Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Down on the farm

Most of our ancestors, and research targets in general, were farmers. For a sense of what they thought, or what "improvers" wanted them to think, the National Library of Agriculture has voluminous online resources: digitized searchable copies of the annual Report of the Commissioner of Agriculture 1862-1888, the Report of the Secretary of Agriculture 1889-1893, and the (newly available) Yearbook of the Department of Agriculture 1894-1937 and 1938-1992. Here's the overview of their list of publications. As near as I can tell, these are every-name searchable but as time goes on there tend to be fewer individuals named.

These are "context" or "background" resources, not likely to be means of finding or locating an elusive research target. But if you know your person was a farmer in this era, or a particularly skilled or specialized one, these books may well contain detailed information about their work. I found articles on celery culture in Kalamazoo, timber on the prairie, "sheep husbandry in the west" (1862 from Logan County, Illinois), and how Raleigh Township, Wake County, North Carolina was improving its roads in 1894. You just never know! Ongoing issues include stock improvement, fencing, and local farm organizations. Actually I got so distracted I almost didn't have time to write this post.

Hat tip Resource Shelf.

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