Des Moines City Hall & Government 1891


Souvenir of Des Moines by the Mail and Times, 1891.

A Perfect Use for Misspellings…Surname Variations

Census Search


Hello, I am Kristine, a new blogger for the DMPL Local History Blog. I have an avid interest in local history and genealogy. I will be sharing information on the historical aspects of Des Moines as well as tips and tricks for genealogy research.

A Perfect Use for MisspellingsSurname Variations

On my great grandmothers’ Iowa marriage certificate to her second husband in 1922, it listed her mother as Margaret Bonlanken. I have never heard of that surname and it looked a little strange but I was glad to have something of substance.

Even a simple Google search of ‘Bonlanken’ warranted less than 20 results, so I figured the information was incorrectly transcribed but I had no idea what else it would be. It remained a brick wall for years.

I was recently researching a different surname of my family in the Schleswig-Holstein area of Germany. I stumbled across a website listing German Emigrants of the 19th Century ( I searched each of the surnames of my German ancestors just to see if they might appear and sure enough the mystery was solved.

I located my great-great grandfather on the list, Friedrich Schimmer, it stated he emigrated in 1870 and was married to Margarethe von Lancken. Bonlanken – von Lancken. I was stunned, the name was so close and yet it never occurred to me to try an alternate spelling such as that.

I was able to fill in several generations of my tree based on that new information.

When searching for ancestors it can be helpful to search for alternate spellings of even common names. A very common name such as Schultz can have many alternate spellings including: Schultz, Schultze, Schulz, Scholz, Scholtz, Schults, Shults, Schulze, or Schultheis.

This is an excellent strategy when searching census records in our online resource, Heritage Quest. By searching alternate spellings of surnames you can broaden your possibilities of finding that ancestor you’ve been looking for.

German Genealogy Resources:

Palen, Margaret Krug. German Settlers of Iowa: Their Descendants and European Ancestors. Heritage Books, 2009.

Iowa Genealogical Society – German Group

Pre-1947 Des Moines Baseball Teams & Names

Baseball in Des Moines existed long before 1947.   Some earlier teams included:

1887 – The Des Moines Baseball Club played their home games at Athletic Park on the old Polk County Fairgrounds at Seventh Street and the Raccoon River.

1890s – The teams were known as the Colts, and then became the Prohibitionists.

1901-1903- The Des Moines Midgets of 1901 and 1902 became the Des Moines Undertakers in 1903, a very unusual name which reflected the off-season profession of the team’s manager.

1904- The club had three names in this year, the Prohibitionists, the Water Cures, and the Politicians and Legislators.

1905-1907- Reflecting Des Moines’ new role as an insurance center, the team became the Underwriters. After winning the pennant that year, the name changed to the Champs in 1906 and, after another win, to Champs II in 1907.

1908-1924 – The team began a long stretch during which it was called the Des Moines Boosters.

1925-1937 – Another long-standing name, the Des Moines Demons, began in 1925 and lasted until 1937. At this point, baseball disappeared in Des Moines until the start of the Des Moines Cubs in 1947.

Des Moines Register, April 15, 1997
Des Moines Tribune, June 27, 1980
Iowa Cubs Yearbook, 1994
Iowa Cubs web site,

Reliable Rug Factory, 1904

Advertisement from Fort Des Moines, 1904

Owned by a Mrs. Emma Ferrington.  In 1904.  How awesome is that? She took over the business when her husband passed away in 1890. For more on Emma Ferrington from A Narrative History of the People of Iowa.., click here.  A print edition of this is also available at several DMPL locations.

From the 1904 City Directory:

Hot times at Beaver Tap

The next time you visit Beaver Tap, at the corner of Beaver and Urbandale, look at the outside north wall and you’ll see the outlines of doors and windows that have since been bricked over. As you’re standing there, imagine a fire truck roaring from that vestigial garage doorway, rushing to extinguish a fire somewhere in the Beaverdale neighborhood.  Due in part to the demands of PTA mothers from Riley and Rice elementary schools concerned for their families’ safety, Station No. 17 was added to the Des Moines Fire Department at that location in the fall of 1928. A 1919 350-gallon pumper truck was the largest vehicle that would fit through the door. In 1952, a new and larger Station No.17 was built at the southeast corner of Beaver and Hickman (now a State Farm Insurance agency) which was in service for around 25 years.  After short stints as an auto repair business and a wholesale bakery, the building at 4050 Urbandale was home for almost 30 years to the Bon Ton Tavern. A K O’Connors took over in 1985, and earlier this year the Beaver Tap opened its doors.

Historical Reminiscences of the City of Des Moines, 1857

Newly digitized!

Historical Reminiscences of the City of Des Moines, Together with a Full Description of the City and the County, H. B. Turrill, 1857.

Update: Well, it looks like is either having problems or changing their format. Here is a link directly to the “Read Online” version of Historical Reminiscences.


Harger & Blish Building c.1928

112 11th St.  Now the Mulberry Lofts

from Greater Des Moines: Have a Look at Our City, 1928

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