Historic Pelham

Presenting the rich history of Pelham, NY in Westchester County: current historical research, descriptions of how to research Pelham history online and genealogy discussions of Pelham families.

Monday, June 20, 2005

Using Cornell University Library's "Making of America" Digital Library of Primary Sources to Perform Research Regarding Pelham

Please Visit the Historic Pelham Web Site

The Cornell University Library has developed a digital library of primary sources in American social history from the antebellum period through reconstruction. The collection includes a large number of important works regarding American history. According to Cornell University, the site "provides access to 267 monograph volumes and over 100,000 journal articles with 19th century imprints." The collection is entitled "Making of America" and is available at http://cdl.library.cornell.edu/moa/.

As of June 19, 2005, the collection reportedly holds 907,750 pages of material including 267 monograph volumes and 955 serial volumes. There are few such free resources of important historical data available online today.

Visitors may view images of the actual pages of the original publications. Because all of the scanned material has been "OCRed" (i.e., processed for so-called "Optical Character Recognition"), the collection can be searched. The site's search function allows for fairly sophisticated searches of the full text of the materials in the collection.

The "Advanced Search" page located at http://cdl.library.cornell.edu/moa/moa_adv.html is a good place to start. There a visitor must choose from six basic types of search: (1) Simple Search (allows visitors to search for a word or phrase wherever it appears in the collection); (2) Boolean Search (uses basic Boolean search terms such as AND, OR) to find simple combinations of two or three words on a page or in a text; (3) Proximity Search (finds phrases as well as words near one another); (4) Frequency Search (finds texts that contain a term appearing at least a specified number of times); (5) Bibliographic Search (finds texts by author or title); and (6) Index Search (permits visitors to browse through alphabetized lists of texts organized by authors, names, titles or subject headings). Although you should use the search that best suits your particular needs, I have found the Proximity Search to be the most helpful for my own purposes. That said, if you are searching for a simple phrase (such as "Thomas Pell") the Simple Search is the quickest and easiest way to search the collection.

To try the search, go to the Simple Search page located at http://cdl.library.cornell.edu/moa/moa_search.html. Try searching for Thomas Pell. I have noticed that the system seems to ignore quotation marks, so the search results are the same whether you search for the phrase with or without quotation marks. The screen shot below shows the Simple Search screen.

If you type Thomas Pell into the "Word or phrase" box and then click on the gray button marked "Submit Query" your search should retrieve: (1) 8 matches in 3 books; and (2) 2 matches in 1 journal article. Clicking on the search results links, you can review search results in the following resources:

1. Bunker, Mary Powell, Long Island Genealogies: Families of Albertson, Andrews, Bedell (1 match in 1 of 354 pages).

2. Nadal, E. S., The New Parks Of The City Of New York (2 matches in 1 of 17 pages).

3. Pelletreau, William S., et al., Early Wills of Westchester County, New York, from 1664 to 1784; Also the Genealogy of "The Havilands" of Westchester County, and Descendants of Hon. James Graham (Watkinson and Ackerley Families) With Genealogical and Historical Notes (6 matches in 4 of 506 pages).

4. Tuckerman, Bayard, Peter Stuyvesant, Director-General for the West India Company in New Netherland (1 match in 1 of 204 pages).

All of the hits seem promising. As an example, select the third choice: William S. Pelletreau's work. You first will see bibliographic information for the work and will observe that it was published in 1898 by F. P. Harper. You have the option to search within the entire work. You can click on links that will take you to the pages (pp. 73, 298, 318 and 423) of the text containing the phrase "Thomas Pell". You also can click on links that will take you to the first page, the table of contents, the title page, and the volume index. Click on each of the links to pages where the phrase "Thomas Pell" appears.

Alas, in each instance the "Thomas Pell" referenced is a descendant of John Pell, 2nd Lord of the Manor of Pelham -- not Thomas Pell, 1st Lord of the Manor. In each instance, there is a summary of an 18th century will involving or witnessed by Thomas Pell.

Such a search provides a simple example of the power that such a collection holds for online research. The "Making of America" collection is an incredible resource that simply cannot be ignored no matter what aspect of Pelham history you are researching. Happy hunting!

Please Visit the Historic Pelham Web Site
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