Digital Collections for Genealogists: Behind the Scenes

My colleague Kyle Denlinger (eLearning Librarian at Wake Forest University’s Z. Smith Reynolds Library) is designing & facilitating RootsMOOC: Introduction to Genealogy and Family History Research in partnership with the State Library of North Carolina. As part of this initiative, he asked me to create a video providing some tips for genealogists about how to search digital collections for their family history and explaining why not everything is online. Here’s what I came up with!

John Hunt as a historical reader

Although a diarist’s principle of selection—what he chooses to include and what he chooses to pass over—may remain mysterious, I think we can gain a little bit of insight into Hunt’s evolving view of his own journal. From an early commitment to keep a journal so that he might simply learn to “number his days,” Hunt came to see his journal as a way to “read” his life in the same way that he read other spiritual accounts, and for the same purpose.

Literacy and letter-writing

A few days ago I got a letter from my friend Taryn in the mail. She’s interning at a public library, cataloguing a collection of antebellum correspondence that includes the letters of two very close female friends. In the spirit of their friendship, she wrote a post-script in their letter-writing layout—as she puts it, the “nifty nineteenth century paper saving habit of filling up a page then turning the paper ninety degrees and writing across what you already wrote.”