Genealogy Wise

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Starting the US: Institutional Records Course

When you think of an “institution” what comes to mind first? For me, it is prisons or asylums. But guess what, this word can cover a whole bunch of other places as well. Places which most of us had ancestors in attendance. Not to say all ancestors were black sheep, just that they had reasons to attend an established facility.

Historic American Buildings Survey, photo-copy of engraving by John Andrews, showing Dexter Asylum in 1869. - Dexter Asylum, Hope Street & Lloyd Avenue, Providence, Providence County, RI. Library of Congress. http://www.loc.gov/pictures/resource/hhh.ri0177.photos.145474p/

Historic American Buildings Survey, photo-copy of engraving by John Andrews, showing Dexter Asylum in 1869. - Dexter Asylum, Hope Street & Lloyd Avenue, Providence, Providence County, RI. Library of Congress. http://www.loc.gov/pictures/resource/hhh.ri0177.photos.145474p/

The 6-week course US: Institutional Records  does cover researching prisons and asylums as well as a variety of other institutions. Places like poorhouses, orphanages, schools, and veteran’s homes. In addition, the course author, Amy Johnson Crow, also covers where to find the records and how to trace the clues. Both of which are crucial to a successful search.

I do not have any black sheep ancestors, much to my personal disappointment, but I and my husband do have ancestors which fall into other categories. This gives me hope that I can fill in more details about their lives for my research. Maybe even break down a wall or two in the process.

by Shannon Combs-Bennett, student

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