Destiny of a “Dark Horse”

James A. Garfield 20th President 4 March - 19 September 1881

James A. Garfield
20th President
4 March – 19 September 1881

Destiny of the Republic: A Tale of Madness, Medicine, and the Murder of a President, by Candice Millard. New York: Anchor Books, 2011. 198 pp. Photographs, index, source notes. Paperback.

Dark Horse: The Surprise Election and Political Murder of President James A. Garfield, by Kenneth D. Ackerman. Falls Church, Virginia: Viral History Press, 2011. 486 pp. Photographs, index, source notes. Paperback.

It has been some time since I last offered a book review from reading through the U.S. Presidents. Frankly, when it came to James Garfield, my initial enthusiasm was lacking—after all, what could possibly be said about a man who served less than a year in office? Continue reading

Making Sense of the Shambles

Office Worker with Mountain of PaperworkDoes your genealogical work space look like this? As family historians, we tend to be the “Keepers of Everything,” from treasured original family documents and photographs to printed copies found online and at repositories. It’s difficult not to become overwhelmed and disorganized. When you reach the point that it’s easier to print new copies of records than to find your old copies, you know you’ve arrived at critical mass. Continue reading

Genealogical Proof Standard: Terminology

by Alice Hoyt Veen, CG [note: this article appeared in the March 2015 issue of the Iowa Genealogical Society newsletter]

Step 3 of the GPS cycle requires thorough analysis and correlation of information. Understanding some basic terminology is necessary to effectively evaluate your research findings.


Part of developing your research plan included locating resources where you might conduct your search. Resources are places or media that house sources. Resources include libraries, repositories, courthouses, microfilm, the Internet.


Sources are the “containers” for the information you are seeking. You task is to identify the most-likely sources for the information you need, then locate the best possible resources for accessing those sources. Continue reading

Genealogical Proof Standard: Source Citations

GPS graphicby Alice Hoyt Veen, CG [note: this article was featured in the January 2015 Iowa Genealogical Society newsletter.]

How often have you come home from a research trip with a fistful of photocopies, only to realize you have no recollection of the source you copied from? You can and you should record your sources, and it’s not as complicated as you might think. The goal is to document your research effectively so others can retrace your steps, find the sources you used, and hopefully reach the same conclusions. Continue reading

Victoria Jo’s Family Stories

Charles and Mary Jane "Mayme" (Wescott) Edwards

Charles and Mary Jane “Mayme” (Wescott) Edwards

2015 marks the beginning of my fifth year as a professional genealogist, and my first full year as a board-certified genealogist. I’ve enjoyed educational opportunities taught by the leading members of the genealogical community, networked with wonderful genealogy professionals, and experienced the joys and challenges of diverse client projects.

My very first client project was for a lovely lady in Canada named Joanne Barnard. She was searching for the mother of her great-grandfather, believed the family had Iowa roots, but had hit a brick wall. It was a perfect fit for me as a new professional, and I tackled the project pro bono to gain experience. Continue reading

Genealogical Proof Standard: The Search

It Starts With a Plan 

by Alice Hoyt Veen, CG [note: this article was featured in the November 2014 Iowa Genealogical Society newsletter.]

GPS graphicYou know what you want to know about your ancestor, and you’ve crafted a focused research question. How do you apply the Genealogical Proof Standard (GPS) to answer that question? Let’s take a closer look at step one of the GPS: the “reasonably exhaustive search.”

The GPS calls for a “reasonably exhaustive search” of all sources that might answer your research question. But how do you know you’ve met that standard? There are certain steps you can take to ensure you’ve done your best to locate every relevant, available source. Here are some tips to help you formulate an effective research plan. Continue reading

Genealogical Proof Standard: The Question

The Question

by Alice Hoyt Veen, CG [note: this article was featured in the September 2014 Iowa Genealogical Society newsletter.]

GPS graphicQuestions, questions—we all have unanswered questions about our ancestors. The Genealogical Proof Standard is a great tool for addressing those questions. But The GPS works best when our question is clear, concise, and focused on a specific problem. It’s necessary to organize not only our thoughts but our information in a targeted way that leads to a well-defined research goal. With a clearly articulated, specific goal, you can put the GPS to work! Here are a few tips to get you started. Continue reading

Thank You, Davis County!

Davis County Courthouse, Bloomfield, Iowa

Davis County Courthouse, Bloomfield, Iowa

Family History Month in Iowa got off to a fine start Saturday with the 40th anniversary celebration of the Davis County Genealogical Society. Sometimes the very best in genealogical education is local—as demonstrated by the marvelous local historians and genealogists who provided the day’s selection of educational presentations.

Special guests Deana Pitman, DNA researcher; Rudy Evans, noted Davis County history buff; Dave Snyder, Jacobs Ladder Cemetery Restoration; and Barbara Sandstrom, Native American descendant were on hand to share their knowledge and experiences. DCGS also very kindly allowed me to share some of my own research of Davis County families, and I am very appreciative of their gracious hospitality. Thank you, Davis County Genealogical Society, for a wonderful, memorable day! Continue reading

Iowa’s Courthouse Records: Identify, Access & Understand

by Alice Hoyt Veen, CG [note: this article was featured in the Spring 2014 issue of Hawkeye Heritage]

Jefferson Co. Courthouse, Fairfield

Jefferson Co. Courthouse, Fairfield

Consider your life and the many ways you interact with government: federal, state, county, and local. Your Iowa ancestor was no different—he had to pay taxes, register land deeds, pass his assets on to his children, become a citizen, vote, etc. Each point of interaction with government created a paper trail that reveals a wealth of information about your ancestor’s life and the society in which he lived. In Iowa, especially in early years of statehood, the county was the primary interaction point for your ancestor. It’s important to identify, access, and understand the county records relevant to your ancestor. Don’t settle for the basics—dig deep. You’ll be surprised at what you may learn. Continue reading

Iowa’s Courthouse Records: Plan Your Trip

Webster County Courthouse, Ft. Dodge

Webster Co. Courthouse, Ft. Dodge

Plan Your Trip: Twelve Tips

Each county official is unique in how he or she approaches public access to records. Your experience in one courthouse may be entirely different from what you encounter in another. It takes a bit of patience and perseverance, but onsite research is well worth the challenges. Here are twelve tips to consider as you plan your trip: Continue reading