I left smiling and stayed that way all the way home…Hollingsworth Collection

On Friday, in our second work session, volunteers and I read and organized Harry Hollingsworth’s files. We are having such a good time and finding such treasures–a prayer shawl made of soft kid leather, photostats of deeds and wills from Ireland, and this picturesque letter from the Whiskey Rebellion expanded into Indians Wars:

Le Boeuf Oct 1 1794 5 oclock
in the morning

“My Dear Sally,
We are yet stationed at this place, but will shortly have to leave it and return home–not by the command of Capt. Cornplanter, Wood-bug, Dogs-about-the-fire, Hot-bread, Hot-ashes, Big-Boil-of a Kettle, Broken-twig, Standing-stone, Flying-cloud, Bears-oil, Mud-eater, Big-fish-Carrier, Old-turkey, The-Terrepin, Snake, He-can’t-find-it, the Stringer-of-_______, Twenty-canoes, or any other two-legged King of this country; but by the command of a much more powerful Monarch, who is now making a most violent attack upon my fingers and toes; that is Capt. or King Frost.

We are all in a fine state of health, but almost naked for the want of cloaths. As yet we have been able to keep ourselves moderately warm with blankets and bear skins. As to women, we know nothing about them except by recollection–we have not seen one of any color for near four months.
There has not been an Indian seen within 20 miles of this place for almost three months.
I have with my own hands, with my pen knife made three complete sets [of chessmen], each consisting of 32 pieces, and 1/2 set curiously wrought in bone.

There is some discontent among the Troops, and too much sparing among the officers… I am my Dear Sally
your loving Husband.”
I smiled when we read the letter aloud and I stayed that way all the way home…
Mr. Hollingsworth copied the letter from In the French Creek Valley by John Earle Reynolds (Meadville PA: Meadville Publishing Company, 1938) along with several snips of information and clips of local culture. “This completes all of interest I could find in this book,” he added.
Why do genealogists read county and local histories?
There is nothing dry as dust in that charming letter and you can almost see, in your mind’s eye, the smile of “My Dear Sally” when she read it.
In your hurry to extend each line of ancestry from the latest uploads on the internet–be sure to stop by the county and local histories at your nearest genealogy library:
  1. Local histories are compiled at different dates from personal knowledge, observation, experiences of persons now dead. This information is usually lost because no one writes it down. if you are lucky enough to find one of these very personal, local accounts, be sure to read it–very carfefully.
  2. They provide details on people who cannot be found in any other source.
  3. They identify migration groups and settlement patterns with lists of early settlers and where they came from–usually mentioning stops along the way, and mundane events in the lives of unimportant, unsung ancestors.
  4. Public service in local community offices by ancestors is described with endless lists of clergy, school teachers, justices of the peace, postmasters, and military units. Read these lists! Here are the kinship and commercial networks from which your lineage is built. Cousins and brothers and fathers-in-law. Business partners and “good old boys” of the neighborhood.
  5. Evidence of Native American background is reported by local neighbors–who are often related and know the real origins of your family. Indian names may also be reported and recorded for the only time.
  6. Local residents preserve and pass down their genealogies and family traditions, known in times past and lost today from the collective family memory.
In short, you may get up to 300 years of tradition and genealogy. Do sisters marry brothers? Where do the marriages take place–the same town, the same church by the same minister? Don’t stop there!
Read about where the people went to church. Does one minister stand out from all the rest? Where do they bury their dead? Who leaves and when and for which places. What happens in the county–war, flood, fever, political fights. Which side does your ancestor support? Business opportunities and new manufacturing plants where people can get jobs. Occupations, mills, and ferries. Geographical barriers peculiar to that locality–locations of rivers, mountains and escarpments, waterfalls and rapids, railroads and shipping docks.
Genealogy Quarterlies and Newsletters
Here is the 21st century equivalent of the chatty local history. When I visit a new library for the first time, I always like to see what genealogy periodicals that library provides for its patrons. Librarians today try to meet the research needs of those genealogists who come in on a regular basis. Imagine my surprise when I discovered that the Huntsville (Alabama) Public Library also subscribes to stuff about New York. Or that an elderly genealogist agreed to donate his massive collection of New England town histories to a small library in Thomas County, Georgia.
These materials provide clues to the origins of local residents. Pockets of settlement that do not match normal migration patterns. When you have trouble with your origins, check it out. What stuff sits on your library shelves just waiting for you to “see” with your eyes?
Three Tennessee quarterlies/newsletters I took the time to read from cover to cover while I was in Murfreesboro TN:
Middle Tennessee Journal of Genealogy and History (formerly Middle Tennessee Genealogy) published by the Middle Tennessee Genealogical Society, Inc. P.O. Box 330948, Nashville TN 37203-7507. Included articles about court proceedings with excerpts from the actual cases and comments on kinship networks proven in those cases. After reading the whole series of articles, you feel as if you could tackle unindexed court records and actually find the genealogy data hidden there.
Frow Chips, Newsletter of the Rutherford County Historical Society, P.O. Box 906, Murfreesboro TN 37133-0906. This newsletter was filled with lists–mills and their owners, soldiers in military units, tax lists, local merchants.
Upper Cumberland Researcher published by the Upper Cumberland Genealogical Association, Inc. P.O. Box 575, Cookeville TN 38503-0575. Provocative descriptions of a member who searched her first 1820 census and where it lead her. Report of the death of a beloved genealogist who spent many years gathering the genealogy of local people. The only thing they didn’t tell us–where her stuff was being preserved.
Can you see why I was smiling all the way home? And watch for another post this week–probably Friday. Your favorite genealogist, Arlene Eakle
P.S. If you ordered a copy of “Cutting Edge Documentation” and haven’t received it yet–don’t despair. It’s coming. What a flood of requests I have had and how pleased I am to share it with you.
We’re approaching the Holidays–which begin before Halloween and do not end until after New Year’s Day. So I plan to orient some of our Genealogy New Sheets to these important days. Here’s a final tip for today–plan now to ask your family members the things only they can tell you about your family. Bribe them! to share what they know and what they have in their possession.
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