Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The Archive Job From Hell

I am reading the wikipedia biographical entry for Marie Curie. Why I am reading that is a completely different story. But, I found a brief sentence that truly puts any archivist job into perspective:

"Because of their levels of radioactivity, her papers from the 1890s are considered too dangerous to handle. Even her cookbook is highly radioactive. They are kept in lead-lined boxes, and those who wish to consult them must wear protective clothing."

This seems to me to be truly the most difficult, emotionally challenging archival job in the world! I admire the dedication and adventurousness of the archivists that handle these papers.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Minnesota Grows Everything!

When I first moved to Minnesota, on this latest sojourn, I discovered how very little I know about agriculture. My wife and I arrived in town thinking that corn and soybeans, the staple crops of Midwest, were obviously the main crops of Sherburne County, Minnesota.

Boy, were we mistaken.

Since arriving in Sherburne County, I have learned that potatoes are the current main crop for farmers. Corn and Soybeans are also grown. In the past a myriad of crops have been grown in the fields of Sherburne farms.

For a very long time, strawberries were a significant crop. In the 1870s and again in the 1960s, the county held annual Strawberry Festivals. In the 1870s, the festival mainly consisted of coming out to the farms and picking your own berries. Enjoy the day in the strawberry fields. In the 1960s and true fair atmosphere developed around the Strawberry Festival. These events culminated with a beauty pageant and the crowning Miss Luscious Red, a specific strawberry variety developed in Sherburne County.

Just as interesting, and possibly startling, in the early part of the 1900s tobacco was raised in Sherburne County. One resident, in the 1920s remembers farms throughout the county having at least one curing shed for tobacco. Another person remembers their grandmother raising tobacco as a primary cash crop in the early 1900s. I find this remarkable. Tobacco is a Southern crop!

In terms of overall numbers tobacco farming in Minnesota was small. At its highpoint in 1930 farmers in the state raised about 2.9 million pounds of leaf tobacco. By 1937 tobacco was no longer grown in Minnesota.

The point of all of this is that the assumptions we make are often terribly wrong. Jumping to conclusions about the communities around us can lead to some very confusing interpretations. As family and local historians we have to be prepared to open ourselves to new, and often startling, facts and details about our communities. When we are open to new discoveries the practice of local history truly becomes exciting.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Fiction and Fantasy Sometime Mix

Here is a really unusual story combining history and fiction. For Family Historians and Harry Potter fans, this story has everything!


The family of a real life Harry Potter who was killed in the army
claim that his grave has been turned into a tourist attraction by fans
of the hit book and movie series seeking their fictional hero. Private
Harry Potter was serving overseas when he died in Israel in 1939
during an uprising. His grave had gone unnoticed in the British
Military Cemetery in the town of Ramla for more than half a century.

But now the headstone has become an unlikely tourist attraction
because of J K Rowling's much-loved books and movies. Sightseers have
had their photos taken next to the grave, while the local tourist
board has listed it as an official attraction. And even though Mr
Potter, from Kidderminster, Worcs., would have led an active life in
the army, it is far removed from the magic and spells of the fictional
Harry Potter. Pvt Potter's surviving family members have come forward
to reveal the years of heartache they suffered after his untimely

Ken Potter, 77, was just six years old when his elder brother was
ambushed and killed while driving back to a base near Hebron in
Israel. 'Harry has never left our thoughts,' said the former
greengrocer, from Kidderminster. 'He is with us all the time, even
though he died such a very long time ago. 'We were just young kids
when it happened, all I was bothered about at that time was going and
playing. 'But I remember a policeman came to our door to give mum and
dad the news. They were very upset but we didn't really know what was
happening. 'All I can really remember about Harry is one time him
carrying me about by the fireplace. 'It was so long ago and I was so
young, but I never forget his face." Fellow brother Derek, 82, also
recalled their parents Edith and David, who had eight children,
finding out about their son's tragic end. 'I can remember our parents
being very upset but they kept it to themselves," said the retired
carpet maker, also from Kidderminster.

'They kept the war from us because we were just kids, but you could
tell something was very wrong. 'It was hard because a letter from
Harry arrived the day after the policeman came to tell us.' The
poignant personal note read: 'Dear Mother, I am getting on alright. I
expect to be home for Christmas. If I am not, it is a bit of bad luck.
'I hope dad is still in work. Tell Ken I am not forgetting his bike. I
hope Alice (his older sister) is alright. 'You perhaps have been
reading the papers. 'I am not boasting but listen to the news on the
wireless and listen to what work we in the Worcester shires have been
doing. 'Well, I think that is all for now. 'Cheerio, Crash Harry.'

The latest film in the blockbuster movie series Harry Potter and the
Deathly Hallows was released two weeks ago. The film is based on the
book which was released in 2007 as the last in the series of novel
about the fictional wizard at Hogwarts school. A staggering 44 million
copies of the book were sold around the world just eight months after
it was published.

But despite his late brother and the boy wizard sharing the same name,
Ken admits he has never watched the films. 'I've seen bits of them
fleetingly on the TV but I have never properly watched them," added
the dad-of-two. 'Actually, I never really twigged that Harry shared
the name with the film character. 'It was my sister's son who first
found out about the interest in his grave about three years ago while
on the internet. 'We couldn't believe people visit his grave, but
apparently they come from miles around to have their photo taken next
to it.' The real Harry Potter left his family's home in Kidderminster
to join the army in Birmingham in 1938. The 17 year-old lad was
desperate to serve his country, so lied about his age, telling the
recruiting sergeant he was a year older. He spent eight months
training with the 1st Battalion Worcestersire Regiment in Aldershot,
Hampshire, before being ordered to Palestine in September 1938.

His unit was garrisoned in the area to battle an Arab uprising, and
Pvt Potter was a driver in the Motor Transport section, where he
gained the 'Crash Harry' nickname. During spring 1939, he was based at
Deir Sha'ar, near Hebron. On July 22 of that year he was driving back
to the camp in convoy when they were ambushed by armed bandits. Pvt
Potter and fellow soldier Pvt Joseph Darby were killed in the attack.
But despite being given the tragic news soon after his death, it would
be 50 years before the family found out the exact circumstances.

Ken, married to wife Shirley for 56 years, said: "About 15 years ago a
fella came into the shop and said he was with Harry when he died.
'That was how we finally found out what had happened. 'He said Harry
had been shot by a Shot sniper during the attack while they were
driving back to the base. 'We had not known exactly what had happened
to Harry until that day. The chap was old when he came to see me and
has probably died now, but it was only through him we knew how Harry

Brother Derek is still the proud owner of Harry's campaign medal from
the Palestine conflict. Two more of Harry Potter's siblings are also
still alive and well in Kidderminster. His sister Joyce is 88 years
old, while youngest brother Ray, 75, has named his pet dog Harry after
his long lost brother. And there is one other spooky link to the boy
wizard. Harry's father David acquired a scar on his forehead, just
like the fictional character, while in the trenches during the Great
War. Ken added: 'Dad had a scar on his forehead from the First World
War. 'He was shot across the forehead when he was in the trenches.
They operated on him and put a metal plate in his head. 'He was never
the same after he came back from the war." As for visiting Harry's
grave, none of the family has been able to make the journey, despite
an invitation from the town's mayor. Ken, who served in the Korean War
with the Enniskillen Dragoon Guards while doing National Service,
added: 'The mayor of Ramla did once invite us to visit.

'We would love to go, but things just kind of trailed off and we
didn't hear any more. 'I know Ramla can be a bit of a dangerous place,
so I'm not sure if we will ever be able to see it.'


And thanks to the History Net listserv for bringing this story to light. It was originally published on the DailyMailonline.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Memoirs Serve a Valuable Purpose

The following article from the Grand Forks Herald makes a compelling argument why everyone should record their memoirs and family histories. Time and again, these histories have proven to provide valuable insight into the past.

So, record those personal histories. Family members and future historians will thank you for it.

And thanks to Dick Eastman for bringing this article to my attention.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Holidays Are A Time For Joy, Thanks, And Opportunity!

The holidays often translate into family, friends, and a great deal of activity. Yes, we are all busy visiting, catching-up with relatives and sharing the joy of the day. In spite of the hectic holiday, the coming festivities offer a unique opportunity for every genealogist and family historian. NOW IS THE TIME TO COLLECT THOSE ORAL HISTORIES!

For the uninitiated, all upper case letters means I am shouting at you. I want to get your attention so that you will think about this idea.

With the electronic capabilities of inexpensive digital recorders, anyone can capture an oral history. Anyone can sit down with old Aunt Sally, or Grandma, or even Dad, and ask about growing up on the old homestead. Or, what was Thanksgiving like back when you were a child? A question I always want answered: by this time each year, as a child, were you looking forward to Christmas?

Recording the conversations can be really quite easy. Small recorders are now so discrete that few people are bothered by, or even notice, their presence. Simply sit down and ask a few questions. After a thanksgiving dinner, or some other holiday celebration, it really is interesting that so many people want to reminisce and share their life stories.

There are so many opportunities that it is a pity that more oral histories are not collected during the holidays. The holidays seem to evoke a sense of nostalgia with at least some family members. So pull out the digital recorders. If you don’t have one, go to the mall and treat your self to a valuable, yet inexpensive, early Christmas gift. BUY ONE! (Again I’m shouting). And plan on recording Aunt Sally, Grandma, Dad, or any other relative. Persuade them to share and save their family histories.

The holidays were made for collecting Oral Histories.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

MHS Provides Example of New Oral History

Here is an interesting report about the latest oral history project from the Minnesota Historical Society. This story reinforces why we collect oral history: to preserve the past, the culture, the language, the history, everything about the past.

Be sure to read more.

Some Great New York History

You hear about the legends of old catacombs, secrets under the city tunnels, and lost subway stations. Now here is proof that sometimes the myths are true.

And be sure to check out the photographs as well. This is truly an archtectural treasure.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

More GREAT News From the Alabama Archives

The following announcement from the Alabama Department of Archives and History is more evidence the economy is improving and politicians appreciate the value of libraries and archives.

The Alabama Department of Archives and History is pleased to announce the reopening of the museum and research room one Saturday per month, starting on November 13, 2010. The department will be open for researchers and museum visitors on the second Saturday of each month from 8:30 to 4:30.
The elimination of Saturday services and other programs in January 2009 resulted from severe budget cuts that led to the loss of 20 of the department's 55 full-time positions. Although the impact of budget reductions is ongoing, restoring Saturday services has remained a priority for the department.
The introduction of second-Saturday hours is made possible in part by one-time federal stimulus funding. The reallocation of staff resources to cover the duties of some eliminated positions was also required.
The museum and research room will be open on Saturday, November 13, and Saturday, December 11, 2010. Starting on January 8, 2011, special children's activities and tours will be added to the second-Saturday schedule.
Normal hours will remain 8:30 - 4:30 on the following schedule:

Monday: Museum and Staff Offices open

Research Room Closed on Mondays

Tuesday - Friday: Museum, Research Room, and Staff Offices open

Saturday: Museum and Research Room open, 2nd Saturday of each month only

Sunday & State Holidays: Department Closed

Alabama Department of Archives and History

624 Washington Avenue
P O Box 300100-0100

Montgomery, Alabama 36130-0100

And, thanks to Ken Thomas and Bob Davis for bringing this information to my attention.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

The Times They Are a Changin'

Some great news for Archives and Libraries everywhere. At least one institution is finding the resources to expand their public hours of operation!

Let us hope this foreshadows the future economy. Read the following announcement from the New York State Library and New York State Archives.

The New York State Library and New York State Archives will institute
new Saturday hours beginning on October 16th. Saturday hours of
operation at the two facilities, located on the 7th and 11th floor of
the Cultural Education Center (CEC) at the Empire State Plaza in Albany,
will be from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Free public parking will be available
in the Madison Avenue parking lots adjacent to the CEC. Directions and
parking information is available on the New York State Museum website at

This new policy for expanded access does not affect the hours of the
New York State Museum, which is open from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. seven days
a week, except Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day, and New Year's Day.
However if a major holiday (e.g. July 4th, Memorial Day, Veteran's
Day) falls directly on a Saturday, the Library and Archives will not be
open (checking their websites is advised for such holidays).

The New York State Library ( has served New
Yorkers, New York State government and researchers from throughout the
United States for more than 190 years. It is the largest state library
in the nation and the only state library to qualify for membership in
the Association of Research Libraries. The Library's research
collection of more than 20 million items includes major holdings in law,
medicine, the social sciences, education, American and New York State
history and culture, the pure sciences and technology.

The New York State Archives (
identifies, preserves, and makes available more than 200 million records
of colonial and state government dating back to 1630 that have enduring
value to the public and private institutions and to all the people of
the Empire State and the nation.

Best wishes,
Emily Allen

And thank you to the GeneaLib listserv and Eric Grundset of the DAR Library for bringing this to my attention.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Ancestry Acquires Footnote! Oh My!

The following announcement I found on, thanks to Leland Meitzler for bringing this to our attention.

PROVO, Utah, September 23, 2010 – Inc. (Nasdaq: ACOM) announced today it has entered into a definitive agreement to acquire iArchives, Inc. and its branded Web site,, a leading American History Web site, for approximately $27 million in a mix of stock, cash and assumption of liabilities. This acquisition will provide the company with a complementary consumer brand, expanded content offerings, and enhanced digitization and image-viewing technologies.

iArchives digitizes and delivers high-quality images of American historical records of individuals involved in the Revolutionary War, Continental Congress, Civil War, and other US historical events to subscribers interested in early American roots. iArchives has digitized more than 65 million original source documents to date through its proprietary digitization process for paper, microfilm and microfiche collections.

“ is highly complementary to’s online family history offering,” said Tim Sullivan, President and Chief Executive Officer of “By promoting Footnote to our Ancestry audience, we hope to expand its reach among researchers who care about early American records. iArchives also brings outstanding image-viewing technology and content digitization capabilities that will improve our leadership position in bringing valuable historical records to the market. We welcome the iArchives team to the family.”

Upon completion of the transaction, iArchives will become a wholly-owned subsidiary of As part of the transaction, currently expects to issue approximately 1.0 million shares of common stock. The transaction is subject to various closing conditions and is expected to close early in the fourth quarter of 2010. also announced today that its Board of Directors has approved a share repurchase program of up to approximately $25 million of its common stock. Under the authorization, share repurchases may be made by the Company from time to time in the open market or through privately negotiated transactions depending on market conditions, share price and other factors and may include accelerated or forward or similar stock repurchases and/or Rule 10b5-1 plans. Part of the rationale for the repurchase is to offset dilution of equity resulting from the iArchives acquisition. No time limit was set for the completion of this program. The share repurchase program may be modified or discontinued at any time by the Board of Directors.

About Inc. (Nasdaq: ACOM) is the world’s largest online family history resource, with approximately 1.3 million paying subscribers. More than 5 billion records have been added to the site in the past 13 years. Ancestry users have created more than 19 million family trees containing over 1.9 billion profiles. has local Web sites directed at nine countries, including its flagship Web site at

About iArchives
iArchives is a leading digitization service provider that also operates, a subscription Web site that features searchable original documents, providing over 35,000 paying subscribers with a view of the events, places and people that shaped the American nation and the world. At, all are invited to come share, discuss, and collaborate on their discoveries with friends, family, and colleagues. For more information, visit

Forward-looking Statements
This press release contains forward-looking statements. These statements relate to future events or to future financial performance and involve known and unknown risks, uncertainties, and other factors that may cause our actual results, levels of activity, performance, or achievements to be materially different from those anticipated in these forward-looking statements. In some cases, you can identify forward-looking statements by the use of words such as “appears,” “may,” “designed,” “expect,” “intend,” “focus,” “seek,” “anticipate,” “believe,” “estimate,” “predict,” “potential,” “should,” “continue” or “work” or the negative of these terms or other comparable terminology. These statements include statements concerning among other things, the proposed transaction between and iArchives, Inc., including the consummation and anticipated timing of the transaction as well as the expected benefits of the proposed transaction, and the effects of the proposed transaction on, our subscriber base, our reach, our activities to enhance subscribers’ experience, our business outlook, our leadership position and our opportunities and prospects for growth. These forward-looking statements are based on information available to us as of the date of this press release. Forward-looking statements involve a number of risks and uncertainties that could cause actual results to differ materially from those anticipated by these forward-looking statements. Such risks and uncertainties include a variety of factors, some of which are beyond our control. In particular, such risks and uncertainties include the risk that the transaction does not close when anticipated, or at all; difficulties encountered in integrating acquired businesses and retaining customers, and the additional difficulty of integration when continuing the acquired operation; the adverse impact of competitive product announcements; failure to achieve anticipated revenues and operating performance; changes in overall economic conditions; the loss of key employees; competitors’ actions; pricing and gross margin pressures; inability to control costs and expenses; and significant litigation.

Information concerning additional factors that could cause results to differ materially from those projected in the forward-looking statements is contained under the caption “Risk Factors” in our Quarterly Report on Form 10-Q for the quarterly period ended June 30, 2010, and in discussions in other of our SEC filings.

These forward-looking statements should not be relied upon as representing our views as of any subsequent date and we assume no obligation to publicly update or revise these forward-looking statements for any reason, whether as a result of new information, future events, or otherwise.

Being the cynical person that I am, I wonder if this is a good thing? Dominating access to scanned documents can only lead to greater expenses and elitism in the fields of Genealogy and Family History. Can this be a good thing? I acknowledge the enormous expense with digitization. And, I appreciate the risks and investments of Ancestry, Footnote, Genealogybank, and others. But, I still wonder where we are going and the costs that will be incurred as we get there?

Monday, September 13, 2010

Century Farms A New Avenue for Family History

This past week, in between multiple meetings and unpacking boxes, something interesting has become apparent to me. I suppose it is simply my failure to think and make connections, but researching for the Century Farms Program is a new twist to genealogy and family history.

The Century Farms program documents farms within the individual states that have remained in one family for more than 100 years. In addition, some states have programs to honor sesquicentennial farms, or farms that have been in a family for 150 years. The state of Tennessee has a program known as the Pioneer Farms that honors family farms of at least 200 years. By conducting an in-depth search, you can find farms in the New England area that have been in one family for 300 or more years. To contemplate one family owning the same land since 1700 is amazing.

In order to search any of these farms, the family genealogy and the family history needs to be researched and developed. This enhances the fascination of all of this. Here is a new tool, a new use for genealogy and family history research. It really is quite exciting.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Hey, I'm Famous!

This is a moment total, unashamed, self-promotion. I would urge everyone to take a look at the "making connections" section, or the letters to the editor, of the Family Tree Magazine. Dated November 2010, the issue just arrived in my mailbox. An incredibly wise author, namely me, took issue with the "Family Archivist" column of the August magazine.

The point of my letter is that encapsulation, the topic of the August column, is not always appropriate for saving family documents. And, I thought the columnist failed to point this out. So, the "rabble rouser" part of my personality has emerged on the pages of this most prestigious magazine.

Be sure to take a look at it. I am quite proud.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

More on Camp Lawton

More information about the Union soldiers imprisoned at Camp Lawton, here in Georgia.

Very interesting material.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Major Civil War Find in Southeast Georgia!

For nearly 150 years the exact location of Camp Lawton has been a mystery. Few people beyond the most dedicated Civil War scholars knew of the POW camp that served as the overflow from Andersonville. Georgia Southern University archealogy students have uncovered the location of the camp.

read more at:

An interesting story.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

It Really Does Take a Village

As the discussion about adoption and tracking unknown ancestors becomes more prevalent, I am continuously reminded of the title of Hilary Clinton's book It Takes a Village. I keep thinking that in the day of adoption and the medical miracles of artificial insemination, research into ancestry takes new and challenging courses. Here is one example of the new challenges and new answers:

The donor sibling registry and other methods of tracking ancestry is moving as rapidly as new technologies will allow.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Where are the immigrants?

Recently I have been working to document immigration and immigrant activity in Atlanta, Ga. Specifically, I have been trying to identify the influence of “new immigrants,” the wave of European immigrants coming to the United States between 1880 and 1930. My research includes ethnic groups such as the Italians, Greeks, Poles, Slavs and other Eastern and Southern immigrants. As I search, something interesting is happening; these new immigrants are nearly invisible in Atlanta.

I know the Greek community was well established in Atlanta. After all, in 1928 the Greek Orthodox Church consecrated a small chapel at Greenwood Cemetery. There are also a large number of graves in the Greek section of the cemetery. So, there is some evidence that the Greek community existed in Atlanta, yet I find nothing written about them. The same is true of the Italian community and other European communities in Atlanta. Where did all of these immigrants go? Did they assimilate so quickly and effectively that any evidence of their migration is gone? What happened to the “new immigrants?”

Was the city founded only by United States citizens with a smattering of Irish and German immigrants, with the occasional French family thrown into the mix? It is unfortunate that so little is being developed or written about the “new Immigrants” that settled in Atlanta. It is a topic that needs to be encouraged and promoted. We need more research on ethnic groups in Atlanta, and for that matter the state of Georgia as a whole.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

New Roosevelt Papers

The New York Times has reported on a new collection of papers related to President Franklin Roosevelt. from the description, these pages will provide some interesting information regarding Roosevelt, the 1930s Depression, and World War II.

Read more at:

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Why I Collect Oral History

The other day I collected an oral history from a man nearing his 80th birthday. After recording a portion of his life story I began to think about the process and the justifications for collecting oral histories. Before I go too far, I should include the disclaimer that yes more than a few people see me as a bit unusual. To quote one, former employer, “Mike is an odd little fellow.” So, I can accept the strange looks and uncomfortable laughter when I tell people I collect oral histories as an avocation, something I do simply because I enjoy it.

But, back to the main point, I met with John the other day and after interviewing him, it occurred to me that the clich├ęs that are thrown out about the importance of oral histories are true. The saying, “when a man dies, a library is burned,” or “there is no such thing as a boring life,” these accurately sum up my thinking about collecting oral histories. Every story is important. Every detail is worth telling and saving. More students of local history, family history, and genealogy ought to be encouraged to collect more oral history.

Every man and woman is an interesting story waiting to be unveiled and recorded. The small dramas in our lives; the major decisions we make; and the challenges that we face all make up a lifetime of fascinating history. And these stories need to be recorded and told. John had some interesting stories to tell: about his military service in Korea and his life after the war. He told me about meeting his wife, raising his children, and working hard to provide for them. Although we only spoke for forty-five minutes, this brief live story is a fascinating study in life and well worth the time to record, transcribe and review.

Collecting oral histories is an interesting process. It provides a sense of achievement and satisfaction to both the collector and the subject. This may be something I do in my spare time, and my friends have accepted me as “that odd little fellow.” But the pleasure of the process encourages me to promote the idea that more people should collect oral histories and save family histories through tapes, cd’s and transcriptions. After all, “there is no such thing as a boring life.”

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Angel Island: A Misleading Name and Terror For Immigration

The Los Angeles Times reports of a new exhibit at the LA Chinese American Museum that documents the fear and pain suffered by Asian immigrants attempting to enter the United States. In sharp contrast to Ellis Island in New York City, at Angel Island officials routinely held immigrants for weeks or months before allowing them to enter the United States, or deporting them. The exhibit documents the cruelty of the immigration law and the harsh treatment inflicted upon Asian immigrants

Read more at:

Scouts Document Mississippi Cemetery

Rumor told of the Scott Street Cemetery sinking into the ground after Hurricane Katrina. The rumors about the African-American cemetery in Hattiesburg, MS were false, yet no records of the cemetery existed. Five young men, working towards their Eagle Scout award, took on the task of creating a finding aid for the cemetery.

Read more at:

And, thanks to Dick Eastman for bringing this article to my attention

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Where in the World is Hinda Amchanitzky?

Here is an interesting story of finding a tombstone on a street corner and working to connect it with the correct burial place. The work involved in locating the burial place of Hinda Amchanitzky makes this story a heartwarming piece.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Return The Appling Sword to Georgia

If you haven't seen it yet, here is an important consideration for donations in the immediate future. An important piece of Georgia History has come available on the auction block. With the help of the Friends of the Georgia Archives money is being raised in an attempt to return the Appling Sword to Georgia.

For more information read:

or contact the State Archives or FOGA

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Oconee Hill Cemetery Book Reprinting

The Oconee Hill Cemetery Book is being reprinted by the Athens Historical Society. This book is an excellent example of what a cemetery book should really look like. Charlotte Thomas Marshall has done a great job on this first volume. She received a number of great reviews for this work

"Athens [GA] Historical Society is pleased to announce a reprinting of the first volume of the annotated edition of Oconee Hill Cemetery of Athens, Georgia by Charlotte Thomas Marshall will soon be available. Order your copy promptly to insure that you will receive your copy as soon as the books arrive from the printer. To order you can access the order form on the Athens Historical Society's website

This book is not a normal cemetery book, she has researched the folks in it. First printing of this book was 650+ copies - it arrived in December and was sold out by 1st of February."

In the interest of full disclosure, I reviewed the book for the Georgia Genelaogical Society Quarterly. If I remember correctly, I ran out of superlatives for this book

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Internet Is Not the Final Answer

Julie Miller just recently published an excellent column for the Broomfield Enterprise reinforcing the idea that the world wide web does not contain all the resources we need to research our family history.

Step away from the computer and seek out the original documents! That is true research.

This is a fine column worth reading.

Thanks to the New England Historic Genealogical Society e-news for bringing this to my attention.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Tennessee Newspapers to be Dgitized

For researchers in Tennessee the good news is that digitized newspapers will be available for research in two years. The even better news is that, often, newspapers published information that crossed the borders. This same work may be useful for Georgia research.

And thanks to Leland Meitzler and his blog, for bringing this article to my attention

Shameless Self Promotion

I am attaching the following article for a couple of reasons:

Primarily, I am showing off. This is a wonderful article about a brilliant genealogist, namely ME.

Secondly, I want to encourage researchers and family historians to share their information. Be sure to find a way to communicate your research and promote input. Fair and honest critiques of research and writing can only serve to improve the end product.

We all need to find ways to get our names out there to share and encourage family history and genealogy.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Document Discovered in Textbook!

Here is yet more proof that historic documents are available and accessible everywhere. We simply need to keep an eye out for them.

A fourth grade school teacher found a document of transfer dated 1792 when she was cleaning up her bookshelves at the end of the year. This is an interesting find, to say the least.

Read more at:

Monday, June 7, 2010

Help Identify the Little Girl Buried in the N. C. Grave

Here is an interesting Story: About 1925 a man, alone buries his little girl in a cemetery owned by the Mormon Church in Hampstead, N. C. The only witness to the burial is a nine year old boy.

With the completion of the burial, the man plants a cedar tree. He pays the boy a quarter to water the tree for seven days. Now, eighty five years later, the tree is the only marker for a young girl who died too soon. And the search is on to find her identity.

Read the article in the Deseret News at:

An interesting article. And, thanks to Eastman's On-line Genealogical Newsletter for bringing this to my attention.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

New Genealogy Library in Missouri!

Here is more evidence of the growing popularity of Genealogy and Family History Research. the Saint Louis County Library Foundation is in the early stages of fundraising and building a 63,000 square foot Family Heritage Center.

To read more go to:

And thanks to Dick Eastman and Eastman's On-line Genealogy Newsletter for bringing this to my attention.

Friday, May 28, 2010

New Inspiration For Research

I just recently finished reading the book Well-Behaved Women Seldom Make History by Laurel Thatcher Ulrich. Although it is intended primarily to promote women’s history, the book contains an important idea for all historians, particularly Genealogists and Family Historians. The point being that we need to search every avenue for clues and evidence of all history, we can’t simply accept the published and written records.

Dr. Ulrich makes the point that in Women’s History there is a serious shortage of records and evidence of the lives of everyday women. Unless a woman made news, most often through some type of “mis-behavior,” the records are sparse. In Family History and Genealogy, this is true for our female ancestors, but also many of our male ancestors as well. The result being that many of our ancestors, particularly the ones that didn't make the news, are quickly forgotten and overlooked. As Family Historians we need to willingly explore every avenue of research and information. Sometimes, we need to think outside of the strict areas of research and be willing to explore unusual records and evidence for the existence of our ancestors.

Well-Behaved Women has ignited new enthusiasm for my own research. I have several ancestors who have completely disappeared. I am determined now to think of new avenues of research. I hope to explore maps, legal documents, newspapers and other materials with a fresh outlook to find new clues about my ancestors and their lives.

Thanks to Dr. Ulrich’s book I have a new source of inspiration to push my research along.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Nampa Depot Restoration Project

I don't have much information, but any news about preservation or restoration of railroad depots is exciting. Although Nampa, Idaho, may seem to be the backwoods, I can attest that this building is absolutely spectacular and well worth saving. On a personal family history note, this is exciting because Dad worked out of the depot for many years with the Union Pacific Railroad.

Read more at:

And thanks to Mary Bennet for bringing this to my attention.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Check Out The Blog From Archivist of the United States

Some interesting blogs have come to my attention recently; one that is particularly intriguing is the blog from the Archivist of the United States, Dr. David Ferriero. In the past few posts he is giving more and more attention to the use of technology in Archival work, and by extension research capabilities.

As he is exploring new technologies and capabilities to make information more readily available, the opportunities seem endless! Although he is writing about big picture issues, such as transparency in operations, and enhancing technology for improved access, his enthusiasm is infectious. He hasn’t yet mentioned the nitty-gritty details for providing transparency, such as the costs for scanning and digitizing the millions of documents in the National Archives. But exploring the possibilities is a good first step in enhancing access for NARA documents.

His blog at: is certainly worth looking at.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Found: 1780s Census

Although it contains limited information, a census taken in the mid 1780's has been found in the papers of John Kean at Kean University in New Jersey. For the most part, the census is simply a total of residents of states, but it also breaks down number of blacks and native americans within each state.

This is interesting information and reinforces the basic idea that we have to continue to search for new resources for research.

Read more at the New York Times pages at:

And thanks to Dick Eastman and Eastman's Online Genealogy Newsletter for bringing this to my attention.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Revolutionary War Resource

I have been introduced to a very interesting webpage, useful to anyone researching revolutionary war service in the South.

This is a very interesting site that provides transcriptions of pension records and applications from Veterans of the Revolution. This is a very exciting place to visit. This opens up all kinds of access for researchers looking to explore the war in the South.

And, special thanks to Jim Trayler for introducing me to this page.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Sharing Information Is The Most Basic of Research Tools

Just the other night I had the opportunity to speak to a group of historians, genealogists, and family historians in a meeting of a local chapter of the Sons of the American Revolution. It was a fine meeting. We had the opportunity to talk about different resources for research in North Georgia and share “war stories” about our research time.

After the meeting, as I driving home, it occurred to me that I had participated in one of the most essential of all aspects of family history research. Sharing our information and trading details and research techniques provides an opportunity for camaraderie. In addition it provides specifics about our own research challenges and that way enhance our skills and capabilities. Exchanging ideas makes us all better researchers.

Talking about my own research is one of the most difficult challenges I personally face. I was raised in a family that emphasized modesty, “you never blow your own horn.” People who know me may doubt this, but because of my upbringing, talking about myself and my work is something I have had to consciously struggle to become comfortable with. But, this is something we all need to do to become better researchers and genealogists. We need to share our information and become willing to talk about our research, our achievements, and our failures. Striving for this will make us all better family historians.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Preserve The Pensions! Project

The Federation of Genealogical Societies has announced a fundraising plan to help preserve and digitize pension records for the War of 1812.

A goal of $3.7 million has been set to digitize more than 7.2 million documents in more than 180,000 files. As anyone who has used pension files int heir research can attest, these records contain a wealth of information for Family Historians and Genealogists. Not only do the files list the service of the veteran, it also provides details about the spouse and dependents.

If you want more details, or are interested in supporting the project, contact Curt Wilcher, the Vice President of Development, FGS, at 260-421-1226, or go to the FGS web page at:

Fire Destroys Twiggs County Library

In the bigger scheme of things, the loss of the 15,000 volumes in the Twiggs Library fire is small, but it is a tremendous tragedy to a community to lose any library holdings. No mention has been made of historic documents that have been lost, but we will wait and see.

Read the attachments and lets hope for a quick recovery in Twiggs County.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Update on Button Gwinnett Signature

Just as a brief update on the news of auction of the Button Gwinnett signature at Sotheby's. The report is that the document sold for $722,500!

New Digitized Newspapers

A new resource that is very cool has come on-line. I haven't had much opportunity to work with it, but the Digital Library of Georgia has posted a collection of Atlanta newspapers on their webpage. The newspapers seem to be every word searchable which is a great resource for genealogy and family history. You may want to explore the page for yourself at:

This is interesting stuff.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

The Census News

With the coming of the census, more and more excitement seems to generate about the census, both current and past. It is all interesting, yet difficult to keep up.

Just in recent headlines, a copy of the first census report, signed by Thomas Jefferson, recently went up for auction. It sold for $122,000. You can read more about it at the Boston Globe website:

Or, if you are interested in the latest reports about the current census and plans to scan each page before disposal. Each page will be scanned then shredded (Archivists refer to this as "digitize and dump"). I don't know if that is a good idea, but we will find out in 72 years when it comes time to make the information available.

Anyway, there are some exciting bits of news about the census. It will be well worth our time to keep up on this news. If nothing else, it is interesting.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Be Careful What You Wish For ...

Here is another interesting article for Genealogists and Family Historians. Regarding the conflict and sharp emotions that may be exposed in family research, I can attest to the reality of it all, through personal experience.

Early in my career I had discovered my Great Grand Mother had a less that admirable past. Although members of my immediate family found the information interesting, I had an uncle who was shocked and upset by the details of her life. Only out of respect for him I stopped searching for details in her life. I still remember his statement twenty years after the fact, "some things are better left unknown," he said.

Although, we have to recognize that the further back in time, scandals are less upsetting and more interesting.

It all creates an interesting balance for researchers.

Button Gwinnett Signature: What's It Worth?

There was an interesting article from the Atlanta Journal Constitution newspaper about the auction of a signature of Button Gwinnett. For those of you who don't know, Gwinnett was one of three Georgia signers of the Declaration of Independence. He wasn't prolific with a pen. He didn't ever write many letters, or they didn't survive.

A recently discover letter signed by Gwinnett and other members of the 2nd Continental Congress is scheduled for auction. because Gwinnett's signature is on the page the value of the letter has soared! According to the auction estimates, the absence of other letters makes this one particularly valuable.

We know very little about Gwinnett. We don't even know exactly where he is buried!

The link to the web page is not working. Until I can try to fix it, you might go to and search for Button Gwinnett. The auction of his letter is scheduled for Wednesday, 14 April 2010. You might check out this story.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

More Bad Economic News For Family Historians

News coming out of Houston, Texas is that hours are being cut for the Clayton Public Library, this includes access to the Genealogy Library. In an announcement posted yesterday, the Clayton Library Friends posted the new hours. Remarkably, the libraries are closing on Friday!

Below is a portion of the announcement:

On Thursday, April 1st, 2010, Dr. Rhea Lawson, Director, Houston Public Library, presented a report to the City Council concerning a required reduction of operating hours in all Houston libraries (including special collections) due to drastic budget cuts city-wide. This proposal had already been approved by Mayor Parker prior to its presentation to council.

Effective April 17th, 2010, open hours at Clayton Library for Genealogical Research hours will be:
Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday 10-6;
Wednesday 10-8;
Saturday 10-5;
Library CLOSED on Friday and Sunday

I don't even pretend to understand the reasoning behind this decision. In my experience, Friday and Saturdays are the busiest days for library research. Why they are closing on Saturday is an unfortunate mystery.

For the full announcement go to:

and, thanks to Eastman's Online Genealogy Newsletter for bringing this to my attention.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Never Too Late To Start

Here is another example, from the Nashua, NH, Telegraph newspaper that it is never too late, or too early, to start searching for your ancestors. And, as the story concludes, the process is addictive.

Thanks to the NEHGS newsletter for bringing this article to my attention.

Friday, April 2, 2010

United States Archivist in Chief

Here is a brief profile of the 10th Archivist of the United States. It is interesting that this is the first Archivist to have degrees in Library Science.

Check it out at:

Well worth reading.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

A Cautionary Tale For All Historians

There is an interesting blog posted for oral historians that may be of interest to a variety of family historians and genealogists, as well.

The blog writes of presenting information in false light that could lead to lawsuits and judgements against writers, genealogists, and Family Historians. Be sure to avoid implications of spectacular tales as you write. Although scandal within the family may be interesting, it can also be harmful so we need to use caution as we write our family histories.

And special thanks to the Oral History list-serv for bringing this blog to my attention.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Marriage in the Post-Civil War South

A new and interesting idea has been presented to me in a recent issue of The Journal of Southern History. And, before I start, I need to acknowledge the folks that drew my attention to this article, but I don’t remember who mentioned it to me. So, to the folks who were promoting the February 2010 issue of The Journal of Southern History, thanks.

Now, the neat stuff: an article by J. David Hacker, Libra Hilde, and James Holland Jones, suggests that we need to examine, more closely the marriage patterns of the post-Civil War South. The article is titled: “The Effect of the Civil War on Southern Marriage Patterns.” It presents an interesting proposition. Think about this for a second: somewhere in the neighborhood of 650,000 people were killed in this war (the article says 620,000, pg 39, but I prefer my number). A majority of these deaths were young men between the ages of 15 and 45, in other words marrying age. A significantly large portion of these men were Southerners. The article says twenty percent of white males in the South of marrying age died in the war (pg 39-40). The article goes on to question whether or not this huge number of young dead affected the marriage patterns of the South. Their conclusion is a definite maybe.

From a Genealogy point of view, the bigger question for Southern families is: if my Great-Grandmother married after the Civil War, what were her motives? Did she marry for romantic love, or were there other reasons? Did she marry in the same socio-economic class as herself? Did she marry “beneath her class?” Was the fear of spinsterhood so great that she married an older man? Or, did she marry much younger for the same reason? And we can ask these same or similar questions about our Great-Grandfathers. Did they marry for beauty or money? Or, did they marry for both? Did the shortage of men in the community make Granddad a really “good catch?”

These questions are not meant to disparage any post-Civil War relationship. But, as I have said before, “romantic love” was not generally a consideration in marriage until the 1900s. In the 1800s marriage was a carefully considered negotiation and contract between two parties. And so, the motives from this contract are important considerations. Further, it might give us valuable insight into the lives and characters of our ancestors.

This is all very interesting and worth consideration.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

A New Way to Find Graves in Cemeteries is an on-line resource that generates cemetery maps, listing names and other information from the tombstone. In addition, it will tell you who is buried near your ancestors. Read more at the Salt Lake Tribune:

Very cool stuff

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Too Much Information: Not Possible!

We are just finishing closing up my father-in-laws estate. He didn’t have much of value, but his memories and memorials are priceless. He saved the important stuff. He stashed away the news clippings about his children; the photos and slides of family vacations and family reunions; and the records about family births and deaths. The challenge now is going through the material and identifying all of the characters and individuals involved in this man’s life. As the person with experience in Family History and Genealogy, the job becomes mine: to save these records and identify everyone mentioned in them.

The good news is that Mark was an engineer, so he kept some very precise records. Many of his slide collections are labeled. I can identify the summer vacation in Valley Forge and Aunt Jen’s new car. But, who is the young kid playing football with Les and Todd? Is he some unimportant neighbor? Is he a visiting cousin? I need to know, but no one can really tell me. And here lies the difficulty. The secondary players in these scenes are unidentified. Unfortunately, they may never be identified, because we just don’t know.

This essay is evolving into a rant about there never being adequate records to tell a complete story. And, I think this is every historian’s complaint. So, as you create those records and documents those photographs and memories of life, keep in mind that there is no such thing as too much information. Even the most minute details help tell the story. So keep writing those memories and expanding those records. Include everyone in your life history.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Genealogical Tourism Gains in Demand

Genealogical Tourism, the vacation designed to explore and find new details about our ancestors and their lives, has become one of the fastest growing markets of vacation travel. This information is coming from a recent study by Professor Carla Santos and graduate student Grace Yan published in the Journal of Travel Research. Santos explained this growth is happening because “genealogical tourism provides an irreplaceable dimension of material reality.” In other words, nothing can quite replace the emotional euphoria we feel when we visit our Great-Grandfather’s original homestead, or when we step off of the train in the same depot as our grandmother as she migrated from Boston to Nebraska.

Santos and Yan go on to explain that the sense of authenticity provides us with a feeling not felt in most vacations. Visiting a variety of tourist attractions gives us a feeling of false fabrication. In my early career we had the term “farby” to describe this misleading, and clearly fabricated sense of entertainment over authenticity.

In addition, Santos and Yan suggest that transportation that has given recent generations the ability to move across country has diminished our sense of “home.” We are apparently “longing for an authentic connection” to our roots.

The article is an interesting bit of information if you can get beyond the excessive vocabulary of the authors. In spite of the overly expansive wording of the authors, this article points to an exciting, expanding interest in Genealogy and Family History research; an increase that is very encouraging.

And thanks go out to Dick Eastman and the Eastman On-line Newsletter for bringing this article to my attention.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Quilting For The Underground Railroad

Here is an interesting idea that is worth repeating and exploring. African-American quilters in the 1800s were actually creating and passing on a coded map of the paths to freedom for slaves escaping the South.

This is a hotly debated theory. A recent article in the Philadelphia Inquirer took up the issue. One point in the article is worth noting: these coded maps were handed down through families. Don't we all have some type of coded language that is familiar only to the family? I know in my family, we can all understand some hand signals from the railroad simply because Dad worked for the Union Pacific Railroad, and he taught us some of the hand signals.

Here is the article from the newspaper. You can decide for yourselves. Personally, I think this is a theory that holds some value.

Regardless of what you think, it is an idea worth considering.

I need to thank the NEHGS e-zine newsletter for bringing this article to my attention.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Marriage: An Interesting Consideration

Just the other night I was reading a general history book when an interesting idea was presented. It occurred to me the ramifications of this idea might have a huge impact on Genealogists and (especially) Family Historians. Consider this historical detail: companionate marriage, or marriage for love and companionship, was not the norm until late in the 1920s or early 1930s.

If you think about that, that is an interesting concept. Before the 1920s most marriages were the result of political alliances, business or family arrangements; or some other more pragmatic reason than love. Maybe the recent Valentine’s Day celebration is having an effect on my brain, but just two generations back our Grandparents and Great-Grandparents were entering into the “bonds of matrimony” for very logical and practical reasons! Investigating the reasons for marriage can put a whole new spin on interpreting family history.

As I think about my own grandparents, I know that Grandpa lived on an isolated ranch in Nebraska. The area was so desolate that the family built their own schoolhouse and hired a teacher. Grandma was one of those teachers. Consider the “why” of marriage. Maybe Grandpa married Grandma because she was the only, non-related woman living in the county! Maybe Grandpa was the only eligible bachelor in the area!

Is it possible that they both settled for marriage? They were expected to get married sometime, to someone, and they found the nearest available prospect.

None of this is intended to besmirch the relationship of my Grandparents. I have no doubt they loved each other. But, if love is taken out of the equation of marriage; the question of “why” does one enter into a marriage becomes an interesting and important consideration in writing our family history.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Genealogy goes Prime Time!

Just as a reminder, two new programs are airing on television with central themes of Genealogy and Family History.

"Faces of America with Henry Lewis Gates, Jr." started airing on PBS last night. I haven't yet seen it, but this series is supposed to be excellent, entertaining, and informative.

Even more exciting, because a major network is scheduling this, "Who Do You Think You Are?" is scheduled to begin airing on March 5 on NBC. The previews of this show suggest an exciting and interesting program.

Be sure to check these out.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Alternative Newspapers May Be A Valuable Resource

With the beginning of Black History Month it has occurred to me that some underutilized resources for research maybe the many African American newspapers published in the past century. There are a multitude of newspapers that have devoted their attention to the African-American community. In Atlanta, Georgia, the resources published by the African-American press in the past century provide a tremendous opportunity to obtain new perspective and new ideas about the local history. The best known of the African American newspapers published in Atlanta in the 1900s were The Atlanta Daily World and The Atlanta Tribune and The Atlanta Voice. Yet, as early as 1904, The Atlanta Independent and The Voice of the Negro were both publishing information exclusive to the African-American communities throughout Georgia and the South.

These newspapers have the potential of adding new perspective on major events. We could ask and answer a number of interesting questions that might put a new interpretation on local and national history. How did these journals report on World War One of World War Two? What were the opinions of these newspapers and their editors? What impact did the Great Depression have on the African-American communities of Georgia? What was their position on Viet Nam?

African-American newspapers may provide a unique perspective on family and local history. We need to think about this and remember these papers as we explore our family history.

Collage and Scrap Booking: Are They The Same?

Here is a recent article published in the New York Times. After reading it, I am wondering if scrap booking is the same as creating a collage? Scrap booking is simply a more personalized art form.

Read more if you like:

I am just wondering.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

When Are Private Papers Not Private Papers?

The answer is: when you are the "private secretary" of the President of the United States. Here is an interesting article about the latest dispute over papers from the presidency of Franklin Roosevelt.

Interesting information.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

New Genealogy Library in Pensacola, FL

There is good news for genealogists, and GREAT NEWS for genealogists in West Florida. The Pensacola Public Library has announced the opening of the West Florida Genealogy Library in Pensacola. The Library will house the public library system genealogy collection and local history collection. It will also house the collection of the West Florida Genealogical Society.

With all of the bad economic news and so many library systems closing doors and cutting hours, it is heartwarming to read of a library opening.

The library opened its doors at 10 am on Tuesday, January 26, 2010.

For more details contact the Pensacola Public Library at:

Special thanks to Dick Eastman and Leland Meitzler for bringing this to my attention.

Friday, January 22, 2010

This video is fascinating

Take a look at the attached video clip. This was shot in San Francisco, 1906 just a few days before the big earthquake. It is about seven minutes long. Incredibly interesting.

Thank you to Ms. Joanne Smalley for forwarding this video to me.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Black History Month is February

Coming up in a few weeks is Black History Month. Again this year there are a number of exciting programs and events scheduled that promise to provide a wealth of new information for Genealogists, Researchers and Family Historians. Any researcher interested in African-American History will want to give some attention to the activities going on this month.

Perhaps one of the most exciting events (in the Atlanta, Ga., area) is the Atlanta Black Family History Day Symposium, scheduled for Saturday 20 February 2010. In cooperation with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (the Mormons), the National Archives will host the day long program. There are a number of promising topics on the agenda. Ashley Judd, a researcher in Atlanta will discuss here research on Martin Luther King, Jr. Benjamin Carver Ridgway will talk about his research on the history of Ebenezer Baptist Church. Quinton Atkinson is scheduled to discuss the African American resources available on

In addition to all of this, local organizations such as the Atlanta History Center have an abundance of programs scheduled. At AHC, with the opening of a new exhibit, a traveling exhibit titled Let Your Motto Be Resistance: African American Portraits on January 30, 2010, programs are scheduled each Friday during the month for students and families. Program topics range from slavery to Civil Rights. You will want to contact AHC for more details. Their webpage is

Along with these, you will definitely want to give attention to local chapters of the Afro-American Historical and Genealogical Society. It seems as though the local chapters always have interesting programs and discussion topics.

February is a great month for the study of Genealogy and Family History. This is particularly true for researchers in African-American History. You can’t help but be enthused by all of the activities going on.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Another Great Family History Story

Here is an interesting story published in the LA times. This article reinforces the idea of "know the neighbors" when doing family history research.,0,4826756.story?p

The on-line access to this story may be limited in time, depending on the policies of the LA Times.