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Wednesday, June 13, 2007
Finding Your Ancestor in State Hospital Records
Posted by Diane
My grandmother died at the Cleveland State Hospital during the Flu Epidemic of 1918 after staying there two months. I’ve learned the hospital was torn down, but I could never find out where the records went. How can I get them?A
We received this question in response to a Family Tree Magazine E-mail Update newsletter editorial
about my search for my great-grandmother’s Cleveland (Ohio) State Hospital records. I’d learned from her death certificate that she died there.
To learn the whereabouts of the hospital records, I first did a Google
search on “Cleveland State Hospital”
and learned some history
. The hospital was once called the Newburgh Asylum and was demolished in 1977.
The Google search also led me to a Web page from the Case Western Reserve University archives
, which referred me to the Ohio Historical Society
for patient records. That made sense: Records of a state institution would probably be in that state's archives.
I searched the Ohio Historical Society library catalog
and found (after experimenting with various search terms) entries for patient admission and discharge books. The catalog listing labels these hospital records “restricted” and instructs you to call the archives for more information.
The public can’t access these records because patients named in them may have passed medical conditions to their descendants, who may be living. Instead, I submitted a research request and a $25 fee. A few weeks later, I received a transcription and photocopies of my ancestor’s entries in admission and discharge registers (the archivist had obscured other patients’ names in the photocopy).
A reader e-mailed us a suggestion to examine county court records, too, for documents related to commitment hearings. She’d obtained her great-uncle’s “Inquest of Lunacy 1884, the full medical certificate of the doctor's exam and the application of admission by the probate judge.” Write the court clerk or see if the Family History Library
has microfilmed the records, in which case you'd be able to borrow them for a fee through a branch Family History Center.
Wednesday, June 13, 2007 1:07:07 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
Monday, June 04, 2007
In the News
Posted by Diane
I remember seeing as a child a clipped newspaper ad for a boxing match in which one of my ancestors (with a very distinctive surname) participated. Is there a way to track down old newspaper advertisements? I'm almost positive this was from a Chicago area newspaper, at least 75 years old, but beyond that I don't have much to work with.A
Newspaper research can be time-consuming because not many papers are indexed online—but what a thrill it would be to find this ad!
You’d need to narrow the possibilities for which newspaper this could be, then locate repositories or online databases that carry the newspapers you want to search for the time period in question. One way to do this is searching the Illinois Newspaper Project online directory
. Results show newspaper titles and years of publication; click the title to see repositories holding that publication.
If the papers you need are in a database such as NewsBank
or ProQuest Historical Newspapers
(available through many libraries), or GenealogyBank
(by subscription), you’re in luck: Such databases use optical character recognition to search both articles and advertisements.
If the newspapers you need aren’t in an online database, you’ll have to visit the holding library to view it on microfilm, or ask your library to request the film through interlibrary loan.
To reduce your microfilm scrolling time, narrow the time period when you think the ad ran as much as possible. Try doing a Google
search on terms such as Chicago boxing history. I came up with an interesting Encyclopedia of Chicago Web page
—looks like boxing was a popular pastime in the Windy City. Browse local history books, too: You could find mention of the match your ancestor fought.
You may already have done this, but ask your relatives if they remember when this boxing match happened. (You might as well ask if they have copies of the ad, too.)
The February 2007 Family Tree Magazine
has an article on finding and searching old newspapers—even those that aren’t indexed. Let us know if you find your ancestor's ad!
Monday, June 04, 2007 10:27:21 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
Friday, May 25, 2007
It's Only Natural
Posted by Allison
Several branches of my family came to United States in the 1860s from Sweden and Germany and England—before Ellis Island. Were these people automatically made citizens or did they have to apply for naturalization? Where would one go to learn of this procedure?A
Any immigrant coming to the United States in the mid-1800s would have had to be naturalized to become a citizen. The process was twofold: First, the newcomer would have filed a declaration of intent for citizenship (referred to as “first papers”). After fulfilling the five-year residency requirement, he could then file his petition for naturalization. He had to sign these “final papers”—so if you can find that petition, you’ll have the added treat of seeing your ancestor’s John Hancock.
When male immigrants were naturalized, their children also automatically received citizenship. Between 1855 and 1922, their wives did, too.
The federal government standardized the naturalization process (including the paperwork) in 1906. Since your ancestors arrived before that, they could've filed for citizenship in any court—they might even have started the process in one location, then completed it in another. To cover all your bases, you’ll need to hunt for records at the local, county and state levels.
Start with a place search of the Family History Library catalog
for locations where your ancestors might have petitioned, and look under the naturalization heading to identify records available on microfilm. Next, check archives at all three levels. Some archives and other official stewards of naturalization records have posted indexes and documents online: See Joe Beine’s state-by-state directory of links
is also helpful.
US Citizenship and Immigration Services has copies of all post-1906 naturalization records. To request those, download and fill out form G-639
and mail it to US Citizenship and Immigration Serivces FOIA/PA, 111 Massachusetts Ave.,
Washington, DC 20529 (be sure to write “Freedom of Information Act Request” on the envelope).
Naturalization records can be a gateway to finding your ancestor’s passenger arrival list, as they often tell port and date of immigration (though the earlier the records, generally the less detail they contain). In fact, that’s how I confirmed the family story of my great-grandfather Henry Essel’s 1888 arrival through Philadelphia, enabling me to locate the ship manifest recording him and his family.
You can learn more about the naturalization process in They Became Americans
by Loretto Dennis Szucs (Ancestry, $19.95) and The Family Tree Guide To Finding Your Ellis Island Ancestors
by Sharon DeBartolo Carmack (Family Tree Books, $19.99). For Carmack’s 10-step guide to tracing immigrant ancestors, see our Yearbook 2003
issue. Library and Archives Canada
provides information on Canadian naturalizations.
immigration | naturalization
Friday, May 25, 2007 11:06:48 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
Wednesday, May 23, 2007
Posted by Diane
Leslie Carlisle Grant was born about 1912 in Macon Co., NC. I last found him on the 1930 census in Miami, Dade Co., Fla., living near his sister Ethel Heinneman. Shortly after, he supposedly joined the Army. Coming home on leave from who knows where in 1931 or 1932, he supposedly drowned in New Orleans’ Lake Pontchartrain or the Gulf of Mexico. How can I find out where he was in the military, and what records show about him?
—from the FamilyTreeMagazine.com Brick Walls Forum
Unfortunately, military service records won’t help you, since the War Department didn’t compile service records for the Regular Army—men who served during peacetime. (For more, see archives.gov/genealogy/military
Leslie Grant’s death certificate should give his cause of death. If he indeed died in Louisiana, you can request the record from the Louisiana State Archives, which has instructions on its Web site
An unusual death might’ve led to an autopsy. According to the New Orleans Public Library Web site
, autopsy reports held there are “almost exclusively limited to crime-related deaths or to accidental deaths caused by some sort of violence (e.g., suicide, automobile accidents, drowning, etc.).”
Autopsy Reports, Proces Verbaux, 1905-1968 include the date and cause of death as well as other information from autopsies. Coroner’s Record Book Journals, 1905-1969, record all cases referred to the coroner.
“Seems like an event like that would have made the papers,” posted FamilyTreeMagazine.com Forum
user Michele. “The current major newspaper is the Times-Picayune
.” It’s among the microfilmed holdings at the NOPL, which offers a newspaper listing by year
. See your February 2007 Family Tree Magazine
for newspaper research advice.
If you can’t visit the Crescent City, ask your librarian about requesting microfilmed records through interlibrary loan. Also research Ethel Heinemann, who may have left correspondence, funeral cards or other documents bearing clues about what happened to her brother.
Anyone have another suggestion? Click Comment to add it.
Wednesday, May 23, 2007 2:25:04 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
Thursday, May 10, 2007
Saving Old Scrapbooks
Posted by Diane
I've discovered scrapbooks my mother made in the 1930 and '40s. They include photos and paper ephemera such as party napkins and dance programs. The scrapbook pages are black and the items are glued on. What's the best way to preserve this material? Also, I'd like to take pictures of each page. Should I use a traditional camera with no flash or digital camera with a built-in flash?A
Those albums with black pages were common during the early 1900s, and people often wrote in them with opaque white ink. "Black scrapbook paper is not the best choice for photo storage," says preservation expert and blogger at The Practical Archivist
Sally Jacobs. The paper's high acid content can make it brittle over time.
The glue your mom used may be acidic, too. "Even so, it would be unwise to try to deconstruct the scrapbook," advises Jacobs. That's because you can lose important caption information, and separating glued-together paper is a risky move best done by a professional archivist.
Jacobs recommends inserting acid-free, buffered tissue between the scrapbook pages. ("Regular-thickness paper would make the book too thick by the time you finish," she says.) Buffered paper contains alkaline ingredients, which will help neutralize the acids in the black paper and slow their migration to the album's contents.
Then, to protect the book against light and dust, store it flat in an archival drop-front box in a size as close as possible to the dimensions of the scrapbook.
You can purchase archival tissue and boxes from suppliers such as Archival Methods
, Gaylord Brothers
, and Light Impressions
"Bring out the scrapbook and show it off to anyone who wants to see it, but tuck it away somewhere safe the rest of the time," Jacobs says. That means in a house that's cooled in the summer and heated in the winter, ideally in an interior closet to reduce temperature fluctuations. Avoid attics and basements.
You're on the right track in wanting to visually preserve the pages. The problem with using a built-in flash is that you can get a glare from shiny surfaces, such as a glossy photo or anything metallic, in the book.
"If the scrapbook doesn't have anything reflective on the pages, you might get away with the digital/flash camera," says Family Tree Magazine
's photographer Al Parrish. "But it would probably be safer to use some sort of available light, such as outside on a cloudy day, with the camera white balance set to Auto." Parrish also highly recommends a tripod.
You could try doing this yourself, and if you're unsatisfied with the results and you can afford it, hire a professional photographer to shoot the book.
Keep an eye out for the September Family Tree Magazine
, on sale July 17—it'll have an article full of simple ways to preserve and enjoy heirlooms.
Got advice or stories of your own? Post them here.
Preserving Heirlooms and Photos
Thursday, May 10, 2007 3:43:32 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
Thursday, April 26, 2007
Posted by Diane
My grandfather Carl August Petersson (he later went by Charles) was born in 1863 in Sweden, and died in America in 1927. I've spent years searching unsuccessfully for his birth parish. He came immigrated around the mid-1800's and spent most of his life in northern California. Records I've found list his birthplace as only "Sweden."—QueenBea, on the FamilyTreeMagazine.com Brick Walls ForumA
Have you tried church records? David Fryxell, who wrote our guide to Swedish research in the October 2006 Family Tree Magazine
, says many Swedish-American churches kept records as thorough as those of their counterparts in Sweden.
The Swenson Swedish Immigration Research Center
has a broad church records collection, including several in California. The Swenson center is in Illinois, but you can request a $25-per-hour search by a staff member.
Search for Carl in immigration records (such as those for New York City arrivals indexed at CastleGarden.org
) and check the book Swedish Passenger Arrivals in the United States, 1820-1850
by Nils William Olsson (Schmidts Boktryckeri AB, out of print). Look for it at large genealogy libraries including the Family History Library
in Salt Lake City.
Since you don't know Carl's parish, Fryxell recommends a searchable CD such as Emibas
, compiled from Swedish church records (available from Genlineshop.com
). You can enter as much as you know about your ancestor to narrow your search results to likely candidates.
Two subscription databases, Genline
(click English), offer digitized Swedish church records. Both sites offer a variety of subscription options. Family Tree Magazine
reviewed Genline in the June 2005 issue
and SVAR in the June 2006 issue
Post your suggestions for QueenBea—or pose your own questions.
Thursday, April 26, 2007 4:08:00 PM (GMT Daylight Time, UTC+01:00)
Thursday, March 01, 2007
Whatever Floats Your Riverboat
Posted by Diane
. My German ancestors arrived at New Orleans in 1853 and traveled to Ohio by river boat. I've found their passenger list to New Orleans, but how can I find record of the next segment of their journey?A
. Congratulations on finding your ancestors on a New Orleans passenger list!
"It was pretty much a given that when traveling from New Orleans to anywhere up river or out west one took passage on a riverboat," says "Riverboat Dave," Webmaster of Riverboat Dave's Paddlewheel Site
. Early boats, powered by burning wood, were called steamboats. In 1811, the New Orleans was the first one to sail on the Mississippi from New Orleans to the mouth of the Ohio (read more on the Army Corps of Engineers' steamboat navigation page
Most boats did keep passenger lists along with freight lists and crew lists, but they often weren't thorough. "Many boats were rather lackadaisical about their business," Dave says. "Riverboats were much like a Greyhound bus is these days. People were getting on and off at all manner of landings and towns—must have been a job keeping track of the comings and goings of all of them."
Not all passenger lists survived, and they're not in the same type of organized location or familiar standardized format of post-1820 immigration lists. Steamboat records are usually in archival manuscript collections. Start with public and university libraries, historical societies and museums near your relatives' stop in Ohio (if you don't have that information, research backward from their last known location).
Also check libraries and historical societies in "river towns" such as St. Louis and Cincinnati. The Public Library of Greater Cincinnati and Hamilton County special collections department
is home to the Inland Rivers Library
, which contains photographs, maps, freight and account books, crew registers and passenger lists for specific vessels. The Missouri Historical Society
in St. Louis has a Steamboats and River History Collection
spanning 1802 to 1986.
You can search for materials in 10,000 libraries worldwide using WorldCat
; see the May 2007 Family Tree Magazine
for information on using it.
Knowing the dates of your ancestors' journey and the boat they took will help in your search. Bookstores, libraries and the Internet are full of information on steamboat history to help you. Way's Packet Directory 1848-1994: Passenger Steamboats Of The Mississippi River System Since the Advent of Photography in Mid-Continent America
, revised edition, by Frederick Way Jr. (Ohio University Press; out of print) is a directory of boats with photos, years in operation, rivers covered, captains' names and other details.
Riverboat Dave's site also has an alphabetical boat index, as well as articles, maps, queries and more. I recommend starting with the site guide
. You'll find more Mississippi River resource recommendations
A steamboat's arrival often was an exciting event. Search local newspapers—usually at local libraries, but sometimes digitized in subscription newspaper databases such as GenealogyBank
—where your ancestors landed when you think they arrived.
Thursday, March 01, 2007 7:59:49 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)