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Showing posts from 2009

So, where was Albert S. Bowman in 1900?

A Little Holiday Fun: A one pound box of Fannie May chocolates to the first person to find a particularly elusive Albert S. Bowman in the 1900 census for me. The images below show Albert with his family in 1880 and as a single man (I'm pretty sure this is the right person) in 1910. An 1897 city directory shows him living at 224 N 8th in Philadelphia. Additional Information: He doesn't seem to appear in the 1900 Philadelphia directory unless he had temporarily changed occupations. He may have also gone by A. S. Bowman. I don't know what the "S" stands for. Important Rule for the Challenge: I have done quite a bit of online research on Albert and his family and there is no need to spend time looking for any other census records or related documents unless they will help you in your search. No reward for anything other than the 1900 census page. The Fine Print: I have no idea whether or not Albert appears in the 1900 census, although he should be the


As many of you know, Dean and I have been working on launching for a couple of years and we now have a slide show online which explains what we're up to! Please take a look. Cynthia Introducing View more presentations from .

The "Burial Permit Index"

What should we call this index? If you search the Family History Library Catalog at you will find a resource listed under “Illinois, Cook, Chicago - Vital records – Indexes” called " Indexes to deaths in the city of Chicago during the years 1871 to 1933 : showing name, address and date of death " created by the Chicago Board of Health. It’s a very long, descriptive title, but it’s somewhat misleading. It’s true that most of the people listed in this index died in Chicago, but the index also includes people who died outside the city. And, in fact, a note in the catalog says, “These indexes are believed to be for burial permits, the actual deaths having occurred both in and outside the city of Chicago, often times out of state.” That’s probably why some researchers call it the “Burial Permit Index,” but that’s misleading, too. As far as I’ve been able to determine, the numbers given in the index don’t lead to burial permits; they lead to death certificates a

Polish Newspaper (1908-1917) Dziennik Zwiazkowy Online

This evening, I was looking for online newspapers that might help me with a bit of research I'm doing on a composer by the name of A. S. Bowman (I'll blog about him soon) and I stumbled on a resource that might be of interest to those of you who have Polish ancestors in Chicago. It looks as though the first ten years (1908-1917) of Dziennik Zwiazkowy , “Chicago’s largest and oldest Polish newspaper,” are available online for free. The newspaper is part of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign's Illinois Digital Newspaper Collection . Other titles include Barrington Review , Southern Illinois Journal , and several newspapers from Quincy. For online newspapers from other states, check out Penn Libraries research guide titled Historical Newspapers Online . It's the web page that led me to the Illinois newspaper page.

Cook County Indigent Burials, 1911-1971

Another guest post written by Barbara, a fellow researcher at the Wilmette Family History Center. This time she shares information about searching indigent burial records. My cousin and I have been trying to track down my “Prodigal Grandmother” for over a year now but have had no luck. Information from her step-niece seemed to indicate that she was quite poor and might have died indigent in Cook County. Through searching the internet I discovered that Cook buried their indigent at Oak Forest Cemetery on the grounds of Oak Forest Hospital. There are no visible grave markers there to indicate where the indigent are buried but there is microfilmed information on who was buried in the cemetery and where. The South Suburban Genealogical and Historical Society ( ) has a large room in a public building in Hazel Crest and they house the microfilmed records of the infants and adults who were buried by the County from 1911 until 1971. After 1971 the indigent were buried i

Adoption Research: Using the Chicago Daily Law Bulletin to Find Birth Names

I have learned a lot from conversations with other researchers and recently a patron at the Wilmette Family History Center told me how she found a birth name for her father who was adopted in 1927. The resource she used was new to me and I was intrigued. I thought others might benefit from her experience and so I asked her to write a guest post for my blog. She graciously agreed and you’ll find her contribution below. Update (2 Dec 2018): There is one provider who can help find adoption information in Cook County: Illinois Adoption Lookup for Cook County, Chicago, 1934 - 1963 from julic My sincere thanks to Barbara, the author of this guest post. ADOPTIONS IN COOK COUNTY Unknown to most adopted people and their families, there is a record that can be easily accessed that will give the birth name of the child given up for adoption in the majority of cases: the Chicago Daily Law Bulletin (CDLB). Adoptions are legalized through the county level of the court s

Lookups through Genlighten: I Tried on Your Shoes Today and I Like Them

Two blog posts in one day. I’m on a roll. And no, I haven’t done a bit of housework but I did shower. That counts for something. So, a little background to start. I’ve been doing lookups for about five years and people are always asking me, “Do you know how I can find someone who does what you do in … ” You name the state or country. And my answer has always been, “No.” And people have also asked to pick my brain about how they might offer lookups like I do as a way of earning a bit of extra income. Well, a couple of years ago, in the spirit of my husband’s entrepreneurial 3rd great grandfather who came to Chicago in 1835 to open a hat and cap store, we decided to address those questions and with the help of some experts in website design and coding is now up and running in private beta. (Private beta just means that we need to give you a registration code if you want to try it out and we’re happy to do that. ChiGen_1 will work.) The site is a work in progre

Sometimes Children Just Want to be Found

Last week I received a request from a researcher who had an urgent need for information from a death record so that she could prepare for an upcoming trip to Chicago. I told her I thought I could help and that I would have the record for her the next day. Unfortunately, when I got home from the Family History Center I discovered that I had scanned the wrong certificate. It’s an easy mistake to make and it doesn’t happen often, but it does happen. I locate records using a regular microfilm reader and then I transfer the film to my scanner where I peer through a tiny magnifying glass to move the right frame into the scanning window. Sometimes it’s easy to misread the numbers. So, having made a promise, I went back to the FHC to get the correct record. And it’s here that the story begins. I noticed that the child died of diphtheria and I remembered that the record that I had scanned by mistake had been for a child of the same surname so almost without thinking I moved the film one rec

Happy Birthday, Lucy Theodate Holmes

One of the challenges in doing research in Chicago and Cook County is that many early births weren’t reported to the county clerk’s office. In other words, many people born in the late 1800s and early 1900s in Chicago didn’t have a birth certificate. Baptismal records are usually a first-choice option for proving a birth date when no birth certificate can be found, but United States passport applications are another good source of birth information. They can be found on Family History Library microfilm, but they have also been available for some time on Here’s an example from my own research of how helpful they can be. For a number of years I have been gathering information about the family of H. H. Holmes, one of the the subjects of Erik Larson’s best-selling book The Devil in the White City . Holmes and his wife Myrta Z. Belknap had a daughter named Lucy and I was interested in finding a birth record for her. I started the search based on a couple of sentences fro

Marriage License Mystery

Marriage license mystery on my hands . . . Looking at the Chicago Tribune for June 17, 1890, p. 2 at I find that a marriage license was issued to Samuel Prince and Rachel Provolsky, but I don’t see their names in the Illinois Statewide Marriage Index and I need the license number to be able to find the license on microfilm. Fortunately, the lists that appeared in the newspapers were arranged in license number order and so it’s not hard to deduce the license number based on index entries for the surrounding names. The following chart shows what I found using the online index. Jan Jetonicky (153867) Charles Foster (153868) Samuel Prince Wenzl Plefka (153870) Omund Lindberg (153871) Based on this, the license number for Samuel should be #153869 and I find an entry in the hand-written marriage index books (on microfilm) which confirm this. However, when I look at the marriage license film, #153869 is not a license for Samuel and Rachel. It’s for James Gething an

Happy Birthday, Benny Goodman

I'm listening to a 100th anniversary birthday tribute to Benny Goodman on WDCB's Swing Shift--wonderful music--and then I got to thinking . . . He was born in Chicago. To view his birth record at FamilySearch Record Search, follow this link, click on his name, and then click to view the image. Happy Birthday, Ben!

Researcher Finds Needle in the Haystack

I received an email from one of my clients and I think she’s come across a wonderful example of how powerful the Record Search pilot site is. With her permission, I will post her note here in a slightly edited form. Thank you, Margie! Cynthia ________________________________________________________________________ When the Chicago birth certificates became available [at] I pulled up everyone I could think of. I was looking for two sisters, Mabel and Joan Hayes. I found Joan. Baby not yet named Second baby, two living Father, Joseph Hayes, born in Pontiac Illinois, age 37, laborer Mother Hannah Austgen Hayes, born in St. John, Indiana, age 31 I could not find Mabel. When I search for the name Austgen, I came up with Mary *BROWN* First baby, one living Born December 29, 1910 Father, Joseph BROWN, born in Pontiac, Illinois, age 37, laborer Mother, Hannah AUSTIN BROWN, born in Dyer, Illinois, age 29 Dyer is in Indiana, not Illinois, and is right ne

Chicago Births at Record Search: When the Index Doesn't Match the Record

My husband pointed me to a blog called "TransylvanianDutch" which mentions the Cook County birth records online at FamilySearch Record Search. The author spotlights a birth record that's indexed as "Clifford Paul Cruvant" but clearly says "Edward Cruvant" and asks "What was the indexer looking at?" He goes on to say, "I want to know what that document is, what other information I might expect to find on it, and where I can get a copy of it." I think I can be of help here. The indexer must have been looking at the Certificate of Correction which was filmed just after the original birth certificate. This correction form doesn't seem to be included with the linked records on the FamilySearch Record Search site but it is available on Family History Library Film 1288077. The Certificate of Correction is numbered the same as the birth record and it includes the child's name as it appears on the certificate, the corrected name

The Chicago Fire: Was Your Ancestor Insured?

My husband's ancestor, James Ayer Smith, arrived in Chicago in the spring of 1835 with plans to open a hat and cap store, and in August of that year, his father sent him a letter with some very detailed advice on how to succeed. In closing, he wrote, "There has been a heavy fire at Cleveland & I hope you will not fail to have insurance made on your stock immediately to the full amount Your affectionate Father Chas. Smith." James appears to have taken that advice. When he lost business property in a fire in 1857, he received a $3000 settlement, with payments shared by six insurance companies. And in 1871, when The Chicago Fire hit, he was once again well insured. For example, James A. Smith & Co. had a policy from Washington Insurance Company purchased in August, 1871 in force through November of the same year "against loss or damage by fire ... on Furs manufactured or unmanufactured, also on Wearing Apparel manufactured in whole or in part of Furs or manu

Gleanings from "Legal Friend of the People"

In January, 1911, the Chicago Daily Tribune began publishing a column called “Legal Friend of the People.” Readers wrote in to ask questions about legal matters and topics ranged from what to do about a neighbor’s bothersome ducks to marriage, probate, and citizenship. For genealogists, this column is a rich source of information about the laws of the times. Below are some examples of the kinds of things I've learned from the Legal Friend. (I have access to the Chicago Tribune Historical Archives online--the source of the columns mentioned below--using my Chicago Public Library card.) 4 Mar 1912, p. 8: The legal age of a woman is 18; legal age of a man is 21. 11 Mar 1912, p. 8: Illinois law states that a divorced person must wait one year before remarrying; in questionable cases, couple should be remarried 11 Mar 1912, p. 8: Common law wife has same rights as any other wife, but definition of common law wife is strict; best to have legal marriage performed 18 Mar 1912,

The Problem with "Only"

I'm not sure I'm the best one to point this out. After all, I earn extra income by looking up Chicago birth, marriage, and death records for researchers for a small fee. But, on the other hand, one of my goals is to educate researchers on which Chicago and Cook County records can be found where, and I think this falls under that umbrella. So, here goes . . . I was just searching, hoping to stumble on some information about a person I'm researching, and I ended up in the Cook County Death Index, 1908-1988. It's a handy resource, but I think one small tweak needs to be made to the results page. When I rolled over the "Purchase from Cook County" link, the pop-up read "Indexes have been made available here at Ancestry, however, images and original certificates are only available through the Cook County Clerk's office" and the word "only" isn't quite right. Chicago and Cook County death records up through 1947 are availa