Category Archives: Historical Societies

Revisiting Digital State Archives and Local Historical Societies

I have written about state and local historical societies as GeneaGems, but I still firmly believe that they are 1) a vastly underused resource and 2) one of the quickest expanding resources, usually for free, on the web today.

As I have roots in Passaic, New Jersey, I am going to focus on that area, but I strongly suggest that each reader seek out these resources for your own locations of interest.

First, the New Jersey Digital State Archives is a fabulous site. It recently moved, so if you happened to have bookmarked it, you’ll need to update your link.

You’ll want to choose the “Search the Collections” link on the left top menu. Another page opens:

Overview of Genealogical Collections Link

The Overview of Genealogical Collections (green arrow, above) is a five page PDF file of the genealogically related holdings of the New Jersey State Archives. There are some live links to some works in progress, including a NJ Marriage Index 1848-1878 and a Death Records Index 1878-1890, some early military records, dating back to the Revolution, NJ state census data, and NJ Supreme Court records.

The “Searchable Databases” link includes 14 databases containing thousands of images relating to vital records, land records, legal name changes and a great section on old photographs – Department of Agriculture photos, NJ National Guard pictures and historical Federal Writers’ Project photos.

The new page looks like this, although I couldn’t quite capture it:


Databases online

There is also a link to digitized Documentary Treasures.

Access to all of these resources is FREE!

My next website visit is the Passaic County Historical Society, housed at Lambert Castle. The “go to” link fro online digital resources on this website is the “Genealogy Club” link. I couldn’t capture the whole home page in one image, so there are two. Genealogy Club Home Page

However, one must scroll all the way to the bottom of the page to find the link to the online resources offered by the PCHS Genealogy Club:

Next, I will click on “Resources On Line From the Collection.” Up comes another page too long to capture in one image. Here is a shot of just the top portion of the page:

There are fabulous GeneaGem nuggets in here like selected lists of Passaic and Paterson High School graduates from 1873-190, lists of deaths from the cholera epidemics of 1832 and 1847 and an inmate list from November 1877.

Categories in the list include Selected Articles from the Passaic County Historical Society, Schools and Associations, Bible Records, Biographies, Industry and Business, Cemeteries, Census, Churches, City Directories, Map, Military, Newspaper Extracts, Orphan Research, Passaic County and Its Environs and a list of links to other New Jersey sites.

I’ve hit the motherlode for sourcing information on the history of Passaic County.

Much of this information doesn’t come up directly in a web search. It takes some digging, which is why you should search out (whichever state) Digital Archives and (whatever place) Historical Society to discover what may be waiting for you. Many of these organizations are adding new data and photos almost daily. You may be more than pleasantly surprised!

Another Plug for Local Genealogical Resources – Lawrence County, OH

In past posts, I’ve mentioned the fabulous treasures that can be found not on the big genealogy sites, but on smaller local ones or possibly not yet online at all. I just can’t sing the praises of these sites enough.

A great example of an area with rich genealogical resources and a strong presence both online and on location is Lawrence County, Ohio. If you have followed my posts for a while, you might recognize Lawrence County as the marriage place for black sheep Isaac Sturgell and his young wife, Mary Bandy, back in 1844. The Sturgells and the Bandys both settled in that area in the mid-1830’s. When I first began researching them, all my contacts were by U.S. mail as there was no internet.

If I were just beginning to research in Ohio today, let’s say in Lawrence County, my steps would be vastly different.

First, a quick search of “Lawrence County Ohio genealogy” brings up multiple hits. Notice that with the exception of, none of the other sites are linked to the most common subscription websites.

The first site on the list is The Lawrence Register. This site is a combination of free items, some transcribed and some digitized, and a choice to hire researchers.

The Lawrence Register Home Page

Part of the scrollable index on the left includes an intriguing sounding item. Knowing that Isaac Sturgell had four wives and probably at least two, if not all four, divorced him, I clicked on “Divorces.” Look at the last item:

The last bulleted item is “Scanned Divorce Records from Lawrence County Ohio Courthouse Attic.” The bottom of the alphabetical list says that 681 records with 1491 documents are in this scanned list! A treasure trove, online and free.!

There are also transcribed Bible records, biographies taken from old histories, two early tax lists, and even some stories about murders that happened in the area.

Next, I clicked on the Lawrence County, Ohio Genealogical Society:

Lawrence County Genealogical Society Home Page

What caught my eye here was the box to access old newsletters from 1984-2013. Those newsletters always contained all sorts of odd little tidbits, like local voters in the 1860 presidential election and their political affiliations. There were always lots of queries, too, which could lead to some great finds.

There is another link on the home page to “Courthouse Records Index” with images. I clicked on that to find:

I then chose the option for burial records of indigent soldiers. I then randomly chose “Thomas Ackerson” and up came a digitized record of his burial costs.

Burial Expenses Report for
Thomas Ackerson

Another gold mine if you have a soldier in your family who died in Lawrence County and was in poor economic circumstances.

Next, I clicked on “Lawrence County, Ohio Local History and Genealogy Room,” which happened to be a link to their Facebook page.

Lawrence County, Ohio Local History and
Genealogy Room Facebook Page

The Facebook page features a variety of information, ranging from news stories of past natural disasters to links for searching Ohio land records to features on early residents.

Although the site didn’t come up in the first few hits, Lawrence County also has a historical society.

I hope I’ve convinced you to step away from the most common genealogical research sites and to actually seek out smaller, lesser known local entities to see what else might be available. You never know what you might find.

Three Little Pieces of History Back Home Again

I feel very lucky to be the family genealogist for both my and my husband’s families and consider myself the guardian of its history. I am doubly lucky that, being the guardian, I have possession of literally hundreds of family photographs of people born as early as 1818 in places all around the United States and even of a few taken in Europe.

I wasn’t even aware that I had three early school photos until I started looking through pictures that belonged to my husband’s grandmother, Pearl Lillian Brasher, born in on 9 February 1898 in Sulphur Springs, Hopkins County, Texas. Pearl didn’t live in Sulphur Springs for very long as the family moved to Oklahoma when she was a young girl.

One of the pictures is of the third grade class of Hobart, Oklahoma. There is a little boy helpfully holding the class sign for the photographer. Pearl is the girl third from the left in the front row. Each of the photos, which are copies, not the originals, have a little girl marked in them. I suspect that my father-in-law was the one who picked his mother out of the group.  Given Pearl’s age, this would be the third grade class of 1907.

Hobart Grade 3

Hobart, Oklahoma 3rd Grade Class of 1907

I have two other school photos, which appear to also be taken in Hobart and from Pearl’s apparent ages in them, I would say they are of her first and second grade classes, which would have been the years of 1905 and 1906.

Hobart Grade 2

Hobart, Oklahoma 2nd Grade Class of 1906

Notice that five of the boys in the front row, while dressed in their finest,  are shoeless!

Hobart Grade 1

Hobart, Oklahoma 1st Grade Class of 1905

I knew nothing about Hobart, so I googled it. Hobart is the county seat of Kiowa County, which was formed in 1901, when it was part of Oklahoma Territory. That means this photo depicts a scene from Hobart’s very early history before Oklahoma was a state.

Kiowa County is in the southwest corner of the state, next to Greer County.

The Brashers didn’t live long in Hobart. By 1910, Pearl’s family was back in Texas in Plainview, Hale County.

The photos had no names noted on the back of them, except for Pearl’s, but this is the kind of item that I always try to share with a local historical society. I contacted the Kiowa Historical Museum in Hobart. They said they would love to have a copy of these photographs so digital files were sent off this morning.

I checked the 1910 census – Hobart had four wards by then so looking for twelve year old children who might have been part of that class isn’t very feasible. I hope the Historical Museum will print out a large copies of these photos and display them. Maybe there are children, grandchildren or great grandchildren of some of these students who still live locally and might recognize their ancestors so names can be put to faces.