Murder Mystery

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They say it takes all kinds, and in the Genealogy Room we get all kinds—all kinds of questions about families, that is. A question we receive on a depressingly frequent basis involves the violent death of a relative—often times during war, but sometimes during the commission of a crime. We can usually help people with […]

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My Brush with Greatness

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I worked as Head Librarian at Joliet (IL) Correctional Center in the early 1980s. One morning as I walked into the main entrance, I was startled (to say the very least) to see Dan Aykroyd and John Belushi sitting on visitor benches to my left. OK, Aykroyd was sitting—-Belushi was lying on his back on […]

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Your Brush with Greatness

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Question: My surname is Adams. My great-grandmother was from Massachusetts, and at family reunions when I was little, she would tell all the grandchildren that we were related to Presidents John Adams and John Quincy Adams. How can I prove this? Answer: There are many sources of family history for notable families such as the […]

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What’s in a Name?

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What was the most frequently occurring surname in the 2010 Census? OK—the smart money would be on Smith, and it would be a safe bet, of course. But which surname was No. 2? And what surprises lurked in the Top Ten Surnames? The U.S. Census Genealogy Page has the answers. The Genealogy Room print collection […]

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Records of World War I

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We in St. Louis are fortunate, in that 20th century American military records are housed at the National Personnel Records Center in North St. Louis County. As far as World War I service records are concerned, however, NPRC is actually not a good source for many persons seeking records of U.S. Army veterans, as 80% of […]

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Where Was Virginia?

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Where was Virginia? That may seem like an easy question to answer. Looking at a present-day map, however, only provides a small part of the extraordinarily complex answer to this question. When the Virginia Company of London was created, its charter stated that Virginia Colony extended from what is now Maine to northern Florida. A […]

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Louisiana’s German Coast

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In 1717, a Scotsman named John Law was granted a charter to create a “Company of the West” which would bring settlers to the French colony of Louisiana. The company later merged with some other settlement companies to become the Company of the Indies. In 1719, the company brought over the first group of 21 […]

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The Great Migration

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Between 1620 and 1640, as many as 21,000 people left England to start a new life in North America. They faced a hazardous sea voyage in small ships, which if successful was likely followed by starvation and disease in a wilderness populated by hostile natives. And yet, in a movement now termed “The Great Migration,” […]

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House of Refuge

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Question: A Civil War soldier relative of mine is listed as having died in the “House of Refuge” in St. Louis on May 15, 1863. Was this a military hospital in St. Louis? Answer: Yes, the House of Refuge was used temporarily by the Union Army as a hospital for sick and wounded soldiers. The […]

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The End of the Line

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Question: On the Internet I found a family tree for my family that goes all the way back to Adam and Eve. How can I prove this lineage? Answer: You can’t. Lineages that go back to medieval times or earlier are always suspect; you need to fact-check the entire lineage very carefully. Medieval records are […]

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