Getting to the Next Level with Archived Materials

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Are you fresh out of genealogy resources and still missingimportant details about your ancestor?  

Your answer night very well be waiting among the historical documents, histories, orpersonal papers in the thousands of archives located around the world. 

I have a few unanswered questions myself that have beenlingering too long.  I have found greatsuccess researching local histories and contemporaries of those whom I am tryingto document. For example:

J. K. Vance (b. 1818) was the son of Samuel Vance(1789-1868) of Laurens County, South Carolina.  J. K. moved from Laurens to Cokesbury, Abbeville County, South Carolinasometime after 1839.  I have documented the children of J. K. and his wifeLouisa as well as Samuel’s children, siblings, and parents.  

I have land deeds, census records, and military records forboth J. K. and Samuel.   However, I would like to knowmore about this father and son, especially for the years from 1839 to 1899. You might bethinking, “How much could actually exist for that time period?” I will describefor you a couple specific archived resources that I have discovered while searching archives.

Emory University

First, the manuscript collection, ThomasF. Furman Papers, located at Emory University mentions both J. K. (JamesKincaid Vance) and his father in this record description: 

“Ann's half-brother, JamesKincaid Vance (b. 1818) son of Elizabeth Armstrong and her second husband,Samuel Vance (1789-1868), was an ancestor of John Henry Dobbs, late husband ofthe donor. Ann's cousin, B. F. Davis, son of the Rev. Jonathan and brother ofHarriet, was attending Yale College, 1832-1833, and although a loyal SouthCarolinian, States Righter, and Nullifier, was a strong supporter of the Union.Ann apparently had attended a sort of finishing school in Charleston run by aFrench woman, Madame Talvande, a refugee from the St. Domingo rebellion.”

Alsoincluded in this collection are papers of James K. Vance and the genealogy ofthe Vance and Sims families.  EmoryUniversity is in Atlanta, Georgia, an entire state away from where this family resided.

Erskine College

Second,I was referred to the Reid Hall Archives on the campus of Erskine College in Due West, South Carolina because it has many great resources documenting the history of Cokesbury,SC.  

The three volume biography, Mount Ariel -- Cokesbury, SouthCarolina : biography of an upcounty utopian community as told by E. Don Herd,mentions J. K Vance and his children and their neighbors throughout thehistory.  With help from a couple offriends at the Greenwood County Library, I am mapping significant places(churches, schools, masonic lodge, etc.) including the homesteads of J. K. Vance and his neighbors. I would notbe able to do this without Herd’s biographical history.

Of course, this level of research is much more advanced thanwhat we would expect beginners to be able to do.  However, this level of research is possible with the help of as they have researchers in hundreds of locations around the world.   

In addition, you may not have the timeto devote to traveling and researching in all the distant archives that have records pertinent to your ancestors.  If not, you can still get the records you need by submitting your research requests to and have professional genealogists assist you.  In these ways, you can get to the next level of your research and find archived materials that will help you learn more about your ancestors and the places where they lived.

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by Robin Foster © 2014, All rights reserved

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February 20, 2014
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