Immortality is probably not within reach of most of us, but scraps of ancestors’ lives are scattered in hundreds of books and references within the Chaska History Center. The goal of most people performing genealogy research is to put those pieces together to form a story about relatives and ancestors.
Using the world-wide web and its applications can quickly scan hundreds of resources like census results; marriage, birth and death records, and other governmental records. Access to the popular Ancestry.com database can be obtained through the Chaska branch of the Carver County Library next door to the History Center. Happenings in the lives of our ancestors can also be found within the newspapers of their time. Newspapers.com is an application that can be used if you are lucky to be researching an area that has a newspaper that has been scanned and indexed into that database.
However, if the focus of the genealogy search lived in Carver County, terrific resources can be in your hands within moments of starting your search at the Chaska History Center. Volunteers Christine Poppitz and Barbara Van Eyll illustrated the various avenues of exploring the Center’s resources.
1. If you knew you had a relative named John Smith who lived in this county in the mid-1800’s, and Ancestry.com didn’t provide any information, our History Center may be able to provide some proof. Start with the website for the Carver County Historical Society, which has an index of the Herald newspapers and all their versions for the past 158 years. Entering a person’s name will point you at a publication, date and page containing that name. A search for “John Smith” referenced the Herald published on July 14, 1866.
2. In the History Center’s archives, the actual newspaper can be found, and a reading of page 2 produced a short reference to the marriage of John Smith to Betsy Mattson on June 10. In addition to this important piece of information, you can also read advertisements from a “Clairvoyant and Psychometrician” in New York who would provide a description of your destiny if you send her 50 cents and a stamped envelope. An article on the brick-making industry could also give you insight about the area’s history and impact on Minnesota.
3. Searching for more information about John Smith brings you to the Resource Center index of more sources of records, biographies and personal journals. Edward Glatzel was an amateur historian while he ran a shoe repair shop in Chaska. His Death Records gleaned information from the newspapers and consolidated data of obituaries within the county. From that, we learn that John and Betsy Smith may have had a 9-year old daughter who died in 1876.
4. To verify if the daughter in the Glatzel records really was related to John Smith who married Betsy, the Center’s resources may contain a family history, or a cemetery record.
5. If you are lucky (and all genealogy research depends of perseverance, resources, and luck), someone in the target family will have created a history or journal or diary that helps explain details hidden from the official records, and sheds light on the day-to day happenings that shaped the lives from a different age.
6. The History Center also has binders listing the graves in nearby cemeteries and a large file of obituaries clipped from the Herald and sorted by family name.
7. Glimpses of the student lives attending Chaska and Guardian Angels high schools can found in their yearbooks dating from 1938.
If you have never researched a family history, History Center volunteers can help open the door to times in the past linked to us by the history of Chaska.
By Neil Wingert for the Chaska Historical Society