Sunday, December 18, 2011

Researchers Are Readers

Understand Society to Understand Ancestors
Dr. Widger's Library
If you are researching your ancestors in a vacuum, without knowledge of the era, event or community, you have probably failed to understand their life, their struggles, their decision. Sure you have documents, but do you understand the context of each of their pivotal events; the larger picture if you will of society?  Have you read historical books or memoirs directly written in your ancestor’s lifetime reflecting their community? Even Rabelais dissected society to write his books. Historical readings will broaden your understanding of their life and societal impacts.

E-Books at Project Gutenberg

By now you have heard of Project Gutenberg, but with the popularity of e-books you can down load them to your smartphone and increase your cultural reading. Dr.Widger’s Library has a broad selection of titles that are of interest of our genealogical research. The library includes files, volumes, books, chapters, stories and illustrations.” But my favorite are the hidden maps:

Many of these selections are already available online, like Azel Ames’ The Mayflower and Her Log, July 15, 1620 – May 6, 1621, but the bonus of becoming familiar with Widger’s Library is its downloadable feature.  You can download a complete set of books offered by an author listed in the index in order to link off-line to your smartphone or ebook. 

The e-Books of Dr. Widger’s Library are for “the use of anyone anywhere at no cost and with almost no restrictions whatsoever.  You may copy it, give it away or re-use it under the terms of the Project Gutenberg License included with this eBook or online at

Topics and Titles
A full list of authors and works available can be found at the Home Page:  Here are a few titles of genealogical interest.
Have you traced your family to early French ancestor?  Widgers Library offers a collection of  Court Memoirs of France with active on-line links to all files.
Moravians in Georgia by Adelaide Fries is  a popular reference book.
Folklore and tales are another way to understand the culture of our immigrant ancestors, and hopefully you are familiar with the Works of William Carleton, and his Stories and Tales of the Irish.

Civil War
A thorough way to study the Civil War is through the experience of the Generals. Memoirs of Three Union Generals, Grant, Sherman, and Sheridan, is included in this collection.

Was your ancestor a “guest” of a POW camp?  A Story of Rebel Military Prison, by James McElroy gives us a peek into the Andersonville POW Camp. This fifteen month account of a Guest of the So-called Southern Confederacy is published in four volumes.

Memoirs and writings of the US Presidents help us understand the “whys” of the era.  An Index of the Complete Writings and Papers of Abraham Lincoln with active on-line links to all files are included.  There is also the  Autobiography of Theodore Roosevelt.

Kathleen Brandt
accurate, accessible answers

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