Posted by: downtothesea | February 3, 2009

The joy of microfilm.

As of this afternoon this blogling is no longer a FHL microfilm virgin!

I feel like I have accomplished something huge by finally branching out into different record types.  I tend to be very set and comfortable in my ways, so this is a very big deal for little old me.

I did just fine with the microfilm reader, too, though I haven’t used one since about 1986.  I even had a nice young man come over to me as I was using it and ask what I was doing–he had seen people at the machine before but didn’t know exactly what it did.  I felt like a proper researcher as I explained how microfilm worked!

Then I dug in…first to a collection of two film reels of “vital records” which was nothing more than the Niagara Falls Public Library’s card catalogue of names cited in local historical newspapers.  It was a fair-to-middling index, and I did find some Gavins and Millers floating around whose newspaper citations I can chase up later on, but I shudder at the thought of anyone presuming to use the card catalog as “vital records.”  Eek!

The next film was a real gem, however:  the 1865 New York State census.  It wasn’t indexed, which meant I had to go through the census page by page, but I did indeed find the McCabes and the Gavins after two hours of searching. 

I learned some amazing information, too.  The Gavins’ family home is listed as a “shanty” worth $50, while the McCabes were somewhat better off, owning a “frame” house worth $300.  I learned that while the male heads of the houses were both naturalized by 1865, their wives are still listed as aliens.  I also discovered to my surprise that Michael Gavin, owner of the “shanty,” was also listed as a land owner!  I suppose if I was to live in a shanty, I’d feel a lot better about it if I owned the land it was built upon…  Knowing that Michael may indeed have owned land opens up a whole new set of records I can paw my way around in!  Hurray!

All in all, it was a terribly productive day for me, both in my genealogical research and my “real” research for my graduate degree at university.  I deserve a gorgeous, gooey, warm, chocolate chip cookie!


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