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Pursuing Our Roots

Keeping up with those who have passed

There are many ways to get your daily news updates these days. Facebook and Twitter have a lot of news blurbs. Each TV news network has apps and updates, as do the local TV stations. But I’m an old fashioned guy who wakes up in the morning before work, opens the garage door, walks out to the driveway and picks up a fresh copy of the daily newspaper. About three seconds later, I realize I’m not wearing any shoes or socks … Being a genealogist, I don’t begin the morning newspaper with the headlines, local news or sports section. Yes, ...

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From altar to grave

Last month we looked at birth certificates and what you can learn from them. This month, we follow with marriage licenses and death certificates. Why do we cram two types of documents into one column? Well, frankly, the Cook County marriage license has so little data that it would be the world’s shortest column! The fact is that Cook County created a format for the marriage license in 1871, and at least as of 1964 the format was relatively the same. The paper is split into two halves. The top half lists the name of the groom and his age, ...

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Drawing a bead on birth dates

When starting our research, most of us were eventually given guidance by experienced genealogists. At least I hope we all were. A lot of my earliest work came from interviewing living relatives, because I had to ask them for the names of their brothers and sisters, and then the dates of birth and death. I learned early on that once their sister has been dead for 30 years, it was not on the tip of their tongues what her birthday was, having not celebrated it for so long. When they listed their siblings for me, they almost never mentioned any ...

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So what should we call grandpa?

Shakespeare asked, “What’s in a name?” but we should be asking, “What IS his name?” Recently I have been going through a lot of Cook County birth and death certificates, and it reminded me that people don’t always carry exactly the same name from birth through to death. We are all aware of the problems researchers in encounter because women tend to take the names of their husbands when they marry. But traditionally in Italy, women used their maiden names throughout their lives. It is easier to deal with looking for the birth of Anna Volpe in 1822 and the ...

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A microfilm research roadmap

This has been a summer and fall of big news in genealogy both nationally and in Chicago. In mid-July, the Family History Library decided to end their program of sending microfilm to local family history centers. The decision was made due to technological advancements as well as rising microfilm copying costs. I’m sure most of you know that when you are researching your ancestral towns in Italy, you need to choose which microfilms you need based on which record type you want (birth, marriage, death, allegati, processeti etc.) and which year range you need in order to find your immigrant ...

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The pitfalls of digitized newspaper archives

  Last month we reviewed newspaper resources. If you know the date, for death notices and such, you should find microfilm and go ahead and locate the death notice in the paper. If you are just trolling for any mention of your family name, you will need to use only searchable digitized newspapers. This logic can apply to any newspaper research, whether in Chicago or not. There is no way to go through newspapers nationwide, but let’s find out what is available in Chicagoland. At this writing, we have the Chicago Tribune and the Chicago Sun Times, plus suburban papers ...

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Searching newspapers, old school vs. new

While I was in St. Paul, I spent a lot of time at their state historical library. (Believe me, I wish I lived closer to Springfield in order to do a lot of work here in Illinois!) They have one of the best collections of Minnesota newspapers around, covering most major cities and some smaller towns throughout the state. So before I went up there, I made sure I had a complete list of everybody I wanted to find in those papers, particularly death notices. When preparing to work with newspapers, whether small town or big metropolis, you need to ...

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Gearing up for a family reunion

I’m in St. Paul, Minn., at an annual family reunion and I’m partly prepared but not 100 percent. I knew about this year’s family reunion year ago, so I had plenty of time to prepare for it. Or so I thought! There are a lot of genealogy issues you need to work on before leaving town for a big reunion such as the one I am at. You should plan to make time to visit the family, both during the larger reunion party, and if possible, before or after to get more one-on-one time with specific relatives that you need ...

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A genealogist is always prepared

When I’m not writing columns, I have a 9-5 job. Well, an 8-6 job. Some days it’s a 6-8 job! We’ve been through a lot of change in the past 18 months. Our parent company bought another company, and I worked 37 weekends to help get it up and running, only to have it sold in January. My role in the company has changed twice during this period, which means that after almost 24 years here, I’m still learning my new responsibilities. What does all this have to do with genealogy? Well, it means that despite earning four weeks paid ...

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Choosing a family tree chart

The simplest questions sometimes have the most complicated answers. “Dan, can you print a family tree chart?” Fra Noi editor Paul Basile recently asked me. “Sure, what kind of chart would you like?” “Um, what kind do you have?” After looking at the software I use to keep my family tree (which is Family Tree Maker) I found out just how many different kinds of charts there are. Each of them has a purpose and conveys the information in a different way. I can’t speak for the other software programs, but all of them print family tree charts. Fortunately for ...

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