Sunday, July 29, 2012

Post-NIGR: books that came home with me

I’m sure it will be no surprise to anyone who knows me that I acquired a few books during my several days in Washington. I carefully weighed my suitcase before leaving so I’d have an idea just how much I could add without incurring a charge for an overweight bag on the return trip, and I still had to shift about four pounds to my backpack when I checked in for my flight home.

I actually didn’t buy too much; my shelves already overflow with books waiting to be digested! But here are the goodies I picked up:

David A. Gerber, American Immigration: A Very Short Introduction (New York: Oxford University Press, 2011). While the title claims “very short” and the book is a small 4.5” x 6.75”, don’t be deceived. The print is small but clear, and the text is 135 pages long; not a skimpy book at all. I expected a discussion of immigration laws and the identities of ethnic groups arriving at different times in American history and their reasons for immigrating, but Gerber goes much further than that. Laws are not created in a vacuum of course, and so he explains attitudes towards immigrants as well as politics. Much of it sounds painfully current and familiar. The book is well-indexed. I’m about half-way through this book; it’s the perfect size and weight to carry in a purse or bag.

John P. Deeben, Genealogy Tool Kit: Getting Started on Your Family History at the National Archives (Washington, D.C.: Foundation for the National Archives, 2012). One of our NIGR lecturers brought this one to our attention, but noted that it’s “very basic.” I browsed through a display copy and decided to get it (p.s. NIGR attendees get a 20% discount at the NARA bookstore, in case anyone needs more incentive to attend the institute). I’m still taking a close look at it, but I rather like it. While it assumes that the reader is new to genealogy, and it apparently covers only records at NARA, I think it will be especially useful to those like me who are unfamiliar with or weak on military records. Stayed tuned; I hope to write another post about this book soon.

Drew Gilpin Faust, This Republic of Suffering: Death and the American Civil War (New York: Random House, 2008). I don’t know whether to be tickled or aghast that my close friends, upon reading a book about death on a massive scale, would think (correctly) “oh, Julie would love this!” Sad but true. Actually, my interest tends to be in community responses and recovery to said unhappy events, as well as (or more than) the causes. A friend and fellow NIGR attendee brought this book to my attention, and I am looking forward to reading it especially because my research that week was focused on Civil War records. I’ve been forewarned that it can be somewhat depressing reading.

For those who are interested in the, uh, sunnier side of the Civil War, I did see as I was browsing the Barnes & Noble shelves for Faust’s book another book (different author) on sex and the Civil War. I didn’t note the exact title or author so, you know, happy hunting.

One print item that I was glad to find and bring home was a single sheet of paper, “Exploring the Library of Congress via the Internet: Quick Reference Guide to the Library of Congress Web Site.” I find the web sites of both NARA and the LOC rather overwhelming, so this double-sided paper is a huge help. You think there’d be a link to it right up front on the LOC website, but you’d be wrong. The only way I was able to find an online copy was to google the title; here’s one of the links I found for the PDF: chnm.gmu.edu/fairfaxtah/documents/handout2003.pdf. I’m rather tempted to check out the page within the website titled “Exquisite Corpse Adventure.”

NARA offers a wide variety of useful research and finding aids for their many (many) (many) record groups and series and subseries. Some of them are available on the website; many are available in print, free (my tax dollars at work; yours too). A couple of the NIGR lecturers passed out particular Reference Information Papers (RIP) as accompanying material to their syllabi, and I requested more while I was there. See http://www.archives.gov/publications/finding-aids.html for links to various free and $$ publications. I came away a number of publications including: Military Service Records at the National Archives (RIP 109), Using Civilian Records for Genealogical Research in the National Archives Washington, DC, Area (RIP 110), Black Family Research: Records of Post-Civil War Federal Agencies at the National Archives (RIP 108), and Research in the Land Entry Files of the General Land Office (RIP 114).

Now to find a place for these new books on my already-full shelves….



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