Finding Family for Free, Part XV

Efforts to research and record your family history will in most cases be more successful if part of the story is already published in books. These books may include individual biographies, brief biographical sketches in history books on various communities, memoirs and family genealogy books.

During the 1800s and early 1900s, many volumes of community history were published, and most contained biographical sketches of individual citizens.  Whether you find biosketchs about direct ancestors or about close relatives, you can find invaluable insights about your family members and their lives.  Remember, though, that published works can have errors, just a census records and other sources do.

One example of the biographical narrative published as part of a community history is the story of Isaac Sharp and his wife Mary (Woolverton) Sharp of McNarlins Run, Waynesburgh, Greene County, Pennsylvania. The biosketch offers a look at Isaac and Mary’s lives as well as their many children.

Unfortunately, it gives incorrect information about some of the daughters’ spouses. In particular, daughter Rebecca married David Conger, not Ephriam Corwin. See the clarification, based on Conger genealogy records and family letters.

Still, to learn that Isaac’s parents were Scotch-Irish, and that Isaac’s own career was as a teacher and surveyor, adds immensely to the family story.

Another book that helped me, although with a different branch of the family, was I Was Born in America: The Memoirs of William George Bruce. William was the oldest brother of one of my great-grandfathers. Thus the sections of the book about his parents and about his and his siblings’ childhoods in early day Milwaukee provide wonderful insights about my own ancestors.

To help me and others interested in this period of Milwaukee history, I created an index to this book of memoirs that mentions many well known people of Milwaukee in this era as well as family members.  A fine genealogy Web site for Milwaukee — Links to the Past/Milwaukee — has posted that memoirs index online.

Fortunately, twelve chapters of his memoirs were published in the 1930s in the Wisconsin Magazine of History, from the Wisconsin Historical Society. And today, WHS has digitized its magazine back issues and put them online. Thus, I can reread his descriptions  in Chapters I and II of growing up in the intensely German neighborhood just to the east of the Milwaukee River.  Or view again the photograph of his parents, Augustus F. Bruce and Apollonia Becker Bruce, and read a bit of their story. All twelve chapters are listed on the William George Bruce Web page that I created.

You can use the WorldCat or world library catalogue to search for books about your family lines, and then you can use the free or low cost Interlibrary Loan Service to bring the volume to you for reading.  Don’t miss this great method for finding family for free.

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.

Published in: on February 11, 2007 at 9:42 pm  Leave a Comment