Thursday, May 31, 2012

Those Places Thursday: Erie County New York Historic Aerial Photos

   The Erie County Public Works Division of Highways has offered a resource "gem" to researchers covering rural areas. In the 1920s and the 1950s, the Division took aerial photos of the county. They've posted those photos online. While they have noted problems, these collections allow you to understand how the area where your ancestor lived may have looked. To access the photos, click into the time period. The first screen to come up will be an atlas map of the county. Click on the section you want to examine. The next screen will bring up a more detailed map. From there, you can click right into the applicable photo. It only took me a quick look to discover that the town I was studying was very rural.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Workday Wednesday: Luxembourgers in North Collins, New York

   My searches into the history of North Collins were leaving me empty-handed, so I turned to my favorite back-up - the census. A search of the 1880 census on turns up a number of families that were Luxembourg born and living in North Collins: the Thrills, the Schroeders, and more. At least a portion of the families were farm laborers. Lana Bowen, born in Luxembourg and married to a German, kept house while he labored on a farm. 29 year old Barbara Battzer kept house for her 70 year old father, also a farm laborer. John Baltzer (Battzer?), 24, also labored on a farm. These Luxembourg born families seem to have kept to their traditional roles. While wealthy enough to own a house, by the 1880s, they still didn't own their own farms.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Tuesday's Tip: Look for the index page in the register

   I've been playing with the Luxembourg Civil Registration database on It's one of the rare Luxembourg databases available in the United States. Ideally, the register contains records of every birth, death, and marriage recorded within the village. After more than a few hours of searching, I finally stumbled across one time saving trick: look for the index page. Most registered had an index page at the start of each year's records, listing the date of the event and the involved individuals. Once you have the date, the search becomes much easier. Just a word of caution. I've found a few index pages at the end of the year. Read carefully.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Mappy Monday: Historic Maps

  The private site of the librarian of the Buffalo and Erie County Historical Society, is just a fun, informative site. What was even better was the discover that the site's author has carefully compiled a list of maps of the county. Some come from her private collection; others are linked from other sites or off-line atlases. Each is explained by date, location, and a few added notes. This is a great way to find out more about where your ancestors lived.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Church Record Sunday: Saint Mary's, New Oregon (North Collins) New York

   The history of Saint Mary's Church in New Oregon is somewhat murky. I've found several sites which list it as closed, and one that indicates it to be open. As a recent Google Earth image shows no sign in front of the church, I'm inclined to believe the former. As a result, I haven't been able to find much out about the church.
    According to one nineteenth century history, New Oregon was a German settlement in the town of North Collins (remember, German often includes Luxembourger). A real picture photograph available on Ebay shows the church to be in the typical German style. Other than that, I have no details. The cemetery is still extent, listed on Find A Grave, and apparently under the control of Epiphany of Our Lord. It is likely the records are there as well.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Society Saturday: The Buffalo and Erie County Historical Society

  For Luxembourger-American families from Erie County, New York, a good place to start is the Buffalo and Erie County Historical Society. Based in Buffalo, the Society's primary focus is the city itself and the famous people who lived there. President Millard Fillmore is especially well represented. Yet, there also collections of use to less prominent natives. The research library indicates holdings of manuscript material, a card index for obituaries in area newspapers, and more. They even suggest genealogy books that may of use. While few of the Society's resources are online, they will do obituary lookups for a fee and offer a list of professional researchers for more detailed research.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Follow Friday: Stephen J. Hartzell's History Notebook

  While not technically a blog, Stephen J. Hartzell's compilation website called the History Notebook could easily serve as a history blog for Seneca and Tiffin Counties in Ohio. Under a section called "Tiffin & Seneca County, Ohio," he provides links to different articles. Some lead to outside websites, such as the local GenWeb site. Others are connected to articles he has written himself. One such article lists the members of Co. A, 8th Ohio Volunteer Infantry. Another tells the story of Rock Run church.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Those Places Thursday: New Riegel Photos, Past and Present

  Digging for photos of the town's I'm researching has now become a huge part of my process. I think it allows you new insight into the areas where your ancestors lived and worked.
  For New Riegel (and most small towns), finding photos isn't easy. Images of the church can be found on the parish website I mentioned earlier. Ebay has only one option: a copy of a postcard of the train station. And if you're looking for graves, there's an extensive cemetery website. As always, I'd love to hear if I missed something!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Workday Wednesday: Tiffin Seneca County (Ohio) Heritage Festival

Sometimes it's easier to see how your ancestors live than to describe their experiences. Tiffin and Seneca Counties have created a program designed to give you that opportunity. On September 14th, 2012, they will open the Tiffin Seneca County Heritage Festival. A portion of the festival is based downtown and includes local history displays in store windows and museum exhibits. Festival committee members also plan to create a living history village, which will include displays of traditional skills.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Tech Tuesday: Script Tutorials and interpreting old handwriting

   I read French - and at that rate I'm going I might learn German, too - but one of the biggest challenges for me is interpreting older handwriting styles. If you've ever stumbled across a double ff in older English documents, you know what I mean. Read ff wrong, and you're liable to end up with a new word. BYU has established a website that should be of some help. Script Tutorials covers older alphabets for a variety of different languages. While French is still in the works, English and German are well-developed. Click on German, and you'll discover a list of common words, samples of Gothic handwriting and more. When you feel ready to actually read, this site will be a huge help.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Mappy Monday: Ohio Historical Maps

   It's Monday - so it must be map day! The Ohio State University Library has a research page designed to make our search much easier. They've combined library and online resources into one page, creating a list of some great research suggestions. I decided to follow a few of them through to the final website. Explore Ohio, run by the Ohio Public Libraries Information Network, is deceptively simple looking. They've brought to together historic maps from throughout Ohio. Some cover large areas; others only address villages. All together, they allow you to paint a picture of the state. even allows you to look at railroads. Have fun!

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Church Record Sunday: Saint Boniface (All Saints Parish), New Riegel, Ohio

    One phrase on the Institut grand-ducal's "Luxembourg Settlements" page really stood out for me. Near New Riegel, Ohio, it states that the village of Meysembourg immigrated en masse to New Riegel under pressure from their landlord. A quick glance at Meysembourg on Google Maps suggests that this statement might be true. Compared to neighboring villages, Meysembourg appears to have significantly fewer buildings. 
    Once in New Riegel, the villagers would have to find a church. According to an area historic marker, Saint Boniface was founded in 1834 as a mission of area churches. From 1844 through 2003, the community was served by the Sisters of the Precious Blood and the Missionaries of the Precious Blood. Those orders, which owned over 200 acres, played a major role in the community. 
   In 2003, Saint Boniface was renamed All Saints Parish. The parish now serves churches in the surrounding community.  A phone call to the parish office should help locate records. The cemetery, still called Saint Boniface, is indexed on Find A Grave.

Society Saturday: Ohio Historical Society

  The Ohio Historical Society provides useful sources both on and offline for doing research on Ohio's Luxembourg-American families. Offline, their library serves as the archives for the state of Ohio. As such, they hold pre-1908 vital records, land records, military records, newspapers and more. Online, they offer other useful resources. Their online death certificate index allows you to search for a number of records, which you can than order in their store. Their newspaper index will allow you to find the correct microfilm for articles on your family. Microfilm can then be viewed in the library, requested by interlibrary loan, or possibly, purchased. Other databases include searchable images and War of 1812 rosters. Some digging is required, but you'll likely find what you need.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Follow Friday: need suggestions for good Winona County Minnesota history/genealogy blog

    Well, for the first time on record, my search for new blogs turned up empty handed. While there are plenty of blogs covering general Minnesota history and genealogy, I haven't been able to find anything about Winona County. I suspect I'm missing something huge. In the meantime, I'd love to hear about any Winona County blogs - or general genealogical blogs covering Minnesota.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Those Places Thursday: Elba, Minnesota

  I'm continuing my tradition of sharing websites with historic photos today. I stumbled across photos on a site I wasn't expecting - a commercial community guide. features some nice photos of the town's church, post office, and more. A search of Ebay turned up only one real photo postcard. I'm sure digging would turn up a few more sites.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Tuesday's Tip:'s French Language Guide

 I finally got back far enough in my ancestors' Luxembourger records to find one in French. While that makes me happy (yea for the French degree!), it probably wouldn't be too easy if I didn't speak French. For those of you in that boat, I thought you might enjoy this useful resource. has created a French language resource guide.  Like its German language equivalent, the research guide includes helpful words, numbers and more. It's a great starting point.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Mappy Monday: Minnesota Maps Online

   It's Monday - so it's back to one of my obsessions, historic maps. The Minnesota Historical Society has made a great resource available to map buffs. Called Minnesota Maps Online, their database allows you to view digital images of survey maps and plat books. The variety of sources for Elba is somewhat limited, but it's a great starting point for discovering more about how your ancestors lived. For more context, you can visit other websites, such as the University of Texas Libraries or The Minnesota Geospatial Information Office (you can even create your own map!).

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Church Record Sunday: St Aloysius Church, Elba, Minnesota

   One of the earlier Luxembourger settlements in Minnesota, Elba is home to St. Aloysius Roman Catholic Church. The parish served Luxembourgers in surrounding communities until they built their own churches. While I can find little information on the church's history, the parish is easy to contact: visit their website at for more details. Find A Grave has an extensive cemetery listing. Hopefully you'll find what you need. And if you're from the area, I'd love to hear more.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Society Saturday: Jackson County Chapter, Iowa Genealogical Society

    I went in search of the Jackson County Genealogical Society, hoping it would yield some new resources. Unfortunately, it turns out that they don't have a website or much information online. I was only able to find their contact information here. If anyone is involved with the Society or knows someone who is, I'd love to hear more about them.
   In the mean time, check out the Iowa Genealogical Society's website. While most of their material is offline, they have resources that a non-native might be interested in. There's an option to hire research in their library at $25/hr. They've produced detailed research guides for each county, tracing its history and more. And for the readers among us, you can purchase detailed county histories. Have fun!

Friday, May 11, 2012

Follow Friday: Saving Local History

   Understanding your Luxembourger ancestor's history always requires understanding the history of where they lived. An Iowa librarian has tried to make that process easier through his blog Saving Local History. Only a few posts discuss history in themselves. The vast majority point you to new reading on the topic. While the books may not all interest you, there's a good chance you'll find some new resources.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Those Places Thursday: Photos of Bellevue, Iowa

   I absolutely love finding old photos of my ancestor's communities. Somehow it makes their lives more real. I recently found a series of old photos of Lyme, Connecticut which showed the harbor - and possibly an ancestor's boat. Stumbling onto Bellevue's historic photo slideshow completes my circuit. My Luxembourger ancestor lived near or in Bellevue for a few years and probably saw many of these places. Check it out. Your ancestor may have lived here too.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Workday Wednesday: Jackson County Museums

   Getting a real glimpse of what working life in Jackson County can be hard. Most Luxembourgers were farmers - an occupation often not well-documented. Without diaries, letters, or some other documents, you can be left wondering what being a farmer actually meant. A few museums have worked to change that.
   In Bellevue, the Young Museum documents life in the early 1900s. A ten room house, it has been kept entirely period. The museum is open from May to October.
   I've already mentioned the St. Donatus Parish Museum. Take a look at the Luxembourg-American Cultural Society's detailed write-up for even more information.
    And you can always follow the trail created by National Historic Register buildings. There's a lot to see and learn!

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Tuesday's Tip: A History of the Low Countries

  I've been searching for a solid history of Luxembourg in English - and finally found one. Paul Arblaster's A History of the Low Countries traces the history of the Netherlands, Belgium, and Luxembourg from Rome to the modern era in great detail. While most of the focus is on the Netherlands, the book is a good way to familiarize yourself with the European forces that shaped Luxembourg. It was often traded between royals, along with Belgium and the Netherlands. I may never remember every detail of the history, but I did appreciate reading it.
   This book answered a few questions for me. I had wondered why early 19th century birth records were in French, while twenty years later, they were in German. Turns out Luxembourg was controlled by France from 1795 to 1815. A few years later, they were an independent - German- principality. A little history explained a lot!

Monday, May 7, 2012

Mappy Monday: Jackson County Maps

    As usual, I'm trying to use maps to piece together where my ancestors lived. I know - in my case- that they attended church in Saint Donatus but lived closer to Bellevue. A county map explains how that might be possible. If that isn't enough detail, the area's tourism site places the county within the state, offers a tourist map, and allows you to look at town maps. Have fun!

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Church Record Sunday: St. Joseph, Bellevue, Iowa

   St. Joseph, founded as Bellevue's German Catholic church, is now part of four parish cluster. It dates back at least as far as 1868, when lay parishioners founded a school. Little more information can be found online. Records are likely located at the parish office, based in Bellevue. Contact information for the office can be found on St. Joseph's website.  Find A Grave has an extensive cemetery listing.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Society Saturday: Jackson County

   Admittedly, I haven't touched on all the Luxembourger communities in Dubuque County yet - just to clarify, we've missed Holy Cross and Luxemburg - but I think it's time to move on temporarily! There are only so many historical societies in a small space. So in the meantime, it's on to Jackson County.
   This was the start of my family's American experience. My ancestor and his siblings settled in Jackson County as children. While most started their adult life in the county, they moved north and west as new homesteading land opened. I identify as being "from" somewhere else. But learning more may change my mind.
   Jackson County has some great museum and society resources for Luxembourg-American. Consider learning more about the Saint Donatus museum I described in an earlier post. The Jackson County Historical Society isn't particularly active (their website dates from 2003), but consider sending them an email or letter. The Rootsweb group is very active and well worth a visit. The surname registry is a nice touch. I know I've missed a few places, so please add to my list!

Friday, May 4, 2012

Follow Friday: Dubuque County 4-H History

   As in many agricultural communities, 4-H has a long history in Dubuque County Iowa. 4-H's new blog can help you fill in some of that history. The front page of the blog is styled as a webpage, with links to each separate county. Click through to Dubuque County and you'll find a detailed timeline tracing the county's history. Founded in 1925, 4-H grew gradually to include the entire county. The program has changed significantly overtime and adjusted to the county's new populations. The blog is an interesting read and a great way to learn more about your family.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Those Places Thursday: Worthington photos

  Unlike Cascade, Worthington photos are hard to find online. The Dubuque County Historical Society doesn't have images of the area. The town doesn't have a website. However, Ebay has some great options. A quick search for Worthington, Iowa turned up three real picture postcards. One included multiple views, including the inside of the church. Another shows the church. The third shows the Catholic school. Take a look - even if you don't buy, you'll know what the town looks like.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Tuesday's Tip Update: I found the record!

   So, several hours of digging later, I've found my great-grandfather's civil birth record. It turns out it was in a neighboring town and not in the town where we thought he had been born. The German guide was helpful in identifying the correct record. Unfortunately, it isn't helping too much with the script portion of the record. I simply can't read the German Gothic script. This time, I'm asking for help. But I'm hoping I can use what I learn to work with the next record.
   Those of you have gotten back that far - how are you doing with reading the records?

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Tuesday's Tip: German Language Hints

   While I'm most comfortable researching Luxembourg-American records,  I finally decided it was time to take a leap into the Luxembourger records. Of course, I can't read German (and I'm not in a lucky village where the records were in French and Latin), so easier said than done - until I remembered something. offers word lists in various foreign languages. The German list provides what you'll need to translate the basics from vital records. Hopefully this will help you make the jump from Luxembourg-American to Luxembourg records. I'll let you know when I find something!