Friday, October 23, 2009

Nothing like a perfect article to motivate you

After reading Rachal Mills Lennon's 2004 NGSQ article, "The Wives of Jonathan Turner...", for this month's NGSQ study group discussion I decided to get motivated. This article was smooth as silk. The format used made it easy to read, and easy to follow. The methodology was flawless and the conclusion, that even the impossible is sometimes possible as long as you expand your search to anything and anyone that could shed light on your subject, was infallible. After reading an article like that, it's hard not to get motivated about your own work.

So here's my idea: Ever since I first found my Bromagem Great Great Great Grandfather, James M. Bromagem, I always felt that his life would make a pretty good article. There are a few angles but the one that intrigued me was his occupation as a printer/newspaper published, especially after reading another NGSQ article about using one's occupation to help fill in the details of your subject's life and to help find him through the census years(see Hinchliff, "Job Davidson, Cooper in Baltimore, Maryland...:Using Occupation and Birthplace as Census Finding Aids" in NGSQ 94, June 2006, pgs 85-100). Now don't get excited, he wasn't successful; he didn't form any presses that are still in operation today and in fact, most of the presses he did start closed down within a year's time. But this is actually the part that appeals to me as far as being an article topic. Because of the relatively short lifespan of his endeavors, he spent the whole of his life on the move and determining where he could be during any given year was next to impossible. Until I discovered a published bibliography of Indiana newspapers that is. With that tool, I was able to match up his work sites with the births of his four children (whose birthdates were given by the Dr who delivered them in James' widows' pension file) and track his movements by a year, or two at the most, throughout the 1850s and a portion of the 1860s. Being able to track him that closely was something I never thought I'd be able to do when I first started researching him, and it was all due to the fact that he was an on-the-go newspaper man. He attempted to set up presses through the Eastern Indiana border counties and since he was poor, with no land, he didn't leave many other clues such as deed records and the lack of extant tax lists in some of the areas in which he lived made things harder and this is where the importance of occupation came in. Thank goodness for that!

I'm thinking of naming the potential article, "Where in the world is James M. Bromagem, of Ohio, Indiana, and Washington, D.C.?: Another Lesson in the Importance of Occupation as a Finding Aid." :) I'd like to think I could come up with something half as effective as Rachal's article but who knows. I've been too intimidated to try up until now so thanks to that article I've at least got the gumption to attempt it. Now I just need to get it all down on paper.

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