Got To Go T’other Way – Taking a Different Route in Genealogy Research

Genealogy Research

To genealogical researchers, thinking outside the box is just a fancy way of saying, “If ya can’t get there from here – Ya got to go t’other way.” And that is what this blog is all about – taking another route to find additional creative and productive genealogy and ancestral research resources to get you to your destination. Though this article focuses on Nebraska genealogy, the resources listed are helpful in any state in which you may be conducting research.

There’s a New England saying that I like a lot about a person asking for directions: “Ya can’t get there from here – Ya got to go t’other way.” So it is with genealogical research. Sometimes “ya got to go t’other way.” The challenge is to find the other way. Sophisticated types call it thinking outside the box. It might also be called following the paper trail.

That’s fine… but what’s outside the box to think about? For Nebraska genealogists (or other states as well) it might be:
• Schools, Colleges, and Universities
• Fraternal Organizations
• Business Records

Schools, Colleges and Universities

Researching school records in Nebraska can be a bit of a challenge. Town and city schools were more organized, while rural schools were a little less so. Once a year, however, many districts were required to take a school census. This could include the names of the parents and children to the age of 18 or 20 who were not married. Attendance records may also be available. Although siblings may not be identified, the records would indicate if there was an illness or when a student started attending the school or if the family moved.

Finding school records may be a bit difficult. The Nebraska State Historical Society has records for Lancaster and Gage counties on microfilm. Records for schools that are still in existence may still be at the school. If there had been a County Superintendent of Schools, they may have gone to that office. As rural school districts consolidated, that position was eliminated. The records may be at the courthouse or have been destroyed. A check of a local museum should also be considered; occasionally, volunteers managed to save the records.

Colleges and universities sometimes have their own archives. The University of Nebraska at Lincoln archives are located in the Don L. Love Memorial Library. The amount of information that can be released for students and faculty is basic: name, date attended, and field of interest. The university had digitized all of the available yearbooks beginning in 1884.

The University of Nebraska at Omaha (UN-O) archives are found in the Dr. C.C. and Mabel L. Criss Library on the UN-O Campus. Many records and university ephemera are located there. Back issues of the UN-O newspaper, The Gateway, are online. The easiest way to find them is through a search engine.

Most colleges and universities have alumni associations. They should not be forgotten.

A number of smaller colleges have closed. If they had a church affiliation, check with that denomination. If they were private, a local library or historical society may have an idea of where to look.

Fraternal Organizations

Before the telephone, radio, television, and internet, people used to find a need to interact with each other face to face. I say this somewhat in jest, but getting together as a group to socialize and develop plans and ideas to improve one’s self and the community played an important role in society. Finding a family member in the records of a group can add new dimensions to the family history for the Nebraska genealogist – or for someone researching almost anywhere.

There are many organizations that fit this category: Elks, Lions, Rotary, Kiwanis, Masons, Eastern Star, Odd Fellows, Grange, Women’s Clubs, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, 4-H, Sons of Norway, and the list goes on. There isn’t enough space to go into depth on the organizations except to say that a lot of people got involved in a lot of organizations. Many are still active today and have websites.

Among the largest organizations were the Masons. They have an archive in Lincoln.

Many groups kept (and are still keeping) scrapbooks. If the books still survive, they can probably be found on the local level with a member of the organization, at a local library or museum.

Business Records

Who knows what may be found in a ledger?

A businessman may have kept track of accounts and payroll in a ledger. The owner of an industry may have posted purchases, payments and payroll in a ledger. A cemetery sexton may have a book showing plot purchases or burials.

Remember that the mortuary business didn’t really develop until the 20th century. Prior to that, the selling of caskets may have been part of a furniture or hardware store. A surprising number of these records have survived.

For a Nebraska genealogist – or any family historian – what might be found in a business record may only be a very small piece of the puzzle, but it could be the piece that answers an important question.

A city directory or phone book may help in the research of a local business. Larger corporations may have an archive or placed their old records in a museum or library. It may take some sleuthing, but if records can be found, they might solve a question and add to the family portrait.

Look for Clues

When I started working on my family history many years ago, one of my first stops was the cemetery. As I visited more, I noticed that most of the cemeteries – many of these were small rural ones – had a monument or two that were marble tree stumps. I didn’t think much about it because none of those tombstones belonged to my family members. But I did note that the tree stumps were usually from the early 1900s. Within the past couple of years, I found out that the tree stump tombstones indicated Woodmen of the World. The Woodmen of the World Life Insurance Society is based in one of the tallest buildings in downtown Omaha and has an interesting history.

There may also be a Masonic or other fraternal organizational symbol, or a Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) or Sons of the American Revolution (SAR) Insignia on a tombstone or in records left by an ancestor. Keep an eye out for clues.

If you can’t there from here, maybe there is a t’other way.

Genealogy can get a little complicated, no matter in what state you are researching. The expert researchers at Record Click have knowledge of the records and can help you develop a research plan, can determine if that certain record is available, where it is found, and track it down for you, as well as assist with research questions.