Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Finding Stories Like King's

To research the stories of post-Civil War freedmen like King Stockton, I first went to my go-to website for genealogical orientation: the wiki at FamilySearch.org. Just entering the term "slave" brought up a widespread list that was more than adequate for starting such research. In fact, it was overwhelming.

One reason I had chosen such a generic term for that wiki search was that I wanted to locate an online resource for the Slave Narratives that was searchable. I already knew about the Work Projects Administration's Federal Writers' Project—actually entitled Born in Slavery: Slave Narratives from the Federal Writers' Project, 1936 - 1938—but in the way it is set out at the Library of Congress, the best I could find was a description of each volume plus an entry stating "includes narratives by." Even though the Florida volume included interviews conducted in Live Oak, Lake City, and Monticello—towns in the vicinity of the McClellan plantation on which King Stockton and his family were once enslaved—the listing of people participating was long, and not particularly in alphabetical order.

Looking through the Georgia volume including the part of the alphabet which would include the Stockton family did not pinpoint any stories by Stocktons or about McClellans. Did that comment, "includes narratives by" imply that there were others besides those names listed? It could be a tedious task—though doubtless informative in a general manner—to read through each volume in search of those two surnames.

Trusting that other online repositories such as Internet Archive prided themselves on digitizing everything about everyone—at least if the material was now in the public domain—I googled the Slave Narratives title to see where else I could find the volumes. Sure enough, I found the answer: Project Gutenberg, hosted by Internet Archives.

The best answer, if I wanted a searchable resource for their file of The Slave Narratives, would be to download the material and then search through it on my own computer. The downside to that brilliant deduction is there are a lot of files from The Slave Narratives. Besides, the dates of the narratives—1936 through 1938—meant they post-dated our King Stockton's life span, as he died in 1929.

So...I backpedaled and went in search of another major resource I knew of. Perhaps this one would allow me to search by name through its digitized images. There is so much data out there, but finding the right details is the key. Without search, it's a slog. 


  1. This is such an interesting search

    1. Well, hopefully it will be interesting--if I can sift through all the material to locate any information on our King Stockton family predating the Civil War.

  2. You have summed up the Slave Narratives problem exactly. I have been looking in Gutenberg, too. And I have the SC volumes on my Kindle, trying to search for names digitally there. But its so slow! I have poked around a bit looking for an historian or thesis-writer who has tackled the indexing of all the names, places, and families (black and white). I haven't found anything yet. I have seen some writing on the problems of bias in the way the interviews were gathered and presented. That is all true - but right now I just want the bare-bone names and identities.

    Miss Merry is right. This is an interesting search - and very instructive.

    1. It's encouraging how we can come together to share what we know about a new-to-us subject. Your input certainly confirms what I had suspected. I didn't even try my hand at downloading a Slave Narratives volume, thinking that might be the case.

      Hopefully, the narratives will one day become a target of a crowdsourced project to make the collection searchable. It certainly would be a worthwhile endeavor, useful for many people across several disciplines.

    2. Yes - now that's a good idea, a crowdsourcing project. I wouldn't be surprised if people are already doing it.

      Thanks for your email. I will get that information typed up soon. It's just a few sentences, but interesting.


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