Sunday, September 30, 2012

Saving Libraries, One Genealogist at a Time

Book Quilt, University City Library, St. Louis, MO
The New(er) Library Patron
White Paper Brief of Presentation
Libraries across the nation are defining family researchers as “new patrons.” They have different needs and libraries are accommodating and finding more people walking through their doors daily. With genealogy and family research being the second most popular hobby (rumor has it Golf is number one), the ancestral search begins at the local library. We all aspire to go to the top 10 genealogy libraries, but beginning family research begins at the local library. Libraries are not obsolete, they are essential for family research.

What the Family Researcher Needs?
I challenge libraries to open their doors to the needs of the family researcher; to think out of the box, if you will. Here are a few ways to help the family researcher:
  1. Local history books: Wars, military and local history. Reference books are good but some of us like reading stories and watching history unfold. I recently checked out the 6 DVD copy of Shelby Foote’s series on the Civil War and on my reading desk is a library copy of This Republic of Suffering: Death and the American Civil War.
  2. Old Area Newspapers: If your area’s old newspapers have not been microfilmed or put in electronic form (OCR perhaps), know that genealogists around the world are wishing they were accessible. This does not have to be a big expense, just and effort. I like to say a movement!  I ask for interlibrary loans of microfilm newspapers monthly. My latest was for Zanesville, OH., 1849. Patrons are willing to pay the shipping fee (usually about $5.00)
  3. Indexed family files and holdings:  Indexed family files (call on your volunteers) will make you a favorite. The Napa City-County library has a great names index that takes the researcher to the right microfilm reel and date. My 3 hour scheduled visit ended up being a full day love affair with Napa’s historical papers. So little time, so many surnames! The Bonner Springs City Library in Kansas has wonderful local research room with notebooks of its citizens. 
  4. Genealogy databases: Yes some are subscription based but if cost prohibited, know there’s the popular website that is completely free to the researcher. Oh, there’s HeritageQuest for libraries, and , but the goal is not to have the most databases, but to offer a starting point for your family researcher. Encourage them to come to library to research.
  5. Classes/Workshops: Speaking of databases and research… what is most needed is training. By offering training courses, the library becomes a place for the community. Next logical steps are students setting up meeting times at the library to “unearth” some of those ancestors. Remember some basic research classes are needed too. Everything from making a research plan, to analyzing data, and citing sources.
  6. Community Liaison: Family researchers rely on libraries and genealogy societies to be the community reference desk. Where might I find cemetery records? Are there any experts on the early Acadians? These are the questions I posed to the St. Martinville Branch Library in Louisiana. Of course the reference librarian gave me the names of the leading books for researching that area and finding ancestors (yes it was successful), and she led me to a knowledgeable “Special Interest Group (SIG)” Popular libraries host SIG meetings, suggested as infrequent as once a quarter or on a once a month schedule or whatever your community needs. SIG’s can be on Native American research, ethnic research (Irish? German? Swedish?), or social media.
  7. Social Media: Of course this topic is essential to the family researchers. Many find cousins and ancestors on the internet through blogs, tweets, Google+ and Facebook. Oh, and let’s not forget the popular Pinterest. Besides offering classes the library can build its fan lists by using social media to keep patrons informed. Did you know there will be a Roots Tech Conference in Salt Lake City March 2013 . This annual conference is the best of both worlds: technology (to include a lot of social media) and genealogy in one! What about the newest exhibit at the library. The Kansas City Public Library just featured Americans by Choice: The Story of Immigration and Citizenship in Kansas. We spent over 2 hours clicking photos and reading every panel and book. Not just a learning experience, it helped the “inner researcher” to think out of the box when researching my family history.
  8. Repository for Yearbooks and Old City Directories: Public school memory books (yearbooks) started to become popular in the late 1890’s. And these books may offer the only photo of our ancestors, or at least a mention. But where can one find these yearbooks? For the Rockford memory books, try visiting the Rockford Public library. They have collected yearbooks back to 1892. Rarely do we find comprehensive collections of yearbooks as we do in the local libraries. This library also has the Rockfordiana, indexed local newspaper clippings. .
  9. Advocate for Local History: Libraries reaching out to family research patrons are noted as being local history advocates. If there’s a need in a community why not host the local genealogy society. If space allows, perhaps even housing and accessing the local history information for patrons and society members. Harper County (KS) Genealogical Society is headquartered at the Harper Public Library. The idea is to become a community focus, and let researchers know you are serious about it. 
  10. Local History Room. Space is often an issue for the small library, but hopefully there is a specified section for local history. While researching for the Reba McIntire episode of Who Do You Think You Are, I was able to uncover data from the Butler, MO library. The small space for local history held a few microfilm readers and pertinent local history and reference books in one area.
For more information visit

Kathleen Brandt is a Keynote speaker/consultant for libraries and repositories wishing to support family researchers, genealogists and historians. She volunteers for the Midwest Genealogy Center, Mid-Continent Library, in Independence MO. 

Accurate, accessible, answers. 

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Am I Really Native American?

If you were told your great-grandpa or great-grandma were Native Americans raise your hand. 
Now prove it!

Elizabeth Warren Cherokee Connection?
In this political fury everyone is jumping in to prove or disprove the facts – commonly called Fact Checking.  But, where does family lore come in? Most people have not put effort into fact-checking the family stories. You just believe them; they are a part of who you are. That is until the genealogists come along!  I recently penned this Preface for my own family book that uncovers the fact that 2nd Great Grandpa Tobe was not Native American after all:
For as long as I can remember, I would boast, to any victim who would listen,…[about] the Indian blood I possessed…  To me, these stories were a necessary reality of unproven truths that defined the “me” of me.  I willingly accepted the twisted family stories, spinned them and massaged them into epoch size fairy tales that defied logic.  Perhaps under microscopic review, one could find 20% reality but the other 80% was clearly muddied by the storyteller’s liberty.                                                             
I continued to explain that “In less than two months of research, I came to some “mouth-dropped-open realities.  Tobe wasn’t Tobe,[and] we had no Indian blood…”

So when Elizabeth Warren made the mistake of sharing what she thought was her Native American bragging rights only to find that it was a family myth, I have to admit, I was a bit sympathetic.  I can’t say that the research is all in, but the preliminary documents and arguments have nullified her Native American heritage. At best, it appears that family line might (maybe) yield a 1/64 Native American blood line.

So before any others suffer from the embarrassment of a genealogical morass, know that there are a few key points to remember when searching your Cherokee Connection: 
  1. Just because your ancestor lived in the Indian Territory (now Oklahoma) does not make them an “Indian”
  2. Facial features and hair texture are not valid arguments for Native American heritage.
  3. Not all Cherokee ancestors were properly listed on the Dawes Rolls, but if they aren’t, they are not considered members of the Cherokee Nation, and you aren’t either
  4. As many Freedmen Indians already know: just because you aren’t officially a member of the Cherokee Nation, doesn’t speak of your bloodline. We’ve proven a few DNA connections to Native American bloodline, but more data is needed to claim tribal status.  
  5. And finally, don’t confuse family lore with fact, especially while the whole country is watching!For 
More Information on the Elizabeth Warren Story visit the following:

 Kathleen Brandt
Accurate, accessible, answers

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Passports Applications for Genealogy

For self and wife. Wife's birthplace given. 
Resource for Women, African American and Alien Research?
Of course by now you know passport application can be a genealogical treasure. They give us place of origin, parent’s names, date of birth, photos, and so much to fill in holes and to karate chop a brick wall to its knees. But, sometimes we need to delve a bit more into the law and practices of this document.  Like all collections, passport applications have evolved over the years. 

History of  Passport Applications?
An interesting fact is that not all passports were issued by the Department of State. Prior to 1856 other government entities were allowed to issue passports, and the issuance of passports were governed by fluctuating laws.  But, the Department of State began issuing passports in 1789. At that time ninety five percent (95%) of early passport applicants were men, but not 95% of the travelers.

Women, Children and Servants?
Self, servant, and two minors. 
If the man was being accompanied by his wife, children or servant, the group, customarily were named and traveled on one passport. The group travel scenario makes for a genealogical bonus. Women and children also traveled overseas, sometimes alone or accompanied by a woman’s maid, child nurse or family servant.  In these cases passports can be used to verify a family unit. By 1923, 40% of the passports applicants were women.

African American Research
Self, wife (birthdate/place), and 2 colored servants: name and birthdate/place given
It is rare that researchers think of passports as a resource for African American research for ex-slaves. But recently, Beth Foulk of Genealogy Decoded provided the example above of Eugene Herbert Coapman. She came across this passport application, that clearly defines two colored servants, when researching her husband's line. As in this example, early passports may provide genealogical glimpses of servants, ex-slaves, or free coloreds, offering birthplace and dates of birth. Passports may also specify trade/occupation.

Aliens Had US Passports?
Of course aliens were not “generally” issued passports, but this should not deter the researcher from reviewing the passport collections. You may find your alien ancestor was one of the few issued a passport without being naturalized between March 1863 and May 1866.   During this timeframe it was lawful to issue a passport to alien applicants if they had completed their Declaration of Intent to become a naturalized citizen. (Reference: Act of Congress of March 3, 1863 (12 Stat. 754; and Act 30 May 1866 - 14 Stat 54).

It was once again lawful to issue passports to aliens between 1907 and 1920, if the applicant had declared his intent to become a naturalized citizen. (Reference: Act 2 March 1907 - 34 Stat.1228; and June 4, 1920 - 41 Stat 751).  

Were Passports Needed?
The NARA website best defines why residents often traveled overseas without a US passport. But it must be noted that passport requirements paralleled the various war / peace state of the USA. The Civil War, WWI, and WWII each influenced the need (or recommendation) for US passports:

Civil War Era: Passports were required from August 19, 1861, to March 17, 1862
WWI Era: President Woodrow Wilson's Executive Order 2285 of December 15, 1915 recommended passports: But they were not required until May 22, 1918 (40 Stat. 559). This was enforced until the 1921 treaties.
WWII Era: The Act of June 21, 1941 (55 Stat. 252) once again imposed passport requirements. On the 27 Jun 1952 the Immigration and Nationality Act made it illegal to leave the USA without a valid passport.

Locating Passport Applications
Passport applications have been digitized by ancestry.comThey can also be obtained thy mail (or in person) at the NARA in Washington DC. Researchers can even request passports applications online: Visit the NARA website for ordering instructions: 

Kathleen Brandt
accurate accessible answers