Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Researching in Nebraska

This morning I walked out to the mail box and paused to listen to the birds chirping and the sandhill cranes cawing in the field west of my house.  This means spring has arrived in Nebraska. 

If your ancestors came from Nebraska, or passed through going elsewhere, the resources are great in this state.  Many travelers drive through the state on I-80 which follows an aged trail formed long before Nebraska became a state.  Following the Platte River route, many explorers, adventurers and pioneers came through this land on their way west.  And many came back through here returning to family and friends in the east. 

Traveling the I-80 route, genealogists will be interested in stopping at libraries and museums that contain records.  These contain extensive records on Nebraska and Nebraskans, but also have other genealogical and historical books and records.  

The W. Dale Clark Library is located at 215 South 15th Street in Omaha, NE.  Look for the Genealogy Room.  The library is located in the downtown area of Omaha, so time your driving to avoid rush hour traffic.  There is limited, metered parking at the library and parking garages within walking distance of the library.  There are also restaurants in the library area. 

There are several genealogy stops to make in Lincoln, NE.  The first should be the Nebraska State Historical Society, 1500 R Street in Lincoln.  This is on the University of Nebraska-Lincoln campus, thus parking is limited.  There are metered areas and also parking garages within walking distance.  Before going there, you should check out the society's web page at http://www.nebraskahistory.org.  The Museum of Nebraska History is located close by at 15th and P Streets.  

The Lincoln-Lancaster Genealogical Society book collection is located at the Union College Library in Lincoln, Don Love Building.  The college is at 2800 S. 48th Street.  This is a religious college so check their web page for hours and a map for parking, http://www.ucollege.edu.  

Many Germans from Russia settled in Nebraska.  Their history and genealogy is richly preserved in the American Historical Society of Germans from Russia (AHSGR) located at 631 D Street in Lincoln.  You can learn more about this society at http://www.ahsgr.org

Traveling west you will want to stop at Grand Island and visit the Stuhr Museum of the Prairie Pioneer, 3133 West Highway 34.  They have a closed stack, non-lending library and archives, but the historical items displayed are worth the stop.  The Edith Abbott Memorial Library, 2nd and Washington Streets in Grand Island, has an excellent collection of genealogy books.  

Other libraries along the route include the Calvin T. Ryan Library on the University of Nebraska campus, 2508  11th Ave., Kearney, NE.  The Wilson Public Library is located at 910 Meridian in Cozad, NE.  The North Platte Public Library is located at 120 West 4th Street, North Platte, NE.  The genealogy collection is on the second floor.  Just before crossing into Wyoming, stop at the Kimball Public Library, 208 S. Walnut Street, Kimball, NE.  

Preparation for a trip through or just to Nebraska is half the fun.  You will want to check out web pages and Google for maps so you are prepared to make the most of your visits.  These libraries and museums are located along the I-80 route through Nebraska.  The state has many more offerings for the genealogist.  

Monday, March 24, 2008

We've Come a Long Ways

Remember when we used to spend hours looking through unindexed microfilm, such as census records?  Remember when we used to write letters, and wait impatiently for a response to our letter?  The large publication that put people in touch with others researching the same names or families was The Genealogical Helper.  It came out bimonthly and I had it read cover to cover within a matter of days.  

Thank goodness times have changed.  We have better means of communication.  Letters can still be written, but for the most part we communicate by e-mail or through mailing lists.  The Genealogical Helper is still being published with a new style and features, but still contains those queries we loved, including e-mail addresses.  There are other periodicals and magazines geared to teach us methods for improving our research.  Census records are indexed and images are being digitized and indexed.  When the year 2000 rolled around I wondered how we could top the new things that happened in the genealogy world the last decade of the 20th century, but we have and the progress continues.  

I want everything I can get.  That means taking the good along with the bad.  I need everything I can find on Internet.  That includes subscription databases as well as the free items.  Maybe it is because I have done genealogical research for so many years and have so many surnames that I research.  Or maybe it's because I'm impatient and greedy when it comes to obtaining information.  I use the information submitted to places like World Connect on RootsWeb. 
That information supplies me with clues.  The information may not be totally correct.  It's up to me to use it wisely and prove what is there.  That is not much different than we did years ago, except we can readily obtain the information from Internet.  

Just because you have to pay for genealogical information doesn't mean it is bad.  It might be bad on your check book or credit card though.  Perhaps the indexing is not as thorough as it should be.  That means you will have to put your thinking cap on and do some good sleuthing to find what you need.  The good and the bad "stuff" has always been out there.  The method we locate it has changed.  

If you don't like the indexing at subscriptions places such as Ancestry.com, try something else. A good deal of census has been indexed on HeritageQuest Online which is available at many libraries as well as Family History Centers (LDS).  Another source of indexing and images can be found at Family Search Labs. What doesn't work at one place, may at another for you.  These places will continue to get better as more records are digitized and indexed.  It's up to you to use them wisely.  

Not everybody has a budget for the subscription databases.  Go to your local or area Family History Center (LDS) and ask about databases they have on their computer.  These should include Footnote.com, Godfrey Memorial Library, Kindred Konnection and more.  It's time to make use of these resources.  These three will allow you to search for records, but not view the records on your own computer.  Do that on your home computer before you go to the Family History Center, then go prepared with what you want to check while there.  

Do you still enjoy writing letters (not e-mails)?  Do you enjoy going to the cemeteries and courthouses?  Not everything is on Internet.  There is that thrilling rush when you find a courthouse document that contains information on an ancestor.  There is an awesome feeling when you stand at an ancestor's grave.  Those cannot be replicated on Internet.  We have come a long ways, but there are many miles to go and the going is sweet!  

Monday, March 17, 2008

Research Ideas and Tips

It's a snowy March day and I'm dreaming up all kinds of research ideas.  I am also trying to space spring and summer research trips out of my mind.  By tomorrow when the snow melts I'll be out walking and thinking about cemeteries, courthouses, visiting relatives and all that good stuff that goes through the minds of genealogists. 

In the meantime, let's talk about research ideas and tips.  Why doesn't your research succeed?  You need think outside the box.  That's the computer box where you are entering your data, the limited box of your research knowledge, and the box where you have isolated your ancestor.  Start looking for your ancestors by doing cluster genealogy.  This means you will study the area where you find your ancestor for other people.  They may be unknown to you now, but they just may become your friends.  When you can't find answers for where your ancestors came from, where they went to church, what prompted them to migrate, look at others around them.  Did they come from the same place?  Did they attend the same church?  Did they intermarry?  Was there a connection to the old country?  

Another tip is to study the geography and history of the area in which your ancestor lived as well as where he or she had lived prior to coming there.  What motivated them to move?  When was the county formed?  What were the parent counties?  Are you isolating your research to one county or one area?  Make a list of the records that can be found in the county, plus the parent counties.  Place your ancestor on a timeline and then progress through your plans for researching that area or areas.  

Then when the sun shines you can also start planning a research trip that will be successful.  Best of luck with your research on St. Patrick's Day!  ....  Ruby