Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Loving Lincoln and more - FGS 2011

I'm easing myself in to the FGS conference in Springfield this week. I've spent much of the last two days reviewing microfilm on my husband's Jones ancestor in preparation for Thomas Jones' The Jones Jinx class tomorrow. I don't think I've found anything groundbreaking, but I did discover our Jones was quite the land trader - 21 deeds over 35 years. I'm hoping there's a nugget in one of them that's gold.

Last night I was able to meet some of the Geneabloggers here face to face at the FamilySearch reception. Plenty of bloggers are giving a rundown of the Conference. I'm not going to even attempt that. But I am grateful to FamilySearch for the chance to visit with people I only know through social media. I was also blown away by their efforts at bringing new records online. Their Field Express project is getting newly digitized records online within a month of being recorded. They have cameras around the globe - including Ukraine which made my heart leap. I'll be watching those new records.

This afternoon I (and 39 others) took one of the behind the scenes tours being offered by the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library. Conservation labs, manuscripts, and a visit to the closed stacks - it was enough to thrill this library rat. Once again - blown away. If the rest of the conference is a complete bust (not likely, they're serving ice cream tonight) learning more about this resource was worth the trip.

The library is so much more than a Lincoln reference site - though that would be interesting enough to warrant a visit. Its collection dates back to 1889 when the Illinois State Historical Library was created and is a fabulous genealogical research resource.

Our guide Gwen Podeschi outlined several databases and indexes that are available online for those out of the area or to use in planning a trip.
  • The Law records of Lincoln database is online. Lincoln practiced law here for decades. If you've family who were in Central Illinois at the time they may have served on a jury or been a witness in one of Lincoln's cases.
  • The Library is charged with preserving Illinois newspapers by microfilming as many as it can. It has the largest collection in the world of Illinois newspapers dating back to when Kaskasia was the capitol. 
  • The Boys in Blue is a database of the names of 7,000 Illinois Union soldiers whose photographs have been cataloged. Haven't hunted that one yet, but it's on the agenda.
  • Their Obituary Index has been compiled from research done and information donated. Obituaries are not available, but citations are. It is not a complete index of all obituaries appearing in Illinois newspapers, but what a great place to start.
Obviously so much more is available at the Library - 12 million papers in the manuscripts collection, hundreds (was it thousands?) of maps. While I was standing in the Reading Room I couldn't help but notice a set of books "Medical and Surgical history of the Civil War". With at least two Civil War era physicians in the family it might be worth a look.

My favorite part of the day was the realization that living in St. Louis I am actually close to some resources that will be enormously helpful. I've given the midwestern branches of our family short shrift over the years. It's time they got a little attention.


  1. I'm sure the conference won't be a 'bust'.

    Thanks for the report on the Lincoln Library - something I knew nothing about. Hope to hear more of your reflections on your experiences at the conference.

  2. We were at the library in June and I was able to bribe my husband to go inside with me for a bit. I was amazed at the Boys in Blue project and talked with a few people who were cataloging photos. Nothing for my anestors yet but thanks for the reminder to go in and look.


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