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… and they could have figured it out…

As genealogists, we learn to use all kinds of tools in our research.

IsereWe use land records and probate records.

We seek out court minutes from dustry corners of old courthouses and personal papers long ago left behind in libraries and historical societies.

We look to records created by cemeteries and churches and the military and government at all levels.

We use 21st century tools like DNA testing.

And we even do something it seems is fairly rare these days.

We use the grey matter between our ears.

We think.

So The Legal Genealogist is feeling just a little snarky this morning. Twice yesterday I came across one-liner notes on websites that left me shaking my head. Because both of them suggested that the web writers didn’t know the answer to a question that we, as genealogists, could have answered in minutes.

Because, you see, we use all kinds of tools in our research.

Including things like newspapers.

One of the unanswered questions came in a web piece called “15 Of The Rarest (And Most Mind Blowing) Photographs In History” and the particular photo was the “Construction Of The Statue Of Liberty (1884).” The caption read, in part, “What’s even more amazing about this image is it shows the statue being constructed in Paris. We wonder how they delivered it to America.”1

But we know … and they could have figured it out … if they’d looked at the newspapers of the day.

Even a quick look at the newspapers of June 1885 would have shown the web writers that the statue arrived in the waters off Sandy Hook, New Jersey, on the 17th of June 1885 in the French man-of-war, the Isere.2 It was one of the biggest stories of its time… and it isn’t hard to find.

Now perhaps it isn’t fair to be snarky to a website that uses the web address www.lotwot.com. I suspect that isn’t exactly a website dedicated to scholarship.

But I was both thrilled and disappointed to come across a new-to-me blog called Et Seq., the blog of the Harvard Law School Library. I was thrilled because it includes features on some really interesting holdings of the law school’s library, including a pair of broadsides from a 1941 Harlan County, Kentucky, election for magistrate. They’re part of the library’s Historical & Special Collections among the professional papers of Professor Zechariah Chafee.3

I was disappointed because, in the course of discussing the broadsides — which really are amazing, and (not surprisingly) resulted in a libel suit — the article reported: “we have not been able to locate the results of this Harlan County election…” to see which of the two candidates (J. B. M. Howard or John Keller) had been elected as the magistrate.

But we know … and they too could have figured it out … if they’d looked at the newspapers of the day.

Even a quick look at the newspapers after that 1941 election would have shown the web writers that the magistrate in Harlan County in 1942 was one John Keller.4

Now admittedly it may not be that even the best of law librariies have subscriptions to newspaper databases.

But we do, don’t we?

Because, you see, we use all kinds of tools in our research.

And we think about all the ways we can find the answers we need.


 

REMINDERS: Today is the early bird deadline for registration for the 2015 Ohio Genealogical Society conference — Ohio: Your Genealogical Cornerstone — in Columbus, April 9-11. Registering today saves you $40 on the full conference fees and also gets you an advance electronic copy of the syllabus and first dibs on workshops and other events that might sell out. Information on OGS 2015 is here and you can register online here.

And registration for the April 15 Tech Day at NERGC 2015 — Navigating the Past: Sailing into the Future — in Providence, Rhode Island, is already full for both tracks. But there’s still space available in the Librarians’/Teachers’ Day Track and in the workshops during the April 15-18 conference — things like Military Research, Mechanics of Writing, Document Analysis and Griffiths Evaluation. Information on NERGC 2015 is here and you can register online here for the whole conference and for special add-ons like the workshops.


SOURCES

  1. 15 Of The Rarest (And Most Mind Blowing) Photographs In History: Construction Of The Statue Of Liberty (1884),” LOLWOT (http://www.lolwot.com/ : accessed 17 Mar 2015).
  2. “Arrival of the Big Statue,” New York Tribune, 18 June 1885, p. 1, col. 1; digital images, Library of Congress, Chronicling America (http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/ : accessed 17 Mar 2015).
  3. Jane Kelly, “852 Rare: Libelous Kentucky Broadsides,” Et Seq., posted 17 Feb 2015 (ttp://etseq.law.harvard.edu/ : accessed 17 Mar 2015).
  4. See e.g. “Draft Dodger Is Arrested in Harlan,” Lexington (Ky.) Herald, 10 June 1942, p. 3, col. 6 (“… charged before Magistrate John Keller …”); digital images, GenealogyBank (http://www.genealogybank.com : accessed 17 Mar 2015).
    Also, ibid., “Sheriff Turns Lawyer For A Day,” Lexington (Ky.) Herald, 16 June 1942, p. 3, col. 5 (“… Magistrate John Keller’s court today …”).
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