University Libraries and Archives – Part 2

SalliandnormanOne night I decided to peruse the internet and found a site that accounted for my second positive experience with University Archives. I was searching in the Kentucky Digital Library and ended up at the Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History at The University of Kentucky website. There were no results for “Camp Nelson”, BUT there was a hit titled “History of Hall, Kentucky Oral History Project”. From reading about the locality, I knew that “Hall” was another name for the refugee slave community Camp Nelson and hoped I’d find a relative in the index. Right off the bat I found two Overstreets!

I used the contact form to see how I could access the interviews, since the index only gave call numbers. For weeks I heard nothing. I finally decided to call the Center and inquire about the interviews. It turns out that I had used the wrong method of contacting them. The employee I talked to was very helpful and informed me that they were in the process of transcribing the interviews. He also promised to have the person in charge contact me and possibly get me access to the audio content. A few days later I received an email and was given links to the two Overstreet interviews! I listened to Norman’s recording. Although the quality was pretty bad, I was overwhelmed to hear Norman say that he was related to Ed and Josie Overstreet! The recordings were from an oral history project from the mid 1990’s. This is from the History of Hall Kentucky Oral History Project website:

“History of Hall, Kentucky Oral History Project

This project provides information on the community of Hall in Jessamine County, Kentucky. The community grew out of the refugee camp established at Camp Nelson during the Civil War, in which John Fee, founder of Berea College, had a large input. The interviews are with people who lived in Hall or nearby communities such as Poortown or Camp Nelson on the Kentucky River. They include information about race relations, the history of settlement at Hall in the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries, work in farming and at the local distillery, and community organizations such as the Brass Band and the Camp Nelson String Band.”

Sallie Overstreet turned out to be Norman’s wife. There are still no transcriptions available, but I can see why, since I had a really hard time transcribing Norman’s interview myself.

On my trip to the community cemetery on Payne’s Lane last year, I photographed Norman and Sallie’s gravestone, without knowing exactly who they were. There are 19 interviews in the collection and I am sure I am related to a few more of the interviewees! This is an invaluable, FREE, resource, proving my point of the importance of University Library holdings.

Happy Listening!

 

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University Libraries – underused and overlooked?

There is a first time for everything right!? I recently contacted a University archive for the first time, namely The Amistad Research Center at Tulane University, in New Orleans, Louisiana.

The archive houses papers that pertain to the American Missionary Association, but also works of art, photography and scholarly papers that document African American history, as well as the history of other Ethnic Minorities.

I was interested in records pertaining to the American Missionary Association, because of their preachers’ work at Camp Nelson. Two things prompted me to finally send an inquiry. A mutual blogger, Teresa Vega, commented on one of my posts mentioning Gabriel Burdett. He worked at Camp Nelson as part of the AMA and married my great-great-great-grandparents. Teresa encouraged me to contact the center, since she had received helpful information from their archives once before. I ‘sat’ on this info for a while and then I read a post about the importance of using University Libraries on Facebook by Tim Pinnick. Tim is an expert at researching African American Newspapers and lectures on Black Coalminers.

Finally, I emailed the center, explaining my interest in AMA activities and letters from Camp Nelson. I received a timely response and was given an index of men who had sent letters from that location. I chose three names from that list (Scofield, Hall and Burdett), that I recognized from reading the Freedmen’s Bureau Records and other literature. The referance archivist then looked them up and informed me that it would be at least 140 letters! He gave me a quote and I decided to go ahead and have the copies made. I spent around $80 dollars for 203 copies. I really hope to get more insight into the daily lives of my ancestors from these letters. The exchange was very friendly and the correspondance swift, although Mardi Gras delayed things a bit, but that’s New Orleans – I guess!?

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This was part of the packet I received from The Amistad Research Center

I learned quite a few things from this experience…For one, blogging can really put the word out and connect you to people who can share their research experience. Also, even if you are not where the archive is, the reference archivists will most likely work with you. Lastly, there is a wealth of information in these archives that is waiting to be found! If you got the impression that accessing these types of holdings will only cost you, please read my next post about what I found for FREE!

Europeana 1914-1918

Life has made me fall behind my weekly posting goal, but it also helped me find the topic for this post. After a sleepless night due to a teeething toddler, I found myself on the couch watching a morning show- which I normally never do. The hosts mentioned the upcoming centennial of the start of World War I and showcased a website called Europeana 1914-1918, launched in commemoration of the event. It hosts an archive of World War I stories from the public, national library collections from eight countries as well as films. Europeana 1914-1918 is viewable in eleven different languages and allows people to contribute to the archive themselves. There have and will be “collection days” throughout several European countries where material can be brought, scanned or photographed and added to the archive. It is also possible to donate material online. According to the site: “All of the Europeana 1914-1918 material is available for re-use.”

I could spend all day browsing the photos and diaries. This has reminded me that I have ancestors who were affected by and even fought in this war. My interest has been piqued and I want to find out more. Maybe I will be able to contribute as well.

My great-grandpa Jakob Bettinger in a WWI field hospital.

My great-grandpa Jakob Bettinger in a WWI field hospital (mid-photo, with widow’s peak).

 

Got Books?

I love books! I always have. I think I inherited this trait from my Dad. When I think of Dad one of the images that comes up is him, hand on his forehead, leaning over a book in deep concentration. One of my favorite shows on TV used to be Reading Rainbow, a show that featured children introducing books. I am pleasantly surprised that it still exists after 30 years (I am aging myself here…). Since this is a blog about family research, I want to share some book resources I have found and how they have helped me in connection with my search for family.

One of the members in a genealogy-related Facebook group I belong to regularly supplies us with links to free ebooks on amazon.com. I am not sure if she has a Google alert set up to notify her, or if Amazon offers alerts, but here is an example of a ‘purchase’ entitled Civil War Photography: African Americans. You can buy ebooks as well, of course. I prefer an actual book over an ebook, so I like the free version. I view them with the free Kindle for Mac or Iphone apps, since I do not own an actual ebook reader.

Cover of ebook Civil War Photography: African AmericansSo far, most of the books I have been interested in are still copyrighted, so you can’t just download them from Google Books. If they weren’t, you could. Nonetheless, this is a great resource where I have found some interesting leads, entries of books to consider buying, or information about people I am researching. For example, the last enslaver of my great-great-great-grandfather Edmund Overstreet, named P.S. Fitch, patented a ‘hemp brake’. This made me wonder whether hemp was a crop my ancestors tended to. I will need to do more reading on this, since I thought tobacco was more prominent in the area. I also found an entry for Fitch’s daughter in a directory for the Daughters of the American Revolution on Google Books. I will be using her submission, which I found on ancestry.com, to further research the Fitch family and hopefully find more on my Overstreet line.

Screenshot of P.S. Fitch's patent claim on Google Books

Screenshot of P.S. Fitch’s patent claim on Google Books

Books from the library are great since they are free to use and you can try them out before purchasing. One of my favorite books is Finding a Place Called Home: A Guide to African-American Genealogy and Historical Identity by Dee Parmer Woodtor. I first found this book at the military library on post, in Germany. I was so impressed by the way Mrs. Woodtor was able to explain the research process in a comprehensive way and tie in historical aspects, I decided to buy it. This book gave me the incentive to research my paternal side, since it shows you how to overcome the obstacles one faces when researching African American families.

Which brings me to Used Book Vendors. There are so many books in very good condition that are available through online stores or local book stores. I purchased Finding a Place Called Home for $20 a few years ago. Well worth it! I have also purchased biographies about my German great-uncle who was a Cardinal in the Catholic Church. This book is from the early 1900s and cost me 30 Euro!

If you want to avoid storage issues, Family Search and state historical societies -amongst others- offer books as downloadable PDF files or online. I downloaded Jessamine County and Woodford County histories from Family Search. I found the abolitionist John G. Fee‘s autobiography as an electronic edition, which you can scroll through page by page, but can’t download. The book was on the website Documenting the American South, sponsored by the University Library of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Now we know how to hoard these treasures in their physical or electronic form, but how do we organize them? I was reminded of this recently in a Facebook group on…organization! I have Books2, a free book cataloging app for my Mac that lets me scan the ISBN of a book using my built-in camera. It then tries to pull the info, such as cover image, publication dates etc. from the internet. If the app can’t find anything, you can enter the information manually. I have only done a fraction of my books, but it is a start and might keep me from buying duplicates. If you would rather catalog books online and make book lists to share, then you can try Library Thing or Good Reads (there are most certainly more…). I can only do so much social media, since the day only has 24 hours and I have 3 kids, so I will stick to my Mac app.

Screenshot of my Books2 library

Screenshot of my Books2 library

So this is my argument for utilizing books, in whatever fashion. They can help us visualize a time period, learn some social history or tweak our research skills and so much more. Despite the urge for instant gratification from Google & co. and my short attention span, I am making a conscious effort to grab books more often and read them from front to back or back to front!