cemeteries  may  not allow  visitors  to take  photographs—even  of  their  own family  gravesite. Many  small  inactive  cemeteries  do  not  have  a photograph  policy;  however,  it  is  best  to  be  prepared  prior to  the  trip. It would be most unfortunate to learn upon arrival that access to the cemetery will not be granted or photographs are not allowed.

Third, prepare your cemetery kit. Just like planning a research trip to the library, archive, courthouse, etc., you must be prepared and bring along necessary tools. With today’s technology, many people can visit the local cemetery with just one tool—their cell phone. With a cell phone in hand, you can do everything from use map and GPS features as well as take photographs, notes and upload data. BillionGraves  has  a  wonderful  app  that  can  be  used  in  the  cemetery  while  photographing tombstones. The app attaches the GPS coordinates to the photograph. Cemetery  notes  can  be  taken in  many  formats  while  utilizing  your  favorite  app.  Audio and video can be recorded. Family group sheets, pedigree charts, and family notes can also be viewed through an app.

My cemetery kit may contain more items than the average cemetery visitor. This cemetery  kit  list  has  been  compiled  over  many  years  of visiting,  transcribing,  photographing, plotting/mapping,  and  restoring  cemeteries  (restoration supplies  have  been  omitted  from  this list).  Everyone is different and, therefore, your cemetery kit will include supplies that are best suited  to your needs. Here are a few items from my kit:

Cemetery Kit

Road Map

Cemetery Map

GPS

Burial list of family members

Pedigree charts, family group sheets, research log

 

Notebook/paper or note taking app

Pen, pencil, pencil sharpener

Clipboard(s)

Flowers

Water bottle and snacks

First aid kit

Hand sanitizer

Sunscreen

Hat, bandanna

 

Kleenex

Insect repellent

Cell phone and cell phone charger

Camera and extra batteries

 

Compass

Rubber gloves or gardening gloves (protect hands from bird droppings, etc.)

Bottled water and small spray bottle (wash bird droppings, etc. from stone)

Whisk broom (brush away grass and leaves)

Gardner knee pads (protect knees  from uneven ground and clothing  from dirt)

Pruners, shears (remove growth next to stone to aid in reading)

Small chair (you might wish to stay awhile)

Bag (to remove trash from cemetery)

 

Want to learn more about researching cemeteries? Check out our US: Cemetery and Mortuary Records course.

Course Tip: Chronicling America

Earlier, we spotlighted the US: Newspaper Records  course as part of the My Favorite Course blog series. Are newspapers your favorite genealogy source? Here’s a tip from the course.

Chronicling America

The website Chronicling  America  is  a  repository of  select digitized  newspapers covering the years 1836-1922.

But Chronicling America offers more than digitized newspapers. Chronicling  America is  an  online  resource  that  can  be  used  to  identify newspapers  in  a  particular  area  and  time  period. Each  listing  provides details  about  the  newspaper,  such  as  dates  of  publication,  frequency,  and  language,  as  well  as  what  repositories  hold  either original  or  microform versions  of  the  newspaper.

Chronicling  America is  based  on  records  created  during  the  US  Newspaper Program that ran from 1982 to 2009. To  use  this  resource,  visit Chronicling  America and  click  on  the  button that  says  “US  Newspaper  Directory,  1690-Present.”  You  can  browse  by newspaper title using the letters at the top (e.g., clicking on the letter “C” will  list  all  the  newspapers  that  begin  with  the  letter  “c”).  Alternatively,  you  can search for newspapers in  a particular state, county, or  city, using the corresponding drop-down menus, and further limit the time period by selecting a year range. There are other search options such as keyword and language. You can also search by ethnicity or occupation to find specialty newspapers.  When you find a newspaper of interest, you can view the record for more details,   such   as   frequency   of   publication,   dates   of publication,   and  alternate titles. To see a list of repositories that have the newspaper, click on the link “Libraries That Have It” at the top of the record.

To learn more about newspapers and where they can be found, register for the US: Newspaper Records course.

My Favorite Course: US Newspaper Records

By Emma Whaley Compton, PLCGS

While studying for the American Records Certificate with the National Institute for Genealogical Studies, one of my favorite courses included in the program was US: Newspaper Records. If I had to choose a favorite record group for research, it would be newspapers, so it’s perhaps no surprise that I greatly enjoyed this course!

When you think about newspaper research, the most obvious thing that comes to mind is obituaries, which are a wonderful source of genealogical information, particularly if vital records are hard to get or may not even exist for that time period but newspapers offer much more to the researcher than just obituaries. You can frequently find birth, engagement, marriage and anniversary announcements and sometimes court cases, divorces, bankruptcies and real estate transactions will also be included.Then there are the regular newspaper stories or perhaps even photographs that may feature ancestors. Small town newspapers have society pages that give great detail about their inhabitant’s lives, such as who was in the hospital, had visitors from out of town, or may have been out of town visiting relatives, hosting a party or taking part in various club activities. Our ancestors didn’t have Facebook or smart phones, so they got all of their news (or gossip!) through the newspapers and we’re fortunate that many of these day to day records have been preserved and are even becoming accessible over the Internet due to digitization projects.

So newspapers can perhaps help us find out information about our ancestors directly, through announcements and articles but they can also help us understand our ancestor’s lives better through studying social history. What events were happening nationally (wars, recessions) or locally that had an impact on their daily lives?  For immigrants, ethnic newspapers helped them keep abreast of what was happening back in their homeland and other specialist newspapers served a similar purpose for religious communities, labor groups or the military.

The US: Newspaper Records course covers all these aspects of newspaper research in much greater detail and also goes into the history of newspapers in the United States. I found this very interesting, it’s surprising to learn how long newspapers have been a part of daily life (and no I’m not going to give that detail away, sign up for the course and find it out yourself!). Perhaps the most important part of this course is that it gives detailed information about how to find newspaper collections on a national and individual state level, so if you’ve always wanted to do newspaper research but didn’t know where to start looking, this should give you some ideas.

Although it’s an advanced level course in the American Records program, this really is a fun course. I knew I’d enjoy it, so I saved this course for last and I wasn’t disappointed. A word of warning though, you may become so immersed in the past when researching in newspapers that whole hours fly by unnoticed!

 

 

Bio: Emma Whaley Compton, PLCGS graduated from the National Institute for Genealogical Studies in spring of 2014 with distinction in the English and American Record Certificate Programs. A member of the Association of Professional Genealogists and Co-President of the Imperial Polk Genealogical Society, she started her own genealogy business, AncesTreeFinder Genealogy Research, early in 2015.  When not actively researching or trawling around cemeteries, Emma likes to spend time with her husband and cats, watch TV and movies and read books.  Originally from England, she now lives in Lakeland, Florida.

 

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