Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Preparing for a Research Trip to Chicago Part II: Using Social Media

People prepare for a trip in many ways. They read guidebooks, visit websites and ask friends who’ve visited their destination for tips. More and more tech savvy people are turning to social media as part of their trip preparation. Most of us are very familiar with Facebook and Linked-in as examples of social media. But blogs are also social media.
A recent NY Times story by Henry Alford told of how he used local city blogs in Sweden to prepare for a trip. There is a genealogy twist to this technique. Genealogists can adapt this technique to help them prepare for a research trip to a new city. And I am sure that some of you out there have already done so. We would love to hear from you. Unlike Mr. Alford, I stumbled upon this technique through the back door – that is other people reached out to me.

In the last week, I have received valuable assistance from both my blog and Facebook in planning my trip to Chicago. How did this happen? The first assistance came via this genealogy blog. In response to my blog post on preparing for my research trip to Chicago Part I, Jacqi Stevens, author of the blog “A Family Tapestry”, steered me to the Chicago Genealogy group on Facebook (to access this group or any Facebook group, you need to join Facebook.) 

I went to the Facebook page for Chicago Genealogy and requested admission to the group. After receiving a welcome message, I posted my first message:

“Thank you for welcoming me to the group. I'm planning a trip to Chicago for 5 days in Sept. My focus is my Carney/Kearney line from the 1870s-1880s. I will visit the Newberry Library and walk Calvary Cemetery. I'm also going to CPL (Chicago Public Library) to check out Chicago history (one of my Kreis ancestors was a teamster in early 1900s). I am also thinking of visiting the Circuit Court to look at some Dec (Declaration) of Intention for Holub & Flesouras. Any other suggestions would be most appreciated.”
(In a later paragraph I will explain about Declarations of Intention in the process of applying for US naturalization.)

Within a day, I had eight comments from the Chicago Facebook Group. I received an excellent suggestion in reaction to my plan to visit the Circuit Court of Cook County Archives to search for naturalization papers (see above.) Jennifer Holik wrote:

 “Have you checked the IRAD (Illinois Regional Archives Depository System)  holdings to see if they have the records you want? You can write them and they'll search and send. Might save you a stop at the Circuit Court Archives.”
And no, I had not thought of IRAD. Thank you, Jennifer.

After looking at the IRAD homepage, I called their regional depository at Northeastern Illinois University in Chicago  and yes, they will look up records for you – there is a limit of two name searches per call. I was told that after the search is completed, the archive staff would send me a letter with the results.

To educate yourself on the process of filing papers for US naturalization in the nineteenth and early twentieth century, I suggest Joe Beine’s  website, “Types of US Naturalization Records.” A Declaration of Intention (also called "First Papers") as Mr. Beine wrote, is “The record by which an applicant for US citizenship declared their intent to become a citizen and renounced their allegiance to a foreign government.”

The Circuit Court of Cook County provides a very helpful on-line database where you can search their holdings of Declarations of Intention from 1871 - 1929. I used this tool to find the Declarations of Intention for two of my Flesouras ancestors and two of my Holub forebears. Here is the Individual Declaration Index Report for my grandfather, Frank Holub:

My next step was to go to the Circuit Court of Cook County in person in September to see if there was any additional information for any of these people, such as naturalization petitions or certificates of arrival.  But Jennifer Holik’s suggestion on the Chicago Facebook Group site saved me from this extra trip.

So far we have seen how using social media in the form of blogs and Facebook groups can lead to valuable resources for planning a genealogy trip. If you have had success following this route, please share this with me and the followers of this blog by leaving a comment in the box below. Maybe you found a Facebook group or started your own group. Or you might have googled a city blog for your trip destination. Or you found a brand new way to use social media to further your research. Let us know.

Categories: US citizenship, genealogy tools

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