Photo @Maura Mackowski, 2019.
Travels in Wisconsin and Iowa recently led me to two immigrant experience museums that had vaccination documents on display. Both focused on Norway, which, I was told, was second only to Ireland in the percentage of its population that left their homeland in the 1800s for North America. I do not know if Norway had a higher vaccination rate than other countries, or was better at documenting inoculations, or just had more people that thought to bring their medical records with them. I have never seen proof of smallpox shots displayed in a museum before. One set was on the wall at Vesterheim, the National Norwegian-American Museum & Heritage Center in Decorah, Iowa and the one below was at one of the two Norskedalen museums in Vernon County, Wisconsin. (I tweeted - @DoctorMaura - when we visited.) I did not get to use the research library at any of these sites but it is worth asking at any local or ethnic museums whether they have such documents in their collection. If so, make the archivist's day and ask if your people's records are there. Below is a picture I took, so you'll know what such a document looks like. On this one it says the child was inoculated against cowpox (koekopper) possibly because that was the virus used. (It's what Edward Jenner used.) This one tells you that Johana Peder Datter, whose parents (foreldrene) were Peder and Lilbut, was inoculated 23 July 1831, when she was half a year old (1/2 ar gammel.) It might say where in Norway and give other information. If you've studied any related language to the one your document is in, you can at least get the general idea with a pocket translating dictionary. These research libraries sometimes provide formal translation services, too.
Photo @Maura Mackowski, 2019.
Vesterheim, the National Norwegian-American Museum & Heritage Center in Decorah, Iowa is hosting an interesting exhibit through April 26, 2020 called "Tattoo: Identity Through Ink." The shirtless gentleman below (King Frederick IX of Denmark) was featured prominently, and coincidentally in another part of the museum was a picture of his fully-clothed father (Christian X), whom he greatly resembled. The caption below Frederick's photo explains why it was deemed display-worthy. It seems the king had posed for Life magazine, a major mid-20th century publication known for its photography, and kicked off a tattoo craze in his native country. (Photo credit below the blue line in the picture.)
So how can old photos of YOUR tattooed relatives help your genealogical research? Aside from telling two kings apart, how about: Identifying possible clan or tribal membership? Revealing occupation, religion, military service, or fraternal organization membership? Seeing where he or she might have traveled? Finding out about past prison terms - or past loves? Indicating socioeconomic status or national origin? Knowing such things can give you ideas for new places to look for documents that will reveal your ancestor's story. Has someone's tattoo helped you in your family history research?
I am rapidly losing count of the interesting genealogical data sources you can find doing field research vs reading the internet. Today, as part of the Daughters of Union Veterans of the Civil War (DUVCW) annual convention we toured Andersonville National Historic Site, commonly referred to as just "Andersonville," the most notorious of the Civil War POW camps. Nowadays it is also the National POW Museum and a national cemetery where burials still take place. It is run by the National Park Service, which separately has a searchable Soldiers and Sailors Database of both Union and Confederate combatants. We learned the amazing story of CT POW Dorence Atwater, a 20-year-old private assigned to the "Dead House," where bodies of soldiers were stacked until there were enough to fill a trench, shoulder to shoulder. His job was to record the name & basic data of each Union soldier who died. Fearing the list would disappear in the event of Confederate defeat, which seemed likely in 1864, he made a duplicate record of the more than 12,000 corpses he processed (in just 9 months.) He smuggled it out so families could learn the fate of soldiers Missing In Action. Atwater's list, published in 1866 thanks to the intervention of Clara Barton, can be downloaded from Internet Archive. It has been my experience that the deaths of Civil War soldiers known at the time to have died were usually reported in MA town records. In spot checking a few of the MA POW graves I saw, though, none were so recorded, probably because there was no such "vital record" category. And if he left no dependents, there might be no pension to claim, plus it's not clear that POWs were necessarily eligible for pensions. Near state borders, a man might enlist in another state, too. Various factors like this can combine to leave you with a hole in your family tree you don't even know you had. For example, gravestone #939, H.B. Freelove of RI, when compared to Atwater's list, is revealed to have served in Co. H, 1st RI Cavalry, deceased 7 May 1864 of diarrhea, no occupation given. Being there in person gives you his full name (see the photo below of the RI state marker.) Judicious guesswork, the NEHGS (americanancestors.org) databases, your favorite state & federal census sources, and fold3.com for military records reveal Pvt. Freelove's parents, siblings, occupation, probable economic status, and more. Give it a try, and post your best guess in the comments section and I'll share my conclusions.
All photos © Maura Mackowski 2019.
In addition to having a great Swiss genealogy & history library AND being within a 3-5 hour drive of significant Norwegian, Danish, Cornish, and Polish genealogy research centers, New Glarus, Wisconsin also turned out to be a (relative) hotbed of Manx genealogy. The North American Manx Association is active here and their web site is advertising Hotel 1620 at Plymouth, MA as the site of their 2020 Annual Convention, August 7-9, 2020. If you are a Standish descendant, you know that he was a Manxman, which makes you eligible to join and take part in the celebration. The event is on top of the GSMD's triennial Congress festivity the following month, in September. The Society of Myles Standish Descendants meets on a biennial basis, and their next event is not until 2021, unfortunately. So, if you can't make it to Plymouth, MA in September and are lucky enough to be a Standish descendant, you can still have a great time celebrating the 400th anniversary of the Pilgrim's landing with the Manx cats of the NAMA (pun intended.) If you are interested, this group also has an active facebook page. (Not sure if you have any ancestors from the Isle of Man? NAMA has a list of Manx surnames here. You don't have to be a Standish descendant to join.)
Dr. Maura Mackowski is an Arizona research historian who enjoys the challenge of looking for Mayflower descendants, hers and anyone else's.