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St. Francis Cemetery in David City (Photo by Beth Sparrow 2019)
St. Francis Cemetery in David City (Photo by Beth Sparrow 2019)
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October 9, 2022 By: Laura Mattingly
Share Those Old Photos!
It is always a shame to see old family photographs for sale in antique stores. Looking at a photo of someone's Great Grandma in her cute curls looking at you with that sweet smile makes me sad to think someone doesn't know how cute a little girl their Great Grandma was. The number of old unidentified photos is overwhelming. Still, I would much rather see them in antique stores than have them thrown in the trash.
An online search for "identifying old photographs" can lead you to information to help identify them, along with comparing the photo with the information from your family tree. Ask anyone who might know something about the photo or people in it. Also try a Google Reverse search and check online family trees and Find A Grave if you have some identifying information to go on.
Old photos should be copied and distributed as much as possible. First they need to be digitized. This can be done simply with a phone camera or other digital camera, or for a better image have them scanned. Check your local copy and print or office suppy stores to see if they offer digitizing services. Don't forget to also digitize any information that might be on the back side of the photo, the handwriting could be a big clue. 
Share your identified photos in online trees at Ancestry or My Heritage (both subscription sites) or Family Search (free). You can also add to a persons Find A Grave memorial if they have one. Use social media accounts to share old photos with as much information as is known. Include not only the place where the photo was taken, but current location of the actual print and all known provenance. Facebook has several groups dedicated to returning old photos to descendants of family. Forgotten Faces in Time and Nebraska Family Photo Identification are two examples. Blogging and Instagram are another great way to share old photographs. Using hashtags like "#OldPhotos" or "#VintagePhotos" will help people far and wide to find them.
Recently I connected with a new-to-me distant cousin through my blog. From her I received a photo where for the first time ever I believe I saw the faces of my 2nd Great Grandparents and my 3rd Great Grandfather. It's an incredible feeling to be able to put a face to names that have been in my tree since I started this hobby! This cousin knew only that the photo belonged to the SPANN family somehow. Though we can't positively identify the people in the picture, we feel sure we were able to determine everyone in it based on sex and ages of those in the family!
Many of the old photos I have once belonged to my NEGLEY family who lived in Eldorado, Nebraska in the 1890's through 1920's. Many of them are not pictures of relatives, but believed to be friends and neighbors of my family. I have shared some on my blog and have heard from a few people who could identify them. All of the photos in this post are unidentified, likely of people who once lived in southern Hamilton or northern Clay counties in Nebraska.
Take the time to make sure there are names & other known information on all of your photos! Keep some available and identify the people in a few whenever you have a little time. Try to make a point to share an old photo some way or another at least once a month. One you share may help someone else identify one of theirs, and you could be making them VERY happy! And if nothing else, find an antique dealer who will buy them. 
August 19, 2022 By: Beth Sparrow
Local Histories
A gem of a resource for genealogist is local history books. Often these have information about what goes on in the town, city or county. Many have names of the people who have lived there.
Usually these have the history of the town or area, including early settlers, first mayor or town government and other information. It might list the town’s organizations and clubs, schools, businesses, health care systems, churches, senior centers, libraries, town celebrations, cemeteries, notable people and some include family histories written by descendants.
So how do these get written and where do we find them?
Sometimes a local group will write one. Sometimes there is a reason like an anniversary and a committee will get together and write one. Sometimes one person or two will take on the project and write the whole thing. Has your hometown (either where you currently reside or where you “grew up”) had one in the last 50 years? If not, it’s probably time to do it. You might be just the person to help tackle this job. Do you know the town history well? Can you write reasonably well? If you think it’s too big of a job for just you, get a history friend to help.
Get a table of contents figured out with some of the topics I listed. Figure out how to organize the book. Figure out how to publish it, self-publish, e-book, etc. Will people pre-order copies, or will you just order a certain number and then reorder if needed? If you don’t know a publisher, talk to your local newspaper as I’m sure they can help you out.
So you’ve read this far, and you are saying “writing this isn’t for me”, but where can I find these? Usually these history books are at the local library where the book is about. Hopefully the librarian hasn’t thrown them out because it’s not circulating material. Can’t get to that library? Try interlibrary loan. Or check on for the name of your book. Don’t know the name? Just put in the town and state and see what comes up. There may be books you didn’t even know existed. When you click on the book title in WorldCat, you can find the closest library to you that has the book.
If it’s quite old, also try Google Books, Hathi Trust and even local newspaper digitization sites. The site where our local newspapers are (Advantage Archives, formerly Advantage Preservation) also has the town history books. This is rare, but possible.
Hopefully this helps in your search for local history books. If you do write one, be sure to remember the Nebraska State Genealogical Society library for a place to donate one. Also check our library out to see if we have that town history you want. Members can “rent” books from our library for a few weeks for just the cost of shipping.
Happy searching and reading.
Beth Sparrow, who is currently trying to finish her county’s history book as an update for the last fifty years.
March 13, 2022 By: Laura Mattingly
Doniphan School Kids
If you were lucky enough to find a school record book with information on your ancestors, would you keep it? Fortunately for some people, someone did just that. Until last year's junk jaunt when Tammy Hendrickson, NSGS Area Rep, found this teachers record book in Cairo. She gave the book to me as it appears all the children lived in Doniphan, Hall county, which is my area. Although no specific school is mentioned, likely, this is from District #26. It covers the years 1933-1937. Meredith Haggard taught for the first two years, then Gertrude Fay Marsh was in charge of the classes. Their pay started at $450 for the 1933-34 school year and increased to $540 in 1936-37.
Some of the information included in this record book include each child's birth date, some notes of vision impairments and vaccinations. Nearly every child had some cavities in their teeth. There was an outbreak of chicken pox in January, 1934, cases of measles and whooping cough in January/February, 1935 and small pox in January, 1936. One child had the mumps in April, 1936. There are notations of children missing school for funerals or "visiting", and a year-end summary of each child's progress. At the end of the 1934-35 school year, the children went to Grand island for a picnic. At the back of the book is a list of visitors to the school. 
I plan to offer this to either the Hall County Historical Society or Stuhr Museum, but before I do that, I'll post here a little of the information on these students. I have done no other research on them. 
Jack Baird, son of Cash Baird, attended all four years begining in the First Grade. He took an extended 3 week vacation in September/October of 1936.
Bernard, Dolores and Naoma Graham, children of Clifford Graham. In 1934 Bernard was in Third Grade, Dolores in Second and Naoma started First Grade, but Naoma dropped from the roll in November. The family moved to Hastings in March, 1934. 
Ivora Jones, daughter of Ivor Jones, was in 7th Grade in 1933-34 and graduated in 1935. She missed school twice for funerals in 1934-35. Her younger sister Jeannine, began school in 1934, but is not listed as a student in the 1936-37 school year. 
Children of Howard L Marsh, Ruth, Edith and Jane Marsh, attended this school for only the first two years of this book. Ruth in the 5th and 6th grades, Edith grades 3 and 4 and Jane grades 1 and 2. There is no mention of any relationship to Gertrude Fay Marsh, who began teaching the year after these girls left. 
Mary Elizabeth Laughlin, daughter of Robert McLaughlin, was a 6th grade student in 1933-34 and graduated in 1936. 
Margie Trotter, daughter of Arthur Trotter, was in 6th grade in 1933-34 and moved to Grand Island in April.
New students in 1935-36 included Gene Boltz, son of August, in 1st Grade. His sister, Irene, started school in 1936-37.
The children of Nobel G Hurst, who came to this school in the 1934-35 school year were Beulah in 3rd Grade and Joyce, in 1st grade. 
"Buddy" or Gerald Jones, son of W Scott Jones, started 1st Grade in 1934-35 and attended through 1937. 
Bonnie Jean Montgomery, daughter of Walter, entered 1st Grade in 1935-36 and moved to Minden in March of 1936.
Elden and Jane Orcutt, children of Fred Orcutt, started school April 20th, 1937. Jane was a 4th grader and Elden a 3rd grader. 
January 15, 2022 By: Tammy Hendrickson
Custer County Nebraska Early Schools
Early School History Of Custer County, Nebraska
    One of the first requirements in every new settlement was schools. This was the case in the location where the first school districts were organized. We will add a few notes on the beginning of public schools in Nebraska. First school in Nebraska was at Fort Atkinson in early years, where children of soldiers and other attended.
   Thirteen years later a mission school was opened at Bellevue for Indians. Fifty years last in 1852 in Cass County opened the first public school in Nebraska supported by tax funds. Three years later in 1855 the Territorial Legislature made provisions for establishing a school system by taxation. Most early schools were in private homes. The first school building in Omaha was located on Jefferson Square and built in 1863. The first school building in Nebraska City was built in 1866. In 1887 the Nebraska legislature passed a law making it compulsory that all children of school age must be sent to school. In 1891 school districts began furnishing books which gave each public the same kind of a text books.
    The first schools in Custer County were what were called subscription school in which patron gave a little towards the support of teacher. This generally consisted of meat (mostly wild game) flour, potatoes and other foods they might be able to spare.
   The first school in the county was taught by Mrs. Ed Eubank, in her home in a log cabin in the kitchen, about two and half miles north of Douglas Grove.  This was the fall of 1875. Her husband Rev. Eubank would start the school, while she did up-the house work and then she would take over the rest of the day. This was a three month school.  The next year there were two subscription schools in the county. Mrs. James Wagner taught school in a dugout about half mile west of Douglas Grove. Miss Callie Dryden taught a. school in a dugout near New Helena. In order to secure a certificate Miss Dryden 
was required to go to North Loup in Valley County, where the superintendent of the organized county had supervision over schools in what was then organized territory in which New Helena was located. This Miss Dryden refused to do and to over this inconvenience, Judge Mathews developed a plan of his own. He decided to conduct the examination himself and drew up the questions and submitted them to the teacher. She wrote the answers as best she could, considering the writing material at hand, the Judge carried the papers to North Loup and laid the case before the County Superintendent Mr. Oscar Babcock, who decided this was a very unusual case and issued the certificate. It is thought no other certificate ln Custer County was ever issued in a like manner Miss Callie Dryden has the distinction of being the first certified teacher in Custer County secured a regular certificate from Custer county first superintendent of, schools Mr. Eubank.
   The first school districts in what is now Custer County was numbered eleven and fifteen and were organized, and numbered by Valley County. Number eleven became District number one and number fifteen became district number two after Custer County was organized. Taxes were collected in unorganized territory and turned over to Valley County for expenses of these schools. The first public school supported by taxation was held in 1877 in the spring.  Miss Callie Dryden as teacher in District fifteen and Helen Shemmel in district eleven. In the fall of 1877 Custer County was organized and these districts became districts numbers one and two.
   A search of the tax records, by County Superintendent Weekly in an effort to give some facts of interest in connection with the beginning of Custer county schools. Disclosed that in 1878, there was only two pieces of land in the territory were assessed. These being the only tracts proved up on, and deed received. These were Charles A. Hale on the southeast quarter of section fifteen and Nimrod Capel a tract in sections thirty three and thirty four. Both of these could be in the Douglas Grove neighborhood. Those charged with personal taxes were; Samuel Wagner, William Wagner, William Kates, Frank Ingraham, A.A. Higgins, S. F. Harrod, L.R. Dowse, William Edwards, E. D. Eubank, J. W. Comstock and M.M. .Bray.
   A search of the tax records, by County Superintendent Weekly in an effort to give some facts of interest in connection with the beginning of Custer county schools. Disclosed that in 1878, there was only two pieces of land in the territory were assessed. These being the only tracts proved up on, and deed received. These were Charles A. Hale on the southeast quarter of section fifteen and Nimrod Capel a tract in sections thirty three and thirty four. Both of these are in the Douglas Grove neighborhood. Those charged with personal taxes were; Samuel Wagner, William Wagner, William Kates, Frank Ingraham, Aaron Higgins, S. F. Harrod, Lewis Dowse, William Edwards, Edwin Eubank, John Comstock and M.M. Bray.
   Found in the archives, there were tax receipts for payment of taxes to Valley County in the spring of 1877 by Mr. James Oxford. Personal taxes were $7.47, and thirty two cents of this was for the University of Nebraska. Mr. Oxford taxes for 1880 were his real estate and came to $3.58 and personal taxes were $10.13 and of this eighty six cent for local school and twenty six cents for the university
   Johnson History of Nebraska printed 1880 but the material gathered in 1879.  That gives the population for Custer County as 696 people. With the population split being; 415 males and 281 females. That there were 1,308 acres assessed.
   This would mean only ten or eleven parties had proved up on their land by the spring of 1879. Land was assessed-at $1.50 an acre. There were two school houses with a total of sixty one pupils.
   Also noted in this was that Custer County had plenty of government land (to homestead) that would be suitable for either stock raising or farming. We had 835 horses valued at $14,395, mules were 20 for the value of $536, sheep total 4161 with the valule of $1 each, swine total was 183 for $218.25. The cattle total count was 23,900 for the value of $150,231 and these were listed as meat cattle.
   We had a few post offices like: Tuckerville, Lena, Georgetown, Douglas Grove, and New Helena. in 1879 the county seat was on the South Loup River and served numerous cattle ranches and was a busy place.
   In this report two school houses are mentioned. In the fifth anniversary report for school district the county. Some other claim to have had a sod school building before this data, but no school district had been organized in those districts at that time. Shortly after district number one was organized the people wanted a regular school house. Efforts were made towards securing this school building. A number of men went to the cedar canyons near New Helena, and cut and hauled cedar logs. These were hued and ready to begin the building. An argument arose as to the details and location of the building. It was decided not to build until an agreement was made. The logs were piled up and the men went home. But before the question was settled a prairie fire came along and burned the logs. It was then decided to build a sod school house. School was continued in the dugout until a sod building was erected. Mr. Will Wagner was given a contract to build the sod building for $125.00. This was ready in fall 1882.
   District three was the first district organized in the south part of Custer County. Dist #3 was organized in 1880 and the first school was held upstairs of David Sprouse home. This was northwest of Callaway. Mr. Alfred Scheryer was the teacher. The children were from the Scheryer, Decker and Sprouse families.
   Soon afterwards a sod school house was built and was located at the foot of the hill west of Callaway.  A frame school house was built likely by Mr. Sam Idell, a builder of the pioneer days. Many of the old timers at Callaway had a home built by him too.
   History tells us in 1882 the county had grown to the population of about 3000 people. One of the challenges of pioneer life was that were many wild animals that roamed this land and this made one wonder with the children walking many miles to school. The schools were place in populated areas and later they were about ever six mile apart. By 1890 have a total number of residents of near 20,000 in the area that have homesteaded and later some come with the railroad.
   1885 school year had the following:  (in school district and were listed, to age 20 years)
The following items were taken from the record called the School Census, which was taken every year. This recorded all children in the district that were under the age of 20 years. This document is helpful in telling where they lived, who was in the house, what was their age or birthdays.  And the families often knew each other and traveled together or were related when they came to homestead.
   School District ONE, called Wescott had a school building that was made of sod. And the district did not provide textbooks for the school work. They did receive $500 from the county treasurer. The teacher was Eliza C Westcott, paid $25 per month for 2 months; they bumped to $30 per month for the other 5 month of the school term. They had 178 days for the year for the total of $200 for the teacher. (this is similar to the 180 day we have in 2021)
   School district TWO was named New Helena and the families all lived in Township 19, range 21. They started school on 31 August 1885 for a six to seven month term. They now furnish the textbooks for classroom. The district had a total of 53 students in this area. Funding came from the $1.50 in non-resident tuition and $500 from county treasurer. They had a school house made of logs at the value of $300 and the land value was $28.
   The teachers were:  (none were did a whole year)
            Addie Cooper at $25/ mo. – for 3 mo.:
            John L Klepper at $30/ mo, for 2 mo.;
            Hattie M Jeffords at $30/ mo - for 1 month;
            and Anna L Gordon at $25/ mo – for 3 months.
   School district THREE, named Delight or Whaley, was the first district organized in the southwest part of Custer County. Near what was later to become Callaway. This was organized in 1880 and the first school was held upstairs in the David Sprouse home. Mr. Alfred Schreyer was the teacher. The children were from the Schreyer, Decker and Sprouse families. Soon afterwards a sod school house was built and was located at the foot of the hill west of Callaway. One of the early teachers was Miss Della High.
   In 1885 district #3 had the teachers of S.A. Price at $25/ month for 3 months, H.C. Phillips at $30/ month for 4 months, and Chester Piece or Peidd at $25/ month for 3 month. District #3 started school on the 3rd Monday in October in a sod house that was valued at $25 and land value of $1. They had 48 students and the district did not furnish textbooks for school work. District #3 director was Ira McConnell.
   School district FOUR, called Copsey, was just northwest of where Westerville was yet to be formed. The director of the district was L.O. Webster? The school building was made of sod and the building had no value listed. Funding came from the $500 from the county.
   Teacher was Mattie Thomason? For the term of six months that started on first of Sept and she was paid $30/ month. There were 23 children in school in 1885. They did provide textbooks for school work.
   School District FIVE, called Myrtle, was near the Lee Park area, between Westerville and Arcadia just inside the east county line. The school director was D.C. Goodrich and the Teachers were: Lizzie Wisley for 3 months and was for $90 and C.P. Russel for 3 months, for $90. They later had a teacher of Kate Wescott that was paid $25/ month and she came at mid-term. The term began Nov 15 and went to May 4th for only 6 month term and they did not provide textbooks. There were 35 children in school age in the district. There was said to have owed the teachers $46 and $20 but had no funds to pay them at the end of the year they had a balance of $1.68 in treasurer.
District #5 had a note for $50, and had a bill of $66 for teacher salary (yet to be paid), and only got $147.11 from the county treasurer for the school year. The building was made of sod and valued at $150 and the land at $15.
Just ask and see what you can find out about your family. These records have existed for each county, it's just where to find them. County records OR Historical Societies.