Monday, January 4, 2016

How To Do a One Place Study

I have to admit that I really appreciate all the hard work that goes into one place studies, and I am extremely grateful when I run into one for a location that my family occupied. I also have to admit I didn't fully understand why people did one place studies.

Why do people do one place studies? Why would I? Well, here are a couple of personal anecdotes about why I would do one -- perhaps you'll find other motivations like social science, economics, and all that thinky thinky stuff.

Santa Cruz, California, USA

Santa Cruz, California
I grew up in a small surf city, and when I lived there the population was 41,404. That's probably too big for a first attempt, but I'd suspect that many one place studies are done because the person is living in the town.  Learning more about the families and history of the town you live in is a great high school project, and you might even learn something amazing about that empty lot down the street (like it was part of another town that got swallowed up by the current town).

Garrison, Iowa, USA

Garrison, Iowa
My grandmother grew up in Garrison, Iowa and she's buried there with her parents, brothers, and sisters.  I went there once, and took photos of them.  That was not enough, as I keep learning. If you have ten children from a single place, then you probably have ten weddings... those ten people came from somewhere!   Yes, I'm most likely related to each and every person in Garrison by either blood or marriage.  Sometimes it's the husband of a cousin of the in-law, but they're still kin in some manner or another! The entire Garrison Cemetery matter to me in some way or another, not just the few graves I visited.

Waibstadt, Baden-Württemberg, Germany

Waibstadt, Germany
Originally I only knew that my great great grandfather was born in Waibstadt, and that he moved to Heidelberg. I didn't know much else. At some point I found out he had a brother. Then I found the actual German records for the town of Waibstadt, and I'm trying to learn how to read old German script. I also found the grave records. In matching them all up, I started constructing my very own one place study of sorts.  And yes, it does turn out that as you go back in traces to a single family -- meaning I am related to everyone I was researching!

St. Blazey, Cornwall, England

St Blazey, Cornwall
Thankfully, someone has done a one place study of St. Blazey, Cornwall.  It's an amazing piece of work, and goes back and back and back.  I have mentioned St. Blazey before, in The Mysterious Disappearance of Luke Lukes. Well, the reason I have so much information on the Lukes family of St. Blazey is through the hard work of The Saint Blazey Families Project.

How to do a one place study:

1) Census Records: Basic one place 101 is gather up all the census records and start there. This seems obvious now, but I certainly didn't run down and grab all the Garrison, Iowa census records at first. I started only with the families that I cared about (meaning the ones I knew about).  Just get them all!

2) Cemeteries: It goes without saying that you first one place study should be a small place, hopefully with only one cemetery. Take photos of every gravestone in the cemetery, and then see if there is an office or contact with any paper records that would accompany the graves.

3) Newspapers: The small local paper will be extremely useful, especially with birth and marriage announcements, as well as obituaries.

4) Church Books: There are different churches, and you'll want them all.  FamilySearch has a really good index on what is available for each town. Put in a town, like Garrison, and you'll find out what is available. In Garrison's case there are two (not bad for a town of 371).

5) Civil Records: Besides church records, make sure that there aren't civil records at the local town hall. You're usually welcome to browse through the giant birth, marriage, and death books if they exist.

6) Ortssippenbücher: It can certainly make your life easier if they are located in Germany and someone has already created an Ortssippenbücher (OSB) or Ortsfamilienbücher (OFB) for the village. Supposedly Karlheinz Jakoby spent a lot of time working on the Ortsfamilienbuch Waibstadt, but still hasn't had the 100 pre-orders to get it published. This one is driving me crazy, and I'm just about to place all 100 orders myself. I wrote a letter to Mr. Jakoby, and I'm very hopeful he will write back someday. I can't wait to see his work, and I certainly don't want to do it all over again myself!  

7) Voter Rolls: Voter Rolls and Citizen Lists are a go-to resource for one place studies.

8) Tax Records: Yes, everyone has to pay taxes. Sometimes they call them weird things like Tithe Apportionment Schedules, but they're still taxes.

9) City Directories: Phone books, or yes, before there were phones, they were called directories. City directories. They even had yellow pages before there were yellow pages, usually called something like Trade Directories or something like that.

10) Wills and Estates: just spent a lot of time and trouble on their Wills and Probate collection, and it's great. You'll also want to check the courthouse of the town you're working on.

12) Land Records: Land tenure records are also at the courthouse. Things like deeds, abstracts, indexes, mortgages, leases, grants, and land patents.

12) Military: Muster lists for military and militia service is regional. I've had some luck using for this.

13) Maps: Maps, especially old maps are a wealth of information.  Someone recently sent me one from the 1800's that had a "Will Lukes Hut" on it. That fits the puzzle somehow. I'm not sure how, but you can't have a complete study without a few maps.

14) Photos: And speaking of old maps; don't forget the old photos.  It's really fascinating how places change, and what's even more remarkable is what stays the same. Photos and old postcards really help.  That photo above of Garrison, Iowa is of the old mercantile. That store is still there. I think it even has some of the same stock in it.

15) Societies and Libraries: The local library and local historical society should be visited. They might know if anyone has already done a one place study, and/or put you two in touch to continue the work together.

Start Your Tree

So now what? Well, once you've gathered up all the sources you'll need to start assembling pieces of the family tree.  It will not all fit together at the start, and in fact, it might never all fit together.  You should create it all in the same sandbox or project so that as family groups click together via marriage you don't have to redo everything!

1 comment :

  1. Great article! We would encourage anyone undertaking one-place studies to register their study free on the Worldwide One-Place Study Register at which now has 2,092 places registered