Showing posts with label microfilm. Show all posts
Showing posts with label microfilm. Show all posts

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Family History Library Research

I spent the last two days at the Family History Library in Salt Lake doing research on my ancestors on both sides of my family tree. We were heading home from our 5½ week road trip vacation. Since we were going to be near Salt Lake, we decided to take a two day break from the road. Hip-hip hooray!

When I was packing for our trip I just happened to also pack the file folder I'd been keeping all of my Family History Library research. I didn't know if we'd be coming come via Salt Lake City or not, but just in case, I packed it.

I did spend some time looking at the card catalog before I left home. Printed out some things to look up, got my blank research logs, pencils, $1 bills for payment card, file folder with my forms, notebook paper; I was ready to hit it first thing when the Library opened.

The first day I got there an hour after the Library opened, not bad for me, I'm not a morning person. Since I didn't have much to research using US books, I decided to start on the third floor. After searching all morning, didn't really find anything new. I only copied three pages out of two books. I needed a break. Went down to the Main floor snack room; had a vending machine sandwich. Good thing I brought along my own water. Afterward, I went down to the second floor to tackle microfilms.

I like working the microfilm reader. You can really get into a rhythm, putting a new reel on, cranking the handle super fast or slowly scanning your document. Rewinding the reel, slapping on a new reel and off you go again for your next genealogy find.

That first day I found zilch. How disappointing. I was so ready! OK, need to regroup, need a new strategy. That night I sat down with the Library's card catalog again and searched for different places than I had the first time, I printed out the film numbers, I had my “places” picked out for my different families. I'm going to find stuff!

My second day the Library was opened from 8 am to 9 pm, yay! Plenty of time, all day long. I went straight to the microfilm readers, picked a great spot, dropped off my stuff and went in search for my first four reels.

Crank, crank, scan. Crank, crank, scan...nothing, zilch again. OK, now I'm going to look for something different. I had found my great-grandfather Rosiaro Catania's Declaration of Intention papers on about two weeks before. I couldn't really copy the document well so I wanted to look for it at the Library. I wanted a clear unobstructed copy. So I started to search; and search and search for it. I was close a few times, I knew it! His document should have been right next to the documents I was looking at.

Declaration of Intention

I must have gone through eight to ten reels in the same sequence. A few of them I even looked at twice. Where was it? Should I just forget it and go onto something different? I mean, it was on, so I should be able to find it here. No, keep looking, I reasoned with myself. I did find my great-grandfather in an index with a page number but not in any of the other reels. He's hiding, that must be it...he's hiding. I took a break, walked around, got some water. I decided after looking at all my forms and notations, I'd look at one of the previous reels again, I just had a “feeling” this time.

It was almost 7:30 pm, I hadn't had dinner (because I was “so close”). Slowly I cranked the handle. Slowly I scanned each and every page. Then what to my weary eyes should appear, his document! OMG!! I couldn't believe it, I kept staring at it just to make sure I had the right guy. Yes, yes, it's my great-grandfather! I was so tired, I couldn't even jump to my feet to do my happy dance.

I carefully pulled the film off the reader, took it over to where I could make copies and save the file to my flash drive. The lady who helped me so was nice and patient with me. I was so tired she had to repeat herself as I struggled to make the copies. I thanked her, and thanked everyone I saw as I made my way back to my microfilm reader to clean up and refile all the reels.

Before I left, I took one last look around and said a silent prayer of thanks.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Research at the Wisconsin Historical Society

With all the new information I got from Pauline and we weren’t going to see my cousin until the end of the week, we went down to Madison, WI and I spent about two days doing research at the Wisconsin Historical Society on the University of Madison campus.
I stood outside the building in aware.  I joined the Society last year when I stopped by their booth at the Federation of Genealogical Societies conference in Springfield, IL last year.  I didn’t think I’d be able to actually come and do research.  What an opportunity!  The building had been there over 100 years, I felt so honored.  As old as it looked outside, the inside was all marble walls, floors, stairs and balconies.  Beautifully constructed and maintained.

Now, down to business.  I went to the reference desk and asked for help.  A very nice student gave me a payment card so I could load it with money to use when printing copies.  She then took me around and showed me where the microfilm and readers were; how to load the film, print a page, etc.  This was so cool.  To get a copy of a document from home would have cost me $15 per document.  Here, it was only 10¢.  After a while, I was loading microfilm onto the reader, printing copies, rewinding the film and loading another with practiced rhythm.  I had to reload my payment card numerous times.  Here were all the documents I needed on my Ramminger ancestors from both Clark and Sheboygan counties.

I was printing out birth, marriage and death documents from every reel I looked at.  I didn’t want to leave my favorite work space.  I stayed until closing time and did my “happy dance” all the way back to our hotel. 

The next day I finished up with the microfilms and asked for help looking for city directories.  I again got excellent help from one of the librarians.  I had to take a tiny elevator (I think it was as old as the building) down a couple of floors to the “stacks.”  The air smelled old and dank; lighting wasn’t much better either.  I seemed to be the only one down there, kind of “creepy,” but I just stayed away from those thoughts.  I found the city directories and only brought one up with me.  I used the flatbed scanner and was able to save the images from the book to my flash drive.

I next asked for help with finding plat maps of my ancestor’s farms in Clark and Sheboygan counties.  Those I had to go to the Archives on a different floor, and since it was after 4 p.m., I’d have to wait until the next day.  Boo hoo!  We were leaving the next morning, what was I to do?

Since I knew which maps I wanted and didn’t have to hunt for them, I figured I could be at the doors when they opened the next day, get copies of the maps and we would be on the road by lunch time.  Good plan all around!  When I arrived at the Archives the next morning I had to sign in on a log, register to use the Archives, show my driver’s license, and sign a document that I’d abide by their rules of using their items.  I was assigned a locker for my purse, could only bring a camera phone, notebook and pencil.  Since I wanted to look at maps I was taken to a long table, showed how to fill out a request slip and waited while they got my first maps.  The librarians were friendly and knowledgeable. 

Throughout our trip I’d been using my camera phone every day.  Here, I was able to use the camera to take close-up shots of the maps.  I could tweak the different modes, get a wide view, macro view, and use the flash, or not.  I’ll be downloading the photos to my computer and print out what I want or share them with family members via email.  Very cool!

After seeing my ancestor’s names on the plat maps I got a better understanding of who they were.  In Clark County, I found that not only did my great-grandfather have a farm but I also saw where my grandfather Henry and his Brother John’s farms were located too.

In Sheboygan County several brothers and sons also had farms close to each other.  I found where their church was and where they were buried from the death documents I had copied the day before.  We were definitely going to Sheboygan county cemetery before heading to Chicago.