Obscure people and records

Barbara Vines Little, editor of the Magazine of Virginia Genealogy, introduces the current issue (Vol. 53, No. 4, November 2015) with her message, “On the Trail of the Obscure.” She says that “Readers will find this issue replete with the types of records best suited to following the tracks of people who often leave little trace of their presence in a given area.” For researchers seeking hard-to-locate individuals from the late 1700s, the various rent rolls, store ledgers, personal property tax lists, and military clothing accounts published therein may indeed provide vital clues and links.

Obscurity works both ways. Not only do the records contain obscure individuals, the records themselves are obscure–records that the average genealogist with Virginia roots is unlikely to know about. The Virginia Genealogical Society serves the genealogical community well in making unusual records more accessible through its publications.

“Not well known” is one of several definitions of “obscure.” A related word is “obscurant.” As a noun, it’s a person who strives to prevent the increase and spread of knowledge, or, a person who obscures. As an adjective, it means tending to make obscure.

There are so many obscure records in the National Archives that are worthy of greater attention by researchers. Thus, I am launching a periodic series of Anti-Obscurant posts to shed light on some of the many obscure Federal records held by the National Archives and Records Administration. It should be educational for us all.

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