Saturday, August 29, 2009


Searching the National Archives

by LuAnn Schindler

You're conducting research for a piece about World War I. Along the way, you scour through books, look through microfilmed newspapers, but you want more. You want to glimpse at objects that document the journey of a soldier. Where can you find these objects? Begin at the National Archives.

The National Archives and Record Administration is the nation's record keeper, documenting the business conducted by the U.S. Federal government. According to the Archive's website, only 1 - 3 percent of the documents and materials created in the course of business are kept for legal and historical reasons.

But here, at the archives, you can discover a world of knowledge about a variety of historical topics about ordinary citizens. Established in 1934, the National Archives contain holdings dating as far back as 1775. And in the Internet age, the Archives also maintains electronic records. Imagine the possibilities!

The Archives aren't all housed in Washington, D.C. The nation is divided into nine regions, and these regional facilities house valuable records from the territory it represents. Additionally, each regional facility contains holdings for certain Federal agencies. Documents are stored in temperature-controlled storage areas. Preserving these precious documents is a primary objective. Visitors can observe records, and strict handling regulations are enforced.

Last October, I visited the Southeast Region Archive, located in Morrow, Georgia. Here, records from Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Tennessee are stored.

While touring the immense facility, I made a personal discovery: all 24 million original WWI draft cards remain in existence at this Archives location. My grandfather served in this war, and I knew I wanted a copy to share with my family.

The process of retrieving the record was simple: I filled out an online form, paid the $5 fee, and within 48 hours, I received a digital copy, complete with my grandfather's signature. It's such a powerful feeling to hold that piece of family history!

In the lobby of the Southeast Archives, learn firsthand about our nation's history. Over 500 quality facsimiles of regional holdings show the paths of the famous and infamous. It's a breathtaking look of the history that defines us as a nation.

The Southeast facility offers these original records:

  • Draft cards. All Word War I draft registration cards are here. Word War II , Korea, and Vietnam-era draft cards for the states covered by the Southeast region can be found here.
  • Microfilm resources. Census records, passenger arrival, Freedmen's Bureau, Native American records and documents exist on microfilm and can be viewed on site.
  • Military Service and Pension Records. A great source for genealogical information, pension applications and payment records are available on microfilm.
  • Naturalization Records. Find the records of immigrants who applied for American citizenship. The earliest records date from 1790.
  • Slave Manifests. Any ship transporting slaves were required to present a manifest listing the names of slaves on board. Records include a slave's name, sex, age, and height. The person who shipped the slaves and the party purchasing the slaves are also listed on the records. Unfortunately, the last names of the slaves are not included on the manifests.
  • Tennessee Valley Authority. Relocation files for families and cemeteries reside here. Want to look at photographs of the agricultural and natural resource practices? You'll find them here.

The possibilities for story ideas from information housed at the Archives is endless. Check out this untapped resource and watch history come to life.

For additional information, check out the Archives site. If you're interested in items stored at the Morrow, Georgia, facility, visit the National Archives Southeast Region website.

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Monday, April 28, 2008


Finding Inspiration, Part Deux

by LuAnn Schindler

The last time I blogged for The Muffin, I wrote about places to find inspiration. Today, I'm going to offer four more ideas of obvious--but not always utilized--places to find new story ideas.

Consider people you know. Are they an expert on a topic? Make of list of the experts in your life and brainstorm for ideas. A teacher from a neighboring school district is an expert chess player. I asked for his help for a story about teaching chess to kids and--checkmate! I sold a story, along with two sidebars and photos, to an area newspaper.

Take a look at current fads and trends. What's hot in your community? For that matter, what is hot in a particular area you are interested in? A local school funded a 24/7 learning initiative and purchased Apple laptops for all 7 - 12 students. As a former classroom teacher--and a current substitute--I find anything relating to education an interesting topic. I interviewed students, teachers and administrators from the district and had a two-day, four-story feature in an area newspaper.

My daughter works for our state economic development office and she's always giving me good ideas or tips concerning government publications. I checked out the website, and after surfing for a short time, I found a site where you could check out historical buildings in each state. That's when I stumbled upon an early 1900s single-room jailhouse close to where I lived. That article was published in a regional magazine.

I like cheesecake. No, I REALLY like cheesecake. I've made them for fundraisers, for extended family, and sometimes, for us. After making oh-so-many cheesecakes, I've come up with several methods to avoid having the cheesecake top crack. I wrote those methods as a short "how-to" article and sold it to a cooking website.

My favorite way to keep track of ideas is to use Post-It notes. But every writer should have some kind of idea notebook. I have a small memo pad that I keep by my nightstand. In my purse, a notebook with a sturdy cover--purchased from the $1 bin at Target--lets me jot down ideas as they come to me when I'm away from my desk. I keep a small notebook in the glove compartment of the car, too. Because you never when --or where--the inspiration bug will hit!

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