Monday, April 30, 2012

Mappy Monday: Iowa DOT Historic Maps

   Turns out everyone in Iowa is getting into historic maps! The Iowa Department of Transportation has made historic maps available on their website. Most are highway maps, which were mass produced after 1910s. However, they've also included a county map from 1914, another from 1986, and a railroad map from the 1850s. This is a great way to pinpoint where your ancestor lived, down to the street level.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Church Record Sunday: St. Paul's Catholic Church, Worthington, Iowa

    St. Paul's Catholic Church is the Roman Catholic church for the community of Worthington, Iowa. The only information about the parish available online is from Wikipedia. Founded in 1868, the parish was intended for the area's growing population of Irish and German immigrants. It is still active in the area. Consider contacting the parish office for records. The phone number for the rectory is 563-855-2405, but due to recent parish changes, the office may not be located there.
    St. Paul's cemetery is partially indexed on Rootsweb and Find A Grave.

Society Saturday: Dubuque County Historical Society

    Once again switching gears. This time we're in Worthington, Iowa. Worthington is located in Dubuque County, so the local historical society falls under the county level.
   The Dubuque County Historical Society was founded in 1950, growing out of a natural history museum founded in the 1870s. Today, the Society operates several museums and an archives. While the museums concentrate on local history, the archives focus on the history of the Mississippi River. Collections include photographs from the early 20th century, postcards of the Dubuque area, and biographies of prominent local individuals.
   Since Worthington was not on the river, the collections of the Dubuque County Historical Society may not contain much on Worthington's locals. But, as always, it's worth a try. You never know how much of a relationship your ancestor may have had with Dubuque.

Sentimental Sunday, the Octave

   As I've often mentioned, I love learning more about my Luxembourg ancestry. When I started researching this line in detail a year or so ago, I knew my family was from Hostert, Luxembourg. And that was about it. Doing some digging around holidays has allowed me to learn a lot more. For one thing, I'm slowly discovering that Luxembourg has some very special traditions.
   One of these traditions, called the Octave, is being celebrated this week. The Octave is an annual pilgrimage to the cathedral in Luxembourg City. Week-long (from April 28th to May 5th), it brings together pilgrims from surrounding countries in the celebration of masses honoring the Virgin. The tradition dates back to the 1600s. In 1666, Mary was chosen as the patron saint of Luxembourg and their protector from the plague. Images online reveal Luxembourg's deep Catholic roots.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Follow Friday: Dubuque Public Library blog

   Looking for a good Dubuque county history blog is harder than I expected. There just aren't that many local history blogs for Iowa. However, I did discover a blog that might provide some useful information about the Dubuque area. W. 11th and Bluff, run by the Dubuque Public Library, mostly profiles new books. However, under the genealogy category, I found an announcement by a local genealogy group. Hopefully they'll post more soon.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Those Places Thursday: Cascade Postcards

    I love using historic photographs and postcards to understand what a community looked like when my ancestors lived there. A few historic groups have made an effort to make those images available. The Rootsweb site includes postcards from the early 20th century. The Tri-County Historical Society includes a variety of photographs as part of their "Hidden Pages" section. Also, check out Ebay. There are a wide variety of postcards listed for sale. You may find your ancestor's home or business listed.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Workday Wednesday: Cascade, Iowa

  Farming communities tend not have occupational histories. Cascade is no different. A vague occupational history can be found on the local rootsweb site. It boils down to this. Most of the community were farmers or involved in support industries, such as the local flour mill. A list can be found here.  Like many farming communities, Cascade gained industry in the 20th century. Factories eventually began to pay a role in daily life, although farms remained important.
   Unfortunately, without hearing from the individual workers, you miss a lot. Cascade probably has an amazing story. Does anyone know where I can find it?

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Tuesday's Tip: Read the town and parish histories carefully before looking for records

     I almost made a major mistake in researching for Church Record Sunday. I saw images of St. Martin's Church. It looked old. It appeared to be the only Catholic church building in Cascade. It had to be the church area Luxembourgers attended. Right?
   Wrong. St. Martin's was the local Irish Catholic church. St. Mary's, the German Catholic church (Luxembourgers often attended German institutions), was no longer in existence. It had merged with St. Martin's, and the building had been sold. And I almost missed it.
  Why? Because I didn't read the local histories closely enough. The local Historical Society's website provided me with some hints. There were references to events at St. Mary's. I didn't track them down. If I hadn't stumbled across a Wikipedia site, I would have missed what had happened - and a lot of Luxembourger history.
  Lesson learned. From now on, I will read parish and local histories more carefully. I will track down every lead. I could have accidentally presented the wrong story.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Mappy Monday: Historic Maps of Iowa

    I just went hunting for another round of historic maps, this time for Dubuque County (where Cascade is located). I turned up a gold-mine on the University of Alabama's Department of Geography website. They've provided digital images of maps dating from 1845 through the 1970s. The earliest show the state when it was still a territory. Many of the later maps are geological survey maps. Each can teach you more about Cascade, as well as the rest of Iowa.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Church Record Sunday: St. Mary's, Cascade, Iowa

  It's rare that I can't find a good history for a church somewhere online. Of course, this is one of those times. I can find photos, but the only available history is on Wikipedia.  St. Mary's, the German Catholic church for Cascade, Iowa, was merged with another parish in the 1990s and eventually was closed. The building has since been sold.
   Records have been transferred several times but should be easily to locate. The parishioners of St. Mary's joined St. Matthais, which is now part of the St. Thomas Aquinas Pastorate.   Contact the parish office.
   The St. Mary's Parish Cemetery is still active. Indexes are available on Rootsweb. Images are available on Find A Grave. 

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Society Saturday: Tri-County Historical Society

    It's time to change towns again! This time we're headed to Cascade, Iowa and checking out the Tri-County Historical Society. While the Tri-County Historical Society apparently doesn't have a research library, they do have some great articles, photos, and artifacts describing life in town. Online, you can view historic photos of the area. You can also read articles on the town's military road, its connection with Ringling Brothers and more. Off-line, the Historical Society boasts a museum with exhibits on the railroad, baseball star Red Farber, and local military service. A visit may not teach you much about your family, but it will teach you a lot about where they lived!

Friday, April 20, 2012

Follow Friday: Apple Valley, Minnesota Patch and the "Historic Faces of Dakota County"

    "Historic Faces of Dakota County" is a regular feature on the Apple Valley site. Compiled from material in the archives of the Dakota County Historical Society, articles in the column cover everything from the life of an NDSU coach to Romanian immigration in South St. Paul. For a researcher with interest in the area, this is a potential goldmine. Look carefully through the profiles; you may find your ancestors.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Thrifty Thursday: Dakota County Minnesota Public Library

   Once in a while, it's worth sharing a reminder of my favorite "thrifty" resource. The local public library has resources that can help you trace your ancestors. Most keep files of the area's old newspapers, have local histories, and at the very least, can point you in the direction of the local historical society. The Dakota County Public Library's website is designed for locals. However, if you're researching that area, give them a call. You never know how they might be able to help.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Wisdom Wednesday: Essential Luxembourgish Phrases

  When I try to deal with a new culture, I often struggle with not understanding the language. I stumbled across a BBC website today that's trying to bridge that gap. It offers "Luxembourgish Essential Phrases."  It won't be enough to read my ancestor's birth records. I might be able to say thank you now, though... And in the meantime, I'll keep looking for a genealogy guide to help with the translation.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Tuesday's Tip: Where to Look for Luxembourg-American Records Locally

  Putting together this week's blog reminded me that sometimes it's helpful to have a research plan laid out for you. Following is my "to do list" for researching Luxembourg-American records locally.  I'm assuming you've already done the basics of online research, such as searching the census, and if possible, ordered vital records.
   1. Establish birth, marriage, and death dates: This will make local research much easier.
   2. Start with the Roman Catholic church: Most RC churches keep very good records. Make sure you note sponsors as well as parents, spouses, etc. Many were from other branches of the same family.
   3. Visit the Roman Catholic cemetery: Look for anyone else with your surname. They may be related.
   4. Stop in at the local historical society: See what records they hold. Many have surname files, which contain any records about the family.
   5. Visit the local library: Make sure you look through their newspaper archives around the dates of your ancestor's major events. Obituaries often fill in gaps.

 Good luck!

Monday, April 16, 2012

Mappy Monday: Mapping Minnesota History

      Sometimes, finding out where your Luxembourger ancestor's records are held can be a challenge. Minnesota records provide one example. Between the mid-1800s and the end of the century, the state's borders changed multiple times. A Dakota Historical Society webpage can help you figure exactly where your ancestor might have lived. Their "Mapping Minnesota History" tool allows you to walk through borders in different eras.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Church Record Sunday: St. John the Baptist, Vermillion, Minnesota

  Founded in 1882 by area German, Irish, and Luxembourger families, St. John the Baptist Roman Catholic Church still serves Vermillion, MN. Despite being built wishes of the area's bishop, the parish soon grew. They received a part-time and then a full-time priest. The first church was replaced in 1912. Today, the community also includes an elementary school.
   The church has a few records accessible via their website. Their "About Us" page links to a detailed history of the parish. Although the focus is on the priests more than the parishioners, you may find a mention of your ancestor if they were a church trustee or involved in fundraising. For most records, you will likely have to contact the church.
   Find A Grave has a listing for the church's cemetery.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Society Saturday: The Dakota County Historical Society

  It's time to change gears and focus on another area of Luxembourger settlement. Vermillion, Minnesota and surrounding Dakota County first welcomed Luxembourgers in the 1860s. The county was already established. Dakota County was formed in 1849 out of an area already settled by French-Canadian fur traders. It grew along with the United States. Immigrants arrived first from Ireland, Germany, Luxembourg, and eventually, less "traditional" countries.
  The county is home to a wonderful historical society. The Dakota County Historical Society offers a variety of resources both on and offline. Online, they host genealogy databases, a county history, history education pages for the local school system, and more. Offline, they manage a historic property and run a research library. If you have a family tie to the area, check out their website.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Follow Friday: Historic Homes of Minnesota

   House histories are a little known part of genealogy. House historians connect people to the homes they lived in. Their work is part genealogy and part history. They study both deeds and census documents to help piece together the story of a house's life. Marian Pierre-Louis provides examples on her blog The New England House Historian .
   Turns out a local realtor has become Goodhue County's resident house historian! Her blog, Historic Homes of Minnesota, gives short histories of the homes she's listing. While some entries lack detail, others provide the history of an entire family's residency. Right now, Historic Homes of Minnesota isn't quite at the level of detail a typical house historian would provide. However, it offers a researcher a wonderful starting point!

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Thankful Thursday: Genealogy and Historical Society Webmasters

       As I was writing my next few blog posts, I came to realize how dependent I am on genealogical and historical society websites. My Luxembourger family settled far from where my family lives now. Researching at all would be impossible if I weren't able to work online. But researching without historical and genealogy websites would be unspeakably difficult.  These genealogical and historical society webmasters put together fantastic resources. They tell me what sources exist for a certain area, how to access them, and ofter link directly to online scans. I owe you all a huge thank you!

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Workday Wednesday: Luxembourgers in Bellechester, Minnesota

   Bellechester, Minnesota was first settled by Luxembourgers in the 1840s and, even today, retains the original agricultural character. Around one hundred sixty families called the community and the surrounding county home. A history posted on the Luxembourg-American Cultural Society website suggests that many may have become dairy farmers. While some likely took on other occupations in the community, their footprint in the history books was small. Bellechester appears to have been primarily a Luxembourger farming community.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Tombstone Tuesday: Goodhue County MN Burials

   Goodhue County, Minnesota was home to at least one major population of Luxembourgers - the settlers at Bellechester. While you can learn about their lives in many ways, accessing burial records is probably one of the easiest. Your first major source of such records is, as always, Find A Grave. The Catholic cemetery in Bellechester, St. Mary's, lists over 600 burials. On the off-chance your ancestor is not buried there, you have another option. The Goodhue County Historical Society keeps something they call the Dalby database. It's a listing of burial information from a large section of southern Minnesota. They charge $15 per half hour for research, but it looks to be a good way to get around a brick wall.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Mappy Monday: Goodhue County, Minnesota

   Time to reveal my "blogging plan"... Although I suspect most of you have figured it out already! I like focusing on one Luxembourger-American community per week. It gives me a chance to learn where families settled, what their lives were like, and what resources are available to study them. I've been mixing a few communities but have decided it's time to focus on just one.
  This week's focus is Bellechester, Minnesota. Most Luxembourgers were farmers, so they didn't just settle in town. That means we're also looking at Goodhue County.
   So, question 1: what does it look like? Check out a county map here. To learn more about history, visit the county's interactive historic mapping site here.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Looking for something fun to do your relatives today?

  Check out the 1940 collection on  You can search the census, city directories, and more free through April 10th.

Sentimental Sunday: Happy Easter!

   Happy Easter! It's once again a holiday - and once again I'm wondering how my ancestor would have celebrated. So, I did a little research on Google. Turns out Luxembourg celebrates Easter Monday as a festival day, a reminder of Christ's encounter with pilgrims on the road to Emmaus. This year's festival celebrations include theatre, pottery souvenirs and sweets. While I'm not sure how much the modern festivals have in common with those my ancestor would have celebrated, they still look like fun!

Friday, April 6, 2012

Follow Friday: Minnesota Historical Society Blogs

   It's not often that a website offers you your choice of blogs - but Minnesota Historical Society has just done that! On their "community" page, the Historical Society lists eight blogs. Not every one will appeal to everybody, but they're all worth taking a look at. The 10,000 Books blog covers the publications of the Minnesota Historical Society, while Split Rock Lighthouse Weblog discusses life on the lighthouse. Each may serve you well as a local historian.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Thrifty Thursday: Dakota Historical Society (Minnesota) Obituary Database

   It's time to feature yet another useful database from the Dakota County Historical Society. The obituary database offers you a way to search most of the local newspapers in one click. Type in a name, and the database will return a name, date, newspaper name and article title. From there, you can order the relevant paper from their research library or from another area library. It's a big time saver and a possible money saver.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Workday Wednesday: Alternate Occupations

 While most Luxembourgers worked on farms, there were those who led very different lives. Luxembourgers in Chicago ran greenhouses. In Meriden, Luxembourg-Americans staffed the local factories. Some, however, passed under the radar. Those individuals lived in agricultural communities but worked in their own businesses. It's those people that make me the most curious. I'd love to be able to tell their stories.
   So, I pose the question - how do I find out more about these semi-agricultural immigrants?

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Tech Tuesday: Honoring Our Ancestors, Vintage Photos

  Megan Smolenyak Smolenyak's  Honoring Our Ancestors website offers great resource for those of us who love vintage photos. Her "Best Sites - Orphan Photos" page lists a variety of websites and databases that can help you locate your family's images. Many are pay sites, but there are enough free sites to keep me going for awhile. I haven't found anything yet... but I'm still hunting.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Don't forget! The 1940 census opens this morning.

   You're about to have access to the 1940 census. For now, you'll have to search by enumeration district. Steve Morse has created an enumeration district finder at Enter as much information as you know, and see what comes back. You can use that district to search for your family. Don't give up easily. It may take you a few pages to find what you need.  Meanwhile, volunteers are working hard to create an index. Consider joining them at And let us know what you find!

Mappy Monday: Iowa Maps Digital Collections

   I love to see where and how my ancestors' lived. Part of the way I do that is through vintage photos. The other is through historic maps. While I know many of the sites available for Connecticut, my other area of research, I'm still learning about the Luxembourger regions of the country. Today I discovered a new map site: Iowa Maps Digital Collection. The database is searchable by a variety of levels. Turn up every thing you can!

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Church Record Sunday: St. Boniface, Hastings, MN

  A historic Catholic parish,  St. Boniface was likely among the parishes attended by Luxembourger immigrants in the Hastings, MN area. It opened in 1892. The original church building is no longer in the area. It was donated to a historic village in the 1990s as part of a plan to replace the church with a larger structure. It is unclear what happened to the parish after that point. The church cemetery was combined with others and is now  listed on Find A Grave as St. Elizabeth Ann Seaton cemetery.