AmericaGen Study Group
Chapter 5 Homework
Chapter 5 focuses on research in libraries and the National Archives. The Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) Library in Washington, D.C. is one of my favorite places to research, and I try to go there any time I am in the area. (Word of warning: if you plan a summer visit, make sure it’s not during Continental Congress – you won’t get in if you are not a DAR member. I may or may not have learned this the hard way!)
One of the unique sources at the library is the volumes of the Genealogical Records Committee (GRC) books. The DAR provides background for this at its website:
Beginning in the 1910s, the DAR made a concerted effort to have members transcribe previously unpublished records of genealogical value to assist both the staff genealogists, potential members and the public. In 1913, the DAR established the Genealogical Research Committee (subsequently renamed the Genealogical Records Committee) to coordinate this nation-wide attempt to save historical records. The result has been nearly 17,000 typescripts of records from across the country.
Although these records are considered secondary sources because they are transcriptions, they are still valuable and should not be overlooked. One of the mysteries my cousin and I solved through the GRC books was confirming the identity of William M. Dennett’s parents. We had plenty of records for William after his marriage to Elvira Nickerson in Massachusetts in 1844, but documenting his early life, including his parents' identities, was challenging because there were several men named William Dennett born in Maine in the 1815-1820 timeframe. None of the records we had indicated his parents, siblings, or even the town he was born in, so it was difficult to eliminate one or more of the men in question.
William Dennett is enumerated in the 1850 census in Royalton, Vermont, with his wife, Elvira and baby daughter, Ella. The family was there for only a few years before moving on to Ohio and then Wisconsin. On the next page is a William and Martha Dennett, who were the right age to be William M.’s parents, but we could find no records to document the relationship. The elder Dennetts had no children at home in 1850, so we didn’t have names of siblings to research.
|William & Evira Dennett household, 1850 U.S. Census, Royalton, Windsor, Vermont, page 95B|
|William & Martha Dennett household, 1850 U.S. Census, Royalton, Windsor, Vermont, page 96A|
One day when we were researching at the DAR library, my cousin found William Dennett’s Bible record in one of the GRC volumes. We were amazed to find it listed his parents as William Dennett and Martha Doughty – the same William and Martha in South Royalton in the 1850 census. Not only that, but the record showed other children for William and Elvira. These children had been born and died young, in between census records, so we did not know of them until finding this document in the GRC.
When I first started visiting the DAR library, the books were available on the shelves, but the library had just started digitizing the pages. Now that all of the books have been digitized, images can be viewed in the technology room. If you can’t make a visit to the library, though, you can still access the GRC books through a combination of online search and mail order. I’ll show you how to do this, using William Dennett as an example.
The first step is to search the GRC index, which can be accessed at http://services.dar.org/public/dar_research/search/?Tab_ID=6.
The search form requires a surname. Optional fields include the state and first name. Here I'll search with both the first and last name, but leave the state and other fields blank:
|GRC Search Form|
|GRC Search Results for William Dennett|
Looking at the list of names for this entry, I notice that this document names a William M. Dennett, another William Dennett, and a Martha Douty. This record looks promising, and is one I would order if I were actually conducting this research for the first time.
|List of names from page 47 of Illinois GRC series 1, volume 94|
One other tip for searching the GRC index - Don’t discount a record in the index just because it was submitted by a chapter in a state where your person of interest did not live. Bibles and other family documents moved with descendants, and would have been transcribed and submitted by the local chapters where those family members lived.
To order a record, make note of the state, series number, volume, page number, and name in the index. Go to the Library's Search Service page, print and fill out the request form, and mail the form and a check to the address provided. The current cost is $10 for member and $15 for nonmembers.