I thought I’d share a few genealogy-related recommendations which I haven’t done in awhile.
If you don’t have my friend Michael’s “Online State Resources for Genealogy” yet, then get it now. It is a great addition to any genealogist’s collection—all the links are arranged by state and are free. The guide is $15 and well worth it with the time he saves you by finding the big and small websites associated with colleges, archives & independent sites. It’s really useful when you are diving into a new state for research. I just pull up his PDF file and click away.
He’s also got a new blog on genealogy as a profession which is quite nice. Check him out.
The National Genealogical Society (NGS) has a series of outstanding booklets called “Research in the States“. I’m always surprised more people don’t know about these books. These concisely describe all the major record sets and locations in the focus state, including archives, libraries, universities, and all the major record types. These are a steal and I’ve bought ones for every one of my states. Each is written by scholars who specialize in that particular state, and will key you in to specific collections and information–all I’ve purchased have been invaluable. Members get a discount, but the public can purchase them usually for under $20. They are AWESOME.Note: Every state is not completed yet.
Some great reads lately: “The Warmth of Other Suns” was a sweeping, epic of a novel that sucks you in and doesn’t let go. The author describes the great black migration North and uses the lives of three people to illustrate the reasons and changes that the migration caused. The people she chose are meant to be representative of three of the major routes: One person migrated from Louisiana to California, another from Florida to New York, another from Mississippi to Chicago. The author is a professor of narrative non-fiction and it shows—I wish I could write like that. I have recommended this book to at least 10 friends and family and they all read and loved this book. It is a GEM of a book.
“Back of the Big House: The Architecture of Plantation Slavery” by John Michael Vlach is intriguing in a different way. He shows examples of plantations around the country with slave quarters still extant (at the time of the pictures which was the 1930s, 40s). He deftly discussions what the houses said about not just the masters but the slaves themselves and their lives. This book expanded my thinking in that I saw many different types of slave housing that I had not seen before and because the floor plans are included, I could visualize and imagine my ancestor’s lives as enslaved people in more vivid detail. There were several pictures included from areas I am researching, like Lawrence County, Alabama. The book also provides the layout of various plantations in general which was interesting. Some owners wanted to “hide” the slave housing from the front of the main house, while others wanted the slaves’ houses built on the path to the main house as a display of wealth. Very interesting book. The commentary is well-written and detailed.
One last book: “Dark Bargain: Slavery, Profits and the Struggle for the Constitution” by Lawrence Goldstone. I picked this up at a discount book store and put it aside for a about a year until I got to it, and it blew me away. Here is a quote that sums it up: “Regardless of how events played out, sectionalism and slavery are key to understanding the major debates and compromises in Philadelphia during the summer of 1787.” This book focuses on the “deals” made to preserve slavery at the Constitutional Convention, but from a different perspective than you’ve heard. The author first describes the major players from the states, men like John Rutledge of South Carolina, and three others whose actions and popularity drove many of the biggest decisions. You really get a feel for all these characters from Maryland and Virginia, Connecticut, North Carolina and the other states. There’s some fascinating but sad tidbits in here—shows how the influence of just a few people, and sectional interests were at the heart of slavery’s preservation in the Constitution. For example, the North was willing to let the South win big battles over slavery because the North didn’t want maritime tariffs levied–they were making too much money with shipping. This book opened my eyes in a lot of ways.
I’ll leave you with a new website I like: Phototree.com. Nice to compare some of those old pictures you might have lying around and get a firmer date on them. Plus, lots of good learning here.
If you read (or have read) any of the above books or get a chance to peruse the website or buy the PDF, let me know I’d love to hear from you.