February 24, 2013
What did Southerners do before large power companies and the TVA brought electricity to rural areas? They made their own power, of course! Appalachian History reprinted an article by Rabun Countian Linda Barden called A Look Back: When the Lights Came On. A fascinating look at the entrepreneurial spirit.
Last summer at Samford University Library’s Institute of Genealogy & Historical Research, I had the privilege of listening to a talk given by Michael Hait on his work reconstructing a Maryland slave community. Part of Michael’s research toward that end was published in the December 2012 issue of the National Genealogical Society Quarterly. Michael’s blog post Writing the Ridgelys describes some of his behind the scenes efforts on both fronts.
Whenever anyone uses probate records for research, I give a little cheer, so imagine my happy dance when Randy Seaver posted Mining Cornelius Feather’s Probate Records for Genealogy Nuggets.
The Internet has been a boon to genealogists in many ways, including the ability to research using digital images of original records. What happens when those images are taken offline and we need to provide a source citation for them? Harold Henderson addresses this problem in It’s Gone! Now What?
February 20, 2013
ranted about discussed how I choose to take positive action when confronted with willful ignorance.1 My example yesterday, of the use of certain terminology, was nit-picky, I admit. So today, I’m pulling a Dan Mitchell and listing real examples of behavior not to be emulated:
- The certified genealogist who published a series of books based on the work of other researchers, without citing sources or doing any work to confirm the findings of those other researchers, and who then complained, when confronted with problems in the research, that it was hard to publish and s/he couldn’t be responsible for errors in the publication.
- The professional genealogist who told a potential client interested in having slave ancestors researched that unless the slave holding family left a will, there was no way to trace the slave.
- Another professional genealogist who told a potential client that wills were the only records of probate available for research.
- Two professional genealogists who advocate strictly defined limits on who can perform professional genealogy, including high standards of professionalism, but whose conduct is so unprofessional it has drawn open censure from other professionals.
Followed by examples, in no particular order, of genealogists who go above and beyond the call of duty to help others:
- Elizabeth Shown Mills, who has contributed so much to the field that it’s difficult to summarize her activities. Among other things, she opens her virtual door to questions from all researchers in a variety of forums, in addition to all of her many duties.
- Judy G. Russell, whose blog The Legal Genealogist is one of the best resources for understanding historic legal records.
- Thomas W. Jones, who is one of the editors of the National Genealogical Society Quarterly and a prominent teacher and lecturer.
- Christine Rose, who, among her other duties, has published many helpful, high-quality guides.
This list could get very long indeed if I listed everyone by name (and, believe me, I have a long list of genealogists to be thankful for), so I’ll just make a shout-out to all the individuals out there who:
- Write informational and educational blogs
- Edit and/or contribute to society publications
- Speak for societies and at conferences
- Write books on genealogy-related topics
- Share knowledge by participating in mailing lists and other forums
- Donate time and/or money to societies, libraries, and other places
- Work to preserve historic documents and artifacts
- Mentor other genealogists through tough research problems
- And so much more!
I know many genealogists who contribute their time, whether paid or not, to helping others in the genealogical community. Thankfully, these individuals comprise the large majority of genealogists. We are a helpful bunch!
Speaking of, have you done your good deed for the week?
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1. I did not intend to call the population at large ignorant. That is certainly not the case. My frustration comes through the actions of those who deliberately remain ignorant for reasons that are specious rather than innocent.
February 19, 2013
Over the past few weeks, I’ve read recently-published literature by three different professional genealogists who used the terms “primary source” and “secondary source.” One of the genealogists is a well-known, fairly high profile individual with a great deal of experience on the topic of that particular literature; in other words, someone who should know better than to use such imprecise terminology. Yet there it was, in black and white, for all the world (and a lot of less experienced researchers) to see.
I could throw my hands up in despair, say Will they ever learn?, and fret over how useless it is to expect people to lift themselves up from the mire of ignorance. Or I could do something positive to advance good research habits, including educating myself and sharing that experience with others.
I would like to issue a challenge to every researcher to be an agent of change this week. Pick one way to help someone else (or yourself!) learn a new skill, tackle a tough research problem, or track down a long lost relative. It doesn’t matter what you choose to do as long as you choose to do something. We can sit around waiting on the world to change, or we can act in a way that will help that change occur.
To help get things started, I will go first. My action this week will be to bring my nephew (who is in 10th grade) information about The Concord Review, and to make a commitment to him, my son, and my niece to help them, when the time comes and in whatever way I ethically can, to research an essay for submission to that publication.
What change will you effect this week?
February 18, 2013
Last month, while pondering which genealogical societies to renew memberships in or join, I also ruminated on the value of a society’s publications to its membership, and how the quality of a periodical might influence the size and loyalty of said membership. Like many genealogists, I enjoy receiving a variety of journals, quarterlies, and newsletters over the course of each year. Each periodical varies in scope and content, and each provides valuable information to the society’s members.
That being said, some periodicals are of better quality than others. My absolute favorite is the National Genealogical Society Quarterly, which is edited by two well-qualified experts in the field. Publication in the Q is highly sought after, but only the most well-crafted and researched articles are able to pass through the rigorous review process.
Obviously, not every publication can attain the same level of stature, but every society should strive to have the best periodical it can. Here are my thoughts, as both a reader and an author, on how societies can perfect their publications.
February 14, 2013
A few years ago, I came across a January 1864 list of indigent families who “drew factory yarn” in Rabun County. That list has been stuck in the back of my mind ever since as I ponder the idea of factory yarn.
Here lately, I’ve been spending some quality time with my knitting needles making Christmas gifts and finishing up a few projects. I discovered quite by chance that knitting for even half an hour before bedtime helps me sleep better than spending the entire evening on work. (Imagine that!)
After spending so much time from Halloween to Christmas knitting for others, I decided to do something nice for myself. My Christmas stocking this past year contained a skein of some beautiful sock yarn. Coincidentally, I’ve always wanted a pair of hand knit socks.
A while back, I read Sharon DeBartolo Carmack’s A Genealogist’s Guide to Discovering Your Female Ancestors : Special Strategies for Uncovering Hard-To-Find Information About Your Female Lineage, in which she discusses using social history to fill in the blanks of a woman’s life.1 One of her case studies, toward the back of the book, discussed the day-to-day responsibilities of a woman living in the 19th century, one of which was knitting stockings for all her household’s residents.
February 10, 2013
Robyn at Reclaiming Kin takes a somewhat humorous look at pensions in Droppin’ Dime: Civil War Pension Records.
Craig Scott at Stump Craig explains the importance of voice in records when he helps a researcher sort out a father and a son, two of the same name.
Here’s a great tip from Melanie D. Holtz at Finding Our Italian Roots: always look for the original record, as she explains in I have the Estratto [extracted record]. I don’t need the original!
February 8, 2013
From the 17 February 1898 issue of The Tallulah Falls Spray (Volume 2, Number 29, front page).
Rev. George Seay is now selling Bibles. If you need a good one see him.
Miss Elsie Ramey has returned from a visit to Mrs. Bob Deneys.
Walter Taylor has returned from a trip to Toccoa.
Rev. Mr. Ella will preach at Tiger’s Baptist church Friday night before the fourth Sunday.
Mr. Sport Ramie of Tiger is teaching school in “Germany.”
Col. Robt. Hamby made an appreciated speech to our school last Friday, and here we will state that we are having a good school, and in the person of Prof. H. C. McCrackin we have a good teacher.
Mr. J. H. Hunnicutt has returned from a visit to North Carolina.
We are glad to see Mr. Bell McCrackin, of South Carolina, in old Rabun once more.
February 7, 2013
If you’ve spent any time researching ancestors in 19th century Georgia, then you’ve probably used Georgia’s land lottery records. Indexes of many of these records were previously published and are still in print through vendors like Southern Historical Press. Unfortunately, many of these published indexes are difficult to use because of the way they were formatted, often with fortunate drawers listed by county and no master index.
And then came Paul K. Graham. Among his other achievements, Paul has a deep background in land records, including a professional certificate in Geographic Information Systems from Georgia State University. Along with his work as a genealogist, this makes him the perfect candidate to compile and publish updated information about Georgia’s land records.
February 6, 2013
In last year’s lecture on researching the poor, I included a somewhat lengthy discussion of bastardy records. One question someone posed, either during the lecture or afterwards (I cannot remember which), was whether or not a man who had been singled out as the father of an illegitimate child had recourse if he was not, in fact, the father.
Why, yes, he did, and here’s a great example of that from the 25 December 1861 minutes of the county court for Macon County, North Carolina.1