Friday, February 17, 2017

Chicago Genealogy Class

Do you have Chicago or Cook County ancestors? On Wednesday, February 22 at 10 AM, discover local resources to help you with your research.

Register online or call the Reference Desk at 847-725-7500.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

The Chicago 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition

Beautiful Scenes of the White City
Join us this Saturday at 1 PM for The Chicago 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition: What Remains & New Links to H.H. Holmes. Local historian and former criminal investigator Ray Johnson discusses the legacy of the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition, including relics that remain and previously undiscovered links to “The Devil” Dr. H.H. Holmes. This program is presented in partnership with the North Suburban Genealogical Society.
Great Yerkes Telescope, Manufactures Building from
Beautiful Scenes of the White City

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

Our Genealogy & Local History Room contains two books that were published in 1893 and 1894 to commemorate the Exposition.

The Dream City
A beautiful over-sized book of photographs and descriptions of the architecture and attendees of the fair. The editors discuss the creation of the exposition and the people involved in turning the fair into reality.

Beautiful Scenes of the White City
The photographs here are largely focused on individual exhibits and attractions. Lovely interior images evoke an idea of what it would have been like to attend the fair.

Also, look for Chicago: The Wonder City published in 1893 to promote the city and the fair. This book focuses more on the city of Chicago itself.
"The Columbian Illuminations" from The Dream City

Monday, January 30, 2017


The National Museum of African American History and Culture recently partnered with FamilySearch, the National Archives, the Afro-American Historical and Genealogical Society, and the California African American Museum to create a database of records of emancipated African Americans. searches FamilySearch's collection of Freedmen's Bureau records. Established in 1865, the Freedmen's Bureau provided aid to recently emancipated slaves and poor whites in the South. The Freedmen's Bureau archives include marriage, census, land, court, school, and medical information from between 1865 and 1872. Because slaves were rarely recorded in pre-Civil War records, the Freedmen's Bureau is an excellent starting point for tracing enslaved ancestors.


Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Genealogy Research Day

Need help with a tough genealogy problem? Just getting started with your research? Drop in this Saturday to get one-on-one help with your genealogy and to utilize our print and digital resources. Join us in the Technology Lab or the Genealogy & Local History Room any time between 1-4 PM.

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 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 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, 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.