Recently, I had the opportunity to spend a whopping 4 hours on my own research while I was in northern Indiana. I had to be selective on how I spent my time and narrow my list to items that I felt would be possible to accomplish. It was tough! At first stab, I made a list of all the things I wanted to do. They included:
- Request vital records at the St. Joseph County Health Department
- Request vital records at the La Porte County Health Department
- Research at the St. Joseph County Public Library
- Get obituaries at the Michigan City Public Library
- Visit the Greenwood Cemetery in Michigan City
- Visit my great grandparents’ graves in Osceola
- Visit with my great uncle in Michigan City
- Visit my Grandma Morse’s grave in South Bend
Needless to say, since Michigan City was an hour away from where I was staying… I knew that would eat up some time just in driving. It was a tough decision! I deliberated on what I could reasonably do in that amount of time and the impact it would have on my genealogy research. What would be the most effective use of my time? My first priority was getting vital records from Michigan City. I had a list of 6 different people that I was still trying to get these records on and while VitalChek.com is a convenient way to request them; it is also quite expensive. The records are only $3 each when you request in person. So that was my first stop. I had planned ahead and had all the forms filled out for each person I was hoping to get information on. They were busy of course and said that they would take my forms and give me a call with more details sometime next week. I told them I was from out of town and they said it was fine. They would call with the information and then I could mail the money/ money order for what was owed to get the records. Fair enough!
Next stop was the Michigan City Public Library. While still at home, I had looked up on their searchable database the various microfilm that I would need to pull to find my obituaries. My shortlist was 6 obituaries. As I found each obituary I took the time to look at the issues of the newspaper that were before and after each issue that I had planned on copying. In many cases I found even more tidbits of interest that helped me. If an event was mentioned that could provide further clues, I went and looked at the newspaper issues from that time period too. That’s how I learned of a great uncle’s death by electrocution! Wow! I also looked at some of the earliest newspapers to try and find the death of my 3x great grandfather. I had some success and while I spent a bit more time than originally planned for the library… I was thrilled to find so many family members and clues to follow up on. When I found the obituary for my 3x great grandmother, Catherine Nolan,
I couldn’t help but send a pic of the article to my cousin Rose. She and I connected through this family after both testing with AncestryDNA. We are now collaborating on this line of the family. Such fun to have someone to talk about the research and bounce ideas off! Once I wrapped up there and paid for my $1.50 worth of copies… I headed to the cemetery.
Again, I did some homework ahead of time. I didn’t want to waste time looking for someone who might not be there. I looked up all the Nolans in the cemetery and had noted which section and if it had a plot number I noted that as well. I also planned to try and find the Shons who are related on my Jewish side of the family. It’s a big cemetery so I really thought it would be a miracle if I found half of the 10 people I was looking for. I had my cell phone out as I got the lay of the land. I had not been there before so it took a bit of time to figure out how things were oriented. Thankfully there is a helpful website which not only included the index of who was buried, but also a map of the grounds. I drove near the first section and wandered a bit. I let my feet take me where they will… and I found my Nolans! I snapped photos and paid my respect. Then I drove to another section with a single headstone that I was looking for. This was my 3x great grandfather, Dennis Nolan, who died in 1880. As I wandered this area of the cemetery, my expectations were low. But I think someone was guiding me that day as I walked near what I thought was a bare spot. As I looked down I saw the name “Dennis Nolan.”
His headstone was completely flat to the ground. I was shocked and so excited. I took a picture of course and then stood a few minutes to talk with him. He’s one of my Irish and I keep looking for clues as to where in Ireland he was from. I communed a bit and then went to look for my Jewish relatives.
My Jewish relatives were in a separate section of the cemetery. Again, I let my feet take me wherever and yet again, I found my family. I found the headstone of Sarah Shon. She was the sister of my 2x great grandmother, Zipe Soloman Krueger, and much to my joy there was Hebrew on her headstone. You see, with Jewish headstones the Hebrew inscriptions often yield information including their father’s name. Yes, I was pretty excited about that find. I thanked Sarah for taking care of my great grandfather, Myer Krueger, when he came to America. I also found headstones of his cousins nearby and took photos. Then I decided I should visit Myer too. It took me a while, but I did find his headstone. I am a bit obsessed with researching him and so I spent a good bit of time telling him about how hard I have worked on finding out more about him and his parents. I told him about what great kids he had and what awesome descendants he has. After all of that I was thrilled with the success of my trip and knew it was time to head back.
So thanks to planning ahead and an organized research plan I was able to make great headway on my to-do list in a relatively short amount of time. What do you do to plan ahead for your trips? I’d love to hear about your most successful research trip!