Monday, January 11, 2010

The Draper Manucripts Hold a Wealth of Information

Finding names of our ancestors and their dates is wonderful and very addictive, but it’s equally fun to find out what life was like for them. If one or more of your ancestors lived on the western frontier during or just after the America Revolution, you’ll have a wonderful time reading through the Draper Papers. Those papers cover the period between the French and Indian War and the War of 1812. The collection consists of research notes, letters, correspondence, and interviews of people who lived in the Trans Allegheny West—Western Carolinas, West Virginia, Kentucky, and the Ohio River Valley. Google “Draper Papers” and follow some of the links. Check out for a more complete description of the collection.

Using the collection requires a bit of effort, but can be well worth it. It is massive—491 volumes on 123 microfilm reels, and isn’t indexed. Many scholars have worked on guides which are indexed. The best of these is Josephine Harper's detailed Guide to the Draper Manuscripts, for sale from the Wisconsin Historical Society. The original collection is at the University of Wisconsin, and microfilms are available. Copies of the microfilms can be found in Florida at several locations: Florida State University (Tallahassee); Miami-Dade Public Library (Miami); University of Central Florida (Orlando). The closest to us is the John F. Germany Public Library in Tampa. If you search their catalog on line, you will find 6 titles from the Draper collection. The Family History Library at Salt Lake City also has the microfilm collection so you should be able to order selections from our local Family History Library. And a quick check of shows it has three full-text volumes from the collection on line.

One of our members, Jane Jacobson, was excited to read an interview Draper did with her great-grandfather’s grandmother, Jane Williamson McNulty. She was the daughter of Colonel David Williamson, commander of a group of volunteers from Washington County, PA. Not only did she relate stories about his career, she even described him as being of medium height with light brown hair and blue eyes. She also mentioned many of the men associated with his troops. How often do we find out details like that about our distant ancestors?

The Largo Public Library has a copy of a book compiled from word of mouth stories taken from Draper interviews: Indian Warfare in Western Pennsylvania and North West Virginia at the Time of the American Revolution. It was edited by Jared C. Lobdell, call number “973.343 Indian”. Reading this little book gives you a picture of life on the frontier during the Revolution and names of many people not found in other sources.

My thanks for Jane Jacobson for this informaiton. If any of you have items you think would be of general interest, send them to me at and I'll try to get them on the Blog.

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