Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Family History From Census Records

Last evening, I started reading COMMON PEOPLE subtitled: In Pursuit of My Ancestors by Alison Light.  So far I’ve read the preface and prologue and gotten only to page 59 of the content, but these few pages have inspired me to review my family's census records for the wealth of historical information they may hold.

Ms. Light began with little knowledge of her ancestry. She studied census records and from there was able to identify and then visit ancestral towns. She’s done an amazing amount of research beyond census records, but I was struck by how much information can be gleaned from the census.  I’ve always looked for obvious family living nearby but I rarely dive into understanding the character of a neighborhood.

What was the neighborhood like?
  • Single Family Homes?
  • Apartment buildings?
  • Boarding Houses?
  • Multiple generations living together?
  • Did surnames and/or birthplaces indicate a predominant nationality?
  • Many children or few per family?
  • What kinds of jobs did people have?

Did they move often? Or Never?
Did occupations change over time?

The “FAN club” (Friends, Associates, Neighbors)  is an important part of understanding our ancestors and our heritage.

I can’t wait to read the rest of Alison Light’s genealogy journey.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Obscure American History

Much has been written about the World War II Japanese internment camps. After the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, the government was gravely concerned about the possibility of Japanese government agents residing in the United States. While this might have been a reasonable fear at the time, the steps taken were extreme. More than 110,000 people of Japanese ancestry were forced into internment camps – whether or not they were American citizens. 

What I did not realize until recently is that once the United States entered World War II, it also created German and Italian internment camps.

Google Search brings up some interesting reading about this little known slice of history.

For a broad overview, here are some Wikipedia links.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Couple Things

Writer’s Block:

Maybe it’s the phase of the moon. I have started 3 writing projects and all seem to have stalled.  One is on hold while I try to gather material. Another is on hold because there’s too much material and I can’t figure out how to prune it to make it manageable.  The third one is just stuck in limbo for some reason I haven’t figured out yet. 

Stalled Research (brother to writer’s block)

But here are some suggestions for jump starting stalled research.  Lorine McGinnis Schulze writes a wonderful blog called Olive Tree Genealogy. Her latest post is exactly what I need just now.
I think I’ll start by creating a timeline for someone who does not yet have one. Got to get those juices flowing again!

Sunday, August 14, 2016

The More Things Change.....

The more they stay the same.   Two very brief newspaper clippings:



Either of these could likely appear in one of today's newspapers. But they appeared 132 years ago in the St. Paul, Minnesota Daily Globe edition dated April 20, 1884.


Saturday, August 13, 2016

Runaway Horses, Dateline Constantinople, and Dog Skin Gloves

I am on a quest to try to understand what life was like for my ancestors. My research includes looking at old newspapers.

My great grandfather Michael Schipp arrived in the US in April, 1884 and settled in St. Paul, Minnesota. Looking online at ChroniclingAmerica I found no digitized papers for April of that year, so I took a look at the St. Paul Globe for January 31, 1884.

 Although it was only 8 pages, it had 7 columns per page that included local, national and international news. Of particular interest in St. Paul was news about agricultural markets and railroads.  Farm products from Minnesota and the Dakotas came through St. Paul for shipment farther east.  St Paul was a hub of the expanding railroad industry.  Passenger train schedules were published daily.

Page 2 of this issue had a story about a  “Terriffic Runaway” (sic).  Four children of James J. Hill (railroad baron) and their nurse were riding in a sleigh when their horses were spooked by shingles falling from a scaffolding. The driver was unable to regain control and the sleigh eventually overturned. Must have been truly “terriffying”. (There were only minor injuries.)

A column titled “The Old World” had short items from around the globe.

Local news included listing court cases.

And individual comings and goings that were sent in to the editor.

There were blurbs about statewide happenings. Oyster and ice cream??? Eaten separately, I hope.  

There weren’t many ads, but a couple of them caught my eye. 

And a clothing retailer that advertised dog skin gloves.  In case you cannot read it, here's the text:

"A Valuable Dog Lost!

And large reward offered for his recovery; but he never came back, as he was made into a pair of beautiful Dog-Skin Gloves, which we are selling at One Dollar a Pair. They are worth more money."

You can't make this stuff up!

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Chronicling America: Newspapers – Part two

Chronicling America is FREE and easy to use. I’m not an expert user, but if you haven’t visited this site, you may find this post helpful.

Chronicling America website is the result of the NationalDigital Newspaper Project sponsored jointly by the National Endowment for the Humanities and The Library of Congress. More information is available on the site.

The home screen has three tabs on the left of the screen and on the right is the button to see the entire 1690 to present directory of newspapers.

Search Pages
This tab allows you to search papers from a specific state or from all states. Select the range of years desired. Type in the name or word to search for. 

 The image below shows some of the results of my search in Minnesota papers for the surname Muccio from the years 1890 – 1922.

Red highlights the occurrences of the name. Clicking on a page enlarges it and provides tools for zooming in and out; and viewing other pages of the same issue.

Advanced Search
Gives many options for making your search more specific as shown below.

All Digitized Newspapers 1836-1922
Allows you to select papers from a specific state, those aimed at a specific ethnicity, and/or printed in a specific language.

 The above searches look only at those papers that have been digitized.  There are more than 11 million searchable pages at this time.  More are being added as the digitizing process goes on.

Search U.S. Newspaper Directory, 1690 – Present
The directory lists all papers from 1690 including those that have not yet been digitized.  You can browse by newspaper title or select state, county and city and years of publication.
 The image below shows a partial list of papers published in Cincinnati, Ohio. Clicking on the title will give more information about it.

One note of caution: It is easy to get completely wrapped up in reading these old newspapers.  They’re a snapshot of our ancestors’ lives.

Sunday, August 7, 2016

History of the Rest of Us: Newspapers – Part One

Volumes are written about individuals who had significant impact on our world. It is easy to learn about kings and conquerors and prominent scientists, inventors, politicians and business leaders.   But what about the rest of us?

What about the laborers, tradesmen, merchants, farmers, homemakers?  What were the local implications of historic events? How was everyday life affected by political realignments or troop movements, or inventions or even weather?

Newspapers.  That’s the best answer I’ve found so far.  Many of us scour newspapers for obituaries, birth and wedding announcement, etc. But don’t neglect to look at the entire paper.  You’ll find the entire spectrum of life.  More than just the hard news, there are cultural events, ads showing styles of clothing and home furnishings, opinion pages and even comics in some papers.

Our ancestors were more quickly affected by local events than by national events. The newspaper is where you’ll find the things that were shaping their everyday lives.  And don’t forget foreign language papers. I recently wrote about finding obituaries in Chicago’s Czech language paper.

Local historical societies generally retain newspaper archives.  If they’ve been microfilmed, you may be able to borrow them via inter-library loan to avoid travel expenses.

Chronicling America is a wonderful online resource for digitized newspapers from 1836 through 1922. (Copyright laws prohibit later issues.)  There is also a directory of US newspapers dating from 1690 to the present.

The best part is that these digitized papers are searchable!  Select the state and the range of years; then type in the surname that you’re looking for, and press the search button.  If that name appears, you’ll see it and the entire page on which it is mentioned.

My next post will be some detail about using Chronicling America.

Friday, August 5, 2016

Viewing Digitized Images on

The number of indexed digitized records at is growing steadily. Just recently there was a huge volunteer indexing project.  But what if you don’t find what you’re looking for in the indexed records? Familysearch also has a vast collection of records that have been digitized but not yet indexed. 

The idea of browsing through these images can be intimidating but it need not be that way.  I am learning to enjoy browsing these records.

The title of this post is taken directly from a post byJames Tanner.  Apparently this is part one of a planned series.  James explains his topic clearly and thoroughly.  If you haven’t yet dived into this, you’ll want to follow his posts.

Monday, August 1, 2016

The Bad Old Days?

In this age of political correctness, it is easy to forget the ethnic epithets that were common in past decades.  Those of us of a “certain age” remember them.  Words that were used to denigrate those who were not of our particular ethnic persuasion.

Dago, Mick, Kike, Limey, Polack, Bohunk, Frog, Spic, Wop, Chink.  And the  unforgetable “N” word.

Back in the day, these words were common in the neighborhood.  But I was surprised to find them in a more respected context.

Searching Chronicling America for newspaper mentions of family surnames, I found the following.

In an article about a knife fight that took place in an Italian neighborhood: St. Paul Daily Globe., December 18, 1894

In an article about a local physician’s trip to Japan: The Indianapolis journal., April 10, 1904

Times were hard then. People were hard then – harder than we are now. People didn’t trust others who were not like them and they didn’t hide it.
We’ve come a long way since those days, but unfortunately those biases and prejudices are still a part of our world. We’re just more subtle these days – with a few notable exceptions..