Making a Home on the Homestead – Those Places Thursday

During the course of your research, you’ll have a nagging feeling of neglect for a certain person or family group.  Maybe you were satisfied with your research and wondered off to more pressing projects.  Perhaps you hit a brick wall and left to pursue other projects out of frustration.  Or just maybe you were lured away by all those lovely Irish Parish Records which were just released for free online through the National Library of Ireland.  Lovely stuff, parish records.

I’ve just returned from a research trip in Northern Georgia, where I was lured to several cemeteries, libraries, and archives in search for records for my mother’s application for the Daughters of the American Revolution.  I think I have sources for nearly all the records I need now, apart from a few pesky marriage records.  (Why can’t I find a marriage for these people?  Geeze!)  After spending so much time researching the maternal line of my family, my post research trip priorities began to shift to my father’s homesteading ancestors.

The nagging feeling for switching gears in my research began with guilt.  Guilt that I’d been visiting with one side of the family more than the other.  Without a 1890 census for reference, I had to look at an 1885 Nebraska State Census and the 1900 US Federal Census.  Here are Frank and Anna Dudek with their children Agnes, Jennie, Frederick, Frank, and Albert as well as Anna’s mother Anna Kucera.  Heaven bless the 1900 Federal Census enumerator Andrew J. Ruddy, as he included a date of birth for all family members during his visit to the household on June 27, 1900.

Dudek 1900 Census
From the the original homestead record signed by President Garfield, I used Historic Map Works to overlay a 1899 plat map to the present day Google Earth map.  The 160 acre Dudek farm has been swallowed up by a larger farm, so the sod cabin, barns, and outbuilding are completely gone.

My new mission has been trying to piece together the lives of my ancestors on a former homestead property.Dudek horses  I have a few snippets of information from the original homestead document, a signed affidavit of property ownership (for legal or identity purposes), those gorgeous maps on Historic Map Works,  family stories, and a treasured photograph of Frank Dudek with his work horses.  My parents have Frank and Anna’s original bedroom suit, which they brought with them from Cleveland to Nebraska in 1883.  In a quick browse through the family library, I located at least three books which had been purchased for the Dudek children for their homestead adventure from 1883-1903 such as The Secret Garden, Black Beauty, and Rip Van Winkle.  Due to the ages of the children, it is a possibility the older girls received The Secret Garden and Black Beauty well before their younger brother scrawled his name ‘Bertie Dudek’ in each one of the books.

I watched all the episodes of the PBS series Frontier House in one night, and gleaned some ideas of what daily life was like on an 1882 farm.  The skills and tasks of traditional and modern farm life is available on The Prairie Homestead, which is a fantastic a wonderful resource!  The cheese making and natural insect repellent recipes are on my to-do list this week.  The Smithsonian Institute hosts a kid-friendly Life in a Sod House page with free downloadable worksheets and activities.  Simple, yes.  Entertaining?  Absolutely!  I wished I had access to these worksheets when I was growing up!

One of my last tasks in this mission to bring the past back to life was through the family dinner table.  What were some of the dishes they would have served or ate?  Frank and Anna Dudek were married in February 1882, and Anna may have received a cookbook as a wedding present or as a farewell gift before heading to their Nebraska farm in June 1883.  Staying true to the time period, I found a copy of Common Sense in the Household: A Manual of Practical Housewifery by Marion Harland and found an array of simple dishes, soups, and a hefty amount of household advice.  This recipe for Turkey Scallop sounds easy and rather interesting:
turkey scallop
I have a few alternative resource strategies to learn more about the Dudek family and their time in Nebraska.  I found a great downloadable resource from the Nebraska State Historical Society called A Place in History: Researching Your Nebraska Property.  It’s definitely a must-read for anyone researching Nebraska land records.

For anyone who’s interested in seeing a map overlay of your ancestor’s property, you will definitely want to register for a free Historic Map Works account, which includes a lot of the major services of the site at no charge.  Some of the premium resources can be purchased by subscription or on a pay-as-you-go format.  An annual subscription will set you back about $130, but check your local library or archive to see if they subscribe to the service.   Keep your fingers crossed, as Historic Map Works may be provided on this year’s Try-It! Illinois Database Trial in October and November 2015.  This trial will allow you to access Historic Map Works, Ancestry Library Edition, the Digital Sandborne Maps, Online Newspapers, and other amazing resources for free for the whole two month run of the trial.  I’ll have an update about Try-It! Illinois in early October.

So now, I have a new purpose for researching homesteading ancestors.  There are still a few questions I have regarding the land records, but now I have a new excuse to raid the family book shelves, write to extended cousins, and contact the Boone County Historical Society in Nebraska.  I can’t wait to get started!

The next Fountaindale Public Library Genealogy Club meeting will be on Wednesday, September 9 at 7 p.m. when Jennifer Holik will present The Day that Lived in Infamy: Researching Your World War II Ancestors.  Jennifer has published a two volume set of books on the subject which are available for purchase on Amazon.  She will also have copies of her books for sale on the day of the program.

Also in September, the Fox Valley Genealogical Society will host George G Morgan at their 22nd Annual Conference on Saturday, September 26.  Mr. Morgan will give four one-hour lecture topics on Locating and Accessing Published Genealogies Online, Five Reason the Records Aren’t In the Courthouse, Alternate Records You May Never Have Considered, and Sidestep Genealogy.  Tickets are available online or by mail, and you will definitely not want to miss it!

See You at the Library!

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Seven Summer Fun Ideas for Genealogists – Travel Tuesday

Summertime is fun time, and there’s nothing better than experiencing the history and family legend in a new location.  Whether you’re getting out of the house to research with your friends or you’re in need of a cultural holiday, here are ten suggestions which will help you take advantage of the beautiful weather. Pack up the car and get ready to take your genealogy and history adventures on the road this summer!

#1 The BillionGraves Field Trip
If you own the bumper sticker ‘I Break for Cemeteries’, you probably will want to take on abilliongravesgraphic BillionGraves Field Trip.  Break out your smart phone and get out of the house with fellow genealogists to capture cemetery headstones locations and transcriptions with the BillionGraves App.  You will want to bring your smartphone or data-plan enabled tablet, weather appropriate accessories, a good pair of sturdy shoes, and snacks and water for your outing.  If you need suggestions, you may want to try to survey these Chicagoland area sites: Wunders Lutheran CemeteryRidge Lawn Cemetery, and New Light Cemetery.
Cost: Snacks and Gas
Payoff: Good genealogical Karma

#2  Join a Meetup!
When you’re looking to recruit a genealogical posse, you will want to meet people who share some of your interests.  A great way to meet new people and enjoy social events, activities, and programs is by joining  Registration is free and the site offers groups of all interests and locations to plan and host events.  Here are a few of my favorite historical and cultural groups on the site:
Chicago Art Deco Society – Celebrates the unique aesthetic of the Interwar Period including fine and decorative arts, architecture and fashion that defined the elegant Art Deco and Streamline Modern era through Social Events, Historic Preservation, and Educational Lectures.
Walking Across Chicago – Celebrates notable figures and the inspirations for Chicago’s great streets, by walking the entire length of each street. The streets serve as a narrative thread weaving together disparate communities, industrial remnants and new developments, history and mystery.
The Northwest Chicago History Meetup Group – Meet others in your local area interested in the history of Chicago’s northwest side neighborhoods. This meetup hosts discussion groups, public tours and events, and dissemination of historical documents and photos though publications.
Culinary Historians of Chicago & Chicago Foodways Roundtable – This group studies the history of food and drink in human cultures, down to the procurement, preparation and social influences.  Bring your love of learning and your appetite to this meetup!
Cost: Transit and group fees (if any)
Payoff: New friends and fun experiences

#3  Take A Walking Tour
Break out the sneakers and put on your sunglasses!  Walking tours are a great activity when you’re flying solo or entertaining guests.  The Chicago History Museum offers walking tours of Bohemian National Cemetery, while the Chicago Architectural Foundation touts numerous walking tours including it’s immensely popular Devil and the White City Tour.  These tours often sell out ahead of time, so you’ll want to book your tickets online early!
Cost: $25 to $55 depending on the tour
Payoff: Fresh air, cool Facebook updates, and awesome selfie photos

#4  Catch a Silent Film
When you need a break from the evening heat, you won’t want to miss the Chicago Silent chicago silent filmFilm Society’s Summer Series on Thursdays at the Pickwick Theater in Park Ridge.  The Summer Series features movies from the best actors and actresses of the silent film era such as Mary Pickford, Clara Bow, Loretta Young, Douglas Fairbanks, Buster Keaton, Rudolph Valentino, and Charlie Chaplin.  The series runs July 30 through September 3, and each event includes live organ performances and special musical acts.  The summer series movie list has not been released yet, but you can check for updates on the Chicago Silent Film Society website.
Cost: $7-$10 per film
Payoff: Unique movie experience and bragging rights

#5   Cool Online Classes
If you don’t have a library card but want to take an online class, check out the exceptional offerings on Future Learn.  Future Learn offers free online classes from some of Great Britain’s best universities to anyone aged 16 and older.  Classes last between three to six weeks, and encompass a variety of interests.  Some of the classes offered this summer are World War 1: Paris 1919 – A New World Order, England in the Time of King Richard III, and Irish Lives in War and Revolution: Exploring Ireland’s History 1912-1923.
Cost: Free
Payoff: Knowledge and new online friends

#6  Free Museum Nights
You don’t have to pay big bucks to see some of Chicago’s best museums!  Save your freemuseummuseum outings for the free days found throughout the summer, and you’ll have money left over for souvenirs and eating out.  You can find a full list of free summer museum days here.  Here’s another money saving tip: use SpotHero to find a cheap parking spot.  I paid $11 for a 6 hour parking space within a six minute walk to the Field Museum and a $12 all day parking spot across from the Museum of Modern Art.  Talk about a deal!
Cost: Free + Cost of Parking
Payoff: Museum entry and trouble-free parking

#7   Outside Research Sessions
Take your laptop, call your friends, and make a date at one of the many outside patios, restaurants, or rooftop decks around the city for a research session.  Time Out Chicago has a great list of locations  around the city and suburbs for all culinary tastes and budget points.  Make sure you have internet access and a full laptop battery, as not every location will have easy access for outlets and wi-fi.  I can personally recommend the rooftop space of Terzo Piano on the top floor of the Art Institute of Chicago.  Go on Thursdays for for a late lunch and stay from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. for free entry to the museum.  If a beer garden is more your style, I suggest Gene’s Sausage Shop & Delicatessen.  Gene’s has an absolutely wonderful rooftop deck! In beautiful weather, you may need to finagle a table for you and your friends, but the beverages, fresh sausages, pretzels, and potato pancakes are well worth the wait!
Cost: $5 and up.  No judging on your bar tab.
Payoff:  Sun, fresh air, and help with research

Do you have a fun genealogy plan or activity for the summer?  Leave your suggestion on our blog!

See you at the Library!

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Learning About Lincoln 150 Years After His Death – Wisdom Wednesday

wb-15-lincolnThis has been a big year for history buffs.  As we turn the calendar page on May 2015, there were several history milestones marking the end of America’s Civil War.  Most notably there was an amazing Abraham Lincoln Funeral Reenactment in Springfield, Illinois on May 2 & 3, 2015.  This was an outstanding event hosted by the 2015 Lincoln Funeral Coalition.  To visit the Lincoln home during this event was truly an outstanding experience.

lincoln funeral

A reenactment photographer sets up his camera for the funeral to pass by the Lincoln home on May 3, 2015.

Showcasing the sixteenth president’s contribution to history, the Fountaindale Public Library in Bolingbrook is hosting a special exhibit entitled Lincoln: The Constitution and the Civil War now through June 27, 2015.  The exhibition explores how Lincoln used the Constitution to confront three intertwined crises of the war: the secession of Southern states, slavery, and wartime civil liberties. Visitors will leave the exhibition with a more complete understanding of Lincoln as president and the Civil War as the nation’s gravest constitutional crisis.  This unique exhibit will be on display on the 3rd floor of the library, and is free and open to the public.

There are three great programs planned for late May and early June!

Abraham Lincoln: Commander in Chief  – Sunday, May 31, 1:00 p.m.
Examine the life and politics of Abraham Lincoln in a program hosted by local historian David Overeem. Look beyond the myth of ‘Honest Abe’ and you will find a shrewd and decisive leader who’s political influence can be felt today.

Celebrating Lincoln Reception – Thursday, June 11, 7:00 p.m.
Enjoy a performance by Chris Vallillo as he treats you to the popular songs of the Lincoln era.  Dessert will be served, so stop in and enjoy the music!

Lincoln: the Constitution and the Civil War was organized by the National Constitution Center and the American Library Association Public Programs Office and made possible by the National Endowment for the Humanities.  Lincoln: the Constitution and the Civil War is based on an exhibition of the same name developed by the National Constitution Center. Free teaching and homeschooling resources for Lincoln: The Constitution and the Civil War are available online.

Also on Display


A Yankee Private’s Civil War is a special exhibit featuring the wartime experiences of Pvt. Robert Hale Strong of the 105th Illinois Infantry. The exhibit will detail Strong’s Civil War service in his own words from enlistment through his arrival home to his family’s Royce Road farm, located between present day Bolingbrook and Naperville.  Copies of this book are available for checkout at the library.

Interested in visiting the final resting places of the Strong family and their early pioneer neighbors?  Strong’s parents and several of his siblings featured in his memoirs are buried in Bolingbrook’s historic Boardman Cemetery.  Contact the DuPage Township Office for a tour!

To register for exhibit programs or for more information, contact the Fountaindale Public Library Reference Desk at (630) 685-4176.

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Get Ready for Genealogy Day this Saturday May 2, 2015! – Motivation Monday

Genealogy Day is this Saturday, and I hope you all are excited about spending the day withcoal mining
the Fountaindale Public Library!  Genealogy Day registration begins at 9 am, with the program commencing at 9:30 am.  Here’s a quick checklist of what you will need for Saturday, May 2, 2015:

Bring or Order your lunch – There’s still time to order your Box Lunch from Books Cafe.  If you forget your lunch on the day of our program, you can place a lunch order at Brooks Cafe during morning registration.  Some food selections may be limited, so you’ll want to place your order before 9:30 am!

Bring a seat cushion –  You will be sitting for extended periods of time, so a little padding is advisable.  If you want to make a few new friends, bring extra seat cushions.

Clip Board – Due to space constraints, we will have audience style seating in the room.  We recommend bringing a clip board for writing copious notes.

Two Photos – Regardless of registration for photo consultation, we have some awesome scanning equipment available for you to use!  If you need help on an item, Anna and Agnes from Studio 300 are offering digital photo restoration services as time allows.

Flash drive – Great for saving your new digital images from our scanning equipment.  In a pinch, we will have a few flash drives available, or you can purchase a snazzy Fountaindale Public Library flash drive from Anna for $8 during Genealogy Day.

Library Card – We will have a great genealogy book selection available for checkout!  If you don’t have a Fountaindale library card, you can sign up at the information desk to be a reciprocal borrower, which allows you to checkout books from our library free of charge!

Show your Love for Lincoln: Register for our upcoming programs scheduled during
our “Lincoln: The Constitution and the Civil War” exhibit.  Programs include movies, documentary films, lectures, family events, and lecture programs, and a music performance by Chris Vallilo.  Chris will bring the popular tunes from the era to our library on Thursday, June 11 at 7 p.m.  You can hear “Shawneetown” from his album Abraham Lincoln in Song online.

If you are unable to attend Genealogy Day, please cancel your registration online or call us at (630) 685-4176.  There is a wait list for people to attend our event, so please let us know if you cannot attend.

I am at your service to assist with questions before, during, and after the program!  Please do not hesitate to let me know if you need anything!  You can contact me by phone at (630) 685-4201 or by e-mail at

See you on Saturday!


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Space still available for Genealogy Day on Saturday May 2, 2015! – Follow Friday

There’s still time to register for our amazing Genealogy Day!   Join us our fantastic free program on Saturday, May 2 from 9:30 am to 4 pm and learn more about the following genealogical topics:

Digging for Coal Mining Genealogy Resources with Richard Joycecoal mining
We’ll examine the coal mining industry in northern Illinois and then discuss a variety of genealogical sources dealing with miners and their communities.

Researching Religious Records with Maureen Brady
Maureen will provide a brief overview of religious records for genealogy research. The program will cover ethnic, denominations, with an emphasis on British migration to North America and North American religious records.

Gifting Genealogy Research to the Next Generation
Have you thought about what will happen to your genealogy research after you are gone? After you’ve done all that genealogy research, it is human nature to want to see it passed on and not discarded as if it had no meaning or importance.  This panel discussion will help you plan your genealogy estate, bequeath your research, set up gifts in a will, find donation depositories, and ensure what you’ve compiled isn’t left in a garbage dump.

Digital Photo Restorations
Need help with a photo restoration?  Our Studio 300 staff will be available help scan and digitally restore two of your photos.  Don’t forget to bring a flash drive so you can save and bring your digital photos home with you!

Society Booths
We have several groups exhibiting at the conference, including the Isle a la Cache Chapter of the NSDAR, the DuPage County Genealogical Society, and the Bolingbrook Historic Preservation Commission.  You will want to set aside some time to see what new and exciting genealogy projects and programs are happening in our area!

Order Your Lunch
Skip the line and order your Genealogy Day lunch from Brooks Cafe using their Box Lunch Order Form.   If you forget your lunch on the day of our program, you can place a lunch order at Brooks Cafe during morning registration. Some food selections may be limited, so you’ll want to place your order before 9:30 am!

I am at your service to assist with questions before, during, and after the program! Please do not hesitate to let me know if you need anything! You can contact me by phone at (630) 685-4201 or by e-mail at

See you on Saturday!


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Get help with your DAR application on Sunday, April 12! – Thrifty Thursday

Need help compiling your application for the Daughters of the American Revolution? The Isle a la Cache Chapter of the NSDAR will be available to help you with your research an1ladyliberty003d application questions on Sunday, April 12 from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. in Meeting Room B of the Fountaindale Public Library.

Don’t know if you have a Revolutionary War ancestor?  Don’t worry!  DAR volunteers will take a look at your genealogy and their databases to see if you have any potential candidates.  This program is open all researchers, regardless of experience, and you will want to bring all your genealogical information with you.  Light refreshments will be served, and there will be genealogy handouts and other freebies available to take home.

If you are interested in joining the Daughters of the American Revolution, membership is open to any woman 18 years or older, regardless of race, religion or ethnic background, who can prove lineal descent from a patriot.  Overall, the membership process takes four steps: mapping out your lineage, finding your ancestor, finding your chapter and beginning the application process.  This sounds daunting, but the process is made easier with the ever present and generous help of our local DAR chapter members.  Don’t be afraid to ask questions or ask for help!

There’s still time to register for Fountaindale Public Library’s free Genealogy coal miningDay event scheduled for Saturday, May 2 from 9:30 am to 4 pm.  This year’s program will include topics such as Finding Religious Records, Coal Mining Records, and how prepare a genealogical estate after your death.  The day will also include door prizes and awesome prize drawings, society booths, and the opportunity to have two of your own family photographs restored digitally by our talented staff at Studio 300.  Registration is free and open to the public!  Grab your friends and sign up today by calling the Fountaindale Public Library at (630) 685-4176.

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Sorting Thorugh Sordid Divorce Records – Black Sheep Sunday

I had a realization yesterday as I was working on a family search indexing project yesterday – I am a snoop.  Its not the biggest realization, the type that inspires a person to sell everything they own and move to Reykjavik.  But it’s a realization which some weighty properties.  For the record, I do not peep into people’s windows or go through their garbage.  I do not hack celebrity phone account and to steal e-mails.   No judging, but I found this Pinterest photo of a divorcing couple dividing their Beanie Babies a few days ago.  Amusing, yes.  Does it give insight to what the couple felt was important?  Absolutely.  I  can’t see what the wife selected, so I hope she got the commemorative Princess Beanie Baby which is listed for $2,500 online.

beanie baby divorce

That being said, I still am a snoop, and I have come to appreciate the information found in divorce records.  I don’t like watching people go through traumatic and horrible experiences.  I’m not interested in modern day divorces, as most of my divorce record research takes place before 1950.

Divorce records are essential to genealogists.  As a divorce includes a court process and vital record information, they have the ability to ascertain an ancestor and their everyday circumstances with unique detail.  Divorce proceedings were a court process from some of the earliest of our colonial records, when Anne Clarke of the Massachusetts Bay Colony was granted a divorce from Denis Clarke on January 5, 1643, on the grounds of adultery and abandonment.  Betty Malesky has written a fantastic article about early American divorce records, which I recommend to anyone searching for or working with colonial and pre-civil war divorce records.  The information provided in divorce records give researchers an opportunity to see both law and the lives of the people in the court case which would have not been possible before.

I’ve been working on the Family Search Virginia Divorce Records this winter, and I’m

Virginia Divorce 1959amazed at the amount of information contained in the abstracts.  I’m not keeping score of all the reasons behind each separation, but to my surprise, there was a lot of marital abandonment going on.  I thought men would be the main perpetrators of abandonment, but there was a staggering portion of women walking out as well.  I also saw one or two couples who had racked up 2-3 marriages and divorces each while under the age of 40.  That’s a lot of emotional baggage.  By the time I got around to transcribing records from the 1970’s the no fault divorce laws began to take effect, and suddenly all those lovely details were lost.  No more stories of abandonment, adultery, cruelty, or polygamy. The last three batches have all been no fault divorces, and have been a bit of a disappointment.

The best selection of divorce records I have found online have been on Family Search, and I dearly hope to see more records made available for the states I need, like Indiana, Michigan, and Ohio.  Because searching for divorce records can be expensive and time consuming, even the divorce indexes for these states would be helpful.

If you’re researching divorce records, share your thoughts and tips on our blog!

Don’t forget to join us for Fountaindale Public Library’s fifth annual Genealogy Day on Saturday, May 2, 2015 from 9:30 am to 4 pm! This year’s theme is “Movers, Quakers, and Rockbreakers”.  This is a free day-long program and registration is open now!  In addition to the speakers, participants will enjoy Door Prizes, Society Booths, on the spot digital photo restorations, and three outstanding lecture topics.  Bring a friend and join us for a great day of genealogy programming!  For more information, call (630) 685-4176.

See you at the Library!

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