Get Ready for #AskAnArchivist Day!

(WSA J.E. Stimson Collection Neg 1766, Bell Telephone "Hello Girls", Cheyenne 1906)

(WSA J.E. Stimson Collection Neg 1766, Bell Telephone “Hello Girls”, Cheyenne 1906)

Got a question for an archivist? Next Thursday, October 30th is ‪#‎AskAnArchivist‬ Day!

Wondering what our day is like? How we landed our awesome jobs? Where to look for a particularly daunting piece of information? What our favorite document is? Ask away next Thursday! Our staff will be monitoring Facebook and Twitter all day. No question is too silly or too practical.

What is #AskAnArchivist Day? It is day where archivists around the country take to the net to chat and answer any questions you may have about all things archives. So get your questions ready!

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The ABC’s of City Directories

Happy Archives Month! A wise researcher once said “genealogy without documentation is mythology.” During October, we will be taking a closer look at some of the wonderful genealogical resources available at the Archives and how they can help you dig deeper and possibly solve your family history research problems.


 

Examples of city directories from around Wyoming. These books can be wonderful resources for genealogists.

Examples of city directories from around Wyoming. These books can be wonderful resources for genealogists.

City directories first came in to use in what is now the United State in some of the east coast cities in the eighteenth century, and continue to be published today in both the US and Canada.  While there were many publishers involved, the most recognized publisher is (R.L) Polk City Directories.  The directories were used to help salespeople and deliverymen locate individuals for commercial and delivery purposes, and to provide advertising space for businesses, much like later telephone books.

The directories were often produced annually or every other year.  Before starting your research in the city directories, review the table of contents and introductory text to better understand the organization, format and abbreviations in the book.

The introduction may provide clues as to the organization of the particular directory.

The introduction may provide clues as to the organization of the particular directory.
(WSA Polk Directory, Laramie 1929-1930)

Included in the listing was the name of the head of household, the street address and often the occupation and employer of the head of household.  This information can lead to some interesting discoveries, as well as the possibility of verifying family stories of what a great-grandfather did for a living.  The listing may also include whether the individual was a boarder, renter, or owner.

This page of the 1934-35 Casper Polk Directory includes A.E. Chandler. From the entry we find his full name was Arthur E., his wife's name was Elizabeth. We can also see that Changler ran the Casper's Finest Filling Station. Business must have been going well because he had a telephone at both his home and the business.

This page of the 1934-35 Casper Polk Directory includes A.E. Chandler. From the entry we find his full name was Arthur E., his wife’s name was Elizabeth. We can also see that Changler ran the Casper’s Finest Filling Station. Business must have been going well because he had a telephone at both his home and the business.
(WSA Polk Directory, Casper 1934-35)

In some directories, only the head of household was listed, which, from the family historian’s viewpoint, can be frustrating.  As children became adults they were listed as well.  When a man died, his wife was often indexed as “Smith, Mary, widow of John”.  (This is a clue to a death date.)

By the mid-twentieth century these directories included a street cross-index, which is useful for determining neighbors, or who lived in the house prior to and following your ancestor.  Looking through the street index listing lets the researcher see if there are relatives living in the same neighborhood.  This is also helpful, if your ancestor is using a nickname.  In past research, using the street address has helped this researcher discover Gaylord Everett, who was going by Gale Everett.

It is much easier to determine the address of a residence using the directories than from the census records.  They give the researcher the opportunity to go to the physical address and visualize where their ancestors lived.  In the absence of census records, directories are very helpful in tracking the movement of those elusive ancestors more frequently than census enumerations since they were published annually or bi-annually.  Many directories include community pages which would list houses of worship, clubs, cemeteries, businesses and possibly a city map.  If your ancestor lived in a small town or a big city, chances are they can be found in a city directory.

This "directory of householders" includes the area surrounding the Historic Governor's Mansion in Cheyenne.  This portion of the directory can help you  identify neighbors or neighboring businesses. It is also quite helpful when researching buildings. Once you have a name, the "white page" style listing can tell you more about the individual.  (WSA Polk Directory, Cheyenne 1907)

This “directory of householders” includes the area surrounding the Historic Governor’s Mansion in Cheyenne. This portion of the directory can help you identify neighbors or neighboring businesses. It is also quite helpful when researching buildings. Once you have a name, the “white page” style listing can tell you more about the individual.
(WSA Polk Directory, Cheyenne 1907)

As with any mass produced item, accuracy may be an issue.  In some instances, people had to pay to have their names included in a directory and ethnic and racial minorities were often excluded. Also the year on the cover is most often the publication dates, which is not necessarily the year the information was collected.  But most of all, don’t be surprised if you find yourself “reading” the directory!  They are full of clues, and facts that help place your ancestor in historical context.

– Robin Everett, Processing Archivist

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Anatomy of a Death Certificate

Happy Archives Month! A wise researcher once said “genealogy without documentation is mythology.” During October, we will be taking a closer look at some of the wonderful genealogical resources available at the Archives and how they can help you dig deeper and possibly solve your family history research problems.


Death certificates are one of the most popular records used by family historians for their research. Depending upon when your ancestor died, they are one of the first sources a researcher should seek to learn more about their ancestor.  Once in your possession, go through each line of the document and seek out additional evidence for the information vital to your research.  Like all good sources, the death certificate leads the researcher to other documents.

Death certificates provide us much more information than just the date of a person’s death.  Information contained on the death certificate may lead you to other records.  However, some information should be approached with caution.

Death certificates contain primary and secondary information.  Remember primary information is recorded at or near the event, by a person who has direct knowledge of the event; whereas secondary information is recorded long after the event, by a person who was not present at the event.

EPR Stewart Death Certificate - primary sources

The yellow shaded portions of this death certificate show the information that can be considered a primary source and thus is most likely trustworthy. This information was provided by doctors, coroners, undertakers, etc. who attended the deceased at the time of their death or just prior to this certificate being completed. This certificate was issued for the death of Elinore Pruitt Stewart, author of the book Letters of a Woman Homesteader. But notice that there is a discrepancy between the first and maiden/middle names she published under. Further research may be necessary to decide whether or not to trust this source for that particular bit of information.

The primary information is the information regarding the event itself: the person, place, date, time, the cause, and other information pertaining to the event that just took place.

EPR Stewart Death Certificate - secondary source

The green shaded portion of this death certificate is the secondary source information provided by the informant. This information may or may not be trustworthy, depending upon who the informant was. In most cases, the informant was not present at the time of the deceased’s birth and thus the information could be considered hearsay. But it is a great place to find clues for corroborating documentation.

The secondary information is the biographical information – the birth date and place, parents’ names and birthplace.  The accuracy of this information is directly dependent upon the informant, and their relationship to the deceased.

Usual residence information is particularly important when a person dies in another state.  Example: A person with a usual residence of San Antonio Texas dies in Tucson Arizona.  If a cemetery name is given, it could be located in San Antonio or Tucson.   Also, the usual residence information should lead you to the city directories, census records, newspapers for obituaries, and the cemetery depending upon its location.

Over time, death certificates have come to include military service, and social security numbers, which are records available for research, also, an unusual cause of death (homicide) may lead you to the court records surrounding the event.

Henderson, Prairie Rose Coleman death certificate 1933-2070-4 homicide example

The pink section highlights the coroner’s notes about the death of Rose Coleman, also known by her rodeo stage name “Prairie Rose” Henderson. Rose disappeared in a snowstorm in February 1933. More than 6 years later, remains were found that were thought to be hers.
 
A death certificate like this one may lead you to other sources like coroner’s inquests (for suspicious/unattended deaths), probate records, newspaper articles, etc.
 
You may also want to check for documentation filed with a death certificate like this one. If you notice, the highlighted area says “over”, meaning there is likely more information on the back. In this case, there was also a letter from the Vital Statistics staff documenting why two certificates were issued and other administrative notes.

Don’t forget the obvious clue: someone has died, did they have a will?  Is there a probate file with the court?  Both of these documents can provide further clues to research.

– Robin Everett, Processing Archivist

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Contest Time!

Do you often look at old photos and think of humorous captions? We do too! Break out your best one-liners and ironic humor because its contest time!

(WSA P2003-7/34, fawn by Black Hills Studio, hand-tinted)

(WSA P2003-7/34, fawn by Black Hills Studio, hand-tinted)

We’ve dug out a few photos from the collection that tickled our funny bone and hoped you could help us find their best captions or meme. What’s a meme? A humorous saying or caption, sometimes an imitation or pop-culture reference. Something that looks like this…

Thanks to the Utah State University’s Merrill-Cazier Library for this great example!

Or this…

Are you ready to try your hand? This week’s image is….

P2014-26_, Gov Sullivan at groundbreaking for Meals on Wheels, Cheyenne, with giant cutlery, Summer 1992

Just a couple of things to keep in mind:
– No swearing, crude language, or mean-spirited memes (we’re looking for humor, not insults)
– Please do not personally attack the people in the historic images. They are someone’s relatives!

Leave your best in the comment sections or on Facebook. We will share the best here on the blog on Friday.

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Happy Archives Month!

archives month poster 2014 - 11x17 - 1

 

Happy Archives Month! Did you know that October is also Family History Month? What better way to celebrate October than by digging into your family history at the Archives!

Check back throughout the month for caption contests and posts highlighting record types that help you dig deeper into your family history.

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Happy 1010th!

electronic records logo_2014 final

Happy Electronic Records Day!

It’s not a Hallmark holiday yet, but Electronic Records Day is gaining momentum and importance with each passing year. E-Records Day is an opportunity for archivists to raise awareness about the crucial role electronic records play in our lives and the special effort required to preserve them long-term. The preservation of electronic records is an issue that affects us all. Many important records that we used to keep in paper form – for instance, photos, tax documents, and correspondence – are now often electronic. These records are more at risk than paper records and therefore require more attention. Our friends at the Council of State Archivists have put together this list of tips for preserving your digital records. Go celebrate the day by copying, organizing, and migrating your electronic records!

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Friday Foodie: “Putting Up” For The Winter

Fall is definitely in the air in Wyoming. And with snow once again falling in the mountains, its only a matter of time before it begins to fall (in earnest) on the plains. Once upon a time, this would have sent the housewife running to her pantry and cellar to recount her food stores one more time. Thanks to modern conveniences like grocery store, freezers and refrigeration, few of us must rely solely on our gardening and preserving skills these days.

In the late 1980s, the Wyoming Homemaker’s Extension Club collected oral histories from many of their long time members about their involvement in the extension service and how the programs influenced their lives. Many of the ladies also shared how homemaking and housekeeping had changed during their life. For Peggy Nelson, the interview was a way to pass on some of her extensive knowledge about preserving food to the next generation of homemakers.

[I] learning how to can and preserve food… [from] two expert teachers: my mother, Mabel Wood, and Al’s mom, Fern Nelson. Both know how to have cellars full of food by the time winter came.

We tried not to waste anything. A good root cellar was a must in those days. That’s where you kept all your food for the wintertime.

The equipment I used in canning was glass quart or pint jars that used zinc lids with glass liners and rubber rings. Later I used the metal rings and lids. I used a cold packing method. I used my boiler and a wooden rack Al made for the bottom. The jars were sealed and put into the warm water and brought to a boil for a certain length of time depending on the content. I never did use a pressure cooker.

I canned, first blanching the vegetables and cooking and putting them in the jars for the cold water packing. The meat I fried a little bit on both sides and then used the brown gravy in the pan to put in the jars and cold packed. Salt was added to the meat and vegetable jars before sealing. Fruit was canned by open kettle in a light or heavy syrup and put into hot sterilized jars and sealed. Sugar was the main sweetener. Jams, jellies and butters were sealed with a thick layer of paraffin and capped.

Unidentified woman working in kitchen, ca 1924. (WSA Sub Neg 24638)

Unidentified woman working in kitchen, ca 1924.
(WSA Sub Neg 24638)

I made pickles. The quick kind was sliced or chunked and put into jars and hot vinegar and spices poured over them and sealed. These were cooked a little bit before putting in the jars. Fruit or vegetable relishes were also cooked before canning by open kettle method and canned in jars and sealed. Vegetables could be stored in crocks or wooden barrels in a brining method such as cucumbers, sauerkraut, roasting ears, green beans. A brine to float and egg was used. The crocks were set in the cellar on shelves with a cloth covered weight put on the top to keep the vegetables under the brine. A clean cloth was placed over that to keep the contents clean. The crocks were checked often and the weights, whether a plate or a wooden plank, and cloths were washed and replaced regularly.

Many spices were used for pickles; black and white pepper, mustard seed, garlic, turmeric, cloves, cinnamon, sugar and dill and a good vinegar. Fruit pickles could also be stored in crocks. For example, crab apples were simmered in a sugar and spice vinegar until tender and poured into a crock and covered with a cloth and a weight. Cucumbers could be pickled by first brining then freshening in several cold waters and several day of a sweet vinegar poured over hot, each day then weighted and covered.

Irrigated Garden, YU Ranch, Big Horn County, WY (WSA J.E. Stimson Collection Neg 624)

Irrigated Garden, YU Ranch, Big Horn County, WY
(WSA J.E. Stimson Collection Neg 624)

Onions were also fixed by blanching quickly and covering with a sweet or sour vinegar to taste. Green peppers, blanched and stuffed with shredded cabbage, could be placed in crocks and a salt and vinegar brine poured over them. Grape leaves were put in the bottom and top of crocks of dill pickles and between and on top along with the dill heads. Mixed spices were added if desired along with garlic and horseradish with a salt vinegar water brine and covered and stored in a coolish warm place. Granite or enameled pans or kettles were the best to use when heating the vinegar in pickle making.

In drying food. I dried corn, peas, apples, plums and squash. These were prepared and dried in the sun. The vegetables were blanched lightly.

Apples were peeled and put in salt water to keep from turning dark. Plums were pitted and squash sliced thin. All were laid on sheets of cloth in the sun or attic and covered to keep clean for several days, turning or stirring occasionally. They were stored in cloth sacks and hung in a dry place.

"Apples at Uncle Dunc's on Sybille." Duncan Grant planted the first apple orchard in Platte County. (WSA Grant Collection Print 5)

“Apples at Uncle Dunc’s on Sybille.” Duncan Grant planted the first apple orchard in Platte County.
(WSA Grant Collection Print 5)

Some vegetables such as carrots, turnips, rutabagas and beets could be put in boxes or barrels with layers of clean sand and stored in the cellar. Cabbage heads were pulled, wrapped in paper and hung in the cellar, heads down or laid on shelves. Apples were wrapped individually and layered in a box or tub and a lid laid over the top and stored in the cellar. Pumpkins, melons and squash could be buried in the oat bin, or kept in a dry place away from freezing.

Peggy goes on to discuss other methods of food preservation, but we’ll keep those for another time.

Do you remember helping your mother or grandmother fill the pantry and cellar? What were some of the family staples? Do you continue the tradition?

__________

(A big thanks to Clara Varner who asked last year about pickling and fermentation. It took a bit of digging to find a good source in the collection, but we hope Peggy Nelson’s knowledge inspires you.)

***** These memories are intended to be of historical interest only. Please use modern preservation methods recommended by the Wyoming Extension Service, especially when canning meats and non-acidic foods. ****

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Happy 225th Birthday USPS!

The United States Postal Service was established on September 26, 1789, making 2014 their 225th year in operation. How has the postal service impacted Wyoming? Let us count the ways…

Happy Birthday USPS!! (WSA Brammar Neg 4750)

Happy Birthday USPS!!
(WSA Brammar Neg 4750)

A post office was usually the only institution necessary to be considered a town in Wyoming. And thus many “towns” sprang up with a population of 1…the postmaster. And many died when the post office was discontinued. Take Birdseye for example. Originally it was a stage station, but it served as a post office from 1906-1913. The post master estimated a population of 50 in the area, but served about 200. Nowhere near 50 lived in the town’s 3 buildings and a lean-to.

Hunters with post office and hotel, Birdseye Wyoming, 1917 (WSA Provence print 27)

Hunters with post office and hotel, Birdseye Wyoming, 1917
(WSA Provence print 27)

Before phone calls were cheap and well before the internet, the mail call was something to look forward to.

2 soldiers on a cot reading letters, Fort DA Russell, Wyoming  (WSA Bristol-Jackson Collection Neg 26-13)

2 soldiers on a cot reading letters, Fort DA Russell, Wyoming
(WSA Bristol-Jackson Collection Neg 26-13)

Postmasters, like Perry Smith of Rawlins, were sometimes almost an institution in themselves. They kept the mail on schedule.

Postmaster Perry Smith sorting mail, Rawlins 1898 (Sub Neg 9931)

Postmaster Perry Smith sorting mail, Rawlins 1898
(Sub Neg 9931)

As technology advanced, so did the mail system. From sorting by hand to today’s automated sorting machines, the USPS continues to modify its mechanisms. But the sorting room has always been the sorting room.

Cheyenne Post Office interior, 1910 (WSA Sub Neg 17533)

Cheyenne Post Office interior, 1910
(WSA Sub Neg 17533)

And then there came airmail in 1918. And the main route went right through Wyoming, stopping at Rock Springs and Cheyenne, the region’s main air hub. (No Neg, Two US Airmail pilots and a plane)

Wyoming’s airmail beacons even inspired the 5 cent airmail stamp used from 1928-1930. The artwork on the Beacon stamp depicts a plane and an airmail beacon that closely resembles the one at Sherman Hill, between Cheyenne and Laramie. This was the highest beacon of the 1,500 on the route.

Old Faithful Geyser also inspired a stamp, which celebrated its first day of sale at the post office in Yellowstone. (Sub Neg 2747, Sen. Joseph O’Mahoney & W.H. Jackson at window of post office, Gov. Leslie Miller is behind the window on the left. July 30, 1934)

According to Gallagher and Patera’s book Wyoming Post Offices, 1850-1980, 1,100 names have been used for post offices. There were 16 in existence in 1869 when Wyoming became a territory and over 200 at the time of statehood in 1890. Currently, there are about 153 post offices.

1940 Postal Route Map, showing airmail and driving routes

1940 Postal Route Map, showing airmail and driving routes

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JFK Visits Wyoming

51 years ago today, on September 25, 1963, President John F. Kennedy spoke at the University of Wyoming.

JFK waving to the crowd with Gale McGee in back seat as the Presidential Motorcade arrives at the Field House. (WSA WY Game & Fish Neg 4695A, )

JFK waving to the crowd with Gale McGee in back seat as the Presidential Motorcade arrives at the Field House.
(WSA WY Game & Fish Neg 4695A)

His stop in Laramie was one of three that day in the Cowboy State. He first stopped in Cheyenne long enough to step off Air Force One, wave to the crowd and shake hands. He then boarded the plane again and flew to Laramie. At Laramie, the President was at greeted Brees Field by Governor Cliff Hansen and Senator Gale McGee.

President Kennedy arrived at the University of Wyoming Field House in an open convertible, very reminiscent of the one he would use in Dallas less than 2 months later. The President gave a short speech on natural resources and resource development to the nearly 13,000 people packed into the Field House and then returned to Air Force One for the final leg of his journey to the area around Jackson. The home of Governor Hansen, Jackson was considered a Republican stronghold in the state at the time and the Laramie Boomerang reported only 114 registered Democrats in all of Teton County.

The paper also mentioned that the democratic president would be “benefiting from the philanthropy of the Rockefeller Family,” pointing out that the lodge he would stay at and the National Park surrounding it was in a large part made possible by money provided by John D. Rockefeller. Jr. Rockefeller’s son, Nelson, was speculated to be a possible Republican opponent to the president in the 1964 presidential election.

Pres Kennedy speaking in Laramie on the UW Field House stage. L to R: Sen. Gale McGee, Secretary of Interior Stewart Udall, unidentified, President Kennedy, Governor Cliff Hansen and Montana Senator Lee Metcalf. September 25, 1963 (WSA WY G&F Print 4705)

Pres Kennedy speaking in Laramie on the UW Field House stage on September 5, 1963. L to R: Sen. Gale McGee, Secretary of Interior Stewart Udall, unidentified, President Kennedy, Governor Cliff Hansen and Montana Senator Lee Metcalf. 
(WSA WY G&F Print 4705)

His well-choreographed visit to Laramie lasted only about 45 minutes from landing to takeoff. It is interesting to note that he did not dawdle, leaving Laramie 7 minutes ahead of schedule and ended his day nearly half an hour ahead when he retired early to his room at Jackson Lake Lodge.

You can read President Kennedy’s speech and see his note cards on the JFK Presidential Library’s website. Two short videos of footage from his visit to Laramie are also available on YouTube here and here.

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Throwback Thursday: Cheyenne ca 1905

This gem turned up recently while re-housing our lantern slide collection. It doesn’t look like much from here. In fact it was labeled “unidentified town.”

How times have changed. The wide open plains in this photo are now residential neighborhoods (and there are a lot more trees) (WSA H55-53/220, colored lantern slide)

How times have changed. The wide open plains in this photo are now residential neighborhoods (and there are a lot more trees)
(WSA H55-53/220, colored lantern slide)

But if you take a closer look (or scan it at an absurdly high resolution) the image gets a bit more interesting.

Detail of the lantern slide above. (WSA H55-53/220)

Detail of the lantern slide above. Once the buildings can be identified, it is pretty clear that you are looking south down what would be Capitol Avenue at the back of the Capitol Building. 
(WSA H55-53/220)

This picture happens to be of Cheyenne, taken from north of the Capitol Building looking back towards town. The photo was probably taken between 1905 and 1910.

The large building just to the left of the Capitol Building is the Convent and Academy of the Holy Child Jesus, run by sisters from the Society of the Holy Child Jesus. The building was completed in 1886, the same year construction began on the Capitol Building, and was replaced in 1952 by the St. Mary’s Grade School building. This lot has since been transferred to the State of Wyoming and is currently being used as a parking lot with the eventual plan to construct a State office building on the site.

The Masonic Temple, built in 1903, is clearly visible on the right. The current roof line of the building is a bit different from this original one, thanks to a fire around 1911.

The road on the far right of the photo is Carey Avenue, thought at the time it was known as Ferguson Avenue. Many of the cattle barons built their mansions along this road, earning it the moniker “Millionaire’s Row.” If you were to follow this road to the north out of this frame, you would find Frontier Park, home of Cheyenne Frontier Days.

Lantern slides like this one were designed to be projected onto a screen or wall. The blue and green tinting of the slides was an attempt to make it look more realistic in the era before true color photographs.

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