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Spotlight: Gallaudet University Library Deaf Collections and Archives, Washington, D.C.

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Valerie Beaudrault

Valerie Beaudrault
Assistant Editor

Gallaudet University Library Deaf Collections and Archives, Washington, D.C.


Gallaudet University was first incorporated in Washington, D.C., as the Columbia Institution for the Instruction of the Deaf and Dumb and the Blind in 1857. Its first superintendent was Edward Miner Gallaudet, the son of Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet, founder of the first school for deaf students in the United States. In 1864, Congress authorized the school to confer college degrees and Edward Gallaudet was made president. Ninety years later in 1954, through an act of Congress, the institution was renamed Gallaudet College in honor of Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet.


Deaf Library Collections and Archives

According to its mission statement “The Gallaudet University Archives is responsible for the institutional memory of the University and also strives to preserve the memory of the global Deaf Community.” The collection includes artifacts, photographs, films, papers, periodicals, books, and other items.


A number of the online resources may be found under Genealogy Resources on the website. Click on the Genealogy Resources link in the site’s contents list on the left side of the page to access them. The genealogy databases include the following:


Gallaudet University Alumni Cards

This collection comprises approximately 4,650 alumni cards for the period from 1866 through 1961. The cards include the name, class, degree, married name, and subsequent degrees for these individuals. In addition the cards may also contain information such as residence, occupation, accomplishments, and dates of marriages and deaths. Many contain a wealth of information. The database is organized alphabetically. You can search by keywords in several fields, by title, personal name, and class year. You can also browse the database. The results returned include a thumbnail image of the index card. Click on the thumbnail to enlarge the image.


Columbia Institution Statistics

There are two Columbia Institution Statistics databases on the website that cover 1857 through 1897 and 1898 through 1950. The databases include student statistics compiled by the Registrar’s Office. Click on the first letter of the student’s surname to view an alphabetical list of students with surnames beginning with that letter.


Faculty Staff Cards

The faculty and staff database covers the period from 1866 to 1944. The data fields include last name, first name, position, date of appointment, birth date, if known, and additional remarks. The additional remarks field includes such information as date retired, date fired, date promoted, maiden name, and so on. It appears to include all staff — dentist, cook, bookkeeper, waitress, chambermaid, and laundress as well as instructors.


Fay Index

This database indexes a 528-page report compiled by Dr. Edward Allen Fay titled Marriages of the Deaf. As noted on the website, this report was compiled due to discussions at the third convention of the National Association of the Deaf in 1889. Its president, Edwin Hodgson, “cited the need for statistical analysis about the Deaf to either refute or confirm Alexander Graham Bell's theory that intermarriage among the Deaf led to a greater chance for a couple to have Deaf children.” This report contains a wealth of genealogical information. There are two alphabetical indexes: one to men and one to women by maiden name. Click on the first letter of the surname to view the list. The data fields include last name and first name of husband, then wife (or wife, then husband), folder code, and Fay code.


Pennsylvania School for the Deaf Applications, 1824–1938

The Pennsylvania School for the Deaf was a residential school in Philadelphia which operated between 1820 and 1984. This database is an alphabetical index to applications to the school. Click on the first letter of the student’s surname to view the names. The data fields include last name, first name, year, box number, and notes.


Vital Records

This database is an index to vital record events found in more than forty deaf community newspapers and lists published or collected between 1847 and 2001. Most of the later sources of information are from lists such as Gallaudet University Alumni Association Obituaries and the National Fraternal Society of the Deaf Death List. The index can be searched by last name, first name, and maiden name. You can limit the search by year, state, country, and source by using the drop down lists. The data fields in the search results vary by source and type of event, but they always include the source and publication date.

Posted by Jean Powers at 03/26/2012 07:50:00 AM | 

This subject has interested me for quite some time. I have just started researching it on the Internet and found your post to be informative. Thanks
Posted by: Johnson Nickolas ( Email | Visit ) at 5/5/2012 11:13 AM

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