Friday, August 10, 2018

Plan Some Fun in August

Don't forget that August is Family Fun Month. Get together with your family to plan some fun before school gets back in session.

Need some help coming up with free or low-cost ideas for family fun? Check out our online carousel with items in our collection that are related to family fun. You can find the carousel at the top of our blog page or at the bottom of our home page.

Monday, July 30, 2018

Family History Tips-Part 35

The Genealogical Road Trip Continues: State and National Government Archives

by Brenna Corbit, Technical Services Librarian

I promised last time to write about government archives, but I had misgivings since I have little experience researching in these places—three times, in fact; once in a state archive in Harrisburg researching orphanage records on my great grandmother’s adoption (I came back emptyhanded %$#@) ; and twice at the National Archives in Philadelphia researching information on my Corbit line, and Russian Consular records concerning my great grandfather’s birth certificate request from Russian-occupied Poland in the early 1900’s (zilched again on both counts). 

One of many endless shelves of archived 
I was a lot less experienced in those early days as a family historian. Yet, even a seasoned genealogist sometimes has to keep baiting the line to get a bite. I just happen to know many more secret fishing holes than I used to. And one thing I do know about government archives is that their holdings make online collections like Ancestry similar to a corner library located in East Jabip operating on a tight budget. 

State and national archives are similar to courthouses, historical and genealogical societies, but the latter are more concerned with a particular county’s holdings. Archives can be quite huge in comparison with zillions of civil records, such as births, marriages, deaths, military records (registrations, enlistments, and pensions), censuses, federal court records, immigration, naturalizations and alien registrations. 

Like I said, the genealogy giants like Ancestry are still lacking many of these records, especially in terms of digital images. Many online sources are mere indexes for where to find the information which requires online form queries with large fees attached (it cost me $100 for both my Polish great grandparents’ alien registrations). Therefore, a road-trip is not only more enjoyable, but it is usually cheaper to do your own research at these institutions. 

The depth and breadth of these places can be quite daunting, but a well-planned trip will be a rewarding one. Before you travel to an archive, always do your research to see what records they have, which will be a valuable time-saver when you are there. In some cases the records you are seeking will be available online, which will prevent an unnecessary road-trip. 
But that defeats the gist of this article. 

Also look on archive websites to check the hours, fees, appointments, parking, and rules. Many archives have librarians and volunteers eager to assist you. It is also a good idea to check out the local restaurants. Research works up an appetite. Enjoy your trip to the fullest, I say. 

I have listed two directories for state and national archives:

Monday, July 23, 2018

Check Out Our New Display of Materials for History Course

The Yocum Library has a new display of materials for Jodi Greene's course, HIS 135: America's Civil Rights Movements. You can find the display on the library's third floor in the Tower Room.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Visit French-American Issac DeTurk's Home in Oley Valley

The DeTurk family is of French Huguenot descent and is descendant from Isaac DeTurk who immigrated to the Hudson River valley in New York in 1708. Isaac was from Picardy in northern France. 

In 1685, the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes occurred prompting Huguenots throughout France and Alsace-Lorraine to begin fleeing into [other] areas. The DeTurks were among the many Huguenot refugees who eventually made their way to America. In 1712, Isaac came to the Oley Valley from New York.

Well into the 19th century at least, DeTurk descendants continued to own the family farm. By 1958, the property was owned by Dwight Moyer and William Gotwalls and was vacant. In 1967, the Historic Preservation Trust of Berks County obtained a 100-year lease on the property from the Gotwalls family. Funds were obtained from the Women’s Club of Oley.

Interested in visiting the Johan DeTurk cabin? It is open every day by advance appointment only. Please contact the Trust office at least 14 days in advance of your trip to make an apnpointment. Whenever possible, please supply two alternate appointment dates.

Above information and photo from Historic Preservation Trust of Berks County.

Friday, July 6, 2018

Celebrating French-American Heritage Month: Famous French Americans

The following is only a partial list of some famous French Americans. Can you name some more? Post in the comments section below. 

  • Madonna (born 1958), international singer; mother is of French-Canadian descent
  • BeyoncĂ© Knowles (born 1981), American R&B singer-songwriter and actress; a French Creole of French and African-American and Native American descent
  • Jessica Alba, actress; mother is of partial French-Canadian ancestry
  • Marcheline Bertrand, actress of half French-Canadian ancestry, mother of actress Angelina Jolie
  • The late Anthony Bourdain, author and the "Chef-at-Large" of Brasserie Les Halles, based in New York City with locations in Miami, Florida, and Washington, D.C.[41] and host of the Travel Channel's culinary and cultural adventure program Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations
  • Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis (1929-1994), First Lady and wife of the late John F. Kennedy; maiden name is Bouvier and she is usually referred to by all three of her surnames together; father was of French descent
  • Oliver Stone, director
  • Franklin D. Roosevelt, 32nd President of the United States
  • Jack Kerouac (1922–1969), novelist, writer, poet, artist, and part of the Beat Generation
  • Henry David Thoreau (1817–1862), author of many articles and essays, development critic, naturalist, transcendentalist, pacifist, tax resister and philosopher; known for Walden, Civil Disobedience, Resistance to Civil Government
  • E. Annie Proulx, American journalist and author
  • Laila Ali (born 1977), professional boxer; daughter of Muhammad Ali and his Louisiana Creole wife
  • Hulk Hogan, professional wrestler; French on his maternal side

Thursday, July 5, 2018

Celebrating French-American Heritage Month

July is French-American Heritage Month. Today, about 11.8 million U.S. residents are of French or French Canadian descent, and about 2 million speak French at home. 

An additional 750,000 U.S. residents speak a French-based creole language, according to the 2011 census.

Check out our online carousel (at the top of this page) with even more holdings related to French-American Heritage Month.

Monday, June 25, 2018

Family History Tips—Part 33

The Genealogical Road Trip Continues: Researching Courthouse Records
by Brenna Corbit, Technical Services Librarian

On today’s road trip, I am going to introduce you to a treasure trove of information within county courthouses. While some of these records are available on courthouse or family history databases, most records have yet to be digitized for internet research. Instead, these records reside in the vast recesses of courthouses in the forms of behemothian ledgers, miles of microfilms, and endless rows of filing cabinets. 

Rows of large ledgers in courthouse storage area

I am not an expert on information available in courthouses, nor the complex legalese of its records, but I do know a few things to get around. The scope of this article is brief. So I highly recommend Courthouse Research for Family Historians: Your Guide to Genealogical Treasures by Christine Rose available in our Yocum Library genealogy section. Each courthouse is a bit different, but the usual departments and their holdings are as follows: 

Register of Wills AKA Orphans’ Court
  • Wills, probate and administration records—Many online digital images may include only wills, but the entire packet of probate records (the legal processing of an estate) and administration records (an estate left without a will) will be there. These are far more informative than a copy of a will and can consist of a mere few items to hundreds of pages. This is where you can really delve into some of the stories of your ancestors, including the good, the bad, and the ugly. 
  • Vital records—Before individual states overtook the keeping of births and deaths around 1905, courthouses kept track of these in the mid-1800s and again from the later 1800s to about 1905. 
  • Marriage records—While some online sources have only marriage certificates, which give just the names of the bride and groom and time and place of marriage, the applications are so much better. These include age, place of birth, parents, residence, occupation, and previous marriages. So be sure to request the applications. 
  • Adoptions—Most of these records are private, but some limited earlier records are available. My great grandmother’s adoption papers from the 1890s were available in the Dauphin County, Pennsylvania courthouse, but the names of her parents were not included. Nonetheless, the papers were quite informative. Good luck on this one, though. 
Register of Deeds
  • Deeds and land records—Deeds often include information from wills when a will is not available or is lost. Also, besides telling who purchased what and where, they include purchasers’ residences, and their occupations. For example, the beginning of a typical deed would read, “John Schumaker of the Borough Reading Berks County and the State of Pennsylvania and Ann his wife of the one part and William Porr of the Borough of Reading Berks County and State aforesaid Taylor of the other part. . ..” I have often seen deeds of a Berks County land purchase, for example, where one party was from another county and/or state. Occupations, spouses, and residences are often good clues for identifying and locating a person. 
  • Non-criminal court transactions—These would include divorces, business dealings, name changes and more—good juicy information to add to your family history! 
  • Immigration and naturalizations—Like vital records, earlier records were kept in courthouses before state and regional U. S. offices took over. These are not as detailed as the later records, but still worth viewing. 
A few tips about exploring records in courthouses:
  • Be sure the records you are seeking are there. Sometimes older records are housed in county and state archives or historical societies. More on that later. A clerk in the courthouse or the county website will be able to direct you to what is available. 
  • Call ahead to be sure the records room will be opened. Some are opened on a limited schedule. 
  • Ask about copying fees. You may have to take a lot of change. 
  • Before going, see if the courthouse has an online index. A few do, which is a time-saver in the courthouse. Otherwise, you will have to use the index books available onsite. 
  • As for indexing, county courts are notorious for using some of the most bizarre indexing systems, so do not hesitate to ask for assistance. If you care to delve into that world FamilySearch has a guide. 
  • Some ledgers are quite heavy. I am not kidding when I said they are behemoth volumes. If you have a bad back like me, ask someone to help you carry them to a table. 
  • If you carry a weapon, leave it at home. It is such a problem, and you will have to fill out a form and leave it in a drawer at the security station. I carry a penknife and leave it in the car. I once had a screwdriver and a tin whistle held. I asked why they held my flute and they said it could be used as a weapon. I promised I would not play it—they didn’t laugh. Well, I thought it was funny. 
  • Take a notebook and pencil, not a pen, since the latter is usually not permitted in archival areas. 
  • Ask permission before taking photos of records. Some places charge for photos. 
  • While many places do not require archival gloves, I suggest taking a pair. The records are often quite fragile, so help preserve them even if the office does not seem concerned. 
  • Some clerks are not too fond of you always asking for records. No matter how unpleasant they are, they control the records, so always be courteous. 
Next week we will continue this road trip as we explore the records housed in historical/genealogical societies and archival centers.