Try-It Illinois Databases 2012! Great Genealogy Resources for Free! – Tech Tuesday

Attention Illinois residents!  Some of the best genealogy resources online are available for free through the Try-It! Illinois Database trial October 1 – November 30 2012.

This annual statewide database trial is sponsored by Secretary of State and State Librarian Jesse White and the Illinois State Library. Try-It! Illinois offers library staff and patrons to survey and evaluate a wide variety of electronic resources. Thanks to the partnerships between the Illinois State Library and the participating electronic resource vendors, there is no charge for accessing these databases during Try-It! Illinois.

Due to the nature of this program, libraries are asked not to post the Try-It! Illinois login and password on the Internet, on Web sites or in publicly archived e-newsletters.  To access these resources, please contact your local Illinois Library and pick up a login information sheet in person!

Due to the absolutely astounding offering of databases, I’ve compiled a “must see” list of genealogy resources available during the trial:

  • African American Heritage
  • America`s GenealogyBank
  • America`s Historical Newspapers
  • America’s Obituaries & Death Notices
  • American Broadsides and Ephemera
  • Digital Sanborn Maps Geo Edition
  • Fold3 History & Genealogy Archives Plus
  • Historic Map Works
  • Historical Chicago Defender (1909-1975)
  • Historical Chicago Tribune (1849 – 1985)
  • Historical New York Times (1851 – 2006)
  • Newspaper Source Plus
  • (world newspapers from 1700′s onward!)
  • ProQuest Obituaries

The Try-It Illinois database trial is a great way for patrons to give libraries valuable observations and feedback regarding online databases.  So please let your librarian know what you enjoyed and what tools you found useful!

If you’re looking for an indepth guide to the Try-It Illinois Databases, attend the FPLD Genealogy Club meeting on Wednesday, October 10 at 7 pm.  You’ll learn how to naviatage this trial successfully, and what information you can glean from each resource.  The Genealogy Club meets in Meeting Room A of the Fountaindale Public Library in Bolingbrook.  The library located at 300 W. Briarcliff Road, across the street from the post office.  Light refreshments will be served.

See you at the library!


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Help with Austrian, Hungarian, and Swiss Research with Retro Resources – Follow Friday

Dear Non-Polish researchers,

I’m not ignoring you.  It may seem like it, as the Genealogy Club has hosted two Polish genealogy programs this year.  Ideally, I would love to have more ethnic genealogy speakers, but I have not found anyone to present on the following topics:

Native American

If you know an experienced speaker who is very knowledgeable in these areas, please let me know.  I would love to speak with them and book a time for them to present a program next year.

In the meantime, I was sifting through our newly organized Local History Room and found some great and totally unexpected resources for centural European researchers.

Overlook the copyright and the plain covers!  You might find what you need with the help of:

Handy Guide to Austrian Genealogical Records by Dagmar Senekovic

Handy Guide to Hungarian Genealogical Records by Jared H. Suess

Handy Guide to Swiss Genealogical Records by Jared H. Suess

Tracing Your German Roots by Maralyn A. Wellauer

Yes, some of the topics include microfilm instructions and inaccurate record office addresses, but these books include *A TON* of great information ranging from record availability dates, non-civil registration information resources, multi-language registrar offices request sample letters, as well as maps, country histories, surname information, and translated word lists.  I can’t wait to look at the Handy Swiss Guide just to see what type of records are really available.

If you’re interested in using these books for your research, they are located in the Local History and Genealogy Room on the 3rd Floor.  These items are not available for checkout, so please leave them in the room for other patrons to enjoy.  A Simple Touch Scanner and photocopy machine are available to assist you with your information gathering efforts.

ALSO: The History Discussion Group meets at 10 am on the 2nd Thursday of each month in the Fountaindale Public Library 3rd Floor Local History Room.  This fun drop-in program is open to teens and adults who are interested in history topics from around the world.  This is a great place to talk about trips, books, research, movies, and documentary films about historical subjects!  The next meetings are Thursday, September 13 and October 11, 2012, so don’t miss out!

See You At The Library!


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Gearing up for the Fox Valley Genealogical Society 2012 Conference! – Tech Tuesday

When you need help, it’s time to call in the experts.  If you’re looking to harness the power of to it’s fullest potential, you’re going to want to make a date with Lou.

Loretto Dennis “Lou” Szucs, or as I call have dubbed her, “the great, all-knowing, and entirely entertaining Lou” is presenting “ and Beyond” at this year’s FVGS Conference on Saturday, September 29, 2012.

FVGS 2012 Conference features Juliana Smith and Loretto Dennis “Lou” Szucs as they present four one-hour programs:

Getting Started on
What’s New at
Getting the Most from your Family History Finds
They Became Americans

The FVGS Conference will be held at Grace United Methodist Church, 300 E. Gartner Road, Naperville, Illinois, on Gartner Road just east of Washington Street (north of 75th Street and west of Naper Boulevard).

Pre-registration is available online and by mail  before September 14.  Registration is $35 for FVGS members, $40 for non-members.  After September 14, 2012 registration for all participants is $45.  Limited tickets are available for walk-in participants. 

The building will open at 8 a.m. for walk-in registrations with the conference beginning promptly at 9 a.m and ending at 4:00 p.m. 

In addition to the speakers and presentations, the conference includes continental breakfast, lunch, genealogy vendors, door prizes, silent auction, and a quilt raffle. 

For more information visit the Fox Valley Genealogical Society 2012 Conference website at

ALSO: Mark your calendars for Fountaindale Genealogy Club’s first fall meeting!  On Wednesday, September 12 at 7 pm, FPLD will host “Polish Genealogy: Beyond the Basics” with Ola Heska.  This is going to be a great program to help break down those brick walls in your Polish genealogy research!  Ola has great tips on translating records, how to conduct in-depth research, and what resources you would use.  Tell your friends as you won’t want to miss out on this great program!

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Sorting Saturday – Pick up a 3 month subscription to for $10!

I’m a big believer in genealogy bargains. So imagine my delight when I found a Livingsocial deal featuring a three-month subscription to for $10!

If you’re not familiar with Livingsocial, this website offers local and national deals on everything from museum tickets to restaurant outtings.  Joining living social is free, and allows you to purchase deals online from your home computer, laptop, or mobile device.

Yesterday, I found a great deal: A three month subscription to for $10.  This deal is set to expire on Saturday, July 21.


If you’ve picked up this deal please let everyone know what you thought about this transaction.

If you already have an subscription, do you consider $10 to be a bargain for this service?

Happy Bargain Hunting!


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What’s the Buzz About Billiongraves? – Tombstone Tuesday

As a librarian, I hate to send to send my patrons to more than one place to find information.  But when dealing with genealogy research, I often need direct people to multiple resources to help folks find what they need.

Which is why I decided to take a look at 

Hailed by a growing number of bloggers and websites as ‘A Website to Watch’, has a goal of providing a catalog of, (you guessed it!) one billion graves.  This is a free site which provides headstone pictures & transcription, cemetery information, mapping, and other resources for researchers.

On the main page (pictured on the right), you’ll find a simple headstone search box in the bottom left side of the website.  You can search by Given Name, Family Name, Birth Year and Death Year.  There are also advanced search options available.  The name search is pretty flexible, and allows for a diverse spelling of the name you’re researching.  If you can’t find what you’re looking for, don’t despair.  By registering with the site, you can request photographs and names from cemeteries around the world.  And that, dear genies, is where the volunteers have the most impact. – Things to Know Before You Begin Volunteering

1) To keep the site free and successful, volunteers participate in the transcription and survey services.  Registration is easy and free.  You can register for an account by submitting a username, e-mail address, and a password.

2) On your profile page, you can change your location, profile picture, and other login information.  There are several great tutorials and guides which can help you become acquainted with the site. 

From this page, you can peruse the Request Board from people all over the world who need photo and transcription assistance.  Your request board is geographically set by your city and zip code, so make sure to change your location right away when signing in for the first time.

You’ll also be able to see your personal tally of transcriptions, photos, and cemetery additions.  And if you’re wondering where your contributions stand, you can left click on the ‘Leaderboard’ link to view a list of contributors.  Several of the top transcribers were submitting over 6,000 records by the end of the month!

3) Left Click on the ‘Transcribe’ tab to begin your transcription work.  The transcription record itself is very simple.  In the yellow ‘Buried Here’ heading type in the given name, family name, birth and death information.  The input fields allow you to easily type in a month, day, and year, so you are not required to use the drop-down fields.  This is very handy for transcription purposes!  If more than one person is named on the stone, you can ‘Add Individual’ to the record.  An ‘Add Description’ tab is also available to insert epitaphs or engravings.

4) When you’ve finished your entry, left click on the green ‘Save’ button.  The record will be saved and you’ll have the option to transcribe another headstone.

Surveying a Cemetery?  There’s an App for That!

If you’re looking for a way blend your own research while making use of that new smart phone in your pocket, download the BillionGraves app!  Left click on the ‘Participate’ tab located on the main page, and you’ll find several guides which will walk you through the download and app usage process.  The guides are available in a PDF format, and are easily printable if you need to share them with a group.

Verdict – If you’re looking for a simple and easy way to contribute to the area of cemetery research, give BillionGraves a try.  It’s simple, addictive, and makes great use of technology.  As this is a growing collection, do not discredit the offerings of sites such as Find A Grave or  Just as there are mutliple vital records websites, BillionGraves is the tech savvy new kid in the cemetery research community.

The Comment Question of the Day – What are your experiences and thoughts on BillionGraves?   Leave your interesting or creative responses in the comment box below.

See you at the Library!


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Cemetery Hijinks Do Not Include Stone Tipping – Funny Friday

We’re prepping for our Naperville Cemetery Tour on Wednesday, June 13, and I hope you’re ready to join us!

While preparing for our tour, symbolism scavenger hunt, and grave dousing have led me to think about several facets of cemetery research – AKA – Cemetery Hijinks.

I call it hijinks for several reasons:
a) It may involve some sort of covert exercise (gate jumping, wall scaling, or bribery to enter the grounds)
b) It requires balance and dexterity to avoid falling/walking into plant life, large monuments, or open holes
c) Swatting bugs is on par with heavy aerobic exercise
d) Unexplained things happen, and you may or may not have someone there to substantiate your claim

There are other interesting elements which coincide with typical cemetery hijinks.  One of these is reading and deciphering headstone epitaphs.  Many are proverbs or biblical verses, but occasionally there’s a real gem which pops out and takes you off guard.

Cemetery symbolism takes on a whole new dimension, when instead of finding peaceful doves, dutiful anchors, and clasped hands with the words ‘reunited’, you’ll find something like this:Yes, it’s a motorcycle.

I’ve also heard of Yoda, the 3 Stooges, an assortment of cars, and the Dallas Cowboys emblem standing vigil in cemeteries across the country.

Other useful links for your cemetery hijinks:

Cleaning Headstones – Dos and Dont’s from Hunting Kiwis
General Cemetery etiquette from Dancing in the Gardens of Those Gone Before
Six Seriously Spooky Cemetery Stories from Miss Cellania’s Files

All of this, of course, is a shameless plug for our field trip!

Before you grab five of your friends for this event, don’t forget we will be experimenting with Grave Dowsing, so please read this informative guide and watch this video with Mr. E.J. Adams.

Bring your own set of metal clothes hangers or dowsing rods if you wish.

Weather permitting, we will meet near the oldest section of Naperville Cemetery (The cemetery is located at 705 South Washington Street in Naperville) at 7pm. Signs will be out near the curb. Carpool if you can, and please be patient with parking!

If there is inclement weather, such as rain, thunder, lightning, or extreme wind as of 6 pm, our program will be cancelled.

This is the last Genealogy Club meeting of the season, so if I don’t see you at the field trip, I wish you good luck with your family history endeavors!

See you at the Library!


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Tracing your English Ancestors with Pen & Sword Press – Tuesday’s Tip

I’ve been overdosing on British genealogy lately, and I think the blame goes clearly to publisher Pen and Sword Press for their astonishing number of recently published research guides.

On my desk right now are titles such as Tracing your Rural Ancestors by Jonathan Brown, Tracing your Criminal Ancestors by Stephen Wade, Tracing your Textile Ancestors by Vivien Teasdale, Tracing your Shipbuilding Ancestors by Anthony Burton, and Tracing your Pauper Ancestors by Robert Burlison.

You heard me wax poetic about Tracing your Legal Ancestors by Stephen Wade last year, which outlined the ins and outs of the British legal system.  This insight was a great asset to some of my patron queries, and I’m happy to say the book has been filling inter-library loan requests to patrons throughout the region.

In my quest to fill our shelves with new ethnic and geographical genealogy guides this year, I was on the lookout for titles which could help my patrons bridge the gap from,, and Scotlands People to records which may be available in other depositories.  I’ve been giddy reading these books, which are just what a researcher needs to tackle some of these subjects.  Each book includes facts, case studies, and a step-by-step guides for your research.

I found Tracing Your Pauper Ancestors and Tracing your Rural Ancestors to be especially helpful in my personal research.  Pauper Ancestors gave me a touchstone in admission procedures for poorhouse, charity hospitals, and workhouses. Rural Ancestors gave me insights into land records, enclosure records, and the roles of small village life.

Each of these titles and more are available for sale online and at book stores, and a growing number of libraries are purchasing these titles as well.   Call or visit your local library to check these items out, or ask the library staff to request the titles you want from another library.  If you want to see what libraries own these Pen and Sword titles, visit  The website is easy to use and my give you an idea of what libraries to visit on a research trip.

ALSO: Join the Fountaindale Public Library Genealogy Club for a tour of the Naperville Cemetery on Wednesday, June 13 at 7 p.m.  The Naperville Cemetery is located at 705 S Washington Street, Naperville.  Look for signs at the entry way of the cemetery.  This event will allow you to try your hand at grave dousing and sharpen your deduction skills with a cemetery symbolism scavenger hunt.  For any questions, e-mail me at or give me a call at (630) 685-4201.

See you at the Library!


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