Tuesday’s Tip: Build a Research Toolbox and Include Cornell’s Making of America

Thomas MacEntee, of Destination: Austin Family and the force behind Geneabloggers, slipped a tip into a recent Data Back Up webinar:  Create a page on your blog that becomes a virtual research toolbox, filled with useful book titles, web sites, libraries, parks, people–resources that you never want to forget are available.  I had had a similar thought as I set up my site and thought, “Oh, I have that covered!”  But  the image of this toolbox came to me each time I logged into my blog, and I was intrigued.  You look at sources but you use tools.  It was this latter behavior that I wanted to encourage–in myself and others.  So, henceforth and forthwith, the page formerly titled Those Family Sources will be known as My Research Toolbox.  (You can still find it in the Page Bar at the bottom of the Header.)

And to this box I would like to add this essential tool, linking you to the Cornell University Library Making of America digital collection.

The Cornell University Library Making of America Collection is a digital library of primary sources in American social history from the antebellum period through reconstruction. The collection is particularly strong in the subject areas of education, psychology, American history, sociology, religion, and science and technology. This site provides access to 267 monograph volumes and over 100,000 journal articles with 19th century imprints. The project represents a major collaborative endeavor in preservation and electronic access to historical texts.

I stumbled on this site (WHERE has it been hiding!?!) yesterday as I searched for period information about women/childbirth/soldier husbands.  I spent an hour absorbed by the text of  “The War of the Rebellion: a Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies” before backtracking into the main site.  Once there I spent another 45 minutes winding my way through Harpers New Monthly Magazine, beginning with the 1850 issues.  I have read 0.00398 % of this scanned collection!  This site is one I will certainly revisit with regularity, so I best have a link handy in my toolbox!

Follow Friday: Ancestry Civil War Collections–Worth Another Look!

Much of my family’s history was shaped around the American Civil War, so I have been eagerly anticipating the crisis’ Sesquicentennial.  Photographs and documents, long held in private collections, are being sought for public collections, like that of the Civil War 150 Legacy Project at the Library of Virginia.  Public documents, long preserved and accessed on site, are being digitized and shared on-line.  Case in point,  Ancestry just announced the assession of several new collections like the US Draft Registration Records and the US Confederate Pensions Collection, 1888-1958.

I discovered that my great-great-grandfather Ira Sayles had blue eyes and dark hair from his 1862 registration in the 130th Regiment NY Volunteers.  And I confirmed that great-great-grandfather Francis Marion Minor of Greene County, Pennsylvania was drafted in 1863–but sent a substitute.  In the Confederate (Widows) Pensions File of 1888, I discovered that great-great-granduncle Benjamin Franklin Dodson of the 34th Virginia Infantry (Mecklenburg County) was shot through the brain by a Union minnie ball on 6 July 1864 in the lines outside of Petersburg.

I am fascinated by the number of features in this Ancestry collection that prompt the user to explore beyond ancestral information.  For instance, this timeline at the bottom of the page begs the reader to review events and examine how ancestor records fit in–pictures, timelines, graphs are often so helpful in this regard.

The events of the Civil War affected my ancestors’ life choices:  a carpetbagging Clifton Sayles was prohibited from marrying young Lillie Dodson until after parents died and they were middle-aged. The Minor and Dodson family farms were ferociously tended, defended and passed on as coveted assets–safe havens for subsequent generations faced with their own economic crises.  In taking the time to study the Civil War, I have deepened my understanding of my country and my family, past and present.  I harbor this hope that I am building a shared memory with other family historians/genealogists, and that this common understanding of our country’s past might inform a more powerful, insightful understanding of our country’s present.  Maybe, just maybe, this genea-community can be a force for creative, civil discourse as our country navigates the current economic, political and social crises.

Holding the Self Accountable

With leaps of faith, daffodils bloom.

As spring struggles to break winter’s grasp, I find myself spending far too much time wiping dog paws and mopping floors.

Mutter, mutter, mutter.

Occasionally I take a hike up my stairs and stop in admiration: defying the swirling snowflakes, a Mourning Dove takes its turn sitting the nest, incubating the first brood of the year in my gutter.  I can’t mutter anymore.  Nope, got to stop my fussing at nature and model these gray bundles of hope.  Just what eggs have I been incubating this year?  Are any close to hatching?

1)  The readings for my Civil War course are close to completion; within the week I will listen to the last two lectures .  I have any number of questions popping into my head that will stimulate some very interesting family history interpretations–just in time for the Sesquicentennial of the Civil War observances.  It’s gonna be a good four years, folks.

2) I have steadily made my way through the treasure trove of the Minor Papers.  Can’t say I am close to finishing the annotation and storage project, but I have seen the bottom of more than one pile.  Progress is a good thing!

3) I have been on one field trip–Washington, DC!!!!  YAY!    And thoroughly enjoyed the Civil War exhibit at the National Archives and the tour of Robert E. Lee’s estate which overlooks Arlington National Cemetery.  Both visits supplemented my Civil War study while getting me out in the Cherry Blossom Festival.  THAT is my idea of a successful field trip!

So, though I feel the residual of winter blahs I have to admit to some eternal tug of hope right now.  Spring will come with its blossoms and mud, with its fledglings and song.  And I will have taken some good steps toward hatching my own plans and goals.

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Follow Friday: The Museum of the Confederacy

Back when I was a kid, in the 1960s, every southern child learned about the yell, the high decibel, primal yell that rebel soldiers were reported to have uttered as they charged into the blue uniformed aggressors.  Speculation held that it sounded like a pack of wild men; the eerie screams stopped Yanks in their tracks, made them reconsider their positions and examine their reasons for fighting.  The Museum of the Confederacy in  Richmond, Virginia has a vodcast in which this mythic cry has been recreated–and it is indeed eerie, primal, menacing.  No wonder northern soldiers wrote home about it.

This site contains this clever reconstruction, as well as, several other short lectures covering subjects such as:  Mourning in Civil War America, Creativity in Captivity, Emancipation and the New Black Vote, Encouraging Hearts and Strengthening Hands.  Anyone attempting to understand the cultural transformations and political consequences of the Civil War will find this set of videos helpful.  Even if you are a Yankee. ;)

friend of friends friday-BLACK PIONEERS OF MECKLENBURG COUNTY, VIRGINIA

My ancestors include well-to-do farmers in Mecklenburg County, Virginia.  James H. Dodson (1815-1884) was  a middling planter; in other words, he owned enough slaves to not work along side them in the field but not so many as to be considered upper-crust in his society.  In the gathering shadows that my research summons are the shapes of people, folks he owned,  black pioneers who helped him plant and harvest the foods he placed on his family’s table and the tobacco he sold in his community’s auction.  I have uncovered little information about the women of James H. Dodson’s life, and even less about the slaves that worked his land.

A SOURCE OF INFORMATION

Both our federal and state governments found the gathering of census information to be useful quite early in our nation’s history, and the reams of resultant data provide valuable glimpses into the past.  One such census was begun in 1853 by the Commonwealth of Virginia; its purpose was to conduct an annual registration of births and deaths.  The Slave Birth Index was transcribed for the years 1853-1865 by the Works Project Administration and recorded on  microfilm in the 1930s.  To make this information more accessible to genealogists and family historians, the volunteers and staff of the Alexandria Library transcribed the microfilm in the 2000s, making it available in a multi-volume print record.  It is from this source that some of my family’s shadows get names.

From the second volume I transcribe here the slave births of Oakview Plantation, home of the James H. Dodson family, Mecklenburg County, Virginia:

Baby                             Mother’s Name                    Date of Birth

female                            Ann                                             May 1857

female                             Fanny                                        February 1855

male                                Jane                                           April 1857

Catherine                      Jane                                             January 1857

Eliza                               Joana                                           December 1855

George                         Ann                                               September 1854

George                          Ann                                              December 1855

Charlotte                       ——-                                        July 15, 18xx

female                         ———                                       April 15,  1853

Catherine                   Jane                                             June 1856

Clarasey                     Hannah                                        August 1860

Cornelius                   Fanny                                           July 9, 1860

George                      Joanna                                           May 7, 1860

Lucy                         Joanna                                           December 1861

Martha                      Fanny                                           December 1858

S. B.                          Jane                                               November 1858

Source:

Morales, Leslie Anderson., Ada Valaitis, and Beverly Pierce. Virginia Slave Births Index, 1853-1865, Volume 2, D-G. Westminster, MD: Heritage, 2007. Print.