Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Archives Reading Rooms and the Treasures Within

What's hiding in our archives and record centers? Why do researchers come seeking manuscripts, records, and that oh so difficult to find fact? Over the decades, our cultural institutions, particularly archives, special collections, and records centers have become repositories for historically significant materials. They hold records of government actions and reports, documents that confirm dates of birth, marriage, divorce, death, crimes, and more. There are records from organizations that document how the group grew, expanded, and dissolved. Along the way, these repositories collected maps, manuscripts (published and unpublished), drawings and blueprints, photographs, movies, and oral histories. Take together these records tell a story of our society from a variety of perspectives.

As we embark on a research project this semester, you will have your own research experiences, find pieces of forgotten puzzles and little known facts. You'll be sharing those adventures with your fellow classmates and with me. In the meantime, if you want to read about someone else's adventures in the archives check out Arlette Farge's The Allure of the Archives (The Lewis Walpole Series in Eighteenth-C) . Translated by Thomas Scott-Railton. Forward by Natalie Zemon Davis. (New Haven & London: Yale University Press, 2013.)

Happy hunting.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Persistence and Genealogy go together

When you embark on a research project, you need to be persistent. Well, you need to decide on a goal, in academia that's an hypothesis or thesis. Then you need to look around and determine the types of tools, databases, books, and resources will help you reach that goal. Next you need to actually look for and find information that sends you along that path. You'll find some paths are dead ends, some take you to an unknown place which may or may not be relevant, and others will take you to some nugget of information, some clue that sends you looking and searching some more. Eventually, you'll have enough clues, enough information to work with your hypothesis and come to a conclusion. 

In genealogy, the path is long, circuitous, and, well, addictive. Eventually, maybe, you'll find all the family members you seek. Persistence is the key. 

In our course, we'll be compiling short biographical sketches of people and places. You'll learn about research tools that will help you find nuggets of information, those savory clues that whet your appetite for more. Since the course is finite, you'll need to find what information you can. In your quest for family information, the quest may be decades long with one more clue to find, one more stone to uncover.

Here's the latest post (8/10/2014) from Mocavo entitled "Five Things Star Trek Taught Me About Genealogy." You'll have to let me know if it applies to your journey.

Enjoy the quest and take heart. Half the fun is in the journey.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Sharing News about the Weather

What types of news do we share when gathering together? Acquaintances and strangers talk about whatever drew them together, a lecture, a movie, or an event. Friends talk about family, births, and celebrations, while families talk about family members, catching up on births, marriages, and deaths. A common thread may be our families, but weather still remains the most popular topic of conversation.

Here's a bit of news from 1635 that will delight the genealogist and historian in us all. I came across this blog post in "Eastman's Online Genealogy" (8 Aug 2014)


How do we document weather events? Newspapers, television, and now blog posts and social media are full of the news. What about events before newspapers? We need to look to diaries, letters, and official government reports. How would you dig up the news on an event in the 1600s in North America? 
Here are some links to modern stories about this storm.
NBC reconstruction of the storm:
This article from islandnet includes an image of the storm path 

wunderground's historian put together a nice history of hurricanes on the east coast from the 1600s to the present: 

Of course, you can read Reverend Richard Mather's diary from 1635 where he writes about the events of the day.

We'll be explore this topic and more in the genealogy course this fall.