Finding Family for Free, Part II

Once you have your core family history collected and organized, as discussed in Part I below, you’ll see many directions to continue your explorations. 

If you are fortunate and have your parents, grandparents and great-grandparents all or largely recorded, you will have eight surnames to pursue. You have fourteen individuals to learn about and biographical sketches to write, if you want to focus on the generations close to you.  This is a very worthwhile endeavor.

Or you may want to push back your family stories and family trees another generation or two, to learn more about where you came from.  As you do your family interviews, as recommended in Part I, make sure to ask for family recollections about deeper family roots.  Those clues will be valuable as you continue your research.

Here are some strategies and resources to consider, depending on what you decide to pursue.  Because genealogy has become such a popular activity, and thanks to the Internet, there are many places to look for information at no cost.

Google Search:  Many genealogy Web sites post information on pages that can be indexed by the major search engines including Google.  Search for your ancestor by full name or by name and location.  Try a variation using initials for the individual’s first and middle name.  If searching for an ancestor in the 1800s, try using the abbreviations for first names that were popular then, such as Wm. for William, Jno. for John and so on. Also, try with and without quotation marks around the name.

Example:  One of my maternal great-grandfathers was William Henry Luehr, an educator in central and eastern Wisconsin.  Googling on “W H Luehr,” I found him in the October 17, 1931, edition of the Wisconsin Rapids Daily Tribune that carried excerpts from the Wood County Reporter of Sept 19, 1889. [Use the block of text in lower left and scroll to the mention of him].

The editor in 1889 noted that he had enjoyed a conversation with “Mr. W. H. Luehr of Calumet county,” who had been hired to serve as high school principal there. “We found him a very sociable and agreeable gentleman, and we believe him well qualified for the position he holds,” the editor concluded.

I also found him in the the March 4, 1893 edition of the Centralia Enterprise newspaper that reported he and his wife were entertaining students at their home in Grand Rapids, today Wisconsin Rapids.  While I knew he was an educator, I was surprised to find his name listed as one of the owners and publishers of the newspaper. Here was another facet of his life.

He also was in a 1907  listing of Wisconsin school superintendents and principals, showing that he was by then superintendent of the Manitowoc South Side schools, with 328 students enrolled. His salary was also listed.

Googling on his full name, William Henry Luehr, turned up a Conger-Luehr page in a family genealogy Web site. Included there is his marriage to Clara Hachez, their daughter Lucille Marguerite Luehr and her marriage to Howard Dale Conger. Lucille and Howard are my maternal grandparents.

Using this basic tool, a Google search, I found aspects of W. H. Luehr’s life — including the foray into newspapering — that current family members did not know. A treat for a researcher!

Once you have names, dates, careers, spouses and children, do a Google search for the area they lived, looking for history and genealogy sites that will help you tell a livelier story. 

For example, here’is a fine page of historical resources for Wisconsin Rapids and Wood County, with links to online books, maps and more.  In one online book, I found W. H. Luehr in the Witter House group, the young, unmarried professional men who lived in Grand Rapids.  The caption  says he is fourth from left, top row, and misspells his name as Lehr.  Further down the page I spotted a short history of area newspaper editors, his name included erroneously as W. H. Lueher. But we see the W. H. Luehr and E. B. Brundage newspaper partnership started in 1890.

That McMillan Memorial Library Web site also led to the 1892 Centralia Directory [Centralia and Grand Rapids were twin cities] with a listing for the “Centralia Enterprise and Tribune, Luehr and Brundage, editors and publishers, e Water 5 n Cranberry.” The paper apparently was near city hall on Cranberry.  An advertisement on Page 27 describes it as “A Live Democratic Paper,” with subscriptions at $1.50 per year. A directory listing showed it was a weekly paper.

Watch out for changes in street names!  A Google search shows that Cranberry Street in Centralia became West Grand Avenue, an extension of the Grand Rapids street of that name around the time that twin cities merged.

And search using the misspelled versions of your ancestors’ names!  The newspaper career of W. H. Luehr — his name spelled Lueher — is described in Chapter XV of a Wood County history, the link here to a PDF file. 

Finally, our Google research has yielded a clue that we still need to follow, namely that W. H. Luehr appears in a local Wisconsin Rapids history book as shown by this online index. Later we’ll discuss using Interlibrary Loan to borrow books like this one.

But what a wealth of details for a family history!

More examples of free resources will be discussed in Part III of this series.

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

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Published in: on October 28, 2006 at 6:24 pm  Leave a Comment  

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