Thursday, September 29, 2011

It Must Be Fall: After All, The Fall Issue of “New York Archives” Is Out

Tag-Teaming Articles
Maybe it’s part of that sense of urgency that a lawn now laced with yellow-brown maple leaves brings.   

Perhaps it’s the shorter days, or the thin, brittle light that comes through the windows in late September.  

Maybe it's that aisle of Hallowe'en candy in the grocery store. Whatever it is, things seem to move just a little bit faster this time of year.

This past weekend, we headed north to Bangor, Maine for the Maine Genealogical Society’s annual Fall conference. I presented three talks, and after a leisurely drive on back roads through three New England states on Sunday, we got back before upstate darkness finally set in. 

Yesterday I was on the train to Manhattan.  Today the tasks were (a.) flu shot, (b.) grocery store and (c.) reviewing and revising my next genealogy article for the quarterly New York Archives magazine.

By 3 PM, it was all done and the next article was in the editor’s hands.  Before the deadline.  Two days early, in fact.  All nine hundred fifty four words.

Today’s mail brought my author’s copies of the current issue (Fall 2011 - Volume 11, Number 2), also a few days earlier than usual.  It must be the season, with everything moving just a little bit faster and slightly ahead of schedule.

This issue has lots of articles of interest for family historians. 

Archives staffer Keith Swaney describes a new online tool that will allow researchers to drill down even further into the Archives’ online finding aids.  (I’ll play with it tomorrow, when time permits.)  Teri Gay’s article on the “Suffragists of Easton” explores the story of some rural farm women of hardscrabble Washington County intent on getting “the vote” who, in 1891, formed themselves into a group called the “Political Equality Club.” She examines the waves they made and the records they left behind. 

Warren Broderick’s article titled “Melville’s Muse” discusses the possible connection between Herman Melville’s writing of his novella Bartleby, the Scrivener and his brothers Gansevoort and Allan Melville’s place of employment. Both brothers worked for the New York Court of Chancery -  as did Melville’s character Bartleby.  In so doing, he provides a concise and clear description of the Court – abolished in 1847 - and the kinds of records that were kept there.  Again, there’s a lot here for genealogists on a topic rarely discussed – the Court of Chancery.

But that’s not all.  Laurence Hauptman’s article on the “Iroquois Count of 1845” presents fascinating information on Henry Rowe Schoolcraft’s “New York State Six Nations Census”, the original manuscript of which is in the New York State Archives. Today little known outside New York, the census and its supplementary report anchored Schoolcraft’s reputation as the foremost Indian authority of his time, although the report, as Hauptman explains, was not without controversy.  And yes, it’s a real census, with names and such.

I found the article by Joseph D. Collea, titled “Sparring With Mosby’s Guerillas” particularly interesting. Confederate Major John Singleton Mosby, the elusive “Gray Ghost” of Virginia whose Rangers harassed Union troops for months on end, is the fifth cousin, four times removed of Mrs. Blogger, with both of them sharing a line of descent from Edward Mosby (1660 - ca. 1742) and Sarah Woodson (1665 - ca. 1710) of Virginia.  

Then, there’s my own genealogy article (pictured above), called “Details, Details: When Little Things Mean A Lot”.  The article examines the importance of being alert to those tiny clues in records that can provide the researcher with new insight and perhaps a new research direction.  It grew out of an article called "Change of Heart" that appeared in the last issue, written by Antonia Mattheou, the archivist of the Town of Huntington, Long Island.  She found two early 19th century letters, one of them dated 1819 and each signed only with the writer’s first names: “Mary” and “Abraham”.  In the last issue, she described where they were found (tucked in with some local property deeds) and then transcribed “Mary’s” letter to “Abraham” – a missive that would best be described as a “Dear John” brush-off.  

In this issue, Jody Hohmann, the editor of New York Archives magazine discusses “Abraham’s” unsent draft response.  Her section includes a transcript of ”Abraham’s” letter, and then, in her last paragraph, throws the issue of confirming the writers’ identity over to me.

I, in turn, discuss the little clues in the letter and point out how a genealogist would put together a research “game plan” from those clues and then set out to discover the records that could lead to the true identity of “Mary and Abraham.”  In other words, a brief explanation of methodology and the Genealogical Proof Standard, written for the non-genealogist.

Those were only the highlights of interest to family historians; for the “general reader” there’s a whole lot more.

New York Archives magazine appears in hard-copy only and is sent four times a year to all members of the New York State Archives Partnership Trust, an organization dedicated to “sustaining the excellence of the State Archives and … ensuring that New York’s most valuable historical records are available for future generations”.

If you share those ideas and goals, you should seriously consider joining the NYSAPT, like I did years ago.  You can learn more about membership here.  Then you’ll have your very own copy of the magazine to peruse, which is even better than me describing it to you every now and again.   

Plus, you’ll likely pay for your membership with all the discounts members get on things.

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