Wednesday, December 27, 2023

Don't Let It Happen to Genealogy Societies

Preserving Our Heritage:
Supporting Local Genealogy Societies

I'm from small town Kansas. Well not really, but I spent every summer in small town Kansas with grandparents. Lyons, Rice County, Kansas to be exact. We had the best Ma and Pa shops, generational shops, a 5 and dime store, (3, YES! 3) small grocers...then Walmart entered the picture. I was probably out of college by then, so I got to see the town close doors because, as you may already know, few would call Walmart a team player. They came in, under priced the little Ma and Pa shops, and within a few years had what most thought as a "one stop shop," not noticing that there was no more competition. As I said Walmart is not noted for being a team players.

As soon as the competition was annihilated, Walmart no longer had to be competitive. The were able to put forth limited offerings while defining the "shopping" experience in Lyons, KS. Oh...and they most often got tax breaks to stay in town. Walmart had a system and the money backing them, even through tax payer money, allowed for them to push out the little guy.

I'm hoping the family historian and genealogists actively fight against this from happening to local genealogical societies and local repositories. We need the small town genealogical societies. Heck, we need the Kansas City genealogical societies to survive. Most have dues of $5 - $50 dollars. Societies rely on donations to heat the building, to staff the operation, to bring in speakers. Societies aren't afforded tax breaks, or taxpayer dollars. They aren't big libraries with multiple branches funded by the taxpayer. They rely on charitable donors. But, they can do wonders with a small budget. And, what they do best is preserve the local history and they can put it in perspective for you.

Societies vs Libraries 
In addition to preserving local history and having historical documents and preserved histories, and often unpublished histories, small town America wants you to visit them. Visit their libraries, their cemeteries, their museums, eat at their diners all while taking out the time to walk the ground of your ancestors. They give us an excuse to get away from the databases that you can access from your hometown library. Small town America has what large repositories and libraries don't have - perspective. T

The locals have people who knew your people. The locals have the pics of their grandparents, often with yours identified in their family albums. They have antique stores filled with old bibles that you may identify, but time has lost the old-timers.

Even in Kansas City, where we have the the National Frontier Trails Museum, National Archives - KC, the Truman Presidential Library, Eisenhower and Hoover Presidential Libraries not far out of reach, the Midwest Genealogy Center, and the Kansas City branch of The State Historical Society, there's still a need for those who speak the language of the locals. That's when professional genealogists turn to the Clay County Historical Society & Museum. It is there where I uncovered documents for both 1) Who Do You Think You Are, Tim McGraw episode and 2) the Kearney MO episode of The Dead Files 3) plus a plethora of clients whose ancestors settled or passed through Missouri.

These specialized local repositories, like the Midwest Afro-American Genealogical Interest Coalition M.A.G.I. C: not only hold family records and vertical files in their holdings, like the other specialized local repositories, they all have someone, or can contact someone, who can be interviewed or have expertise in a field. They have community connections.

There is no "one-stop shop" for genealogy - not even the FamilySearch Library, Salt Lake City with their massive collection. Now they play fair! They support the local genealogical communities, lineage and hereditary societies, and they partner with the smaller societies because they recognize the fact that smaller societies-specialty societies and repositories - have something to offer. There's room for all. I like to say it's synergetic.

A few years back, on my last visit to Allen County, IN, there was a small local entity that needed to boost their funding, and donor contribution. Instead of smothering their membership growth, the Allen County Public Library stepped in and partnered with them in their effort. It was a great event, well attended. A great use of taxpayer dollars - keep the community viable.

What Can the Large Genealogy Libraries Do?
First they must understand, once again, diversity. The more the merrier should be the mantra when it comes to topic specialists and experienced genealogists working with the large libraries. My mother, who was a librarian and specialized in archival research, was not a historian. She was limited, as many are, from classic schoolbook sanitization of history. But, boy!, did she know her collections and the databases the library held. Thirty-two years allowed her to span actually 3 generations of high schoolers.

Mother could put her finger on the card catalog of every vertical file and finding aid like Quick Draw McGraw. She was from western Kansas after all! She may have even known local histories, but not necessarily the importance of a cultural or societal incident that may have changed the trajectory of a place, person, or community. Not once did Mother say ""Now hold on there!" and "I'll do the thin'in' around here and don't you forget it!" Instead her philosophy was "when one grows, we all grow."

Secondly, they might wish to embrace "community partnership." For the most part, I think most libraries do just that. Just like we've seen in the Walmart small town takeovers, the quality of genealogical programming can be diminished if the family genealogists has limited exposure. This is probably why the KC metro based Midwest Genealogy Center has traditionally partnered for an annual event with M.A.G.I.C, the Midwest Afro-American Genealogical Interest Coalition. This kind of partnership and specialized programming is needed and appreciated by the community.

Our family stories, though not usually shy of birthdate, marriage date, death date and census records, is not usually uncovered due to lack of research outreach. The information needed is widespread, and the local societies may hold the experts needed to guide us to our genealogical answers. Our ancestors were more than parents, offsprings, and dates; and the records needed are not always on a convenient database or in a "big" genealogical library.

Thirdly, know that limiting access to quality, and pushing specialists out of the market is the work of genealogical society bullies. They are not team players. They are like Walmart, bullies getting rid of what they consider competition vs. choices. Donors, say no to bulling!

Bullying often leads to genealogical societies losing members and membership dues. I personally think the goal is for the bully to inherit records. But, bullying results into destroying what should have been preserved - the genealogical community.

Sure the larger genealogical research libraries house books, databases and even original records, but even your favorite library should not be a "one stop shop." Our ancestors were unique.

We Partner with the Locals

Board of Tracing Ancestors
Kathleen Brandt, President
Collaborative Article: Interns

Saturday, December 23, 2023

Little Dixie - Tracing Pre-Civil War Ancestors


Did Your Ancestor Go to Missouri?
I was recently asked "where did enslavers come from in order to settle in Missouri?" The answer is many of the Missouri slaveholders came from Kentucky, Virginia, Tennessee and the Carolinas.

The largest slave holding counties in Missouri were around Saline County: Boone, Manitou, Howard, Chariton, Cooper,  Clay, Ray, and Lafayette counties. These counties are within 90 miles of one another and nicknamed Little Dixie. Researchers will quickly learn that if you find an ancestor in one, it will behoove you to expand your research to include the neighboring counties.

Why did Plantation Owners Move to Missouri?
The Missouri land was ready for cultivation of familiar crops - hemp and tobacco. Even the transplant planters familiar with cotton growing knew that growing hemp and tobacco was similar and required an easy transition with the work of slaves. Eighteen percent (18%) of Missouri’s hemp crop was cultivated in Saline County (before 1861).

What You May Not Know
Even if you have a Mississippi ancestor, finding ties to Saline County Missouri may be found in agricultural records. Did you know that Missouri shipments, mostly from Claiborne Fox Jackson’s company in Saline County, shipped commodities -  hemp, corn, oats, salt, pork, beef – to Natchez Mississippi to feed the cotton field slaves?

Slavery in the Kansas Territory?

Full Census
Finding Records
Descendants of slaves know, too well, that researching their ancestors involve thorough the enslaver's documentation. However, the same applies when researching slaveholders. Many vital records of enslaved people before the Civil War, and many after emancipation can be used to trace 1) formerly enslaved ancestors 2) abolitionists 3) enslavers.

We can often determine slaveholder whereabouts after the Civil War using original documents. Ex-slaveholders were directly tied to newly freed persons and their identities for years following the Civil War. Here are just a few examples: 
Saline County Colored Marriages, 1865 - 1870
  1. The sale of an enslaved family, or person, is noted in the deeds of the enslaver. 
  2. Ship manifests transporting enslaved people often name the enslaver *S1: Ep2 "Ships & Plantations - Kansas Ancestor McKinney"
  3. After the Civil-War, formerly enslaved persons were documented in Civil War pension records *S3:Ep4 Combing the Barbers: KS, MO KY
  4. Legalization of former slave marriages and other freedman bureau record the enslaver and a place of origin. *S3:Ep4 Combing the Barbers: KS, MO KY
  5. Some enslavers insured their valuable "slaves" through Slave Era Insurance Policies. Read The Telling Records of Insured Slaves 1640-1865.
  6. After the Civil War, ancestors left a money trail to follow through the Southern Claims Commission. Read A Gem: Southern Claims Commission Case Files
  7. Border states also had Slave Claims.  (Future blogpost scheduled)
  8. Territorial records may include the baptism and sacraments of enslaved persons also referencing the enslaver. Read 5 Resources to Tracing Missouri Territorial Ancestors.
  9. Runaway persons were noted in newspapers by their first name tied to the enslaver, location and sometimes name of plantation*S3:Ep4 Combing the Barbers: KS, MO KY
  10. Abolitionists may have been associated with a church leading us to church records.*S3:Ep4 Combing the Barbers: KS, MO KY  (Future blogpost scheduled).
Kathleen Brandt
Accurate, accessible answers

Thursday, December 14, 2023

A Gem: Southern Claims Commission Case Files

I would be remiss if I did not share a favorite presentation of a3Genealogy entitled Claim It! which highlights the Southern Claims Commission Case Files. I also wanted to provide a few updates, for example, I learned recently, many did not know there was a Master Index on

That should get you started.  But you will want to really scour the archives.  By the way, just because your ancestor did not make a claim, or mentioned in the index, does not mean he (or she) is not mentioned in the neighbors' claims. I have a tendency of reading quite a few claims in the community to unscramble relationships. 

Why Research Southern Claims Commission Case Files?

This record collection can lead the family researcher / genealogists to uncover more on their ancestors, as it holds a wealth of historical information on the community, kinships, and proof of applicants’ claims.


Plantation conditions

Vital records

Location of residence(s)

War service

Property ownership

Name changes


Slave ownership: often with names

Slave loyalty 

 Making a Claim: Who, What, When, Where & How  

Q: Who could make a claim?  And, Who did it? 

A: Union Loyalists / Supporters. This included property owners during the Civil War, former slaves and free born coloreds.  Basically, if it was your ancestors’ property, and they allowed for the Union Army/Navy to use their property, and can prove it, many filed a claim. There were 22, 298 claims and about 220,000 witnesses.  Witness may have been a slave or ‘free-colored.” 

QWhat could be claimed?
       A: Property. This was a property Reimbursement procedure put in place.

Q: When could the union loyalists/supporters make the claim?
     A: 1871-1873

 Q: Where (or Which) states were eligible?
       A: 12 southern state

     Q. How to make a claim?
     A: With proof and most often witnesses. Researchers will find proof in the form of a petition accompanied by testimonies; depositions of witnesses and reports penned by special agents.

 Slaveholder, Ex-Slave, Free Coloreds

As mentioned, the claims were based on reimbursement for the Union to use property (horse, mule, food from storage, slave, etc. But, the claims were a bit different to prove 1) ownership 2) proof of value.

 Slaveholder had to provide proof of …

  • Being an abolitionist or union supporter
  • Owning a plantation and having a loss
  • Claimant information to prove kinships
  • Places of residences
  • Wills and probates if pertinent to the claim (ownership)

 Free- Coloreds had to provide proof of …

  • Legally manumitted: manumission papers proof
  • War Service
  • Proof of kinship, inheritance

Slave: Ex slaves could also claim but had to prove...

  • Slaveholder information
  • War Service (contraband)
  • Name Changes
  • Property Ownership

Where are the Records
These records have been digitized on and The originals and microfilmed versions are held in NARA Record Group 217 for the approved / settled claims.  For more information read NARA Southern Commission Case Files and Approved Case Files, 1871 - 1880 

Disallowed (failed to prove), and barred claims (often because they did not meet the deadline of 3 Mar 1873), can be found in RG233, House of Representatives or at Fold3 partially digitized. (We've had 100% success of uncovering the counties for our clients on Fold3.  But some county records may notbe included here and only located at NARA. 

Slave Compensation Claims

Although this will require a separate blog, let’s not confuse the Southern Claims Commission Case Files with the Slave Compensation Claims which was compensation for loss of slave’s free labor.

Slave Compensation Claims allowed loyal slaveholders in the Boarder States, think Kentucky, Missouri, Delaware, Maryland (and some neighboring states), to be compensated for permitting their slaves to enlist in the Union efforts ($300); or were drafted ($100).

More to come on Slave Compensation Claims.

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Wednesday, November 29, 2023

The Telling Records of Insured Slaves 1640 - 1865

Insured Slaves: Slave Era Insurance Policies,

Yes Cami, there are plenty of records not referenced in this episode but slave era records are valuable resources for all of our ancestral research. Descendants of enslaved persons and enslavers may bring down a brickwall with these records.  
Slave Era Insurance Policies for Brickwalls
Let's talk about one of my favorite, Slave Era Insurance Policies, and be sure to surf this a3genealogy blog for others. These insurance policies are not widespread, but perusing these records is well worth the researcher's time.  Know that often these policies were not sold locally; so be you must to do a national search.

If you want to check to verify if your enslaved ancestor was insured, or perhaps if your ancestor insured enslaved persons, Here are two great resources:

  1. California Department of Insurance: Slavery Era Insurance Registry 
    This registry highlights a nationwide listing from NY Life Insurance Company, American International Group, Inc, and the Missourian’s favorite: Aetna Life Insurance.. The states of TN, KY, NC, VA, SC, GA, and AL are represented in the snippet below but as mentioned other states, like MO are listed. 

Even indicies are chocked full of information, but you will want the originals:  


This site is a bit quirky, so you may have to also research just by using USA as the keyword and then search (ctrl F) from within the collection.  It does appear that these are the same lists as the California Department of Insurance: Slavery Era Insurance Registry, but just in case one gets updated, we have provided you with both links. 

The following is on this VA website, again, be sure to widen your search for both knowledge and possible record groups. 

Slave Insurance


Slave insurance involved a contract between a policy holder and an insurance company in which the insurer promised to pay a sum of money upon the death of an enslaved person. In the three decades leading up to the American Civil War (1861–1865), such policies became widespread in southern states. In Virginia, the Baltimore Life Insurance Company of Maryland and later the Virginia Life Insurance Company sold insurance to slaveholders who were worried about the potential deaths of enslaved people performing particularly valuable work, such as blacksmithing, carpentry, and household duties, or dangerous work, such as in factories and mines or on railroads and steamboats                               /slave-insurance/

Midwest -Missouri?
The following is a copy of Register of the Slave… Insured in This District (St. Louis). The policy below is a copy of the original Aetna Insurance Co. for Charles Meyer (above) covering slaves Henry and Martha. Ann below is was another slave of Charles Meyer.

Insuring Human Cargo

If you do this type of genealogical research, you already know tracing the ship Captain is vital to uncovering enslaved ancestors. It is also a valuable resource for the descendants of enslavers. It is here we can trace accounting books, determine heirs, and analyze net worth, assess transactions, etc..  It is also here that we can identify the origination of the voyage for human cargo, determine the age, and identify an earlier enslaver.

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Wednesday, October 25, 2023

Small Town Vaults Holding Our Ancestors?

Rice County, Kansas: Lyons, Sterling, Geneseo, plus...

They Are Being Held Against Our Will
When your family is from small town America, we scour all repositories for ancestral data, relics, the family bible, anything! These repositories include the local museum, the County Historical Society, college/university special collections, etc. Really everywhere!

I will be chronically the a3Genealogy experience with Lyons, Rice County, Kansas repositories. This is actually one of the biggest conundrum for the a3Genealogy researchers and small town researchers across America. Our quest is for a lost Brown Family Bible. But we have discovered "closed vaults" as far south as Mississippi, across the Midwest and off western to Montana. So let's start with the facts. 

Sidney Brown of Ellsworth Kansas, married Aunt Leona Strader. We called her Aunt Can. Aunt Can had the family bible at 206 E. Lyon St, but she died in 1980 and my grandparents Ruth and Harold "Pappy" moved into her big house, across the street from the park: 

Yes, that gray thing was the "big house." You should have seen the tiny place on Pioneer St. 

Shortened story...sorry if this is deja vu of your small town America story, but Pappo "Grandpa or Pappy Strader" to his Lyons towns-folk" died in 1983, Grandma later moved to Kansas City, where she could be surrounded by family. There was an estate sale and somethings were inadvertently left behind like Aunt Can's Brown family Bible.

We put out an alert !!!⚠  In 2002, we were notified that there was a family bible seen at the antique store. 

Is this the Brown family bible you were looking for? 

Yes, Yes, please go back and buy it. We will pay all costs. 

But two days passed and the bible was no longer there after market day. That was 21 years ago. Lyons has an older population. Every several years I call around again looking for the Bible. I'm hoping by now it has been located in an attic or basement and donated to the 1) library 2) the Lyons local museum 3) or the local antique store.

1. Lyons Public Library

I had a tinge of hope:

"We don't have family bibles that I know of.  I'll ask the "person in charge."

2. Local Antique Store, Bits & Pieces
106 East Avenue South
Lyons, KS 67554
(785) 472-8876

Open Fridays 1:00pm 785-472-8876
Possible: that's actually an Ellsworth Tele
Left message: Waiting to hear from owner. 

3. Coronado Quivira Museum 
Mr Verl Manwarren.
105 West Lyon
Lyons, KS 67554

Here's proof the ancestors are not hiding they have been kidnapped. 

"We have a vault filled with Bibles and other things. No there is no finding aid, they are catalogued by donor. No the pubic cannot go in the vault there are stacks of books in there. No we can't pull out bibles for review, there are too many of them, some in German, some...." No we have no way of determining who was donated in a particular year.

A rule of a3Genealogy and our 501c3 Tracing Ancestors: Be a part of the solution.  

Me: "Well can we assist by helping the Museum create Finding Aids?" There are probably family trees in the front of some of those bibles.

Mr. ManWarren: "We are under the jurisdiction of the Rice County Historical Society. Oh by the way, my sister thinks "she remember Oda Mae Strader of Sterling Kansas. 

Note: Leona (aka Ona and Can) did have a sister named Oda Mae Strader. Oda Mae (Aunt Odie) may have lived and gone to college in Sterling  (Cooper College) before marriage. but, there was one other Strader family in Kansas from that area. 

4.  Rice County Historical Society
Rice County Historical Society Executive Director: Charlene Akers
105 West Lyon
Lyons, KS 67554

Mr. Manwarren forgot to inform me that the Rice County Historical Society was in the same edifice as the Coronado Quivira Museum.  So after hanging up, I called back.  The Executive Director of the Historical Society had already been briefed, which is great. Plus, this was my second call to her after she told me a couple days before to call the Museum. Again I offered our free services to assist with creating a finding aid.  

We have a system. Take an image of cover, open bible, take pic of any family history or identifiable info. Next bible, repeat.  Go back to office and use spreadsheet or database to create with image and info. 

Understanding the Personnel
I know this is odd, but in small town America, you need to know the archivist, the Exec Director of the Museum and personnel at the local library. If you have time, hang out at the American Legion, the local diner, and whenever possible go to the local games, and be able to talk about the weather! Just know, we need to know a bit about the archivists and directors in small town USA. 

We always hope for homegrown. They have an inherit interest in the history of their small town and many are not museum "hoppers." But, of course it's common for Museum Personnel to move from one museum to another. Plus, Lyons, Ks, and Rice County, has suffered from declining population, so going out of the community for personnel was undoubtedly needed. None were from Lyons itself

1) One person I spoke to was from Sterling, Rice County, KS, about 9 miles away but a rivalry, except for the 4th of July celebration. Ok...Sterling also had the best soft ice cream cones growing up. Oh, let me make sure I note, the rivalry was based on which town, Sterling (earlier known as Peace, KS), or Lyons, should have become the county seat in 1871! This was still a thing in 1971 when I was in middle school! He was a family historian though, he shared. 

2) The library staff person shared she was a 50 year transplant to Lyons. (After 50 years, she STILL wasn't from Lyons.)   

3) According to the Nationwide Journey Chasing History Lands Woman in Lyons, 2013, another person I had spoken to had settled in Geneseo, Rice County, KS, population less than 300. When I was young, we knew most the residents of Geneseo. Like many, her resume included various repositories and museums.

I did learn from a newspaper article, that there is quite a bit of storage room, which makes me sad. This is not a Smithsonian Museum, this Lyons, Kansas. Our ancestors are behind those doors!

Review of the Population
In 2000 it is said that Rice County, Kansas had a population of less than 9500 (9390).  Lyons Kansas, my paternal family homeplace since the 1890's,  had a population of 3732 people in 2000. Keep in mind that was from the 1546 households and 1032 families for that census year. Personally, I think that was inflated, we knew everyone. But, that is a smaller number than the attendees at my Kansas City, Kansas high school. 

Be sure to share your Small Town Research stories. We can all learn, or at least be soothed by, or become hopeful, by other stories. 

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Tuesday, October 24, 2023

Cringing! Let's Talk America's Modern History

"Sears" 1908-1940
Synonymous with Affordable Housing
Sears Roebuck, Castleton Model, $934 to $2,193
Prefab Housing Is Not New
Listening to KC, FoxNews4 today, I had to cringe when I heard a short exchange about not knowing that there were Sears, Roebuck and Co. kit homes. Sure the reporters knew about the prefab tiny homes of today, but not about America's history; Sears Roebuck's influence, the company's influence on the housing marketing across America. Could this be true?
Do You Know the Sears, Roebuck Catalog?
Let's start with the Sears, Roebuck Catalog. Ok, I have to admit, I'm probably a generation away from the Fox4 reports of this AM, so perhaps they didn't grow up with the most important catalog of my generation. Click link above to also learn about headstones, and clothes and the opening of the Holiday Season. 
Ok...back to the houses! In1908, the Sears Roebuck catalog included 44 styles of ready-to-assemble homes ranging in price from $360 to $2,890. About 100,000 Sears Roebuck prefab homes were erected across America up to the 1940's. I have seen seen this number as low as 70K, but I will be using the preferred adjusted estimate of abt.100K homes. Many of these homes still exist in America's cities. 

In Kansas City, there were Sears Homes in Cass County, to include Belton and Raymore. You can see photos in the Missouri Valley Room of the Kansas City Public Library. 

Here is a 1923 Hillrose Model that sold for under $4000.00. Of course the Hillrose Model was able to boast to be one of the largest, but check out the Magnolia Model below. It was a beauty! Nebraska has about eight of them still standing.  These homes were made to last!

Magnolia Model
The Magnolia Model was just over $5K, and available between 1915-1920. About eight are still standing, one in Lincoln Nebraska.  Now you have a reason to go there!

Other Models and Where to Research?
There were also duplexes and smaller bungalows.  In my paternal grandmothers' homeplace of McPherson, Kansas this cute 1010 square foot bungalow exists. A recent search proved this Bellewood Model, with its Hobbit style front door, was on the market in 2018 in McPherson, KS.
McPherson, KS

Matter of fact here is a series of the homes offered from 1908-1914 located on the Sears Archives.  

Looking to learn more? Click here: Sears Archives

Pre-Civil War pre frabricated houses also existed. This was not a Sears Roebuck invention.  Here's a link:

Just remember, new inventions are most often built on our ancestors dreams (if they were dreamers). Affordable housing has always been part of the American dream.