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 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.