Iron County Historical Society

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November 28, 2023 By: John Abney
New Set of Maryland Records Available
The folks at Reclaim the Records recently announced the addition of over 5 million records from the state of Maryland spanning over 100 years.  If you have ancestors or family members from Maryland you may want to use the free acess to these records at this link.
November 28, 2023 By: John Abney
Using Sanborn Maps
If you follow my blog you will know how crazy that I am about maps.  Maps are an often overlookeed resource that assist in our family history research.  The folks at Family Tree Magazine have posted an article on using Sanborn Fire Insurance maps in your research.  You can read the article by clicking on this link.
The Sanborn Fire Insurance Company was established in 1867 and produced fire insurance maps for towns and cities across the United Sates.  As noted in the article, many maps from the colletion can be viewed  at the Library of Congress website.  For towns and cities in Misourri, The University of Missouri has an excellent collection of the full color maps at their website.
If you haven't used these maps before. the Family Tree Magazine article is a great place to get started!
November 14, 2023 By: John Abney
Museum Holiday Hours 2023
November 11, 2023 By: John Abney
A Closer Look at Free Access Offers

Unveiling the Hidden Costs of "Free" Genealogy Access

In the world of genealogy, the allure of "free" access to subscription websites is undeniable. After all, who doesn't want to uncover the rich tapestry of their family history without breaking the bank? However, behind the enticing promise of no-cost exploration lies a subtle web of limitations and hidden expenses that can quickly turn the tides of your genealogical journey.

The Illusion of Free Access

Subscription genealogy websites often dangle the carrot of free access to entice new users. These trials, typically lasting a week or two, provide a glimpse into the vast trove of records and resources available on the platform. However, this limited exposure often leaves users yearning for more, creating a sense of urgency to subscribe before the trial expires.

The reality is that these "free" trials are carefully orchestrated marketing strategies designed to convert users into paying customers. By offering a taste of what lies beyond the free wall, these websites effectively create a sense of dependency, making it difficult for users to resist the temptation to upgrade.

The Hidden Costs of Free Access

Beyond the psychological impact of limited access, there are several tangible costs associated with using "free" genealogy services. These include:

  • Time constraints: Free access periods are often severely limited, forcing users to rush through their research, potentially overlooking valuable clues or making hasty decisions.

  • Limited record access: Free users may only have access to a small fraction of the website's extensive collection, hindering their ability to make meaningful progress.

  • Restrictions on features: Essential features like building family trees or accessing vital records may be locked behind subscription paywalls.

  • Incomplete results: Free searches may yield incomplete results, leaving users frustrated and unsure where to turn next.

Alternative Paths to Genealogical Discovery

While subscription websites undoubtedly offer a wealth of resources, they are not the sole gateway to genealogical exploration. Numerous free alternatives exist, providing access to valuable records and research tools. These include:

  • FamilySearch: A non-profit organization dedicated to genealogy, FamilySearch boasts a vast collection of digitized records and research guides.

  • A digital library of millions of free books, documents, images, and audio files, often contains historical records relevant to genealogy.

  • Local libraries and historical societies: Many local libraries and historical societies house genealogical collections, offering access to census records, family histories, and local newspapers.

  • Genealogy forums and online communities: Numerous online forums and communities provide a wealth of genealogical knowledge and support, often offering assistance with specific research challenges.

Embrace the Power of Patience

Genealogical research is a journey, not a destination. It requires patience, persistence, and a willingness to explore various avenues. While subscription websites can be valuable tools, they are not a prerequisite for uncovering your family's past. The historical society will never recommend one genealogy subscription website over another as each has their own unique characteristics . What works best for one genealogist doesen't for another. As such, it's a matter of choice that each family historin must weigh carefully before subscribing to any pay genealogy website.

By utilizing free alternatives and embracing the slower, more methodical approach, you can embark on a rewarding genealogical journey without the pressure of hidden costs or time constraints. Remember, the true value of genealogy lies not in the speed of discovery, but in the joy of connecting with your ancestors and preserving their stories for future generations.

October 31, 2023 By: John Abney
Wintertime Genealogy Projects
This morning we woke up here in southeast Missouri to our first hard freeze of the season.  A reminder that winter is fast approahing. So what does Winter have to do with genealogy you ask?
Well, wintertime is a great time to cozy up indoors and explore your family history. The cold weather and shorter days can provide the perfect opportunity to delve into your family tree and learn more about your ancestors. Here are a few ideas for wintertime genealogy projects:
  • Research your family's holiday traditions. What customs did your ancestors celebrate during the winter holidays? How did their traditions compare to yours? You can interview older family members, search through old family albums and scrapbooks, and even do online research to learn more about your family's holiday past.
  • Create a winter family tree chart. This is a fun and creative way to visualize your family history. You can use a variety of materials to create your chart, such as paper, cardboard, or even fabric. Be sure to include photos of your ancestors, if you have them.
  • Write a winter family history story. Choose a specific ancestor or branch of your family tree to focus on. Then, write a story about their lives during the winter months. What were their daily routines like? What challenges did they face? What joys did they experience? You can even include fictional elements in your story, as long as you are honest about which parts are fact and which parts are fiction.
  • Organize your family photos and documents. This is a great way to preserve your family history for future generations. Start by gathering all of your family photos and documents in one place. Then, sort them by date, family member, or event. You can also scan your photos and documents to create digital copies.
  • Contribute to an online genealogy community. There are many online genealogy communities where you can connect with other researchers and share your findings. You can also ask for help with your research or offer to help others.
No matter what wintertime genealogy project you choose, you are sure to learn something new about your family history. And who knows, you may even discover some hidden gems along the way!  Here are a few additional tips for wintertime genealogy research:
  • Take advantage of indoor resources. Many libraries and museums have genealogy departments that offer a variety of resources, such as books, newspapers, and census records. You can also find helpful online resources, such as and
  • Connect with family members. Interview older family members to learn about their personal stories and family traditions. You can also ask them for help with your research.
  • Don't be afraid to ask for help. If you get stuck, don't be afraid to ask for help from other researchers or genealogy professionals. There are many resources available to help you on your journey.
So what are you waiting for? Start planning your wintertime genealogy projects today!
October 31, 2023 By: John Abney
The History of Halloween

Halloween is a holiday celebrated each year on October 31. It is one of the most popular holidays in the world, and is celebrated in many different ways. Halloween is a time for costumes, candy, jack-o'-lanterns, and trick-or-treating. But where did Halloween come from?

The history of Halloween can be traced back to the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain. Samhain was a pagan holiday that marked the end of the harvest season and the beginning of the winter. The Celts believed that on the night of Samhain, the veil between the worlds of the living and the dead was thin, and that ghosts could walk among the living.

The Celts celebrated Samhain by lighting bonfires, wearing costumes, and making offerings to the dead. They also believed that Samhain was a good time to predict the future, and they would often perform rituals to try to see what the coming year would hold.

In the 8th century, Pope Gregory III designated November 1 as All Saints Day, a day to honor Christian saints. The evening before All Saints Day became known as All Hallows Eve, and eventually Halloween. Over time, Halloween incorporated many of the traditions of Samhain, such as bonfires, costumes, and divination.

Halloween came to the United States with Irish and Scottish immigrants in the 19th century. The holiday quickly became popular, and by the early 20th century, it was one of the most celebrated holidays in the country.

Today, Halloween is celebrated in many different ways. Some people celebrate by going to costume parties, trick-or-treating, or watching scary movies. Others celebrate by carving pumpkins, decorating their homes, or attending haunted houses. No matter how it is celebrated, Halloween is a fun and festive holiday that brings people together.

Here are some of the most popular Halloween traditions and their origins:

  • Trick-or-treating: Trick-or-treating is thought to have originated from the Celtic tradition of souling. Souling was a practice in which people would go door-to-door on Samhain night, begging for food and money in exchange for prayers for the souls of the dead.
  • Jack-o'-lanterns: Jack-o'-lanterns are thought to have originated from an Irish folktale about a man named Stingy Jack. Jack was a trickster who made a deal with the devil to escape hell. After Jack died, the devil refused to let him into heaven or hell, so Jack was forced to wander the earth with a lantern made from a hollowed-out pumpkin.
  • Costumes: People have been wearing costumes on Halloween for centuries. The Celts believed that wearing costumes would help to ward off ghosts on Samhain night. Today, people wear costumes for a variety of reasons, including to have fun, to be creative, and to express themselves.

Halloween is a fun and festive holiday with a rich history. It is a time to celebrate the harvest season, to remember the dead, and to have some spooky fun.

October 10, 2023 By: John Abney
AI and Genealogy

I recently asked Google Bard to, “Write an article detailing the impact of AI on genealogical research. Here’s the result:

Artificial intelligence (AI) is rapidly changing the world, and genealogy is no exception. AI-powered tools are being used to digitize historical records, identify patterns in data, and even predict future trends. How AI is being used in genealogy
There are a number of ways that AI is being used in genealogy. Some of the most common applications include:
  • Digitizing historical records: AI can be used to digitize historical records, such as census records, birth certificates, and marriage licenses. This makes it easier for genealogists to access and search these records.
  • Identifying patterns in data: AI can be used to identify patterns in genealogical data. This can help genealogists to find relationships between people, places, and events.
  • Predicting future trends: AI can be used to predict future trends in genealogy. This can help genealogists to focus their research on areas that are likely to yield the most results.
The impact of AI on genealogy
The impact of AI on genealogy is significant. AI-powered tools are making it easier for genealogists to find and connect with their ancestors. They are also helping to preserve historical records for future generations. 
The future of AI in genealogy
The future of AI in genealogy is bright. As AI technology continues to develop, it is likely that AI-powered tools will become even more sophisticated and powerful. This will make it even easier for genealogists to find and connect with their ancestors.
AI is having a major impact on genealogy. AI-powered tools are making it easier for genealogists to find and connect with their ancestors. They are also helping to preserve historical records for future generations. The future of AI in genealogy is bright, and it is likely that AI-powered tools will become even more sophisticated and powerful in the years to come. (end of Google Bard response)
I find it fascinating how quickly Google Bard and other AI applications respond to user prompts, but what I have also found is that they are better with more general topics than specific ones and that, just like everything else you find in your research, you still have to verify the information that you are provided.  AI applications have been known to fabricate (make up) sources that don’t exist.  The scary part for me is that I can see people blindly accepting information generated by AI in the same way they blindly accept anything else that conveniently fits the narrative that they are trying to build regarding their family history.
Suggested reading
SHOCKING RESULTS! Should you use AI Chatbots for Genealogy? by Lisa Cooke (
AI Effectively for Genealogy Research by Legacy Tree Genealogists (

As Fascination with Genealogy Grows, These AI Tools Help You Connect with Previous Generations by Ian Hayne (

October 7, 2023 By: John Abney
Self-Publishing Your Family History
Self-Publish Your Genealogy: A Panel Discussion with Authors a free webinar presented by American Ancestors(R) will be presented on October 24, 2023 from 3:00 to 4:00 (Eastern Time).  Reserve your space here.
Presented by Jennifor Kahn Bakkala, Mary Gilchrist, and Anne Henson; Moderated by Sharon Inglis  Self-publishing your genealogy is a fantastic way to preserve your family history for future generations and to share it with family, friends, and wider audiences. However, self-publishing is no simple task! We all know that researching is difficult enough, and to self-publish you’ll also need to spend time and thought on planning, outlining, writing, creating citations, editing, finding a printer, and so much more. Join us for an engaging panel discussion with three authors who have gone through this difficult but rewarding process—Jenifer Kahn Bakkala, Mary Gilchrist, and Anne Hanson. They’ll share their varied experiences and strategies with you in this discussion moderated by American Ancestors Vice President of Publishing, Sharon Inglis.
September 21, 2023 By: John Abney
Rumsey Map Collection Even Better?
My favorite source for historical maps has just gotten even better!  The folks at the David Rumsey Map Collection are using Artificial Intelligence to allow their Machine Reading Maps tool to allow users to search for text on maps.  A total of 100 million words have been indexed on some 57,000 maps.  Users can also submit corrections where errors in indexing are found.  I never thought this collection could be better than it already was, but wow, it just did!
September 19, 2023 By: John Abney
RootsTech 2024 Registration Open
Registration for RootsTech 2024 (both In-Person and On-Line) opened yesterday, September 18th.  RootsTech will take place from February 29th through March 2nd 2024 in person in Salt Lake City,  Utah or On-line Worldwide.  A three-day pass for the in-person event is $99 ($69 for one day) and there is NO CHARGE to attend the on-line event, though you must be registered.  
If you have never attended a RootsTech Conference, this is your opportunity and it shouldn't be missed.  To find out more about the on-line and in-person events or to register, click here.