Unusual Sources, Part 1

I LOVE unusual sources for family history! I love that moment when you find family history in a completely unexpected place – something that makes you want to do the happy dance and get online to tell all your geni friends what you just found and where so they can look up that resource too to see if they can hit a jackpot like you did. So to see that this was included as a theme for 2021’s 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks was a bonus for me. I’m going for gold and trying to post one unusual resource I’ve found for both my paternal and maternal families in part 1. In part 2, I will post unusual sources I’ve used for my husband’s paternal and maternal families. I love this topic so much I may do parts 3 and 4 where I post unusual sources for my grandsons’ parents who aren’t my biological children. Since I don’t have one specific family to introduce, I’ll just jump right in.

Dad’s family

It’s been difficult to determine which governmental record to pull out and show you for my Dad’s family. I really wanted to talk about my 3rd great grand uncle Theodore “Clay” LARKIN and the pardon he received in 1906 from the governor, but it would take some explanation to tell you why I used the Annual Report of the Attorney General to the Governor of the State of Ohio to write Clay’s story. I could tell you about my 2nd great grand uncle Willard “Red” Nelson DRAKE and show you the Ft. Leavenworth Federal Penitentiary inmate case file that was kept on Red. I could tell you about finding my Dad’s doctoral thesis paper online at a university library. I could even tell you about documents I used to help me unravel the occupational story of my 2nd great grandfather who worked for Tulsa Vitrified Brick and Tile Company in the old Greenwood section of Tulsa, Tulsa County, Oklahoma or the documents crucial to fleshing out the story of my 3rd great grandfather who had a run-in with the short-lived Liberal Republican Party in 1870.

I could tell you all those things but instead, I’m going to tell you about some unusual records I found at the National Archives facility in Fort Worth, Texas. I was researching my great grandfather, Ralph LARKIN. Another researcher had posted a photo identification on Ancestry for Ralph and I wanted a copy of the identification plus the health records that went with it. I couldn’t get a response from the other researcher so I began to look around for who might hold records like that. I found out National Archives in Fort Worth held Bureau of Mine records for Oklahoma. That’s what prompted a trip to NARA in Fort Worth, Texas. You can read more about that trip here. I didn’t find the photo identification I wanted but I did find some other very unique records. One of those was a hand-drawn chart tracking medical checkups/conditions for various mine workers in the Picher, Ottawa County, Oklahoma area.

nara picher clinic ralph larkin doc 2
A hand-tabulated medical chart for a clinical study conducted by Dr. Frank V. MERIWETHER for Bureau of Mines’ Picher, Ottawa County, Oklahoma Clinic.
nara picher clinic ralph larkin doc
Close-up of Dr. MERIWETHER’s hand-tabulated chart showing entry for Ralph Larkin.

This one record was so unique and personal to my 2nd great-grandfather that it made the whole research portion of the trip worth going. Never underestimate the amount and type of information the government keeps on people. If you know how to find that information you will find some very unique and valuable records.

Bonus round for Dad’s family: While putting together this post, I learned that our John Bell Sr. was known for the suspicion that he was killed by the Bell Witch. Yes- THAT Bell witch. You can get a short synopsis of the Bell Witch legend at Wikipedia and then research it further from there. For whoever’s keeping count…that means I have witches/witch stories on both sides of my family!

Mom’s family

As with my Dad’s family, I could tell you about lots of unusual records I’ve found that tell me about my mom’s family history. School records hold a lot of data on a family with young children- families such as my grandparents’, Troy “Lum” and Jessie (RITER) BATES. Native American records hold a lot of valuable information you can’t find elsewhere and I treasure the records I’ve found for my 3rd great grandfather, Jefferson LATTY, and his mom Martha Frances “Fanny” (SCOTT) LATTY. I’ve even found the preacher’s license for my 3rd great-grandfather, Reverend Charles George SEELY, as well as receiving the church history records from the church he helped found and for which he was the first preacher. I’ve even found museum exhibits that gave me information about my REITER family history. I’m going to save all those records for another blog post because I want to tell you about one of the more interesting maps I’ve been able to use.

One resource that I’ve used from time to time are property maps. However, while recently searching for my mom’s family I found one that isn’t like any other property map I’ve found. It’s a “Settlement Map” for Franklin County, Virginia. Not only is it unusual, I was able to locate two lines of my mom’s family – the family of William TONEY (my 7th great-grandfather) and the family of Isaac BATES (my 6th great-grandfather). On the same map, I also located a line from my dad’s family – my 8th great-grandfather John GREER’s sons – along with a location named after my 7th great-grandfather Aquilla GREER)! Surprise!

Franklin County, Virginia Settlement Map


If you haven’t yet searched for maps online, I encourage you to look for them. There are so many interesting and unique maps online these days. Try searching for locations instead of people. One search term hint: try searching for a location plus the word map or a location plus a surname. Like this:

“Franklin County, Virginia” AND map


“Franklin County, Virginia” AND Toney

Using the quotation marks tells the search engine that every word inside the quotation marks must be found within a couple of words of each other instead of anywhere on the page in any combination. Adding the capitalized word ‘AND’ tells the computer that not only must it find the phrase in quotation marks, it must also find the other word on the same page. So for the first query, the search engine must find the phrase “Franklin County, Virginia” all together and your search results should only include pages that have that phrase PLUS the word ‘map’. Likewise on the second example except the word ‘Toney’ must be on the same page as “Franklin County, Virginia”. Learning to create better search terms helps you find information you would not otherwise find.

I’m wishing you all the best in your online searches this week! Try the examples above and see how it works for you. This will work on any search you do, not just genealogy searches. Try it out! If you find something wonderful- come back here and tell me about it!

Until next week,

Lisa @ Days of Our Lives blog

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