Ned Cohen Burrell
1917 – 1973
US Army, World War II
Edgar Calhoun “Johnny” Ledford
1954 – 2000
Lake Randolph Ledford
1905 – 1980
US Navy, World War II
Thad J. Watson Sr.
1921 – 1944
US Army Air Corps, World War II
A Genealogical Odyssey
Yesterday, I had the opportunity to visit the Bell Research Center, a wonderful resource for Northwest Georgia researchers.
Established in 2004, the Bell Research Center is located in the Historic Cumming School at 100 School Street in Cumming, Forsyth County, GA, in a room adjoining the Historical Society. The Center houses a large collection of genealogical and historical publications, primarily for Georgia, North and South Carolina, and Virginia, but for other areas as well.
Of special interest is the collection of Civil War books occupying one segment of the floor-to-ceiling shelving. The Center also has nice sections of research volumes for other wars, including, but not limited to, the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812.
A complete index of research materials is available online.
There are some drawbacks to researching at the Bell Center, including the current lack of a microfilm reader which renders their microfilm collection unusable. For Forsyth County researchers, this shouldn’t be a problem, as the Center is within easy walking distance of the Forsyth County Courthouse, Administration Building, and Cumming City Hall.
The Bell Center is only open four hours per day during the week, which is a drawback for those who travel to visit their collection. It is open most of the day on Saturdays, however, and I would encourage out-of-town researchers to take advantage of these longer hours.
Finally, the Bell Center does not necessarily have an updated collection of Georgia publications. For instance, they have not yet obtained Paul K. Graham’s works on the 1805 and 1807 Georgia Land Lotteries, Georgia Land Lottery research, or his Atlas of East and Coastal Georgia Watercourses and Militia Districts, all of which are must-haves for Georgia researchers of those time periods and localities. The collection of published volumes for Georgia counties is also not complete, although most counties are well-represented, particularly with older, hard-to-find publications.
The Bell Center is only eight years old. Even considering its short life, the Center has an incredibly well-rounded collection of publications useful to genealogical and historical researchers for Georgia, the Carolinas, and Virginia. I’m certain that given time and the support of the research community, its collection will grow to become one of the most outstanding in the region, a feat the Center is already close to obtaining.
My son and I have been looking for ideas for a research project he can complete by the end of this school year. I suggested doing a one to three page biography of a family member who lived during a time period he enjoys studying. After a bit of thinking, he decided on a Revolutionary War veteran ancestor who died during that conflict. One reason I suggested this particular ancestor was because I have very little information on him, and what I do have was given to me by other researchers who neglected to put source citations on their documentation.
I wanted to see what, if anything, had already been published on this man and/or his family, so I did a quick search of the Internet.1 In particular, I wanted to see if I could find a source for information given to me about this man’s parents. Lo and behold, one of the first returns for my search was a lengthy article tracing the Revolutionary War veteran’s lineage back to Great Britain, several generations previous, and forward through a collateral line to late-19th century descendants.
The article when printed ran to about 18 pages, so you can imagine the kind of detail included. In spite of its length, there were only eight footnotes, six of which were explanations of items in the text and two of which were truncated source citations.2 I scanned the article looking for in-text, informal citations and found a small handful of vague references like “according to records held” in XYZ county or “land records indicate” or similar remarks.
This past Saturday, I attended a workshop presented by the R. J. Taylor Jr. Foundation in Marietta. I went specifically in the hopes of being able to discuss various aspects of the publication process, from transcribing and abstracting to the finished product, with three of the ladies I knew would be attending: Vivian Price, Linda Woodward-Geiger, and Faye Stone Poss.
I was not disappointed. Each of these women took the time to answer my numerous questions with patience and grace before, during, and after the two programs (one by Linda on transcribing and abstracting, and the other by Vivian on building a manuscript). This was the second time I attended a Taylor Foundation workshop. I learned quite a bit both times, not only from the presentations but also from one-on-one discussions with Linda, Vivian, and Faye.
For those who don’t know, the Taylor Foundation provides grants to cover many of the costs of publishing transcriptions, abstracts, or indexes of Georgia records pertaining to those who lived there prior to 1851. There are limitations, but for those willing to do the work, the rewards can be fulfilling if not actually lucrative. If you’re a Georgia researcher and have easy and regular access to Georgia records, then you’re missing a wonderful opportunity by not taking advantage of a Taylor Foundation grant. Here are the rewards I hope to gain:
The advent of Internet genealogy and the rapid growth of online databases of original records have facilitated genealogical research in ways that previous generations could never have imagined. For a small monthly fee, researchers can sit at home and access thousands of census records from around the world through online databases, not to mention military records, city directories, and a growing number of other records. With a few keystrokes and the push of a mouse button, they can contact distant cousins and share information, a process that once took days, if not weeks. They can access digitized copies of hard-to-find out of print genealogies with little more than a Google search.
With all of this emphasis on digital research, should traditional methods be ignored? Specifically, do we still need printed publications, like records transcriptions? To answer those questions, we must consider the nature of both digital and traditional genealogical research.
A recent trip through the Superior Court records of Rabun County netted an interesting connection: an 1838 petition naming Jemima Kell as the sister of James Kell.1
Years ago, another researcher gave me information on Rabun County’s Kells. Not a Jemima amongst them. Ok, no problem, I thought. I’ll just contact that researcher and see if she’s uncovered anything new. Unfortunately, delivery to the e-mail address I had for her failed, and her web site is no longer up. In desperation, I posted to a message board. The researcher I was looking for hasn’t answered yet, but another one has. I’ve queried back for more information. Not knowing this particular other researcher, my imagination is going into overdrive about our anticipated exchange.
The Internet can be a powerful tool for connecting people. I’ve been trying to post the information I have on my grandfather’s time in the Army Air Corps during World War II, particularly as a crew member of the Little Lulu, a B-24 Liberator assigned to bomb oil refineries in Europe. Daddy Thad (Sgt. Thad J. Watson Sr.) was shot down over then-Czechoslovakia August 24, 1944. One crew member managed to bail out of the airplane, but the remainder, including my grandfather, were killed when the plane crashed.
I knew that my grandmother had corresponded with the residents of the village near where the battle took place. Posting information about the crew of the Little Lulu netted contact with one of those villagers, and now another has created a stunning picture of the battle. The artist is Vit Soukup, son of Jiri Soukup, and the painting is called Thad’s Last Victory. As Jiri said, Vit is a very talented artist.
Please take the time to view this wonderful tribute to my grandfather and the other crew members who died that fateful day.
It’s been a busy few months here in the Watson household.
We just ended basketball season. My sister is the head coach of the local high school varsity ladies basketball team. In the past four years, the Lady Cats have won 88% of their games, gone to State tournies all four years, and reached the Elite 8 three of those years. A phenomenal program. We try to get to every game, or as many as is possible. Those Lady Cats put on a heck of a show and we sure are proud of each and every one, coaches and players alike.
On the book end, Rabun County, Georgia, Newspapers, 1894 – 1899 is at the printers. I hope to have proofs in my hand within three to four weeks, and the finished product for sale another three or four weeks after that. For those who are interested, I’ve already put up an index of death notices and obituaries published in the three newspapers covered by this book.
If you popped in to read a post and thought you might be at the wrong place, relax. I’ve just been redecorating.
Note: This post was written during the holiday season of 2011, but not published due to the hectic schedule of the author during that time.
This is the time of year for gift-giving and thankfulness, and it brings to mind two of the main reasons why I spend so much time sharing transcribed documents and helping others with their research.
When I was just beginning to research my family, I had no clue where to turn for help. There were no classes or lectures available nearby, and the local library and historical society shunned genealogists (but, curiously enough, not historians, our kissing cousins). I was, however, very fortunate to know several other historians and genealogists, people who helped me, one way or another, whether they knew it or not.