Family History Research

Tuesday’s Tip – Visit the Webster County Historical Society

A week and a half ago I drove to Springfield, Missouri, to help my sister with her kids while my parents traveled. I stopped in Marshfield, Missouri, on my way down and spent most of a day at the Webster County Library and Webster County Historical Society and Research Center.

I started at the library and began going through the genealogy room which is small but contained a lot of area county books. Many cemetery transcriptions, obituaries and family histories.

After lunch I stopped at the historical society which is the former Marshfield public library. I practically grew up there because my mom worked there for years. I could not believe how “small” it felt. Funny how you grow up and everything seems smaller, more compact than when you were a kid. They even have an old band uniform that we wore when I was in school. Blast from the past!

A wonderful historical society volunteer, Jo Slingerland, who also happens to be a Random Acts of Genealogical Kindness volunteer, took me next door to the research center to work. I spent a couple of hours there looking through books and files and sharing stories with two other volunteers.

My work there was not done and I returned last week to look into more files after a phone call with a man I am helping with his research. This time I went downstairs in the historical society/old library to look at old Marshfield High School class rosters and photos. I found what I was looking for but barely touched what was there. Unfortunately I won’t have time to go back before I head home but maybe the next trip down.

For those with southwest Missouri roots, if you are in the area you should stop and take a look at both repositories.

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Joining the “Us vs Them” Discussion

This week many blogs are talking about the “Us vs Them” concept in the genealogy world. Bloggers who blog for fun and those who want to make a few bucks off their blog. Genealogists who move from hobbyist to professional and what people think of this.

If you want to catch up on the conversation, here are a few blog posts I recommend:

There are many more posts out there so hop on Geneabloggers and read the comments.  So here is my take on the situation. These are my own personal experiences and opinions.

I started out as a hobbyist in 1996. Three years later I finished my BA in History and moved back to Chicago. I had great plans of going to grad school to get my Masters in History and teach and become a great Chicago genealogist. Well life took over and those dreams and goals were left in the dust. I still dreamt of becoming a professional genealogist but it wasn’t until last summer that it was possible to move forward on this and I finally decided it was time.

One of the leaders in the genealogical community, Thomas MacEntee, and I started talking in July. I really don’t even remember exactly how we got started but what I do remember is he was willing to share his vast knowledge about the profession and help get me started. He gave me advice on my new website, getting the business off the ground and more. He has been a constant source of encouragement and support and I consider him a mentor. I hope that as I move along in my career I can pay it forward  and provide as much support and encouragement as he has for me. More than being a mentor, we are also friends who have shared many personal stories about our lives. I am very blessed to have him as part of my life. I am also very proud of the work he has done for the community and for his business. He is an inspiration.

As I moved into the professional realm, many geneabloggers were there supporting my efforts. A pat on the back here, a word of encouragement, a sharing of experiences there. Any time I have asked another blogger about a class they took or a conference they attended or about a specific issue I was having, I got nothing but positive feedback whether the person was a professional or hobbyist. This is a very welcoming, supporting, loving community regardless of your level of experience.

I am a stay at home mom and have been for several years. I knew going into this that I would not make a lot of money, but something to add to our bank account was better than nothing. My business is made up research, now lecturing, and writing. I am expanding into house histories as another part of the business and hope to establish some relationships with companies needing document retrieval in the Chicago area. This is not making me a lot of money. About all it is doing right now is enabling me to attend some conferences away from home, take some genealogical courses I could not before, and throw a little money into savings. I do a lot of online writing for pay to supplement this too.  I have wandered into the affiliate marketing arena just a bit but really haven’t moved much because IL passed a law that made some companies, like Amazon, release all their IL affiliates. I wanted to see how the law and these other companies moved before I invest any other time in this arena.

I think the genealogical community should not look down on anyone who is trying to establish themselves as a professional and make a living. We should be supporting each other in our research and other endeavors.

What do you think?

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Genealogy Research Service


Connecting Families Through Time

I am pleased to announce the opening of my genealogy business, Generations. I have a Bachelor’s Degree in History and have been researching family history since 1996.

I provide research services; writing; and educational services. I am located in the Chicago suburbs and have access to many wonderful research facilities such as:

  • National Archives, Great Lakes Region
  • Harold Washington Library
  • Newberry Library
  • Chicago Historical Society
  • Cook County Governmental Offices
  • Illinois Regional Archives Depositories, statewide
  • Illinois State Archives
  • Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library

For information about rates and services, please email me Jennifer Holik-Urban at

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Your House Has a History

I recently wrote an article about tracing family through street addresses and am now interested in finding the history of some of those houses. While the PDF file mentioned here, Your House Has a History, is specific to Chicago research, some of the tips included can be used in any city.

This booklet is composed of six steps. Step One – Checking the Chicago Historic Resources Survey. Step Two – Finding a copy of the building permit filed when your house was constructed. Step Three – Research information on the construction of your house (and any additions), its architect (if known), and its builder. Step Four – Finding information on the previous owners of your house. Step Five – Finding early or original plans, drawings and photos of your house.  Step Six – Your Neighborhood’s history.  The end of the booklet contains an extensive list of resources to find records.

In our collection of old family photographs, there are probably a few of the homes in which our ancestors lived. Does that home still exist today? One way to find out is to go on Google Earth and enter the address. The program will pinpoint the address and you can zoom in to look at the area. Sometimes a street view is also available. If I enter 2122 W. 18th Place, Chicago, IL, Google Earth will take me to 18th Place and the closest address, which is next door. 2122 does not exist. It was a wooden home, as tall as the ones on either side of it, and is no longer there. Instead, an empty lot filled with grass and trees is where the home stood. The houses on either side of the lot are brick. It will be interesting to find out what happened to the house. Did it burn down? Was it purposely taken down?

What about your current collection of family photographs? Does it include the house where you parents grew up? Where you grew up? Do you have a photograph of the house as it looks today? We can never forget to continue to record our current family history.

For more information specific to Chicago you may visit the Chicago History Museum’s webpage on Architecture.

The Smithsonian has a great booklet online Finding History in your Home.

The Internet Public Library also has an extensive listing of resources on their Guide to Researching the History of your House page. 

Have you traced the history of any homes? What interesting things did you discover?