Family Found in 2 of 75

When the  Milwaukee County Historical Society celebrated its 75th Anniversary in 2010, the staff chose 75 items from the collections that they considered “both unique and enlightening” and told a story about Milwaukee County’s past or about the Historical Society. Imagine my surprise recently on discovering that 2 of the 75 items have a direct connection to my own ancestors.

First, you can view the entire collection of 75 items ranging from a red A. O. Smith Flyer to Christopher Bach’s violin to Increase Lapham’s bookcase to Arthur McArthur’s desk to Old Settlers Club albums. These items and collections help illuminate Milwaukee’s history and people. Each is worth exploring to learn more.

Second, as noted, 2 of the 75 items have family connections.

One consists of a pair of  daguerreotypes featuring Byron Kilbourn, one of Milwaukee’s founders, and his wife  Henrietta. The main connection is that these pictures for some years were on display at the Benjamin Church House or Kilbourntown house built by my ancestor Benjamin Church and now a museum. Another connection is that Benjamin was an early Milwaukee settler, arriving in 1835 and living in Kilbourntown on the west side of the Milwaukee River. He was a political associate of Kilbourn’s in early Milwaukee.

The other is the William George Bruce Collection featuring family chronicles from 1916 to 1948. A Milwaukee publisher, historian and civic leader, William George Bruce was the oldest brother of my great-grandfather Martin P. Bruce.

These two members of my extended family are featured in a recent blog post I did on writing and posting biographical sketches on Wikipedia about selected ancestors.

There are other family connections to 75 items in the anniversary collection, but they less specific. Benjamin Church was a member of the Old Settlers Club and may be mentioned in one or more of the Old Settlers Club Albums while several family members have documents in the collection of Naturalization Papers.

When working on your family history, keep a look out for materials from the historical society where they lived. You too may be pleasantly surprised!

Please follow me on Twitter: http://twitter.com/BBPetura

Why not check out my helpful Genealogy Resources webpage: http://bit.ly/GenealogyResources

Please join my group Finding Family for Free at GenealogyWise:
http://www.genealogywise.com/group/findingfamilyforfree

Thank you! And good researching!

Ancestors on Wikipedia

Do you have an ancestor who has made a significant contribution to his or her community, field of business or profession? Were they an inventor or artist or civic leader of note? Then consider developing a biographical sketch for them — using encyclopedia format — and add it to Wikipedia.

Why is this a worthwhile step in your family history? First, you will need to organize many details about your noted ancestor in a thorough and coherent way to share with others. Second, it will go onto the website well known for being the place to turn for information on all important topics.

Of course, most of our ancestors are not likely subjects for Wikipedia, no matter how good they were as citizens and family members. But if there are distinctive and influential features to their lives and careers, you should consider taking this step. To do this, you should sign up for a Wikipedia account and learn the basic formatting steps for a Wikipedia entry. Or find someone to help you.

Some years ago, I visited the Benjamin Church House that today is a pioneer museum in Estabrook Park, Shorewood, north of Milwaukee. It was built in the early days of Milwaukee, 1843-1844, not far west of the Milwaukee River by my third great-grandfather for his family. He used the distinctive Greek Revival style for the house, one of the reasons it was rescued and turned into a museum. I wrote a Wikipedia article about the Benjamin Church House because it is on the National Register of Historic Places and is open to the public in the summer.

Sometime later, I wrote a Wikipedia entry about Benjamin F. Church himself. He was one of the earliest white settlers in Milwaukee, was a carpenter and builder, filled several public offices in the early city — and of course built the Benjamin Church House that still stands today.

Recently, I had time to write a Wikipedia entry on William George Bruce, a Milwaukee publisher, historian and influential civic leader. I had done considerable research about him as he was the oldest brother of my great-grandfather Martin P. Bruce. I had the details on his career, public service contributions and family, as well as his many recognitions and awards including being called “Public Citizen No. 1″ for Milwaukee. I also had many sources, very necessary for the References or Notes section of a Wikipedia entry. Luckily I had found a copy of the book I Was Born in America: Memoirs of William George Bruce that helped me with my family genealogy as well as the Wikipedia entry.

Of course there are other places to post such biographical sketches, including your own family history website. But if you have an ancestor whose contributions are influential and distinctive — and if they don’t yet have a Wikipedia entry — consider doing it. You will add to the store of knowledge we all share through Wikipedia.

Please follow me on Twitter: http://twitter.com/BBPetura

Why not check out my helpful Genealogy Resources webpage: http://bit.ly/GenealogyResources

Please join my group Finding Family for Free at GenealogyWise:
http://www.genealogywise.com/group/findingfamilyforfree

Thank you!

Google for Genealogy

Whether you are just starting your family history research or are an experienced genealogist, free online resources are always a plus. And “Finding Family for Free” is a key emphasis of this blog, Relative Musings.

In that spirit, here is a helpful article by TJD with one proposed list of the “Top Five Free Genealogy Websites.” Click here to read the details of each one. The 5 that TJD recommended are:
>> FreeBMD for ancestors in England,
>> RootsWeb with user-contributed family info,
>> Google News Archive,
>> Newspaper Archive, and
>> USGenWeb project.

While some of these are not totally free, all have some free resources are are worth using. For example, the Newspaper Archive offers free searches of the the front pages of newspapers in its database. But most of the others are totally free.

Of the five, new to me was the Google News Archive. I tried it out and immediately found a weath of information about my extended Bruce family in Milwaukee. It helps that William George Bruce, older brother of my great-grandfather, was a prominent figure in publishing and civic service in Milwaukee.

Given that success, I offer for your consideration a trio of Google resources for your genealogy research, each useful in its own way.

Google Books:  Many older family genealogy books and histories of US towns, cities and counties have been scanned through the Google Books project. Some are there in full text, others in limited preview and others just indexed with brief snippets of text excerpted in the search results. But you have a good chance of finding ancestors in some of these books, especially earlier generations in New England.

Google Search:  A basic Google search — if well crafted to be specific enough — can lead you to relevant family history Web sites created by other genealogists or other helpful information. Maybe your ancestor was an early settler in an American town and is mentioned in the town’s history online.

Google News Archive: The news archive is a way to find articles about ancestors, as well as obituaries that fill in a gap in your family history.

Make it a habit to use all three Google strategies as you work to break down genealogy brickwalls or fill out the story of an ancestor’s life.  Your family history will benefit!

Other resources on using Google:

> Using Google for Genealogy, by Kathi Reid
> Easy Google Genealogy Searcher, a handy tool
> Using Google Books in Genealogy, a helpful video

There are entire handbooks in PDF format on using Google for genealogy. Just do a Google search on that phrase and you’ll find a treasure trove of helpful resources!

Best wishes in your family history research!

This is one in a series of genealogy and family history research articles to help you find your family and ancestors, often for modest or no cost.

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