I’ve returned from my research trip to southern Indiana and I’m very pleased with the amount of information I gathered! In all of the years of my research, I’ve never taken alot of time to find actual sources for my closest generations – my parents and grandparents. I could always get that stuff later – right? Wrong! My grandmother passed away in 1999 and my aunts and uncles have never concerned themselves with gathering family information. (“What do you want to know THAT for?”)
In recent weeks, I’ve been working on adding citations to all of my group sheets and notes for my mother’s family. It didn’t take me long to figure out the I had an awful lot of sources where I could only cite “that’s what Grandma told me”! So I set out to find the sources to go along with the information she gave to me. Ancestry has been a huge help in finding birth and death indexes for Kentucky. The Allen County Public Library has an excellent selection of books and microfilms for Russell County, Kentucky, so there were many things I found that way. But alot of items that I needed were too recent to be available online. Thank heavens for the Johnson County Historical Museum! http://www.johnsoncountymuseum.org/home It never occurred to me that a historical museum might have a genealogy research room and because my family has only been in the Johnson County area since 1935, I had never spent alot of time looking for sources there.
The Museum itself has a lovely area with displays from several time periods with actual artifacts from that time. A lifesized conastoga wagon, Civil War display, Victorian era display, right through recent military artifacts. It was fun to go there with my Mom and to look at the displays from the 1950′s! There was a display of the local candy kitchen (Nick’s Candy Kitchen) that all of the teens hung out in while my Mom was in high school. They even had one of the booths from the restaurant and my mother recognized some of the graffiti carved into the wall! She recognized the specific popcorn machine from the Artcraft movie theater and was telling me about the “popcorn lady” who always worked there when we noticed all of the pictures on the wall of the popcorn lady herself! Memories came rolling forth as she walked through the displays.
We went downstairs to the genealogy research room and I was amazed to see hundreds of courthouse books lining the walls! The staff was incredibly helpful – perhaps a bit too helpful! I knew that I wanted to find the marriage record for my grandparents in 1935. The worker looked the information up in a computer generated index and in no time at all, had the correct book open to the correct page for me. (As an interesting side note, perhaps this is normal procedure, but I thought it was wonderful that there were huge bottles of hand sanitizer all around the room with signs for patrons to clean their hands before handling the books.) I asked if it was ok for me to take pictures of the page with my digital camera and she told me that was fine. She asked if I wanted to see the marriage application as well – something I was not expecting to find – and of course, I said yes! While I was getting my camera out of my bag along with the notes I had made of the additional information I wanted to look for, the worker assumed I was finished and began putting the books away! I asked her to find them again, and I quickly took pictures of the pages. While I was taking those photos, she asked if I’d like a photocopy of the marriage certificate (again, I never dreamed I’d find so much!) and I obviously told her that I would! Needless to say, I was overwhelmed with the help that I was receiving. After I was finished with the marriage records, I asked if she could help me find ANY military information for my grandfather and we tried several things. She even got on the phone to the state archives and found a person who gave me some great ideas to follow up on.
As an afterthought, I asked if she could tell me the date for my grandparents’ divorce around 1965. She found the date in the index, but the records were so “recent” that I had to go down the block to the courthouse to have copies made from the microfilm. So I’m proud to say that this week, I visited my first courthouse for genealogy information! Not alot of research involved, but I did get the date and paperwork for my grandparents’ divorce, an irritating blank I’ve had in my notes for a long time. After the courthouse, my mother took me on a tour of the town and I took pictures of the houses they had grown up in and the brick roads that my great-grandfather had worked on for the WPA.
That evening, as I was transferring the photos from my camera to my laptop, I realized that I had not written down a single bit of information for a source citation from the museum because everything was brought out and put away so quickly! AND, when taking photos of the marriage application, I had not realized there was a page for the groom and a page for the bride. I had only taken a picture of the bride side. I had already planned to return to town the next day to visit my Uncle, so I told my mother we’d need to go early and return to the museum. It was a different worker this time, so instead of getting out the actual books, he handed me the index and as I was looking up the marriage information, I noticed that my grandparents were listed twice in 2 different books! He helped me get out all of the books and this time, I found an additional marriage record where my grandparents had gone back a month later to confirm that the marriage had actually taken place! He not only made photo copies of everything for me, he made several copies until he had the record centered on the paper and lined up nicely, but only charged for the final copies! So I had gone to the museum, hoping to find a register listing my grandparents to confirm the date and I ended up with a marriage application, marriage permit, marriage certificate and marriage record! I also got the divorce decree and agreement for my grandparents and found an index of civil court files with 4 mentions for my great-grandfather. That will be my starting point on my next trip!
As an added bonus – after years of my aunts and uncles telling me that they had nothing – I discovered that my uncle had the funeral card AND obituary for my grandfather – something my mother didn’t even have! My time with my uncle was unexpectly cut short, so I plan to go back again later this summer. As I was leaving their house, my aunt asked me if I’d be interested in some “old negatives” and she handed me a gallon sized ziplock bag full of the negative my grandmother had taken! I haven’t had alot of time to look at them, but I did see negatives from when my mother and her siblings were toddlers, so I can’t wait to see what treasure are yet to be found! The only question is how in the world to do that without the expense of having every picture developed. Especially because my grandmother’s camera was a Hawkeye Brownie camera and all of the negatives are about 2 inches square – but that’s a topic for another day!