One quick note for those of you who may be interested in a bus trip to the
Sutro Library in San Francisco -- the last scheduled trip is set for Wednesday,
October 26. There may still be a few seats available -- call Sharon Bias for
details at (916) 481-4413 (work number) or e-mail her at sgbelverta@...
Cost is $30 and the bus has several pick-up locations. The trip is organized
by the Genealogical Association of Sacramento (GAS) and several of our
members have taken advantage of the bus trip to do research at the Sutro Library.
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October 15, 2005 Meeting Notes:
The meeting was called to order by President Mark Heckman, who asked
treasurer Allan Bonderoff to give us an update. Allan said we have $830.85 in our
account. Allan also mentioned that the Einstein Center is looking for volunteers
to staff "The Eatery" for residents on Monday and Thursday. Volunteers would
make and sell sandwiches and other items from 8:30 to 1 p.m.
Vice President Burt Hecht talked about upcoming programs. Our November
meeting will be the first of the Sunday morning meetings for the year, on Sunday,
November 20 at 10 a.m. The program will feature Stuart Tower, author of the
"Wayfayers." This historical novel about the trek of the "fusgeyers" is under
consideration for a future motion picture.
On Sunday, December 18, Dr. Steve Morse will return to discuss his one-step
approach to New York census data from 1905, 1915 and 1925.
On Sunday, January 22, Joyce Buckland will focus on the British and Canadian
censuses, and on Sunday, February 19, Barbara Leak will talk about the “
GenSmarts” genealogy software. On Sunday, March 19, our members will discuss
problems and solutions they've come across in doing their own research.
December speaker Steve Morse will also be speaking locally on November 9 at 7
p.m. at the Root Cellar meeting in Citrus Heights. He will provide an
overview of his one-step research tools. For details, check www.rootcellar.org
Art Yates noted that for those doing Canadian research, the 1911 census is
online, but it is not indexed and the quality of the online material is not
good. See www.collectionscanda.ca/archianet/1911. Art noted that people in
Canada now have the option of indicating whether they want their data released
for the next census. Records are currently released every 92 years.
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Our October program featured John Powell, a professional genealogist with
Brandenburger and Davis, a 73-year-old international probate research firm which
locates missing heirs. John focused his talk on the value of city
directories, an essential resource for his work. From the directories, his emphasis is
on researching forward, year by year.
John said around 1870 the R.L. Polk Company began compiling lists of
businesses in any given area on a yearly basis well into the 20th century. John
stressed the value of the information in the directories as a vital source for
filling in the blanks between censuses which come out only every 10 years. "These
books will help you get back on track if you get stuck and can't find
someone," John said.
For smaller communities, the directories were published as late as the 1960s;
for big cities like New York, they stopped making books in 1933. In Chicago,
the last listing was 1928-29, and for Los Angeles, 1942. However, books for
suburbs may still have been published.
If the city you're looking for is on a border, you may want to check nearby
cities. For example, Youngstown, Ohio, is on the border of Pennsylvania -- it
was easy for families to cross the border for work or residences.
John said in the front of the book were abbreviations important to your
research: --- h was for householder, who was running the household; r was for
roomer, boarder, could be a son or daughter living with parents; an o with a
circle meant that person owned the home. For those who owned their homes, that is
a clue that there was likely a deed to the property or estate papers -- a
potential source of more information.
In the back of each book were reverse listings, by address -- often a source
of different spellings of names or other details.
The directories also have listings that may include who is getting married,
who is a widow, who may have moved in the last year, and to what city, dates of
death, etc. Also this can be valuable information to a researcher, who may
not expect to find it there.
"Go slow," John cautioned -- "in fact, when you're done, go back and do it
again," to make sure you haven't missed something the first time. And each year
has different information you can obtain.
John said a lot of the information contained in the directories preceded
telephone books. In fact, for people who had telephones in the early days, there
was often a bell placed next to their name. Later editions had phone number
The first rule of genealogy, John said, is to start with what you know. If
the person went through Ellis Island, perhaps their record includes a mention
of what city they were going to.
"We're tracing the family forward, not backward," John said. "We're using
these books to get to the next vital record."
But even for professional researchers, there are roadblocks. "Even for us,
to do New York City research is brutal," John said. "It's the hardest place in
the world to do research."
John said some of the city directories are online through Ancestry.com,
others are listed on Cyndi's List and other sites. Some are available at city
libraries, libraries such as the Sutro Library in San Francisco, and by order
through Family History Centers. The Family History Library in Salt Lake City has
the largest collection in the world. The Allen County Public Library in Fort
Wayne, Indiana, has some 30,000 volumes, including from the 1960s to present.
The American Antiquarian Society in Worcester, MA has a large collection of
directories prior to the 1870s. The Library of Congress in Washington, D.C.
has about 700 American cities in their collection and some international books.
The Newberry Library in Chicago has a large collection of pre-1930 city
directories from across the country.
"Use the clues in the city directories to access estate papers, death
certificates, and other records to put the pieces together," John said.
"And through these directories, you can also take a microscope to your family
and add some color, learning about their occupations, where they lived, and
other details," John said. "And you can find out a little more about life in
that particular year -- what people wore, transportation, the types of
businesses, and more."
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