Family History Research

Preparing for research trips

Next week I hope to take two research trips, one to the Newberry Library, and one to IRAD at NEIU and from there stop across the street at Bohemian National Cemetery and then drive to St. Adalbert’s to cemetery hop. I decided since I have so many things I want to research on those trips, I am going to take my nine year old son along to help. He is in the gifted reading and writing program at school and I’m sure these new research skills he will learn will help him in 4th grade. He isn’t so thrilled but if I can find one or two things in the research that will grab his attention, it will be fine.

So of course, I begin the task of outlining all the things I want to find out while researching, starting with the trip to IRAD and cemeteries. We all know being organized before a trip helps immensely when researching.  One of the things I organized last night is an Excel file of my burial lists. I have one file with several tabs. The first tab is my entire genealogy file list of people, birth and death dates, burial place and grave location. Of course not every person has a burial place listed yet and some have a place but no grave location. Subsequent tabs are broken out by cemetery. On those tabs I added a column called DC (Death Certificate). I want to start tracking everyone for which I have a death certificate which will make my many lists of “want to find certificates” less cluttered. Those need to be condensed and made ready for another trip to the Illinois State Archives anyway.

When that task is complete by this evening, I hope, my next task will be to create a file for all my Naturalization documents. I envision this as another Excel file with a master tab listing, and a tab for those I have documents for broken out by name, date of birth, date of arrival, Ship Manifest, Declaration date, Petition date, Naturalization Date, Notes.  Maybe I can get my son to help fill this file in. He thinks it is interesting that we cannot find ship logs for some of our ancestors and at times he seems determined to find them.

And finally, before my week ends, I hope to also have a file listing of people to search for in Probate records at IRAD.  Many things to research in one day, but with some help, hopefully I can make a dent in the lists. Whatever is left when we return home will be made ready for another research trip soon.

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Tools for Digging Deeper – School Records

This morning I took another class at the Newberry Library. Grace DuMelle spoke on School Record sources. I picked up a few new tips such as if you are in the Chicago area and had Chicago Public School ancestor graduates, that CPS has lists online. You can go to CPS and register for a free account to access the records. Grace also suggested searching in ProQuest for the Chicago Tribune Historical files. She said the newspapers often printed graduation lists.

In addition, there are many online databases available through Chicago Public Library websites. These are accessible at the libraries and at home, if you have a CPL card. Grace told us if we do not have a CPL card and live in another library system, we can ask about a reciprocal card which then gives us access from home. This is something I will look into next time I am at the Harold Washington Library downtown. The CPL system offers a few databases my suburban library system does not.

After my class I went upstairs to research. I had my first taste of the Sanborn Fire Maps. It was very exciting to learn how to access these from the library and navigate through them. I discovered one of the addresses my Italian families gave, 372 S. Clark, Chicago, was in fact a store. I have a map key to figure out what all the symbols mean on the map I was able to print.  Now I need to find out who owned the store, what kind of store it was, and if it belonged to my family or if it was a contact point for immigrants.

All in all a fantastic day in the city not only for me, but my husband and boys. They were able to check out the Transformers 3 filming on Michigan Avenue. I think the highlight of that was seeing Bumblebee, at least for my four year old twins.

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Newberry Library Class – Tools for Digging Deeper, Probate & Inquest Records

Saturday I took a class at the Newberry Library, taught by Grace DuMelle, author of Finding Your Chicago Ancestors. It was one in a series of classes called 60 Minutes to Better Genealogy:Tools to Dig Deeper – Probate and Inquest Records.

I have not really looked into Probate records yet because I thought my families were so poor they would not have made a will but Grace gave me information to indicate that they might still have made a will to provide for the children. She gave many examples of records in Cook County related to Probate such as Guardianship records, Wills, Estate documents, she discussed heirship and show many examples of documents. She also told the class how to search the indexes and locate the documents in Cook County. This is now on my to-do list for summer! Get into the Cook County office and look up the case files I need to request, then request and wait for them so I can return to view them. Most records are stored off site so it can take several business days before the cases one wants to view arrive.

Grave also discussed Inquest records. I have a few death certificates that say Inquest or Coroner’s Death Certificate on them, but the Chicago Coroner’s Inquest Records online end before my ancestors died. Grace explained the records from that point on are held at the Cook County Medical Examiners office but because they are so loaded with current cases, you cannot expect a timely response. She suggested if you really want a file, to be in their face about it. Write and call every couple of weeks so you stay in the front of their mind. Their records are held in an off-site warehouse as well and they apparently do not visit the site often to retrieve records.

The Chicago Homicide Index was also discussed, which I know well from my Fortunato Fratto’s murder. I sent a letter to the Chicago Police Department, Records Unit, asking about his case and if it is possible to get copies of his file. We will see what their response is.

Grace also mentioned the Hearst Newspapers in Chicago, which followed murders, fires, etc. I had not heard of them so need to investigate that further.

Many new areas to consider looking for records. Have you had success getting Inquest records from Cook County? What about Police Files?

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Losing a Son – day 4

Michael’s remains were brought back to Chicago late May 1921. His body was laid to rest in Bohemian National Cemetery. Below are photos of a couple documents and the funeral.

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