Monday, January 16, 2017

Books to break down your brick walls

Do you want to improve your genealogy research skills this year? Here are a few new(ish) books to help you master new techniques in the new year.

Advanced Genealogy Research Techniques by George G. Morgan
This book is all about breaking down your brick walls. The authors describe how to reexamine the evidence you have, how to use little-known resources, and how to develop research strategies to address your unique specific problems.

The Family Tree Guide to DNA Testing and Genetic Genealogy by Blaine T. Bettinger
This is the most comprehensive guide on DNA and genealogy. Understand the basics of DNA testing and how to interpret and incorporate your DNA results into your research.

How to Use Evernote for Genealogy by Kerry Scott
Learn how to organize your research (and your life!) with this helpful note-taking app. Store, organize, and share your documents, notes, photos, and audio files with Evernote.

Organize Your Genealogy by Drew Smith
One of my favorites! This excellent guide will help you organize not just your physical and digital files but also your research process, correspondence, research trips, and your educational goals.
The Troubleshooter's Guide To Do-It-Yourself Genealogy by W. Daniel Quillen
Go beyond the basics of genealogy research. Quillen provides in-depth explanations of records and advanced research techniques.

Unofficial Guide to Ancestry.com by Nancy Hendrickson
Explore all of Ancestry's vast collections and master the best search techniques for finding your ancestors. Also discusses Ancestry Family Trees and AncestryDNA.

Unofficial Guide to FamilySearch.org by Dana McCullough
Discover the best research strategies for using FamilySearch. Learn about their offline resources, family trees, and more.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Beginning Genealogy

New to genealogy? Attend our Beginning Genealogy class on January 17 at 2 PM. Learn the basic steps to get started with your research.

Register online or call the Reference Desk at 847-729-7500.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Name Changes at Ellis Island


One of the most common stories in American family lore is that officials at Ellis Island changed an
immigrant ancestor's name. It's a persistent myth and one that isn't true.

For the 125th anniversary of the opening of Ellis Island, Smithsonian.com examines the history of immigration in the US and explains the truth about immigration officials and names. Here are a few key points from the article:
Ellis Island inspectors were not responsible for recording immigrants’ names. Instead, any error likely happened overseas.
At the shipping line’s station in Europe, a clerk wrote the passenger’s name in the ship’s manifest, sometimes without asking for identification verifying the spelling.
The ship’s manifest was presented to Ellis Island inspectors after the boat docked. From there, the inspector would cross-reference the name on the manifest with the immigrant passenger, and also ask 30 questions to screen out rabble-rousers, loafers, or the physically and mentally infirm, but also to glean information on who they would be living with and where in America, says Urban. The inspectors also would see if the answers matched those recorded by the shipping clerk before departure.
“If anything, Ellis Island officials were known to correct mistakes in passenger lists,” says Philip Sutton, a librarian in the Milstein Division of United States History, Local History and Genealogy, at the New York Public Library, in a blog post delving into the name change mythology.
More commonly, immigrants themselves would change their names, either to sound more American, or to melt into the immigrant community, where they were going to live, says Sutton. If name changes happened with any frequency on Ellis Island, it was not noted in any contemporaneous newspaper accounts or in recollections from inspectors, Sutton says. 
It is also unlikely a foreign name would flummox an Ellis Island inspector. From 1892 to 1924, “one-third of all immigrant inspectors were themselves foreign-born, and all immigrant inspectors spoke an average of three languages,” says the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. 
Read the entire article to learn more about immigration in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

New Year's Resolutions

Have you been thinking about your genealogy goals for the new year? Here are a few suggestions for your 2017 to-do list:

  1. Get your research organized
  2. Interview a relative
  3. Join a genealogy society (maybe NSGS?)
  4. Read a local history or a surname study
  5. Digitize and label your family photos
  6. Create a family history scrapbook
  7. Take a research trip
  8. Share your genealogy online
  9. Participate in a genealogy do-over
  10. Attend a genealogy class (our class schedule is here)

Happy searching in the new year!

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Write Your Story


At some point during your research, you'll probably start considering if you want to write your family history. Writing is the best way to preserve your history. Creating a family tree is great but stories add depth to your genealogy. Personal anecdotes and details make your ancestors feel like real people and not just names and dates.

A writing project may sound intimidating but it's easy to get started.

First decide what sort of family history you want to write. Do you want you write a memoir or a biography? Are you creating a scrapbook filled with memorabilia? You also need to focus on the scope of your work. Many writers like to trace their line from themselves to the earliest known ancestor but maybe you would prefer to focus on the life of one specific person and their descendants?

When writing about ancestors that you know little about personally, use general historical information. Ask yourself: What was their profession? What would their typical day have been like? Are there any significant stories from their hometown that would have impacted their lives? What about national or international events or catastrophes? Did they move to a new area? How would they have adapted? What languages did they speak? What cultural or religious celebrations would they have observed? Using social history can help you pick out a common theme or plot for your story. For example, you can focus on the immigration experiences of your ancestors or on life as a pioneer settler.

Remember to cite and document your sources! They give your research credibility and help others with their own research.

If you want to get started or need moral support, join one of the NSGS writer's groups.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Swedish American Genealogical Society


The Swedish American Genealogical Society meets at the Swedish American Museum in Chicago. The society presents genealogy programs and speakers once a month. You can visit the museum calendar for information on specific events.

If you're particularly having problems with your Swedish ancestors or don't know how to get started you can book a private research appointment with a member of the society on Wednesday afternoons. You'll have access to expert genealogists and be able to use the Society's resources. There is a fee associated with the presentations and the research sessions.

If you're looking to do even more Swedish research, there's the Swedish-American Historical Society located in the North Park neighborhood of Chicago. They focus on the experience of Swedish American immigrants in North America. You can search the digital archives of their quarterly online.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Oral Histories

The holidays are a great time to capture oral histories with your family. Here are a few books to help you get started.

The Oral History Workshop
This is an excellent resource! About a third of the book is devoted to sample questions revolving around a central theme for your interview. The authors also explain how to get started and how to turn an interview into a story. Helpful checklists and tips for archiving round out the book.

The following books also offer advice on copyright and publishing your oral histories in a variety of mediums. They discuss interview techniques and guides for transcription as well. These resources are especially useful if you're thinking of staring a large project:

Doing Oral History
The Oral History Manual
Recording Oral History


Wednesday, November 30, 2016

DNA Blogs

Everyone has questions about DNA and genealogy. Here are a few blogs that can help you figure it
all out:

Your Genetic Genealogist
CeCe Moore is a professional genetic genealogist. Her blog breaks down the different tests and explains how to incorporate them into your research. She also lists great basic resources and recommendations for testing.

DNAeXplained 
Roberta Estes, a scientist and genealogist, explains in-depth the various DNA testing services available and helps interpret results.

The Legal Genealogist
While Judy G. Russell mostly writes about the law and genealogy, she also does a series on DNA.

Other worthwhile blogs:
The Genetic Genealogist
Through the Trees
Genealem's Genetic Genealogy

And for even more information, check out the new book The Family Tree Guide to DNA Testing and Genetic Genealogy.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Mayflower Descendants

Do you have Mayflower ancestors? The General Society of Mayflower Descendants can help you find them. The Society was founded in 1897 and strives to publish authoritative genealogical information about the Pilgrims and their descendants.

The Genealogy & Local History Room contains a few publications from the Society of Mayflower Descendants including the Society of Mayflower Descendants in the State of Illinois. We have three editions in the Lundberg Collection: 1925, 1947, and 1962.

These volumes list members of the Society living in Illinois and includes their genealogies back to passengers on the Mayflower.

The books also include histories of the pilgrims and information about the Illinois chapter of the Society of Mayflower Descendants.




Monday, November 14, 2016

The Final Rolls of the Five Civilized Tribes

The Final Rolls of Citizens and Freedmen of the Five Civilized Tribes in Indian Territory are invaluable for researching ancestors from the Cherokee, Chickasaw, Creek, Choctaw and Seminole tribes.

In 1893, President Cleveland created a commission to negotiate land treaties with the Cherokee, Creek, Choctaw, Chickasaw and Seminole tribes. The tribes agreed to abolish their governments and recognize Federal laws in return for allotments of land. Individual members had to apply with the Commission to be deemed eligible for tribal land.

Between 1898 and 1907, the Federal government received approximately 250,000 applications but the Commission only approved 101,000 names to be added to the Final Rolls. About one-fourth of these individuals were full blood.

The Final Rolls were published in 1907 and list applicants' tribe, name, age, sex, and degree of blood. These documents are important sources for genealogy research in the "Five Civilized Tribes."