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Showing posts from 2014

Exploring Chicago City Directories on Ancestry.com

Fold3 has been my go-to place for Chicago city directories (free access at the local Family History Center) but many of them are available on Ancestry.com , too--good news for those of us with a subscription. In this blog post I'll tell you how to find the directories on Ancestry, share what I've learned about browsing and searching them, and compare availability between the two websites. How to find the Chicago directories on Ancestry The Chicago directories are part of an extensive collection of   U.S. City Directories, 1821-1989 .  If you click Ancestry's "Search" tab, you can find a collection link on the right under Schools, Directories and Church Histories . Add the directories to your Quick Links using this URL: http://search.ancestry.com/search/db.aspx?dbid=2469 Browsing the Chicago directories To help me explore the directories, I offered a search to the first person to post a request on the Chicago Genealogy Facebook page  and so my task was thi

The Chicago Fire: The Smith Family's Experience

902 Prairie Ave with Cupola that Offered View of the Fire Earlier today, a member of the Chicago Genealogy Facebook group asked if anyone had ancestors who were in Chicago at the time of the Great Fire. I immediately raised my hand. "I do! I do!" Well, actually, I don't. But my husband does and so it feels like I do. His great-great grandfather, James Ayer Smith , a manufacturing hatter and furrier, was in the city from 1835 until his death in 1875. In 1871, he was living at 902 Prairie Avenue. We have a copy of a short unpublished family history (three typed legal-size pages) "The James A. Smith Family in Chicago," obtained from the Chicago History Museum some years ago that mentions the Fire in a couple of places and I promised the Facebook group that I would share. A blog post seems like a good way to do that. There's no author listed but a note says that it was "Compiled from memoranda of [large blank space]  Smith and W. W. Smith"

RunKeeper to the Rescue: How I Found Mr. Janes' Grave

I spent the weekend playing old-time music with friends who gathered in Iroquois County, Illinois and Sunday morning, on the way home, I stopped at the Onarga Township Cemetery to visit the grave of fiddler William Alonzo Janes. The long story of my connection to him is one for another post, but it's dear and finding his resting place was very important to me. Onarga is a small town, population 1350 in 2009, and so my plan, small-town upstate New Yorker that I am, was to just wander the cemetery looking for Mr. Janes. One look told me that wasn't going to work. I pulled out my iPhone, found my reading glasses, and looked at the Find A Grave entry to see if there was a cemetery section listed. No luck, but there was a clue. I noticed a thin line of gravel at the top of the image. The stone had to be on the edge of one of the roads through the cemetery. I drove around carefully, getting out to check a few likely markers, but I found no match.  What to do? I

Finding Chicago Catholic Records in FamilySearch's New Catalog

Every time I turn around, there's something new to say about how to find Chicago records and that's a good thing. But, it takes a lot of work to keep up. I've set aside the next couple of weeks to sit around in front of the computer all day long in my pajamas eating bon bons and focusing on updating ChicagoGenealogy.com. (Just kidding about the pajamas and bon bons. Yesterday it was a Panera Sierra turkey sandwich--hold the field greens and add Peppadew peppers--that kept me going.) Anyway, many of the changes I'm making point to the new FamilySearch site and this morning I found myself needing to update a page that mentions the Family History Library Catalog entries for Archdiocese of Chicago Catholic church records. I got to wondering what the best way to pull those up might be. I'll spare you a detailed report on all the things I tried and share the approaches that seemed to work best. Search 1: Looking for a list of Chicago Catholic Church records in the c

Research Tools: Chicago Board of Education Directories

Tuesday I found myself in downtown Chicago with an hour to spare between copying a divorce file at the Circuit Court Archives and meeting up with my husband to attend a [really awesome!] Carolina Chocolate Drops concert at City Winery.  I decided to stop by the Harold Washington Library to take a close look at the Chicago Board of Education directories that are available at the Municipal Reference Collection desk on the fifth floor. What Years are Available? A guide to the library's holdings lists volumes beginning with 1895, but 1899 was the earliest the staff member could locate for me. She thought the earlier volume might fragile and therefore unavailable. Glancing at the key, the collection appears to be strong from 1900 to 1990, with a few gaps, and then the final volumes cover 1998 and 2003. What's in the Directories? Here's a quick list of what I found in the 1899 directory: Regular board meeting dates School term dates -- fall, winter, summer, ev

Chicago Police Department Personnel Registers, 1890-1910

Quick Introduction Last Friday I visited the Chicago History Museum to explore the microfilmed Chicago Police Department Personnel Registers, 1890-1910 , part of a collection titled Chicago Police Department collection [manuscript], 1966-1969 . There are three register volumes, 1890-1897, 1897-1904, and 1904-1910, and I chose to focus on the last one because it was the most relevant to my search. The names were grouped together by the first few letters of the surname and the handwritten entries were easy to read.  It only took a couple of minutes to find the first match. I also took a quick look at an earlier volume and it wasn't quite as easy to use. The names were only grouped by first letter of surname and so I had to look through many more entries to find what I needed. What Information Do the Registers Include? Register entries cross two facing pages and the column headings are listed below. (View large images: Page 1 Page 2 ) (Number) There are numbe

How to Locate District Court Naturalization Records Online, 1922-1940

Once again, FamilySearch has made an important group of Cook County records available online. This time, it's a database titled Illinois, Northern District Petitions for Naturalization, 1906-1991 . There are two things you should know about the title. First, it says "petitions," but the database actually includes declarations and certificates of arrival, too. And second, it says "1906-1991, but the images are being added and the collection isn't yet complete. Current coverage (updated 1 May 2014):  First record #98951 from 1931; last record #278950 from 1943. So, how do you find these records? It's pretty simple. First, search for names in the Illinois, Northern District Naturalization Index, 1840-1950 When you find a match, check the "Title and Location of Court" box. If it says, "District" (or U.S. Dist.") then there's a chance you can find the matching record online. Check the naturalization date. If it&

Help Index Cook Death Certificates, 1959-1994

I haven't done any FamilySearch indexing for a while--just too busy with other things--but my husband and I are getting ready for the Wilmette Family History Center's Family History Fair coming up on March 22, and so I logged in this morning to see what's changed since I last helped out. (The plan is to set up computers so that the youth who attend the Fair can give indexing a try.) I was surprised and thrilled to find that Cook County death certificates were listed as one of the current indexing projects. I immediately downloaded a batch and went to work! The batch was from May of 1963 and my job was to extract detailed information from the easy-to-read certificate and type it into the form--everything from the obvious name, death date, death place, to occupation, birth and parent information, to informant, to cemetery name and funeral home. It's going to be a very useful index. I immediately posted a note on the Chicago Genealogy Facebook page--perfect way

Why Does the FamilySearch Death Index Have Duplicate Entries?

Have you noticed that some people are listed twice in FamilySearch's Illinois, Cook County Deaths, 1878-1922 index, sometimes with slightly different information or spellings? Have you ever wondered why? Have you ever wondered which record to go after? Or whether you should go after them both? In this post, I'll tell you what I know about the duplicate entries and the corresponding death records. Let's use Charlotte Klug as an example. If I search for her name in the index two matches come up. The first entry leads to certificate #5805 on film number 1239830. The second entry leads to MF 73350-1 p 8967 on film 1239813. If you search the two film numbers in the Family History Library Catalog, you'll see that they're from the same series: Chicago Death Certificates, 1878-1915 . From 1908-1915, many individuals who died in Chicago will have two death certificates on two different films from this series. The record from the first entry can be found on a fi