National Archives Draft Strategic Plan for FY 2018-2022

The National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) announced a Draft Strategic Plan for Fiscal Years 2018-2022 in August, and has just issued its revised plan, based on public and staff comments. This is a process that every federal agency goes through every four years.

One of the goals is to digitize 500 million pages of records and make them available through our online Catalog. This is ambitious; there are about 37 million images in the Catalog currently.

The future: it will be interesting. Never a doubt about that.

Dangerous Assumptions!

We all do it. We make assumptions all the time. About everything.

In genealogy, we make assumptions about our ancestors, although their worlds were far different than ours.

We make assumptions about the records. Beginners often assume there’s “no record” of an ancestor simply because they cannot find it–for any one of a myriad of reasons. A researcher might assume that absence of one kind of record means that related records are also lost. Experienced genealogists are not immune from the assumption disease, either.

The 1820 population census schedules of New Jersey are long gone. They were lost long before there was a National Archives. But are all 1820 census records for New Jersey lost? No.

The 1820 manufacturing census schedules for New Jersey did survive, and they are published on National Archives Microfilm Publication M279, Records of the 1820 Census of Manufactures, Roll 17. There are schedules for over 300 men and firms, and it’s great stuff.

Here’s the list of New Jersey marshals, types of industries, and manufacturers found in the 1820 manufacturing schedules. The schedules are arranged by county (although not in alphabetical order), but they are also arranged in numerical order. Before microfilming, National Archives staff arranged the records geographically according to the arrangement in the published Digest of Manufactures compiled from these records in the 1820s, and then by any discernible system employed by the marshals. This arrangement permits the searcher to compare the individual schedules with the marshals’ abstracts and the Digest of Manufacturers tabulations.

Certainly, the records show that these (presumed) heads of families lived in a particular geographic location in 1820. Better than that, however, the manufacturing census schedules document the economic underpinnings of these households and their communities. Here is the two page record for a cotton textile factory owned by D. Holsman in Paterson town, Aquacknonk township, Essex County (sorry for the blurriness in my photos). Page 1:

1820NJManufacturing23a.jpg

Page 2:

1820NJManufacturing23b.jpg

Some Assistant Marshals used pre-printed forms, as shown by this one dated at New York [City], December 1820, by J. Prall, part owner of the Rutgers Cotton Factory, also in Patterson [sic].

1820NJManufacturing.jpg

Great  stuff. Both of the factories I’ve highlighted were “large” concerns, but there were also plenty of small shops included in the manufacturing schedules. If you had ancestors in New Jersey (or any state) in 1820, take a look at M279. You’ll be glad you did.

M279 Roll List:
1 – Maine and New Hampshire
2 – Massachusetts and Rhode Island
3 – Vermont
4 – Connecticut
5 -New York
6 – New York
7 – New York
8 – New York
9 – New York
10 – New York
11 – New York
12 – Pennsylvania
13 – Pennsylvania
14 – Pennsylvania
15 – Pennsylvania
16 – Maryland
17 – New Jersey, Delaware, and District of Columbia
18 – Virginia
19 – North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia
20 – Kentucky and Indiana
21 – Ohio
22 – Ohio
23 – Ohio
24 – Ohio
25 – Ohio
26 – Eastern District of Tennessee
27 – Western District of Tennessee, Illinois, and pages from the published Digest of Manufactures for Alabama, Louisiana, Missouri, Michigan, and Arkansas

I have not found M279 online. Viewing copies are available at the National Archives Building, Washington, DC, and at National Archives Regional Archives in Atlanta, Boston, Kansas City (Missouri), Philadelphia, and Riverside (California). It can also be found at libraries with large genealogical collections.

Here is an easily accessible copy of the descriptive pamphlet (DP) for M279, which also describes and identifies where manufacturing data embedded within the 1810 population census can be found.

Women in the Civil War

lc-b811-2405b-laundress01663utrimmed

When we think of the Civil War, the image that likely immediately springs to mind is that of thousands of men in uniform clashing in epic battles, such as at Gettysburg.

Forgotten are the thousands of women who performed tedious, dirty, inglorious tasks–hospital matrons, hospital nurses, laundresses, cooks, and others. They were there, too, on both sides of the conflict.

Documenting their presence, identity, and contributions, is infuriatingly difficult, however, due to the paucity of records that were kept–or retained. A new article,
“Union Army Laundresses,” NGS Magazine, Vol. 42, No. 3 (July-Sept. 2016): 33-37, breaks new ground by outlining research strategies for documenting the service of hospital laundresses, fort and post laundresses, and camp laundresses.

Most of these women likely came from the poorer end of the economic spectrum. They included African-Americans as well as Caucasians. Their efforts deserved to be better remembered, and I hope this article will encourage research.

95%: Describing the National Archives’ Holdings

From the blog of David Ferriero, Archivist of the United States (AOTUS).

AOTUS

The National Archives Catalog has reached a milestone: we now have 95% of our holdings completely described at the series level in our online catalog. This is a monumental achievement. Why? Because the National Archives holds over 13 billion pages of records, and we are adding hundreds of millions of pages to that total every year.

Describing our records in the online Catalog means that the information for all of those holdings is in one central place for researchers anywhere to search and browse, and is vital to our strategic goal to Make Access Happen. Description enables us to provide the archival context of records as they are shared and re-used by researchers, citizen developers, and the public.

We’ve come a long way since our first online catalog was released in 2001. By 2003, only 19% of our holdings were described online for the public to view. This means…

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Civil War Chaplains

My colleague, John P. Deeben, recently published an excellent article on records in the National Archives about Union and Confederate Civil War chaplains. It is “Faith on the Firing Line: Army Chaplains in the Civil War,” Prologue: Quarterly of the National Archives and Records Administration, Vol. 48, No. 1 (Spring 2016).  Researchers will find it informative and useful.chaplains-cooke-l

1950 Census Enumeration District Maps Are Going Online

There’s still 5.7 years to go until the release of the 1950 Census on 1 April 2022, but the National Archives and Records Administration has been working for some time to get ready for that event.

Enumeration District maps involve no privacy restrictions so they can be made available to the public at any time. In “Snapshot USA: 1950 Census Enumeration District Maps,” staff member Ellen Mulligan describes the maps and the behind-the-scenes work needed to get them online.

Those “Boring” Administrative Files….

Most novice genealogists understandably focus on finding vital records of birth, marriage, and death. More experienced researchers know that understanding an ancestor’s full life – as well as finding ways around “brick wall” problems – comes from delving into a wide range of records created by government record keepers at all levels of our federalist structure.

The “wide range of records” includes those “boring” administrative files, which, it often turns out, are not so boring after all. My recent article – “Special Examiners: Records of the Bureau of Pensions’ Efforts to Combat Waste, Fraud, and Abuse, 1862–1933” – in Volume 8 of the Federal History Journal seeks to bring greater appreciation to less-well known records in Record Group 15, Records of the Department of Veterans Affairs.