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Research in the South – Day 1

There is literally nothing in the genealogical world to compare to an institute: a week-long intensive immersive experience that is exhilarating, exhausting, entertaining and educational — often all at the same time.

Elizabeth Crabtree Wells

And so it is, once again, that The Legal Genealogist is thrilled to be sitting in a classroom at Samford University in Birmingham, Alabama, whose Institute for Genealogical and Historical Research (IGHR) is now in its 51st year.1

This is my fourth year at IGHR, which is co-sponsored by the Board for Certification of Genealogists. This year, I’m teaching Copyright for Genealogists in Course 6: Genealogy as a Profession, coordinated by Elissa Scalise Powell, CG, CGL, and presenting three evening lectures on ethics, indirect evidence and DNA.

And… wonder of wonders… I’m getting to learn more about researching my family.

My mother’s kinfolk traveled all over the American south. The only state south of the Mason-Dixon line where I don’t have ancestors (or at least close collaterals) is Florida. And I am having a ball in Research in the South, a course with varying content each year — and this year it’s Kentucky, Tennessee, Alabama and Mississippi — all states where I have roots.

The course is coordinated by J. Mark Lowe, CG, who offered some terrific insights into migration patterns in the south, and the instructors yesterday were Deborah Abbott, Ph.D., on Mississippi records, and Elizabeth Crabtree Wells, coordinator of the Special Collection Department of the Samford University Library, on religious records from the South.

I wouldn’t dream of depriving you of the joy of learning for yourself the wonders of the institute experience… but I also wouldn’t dream of not sharing two very neat resources I learned about yesterday.

The first, from Deborah Abbott, is the J.B. Cain Archives of Mississippi Methodism at the Millsaps College Library in Jackson, Mississippi. If you have a Mississippi circuit-riding preacher in your ancestry the way I do, this is a must-visit location. The records aren’t online, but hey… you wanted an excuse to visit the ancestral homeland, right? This is a good one.

From Liz Wells came some absolute gems that had everybody in the class sitting up and taking note. She showed a series of maps, showing the spread of various religions across the United States. They are from an atlas that was new to me and, from the reactions of others, new to most of the class.

It’s a book called the Atlas of the Historical Geography of the United States, by Charles O. Paullin, edited by John K. Wright, and originally published by the Carnegie Institution of Washington and the American Geographical Society of New York.2

It was published in 1932, so it’s still under copyright — that means you won’t find it on Google Books.

But you can find it online.

The University of Michigan has digitized the atlas and in all its glory it’s online at the University of Michigan Digital Library.

It’s not all that easy to use — you have to work through the individual pages of the table of contents and/or the index to find the subject matter you want and then open each text page or atlas image (plate) individually. But it’s absolutely worth the effort to see this first class piece of work.

Remember: still in copyright so don’t copy the pages and put ’em up on your blog or Ancestry or FamilySearch. This is a research reference only.

I can’t wait to see what the rest of the week holds!


  1. “Welcome to IGHR,” IGHR-Samford University Library ( : accessed 10 Jun 2013).
  2. Charles O. Paullin, John K. Wright (ed.), Atlas of the Historical Geography of the United States (Baltimore : A. Hoen & Co., 1932).
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