Monday, March 10, 2008

Another source for local histories online

You haven't felt true research despair until you get a ten-pound leather-bound county history and biography from, say, 1880, plopped on your library table. No index. No system. No useable table of contents -- but somewhere inside those gold-tipped pages there might be a biography, or even just a passing mention, of your ancestor (at least if he was male, respectable, settled, and cooperative with the company then churning the books out).

Nowadays, the main problem is keeping up with all the different places you can find these potential genealogical treasures every-word searchable on line -- better than an index! The large and growing web site Rays Place ("Explore New England's Past") by Ray Brown includes township-level histories for New England states, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and the Midwestern states of Ohio, Illinois, and Michigan. Michigan is new (hat tip to MoSGA Messenger).

I looked at Clyde Township, Allegan County, Michigan -- home to Fennville, now an up-and-coming art and foodie colony -- and compared Ray's rendition of its published 1880 history with that offered by Michigan County Histories.

MCH has more histories, and you can search across them all; it also has images of the original pages. But to get to Clyde Township you have to do some searching within the overall 1880 volume.

Ray has transcriptions (with the occasional typo) and no page numbers, but you can get right to the individual town's history if you know which one you want.

For professional-type citation purposes MCH would be preferable. Ray offers additional services in providing links to GenWeb and Linkpendium information for each county, a real bonus if you don't know those sites already.

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