Category Archives: Genealogy and History Programs, Conferences and Webinars

What’s New at the NARA – United States National Archives and Records Administration?

Vicki’s note – mostly from the NARA site. 

Here is a NARA hint from our speaker Katherine Kemnitz, genealogist, from last weeks program on “Formating, Printing and Self-Publishing a Book”.

In her research on  NARA, Katherine noticed that she had a hard time finding her soldier ancestor Clem.  She discovered that between 1877 – 1900s that the NARA hired extra clerks to catalog all Revolutionary War and Civil War veterans.  The clerks would combine several soldiers of various names into one folder with one name, if those soldiers were only short -term enlistments, and only on one pay record.  The only way to see the other soldier’s (names/information) was if someone looked into the folder.

There are so many free tools and resources at NARA.  Click on the links.:

October 16, 2017

What’s New at the NARA – United States National Archives and Records Administration?

 

https://www.archives.gov/research/genealogy

What’s New?

National Archives Virtual Genealogy Fair

October 25, 2017

On Wednesday, October 25, the National Archives will host the fifth virtual Genealogy Fair via webcast. Viewers can participate with the presenters and other family historians during the live event on YouTube.

All of the session videos and handouts will be available from             this web page free of charge. You can watch the sessions and download the materials at your convenience.

Are you going to miss the live broadcast? We have you covered! The video broadcasts and the presentation materials will continue to be available after the live event.

NARA is hosting its 5th annual Virtual Genealogy Fair on October 25 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. ET. The fair will be broadcast live from YouTube.

The Genealogy Fair is NARA’s biggest genealogy event of the year and will feature sessions that offer advice on family history research for all skill levels.

The topics include:

– Federal government documents on birth, childhood, and death

-Recently recovered military personnel files

-Japanese Americans during World War II

-19th century tax assessments

-A special presentation on taking care of your family heirlooms

 

Can I start my family history research by typing a name in the search box?

Our search box will not help you find information on a specific person.  However, we have many tools and resources that can lead you to information about our holdings.  Many of our records have been digitized and are made available by our Digitization Partners.

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A Fun Photo Discovery

A Fun Photo Discovery

by Vicki Ruthe Hahn

SGS Stateline Genealogy Sorter

I was able to date (my 2 x Great Grandmother’s) Lucy Adams Leighty’s dress from researching and presenting my program several times on “Contemporary Fashion through the Decades – How to Identify Our Ancestors’ Timelines  by What They Wore, When”.   I am learning the time periods of some of the historic styles by sight.

Here is Lucy Adams Leighty’s 1897 dress:

Lucy Adams dress 1Lucy Adams dress 2Lucy Adams dress 3Lucy Adams dress 4

My sisters and brother have been working on a 600+ pages family photograph book; Chris is creating the book, all of us donated photographs, two of us (Melodie and I)  are editing and doing genealogy research (as fast as we can) to fill in gaps, and I have been writing family stories about our ancestors based on research.  So much for waiting until I semi-retire someday and have more time to do all that!  🙂
Greg, our third cousin from Pennsylvania, has been invaluable in donating old family photographs and filling in family history.  We connected due to an Ancestry.com DNA test match.
If the “book” is ever published on paper, we would have to split it into 2 books.  The cost would be about $1 per page through the program that my sister is using.  We may just print one copy and give everyone else a DVD or electronic version.  What a great way to preserve family history.  The very last revision needed from me was to write a story to go with these photos.
My niece Andrea had done research on this dress for her college costuming history class.  She had surmised that Lucy made the special dress for her own wedding (in 1867).  This is not the correct style for that time period.  And Andrea had put in examples of 1890s dresses. 
Hint – don’t let preconceived notions of family stories detract you from the evidence, “i.e. “This must have been Gt Gt Grandma’s (1867) wedding dress.”  Keep your mind open to see the possibilities.  Look for clues and pieces of the puzzle that fit together.
While writing this history story last night, I discovered the fun photo discovery:
I was right – the dress is from 1897!  Lucy sewed the dress for her to wear as mother-of-the-bride at her daughter’s wedding!
Lucy Adams (probably) beautifully sewed this dress herself.  It’s style of fitted sleeves with a small puffed upper “leg of mutton” is from about 1897, when Lucy would have been age 60.  She married William Smith Leighty on March 29, 1867. They had five children in 20 years. Lucy and her husband were farmers in Morgan, Ohio.
Lucy may have worn a small bustle with the dress, as the back is longer by about an 1 1/2 inches.  It has a one-piece fitted bodice with hook and eye closure, and full skirt which was a little less full than the style (as a cost savings?)  The special fabric – a print of white flower sprigs on dark blue/black,  and the black lace collar, indicate that she made it for a special occasion, probably her daughter Annetta’s wedding.
One of Lucy’s children was our paternal Great Grandmother Annetta Leighty Jewison.  Annetta married Charles Oscar Jewison on February 17, 1897, in McDonough, Illinois. They had three children during their marriage, including our paternal grandmother Muriel Helen Jewison Ruthe.
Great Great Grandma Lucy would have used this as a Sunday dress afterward.

How to Save Photographs that have been Water-Damaged

How to Save Photographs that have been Water-Damaged

Vicki’s note – a timely group of instructions from Flip Pal Scanner company.  If I bought one scanner, I would like to buy the Flip Pal for it’s many features and portability.

 There are many links to free classes and instructions on how to protect your photographs before a storm, and how to save your water-damaged photographs after the storm.  Read the entire article here.

Photos matter in the aftermath of disaster.

9-15-2017
With September being Save Your Photos Month and recent epic storms along the south of the US, the topic of preparedness is front and center yet again. The Flip-Pal team is committed helping people prepare for natural disasters and everyday accidents that could wipe out their photos.
Reserve your spot in one of five live webinars and take the steps to protect your photo collection and preserve your family history for generations to come.

This new mini-course called Working With Water Damaged Photos is presented by the Association for Personal Photo Organizers and Certified Personal Photo Organizer Kathy Stone of Calgary Photo Solutions who has first hand experience in dealing with flooded photos.

This mini-course is free and available to everyone. You can enroll at anytime and watch the course immediately. Also available is a Disaster Help Resource Guide with general photo recovery tips as well as local resources.

Happy Scanning!
The Flip-Pal team

Two Additional Genealogy Programs by Vicki Ruthe Hahn – Sept. 25 and Oct. 23, 2017 at NSLD, IL.

Two Additional Genealogy Programs by Vicki Ruthe Hahn –

Sept. 25 and Oct. 23, 2017 at NSLD, North Suburban Library District, Illinois:

These are both free 1 hour classes available to all.

NSLD/Loves Park

6340 N. Second St.

Loves Park, IL 61111

 

NSLD/Roscoe

5562 Clayton Circle

Roscoe, IL 61073

 

www.northsuburbanlibrarydistrict.org

Facebook.com/NorthSuburbanLibrary

 

“Family History for Beginners, and Detective Techniques for Experienced Genealogists”

Monday, September 25 from 2-3pm at NSLD Roscoe, Illinois

 

Effectively find the most that you can about your family history with hands-on exercises, and examples.  Be successful using basic genealogy research methods. Learn how to: search archives and on-line, record evidence, organize your genealogy, use timelines and “FAN” clubs, analyze records, and find missing clues based on what you know, etc.

 

 

Research Your Overseas Ancestors Without Going ‘Across the Pond’”

Monday, October 23 from 2-3 at NSLD Loves Park, Illinois

 

Learn how to find your immigrant ancestors’ information in U.S. records, in over-seas on-line genealogy databases, and in other, mostly-free, resources. How histories and maps help track their immigrations. What to do about language barriers. 

 

statelinegenealogyclub @ Beloit Public Library - Vicki RUTHE HAHN

Vicki Ruthe Hahn  – Public Services Librarian, Beloit Public Library, WI – BA and MLIS University of Illinois.  Blog creator of “StatelineGenealogyClub.Wordpress.com” 2014 ; founder of Stateline Genealogy Club @ Beloit Public Library 2012.  “Stateline Genealogy Sorter” SGS, with a background in Anthropology, History, clothing history, and teaching, she sorts out mysteries, rediscovers histories, weaves stories, and helps people with their family genealogy and local history,  specializing from Central Illinois to Central Wisconsin. 

 

Come be Irish with me at the Milwaukee Irish Fest 2017

On Saturday, AUGUST 19, 2017

I will be doing 2 genealogy presentations, and helping festival goers with genealogy.

 


Aug 17 – Aug 20 · Milwaukee Irish Fest · Milwaukee
Music · 5,601 people
Vicki Ruthe Hahn
Doing these presentations:
at 1pm “IrishAncestors.net
Irish Genealogy
irishancestors.net

and 4pm “What They Wore When”

⇓⇓

On Saturday, August 19,

I went to the Irish Fest, learned a lot about specific Irish genealogy research, and had fun presenting my two programs and helping others with their genealogy.

This is the largest Irish Fest, and well worth going.

My sister and I went to the “Board School” and learned that Scotland means “Land of the Irish”.  Lots of interconnection historically between Ireland and Scotland.  Reminds me a bit of the Stateline connections between Illinois and Wisconsin 🙂

I never saw so many people dressed in kilts or in green before!  Too busy to take many photos, except these:

 

2017 Irish Fest Celtic Cross2017 Irish Fest Milwaukee2017 Irish Fest Vicki Hahn speaker2017 Irish Fest Vick Hahn & Melodie Alvarez, Milwaukee WIVicki Ruthe Hahn and sister Melodie Alvarez in front of “our castle” – found at the Milwaukee Irish Fest.

Getting to Know William Graydon’s Family, and Me – Here’s the Punchline!

By Vicki Ruthe Hahn

8-11-2017″

Duhhhh! I forgot to tell you the punchline this morning.

Great questions on my Stateline Genealogy Club @ Beloit Public Library program today.

“Getting to Know William Graydon’s Family, and Me – a Study Showing Genealogy Research Methods and Regional Connections”.

The biggest Stateline/regional connections are these:

Major Jesse Meacham’s extended family (I think) is connected to the 1833 founding of the community West of Chicago – Meacham Grove, Illinois

(I believe that this is the “Chicago” that Major Jesse Meacham, and later, Elizabeth Lulu Booth visited before going to Troy WI.)

While Jesse Meacham went on to found Troy, Wisconsin (where William R Graydon’s family later moved),

Caleb Blodgett bought a farm/acreage in Meacham Grove, Illinois.

After a short while, Caleb Blodgett sold his Illinois land, and moved to Wisconsin.

The French trapper Joseph Thiebault (Tebo) was the first white man who came to the Beloit Wisconsin area in 1820.  He was married to two American Indian wives at the same time.

Stephen Mack was the first white settler (mid 1830s) in the Rockton Illinois area, and was married to Hononegah, a Native American woman from one of the surrounding tribes.  He founded Macktown, Illinois.

Tebo and Stephen Mack knew, and traded with each other.

Caleb Blodgett bought “three looks” of land in 1836 from Tebo, and founded what became Beloit, Wisconsin.

Caleb Blodgett knew, and traded with, Stephen Mack of Macktown Illinois (near Rockton).

 

And now you know (some of ) the rest of the story!

 

MCGS McHenry County Genealogical Conference 2017

MCGS McHenry County Genealogical Conference 2017

Vicki Ruthe Hahn, SGS Stateline Genealogy Sorter

July 10, 2017

An email I received after attending this one-day Conference last Saturday, July 8.

 MCGS
Dear Vicki,

Thank you for spending the day with us at McHenry County College!  We hope the conference was helpful to your research and that you had a great time connecting with other genealogists.

Hope to see you next year!

 Ξ

And my answer is – YES!  This is the third time that I went to this Conference.  It is only about an hour away from Beloit, and well worth your time.  They have fabulous, knowledgeable speakers, and the cost is $70, including lunch.

The McHenry County Illinois Genealogical Society’s 2017 Summer Conference was held on Saturday, July 8, 2017 at McHenry County College, 8900 Rt. 14, Crystal Lake, Illinois.

This year’s annual conference featured:

  • Mary M. Tedesco, host/genealogist on the PBS TV series Genealogy Roadshow, (seasons 2 &3).    Contact her through the ORIGINS ITALY website at www.originsitaly.com.                                                                                                        She gave lots of techniques for good, basic genealogy, and how to find the names and locations of origin for your ancestors from overseas.  I attended a second session that Mary gave on how to find your Italian ancestors.   Mary is every bit as knowledgeable and friendly as she appears on television.  I enjoyed getting to know her a bit.

Vicki Hahn and Mary Tedesco:2017, July 8 Mary Tedesco & Vicki Hahn WSCG Conference, McHenry County College, IL

  • Thomas MacEntee, creator of GeneaBloggers.com.                                                      I got to talk with Thomas, but had too many other sessions that I needed to hear.   I was not able to go to one given by him this year like I have other years.

 

  • Paul Milner, author, & specialist in British Isles & U.S. research.                                      He gave a session on how to find your Irish ancestors.

 

  • Michael Lacopo DVM, nationally known lecturer – adoption, emigration & immigration, and many ethnic groups.                                                                            He gave a session on how to find your German ancestors.

 

  • A variety of vendors with publications and genealogy supplies.

 

Each of the speakers gave us a one week course in one hour!   Soon, I will be condensing all of that information, (plus more that I have learned elsewhere), into one session on “Finding your Overseas Ancestors”.  Be looking for a program on “jumping the pond” in our Stateline Genealogy Club programs next year.

These topics came at a perfect time, as I am about ready to search outside of the United States.  I have learned from these experts that it is not an easy task, but they prepared me well (enough) to begin the search.

Several of them would lend professional assistance to you if you decide to hire an expert, or if you need a knowledgeable guide to help you in Europe.

Join me next year.

MCIGS 2018 SUMMER CONFERENCE

Saturday, July 7, 2018 SAVE THE DATE!

McHenry County Illinois Genealogical Society P.O. Box 184, Crystal Lake, Illinois 60014 www.mcigs.org email:mcigs@mcigs.org Phone:815/687-0436

“Scots-Irish” – What’s in a Name?

“Scots-Irish” – What’s in a Name?

Vicki’s note – now I know what the name “Scots-Irish”  means.  I will have to see if my ancestors are truly Scots who emigrated  to Ulster, Ireland vs the miscellaneous Scottish and Irish folks that I know about.

This Class from Family Tree University would be valuable to learn those fine points.  Course Runs: Jun 26th 2017 – Jul 21st 2017.

Instructor – Amanda Epperson

Amanda Epperson completed her Ph.D. in Scottish History at the University of Glasgow. In addition to teaching and freelance writing, she works as an Editor and Researcher at Genealogists.com.

 

What’s in a Name?
scots_irish

The term “Scots-Irish” isn’t anyone who happens to have both Irish and Scottish descendants. It refers to the Scottish people who moved into Ireland in the 17th Century in and around Ulster. Because there were two migrations – first from Scotland to Ireland, then from Ireland to the Americas, those tracing their ancestors back have unique challenges to contend with.

Research Your Scots-Irish Family History

Research Your Scots-Irish Family History

Trace Your Scots-Irish Ancestry Back to Ulster


The term “Scots-Irish” refers to the descendants of Scottish people who emigrated to Ulster in the seventeenth century to take advantage of economic opportunities. By the beginning of the eighteenth century, an estimated one-third of Ulster’s population was Scottish.

In this four week course, you will gain a basic understanding of the settlement of Ulster in the seventeenth century and the migration of the Ulster-Scots people to America in the seventeenth century. Descriptions of records and lists of websites will help you find many of the documents required to trace your Scots-Irish ancestors back to Ireland. You will also gain an appreciation for the challenges of Irish research. Review exercises and discussion prompts will encourage you to start your research and engage with your classmates.

What You’ll Learn

  • History of the settlement of Ulster and of Scots-Irish migration
  • How to identify Scots-Irish ancestors
  • Understand the limitations of Irish research
  • How to find Irish records
  • Techniques for scaling brick walls


Course Outline

Lesson 1: Ulster Scots: Gaining a Foundation

  1. Introduction
  2. Where is Ulster?
    Province of Ulster
    Northern Ireland
  3. Who are the Ulster Scots?
  4. Settlement of Ulster
  5. Migration to and from Ulster
  6. Cultural Differences in Ulster
  7. Review Exercises

Scots-Irish Genealogy Search Strategies

Lesson 2: Begin Your Research

  1. Why is Scots-Irish different than Irish or Scottish genealogy research?
  2. Do I have Scots-Irish Ancestors?
    6 different clues to Scots-Irish Heritage
  3. Working Backwards to Prove Your Scots-Irish Ancestry
    Getting Ready for Ulster Records
  4. Where to Find the Data You Need
    A study of 8 different sources
  5. Review Exercises

Lesson 3: Digging Deeper – Researching in Ulster

  1. Records in two Countries
    Northern Ireland
    Republic of Ireland
  2. Record Destruction and Irish Genealogy
    This section will explore both the 1922 fire and various difficulties of finding records, plus the resources that are available to research, including online collections.
  3. How Irish Records are Divided
    Unlike US records which can be at the state or county level, exploring Ulster’s records involves knowing the five different levels of records.
  4. Records for Ulster / Northern Ireland
    Familiarize yourself with 9 different types of records for Ulster and Northern Ireland.
  5. Where to Find the Records
  6. Review Exercises

Lesson 4: Challenges to Your Research

  1. Brick Walls and Dead Ends
  2. Cluster Genealogy
    What is it?
    Why is it necessary for Ulster genealogy?
  3. Exhausting Your Options
    Your records research doesn’t stop with online records – even if you can’t make a trip overseas, these 6 research strategies will help you find everything you can.
  4. Research in Scotland
    Explore the Scots in Scots-Irish.
  5. No Ulster or Scottish Connections? Read relevant histories.
  6. Re-evaluation and Analysis
    No research is complete without these 3 steps.
  7. Review Exercises

Note: this course is best for advanced beginners and intermediate-level family historians. It may require a longer time commitment than similar courses to complete the lessons and exercises.

Our courses are designed to be easily accessible! Once you’ve registered for the course, you’ll be able to log in on the start date of the session (midnight on Monday, US Mountain time) to see all the lessons. Each lesson is available within your browser and can be downloaded for future reference or offline access.

This is a four-week course made up primarily of written lessons, quizzes, and reading assignments. You can work at your own pace, but you should expect to devote at least a few hours to each lesson. While designed to be done one per week, some people like to work through all of the lessons at once, two at a time, or in bursts. There are no audio or visual elements within the primary lesson materials; however, some additional reading assignments may contain links to YouTube or other videos.

Some courses may have assignments you can also do with the instructor providing feedback. Others have additional reading and may be up to the individual instructor.

Additionally, there is a discussion board where you can interact with your instructor and fellow students. We encourage discussion, asking questions, and trying out what you’ve learned and sharing your results in the boards that go along with the lessons.

The format for this course is as follows:

  1. Orientation/Syllabus/Contact Us – How to navigate through the course structure, the discussion boards, etc.
  2. Lesson 1: Lesson, Reading/Assignment, Quizzes
  3. Lesson 2: Lesson, Reading/Assignment, Quizzes
  4. Lesson 3: Lesson, Reading/Assignment, Quizzes
  5. Lesson 4: Lesson, Reading/Assignment, Quizzes
  6. Library and Further Steps

The quizzes are automatically graded as you go through and there is a drop down menu where you can navigate throughout the course, going back to other lessons.


Stateline Travelers – Part 8 – A Stateline Celebration for 100 Year-old South Beloit, Illinois and Me

Stateline Travelers – Part  8  – A Stateline Celebration for 100 Year-old South Beloit, Illinois and Me

Part of an on-going series by

Vicki Ruthe Hahn, Stateline Genealogy Sorter.

June 24, 2017

 

South Beloit, Illinois will be celebrating 100 years this year.

Their Centennial Celebration will be August 24 – 27, 2017.

Sout Beloit 100

Beloit Wisconsin and South Beloit, Illinois have been linked for our entire history.

Next week the Beloit Public Library is opening their new coffee and food shop, “The Blender”.

I am welcoming South Beloiters to Beloit Public Library to visit “their” GEN Club and Coffee shop here in Beloit.

Opening the week of June 26, 2017

https://www.facebook.com/blendercafebeloit/#

Color Logo Grey Text

Blender interiorBlender sign

What a great place to go for a refreshing drink, smoothie, bakery snack, soup, sandwich, breakfast, lunch, or supper –  after doing genealogy at Beloit Public Library, after a Stateline Genealogy Club @ Beloit Public Library program.

12StatelineGenealogyClubLogo-lg(1)

…0r anytime.  I believe that the open hours of The Blender will be something like 7 a.m. – 7 p.m. Monday – Thursday; and 7 a.m. – 3 p.m. Friday and Saturday.

Maybe we can raise a “toast” to great collaborations between Beloit and South Beloit for another 100 years.

I was the Director of the South Beloit Public Library from 1991 – 1993.  Then I got a job as the Head of the Circulation Department at the Beloit Public Library, and I am still here, 24 years later, as the Public Services Librarian.

Catherine Hayes (at that time the former, former South Beloit Public Library Director) was the historian of South Beloit.  All historical knowledge stated here is from the book, “Our Golden History-South Beloit Illinois”, which is a non-copyrighted work by Catherine Hayes.  She wrote the book to inform the people South Beloit of their pre-incorporation roots for the Sesquicentennial.

Catherine and I had many friendly conversations, as she helped me learn how to be a library director, and taught me about the history of South Beloit –

“Always a City, never a Village!”

The South Beloit Centennial Committee is writing a new Centennial history book.

 

 

In 1818, the United States Congress told the people of the Territory of Illinois to form a state government.

A heated debate arose over the correct placement of the northern state line of Illinois.

If the old line of 1787 (Northwest Territory) were kept, Illinois would be much smaller than Wisconsin,

and Chicago would be in Wisconsin because Illinois would have no Lake Michigan shoreline.

A bill passed cutting 8,500sq. miles off of Wisconsin and adding it to Illinois, creating the current state line.

 

By 1838, the village of Turtle became Beloit.

South Beloit became the south part of Beloit.

 

Winnebago County voted in 1842 for annexation to Wisconsin.

However, the south had more people and out-voted the north.

So Winnebago County remained in Illinois.

 

They (south of Beloit) petitioned to become their own city in 1914.

In September 17, 1917, South Beloit became a city.

Hint – these are the newspapers from Rockford Illinois that would also cover South Beloit Illinois:
Winnebago – Rockford   Crusader                  1952 – 1971
Winnebago – Rockford   Morning Star          1961 – 1963
Winnebago – Rockford   Register Star           1988 – 2007
Winnebago – Rockford   Register-Republic  1952 – 1972
The Rockford Public Library should have these on microfilm.
You can contact them for a search if you cannot get there yourself.
We have the Beloit Daily News (in microfilm at Beloit Public Library, Wisconsin)
which also covers news for South Beloit Illinois.
South Beloit does not have their own newspaper that I know of.
We would be glad to look up local history for you, but Beloit Daily News is not indexed for all the years.
We would need to know which date – at least the month and year.
For requests, please send us more information to our Interlibrary loan email.
Or you can contact me at the BLOG email StatelinegenealogyClub@yahoo.com

Ellis Island, & other Top Heritage Museums & Genealogy Research Centers

Ellis Island, & other Top Heritage Museums & Genealogy Research Centers

Vicki’s Note – article from the July/August 2017 Family Tree Magazine.  We will be do an on-line “tour” of the Ellis Island Museum at our July 14, 2017 program 10 a.m. – 12 p.m. for Stateline Genealogy Club @ Beloit Public Library.

Ellis Island Immigration Museum, New York City – Peter Urban’s tour – how 12 million immigrants were processed there;  archival photos & films – immigrant experience. 

Here’s more information while you wait.  Lots of great museums in the U.S. to visit this summer, or in the future.  I think that my “Life List of Things and Places to Experience”  just got bigger.  (Doesn’t that sound nicer than “Bucket List”?)

cropped-a1

Top Heritage Museums and Genealogy Research Centers

6/2/2017

Set your sights on these 11 must-visit heritage museums where you can research your roots and walk in your ancestors’ shoes.

 

11 Must-See Heritage Museums for GenealogistsYou’ve probably devoted considerable time to discovering your ancestors’ origins. Just knowing the place they came from, however, is rarely enough. Genealogists also want to know how their ancestors lived, what they did for work, what they wore and ate, what their homes looked like. What you need is a resource that’s not only rich in genealogical information, but also shares the richness of your ancestors’ culture.

And if a relative’s specific place of origin yet proves elusive, learning the history of that heritage group may offer another research pathway, suggesting new records to try or offering clues in the lives of his countrymen.

Heritage centers and museums—usually located in places where people of a particular heritage settled together—cover nearly every ethnicity and cultural group. Whether your ancestors hail from Germany, India, Ireland, Japan, Sweden, Syria, Ghana, Mexico or elsewhere, there’s probably a museum that provides historical materials and a glimpse of that culture’s customs, history and people.

Some centers serve both as history museum and research destination, with manuscript collections, foreign-language newspapers, photographs, maps, local histories and more. They may offer genealogy workshops, translation help and research assistance.

Okage Sama De, the title of an exhibit at the Japanese Cultural Center of Hawai’i, translates to “I am what I am because of you.” That’s the crux of heritage museums’ significance: Exploring one rewards you with a better understanding of who your ancestors were—and thus, how you came to be who you are. Here, we highlight 11 of the best heritage museums in the United States, chosen for their genealogist-friendly research libraries, exhibits, tours, classes and community events. Use this guide as a springboard to similar organizations covering your family’s heritage.

American Italian Cultural Center

New Orleans  •  Immigrants from Sicily, who flooded New Orleans in the late 1800s, gave the Big Easy its famous muffaletta sandwich. You can still steep in your family’s Italian heritage here, in addition to starting your genealogy search. Genealogist Sal Serio conducts family history classes. The center also offers Italian language courses.Genealogists researching Italian roots can access special collections at the library, including books, magazines and Italian-language newspapers. “Vertical files,” Serio says, “are packed with information about businesses and benevolent societies, which are prolific in this part of the country.” Make an appointment with Serio for guidance to the right sources and help with translation.

The museum focuses on Italian immigrants to the Southeast, and Italians in jazz and sports. Don’t miss the nearby outdoor Piazza d’Italia, built by the city to honor its Italian heritage. You can play bocce ball, listen to a concert, watch traditional flag-throwers and attend wine tastings.

Balzekas Museum of Lithuanian Culture

Chicago • The genealogy department here holds newspapers, books, obituaries, annals, maps and other documents in a collection that spans most of Lithuania’s turbulent history, from the 13th century to 1940. Although you can’t research the collection yourself, staff provide in-depth consultation services to museum members. Nonmembers can take advantage of fee-based services including translation of old documents.

Lithuanian name spellings can vary, as can languages used in records. Pre-WWI documents, for example, are usually written in Russia’s Cyrillic script. Records also may be in Latin or Polish.Get to know the culture of your ancestors in the museum, says Karile Vaitikute, genealogy department director. “There are exhibits and a film that describe Lithuanian history, national costumes, Lithuanian art, agricultural items and even a small house,” she says. The museum also provides workshops and guided travel opportunities.

Courtesy of the Cherokee Heritage Center

Cherokee Heritage Center

Tahlequah, Okla. • Your admission to the Cherokee Heritage Center allows you access to the Trail of Tears exhibit, Diligwa (a 1710 Cherokee village), Adam’s Corner (an 1890s rural Oklahoma village) and Cherokee Family Research Center.Most visitors are new to genealogy. “They’re here primarily because they learned from a family story or legend that one of their ancestors is Cherokee,” says Gene Norris, the center’s genealogist. He recommends starting your research with three federally compiled rolls covering the Cherokee: the Dawes Final Roll, the Guion Miller Roll and the Baker Roll. The center’s website offers tips on getting started.

The library offers databases and records including government and private documents, photographs, posters, maps, architectural drawings, books, manuscripts and articles focusing on Cherokee history and culture. Staff researchers are available for hire.

Ellis Island National Museum of Immigration

New York, NY •  Ellis Island’s immigration museum tells the stories of arrivals before, during, and after Ellis Island processed immigrants (1892 to 1954). The Peopling of America Center, opened in 2015, shares the migration history of American Indians, slaves transported against their will, and Colonial- and Victorian-era immigrants.

The island’s American Immigrant Wall of Honor is inscribed with more than 700,000 names of immigrants through all ports.

If your ancestors came through Ellis Island, you can walk in their footsteps at the immigration museum, view the renowned Great Hall, and follow an audio tour through the immigrant experience as if you were a new arrival. A centerpiece is the American Family Immigration History Center passenger list archive. Now numbering 51 million names of passengers all the way up to 1954, the database is searchable both on-site and online; search results link to images of original manifests showing the immigrant’s name, age, last place of residence and more. You also can view images of immigrant passenger ships—maybe even your ancestor’s.

Historic Huguenot Street

New Paltz, NY • Huguenots were Protestants, largely from France, who left their homelands to escape religious persecution. Many settled in New York’s Hudson Valley, South Carolina and elsewhere along the East Coast. Their descendants include George Washington, the grandson of a Huguenot.

Start exploring this 10-acre museum at the Visitor Center, then head to any of seven historic stone houses, a reconstructed 1717 church, a burial ground dating to the earliest settlers, archaeological sites and more. The annual Gathering for Huguenot descendants includes history workshops that may open a door to your family tree.

“Historic Huguenot Street holds genealogies of the New Paltz patentees and associated families, transcriptions of church records, surname folders that include family trees, plus the archive of items such as letters, family Bibles, and estate records,” says spokesperson Kaitlin Gallucci. Access the research library on-site by appointment ($25) or send a research inquiry.

Irish American Heritage Center

Chicago • Nestled on Chicago’s northwest side, the Irish American Cultural Center houses a museum (open for tours by appointment) with artifacts including exquisite Irish lace, an art gallery, the Fifth Province pub, a theater, classrooms and a research library.

“This is the place to find out where you’re from,” says spokesperson Kathy O’Neill. You’ll find 25,000 books on Irish history and literature, newspapers, access to online databases, and other material. A limited-access archives section preserves documents, records and other rare and historic items. Family history classes take place once a month, or you can make an appointment with a staff researcher. Other classes cover Irish language, history and music. Celebrate your Irish heritage here with folk concerts, traditional céilí dances, festivals and storytelling.

Japanese Cultural Center of Hawai’i

Honolulu  • Those tracing Japanese roots, especially in Hawaii, will find a valuable resource here. “The center’s historical Okaga Sama De exhibit tells the story of Japanese immigration to Hawaii, from 1860 to statehood and beyond,” says Derrick Iwata, education and cultural specialist.

Visitors can tour the Honouliuli Education Center, which focuses on Japanese internment during World War II. Experience Japanese culture at one of the center’s festivals, including a New Year’s Ohana (Family) Festival on the second Sunday in January. Or come for the classes on martial arts and the Japanese tea ceremony (called chado, or the Way of Tea).

The center’s Tokioka Heritage Resource Center offers a wealth of material related to Japanese-American history, art and culture on Hawaii and the mainland. “Our library and archives has an assortment books and oral histories, as well as a number of directories which list Japanese residents in Hawaii,” says center manager Marcia Kemble. (Access the catalog here.) Staff can provide fee-based services such as translation, Japanese name consultation, and genealogical assistance, including help obtaining a family registry record, or koseki tohon, from Japan.

Museum of Jewish Heritage

New York • “In the case of Jewish genealogy, where so many records were lost and lives disrupted, an institution like the Museum of Jewish Heritage provides a crucial narrative,” says Michael Glickman, museum president and CEO.

The core exhibition uses first-person histories, photos, video and artifacts to explain Jewish history and tradition before WWII, European Jews’ confrontation with the hatred and violence of the Holocaust, and Jewish communities today. (View a selection of photos and documents here.) The outdoor Garden of Stones is a memorial to those lost in the Holocaust.

This museum’s “research library” is at its free partner website, JewishGen, where you’ll find discussion groups and more than 22 million records, including Holocaust records, a burial registry and the Communities Database. “Say your grandfather came from a town called Ostroleka,” Glickman says. “You might find six towns with the same name. How would you know which is the town your grandfather was referring to?” The database lists 6,000 Jewish communities, with their political jurisdictions and name variants over time.

National Hispanic Cultural Center 

Albuquerque, NM • Archivist Anna Uremovich calls this center a “full saturation of the Hispanic culture.” Its art museum features a 4,000-square-foot buon fresco depicting thousands of years of Hispanic history, and works from Spanish artists around the world. You also can attend art classes and other events.

The research library and archives is a destination for family historians with deep Southwest roots, holding Spanish census records, land grants, and the 90-volume set of Enciclopedia Heraldica Genealacia Hispano-Americana and the 15-volume Diccionario Hispanoamericano de Heraldica Onamastica y Genealogia. These books include more than 15,000 names from Spanish and Spanish-American families.

Search the library catalog here
(select National Hispanic Cultural Center from the menu at the top right). Uremovich also suggests researching Catholic parish records to learn family birth, marriage and burial details, and sometimes, names of other relatives.

Mark Bealer Photography

National Underground Railroad Freedom Center

Cincinnati • Search for African-American roots in the John Parker Library on the fourth floor of this inspirational museum (admission isn’t required if you’re just visiting the library). The library hosts a FamilySearch Center, where you can use databases, microfilm and other resources from FamilySearch. You can call ahead to schedule an appointment with an on-site genealogist. “We help between 60 to 120 patrons a month,” says marketing director Jamie Glavic, who recommends first completing as much of a pedigree chart as you can.

The Freedom Center museum can help you understand the experiences of your enslaved ancestors, who they were, how they were transported to America, and how they lived and worked here. Step inside a slave pen built in the early 1800s on a Kentucky farm, and follow in the footsteps of Underground Railroad passengers and conductors whose actions resisted slavery.

Watch a short film, narrated in part by Oprah Winfrey, describing the work of early abolitionists, intent on ending slavery. You’ll learn about those who resisted slavery and how slavery continues today.

Swedish American Museum

Chicago • Step inside this museum in the heart of Chicago’s “Little Sweden,” and you walk in the footsteps of Swedish immigrants, from preparing to leave their homeland to building new communities in America. View artifacts including steamship tickets, passports, folk crafts and household items brought from Sweden. A children’s museum allows kids to do chores in a stuga (farmhouse) and board a 20-foot “steamship.”

The center’s Swedish American Genealogy Research Center is “the only Chicago-area center that focuses on Swedish research,” says volunteer Vereen Nordstrom. It holds Swedish censuses, immigration and burial records; provides access to church records on the Swedish subscription website ArkivDigital; and hosts genealogy classes. Make an appointment to work with volunteers like Nordstrom, or send a research request (free for members of the museum’s Swedish American Genealogical Society; fee-based for nonmembers).

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