Family Search Helps PC Natives Find Family From 1800s

Image courtesy of the News Tribune
Searching for family members from the mid-1800s and early 1900s is getting increasingly easier in Putnam County, thanks to the efforts of Rusty and Cindy Stimmel.

The Stimmels, who originally called California home, were in Putnam County for about 20 weeks digitizing old court records. They previously spent time in Cook County on a similar job, waiting for the Putnam County project to open up.

Rusty said Cook County will be a multi-year, multi-person process.

Along with the Stimmels, volunteer Sidney Whitaker from Putnam County Historical Society has been taking the journey through Putnam County’s history, making digital copies of old probate, immigration, and guardianships records.

“I found a person who had died in the Cherry Mine disaster,” Cindy said. “Sid found some stuff his grandfather had done he didn’t know about.”

But, the Stimmels aren’t just digitizing the records for fun.

They are on a volunteer mission for Family Search, a nonprofit organization sponsored by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints that has the world’s largest collection of family history and genealogy resources online.

In Putnam County, Rusty said some of the more interesting things he found involved the guardianship records of a Virginia Wolf.

“She wasn’t even a toddler when her parents died,” Rusty said. “So there is a guardianship on her that was about 15,000 images. You could see her life in there. Whoever her descendants are, it will be a treasure trove for them.”

When the images are all copied and cataloged, interested parties will be able to eventually search them online on But Rusty and Cindy say that will take some time.

“They go to a quality assurance group. Then it goes to intake. In intake they put it into their server. Then there are people that parse it to index it,” Rusty said, before explaining how the indexed images are put into databases. “A third person looks at both the inputs and says this one’s right or that one’s right or they’re both the same. Then from there, it will eventually get on the website so it can be searched.”

The Stimmels have been sending images from Putnam County weekly since beginning the project in February. This month, nothing had made it to the website yet, or even gone out for indexing.

The quicker way to search will be to visit the courthouse and look on the copy given to the circuit clerk after it is approved by Family Search. Also, copies of the scanned documents will be available at the historical society.

“It will be much easier than trying to look at the records and trying to make copies of them. These are somewhat fragile,” Rusty said.

The records have given the volunteers insight into the changing practices of the judicial system.

“It’s been fascinating to watch the evolution of how the records show how the judicial system metamorphosized into the way it is now,” Cindy said. She said the records become “really legal,” or more formal, by the 1920s.

Next, the Stimmels head to catalog records in Stark County before starting their retirement by visiting their children in California, Rusty’s mother in Hawaii, and then traveling in their motor home to fly fish in all 50 states.

Source: News Tribune