Celebrating the 2nd War for Independence

While celebrating Independence Day this weekend, think about not only the American Revolution but also the 2nd War for Independence: the War of 1812.

Although England agreed to withdraw her troops as a condition of the Treaty of Paris (ending the American Revolution), British troops remained in territory claimed by the United States. Most were positioned near and around the Great Lakes, in places such as Detroit and present-day Mackinaw City, Michigan. The Shawnee leader Tecumseh was successful in forging a pan-Indian confederation which worked with the British against the Americans. War was finally declared in 1812.

Ohio was key in the War of 1812. Not only was it the site of the pivotal American victory in the Battle of Lake Erie, but she also supplied numerous troops to aid the U.S. effort.

Surprisingly, the National Archives has never microfilmed the War of 1812 pension files. They are among the most-often requested records, with approximately 3,000 of them requested every year.

Preserve the PensionsRecently, the Federation of Genealogical Societies (FGS) announced a program — Preserve the Pensions! — which seeks to raise $3.7 million to digitize these 7.2 million pages. The files have been prepared and the digital cameras are ready to roll. The only thing the National Archives needs is the funding.

You can help. Each dollar donated to Preserve the Pensions will digitize two pages of War of 1812 pension files. Further, FGS has reached an agreement with the National Archives so that the digitized images will be freely available on the Internet — not “trapped” in a website that you need to pay for.

So as you’re celebrating Independence Day, celebrate both of the wars for Independence and consider making a tax-deductible donation to Preserve the Pensions.

Our Military Heritage – An Update

You are probably familiar with the fantastic genealogical collection at the Allen County Public Library in Fort Wayne, Indiana. What you might not be familiar with is their growing collection of databases available on their website.

One section of the website is “Our Military Heritage,” which is a collection of digitized books, photographs, letters, diaries…  anything that pertains to military service. There are resources for military engagements from the colonial wars all the way through the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. I’ve written about this collection before, but my how it has grown!

The World War II collection has some fascinating resources, including four large collections of letters. “Another Side of War: Soldiers Letters to Miss Ann Adang” includes digitized images of the hundreds of letters sent by twelve soldiers to Ann Adang of Fort Wayne. It is very interesting to read the similarities and differences of the soldiers and sailors from different backgrounds serving in different parts of the world. “Letters of Glenn and Ellen Baker and Letters from Home, World War II” includes the letters exchanged between a husband and wife separated by war.

There is an extensive Civil War section, including unit histories, GAR publications, and pension/service records. One of my favorite resources on this site is Woman’s Work in the Civil War: A Record of Heroism, Patriotism and Patience. (In the interest of full disclosure, I should point out that a copy of my senior honors thesis “With Diplomas of Patriotism: African American Civil War Veterans in Ohio” is also available on this site.)

Some of the resources are quite lengthy, while others, such as the WWI military record of Nicholas J. Martin, are a single page.

Printed materials have been run through an OCR program and are full text searchable.

A Way to Honor Your Military Ancestors

The Genealogy Center at the Allen County Public Library offers you the opportunity not only to research your military ancestors, but also to share your military resources. If you would like to contribute letters to and from service personnel, diaries of military ancestors, copies of pension and service records, pictures of medals and citations, discharge papers, military burials and the like, please contact Curt Witcher [CWitcher@ACPL.Info or 260.421.1226] or simply send digital copies of the military documents (scanned at 300 dpi) to:
The Genealogy Center, Attn.: Curt Witcher, Allen County Public Library, 900 Library Plaza, Ft.Wayne, IN 46802.

Tricking a Database into Giving Me What I Want

Tonight while I was on Flickr, I came across this photo of Leon L. Devall’s tombstone with the title “135 years old?” According to the tombstone, he died in 1934. Since he’s buried in Ohio, I decided to look for his death certificate in the digitized Ohio Death Certificates on pilot.familysearch.org. The collection covers 1908-1953, so he should be in there (presuming he died in Ohio, of course). The problem — I couldn’t find him.

I tried searching for Leon Devall. No luck. I tried Devall with a death date of 1934. Nothing. I tried to do a wildcard search for Leon D*l, but was told that the wildcard had to be the last character in the search string and there had to be at least 3 letters in front of it. I tried dev*, but still didn’t find what I was looking for.

Curiosity got the better of me, so I went to the Ohio Historical Society’s online death certificate index. It wouldn’t give me the image, but it was another place to check to see if he actually died in Ohio. I entered Leon Devall and found him — died in Franklin County, 7 September 1934. This index has a wonderful feature — it lists the certificate number. That number (54218) became the key I needed to trick the FamilySearch database.

The OHS death certificate index also has an advanced search. In the advanced search, I looked for certificate 54217 — which should be the certificate right before Leon’s — with a death in Franklin County. In 1934, certificate 54217 belonged to Ella Urban. It is important to pay attention to the year of death, as each year the numbering of the certificates begin again at 1.

So now I know that Ella Urban is on the certificate immediately preceding Leon Devall. Back to the FamilySearch database, except that this time I looked for Ella Urban. She was in the database, exactly where I expected her to be. I clicked on the image and then — here’s the trick — I clicked on the arrow to see the next image:

Ella Urban's death certificate. The red circle shows where I clicked to get the next image in the collection.

When I clicked on that — lo and behold — there was certificate # 54218 “Leon De Vall.” (Out of curiosity, I did another search in the FamilySearch database to see if I could figure out exactly how he was indexed. As it turns out, he was indexed exactly as his name appears on the death certificate — with a space between “De” and “Vall.”) It took a trick and a back-door approach, but I made the FamilySearch database give me what I wanted.

Leon De Vall death certificate, #54218 (1934), Ohio Death Certificate collection, digitized image, FamilySearch.org. Image downloaded 20 May 2010.

As for the original question posed on Flickr: no, he was not born in 1809. He was born in 1869 and died at the age of 64, not 135. :-)


The Ohio Historical Society has just launched a new website to raise awareness of Ohio’s role in the Civil War: OhioCivilWar150.org. The site features:

  • Digital collections, such as Ohio regimental battle flags
  • A timeline of Civil War events
  • News about upcoming events
  • Discussion forum
  • A section for teachers

I am looking forward to watching this site grow as we get closer to the sesquicentennial in 2011. (Is that really only a little more than a year away?!)

Lincoln Collection at the Allen County Public Library

Ever since the announcement that the documents from the Lincoln Collection at the former Lincoln Museum would move to the Allen County Public Library in Fort Wayne, I’ve been anxious to see just what treasures are in the collection. If the first round of digital images are any indication, the collection is beyond “cool.”

When the Lincoln Museum closed, the Lincoln Financial Foundation gave the artifacts to the Indiana State Museum and the records to the Allen County Public Library. Work has begun on digitizing the records and posting them online. The images that they’ve posted so far are rather tantalizing. My favorite is an undated note written by Lincoln: “Let Master Tad have a Navy sword. A. Lincoln”.

Although not part of the Lincoln Collection, the Genealogy Center at ACPL also has posted an image of a silk ribbon commemorating Lincoln’s death. As they note on the website, it is a rare glimpse into life in Fort Wayne at the time, as the newspapers from April 1865 have been lost.

A recent article in the Journal Gazette has some behind-the-scene photos and more detail about the Lincoln Collection at ACPL. It will be interesting to watch as more and more images are posted on the Lincoln Collection website.

Ohio Tax Records – Digitized and Online for Free

Some Ohio researchers are familiar with FamilySearch’s partnership with the Ohio Genealogical Society to index early Ohio tax records. After countless hundreds of hours of volunteer time, we are seeing the fruits of the labor! The tax records from 1816 – 1838 for Columbiana, Guernsey, Harrison and Jefferson counties are now on the site, fully indexed and linked to the digital image.

Go to http://pilot.familysearch.org, click on the map of the United States, then scroll down to “Ohio Tax Records, 1816-1838.”

Later today, I will work up some more screenshots showing how to navigate the site. Meanwhile, enjoy these early Ohio tax records!


Results for John Ramsey in the Ohio Tax Records on FamilySearch.org.

Results for John Ramsey in the Ohio Tax Records on FamilySearch.org.


Showing an early Ohio tax record on FamilySearch.org.

Showing an early Ohio tax record on FamilySearch.org.

Summit County, Ohio Probate Records to Go Online

This news was released today by FamilySearch and The Generations Network (owners of Ancestry.com). It will be wonderful for those with ancestors in Akron and Summit County.

Salt Lake City, Utah—Ancestry.com, FamilySearch, and the National Association of Government Archive and Records Administrators (NAGARA) announced on July 24, 2008, that Judge Bill Spicer and the Probate Division of the Summit County Common Pleas Court in Akron, Ohio, were awarded a 2008 grant for the digitization of Summit County marriage, birth, and death records. The court’s grant was one of only two awarded in 2008. This significant grant will make it possible for Summit County to digitally preserve and provide free online access to select historical documents.

The project targets 1840 to 1980 marriage records for over 550,000 individuals, birth records prior to 1908 for over 46,000 individuals, and death records prior to 1908 for over 22,000 individuals. A free, searchable name index linked to the digital images of the original records will be available to the public through the probate court’s Web site www.summitohioprobate.com and the grant partners’ sites.

“As a result of the grant, our Website, which was chosen as one of the 10 best in the country by the National College of Probate Judges, will now have the added distinction of being a model for the state and country for accessing historical court records,” said Judge Spicer. “Not only will it improve access, but by reducing the need to see the often-fragile originals, it will make the court’s job of preserving hundreds of thousands of original records easier. The project is a far-sighted and important effort in preserving local history. On behalf of the court and the citizens of Summit County, I thank the project sponsors for selecting Summit County Probate Court as its 2008 grant recipient.”

This is the first year that this national grant was offered. It is sponsored by Ancestry.com and FamilySearch and administered by NAGARA. Under the grant, FamilySearch will digitize the original documents on-site in the Summit County courthouse by the end of 2008, and Ancestry.com will create an electronic index linked to the images. The entire project is scheduled for completion in 2009. The commercial value of the grant is estimated to be $150,000.00.

Outside of this and similar business transactions, no legal or other affiliation exists between FamilySearch and The Generations Network.

More Records on FamilySearch

According to a press release today from FamilySearch, they’ve added to the records (both indices and images) to the pilot FamilySearch site (http://pilot.familysearch.org). For some time, they’ve had all of the images for the 1850 U.S. census (population schedule). Now the everyname index is 83% complete with the recent addition of Louisiana and Wisconsin. The indexed states are Arkansas, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Wisconsin and the District of Columbia.

They have also added to the available indexes for the 1850 slave schedules. All of the images for the slave schedules are available for browsing, even for the states that aren’t yet indexed.

It isn’t just U.S. researchers that are benefitting from FamilySearch’s efforts. Among their international records groups are new church records for Mexico, Norway and Spain.

This is such a wonderful time to be a genealogist!