Family History Research

Book Recommendation – Hidden Sources

I recently borrowed a book from the library called Hidden Sources Family History in Unlikely Places, by Laura Szucs Pfeiffer.  The book is basically a listing, with resources, of many places researchers might not think to look when researching their family.

Some of the hidden sources are: Admiralty Court Records; Apprenticeship Records; Bankruptcies; Centennial Publications; Deeds; Fire Insurance Maps; Homestead Records; Licenses; Necrologies; Occupational Records; PERSI; School Censues; Street Indexes; Urban Guides; and Works Progress Administration.

I thought Motor Vehicle Registration Records was an interesting source I had never considered. Apparently there are records for both driver’s licenses and motor vehicle registrations you can locate for some ancestors.

This is a must have, or at least a must see, book for every family historian.

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Book review – Selected Directory of Italians in Chicago

Yesterday at the Newberry library I had the opportunity to look through a book called Selected Directory of Italians in Chicago by Lisa Cipriani. This book is a categorized listing of business owners and addresses from 1928-1929.

The entries I pulled out are as below. They are the surnames of people in my husband’s family. Now I need to determine which people are actually related. I know several of them owned stores, but who exactly? I also copied the Undertaker’s entry because he is listed on several of my Italian death certificates and most of the entries were smudged enough it is difficult to make out anything but the Polk Street.

Page 9  Commerce

LaMantia Brothers, Arrigo Co., 6 So. Water Market, LaMantia, Co. The, 76 So. Water Market, LaMantia, F., 54 So. Water Market, LaMantia, J., 54 So. Water Market

Page 16 Fruits, Wholesale

LaMantia, T., 267 W. 24th Street

Page 18  Grocers (Retail)

Coco, Antonio, 2416 Wentwort

Page 25  Meat Markets

Coco, J., 2262 Wentworth

Page 40  Undertakers

Reda Frank, 1003 Polk

If you have Italian families in Chicago who owned a business around 1928-29, this book is a great resource.

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Book Review – Bringing Your Family History to Life Through Social History

I came across a great book through Interlibrary Loan last year called Bringing Your Family History to Life Through Social History by Katherine Sturdevant.  This book gave me some wonderful resources and ideas on how to add life to my genealogical writings. If you look up her book on you can see some of the pages in the book.

The chapters include: Social History: Your Ancestor’s World; A Historian’s Approach to Home Sources:Artifacts; Artifacts II: Culture, Citing, and Caring; A Historian’s Approach to Family Photographs; Relative Talk Oral History and Oral Tradition; Recapturing a Dying Art Correspondence; Here Come the Genies: Braving the College Library; My Conclusion is your Beginning: Writing Family History.  This book is no longer being printed and from what I could find online, you can purchase it used for upwards of $70.

Sturdevant has several great lists in her book like The Elements of Social History which is broken out by category then ideas within the category on which to write. She has a listing of Social History Subfields and Sister Subjects to give you more background information and ideas. The back of her book has many forms you can copy and use in your research and writing.

This book is just amazing and I plan to borrow it from Interlibrary Loan again soon. Take some time to check it out online and then get a copy yourself. You will not regret it.

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Background Information Research

Roughly six months ago I began writing a book about my cousin Robert Brouk. Robert was a Flying Tiger in China just before the start of the United State’s involvement in World War II. The Tigers helped the Chinese keep the Burma Road open in the fight against the Japanese.

Writing a book takes a lot of background research. Robert was such a hometown hero in Cicero, Illinois, that The Berwyn Life newspaper wrote many articles about his war service and his life after his return home in July 1942. The newspaper also formed a committee to honor Robert with a Bob Brouk Day on August 2, 1942 in Cicero. I was fortunate that my uncle made several trips to the Berwyn library to look through microfilm for articles about Robert and these articles helped give my research a boost.

I am fortunate that my library has a subscription to ProQuest, a newspaper database. The databases available to my library’s users include the Historical Chicago Tribune, National Paper Abstracts, ProQuest Newspapers, and the Historical New York Times in addition to over 2,500 others.  ProQuest allows me to search by a term, dates, limit to only certain records and change the number of posts shown. I can check a box next to a record which then allows me to email, cite, or export that article. I can view the Page Map of the page on which the article resides to see what else is on the page.  By opening an article I have several more options. I can print; save the file; search; and view the Page Map.

Not only has ProQuest allowed me to find numerous articles about Robert, I have also been able to successfully search the Historical New York Times Newspaper for immigrant ship news. John Phillip Colletta spoke in February at the DuPage Genealogical Society conference and in one session told the listeners that the New York Times has brief articles about ships coming into and leaving the Port of New York. He said at times you will find the ship being reported as docking days later than the ship log states, which could have been caused by a backup of ships or illness or weather.

Searching Frisia between January 1, 1880 to December 31, 1880 brings up many articles. Some of these are listed as Classified Ads and list the ships with incoming and outgoing mail service; ticket prices for steamships; and steamship arrivals.  Depending on the ship or the passenger, the New York Times will have articles on prominent first class passengers and their arrival in the paper.

Not only did I search newspapers for background information, but I also used online search engines to find books and articles on my specific topics, Robert Brouk, Flying Tigers, A.V.G. (American Volunteer Group) China. Some of the books I located were available through my library system. Others were not and had to be requested through WorldCat which is an international collection of books. I was able to obtain several books through WorldCat’s Interlibrary Loan program. Some books came with a $3 fee, but the money was well spent.

And finally, I am lucky the A.V.G. group has an official Association. Searching their webpages allowed me to become a member and post questions regarding Robert or the Flying Tigers. I have been in contact with the webmaster regarding their records, and even had a great email conversation with a former Armorer in Robert’s 3rd Pursuit Squadron. Always be sure to contact a local or national group for the topic on which you are researching. You never know what or who you will come in contact with that will help your research.

Have you used different sources to conduct background research for your family history? If you have, I would love to hear what they are.

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