Saturday, August 9, 2014

Chicago Genealogical Society's proud support of Purple Hearts Reunited

On August 2-3, 2014, The Chicago Genealogical Society was proud to support the efforts of the charity Purple Hearts Reunited which returned three lost WWII purple heart and other military medals of Chicago servicemen to the families and communities where they belong.

Purple Hearts Reunited, Inc. is a non-profit organization that rescues and returns lost military purple heart medals to veterans or living next of kin in public or private reuniting ceremonies.  Many purple heart medals are “lost” thru theft, fire or misplacement.  Purple Hearts Reunited purchases and also accepts donations of lost purple hearts, having reunited over 100 medals with American families in the past 3 years.  At present, it has approximately 300 purple heart medals to be reunited with the servicemen's families (at a cost of approximately $1,000 per ceremony).  Purple Hearts Reunited is a non-profit organization that is funded thru tax-deductible corporate and personal financial donations (not via any military agency funding).  You can find the many ways to contribute lost purple heart medals and your financial support on their website at

Purple Heart Reunited’s founder, Captain Zachariah Fike (purple heart recipient in Afghanistan, currently serving in the Vermont Army National Guard), conducted the two public and one private Chicagoland reuniting ceremonies below on August 2-3, 2014.

PFC Carmen V. Ramos' (KIA in WWII) Donation to the National Museum of Mexican Art

Pictured are Sergeant William Kappel and Officer Brenda Valadez of the Chicago Police Department, Mr. Carlos Tortolera, President of the National Museum of Mexican Art and Captain Zachariah Fike of Purple Hearts Reunited.

Welcoming home to Chicago's Pilsen neighborhood, less than one mile south of where PFC Ramos lived, the National Museum of Mexican Art graciously accepted the donation of Ramos' WWII medals in hopes that a family member will soon come forward.

TEC5 Emanuel Mark's (WWII) Reuniting Ceremony

Such pure joy from 94-year-old Chicagoan TEC5 Emanuel Mark when he received his purple heart and other WWII medals from Purple Hearts Reunited INC. in a private gathering at his residence on Saturday, August 2, 2014.

TEC5 Emanuel Mark receiving his purple heart with Captain Zachariah Fike of Purple Hearts Reunited.

PVT Thomas Bateman's (KIA in WWII) Reuniting Ceremony

This was a truly amazing event that gave the Bateman family many answers.  It included full military honors and was a large gathering of family, friends, Chicago Genealogical Society members, veterans groups, the local press and even a member of Illinois State Senator Michael Hastings' office.  
Pictured are U.S. Army COL Paul J. Hettich, Tom McAvoy, U.S. Army SSG John G. Trinca, Thomas Bateman Jr., and Captain Zachariah Fike of Purple Hearts Reunited.

Read this remarkable story of how three men's experience came together thru Purple Hearts Reunited to give a son and a veteran the answers they've been seeking for 69 years (stories below listed in reverse chronological order).

The Chicago Genealogical Society also encourages all families to:
  1. Make provision in your Will for who will inherit your military medals and family heirlooms, including your genealogical records.
  2. Request Your U.S. Veteran Relative’s Replacement Documentation & Purple Heart Medal
If you'd like to see a couple examples of previous Purple Hearts Reunited ceremonies, we recommend watching:

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Forensic Case Study: Calumet Baking Powder Co." [Part 2]

Part 2 of 3 "Forensic Techniques for Dating a Photo"

A Case Study Response to 

"Research Q & A: Calumet Baking Powder Co."

   Blog article requesting help published on 04 May 2014

By Marsha Peterson-Maass

How I Used Traditional Research + Forensic Techniques to Find Answers

This three-part blog article is in response to the 04 May 2014 post where Karen and Luann, two Chicago Genealogical Society members, asked for help to identify the date, purpose and individuals in this Calumet Baking Powder Company employee photo (below).  It explores how a genealogical researcher can find answers by defining objectives that lead to formulating a research strategy, then using traditional research along with forensic techniques to narrow in on the facts.

Using Forensic Techniques to Date the Photo

What if I hadn't found the 1926 Founders Book for Calumet Baking Powder Company (CalumetBPC) [see Part 1 published on 28 June 2014] What Forensic Techniques could I use instead to date the photo?  I'll start by plotting the "date-able" elements of the photograph on a spreadsheet timeline by year to narrow in on the date (or date range) that would apply to ALL of the elements.  Here's a list of the "date-able" elements I'll be gathering to plot on the spreadsheet:
  • "Known Information" - What the CGS member photo submitters, Karen and Luann, knew about their two relatives who worked at CalumetBPC for a short time.
    • Identities of Their Two Relatives Who Worked at CalumetBPC
    • Dates They Know Their Relatives Worked There
    • Two Relatives' Ages by Year
    • Two Relatives' Life Events by Year
    • Two Relatives' Chicago Residences by Year
  • Map - To confirm the photo's location and to compare the buildings and other observable landmarks about six months prior to the map's publication date.
  • American Men's and Women's Clothing Styles - Comparing the clothing seen in the photo to American fashion styles of the 1900's, 1910's and 1920's.

Working With The Two CGS Members

I couldn't have asked for two more helpful clients than Karen and Luann!  They told me they had the happy fortune to have inherited much genealogical information since their relatives "kept everything" and it was just a matter of going thru the materials to find answers.  I asked them many questions in order to gather the "Known Information" elements listed above and here is what they supplied:

Their two relatives who worked at CalumetBPC were sisters, Anna Josephina Barrath (b.11 March 1892 in Chicago; m.16 June 1923 to Joseph Dudley Goggin in Chicago) and Emma Olivia Barrath (b.09 April 1900 in Chicago; m.09 May 1925  to Francis "Frank" Asay in Chicago).  Below is a 1920 photo with Emma on the far left and Anna on the far right.
Barrath sisters, 1920 image
Photo graciously supplied by CGS Members, Karen and Luann. 

After finding the CalumetBPC photo, Karen and Luann first became aware that Anna had worked there when they came across a WWI love letter that Anna received from an admirer asking, "Are you still working at the Calumet Baking Powder yet?"

WWI Love Letter image, Letter graciously supplied by CGS Members, Karen and Luann.

In trying to identify life events that would either help confirm the dates when the sisters worked at CalumetBPC or to exclude them, Karen and Luann found the sisters' 1920 U.S. Federal Census enumeration in Chicago confirming that the sisters both worked there on January 1, 1920.

Emma nurse image
Image graciously supplied by CGS Members, Karen and Luann.

Karen and Luann also found a photo confirming that Emma was a volunteer WWI nurse about 1917.

And Karen and Luann also spent a great deal of time going thru correspondence and other documents to put together a residential timeline by year of where in Chicago the sisters and their mother lived . . . the several addresses before 1929 were all within six miles of the CalumetBPC (at 4100 Fillmore Street, Chicago), confirming that it was feasible for the sisters to travel a relatively short distance to work there.

What A Simple Map Can Confirm

"Maps enhance the background reading of historical places and eras."1  Accurate as of approximately six months prior to the publication date we see this 1921 Chicago Map detailing the CalumetBPC at 4100 Fillmore Street (its only Chicago location).

1921 Chicago Map image. Source: Map of Chicago and Suburbs, 1921 

If you look below at a close-up of the photo's background (right edge) you will see freight train boxcars on a railroad track about 1/2 block away. You can also see an electric power generator next to the building's east side and a single-use utility pole paralleling the train tracks.  According to the 1921 Chicago Map, it appears that the train tracks run thru the CalumetBPC property about 1/2 block north of the factory building so the photographer was standing south of the group and took the photo looking north.
Photo graciously supplied by CGS Members, Karen and Luann
Using American Fashion To Help Give A Date Range To A Photo

"It is a common misconception that the style of dress can lead to the date a picture was taken," says Colleen Fitzpatrick, PhD in her book Forensic Genealogy.2  Colleen, by the way, has worked at NASA, the National Science Foundation, and the Department of Defense.  She also says that certain fashion styles can indicate a date when the fashion was first introduced so the photo could not have been taken BEFORE that date plus fashion may give a researcher a possible date range.  Newspaper ads from the place and time along with many online sources can help with this type of research.

Before we try to date and place the clothing styles on a timeline by year, take a look at the close-up CalumetBPC employee photo just above, particularly at the men's neckwear, how far the men's vests extend below their necks, the women's hemlines and where the waistlines are sewn on the women's dresses.

The illustrations and photos below show three decades of men's fashion in America.  Bowties and neckties were worn in all three decades.  Now look at the progression of where the suit jackets/vests extended down from the neck . . . in the 1900's they were close to the neck . . . in the 1910's they extended down a bit . . . in the 1920's they extended down even further.  The vests in the CalumetBPC photo appear to be from the 1920's fashions.

Mens Slide 38 image. Source: University of Vermont, Landscape Change Program - Dating Historic

The illustrations and photos below show three decades of women's fashion in America.  Dresses were worn in all three decades.  Now look at the progression of where the hemlines end and the waistlines are placed . . . in the 1900's hemlines extend to the ground and sewn waistlines are very tight around the waist . . . in the 1910's hemlines still extend to the ground and sewn waistlines are still very tight around the waist . . . in the Post-World War I fashion on the 1920's, hemlines are above the ankle (called "ankle skirts") and sewn waistlines are baggy and fall well below the waist (called "boy-shape dresses").  Women's fashions in the CalumetBPC photo appear to be from the 1920's fashions as well.

Womens Slide 39 image. Source: University of Vermont, Landscape Change Program - Dating Historic
Plotting All Of The Elements On A Timeline Spreadsheet By Year

And now the culmination of all of the date-specific elements are shown on the spreadsheet below.  We see the date ranges of when both sisters were old enough to work at CalumetBPC (light yellow), confirmed dates when traditional research shows that they worked there (in red) along with possible dates (light yellow), probable fashion dates (bright yellow) and possible fashion dates (light yellow), life events that had influence and residential addresses that confirm the sisters lived within 6 miles of CalumetBPC.  From plotting all possible and probable dates on a timeline spreadsheet by year, we see the dates where ALL of the elements give a positive result, and we can come to the conclusion that the date the photograph was taken is within the date range of the beginning of 1921 to the end of 1925, with the strongest possibility being around 1925.

Additional Support For The Previous Probable Answer

The timeline date range of the photo using forensic techniques of 1921-1925 (with the strongest possibility being about 1925) supports the previous probable answer that it was probably taken in 1926 or shortly before [see Part 1 published on 28 June 2014].  Unfortunately, it can't support the previously determined probable reason that the photograph was taken - to be used in the 1926 CalumetBPC Founders Book.

Dating A Photograph . . . On Steroids!

If you're interested in several other techniques for dating photographs, the book Forensic Genealogy shows how to date objects in the background, date the photo paper/style itself and how to measure outdoor shadows to indicate two possible days of the year that the photo could have been taken based on the Spring and Fall Equinox.  Really!

More About This Case Study
  • Case Study Response - Part 1 of 3 "Traditional Research Methods" published 28 June 2014
  • Upcoming Case Study Response - Part 3 of 3 "Forensic Techniques for Individualization"
1 Melinda Kashuba, Walking With Your Ancestors (Cincinnati, Ohio, U.S.A.: Family Tree Books, 2005), 5.

2 Colleen Fitzpatrick, PhD, Forensic Genealogy (Fountain Valley, California, U.S.A.: Rice Book Press, 2005), 20.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Forensic Techniques CASE STUDY: Calumet Baking Powder Co. [PART 1]

Part 1 of 3 "Traditional Research Methods"

A Case Study Response to 
"Research Q & A: Calumet Baking Powder Co." 

By Marsha Peterson-Maass

    Blog article requesting help published on 04 May 2014

How I Used Traditional Research + Forensic Techniques to Find Answers
This three-part blog article is in response to the 04 May 2014 post where Karen and Luann, two Chicago Genealogical Society members, asked for help to identify the date, purpose and individuals in this Calumet Baking Powder Company employee photo (below).  It explores how a genealogical researcher can find answers by defining objectives that lead to formulating a research strategy, then using traditional research along with forensic techniques to narrow in on the facts.

Research Objectives And Strategy

As with any genealogical research project, I first needed to define my objective(s) so I could formulate my research strategy.  I had three objectives: 1) Determine the date of the photo; 2) Determine the reason the photo was taken, and; 3) Determine individual's identities.  So my strategy was to find a Calumet Baking Powder Company (CalumetBPC) history to try to set a maximum timeframe for when the photo could have been taken plus see if any company events may have precipitated the need for this photograph.  Then I needed to check the photo itself (beyond the pictured subject matter) for clues as to where it might have come from.  And finally, I needed to check sources that give clues to these employee's identities and use the forensic technique of listing the clues on a spreadsheet to narrow in on the individualizations; I might also need to do the same to determine the photo's date if traditional sources don't yield the answer.

What The Company History Revealed

CalumetBPC was founded in 1889 by Warren M. Wright in its only Chicago location at 4100 Fillmore Street, Chicago, Cook County, Illinois, U.S.A. (GPS: Latitude 41.868231 / Longitude -87.728319 . . . you can use Steve Morse's free tool "Converting Addresses to/from Latitude/Longitude/Altitude in One Step" at  It was purchased by General Foods in 1929 and subsequently sold to Kraft Foods in the 1970's where the original recipe product is still being sold with the same brand name today.  (So from just reviewing the company's history from establishment to its sale, my maximum timeframe for when the photo could have been taken was between 1889-1929.)  CalumetBPC offered many employees benefits during that time, including employee sports teams and a baking club.  Nothing in the company history seemed compelling enough to necessitate this photo.

What The Photograph Itself Revealed

When I examined the photo itself (beyond the pictured subject matter) what obviously caught my attention were the four long tear holes plus the creases where it had been folded up to three times.  It appeared that the photo had been glued to something that was heavier than the photo (hence the holes were on the photo since the glue + portions of the photo remained on the heavier object).  It occurred to me that many large companies published Company Yearbooks.  Could this be the reason for the photo?  Could I track down whether CalumetBPC had published books of any kind that might have contained this photo which had been glued to an inside cover?

Finding The Company Archives

To determine whether there is a CalumetBPC Archives today, I emailed Kraft Foods on 03 June 2014 (from their Q&A webpage) and searched locally for an archives or published books (including The Newberry Library, Chicago Public Library and its branches).  I received a quick email response from Kraft Foods on 05 June 2014.

So no company archives or local library collection.  Welcome to genealogy!  But many thanks to Kraft Foods for answering so quickly.

Just Because You Can Use Forensic Techniques Doesn't Mean You Have To

Although using Forensic Techniques can be very effective and often quite fun, I needed to see if I could find answers more quickly with traditional research sources.  I pulled out the big guns and went to Ebay/ETSY (don't scoff just yet).  In less than a minute I discovered that CalumetBPC did indeed publish books, including a 1914 Cookbook which had a lovely color rendering of their building.

Source: Calumet Cookbook 1914 68 Pages | eBay 21 May 2014.

And then I found it, a 1926 CalumetBPC Founders Book!

Source: Advertising Calumet Baking Powder 21 May 2014.

Could the photo have been taken for the purposes of this 1926 CalumetBPC Founders Book in the year 1926 or shortly before?  A quick comparison of both men's and women's clothing styles confirms that this is probably the case.

Two Quick Probable Answers

Do I have definitive proof that the photo had been torn from an inside cover of a 1926 CalumetBPC Founders Book?  No, since I don't have the book it was taken from to compare the tears and I also didn't receive an email response from the seller when I asked whether it appeared that this photo could have been originally glued to one of the book's inside covers (oh well).  So as proof goes, I would classify these as two "Probable" answers: The photo was probably taken in 1926 or shortly before and it was probably taken to be used in the 1926 CalumetBPC Founders Book.  (See The National Genealogical Society's "Genealogical Standards: Standards For Sound Genealogical Research"

More About This Case Study

  • Upcoming Case Study Response - Part 2 of 3 "Forensic Techniques for Dating a Photo"
  • Upcoming Case Study Response - Part 3 of 3 "Forensic Techniques for Individualization"

Monday, June 16, 2014

Genealogical Resource Review: DNA and Judy G. Russell's Blog

One of the genealogy community's most well-respected and prolific experts on the topic of DNA is Judy G. Russell, The Legal Genealogist.  You can find a wealth of DNA information on her blog at . . . everything from explaining how each of the three tests work, to projects and other ways to maximize atDNA matches, to ethics to her varied experiences.

The Chicago Genealogical Society is thrilled to host Judy as our guest speaker at our Saturday, September 13, 2014 Fall Genealogy Seminar where she'll be giving a total of four talks, two of them addressing DNA:
  • "ABC's of DNA"  New to the idea that DNA can help with genealogy?  Learn about the three major test types - Y-DNA, mtDNA and the new atDNA testing - and see what each offers to the genealogist.
  • "Beyond X and Y: The Promise and Pitfalls of Autosomal DNA Testing"  Autosomal DNA testing is the new kid on the block.  Learn more about this exciting addition to the toolkit of 21st Century genealogists.  What's in it for you, and how can you make the most of this test?

We hope you'll take a look at Judy's informative blog, then join us on September 13, 2014 to learn much more about using DNA.  Complete event registration and program details can be found at  

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Tips on Preserving your Family Archives

Do you have all your family photographs neatly arranged inside plastic sleeves in a beautiful album? Do you have them precisely labeled in their original photo print envelope with negatives?  Or do you have them stored in the carton you pulled out of your Grandmother's Attic?  If you thought one of these scenarios was the correct way to store your aging photographs, you may be in for a surprise!

At our May program, "Preserving your Family's Treasures" archivist Rena Schergen outlined the do's and don'ts of storing your family ephemera.  Here are some of her tips to make sure you keep those family photos around and looking great for your grandchildren.


You want to make sure you keep your family archives in a stable temperature environment. This means that attics, garages, and basements have too much heat/ moisture fluctuations and -if- they are insulated, climate controlled and de-humidified, that is when they are safe for your documents.

The ideal temperature for preservation is around normal room temperature; 65 to 70 degrees. Rena suggests that your home archives should ideally be located on your first floor, in a dark closet on a middle shelf.  When things are on the floor they are more susceptible to any pests, dust or water damage. 

Sunlight is your Number 1 enemy. The sun fades, warps, and disintegrates many of the materials our family archives are made from. Be sure to always keep your archives in a dark place to protect the vibrancy of your materials.

Cardboard is acidic and should NEVER be used to store your photographs.  It is not waterproof, leaving your archives open to damage in case of flood or bursting pipe or some other mayhem. Also, it is food for pests, and we assure you the last thing you want to see on Great Aunt Clarice's face is a friendly reminder that cardboard does not keep out mice.

Instead, Rena recommends using a plastic bin with a tight-fitting lid or a acid-free archival box.


Put it away, don't display. As we said earlier, sunlight is enemy #1. Make copies of your favorite photographs and put away the original to protect it for the future. 

Avoid putting photographs in albums. Even new albums claiming to be "archival" have been proven to have PH levels that would do the documents harm over a period of time. Sadly, most plastic sleeves are not recommended because over time, the plastic and the photograph will have a chemical reaction, damaging the photograph. Monitor your sleeve albums to make sure the photo has not started to stick to the plastic. Avoid and re-house your photographs in the ever-popular sticky page albums. The pages lose their stick and photos will come out. Also, the adhesive is not acid free.

Storing photographs in their original developing envelope is not a good idea either.  The paper is certainly not acid free, and that acid will leak all over your photographs as well as negatives.

So what should you do to store them?  Rena recommends what she and her fellow archivists do: Interleave and sleeve it!  What this means is taking a high-quality acid free paper like Bond paper, and using them as a protector for your documents. Then put those bond paper packs into an acid-free file folder to keep them organized.  For a tutorial and more information on this technique, see our video below.  Mylar sleeves are the top recommendation for documents that are fragile.


This is the way of the future. Many of you have probably already started this arduous process. But don't throw out the originals! With so many emerging technologies, one cannot be certain what the future will hold for us.  VHS and cassette tape quality goes sour after only 10 years.....So what is the best way to digitize your family archives?

First, get all cassette tapes, film strips, VHS, etc reformatted to a standard file format on a thumb drive. If you can, get second copies made onto DVD.  DVD is NOT a lasting technology; however, it is a great one to use for your second copy, the one you watch and share with others.  You can get video footage transferred by a local digital preservation company for a fee. Once you have your digital copy, you can easily transfer it to the next emerging technology. (Whatever that will be!)

Print copies of your digital photograph collection. Remember, one day soon enough those photos you took of the family last holiday will be old too. The file format your digital photo is in may not be readable for computers in the future. (This has already happened!) Keeping a printed back-up copy of your favorite shots is a smart way to protect yourself from the digital anarchy of the future or of an inevitable computer crash. Be sure you have a digital backup copy of your family archive on a separate hard drive than your computer.  This will ensure your photographs will live on- even if your computer hardware does not.

Protecting our family documents can be an arduous process.  With a little time and effort, we can take steps to ensure that future generations can enjoy the tangible pieces of history we have collected in our family record.

For upcoming CGS Programs visit:

For even more tips and tricks, check out our video!  Rena Schergen personally gives us the top tips to keeping our documents safe and sound for generations.

For more information on how to store your archives, visit these helpful websites.
National Archives - Preservation
Library of Congress - Family Preservation
Conservation Online

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Research Q & A - Norwegian Cemeteries

Here at the Chicago Genealogical Society we occasionally receive questions from our members and others reaching out to us. If you can help answer the question or have more information to add, please leave a comment below.

Here is a recent question received:

I am planning a visit to Chicago this summer to see the places where my grandparents lived when my father was born in 1903. I also hope to visit some of my Norwegian ancestor's graves. When my father was born in 1903 his father's occupation was "Grocery Business". It could be interesting to find where he had his locals.

Now I dare to ask you these questions:
1. My aunt died in Los Angeles in 1977, but her ashes were sent to Chicago where she lived most of her life. She was never married. I have tried to look her up in Find a for Chicago, but had no success. There was a life care fund established for her by her former employer. I have information about that and I have her Social Security Death Index. I don't ask you to do this job for me, but maybe can tell me how I can find this?

2. Could there be any historical records where I could find out about my grandfather's Grocery business?

3. Do you know any people who have general knowledge about Norwegians in Chicago around 1900, the Humboldt Park area? It could be interesting to meet such a person.

Craig Pffankuche replied:

1. There are many large cemeteries where her ashes could have gone. Your first "best bet" would be, because of her ethnicity, to try Mt. Olive Cemetery, 3800 North Narragansett Avenue, Chicago, Illinois 60634.
2. Business records were only very rarely kept so the chance of finding business records for a no longer existing "Mom and Pop" store is exceedingly slim.
3. There is no specific Norwegian - American Historical Society located in Chicago. Check out the research links on for researchers that certainly could help you find more information.

Check out the link below to a blog from a Swedish researcher finding their roots at Mt. Olive Cemetery, where this photo is courtesy of. 
Anna-Karin's Genealogical Blog- A day in Chicago's Cemeteries

Have research questions? Have a mystery photo? Send it along with what you know about it to, or post it to our CGS Facebook Page.  We may not be able to answer every question, but we may post your question on the blog or in our newsletter.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Genealogical Resource Review - NARA

The U.S. National Archives and Records Administration (NARA)

NARA has thousands of genealogical records holdings (much now online) including U.S. Federal Census, immigration, tax, land, military, Native American, naturalization, passport records and more.  They also offer free research guides and genealogy education (written & video), tools, tips, genealogy workshops & events, preservation advice and much more.  See the links below for popular genealogy topics. 

NARA webpages:
Associated websites: