Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Genealogy in some Serious History

I am taking a bleary-eyed break from composing a grant application for a $500 undergraduate research scholarship to talk a little bit about using genealogy in some academically serious history.

As mentioned in my profile over there ----->, I am a History and Spanish major at the University of North Florida, concentrating on Spanish Colonial Florida. That interest is already proving to be a small bit remunerative, as I have a forthcoming book on the colonial, territorial, and state censuses of Florida, to be published later this year (as soon as I can finish the proofreading and the construction of the index!) . The project I'm planning for this scholarship, which would fund work to be done as a directed independent study under my major professor, Dr. J. Michael Francis in the Department of History at UNF, is designed to be a study of the social, economic, political, and military history of St. Augustine during the Second Spanish Period (1783-1820), using the methods and sources of genealogy.

Having written the abovementioned book on the censuses of Florida, I am already familiar with the extant Spanish colonial censuses which can be accessed from within the state of Florida. Other original sources I plan to use include military records, church records (of the Diocese of St. Augustine, and including BMDB), newspaper records, land records, tax records, letters, memoirs, and court records. Most of these are part of the East Florida Papers, a collection of papers siezed by the United States forces taking over Florida in 1820, when Spain ceded the territory to the U.S. The originals of these papers are in the Library of Congress, but they have been microfilmed and are available locally.

Other sources, such as Spanish land grants of the period, are digitized and online from the Florida State Archive. And the church records are available at the Diocesan archive in St. Augustine, the P.K. Yonge Library of Florida History in Gainesville, and the Florida State Archive in Tallahassee.

The focus will be on the families of St. Augustine, but instead of following one line vertically through time, as we usually do, I am going to follow several families horizontally within a very short (genealogically speaking) span of 37 years. Through the experiences and travails of these families, documented in the abovementioned records, I hope to reconstruct a more intimate and complex picture of the history of St. Augustine during this period. I will also, of course, be using the records of history and archaeology.

It is quite a project. Even if I do not succeed in securing a scholarship, I will go ahead with the directed independent study, Dr. Francis and the university willing, because it will add to my own stock of knowledge about the Spanish lineages of Florida, which I am choosing as my genealogical specialty, and I am very sure I can get another book out of it! That alone is reason enough to go through with the project, scholarship or no.

I'll let you know if I am successful in securing the grant.


Thomas MacEntee said...


I love the idea of following several families within one town or city for several decades - similar to a one-place study. I've tried the same thing with my ancestral hometown of Lowville, NY but I don't have time to commit to it.

Can I ask what software you might use for this? Will it be genealogy database software or have you considered creating a wiki with entries for each person?

Karen Packard Rhodes said...

Hi, Thomas!

Glad you dropped in.

As I will be making my original notes in archives which have varying rules for what you can carry into them, I will probably use the old-school method we used in the General Archive of the Indies in Seville - 5 x 8 index cards!

But at home, I'll go modern, transferring the information on individuals and families to a separate project in The Master Genealogist. I can do all sorts of things with the data and the source information, and also will have lots of room for notes.

I don't know nothin' 'bout no Wikis! Heehee! I'm having enough trouble with using the university's Wiki software we're using in my Spanish Lit class!

Bill West said...

What an exciting project.
I envy you!