Last week’s Federation of Genealogical Societies conference in Knoxville was a grand success. Although the physical placement of the exhibit hall removed us from the classrooms, there was still a great deal of traffic. A number of exhibitors had a great deal of interest for attendees. Maia’s Books now stocks all Heritage Books in print and had a wide selection in the booth. I am continually amazed at the quality of product at Maia’s. I picked up an excellent book at the conference dealing with German names. Bruce and Laurie Buzbee were able to answer some questions for me about the latest release of RootsMagic (one of the best database software programs I’ve ever used).
Connie Potter, Maureen Macdonald, and their crew at the National Archives were extremely helpful in answering questions about military records, including a large number of questions about the War of 1812 pension records. On Friday evening FamilySearch.org sponsored a reception for the launch of a new FGS project, Preserve the Pensions, which will raise money to digitize these pension files. You can find more details, and sample pension files, at www.fgs.org/1812.
One of the highlights of the week, however, was visiting the East Tennessee History Center. The Center is home to the East Tennessee Historical Society, the Calvin M. McClung Historical Collection, and the Knox County Archives. The convenient location on Gay Street is just two blocks from the Hilton Hotel where we stayed. I have heard good things about the Center before, but was unprepared for just how wonderful a place it is to do research.
The Museum of East Tennessee History and a small gift shop are located on the first floor. On a mission to research some families for my book on the descendants of Josiah Franklin, I went straight to the second floor, home of the Knox County Archives (KCA). KCA houses a wide variety of county records, from the earliest days of the county to the late twentieth century. With the assistance of extremely friendly staff, I was quickly looking at original probate files from the 1950s and 1970s. A valuable set of cemetery transcriptions helped me locate the family in the Old Gray Cemetery quite speedily. FindaGrave.com had revealed stones for two family members. It turns out that they are buried in a family plot with seven known burials. The next day I was able to take a short trip to the cemetery and photograph all of the stones.
I next moved up to the third floor, home of the Calvin M. McClung Historical Collection of the Knoxville Public Library. Extra staff was on hand to assist the large number of conference attendees there to research. I was quicklyseated at a microfilm reader, examining death certificates and newspaper articles that quickly identified a number of new descendants. The microfilm cabinets held a large number of records from counties across Tennessee, while the adjacent room held books from all over the state.
At the end of the day I left, bleary-eyed, to make my way back to the hotel and some sleep, my backpack filled with photocopies of new information. One drawback of the Center is that all copying (photocopying of books or prints of microfilm) must be done by staff members. Users fill out a form with the appropriate publication information then drop off the form with the book or microfilm at a nearby desk, paying for all copies at the time of drop off. Later on, you pick up your photocopies at the front desk. While this does make for a slow process initially, you do not have to waste time standing at the photocopy machine, and you always receive excellent-quality printouts.
If you have research in Tennessee, I strongly advise a trip to Knoxville to visit the East Tennessee Historical Center. You can find out more about it at www.easttnhistory.org.