Three New Railroad Books

Budget and space dictate my book buying binges. It’s so tough to walk away from genealogy and history books. I see titles about the WPA, railroads, women’s history, and others but I am tormented. My winter 2016-17Minnesota History magazine arrived and it tells of three new railroad books:

  • The Great Northern Railway Through Time (Dale Peterka, Arcadia Publishing, 2016)
  • John H. Burdakin: Railroader (Don Hofsommer, Michigan State University Press, 2016) [I would love a whole library of books and articles by Hofsommer!]
  • Twelve Twenty-Five: The Life and Times of a Steam Locomotive (Kevin P. Keefe, Michigan State University Press, 2016)

Maybe I will go buy a lottery ticket so I can win and buy more books? I wonder what my children will say?


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2017 is a busy genealogy speaking year for me!

2017 is shaping up to be a busy year for classes, webinars, and seminars for me. I will be in many states and online! Join me at the events listed on my just updated speaking calendar. As I have said before, it’s fun to meet my blog readers. All my presentations have handouts that accompany the PowerPoint presentations.

If you ever see an error on one of those handouts, please do let me know!




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2016 is over. Done. Kaput. It wasn’t good for our family but 2017 is looking up.

It’s been a year filled with too many low lights, but there are good things, too. I won’t detail all that has happened but here are a few of them.

It’s the end of 2016 and I have great hope for a fantastic 2017. Please. 2016 was a big downer for me. Not the result of the election (though, ouch), not the loss of so many wonderful actors and musicians, but the family and friends issues of 2016. I feel like much of the year was spent in doctor’s offices and hospitals taking care of or watching over others.

It turned out that I had to turn down several potential consultation and research clients and some seminars due to all that was going on. I apologize to those who had to wait, but, I am back to all of this in 2017!

Early in 2017 my childhood friend’s daughter died of a sudden heart attack. She was only 39 and the same age as my youngest son and my niece. That really hit me. That was followed by the long hospitalization of my youngest sister. She had a particularly bad strain of flu, complicated by pneumonia. She was in a coma for many weeks and while in the coma, had a bad heart attack. She survived, but life will never be the same for her.

Then while I was out of town doing a long-scheduled seminar, a sewer pipe in my building backed up into my apartment. It filled the sinks, covered, the counters, floor, and filled the drawers and left a mess everywhere in the kitchen. It sat for at least two days until my oldest son just happened to stop to check my apartment that I rent in a condo building. He did a lot of cleaning. Due to slow landlord reaction, followed by much begging by me, begging by the building’s office, some activity, a threat by me, some things started to be done. New cupboards had to be installed. The dampened and moldy floor is still the same. Now they are replacing the cupboards again as they don’t like the color. More than a six month journey and still not truly liveable. There’s more to the story, but I will spare you.

During the months of this mess, all the windows in the building were being replaced due to water damage. That was another fun mess of many months.

Then at the end of the summer, the unthinkable happened. My oldest son felt a lump in his neck and had pain. It was stage IV cancer. I have no idea what happened to the first two weeks of September. I was in a trance. After months of treatment with both chemo and radiation, he is slowly getting some energy. He still cannot eat food as the damage to his mouth and tongue is severe. Not a smoker. Not a drinker. We won’t know more for sure for a couple months yet. Please keep your prayers and good wishes winging his way. Needless to say, our small family was focused on him and still is. He has been amazing and I salute him!

Cancer really sucks. Two good friends are in long-term treatment for cancer and just after my son’s diagnosis, another friend (that I have had since kindergarten) received a cancer diagnosis.

Now you know why I have turned down your consultation, research, and seminar requests. Please remind me if I have neglected to respond to a email. My mind has not been focused on that.

I truly hope that 2017 brings health, peace, and comfort to all of my family, friends, and readers. There’s still too much good in life to have it otherwise. Spending time with my children, grandchildren, and a great grandchild keeps my hope going. The love and support of them, other relatives, and friends has been amazing and much needed.

Happy New Year!


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International German Genealogy Partnership is new name for a global organization

A new name to more accurately reflect what this organization is doing now and in the future! The press release on the new name:

International German Genealogy Partnership is new name of young organization, reflects growing global participation

MINNEAPOLIS, Minn.—International German Genealogy Partnership is the new name adopted by members of a new and rapidly growing global organization known since its founding less than two years ago as the German-American Genealogical Partnership.

“New member societies are coming into the Partnership from around the world. There is a growing international participation in the Partnership, and our members decided on a new name that better describes the organization’s international presence,” said Kent Cutkomp, a Minneapolis resident and co-founder of the partnership.
The Partnership was founded in 2015 by genealogy society leaders in America and Germany. Today, the Partnership joins Germanic societies across America, Germany, Canada, England and other European countries.

“The purpose of the Partnership is to expand cooperation among societies nationally and internationally. It’s a great way individual societies can become more successful in serving their members, and that includes helping their members make personal connections worldwide. We’re delighted to see such interest coming from so many parts of the world,” Cutkomp said.

He said organizations joining the Partnership range from small to large. For instance, the Germany-based Deutsche Arbeitsgemeinschaft Genealogischer Verbände, a founding member of the Partnership, comprises more than 65 societies serving 22,000 individual members.

Several major initiatives are being undertaken by the Partnership, including the 2017 International Germanic Genealogy Conference, scheduled for July 28-30, Minneapolis, Minn., and themed “CONNECTIONS: International. Cultural. Personal.”

Other initiatives include sharing of knowledge and resources such as exchanging periodicals, sharing researcher and speaker lists, and creating a list of most valuable references, resources and websites. Communication and connections between Partnership organizations are important parts of the process.

For information about the Partnership, visit the website of the Minnesota-based Germanic Genealogy Society at, click “German Partnership.” The Partnership’s official website is expected to launch soon.

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Findmypast makes more than 70 million world military records free for four days

I am a bit behind on this but Findmypast is offering free access to a wide variety of military records in honor of Veterans Day.  From their press release:

Findmypast makes entire collection of more than 70 million world military records free for four days. Allll UK, Irish, Australian, Canadian and US military records free from the 10th to the 13th November 2016. Includes free access to over 43 million US and Canada military records.

From 04:00 EST, 10th November until 18:59 GMT, 13th November 2016, all 70 million records within Findmypast’s “Military, Armed Forces and Conflict” category will be completely free to search and explore, providing family historians from around the globe the opportunity to uncover the stories of the military heroes within their own family.

This will include free access to:

Over 43 million US and Canada military records

Over 1.3 million United States Army enlistment records

Over 1.1 million United States Civil War Pension File Index records

Over 89,000 Revolutionary War Pensions

Millions of Civil War soldiers, sailors, veterans and medal records.

Millions of records covering US forces in Korea, Vietnam and WW2

Over 26.4 million British military Records including the most comprehensive collection of British Army service records both for WW1 and pre WW1 – these multiple page documents were released in partnership with The National Archives and are packed with fascinating biographical details such as the names and addresses of next of kin, physical descriptions and character references from commanding officers.

The most comprehensive British Royal Nave and Royal Air Force collections available online:

Over 2.6 million POW records in our exclusive Prisoners of War 1715-1945 collection.

Over 1.1 million WW2 casualty records

Soldiers Died In The Great War 1914-1919 records

Over 1.5 million medal index cards, memorial rolls and roll of honour records

Military tribunal records – the records of thousands of men who attempted to avoid conscription

Military Nurses 1856-1994 records

Learn more at:  

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California-bound. Join me this weekend in Menlo Park for genealogy seminar

I love California and especially the greater Bay Area. I lived in Mountain View for a year when my ex-husband was stationed at Moffett Naval Air Station and my oldest son was born in Mountain View. I haven’t been back there for a few years, but this weekend, Saturday, October 22nd, I will be there.

Why? I am presenting an all-day seminar for the San Mateo County Genealogical Society. It’s a wonderfully organized organization. The four presentations are:

  • What Next? Developing Step-­by­-Step Research Plans
  • NUCMC & Its Cousins: Keys to Lost Ancestral Records
  • Newspaper Research: The Dailies, Weeklies and Beyond
  • Research Rewards in County Courthouses and Town Hall Records

Join me and the society for an educational and fun day.  My presentations apply to locations all across the U.S. I hear there are some neat silent auction items, too. Registration can be done at the door. For more info, check here.

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Last chance: Post military service records class at MN Historical Society Oct. 8

Bonus payment applications, 4 page questionnaires, membership applications, family assistance details, descendant membership applications, old soldier home applications, and more yield great details on military personnel from the 19th and 20th centuries.

To learn more about these records found all across the U.S., join me tomorrow at the Minnesota Historical Society for a class that I am teaching from 10:00-12:30 on Saturday, October 8th. This is a Minnesota Genealogical Society class being held in the Gale Library at the state historical society in Saint Paul. The handout is 6 pages long! Register now to be sure you get the handout. You may also register “at the door” but the handouts may be gone.

If there are any issues on Kellogg Blvd. getting into the MHS parking lot due to preparations for the Twin Cities Marathon, just say you are going to attend a class at MHS.


Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on Google+Pin on PinterestShare on LinkedInEmail this to someonePrint this page A competitor railroad yields a ancestor’s business location

The timeline of places where one of my great great grandfathers resided has always fascinated me. Today I was searching online using some of my more unusual ancestral surnames. I repeat this every few months in order to see what new items appear online. The result was that I added a street name for William Rudolph Slaker’s butcher shop in Berlin,  Wisconsin.

One search was done on the freely available HathiTrust. Up popped the “Gazetteer and directory of the Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul railway and branches, the Western Union and the Sabula, Ackley & Dakota railroads : embracing all alphabetical directories, with sketches of all towns lying along the lines of the above railroads, distance tables and other information.” (Detroit, Mich.: Polk, Murphy & Co., 1875.) This is not a regular city directory, but it gave me what I needed.

He was a butcher before he retired and was also a butcher during his brief Civil War service that he entered from the town of Berlin. He later followed his two sons (Louis F. and Fred) to many locations around Wisconsin as they moved from one railroad station to another. Eventually they ended up in Saint Paul, Minnesota. My own hometown was not the last place of residence for all of them.


It’s ironical that I found William listed in a publication related to the Milwaukee Road. His two sons, and later a grandson, worked for the “Omaha” (Chicago, Saint Paul, Minneapolis, and Omaha Railway).

Now I need to get back to Berlin and check out any of the old storefronts on Huron St.


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Class in St. Paul: More than Pensions: 19th & 20th Century Military Records

Learning more about your family members who served in the U.S. military is helped by a wide variety of records. Some are created after the person is no longer serving and some involve survivors of those who died in the war effort.

In October, I am teaching a class on this topic: More than Pensions: 19th & 20th Century Military Records

Military personnel also received bonuses, tombstones, land, and other benefits. Applications, rejected files, correspondence, finding aids, indexes, organizational applications, and more at federal and state levels exist for them and for survivors. You will be surprised at what family details available in these records at state archives, historical societies, and other repositories from coast to coast.

Join me for this Minnesota Genealogical Society class on October 8th at the Minnesota Historical Society in Saint Paul. The class runs from 10:00-12:30 p.m and each registrant receives the extensive handout.

To register for this, visit the MHS website. MHS members receive a $4 discount. If you are a member of the Minnesota Genealogical Society, you may also receive this discount. Email MGS  to request the discount code.
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