Monday, February 20, 2012

Don't be a surname searcher, be a thorough researcher!

Here's the situation: You're going through probate packets and come across two receipts signed by someone named Delinda Christian

Receipt One

Receipt Two

Now, setting aside an assessment of the varying handwriting styles, if it had already been established that the decedent left behind a widow named Delinda Christian and you see this name appearing on receipts you might be willing to say that they're all receipts for the same person, especially if all you're looking at are the names on the pages. That name isn't very common, it must be receipts for amounts due to the widow by the estate, right? Here's the valuable info you would miss out on by being merely a name scanner

Receipt One

Receipt Two

You have now learned that the decedent, John Christian, had two Delinda Christians in his life; his wife and his daughter. This is also pre-1850 information which means if you were to go to the 1840 census looking for John, all you would find for his household are tick marks so you would have no idea what the names of his family members would have been. Not only is this a great example of the importance of probate papers in reconstructing families, but it's also a great reason to go beyond being just a name scanner. The first step is actually reading the information and understanding it in context. Then you also need to understand why the document was created and what else might be available to you that would help you to build your case. For these other two points, the how and why of the sources you're using and how to become aware of all of your sources, a couple of excellent articles have recently been posted online so check them out for more information on how to make the most of the information you're given in those sources. Don't be one of those people who just pick up books and turn immediately to the index, look up a name and then close the book and move on to something else. Dig deeper!

Footnote on my Footnotes

Search for Sources, Not Just Surnames

Thanks to Michael Hait for pointing out these excellent blog posts!

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Research Challenge!

While I was in Salt Lake City, I had a few minutes here and there to do a little searching around in the book collection. I found something that struck me as a possible lead so I took a quick photo of the page with my iphone so I could come back to it and do a little background searching once I got home.

The book was an index to baptismal records from St John's Church in Portsmouth, NH from 1795-1884. The entry was for the baptism of 5 year old Charles Henry Thomas Stevens Hudgen in 1833. His parents are listed as Lewis Hudgen and Hannah Stevens. Hannah's parents were sponsors and were named Charles and Lydia Stevens.

The reason I was interested in this listing is because my oldest known immigrant ancestor is Charles Thomas Stevens of England, and later, of Portsmouth, NH. His wife was Lydia Jacobs. He is believed to have been born around 1754 and his emigration to America is currently unknown but it was before the 1790s, when he appears to have been married and settled in New Hampshire. He died in the 1840s at nearly 90 years of age and is buried in the crypts at the Old North Church in Boston. Charles and Lydia had several children, but up to this point only 2 have been identified by name; Charles T., born about 1815, and Mary T. Stevens Lovejoy, born about 1807. So the belief is that this Hannah Stevens Hudgen could be one of the previously unknown children of the immigrant Charles and that means another lead to finding out more about him. He is one of my brick wall ancestors in that I know next to nothing about his early life.

So, obviously I wanted to find out more about this Lewis and Hannah Hudgen of Boston. First place I turn to is the 1850 census. No luck there. Then I figured that if little Charles Henry was 5 years old in 1833, he would have been born about 1828 meaning the family should have been together in 1830. So I go to the 1830 census. No luck there either. Nor for the 1840 or 1870 census. I start searching for Charles across all census years in Boston and in all of Massachusetts and New Hampshire, no luck. Hannah, no luck. Lewis, no luck. Then I go to the Massachusetts Archives vital records search looking for either Lewis or Hannah's deaths (the search begins in 1841, too late to look for their marriage or for Charles' birth), no luck there either.

So where in the world is the Lewis Hudgen family that would have been at least a group of 3 at the time of the 1830 census, and who were living in Boston at the time of their son's baptism in New Hampshire in 1833?

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Dellibac Record Survey, part 2 - Kankakee Co., IL

After doing this for Iroquois County already, I had high hopes for what was out there on Kankakee County. Unfortunately, I didn't make much headway here. There just didn't seem to be as much that was readily available for Kankakee County, which was a bit surprising. In any case, here is what I found-

-county records begin in 1853
-birth records begin in 1877 (the Kankakee Valley Genealogical Society website says 1878) and there is an index to the birth records on the KVGS website
-marriage records begin in 1853 with the Illinois Statewide Marriage Index available on the IRAD website
-death records begin in 1877 with an index on the KVGS website
-all of the above are available from the Kankakee County Clerk's Office
-land records begin in 1851 (2 years before the official formation of the county in 1853) and are available from the recorder of deeds
-probate records begin in 1853 and are available from the Circuit Court Clerk and are also online (without an index) at
-the Kankakee County Clerk has naturalization records
-the Kankakee Public Library has some newspapers stretching back to the 1850s on microfilm, but none are French language
-they do have a collection of "newspaper clippings about some of the French Canadian people who settles the Kankakee Area"

-a search of Chronicling America did turn up a couple of French language newspapers in the area, but none are locally held. The nearest partial holding library is the state library in Springfield.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Important Interruption from the Dellibac Debacle...

Ok, I wasn't planning on interrupting the Dellibac research series but I just can't hold this one in, especially after just leaving SLIG's Advanced Methodology class.

So let's say that you are doing a little online searching and come across an abstract of a record that appears to be for your ancestor. It is an abstract, so it contains the name of the subject and also his wife. The year is also given, along with the book and page number of the original record. What do you do now? Jot down the name of the wife, enter it into your database and call it done? How about adding the year and place where the record is found so that you can place your subject in that time and place? That's getting all the information out of that source, right?

Can we say, BIG WRONG? If you are lucky enough to find some online information like this, the first rule of the genealogy club is (don't talk about genealogy club, no that's not it) GET THE ORIGINAL! This is an abstraction. That doesn't mean they've pulled everything that may be important to you out of that document and served it up on a platter for you. Their requirements for information that was important enough to include are probably not the same as yours and the only way to truly know what is included is to see the document. Also, being able to actually have it (or an official record copy) in your hand so you know it exists without having to believe some nameless, faceless website is a big plus too. There is no way for you to reliably weigh your evidence unless you know exactly where that document and the information that it contains came from and you have no way of knowing that if you just stop the process at a website. And the biggest problem that can arise from this is that the guy with the same name in the online listing may not even be the right guy. The only way you'll know, is to check the original.

You're really are short-changing yourself by taking the quick and easy way here. You may be excited about seeing that name on an online database but don't let that cloud your brain. Get the document. Check your facts. And for goodness sakes, cite the source where it came from.

[venting off]

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Start of the Record Survey for Dellibac Research

So if you've visited the site lately, you may have noticed that I've started a series of posts on the Dellibacs. I'm trying to answer the question of where (exactly) did Moise Dellibac come from. To find the answer, I've decided to start the research from the very beginning and document my work and progress on the site.

To begin with, I gave a bit of background in a previous post; the starting point information, that is. You can find that here . The next step is to compile a record survey of what records are available for me to consult. Since Moise Dellibac lived in two Illinois counties, Iroquois and Kankakee, over the course of the period I'm tracking him (about 1855-1893) the records survey will have two parts, one for each county.

Moise's first U.S. appearance is in the 1855 Illinois State Census, where he is living with his family in Iroquois County. So my records survey section will begin in Iroquois County.


To start with, I consulted the familysearch wiki for Iroquois County to get a basic jist of what's available. You can use the wiki as a starting point for just about every state and county, and even other countries. You can find the wiki here . Here's what I found for Iroquois County, IL

-birth records begin in 1878

-marriage records begin in 1866; earlier records were burned in a courthouse fire in 1866 but a reconstructed list was made by using entries from the Iroquois Journal newspaper and the St John the Baptist Catholic Church records. These records were then entered into the Illinois Statewide Marriage Index available on the IRAD website

-death records begin in 1878

-land and probate records begin in 1834; land records and original land purchases, from the 1830s to the 1880s, are available on FHL film and indexes are available on the Iroquois County Genealogical Society and GenWeb websites (there are no Dellibacs listed)

-various Catholic church records are available on FHL film and also as published abstracts, but it is currently unknown which church, if any of those available, were for the French speakers (more research on this is going to have to be done to find out where they may have gone to church if in fact they attended in Iroquois Co at all)

-Moise was probably in his late 30s-early 40s at the time of the Civil War, and as far as I can tell, he could not read or write in English, and chances are looking pretty good that he didn't speak English either so it's not very likely that he would have enlisted. However, it would be worth checking some of the military databases to check for him or any of his siblings, especially younger brothers, might have enlisted

-As an immigrant, the possibility of Moise going through the naturalization process is there. Iroquois naturalization papers are in the office of the County Clerk and IRAD also has the dockets (though they begin in 1873). The IRAD records begin too late for Moise, as he would already have been living in Kankakee County for some time by then. The Iroquois County Genealogical Society has indexes for the petitions and final papers beginning in the 1850s, which is the right time, but no Dellibacs are listed.

-Chronicling America has several Iroquois County newspapers listed, but very few that stretch to the 1850s, and none are in French. There are three however, that are is the right time range and are available (mostly partial holdings) on microfilm in the Watseka (town seat) library: 1- Iroquois County Press 2- Iroquois County Journal 3-Iroquois Republican

While I was in Salt Lake City last week for the Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy (SLIG), I was able to steal away a few hours for some personal research. I took advantage of the time and started scouring some Iroquois Co. films looking for Dellibacs. I also checked a few Kankakee films, with a bit more success, but I'll save that for the Kankakee County section. Here is what I was able to check for Iroquois County:

-Iroquois County Grantee Index, 1835-1857 (no Dellibacs)
-Iroquois County Marriages, 1851-1878 (Moise and Anastasia not found)
-Iroquois County Naturalizations (Moise not found)
-Land Ownership Maps-Iroquois and Kankakee Counties, 1860 (Moise was not found but there was a notation for a "Canadian Settlement" on map #117. If Moise's Kankakee County land description can be found, it would be a good idea to return to this map and see if it falls within this area)

This is not a comprehensive list of what is available for Iroquois County, just the ones I thought would be the best to hit in the very limited time I had available. For a full list of what is available for the county, go here

So that's the rundown of what I've found so far for Iroquois County, IL. Next up, Kankakee County, IL records survey