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   Oconto County WIGenWeb Project
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OCONTO DOCUMENTS

WHAT YOU SEEK 

On this page you will find suggestions , names of specific items, and brief definitions of the documentation you seek regarding Oconto ancestors.
This page is still being researched and added to. If you have suggestions, additions or comments, please write to RITA.


CLICK ON THE TOPIC BELOW THAT YOU WISH TO READ ABOUT


GENERAL RESEARCH SUGGESTIONS

How and Where to Start Your Search

Getting Organized

Keeping Track of Your Information

Good Ways To Start

Know Where You Are Researching
 


DOCUMENTS HELPFUL TO FINDING THE "HOMELAND"



TYPES OF DOCUMENTS and A BRIEF DEFINITION OF WHAT THEY ARE!



GENERAL RESEARCH SUGGESTIONS

How and Where to Start Your Search

What do you already have?

*This is perhaps the hardest for many people: ask your relations what they know. I almost promise that you will get differing, sometimes misleading, and often confusing information. But I also promise that there will be many valuable clues tucked away inside.

*Good questions to ask are;
^Ask if there are any relatives who have done family research in the past?
^Ask the birth date and place?
^What county, town(s) and state(s) did this person grow up in?
^Ask where and when the marriage took place?
^Ask about their parents; names, birthdates and places, hometown(s), marriage dates and locations, where deaths occured, where burial took place (death and burial are not always in the same place)?
^Ask the above questions about siblings?
^Ask who are the oldest in the family, still living, and try to interview them in person.
^Ask each one what they know about the family?
^Ask if there are any stories about family members (even if the connection to the family is not clear).
^Try to get the names of other living relatives and where they live (even if the connection to the family is not clear). Then interview them if possible.
^Ask to see and copy old letters, photographs, diaries, legal papers, etc. that were stored away.

*I did not compare what one person said with another.

*I only listened rather than gave information.

*I treated everyone's information as if it were gold, no matter how strangely it may have sounded at the time.

* I didn't push, and make them uncomfortable. It took a long time with some, and there were others who curtly wondered what business it was of mine, but I wrote every word and kept it in a convenient loose leaf notebook, labeled with dates, names, and places. Do you know that after all these years, I still return to those initial notes occasionally and find clues and leads!

*Don't worry about specific information or whether it is making sense, just get down what the person remembers, writing it as they say it, and it will fall in line later on.

*I promised to share what I found with those who asked to know, and I kept that promise.

Start sending for documents.

*Now is the time to pinpont who was where and when.

*Send for death certificates, marriage licenses, church records, cemetery records, probate records, military registration and/or service records, school district records, land settlement records, birth registrations, wills, Native American enumeration rolls, state census enumerations, and more. Contact

*Contact local historical and genealogical societies and as about your families.

*You may want to subscribe to a Genealogy Publication (monthly, quarterly, etc.) which are filled with ideas and information.

*Use your computer to look for surname web sites and mailing lists, post queries and surnames on appropriate sites, look at county and state GenWeb sites for informationation about your family branches. and check for sites with postings of information, such as census enumerations and passenger lists. These sites are a great help, but remember that you did not look up that information yourself, so varifying it later with the original source is always a good idea. Mistakes can be made in transcription.

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Getting Organized

* I started a family tree graph, going from the present back in time, with my husband and I as the first. This poor old thing has been changed 1000 times, but I have the very first one, and looking at it now always gives me a thrill at how much has been gained and shared.

*Use one of the many forms available free on various internet sites, or in many books, or make your own.

*It is best to include full names, birth dates, death dates, and marriage dates (or guesses that others have made).

*This is a "living" document and it will grown and change in time, as discoveries are added.

*Keep careful track of where you got the information (documents, letters, word-of-mouth, etc) because you will be going through an awful lot of information, and will not be able to remember just where you looked already.

*Some folks keep a research diary and jot down where, what, when, and who in brief notations.

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Keep Track of Your Information and Sources.

*Get a good computer program and start adding things in right away (and make a backup!!). There are several very good and easy to use ones on the market for reasonable prices. Most have the ability to exchange information with other programs.

*Most programs have a "notebook" area where you can write down those family stories about the various individuals that you have heard for years. Stick to the story line and don't make them judgemental.

*It is easy to change what is necessary as you go along, but not so easy to remember if you have not documented it right away.

*It is a really big mistake to try to "keep it all in your head".

*Enter your new found information as soon as possible!

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Good Ways To Start

Using the Census

* Once I got the chart back to 1920, I began to extensively use the US Census reports.

*The latest one released is 1920. These will often give you the various spellings of your surnames (not all were mistakes, many families wanted it changed), names and ages of members of the family, place of residence, Head of household and relationship of others to that person, jobs, places of birth (country), and sometimes languages spoken, at least.

*Censuses were taken every 10 years by the Federal Government, and at random times inbetween in most states.

*The 1890 US Census was almost totally destroyed by flames and water, which presents a major obsticle for many since much can happen to a family in 20 years.

*Many US Censuses are indexed, some are not.

*US Censuses prior to 1850 did not give a great deal of information, just head of household, gender, number, and approximate age of the persons at the residence.

*Wisconsin became a state in 1848, but had censuses as a Territory prior to statehood.

*Pay particular attention to sibling's names. If you loose your direct line, often tracing a sibling has brought me right back on tract.

Know Where You Are Researching

* Now is the time to invest in some quarlity maps of the places you will be searching.

*You can go to internet sites and run some off, or ask the search engines to find the places, or you can get Atlases and Gazetters.

*It is really important to know where you are looking. Everything you will be finding will make much more sense when you know where it happened.

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DOCUMENTS HELPFUL TO FINDING THE "HOMELAND"

Although there may be exceptions, I have personally never found information regarding parent's names or specific place of residency on any "Intent" of Naturalization papers. Here are some documents where I found place of residence (in the "old country) which has always been one of the most challenging pursuits; (Warning: it is not usually found even on these documents)

* Church records/civil records of marriages (incidentally "Borussia" is Latin for Prussia so don't be mislead that you found THE town.) Often, if you find where any member of the church is from, especially in old records, you may also have found where your ancestor is from, since people often left the same place to settle in the same place here.

* Census records - this only helped in that often people from the same village came here and lived together, so if you find it for one, you may have found home for the guy next door, too. *Family History Center Computer - Old world church records. (take Coblenz, which is now spelled Koblenz. It is a city, and a region filled with cities). Check every single surname you have, including all the women's maiden names or previous marriage names, since people often lived near each other.

* Sibling/cousins/uncles records - several times I found the original home through a records (see above) when my direct line came to a halt.

* Wills/probate records - will occasionally have something about leaving items to a child/sibling/friend back in the homeland city, or give a brief biography of the person.

* Death certificates - This is second hand info (because the person does not provide their own information) but occasionally the name of a city/town/district will show up with the country

* Passenger lists - Once in a while the town or specific small area will be on the passenger list - not often, but you only need once to help.

* Family documentation - letters, diaries,even business papers, and don't forget to look for them at historical societies and area research centers as well as local libraries. Great Aunt Murgatroid was probably laughed at when she wrote the family history booklet in 1889 that sits unnoticed on the local library shelf, but you will be her greatest fan when you find it!

* Other family names - look on things such as the census reports and city directories for people with the wife's maiden surname who live nearby. I got stuck on a family in DePere, Brown County, WI and then realized that the neighbor had an older woman with the same (maiden) name living with them. It was her mother living with another married sister, and the husband's married sister lived directly across the road. They all came here within 5 years and from the same 7 mile area of Rheinland Prussia in the 1840's. When I found one, I found them all.

* Obituaries, funeral home records, old school records, old newspaper articles (marriages/ births, accidental deaths, etc) - these will sometimes yield the original hometown. Find them at Local libraries (reference/genealogy/local history dept), historical societies (local and state), local genealogical societies, area research centers, local town halls, etc.

* Look for membership in social organizations - the (usually) men who formed these "clubs" came from the same place originally. See list for "Obituaries" for resources of these

Using Computer to Assist the Search

* Post your names - Take one good chunk of time and do a little posting of all the names connected with the "Old Country" branch that you are researching Husband's surname, wife's maiden name, son-in-law or daughter-in law's surname, etc). Put them on Rootsweb, post surname and queries on the county were they first lived, and last lived. Find the address(es) for the local genealogical society for their US home(s) and ask them to announce your names at a meeting and then ask them to publish your query in their newsletter (sometimes there is a very small fee for publishing). I even know people who have send old photos to be published in regional newspapers in the UK and Europe asking if anyone knows the people (and I know two that were identified).

* Use the search engine - look for family sites dedicated to any of the names you have and then contact them and post your query. Allow for different spellings of the same name (like Daily, Daly, Daley). You do not have to be on their mailing list to post a query (usually) so you won't get extra mail if you don't want it.

* Search the "Old Country" - Get the GenWebsite for the country (or countries) that you think they came from and post a query to the country. Now, some countries have changed hands many times and borders are not written in stone, so take a chance anyway. Germany was actually more that 240 tiny independent states and city states until Napolean narrowed it down to 38 around 1800, and then those were untiled in 1871 under Prussian rule. Hungary was even more fun, they got families in from all over starting in the 1200's.

* Other Genealogical Societies - There are very very many genealogical societies in the UK, Africa, Australia and Europe (and elsewhere, too) so ask at the country sites for the names and addresses in the mail. Get the general organizations and ask if there are any specifically dedicated to a certain surname(s) you seek. Be specific, brief and polite. These sites are in English and they can help you with translations information and where to print off request forms in other languages off the internet (you just fill in the blank and follow the direction sent in English). MOST (99.9%) of the folks I have interacted with have been just wonderful, and the others weren't difficult, just not helpful (just like here).

******** Last, but not least - no matter where you go or who you interact with, please be polite and grateful (even when it's not what you are looking for - keep it, because you just never know who you'll find around the corner).

And Keep negative opinions to yourself! That way you will not burn bridges that you need to recross later (or you may find yourself swimming alone in deep water - if you know what I mean).

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TYPES OF DOCUMENTS and A BRIEF DEFINITION OF WHAT THEY ARE!

CENSUS ENUMERATIONS

There are two basic types of census reports for Oconto County FEDERAL and STATE. Wisconsin, as both a Territory (prior to 1848), and State (1848 onward), took independent census enumerations as follows;

Territorial 1836-42, 1846, 1847

State 1855, 1875, 1895, 1905

It is important to note that information on these census reports is more limited than on Federal reports. The "Head of Household" was the only specific name entered, with number of occupants in general age groups according to gender, and race following was often all that was required.

Federal Census records for Oconto County began in 1860, since the county was formed in 1851 from a northern section of Brown County. A special county census was done in 1851 to establish the base number of citizens at the time of county organizations. Many changes in the county boundaries were made until 1879, which included putting the city of Peshtigo into Marinette County and moving the Town of How from Shawano County to Oconto County. There are US Territorial Census reports available for northeastern Wisconsin from 1820, 1830 (under Michigan Territory), and 1840 (under Wisconsin Territory). You will find US Census reports available of Oconto County for years 1860, 1870, 1880, 1900, 1910, 1920.

The US Census for 1890 was damaged, mostly by water, in a fire in Washington DC and was eventually destroyed without an attempt to copy the results that remained. There are a very few salvaged parts of this census year but they do not include Oconto County. US Census reports more recent than 1920 have not been released to the public.

In 1850 the information required by the Federal Census was greatly expanded to include the names of each person residing in a household and their relationship to the head of the household (son, daughter, mother-inlaw, boarder, cousin, etc), occupations, time spent in school, property value, birth place (country or state), specific ages and gender, and more.

1890 Civil War Union veterans and widows - Oconto County is included in this enumeration.

1905 War Veterans and enumeration - Oconto County can be found posted at this site .

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BIRTH RECORDS

There are two basic approaches to gathering birth records. The most direct is to look for CIVIL records throught the state government, the other way is to look for CHURCH records that will contain birth information.

Civil records are found in two catagories:

Index and Registration of Births pior to 1907 - Although there was a law, prior to 1907, that required the registration of births with the local government in actuality, the practice was spotty. In 1907 an amended law was passed that "gave teeth" to requiring the registration of births. Often, the early new settlers to Oconto County came from other places where birth registrations were not required by the government. Since literally everyone was affiliated with a church, those governments would copy church records of births/christenings and other information about citizens. Regardless of the the government of country that was in charge, the churches remain relatively unchanged and were generally a good souce for governments to use. Once in this country, neither the people nor the clergy were aware of needing to register with the government. There was often also a feeling of suspicion towards giving information to government officials that was carried over from unpleasant "old world" experiences. It is definitely worth your while to check these records for family births, but if they are not found, it does NOT mean that the birth did not take place, or took place somewhere else. It may just not have been registered with the government. You will also find incomplete records, and records that were registered many years after the event, when government representatives copied local church records as a way of finding past information.

Registration of Births after 1907 - Since birth records are public, it is possible to obtain these for the years following 1907 from government agencies. These records generally give the name of the child, name of parents, place of birth, date of birth, (often) time of birth, attending physician, nurse, or midwife, name of person registering the birth, mother's maiden name, family residence.

Church - Depending on the custom and traditions practiced by the specific religion, information may vary regarding the birth date. If baptism or chistening of the young child is practiced, often it was done as soon after birth as possible. Even before the mother was strong enough to attend. Since these records were often written at the time of the ceremony, when a birth date is included, it is usually an accurate source. Marriage and death entries found in church records will commonly have birth dates included, and can be very valuable and accurate. These records can also contain father's surname, mother's maiden name, town of residence, occupation of parent or birth person, grandparent's names, country and town of birth.

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MARRIAGE RECORDS

There are two basic approaches to gathering birth records. The most direct is to look for CIVIL records throught the state government, the other way is to look for CHURCH records that will contain birth information.

Civil records are found in two catagories:

Registration of Marriages pior to 1907 - Although there was a law, prior to 1907, that required the registration of marriages with the local government in actuality, the practice was spotty. In 1907 an amended law was passed that "gave teeth" to requiring the registration process. Often, the early new settlers to Oconto County came from other places where birth registrations were not required by the government. Since literally everyone was affiliated with a church, those governments would copy church records of marriages and other information about citizens. Regardless of the the government of country that was in charge, the churches remain relatively unchanged and were generally a good souce for governments to use. Once in this country, neither the people nor the clergy were aware of needing to register with the government. There was often also a feeling of suspicion towards giving information to government officials that was carried over from unpleasant "old world" experiences. It is definitely worth your while to check these records for family marriages, but if they are not found, it does NOT mean that the marriage did not take place, or took place somewhere else. It may just not have been registered with the government. You will also find incomplete records, and records that were registered many years after the event, when government representatives copied local church records as a way of finding past information.

Index and Registration of Marriages after 1907 - Since marriage records are public, it is possible to obtain these for the years following 1907 from government agencies. These records can give the names of the bride and groom, name of parents, place of birth, date of birth, date of the marriage, place of the marriage, attending wittnesses, name of person registering the marriage, mother's maiden name, family residence.

Church - Since these records were often written at the time of the ceremony, it is usually an accurate source. Marriage and entries found in church records will commonly have birth dates included for bride and groom (or age). These records can also contain father's surname, mother's maiden name, town of residence, occupation groom, grandparent's names, country and town of birth.

Please note:Very early in the history of Wisconsin's white settlement there were few, if any governmental agencies representing France, England, or even the US. Mission churches were spotty and records were not always kept or were lost over the years. However, some early 1800's marriages of the men who worked for J.J. Astor's American Fur Company in the Great Lakes, including what is now Oconto County, were sometimes recorded (usually in French) in the company papers of the Tading Post Managers, such as those of Mr. Grignon in Green Bay.

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DEATH RECORDS

Civil records are found in two catagories:

Registration of Deaths pior to 1907 - Although there was a law, prior to 1907, that required the registration of deaths with the local government in actuality, the practice was spotty. In 1907 an amended law was passed that "gave teeth" to requiring the registration process. Often, the early new settlers to Oconto County came from other places where death registrations were not required by the government. Since literally everyone was affiliated with a church, those governments would copy church records of deaths and other information about citizens. Regardless of the the government of country that was in charge, the churches remain relatively unchanged and were generally a good souce for governments to use. Once in this country, neither the people nor the clergy were aware of needing to register with the government. There was often also a feeling of suspicion towards giving information to government officials that was carried over from unpleasant "old world" experiences. It is definitely worth your while to check these records for family deaths, but if they are not found, it does NOT mean that the marriage did not take place, or took place somewhere else. It may just not have been registered with the government. You will also find incomplete records, and records that were registered many years after the event, when government representatives copied local church records as a way of finding past information.

Index and Registration of Deaths after 1907 - Since death records are public, it is possible to obtain these for the years following 1907 from government agencies. These records can give the name of the deceased, name of parents, place of birth, date of birth, date of the marriage, name of spouse, attending doctor, name of person registering the death, cause of death mother's maiden name, family residence.

Church - Since these records were often written at the time of the ceremony, it is usually an accurate source. Marriage Entries found in church records will sometimes only give the name of the deceased date and place of burial. Records can also contain father's surname, mother's maiden name, town of residence, occupation of deceased, name of spouse, country and town of birth.

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LETTER OF INTENT
The first document signed by a prospective US citizen was called the ""Petition for Citizenship" and also was known as "The Letter of Intent". Early examples of these papers gave the Name of County, name of prospective citizen, year of birth, month and year of entry into the US, port of entry, country of origin, solvern ruler of country of origin, signature of sponsor (not always necessary), signature of petitioner (prospective citizen), signature of government official (usually the county clerk). Men were encouraged to sign this document and it was sometimes co-signed by a sponsor who was already a resident of this country. The "Petition" or "Letter" expressed the desire of the prospective citizen to go forward with the "Naturalization" process, thus becoming a "naturalized" citizen or one who was not born here. The Letter of Intent is no longer used in the process of obtaining US Citizenship, since this first step was dropped in 1938. Often the "Letter of Intent" was the only step a man took toward citizenship, especially if he had a male child born in this country, who then became his automatic "sponsor". "Letter of Intent" papers were filed with federal, state, or county goverments. There was no central depository for keeping these records and they were held at whatever agency they were filled at.

Residents who lived in what later became Oconto County probably filed with the local Territorial County (before 1848 in Wisconsin) or State County Clerk. Prior to 1851, those residents who lived in what is now Oconto County would probably have filed papers with the Brown County Clerk of Court's Office. Oconto County was separated and established from northern Brown County in 1851.

Please note: Women did not apply for US Citizenship until after their were granted the right to vote in Federal elections in 1919. In 1921 women entering the US were required to file separate naturalization forms. Until that time, women "received" their citizenship through a male only. This could be a father, step-father, brother, step or half-brother, uncle, cousin, or husband. If a woman did not have a male family member, such as the many who came to work in the mid 1800's from Ireland, a male employer would act as her sponsor for citizenship. This was initially a bonus, but lasted only as long as she was employed by that male. If she lost the job due to poor economic conditions, illness, or injury, the sponsorship was withdrawn and citizenship was lost. The unrelated male sponsor had no obligation to her beyond her initial employment. The woman had to immediately find another sponsoring employer, marry a citizen, or face deportation without the funds to purchase food for the trip back. The prospect of such a return "home" was a frightening one indeed. Even a woman who was born in this country and had full citizenship would automatically loose her own citizenship if she married a man who was not a US Citizen. The reason was to protect US female residents from "unscrupulous foreign elements" who would marry them to gain immediate citizenship, then abandoning the women "to live in poverty". Examples of early Letter Of Intent Petitions follows (permission given for viewing only, by Rita Neustifter)


 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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NATURALIZATION PAPERS

Naturalization was the final step in going from immigrant to US Citizen. After 1938, filing Naturalization papers became the only step, when the "Letter of Intent"was dropped from the procedure. Papers could be filed with federal, state, or county goverment where the person resided, and there was no central depository for keeping records. The final naturalization papers were kept in the filing agencies records. In was is now Oconto County, the filings usually took place in Brown County Court Clerk of Records Office from territorial time before Wisconsin statehood in 1848 until 1851, when Oconto County was established by an act of State Congress. After 1851 they were probably filed with the Oconto County Clerk of Court Office in Oconto, WI.

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PASSENGER LISTS
For many years, passengers, especially steerage or third class, had to provide all their own food for the 3 to 6 week voyage, which could actually last as long as 4 months. Many of the first passenger ships to carry people to the US were former slave ships called "windjammers", for their sails, that had been "refitted". This meant simply that the chains and manicals had been removed and the hold had been shoveled out. It was not uncommon for entire boatloads of passengers to arrive half starved and gravely ill, the dead having been thrown overboard. Many passengers where not aware of the need to bring food until just before boarding. This made them easy prey for those who took thier possessions and money for very little food in return. Those people who were aware of the hardships prepared very carefully in advance with dried or smoked fish and meats, hard tac bread, rice, dried fruits and vegetables, and probably most importantly, vinegar to be used to clean and especially to put in the drinking water that had "gone bad" aboard ship. Vomitting, diarreha, and the resulting dehydration due to food and water poinsoning by bacteria, were the major causes of death during the early days of travel. Even with careful preparation, their food was often stolen by other passengers, or crew members who would "sell" it back to them during the trip. The ship's master, the Captain, often did not "concern himself" with such matters and many were financially rewarded for this oversight with a share of the profits.

Eventually laws were passed in the United States to refuse entry to passengers who did not pass a standard physical examination upon arrival, and the shipping company was held responsible for immediately returning the passengers. Enough food for survival and drinkable water were then added to the ship's "services", for a price.

Passenger lists for ports can be found on microfilm, on the internet, where there is an effort to have them transcribed and posted, and and through various societies. Not all records were accurate, not all survived, and not all have been found. But they can contain some interesting and useful information, as well as clues to where the family lived, ages, family relationships, craftsmen and professions, among other things. There are also volumes listing passengers found in various research libraries.

THIS PAGE IS STILL BEING RESEARCHED AND ADDED TO.

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