Category Archives: Special Collections
The Special Collections department at the Williamson County Public Library is hosting its annual photographic exhibit on Williamson County African American history by local historian and author Thelma Battle. This year’s exhibit is “Coming & Going,” and examines the history of migration to and from Williamson County in the Black community. Topics will include the earliest slaves in the county, the reconstruction era exodus, the impacts of war, and modern immigration into Williamson County for industry, sports, and more. The exhibit is held in the 2nd floor Special Collections department at 1516 Columbia Ave. in Franklin, and will run from Feb. 2nd – 28th in honor of Black History Month.
Also in honor of Black History Month, the library will be hosting a free lecture, “The African Diaspora through the Americas,” on Friday, February 20 at 2pm-4pm in the downstairs meeting room. Jane Landers will lecture on her more than twenty years of research on the African Diaspora (a diaspora is a scattered population with a common origin in a smaller geographic area) in various parts of the Americas. Her graduate research on the first free black town in in the Americas (formed by runaways from South Carolina who fled to Spanish Florida) supported archaeological investigations, a National Landmark registry and a museum. Since then she has also worked on diasporic sites in Mexico, Cuba, Colombia and Brazil. Landers now directs an international effort to digitally preserve the oldest records for Africans in the Americas.
This presentation will present an overview of the rise of the African slave trade and the subsequent diaspora of Africans through the Americas. Main themes will include differences among European slave systems in the Spanish, Portuguese, English, and French colonies of the Americas and the resulting varieties of cultural expression and resistance of the enslaved. You will also be introduced to the wide variety of evidence now available for studying the African diaspora in the Americas.
For More information, contact the Special Collections Department on the 2nd floor – 615-595-1246
By Jason Gavin, Special Collections Librarian
While you are in the library during the sesquicentennial celebrations, take a moment to stop by the Williamson Room, located in the Special Collections Department on the second floor. With floor to ceiling windows on three sides of the room, you will be standing right in the heart of where the Battle of Franklin occurred. Facing southwest from this room, you will be looking toward the two miles over which the Confederates advanced from Winstead Hill, completely exposed to enemy fire. Facing northeast, you will be about 500 feet from the position of the Union embankments. From this idyllic spot overlooking Columbia Avenue, it’s hard to imagine that by the end of the day on November 30, 1864, you would be looking over some 10,000 casualties, over 6,000 of which were Confederate – including 6 killed or mortally wounded generals.
There are several new markers displayed in the room commemorating the Battle, as well as an original 1878 map of the battlefield, portraits of the fallen Confederate generals with accounts of their final rolls in the terrible battle. Several pre-1900 first edition books relating to the Battle of Franklin from the Col. John L. Jordan collection are on display as well. It is worth the visit for the beautiful view and a quiet moment of reflection on the scope and toll of the terrible battle that occurred here 150 years ago.
By Jason Gavin, Special Collections Librarian
The Special Collections Department has a new swanky database format with a wealth of genealogy and Williamson County historical information, available here. Below are some highlights of what you can find:
- Local History News Database: Contains a selection of over 7,000 local news stories, and growing.
- Obituaries: Contains over 50,000 Williamson County Obituaries and growing.
- Index to the Edith Whitley Collection: Whitley was a professional genealogist who compiled a wealth of unique family research material in her 50 plus year career in Nashville. This material has not yet been digitized or microfilmed, and is thus unique to the Special Collections department.
- Databases on Williamson County Births, Cookbooks, Families, Magazines, Maps, Marriages, and Veterans
We are especially strong in local African American history and Genealogy thanks to two outstanding collections; the Thelma Battle Collection and the Richard C. Fulcher Collection. In the Thelma Battle collection, there is a wealth of information on bank records, bills of sale, cemetery records, census records, churches, local community history, craftsmen, deaths, deeds, funeral program index, labor contracts, marriages, politicians, social organizations, slave genealogies, schools, and more – including an index to some of the popular exhibits of her large collection of local African American related photographs. The Richard Fulcher database contains a partial index of that collection, covering County records and court excerpts related to Williamson County African American Families.
Each one of these collections is individually searchable, or you can browse, by clicking on the Collection Links page. What makes this new format really exciting however, are some of the new features available through the Search tab. Using the KEYWORD search tab, we now have the ability to search multiple databases simultaneously. In the dropdown menu, simply hold the “Ctrl” key and click all of the databases you are interested in searching. In addition, the FIELD search tab allows you to be far more specific in searching individual databases than was previously possible.
As always, the Special Collections staff is available to answer any questions you might have in navigating the new format or giving you more information about the specific collections. Reach us at 615-595-1246 or email SPCOLL@williamson-tn.org.
By Dorris Douglass, Special Collections Librarian
Yes, I know – most of our ancestors were farmers – but certainly not all. Genealogical sources are filled with references to many that were not farmers. Up until about 1800 legal document usually, though not always, included a man’s occupation following his name. The same custom of including one’s occupation is also found in early wills. Some good examples of occupations in legal documents are found in Baltimore County, Maryland Deed Records Volume One 1657-1737, transcribed by John Davis: (in Special Collections)
- 15 Nov. 1725 Melchizedeck Murray, planter (farmer) to Thomas Hughs, innholder;
- 4, Jan. 1726, Robert Cruickshank , merchant , of London, England, power of attorney to George Walker, merchant, of Maryland;
- 7 Feb. 1726 John Stokes to Stephen Wilkenson, minister, of St. George’s Parish, Baltimore Co.;
- 2 June 1726 John Powell, taylor (tailor) to Peter Whitaker, planter;
- 3 Aug. 1726 George Buchanan , chyrugeon (surgeon = doctor) to Benjamin Jones;
- 8 June 1727, James Maxwell to James Preston, barber .(5)
- 22 June, 1727, Thomas Stone, shipwright, to Richard Gist.
Another source of our ancestors’ occupation is military records. In some cases our ancestors actually followed certain occupation while serving in the army. In the book Tennesseans in the War of 1812 (in Special Collections) a list of abbreviations used include:
- Artif= Artificer (craftsman),
- Drm maj= Drum Major,
- Fgmstr=Foragemaster ,
- Mus =Musician,
- Tptr= Trumpeter ,
- Wgnr, Wagoner,
- Wgnmstr =Wagonmaster.
More occupations were added were added in the Civil War, such as sappers & miners (engineers), carpenters for building winter quarters, and especially shoemakers. A good example is the Confederate service record of Nicholas P. Holt of Williamson County, accessed on “Fold Three” through the Library. Nicholas Holt enlisted on May 18, 1861. He served with the 17th Tennessee Infantry up until Aug.12, 1863 when he was ordered detached from his regiment as a shoe maker and sent to Loundon County, Virginia, As of December 10 he returned to his regiment in the field but continued as a shoe maker and also a bridle maker for General Bushrod R. Johnson’s brigade. This brigade consisted of the 17th, 23rd, 25th and 44th Tennessee Infantry Regiments.
The final primary source for occupations is of course the census records. The 1840 census has columns to check for number of people in a family employed in: mining, agriculture, commerce, manufacturing and trade, navigation of the ocean, navigation of the canals, lakes, and rivers, and learned professions (teachers, lawyers. doctors) and engineers. In the census that followed there are spaces to write in one’s occupation. Coming closer the present these include such work as hod carriers in mason work and elevator operators in a department stores which I recently saw on the 1930 census.
Come join us in Special Collections to see how your ancestor made his living.
By Dorris Douglass, Special Collections Librarian
I will be retiring Oct. 31st and it has been a wonderful 16 & 3/4 years. Upon my announcement of my retirement, the blog master asked if I would be willing to share some of my most rewarding experiences here at the library.
The first was in 2002. I had a family call me on a Saturday morning. They had an uncle who had died in California and could be buried for free in the Military Cemetery at Pegram, Tennessee, if it could be proven he was born in Tennessee. But he had no birth certificate, though he was born in 1929. My immediate reply was “Oh you need this in a hurry!” I took their phone number and said I would do my best. The 1930 census had just come out and the library had had the microfilm about two weeks. This was before any census records were on the Internet, or indexed. Before closing time, I did find him on the census which showed he was a year old and “born in Tennessee.” I printed it off, stamped it with the Williamson County Public Library hand stamp to make it look very official, signed my name and dated it. They came and picked it up and got their uncle buried back home in Tennessee.
My second most rewarding experience was via a phone call from Indiana. This was before the day of constant e-mail. A young man wanted to find for his uncle, the uncle’s sister whom the family had lost contact with fifty years ago. The woman had divorced and remarried but they did not know her married name. All they could give me was the name of her first husband. The last information they had was that she was then living in Franklin, Tennessee. I found a fairly recent obituary for her first husband, and whoever compiled the obituary was very thorough, not only giving the name of the former wife of fifty years ago, but the first name of her second husband. I picked up the phone book and there he was. I called the young man and said “Here is her phone.” They later called me and told me about the big family reunion they were having.
The next two experiences were not near so dramatic but rewarding just the same. Some library patron found a glossy black and white photograph of a young girl dated 1950, stuck in a library book that had not been checked out in 6 years. There was a name on the back of the picture but that was all. I found where the girl had married in Marshal County, Tennessee in 1954. Now knowing her married name, I checked our library card holders and sure enough she had a Williamson County Library card. We were able to get the picture back to where it belonged.
My last rewarding experience was just a couple of weeks ago. We had a patron come in with one question and leave with the answer to another that she had not dreamed was even possible of knowing. She was a big talker and happened to mention she wanted to get her father’s World War II medals. She had been to Veterans Affairs in Nashville and they had told her they could do nothing without his social security number, as his name was W.C. Brown and there would be a million veterans by that name. When she said that, I said “Oh I can get his social security number.” She had no idea the retired Social Security numbers are on Ancestry.com. As she knew his birth date and that he died in Franklin, (that is the last benefit was sent to Franklin) we could pick out which W. C. Brown was his social security number. And she left thrilled that she could go get her father’s World War II medals.
by Dorris Douglass, Special Collections Librarian
When the Genealogy Department (Now Special Collections and Local History) was established at the Williamson County Library in 1993, the head of the department envisioned among its holdings a cookbook collection that would preserve women’s names for posterity, which are so hard for genealogy seekers to find in the old records. Ahead of her time, genealogy and local history librarians over the country are now promoting cookbook collections on their web sites, not just for containing women’s names but for representing the heritage of communities, ethnic groups, and individual families. For example, the Minnesota Historical Society Library in St. Paul Minnesota has an excellent web page identifying cookbooks by the type of organizations publishing them. The categories given are Business, Church, Community, Ethnic, Family, and Fundraising/Charitable. The Genealogical and Local History Library of the Hayner Public Library District, Alton, Illinois has a year long display of some of their cookbooks (April 2014-April 2015) pictured and discussed on the web. The latest craze posted on various genealogy web sites is “How To” create family a cookbook, seeking recipes and family stories from older members of one’s family (http://genealogy.about.com; www.genealogyspot.com; www.familytreemagazine.com (Family Tree Magazine Oct 27, 2011). And our Special Collections Departments has many cookbooks falling into the different categories representing the social history of Williamson County and Tennessee.
- (1) Business:
- We’re Cooking, the City of Franklin Employees’ Cookbook, 1998 (including men)
- The Art of Cooking in Franklin by Franklin Business & Professional Women’s Club 1971.
- (2) Church:
- Several 1970’-1990’s, representing Brentwood, Grassland, Triune, Peytonsville, Franklin
- (3) Community:
- Stick a Fork In It by Leipers Fork, 2010;
- South Harpeth Cookbook, no date.
- (4) Ethnic:
- The Heart of the Taste (African American) 2004
- (5) Family;
- Henrietta Bates Family and Friends Cookbook 2007;
- Cucina Mia Present/ Mahowdoya?, 2000,recipies of the DiVito family of Franklin (Italian) ;
- Reid Family Recipes, Allsboro, Alabama, 2009, but with Franklin ties.
- (6) Fundraising:
- A Medley of Grand Ole Recipes by the Brentwood High School Band 1992;
- Several by local elementary schools giving the name of the parents, child and grade the child is in;
- 25th Anniversary Republican Women of Williamson County
The Special Collections Department is currently compiling a data base of the individuals named in our cookbook collection, many of whom, from the earlier books, are now deceased.
Did your immigrant ancestor arrive in the United States after March of 1790? If so, and if he wanted to become a citizen in this promising land with the right to vote, then he had to be “naturalized.” This was the legal procedure of granting him the same rights and privileges of a citizen born in this country. The first federal naturalization law was passed on March 26, 1790 and required the applicant to have lived in the United States for two years and at least one year in the state where he resided. Congress soon decided that the applicants needed to have to have lived in the United States longer. On January 29, 1795 an Act was passed whereby the applicant was required to have been living in the United States for at least five years. Furthermore, he was to file a declaration of intent to become a citizen, three years before his naturalization was to be granted. Other requirements were that he was to have lived for at least one year in the state where he was naturalized; he was to be of good moral character; he was to renounce any title of nobility; he was to renounce his loyalty to the sovereign of his former country, and to take an Oath of Allegiance to the United States. Minor children of the applicants have automatically become citizens with their parent since 1790 to the present, and the wives of applicants automatically became citizen with their husbands from 1790 to 1922, without separate papers being filed.
To find naturalization records on Ancestry.com go to “Search,” then “Immigration & Travel,” then “Narrow by Category,” then “Citizenship & Naturalization Records.” Some of Williamson County’s naturalizations records are found in Louise Lynch’s series of Williamson County, Tennessee Miscellaneous Records. Of special interest is that for Albert Lotz, who on May 24, 1855 renounced his loyalty to the King of Saxony. Albert Lotz’s former residence now houses the Lotz House Civil War Museum. The Special Collections Department of the Williamson County Public Library also has a book Davidson County, Tennessee Naturalization Records 1803-1906.
By Jason Gavin, Special Collections Librarian
You’ve started your family genealogy, and zipped right through the first few generations using census records on Ancestry.com. Great! Then the inevitable happens – you hit a brick wall. Great-great-Grandma or Grandpa seems to simply disappear off the face of the Earth! Now what? It’s time to take a closer look at the census records you’ve already used, and look at those nosy neighbors.
It’s always worth bearing in mind that census records were compiled by a (sometimes very) fallible human being walking door to door, knocking, and asking “who lives here?”. If you stay aware of this fact, you won’t make the mistake of assuming that because a name is spelled a particular way, in must not be Grandpa Stephen, because he spelled his name with a “v”. If the census taker heard “Gavin”, he might have written “Gavin” on the census. If, on the other hand, he heard “Caffin”, that’s what he’ll write (I’ve seen it happen!). And if the name was even slightly exotic, be it French, German, Italian, Swedish, etc. – forget about it! I am often tempted to believe that to be hired as a Federal census taker prior to 1900, applicants had to pass a grueling exam, where only the most hard-of-hearing, sloppiest penmanship, and poorest spellers passed. I can’t prove this, but I have my suspicions.
The other reason it’s worth remembering this door-to-door-knocking fact, is that it means all of the families listed above and below the family you’re researching were next door neighbors. This can be tremendously helpful! For one reason, youthful betrothed tended to marry the guy or girl next door, or a couple of houses down, or the next street over. If you can find great grandpa while he was single in the census records, you can very often find great grandma’s family on the next page or sometimes even living next door.
Another reason this is useful is because families during certain periods tended to move in groups. The Johnsons moved from North Carolina to Kentucky to Tennessee with the Smith family, for example. And along the way, sons might marry daughters. You never know how little clues like this might help you break through your brick wall. As an example, I found a house full of my ancestors in the 1880 census, along with a very elderly lady by a different last name of Hollingsworth. Continuing my line yielded a few more results, but I eventually hit the familiar brick wall. This was solved eventually not by researching my family name, but by tracing the Hollingsworths, and looking at their neighbors. And sure enough, I found a family of Hollingsworths living next door to some Gavins in 1850, which filled in the gap I was looking for and allowed me to plow headlong into the next brick wall on the Gavin line.
Paying attention to occupations and nationalities of neighbors can also lend some context to the history and kind of location your ancestors were in as well. Was everybody a farmer? This might indicate a poor rural location. Is there evidence for industry? Do you see blacksmiths or railroad workers clustered in the neighborhood? Were the majority of the neighbors German or Irish, or did they speak languages other than English? This might give a clue as to your ancestor’s nationality. What was the average age of people in the community? An extreme lack of elderly individuals might indicate the area was fairly newly established, whereas a uniform lack of young men of certain age might indicate heavy recruitment for a war.
Like so much in genealogy, the smallest, most overlooked clues can lead to big breakthroughs with a little patience and diligence.
By Dorris Douglass, Special Collections Librarian
Yes the Special Collections Department does actually have some “locked doors,” but we the staff bring out the material for you, our patrons, to look at “ to your heart’s content.” One set of locked doors are the glass front cabinets in the Williamson Room where we have our Civil War collection of pre-1900 books about the Civil War and by the participants themselves.
Another locked door is our Manuscript Room where we house the Whitley Collection and other collections. Edythe Rucker Whitley (1900-1989) was a professional genealogist in Nashville from 1919 to the early 1970’s. She kept personal carbon copies of the research she did for various clients over a period of more than five decades. She also kept contemporary newspaper clippings of obituaries and articles on World War II soldiers. Helen Sawyer Potts later purchased this vast collection and donated it to the Williamson County Public Library in 1983. The collection consist of 538 acid free boxes containing three note books each .
To find out if your last name is mentioned in the Whitley Collection go to the Library Web page and type your name into the catalog search box in the upper right hand corner of the web page. The Whitley Collection is usually the last entry to come up, if the name is there.
For example, if you type in Mangrum (a good old Williamson County name) entry number 5 will say “Edythe Rucker Whitley Collection: Box 227.” Try typing in your last name, or as we genealogist call it “surname,” and come to Special Collections. And if you are under 50 years old, you will also learn what a carbon copy was before the days of Xrox and photo copiers.
By Jason Gavin, Special Collections Librarian
DNA testing offers the modern genealogist an important and powerful tool that can provide unique information never available to previous generations of genealogists. In fact, there are so many companies offering DNA tests on today’s market, it can be somewhat daunting to know where to begin. In short, the answer to the question – “what kind of DNA test should I take?” can be answered by asking, “What kind of information are you hoping to get?” Below I’ll review some of the different types of genealogical DNA tests out there, and explain some of the pros and cons of each.
This test examines DNA found on the Y-chromosome. The Y-chromosome is one of the sex chromosomes that determine the gender of humans. Women of have an “XX” set of sex chromosomes while Men have an “XY” combination. Consequently, one drawback of the Y DNA test is that only males can take it, and it only traces a direct paternal line. It will give you information on your father’s father’s father, and so on, but no information about any females in your line, as the Y chromosome is only inherited by males. This means a Y DNA test can be especially useful for tracing surname history and origins, as surnames are also usually inherited along a direct paternal line.
Two males descended from the same male ancestor will have inherited the same DNA marker. That means that if you or a male relative and another person have the same marker 40 generations back, this test will let you know. One interesting consequent of this is what’s called the “Genghis effect”. In researching DNA dispersal through populations, it was discovered that a large proportion of the male population in Central Asia and beyond carry the same particular Y- DNA marker, meaning, they are all descended from the same single male. Further research concluded this was probably Genghis Khan, who conquered much of Asia and whose sons (who continued ruling in various parts of the continent) would have continued passing on this marker.
In addition, Y-DNA tests can provide “deep genealogical” information. Humans began migrating out of Africa beginning as early as 60,000 years ago, but they did so in waves. Often, there would be a wave of migrations to somewhere out of Africa – say the central Asia for example – and that wave would stay put for thousands of years, before a sub group would split of and travel to another area. These waves left their DNA markers in the places they traveled and settled. These markers can thus be divided into one of a number of identifiable “haplogroups”, the migrations of which can be traced by examining what percentage of a population carries a particular DNA marker.
Y-DNA PROS: Can help trace family surname
Can provide matches with other males that have the same marker, this might help solve “brick walls”, or place your father’s line at a specific place and time.
Can provide “deep” genealogical haplogroup information
CONS: Only traces direct paternal decent.
Can only be taken by males.
– Familytree DNA offers a variety of Y-DNA tests that vary in price depending on how many markers are to be tested, and will provide member matches and surname work groups as well.
– The Nation Geographic Genographic 2.0 DNA test is more expensive, but will trace the Y-DNA line as well as the Mt and autosomal tests. However, it is focused on providing haplogroup information more than more recent genealogical data.
This kind of DNA test examines mitochondrial DNA. This DNA is only inherited from your mother. Thus this test will only provide information about you direct maternal line – your Mother’s mother, and on back. Unlike the gender exclusive Y-DNA test, however, this test can be taken by both males and females. This test is useful in providing haplogroup information, but provides the maternal haplogroup rather than the paternal. Since mitochondrial DNA is always inherited directly from the mother’s line unchanged, population geneticists can trace concentrations of particular DNA markers around the globe and extrapolate migration patterns from that. Both Family Tree DNA and the Genographic project also trace Mt DNA.
Mt-DNA PROS: Can provide matches with other females that have the same marker.
Can provide “deep” genealogical haplogroup information
CONS: Only traces direct maternal decent.
Autosomal DNA tests
These are the types of DNA tests offered by popular genealogy sites like Ancestry.com and 23andMe. The big advantage of this type of test, is that it traces both the father’s and the mother’s line. The drawback is that it is only accurate to a limited number of generations. You’ll get no haplogroup information here, but companies such as Ancestry do provide an “ethnicity estimate”. By comparing your DNA markers against a sample collection from various populations around the globe, a rough estimate can be made. They can, in effect, tell you “your DNA looks like its 20% Irish, 40% German, and 20% Russian” for example. Of course, this information can only be compared from comparatively recent generations, and is not the same as tracing one’s haplogroup back thousands of years. In addition, details about the sample population against which your DNA is being compared is generally proprietary, so we don’t know how many people were sampled, or from what exact area. Another big advantage of using companies like Ancestry.com, is that your much more likely to find a match between your DNA and another Ancestry.com user, since so many people use this popular site.
PROS: Traces both paternal and maternal lineage
More useful for more recent genealogy. Primarily 6 – 8 generations back.
Popular companies like Ancestry.com and 23&Me can provide a large number users against which to compare your DNA.
In general, these tests tend to be a bit less expensive
CONS: Lacks any “deep” genealogical component – does not provide haplogroup information
Usefulness is largely determined by how many other users of this service have similar DNA to yours – thus there is no way to know how useful the test will be before you’ve taken it.
Some accessible introductions to using DNA to trace populations available at your library:
Brian Sykes: Seven Daughters of Eve
Saxons, Viking, and Celts
Spencer Wells: Deep Ancestry
The Journey of Man