20 May 2014

NGS 2014 Family History Conference – Session F313 – Your Ancestor’s Famous Neighbors: Records of the Prominent as Sources for Information of Others

MARS (North Carolina State Archives catalog) entry listing account books, ledgers and other paperwork which could list your Guilford Co NC ancestors)

Another in the series on sessions I attended at the NGS 2014 Family History Conference.

F313 Your Ancestor’s Famous Neighbors: Records of the Prominent as Sources for Information of Others, Eric G Grundset, Syllabus page 345

As with other sessions, this talk focused exclusively on VA records and you can still use the information provided to pursue similar records for the locale that interests you.  This is especially true if you are researching a family that kept a very low profile and/or they lived in what we consider a “burnt county!”

Unrelated to his talk, I learned how to pronounce Henrico – let’s just say that I’ve never done it correctly in my head !

The gist of the talk was that many of those in our family may have interacted with their famous neighbors and be documented in the extant records of such families.  This will be particularly true if they all lived in a small community.  After all, there were only so many people in the area at the time and certain tasks needed to be accomplished.  Surviving journals, ledgers, papers, diaries, letters, and other extant documents of the so-called famous just might mention the individuals you seek.  Realize also that famous is relative.  You don’t have to be looking at the nationally famous or even those famous in the state, it might be individuals and families who were only renowned in their county.

As always, besides exploring this research tactic, I learned of a resource that I was completely unaware of – Virginia Heritage.  Though I spend a lot of time on the Library of Virginia website, I had never visited the Virginia Heritage one.  I will definitely do so for any future VA research.  I searched on Sussex and journal to see if there are any private collections which might help a project I am working on.  I discovered, Guide to the Blow Family Account Books, 1783-1844, Library of Virginia, Accession Number 29145.
... The journal of Richard Blow (1746-1833), dated 1783-1785, is for his branch stores in Portsmouth and Sussex County and lists charges for tobacco, as well as for groceries, hardware, dry goods, clothing and liquor for persons from Greensville, Southampton, and Sussex Counties, Virginia. There are charges to the firm of Blow and Barksdale.

I recently benefitted from doing just what Eric suggests when researching a family who lived in Burke County NC.  I learned that at Duke University, there was a collection for these gentleman, JPs, Benjmain Austin and Henry Reid Papers, 1756 (1790-1820) 1879.
Correspondence and other papers of Austin and Reid, justices of the peace and farmers, consisting of legal papers, court records, tax lists, militia rosters, election lists and returns. There are personal letters from relatives in Georgia, Kentucky, and Indiana. Topics include blacksmithing, farming, abolitionist sentiment in Indiana, and Burke County politics.
625 items.

Besides the tax lists and militia rosters (very interesting and not found elsewhere), what is NOT mentioned in this description is that these records also included a journal/ledger for a distillery. Talk about a manuscript which listed almost everyone in the community and it was not unusual for families to be listed on the same page and like-named individuals to be uniquely identified (e.g. John (son of Paul)).  Read more about this neat collection in Alcohol -- Legal and Illegal has a long history in the U.S. -- Did your ancestor's imbibe?  As a result of this, I am definitely sold on looking for the records of those “more famous” in a community to see if the common folks I am seeking are mentioned in their records.

The associated syllabus pages provide a very detailed bibliography for VA sources for published material about “famous neighbors” where you might find your ancestors listed.

Editor’s Note: This session was NOT recorded.  Hopefully a friend attended the conference and you can learn more!
Editor’s Note: This series is not presented in any particular order.

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