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Making a Home on the Homestead – Those Places Thursday

During the course of your research, you’ll have a nagging feeling of neglect for a certain person or family group.  Maybe you were satisfied with your research and wondered off to more pressing projects.  Perhaps you hit a brick wall and left to pursue other projects out of frustration.  Or just maybe you were lured away by all those lovely Irish Parish Records which were just released for free online through the National Library of Ireland.  Lovely stuff, parish records.

I’ve just returned from a research trip in Northern Georgia, where I was lured to several cemeteries, libraries, and archives in search for records for my mother’s application for the Daughters of the American Revolution.  I think I have sources for nearly all the records I need now, apart from a few pesky marriage records.  (Why can’t I find a marriage for these people?  Geeze!)  After spending so much time researching the maternal line of my family, my post research trip priorities began to shift to my father’s homesteading ancestors.

The nagging feeling for switching gears in my research began with guilt.  Guilt that I’d been visiting with one side of the family more than the other.  Without a 1890 census for reference, I had to look at an 1885 Nebraska State Census and the 1900 US Federal Census.  Here are Frank and Anna Dudek with their children Agnes, Jennie, Frederick, Frank, and Albert as well as Anna’s mother Anna Kucera.  Heaven bless the 1900 Federal Census enumerator Andrew J. Ruddy, as he included a date of birth for all family members during his visit to the household on June 27, 1900.

Dudek 1900 Census
From the the original homestead record signed by President Garfield, I used Historic Map Works to overlay a 1899 plat map to the present day Google Earth map.  The 160 acre Dudek farm has been swallowed up by a larger farm, so the sod cabin, barns, and outbuilding are completely gone.

My new mission has been trying to piece together the lives of my ancestors on a former homestead property.Dudek horses  I have a few snippets of information from the original homestead document, a signed affidavit of property ownership (for legal or identity purposes), those gorgeous maps on Historic Map Works,  family stories, and a treasured photograph of Frank Dudek with his work horses.  My parents have Frank and Anna’s original bedroom suit, which they brought with them from Cleveland to Nebraska in 1883.  In a quick browse through the family library, I located at least three books which had been purchased for the Dudek children for their homestead adventure from 1883-1903 such as The Secret Garden, Black Beauty, and Rip Van Winkle.  Due to the ages of the children, it is a possibility the older girls received The Secret Garden and Black Beauty well before their younger brother scrawled his name ‘Bertie Dudek’ in each one of the books.

I watched all the episodes of the PBS series Frontier House in one night, and gleaned some ideas of what daily life was like on an 1882 farm.  The skills and tasks of traditional and modern farm life is available on The Prairie Homestead, which is a fantastic a wonderful resource!  The cheese making and natural insect repellent recipes are on my to-do list this week.  The Smithsonian Institute hosts a kid-friendly Life in a Sod House page with free downloadable worksheets and activities.  Simple, yes.  Entertaining?  Absolutely!  I wished I had access to these worksheets when I was growing up!

One of my last tasks in this mission to bring the past back to life was through the family dinner table.  What were some of the dishes they would have served or ate?  Frank and Anna Dudek were married in February 1882, and Anna may have received a cookbook as a wedding present or as a farewell gift before heading to their Nebraska farm in June 1883.  Staying true to the time period, I found a copy of Common Sense in the Household: A Manual of Practical Housewifery by Marion Harland and found an array of simple dishes, soups, and a hefty amount of household advice.  This recipe for Turkey Scallop sounds easy and rather interesting:
turkey scallop
I have a few alternative resource strategies to learn more about the Dudek family and their time in Nebraska.  I found a great downloadable resource from the Nebraska State Historical Society called A Place in History: Researching Your Nebraska Property.  It’s definitely a must-read for anyone researching Nebraska land records.

For anyone who’s interested in seeing a map overlay of your ancestor’s property, you will definitely want to register for a free Historic Map Works account, which includes a lot of the major services of the site at no charge.  Some of the premium resources can be purchased by subscription or on a pay-as-you-go format.  An annual subscription will set you back about $130, but check your local library or archive to see if they subscribe to the service.   Keep your fingers crossed, as Historic Map Works may be provided on this year’s Try-It! Illinois Database Trial in October and November 2015.  This trial will allow you to access Historic Map Works, Ancestry Library Edition, the Digital Sandborne Maps, Online Newspapers, and other amazing resources for free for the whole two month run of the trial.  I’ll have an update about Try-It! Illinois in early October.

So now, I have a new purpose for researching homesteading ancestors.  There are still a few questions I have regarding the land records, but now I have a new excuse to raid the family book shelves, write to extended cousins, and contact the Boone County Historical Society in Nebraska.  I can’t wait to get started!

The next Fountaindale Public Library Genealogy Club meeting will be on Wednesday, September 9 at 7 p.m. when Jennifer Holik will present The Day that Lived in Infamy: Researching Your World War II Ancestors.  Jennifer has published a two volume set of books on the subject which are available for purchase on Amazon.  She will also have copies of her books for sale on the day of the program.

Also in September, the Fox Valley Genealogical Society will host George G Morgan at their 22nd Annual Conference on Saturday, September 26.  Mr. Morgan will give four one-hour lecture topics on Locating and Accessing Published Genealogies Online, Five Reason the Records Aren’t In the Courthouse, Alternate Records You May Never Have Considered, and Sidestep Genealogy.  Tickets are available online or by mail, and you will definitely not want to miss it!

See You at the Library!

4 thoughts on “Making a Home on the Homestead – Those Places Thursday

  1. Hi Miss Debra I know you’re the expert, but have you tried to find a local historicalsociety for your family’s homestead area? I speak from experience –the county in which my farm is located has its own society and Iwas able to find a lot of interesting info….and they went crazy tryingto help me. Though it wasn’t directly related to filling holes in myfamily research, one thing led to another, and I was able to gettime cards for one of my Mother’s uncles who worked onion fieldsduring WWII. Anyway, I found the attached — maybe some help ? http://www.nebraskahistory.org/lib-arch/services/refrence/la_pubs/geneal5.htm See ya’ soon — Jane

    Date: Wed, 15 Jul 2015 19:40:39 +0000 To: janekriz@msn.com

  2. I have been working on gathering documents for my DAR application and I’m running into problems even finding a birth certificate for my grandmother! Do you have any advice when the state dept tells you they have no record and you can’t find the city someone was born in? I know I should talk to my local DAR chapter, but I recently moved and haven’t joined yet. Any advice you have on that process of document hunting would be great!

  3. Hi Jennifer,
    Thanks for your post! There are alternative records for births which should be accepted by the DAR. Here are a few ideas:

    1) A delayed birth certificate – A delayed birth certificate is any birth certificate not filed within one year of the date of birth. These were filed later by an individual for proof of birth for the purposes of a marriage, passport, or a social security application. Delayed birth certificates were issued in the county of birth and required up to three proofs of births, such as witness testimony or a family bible page. In this way, negligence or an inability to apply for a birth certificate can mean a treasure trove of information for a genealogist.
    2) Social Security applications are a great way to find supporting evidence for an ancestor’s birth date. If your grandmother received social security, you can fill out an SS-5 application online and receive a copy of her application here: https://secure.ssa.gov/apps9/eFOIA-FEWeb/internet/main.jsp .
    3) Obituary or headstone – Your grandmother’s date of birth could have been listed in her obituary or on her headstone. Don’t overlook this resource. As you move further back in your genealogy, headstones can be used to support dates of birth and death for your application.

    Yes, you will want to stop in to see your friendly DAR genealogist, who will be more than happy to help you with your quest. Don’t despair! You have more resources available than you realize!

    Good luck!

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