From the Ancestry
The American Memory Collection at the Library of Congress
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Imagine reading a Sunday school book from 1845 or an immigrants' travel guide published in the 1820s. It can be done from the comfort of your own home using the American Memory Collection at the Library of Congress. This week we take a brief look at some of the wonderful historical material hosted on this site.
Sometimes when we read history, it seems like the comments are being made about the present time instead of an era long since past. It is sometimes true that the more things change, the more they stay the same. In 1867 James Shaw wrote: "Too many have been the petitions for divorce during the last few years; too trivial have been the reasons given, and too frequent have the requests been granted."
It sounds like a comment from 1967 instead of 1867. It is important to remember that in some camps, the world has always been ending, morals are always decaying, and things were always better in the "old days." Still, reading materials from one hundred years ago can provide us with a new perspective on our ancestors.
Shaw's comment appears in his Twelve years in America: being observations on the country, the people, institutions and religion; with notices of slavery and the late war; and facts and incidents illustrative of ministerial life and labor in Illinois, with notes of travel through the United States and Canada. Whoa, that is a title. This book and hundreds of others are available to the public at no charge through the Library of Congress' American Memory Collection. One can spend hours if not days browsing the material on this site.
of Congress American Memory Collection contains digital reproductions
of a wide variety of print and audio media, ranging from pre-American
Revolutionary works to reactions to the 9-11 attacks. Lessons on
etiquette and farming can be found in addition to suggestions for the
potential immigrant. This week we take a brief look at just a sampling
of what is available on this site--you might not find your ancestors,
but you are certain to find something to broaden your understanding of
There are eleven collections that contain materials on the immigrant experience and decades of migration that took place in the United States. Included in this section are "The First American West: The Ohio River Valley, 1750-1820," "American Notes: Travels in America, 1750-1920," "Pioneering the Upper Midwest: Books from Michigan, Minnesota, and Wisconsin, ca. 1820-1910," and "Westward by the Sea: A Maritime Perspective on American Expansion 1820-1890." The materials contained here provide excellent first-hand information on many aspects of travel in the United States. Particularly interesting are the suggestions to immigrants and migrants.
In answering a potential migrant from Pennsylvania to Illinois, Morris Birbeck writes:
"You might make your way from Philadelphia to Pittsburgh in a light wagon; but from thence to the neighbourhood of our settlement, by far the cheapest and most easy mode of traveling is down the Ohio to Shawnee-town." At that place"¦you would either take some land conveyance, or possibly might proceed up the Wabash"¦ You would however, obtain at Shawnee-town information and advice as to your proceeding."
Taken from Letters
from Illinois, written by Morris Birkbeck and published 1818.
The American Memory collection can be browsed by topic here.
The Collection can be searched here by using the box in the upper right hand corner.
When you read a little history, you may be pleasantly surprised at what you learn.
Michael John Neill is the Course I Coordinator at the Genealogical Institute of Mid America (GIMA) held annually in Springfield, Illinois, and is also on the faculty of Carl Sandburg College in Galesburg, Illinois. Michael is currently a member of the board of the Federation of Genealogical Societies (FGS). He conducts seminars and lectures nationally on a wide variety of genealogical and computer topics and contributes to several genealogical publications, including Ancestry Magazine and Genealogical Computing. You can e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit his website at www.rootdig.com/, but he regrets that he is unable to assist with personal research.
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