Follow (me to this site) Friday: footnote Adds More Than Footnotes to Your Family History

Another brick wall in tracing the Dodson family had been hit. My Grandmother Strickland’s Genealogical Facts of the Strickland Family plunked the family down at the Civil War.  Great. Just great.

How did they get to Mecklenburg County, Virginia?  What resources could they count on?  How did they meet prospective spouses?  Why did they stay when so many residents of southside Virginia were moving on west?

Discovering an online source of original documents has been one of the most important moments in my budding genealogical life.  Footnote.com has diverse collections with new offerings being added regularly.  The footnote viewer is by far the best image viewer anywhere.  Stumbling onto this digital archive I whimsically started searching the Dodson side. Lo! and behold! A pre-Civil War document popped up in the Revolutionary War Pension Records.  When viewed it became clear that this was just one piece of a 75 page file, filled with family information from the 1840s and 1850s.

Here’s what you can find out:

A pension for Revolutionary War soldiers and their widows was granted by Congress in 1832.  Young men fighting in the Revolution were by then elderly men needing lots of neighborly attestation and official witness.  Elderly men died and their widows petitioned to receive the awarded funds; their claims of marriage also needed neighborly attestation AND male family intervention since women could not own property or evidently handle money.

In the pension application pulled by my Dodson query were details about William Rowlett and Rebecca his wife–both mentioned in my Grandmother Strickland’s family history as the parents of Sarah Jane Rowlett Dodson who married James H. Dodson in 1844.  The Edward Dodson attesting to the validity of William’s claim of service and Rebecca’s identity was both neighbor and Justice of the Peace in Mecklenburg County.  Further footnote documents, newspaper articles and register reports suggest that this Edward Dodson is my great-great-great-grandfather.  In later papers James H. Dodson acts as agent for his mother-in-law, Rebecca Rowlett.  These are my peoples! This file records some keystone information, in addition to personal details.

I LOVE footnote!  The site’s multiple collections can be sorted by time frame, name, place, and date; and the search engine, though requiring some patience, is quite good. Within the viewer an historian can read documents and make annotations and/or comments so that subsequent readers get even more from the document. The site also has the capacity to store, organize and share your family’s documents, including your uploaded photos and documents.

Follow me to footnote.com!  But be prepared to get lost in time!

2 thoughts on “Follow (me to this site) Friday: footnote Adds More Than Footnotes to Your Family History

  1. Thanks for the review of Footnote.com. I’ve been considering a subscription but have been hesitant. I know my time constraints are my biggest reason for not jumping in. I have a question for you. If you had to choose between having an Ancestry.com membership or a Footnote.com membership, which would you choose?

    • What a good question you raise. Ancestry.com is extremely useful when you are building your tree; it is hard to beat census records in establishing the basic building data, and their census data base is amazing. They also have a growing data base for European genealogy. However, I really have learned more family history by reading the documents that I have discovered on footnote. I also like the way I can interact with the documents and create pages to record my information; I feel as if I am contributing to a community, not just using a resource.
      If I had to choose, I would subscribe to footnote.com and access Ancestry.com at a public library or genealogical society library–they frequently have institutional subscriptions and you can pay a day fee to use them. I think you have to analyze where you are in your research, what you need to find and decide which source you most want at your fingertips when you finally get a moment to indulge your genealogy addiction!

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