REPUBLISHED BOOKS MAKE THE STORIES
October 24, 2010
The book was published in 1851. From the description, it had the information in it I needed so desperately. If I found a copy in rare books, I am sure I could not afford it. Because the copyright was so old, would it be available free on Google books? On the other hand, had it been republished by some publishing company and readily available, cheap? New researchers are constantly taking up their family search, and sadly, some pass away. All of this constant flux necessitates republication of material published in past centuries. New sources constantly appear in the form of published and electronic works and the Internet brought new and changing methods for us to use in documenting early America.
When I was writing a book on my family from Alabama, I wanted to include some information. For instance, the history of Alabama began in 1519 when explorer Pineda sailed into Mobile Bay. This was long before it became a territory on 3 March 1817, or a state two years later. To understand Alabama’s history and people, I had to study it from early times. A history written by someone who lived in Alabama during the 19th century is certainly a premium work for researchers of the Yellowhammer state.
One such writer is Albert James Pickett (1810-1858) who authored many historical and economic articles, and championed the fields of agriculture and politics. You may remember his book, History of Alabama and Incidentally of Georgia and Mississippi from the Earliest Period, published in 1851.
Another person of note who lived and published in that era was scholar and attorney Thomas McAdory Owen (1866-1920). He is best remembered as the founder of the Alabama State Department of Archives and History in 1901, and Annals of Alabama 1819-1900, published in 1900. The Webb Book Company asked Mr. Owen to update Pickett’s work and he did so in his Annals. In so doing, Owen included a subject and name index of more than 5,000 entries.
In 2000, Clearfield Publishing Company updated the work of these two men in a huge work of nearly 800 pages. These republications allow those of us living today to acquire a rich history of Alabama life and culture written by two historical writers of the 19th century. I do not know how much these books sold for when they were originally published, but used, original books sell on the Internet for over $100! Yet, the republication costs half of that amount.
The early text gives us a window into the writing of that period. In introducing John W. Walker, a child born in Virginia who accompanied his father to Elbert County, Georgia, the book mentioned his former teacher as the well-known Reverend Moses Waddel. The biography goes on to give Walker’s physical description. “In person Mr. Walker was tall, his figure slender but well formed, and his manners and address mild, graceful and prepossessing. He had blue eyes, brown hair, a fine complexion, handsome features, and a countenance whose expression, habitually pensive, kindled into animation with every lofty thought and generous feeling.” How fascinating to read such a valuable history written in the jargon of a bygone era, and it is available to the new and experienced family historian with or without Alabama lineage.
Books many of us use as clues to our ancestors lives are the ones published by Goodspeed Publishing Company. Goodspeed visited families across the south in the latter 1800s asking questions about their lives, descent, origin, religion, etc. Professionals use these only for clues to finding proof, never as factual. Use whatever is necessary for clues. If you cannot document the clues, then say that in your writings.
Remember that families like stories, they make yours interesting.
Brenda Kellow has a bachelor's degree in history, teaches, and lectures on genealogy. Before retiring to publish her family’s histories in 2007, Brenda held certification as a Certified Genealogist and as a Certified Genealogical Instructor. Send reunion announcements, books to review, and genealogy queries to: TracingOurRoots@gmail.com.