19 August 2019

Replacing Military Records Lost in the NPRC Fire in 1973

Friday the 13th of July was an extremely unlucky day for the National Personnel Records Center (NPRC) on Page Avenue in St. Louis County. On Thursday evening, a fire broke out just after midnight, and within hours, a good part of the sixth floor was blazing. Throughout the next day, the fire appeared to be under control, but by that night, it actually had spread to parts of the fourth and fifth floors. Unfortunately, the building had no fire walls and no sprinkler system on the upper floors. With millions of paper military records inside to feed the fire, it took the whole weekend to fully extinguish the flames, which covered the mid-county area with billows of dark smoke and were visible for miles.

The sixth floor had contained twentieth-century military records of Army and Air Force personnel: about five million World War I service records, nine million World War II records, and an additional six million records from the wars in Korea and Vietnam War. Some Air Force records were stored elsewhere in the building, so they were spared.

But what if you have copies of some of those records? Is there any way you can help supplement what is left or help rebuild a ruined file? Nancy Schuster from the National Archives-St. Louis offers the following guidelines to those who may have copies of military records that might replace what was destroyed.
  • NARA-St. Louis will accept photocopies of papers but NOT original documents. 
  • NARA will NOT accept photographs or anything other than paper. 
  • They are NOT equipped to handle digital copies nor will they take medals or other memorabilia.
Nancy says that "photocopies will be stamped 'Received from an unofficial source' and they will be kept on file to be viewed by future researchers. These documents, however, will NOT be used to verify service for any official government purpose, such as determining eligibility for veterans' benefits."

If you have copies of discharge papers, certificates, or any other relevant papers for your veteran that you would like to donate, you can mail your copies to:
The National Archives-St. Louis
Attn: Military Documents
PO Box 38757
St. Louis, MO 63138

If you have further questions, you can contact NARA-St. Louis at stl.archives@nara.gov

You can check out the genealogy page of their website here.

More information about the fire? An interesting article is available here.

12 August 2019

A Great Tool for Placing Your Ancestors in History

Names, dates, and places are seldom interesting by themselves. To bring our ancestors to life, we need to know what was happening in the world around them. A little-known website that has been around for many years offers an easy and fun way to get historical context about your ancestors into your genealogy research. The site is called dMarie Time Capsule and you can find it here.

Unlike many websites, this one has few bells and whistles. In fact, it looks rather plain and sparse. However, it is filled with thousands of bits of historical trivia that will bring a special date to life in seconds. Type in a date and discover what was happening in the world at that time. Starting with the year 1800, you can find news headlines, presidents, and people born on a particular day. After 1880, you can also find top songs and prices for goods. After 1900, you can add books and toys, and after 1948, television shows. The last year for which there is data is 2002.

Begin by typing a date in the blue rectangle and then decide whether you want the computer to generate a page for you (Quick Page) or whether you want to customize your own (Advanced Page). The latter allows you to add personal touches, such as family events, and pick and choose among a list provided. If you choose to customize your page, you will be guided sequentially through the list of headlines, birthdays, songs, TV shows, top new toys, and popular books so you can personalize each category.

Here is a Quick Page generated for 13 August 1950, when, as you can see, stamps were three cents each and many of us were watching the Ed Sullivan Show while humming "Mona Lisa," by Nat King Cole, and playing "Clue," a hot new toy of that year.

A button above the title (not pictured) gives you a printable version that you can print from the screen or copy/paste into another file by taking a screen shot. There is also an option for starting over, in case you want to do more than one.

Have fun while you bring your family to life!

04 August 2019

Understanding Obsolete Occupations

Did you have an ancestor who was a milliner? You probably know that was a hat maker. And if you have been doing genealogy for a while, you undoubtedly have come across coopers (barrel makers), fletchers (arrow makers), or fishmongers (fish sellers). As you examine pages of the U.S. federal census for early years or read through old county histories, perhaps you have come upon more confusing occupations, such as a catchpole or a huckster, a webster or a peruker, and wondered just what those folks were doing.

A few years ago, the London (England) Genealogical Society published an intriguing list of occupations from the 1881 British census that included, among others, "colourist of artificial fish," "examiner of underclothing," and "turnip shepherd," the latter still not fully understood!

It does help to have a few resources at your fingertips for making sense of some of the unusual terms for the jobs our ancestors held. Here are a few websites that might be useful:

 Olive Tree Genealogy: Obsolete Occupations in Genealogy
(Be sure to scroll down to mid-page for the actual information on this page. And click on the related links under the title for more.)

"75 Names of Unusual or Obsolete Occupations" by Mark Nichol

Dictionary of Old Occupations
(This is a British website that includes more than 2,000 old occupations listed alphabetically. If you prefer to have an offline resource, you can purchase a copy as a digital ebook for Kindle for $4.)

"Deciphering Codes Appended to 1910 to 1950 Census in One Step" by Stephen Morse, Joel Weintraub, and David Kehs
(If you come upon an occupation in the U.S. census and aren't sure what it means, find the code that was added to the census page. Then, just click on the appropriate link on this web page. On the page that follows, use the little up and down arrows to enter the code numbers, and the rectangles will fill in with the possible jobs in that category.)

 Perhaps you would prefer to read about what jobs were available in 1837? Check out the Panorama of Professions and Trades by Edward Hazen which you can read online or download as a PDF at the Hathi Trust: https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=nyp.33433089737872&view=1up&seq=5

By the way, a catchpole was an official pursuing those with overdue debts; a huckster, before it took on the meaning of a con artist, was simply a peddler; a webster was a weaver, and a peruker was a wig maker in the 17th and 18th centuries when men wore perukes, wigs with long hair on the sides and back.

29 July 2019

August Genealogy Meetings and Classes

August StLGS Monthly Meeting

Saturday, 10 August 2019
"Finding the Civilian Conservation Corps," by Nancy Schuster, St. Louis County Library Headquarters Auditorium, 10:00 a.m.; free, open to all, no pre-registration needed
More information on the StLGS website.

Jewish Special Interest Group (SIG) Meeting 
Wednesday, 28 August 2019
"Interpreting and Caring for Jewish Tombstones," by Diane Everman, Ilene Murray, and Rabbi Jeffrey Stiffman; St. Louis County Library Headquarters East Room, 7:00 p.m. Free, open to all, no pre-registration needed.
 More information on the Jewish SIG page on the StLGS website.

Other Upcoming Classes/Meetings

StLGS Class: Saturday, 17 August 2019
"Foundations of Genealogy, Part I," by Ilene Murray; StLGS Office, 1:00 p.m. Free to StLGS members; fee for non-members; pre-registration required at 314-647-8547.

StLGS Class: Sunday, 18 August 2019
"Using FamilySearch," by Bob Goode; StLGS Office, 1:00 p.m. Free to StLGS members; fee for non-members; pre-registration required at 314-647-8547.

StLGS Class: Saturday, 24 August 2019
"Foundations of Genealogy, Part II," by Ilene Murray; StLGS Office, 1:00 p.m. Free to StLGS members; fee for non-members; pre-registration required at 314-647-8547.

View the entire summer/fall 2019 genealogy class schedule here.

St. Louis County Library Classes
Numerous classes at all branches in August. More on the library website.  
Click on the August calendar and scroll down the page.

Carondelet Historical Society Meeting
Sunday, 11 August 2019
Discussion of early French settlements by Dr. Terry Norris, 6303 Michigan Avenue, St. Louis, 1:30 p.m.; free, open to all, no pre-registration needed.
More information on the group's website.

Czech Genealogical Researchers Monthly Meeting
Saturday, 10 August 2019
"Serfdom in Bohemia," by Marcella Milcic, St. Louis County Library Headquarters East Room, 3:00 p.m.; free, open to all, no pre-registration needed.
More information on the group's website.

22 July 2019

An Overlooked Resource: St. Louis Branch of the Missouri State Archives

Did you know there was a branch of the Missouri State Archives in St. Louis? If you did know about it, do you know where it is located or what projects they are currently working on? We will fill you in on all of that information in this week's blog post.

First, the St. Louis branch of the Missouri State Archives is downtown in the Carnahan Courthouse, just a block east of City Hall, at 1114 Market Street, Room 245. Because this is a working government building, you do have to go through a security check to enter, but once you are in the lobby, visitors are welcome to visit the archives from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m., Monday through Friday. You are encouraged to call ahead, though, to be sure staff is available to assist you. (Their phone number is included here at the end.) Parking is available in several lots nearby and the MetroLink station near the Enterprise Center is an easy walk in good weather.

What will you find at the MSA-St. Louis? Archivist Mike Everman and his capable staff are working diligently on St. Louis City Circuit Court records. The case files include all kinds of early court cases: petitions/complaints, summons, depositions, subpoenas, judgments, maps, and drawings. Record books have a daily accounting of actions that occurred for each case. There are indexes for plaintiff versus defendant and an inverted index of defendants against plaintiffs.

The job of the MSA-St. Louis staff is to conserve every record, to open, straighten, clean, and digitize more than four million pages of original documents! Work began in 1999 and the St. Louis Circuit Court Historical Records Project was designated an official project of the Save America's Treasures initiative a year later. Along with the state archives, the staff is also partnering with several universities in St. Louis and the National Park Service.
Archivists and interns have already processed and indexed Circuit Court records from 1804 through 1835 and from 1861 through 1868. They are currently indexing 1835 through 1840. Their goal is to "preserve and make available case files, indexes, and record books of the St. Louis Circuit Court, 1804–1875." Later records for the city are in the Civil Courts Building. (Remember that in 1876, St. Louis City and County split, so some later records will be in the county.)

Mike and his co-workers at the MSA-St. Louis are happy to help you locate individuals in the indexes and then look at the actual court cases. He says that "processed and unprocessed case files and record books" are available in the archives office. Although some of the records are currently online, much is not there yet. You can contact the MSA-St. Louis staff, if you have a particular request, and they will be happy to work with you to find what you need. They request that you be specific when you email. Include names and dates, the nature of the case you are pursuing, and, if possible, the location in the city where your people were living.

The Missouri State Archives has much more information on their website that can help you.
  1. Missouri State Archives-St. Louis
  2. St. Louis Circuit Court Project
  3. Civil War Records from the St. Louis Circuit Court
If you had Civil War ancestors in St. Louis, you might also want to check out the St. Louis Freedom Suits project, a joint effort between Washington University Libraries and the Missouri History Museum based on work done by the Missouri State Archives. You can read more here.

St. Louis Circuit Court Records, Prior to 1875
Address above
Phone: 314-588-17476
Email: archrefstl@sos.mo.gov

(To the right is the MSA-St. Louis office and Mike Everman, the archivist. It's a small office, but, as you can see, filled with treasures!
Photos by Ilene Murray)

St. Louis Circuit Court Records, Post 1875
St. Louis City Circuit Court
10 North Tucker Street (63101)
Phone: 314-641-8309
Email Kathy Grillo, Records Manager: kathy.grillo@courts.mo.gov 

15 July 2019

Classes for Experienced Researchers

Are you interested in an in-depth genealogy learning experience? Ready to improve your genealogical skills and knowledge? One of the exciting things about doing genealogy research is the opportunity to keep learning. Starting with local classes, workshops, and seminars, we get the chance to become more knowledgeable about basic techniques and skills. And once we feel comfortable, it's time to branch out to conferences and institutes.

Two major upcoming events, now open for registration, can help you do just that.

Federation of Genealogical Societies (FGS) Annual Conference

Washington, D.C., 21–24 August 2019
This annual conference features four full days of lectures, a large exhibit hall of vendors, a society showcase, and a chance to visit the National Archives, Library of Congress, the DAR Library, and other attractions in the nation's capital. Lectures are offered on a wide variety of topics and skill levels. You can view the program, register for the conference, and/or register for a local hotel at the conference website.

Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy

Salt Lake City, Utah: 12–17 January 2020
Celebrating its twenty-fifth anniversary, this venerable institution, sponsored by the Utah Genealogy Association, always sells out quickly. Meant for researchers who relish the chance to spend a week immersed in genealogy instruction by the country's top instructors, the institute is a way to learn from national experts in the "capital of genealogy."

This year's classes are as follows:
  • Corpus Juris: Advanced Legal Concepts for Genealogy, Judy Russell, CG, CGL
  • Advanced Research Tools: Land Records, Richard Sayre, CG, CGL, FUGA, and Pamela Sayre, CG, FUGA
  • Guide to Treasures Found in Federal Records, Michael Strauss, AG
  • Virginia from the Colonial Period to the Civil War, Barbara Vines Little, CG, FVGS, FNFS, FUGA
  • Chinese Genealogy Research, Kelly Summers, AG
  • Applying Standards to Appraise Genealogical Work, Jeanne Bloom, CG
  • Meeting Standards: Using DNA Evidence, Karen Stanbary, CG
  • Technical Writing for Genealogists, Melissa Johnson, CG
  • Advanced Genealogical Methods, Paul Graham, AG, CG, CGL
  • Immigrants to the New World, Colonial to 1900, Dr. John Colletta, FUGA
  • Early U.S. Church Records, Rev. Dr. David McDonald, CG
  • Maryland: Researching in the Old Line State, Debra Hoffman
  • Advanced Hispanic Research, George Ryskamp, AG, FUGA, and Debbie Gurtler, AG
  • Researching Like a Professional, Michael Hait, CG, CGL
  • Introduction to Genetic Genealogy, Paul Woodbury
  • Guided Research and Consultation, Craig Scott, CG, FUGA
The following week features an Academy for Professionals, from 20–24 January, with seven classes offered to those who are working for clients.

Registration for all the classes opened on Saturday, 13 July. If you are interested, you will want to read more about the classes, instructors, and schedule on the SLIG website. Register quickly, however, as there are already wait lists for some of the classes!

Postnomials: Those initials after the instructors' names indicate their various certifications.
  • AG—Accredited Genealogist, received from the International Commission for the Accreditation of Professional Genealogists (ICAPGen)
  • CG—Certified Genealogist, received through the Board for Certification of Genealogists (BCG)
  • CGL—Certified Genealogical Lecturer, received through the BCG
  • FNGS—Fellow of the National Genealogical Society
  • FVGS—Fellow of the Virginia Genealogical Society
  • FUGA—Fellow of the Utah Genealogical Society
Finally, if you'd rather stay close to home, check your local society or library for classes. And if home is St. Louis, remember that registration for StLGS summer/fall classes is also now open!

08 July 2019

John Philip Colletta Headlines "Your Family Stories: What DID They Say?"

(Thanks to Laura Mackinson, StLGS Quarterly co-editor and chair of the Social Media Committee, for being our guest writer this week.)

St. Louis Genealogical Society (StLGS) is honored to host John Philip Colletta, Ph.D., for the 2019 Summer Speaker Series. A Washington, D.C.-based genealogist, Colletta lectures nationally and is on the faculty of both the Institute of Genealogy and Historical Research (IGHR) at Athens, Georgia, and the Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy (SLIG). He has authored two manuals, many genealogy articles, and a "murder-mystery-family-history" book, titled Only a Few Bones: A True Account of the Rolling Fork Tragedy and its Aftermath, about his great-great-grandfather. It is his ability to turn family history into focused written narrative that he will emphasize during his series of lectures for StLGS.

"Your Family Stories: What DID They Say?" is the theme for this exciting day-long event. Colletta says, "Detective work is challenging and fun. But creating a family tree is only half the goal. The other half is learning about your ancestors as men and women with personalities, character traits, motives and aspirations, joys and disappointments, just like you." His point gets to the heart of writing your family's story: seeing your ancestors in sharp focus and committing their true stories to paper. His four lectures will be:
  • Breaking through Brick Walls: Use Your HEAD!—Pick up guidelines and methodology for overcoming research obstacles.
  • Turning Biographical Facts into Real Life Events: How to Build Historical Context—Depict your ancestors as distinct individuals in and of their time period.
  • Principles of Good Writing and Storytelling—Learn to craft an engaging true story.
  • Writing a Narrative Family History: The Snares and Pitfalls—Avoid hazards that can cloud your narrative.
The Summer Speaker Series will be held Saturday, 13 July, from 8:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. at the Maryland Heights Community Center, 2300 McKelvey Road, Maryland Heights, Missouri 63043.. Registration booklet and more details on our website.
Want more? Attend the Writing Institute the following week! Details here.