Thursday, January 28, 2021

On the Wings of the Wind


The rush of the wind beating against my house yesterday insured a prudent utility company was unlikely to restore power quickly. It was all I could do to scramble and assemble my defenses against the ravages of nature—multiple computers, back-up battery packs, alternate Internet access—to be able to continue attending that prized SLIG course, In-Depth African American Genealogy.

All for a worthwhile reason: yesterday's course offerings were where we moved from the introductory necessities to the meat of the class. One of my key goals in registering for this SLIG course was to obtain an overview of additional resources for researching the subject of my current focus, a formerly enslaved man in Florida known as King Stockton. The answers to my question about where to do that deeper dive into resources came rushing at me almost as fast as the wind howling outside my window.

In a nutshell, the answer is: think like an academic. The resources gained—or reacquainted with—from yesterday's sessions would themselves fill more than a full post here, but I certainly can't wait to try my hand at using them. The examples provided by Ari Wilkins of the Dallas Public Library and Deborah Abbott, Ph.D., urged course attendees to think beyond the confines of the customary genealogical resources. 

Lest you think that, on the wings of the wind, I will easily be able to snatch my answers from a new and improved nifty be-all search engine, disabuse yourself of that notion. Research is hard. It's even harder when the topic seems so oblique. Face it: most of the subjects we yearn to learn more about are, for the most part, common everyday people. Unless they found their way into the gossip columns of their hometown, not much will be found on the details of their life.

And yet, it may well be that that juicy gossip which seems to make the world go round can actually turn out to be in our favor. One never knows when a neighbor might have dropped a snarky comment in a letter to a cousin, or—in regards to the horrors of trading human beings as coolly as conducting business transactions—marked an exchange in an inventory record. Such is the name-dropping lesson we learned last year in delving into the diary of one young southern woman. Where such a journal once was, I assure you there were many other such resources. To discover where they are now, tucked away in manuscript collections or other personal papers, is the task at hand.

To capture fleeting mentions such as those and build them, in the aggregate, into a coherent explanation of the twists and turns of an ancestor's life takes perseverance and adroit handling of record sets for which we may not yet have even found the key to access. With tomorrow's post, I'll attempt to review some of the resources gleaned from these sessions and discuss my research plan for applying these newfound discoveries to the case of King Stockton.


  1. Well there ya go - diaries, personal papers - the stuff that college libraries' special collections are made of. Lickin' my chops right now.

  2. Hi Jacqi, We're related through the Swanton/Ryan Tully McCaughey familes if I recall correctly. You posted a photo of my grandmother Agnes Dockery many years ago. In any case, you once blogged that a McCaughey had loaned you some old portrait photos. I have a number myself, including some mysteries. I'd like to compare notes with you to see if possible to put names on faces. Please contact me. Sorry to do this via you're blog but I've not found a direct way. Regards, John Hartmann

  3. John's post above me sounds intriguing!

    Meanwhile, I understand the frustration of trying to get on your virtual conference when a storm blows through just as you need that internet and electricity! We changed companies and vendors after a maddening outage just as a Zoom meeting that I was really looking forward to began. grrrr


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