Utilizing Spokeo for Genealogy Research – Thankful Thursday

The ancient Greek philosophers have urged countless generations to “Know Thyself”. Now there’s a website that can tell you (and others) who you are with one mouse click.

Spokeo.com, a split personality website which marries online ‘white pages’ with an information gathering search engine, allows subscribers to search for individuals by name, location, ect. and relays information about marital status, household income, political affiliation, and other vital tidbits.

This site was a topic of discussion at our FPLD Genealogy Club meeting last night.  Our speaker Robin Seidenberg reminded us that our information isn’t really private in this digital age. (BTW: Read Jennifer Holik-Urban’s review of last night’s meeting.  It’s fantastic!)

According to their website, Spokeo is “a people search engine that organizes vast quantities of white-pages listings, social information, and other people-related data from a large variety of public sources. Our mission is to help people find and connect with others, more easily than ever.”

The really interesting aspect of this website, apart from the cute name and accurate mapping tools, is the epic failure of the information available.

According to Spokeo, I’m married, and live with my parents, three siblings, grandmother, and several cats in my parent’s home in Michigan.

Our house appraised at over one million dollars, I’m a Catholic, a Republican, and I run a home-based business. My hobbies are cooking and traveling. My astrological sign is Aries, and I enjoy reading books about fashion.

WOW! I’M MARRIED! REALLY? WHEN DID THAT HAPPEN?  (Shouldn’t I remember something like that?  I know some people would like to forget their marriage, but am I one of them?)

AND GRANDMA’S ALIVE!   NO WAY! (Dude, she died a decade ago!  But to be fair, we still get her catalogs and mail.)

I’ll admit my parents just had their kitchen remodeled, but I’ve dropped off their mortgage checks at the bank, and there’s NO WAY their home is worth one million dollars.Political and religious privacy aside, I don’t run a home based business.

Did they get anything right? Yes. My parents have a cat, I am an Aries, and I enjoy cooking and traveling.

And I could have found out more about myself, like my education level, my economic health, or my wealth level if I purchased a one-year subscription to the website for the ultra low price of $2.95 a month.

So, go to Spokeo.com, get to know yourself, and comment on your findings in the comment/reply section below, and let me know what you think.

In the meantime, if you find my husband on Spokeo, tell him to come home to my flat, because he doesn’t need to drive to my parents place. I want to start a family, and I need him to help me hang up the new curtains I bought and empty the trash before garbage day. Oh, and tell him we’re having my deceased grandma over for the weekend, so we’ll need to run a few errands before then.

See you at the Library!


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Minding the Gap in Post-WWII Immigration/Refugee Genealogy Records – Society Saturday

Each patron query is an opportunity to learn something new.

My case in point from last week -My patron has been seeking records on Lithuanian immigrant A. Bartkus and his family. Anything goes.  My patron didn’t really have much to work with, as her dad won’t talk about his childhood in World World II Lithuania/Germany.

A short interview and an Ancestry immigration search later, and a bright, shiny, Passenger List record appears.  My patron is excited.  Performing another search for the immigration vessel yields a unique story about military vessels shuttling refugees from Europe to the USA and beyond.  My patron is amazed.  “You’ve made my day, my month, and my year!” She said.  “I haven’t found out much of anything before today!”

Yes, I’m awesome on a good day.

Which brings me to ‘Minding the Gap’ portion of Post-WWII genealogy research.  As a descendent of recent immigrants, you can find documents and assistance with the following depositories:

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services offers amazing resources for Post WWII Immigrants including:
Naturalization Certificate Files (C-files) from September 27, 1906 to April 1, 1956
Alien Registration Forms from August 1, 1940 to March 31, 1944
Visa Files from July 1, 1924 to March 31, 1944
Registry Files from March 2, 1929 to March 31, 1944
Alien Files (A-files) numbered below 8 million (A8000000) and documents therein dated prior to May 1, 1951

Records Relating to World War II Era Refugees at the National Archives
There are a lot of records regarding the plight, migration, and individual refugee information available to order in the Archives.gov Civilian Agency Records.  Try looking through U.S. Foreign Assistance Agencies, 1948-61 -This Record Group contains additional material relating to the Marshal Plan and the plight of European refugees. There are two divisions to these files including Geographic Files, 1953-54 (Germany-Refugees) and  German Division, Subject Files, 1948-53 (Refugees).

It might be a long shot, but the UK National Archives has an amazing in-depth research guide for refugees topics and records research.  This is a sizable guide, but it has a lot of great links and information.

I always tell my patrons to reach out to those relatives who might be able to answer your questions.  A silent parent might have a chatty sibling or cousin who is willing to talk to you.  Remember, if at first you don’t fricassee, fry, fry, a hen.

Reminder: Don’t miss the next FPLD Genealogy Club Meeting on Wednesday, September 21 at 7 p.m. in Meeting Room A.  Genealogy speaker Robin Seidenberg will present To Tell or Not to Tell : Should the Family Skeleton Stay in the Closet?

How would you deal with suicide or the cousin who kept her “cough medicine” (liquor) behind the refrigerator? What about the relatives whose birth dates are not on their tombstones because they always lied about their ages?

Robin will present various family situations. Participants in the discussion group will share ideas and learn from one another. Ultimately each person will determine the most comfortable way to handle these issues

Which brings us to the question/comment of the day: What have you done to overcome the gaps in your family genealogy?

Post your interesting or creative responses in the comment area below.

See you at the Library!


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Tracing your Legal Ancestors – Tuesday’s Tip

I’ve resisted tackling the UK legal portion of my research for some time.  At first glance, the British legal system seems like a mess of courts, divisions, and terminology which might trip up a full trained American lawyer.  Needless to say, I don’t want to phone my one an only lawyer acquaintance for genealogy assistance at 11 p.m. on a Saturday night.

Tracing your Legal Ancestors – A Guide For Family Historians by Stephen Wade is an intensely well-written and informative guide to possibly the most difficult UK genealogical research.  For non-UK researchers, this is still an interesting read do to its clear and concise descriptions of court proceedings, legal professions, the history of legal divisions, and resources for legal genealogical research.  Although many of the examples are based in England, many of these practices were standard in Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland as well.

What is inferior or superior court?  You can settle court questions ranging from medieval to modern, city to rural, as well as military and church cases.  I was even surprised at the the amount of information which can be found in coroner’s courts, which feature hearings on deaths (suspicious or otherwise).  I can imagine the information in those court proceedings could make for interesting reading and book material!

I don’t have any legal ancestors (that I know of), but I know some of them might have had a run-in with the law at one point or another.  For my research, I was very happy to find a large chapter dedicated specifically to the legal system and resources of Scotland and Ireland.

The contents for Tracing your Legal Ancestors – Introduction, (1) Understanding the Legal Professions, (2) Community of Lawyers, (3) The Judges and the Courts, (4) The Magistracy, (5) A Survey of Sources I, (6) A Survey of Sources II, (7) The Literature of Judiciary, (8) The Servants of the Law Machine, (9) Lawyer Ancestors in Scotland and Ireland, (10) Approaches and Methods: A Summary, (i) Glossary, (ii) Bibliography & Sources, (iii) Index

Kudos to Tracing Your Legal Ancestors author Stephen Wade for demystifying the UK legal system for genealogists!

Which brings us to the Comment/Question of the Day: What side of the legal system did your ancestors frequent? 

Leave your creative and interesting responses in the comment box below.

Don’t forget to attend the next FPLD Genealogy Club Meeting on Wednesday, September 21 at 7 p.m.  Guest speaker Robin Seidenberg will present To Tell or Not to Tell:  Should the Family Skeleton Stay in the Closet? – A genealogical discussion on whether you should disclose all your findings or breaking the news about your ancestor’s prior bad acts.  The Genealogy Club meeting will be held in Meeting Room A at the Fountaindale Public Library District, 300 W. Briarcliff Road in Bolingbrook.  This is a drop-in event, so bring a friend and dive

See You At the Library!


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Looking at Rootsireland.ie – Those Places Thursday

I’ve had limited luck researching Irish records.  It’s not that I don’t think I’m trying hard enough, I just think the ‘luck of the Irish’ is simply not with me on this endeavor.  When I think strategically about Irish research, there are several apparent disadvantages, namely non-existent census records, late vital records registration, and limited early marriage records for a majority of the population.

The census records I need have been destroyed, and with government registration of births, marriages and deaths in Ireland beginning on January 1, 1864, my options are limited for finding my famine-era ancestors.

But I’ve been conducting some research on www.rootsireland.ie, and I’ve found some very helpful and promising leads.  This site has a lot of records for people searching for documents from Northern Ireland, and it has a great selection of items from across the country.  The obvious holes in this site revolve around the absence of records from a few densely-populated areas such as Wexford, Kerry(South), Cork counties, as well as the City of Dublin.

As with sites such as findmypast.co.uk, scotlandspeople.gov.uk, and findmypast.ie, searching for records is free, but viewing individual documents will cost you about $7 American.

So on this note, the comment/question of the day is: What Irish records do you need and why?

Leave your interesting and creative responses in the comment box.

See you at the Library!


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Free Family History Writing Class – Thrifty Thursday

Is your family story too good to keep in the family?  Was great-grandpa a train robber?  Was great-great grandma a college graduate?  Your family may be littered with black sheep and canonized saints, but that won’t keep their stories alive forever.  So save some hard earned cash and learn to write your family history saga!

The Fountaindale Public Library is hosting “Bringing Family History to Life: The Stories We Could Tell” on Wednesday, August 24 at 7:00 p.m. in Meeting Room B.  Presenter David Clark will help you reach beyond genealogical facts and data to crafting a rich and full history of your ancestors.  Mr. Clark writes “Writing the unique stories of a person’s family can preserve the facts and provide a record for future generations. This presentation will help people interested in telling their family stories to overcome their fears of writing and commit the oral traditions to the written word.”

Mr. Clark will discuss how to interweave your organized information with written materials to create a fantastic item.  All you need to begin your project is a computer, scanner, and digital camera!

Registration for this event is suggested, so save your spot by calling the Fountaindale Public Library at (630) 685-4176.  You can also register by visiting the 3rd Floor Reference Desk or by visiting our website at www.fountaindale.org.

So, the question/comment of the day is:

If you could interview any of your ancestors, who would you choose and why?

Leave your interesting or creative responses in the comment box below, or on our Facebook Page.

Next time, we’ll look at genealogy webinars on Youtube and swap favorite genealogy-centric films and documentaries.

See you at the Library!


Posted in Fountaindale Public Library District, Local History and Genealogy | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Summer reads with genealogy tie-ins – Wisdom Wednesday

I had a rude awakening a few weeks ago when my mom called and asked me what I’d been reading lately.  Crash Course in Genealogy I told her proudly.  “I blogged about it a few days ago.” Truth be told, I’ve been lusting over content and the 1940 census breakdown the way some folks might admire a busty pin-up.

“Don’t you ever read anything else?” She asked.

Needless to say I was a little hurt and more than a little offended.  But as a matter of fact, yes I told her, I had been reading two other books as well: The Sinner’s Grand Tour: A Journey Through the Historical Underbelly of Europe by Tony Perrottet and If You Lived Here, I’d Know Your Name: News from Small-Town Alaska by Heather Lende.  Both non-fiction, and both considered to be uninteresting material for both my parents.

“You should read Nora Roberts, you’d really like her,” my mother began listing a gourmet dinner grocery list of books I should be reading.

‘Tis the season for road trips, cemetery research, and pumping information from relatives at the family reunion, I explained.  It’s time to enjoy the ride to the Allen County Public Library, eat the food I don’t normally allow myself to even look at, and justify the resulting credit card statement as an ‘educational expense.’  My complaints were unacknowledged.

So in the face of such overwhelming criticism of my literary habits, I broke down and read the In the Garden series (Blue Dahlia, Black Rose, & Red Lily) by Nora Roberts.  And I’m very pleased to report that genealogy is a major plot device in the series.  I’d definitely recommend it if you don’t mind genealogy research sharing the stage with gardening, romance, southern culture, and a psychotic ghost.  But maybe, that was my mom’s point all along.  Use your interests as a spring board and maybe you’ll find some inspiration to look at research in a new way.

But I have to share this one irk with the book;  the characters said they found information pertaining to their ghost problem and Memphis in the 1890 census.


The closest thing we have to the 1890 census in Tennessee is the Veteran’s Census from 1890.  Not helpful in this aspect of the plot.  Most researchers rely on the Memphis City Directory from 1890-1891 to assist them with this 20 year blackout between census records.

I’ve let this fact rest, as the book series is entirely fictional.  But I’m still shaking my head over it.  I’d love to live in a book where I have access to the full 1890 census.  It would totally make most of my research much easier.

Keeping this literary tune in mind, what books (both fiction and non-fiction) with a genealogical bent have you read and could recommend?  Leave your interesting, creative, or otherwise informative responses in the comment area below this post.

Next week I’ll give you the scoop on our special August workshop “Bringing Family History to Life: The Stories We Could Tell.”   This presentation will help people interested in telling their family stories to convert their past into well written and published collections. Click here for registration and more information.

See you at the Library!


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Dave Dowell’s Crash Course in Genealogy – Tuesday’s Tip

I’ve read a lot of genealogy books.  I’m not bragging or anything, but I work in a library, so it makes sense that I’m looking through/checking out/reading genealogy books all the time.  The results are mixed.

Are they all stunning works of research?  No.

A dry read?  Sometimes.  Ok.  Most of the time.

Useful?  Yes, most of them are useful.

Completely and utterly awesome?  Once in awhile.

Which is why I was really happy to read Crash Course in Genealogy by Dave Dowell.  I met him at a genealogy round table a few weeks ago, and he let me take a look at his book.

Awesome.  I wish I would have had a copy when I started doing research.  But I was able to read it and literally fall in love with genealogical records all over again, and that’s what made the book even better.

Originally intended as a basic genealogy training course for library staff, this book is a great introduction to genealogy subjects, resources, and research methodology. This book offers newbies a chance to begin their search without the daunting fear factor, but gives intermediate researchers a new way to look at their research. Dave’s breakdown of information into graphics, case studies, and additional resources is truly top-notch. His graphs and timelines really gave me a lot of insight into some of my own methodology.

Included in this book are clear reproductions of census forms, pedigree sheets, Haplogroup migrations, and an illustrated example of a Boolean search.

I could wax poetic, but his breakdown of the 1940 census was one of the best I’ve read.

Crash Course in Genealogy Chapter Index

Chapter 1: Introduction
Chapter 2: Backward Thinking and Other Keys to Successful Genealogical Research
Chapter 3: Genealogy Speed Dial
Chapter 4: 20th-Century Research
Chapter 5: 19th-Century Research
Chapter 6: Colonial Research
Chapter 7: Researching People of Color
Chapter 8: Taking Research to Another Country
Chapter 9: Fieldtrips
Chapter 10: Incorporating DNA Research
Chapter 11: Keeping Up to Date
Chapter 12: Concluding Thoughts
Glossary of Genealogical Terms

This is a great book for your library, historical society, genealogy society or for a new genealogist!

You can check out a copy of Crash Course in Genealogy from your local library or order it online at Amazon.com.

Comment/Question of the Day:  What genealogy book do you run back to for inspiration or help?

Leave your interesting and creative responses in the comment box.

See you at the Library!


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