Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Genealogy Fun in Eastern Nebraska...part 2 (Homestead Monument)

Welcome back, the second part of this article is about the continuation of my recent genealogy trip to eastern Nebraska with my cousin. You can read the first part of the story HERE. The latter part of last week was spent having fun just touring some sites and cemeteries in and around Adams and Gage Counties of Nebraska.

First stop was at Red Cloud, Nebraska- the home of the author Willa Cather. Red Cloud is a pretty little quaint town with many historical buildings, several of which relate to some of the writings of Willa Cather. Her book, My Antonia was set around some of the homes and people of Red Cloud. We toured her original home and drove around the tour to see more of the historical buildings. I had never been to the little town and it was treat, especially to be taken back in time in our minds at least.

Willa Cather home

Cather historical marker

Me in front of her home

Historical old home of Willa Cather's writings

Beautiful old red brick building, Red Cloud, Ne.

Old bank block, Willa scratched her initials in the outside wall

Quaint church in Red Cloud, Ne.
Seeing the historical buildings around Red Cloud was certainly fun and learning more about history is always a welcome experience!

The Homestead National Monument near Beatrice, Nebraska was our next stop on our exploring Nebraska some if it's great sites. For anyone interested in history and especially for those with ties to ancestors who may have settled on the plains or other areas of the country who offered homestead land, this is a fun place to visit and learn more about early settlement. All four pages of the original Homestead Act of 1862 are on display at the monument right now and through the end of May in celebration of the 150th anniversary of the Homestead Act. What an awesome experience to have been able to view this historical document in its entirety! I was absolutely thrilled to see it in person and be so close to the actual signature of Abraham Lincoln. The display is such that visitors can get quite up close to the document as it is shown behind glass as a unit. It is under armed guard, a rather strange experience to see in the small museum. We were able to get close enough to take semi-descent photos but as NO FLASH or tripods were allowed, there is a rather bad glass reflection from other display lights and the display is dimly lit for preservation purposes, it is hard to get excellent quality photos. None the less, we did get some photos and loved seeing the document. The Homestead monument also offers a great museum and  several displays for everyone to learn more about that period in history. A really nice outdoor learning center, theater with learning films and two excellent gift shops in both buildings at the monument makes this a very worth while historical place to visit even during the times that the original document is not there. I can't wait to go back and spend some time there. Take along some extra fun money as they offer very nice books on history, genealogy, Nebraska, quilts and more! Enjoy a few of the photos that we took when we visited the Homestead National Monument last week!

page 1

page 2

page 3


Signature of Abraham Lincoln

Shows how the  Homestead Act document is displayed

Copy of original poster

A few of our own family Homestead Documents are shown here to give you an idea of what some of the pages look like when you are able to find your own family documents online. I've included a couple pages from about three different people's document folders so you can see the variety of papers that may appear in your ancestors papers. Most packets will contain around 15 pages or more of document pages for each person who applied for a Homestead.  Fold3 is slowly adding the documents to its database and about half of Nebraska is available at this time. The Fold 3 database of Homestead records is FREE through May. Be sure to check back often if you are searching for your ancestor's records as new documents are being added daily. Copies of these documents are NOT available at the Homestead National Monument so do not make the trip there under the assumption that they house those records. 

 Many of my personal families did settle and take homestead land in Nebraska so I have been lucky to get several of the documents. What a thrill to read how our ancestors attained and settled their land!

The fun of discovering your ancestor in Homestead Records is hard to describe, one gets a warm feeling of closeness to those who came before. My cousin and I really had a wonderful time touring the Homestead National Monument and other historical sites in Nebraska while spending
quality time together, it was another grand genealogy outing!

Our last stop was visiting a family cemetery in Blue Springs, Nebraska, which I will tell more about soon. Thanks for stopping by!

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Genealogy Fun in Eastern Nebraska

Last week was a fun week for two cousins who had not been able to spend time together for years. I traveled east to Hastings, Nebraska to visit my cousin Joy for a week and to take in some fun and exciting activities near that area. After a fond greeting, our first plans of the week were made over dinner at one of her local awesome neighborhood restaurant the OK Cafe is full of antiques, displays to bring back childhood memories, gifts, and a unique large scale model train that travels the entire ceiling area of the restaurant on rails that criss-crossed the seating area and run along the walls. The atmosphere just makes you want to get busy writing your own family history! It was quite enjoyable and we had an awesome homemade meal while laughing and planning our week.

OK Cafe: Hastings, Nebraska-good food, fun establishment!

 Shopping, of course, was on our schedule and the very first day we ventured out to see what we could spend money on! Fresh flowers and garden plants filled the back of our vehicle as well as pots, dirt and garden spinners...mine all had to spend the week in her back yard waiting for the trip back home to western Nebraska. We bought genealogy books, history books, movies and just fun trinkets as we skipped from store to store and was it fun! By days end on the first day we were worn out but we tackled day two and survived more of the same with additional plants and more fun meals together. A trip to the Adams County court house gleaned an old marriage record for my husband's family and rounded out day two of fun. We were getting closer to Friday, the first day we were to head to Grand Island to attend the Nebraska State Genealogy Society 2012 Conference.

 My cousin was anxious to learn more about genealogy and getting her feet wet in the work of tracing some of her father's family history so off we headed to Grand Island on Friday. It is usually only about a 25 minute drive from Hastings to Grand Island but that Friday morning the fog was so bad that you could not see 20 feet, some of the thickest I have ever seen but we took it slowly and made it to the Conference in time to set up our vendor table and visit with friends before the opening activities. We really enjoyed meeting new people and seeing some old friends too. Day one featured  several presentations by Laura Prescott which were quite informative, she was a good presenter and injected some family humor which made her presentations very down to earth. My partner with the You Go Genealogy Girls, Ruby Coleman, received the Society award for Nebraska Genealogist of the Year over the noon luncheon so we took photos and handed out congrats to her for her nice award. The afternoon rounded out with a very interesting presentation by Catherine Renschler about a large glass plate photo collection, The Hines Collection that had been donated to the Adams County Historical was super interesting and very well presented. If you happen to have had ancestors from the Adams County or SE region of Nebraska, be sure to check out these photos as they are online and the Society needs help identifying many of them. By days close it was time to hurry home to tend the puppy dog again and make more plans!

Ruby Coleman- Nebraska Genealogist of the Year

Laura Prescott, our Keynote Presenter

 Saturday was the second day of the Genealogy Conference and we headed back to Grand Island, this time on a bright and beautiful morning's drive. We had a great time listening to more presentations by Laura Prescott, enjoyed lunch with friends at the conference and we went home with lots of reading material and books, some older publications and some new ones too. Hopefully all the newly acquired knowledge from the Conference and our new reading material will make us smarter as we move forward with our family ancestor quests. We concluded that we need all the help we can get. We left the Conference with new ideas and the hopes that we could spend more time together attending fun family history gatherings in the future.

In between all the shopping, learning and eating we also managed to get cousin Joy's new computer all set up and running so she will be in top form as she moves forward with her family research. It was quite a job for two cousins who are basically technologically challenged but we got the job done and it all worked. We managed to eat a whole triple berry pie between us while setting up her computer so I know the sustenance made us smarter and helped us along!

With the shopping and Conference over it was time to turn our thoughts to plans for the rest of the week. We had discussed beforehand what other things we wanted to possibly do. After a day of just staying home, resting, visiting, spending time with her lonesome old puppy...and counting our money to see if we could get on down the road (gals can spend lots of money on fun and frivolity), we finally decided on our ventures for the time I had left to visit.  Willa Cather's home and the historical sights of Red Cloud, Nebraska would be our first stop and then on to Beatrice, Nebraska to see the Homestead National Monument and view the original 4 pages of the Homestead Act which had just gone on display and then we would tour one of our mutual family cemeteries in Blue Springs, Nebraska.

Join me tomorrow with part 2 of "Genealogy Fun in Nebraska" as I tell of our fun trip and include pictures of the original Homestead Act and our journey back to visit several of our ancestors final resting places. I look forward to seeing you here soon!