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Sunday, July 31, 2011

A Child Lost ~ Lillie Geng

From the June 30, 1896 issue of the Chicago Daily News, "GENG-LILLIE, at the residence of her parents, 712 Burling-st., beloved daughter of Charles and Annie Geng (nee Kerwer), Monday, June 29, at 6 p.m., at the age of 4 years 11 months and 14 days. Funeral Wednesday at 2 p.m."

I started by looking for Lillie's death certificate at FamilySearch:

Using the Tombstone Birthday Calculator, I estimate Lillie's birthdate as 15 Jul 1891. I didn't have any luck finding a record of her birth on FamilySearch, but her parents' marriage certificate was there.

The family remained at the address that is on Lillie's death cerificate. Here they are in the 1900 census:

After seeing Annie lost two of her children before 1900, I almost hoped this possibility for her husband's death wasn't him. I wasn't certain until I looked at the Address Conversion Tools at Chicago Ancestors. There I located the family's 1900 address (712 Burling Street) had been renumbered in 1909 to 2679 Burling Street; the same address listed on Charles' death certificate:

At least now I know Charles was buried at the same cemetery as his daughter. Annie/Anna lived a long life. I hope it was happier than these documents suggest. Lillie and her parents are buried at St Boniface and at my request, another contributor linked them on Find A Grave.

Note: I have no connection to this child. In A Child Lost ~ Introduction, I shared my hope of reuniting these children with their parents. If you are a Geng descendant, I hope you'll give Lillie a special place in your family tree.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Wordless Wednesday ~ Gone Fishin'

Um that's okay Dad. Why don't you hold him?

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Headstone Photos from Oakwoods

Ancestors on both sides of my family are buried at Oakwoods Cemetery on Chicago's south side. It's one of the oldest cemeteries in the city, established in 1854 before Graceland, Rosehill and Calvary.

The architecture and landscaping alone make this cemetery a historic treasure. There are some truly breathtaking monuments in Oakwoods, among them the Confederate Mound. A number of Chicago's elite are buried here along with politicians and ministers, athletes and gangsters.

The Confederate Mound
I have wanted to visit my ancestors' graves at this cemetery for as long as I can remember. It's hundreds of miles from me however and I may never have the chance. So I asked for help at Find A Grave and at RAOGK. No luck.

Then one day it occurred to me there might be a local teenager or senior citizen who could take pictures of the headstones I wanted so much to see. So I wrote a letter and sent it to Oakwoods...

"May 23, 2011
Dear Ms. Nowak,
This morning I had an idea I hope you can help develop.
I am a genealogist and several of my family members are buried at Oakwoods. Since I am unable to visit the cemetery in person, I would like to get photos of their headstones. 
Are you familiar with As of this morning, there were 8286 interments listed on the web site for Oakwoods. Specific to my idea, there are 326 photo requests.
I’m wondering if there is a local teenager or perhaps a retiree who might be willing to take headstone photos at Oakwoods. A volunteer would be the most popular choice, but I don’t think it would be unreasonable to ask for financial contributions for the photographer’s time and trouble. I would be willing to pay someone out of state to take pictures and clean up a gravesite for ancestors I can’t visit in person.
This is important enough to me that I would be willing to help in whatever way I can. I look forward to hearing your thoughts.
Warmest regards,"
After a few weeks and no response, I called. Talked with a lovely woman there who said the General Manager position had recently undergone a transition. She suggested I call the former GM. I did. Another lovely woman who offered some wonderful suggestions. Unfortunately none of them worked. So I called the cemetery again. This time I talked with a gentleman who offered to take the pictures himself. I followed up with a letter, a list, some charts, and $50.
"July 6, 2011
Dear Mr. Davis,

Thank you for talking with me yesterday about my desire for photos of my ancestors’ headstones.

Your willingness to help me obtain these photos is very much appreciated. Toward that end I have included a list of names and dates specific to Oakwoods.

I was a little taken aback by the $10 per headstone charge, but relieved when you asked that the check be made out to the American Diabetes Association. Both Jacob and Elizabeth (Schmitt) Mueller died of diabetes, and their son Alfred died of diabetic complications. Unfortunately, my budget won’t allow me to pursue all ten photos this week. I would be most grateful for the five I numbered on my list and for those I have enclosed a check in the amount of $50.

If possible, I would prefer to receive the headstone pictures via email as jpg files. My email address (on my calling card enclosed) is

You mentioned privacy concerns related to the plat cards for these individuals. I have also enclosed relationship charts so you can see I am a direct descendant of Jacob and Elizabeth. Their son Alfred (my great-grandfather) and Otto were brothers. I have received copies of many plat cards or plot maps from other cemeteries during my 30 year genealogical quest. I have never posted them online or shared the contents with anyone. The information they contain is about my family and I protect it accordingly.

In my first letter dated May 23 (copy enclosed), I mentioned the web site If Ms. Comer hasn’t yet seen this web site, would you please make her aware of it? The number of photo requests fluctuates (currently at 271), but the oldest request is from 2006. I’m sure there are many others who would appreciate the prospect of obtaining photos of their loved ones’ graves as well. If this is a service the cemetery might consider offering in the future, I would be happy to share that news.

Thank you again for all your help. It’s unlikely I will be able to see these graves in person, so your help, and that of Oakwoods in general, means a great deal to me.

Warmest regards,"
Within days, Mr Davis sent the following email with two pictures attached:
"Hi Ms. Aanenson
Thank you for your contribution to the ADA, here are the findings for the 5 inquiries you made to Oak Woods cemetery. Next of kin is in parenthesis.

1. Jacob J. Mueller, Age 66  (son Otto) buried in section F5  lot 227  (see photo) his wife Elise is buried to his left also listed with headstone. (see photo).
2.  Otto V. Mueller, Age 44 (sister Alma) is buried in F5 -227 next to Jacob's right side, there is no headstone for him.
3.  Alfred Jacob Mueller, Age 62 (son Harold) is buried next to Otto, there is no headstone for him also.
4. Elizabeth Mueller, Age 76 (William) is buried in section R1 lot 571  Dec. 25, 1901.  (see photo).
5. Frida Youngberg, Age 74 (daughter Myrtle) is buried in section F7 lot 593 Oct. 12, 1937. There is no headstone for her.

Planning Advisor
Oak Woods Cemetery
1035 E. 67th Street
Chicago, IL 60637"
Charles J Youngberg and his wife Freda (nee Tolf)
Jacob K Mueller and his wife Elisabeth (nee Schmitt)

Monday, July 18, 2011

Success Team Update - Technically Week 9

Last week was rough for Jenny and me. Work was busy, family had issues, weather was yucky. Hey, some weeks are like that.

So we made liberal use of the word "technically" during our virtual meeting Saturday morning.

Last week I found 30 pieces of paper while filing that were either filed the "old" way or not at all. I said I was going to start processing them. You know, make sure they are in Family Tree Maker, on Ancestry, on Find A Grave... that kinda stuff.

Technically I did start processing them, but made little progress. When I found information missing from these documents, I did more research. This turned 30 pieces of paper into 52. Jenny referred to the original bunch as 30 cups of quicksand. The more I flailed about, the deeper I sank. Ugh. But technically, I was only supposed to start processing them. So I get a sorta checkmark.

Technically Jenny got some sorta checkmarks too. It was a tough week, remember?

We each reduced our expectations for the upcoming week. Three tasks each.

In my case, I am to finish a task I already started, post information I already acquired, and tell you about an experience I already had. Way to lower the bar!

I'm okay with that. 'Cause technically we are still moving forward on our respective family history research. And that's the reason I love this team.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

A Child Lost ~ Lillian Harriet Rapp

From the June 30, 1896 issue of the Chicago Daily News, "RAPP-LILLIAN HARRIET, beloved daughter of Peter and Belle Rapp, June 29, 1896, aged 6 months. Funeral to Oakwoods July 1, 1896, 2 p.m., from parents' residence, 344 24th-st."

Here's a copy of Lilly's death certificate from FamilySearch:

She was Peter and Belle's 8th child according to the December 1895 Chicago Illinois Birth Register below. The baby's name was recorded as Ellen, but her date of birth, parents' names, the street address, and the couple's ethnic heritage are good indicators that this is the right child:

Lilly's poor mother. She had a baby nearly every year after her wedding,

but lost two-thirds of her children before 1900:

According to the Family History Library film # 1894003, Belle (Peterson) Rapp died 03 Jan 1934 and was buried in Oakwoods January sixth. Film # 1953316 shows Peter Axel Rapp died 12 Mar 1938 and was buried in Oakwoods March fourteenth. Peter, Belle, and Lilly are together now on Find A Grave.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Surname Saturday ~ July Birthdays

Happy July birthday to my niece Christine; my cousins Cynthia and Ernie Lynn; my 3rd cousins once removed James, Pat, and Steven; and my 4th cousin-in-law Michael. Birthdays from the past include:

George BORST born 26 Jul 1861. George was a postman in Chicago Illinois and lived to be 90. He married Nana Elizabeth PLUM born 21 Jul 1872.

Esther Ingeborg CLARIN born 07 Jul 1890 was the first child born to Swedish immigrants Carl and Bengta Clarin in Chicago Illinois. Mabelle Theresia CLARIN born 09 Jul 1894 was Esther's younger sister. The girls' grandfather Lars PETERSSON was born in Fultofta, Malmohus, Sweden 21 Jul 1800.

Mary CLARKE, born 24 Jul 1869, was the eighth of 11 children. Her parents were Morgan and Susan (nee Shank) Clarke of Funkstown Maryland.

Carl ERSSON born in Börstil, Uppsala, Sweden 14 Jul 1807 is my third great-grandfather. He and his wife Brita Carin ANDERSDOTTER had seven children, among them my second great grandmother Maja Stina KARLSDOTTER born 02 Jul 1839.

Alice Louise GILES born 31 Jul 1913 lived to be 90. She was the first family historian I knew. Her sister Fern Mary GILES was born 3 Jul 1922. In her later years, Alice gave her genealogy files to Fern for safe-keeping.

Vernie G HIGHBARGER was born 22 Jul 1887 in Washington County Maryland. She married William F King and lived in Baltimore. Her parents John and Zora (nee Clarke) Highbarger lived with Vernie the last 10 years of their lives.

My second great-grandfather Herman Friedrich Carl MANGELS was born 04 Jul 1845 in Schleswig-Holstein, Germany and immigrated to Chicago about 1882. The family story is that his wife Mary (nee BUKMAKOFSKY) banished Herman to their enclosed porch one January night after he'd been drinking and he froze to death. But his death certificate says he died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

Carl Jules SCHMITT was born 17 Jul 1881 in Ohio. Carl's father Jean Nicolas SCHMITT moved his family to Chicago where he opened a bakery and restaurant. Carl became a commercial artist.

Edward Arthur THOMPSON born 25 Jul 1895 in Chicago Illinois was the youngest child of Peter and Mary (nee PETERSON), Scandanavian immigrants.

Jacob Wilhelm TOLF was born 05 Jul 1826 in Lindefors, Jönköping, Sweden. His father (my 4th great grandfather) Carl Jonas TOLF was a blacksmith. Carl died at just 38 years old leaving a widow and seven young children.

My grandmother Harriet Kathlyn TOLF born 02 Jul 1909 and her brother
Oliver TOLF born 05 Jul 1915 lived in Chicago their entire lives. As an adult, Ollie legally changed his name to Donald. Both siblings died in their forties; Harriet in 1954 and Donald in 1961.

Clockwise Julia (nee Thompson), Earl, Oliver and Harriet Tolf.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Transcription Thursday ~ Elizabeth Grosse

Elizabeth Grosse was born 07 Aug 1781 in Virming, Moselle, Lorraine, France. She married François Schmitt when she was twenty-three. The couple had at least six children (I haven't found them all yet) before Elizabeth died in 1826:

Hopefully my transcription and translation below are fairly accurate:

Death Record of Elizabeth Grosse

Transcription No. 44 Décès d’ Elizabeth Grosse ages’ du 45 ans
L' an mil huit cent vingt six le trente un mai, a midy par devant nous Joseph Pinet, Maire et officier de l' état civil de la commune d' Hellimer et Diffenbach, canton de Grostenquin, département de la Moselle, sont comparu François Schmitt, tanneur âgé de xxx cinquante quatre ans et M. Hubert Bienfait avocat âgé de quatre vingt un ans tous deux domiciliés a Hellimer lesquels nous ont déclaré que, hier à Sept heure après midi Elizabeth Grosse, agé d’ quarante cinq ans, femme du premier declarant, fille de defunt Christophe Grosse, et d’ Elizabeth Houpert san vocation domicile à Virming et décédés enfant avril nous a Hellimer et ont les déclarants signé avec nous le présent acte de décès, après lecture faite.

[signed] Bienfait         Franz Schmitt         Pinet

Translation No. 44 Death of Elizabeth Grosse age 45 years
The year eighteen hundred and twenty six, the thirty-first of May at noon in front of us Joseph Pinet, Mayor and Officer of the vital statistics of the town of Hellimer and Diffenbach, Grostenquin Township, department of Moselle, appeared François Schmitt, tanner age of fifty four years and Mr. Hubert Bienfait lawyer the age of 81 years, both residents of Hellimer which we have stated that yesterday at 7pm, Elizabeth Grosse, age of 45 years, wife of the first registrant, and daughter of the late Christophe Grosse et d’ Elizabeth Houpert , without occupation residing in Virming, and the infant who died in April in Hellimer, and registrants have signed with us the present death act, after reading done.

[signed] Bienfait         François Schmitt         Pinet

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Translation Tuesday ~ Pierre Schmitt

In case you've been waiting with baited breath since Thursday for the real version of Pierre's death record, here it is (with a thank you to Charles for his invaluable help):

Transcription: L'an mil huit quarante huit, le quatre du mois d’août à dix heures du matin par devant nous Nicolas Schram chevalier de la légion d’honneur, Maire et officier de l’état civil de la commune d' Hellimer canton de Grostenquin, arrondissement de Sarreguemines Département de la Moselle ont comparu Pierre Schmitt âgé de trente-sept ans propriétaire, domicilié à Hellimer et Nicolas Schmitt âgé de trente deux ans serrurier domicilié au même lieu tous deux fils du défunt plus bas nommé lesquels nous ont déclaré qui Pierre Schmitt âgée de soixante neuf ans serrurier domicilié au dit Hellimer époux de Madeleine Bouche age de soixante un ans sans profession domiciliée au même lieu, fils du défunt Claude Schmitt en son vivant propriétaire et d’Anne Marie Schmitt en son vivant sans profession, tous deux domicilés au sur dit Hellimer né á Hellimer est décédé en cette commune le quatre du présent mois, à six heures du matin dans son domicile. De quoi nous avons aussitôt dressé le présent acte et après quoi nous leur en avons donné lecture, les comparants l’ont signé avec nous.

Translation No. 54 Death of Peter Schmitt died on the 4th of August
The year eighteen forty eight, four of the month of August at ten in the morning before us Nicolas Schram, Officer of the Legion of Honour and Registrant of the town of Hellimer, Canton of Grostenquin, district of Sarreguemines, department of Moselle, appeared Pierre Schmitt age of thirty-seven years a (land)owner, who lives in Hellimer and Nicolas Schmitt age of thirty two years locksmith domiciled in the same place both sons of the here after named, who told us that Pierre Schmitt age of sixty nine years locksmith domiciled in said Hellimer husband of Madeleine Bouche age of sixty one years with no profession, son of defunct Claude Schmitt, owner in his lifetime and of Anne Marie Schmitt in his lifetime without profession, both domiciled in said Hellimer, born in Hellimer, died in this town, the forth of present month at six in the morning. On that we have immediately composed this act, than after reading, the comparants have signed with us.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Surname Saturday - July Marriages

Two family weddings in two weeks; 'tis the season! And that made me wonder how many of my ancestors were married in July. Of course there are my parents, my sister, and at least one of my cousins; but those who came before the living family members include:

My second great grand aunt Zora Clarke who married John Highbarger 16 July 1879. Zora and John lived in Washington County Maryland most of their lives. They had four children.

My great grand aunt Maria Josephina Carlson married Andrew Johnson in Chicago 12 Jul 1888. Both were Swedish immigrants. Maria had been born in Börstil in Uppsala. A family story about Mary and her husband owning a boarding house led to the discovery of this marriage. Maria married the husband everyone knew 10 years after Andrew's death. She's the widowed boarding house manager near the bottom of the page below:

My first cousin thrice removed Carl E Plum married Waity Chandler 17 Jul 1901 in Chicago. Sadly Waity died in childbirth nine months later.

My great grand uncle Otto V Mueller (Bidenharn) married Alvina S Schmitt 23 Jul 1902 in St Joseph, Michigan, a popular wedding site for many Chicagoans. The couple's daughter Edith M was born June 1903. Otto was a successful civil engineer who tragically took his own life in April 1912.

Another Chicagoan and first cousin thrice removed Myrtle Alvira Youngberg married Canadian John L Miller in scenic St Joseph, Michigan 01 Jul 1910. She was 18 years old. The marriage lasted less than three years.

Yet another first cousin thrice removed Pearl May Tolf married Algernon Chastaine Porter in Chicago 19 Jul 1913. I did not know until just this moment that Algernon and Pearl lived in Virginia with their two daughters during the 1920 census. Prior to her marriage Pearl lived with her cousins Raymond and Ranghild in a Swedish Chicago neighborhood.

My great grand uncle George James Walton married Dorothea May Reifsnyder in Cleveland Ohio. The couple had one son, [Cecil] James, with whom I shared a passion for genealogy. James lost his battle with cancer just last year.

The last of my first cousins thrice removed who married in July was Ella Jubelina Tolf. She married Arthur William Nelson in Batavia Illinois 30 Jul 1914. Everyone who described Ella to me spoke very highly of her. She and Arthur had two children. Son Frank became a dentist and practiced in Batavia his entire career.

Carlson, Tolf, Walton, and Youngberg are surnames on my mom's side of the family. Clarke, Mueller, and Plum are on the paternal side of my family tree; the side I am currently researching. Some of the ancestors listed above are collateral. Their stories often add to those of my direct line ancestors. 

Do we share any ancestors? Drop me a line at livinginthepastlane [at] yahoo [dot] com. I'd love to compare notes!

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Transcription Thursday ~ Pierre Schmitt

Pierre's parents are Claude and Anne Marie Schmitt, but some of the other information contained in this death record is hard to make out. My attempt at transcription and translation are below:

Transcription No. 54 Pierre Schmitt décédé le' 4 août
L ‘an mil huit quarante huit, le quatre du xxx d’ août â dix heures du matin par devant nous Nicolas Schrau chevalier de la l’qui d’ ho mum Maire et officier de l’etat civil de la commune d' Hellimer canton d' Grostenquin, arrondissement d' Sarreguemines Departement de la Moselle ont comparu Pierre Schmitt age de trente-sept ans propriétaire, domicilé à Hellimer et Nicolas Schmitt age de trente deux ans serrurier domicilé au même lieu tous deux fils du défunt plus bas nom né lequels nous ont déclaré qui Pierre Schmitt age de soixante neuf ans serrurier domicilé au dit Hellimer epouse de Madeline Bouche age de soixante un ans sans profession domicilé au même xxx fils du défunt Claude Schmitt en son vivant proprietaire et d’ Anne Marie Schmitt en son vivant sans profession, tous deux domicilé au sur dit Hellimer né á Hellimer et décédé an cette commune le quatre du present mois a dix heures du matin d' ans son domicilé le quoi nous avous xxx etat du pé le xxx ont acte et après que nous lier en avous donné lecture, son comparante l’ont signe avec nous.

Translation No. 54 Death of Peter Schmitt died on the 4th of August
The year eighteen forty eight, four of the xxx of August at ten in the morning before us Nicolas Schrau the knight who to ho mum Mayor and Officer of the of the town of Hellimer, Canton of Grostenquin, district of Sarreguemines, department of Moselle, appeared Pierre Schmitt age of thirty-seven years a landowner, who lives in Hellimer and Nicolas Schmitt age of thirty two years locksmith domiciled in the same place both sons of the late low birth name who told us that Pierre Schmitt age of sixty nine years locksmith domiciled in said Hellimer wife Madeline Bouche age of sixty years xxx with no profession xxx son of the late Claude Schmitt in his lifetime and owner of Anne Marie Schmitt in his lifetime without profession, both domiciled in the words of Hellimer born and died Hellimer the year this town four months of the present ten in the morning for years his home on what we AYou xxx xxx state of the pe act and have after we bind AYou read his appearing have signed with us.

Obviously, some of the words are incorrect. More eyes are definately needed...

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Translation Tuesday ~ Parlez-vous français?

Last week I posted death records for two ancestors named Nicolas Schmitt. Thanks to several members of the Alsace-Lorraine mailing list, the questions I had about some of the words have been answered. See the corrections in green here.

I thought I might share a bit of my process to (hopefully) help someone just starting out. And maybe someone reading will suggest a better way to get through the dozens of records I need to transcribe and translate.

After performing the Genealogy Happy Dance at the Family History Center when I locate a French record that belongs to me; I copy the image, the cover page, and the index to my flashdrive. At home I clean up the image with photo editing software.

Using a split screen to view both the image and Google language, I transcribe the record into Google translate. After correcting any obvious errors, I copy and paste the French and English versions in a Word document. Then I tweak the text using the French Genealogical word list from Family Search and the ever-growing list of words and phrases I have learned since I started researching my French ancestry.

FamilySearch also offers some wonderful ~ and free ~ courses for doing research in several countries including France here.

I was intimidated when I started working with French records, but that didn't last long. So if you are gingerly dipping your toes in the French pool, c'mon! Wade on in; l'eau de fines!

Sunday, July 3, 2011

A Child Lost ~ Mabel Champion

From the May 15, 1882 edition of the Chicago Daily News, "CHAMPION-At 550 W. Erie-st., MABEL CHAMPION, aged 1 month and 14 days. Notice of funeral hereafter."

I started at FamilySearch and entered Mabel Champion, checked "all events" and entered the years 1882 to 1892. Three records appeared. Mabel's death certificate was first.

I broadened my search by looking for any Champion in Chicago. I filtered the results by date and gender. Mabel's birth certificate was on page two:

Mabel's parents are John and Mary. She was their first child. Mary's maiden name is listed on this birth register:
The Champions are near the bottom of the page. Mary's surname looks like Fodey. I returned to FamilySearch and found the couple's marriage certificate:
At first I wasn't sure if this Champion family was Mabel's. This census says Mary's parent's were born in Ireland...

and the 1880 census says they were born in Illinois:

But other clues on the 1900 census were helpful, especially the month and year young John Champion was born:

Hmm. Am I the only one bothered by John being identified as the first child born to this couple? Regardless, Mabel's page on Find A Grave is now up to date.

Note: I have no connection to this child. In A Child Lost ~ Introduction, I shared my hope of reuniting these children with their parents. If you are a Champion descendant, I hope you'll give Mabel a special place in your family tree.

My own genealogy work-in-progress is online at Living in the Past Lane.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Playing Ketchup by Myself

When did I become so disorganized? Is it an age-related issue? A busier-than-ever conundrum? Or am I simply working on too many projects at once?

Here's a perfect example. One of the items on my Success Team to-do list is to create a rough draft list of the ancestors I know are buried in Oakwoods Cemetery. Seems pretty straightforward, doesn't it? And I know it will be easy because when I enter places of burial in Family Tree Maker, I put the cemetery name, address, and phone number in the place field.

So I confidently open FTM, click on Places and scroll to Oakwoods. Nine names are listed. Seven of them have dates of burial. Both of the names missing the burial date are collateral ancestors. To my credit they each have a date of death gleaned from their obituaries. Sounds like a check mark looms in my future, doesn't it?

Then I look closer at the names on my list. Conspicuously absent is my second great-grandfather Jacob K. Mueller. I know he is buried at Oakwoods because I have a copy of his obituary and his death certificate.

Of course these documents would be attached to Jacob on Family Tree Maker and, right? Not so much, no.

But that shouldn't be a problem. I can simply click on My Pictures and add the images to Jacob's file. My Pictures has a Family Tree folder inside with a Mueller folder inside that. The Mueller folder contains 19 objects, none of which is Jacob's death certificate. Drat.

Oh, I remember now! I changed the way I label my photo files. I'll have to look in the "old" Family Tree picture folder and then the Mueller file there.

57 objects are patiently waiting inside this folder. Thankfully Jacob's death certificate is here. Named DC Jacob K Mueller.pdf. And here, named DCJacobKMueller.pdf. And here again, this time named Jacob Mueller DC.jpg.

I think what happened know...I'm really not sure what happened. But it looks like I already have a goal for the July 9th Success Team meeting. Does this make me an overachiever?

Friday, July 1, 2011

Rootweb Mailing Lists

Five members of the Alsace-Lorraine list on Rootsweb answered my request for help with Claude Schmitt's death record. The mailing lists in which I am a member are immeasurably valuable. I would never have progressed as far in my family history research without them. If you're like me (in need of a genealogical 12-step program) lists are a good way to get your daily fix.

So why was I met with blank stares when I mentioned Rootsweb mailing lists at the local Family History Center? Could it be the label? "Mailing list" conjures up images of junk mail and additional trips to the recycling bin. But nothing could be further from the truth.

One of the people in my FHC play group was confused by the concept. It is a little challenging to grasp if you haven't seen a list in action. So I put together a sort-of-tutorial for her and left it at the Family History Center for other visitors to see. Maybe it will help someone in cyberspace as well:

Where can you find other genealogists interested in the area you are researching? On a Rootsweb mailing list!

Start at this web site:

Scroll done the left column to MAILING LISTS and click INDEX (Browse all lists)

Let’s pick one of the 30,000+ lists to use as an example. See USA? Just below USA, you’ll see all 50 states. Click MN. Next we’ll choose a county. Click Hennepin.

This web page explains the Hennepin County list; who might be interested in joining and where to look for additional information about the county. One way to measure the usefulness of a list is to see how much activity it generates. To check the activity for this list, click Browse the MNHENNEP archives link near the bottom of the page. These numbers show us this is a pretty quiet list.

Before we judge a book by its cover, let’s see the typical questions/answers people post. Click May 2011. There’s an interesting exchange (called a thread) starting with a request for a recent obituary. You can click on any message to read it.

Want to see another example? Let’s go back to the list index. (Click the BACK arrow a few times to reach the complete index.) How about exploring an International list? Click on Sweden. We could choose a specific area of Sweden if we wanted, but for now let’s click the general Sweden list. Then click Browse the SWEDEN archives (just like we did for Hennepin County above).

Notice a difference? There are many more posts on this list. Click May 2011. See all the different threads? This looks like a great list if you have Swedish ancestors.

If you wanted to join this list, you would follow the instructions on the page titled SWEDEN Mailing List. You can click on Subscribe to SWEDEN-L if you would like to get each message individually, or choose Subscribe to SWEDEN-D if you want to receive all the messages for each day grouped together in one email. All the email fields are filled in automatically when you click on the link, so just “send”.

A confirmation email will be sent with instructions to complete your subscription request. It will contain additional information about the list. (Remember you can leave a list at any time; simply choose the appropriate Unsubscribe option and voila, you’ll get no more emails from that Rootsweb mailing list.) 

BEFORE YOU SEND EMAILS TO THE LISTS YOU JOIN, consider lurking on a Rootsweb mailing list for awhile before you post. In internet culture a lurker is a person who reads discussions on a mailing list, but doesn’t actively participate. Lurking will help you

• become familiar with this specific list’s etiquette

• learn who will be helpful to you and how you can help others

• get lots of information about your area of interest 

When you are ready to post your first question, comment or concern remember two things.  
  • Your post will be on the internet forever. (Remember those archives we looked at when we were exploring lists?) and
  • Don’t expect anyone else to do all your research for you. List members are most helpful when requests are reasonable.
For example, you could ask things like:

• Where would I find information about boundary changes in this state?

• Can anyone recommend a good translator?

• Which cemetery would a German (or Spanish etc) family have chosen in this place in 1875?

• Have you seen the new database on Ancestry?!?

• Would someone please help me translate these words…?

And finally ~

Please use the Golden Rule ~ a Rootsweb mailing list is the same as any other community. Treat others the way you wish to be treated.

Look forward to making new friends, finding long lost relatives, and conquering records you never imagined.