New Information in Genealogy

November 1st, 2010

The Indiana State Library has recently hosted two genealogy workshops.  This fall the Indiana Genealogy and Local History Fair had vendors selling county history books, introductions to county libraries, and genealogy supply vendors.  The best part, this year, were the three speakers. 

The first speaker, Marianne S. Wokeck, gave a presentation on “What Was in it for Women? The Role of Female Immigrants and Settlers.”  The second speaker, Dani Pfaff, gave a presentation called “Indiana Land Records: Not for the Faint of Heart.”  After lunch the third speaker, Andrew Kossack, spoke on “Access to Public Records Act Essentials.”

While the speakers were there to talk about genealogy, I found that most of their information would fit in with some of the courses taught here. 

Marianne Wokeck gave a look at historical insight into the immigrants coming to America in the 18th and 19th centuries.  Married women were “feme couvert”, meaning without persona.  During that time women had to answer to their father, husband or oldest son. They did not own land, make business deals, or run businesses.  But they did, it was just that they didn’t do it the way modern women do today.  They would write letters to Congress after their husbands had passed away, asking for their husband’s pension by saying she was poor or not literate enough to convey her needs.  Most women back then did not go beyond 5th or 6th grades; they had “women’s work” to do.  When their husbands went off to war they ran the farms, the businesses, and made deals, plus kept the home in order.  Even though they did not have the education of today’s women, they had very strong managerial skills.  When moving across the country the women had to make plans to carry three months of supplies (clothing, food, drink, medicines, and household goods).  How many of us could do that today?

Dani Pfall had what she called an “Indiana cold” and it was a little hard to hear what she was saying.  She discussed how to read the old maps of Indiana and how to follow a family’s progress through deeds and mortgage books.  She also explained why the counties in Indiana are mostly square, since they come from Congressional Townships.  She also showed some real neat web sites for maps.  One of the courses taught here is to follow a parallel line and name all the big cities on that parallel.  Here are a few web sites for maps or land patents:
Bureau of Land Management General Land Office records
http://www.glorecords.blm.gov/beta/search/default.aspx?searchTabIndex=0&searchByTypeIndex=0
Indiana Map, Indiana Geologist Survey
http://inmap.indiana.edu/viewer.htm
Historical state and county boundary maps
http://publications.newberry.org/ahcbp/

Andrew Kossack works as Indiana’s public access counselor.  His presentation was a real eye opener for me.  Not all records listed as “Public Records” are accessible to the public.  If a record was filed by a public agency it is classified as “Public Record.”  But there could be some confidential information in that record that is private for 75 years.  Even then, some information is not declassified.  When a record is requested that has some parts as classified, they mark out that part before supplying that record.  There is more to this eye opener and you can view the full requirements at http://www.in.gov/pac/ .  He also talked about being denied copies of public records.  They, the public agency, should put the reason for denial in writing.  The best information he gave for genealogists is to get the coroner’s report of the person you are searching for.  It has more information than a death certificate.

All three speakers could give a lecture in classes taught here at IU East.  Their information is not just for genealogists but for Women’s Studies, American History, Geology, or Political Science.