Looking Ahead to Our Session in Oakland …

Hello!

I’m delighted that Doug Seefeldt has asked me to lead a breakout group at the Digital frontiers workshop and to serve as your humble Google-jockey* for digital materials related to public history. Last year’s session at Lake Tahoe set a high standard and was a wonder of collaboration and ideas.

For my part, I’d like to share a little of the enormous body of digital resources largely used for genealogy, and talk about their application for historians in teaching and research. Most of us are likely familiar with commercial databases such as Ancestry (which actually aggregates thousands of individual databases), but a universe of other resources exist, many of them free and created by volunteer efforts.

To take but one example, a project involving the Colorado Genealogical Society and a troop of volunteers created an index to Colorado Marriages, 1858-1939. The index in its PDF form is 23,417 pages in length, and testifies to the power of volunteer efforts. (I hasten to add every librarian in the Western History/Genealogy Department at the Denver Public Library recalls with horror the first time they clicked “print” rather than “print current page” with this database!) Colorado Marriages provides the name of a bride, a groom, a date for a license application, the county involved, and a license number. The application for genealogists is obvious, but consider how a researcher armed with a surname schedule might use this index to explore ethnicity and patterns of marriage within and amongst different ethnic groups.**

Anyone who wants to dabble in such sources before our session might want to explore the materials available online at FamilySearch, especially the materials under USA, Canada, and Mexico. I encourage you simply to play with these resources. Crossover opportunities abound, and I think the informed historian should be aware of the possibilities and challenges involved with such tools.

Thanks!

Wendel Cox

* Google-jockey (n.) [goo-guhl jok-ee]: a person who frantically uses Internet search engines and other tools to find and display websites casually mentioned by presenters or participants.

** So where’s the link to the Colorado Marriage Index? It’s not available online. Why not? For reasons that would form an interesting thread at our session: privacy, identity theft, and the public record in the digital age.

Advertisements

About J. Wendel Cox

J. Wendel Cox is Senior Special Collection Librarian in the Western History/Genealogy Department at Denver Public Library. He holds a PhD in American History from the University of Minnesota and a Masters in Information & Library Science from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. His current research involves the history of animals in Denver and other modern American cities. He also seeks to save saloon cats from the enormous condescension of history.
This entry was posted in Conferences, Digital History, Public History. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Looking Ahead to Our Session in Oakland …

  1. Well said! Great information, keep up the great work!

  2. Pingback: Digital Frontiers: Public History Breakout Session | Digital Frontiers: A WHA Digital History Workshop

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s