Using Websites’ Card Catalogs

I’ll bet many of us (most of us?) go to a genealogical website and plug our ancestors’ names into the first search box we see and hope for the best. At least at first. In the past, this was exactly how I conducted my research. Rather haphazardly, with varying success.

In my experience, I think there are two phase in the life cycle of the genealogist (there may be three or more, but I haven’t gotten there yet). First, there is the collection phase. We’ve just gotten started, we know a few details from our parents or grandparents, and we just start collecting records and filling in the pedigree chart as fast as we can. In this phase we find the “low-hanging fruit” in terms of records. And that is fine, but eventually, you get to the second phase. In the second phase, you’ve run into some trouble. You’ve found some conflicting records or some brick walls and have some harder work ahead of you.

Ancestry’s Front Page Search Box – Arrow Points to Advanced Search Option

Each of the major genealogical websites has a front page with that ever-tempting search box in it. That is their way to get quick engagement with website users and potential subscribers. This blog series is going to assume that we are all subscribers. If you try to do some of the things I’ll discuss, it will likely ask you to subscribe to see the documents or the search results anyway. Just be aware. This is not meant to be a blog series that discusses only FREE websites or databases. FamilySearch is the only free site I’ll be discussing.

The main front page search box is going to be great for that collection phase, but not so great for the phase where you work on more difficult problems. This series is going to help you learn some other facets of these websites to make your searching more targeted and efficient. That front page search may also be a hindrance if you are working with common names or don’t have much information to help narrow down your search results. When working with general search results, we have to pay extra attention to details so we don’t end up “adopting” the wrong family into our family tree.

Up next… Ancestry’s Card Catalog

I had a little break…

Hi loyal readers. You might have noticed I took a bit of a break from my blog. I just had so many things come up that something had to give for a while. But I’m back, so never fear, all is well and I’ll try to get back into my blogging routine.

First, what have I been up to? Well, the biggest event was that I was the keynote speaker for the Ohio Genealogical Society Conference that took place at the end of April. My keynote followed the theme of the conference “What Brought Them Here?” and focused on why families move and how might those who moved to the Great Lakes area have made their way there. I also gave a workshop on using Google’s MyMaps, as well as five other lectures. It was a busy week! And all of the time leading up to that event was when I took a blog break. I had to make sure all of my materials were ready!

Second, what am I up to for the rest of the year? The biggest thing going forward is that I’m coordinating a course and teaching in another for the Genealogical Research Institute of Pittsburgh. My course is “The Spirit of the Inland Seas: Research in the Great Lakes States” along with Cyndi Ingle, Paula Stuart-Warren, and Judy Russell. There are a few seats left if you’d like to join us! It is virtual so held entirely online and from the comfort of your own home. The other course I’m teaching in is “Digging Deeper: Records, Tools, and Skills” coordinated by Paula Stuart-Warren.

I also have some webinars planned:

You can follow my speaking calendar here.

Third, what’s the next topic for the blog? I’m going to share some tips and techniques for using various online catalogs at websites many genealogists use frequently, starting with Ancestry, but we will eventually get to FamilySearch, FindMyPast, MyHeritage, and others. With this series I’m hoping to share some different ways to utilize the websites that you may not have thought of.

Happy Spring!

County Histories: Strategies and Tips

When looking for county history entries regarding your ancestors or collateral relatives, I have a few tips and strategies for you.

First, look for county histories published in the areas where your ancestors lived. For Samuel Cook Dimick, I found him in the Wood County, Ohio county history, but also found mention of him in a few publications in Grafton County, New Hampshire. Don’t limit yourself to where they ended up. Expand your searches.

If you find the county history on a digital repository such as Google Books or Internet Archive, those services have decent searching capabilities and OCR (optical character recognition). You may also see if a supplemental index exists. The original county histories were rarely indexed though you may find a Table of Contents that lists the names of the subjects of the biographical sketches. When I began working on Samuel Cook Dimick, I was fortunate to discover that the Wood County Chapter of the Ohio Genealogical Society had published an index to the Wood County history.

Title page of the Wood County Index.

One book that has been a valuable resource for identifying county histories, has been A Bibliography of American County Histories by P. William Filby. This book contains a state-by-state listing of county histories. Some county histories encompassed several counties in one region. County histories can also be found at the local public library of the county that the history is about. If you cannot find a digital copy, don’t forget the public library. Utilize the local library’s catalog or WorldCat to help you find a copy.

You may be able to find most of these county histories in online digital repositories because many of them are coming out of copyright and are in the public domain. The benefit of these is that you can download them right to your computer. You may find different versions online, or the digitization my have lumped volumes one and two together rather than as separate books.

There are a lot of places to find digitized books these days.

There are probably more, but these are my top places to visit to find county histories.

County histories are a valuable resource full of information on topics of community context. They give us fantastic clues on our ancestors and provide a lot more research avenues for us to follow. Remember, though, the information in them is subject to scrutiny. These sketches are very rarely documented and were written by the family, usually, so the details may have been embellished to make the family sound more prominent. That’s not to say they should be completely discounted or tossed aside. So far, I have not found an error in the information I have been able to corroborate on Samuel Cook Dimick from his biographical sketch. These sources should be an integral part of your research plan when researching your ancestors.

County Histories: More on the FAN Club

Last time I mentioned that looking for the collateral relatives or those in the FAN Club (friends, associates, neighbors) of your ancestor can be quite revealing. Let’s look at an example of what I mean.

Throughout this research on S.C. Dimick, I realized that his biographical sketch mentioned that they lived in Toledo a few years before going to Wood County. Toledo is just a county to the north, not very far away from where Samuel finally settled near Bowling Green. Looking at city directories for Toledo, I discovered that he worked for “H. M. Clark & Co.” who were manufacturers of tin and “Jappaned Ware.” Basically they made metal plates that were covered in enamel and painted. Here are some examples of “Jappaned Ware”:

Images from Wikimedia Commons.

I’m going to be honest here. It took me a while to look for a county history entry for H. M. Clark. But when I finally got smart and started researching him and his company. I discovered an amazing county history entry, in a county history in … South Dakota! Through the power of internet searching I found it in South Dakota. I would never in a million years thought to have looked there, so I’m ever-thankful for the technology we have today to bring these disparate sources right into our homes and computers.

The following table shows the key datapoints from each biographical sketch:

Samuel Cook Dimick (OH)H. M. Clark (SD)
Born Lyme, NH 1835Born Lyme, NH 1832
In “hardware business” in NH, which he later soldWas a clerk in a store in NH, opened his own general store which he sold in 1868
Congregational Church in LymeCongregational Church in Lyme
Moved to Toledo (abt. 1871)Moved to Toledo 1868
Engaged in can manufacturing until 1875Operated manufacturing establishment until 1881
“Disposed of that business” and moved to Wood County, OhioSold his business and moved west to “Dakota”
Married Mary Marshall, 1860 in Lyme, New HampshireMarried Alice E. Dodge, 1856 in Lyme, New Hampshire
Side-by-side comparison of the biographical sketches of Samuel Cook Dimick and his associate H.M. Clark.

Samuel Cook Dimick and H. M. Clark lived nearly parallel lives. And it seems most likely that Samuel went to Toledo to work with Clark in his can manufacturing business.

The lesson I learned and I hope to share with you is to research the FAN club, those people living around and beside our ancestors. They might reveal important information on your ancestor.

County Histories: Find the Collaterals

You may have looked for information about your ancestors in county histories and not been able to find any biographical sketches about them. If that happens, expand your search. Put your ancestor in the center of a target and start researching those people around him, his uncles, cousins, close family friends, his neighbors, and so on. What has come to be known as the “FAN club” (a term coined by Elizabeth Shown Mills).

During my research on Samuel Cook Dimick, I was able to locate county history sketches about his wife’s family of origin which gave information back to before 1800 in Massachusetts (i.e., a new research path!).

Hamilton Child, editor, Gazetteer of Grafton County, New Hampshire, 1709-1886 (Syracuse, NY: Syracuse Journal Company Printers, 1886).

In this same book by Hamilton Child, I also found a sketch for Samuel’s great-grandfather Shubael Dimock, from Tolland, Connecticut who settled in Lyme in 1783! It goes on to give fantastic information, and again, more research avenues.

I’m not putting the full sketches in… you get the idea at the vast amounts of information you can find if you just keep looking.

Author’s depiction of the FAN Club, or collateral relative searching.

Keep searching for those close to your ancestor and you are sure to have some results in finding more information and clues about yours.

County Histories: School Records

Samuel C. Dimick’s biographical sketch mentioned that “after attending the district schools of Lyme, [he] entered the high school of Orford, N. H., where he completed his education.” I set out to learn more about the school in Orford and what that experience may have entailed.

I found a description of the school in a county-history-style book about Grafton County, New Hampshire. This entry describes it as a boarding school.

Hamilton Child, editor, Gazetteer of Grafton County, New Hampshire, 1709-1886 (Syracuse, NY: Syracuse Journal Company Printers, 1886), page 240 (page 1052 on digital copy); digital images, FamilySearch Books (

I did some more digging around on the internet and came across a bit of ephemera someone had digitized and posted online. The image is of what looks like a flyer or pamphlet describing the rules of the school. (The image is a partial scan and part of it is blurry, but we can get the idea of the rules and regulations from this portion.)

“Academy Structure and Regulations,” Encountering History Along the Cross Rivendell Trail ( : dowloaded August 2015).

To quote parts:

“Any person of good moral character may become a member of this Academy…

“Tuition will be required in advance…

“Every student is required to spend such portions of the day in study, recitations, religious and other exercises as may be designated by the Principal.

“Every student is required to be at his own room during study hours and to conduct himself at all times with propriety.

“Neatness is required of all, both in their own and in the rooms of the Academy.

“The use of profane or indecent language, insult, or abuse of others, card and dice playing, are strictly prohibited.”

I was unable to locate any individual school records that might include the registration, grades, classes, etc. that Samuel may have taken but this find at least gives me a bit of insight into the character and upbringing of S. C. Dimick.

Happy Holidays!

Christmas will have just passed and the New Year is coming up quick!

I have the week off between Christmas and New Years and so does my husband, so I’m going to take some time away from the computer. I know, crazy, right? Ah, but it is a time to recharge, to rest, take a break, and spend time with my nearly grown kids.

I’ll be back next week with the next installment of County Histories. In the meantime, here is what’s on my plate for the first half of 2023:

You can view my calendar at any time by scrolling down below to the footer of this page.

I hope you all have a happy holiday season!

County Histories: Other Records, Indian Reservation Records

Last time we looked at the land records we discovered for S. C. Dimick’s father, Chester. The statement from the county history mentioned that S. C. worked on an Indian Reservation there. Possibly he saw an opportunity for his father to invest in land once he got there. We don’t know. There are no records or letters that have been handed down in my family that indicates how this came about.

I did want to confirm that S. C. Dimick worked on an Indian Reservation in Minnesota, as described in the biographical sketch. The following map indicates what Indian Reservations were in Minnesota. The land was located in Mill Lacs and Morrison counties. And there is a reservation in Mill Lacs:

We found S. C. Dimick in the payment list:

Congressional Serial Set, Issue 1046: First Session of the Thirty-Sixth Congress, 1859-’60, 229.
Close-up and highlight of S. C. Dimick, paid on 14 Oct 1858.

This record confirms that S. C. Dimick was the Superintendent of the farm and was paid $195.14. When I was in Washington, D.C. in August 2019, I looked for records that might give more details but was unsuccessful in locating any more information about his employment.

This does not explain the family’s move to Ohio, but it does speak to Samuel’s personality trait of what seems to be always looking for adventure and opportunity. I have written about S. C. Dimick in a newspaper advertisement (see this post) which also seems to speak to his penchant for seeking out opportunities.

We will look at some other records this sketch led me to.

County Histories: Clues in Other Records, Land (Part 2)

Last time we looked at one statement that led to the deed for the “Old Williams Farm” that S. C. Dimick purchased. This time a clue to land prior to his purchase of the Old Williams Farm.

The second statement from the sketch: “After working on his father’s farm for a time, he removed to Wisconsin, where he was in the lumber business for a year, and, on the expiration of that time, went to southern Minnesota, where for a year and a half he had charge of a government farm on the Indian reservation.”

At this time, land was often acquired from the Federal Government by special acquisitions such as homestead, timber, and mining claims, or by a cash sale. This led me to the Bureau of Land Management website: This website has a database of land obtained from the Federal Government, searchable by name, location, land description, etc. Thinking about the above statement, I looked for S. C. Dimick in both Wisconsin and Minnesota. I searched by the surname only first. I did not find any records for him in Wisconsin, but I found some intriguing information for him in Minnesota.

BLM Website Searching for Dimick in Minnesota.
Search Results at BLM website.

There are a lot of entries for Chester Dimick. Do you remember Samuel’s father’s name? It was Chester! Well, I thought there might be the possibility of a man by the same name, so I took a closer look at one of the original documents.

Chester Dimick, (Morrison County, Minnesota), Land Patent No. 886; Bureau of Land Management, “Land Patent Search,” digital images, General Land Office Records ( : downloaded August 2015).

The original patent names the purchaser as “Chester Dimick of Grafton County, New Hampshire.” I fairly certain we are working with the same family.

Here is a summation of the land obtained by Chester in Minnesota:

  • Fifteen different land patents
  • Cash sale entries ($1.25-2.00 per acre)
  • Dated on 3 separate days between 1857-1859
  • Totaling 1607.44 acres in Morrison and Mille Lacs counties

To give you context on where the land was located:

The following shows the sections the parcels of land were located in in these three township/range. The land was near each other but not all of it was adjoining.

I have not yet looked for the deeds of sale to determine just how much Chester might have made on this land investment. I just haven’t taken the time yet. However, it is on my genealogical to do list.

As far as I can tell, Chester never lived in Minnesota. He was always found in New Hampshire in the censuses. This appears to have been an investment situation. S. C. Dimick was only in Minnesota for a year or two, working on an Indian Reservation. We will look at those records next.

County Histories: Clues in Other Records, Land (Part 1)

There were a few statements in S. C. Dimick’s biographical sketch that led me to examine land records.

First: “In 1875, we find him a resident of Center township, Wood county, where he purchased 120 acres of the old Williams farm, and has here since made his home. He has one of the best orchards in the township, and his excellent farm has been brought under a high state of cultivation by industry and good management, with its attendant hard labor.”

Wood County, Ohio, Deed Book 48:123 (1876), County Recorder’s Office, Bowling Green, Ohio; FHL microfilm 409,648.
Close-up, describing the 120 acres purchased.
Ohio, Wood County, 1886 (Philadelphia: Griffing, Gordon & Co., 1886), 17; digital image, Historic Mapworks ( : accessed 15 March 2015).

This map shows approximately where that 120 acres were located. This is after he sold some of the 120 acres to some relatives of his daughter-in-law.

Samuel bought this land outright. It was not a military warrant, or homestead, or some other acquisition from the Federal Government. So, this did not answer why he moved his family to Ohio. We will keep looking at the clues.

Next time, more land clues.