Monday, April 15, 2019
So Many Books,
So Little Time . . .
While there may be disputation over just how many books are published in any given year—an outdated international reckoning puts the United States at second place worldwide with over three hundred thousand in 2013, while Bowker, the official ISBN agency for the U.S., in 2018 claimed the previous year had seen the launch of over one million titles of self-published books alone—one thing is clear: it would take a lot of reading to hope to glean what we need to find about the historical context of our family's roots.
That's if we limited our research to books published in this decade. And everyone knows we can't simply rely on this year's take on the situation to fully comprehend the attitudes rampant when our ancestors were alive. To best gauge that, we'd need to turn to the many volumes published in past generations. Thus, researchers' focus on the diaries, journals, newspapers, and other memoranda of bygone eras.
While I've been stuck on comprehending the mores of my antebellum ancestors' worldview, I've been casting about for a way to get inside their heads, so to speak. Though these third-great-grandparents are long gone—and unfortunately have taken their remembrances with them, judging from the lack of any diaries or journals—I'm still hoping to find a way to learn more about them.
Almost a year ago, I had been casting about for resources on another set of third-great-grandparents—not in Florida this time, but in South Carolina—when I stumbled upon a note about a unique publication issued in 1973 by a historic preservation association. From the little bit I could glean about the book, it promised to hold information specific to my family's line in that South Carolina location, so I went searching for a way to obtain a copy of that title.
My quest wasn't easy. The best I could do was locate a mention of it in a used book dealer affiliated with Amazon. For the age and condition of the book, the price seemed exorbitant, so I put that title on my wish list and set it aside.
And forgot about it.
Come this past Christmas, thankfully, someone had not forgotten about it, and the awkward hardcover version found its way onto the gift list for yours truly. In the flurry of trainings and travels and more events than I can remember, the tattered volume was set aside for a moment in which I wasn't absorbed by the genealogical chase du jour.
But now...stymied as I am by this photo mystery of the two Iowa gentlemen by the same name, and stuck by the vanishing research clues for the story of King Stockton and his family, perhaps I can use this annotated post-war diary of a South Carolina family to help me glean the attitudes and outlook of southern plantation families in the wake of their many losses. After all, now that I've opened the cover of this book, I've already spotted mention of the names of those great-grandparents. Perhaps what I am looking for will not be hidden far from that entry.