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Historical Newsletter

July 1999

(image) John Schleicher, NSHS education and statewide services coordinator (second from right), presented a special NSHS award to Lincoln Science Focus Program teacher Jim Barstow (second from left) and students Michael Berg, Jennifer Burianek, and Stephanie Shubert. Their outstanding Nebraska history documentary was entitled "Technology and the Nebraska State Capitol."


State History Day contest for sixth through twelfth graders was held in April at Nebraska Wesleyan University with the theme of "Science, Technology, Invention in History: Impact, Influence, and Change." On Friday, May 14, 150 students, parents, and teachers gathered at the State Capitol for the third annual History Day Celebration. At this event, sponsored by the Nebraska State Historical Society and Nebraska Wesleyan University, students presented their original performances, exhibits, and documentaries for critiques by professionals in respective fields. Following the critiques, the students were recognized for their hard work and achievements. At the special History Day Celebration awards ceremony, students received special awards from their respective state senators, and special award winners received certificates from the Nebraska State Historical Society, the University of Nebraska Center for Great Plains Studies, and the Sentry Civil War Roundtable of Omaha. New this year, each state winner who competed in the national History Day competition in Maryland received a travel scholarship of $100 from the Nebraska State Historical Society. Funding for these scholarships is made possible through the Lux History Education Endowment of the NSHS Foundation.


The Society is involved in the development of a historic new initiative. The Community Cultural Development Partnership is a group of governmental and private agencies that have joined together to provide cooperative funding and other assistance to rural communities and urban neighborhoods for community development projects that focus on cultural heritage, the arts, and/or the humanities. In addition to the Society, member agencies include the Nebraska Arts Council, the Nebraska Commission on Rural Development, the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission, the Nebraska Humanities Council, the School at the Center Project, and the University of Nebraska Humanities Center.

The first planning and seed money grants of up to $5,000 will be offered in 1999. For grant guidelines and information, please contact John Schleicher at NSHS. A pre-proposal letter based on these guidelines will be due August 15, 1999.


Road Trip! Life on Vacation with the Gehrkes of Lincoln, opens July 1 in the rotunda of the Historical Society's Headquarters building at 15th and R streets. This exhibit features photographs by Lincoln builder Edward Gehrke along with the travel diaries his wife, Margaret, kept between 1916 and 1939. At a time when highways were few and far between, the Gehrkes traveled extensively across the United States in a succession of Buicks. Ed's photographs capture the challenges of camping as well as the grandeur of destinations from Niagara Falls to the Great Salt Lake. Margaret's journals vividly record the hardships and joys of early auto touring, offering wonderful additions to the photographs themselves. Together, these collections provide a marvelous opportunity to examine the appeal of motor touring and the adventurous spirit embodied by these early tourists.

Photo albums and diaries in the Historical Society's Library/Archives collections form the basis of the exhibit. Jill Koelling, assistant curator of audio-visual collections, selected the images and diary excerpts for the display. "The quality of the photographs is far above that of the average vacation snapshots," Koelling stated, "but it's the added documentation offered by the travel diaries that makes the collection so unique." The exhibit also features auto touring and camping items from the 1910s and 1920s, including a picnic set, auto water bag, tire chains, camping gear, and road maps. A special handout will offer visitors tips on the proper care of their own vacation photos.

Koelling edited Margaret Gehrke's diary of a 1916 auto trip, illustrated with Edward's photographs, for publication in Nebraska History. "A Thousand Mile Motor Trip Through Western Nebraska, 1916," appeared in the Spring 1997 issue of the quarterly. Koelling will speak about the Gehrkes on July 15, 1999, at the Brown Bag lecture series at the Museum of Nebraska History, 15th and P streets. The lecture starts at noon and is free and open to the public. The exhibition continues through June 30, 2000, at the Historical Society's Headquarters building, 15th and R streets, Lincoln. The exhibit is open to the public free of charge, 8-4:30 Monday-Friday; 9-5 Saturday; 1:30-5 Sunday.

(image) "Greybull to Billings. 150 miles of it!"


Eli Paul, senior research historian with the Research and Publications Division, and Carol Ahlgren, architectural historian in the State Historic Preservation Office, both left the Society in June for new employment opportunities.

Paul joins the Historical Society of Western Pennsylvania in Pittsburgh as director of the museum division. The society is housed in the Senator John Heinz Pittsburgh Regional History Center, a renovated ice company warehouse. Since 1977, he has held various positions at the Nebraska State Historical Society including curator of exhibits for the Museum of Nebraska History, director of the Society's research division, and senior research historian. He co-authored the book Eyewitness at Wounded Knee, published by the University of Nebraska Press in 1991, and edited The Nebraska Indian Wars Reader, 1865-1877, also UNP in 1998. He helped edit the Society's quarterly, Nebraska History, and was editor of other recent Society publications.

Ahlgren leaves the State Historic Preservation office to accept a position with the National Park Service Midwest Region office in Omaha. She has served as the coordinator for the Nebraska State Historic Buildings Survey since 1988. She has authored numerous articles and National Register nominations, and participated in projects involving historic highways, postwar history, and historic landscapes.


The 1999 annual history conference and meeting will be held in Lincoln on September 24-25. The theme is "Innovation and Ingenuity in Nebraska History," and the conference will feature tours, papers, and displays. Some of the unusual and ingenious objects Nebraskans have created will be highlighted in sessions at the Museum of Nebraska History. A tour of the Nebraska State Capitol will focus on the building's groundbreaking design, and on the current restoration project. A second tour will feature the Nebraska Products Lab at UNL, where foods are tested and marketing strategies are taught.

At a special evening event, State Senator David Landis will portray Senator George W. Norris in a dramatization of the Nebraska statesman's innovative legislative career. Dr. R. Douglas Hurt, director of the graduate program in agricultural history and rural studies at Iowa State University and a leading agricultural historian, will provide the conference's keynote address. Annual Society Awards for writing, historic preservation, and contributions to the preservation of Nebraska history and archeology will be presented.


New! Fort Robinson mug, $7.95 ($7.15 members). This porcelain mug features the Ninth Cavalry, Company K, insignia on one side of the mug. The Ninth Cavalry was an African American "Buffalo Soldier" regiment stationed at Fort Robinson in the 1880s and 1890s.

Also available is the Nebraska State Historical Society's newest publication, Fort Robinson and the American West, 1874-1899, by Thomas R. Buecker. This title in hardcover only is available for $40 ($36 members). Both items may be ordered from the Museum Store, P.O. Box 82554, Lincoln, NE 68501. Phone orders with VISA, MasterCard, and Discover 1-800-833-6747.



The annual Neihardt Spring Conference, with a theme of "Indian Sense of Place" and featuring Pulitzer Prize-winning author N. Scott Momaday, was a resounding success, with possibly the greatest attendance in the history of the annual conference. The program also featured John Carter of NSHS and four student/scholars from the Red Cloud Indian School on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. The students, winners of literary competition as Neihardt/Black Elk Scholars, read from their award-winning works.

The Neihardt Foundation's Neihardt Institute for Vision and Learning, in its inaugural project, sponsored a week-long Native American Young Writers' Workshop at Wayne State College May 23-28. Seventeen high school students representing the Omaha, Winnebago, Ponca, Santee, and Oglala Sioux Tribes took part in condensed group and one-on-one instruction in poetry, fiction, and journalistic writing. The group was taken on a field trip that included a visit to the Museum of Nebraska History and the State Capitol.

The Neihardt Day Program on Sunday, August 1, will be on the theme "Humor on the Plains" and will feature Robin Neihardt on "John Neihardt Humor," Roger Welsch on "Humor of the Great Plains," and Louis LaRose on "Indian Humor." Established by the Nebraska Legislature to be celebrated annually on the first Sunday of August, Neihardt Day festivities are held on the grounds of the Historic Site in Bancroft from 1:30 to 4:30 with lunch available on site.



The NSHS Archeology Division spent several weeks in April working at a stone procurement/workshop site just south of Beaver City. The work was sponsored by the Nebraska Department of Roads. Thousands of pieces of stone tool-making debris, a handful of stone tools, and a small amount of animal bone were recovered from the excavation. Most of the stone is Republican River jasper, a material that outcrops in the site's immediate vicinity. A few pieces of obsidian, a volcanic rock that is only available from sources hundreds of miles away, were also recovered. The excavated portion of the site is thought to be a tool-making activity area used by Native Americans for a very brief period of time. A projectile point suggests that the site is between 900 and 300 years old. Analysis in upcoming months will focus on the spatial arrangement of materials and refitting of the chipped stone debris.

The Archeology Division, with the assistance of private consultant Robert Pepperl, also worked off and on from March through May at the Ashland Site Complex near Ashland. This important archeological site complex has intermittent occupations spanning at least 1,000 years. Among other occupations, Ashland may be the first site occupied by the Oto Tribe upon arrival in Nebraska in the early 1700s. The Ashland site was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in the 1970s. The site is now understood to be larger and more complex than previously thought. Accordingly, the Archeology Division's 1999 efforts at the site were aimed at redefining its boundaries and developing a clearer understanding of the functional and temporal range of activities which took place there. The Ashland site complex is scheduled for renomination to the National Register of Historic Places next winter. The project was funded through the Historic Preservation Division.


By Cindy Drake, Library Curator

Biographical Dictionaries, Directories, and Biographies

Biographical dictionaries and directories usually were created to tell about the accomplishments of individuals who share a common discipline or field. Basic information on birth, marriage, family, and death is included, which may lead to additional sources to verify the life of an individual. These are usually devoted to famous people. These dictionaries or directories, if no longer in print, may have been reprinted or may be available on microfilm or in online databases. Some of these include Who's Who in America, Men and Women of Science, and others.

The Biography and Genealogy Master Index is an ongoing indexing project of biographical works. It started in 1980 as a five-volume index set by Gale Research Company. Supplemental volumes for each year have followed with cumulative sets being published every fifth year. Today it is an index to nearly twelve million biographical sketches in more than 2,700 volumes and editions of current and retrospective reference books, covering both contemporary and historical figures throughout the world. It is available on microfiche, as an online database, and on CD-ROM.

Biographies are the stories of a person's life. They are a secondary source that may include genealogical information on the individual. They are more likely to be found in a local history collection at the local or state level. Biographies are generally cataloged first under the locality and then under the subject heading "Biography," for example, "Nebraska-Biography" or "Cass County, Nebraska-Biography."

As mentioned in other columns, county biographical albums were popular from about 1880 to 1920. Families paid to have their biographies appear in these publications. Some are fairly accurate, while others may contain errors. Even with these inaccuracies, they may supply information that can no longer be found in other sources. Biographical sketches can also be located in newspapers in a variety of formats such as birthday announcements, testimonials, and feature articles.

The American Genealogical-Biographical Index (Rider's Index) is the largest and most comprehensive index to family histories. It was started in 1942 and is an ongoing project of the Godfrey Memorial Library in Middletown, Connecticut. It is considered the largest and most comprehensive index to American family histories since it contains over twelve million records. The major emphasis is on pre-1900 United States, with some of the following valuable collections indexed: Boston Transcript genealogical column (over two million personal names); complete United States 1790 census; and published Revolutionary War records from most of the original American colonies. Ancestry.com has acquired the exclusive electronic publishing rights to these records, and they are available online (http://www.ancestry.com under Find Your Ancestors/Most Popular Databases) and on CD-ROM. The Historical Society had the ongoing original volumes until we transferred them to the Union College Library collection, where they are continuing to purchase the volumes. The completed set is expected to number between 205 and 210 volumes.

Although the Historical Society no longer has the American Genealogical-Biographical Index in its library or a complete set of the Biography and Genealogy Master Index, we strive to collect biographies of Nebraskans via donations and purchases. Inhouse indexes are available to various Nebraska biographical sources from the state and local level.

Genealogy Tip of the Month

The Family History Library launched its website (http://www.familysearch.org) on May 24, 1999. The site's search engine looks through Mormon records of 400 million names of people who lived as long ago as 1500, many of them with pedigree charts, as well as through 4,000 other websites devoted to genealogy. With upwards of 30 million hits the first day, the site had to close down for several hours because of computer overload. I found that by June 1, the site was easier to access than it was the first week. Besides the "Search for Ancestors" page, check out "Libraries" under "Browse Categories." This is where you can search the online catalog of the Family History Library.

New Acquisitions of Interest to Genealogists

The Carmack Family, [compiled] by Charles W. Peckham. (Family in Douglas County).

An Index to South Carolina Genealogy Records on the Internet: (index to online records), [compiled] by John Rigdon.

Roubidoux History, [compiled by] Hugh M. Lewis. (Family in Scotts Bluff County).

Sanks in America, [compiled] by Robert R. Sanks. (Family in Dawson County).

Civil War Veterans Buried in Wayne County, compiled by Richard Metteer.

The Vincent Family: Descendants of Charles Vincent of Yonkers and Descendants of Adriaen Vincent of New Amsterdam, edited by Sheridan E. Vincent, et al. (Families in Cass and Lancaster Counties).

Robert Frederick Wissler and Elizabeth Orisberger Wissler Family History, [compiled by Sharon Moser Snook]. (Family in Pawnee County).

A History of the Beauchamp Family and Some Allied Lines, [compiled] by Rosemary B. Brown. (Family in Nemaha County).

Genealogy of the Busacker Family from 1848 to 1991: also the autobiography and memoirs of Ralph A. Busacker, 1911 to 1991, [compiled by Ralph A. Busacker]. (Family in Otoe County).

Our Frerichs Family Ancestry: (Before 1700-1997), [compiled] by Hertha Oestmann Remmers. (Families in Nemaha and Otoe Counties).

My Life on the Frontier, by J. A. W. Hudson ; compiled and edited by Sibyl H. Goerner. (Family in Hitchcock County).

The Ancestors and Future Generations of the Mark James Malloy and Anna Laura (McHenry) Malloy Families, compiled by Michael Brent Malloy. (Family in Burt County).

Swayer-Mathews Families of Central New York State: Ancestors & Descendants and Allied Families, [compiled by] William S. Bergen. (Irish American family in Blaine County).

Thank you to those who have donated towards the purchase of the two parts of the 1999 Supplement to the Passenger and Immigration Lists Index. We have raised $235 to purchase Part I, and it was ordered in June. Donations are still being accepted for an additional $235 to purchase Part II. Please indicate this title with your monetary donation. Thank you.


The Council of America's Military Past (CAMP) for its 34th Annual Military History Conference May 10-14, 2000, at the Radisson Hotel, Burlington, Vermont, with emphasis on the military activities around Lake Champlain, the French-Indian War, the American Revolution, War of 1812, and the Civil War plus all other American and Canadian military history through the World Wars and the Cold War. Send topic for twenty-minute talk to CAMP '00 Conference Papers, P.O. Box 1151, Fort Myer, Virginia 22211-1151 by December 15, 1999. Call 703-912-6124 or fax 703-912-5666 for more information.


Patrick O. Rooney, A Nebraskan's Memoirs of the Great Depression: The Life and Times in Brownville, Nebraska. Softbound, 462 pp., appendixes, index, 120 B & W photographs, $15 + $2.50 S & H. Order from author, 3136 Breaker Court, Ventura, CA 93003.


July 15: Brown Bag Lecture, "The Gehrkes of Lincoln," by Jill Koelling, assistant curator of audio-visual collections, NSHS. 12 noon, Museum of Nebraska History, 15th and P streets, Lincoln. Free and open to the public.

August 19: Brown Bag Lecture, "The Fontenelle and Cabanne Trading Posts," Richard E. Jensen, senior research anthropologist, NSHS. 12 noon, Museum of Nebraska History, 15th and P streets, Lincoln. Free and open to the public.

August 21-22: Genoa Indian School Reunion, Genoa. Open house with displays. Free and open to the public. For information contact Jerry and Nancy Carlson, 402-993-6055.

In observance of Independence Day, the NSHS Headquarters Building (Library/Archives) in Lincoln will be closed Sunday, July 4, and Monday, July 5. The Gerald R. Ford Center in Omaha will be closed Saturday, July 3, through Monday, July 5. The Museum of Nebraska History and historic sites will be open regular hours all three days.

June 1999 Issue

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Last updated 9 July 1999

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