Tuesday, September 11, 2012

I remember 9/11

I got a phone call from my father: "Are you watching TV?  We're under attack."  I was studying for a research statistics class; my parents were on a cruise.  That's where I was when the twin towers were hit.

My parents were on a New England and Canada cruise.  They had steamed out of New York harbor, sailing past the twin towers, just the evening before.  The ship was buzzing with folks trying to get phone connections, internet connections, even television signals.  Later, my folks commented on how eerie it was to see completely empty, contrail-free skies.  Several days into the trip, when they landed at a town in Canada, the locals were on the dock, greeting them with American flags.

I was at home in Kansas.  My research statistics class had a test that evening, and it took a while to get through to the university to find out if we were still having class, which we were.  I felt a strong sense of dissonance -- the images on the television were of a disaster, very severe and very personal, but in Kansas it was a lovely day and there wasn't really any reason not to carry on with our business.  My friends and I drove to Manhattan (KS) to class, speculating on what the consequences were going to be.

Kansas State University is in Manhattan, KS, which is only a few miles from Ft. Riley.  Our graduate program has very strong ties to the Command and General Staff College at Ft. Leavenworth.  About a third of the students in my class were former or current soldiers.  It was clear that they shared our shock, grief and anger, but added an additional factor -- they didn't know when, they didn't know where, but they were all sure that they, personally, were going to war, and soon.  Several had children who were also in the military.  It wasn't that they had any inside information -- they said they didn't, and although I know they wouldn't have told us if they did, I believed them.  It was just that these were men (and that day it happened to be all men), who were teachers of military history and strategy and officers learning to lead, and they had a very good idea of what was going on behind the scenes.  They shared what they felt they could. It was a very sobering evening, and the things I learned had nothing to do with statistics.

Looking back, I'm glad I spent the evening with my fellow students, rather than with CNN.  Even without all their video and interviews with "experts," I learned much more about what the fall of the twin towers was likely to mean to all of us.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Native American Genealogy Class

In my inbox today from the Indian Center in Wichita:

Tracing Indian Genealogy

The Mid-America All-Indian Center is pleased to offer two free lectures by Choctaw Indian Jason Felihkatubbe on Saturday, Aug. 18. The public is invited. 

From noon-1 p.m., he will speak on the "History of the Choctaw." It will be followed by a "Genealogy" presentation at 1:15 p.m. that emphasizes the Five Civilized Tribes, ways to trace ancestry through Indian records and enrollment policies/procedures.        

Felihkatubbe is a project director at Wichita State University and instructor at Butler Community College.  

Thursday, July 19, 2012

I Can't Believe a Word I Say

If you were reading this blog (both of you ) a few months ago, you will remember my rant about remaking my local genealogy library. prompted by the resignation of the librarian.  You might even remember this line:  I have zero interest in the job

You can see where this is going, can't you?  Yup!  I'm now the "associate librarian," which means that I've agreed to take on about half of the librarian's responsibilities for the rest of her term, with the understanding that I will most likely run for and be elected librarian at the next election (the librarian is an elected member of the society board.)  I did this partly because the current librarian is suffering from a severe mismatch between the workload and her available time, and partly because it turns out I kinda like being a librarian, especially the organizing part.  I've also found that several other members of the society have been harboring some of the same ideas about change, and we've already started to implement some of the smaller, easier ones.  

Wish me luck!  And don't believe anything I say...

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Going for the Record!

I've added a couple of batches to the 24 hour attempt to index 5 million records from the 1940 census. According to the recent Facebook update, it looks like they're well on the way to making the goal. Have you indexed today?

Friday, June 22, 2012

Wichita State University Donor Biographies

Wichita State University has released an online collection of "the stories of the donors and namesakes of endowed scholarships, fellowships and other funds at Wichita State."  This is a collection of brief biographies for over 1,000 people who have been important to WSU, or who thought WSU was important.  Most bios include a paragraph about the person and a paragraph about the intent of the scholarship.  You can browse the alphabetical list at the Spirit of the Gift page.  The pages also look like they will be google-able.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Those Darn Digital Records!

Marian Pierre-Louis has been posting on the complexity of digital records this week, and today's post is about how the variety of indexes, records and actual images can make things tricky for a researcher.  I started to add an "Amen, sister!" comment regarding an example I encountered last week, but decided it was too long for a comment...

I was updating my Ancestry.com tree entry for Enoch Langel with a photo of his cemetery marker, which shows he died in 1894.  Just for grins, I checked the historical records they're suggesting for Enoch, and found a whole list of city directory listings for Enoch and his wife Esther, all of which dated after 1900.  Curious, I clicked through to one of the records...and it clearly said there was an entry for Enoch, with spouse Esther, in the 1940 directory for Lancaster, Ohio.  What gives!  Did I match the wrong cemetery marker with this Enoch?

Nope.  If you click on through to the actual digital image, you see that the directory listing is for "Langel Esther E (wid Enoch)"

So...Marian's point stands true -- you must click through to the original record, even for something as simple as a city directory.  It's good that Ancestry.com indexes Enoch's name, since it gives some help in deciding if the Esther Langel is the one you're looking for...but the index, and the fuller indexing record, are incomplete.

Makes you wonder what's hiding behind all those indexes for which we don't yet have digital originals, doesn't it!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Flip-Pal Correction

Last Friday, I posted about my experience with the Flip-Pal scanner.  Diana, from Flip-Pal, commented with a correction -- the screen keeps a count of pictures left to take, so alert users can tell when the card is almost full.

Obviously, I'm not an alert user.  Those tiny numbers on the screen are pretty subtle (and invisible if you've taken the lid off and turned the scanner over).  I need the screen to turn red and flash.  Or maybe a foghorn.  No, that would get me kicked out of libraries.  Perhaps they could add a more eye-catching warning in a future release.

And I will put a note in my case reminding myself to watch the counter.

Thanks, Diana.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Old Basil Cemetery, Baltimore, Ohio

Old Basil Cemetery is located on Market street in  Baltimore, Fairfield County, Ohio.

Why, you may ask, is it old?  Well, there's a new Basil cemetery too (I think it's official name may be Memorial).

Why, you ask next, is it called Basil when it's clearly in Baltimore?  I was told that Basil and Baltimore were separate towns that grew into each other.  When they decided to merge, after playing a bit with names like Basilmore, the merged town took the name Baltimore.

If you are quite finished...

This is a lovely little old cemetery.  It's very easy to find, but hard to park -- I didn't find any on-street parking, and the only driveway technically belongs to a mechanic's business tucked away behind the cemetery, but no one seemed to mind when I parked beside one of their buildings.

I do wish Fairfield county genealogists would get as organized about on-site directories as those in the Nebraska counties I visited last year; I got spoiled!  Fortunately, it's not that big and I did have a list of people to look for from my visit to to the genealogy society.

I found lots of Langels and related folks, mostly from the line of Daniel and Susannah Langel.  You can see my finds here.  Find A Grave appears to have good coverage -- see their page here.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Me and My (Flip) Pal

I jumped on the bandwagon and bought a Flip-Pal scanner before leaving on my research trip.  I used it several times, with mixed results.  My thoughts:

  • It weighs practically nothing and was totally easy to throw in my research kit.
  • It was great for the obituary cards at the Licking County Genealogy Society, which are 4x6.  Everyone in the room was impressed.
  • It was not great for deed books at the courthouse.  Each page was taking 6 or 8 scans, which was just too long.  The digital camera was much better.
  • It attracts a lot of attention!  Be prepared to give a couple of demos and have people watch you work.
  • It eats batteries like candy.  Fortunately, it lets you know when the batteries are dying and they are easy to change.  Definitely get a recharging set.
  • It also eats up your digital storage card.  Unfortunately, it does NOT let you know when it's full (or at least, not in a way that I noticed while I was at the library).  It will keep scanning, but not saving anything.  I lost about an hour's worth of work. You'll have to pay attention to this on your own, and get used to transferring files every night to clear up space for the next day.
  • Like most scanners, it works best on flat things.  Scanning books works, but occasionally I ran into places where the frame of the scanner butted up against the binding of the book or photo album and I  couldn't quite get the whole page.   
  • Almost all of my scans require editing, mostly to crop away the table top or extra album page, since the scans are all the same size, regardless of what you are scanning.  Easy to do, but plan for it if you're in a hurry.
I mentioned the Flip-Pal at a sewing retreat and learned that they are being marketed to machine embroiderers as well.  My friends were a bit peeved when they learned that I paid about half what the local sewing machine store is selling them for -- but now they know where to go for a better price!

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Mt. Carmel Cemetery, Fairfield County, Ohio

Tuesday after NGS2012, I started a grand tour of cemeteries used by my Langel folks up in the Columbus area.  First up on the tour: Mt. Carmel Cemetery, on Basil-Western Road about a quarter mile west of Eversole.  It's pretty well hidden by trees if you're travelling west, so I didn't find it until I turned around and headed back east.  I didn't see a driveway or parking area, so I just pulled off the side of the road, ran over to the cemetery, and snapped a few quick pictures.

The two markers I was hunting here were the ones for David and Eliza (Behney) Langel, my GGG-grandparents, and Eliza and Elnora Langel, two of their daughters.  The stone for Eliza and Elnora presented a new mystery:

The death date for Eliza hasn't been finished!  My best guess is that Eliza was still alive when Elnora died in 1914; Eliza bought one stone for both of them and had this carving done.  The question is why the date wasn't updated when Eliza died.  Did the family (and mortuary) forget?  Seems unlikely.  Was there not enough money?  Perhaps she's not even buried there.  Perhaps she moved far enough away that her new neighbors or family didn't know about the old stone.  Or maybe she got married and is buried with her husband, under her married name?  As usual, one new piece of information creates as many questions as it answers...

Monday, May 28, 2012

Charles Langel, 6th Ohio Volunteer Infantry

It seems fitting that I'm spending Memorial Day looking into the military service of Charles Langel, my great-grandfather.  I found his cemetery marker during my trip to Ohio:

and look at that little marker stuck in the ground.  Here...let me get you a closer look:
Apparently, he served in the military.  I didn't know!

Ancestry.com has some more information.  He served in the Ohio National Guard for several years, and then joined the 6th Ohio Volunteer Infantry in 1898.  He was the captain of Company E during their stays in Tennessee and Georgia, and when they were to sent to Cuba for about 4 months.  Ancestry has a scanned "war album" of this year of active duty, which has lots of lovely information, but it is incredibly frustrating -- it's a picture book, but the scans of the pictures are all high contrast and, therefore, useless. I wish they would rescan in grayscale so we can see those pictures of camp kitchens and Thanksgiving dinner and the company prank!

Well, I'm off to order a pension file.  I also need to find out why we were sending soldiers to Cuba in 1898...

Sunday, May 20, 2012

NGS 2012 in the Rear View Mirror

I really like the idea of conferences.  I do.  What's not to like?  The chance to meet with others who share (and understand) your passion, listen to dozens of first class speakers on a dozens of interesting topics, check out all the interesting new products in a vendor hall, get special access to local museums or libraries...it all sounds so good.

But, once I'm there...I'm reminded of all the reasons I don't like conferences.  The lousy and expensive food.  The uncomfortable chairs.  Sitting cheek by jowl in a lecture room and getting antsy from the heat, the lousy chair, and the elbow of the guy sitting next to me who doesn't seem to understand the idea of personal space.  Standing in lines.  But mostly, feeling like you're back in high school and there's an in-crowd and everyone else, and you are, of course, an everyone else.  The in-crowd was having insightful conversations and catching up with friends; everyone else was passively consuming lectures and drifting through the exhibit hall.

Some random specifics:

The FamilySearch blogger dinner.  Very cool -- a chance to meet other bloggers, meet some of the folks at FamilySearch, and hear about what they're up to.  It was a bit surreal to try to have a dinner conversation with someone who was guarding himself because he was "talking to the press" but I enjoyed hearing about how NARA is working on preserving the ocean of digital data being created every day.  Even walking back to the hotel was cool because I chatted with Cheri Daniels of Pastology.  This is what the conference experience is supposed to be like...and it was a very in-crowd, invitation-only thing that came from having a blog.

Any conference session that was being recorded.  Annoying.  If the session was being recorded, someone made an announcement that the audience was supposed to hold all questions until the end.  In a few sessions, this was disregarded, but mostly it was pretty chilling.  One speaker even announced that she was going to just read a few slides at us so the content would get into the recording.  I know that the recordings are useful to those who can't go to the conference, or who can't be in two sessions at once, but I didn't drive 12 hours and spend a fortune to sit quietly and not get to interact with the speakers.

And what's so bad about just holding questions to the end?  In practice, that meant no questions.  The speakers had apparently been told to get out to let the next speaker set up, so they were reluctant to take questions after the official time was up.  And the audience, having figured out that many of the sessions were either crowded or full, was practically running from one room to the next to stand in line for a seat.

The exhibit hall.  Mixed.  The FamilySearch, Ancestry.com and 1940 Census booths had very helpful staffers, things to talk about, and were very welcoming. The ladies at the Oklahoma Genealogy Society made me wish I had relatives down there so I could do some research at their library. On the other hand, I had the misfortune to try to visit the booth of a software product I use while Dick Eastman was standing in the aisle; the guy working the booth was so desperate to be cool with Dick that I, apparently, didn't exist.  At a couple of other booths I visited, the staffers didn't even have the Dick Eastman excuse but still couldn't seem to figure out how to talk to me except to answer direct questions as briefly as possible.

The evening at the Cincinnati History Museum.  Awesome.  An amazing building.  Private access to the museum.  Good food and an interesting talk.  A real highlight of the week for me.  I hear the Slavery museum was really good, too, but I was so tired that night I collapsed in bed about 7pm.

Thomas Jones and Elizabeth Shown Mills. I made a point of going to one talk by each of them; I'd have gone to more, but people were getting turned away and I thought it would be selfish.  Mixed.  Both are excellent speakers, with very interesting things to present, but I went away a bit unsatisfied.  Partly because these were being recorded, so there was very little give and take with the audience.  Partly because they were presenting big ideas in little bites (ESM had clearly designed her talks to be a series on the FAN club, so going to just one was only giving you part of the story; this would have been awesome if there had been any realistic way to attend all of them.)  Partly because I'll never have the patience to work that hard to solve a genealogy problem <grin.>

Am I glad I went?  Yes.  Do I think I got more bang for my buck from the research half of my trip?  Yes.  Will I go again?  Maybe.  Should I be looking into the week-long genealogy institutes and guided research trips for the depth and personal touch I appear to want?  Definitely!

Thursday, May 10, 2012

NGS Census Fun

Indexing the 1940 census is even more fun in a group and with in-person tech support! I just finished indexing two batches of the census at the 1940 Census booth in the NGS 2012 conference exhibit hall, and it was really nice to be able to ask the person sitting next to me "is that an L or an F?". It was also nice to be able to raise my hand and ask an expert how to handle unusual situations...and even though I've indexed several batches, I still encounter things not included in the instructions. If you're at the conference, I suggest you take a shift at the booth even if you don't want the shirt.

I hope they announce at the end of the conference how many batches they think got indexed here...they've got a dozen computers and I have yet to pass the booth without seeing a line of indexers-to-be.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Census Status Orange!

Kansas is orange!  FamilySearch has posted the index for the 1940 census for Kansas!

Like I have time to spend on the census while getting ready for the NGS conference next week...

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Obligatory 1940 Census Post

1) I tried to get on the NARA site on Monday and failed.

2) Once Kansas was posted on FamilySearch.org, I found 4 grandparents, 3 great-grandparents, 2 aunts and some assorted cousins in the first ED I looked in, even though there were a couple of candidate EDs.

3) I'm going to wait until the indexing is done to look for my Ohio folks.  I don't know the area well enough to figure out EDs.

4) Instead, I've been indexing.  It's very relaxing.

5) For some reason, I had a flash back to the release of the 1930 census.  Outside the genealogy room at the library there was a map of Kansas with the counties marked... the genealogy society was trying to raise money to buy microfilm and were asking people to sponsor individual counties.  I don't remember how long it took to raise the money for all the films, but it seems like it took most of the summer.  How times have changed!

Monday, March 19, 2012

Getting Ready for NGS!

Well, I've booked my room for the National Genealogical Society conference in May!  The website says the conference hotels are full, but I got a room through Expedia, even getting a 20% sale on the room rate.  My rate is probably higher than the conference rate, but still...at least two of the conference hotels are not actually full.

I'm getting excited!  This will be my first major genealogy conference.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Kansas Aviation Museum

On March 8, the Kansas Aviation Museum dedicated a new 6,500 square foot archive center.  Because I read that day's paper at dinner, rather than at breakfast, I missed the open house.  Still, what I've gleaned from the website and the newspaper article is rather cool.

The archive has an extensive collection of aviation materials, including photographs, books, magazines and periodicals, films, drawings, blueprints and FAA registration files.  The focus of the museum is on airplanes and airplane companies, but would likely offer fascinating contextual information for anyone who worked in the aircraft industry in Wichita.

For any of you out-of-towners who don't know, Wichita has been a hub of aircraft design and construction since the beginning of aircraft -- the first commercial aircraft company was founded in 1900 (before the Kitty Hawk flight) and the first successful Kansas plane flew in 1910.  By 1920, there were 21 aircraft companies in Kansas. Cessna, Beech and LearJet were all founded here, and Boeing built B-29s for WWII here.  Many aviation companies still design and build planes here, although competition is fierce for the good jobs that aviation provides.  The KAM has a great timeline here.

The museum is located in the old Wichita Airport building at 3350 S. George Washington Blvd.  Phone is 316-683-9242.  The archive is open to the public -- they recommend that you call and make an appointment so that they can be ready to help you.  You can also email the archivist at archivist@KansasAviationMuseum.org.  The website doesn't say whether they will do research for you, so you would have to call or email to ask.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Wichita's First Presbyterian Church Archives

One of Wichita's oldest churches, First Presbyterian has been around since starting in a dugout in 1869.  Members of MHGS recently got a tour of the archives, and I was blown away.  First, by the fact that they have an archives!  With five rooms, an archivist, an assistant archivist and several other volunteers!  As far as they know, they have the most extensive formal arrangement of any church in town, which is a pity, because more churches should do this.

What would a genealogist find there?  A brief list:

  • lists of church staff members
  • sermons
  • class rosters
  • minister files
  • building records, including photos
  • a Presbyterian newspaper that includes both local and national news
  • bound copies of all service bulletins since the 1920s
  • photos, both framed and in albums
  • a WWII vet project done last year
  • letters written between a Sunday school class and WWII servicemen overseas
  • a Bible collection
  • obituaries for members
  • the church register of baptisms, marriages, etc
  • the diaries of a member, written daily from 1864 to 1910
The church is at 525 N Broadway in downtown Wichita.  The phone number is 263-0248.  The archives are regularly open on Wednesday mornings from about 9:30 to 11:30 and by appointment.  Email the archivist at fparchive@firstpresbywichita.org.  They are willing to do some research for out-of-towners; they ask for money to cover copying charges and would appreciate a donation to help pay for the fireproof safe they've got their eyes on...

Sunday, March 11, 2012

The Tragedy of the 1890 Census

I just discovered that the Society of American Archivists has made back issues of their journal available for free online.  Big whoop you say?  While many of the articles are not terribly interesting for a genealogist, many are fascinating.  For example, take this article on The Creation and Destruction of the 1890 Federal Census, by Robert Dorman.  It provides an illuminating look into the political and social issues that shaped the way the 1890 census was conducted, stored, and lost. Did you know that at one point, a congressman suggested that ALL the censuses, back to 1790, were "antiquated" pieces of paper not worth the cost of storage?

I didn't know that, when the creation of a national archives was being discussed in the 1930's, there had been dozens of fires and floods that damaged records.  The one causing the most public outrage, apparently, was a 1911 fire at the New York State Library -- I haven't done any New York Research, but this sounds like it was a real tragedy, destroying much of the records of the Dutch Colonial period.

Scary reading, indeed.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Wichita's Historic Preservation Alliance

The Historic Preservation Alliance appears to be focused on historic buildings in the Wichita area.  Their activities appear to revolve around saving historic buildings from development and touring historic places. They have a newsletter and a Facebook page.  A person (ok, I) could waste some time looking through their Then and Now section, which adds useful notes to the then and now pictures.

There is no mention of an archives on the website, but there is a list of local structures, sculptures, districts and archaeological sites that have been listed on local, state and national registers of historic places -- this list includes photos and links to the registration applications, which includes a history of the site and a discussion of why it is significant.  For example, the application for Calvary Baptist Church includes a chronological history of the building, a thorough architectural description, and brief history of the Exodusters who founded it and the growth of the black community in Wichita, and a bibliography of sources.

If you are lucky enough to find a tie to one of these buildings, this looks to be a good resource for additional information.  I expect that the HPA Facebook page might be a good place for queries about old Wichita buildings, although the page is brand spanking new and might not have many readers for a while.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Research at the Sedgwick County Courthouse

The Sedgwick County Courthouse, in Wichita, has published a couple of useful guides to research.

The first, A Citizen's Guide to Open Records at Sedgwick County, covers what is available from the county in the various departments of the courthouse, including property records, tax records and maps.  It also covers what isn't available, particularly vital records, which are available from the Kansas Department of Health & Environment Office of Vital Statistics, and marriage records, which are held by the District Court rather than the county. Of course, the county and the Court are all in the same building, so this may be a distinction that only a Freedom of Information Officer really cares about. (The brochure doesn't mention that pre-1917 marriage and divorce records are on microfilm at the Midwest Historical and Genealogical Society.)

The second, A User's Guide to Real Estate and Personal Property Assessment Rolls on Microfilm, is a finding aid for 36 reels of microfilmed records from 1876 to 1898.  These microfilms are available at the downtown Wichita Public Library or at Wichita State's Ablah Library.

The District Court website isn't as helpful to researchers, so a call to the appropriate office (such as Probate) may be necessary.

Friday, March 2, 2012

1940 Census Pictures

Do you subscribe to the National Archives' flickr.com account RSS feed?  Yesterday they posted pictures from their collections of 1940 census staff, including enumerators and analysts.

Geographers Division, a Planimeter, 1940 - 1941

Past uploads have included pictures of notable scientists (including a slew of women) and old pictures of Washington, DC.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Genealogists to the Rescue!

Newsflash!  Someone found some old headstones in a ditch south of Wichita, the sheriff's office makes the names public while continuing to investigate, and within hours genealogists have found the cemetery while the police are still looking.  How?  Easy -- the sheriff's staff were searching actual cemeteries and genealogists were searching findagrave.com.  Thanks to the work of the local genealogy societies, Find-A-Grave has Wichita covered.

My favorite part of the article is this remark from the officer in charge of the investigation: "He estimated he heard from 50 people within an hour. “I didn’t realize how many people do these genealogy searches,” Pollock said."
Read more here: http://www.kansas.com/2012/02/21/2224386/headstones-dating-from-the-1800s.html#storylink=cpy

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Remaking a Genealogy Library

I learned today that the main librarian for our little genealogy library is moving this spring, so the hunt is on for a new librarian.  I have zero interest in the job, having just started my year as president of another organization, but I entertained myself by thinking about what I would do if a) I were to take the job and b) I could be the queen librarian, by which I mean I didn't have to worry about committees or money.

Frankly, I think I'd probably scare away all the current members...

First, I would have a big bonfire.  I would throw away anything with the title "federal census of," on the assumption that there are a number of really good online options for the U.S. census, all of which are better than the dusty, crumbling, single-state transcriptions of which we have a small and apparently random selection.  That alone would open up about 15 feet of shelf space.  I would go through all the general genealogy how-to books and throw away anything that doesn't mention the internet, which would slim down that section by about two-thirds.  I would borrow my brother's sheet-fed scanner, make a DVD of all our old publications and offer it in trade to all the other societies with whom we exchange paper for a DVD of all their old publications; if they didn't have one, I'd make one of our holdings and throw away all those decaying photocopies.  That would empty a full room!

Second, I'd beg, borrow or steal some real computers.  While not everything is available online, enough is online that a genealogy library should have modern computers available for patrons, with good internet access.  All those DVDs of society journals could be viewed from these computers.  This would also let us offer hands-on classes, for which we might even be able to charge a little something.  I'd add flat-bed and 35mm slide scanners as soon as possible.

Third, I'd refocus acquisitions on creating new, local "content."  The library already has old records from the court house and a marvelous new collection of invoices from the local cemetery monument company.  I'd go proactive in a big way.  I'd start a team that contacted local churches for copies of old directories and cookbooks and asked about scanning their old records. I'd try to team up with a local university history department to go after grants to digitize the records of long-time area businesses and non-profits.  I'd team up with the schools with an essay contest that would create an army of little oral history interviewers.  I'd suggest indexing projects for scout projects.  I'd prepare a "preserve your story for posterity" flyer and distribute it to nursing homes and estate sale planners; I'd ask funeral homes to include it in their "preplanning" guides.  I might even see if I could find volunteers to form an action team that would help people cleaning out homes or businesses to identify materials that we could use; it might be good to work with the historical society (who might be interested in items) and the university (who might be interested in less family-focused documents) to create a checklist for the team to use.    And classes -- lectures and workshops -- offered any place, any time, any day to encourage people to collect, preserve and donate materials.

I'd probably die of exhaustion!  Perhaps it's good that this is only an imaginary exercise...Of course, it's the imaginary-ness of it that frees me to be so extreme.  In the real world, I'd probably never have the nerve to do half of this.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Resource for Texas History

The good news:  my cousin has published an article in Southwestern Historical Quarterly, which is very cool for a newly-minted history PhD.  The bad news: it's behind a subscription wall and I can't read it.

However, while trying to find it, I learned a lot about the Texas State Historical Society website, which has some nice digital resources.  For example, the first 100 years of the Quarterly have been digitized and are available at http://www.tshaonline.org/shqonline/digital-content

They've also created a Handbook of Texas, and a  Handbook of Civil War Texas, both searchable.  There's even a Texas Almanac, which has a database of place names, profiles and obituaries of notable Texans, and other almanac-y tidbits.