Sunday, November 3, 2013

HCL's History Fair

One of my goals has been working on our family history, just going back a few generations, but really making those folks come alive.

I attended the 4th annual Hennepin County Library Family History Fair a week or so ago, hoping to get back in the groove, so to speak.  I learned some new things and it put me in the mood to start organizing and putting it all together.  Here are some highlights.

Using Religious Records in Genealogical Research with Trudi Campbell gave me ideas for looking at religious documents and records as a way to flesh a person out a bit.  Some of the ideas:

These records can substitute for Civil Records when you have gaps in information.  Perhaps someone wasn't a citizen right away but they got married or baptized a child. 

These records can be considered as primary sources of information and may have names of other family members you've been missing.  Think of birth and baptism, faith confirmation, marriage, death, church activities, vocations and ministries.

Check family Bibles for information, church bulletins, newsletters and membership directories.

Your ancestor may have lived in a rural area and they attended a church that was nearby, perhaps not of their chosen denomination.  Look at maps and directories of churches where you know or think they may have lived to locate their records.

Going Beyond Online Databases with Alice Eichholz

Get a map of the area where your ancestors lived.

Learn about the background and history of the area to get a feel for what life was like.

Write down everything you find and its source.

Gather official and original vital records for the whole family.

Get Census records for the whole family across as many years as possible.

Look at land, probate, court, church, cemetery, military, immigration records.

Do not rely on indexes or transcribed versions of documents, find the original.

Avoid skipping generations.

Make a chronology of the time and place.

Where did they live? Who else was in the neighborhood?

When you get stuck on a direct line of ancestry, look to collateral and allied families--aunts, uncles etc--usually someone is a chronicler of family history.

Look at histories/experiences of what immigrants would have gone through in their time.  What was the cost of a journey to America?  How long would the trip have taken?  What would the shipboard experience be like?  Could they read or write?  Note most were listed with the occupation of "laborer".

These were the sessions where I took the most notes.  I'm sure I'll go back next year. 


  1. We were fortunate enough to visit Sweden a few years ago, seeing the family of our former exchange student, Martin. Martin's father, Jolo, drove us to Smaland and put us in touch with a friend while we were there. I had the name and dates of my Swedish ancestors' migration and he took us around to 3 places they had lived AND printed out a family tree for us that goes back to 1715! My Polish husband said he almost felt Swedish, with all that history swirling around us.

  2. Wow, how cool is that! It would be nice to go someday to the places my ancestors lived. I think I will get as far as visiting where the Minnesota folks lived, in any case.