Category Archives: Book Reviews

Our Library Has Added A Book About Pre-Fire Records For Chicago And Cook County; “Researcher’s Guide To The Pre-Fire Records Of Chicago And Cook County”; Author Is W. Wesley Johnston

Hi Everyone!

Pre-Chicagao Fire GuideI noticed that our library has added a new genealogy-oriented book to our circulating collection.

The book is titled Researcher’s Guide to the Pre-Fire Records of Chicago and Cook County, Revised Edition.  The author of the book is W. Wesley Johnston.  The call number of the book is ILLINOIS COLL 929.3 JOHNSTON, W.  It will be available on the 2nd floor of our library on the circulating shelves within the Illinois Collection.  Right now as of this post, it is on the “New Non-Fiction” shelves near the “Ask Us” desk on the 2nd floor until it migrates to the Illinois Collection.

It is a small paperback book consisting of 140 pages of listings of resources that survived the great Chicago fire of 1871.  While not being the usual resources genealogists would gravitate to such as birth, marriage and death records, these records might be able to shed some light on your own Chicago ancestors prior to the fire of 1871.

Here is a small write-up description on the back cover of the book:

The Great Chicago Fire of 1871 destroyed the courthouse and city hall and most of the records. But many records survived or were later able to be legally proven. In 1938, the Work Projects Administration’s Historical Records Survey inventoried Cook County and Chicago records. But the inventory went unpublished when the WPA ended, and the records languished in the Illinois State Archives. Wesley Johnston spent 2 years going through the records and 4 more to publish them in 1982. Now he has updated his 1982 book.

Some of the examples of the kind of records you can research are:

  • Cook County Taxation Records
  • Cook County Recorder Records
  • Clerk of the Superior Court Records
  • Chicago City Clerk Records
  • Chicago City Collector Records
  • Chicago Commissioner of Public Works Records

The above small list only scratches the surface on the multitude variety of Cook County and City of Chicago records that exist.  The book provides page after page of a variety of infrequently used records that genealogists do not generally research.  But they are there.  Everything did not burn.  There may only be smatterings of the full amount of the records, but there are records that might pertain to your pre-fire Chicago ancestors.

For each item included in the book the author has identified as to where those records can be found using an acronym table of abbreviation near the beginning of the book.  The author also noted that these records are not contained within the FamilySearch catalog.  They are not available as microfilms through FamilySearch.

It appears that any research on the vast majority of these records will be done in the “old-fashioned” research method of just looking through the material.  These are not contained in any online databases (at this time).  They are generally not indexed for quick research to get you to the area of interest.  So be prepared to work at it with no certainty of making any discoveries.

The fact the author created this book with a listing of these resources is wonderful.  Life for many of us that grew up in Chicago almost always hear and are told that Chicago’s records start after 1871.  For many of us with Chicago ancestors pre-1871 that may be enough for us to stop any research prior to 1871.  But the listing of the many resources available prior to 1871 for Chicago and Cook County proves that many kinds of records survived the fire of 1871.  It just boils down to how hard you want to work on making new discoveries of your pre-1871 Chicago ancestors.

This book will soon be on our Illinois Collection circulating shelves on the 2nd floor of our library.  Right now it is identified as “NEW” and is on the special section of shelves for “New” non-fiction books near the 2nd floor “Ask Us” desk.

It is at least worth a “browse through” to satisfy your own curiosity on what might exist to help you uncover more about your own pre-fire Chicago ancestors record trail they may have left within what survived.

Tony Kierna
Genealogy Coordinator
Schaumburg Township District Library


Our Library Has Added “Polish Surnames: Origins And Meanings, 3rd Ed.” To Our Reference Collection; Wonderful Resource To Discover Origin And Meaning Of Polish Surnames

Book Stack Clip ArtHi Everyone!

I have added to our library’s Reference Collection a new updated resource to help Polish genealogical researchers uncover much about the origins and meanings of the Polish surnames they are researching.  We have had the 2nd edition in our collection for some time now.  The author, William F. Hoffman, has chosen to update the book with a brand new 3rd Edition.

This is not a small update to this wonderful work.  This is now a 2 volume set.  Volume I consists of 247 pages.  Volume II consists of 935 pages.  Volume I includes history of surname development, typical name origins, name suffixes and more.  Volume II, arranged by root names, offers translations, derivations, data on the number of Polish citizens bearing each name and more.

You can now browse through this wonderful work to see what is the meaning of your Polish surname.  For myself, the name KIERNA , has a meaning of “butter dish”.  The book also notes there are 31 Polish citizens living in Poland with that name, almost all are located in one Province.  That province is the province of origin for my great-grandfather.  One of his children was the only one that stayed in Poland.  His descendants are in fact those that now comprise the 31 living Poles in Poland with the name KIERNA.

This 2 volume set iPGSA Logo Clip Arts hot off the press as they say!  I was able to receive this newly published work on November 11, 2012 when we hosted a meeting of the Polish Genealogical Society of America (PGSA) at our library.  They were kind enough to bring a copy for me knowing that I would want to add it to our collection and remove the older edition from our shelves.

The books now reside on the 2nd floor of our library on the Reference shelves.  The call numbers of the books are R 929.42 HOFFMAN, W V. 1 and R 929.42 HOFFMAN, W V. 2.

This newly published work can also be purchased for your own personal use directly from the PGSA whether you are a member of their organization or not.  If you are not a member, the cost may be slightly higher for you to purchase.  You can link directly to the PGSA Store to find out more details about purchasing the book for your own personal library.  You can connect to them at:

Polish Genealogical Society of America (PGSA) Store

Here is a PDF description file of the work from the PGSA that you can look at for more detailed description of the what the books are all about:

Polish Surnames: Origins and Meanings, 3rd Ed. By William F. Hoffman

If you have any interest in Polish research, then this is a must-see book.  The older edition was one of the first genealogical resources I ever looked into when I started doing genealogy.  Just out of simple curiosity I wanted to see if my name was in the book.  And so my first discovery in genealogy was made when I saw that my name had a meaning of “butter dish”.

Who would have thought??

It is the discovery of these kinds of information that stirs us up to go even farther into research on our family history.

If you are in our library and have an interest in discovering the origin and meaning of Polish surnames, then stop by our Reference shelves and take a look at this wonderful work.

Who knows what you will discover about that Polish surname of interest to you.

Tony Kierna
Genealogy Coordinator
Schaumburg Township District Library

Book Review Of “Branching Out: Genealogy For 4th – 8th Grade Students” By Jennifer Holik; Reviewed By The Illinois State Genealogical Society; One Book Covers All Lessons For Each School Group Instead Of Two Books

Hi Everyone!

I was just recently looking through a recent issue of the Illinois State Genealogical Society Quarterly (Volume 44, Number 2 Issue, Summer 2012) when I happened to come across a wonderfully written book review.  The book is titled Branching Out: Genealogy for 4th – 8th Grade Students.  The author of the book is Jennifer Holik.

Jennifer is going to be our genealogy program speaker on Tuesday evening, February 12, 2013.  She will be making a presentation that relates to the book and how we can encourage the next generation, our children and grandchildren,  to take an interest in genealogy as we have.

Jennifer’s book serves as a model lesson plan for 4th to 8th graders to learn about how to uncover their own family history that is appropriate for their age group.  Parents and grandparents, do you see how this can be such a wonderful experience to get involved and be the mentor you can be to your own children and grandchildren working together in family history research?

Jennifer Holik

Jennifer initially published the material as two volumes of 15 lesson plans each as you will see mentioned in the book review.  She has since changed that manner of publication so that the entire 30 lesson plan is now included in one complete work instead of two.  The total cost for the entire plan is $30.  The book review that follows indicates a different price for each 15 lesson plan as it was originally published.  So now it is even less expensive to purchase the full package today for $30 instead of what was initially about $30 for each of the lesson plans previously.

Jennifer also has lesson plan books targeted to the 1st to 3rd grader as well as to the high school student which have also been combined into one volume at a cost of $30 for each targeted group of students.

I want to thank the Illinois State Genealogical Society, Sonia Schoenfield, the book reviewer for the Illinois State Genealogical Society, and Jennifer Holik, the author, for allowing me to share this wonderful book review.

The Schaumburg Township District Library has Jennifer’s combined lesson plan book sets in our collection that targets 1st to 3rd grade, 4th to 8th grade and for those in high school.  You can find these on the 2nd floor of our library in our genealogy book section with the call number 929.1 HOLIK, J.  They are available for you to check out and see for yourself how you can make an impact with the “next generation” regarding the love for family history research.

You may want to consider purchasing a set of the books for personal use and interaction with your own children and grandchildren.

What follows after the separator line in Italics is the full-text review as appeared in the Illinois State Genealogical Society Quarterly:


Branching Out: Genealogy for 4th – 8th Grade Students by Jennifer Holik. 2 volumes. Generations: Woodridge, Illinois, 2012. ISBN: 978-1-938226-02-1. Volume 1, $26.95; volume 2, $32.95 available from
Many of us, having come to genealogy later in life, tend to think of our chosen hobby and passion as a “grown up” activity. We may enjoy telling stories to the youngsters about our great-grandparents who lived in a sod house on the prairie, but researching in court houses and completing family group charts is best left to the adults.

Not so, says Jennifer Holik, professional genealogist and educator. Children can and should be able to research and understand where their family comes from. To this end Holik has developed a series of genealogy curriculum called Branching Out. The program is divided into three grade levels, Grades 1-3, Grades 4-8, and high school; each set having 30 lessons divided into two books with 15 lessons each. This review will address the books written for 4th – 8th grade students.

The cleverly-titled books have colorful, attractive covers. The lessons and pages are well arranged. Images and illustrations are used sparingly, but to good effect. The images used as examples of completed forms are a little fuzzy and should probably have been scanned at a higher resolution.

Branching Out is written for adults, parents, or teachers to use with students. These books could be used in a variety of settings: genealogy societies wanting to offer programs for younger audiences, homeschoolers, after school clubs, enrichment classes, or summer school.

The lessons are succinct, well-written, easy to understand and therefore easy to present to the student(s). Holik has taken an organized approach to the subject. Early lessons focus on the basics such as what genealogy is, how to fill out pedigree and family group sheets, and how to interview relatives. Later lessons build on these basics and add progressively complex concepts and assignments.

Each lesson contains a goal, vocabulary, a reading assignment, explanation of the lesson, and an assignment. Most readings are taken from published books readily available from a public library, bookstore, or established websites. The vocabulary is reinforced through crossword puzzles and word searches. Worksheets are occasionally provided to enhance the lesson. There are reviews but no quizzes or exams; the aim is to build family history cumulatively, and whatever is learned in one lesson is used in subsequent ones. The final lesson puts everything together with short written biographies of the student and an ancestor of the student’s choice.

Some of the lessons are quite short, others are more in-depth; this variety would prevent students and teachers from becoming either bored or overwhelmed by the lessons. Holik has creative ideas scattered throughout the book. For example, one of the first lessons includes creating a family tree illustrated with photographs; displaying this finished product will no doubt inspire and encourage the student to continue the lessons.

A professional genealogist, Holik’s previous experiences lie in education and IT. She blogs about genealogy research, conducts research services, and gives speaking presentations. Her next two books, coming out soon, are Branching Out for adults and Engaging the Next Generation: A Guide for Genealogical Societies and Libraries to help engage students in the act of genealogy and family history research.

Holik has produced an admirable publication that does a great job of combining her education and genealogy knowledge. I would recommend these books to anyone wanting to present a long-term genealogy class to students of any age. As genealogists, we may have a tendency to focus on our ancestors of long ago at the expense of the youth in our lives. We must cultivate not only a love for genealogy and family history in the next generation, but also knowledge of the research procedures and standards that we value and that make our work worthwhile. Holik’s genealogy series is a valuable tool for passing the genealogy research torch to the next generation.

Reviewed by Sonia Schoenfield
Book Review Editor


I can’t wait until Jennifer makes an appearance at our library in February 2013 as our genealogy guest speaker.  She has certainly created something that the rest of us can latch onto to help our children and grandchildren fall in love with family history as we have.  We just have not known how to pass our interests on to the “next generation”.  Now we have some great tools to access and use and share with our children and grandchildren.

Check out the books from our collection and get started with your children and grandchildren working with them to share your love for family history and for them to learn the skills on how to go about discovering family history.

Tony Kierna
Genealogy Coordinator
Schaumburg Township District Library

“Union Ridge Cemetery, Chicago, Illinois” Book Has Been Added to Our Library’s Circulating Collection; Published By The Chicago Genealogical Society; Cemetery Is Located At 6700 W. Higgins

Hi Everyone!

Our library has added Union Ridge Cemetery, Chicago, Illinois to our circulating collection.  The book was published by the Chicago Genealogical society in 1995.  It consists of 134 pages.  It was added to our circulating collection in July 2012.  The call number of the book in our library is ILLINOIS COLL 929.3 UNION.  It is available to check out from our library.

The book includes some introductory information about the Norwood Park area of Chicago where the cemetery is located.  There is some good historical information, including historical maps, of the cemetery.  Here are some of the Introductory items contained in the book:

  • Early History of Norwood Park
  • Maps
  • The History of Union Ridge
  • 1941 Map of Union Ridge Area
  • 1917 rules & Regulations of Union Ridge
  • The Reading
  • Some Early Settlers in Cook County, IL
  • Civil War Burials in Union Ridge
  • Photographs
  • Abbreviations

The balance of the book consists of “Chapters” that are really listings of each of the individual sections of the cemetery and the names of those that are buried in those sections.  There is burial name information for the 20 sections enumerated in the book.

The end of the book does contain an all-name index that will point you to where a person is buried.  You do not have to know in advance where a person you seek is buried in order to find the details.  The all-name index will lead you to the correct section.

At the end of the book you will also find the following “chapters’ that have been identified as:

  • Miscellaneous Stones Removed from Graves
  • Danish Old People’s Home Markers
  • Select Bibliography

On a personal level, the book interested me once I saw there was an “Early History of Norwood Park” section.  My aunt was a nun within the Congregation of the Resurrection (C.R.).  The “mother house” of this order was located in Norwood Park on Talcott Avenue.  She was involved as a nun in that area from the 1920s through her death in the 1975 time period.  So for me, I can gain some further insights perhaps about the mother house located in Norwood Park.  If not, I will just know a little bit more of an area that played such a big part in my aunt’s life.

The beauty of books like this is not only the wonderful surname searching capability you can do but also all the little historical tidbits of information you can obtain about the cemetery and the area itself.  You won’t know that is there just by looking at the title.  That is why I feel good being able to note that such historical information is contained in this book over and above the listing of the deceased buried at this cemetery.

A big “thank you” is owed to the Chicago Genealogical Society and many of its members listed in the book that were so instrumental in doing the research at the cemetery, compiling the information on the grave sites and creating the all-name index that makes researching so easy to do.

I may not have anyone in my research that is buried at the cemetery,  but I do note the value of the historical information provided on Norwood Park where my Aunt lived for so much of her life as a nun.

I do hope having this book in our collection can help with someone’s research on those buried at this cemetery.

The book is currently checked out to me.  I should have it back on the shelves by about August 13th.

Enjoy the book and all that it can provide to you.

Tony Kierna
Genealogy Coordinator
Schaumburg Township District Library

We Have Added “Chicago Cemetery Records 1847-1863: Sexton’s Reports And Certificates, Treasurer Receipts, Deeds, And Undertakers’ Reports” To Our Circulating Collection; Book Was Created By The Chicago Genealogical Society

Hi Everyone!

I just wanted to let you know that we have added “Chicago Cemetery Records 1847-1863: Sexton’s Reports And Certificates, Treasurer Receipts, Deeds, And Undertakers’ Reports” to our circulating collection.

The book was published by the Chicago Genealogical Society in 2008.

The call number for the book in our library is ILLINOIS COLL 929.3 CHICAGO.

You can find it on the 2nd floor of our library in the Illinois Collection.  It will be available to check out and review at home.

Here is a description of the book that exists on the website of the Chicago Genealogical Society:

“Chicago Cemetery Records 1847-1863: sexton’s reports and certificates, treasurer receipts, deeds, and undertakers’ reports. (hardcover).
Between 1842 and 1866 the city of Chicago owned and operated the Chicago City Cemetery near Clark Street and North Avenue, now the site of Lincoln Park. The sale of lots was a major revenue source for the city. Monthly reports were filed with the Committee on Wharves & Public Grounds. These reports included the amount of the sale, the purchaser, and the location of the lot. Undertakers were required to file reports in 1863. Among the information in these reports was the name of the decedent, the day of death, age, residence, cause of death, and place of birth. This publication includes transcriptions of the records, maps, an index of names, Oak Woods Cemetery removals, and old Catholic cemetery records.”

The book does contain an all-name index that points the researcher to what page in the book the name occurs and with what category of record the name is associated with.

Many of us that live out in the Chicago suburbs may have an ancestral connection to the City of Chicago.  This book can be of use and value to the researcher residing in the suburbs but researching Chicago ancestry.

The book also serves a value as showing what amounts to be pre-1871 Chicago Fire records of events that may have been lost through the fire itself.  It can be of great help to the researcher having pre-Chicago Fire ancestral connections.

I also noticed a blog post about the book from Cynthia at that contained much of the title and chapter information that showed samples of the entries of information you will encounter.  You can take a look at this online information about the book at:

ChicagoGenealogy Blog Post Describing The Book

I am currently looking through the book right now that is checked out to me.  It should be on our shelves available for checkout by August 6, 2012.

Look for after that date.  I am glad we have been able to add this book to our collection.

Tony Kierna
Genealogy Coordinator
Schaumburg Township District Library


We Have Added “The Guide To FamilySearch Online” To Our Circulating Genealogy Collection; There Is A Good Overview Of The Book At

Hi Everyone!

What is one of the most frequently used free online genealogy resources that genealogy researchers tap into?

If you said you are correct.

Yet do you feel you are completely knowledgeable about all that is there for you to use?

Probably not, but at least you get some search results that help you advance your research!

Well James L. Tanner has created a book that is a great guide to help us better understand all the things that you find at  There is often no better way to learn about something than through the comfort of reading all about it and simply becoming aware of a resource.

Our library has added this book to our genealogy section as a circulating book.

I also came across a very good review/overview of the book from  Rather than reinvent the wheel on my own overview, I thought I would just steer you to GenealogyBlog for you to take a look at the overview created by them about this wonderful new resource to help you to really learn about

You can look at this review at the following link:

Book Review of “The Guide To” At GenealogyBlog

The book consists of 359 pages of jam-packed information that takes you step-by-step through all of the information you find at  Sometimes just clicking through the links themselves does not really give us a full-fledged explanation of what the link is about and how it can best help us.

I can’t emphasize enough how important it is to become familiar with more than just the “Search Surnames” sections of websites.  Other valuable learning resources can be found throughout these sites, but especially at

The author does a great job in really opening our eyes to so much more than just “Search Surnames”!

This book should be on our circulating shelves within about 3 days.  I am currently browsing through the book now and should be done shortly.

I highly recommend checking this book out and spending some time learning about all that exists at  It will make you a better researcher to understand all of the resources that exist through this wonderful organization.

You will be able to find this book on the 2nd floor of our library.  The call number of the book in our library is 929.10285 TANNER, J.

Enjoy the book and the above review of the book.

Tony Kierna
Genealogy Coordinator
Schaumburg Township District Library

Steve Szabados, A Frequent Participant At Our Monthly Genealogy Program, And Genealogy Speaker, Has Published A New Book; “Finding Grandma’s European Ancestors”

Hi Everyone!

Many of you may know Steve Szabados as  many things.  (Maybe we will all now have to call him “Stephen” based on his name on the book cover!  For now he will still be “Steve”.)  Some may know of him as a fellow genealogy research colleague.  Some may know of him as a participant at genealogy programs, ours included.  Some may know of Steve as a genealogy lecturer.  Some may know of  Steve as a genealogy teacher, especially those doing Polish research. 

But now Steve has made me aware that he is now an author!  Congratulations Steve!

Steve has published a book titled “Finding Grandma’s European Ancestors”.  His book is now available to purchase from for $12.99.  You can find information about this book authored by Steve at at:

Steve Szabados’ Book “Finding Grandma’s European Ancestors” At

Steve Szabados

I hope to be able to purchase the book through Steve and add it to our own library’s circulating collection for genealogy.

Steve was kind enough to share a pre-copy of his work in progress to give him some feedback.  I had to apologize to Steve early on because I was so fixated with the information in the pre-copy material that I spent more time gathering information for my own Polish research than I did giving him some meaningful feedback on his material, presentation and style!!

So I now anxiously await being able to see and purchase for the library the final version of his informative work, especially since it can benefit me directly to pick up some tips for my own Polish, Eastern European genealogy research.

I hope to be able to see him and congratulate him in person if he will be able to attend our February 14, 2011 program with Craig Pfannkuche.

Many of you know Steve through all of the ways I mentioned at the beginning of this post.  Now you will get to see another side of Steve – as author!

Congratulations again to a great guy!

Tony Kierna
Genealogy Coordinator
Schaumburg Township District Library