10 August 2020

Announcing the StLGS 2020 Fall Speaker Series!

Because so many people have been enjoying our online programs, we are especially excited to offer our new, virtual Fall Speaker Series! We are focused on bringing you unique webinars that will enhance your research skills, and this lineup of speakers and topics is sure to hit that sweet spot! We hope you will join us for the livestreamed event, but even if you can't, you will have access to the digitally recorded talks and can watch them at your leisure for three months! Here's what you need to know to register:

03 August 2020

StLGS August Genealogy Meetings and Events

As we continue our months of quarantine, we hope you are staying healthy and productive. Behind the scenes, the volunteers at St. Louis Genealogical Society are working actively to provide our members and guests with as much as we can, given the public health crisis. We have been delighted with how well our online events, meetings, and classes are going and truly appreciate the positive feedback we have received. Here is our revised schedule for August featuring more exciting online events, information about ongoing opportunities, and (cue the trumpets!) an announcement about our upcoming Fall Speaker Series, which will be open for registration very soon.

27 July 2020

Phishing, Scamming, and Hacking: Another Epidemic This Year

Just about a year ago, on 17 June 2019, our weekly blog addressed the issue of protecting yourself online. At that time, many of us were being inundated with phony emails asking for money, gift cards, and the phony "rescuing" of friends in need. That blog post lists ways you can protect yourself and we hope you will click on the link at the end of this post to refresh your memory on ways you can stay safe. All of those hints are still quite useful.

19 July 2020

Some Hints on Photographing Tombstones

Summer is the perfect time for visits to cemeteries, and this summer in particular, after being cooped up indoors for months, many of us have wanderlust. Cemeteries are peaceful, outdoors and away from crowds, and potentially, the source of much-needed information on our ancestors. Before you visit a cemetery, you will want to plan ahead and think about how you can get the very best photos.

13 July 2020

Making the Most of Quarantine Time: Organizing Your Digital Files

(Thanks to long-time StLGS member, Ann Fleming, for suggesting the topic for this week's post.)

After four months of trying to stay isolated, a good many of us are done with cleaning closets and drawers. Now that it is too hot in most places for working in the garden, how about getting some of your digital life organized? Is your computer a mess? Do you have files all over the place in no particular order? What about your auxiliary devices: external hard drives, your entire collection of flash/thumb drives? CDs or DVDs or boxes of old floppy disks? If you are nodding your head "YES!" to these questions, here are some suggestions for organizing your digital files.

06 July 2020

Celebrating the Fourth of July!

Although this year's summer holiday festivities were restricted because of the COVID-19 pandemic, certain traditions of this holiday weekend were still in evidence everywhere. Otherwise-quiet neighborhoods exploded with the bright lights and loud roars of fireworks; backyard barbecues smoked away, filling the air with the delicious smells of food on the grill; and people flew flags, hummed patriotic songs, and searched online for Boston Pops renditions of John Philip Sousa's marches. All of these July 4th customs have a surprisingly long history; many would be quite familiar to our ancestors.

29 June 2020

July StLGS Meetings and Events

As we mentioned in June, the first News Flash blog of each month has typically been about upcoming StLGS and other genealogy events. In March of this year, however, we went into quarantine, and had to rethink our entire 2020 calendar. Thanks to the continuing hard work on the part of our StLGS volunteers, we are able to bring you our revised schedule for July featuring more exciting online events. Stay cool during the heat of summer—no matter where you live—get comfortable in front of your computer or tablet, and soak up new ideas, knowledge, and skills from some of our most experienced genealogy lecturers this month. Here is what is coming up:

22 June 2020

Learn About State Archives at the StLGS Summer Speaker Series

Why You Should Attend Hidden Gems at the Missouri State Archives Even if You Don't Have Missouri Ancestors . . .

Hidden Gems at the Missouri State Archives, the StLGS 2020 Summer Speaker Series, will cover a variety of topics to help you understand state archive records and how to use them, no matter where your ancestors lived.

On Saturday, 27 June and Sunday, 28 June, StLGS is presenting four online lectures for our Summer Speaker Series, and our featured speakers—John Dougan, Missouri State Archivist, Kelsey Berryhill, and Christina Miller—have informative topics that will strengthen the knowledge and skills of any family historian.

15 June 2020

Some Weighty Matters to Measure

On 14 August 1682, Randall Vernon, a merchant from England, sailed from Liverpool to Pennsylvania on one of the ships in William Penn’s fleet bound for the new colony. Randall carried with him a parcel of thirty pounds of woolen cloth, two dozen woolen stockings for men, ten ells of English linen, and one fourth cwt. of wrought iron. It appears he was going to be doing some buying and selling with these goods, but exactly how much did he have?

Seeking the answers to these two lesser known measurements—ells and cwt—proved quite interesting! Let’s have a go at understanding Randall’s burden as well as some other measurements you are likely to encounter as you do your own family research.

An ell was a measurement used for cloth, indicating about forty-five inches, basically “from the fingertip of an outstretched arm to the opposite shoulder.” (“English Units,” Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/English_units) In Middle Low German, an el(l) was the length of the lower arm. Also, in German and Dutch, you may see the surname Ell, which was an occupational name derived from a dealer in cloth or a tailor.

Cwt is an abbreviation for hundred weight, which, today in the U.S. is equal to one-hundred pounds. However, in England it’s 112 pounds, so Randall’s wrought iron would have weighed thirty-one pounds.

Although the U.S. came to rely on English acres, early St. Louis land was measured in arpents. An acre began as the amount of land that could be plowed by one team of oxen in a day; today, an acre is 4,840 square yards. An arpent was roughly an acre, but since the French foot was larger than the English foot, yardage varied, and the arpent usually turned out to be a bit larger than an acre.

Understanding weights and measures over time means realizing that it all depended on who was doing the weighing and measuring. The French, Germans, and British all had different rules. The British didn’t begin to standardize their system of weights and measures until 1824, and it wasn’t until 1878 that the current British Imperial System was defined. Ironically, as the British were abandoning their old system, the U.S. was formalizing its system based on the old British one. Hence, our measurements vary from theirs.

(Image above shows surveying chains and fastening posts, c. 1580, Germany, public domain)

Websites for Weights and Measures

Here are some articles and charts you can use to help you decipher how many pounds in a stone (fourteen) or chains in a furlong (ten).

"Glossary of Ancient Weights and Measures" : https://www.hemyockcastle.uk/measure.html#other

"Old Units of Length" : https://mysite.du.edu/~jcalvert/tech/oldleng.htm

"Arpent" : https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arpent

“Imperial Units,” Encyclopedia Britannica : https://www.britannica.com/topic/Imperial-unit

“Conversion Calculator,” Calculator.net : https://www.calculator.net/conversion-calculator.html

“English Weights and Measures” : http://home.clara.net/brianp/quickref.html

08 June 2020

First Families of St. Louis: A Way to Honor Your Ancestors

(Many thanks to StLGS treasurer, Viki Fagyal, for writing today's blog.)

While you are still home because of COVID-19, have you considered working on your First Families of St. Louis application? St. Louis Genealogical Society’s First Families of St. Louis is a lineage group whose objectives are to identify, recognize, and archive the lineage of early St. Louis families. If you have an ancestor who arrived in St. Louis on or before 31 December 1865, you are eligible for First Families of St. Louis. If you descend from one of the First Families of St. Louis, you certainly want your family’s longevity, courage, fortitude, and pioneer spirit preserved and celebrated.

01 June 2020

June StLGS Meetings and Special Events

For several years, the first News Flash blog of each month has been about upcoming StLGS and other genealogy events. In March of this year, however, we went into quarantine, and all aspects of our lives began to change. Now, thanks to so much hard work on the part of many people, we can, at last, bring you a revised schedule for June featuring a variety of exciting events, all of which will take place online. No matter what the weather or where you are, you can grab a cup of your favorite beverage, get comfy in your tee shirt, shorts, and flip flops in front of your computer or tablet, and enjoy learning from some of our most experienced genealogy lecturers throughout the month. Here is what is coming up:

25 May 2020

Preserving the Stories of our Veterans

As we celebrate a more subdued Memorial Day this year, without parades and with fewer barbecues and swimming parties, perhaps we have more time to think about why we have this holiday in the first place. Originally called Decoration Day, it was intended as a quiet day of remembrance, one in which to decorate the graves of those who gave service to the country. It's a rare family, indeed, who doesn't have one or more member who served in the military. From drummer boys in the American Revolution to military generals in countries all over the world, our relatives, male and female, helped to preserve our democracy and way of life. If you are lucky, you may have a veteran from World War II, Korea, or Vietnam still alive in your family. Or, you may know a younger veteran from one of the more recent conflicts. Their experiences in the military undoubtedly affected their lives, and, with your help, could be preserved to add to our collective history.

Preserving Personal Military History

The easiest way to preserve the military history of your relatives is to encourage them to tell their stories, either orally or in writing. In this day of videos and computer chats, it is relatively easy to put someone in front of a camera to capture their memories. If you (or they) find that too daunting, they
can dictate to someone or create their own memoirs. Some of us are lucky enough to have relatives who have done just that. Although your blogger seldom injects herself into these posts, this week I will introduce you to Sgt. Sol Kanfer, my dad, who served in the Army Air Corps in Alaska and the Aleutian Islands as an armorer during WWII. Dad never saw combat, but he and his squadron were responsible for the weapons used by troops and on airplanes that flew over the Pacific. Luckily for my family, he loved to write and take photographs, so he returned to civilian life with a rich archive of memories, which, some fifty years later, he published as a series of anecdotes in book form. We always knew that those war experiences had a huge influence on Dad's life, but without his book of stories, we never would have understood exactly how and why. He explained the importance of the medals he kept in a frame, the odd pieces of memorabilia he brought back, and the need for preservation of the giant stack of love letters between my mother and him. His book is a priceless treasure!

If you want to share your family's military stories, one of the largest repositories for personal military history is the Library of Congress Veterans History Project. According to the website, the project "collects, preserves, and makes accessible the personal accounts of American war veterans so that future generations may hear directly from veterans and better understand the realities of war." They are collecting information from all conflicts beginning with World War I through the Iraq War and are interested in personal narratives in any form, correspondence, and visual materials. You may want to begin with a look at their Frequently Asked Questions for details on what and how to submit.

If you have family military memorabilia that will not be passed down, consider donating it to any military museum in your city or region. Most will gladly accept donations. Dad's collection has gone to a small military museum in Daytona Beach, Florida, where he spent the last twenty-five years of his life. They were delighted to have everything we gave them.

Here in St. Louis, the Soldiers Memorial Military Museum at 1315 Chestnut Street (currently closed because of COVID-19) honors those who served from the St. Louis region. You can look at their online collection to get an idea of the wide variety of objects in their possession, and, once the museum reopens, contact them for details on submission of artifacts.

Honoring those who have and will continue to keep us free and safe is so very important. We, as family historians, have the ability to make sure they and what they did for us are not forgotten.

18 May 2020

Summer Speaker Series Will Be Online in June!

With an ongoing commitment to the health and safety of our members and friends, and due to the great success of our virtual Family History Conference, the StLGS 2020 Summer Speaker Series will now be offered online. Believe us when we say we wish we could see your faces, share a coffee, and chat in person about family history, but that just can't happen right now. Thanks to the flexibility and willingness of our speakers, we are pleased to be able to continue to hold the Summer Speaker Series, now expanded to two days with two lectures presented live each day and access to all four presentations for ninety days online. Here's the scoop:

Hidden Gems at the Missouri State Archives


Featuring Missouri State Archivist, John Dougan, Kelsey Berryhill, and Christina Miller

Live Webinars: Saturday, 27 June at 1:00 p.m. and 3:00 p.m. 
Sunday, 28 June at 1:00 p.m. and 3:00 p.m. 

(Digital recordings of all four talks will be posted online by Monday, 29 June and remain available until the end of September. All lecture times are Central Standard Time (CST).

Saturday, 27 June 2020
1:00 p.m. (CST): "Plundering the Bounty of the Missouri State Archives" (Christina Miller)
3:00 p.m. (CST): "All Hands on Deck: Using State Government Publications to Track Your Ancestor’s Career" (Kelsey Berryhill)

Sunday, 28 June 2020
1:00 p.m. (CST): "X Marks the Spot: Researching Land Records at the Missouri State Archives" (Christina Miller)
3:00 p.m. (CST): "Peg Legs, Rum, and Eye Patches: Reasons Your Ancestors Did Not Serve in the Civil War" (John Dougan)

We are again using Zoom, an internet platform, to host the live presentations and digital recordings. Zoom has a limit of 100 participants for each live talk and those spots will go to the first 100 registrants who sign in for each lecture. If you cannot attend the live session, all registrants will still be able to watch the lectures online afterwards. Recordings will remain active for ninety days, so you may watch them at your convenience.

Registration for the Summer Speaker Series

New lower price! All four lectures are now available for $35 for StLGS members and $45 for non-members. More information about the lectures (including descriptions of each), speakers, and the registration process is on our website.

Register via our secure online store or by downloading and mailing a registration form from our website.

After you have registered, you will receive an invitation to the Summer Speaker Series via the email address you provided. (Note: The email will come to you during the week before the live webinars.) The handouts will be available to you as downloadable PDFs and you will receive an email with instructions on how to access them.

We are delighted to be able to continue to provide educational opportunities for family historians and look forward to "seeing" you online soon!

11 May 2020

Women's Work, Women's Lives

On this day after Mother’s Day 2020, let's take a brief look at how some of our female ancestors probably spent their lives. Many of us are used to leisure time, especially in the past months since we have been home, yet that would have been an unbelievable luxury to our working-class grandmothers, aunts, and cousins. The females in our past were often mothers, and without family planning options, the number of children in a household could go into double digits. During the Colonial period, women often worked alongside men, running a farm or plantation. They did most of the cooking and spent long hours spinning yarn, weaving, mending, sewing, and knitting. If the family had a vegetable garden or domestic animals, tending them was “women’s work,” and, of course, looking after children and seeing to their education was the job of women as well. Enslaved or indentured women often had to work in the fields alongside men. And during harvest or if a husband had to travel, all of the women, regardless of status, pitched in. Rarely did married women work outside the home. They were treated as property without personal or economic rights and men were the decision makers.

What happened to unmarried women? Certain jobs were “respectable,” and you may find a female ancestor working as a teacher or governess or, perhaps, owning a small business, such as a dress store or millinery shop. Women also worked as midwives or assisted in apothecaries, boarding houses, or taverns. If an unmarried woman had a father or brother, he often insisted on his right to “protect” her.

By the mid-1800s, industrialization created new jobs and women began to work outside the home.
 (Women at work in a textile factory; engraving, c. 1860, public domain)
Factory owners eagerly hired women and children because they could pay them less than men, and some jobs, especially related to textiles, had already been identified as women’s work. After the Civil War, educational opportunities slowly increased for women, thereby opening more doors for them. Eventually, women were allowed to study medicine, law, science and technology, areas from which women were previously banned. However, attitudes were slow to change. In fact, by the time of the 1910 census, more than three-fourths of working women held the following jobs:
  • Servant
  • Factory worker
  • Laundress
  • Teacher
  • Dressmaker
  • Saleswoman (in a store)
  • Stenographer/typist
  • Bookkeeper
  • Housekeeper
  • Boarding housekeeper
(Statistics from “Women’s Occupations in the Early Twentieth Century,” by Sharon S. Atkins, https://www.thesocialhistorian.com/womens-occupations/)

Our female ancestors had to combat gender stereotyping and inequality while assuming enormous responsibilities for themselves, their children, and their households. We can honor them by not losing their stories. Take a look at a few of the strong women who lived and worked in St. Louis honored in the St. Louis City/County Biographies project:

Dr. Kate Garner Walker Beall and her daughter, Dr. Mary Elliott Beall

Jane “Dearie” Hawkins Hay Cummings

Opal Gwendolyn Hudson

Margaretta (Simon) Soehngen Jantzen

Aida Lowena Mayham

Consider adding your ancestor to the project by writing her story (or his; of course, men are welcome!) for the St. Louis City/County Biographies section of our website, where you will find complete instructions for submission.

 Read more about women’s work in America:

“Women’s History in America,” Women’s International Center, http://www.wic.org/misc/history.htm

“Lives of Women,” Conner Prairie, https://www.connerprairie.org/educate/indiana-history/lives-of-women/

And don’t forget to watch Judy Russell’s lecture, “’Don’t Forget the Ladies’––A Genealogist’s Guide to Women and the Law,” part of the 2020 StLGS Virtual Family History Conference.

04 May 2020

Making the Most of Quarantine Time: Connecting with New Cousins in Far Away Places

(Thanks to StLGS volunteer, Kathy Franke, for sharing this interesting story about the importance of having some of our genealogy online so others can find us and of not throwing away those mystery photographs. We know many of you are sifting through old family photos during this time of quarantine. Maybe you, too, will be lucky enough to identify and learn more about someone in your own family album.)

Kathy writes:

I have a box of photos that were handed down to my grandma, then to my dad, and then to me. In the middle of that sequence, they got transported to my aunt’s house about forty-five minutes away, in a rural area of Missouri. They were left there for years and finally I went to pick them up. My aunt said she was going to throw some away because she did not know who was in some of the pictures, so why keep them? I think she pitched some from her collection, but I have a large box. I have separated them into groups of people I know and by generation and people I do not have any idea about. During all of this, I’ve kept them together in one box (an archival quality one). That way, I’ll know the provenance of the group.

Flash forward to last week. I received a message through Ancestry's messaging service from a man named Paul Jadot. He found my 2nd great-grandmother, Agnes Sondag (pictured here on the left), in my online tree. His great-grandmother, Marguerite "Gretchen" Sondag, was Agnes’s first cousin. Agnes came to St. Louis after the Civil War but Gretchen stayed in Belgium. Paul was born and grew up in Belgium, speaks Dutch, French, German, and English and has done a lot of research on the Sondag family. He now lives in the U.S. We had a great phone call that lasted more than an hour this morning and we now have a ton of new things to add to our To-Do lists.

Tonight I went to that box of Grandma's photos to find one that I wanted to send to Paul of a man in a white uniform from the Belgian Congo in 1916. The name of the man in the photo is Paul Crélot and the card is signed in French, "your nephew." I have not done much research on this side of my family so was not familiar with the Crélot surname. It turns out that Paul Jadot has Crélot in his tree and Agnes Sondag’s sister married a Crélot who had several children!

Here is the note from my new cousin Paul:

"What a find! I admit that I'm not too proud of the colonial experience of Belgium in the Congo. The country is now called the Democratic Republic of the Congo, (DRC). The capital is Kinshasa. It's a country in constant turmoil. It is eighty times bigger than Belgium."

Paul also translated the caption on the lower left of the front of the photo: Leó le 1r Mars 1914 Congo Belge—he abbreviates the city of Leopoldville as Leó in the Belgian Congo where the picture was taken on 1 March 1914.  Leopoldville was the capital of the then-colony. Note: In August of 1914, Germany invaded Belgium and the Belgian colonial army fought against German colonial troops located at the eastern border of the Congo.

I'm so glad I kept these photos and could learn this new information!

27 April 2020

Updates to the StLGS Website

FHC Conference Recording Update and More

Registration for the 2020 virtual Family History Conference will remain open until early July. As of this week, there are six digital recordings available to registrants. "Civil War Eyewitnesses" from Dennis Northcott and "Using Technology in Genealogy Research" from Cathy Amen have been added to the original four recordings from "The Legal Genealogist," Judy Russell, and are now online. We expect to add John Dougan's lecture this week, followed by the last three talks as soon as the speakers are able to record. Remember that registering for the virtual FHC entitles you to all ten lectures plus the complete syllabus! Each of the lectures is available to view for ninety days from the date they are posted online. For more information on the conference, and/or to register, see the conference page on our website.


Although many St. Louis researchers know Dennis Northcott, assistant archivist at the Missouri History Museum's Library and Research Center, our newest speaker on technology, Cathy Amen, is a first-time lecturer for our Family History Conference. We thought you might like to learn more about her, so Laura Mackinson, StLGS social media chairperson, asked her these questions:

Laura: What's the most useful new tech for genealogists? Why?
Cathy: Actually, my must-have is my smart phone. There are so many apps available now that make researching quick and efficient. All of the major genealogy research sites (Ancestry, FamilySearch, My Heritage, etc.) have mobile apps that allow you to research, access your trees, review DNA matches, and more, wherever you are. I also love the ability to review physical records, scan them into PDF or JPG format, and upload to my notetaking or genealogy software easily with a few clicks. My research time has become so much more efficient, allowing me to spend time doing what I love—actual research!

Laura: There's nothing wrong with using pencil and paper to do your research, but if you avoid technology, what might you miss out on?
Cathy: The above answer alludes to this question as well. If I relied just on paper and pencil, I would limit my time and ability to research. Technology allows me the ability to organize my findings, attach copies of documents to my tree, and become more efficient. I can easily share my findings with family members, whether by emails, blogs, or Facebook groups. Plus, the use of technology ensures that my research findings will be available for future generations.

Laura: If you had to select only one or two, what tech should genealogists adopt first?
Cathy: I encourage everyone to use a designated genealogy program for organizing and maintaining their tree. It can be an online product, such as Ancestry.com, MyHeritage, etc. or a personal program that can be modified to suit your needs: Reunion, RootsMagic or Legacy. Please move from paper! Your descendants will thank you!

Laura: What originally sparked your interest in genealogy?
Cathy: I have always loved to read, especially biographies and history. I tried to imagine how my family members lived in other historic times and places. My grandparents always shared family stories and I wanted to validate them. A funny story, my maiden name is Todd. We were told that we were related to Mary Todd Lincoln, since our family came from Kentucky, as did her family. My husband believed it, because as he said, I’m a shop-a-holic and "crazy like she was reported to be.” However, research and DNA totally disproved this family story. None of my family members are happy with me! Our only claim to fame shut down, although I can’t confirm they still don’t use it!


New on the StLGS Website: Master Index to the St. Louis City/County Biographies

With 170 biographies now online and more waiting to be uploaded, it was time to make it a little easier to find the subjects of the biographies. From the beginning, we have had an every-name index, divided into alphabetical segments, with the subjects' surnames in all caps. However, as the project grew, so did the indexes, making it difficult to just browse. Now, with the addition of the master list, you can see at a glance exactly who is the subject of a biography and go directly to the page. As in most of our indexes, women are listed by both married and maiden names. Check out the new index on the St. Louis City/County Biographies page under the "Indexes" heading. 


We're Still Here for You!

As we continue to social distance throughout the upcoming weeks, the StLGS office remains closed for the safety and protection of our volunteers and visitors. However, our online store remains open for registrations, memberships, and merchandise, and all volunteers with StLGS email accounts are monitoring their email daily. So, if you have any questions or need anything, don't hesitate to send a note. We love to hear from our members and friends! For a complete list of email addresses, visit the Contact Us page on our website.

20 April 2020

First of the FHC 2020 Digital Recordings Now Online!

St. Louis Genealogical Society is delighted to announce that digital recordings of the four Judy Russell lectures are now available online! During the upcoming week, recordings of three additional lectures from the 2020 StLGS Virtual Family History Conference lectures will be ready to post as well! We all know what a curator does in a museum. Do you know what he/she does in a legal document? Have you thought of using mind maps to help you solve genealogical puzzles? Those who had the opportunity to watch Judy Russell live on Saturday, 18 April and Sunday, 19 April, have those answers and many more. With Judy's recordings available online, you now have a chance to watch at your leisure, either for the first time or to review the large amount of detailed information this noted genealogist shared with her audience.

Next up for recording will be Dennis Northcott, associate archivist at the Missouri History Museum's Library and Research Center. Dennis is an expert on the collections in the Missouri History Museum's archives and will share firsthand accounts of the Civil War taken from letters, diaries, and other unique materials in his talk called "Civil War Eyewitnesses."

Also coming soon will be a lecture from John Dougan, Missouri State Archivist, who will speak on "Life and Death at Missouri Statehood: Gleaning Genealogical Details from Frontier Inventories." John will give us insights into what life was like on the Missouri frontier prior to statehood and how you can learn more about early ancestors from their inventories and other estate papers.

Cathy Amen's talk on "Using Technology in Genealogy Research" will also be posted soon. She will discuss software, scanners, photo-editing apps and organizational tools that will help make you more productive.

The remaining three conference lectures will be added as soon as the speakers have access to their workspaces and equipment. Registrants will be notified as soon as those recordings are ready for viewing.

All digital recordings will be online for ninety days, beginning with the day they are posted. You may watch as many times as you like within that time frame.

Registration Process


1. Registration for all ten of the digital recordings will continue to stay open until at least the beginning of July. The cost is the same as it was for the in-person conference: $55 for StLGS members and $65 for non-members. All of the information you need to register is on our website.

2. Once you have registered, you will receive an email with a link to a page on the StLGS website that contains the complete syllabus, in two large files, including all of the handouts. These are downloadable PDFs, which you can print and/or just save to your computer. Links to all the digital recordings will be added to that page as soon as each recording becomes available.

Questions? Send an email to programs@stlgs.org and the vice-president for programs will get back to you. No one is currently in our office, so please do not call.

13 April 2020

Interview with Judy Russell & Final Instructions for Registration for the FHC

Last week, we announced our first-ever virtual Family History Conference (FHC), featuring nationally known genealogist and legal expert, Judy Russell, "The Legal Genealogist," and the excitement is mounting as we approach the dates for live-streaming her lectures. On Saturday, 18 April, and Sunday, 19 April, we will present Judy's four talks live, including time for questions and answers at the end. Have you registered yet? If you would like to participate in the live-streaming, time is of the essence. We need time to contact you prior to the broadcast, so registration for the live-stream presentations will end on Wednesday, 15 April at 10:00 p.m. (Central Daylight Time).

If you register but cannot attend the live session, you will still be able to watch all of Judy's lectures on the Zoom website afterwards. Recordings will remain active for ninety days, so you may watch them at leisure.

The remaining conference lectures, six digital recordings, will be added as soon as possible and registrants will be notified as soon as those recordings are posted. These will also remain available for viewing for ninety days from the date they are posted.

Registration Process

1. Registration for the live Judy Russell webinars AND all ten of the digital recordings is now open. The cost is the same as it was for the in-person conference: $55 for StLGS members and $65 for non-members. All of the information you need to register is on our website.

2. FOR ALL REGISTRANTS: You will receive an email with instructions a few days after you register. On Thursday, 16 April, you will receive an invitation, sent to the email address you provided at registration, to each of the four lectures. Please check your email inbox and/or your spam/junk mailbox to retrieve the messages.

3. LINKS TO SYLLABUS AND PRESENTATIONS: The email with instructions will also include a link to a page on the StLGS website that contains the complete syllabus, in two large files, including all of the handouts. These will be available as downloadable PDFs. You will need both files for all four of Judy's lectures: the morning file for Saturday and the afternoon file for Sunday.

4.  It is your choice as to whether you watch the lectures live or view the recordings. If you choose to watch live, remember that only the first 100 who sign into the Zoom website will be admitted. Use the link and password provided in the invitations to attend the webinars. If you choose to watch later, use the link on the instruction email to access the recordings.

Questions? Send an email to programs@stlgs.org and the vice-president for programs will get back to you. No one is currently in our office, so please do not call.

Q &A with Judy Russell

(Thanks to Laura Mackinson, our social media chairperson, for interviewing our featured speaker, Judy Russell in preparation for the FHC.)

Laura: When did you first realize you wanted to explore your family history?

Judy: When my oldest cousin's husband died, and I realized that not only had I lost my grandparents and my parents, but even my own generation was starting to fade. I'd been playing at genealogy before then, but at that point it became really important to me to do what I could to see that the stories weren't lost.

Laura: What's the best "Aha-moment" story you most love to tell?

Judy: Oh, there are so many . . . Choosing just one is hard! I guess if I had to pick one, it'd be the moment I realized that there weren't two men by the same name in 19th century Texas—my perfectly law-abiding, tax-paying, child-rearing second great grandfather and a thorough-going rascal by the same name. Nope, same guy. He's my favorite ancestor—and a total scoundrel.

Laura: When did you first see the important connection between understanding the intersection of historical laws and family history research?

Judy: From the first moment I looked at a court minute book from Burke County, North Carolina, and realized that even with my law degree I had no idea what the clerk was recording with certain abbreviations. There is almost no record we can think of that doesn't exist because of the law, or contain information required by the law, or that makes no sense at all unless we know the law. That intersection is critical all the way across the board.

Laura: What's the most frequent question (or topic) that people ask on your "Ask The Legal Genealogist" website?

Judy: It's pretty much a tie between copyright issues and DNA ethics. And that makes sense to me because they really stem from the same basic notion of doing what's right with respect to things (work products on one hand, DNA results on the other) that belong to other people.

Laura: What are you looking forward to at the StLGS Family History Conference?

Judy: This will sound corny but . . . getting to visit with old friends and meet new ones is the biggest reason why I do genealogical speaking. It makes it all fun.

06 April 2020

Join StLGS For Our 1st Virtual Family History Conference!

(Thanks to Karen Goode, StLGS's vice-president for programs, for contributing to this week's blog post.)

St. Louis Genealogical Society has broken through our own brick wall––making virtual presentations! We have been in the planning stages for bringing meetings, classes, and other programs to our members for a couple of years. However, we were moving slowly and never actually got around to it. Well, that is all in the past because we finally have done it! A bit of silver lining in the current health crisis is that it has jolted us into action, and now, you will have the opportunity to see and hear Judy Russell’s presentations from the comfort of your home, no matter where you live. Plus, you will have access to all ten lectures online as digital recordings.

Presenting St. Louis Genealogical Society’s First

Virtual Family History Conference

Featuring Judy Russell, "the Legal Genealogist"

(Sponsored by George “Butch” and Carol Hilbert Welsch)

The conference will have two parts. First, you will have the opportunity to attend four live virtual presentations from Judy Russell! If you have heard any of Judy’s lectures, you know she is truly a gifted speaker.

Saturday, 18 April 2020
1:00 p.m. (Central Time): The Discriminating Genealogist: Telling Good Evidence From Bad
3:00 p.m. (Central Time): Living with Legal Lingo

Sunday, 19 April 2020
1:00 p.m. (Central Time): “Death by Undue Means"––Coroners’ Records
3:00 p.m. (Central Time): “Don’t Forget the Ladies”––A Genealogist’s Guide to Women and the Law

Each of these live presentations will include a question and answer time at the end. The presentations, along with the Q and A, will be recorded, so if you want to watch a presentation again, you can.

We are using Zoom, an internet platform, to host the live presentations and digital recordings. Zoom has a limit of 100 participants for each live talk and those spots will go to the first 100 registrants who sign in for each lecture. If you cannot attend the live session, you will still be able to watch all of Judy's lectures on the Zoom website afterwards. Recordings will remain active for ninety days, so you may watch them at leisure.

In addition to Judy Russell, the virtual Family History Conference will include recordings of all the  lectures that would have been part of our original conference. Unfortunately, because of the present quarantine due to COVID-19, some of our other speakers will not be able to provide their presentations at this time, but they will record them at a later date. We will post those recordings online when they are ready and give registrants ninety days to view them. We will keep you updated as we add their virtual presentations to the Zoom site.

Registration for the Conference

Registration for the live Judy Russell webinars AND all ten of the digital recordings is now open. The cost is the same as it was for the in-person conference: $55 for StLGS members and $65 for non-members. All of the information you need to register is on our website.

Once you have registered, you will receive an invitation to the FHC via the email address you provide. (Note: The email will come to you during the week before the live webinars.) Copies of the complete syllabus including all the handouts will be available to you as downloadable PDFs. Our volunteer staff has been hard at work making the process easy and user friendly.

If you have already registered for the conference, you do NOT need to register again. We have contacted all registrants via email, asking how you want to proceed. If you have not replied, please send a note to treasurer@stlgs.org indicating whether you want to attend the virtual conference and access the recordings or if you want a refund. We will not automatically refund registration fees without a request from the registrant.

Questions? Send an email to programs@stlgs.org and the vice-president for programs will get back to you. No one is currently in our office, so please do not call.

30 March 2020

Making the Most of Quarantine Time: Genealogy Learning Online

With all the extra time we are gaining as we conscientiously obey the need for social distancing, why not take advantage of learning more online? Genealogists are indeed fortunate because there are many ways for us to continue learning from the comfort of our homes. A slew of trusted genealogy websites offer free video content that can help us become better researchers while we sit in our jammies and sip a hot beverage. You can watch a video on your own schedule or sign up for a live-streaming webinar at a particular time and date.

Webinar: Virginia Minor, Early Suffragette
Thursday, 2 April 2020, 11:00 a.m. (Central Time)

The Show Me Missouri Speakers Bureau presents Sandy Davidson speaking about "Not So Minor: Supreme Court Denies Women's Right to Vote." Virginia Minor was an early suffragette from St. Louis, pre-dating Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton. She sued for the right to vote in 1872, a case that went to the Supreme Court, which upheld that Missouri law did not permit women to vote. When she died in 1894, the situation had not changed. Sponsored by the Missouri Humanities Council and the State Historical Society of Missouri (SHSMO), this lecture is free but pre-registration is required. If you are interested, you can register on the SHSMO website.

Online Classes at FamilySearch

FamilySearch, one of the major online players in family history research, offers dozens of free instructional videos. The FamilySearch wiki is filled with videos narrated by experienced genealogists. You can watch at your leisure, stopping and starting as you like. You might want to start with "FamilySearch Research Wiki: What It Can Do For You!" an overview of the wiki, one of the most unheralded but valuable resources online. If you are new to FamilySearch, be sure to watch "Tips and Tricks Using FamilySearch Historical Records Collection." This video will help you navigate the vast FamilySearch collection.

Note that both these and other videos in the wiki bear a caution against using Firefox for viewing; however, both videos ran just fine in the newest version of Firefox so maybe the trouble is with older versions. Note, too, that if you scroll beneath the videos, you will see that you have the option to download both the video and handout material to your own computer. At the bottom of each screen is a list of more videos with related content.

If you are doing region-specific genealogy, you will be excited to see the wiki page with a list of countries on which there are instructional videos available.

As you can see, if you click "show" at the end of each line of black text, there are multiple classes with handouts for many countries. At the bottom of the list are also entries for North and South America. And at the top of the page are more general webinars and past research seminars (2016, 2017, and 2018 are currently available.)

If you want to see all the offerings in one spot, check out the "Classes in the Learning Center" page. Here you will find more than 2,000 videos, although not all are in English.

This is just the tip of the iceberg. Search for genealogy videos on YouTube and you will find  hundreds. CyndisList also can steer you to many more. Have fun and remember that you do occasionally have to get up and stretch!

23 March 2020

StLGS and the Current COVID-19 Situation

Having cancelled our planned events for March through May, and, like all of you, unsure of how long we will have to shelter in place, the St. Louis Genealogical Society social media committee has been working to speed up the process of bringing you genealogy lectures and classes digitally. We had been exploring options before the coronavirus appeared, but we are now moving ahead a lot more quickly. As you will see below, however, this process will still take a bit of time.

What are we planning?

Our first priority is learning to use popular webinar software and getting a process in place to offer lectures online that can be both fee-based and free—free to members (like our classes), and, when appropriate, fee-based views (like our Family History Conference and Speaker Series.) While we were still able to meet last week, the social media committee began to develop this process, which will likely begin with a simple one-hour meeting sometime in the near future.

In addition, we are planning a virtual Family History Conference to replace the full-day in-person conference that had been scheduled for Saturday, 4 April. Members of the social media committee obtained willingness from the conference speakers to participate, and now we are moving ahead with the behind-the-scenes parts: contracts, payments, details of registration, etc. There are many steps we must take, but we are working on them diligently.

What can you do?

You can help us!
  1. Last week, we emailed a letter to members asking how you want to handle your registration fee, if you have already registered for the Family History Conference. If you haven't already responded to that email, please will you do so? Can't find the original email? Send a note to publications@stlgs.org and we'll send you another copy.
  2. Check our website (www.stlgs.org), our Facebook group (www.facebook.com/groups/76633518155), and/or our Twitter account (www.twitter.com/stlgs) periodically so you are up to date on progress. We want to stay connected with you so you will be aware of what is happening.
  3. If you have genealogy friends that are not getting this blog or are not using social media, encourage them to do so.
  4. If you have any questions, please send them via the StLGS Facebook group or Twitter account, or send an email to programs@stlgs.org so we can answer them for you.
  5. Most of all, we are pleased to say that exciting things are coming, and we appreciate your patience! Stay tuned!

16 March 2020

Celebrating a Pirate Queen and Calling for Your Biographies

March is National Women's History Month and St. Patrick's Day is just a day away, so this week we will celebrate the life of a remarkable woman of Irish heritage. Be thinking about those amazing women in your own family and how you can capture their stories as we examine the life of someone you may not know.

Have you heard of Grace O'Malley, "the notorious Pirate Queen of western Ireland"? Not surprising if you haven't as most Americans know nothing about Grace, but she was formidable! In the west of Ireland, in a remote, romantic spot on Achill Island, is the windblown stone tower called Grace O'Malley's Castle. It was here that this writer first learned about Grace, and her story is astonishing.

Born around 1530 into a family known for piracy and ruthlessness, when she was about twelve, Gráinne ni Mhaille, the only girl, was eager to travel with her father to Spain. Her mother refused to let her go, so Gráinne shaved her head and disguised herself as a boy, earning her a nickname she would carry for life. The Irish name Gráinne translates to Grace and Mhaol means bald, so she became Granuaile, pronounced "graw-nya-wail," or Bald Grace.

For years, she worked with her father, learning to be a sea trader, raider, and captain, as well as a diplomat and a great leader. She married twice, the first time at just fifteen, and had three children before her husband died in battle. His death left Granuaile, then twenty-three years old, in possession of a castle and numerous fighting ships. Her second husband owned Rockfleet Castle on Clew Bay near Newport. She stayed with him long enough to bear him a son and then take both the castle and the baby from him by literally putting him out the door.

Grace O'Malley went on to be the undisputed warrior queen of the western Irish coastline. She fought numerous battles for territory on land, led pirate ships at sea, and went head to head with Queen Elizabeth I in Greenwich, England, where she refused to bow to the monarch, saying that she was a queen herself. According to legend, Grace carried a dagger to the meeting, saying it was for her own protection. The women negotiated in Latin, as Grace did not speak English and Elizabeth knew no Irish. They reached an agreement that Elizabeth would release Grace's sons and her half-brother, who were being held as hostages, and Grace would stop terrorizing English ships off the Irish coast and supporting Irish rebels against the English. (The graphic shows Grace standing on the left and Queen Elizabeth on the right. There are no known contemporary portraits of Grace O'Malley; this is an illustration from Anthologia Hibernica, volume 11, published in 1793.)

Grace lived into her seventies, dying in 1603 at Rockfleet Castle. She is the stuff of Irish legends to this day. You can read a lot more about Grace online and this is a good place to start.

 Women in Your Family

Your turn! Is there an interesting woman or two in your family whose story deserves to be told? What better time to sit down in front of your computer and start writing? And what to do with your biography once it's done? Share it, of course! Give copies to your family so they know their heritage. Is your female ancestor a St. Louisan? Then we welcome her story as part of our St. Louis City/County Biographies project. You can get all the details on our website.

09 March 2020

Updates to Orphanage Care in St. Louis: St. Bridget's Half-Orphan Asylum for Girls

(Thanks to StLGS treasurer, Viki Fagyal, for contributing this week's blog post.) 
Questions about orphans and orphanage care in St. Louis are among the most frequent inquiries we get from genealogy researchers at St. Louis Genealogical Society. If you are a member of the society, we have quite a bit of information to help you on this topic on our website. Log into the site and go to the orphanage home page to start learning about the various institutions in St. Louis. The orphanage page will also give you basic information on orphan trains and available records in St. Louis.

St. Bridget's Half Orphan Asylum for Girls

St. Bridget’s Half-Orphan Asylum for Girls was established in 1858 by the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet and was located on Lucas Avenue and Beaumont Street. The home served female half-orphans from five to twelve years old, who were placed by the surviving parent. Part of the founding mission of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet was St. Joseph Institute for the Deaf in St. Louis. This put the order in the unique position of being able to serve deaf orphans and half-orphans.

Of the ninety-nine white females between the ages of four and twenty-one listed in the 1870 census, twenty-five of the girls showed handicapping conditions: four were marked "idiotic," fifteen marked "deaf and dumb," one marked "deaf, dumb, and blind," two marked "blind," and three marked "mute." Of the ninety-four white females between the ages of ten months and nineteen years listed in the 1880 census, nine of the girls showed handicapping conditions: six were marked "deaf and dumb," two marked "idiotic," and one marked "disabled." This is remarkable because St. Bridget’s served a population not seen in the other orphanages.

The Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet gave permission for the St. Louis Genealogical Society to place a list on our website of deaf children cared for and taught at St. Bridget’s. The data includes their names, birth places, parents’ names, when they left the asylum, and sometimes some additional information. This list can now be found at the top right of the Orphanages page on our website in the box labeled "More Orphanage Information." You can also go directly to it here, once you are logged into the site.

There is little history available for St. Bridget’s Half Orphan Asylum for Girls. In 1866 it was placed under the control of the Board of Managers of the Roman Catholic Orphan Asylums of St. Louis. The archives of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet deals only with the sisters; they do not have student records. The St. Louis Archdiocesan Archives does not have records for St. Bridget’s Half Orphan Asylum for Girls either.

More on St. Louis Orphanages

The StLGS website includes a bibliography of orphanage histories and articles, a finding aid for locating orphanages in the 1850 through 1940 censuses, a timeline of the locations for each orphanage through all their moves, and an Index to the Journal of Commitments for the House of Refuge.

The most comprehensive resource for St. Louis orphanages is Researching Orphans and Orphanage Care in St. Louis, written by Viki Fagyal ($13 members/$15 nonmembers), and available in our society's store. Don't forget to log in and get your member coupon code for the lower price.

02 March 2020

March Genealogy Meetings, Classes, and Special Events

Spring is in the air, and now that the weather shows signs of brightening up, March is crammed with all kinds of exciting genealogy events. In addition, there are many conferences and workshops coming up in the next few months. So, prepare yourself to keep busy doing your favorite hobby and grab your calendar!

Upcoming Meetings

StLGS Monthly Meeting: Saturday, 14 March 2020
"More Than Checkmarks: Finding Female Ancestors," by Jake Eubanks, St. Louis County Library Headquarters Auditorium, 10:00 a.m.; free, open to all, no pre-registration needed. More information available on the StLGS website.
Cliff Cave Library Genealogy Presentation: Wednesday, 4 March 2020
"Researching in Alsace and Lorraine," by Dan Lilienkamp, St. Louis County Library Cliff Cave Branch, 6:30 p.m.; free, open to all, no pre-registration needed. More information available on the library's website. 

St. Clair County (Illinois) Genealogical Society Monthly Meeting: Thursday, 5 March 2020
"Introduction to DNA Testing for Genealogy," by Bob McDonald, St. Luke's Parish Hall, 226 N. Church Street, Belleville, 7:00 p.m.; free, open to all, no pre-registration needed. More information available on the group's website.
Czech Genealogical Researchers Monthly Meeting: Saturday, 21 March 2020
"The Irish in Bohemia," by Mary Petersen, St. Louis County Library Headquarters, East Room, 1:30 p.m.; free, open to all, no pre-registration needed. More information available on the group's website.
Upcoming StLGS Classes
  • "Legacy Family Tree 101" (PC only) by Cathy Amen, Saturday, 21 March 2020
  • "Intermediate Irish Research," by Carol Hemmersmeier & Kay Weber; Saturday, 28 March 2020
Classes are held at the StLGS Office from 1:00 p.m. until 3:00 p.m. Free to StLGS members; fee for non-members; pre-registration required at 314-647-8547.

 More information on these and more StLGS classes on our website.

StLGS German Special Interest Group Meeting

"German Genealogy: What Do You Need to Know?" by Carol Whitton, CG, German SIG leader; Wednesday, 25 March 2020, St. Louis County Library Headquarters Auditorium, 7:00 p.m.; free, open to all, no pre-registration needed. Click here for more information.


March Classes at St. Louis County Library

  • 5 March: "Exploring the Ancestry Database," Thornhill
  • 10 March: "FamilySearch Basics," Florissant Valley
  • 11 March: "Family History Online: Databases for Genealogical Research," Rock Road
  • 17 March: "History and Genealogy in Newspapers," Sachs
  • 18 March: "Library Skills for Genealogical Research," Natural Bridge
  • 19 March: "Discovering Ancestral Military Veterans," Weber Road
  • 26 March: "Finding Ancestors in U.S. Census Records," Headquarters
  • 31 March: "Who Were My Ancestors? Beginning Family History Research," Meramec Valley
All library classes are free but require pre-registration. More information available on the library's website.
Upcoming Special Events

"That Fabulous Summer" (1904 World's Fair)
Lecture and film at the Missouri History Museum, Sunday, 8 March 2020,
Lee Auditorium, 2:00 p.m. Free; no pre-registration required.

The museum is also sponsoring several classes this month with St. Louis Community College that are historical/genealogical in content. Specific details are on the museum's website.

Tours at Bellefontaine Cemetery
Celebrate Women's History Month and the coming of spring by taking a walking or a trolley tour at Bellefontaine. Tours are planned throughout the month of March. More information in the March Events Calendar on Bellefontaine's website.

  StLGS Trivia Night: Saturday, 7 March 2020
Richmond Heights Community Center, 8001 Dale Avenue (just south of I-64 between Hanley and Big Bend); doors open at 6:15 p.m.; questions begin at 7:00 p.m.
Questions on all topics. We'll provide snacks, fun, and an awesome silent auction!
Check out our website for more information and/or to register.


48th Annual Family History Conference
Proof Positive . . . Evidence in Court Records

Featuring Judy Russell, JD, CG, CGL
AND John Dougan, Missouri State Archivist
Local speakers, Exhibitors, Prizes and Raffles, and More!
Saturday, 4 April 2020
Orlando Gardens, 2050 Dorsett Road, St. Louis, MO 63043
Registration and complete program information
 on the StLGS website.


24 February 2020

The Great Influenza Pandemic of 1918–1919

The newly discovered coronavirus has struck in the middle of the 2019/2020 influenza season and perhaps is taking over center stage at the moment. The sudden appearance and mobility of an unknown disease has many similarities with what is probably the best-known health crisis in the last century, and that is the great influenza outbreak following World War I. This world-wide event (a pandemic) was responsible for the deaths of about fifty million people, far more than were killed during the war, and has been described as having the highest mortality rate of any single pandemic in human history.

Influenza (Also called Flu or la Grippe)

Influenza has been known to humans since the twelfth century when an epidemic spread through Europe in 1173. The disease wasn't named, however, until the eighteenth century, when scientists in Italy assumed that only some heavenly "influence" could strike down so many people in so many locations at one time. Of course, they had no knowledge then of what caused most illnesses; in fact, in the early 1890s, a German doctor declared that he had identified the bacteria that caused the flu. He was wrong, however, since flu is caused by a virus.

The flu is a respiratory infection (there really is no such thing as the "stomach flu," although we hear people say they have it all the time!). The virus, like the common cold, is spread from person to person by coughing, sneezing, or touching infected objects. In early epidemics in Europe, the flu was mostly just an inconvenience. Seldom did people die from it, and those who did, for the most part, were elderly or already suffering from other ailments. It is only when the influenza virus began mutating into more potent forms, as viruses do, that the disease became fatal to a wider population.

The Pandemic of 1918 (Also called the Spanish Flu)

The outbreak after World War I was called the Spanish flu because the Spanish did not censor reporting about the spread of the disease while other countries were keeping it under wraps. However, we know now that the virus did not begin in Spain at all. Wherever it did begin (which is still uncertain), the virus spread quickly and widely because of troop movements at the end of the war. Unlike previous strains of influenza, this one attacked everyone and was most devastating to young people who appeared to be perfectly healthy. Within a year, the disease had reached every country on the planet and affected almost every household in some way. Unlike previous incarnations of flu, this variety was a killer. It often led to bacterial pneumonia (and there were no antibiotics until almost thirty years later) and sometimes, and most horribly, developed a symptom called "heliotrope cyanosis," in which the lungs filled with fluid and the patient died of lack of oxygen, their bodies turning blue or purple before they passed away.

Efforts to prevent the flu from spreading were widespread, but, as we are seeing with today's coronavirus, not effective enough, and, of course, there were no vaccines or adequate medical treatments.

Implications for Genealogists

Did you have relatives who died between 1918 and 1920? Have you looked at the cause of death on their death certificates or in their obituaries? Were they young and in good health but died suddenly? It is very likely that your family was affected by the great pandemic. Look for death by pneumonia, death by "la Grippe," or other respiratory infections as clues that your relative was a victim of this disease. Here are two examples. As you can see, influenza in both cases led to respiratory infections. Homer, age 36, died of pneumonia just nine days after contracting the flu, and Mary, age 66, died of bronchitis six weeks after she was taken ill.

Want to read more about the 1918 pandemic? The Center for Disease Control's website has an excellent history of the spread of the disease, including a timeline. The Smithsonian Magazine's website also has a good article. And don't forget, it's still not too late to get a flu shot, if you haven't already done so!

17 February 2020

Reclaim the Records: A Genealogy Group Worth Knowing About

They call themselves "your favorite little non-profit organization that picks fights with government
agencies, archives, and libraries for better public access to genealogical records and historical materials." But, far from being "little," Reclaim the Records has become a powerhouse of behind-the-scenes legal activity that is bringing long-suppressed indexes and records to the waiting hands of eager genealogists.

Although birth, death, and marriage indexes are supposed to be open and available, the reality is that many governmental agencies have taken it upon themselves to block access to them.  Privacy laws restrict access to actual records in all states, but the indexes to the records are not liable to the same restrictions. They are just indexes, and, according to the Freedom of Information laws, they should be open to the public.

Genealogist Brooke Schreier Ganz began the fight to win back records from New York City in 2015, and Reclaim the Records achieved its registered non-profit status two years later. Like St. Louis Genealogical Society, Brooke and her eight-member board of directors are all volunteers; they have no paid staff and rely on generous donations and helpers to move them forward. In the short time they have been active, they have filed Freedom of Information Act (FOI) lawsuits in multiple states (Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, New Jersey, New York, Washington, and Wyoming to date) and have managed to win access to millions of records. In spite of massive push back from governmental agencies, they have successfully negotiated the courts and released previously unavailable data online for free. They have gone to battle with few resources and won all of us the right to view marriage, birth, and death indexes that were previously off limits.

You can benefit from their hard work by going to the group's website. Their home page features a list of current lawsuits and record requests. Each of the record requests explains what was asked for and the current state of legislation. More importantly, each of the request graphics is a link to the status of the specific lawsuit. If the suit has been settled, the actual indexes will be posted there. You may be interested to note that litigation is in progress to open the Missouri birth index, for which the state tried to charge $1.5 million dollars! You can read more about that here. If your ancestors came from any of the states that are in the position of withholding access to records, the site invites you to take a records survey and let them know what records you have interest in. (NOTE: They have no jurisdiction over adoption or cemetery records, as those are private and not within FOI boundaries.)

What Else?
While you are on the site, you can sign up to receive their free newsletter so you will know what legislation is pending and be alerted when new records come online. If you want direct access to the records, they are all posted on the Internet Archive, although you will have to search for them individually. And, of course, as a small non-profit doing expensive work on our behalf, Reclaim the Records will gladly accept donations.

10 February 2020

Trivia Night Silent Auction Baskets: Filled with Goodies and Ready for You!

St. Louis Genealogical Society’s eleventh annual Trivia Night is rapidly approaching, and we hope you can join us for a few hours of brain teasers and good cheer on Saturday, 7 March 2020 at the Richmond Heights Community Center. This event is one of the society's major fundraisers, a fun-filled evening with ten rounds of questions, from easy to challenging, on a wide variety of topics, plus other favorites like 50-50 and Dead or Alive.

One of the highlights of this special evening is our silent auction, a win-win situation for both you and the St. Louis Genealogical Society. Each year, the Trivia Night committee fashions beautiful baskets filled with donations from individual members and generous local businesses. The society benefits from these gifts and you win if you make a lucky bid and get some treasure at a bargain rate.

Two weeks ago in this blog, we featured some of the outstanding artwork donated by StLGS members and friends. This week, we highlight just a few of the twenty fantastic baskets included in this year's silent auction.

Cold Drinks

This basket is just one of the many we have for you featuring wine and accessories. Valued at $110 and donated by Jane Theissen, the basket contains all you need for a lovely evening with friends. Two bottles of delicious wine, a cork trivet, canapé plates, and small spreader knives are included, all you need to supply is the good cheer.

Hawaiian Vacation

Ready to get away from the cold? This charming basket is filled with Hawaiian-inspired delights. Donated by Trish Gormley and valued at $50, the basket has a decidedly Tropical theme: lip balm, kitchen accessories, a coconut bra, and a flip-flop flyswatter! Pure fun!

Unplugged Game Night

One of two baskets filled with toys you can enjoy without electricity, this basket, valued at $100 and donated by Jackie Sanderson, will make you nostalgic for your childhood. In it you will find the classic game of Sorry, checkers, jigsaw puzzles, marbles, and more for you and the young ones in your life to enjoy in front of the fireplace on a cold winter's evening, even if the power is out!

Mickey and Minnie, Anyone?

For the Disney lover in your family, Mary Alice Gallagher has donated this little basket filled with Mickey and Minnie Mouse items. Valued at $56, it is certainly what some toddler in your family is waiting for you to bring home!

Purr-fect Gift for Cat Lovers

Here is just the thing for the cat lover in your life (or maybe you?). Inside, you will find holiday-themed kitchen towels, socks, a mug, and other cat-lovers' items. Donated by Jackie Sanderson and valued at $100, this basket is far too purr-fect to leave behind.

And for Bird Lovers . . .

Not a basket but a beautiful ceramic serving plate made by StLGS vice-president for membership, Michelle Pearce. Michelle was inspired by American wildlife artist, Charley Harper, whose beautiful, minimalist bird drawings are known world-wide. Michelle's plate is about ten inches in diameter and is completely food (but not dishwasher) safe. It is valued at about $45.

These are just a sampling of what is coming up. In addition to the baskets, we also have a membership to the St. Louis Art Museum, tickets to an assortment of plays, the St. Louis Symphony, and, of course lots of sports, including Blues and Cardinals games. And, as always, there are gift certificates to local restaurants and businesses and the Waterway 3-Month Clean Car Club, Blue Level with a value of $120.

Trivia Night Information

Are you excited yet? Trivia Night is Saturday, 7 March, at the Richmond Heights Community Center, a half-block south of Highway 40/Interstate 64, just east of Hanley, at 8001 Dale Avenue. There are still tables and individual seats available. You can register online on our website and get driving directions on the site, too. Go to https://stlgs.org/events/trivia-night for everything you need to get you there. We look forward to seeing you and appreciate your continued support.