Friday, October 09, 2009

Research Trip

Yesterday I took a mental health day from work and did some genealogy research. I had planned a trip to the courthouse in Anderson for some time, and was also planning to visit the Alexandria-Monroe Township Historical Society. The society is run by volunteers and currently only has Thursday hours which has made it difficult for me to visit.

When I asked for the day off, I had no idea that Thursday would be Columbus Day. The local paper had a snippet about offices being closed on Columbus Day and that threw me into a mini-panic. I frantically searched the Anderson Herald-Bulletin and the Madison County Government pages to make sure that the offices would be open. Not finding notices of any closing, I was relieved to know that my trip would not be a wash out. Other than the three to five inches of rain we were expected, my trip should be able to commence. Only later did I discover that Columbus Day was on a Monday, not a Thursday! I panicked for naught.

I was antsy, up at my usual time and ready to go to Anderson way too early, according to my wife. With half a pot of coffee in my system, I headed down to Anderson and arrived approximately 8:30 a.m. Parking is a problem in Anderson, so I parked about four blocks away at the Anderson Public Library. It's not a bad walk, although slightly uphill. My first stop was Central Records, where I was prepared to give them a list of marriage records for them to copy. There are many marriage records that I simply had neglected to collect over the years even though I had been to the courthouse many times. Perhaps I was complacent, satisfied merely to have the book and page numbers from the W.P.A. indices. Now that I am on the hunt again for these records, I was prepared with a list of marriages that occurred in Madison County to collect.

The employee at Central Records was a very pleasant lady who was understanding and helpful. I'm glad that she did not stress out because I gave her a list of about ten couples right off the bat. One thing that I didn't have on my list was the book and page numbers! I had this stored in my database, but didn't print that information out before I made my trip. My failure to assemble all of the information necessary added an unnecessary step to the process, but the helper handled it in stride. I left her to pull the records and headed over to the Recorder's office to search out some land records.

The Recorder's office has shelves of deed records and mortgage records tucked away in a side room. Fortunately, they will allow you to search the records for yourselves. Because this was not the main focus of my trip, I was not prepared to do extensive research into the records. I randomly began looking for the ALDERMAN family, which I knew was last in Madison County in the 1870 census. I was hoping to find a land transfer that might indicate either when Richard Alderman died or moved from the county. I have been unable to locate the family in the 1880 census, so I searched the decade of 1870-1880. Unfortunately, I did not find anything. Next I started searching around the date of death for my direct ancestors hoping to find mention of a land transfer or a will. Bingo! I found a land transfer between the widow and heirs of my 3rd great grandfather, Joseph WRIGHT, who died in 1919 in Alexandria. Early on in my research, I had written to the courthouse requesting a copy of his will or estate and was told that there was not one on file. Now right in front of me I had the names of all of his heirs in a land transaction. Genealogical gold! I will write more about this find later.

Heading back to Central Records, I picked up and paid for the copies of the marriage records. At only $1.00 per page, I felt that was a steal considering the information contained in some of the marriage applications. The nice lady there was even able to give me corrections to the book and page numbers that were either in error or hard to read from the W.P.A. index.

My next stop was to walk back down to the Anderson Public Library and visit their Indiana room. I love researching in this library, and often have to stop myself from become too distracted by browsing the shelves for books that aren't relevant to the subject of my search. They have a nice selection of local records in book form, produced over the years by the historical society and others that contain information in one place that would be hard to track down otherwise. I especially love the local obituaries and funeral home records. I made some copies from the indices of deaths in the county from 1921-1940 for future research, and was able to find some obituary records. One in particular gave a clue on my PIERCE family, as I am trying to find mention of the young children of William and Clara (PENNISTEN) PIERCE who died. Another interesting obituary on young Mildred WRIGHT who died at age 2 of diptheria was discovered. While at the library, I researched the marriage indices again to make sure I had the right book and page numbers for the marriage records that Central Records couldn't find. Shortly after noon, I headed back towards the courthouse after a brief stop at Rax for a sandwich.

Central Records laughed when I told them I had just a few more records that I needed copied. To me, eight records is a few! Again, had they not been so understanding and pleasant, it might have been a difficult day. They were able to find six of the records, but apparently two records were misindexed by the W.P.A. I will have to see if I can verify the dates, etc. through alternative sources and try again to obtain copies. Fortunately, the ones that couldn't be found were not my direct line.

Heading back to the car to move on to my next stop, the torrental rain began to let loose. We were expected to receive several inches of rain, and they were right. Making my way back to the car I was glad that I had an umbrella.

My next stop was Alexandria and the Historical Society. I arrived shortly after they opened at 1 p.m. Making my way towards the reading room, I met Larry Maple, the President of the Society and we had a pleasant talk. I also joined the society - the $10 membership is well worth it. It had been a couple of years since I had visited the society, but I am amazed at the amount of material regarding local history they have collected. The organizational style is a bit hard to understand, but I was quickly locating records on my family. My big find was the records of the local funeral home have been copied by the society. What an interesting piece of the genealogical puzzle to find out how much was paid for a funeral and by whom.

If you have relatives in the Alexandria, Indiana area it would be well worth visiting the society. They have converted a house into the museum, and each room of the house holds a separate section of local history - such as the schools, military, agriculture, etc. Amazing what has been donated to the society. One interesting stack of books that Larry Maple showed my was just received - school records dating back to 1895 the school corporation donated. I would love to be able to go through those and see what family information I could find.

I spent a couple of hours there, lost in my own little world, until I received a phone call from home that brought me back to reality. It was time to head back home and bring the research day to a close, but the clues I've discovered will give me more to research there in the future. I know have much more to scan into my files and will have more to blog about. Overall, it was a fun day for genealogy!
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