Thursday, June 2, 2011

Announcing a New Series: EmigranThursday

Elephants at the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo

In the course of my research I have collected a fair amount of biographies of Scottish emigrants or their descendants. These biographies come from county histories, a common publication in the United States during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. These were usually subscription volumes which, in addition to personal biographies, included histories of the United States, of your local state, county and then all the townships within the county. The most useful aspects of these for the historian are the biographies and the township histories. The latter usually mention the first families to settle in the region and provide additional information on other "firsts" in the township: post office, churches, stores, etc. County histories exist in the greatest number for the wealthiest and longest settled regions of the country, namely New England and the Midwest. Although some people will tell you to beware of these books with their biographies, I have found them to be largely reliable and accurate. For more information see the 1970 article 'Every Man His Own Biographer" by Archibald Hanna, which appeared in volume 80 of the Proceedings of the American Antiquarian Society.

It occurred to me that I could post these biographies and if possible and/or easy find out a bit more information about the individual in the document. Then it occurred to me if I were to type the biographies up, I might as well put them in an Access Database, which ought to be useful to somebody, somewhere, someday. Since most of the biographies I have already are related to my dissertation research, they will be limited geographically to parts of New York, Pennsylvania and Ohio.

But why is this post illustrated by elephants? Because they inspired the name of the series. The Cleveland Metroparks Zoo sent their elephants away for about two years while the enclosure was rebuilt. In April, I believe, the elephants finally returned home to Cleveland and their new enclosure opened to the public on May 5th. Since then the Zoo has been hosting ElephanTuesdays, a series of late-evening openings to allow small numbers of Zoo members to visit.

I picked Thursday as the day for the series because this day is associated with St. Columba. Apparently, this association made otherworldly beings, like witches and faeries, powerless and therefore a good day to begin journeys or other endeavors.

Come back next Thursday and read the first emigrant biography.

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