I was happily listening to a Genealogy Guys podcast as I drove to work the other day, and my attention was particularly caught by an email they read and discussed briefly toward the end. The email was from a guy who had emailed them before about how to get copies of some family information he had discovered was in a library. He was living too far away to make going to the library feasible and was stuck. George and Drew (who are big library supporters) had suggested that their correspondent contact the librarian and ask some questions about exactly what the library held and how to get copies. The current email reported a big success. This reminded me that I have myself found valuable family information in libraries (that I would not have thought to look in), and the combination led me to decide to post today about some of the places I have learned to explore for aspects of family history that are not the traditional places.

First, I learned from my professional office partner years ago that emailing or calling people who might have information you want often works very well. Now, maybe you don’t need to be told this. Maybe it is really easy for you to pick up the phone and call someone to ask for help/a favor/information that is their area of expertise. This is something that is very difficult for me to do, and so wasn’t something I automatically thought of when I had a question. The widespread use of email has helped, although I have also learned to make those phone calls if I really want something.

So where have I found family history information or documents? My list includes: College/university archives and Special Collections; the Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Center library; eBay alerts; various Town Halls.

One of the first places I discovered was various college and university archives as I began to track down the education of different family members. I was trying to trace my mother-in-law’s education and she wasn’t alive to ask.

U.B. 1930

So I started emailing the three universities she had reportedly graduated from. In my experience, the school’s archivist (or someone in that office) is almost always willing to direct you to the right person to get student transcripts from (assuming that the archives doesn’t hold them, which they sometimes do). You can also get copies of schedules for the time period (when classes started, when breaks were, when graduations happened, etc). Sometimes you strike it rich and there are yearbooks or class pictures which you can get copies from. I got a first year of law school picture for my father-in-law that way. I now also have a copy of my Grandpa Lyle’s transcript from his one year of college in Ohio. (I’m still searching for my mother-in-law’s education beyond her college graduation. She attended a Master’s program at the University of Chicago for parts of two years but left without graduating.)

At college or university websites it also can pay off to explore the Special Collections catalog. I found a whole collection for the Sweet family that included an ancestral tree and

Sweet ancestral tablet page

a number of photographs of my family members. I have to admit that I didn’t find this one by browsing their catalog, but was pointed at it by someone else referring to it – I think in an online family tree. I also found a collection that has pictures of the family of Judy’s favorite, the Davies mansion, in the Yale library collections. Judy and I plan to go together to see this collection one of these days. Finding aids for the collections, when they are available, tell you more clearly what is in a collection (as my sister-in-law the librarian and archivist would tell you).

The Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Center deserves special mention for several resources it has online. Also for the wonderful responsiveness of its librarians/reference workers. The obituary collection it maintains is now also available on Ancestry.com, but I prefer to go to the original site (the horse’s mouth as it were). If you want to order a copy of anything you find, you have to go to the site to order it anyway. While the strength of the resource is finding Ohio people, there are sometimes people from other places included. For example, my grandfather-in-law was found there because his death was an accident involving a car and a train and it was reported in the local newspaper in the Indiana county just across the state line from Ohio. Also sometimes people who either themselves were from Ohio but didn’t die there or whose parents were get included. Besides obituaries there are other papers and references to biographical sketches etc. in the same database which is searchable by last name. I got information about several of my Snow and Denman line, as well as Shelton just recently. And I scored early by finding a whole folder of letters written by a cousin who was doing genealogy in the days when you had to write letters. She corresponded with one of the Hayes librarians and told him about what she was trying to find for several different family lines.

EBay alerts is something I actually have written about before, at least in passing. That was how I found the collection of Shelton pictures that I acquired. I first learned about doing this from Lisa Louise Cooke’s podcasts, and I try to keep several active. You do a search for something on eBay, like the place your relatives came from for example and then save it with instructions to email you when there is anything new. You have to sign up for an eBay account, which is free, in order to save your searches. Right now, I have 3 active searches, for Wakeman Ohio, Clermont county Ohio, Ohio Military Institute. I get hits for Wakeman fairly often, and little for the other two. I’m still hoping for a year book for my father’s senior year at the Ohio Military Institute.

Last, but not least: whenever you have to be in a Town Hall for genealogy information ask about local books or booklets. I bought a booklet done for the bicentennial of Neversink Township years ago, and it has all sorts of bonuses for me. Including an image (unfortunately not very clear at all) of the original deed to William Denman for the land he settled the family on originally. Also a transcript of a letter about those original Denmans, which described their living circumstances as seen by a visitor in 1797 when they were still living in a log lean-to. In another case I learned of a book about the town (Ashford Connecticut) that I was able to purchase. It has a history of the town from its beginnings, various pictures and lists of various groups (like early selectmen, etc.). This one not only includes a couple of my relatives, but also helps me see the context of their lives in that place and time.

Research
* Enter the Scheier sources received from the FHL in the database and look at that family line for next steps.
* Enter the Pintel, Schenk, Thompson sources received from FHL, also information from MC about Pintel 2nd marriage and children.
* Use notes from Ohio trip to develop research plan for next steps – Boothby and Salt lines.

Organization
* The very next step is to empty the last inbox on my desk (the physical one not on my computer) and sort out all the pieces there. Some I have already put into sheet protectors or photo protectors, but they still need to be used to source or add to my family database and then to be put in a binder or hanging file.
* When that is done, empty the canvas bag hanging on the closet door and do the same with everything in it. The materials are all Denman family-related already, I know.
* Pictures from the Ohio trip are downloaded to computer, but the metadata needs to be created and the files named. Files put in the family directory they belong in.

Education
* Watch one online video or webinar about genealogy. [In June I watched/listened to another Legacy Family Tree webinar done by Thomas MacEntee about finding your New York ancestors. This webinar was done live in April and I just caught it at the end of the free period. I am registered to watch one in July about finding your English ancestors and looking forward to help with this - it is one of my oldest brick walls.]

My maternal gggg grandfather is, I think, Captain William Blackman. He was the father of my ggg grandmother, Marinda Blackman who married John Denman in 1819. This “fact” has not yet been satisfactorily documented in my own research, however, the suggestion comes from a number of sources. I originally learned about this Blackman line from another researcher, about 15 years ago. She found me online through a Denman question I had posted somewhere, if I remember correctly. She seemed to have more information than I did, although she was actively searching at that time for more about William and his parents. There were several other researchers around the same time as well. To make my work a little more complicated, I also have a Blackman line (going back to New Jersey) on my father’s side. The two lines have not yet converged but I also know very little about the “other Blackman” family.

William was born around 1776 in Massachusetts, based on his report on the 1850 federal census (as well as other researchers). By 1775-1776, the Blackman family he was born into may have been in western Massachusetts. Family trees posted online show him as the next to youngest son of Samuel and Mehitable (Long) Blackman. This Samuel apparently moved on west to western New York state, where he died. If this is our William’s family, he and a number of his siblings also moved to western New York and then on to the Huron county area in northern Ohio. The 1800 federal census enumerated a William Blackman and another male (perhaps a brother?) between 16-25 in Northampton, Ontario, New York. In 1800 Ontario county was most of present-day upper New York state. Northampton was established in 1797 and was in the area of what is now Rochester New York.

In 1801, William Blackman, along with a Hiram Blackman and a Daniel Curtis were listed as settlers upon the Holland Purchase in Township 12, Range 1. And by 1803 there was a William Blackman listed in a book available at Google as participating in the establishing and governance of the town of New Amsterdam in the Holland Purchase (Buffalo area of New York state). William was named as one of the overseers of highways. By the time of the 1810 federal census, William was listed as head of a household including one male age 26-44 (presumably himself), 3 females under age 10, and one female age 26-44 (presumably his wife Philenda nee Curtis). Ggg grandmother Marinda was born in 1803 in this area. So, now I know that I need to find a marriage record in New York state, between 1800 and 1803, and birth records for at least 3 daughters between then and 1810. It also seems that William owned land, so that is another source of records for me to search.

The mystery I set out to try to solve was that William Blackman was generally referred to as Capt. William for most of his adult life, but there were no explanations to his title. So, until just recently I had no idea why he was Capt. William. What was he a captain of? Or in? The original Blackman family researcher who I had gotten much of my information from suggested he had been in the War of 1812. This made some sense at the time, but I thought little more about it. I vaguely thought about the location of his daughter Marinda’s place of birth, Niagara (I assumed county), New York. This county is in northwestern New York state and borders on Lake Ontario. This was presumably an area active in the War of 1812, and maybe William was a naval captain. You can tell I didn’t (and don’t) know much about the War of 1812.

William Blackman, captain

The resources at books.Google.com have provided the basic answer. William Blackman was first an ensign and then a captain in the local infantry of the New York militia (I think that is correct). The Military Minutes of the Council of Appointment of the State of New York, 1783-1821, list his service in 1806 as ensign and in 1811 as a Captain in the Niagara County brigade. I still don’t know for sure that he was active in the War of 1812, but it seems very likely. And since 2012 is the bicentennial of the beginning of that war, I want to learn more about it.

So, I have answered one small mystery and opened up a number of questions for future research. Having skimmed several local histories of the northern New York counties, I am more aware of how arduous life was for this young family. They, like many other pioneer families cleared and planted land, built a shelter, raised the next generation, and did not leave many clues to what they were like as individuals.

I think my earliest memories of hearing about the Depression came from tidbits my mother shared when I was little. I don’t really remember her first reference to it – it may have been related to doing without something we couldn’t afford. My mother, as I have described briefly elsewhere, was a girl and teenager during most of The Depression (see this Wikipedia page for a general description of it). She was born in 1919 so was about 10-11 years old as it was beginning and her junior high and high school days were during the worst years.

The Denman family was living in Canton, Ohio during this time. Canton was a northern industrial city, although there was farm land nearby, dependent on such companies as Hoover and Republic Steel. My mother’s description of Canton was of many mills burning lots of coal, so that there was coal dust everywhere and you couldn’t open windows without enduring a layer of fine grit on everything.

The family had moved to Canton in 1925, first renting a house on one side of town, and then in 1928 buying a house in a new development across town on 22nd Street. There were about 8 houses when they moved in and my mother remembered playing with the other children, on a street with little enough traffic that they sledded down the big hill on the street.

Her description of the Depression: “We lived there for about six years [the house on 22nd Street] during the Wall Street Crash, the Bank Holiday, and first few years of

Mom and Uncle Dick, Canton 1931

depression. As the Depression deepened and the furnaces were allowed to cool in the steel mills, more and more people were out of work and there was real hunger in town. Some families lived in one room in the winter, hanging blankets in the windows and doorways to keep as much heat in that room as possible. Dad’s salary was cut in half and he could no longer afford the house payments so we lost our home and once more moved back across town – this time near the Junior High School my brother was still attending.” This picture shows my mother and her younger brother in the 22nd Street neighborhood. I don’t know why they had the small fire (although it was December).

To continue what my mother wrote about her memories of the Depression: “The whole country seemed to be in trouble. The big farm belt in the middle of the country was enduring the “dust bowl” years when the wind, and sun, seemed determined to completely remove all the topsoil from the land. The weather was hot and dry and families lost farms. These were the days of the “Okie”, when families and all of their possessions loaded into a broken down car to head for a city and hope of a job. They were the days in the big industrial states when plants shut down and unemployment was high and just kept getting higher. Young people without jobs could not marry. Without jobs they couldn’t rent rooms let alone apartments. Many of them left home to wander around the country looking for work because there simply wasn’t enough food at home to feed one more. “Riding the rods” was a phrase understood by a generation that stole rides in box cars on the trains or in some cases rode beneath the cars.”

“I remember one fall when one of my friends was happy because the shoemaker could put lower heels on a pair of her mother’s old shoes so she would have something to wear to school. Her aunt had an extra coat and her mother was making her a skirt out of another old coat. Another friend wore her spring coat all winter because there was not always money for food let alone a coat. There were times when Mother made cocoa and buttered toast for us and a couple of school friends in the afternoon when she suspected there wasn’t sufficient food at their house.” [I also remember my mother telling about a friend wearing cardboard in her shoes when the soles developed holes and her family couldn't afford another pair for her. This was very common it seems, and a way for a child to be able to continue to go to school since you had to have shoes to go to school.]

I never asked a lot of questions about my mother’s experiences growing up in the Depression, and am left with impressions that the family was among the luckier ones with a job that kept a roof over their heads and ways to get enough food. My grandpa Lyle’s family lived not too far away and farmed, so I suspect that some food came from their gardens. My grandparents probably also had a garden. I know my grandmother canned all sorts of fruits and vegatables when I was a little girl and I think she must have done so from her earliest married days and certainly during the Depression.

I recently finished reading Ted Gup’s book, A Secret Gift, which I had bought because it was described in the review as being about the Great Depression in Canton Ohio. I knew my mother had grown up in Canton during the Depression, so I had to have it. Once bought, it sat – as other books do – in my to-be-read pile for a year or more, but there was always something else more intriguing to be read first. When I got the copy of my mother’s high school yearbook, and decided to write about her high school days, Gup’s book percolated to the top of the pile and I began reading it. I had expected a description of what The Great Depression was like in Canton and got that plus much more. Of course there have been other books written about the Depression but this one struck home for several reasons. His descriptions, using transcriptions of original letters written at the time, show just how bad it was for many families. They also show how proud people often were, and how difficult it was to ask a stranger or organization for help. I was left with a better understanding of why so many who lived through the Great Depression didn’t talk much about it, wanting to move on and wanting to protect the next generation from its deprivations.

I have decided to name it the Shelton Images Collection. I am going to make it my first fully described archived collection. It is a small self-contained set, so I should be able to accomplish this. I know how important it is to do this, partly from wishing the person I obtained any materials from had done it for me. Alas, when pieces from family members get passed down, in dribs and drabs, that doesn’t often happen. Not in my family anyway. I aspire to do better.

This collection of images is different from most of my others. I obtained them from eBay, all at one time, with a very short description attached. Here’s how it happened. When I started listening to Lisa Louise Cooke’s podcast, one of her suggestions was to set up searches on eBay for places your ancestors had lived. She talked about finding neat things that related to ancestors’ lives and even discovering new information this way. Cool idea, thought I. And at some later point (much later, since I am often slow to follow through on this kind of intention) I tried it out. That was how I found the high school year book for my mother. And learning how to successfully bid in the auctions on eBay is another story!

I also set up a search for Wakeman Ohio, thinking I would love to find a high school year book or other material for my grandfather and his family. Given my recent success with my mother’s year book, I went back to eBay, and renewed a number of the searches I had set up. These searches last a finite amount of time and then they stop sending you email when they’ve found anything and you have to go back and renew them. Soon after I did that, and spent a morning rummaging around the eBay site looking at things, I got a message from my Wakeman search with the family name Shelton in it. The description sent to me was “10 vintage cabinet photos-Wakeman Ohio-Haines Studio-Shelton 1898″. The cabinet photos caught my eye immediately and when I realized that the name and date meant they were likely part of my mother’s family I went to take a look at the offering.

I was thrilled to see the complete description. “—–LOT OF 10 OLD-VINTAGE FAMILY CABINET PHOTO’S…THE 2 TOP PICTURES OF THE SAME BABY,BOTH ARE MARKED–“ELBERT MINOR SHELTON,5 MONTHS OLD..25 LBS.”; THE OLDER MAN WITH A LONG GRAY BEARD IS MARKED “HENRY S. SHELTON 1898? ON THE BACK…..ALL OF THESE ARE MARKED “HAINES,WAKEMAN OHIO” STUDIO.” The seller described buying the pictures at an estate sale, where she was told they would only sell the lot together since they were from the same family. What she was offering was that same lot of 10.

I knew as soon as I saw the baby’s name that this was our family – at least the baby picture. I opened my computer database to look at names and refresh my memory on this line. Sure enough, Elbert was the son of Nellie Minor and Myron Shelton. Myron was the son of Henry S. Shelton. So I knew there was at least a picture of the grandson Elbert and grandfather Henry. Nellie Minor Shelton was the sister of my great grandmother, Mamie

Elbert Minor Shelton, 5 mos., 25 lbs


Minor Denman. This is the baby Elbert – the back of the photo gives his full name and that he was 5 months old and weighed 25 pounds. You have to love it! And here is his grandfather, Henry S. Shelton, who would have been about 66 years old if the date (1898) on the back is correct.

Henry S. Shelton, c 1898

I have my work cut out for me to identify the other people in the photos. They are all from the same photography studio so I am hoping that the variation of the logos will help date them. I am also hoping I can lure one of my cousins into helping, or at least looking at them. There are individual pictures of a man and woman who *could* be baby Elbert’s proud parents. And there is an irresistable one of a young child who *might* be Elbert at around 2-3 years of age. I think this picture is a little boy – what do you think? Luckily, to describe the collection I don’t think I have to have all the images identified.

Unknown Shelton child, c 1898

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