Monday, March 27, 2006

Today's Mail

I got two items of genealogical interest in the mail today. The first was The Grand River Times, the newsletter of the Grand Rapids (Michigan) Historical Sociey, of which I am a former member. I'm still receiving their newsletter, though. They have an interesting article about a presentation of antique Grand Rapids penny postacards at the Ford Museum in Grand Rapids on April 13th. Apparently, penny postcards are a terrific way to view urban history. Because of their economical price, many were massed produced in the late 1800's and early 1900's. If you can find a postcard of your ancestor's hometown, you may be able to see what his/her neighborhood, place of worship, place of business or local park looked like.

The second item was from my mother's cousin, and was a package of documents - copies of her parents' vital records and some of her father's military papers. This was my maternal grandmother's sister and brother-in-law, Mary Louise (Hoekstra) and John Peter Glashower, II. Not only are my cousin Kathy and I exchanging records for our own genealogical collections, we are safeguarding them by keeping copies in another state, should a disaster occur. The last few years have brought large terrorist strikes, tsunamis, hurricanes and other major events that should prompt family historians to double-check their backup plans on those priceless heirlooms and genealogical data.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Ordering Vital Records

This morning I mailed off applications for vital records for ancestors of my husband. I was prompted by the posting at GenealogyBlog a few days ago that mentioned that there was a bill before the Colorado State legislature that, if passed, will prevent access to Colorado marriage records. Ridiculous! Of course, the reasoning behind this bill is identity theft and terrorism prevention, but once, again, paranoia has driven things too far! I can understand protecting records that are less than 50 or even 60 years old...but tell me how restricting access to marriage records that are 100 years old will prevent identity theft and terrorism? I can see it now...members of Al-Quaida are meeting to figure out a way to get counterfeit ID, and decide they will use Norm's great-grandparents' marriage record of 1907 to show proof of residence and thus citizenship. Oh, wait...that couple married 101 years ago! So I guess that member of Al-Quaida looks a little young to be married in 1907! Nevertheless, we must protect our citizens. Quick, shut down access to public records in the name of Homeland Security!

OK, off my soapbox. I ordered a marriage certificate from Colorado for John Franklin Midkiff, Sr. and Margie Ethel Tolliver; a birth record for Helen Mary Westaby (Norm's paternal grandmother) from Montana; and a death certificate for John Franklin Midkiff, Jr. (Norm's paternal grandfather) from Washington (State). To get applications, I simply went to,, and I looked for "vital records" or "public health" links on the main pages of each website. All three sites were user-friendly, and I was able to find what I needed right away. If I hadn't been able to, I would have looked on the main page for a link to a site map, or done a site search.

I chose mail-in applications which I printed (all were .pdf files which I viewed with Adobe Acrobat) over online applications, which used third party businesses and were rather expensive. The mail-in applications may take some time, but they were reasonably priced. I didn't pay more than $17 apiece for the certificates.

Friday, March 03, 2006

National Archives Documents Removed

I saw this AP article this evening, and thought about the implication to historians, genealogists, and researchers:

"Intelligence officials will meet with the county's top archivist early next week to discuss the withdrawal of historical documents from the National Archives' public shelves, Archivist of the United States Allen Weinstein said Friday.

"He said he requested the meeting following disclosure last month of a program in which thousands of documents, previously declassified, were being removed from public access. Historians protested the practice, saying they had access to many of the documents in past years.

"'The key here is not whether records are being classified or reclassified,' Weinstein said. 'It is whether or not it is appropriate to do so.'"

Read the rest of the article here.