Sunday, January 13, 2013

Day One in Salt Lake City

I arrived in Salt Lake City yesterday, Saturday, January 12, for the Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy, SLIG. I came a day early to fit in some personal research on a project that requires looking at several families in many counties in colonial Virginia, some of them “burned counties.” Numerous rolls of microfilm are involved. As soon as I arrived at the hotel, I dropped my bags in the room and walked the two blocks, in 14° weather, to the Family History Library.

I jumped right in and was able to look at several rolls of microfilm. At first, it was a comedy of errors. I brought my Nikon DSLR; the card in it was full and the extras were at the hotel. Fortunately I had a 64G flash drive purchased for this trip, which I put to good use. Then, I pulled out my research list and discovered half of it was still in my suitcase. I did know what film I needed, however, and quickly found the roll numbers from one the many available computers.
After getting the lay of the land, I located the first roll of film, found an open to a microfilm reader, and started going through the pages. Right away, there were technical difficulties; this particular machine wouldn’t rewind, but I was inpatient to get started so I stayed with it.
This first roll of film was a big winner. I am researching a woman from Kansas who told her family she was put on an orphan train in Ohio and sent Nebraska. The film was for the Logan County Children’s Home, where she had been an “inmate.” On the film is a ledger of sorts, with no apparent order, so you have to read through the pages of names. I didn’t know how long she was at the home. I did know her birth date, and she told her family she was four or five when she was sent to Nebraska. I first skimmed through the pages trying to find some sort of order, then began to go back, rewinding by hand. It was one of those serendipity moments - I immediately spotted the name Gertrude at the bottom of a page. It was her. It lists her birth parents and the same birth date I had. This might be the only bit of information I will find about her. The only other records about the Children’s Home are at the Ohio Historical Society, and may not be of any help.

(I wanted to include a bit of the page here, but I can't seem to do it from the hotel.)
The ledger has the disposition of many of the children, including indentures. I’m giving a presentation about Orphan Trains at the Mt. Hood Family History Conference in March, so I scanned several additional pages, showing the comments about the children. The scanners are in great demand so you are asked to limit your time to 30 minutes. People were waiting for them so the process is find the information you want on the film, then go to the scanners to print or save to a flash drive. I also like to photograph the pages, when I have an available camera card. The scanners are wonderful to work with, once you get the hang of it. Having a machine that allows you to manipulate the film makes a big difference.  Sometimes, when much of the page looks black you can brighten, magnify, and change the contrast for sections and make them readable. Of course, it might take several copies of the same page. That’s why the flash drive works well in this situation.
About 5 pm I realized I hadn’t called my family to let them know I arrived safely. I made some quick calls; “I’m here, no time to talk.” Fortunately, they’re used to this. I left the FHL around 8 pm, after  six hours of reading microfilm. It had been a long day, and I hadn’t stopped for lunch or dinner.
 I have a day to prepare for my course at SLIG and refine my research plan for the next trip to the Library. Oh, and change camera cards. All in all, my first day at the Family History Library was a success.

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