This past weekend, my sister, Cindy, and I spent a few hours in De Witt, Nebraska doing research on our ancestors. The local historian graciously shared her time showing us where our family homestead was located, and the cemeteries where our ancestors are buried, and she pulled newspaper and obituary files and books for us to look through at the De Witt Historical Society and Museum. She also took us to her home and fed us a very good lunch!
Both Cindy and I brought cameras, and we utilized them to take pictures of pages from a number of historical books. The books were very old, and one has to be careful with handling them. My sister also took pictures of some items hanging on the walls of the museum.
An option to viewing the actual books is to look and see if they have been digitized and are available for viewing online. Heritage Quest Online, a database which is available free to on-campus users through Forsyth Library’s web page, has over 25,000 books digitized. Heritage Quest is also available free to people who have the Kansas Library Card – see http://www2.kumc.edu/SLK/resource.asp?myses=7497119&cuid=ksuc&cusrvr=muses
Other online sites that offer digitized books include the following:
Google Books – http://books.google.com/
Internet Archive – www.archive.org
BYU Digital Collections – http://contentdm.lib.byu.edu/cdm4/search.php
Two of the books that I used for research at the historical society are available for viewing online in Internet Archive. See the following:
Portrait and biographical album of Gage County, Nebraska: containing full page portraits and biographical sketches of prominent and representative citizens of the county (1888) at http://www.archive.org/details/portraitbiographgcneb00chap
History of Gage County, Nebraska; a narrative of the past, with special emphasis upon the pioneer period of the county’s history, its social, commercial, educational, religious, and civic development from the early days to the present time (1918) http://www.archive.org/details/historyofgagecou00dobb
George Grant, my great-great grandfather, was one of the early settlers in Gage County, as seen on this page from the above-mentioned book.
Visiting cemeteries can be a great way to find information on your ancestors, even if you may already have their birth dates and death dates. Many family members are buried in the same plot, and other extended family members can probably be found not far away. Here are some tips for doing cemetery research from About.com – http://genealogy.about.com/od/cemetery_records/a/cemeteries.htm
My sister and I both took cameras to the cemeteries that we visited. We got some really nice pictures of the gravestones, and we can use those pictures later on to look at the inscriptions as we input information into our genealogy software program or onto genealogy forms. See the following web page for tips on using cameras in cemeteries – http://genealogy.about.com/od/cemetery_records/a/pictures.htm
The cemetery signs vary from simple to elaborate as is the case here:
The following picture shows the grave site of my great-great grandparents, Annie and George Grant.
Many thanks to Doris, the local historian who helped Cindy and me throughout the day. Our trip to find out more about our ancestors was rewarding and fun. I am looking forward to doing this again in the future.