Sunday, December 3, 2017

A Deep Dive into Dihles

For most of 2017, I led a workshop at the library called Writing a Profile of Your Civil War Ancestor, in which we took a deep and structured look at doing Civil War research and writing a basic profile of an individual.  We had our final meeting yesterday, and I'm immensely proud to announce that we have five completed profiles! (only one is mine 😏)  I promised folks would only half to write about two pages of text, and I'm the only one who kept it that short (cuz I wanted to prove it could be done.)  We read each others profiles and were amazed at the quality of the work we were able to do in just a little time each month.

OK, enough with the ad for next year's workshop on WWI...( starts the third Saturday of January...)

For my profile, I've been working on Robert Henry Dihle, born 1837, one of my immigrant ancestors.  He arrived in the US from "Prussia" in 1857, enlisted in the US Army in 1858, served five years, including in the Civil War, and was discharged in Junction City, KS in 1863. He married in Junction City, and he and his wife moved to Salina, KS, where they lived for another forty years, building a successful harness shop, raising a family, and becoming quite active in the community. (You can find a more complete description of my research here.)

I still have a bit to wrap up about Robert, due to some terrific finds on a last-minute research trip, but I'm already turning my attention to where he came from.  During his life, he seems to have been quite consistent in saying "Prussia" when asked where he was born, starting with the 1870 census.  One problem, of course, is that the name "Prussia" means vastly different things, depending on the time period.  In 1850, it covered two fairly small areas east of Berlin.  By 1864, it covered much of what we call Germany today.  You can't do research on "Prussia" -- you need the name of a town, city, church, something more specific. I haven't found that in my research on Robert.

Time to spread out to his FAN club, specifically his siblings.  Many years ago, I received an email from a Dihle researcher in Detroit which specified six siblings:

  • Heinrich Hermann Dihle, born ?
  • Johanna Christine Dihle, born?
  • Friedrich Wilhelm Ernest Dihle, born ?
  • Auguste Wilhelmine Dihle, born ?
  • Gustave Karl Wilhelm Dihle, born 1825
  • Johann Karl Martin Dihle, born 1826
Gustave Dihle is clearly a brother.  I have lots of evidence linking him to Robert: 
  • Robert sold land to Gustav Dihle in 1872.
  • Cigar maker G Dihle is living with Robert's family in the 1875 census.
  • In June 1875, Dihle and Harms opened a cigar factory and store. Dihle was described as a brother of RH Dihle in the newspaper.
  • In 1879, Robert bought stock in a mining company in Rosita, Colorado, where Gustav was living.
  • In 1880, he was listed as a shoe-maker in the census.
  • In 1904, Robert's children George and Ida traveled to Colorado to help their ill uncle and aunt. The newspaper reminded readers that Gustave had been an early Salina resident.
Unfortunately, Gustave was even less helpful on place of birth...he switched from "Prussia" to "Germany" on his answers to the place of birth question.  

Johann Karl Dihle might be a brother.  It appears that he went by both Charles and Carl, and spelled his name both Dihle and Diehl.  Evidence for brotherhood?
  • He lived in Detroit, Robert's first stop in the US.  He was the only Dihle or Diehl in the Detroit City Directory for 1858-9.
  • He was listed as a "segar maker" in that directory
  • He was listed as a shoe-maker in his Civil War draft registration
  • I have DNA matches with two individuals, both with trees, both with Carl Dihle as our only overlap.

Where did Carl/Charles come from?

  • Prussia -- Castle Garden arrival record
  • Germany -- Michigan death index
  • Waddow, Prussia -- Ship passenger list (former residence, not birthplace.) As far as I can find, there's no such place under that spelling.
I'd call this a probable on brotherhood, but no great help on birthplace.

Heinrich Hermann Dihle, also known as Henry.  
  • Best link to Robert is that a Henry Dihle was married in Salina, Kansas, and owned farmland in Saline County, KS.  
  • Was never linked to Robert in the Salina paper, although he became famous throughout Kansas for a legal fight he engaged in with a neighbor over a strip of land 3 feet wide; after seven years and two appeals courts, they called it a draw and split the legal fees.  


  • Saline County Henry claimed Hesse-Darmstadt in the 1870 census.  Unfortunately, this is at least 200 miles from Prussia.  
I'm starting to think that either Henry's not a brother, or Saline County Henry isn't Henry the brother.

Johanna Dihle. I know nothing about her.

Friedrich Wilhelm Ernest Dihle. I know nothing about him

Auguste Wilhelmine Dihle. I know nothing about her.

Obviously, I need to do more research.  

Sunday, April 30, 2017

MHGS Digitizing Project -- Choosing Our Platform

We've known since we started the redesign of our society website that one of the purposes was to display digitized resources.  Unfortunately, we found that WordPress, while terrific for all our other purposes, wasn't really right for a digital collections home.

Why not?  Well, first consider what we wanted to do.  In our minds, a digital collections home needed to host a variety of digital file types -- documents, photographs, sound and video.  We needed to be able to attach a significant amount of metadata to these files -- labels with the people, places and things included, plus information about where the items came from, copyright information, etc.  All this needed to be searched easily from within the site and from Google.  Everything had to display quickly and with a minimum of fuss.  It had to handle lots and lots of files -- we have thousands of photographs alone.  And finally, we wanted it to look at least semi-professional, which we think will help convince local organizations to let us digitize their archival materials.

So what were our problems with WordPress?  First, terrible search.  Sorry WordPress, but it's true. The site searching capabilities are awful.  Second, WordPress isn't really set up to handle a database of images like we wanted. We didn't want to write individual posts about each photograph, which would take forever.  The album plug-ins we found were targeted more for art photographers, so the image display was lovely, but didn't handle the metadata we wanted to include.  And nothing seemed ready to scale to thousands of images, videos, documents and recordings.  We couldn't figure out how to make a WordPress option look professional.

So then we started looking in the archive community.  Once we ruled out the options we couldn't afford (PastPerfect), we were left with DSpace, Greenstone, and Omeka.  All three are open source programs, which means that the software is free, and targeted toward the academic archival market.

Greenstone was the first program I installed and tested.  At the time (mid-2015) it appeared to be the least supported and functional of the programs.  It was a possibility until we found something we liked better.

DSpace  is probably the most widely used among the big boys.  It actually seemed a bit too big for our purposes.  (Frankly, it intimidates the heck out of me.)

Omeka was kind of the Goldilocks product for us. Although it is used by professionals in the field, it is explicitly designed for those with very little technical experience.  There is even a version you can use for free without having to install it on your own website, although you lose some control.  It is actively under development and there's a good user-support base.  It's not perfect, but it's what we selected.