Sunday, February 12, 2023

Remembering Forgotten Resources


Do you ever write yourself a note about a great family history resource you've discovered with the thought, "Someday, I'll need this,"—and then forget you ever made that note?

That's exactly what happened to me when, just this past week, I realized that two huge manuscript collections might just contain information on the details I've been seeking on the siblings of my fourth great-grandfather, Zachariah Taliaferro.

Those two manuscript collections I first learned about through a week-long course in Southern research at the Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy. One of them was known as the Draper Manuscript Collection. The other was referred to as the Shane Manuscript Collection.

The Draper collection includes copies of letters, historical and genealogical notes, newspaper clippings, and notes from interviews regarding the early days (before 1830) of what was then called the Northwest and Southwest territories. The Shane collection focused on church records, early history and biographical sketches, many regarding Kentucky and nearby regions and including the family papers of a number of associated surnames.

Don't think these are resources you can check out from your local library and read in your spare time. The Draper collection contains 490 volumes of material. While the original volumes of the Shane collection are held by the Presbyterian Historical Society in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, FamilySearch has preserved the collection on thirty six microfilm reels—and currently reserves this digitized version for access at their main library in Salt Lake City or any FamilySearch center or affiliate library, but not, unfortunately, online from home.

Not to worry, though, for there is a partial index of the holdings in the Shane collection, drawn up by William K. Hall. Breathless when I discovered the FamilySearch catalog included a listing for the digitized copy of Hall's index, you can imagine my disappointment when I clicked through the website, only to find the message, "Due to copyright restrictions, this book cannot be viewed online."

Sometimes, though, the brick wall details we are seeking end up being found in our own backyard. While I suppose I could have checked that out by going to WorldCat to see if a library closer to home could resolve this research dilemma, I simply cut to the chase. I happen to know our own local library has a decently sized collection of genealogical reference materials, so I just hopped online to see if I'd get lucky with this.

Yes, I held my breath. Thankfully, though, the Hall book was there. Now, all I need do is make the drive downtown and spend a few hours in the reference section to see whether any of my Taliaferro kin make an appearance in the Shane collection. Sometimes we still do find worthwhile information in our own backyards. 


  1. I love it!!!
    It reminds me when I was searching all over my state for a privately published memoir from the late 1800's. I was at a meeting at our Historical Society and walked by an uncataloged shelf. There it was!

    1. Incredible, Miss Merry! Sometimes you just can't discount those lesser-known library collections. Little gems, when you can find exactly what you were seeking!

  2. Just this week I was told of a "new-to-me" resource and when I went to read about it online I could see that I'd saved it to my internet browser favorites long ago and obviously forgotten about it! I'm in the process of updating my methodology and in the past week added that I should review the digital files saved to my computer to see if I already have useful info like you've mentioned but now I see that I also need to review my internet favorites too! Thank you for your post!

    1. Those of us who have been at this family history research for a long time do need to come up with a system. Sounds like you are going about this quite systematically!

      Another good reason to review our old favorites--especially those online--is that those websites get updated, too. Those old gems sometimes gain new jewels.


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