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 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, 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!


Wordless Wednesday- Unknown Swagger


Wordless Wednesday- Unknown Swagger

I love this photo of two young men wearing hats. I am always drawn to the one on the left. Unfortunately, I don’t know who they are. I found this photo at my Oma’s (german for ‘grandma’s’) house and she doesn’t know who they are either. I guess you can see it has been man-handled (fingerprints) in the past. Rest assured, it is now in an archival quality box in my house.

Reading a book from the back can give you goose bumps…

I finally received my copy of  Camp Nelson, Kentucky: A Civil War History by Richard D. Sears a few days ago! When I get a new book I read the part about the author first. When it is a genealogy-related book I also check the index for my people’s names. Since the book is about a place I have pegged my Overstreet line at, I looked under “O” and to my surprise found an entry for Overstreet, W. S., page 375!

To put this into context I have to rewind to the end of last year. That is when after listening to a podcast about a U.S. Colored Troop regiment, I decided to check the military collections on again. I thought I would try looking for a sibling of my Edmund Overstreet.

According to a family reunion booklet I copied from my great-aunt, Edmund had a brother named William. In the booklet the children (11 in all) are listed by what could be the order of birth for boys and girls respectively. Edmund is first, William is second. From Ed’s military file I know he was 19 when he enlisted at Camp Nelson on 30 October 1864. Because of the birth order I assumed William to be a few years younger than Ed, let’s say he could have been around 17 that year.

So, I looked for William and found these three entries in the Descriptive Lists of Colored Volunteer Army Soldiers, 1864 on The list describes the names, rank, birth date & place, age, occupation, enlistment date & place, enlisting officer, enlistment period, eye, hair color, complexion, height, muster-in date & place, owner, remarks. These are the names, ages, birth places and owners of the Williams in the list:

Private Wm Overstreet 26  Jessamine, Kentucky Pattison John
Private Wm Overstreet 48  Jessamine, Kentucky Jno Hanley
Private W S Overstreet 16  Jessamine, Kentucky Fal Fitch
Snippet of Descriptive file found on

Snippet of Descriptive file found on

With this information I signed up for the free seven-day trial at Fold3. Again I found three William Overstreets, this time I saw copies of their actual military files, which named their units and included claims from owners.

Name Co Reg Branch Age Owner
William Overstreet I 124 USCI 26 John Pattison, Kenton Co
William Overstreet K 124 USCI 48 John H Hanly, Jessamine Co
William S. Overstreet K 124 USCI 16 Follansee / Philonzo Fitch, Jessamine Co

I think we have a winner! William S. Overstreet was 16 at the time of his enlistment. Philonzo Fitch was Edmund’s owner, according to the statement and claim in Edmund’s military file. I feel comfortable in assuming this is my great-great-great-grand-uncle!

With the name, birth and unit information I requested a digital copy of William S. Overtsreet’s compiled service records from the National Archives and Records Administration. This will take a few months I guess, but it will most likely be worth the wait!

So, why the goosebumps? After all this I opened page 375 of Camp Nelson, Kentucky: A Civil War History by Richard D. Sears to find this two paragraphs down:

I visited a small cemetery on a bluff with a view of the Kentucky River Palisades, not the big U.S. cemetery, but a village plot where the people of Hall have buried their dead for generations. Most of the older tombstones are weatherbeaten and unreadable, but one has a clear inscription: W.S. Overstreet, Co. K, 124 U.S.C.I. (United States Colored Infantry); a little “street” in Hall is named Overstreet Lane. He was one of the black soldiers who stayed at Camp Nelson with his family after the war was over.


Violence at Camp Nelson! Part 2

Following my last post I remembered I had a book about African Americans in Kentucky named A History of Blacks in Kentucky – From Slavery to Segregation, 1760-1891, written by Marion B. Lucas. And yes, that is where I had read the story about the school teacher Reverend Abisha Scofield, of the American Missionary Association, and John Burnside¹. The violence against blacks, particularly black soldiers and their families, is described in detail and left me thinking about what some of my family must have gone through, since I have confirmation that my 3xgrandfather and his brother, Edmund and William Overstreet respectively, both fought in the Civil War and enlisted at Camp Nelson.

Cover of my copy of this book

Cover of my copy of this book

This is the next letter pertaining to the incident in the Freedmen’s Bureau Records, written 2 December, 1866 and signed by J.G. Nain:


I have the honor to request that you send to Camp Nelson a detachment of troops to remain there for ten days, until Mr. Schofield can get his busines setled up. He has a great deal of business there in an unfinished condition, business pertaining to the claims of colored soldiers there widows [?] pay bounty, pensions [?], and he dare not remain there without the protection of the military.    I would suggest that he be protected there until he can get his business straitened out and then withdraw the books, ordering him to leave.   I think it would be much better for the freed men there to have him go, as he inspires them in a great many ways.

I have not seen Susan Luther to obtain any additional evidence in the Hick and Grant case.

I have learned where she is, and have sent for her. As soon as she reports, I will send you all the information I can get from her.

I think it should be immediately sent to Lou-ville, as the friends of the prisoners are there trying to get them released on bonds.

After the troops left Camp Nelson the harassment went on. So much so that the black preacher Gabriel Burdett had to aid the missionaries in escaping to safety.²

Last year I became a member of the Jessamine County Historical Society. I sent a look-up request to them a few weeks ago and received a letter stating that the marriage license of my ancestors Edmund Overtsreet and Josie Washington was special, because they had been married by Gabriel Burdett! Gabriel Burdett helped John G. Fee establish Ariel Academy, one of the early black schools in the county.

This proves to me that I have strong ties to Camp Nelson and makes me even more eager to keep digging into the Freedmen’s Bureau Records and anything else I can get my hands on from this locality. It’s a good thing I ordered that book about Camp Nelson….


Marriage License Edmund Overstreet and Josie Washington, signed by Gabriel Burdett

I would still like to see if there is a connection to the man left for dead after the violent icident at Camp Nelson: John Burnside. I do know that one of Edmund’s sisters married a James Burnside. Fortunately, I have a copy of a family reunion booklet containing the marriages of Ed and his siblings. Further investigation is needed on that lead. So much to do, so little time!

¹ Lucas, Marion B. , (2003). A History of Blacks in Kentucky: From Slavery to Segregation, 1760-1891. 2nd ed. U.S.A.: Kentucky Historical Society. p.193

² dto., p.194

Violence at Camp Nelson!

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NARA Microfilm M1904, Roll125, Target 11, Nicholasville (Agent), Letters sent, Volume (168) Nov. 1866-Oct1867

I have started transcribing the Nicholasville portion of the Records of the field offices for the State of Kentucky, Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen, and Abandoned Lands. In my first post Learning Curve: Freedmen’s Bureau Records I mentioned finding this record set for Kentucky on the Internet Archive. On page 675 of the PDF field agent J.G. Nain investigates incidents at Camp Nelson. Camp Nelson was a Civil War recruitment camp, but it was also a refugee camp for the families of Kentucky slaves joining the Union Army to gain their freedom. Page 675 of the PDF is page 1 of a letter from J.G. Nain to his superior concerning violence at Camp Nelson:

Bureau of Refugees Freedmen & Abandoned Lands

B [?]

2nd [ ? ] Lex [?]

Nicholasville Ky [?]

Rice            Brt Lt Col Ja’s H.

Sept 2nd Dist  [?]

Sir in obedience to your notes I preceded to Camp Nelson to investigate [?] outrages committed there upon the freed men of that place on the night of the 20th [?]  and have the honor to report the following. On the night of the 20th [?] a party of from 25 to 50 white men went to the house of Mr Schofield (white) who is the agent of the A[?] Mission and superintendent of freed men school at that place, and after gaining access to the house by smashing out one of the windows took Mr. Schofield and his son out and made preparation to hang them on flog [?] but upon their promising to leave the county immediately they released them. In the mean time they had [?] anything of any value to be found about the house.

They then surrounded the house of a colored man and commenced an indiscriminate fire of muskety through the windows (They all appear to have been armed with muskets.) The House at the time contained two men (colored) one of whom escaped by running off. The other stood his ground and made fight, returning the fire with his revolver, killing one of the [?] and wounding an other. The mob finally succeeded in gaining admission to the house and after

— Next Page—-

[first two lines are illegible]

He thinks he recognized several of them. However I do not rely much on his information as his testimony is very contradictory. The only two that he is positive of identifying were to my own knowledge not engaged in the affair, as one of them lives in Cincinnati, now, and the other one has been in Memphis Tenn. for a few months. He recognized the voices of three others, one living in C.N. named Ray Moss. Tilford Fane living near Potts Mill and Peter Merritt living near C.N. As far as I can see I think it will be difficult to identify any of the party as the colored people were as frightened that they could see nothing and those supposed to know anything are afraid to testify. When the party left they promised to return in  a few days, and threaten instant death to any of Mr Schofields family found at that place at that time.

In consequence of the said, the school there has been closed, the teacher being afraid to have any thing more to do with it.

As to sending troops there I don’t think it would amount to any thing unless we could get some information of the time to expect them again. They would certainly not return as long as the troops were there.

If we could keep a detachment there permanently it would ensure protection, but I presume that is at present impracticable.

I am very respectfully your obedient servant

J.G. Nain

This was so interesting to read, especially since I have family that must have lived at Camp Nelson. They at least have their burial sites there and I don’t mean the National Cemetery, although I have relatives there as well. I have heard the name “Burnside” in my tree somewhere and the story with the teacher rings a bell…More to come!

Learning Curve: Freedmen’s Bureau Records

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A few weeks ago, while cleaning, I decided to listen to a podcast (this makes chores so much more enjoyable and I learn something in the process).  I saw Bernice Bennett’s new episode of Research at the National Archives and Beyond with Sharon Batiste Gillins about Freedmen’s Bureau Records or rather Records from the Bureau for Freedmen, Refugees and Abandoned Lands .

My first thought was “nah”, since I had looked for this record type on and before and found nothing for my state of research: Kentucky. Then I decided I would give it a chance anyway.

For the next hour I heard Mrs Gillins’ and Bernice’s enthusiasm over these records and the detailed information they have found therein. This peaked my interest, especially after it was mentioned that Kentucky records exist and might be available on the Internet Archive (  Both the host and guest pointed out that the records are not indexed and that the National Archives guide to the record group should be studied to get a grasp of where to look specifically.

So off to the NARA site I went. Downloaded guides: one for Kentucky record set (M1904) and one for Black Family Research. Skimmed them. A lot of info! 133 reels for Kentucky alone! I then searched for “Freedmen’s Bureau Kentucky” on Internet Archive. Bingo! Three pages of hits!

I was a bit overwhelmed and didn’t know what I was looking at, so I downloaded the first set. I scrolled through and got a feel for the records by reading the description at the beginning of the reel. I wasn’t sure if my locations had offices, but then I saw what I was looking for: Nicholasville, reel 125 & 126.

So I went back to the Internet Archive to look for these two specific reels. The downloadable documents are not in order, so I had to skim through all of the hits to find the reels I was looking for. I found both and downloaded the over 1700 pages of microfilm as PDFs! Now the next step is to go through page by page and hope I find something about my ancestors. Even if I don’t I am sure I will at least find some interesting social history to share!

UPDATE! I actually wrote this before the New Year and have since then started transcribing a letter from November 1866 about incidents at Camp Neslon. More to come!