Beth’s Dad created a 115-name family tree reflecting every one he knew in the family—aunts, uncles, grandparents. She inherited the tree he started, and that’s all that she needed to catch the bug. Beth tells the story best: "My Dad passed away 13 years prior to me starting on genealogy in the late 90s. Fast forward to 1998, when early on in my research I found a gentleman in Fort Worth, TX, who was working on a related part of my tree. We were exchanging information by email—high tech at the time—when he asked me about a document he had. He listed a number of people on the document and wondered if I knew who they were. Of course, I said that they were my immediate family. He sent me an eight-page family tree typed on a Smith Corona. At the bottom was the name and address of the author, Dick Watson. My Dad had written it 40 years earlier, and it found its way back to me via Wichita, St. Louis, Western Kansas to Ft. Worth, and ultimately to Kansas City."
Beth’s brick walls have to do with her mother’s paternal family, the Smarshes who came from Bohemia, Germany. They settled in Kansas after migrating from Elizabethtown, PA via Knoxville, TN in 1872. But prior to their appearance in Elizabethtown, they are "vapor." She has not been able to find Vincent Smarsh (b. 1804, Bohemia) in naturalization or immigration records, but will keep trying!
Beth really likes the UMI microfiche series. They are a library in and of themselves that many people haven’t tapped into. There are whole town and county histories and genealogies related to many families, all sitting inconspicuously in a microfiche cabinet.
Her favorite MCPL database is the HeritageQuest Online database. She has found any number of ancestors in the HeritageQuest Online when she couldn’t find them on Ancestry. "The reason is because you can do a search for a name and get a full list of every instance of that name by county for a particular state. So, you can then scope in and check the most probable or all counties for your ancestor. Further, you can get a table—like a spreadsheet—of all of the records that meet your search requirements, i.e. first & last name, or just first name in a county. Then you can sort by age, look for everyone born in "Italy," or scan the various last name spellings to find the right ancestor. It’s golden in my book."
Hands down, the best free website Beth knows of is the Bureau of Land Management/General Land Office website. If your ancestors settle in public land (not the Colonies, Texas, or Hawaii), their patent (title for first ownership of land), may be digitized and online on this website. You can search, view, and download the actual document. And if that isn’t fabulous enough, you can use the information on the patent to obtain the land entry files (all the paperwork involved in the application process to obtain the land) from the National Archives.
Beth has worn many hats as a volunteer—Greeter, Teacher, Consultant. Along with her duties here at MGC, Beth has developed quite a career as a professional genealogist. Her latest triumph—keynote speaker for the 2013 Nebraska State Genealogical Society Conference.
Angela M. & Beth F.
Midwest Genealogy Center