One of the great things about attending an institute is connecting with your classmates. Meeting those shiny faces Monday morning - and maybe watching their features slowly deteriorate into the same haggard face you see in your own mirror Friday morning when your brain is so full you don’t think you can cram one more bit of learning in – you will forever share that bond.
And you’ll make great connections. Because institutes tend to attract people from all over the US as well as many foreign countries, you’ll find yourself rubbing shoulders with genealogists with expertise in many locales. Some of those places are sure to be where your ancestors or other research subjects lived.
In one course I took, I met Steve. He spearheaded a county court records indexing scheme in his local genealogy society. And when I needed a look-up in that index, I knew just who to call. In another course, I met Kathy, who lives all the way across the country from me. She was there when I reached out this week, trying to see what she knew about 1880s era newspapers in her state - their coverage, and even their fonts and column layout. She’s a great resource as I try to discover the identity of the mystery woman from the newspaper clipping in my great aunt Ida’s scrapbook. I hope a few of my fellow students over the years might feel the same about some of the help I’ve been lucky to share with them.
When you think about institutes, the top-notch instructors are only part of the learning equation. The students next to you are just as valuable. I hope I find one of you in a neighboring chair at my next institute.
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Disclaimer – The Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy has provided me a discount on my SLIG 2020 tuition for my participation as a SLIG ambassador.. The opinions expressed are my own.
I’m having a great time these days researching a convicted counterfeiter who served time in the 1930s in Leavenworth Federal Penitentiary. I dropped a bundle ordering his 191-page file from the National Archives in Kansas City, but it may be worth it in entertainment value alone. But I digress…
I’m looking at his file and trying to build a profile of him. Part of that includes developing a list of associates, what Elizabeth Shown Mills refers to as a “FAN club” (family and friends, associates, and neighbors.)
Several pages in his file have to do with his correspondence while in prison – who he wrote to and who wrote to him. One such contact was a woman, Mrs. Mary Davis of 5644 Halsted Ave, Chicago, identified as his aunt. The correspondence form was stamped “1929.” I thought I might try to find Mary Davis on the 1930 census to see if I could find a clue as to how she might have been his aunt – through his father’s side or his mother’s.
I searched on Ancestry for Mary Davis in Chicago, Cook, Illinois in the 1930 US Federal census and got 200 hits. Ugh. Some were far too young to be the aunt of my 42-year-old prisoner. But there were still a lot of hits to go through.
On Ancestry’s list of possible results there are six data columns shown: name, parent or spouse name, home in 1930, birth year, birthplace and relation to head of house. Another column on Ancestry’s display says “View Record.” If you hover your cursor over an item in that column, a pop-up window appears showing 15 additional data items plus a list of household members.
Ancestry’s basic display only gives six data points, but they have indexed another 15. Think about that. If they’ve indexed them, you can search on them. These additional fields include things like ward of the city and dwelling number (which most people wouldn’t know), but also parents’ birthplace. And street name!
I knew from the correspondence log from the prison file that Frank’s aunt Mary Davis lived on Halsted Avenue. I went back to Ancestry and edited the search, adding “Halsted” in the keyword box and now my top result is Mary Davis, born 1858 in Iowa, living at 5436 Halsted. The house number is slightly different than the one on the prison log, but this is a very likely candidate for my guy’s aunt.
The take-away – remember to use that Keyword box when searching on Ancestry. It will help you to quickly winnow down a long list of results. Many of those details you see in the pop-up window which appears when you hover over a potential result can be searched using Keyword. Play around also with checking the “exact” box which appears when you use the Keyword field.
Now, I’m off to learn everything I can about Mary Davis!
Don’t you just love the delicious scent of blackberries this time of year? When the afternoon sun warms the juice in that little clump of beads, the sweet smell fills the air.
My family has a special cake, Circus Cake, for which a key ingredient is that delicious fruit. I don’t know when it became a family tradition, but I know my Dad talked about eating it as a boy in the late 1920s.
Several years ago, I smelled those wonderful berries and I really really really wanted to make it. I could not find the recipe. I contacted all my siblings and cousins, but no one seemed to have the recipe. I scoured the internet in old cookbooks and newspapers but could not find what I was looking for.
Fast forward to May 2019. I received a sheepish phone call from my Auntie Helen, “Mary Beth, you’re going to be sooo mad at me. I was just cleaning out a drawer, and I found the recipe for Circus Cake. Do you still want it?” Um… YESSSSS!
And finally, it’s blackberry season. Yesterday my husband and daughters foraged in a local park and came home with a quart or so for me. I thought about making the cake last night but the time sort of got away from me (as time is wont to do), so I made it this morning.
Auntie Helen had sent a couple of other recipes. All had come from my Aunt Bertha. As I whirled together the egg whites, blackberries and sugar into a frothy confection, my thoughts turned to Bertha. The second of my grandparent’s eight children, she devoted her life to a religious vocation, spending her life as a Dominican nun. I have many fond memories of visiting her on Sunday afternoons at the picturesque Dominican convent in San Rafael. She had a beautiful, light-filled office which she shared with Sr. Daniel, whose two Irish setters lazed in the sunlight pouring through the paned windows. I recall San Francisco Giants’ baseball games on the radio on many of those lazy Sundays.
One August Sunday in my early 20s we had a party at our house to celebrate a momentous occasion, Sr. Bertha’s Golden Jubilee, 50 years a nun! I couldn’t imagine anyone doing anything for that long. Sr. Bertha lived another 17 years, adding substantially to that tenure devoted to her calling.
And this morning, as I whipped that delicious frosting and thought of Bertha, recalling that party in August 1982 celebrating her jubilee, I wondered just exactly what day that was. I checked my family tree calendar, and discovered exactly 87 years ago, August 4, 1932, Sr. Bertha took her final vows. I guess there was a reason I waited til this morning to make that cake. Happy Anniversary, Bert!. Miss you.
Here’s the recipe for the cake. I took the easy way out, and used a box angel food cake, but with the Circus Cake frosting:
For Berry Whip frosting, beat together until very stiff and holds its shape:
Mary Kircher Roddy is a genealogist, writer and lecturer, always looking for the story. Her blog is a combination of the stories she has found and the tools she used to find them.