WPT University Place: Genealogy and the Wisconsin Historical Society

WPT University Place: Genealogy and the Wisconsin Historical Society


– Katie Schumaker: Today,
we are pleased to introduce
Lori Bessler, as part of the
Wisconsin Historical Museum’s “History Sandwiched In”
lecture series. Lori Bessler has worked at the Wisconsin Historical Society
Library Archives since 1988. She is a reference librarian
and outreach coordinator. Lori has lectured throughout
Wisconsin and the Midwest on genealogical topics
for over 25 years, and has been researching family
history for over 35 years. She specializes in breaking
down brick walls and finding
hard-to-find resources. Here today to share some of
the many resources available to researchers at the Wisconsin
Historical Society, please join me in
welcoming Lori Bessler. [applause] – Thank you. It is kind of an interesting
day out there weather-wise. As Katie has mentioned, I’ve been with the Society
a long time. I’ve talked about our
collections many, many times, but I always enjoy
telling more about it. There’s such depth to the
Historical Society collections, and they are just hiding on
the other side of State Street for you.
[chuckles] So, the collection has over
four million items in it, most of which have to do
with North American history. So we cover
all the United States and all the provinces of Canada. So it’s a wonderful collection. No matter where your ancestry
is coming from or going to in North America,
we do have materials for you. In the Library, we have
mostly published materials. In the Archives, there are
more original documents. We are the state archives
for the State of Wisconsin, and so we have a lot of
materials that have come from courthouses and other
governmental agencies, as well as private collections
that people have donated, or that we’ve obtained
in various ways. The Library also
has very accessible hours. [chuckle] We have our hours
posted on our website. I’m going to give you a review
of our website in a few minutes. The collections for both the
Library and the Archives are now in one catalog. If you used our different
catalogs a couple years ago, that changed about a year ago. In May, I think it was. And so everything was
deposited into one catalog, which makes it a lot
easier in a lot of ways, but change is always
interesting, too. [laughing] So having the archivists
and the librarians help you through this
is really core, and we try to make ourselves
pretty accessible in a lot of different ways. You can contact us
by e-mail, by phone, and then also just visiting. I do a lot of phone
consultations with people from around the country who have
connections to Wisconsin. And people who are in this area,
who are coming in, or anywhere in Wisconsin
traveling to see us, I have consultations with them,
as well, to help them identify the paper
trail that will shed more light into the family history
that they’re researching. On-site, in the library,
and in the archives, we have technology that can help
you capture what you do find. So if you come to do
research at the Society, then you’re going to want
to bring a flash drive.
[chuckle] You can bring laptops. People have brought hand
scanners that can be used in the library, not necessarily
in the archives. It is a more secure area
in the archives because you’re dealing with
a lot of original documents. You have printers and scanners
so that if you come in and you have a book and
there is a portion of the book you want to scan to your flash
drive, it’s awesome. [chuckle] It makes it a lot easier
to capture that information then take it home
and read it when you get home. If you do make prints,
there is a 25¢ print fee. There’s 10¢ for other things. All of those details are
found on our website. And then, also, calling before
you come is a good idea as well. All right. Let me show you a couple
things on our website. Our website is
wisconsinhistory.org. And if you look lower
down on the screen, you have all these
different tabs. You have Research
Your Family History; Discover Your Community History;
Explore Our Collections; Teach and Learn
Wisconsin History; Visit Wisconsin Museums
and Historic Sites; and Preserve Your
Homes and Properties. I’m going to cover a couple
of these different buttons. Research Your Family History right away comes up with a
search box. And I really encourage
you to take a moment, breathe before you
start putting names in. It’s always important,
especially with sites like this and very much especially with
“Family Search” and “Ancestry”, that you understand what
you’re actually looking at. What does that index include? So down here it says: Browse All Items in Family
History Resources. It gives you a list of all the
different types of items… all the different types of
collections that are being indexed in this. And so each one of these
has criteria to them. All right? They have limitations. They have a wonderful
amount of information, but they definitely
have limitations. An example: the
Birth Index Record. What you find are index… It’s an index to
birth records we happen to have before October 1, 1907. They’re only records that were
sent on to the state level… to the state by
the Records Office. And so it is possible that the
County Register of Deeds Office has something
that’s not at the state level. That’s where
reference librarians and reference archivists
can help you. If you went into this index
and you did not find something, then it’s really important for
you to contact us and say, “Why didn’t I find something? What else can I find
this information on?” And we can explain the details
of the paper trail that exist out there for your
ancestors, depending on, you know, the criteria of
where they’re from, what time or era are they from. That kind of information. And so when you look at that
index … let’s go back here… all these different indexes
… or collections in the index… they all have criteria to them. Take your time to
understand each part. If you do find an entry
in the records… I have this one example here… What you can do is choose to go online
and actually buy it from us. Or if you live in the area,
write down the information it tells you
in the reference details, make a print of this, screen
shot
of it, whatever it is, and then, when you come to the
Society, you can make a print of this
for 25¢. So there are
those kinds of deals. [chuckles] There’s that kind of research
technique or tactics that we can help you with, as you call us ahead of time or
when you come in. Set up a time that you
can talk to one of us, and we can explain
these kinds of details. When you do have a bunch
of hits on the list, on the right–
the left side, rather– you can actually start
to filter down, down to a certain era
or down to a certain location. So find out someone was born in
Brown County in 1842 or 1840. Eighteen hundred to 1900,
I can choose 1840 to ’49. So if you used to use the index
before we had changed it, this is kind of new. You should be able to filter
down by location and by year and be able to see
exactly what there is. This is especially important
when you’re dealing, and everybody deals with it, name changes and
misinterpretation of names. Someone else is writing your
name most of the time in public
records. Someone else is interpreting
what you’re saying and spelling it the way they
want it spelled. Or they’re going to spell it. So what you can do when you
get the best amount of hits, you can then sort
it alphabetically. So this index has
become more accessible, more usable to a lot
of people in that way. I will go back a
couple pages here. Another item in here
is Video Tutorials. The information I just gave you is all in different tutorials
here. All you have to do is… This one is six minutes. Most of them
are less than six minutes. This is how… I was telling you how to find… Learn about the collections
included in the index. That’s how I explained
how you find that list. And the second one is learn how
to find a name in our index from the home page, which
is the very first page. They have a search
box at the top, and that explains how you can
manipulate your search that way. Then, how to find a name through our Research Your Family
History page specifically. And most importantly, how to
search the index without a name, which is really key. I encourage you to try that
kind of strategy on places like “Ancestry”
as well. Try a search without a name. Try putting in a
location and a date. It gives you a bigger snapshot of that location where your
ancestors were. So all of those are
different, like I said, research strategies that
are important to take. This whole thing we call
genealogy, family history, it’s a journey; It is not a quick trip. No matter what “Ancestry” says,
it’s not a quick trip. You don’t want it to be. You want to keep going deeper
and deeper and deeper. And that’s what our
staff helps you to do. Believe me, I meet with so many
different people, and I’m like, “Bring your brick walls. I can’t wait to take them on!”
[laughing] There’s got to be
something else. I’ve only gotten stumped once. The gentleman had looked at all
kinds of different materials. What about this?
What about that? So there’s always
another level to go to. Finally with that gentleman
it was: You know what? You can add some more general
history to your family. You can look at where they’re
from and what was going on at the time they were
living in that location. That may shed some light. They lived in this one town, a tornado came through at the
time they were living there. There’s a story. I don’t know how it missed
the family oral history, but somehow it did. So it’s important to look
for how deep you can go. And again that’s how we
can help you with that. I’ll go back here again. For those who are
living far away, another resource we have is an obituary search service
that we have. So if you are unable to come
here to do the research, then you can go on this website and actually order an obituary
search. Now we took our lead from the
Minnesota Historical Society, which is a great
institution as well. They do an obituary
search as well. We actually do two
newspapers when we search. Our newspaper collection is second only to the Library of
Congress. Only to the Library of Congress. That’s an amazing collection. What that means is that we have
any Wisconsin newspaper that has ever been uncovered,
we have copies of. Most of which is on microfilm. And then also if you
can’t get to here, then our microfilm loans
to other libraries, internationally. So there’s that accessibility
to materials is also really core
to our services. So if people do need us
to find the obituary, then they can put that
on order at our website. Other parts of the site: a big part is access
to our online catalog. This is really important. This is THE list of what we
have, which is really important. When you’re trying to do
research you want to know, okay, what is there first? You can do all of this searching
from home before you come. All right? Here’s an example:
if you’re looking to see if we have any family histories
that have been published. I’m not talking about the trees
that are on “Ancestry.” I mean people have written
a book of some sort, and we have gathered that book
or it’s been donated to us. What you would do is
you would put in a name. Last name Frank. And then use two different words
when you’re searching, okay? Do the surname
and the word “genealogy.” You can see I got five hits. Change that to “family.” And you see I got 10 hits. So when you’re using
an online catalog, that’s one additional strategy. Make sure you’re trying
different terms, okay? Try the surnames of people
who married INTO the family. There’s a family tree… a family genealogy
that we linked into. It’s called “For the
Starr Family,” S-T-A-R-R. There’s one little paragraph
about the fact that the Cook
went INTO the Starr family, and it gave the maiden name
of a woman. I could not find
that maiden name anywhere else. It must’ve been published
around the time that my ancestors were living. They provided that information,
and it was not located anywhere else that I found
in the public record. So that’s important to look at. Another item:
when you pull up an item, many of our family histories
are still under copyright, or assumed to be under
copyright, published since 1923. We have a lot of people… because we have a contract with
Google, a lot of our
books have been digitized. Well, they pull it up in Google,
and we get e-mails and phone calls saying, “I’d like to buy
that book from you.” [laughing] I’m like,
“No, we’re a library. “We don’t sell books. We keep the books so that you
can access them later,” you know. So one of the things is that if it is a digital book,
a couple of points, okay? One is that familysearch.org
and Google are two of the websites I go to
most frequently to check if a book has been
digitized. Familysearch.org is the website
for the Latter-day Saints, the Mormons. Their website is huge,
and I will give you a little bit of a survey
on that site as well. What you would do in this case. I want the “Wiseman
Genealogy and Biography.” You can see
I have the call number to the book in the stacks. If I look lower down,
it gives me access to the digital copy
that is at HathiTrust. That’s a combination of
a lot of different campuses who have gone through this
digitizing project and made their books accessible through
this HathiTrust organization. And so that gives me free
access to the full book. And I will tell you what I’ve
done is I have tried to find all of the books that any branch of
my family has been listed in that is out
there, digitized. I save the whole book, and have
my own digital library in my external hard drive and in the
hard drive of my laptop… as well now I’m looking in
the cloud too [chuckling] because there are so many ways
to save that information. And there are strategies with
saving information too that, but I could go on all day
on all of these topics. That’s for sure. Okay, so again,
look for those items that are in that online catalog. See if there is a digital
copy you can just go into and
download. All right. Down here,
“Webinars and Workshops.” Every fall and spring we hold
workshops, all-day workshops, that are held usually at Memorial Library on
the first floor. So we bring guest lecturers who
can provide us programming on a variety of different topics
having to do with genealogy. In the spring we had one
on DNA… I’m sorry, in the fall we did. In the spring, this year, we
will be holding one again, and it has been a very
well received program. It’s all-day, it talks about… I would show you on the site,
but it’s not in the store
quite yet. [laughing] I imagine we will be holding
it numerous times because the topic being so hot
in genealogy. DNA research. And so, we will be
holding that on April 16. We will have information
on this page about how to register for that. Again, all-day.
We feed you lunch. It’s $30 for the day, 10% off if you are a member of
the Wisconsin Historical Society or Wisconsin State
Genealogical Society. Okay?
So there’s that deal as well. Other topics for the
spring: we’ll have Polish, we’ll have Norwegian,
we’ll have Irish. So you come in, you absorb all
that information without the distractions. If you prefer to take
things like webinars, we do hold some webinars on this
website, as well, that are free. You can see
the different topics: Genealogy, Where Do I Begin? Notice right next to each and
every event, we have a hand-out you should
print out. It’s definitely important to
print that out before you watch the webinar because there’s a
lot of detail on that hand-out, so you’re not furiously writing. Okay?
[chuckling] So that’s important
to take as well. So each one of these, you just
click on the event and it will take you to a page
where you register your first and last name and
your e-mail address. And then you open up
and watch the webinar. You can watch it as
many times as you like. The other ones listed here: Preparing for a Trip to the
Wisconsin Historical Society. If you want to bring
a group, by the way, you do want to contact us. We have different arrangements
we can make and make sure that we have enough staff on hand
for a group to be able to come. Ancestry.com: What to Expect
and What Not to Expect. And the very next one
below: familysearch.org. Those are the two top
websites that people go to, at least in the
beginning, for genealogy. I’m going to give you a short
preview of both of those, but those two webinars really
go into great depth for you to understand
those two websites. The Wisconsin Historical
Society Website for Genealogy. I’m just touching
upon a few points. This one goes a whole hour. Each one of these is
about an hour long. And then another new one we put
out at the end of 2015: Maps for Genealogy
and Local History. What that is
is Lee Grady, one of our archivists,
reference archivist, put together a whole
presentation on how people can use
a variety of different maps. Sanborn maps,
land ownership maps, other types of records that have
to do with the property that our
ancestors owned. And how to use maps to locate
different hard-to-find towns that have changed in time, you
know, and that kind of thing. Again, those video tutorials are
for how to use that index that’s on our website. Another aspect of our collection is our Area Research Centers
system. Basically, what this means is
that we have locations across the state,
at the stars here, that cover the counties that are
in that same color. All right? And what you find is that
the archives collection, which is on the fourth
floor of our building, had taken a lot of the different
kinds of records that are more locally used into these
certain area research centers. So if I’m researching
Chippewa County, I’m going to be contacting
the area research center that is located
at UW-Eau Claire campus. So, again, throughout all of
these different strategies, I’m kind of covering
a little bit of– they all have depth to them.
All right? An example of that: if someone is looking
for naturalization records, I, as a reference librarian,
can tell you that “Family Search” has digitized a
bunch of those on their website, and where you would find
that on their website. I can also tell you that stuff
that didn’t get digitized could be on microfilm
that they filmed. It could also be at the
Area Research Center. The archivists who are at
the area research centers, they know their collections,
just as well as we know our collections
up at 816 State Street. So using them as a staff to
understand more about these documents that are not always
really easy to understand, that’s really important and
they are very accessible, the staff members are. So it’s important to understand
that’s another strategy. I worry a lot because “Ancestry”
especially comes off with their commercials saying,
“Just put in a name and we can tell you all the
stories.” There’s so much
more to research. Again, the collections
are phenomenal, but don’t forget that the staff
at the Historical Society is so invaluable. We have so many people who can
help you, in so many ways, to understand the records
and the paper trail. So that’s important to
understand as well. I want to cover a little bit
about each of the two big sites. Ancestry.com, a massive amount
of digital collections, okay? An ability to put your tree
online and find more cousins. DNA testing. There’s a lot to “Ancestry”,
and that’s good. You want to take your time
to understand. I want to point out
one specific thing you want to do on “Ancestry”,
and that is to go into the search box
and look at the card catalog. It’s just as you would go into
our online catalog to find out what we have. Go into “Ancestry”‘s card
catalog… which is not really
a card catalog… [chuckling] Go into their listing and
examine what they actually own. One way to do that, too, is not
just through this massive list. You can identify and filter it
by era and also by location. If I’m researching my ancestors
who came from Connecticut, I would want to know
exactly what they have. I can even go down to a certain
county and find out more. Understand, many collections not
just on these websites, but also in our collection are
based out of a state designation versus a county designation. So it’s important to look
at both strategies there. When you are in our catalog, you
would look under Wisconsin in history
or Wisconsin in genealogy and see what kinds of materials
come up. But then also do a second search
and look under Dane County Wisconsin history,
Dane County Wisconsin genealogy and see
what materials come up, because the catalog is not going to know
exactly what’s in your head, it only knows
what you’re typing. All right? So it’s important to
understand that aspect of it. So you’re going through the
whole list and identifying these different collections
you didn’t know existed, understanding, of course, that “Ancestry” doesn’t have
every-thing for Litchfield
County. [chuckling] All right? Other institutions to consider:
local historical societies, county historical societies, and
county genealogical societies. Local public libraries could
have a collection in there that you’re not even
realizing is there. Regional institutions like New England Historic
Genealogical Society. The fact that Wisconsin
Historical Society covers the United States and
Canada, we have materials for Minnesota,
Florida, Louisiana… a lot of Louisiana stuff. stuff.
[chuckling] Oddly enough,
I’ve been able to do a lot of my Louisiana research
right up here. So keep watching “Ancestry”
for that kind of thing, as well, understanding they have limits [speaking in sotto voce]:
no matter what they’re saying. [chuckling]
All right. Familysearch.org
is the other one, all right? And this is the one
that’s maintained by the Mormons, Latter-day
Saints. A couple of points here. One is that this one has a lot
more services and types of collections than
you would assume. The top part, Family Tree. A caution is that when you
put a tree on “Ancestry,” you can make it a private
tree so no one finds you, no one can see what
you have on there. Or you can make it a public tree
and share everything, all right? On Family Tree… this Family Search
Family Tree… Anybody can go in your tree
and see it, and they can change information. So be very careful when you put, when you consider putting a tree
on familysearch.org, okay? Memories: they have,
just like “Ancestry” has, the ability to upload photos, even videos and audio.
Okay? So if you have an audio
recording of your grandmother or great-grandmother,
then it might be worth posting that on your account on
one of these sites to share it. It’s also possible
to put that on a cloud and invite specific family
members to have access to it. There are definitely ways
to maintain the access
thatyou wantto the materials
thatyouhave collected. A lot of people, when they been
doing research a long time, feel like, “You know what? “I put all this together. I don’t necessarily want
everybody to have it for free.” Me, I’m like, “You know,
the more it’s out there, “the less often they’re going
to come back and ask me again [chuckling] for something.” There are many, many ways
to limit that. If you have
questions about that, then definitely
contact me, okay? I have this discussion
with people all the time. Another thing with
family history recently, with “Ancestry.” They own
Family Tree Maker, okay? And Family Tree Maker
is no longer supported by them. For the next year,
until December of this year, I believe it is,
they will only support, they’re not selling
Family Tree Maker anymore. Well, there was a lot of hubbub
when this happened in November, or December, about how
that affects people using Family Tree Maker, RootsMagic,
any of these software programs. A lot of people, at that time, at the higher level of education
with genealogy, the national level, were saying you have to
get used to the Cloud. I think that there’s
a lot of room in here, a lot of wiggle room. I don’t think it has to
be a certain way that way. I personally am looking at this
because I have been trying to aim more toward using Family
Tree Maker and other programs. So, again, if you have questions
about that transition, definitely talk to me. There’s a lot to be discussed. Under “Family Search”: I
mentioned about “Ancestry” and that you have to go into
“Ancestry” and look at their card catalog. This is how you do this on
“Family Search.” If you go to the Search tab, and go to Catalog,
you can put in a location. It fills it in and you choose
which state we’re dealing with. Don’t put in the word “county”. It doesn’t like that.
[chuckling] I don’t know why,
but they don’t like that. and then do a search. It tells you all
the different types of records. Now, “Family Search”,
the Latter-day Saints, have been collecting things
for a very, very long time. What I mean by things is actual
images of courthouse documents, church documents,
personal collections, anything that anybody would let
them have access to they filmed, and now they go
right to digital. So there’s a massive amount
of material with them. When you do this search
on “Ancestry”, you’re looking for
digital stuff, okay? When you look at this on
“Family Search” you’re actually identifying collections
that might be on microfilm, not digitized,
but that you can borrow, and have sent to the Family
History Center local to you. That is us at the Wisconsin
Historical Society. There is another, a family
history center here at the Latter-day Saints church,
as well, on Regent. It depends on how
you look at it. They have better parking,
we have better hours. [laughing] So that’s the variety, you know,
what you have to consider when you’re going to get
anything from here. What you do is, many times
we are looking at… What’s a good example? How about probate records? Probate records are done
at the end of the person’s life if they have any property
that needs to be dispersed. Never assume an ancestor
did not have a probate record. Never assume there’s not a
certain record for an ancestor, [chuckling] just in general. You always want to check and
document that you did check, okay? So what you would do is, when
you find one of these entries, you would go down here and it would take you to the
film number. Then as you sign in
with their website, it will take you to
an ordering page. Seven-fifty for a reel. You can have that reels sent to
the Historical Society to scan the heck out of it, [chuckling] to save everything you can. And then you have
that for eight weeks. It’s a long time. It used to be four weeks and you
had to send it back or renew it. Now it’s a massive amount
of time, and, really, they’re very
flexible about that. And so as fast as they are going
with digitizing their materials, there’s still a lot
that is only on microfilm. So it’s important know
this option on their site. I mentioned how, you know,
if you wanted to look for a naturalization record, I could tell you that “Family
Search” has this. The digitized
naturalization record. You now know how
I found that out. [chuckling] Basically, it’s going
into this list and looking for
these types of records. Always check
“Ancestry” and “Family Search” for digital stuff. They are working furiously
at digitizing materials, so it’s really good to
take time to do that. And now you know how to. Again, a webinar on the site
on how to use “Ancestry”, a full hour, and another one on
“Family Search.” I believe it’s well worth your
time. Researching our family history. What I usually start people
out with is the censuses. The census has been done in
the United States since 1790, every 10 years to the present. And so what
we have accessible to us is 1940 and backward, okay? There’s a federal law that does
not allow us to see 1950 until 72 years after
that census was done. You can see a lot
of other stuff out there, but not the federal census.
[chuckling] So, one of those
little oddities. The censuses give you a good
shot of the family over time. What’s important is that you
look at every family member’s census, not just pick
and choose which one, because each one tells
you another story, another fact in the story. People who were living with the
family but you didn’t realize back in 1910 the family had
Aunt Ada living with them, and by 1920 she’s gone. So you have those different
kinds of clues that are hiding in censuses. When someone says
that I have a family member who came to New York, through
one of the ports, any of them, and I don’t know exactly
what year they came, I’m like,”Oh please, God, I hope
they’re living in 1900 to 1940.” Because those censuses ask you
what year did you immigrate. It doesn’t ask you what port, but it does ask you what year
you immigrated. They also ask you if you
are an alien, naturalized, or have filed your first papers. Many of those censuses
would tell you that. I think it’s 1910 or 1900
asks a woman “How many children
have you born? How many are living?” That’s how you can identify. “Wow, I didn’t realize
she had ten children. I thought she only had seven.” And so,
that’s more information that… okay, I have to go
find those birth records that I didn’t even think
I should be looking for. So there are clues
in those censuses. Make sure you read
through the whole line. Ownership of property:
they owned their house or it was mortgaged. You know, that kind of detail
can really shed some light. The 1930s census,
I think it was the one, asked if they owned a radio. Which is awesome,
I love old radio shows. It’s kind of neat to then
picture the family and see how my great grandfather was
like 10 years old at the time and they had a radio. That would have been awesome. I wonder what shows were
running at the time. So it really opens up more
questions in a lot of ways, [chuckling] which is one of the
things about genealogy, but it definitely shed some
more light on materials. As you go through, one of the
things you’re going to do is really make sure you’re
organized all the way through. Because when you come to talk
to me or any of the reference librarians, you’ll say:
I’m looking for this. And I will come right back with,
“What have you already found?” Because I want to know if you
already have the clues I need to help you get the next step. We don’t want to
re-create the wheel, okay? So, really, documenting
everything you know. I don’t want
to make you feel like: “Don’t you come in
without that documentation!” It’s not that at all, it’s just that you’re going to get more
out of this head [chuckling] if you know more about what
you actually already know. And a lot of that is starting
with the stuff at home. And with the family
members who are at home. With your own memory. Writing down
all the information YOU know about the different family
members is really key. I’m just learning about that
in my forties. [chuckling] I’m about to turn 50 and
it’s becoming more important. So that’s one thing is that
both of my parents are gone. All of my grandparents are gone. My older brother has become so
much more important [laughing] because has so many stories
to share and write down. All of us do, okay? And that’s the key. If you feel like you can’t
come down to do research because it’s too far,
can’t get down there, you still have a lot of research
to do at home. And that is writing
down your stories. Please write down your stories. That’s really core. Has anyone written
your story already? The tree on “Ancestry”, the tree
on “Family Search” is great, but have they actually
published a document, a book about your family? Again, I’ve shown you how to
look that up in the online catalog. Try it out. Do a full census check on
everybody in the family. And most of those can
be done on Ancestry.com. The library edition, which is
at all of the public library branches in Madison and
Dane County, I think. So check your local library and see if they have access to
the library edition. It doesn’t have as much as the
personal subscriptions, but it has the core stuff, like
the censuses, the passenger list, some vital records, although
most of them are indexes. Checking for vital records. Again, very important. Something that many times when
I’m answering the emails is; I’d like to find out when
a person died in 1942. Um, their death record would
probably tell you that. [chuckling] And the idea is that they’ve
gone online and didn’t find it, so it looks like there is one. It’s not true. It’s that most death
records, birth, and marriage records
are not digitized. No matter how much states
like Missouri are digitizing, there are a lot of states that
do not digitize those records, for privacy reasons of course. And so deathindexes.com is
a great place to go first. And then,
if you don’t find a listing for that state
or for that county, then it is actually contacting
the county courthouse. Like in Nebraska you have
to contact the state, I think it is,
for births and deaths and the counties
for the marriages. Each state has its own rules
about this type of information. Again, asking us for help, we
can help you identify that. Obituaries is the
third type of record. So you’ve done a census check,
you’ve actually done all the research at home as well. You’ve done a census check,
then you did vital records, and then the third
would be obituary. Many people skip over
that step thinking, “Well, she was a widow. She died in 1872. They probably
didn’t write anything.” You have to check, okay?
[chuckling] It’s important because there’s been enough cases
where I have helped someone and they’ve identified
that extra little clue. And yet it was a woman who
died before 1900, you know. You can’t make any assumptions. How many people have watched
“Finding Your Roots” and “Who Do You Think You Are?” They do so many of these cases and I’m just fascinated
every time. I’ve been doing this
research a very long time. And yes, every now and then I’m
talking back to them saying, “Why didn’t you check this?”
[chuckling] But most of the time it is that
they are showing you strategies. And certainly Dr.
Henry Louis Gates, he’s telling you
how to tell a story. It doesn’t have to be that you
have to follow their certain story, but listen to how
he’s telling the story. So those episodes right
now are happening, but you can actually find
them on pbs.org, as well. So I look at them. I buy the seasons actually.
[laughing] There’s a lot to be found. The last point is, I think, one that I have made throughout
the whole presentation. [chuckling] You need to ask
us for help, okay? We are there to be able to
help you get to the next step, whatever that stuff is for you. We can at least show you
the next step for you, and you get to decide if
you want to go that far. Again, I’ve only gotten stumped
once. [chuckling] And even then, it was okay. You have to go
for the local history. You have to look at the
general information around it. Well, thank you very much. [applause]

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