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Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Major Manuscript and Record Collections in Iowa


1906 Duesenberg from the State Historical Society of Iowa
The Iowa State Historical Society is an example of the resources local and state historical societies have to assist historical researchers. It is also important to remember that genealogical research is really history. The Iowa City Center of the State Historical Society of Iowa contains a major collection of manuscripts and records. In addition to the State Archives collections, the State Historical Society has a large collection of books, periodicals and newspapers.

It is not unusual for me to find that individuals searching their "genealogy" have little or no historic perspective. It may be that general knowledge of history is so limited, but I commonly talk to researchers that don't even make the connection between their ancestors and major events in history, like World War I and World War II. Nearly all of the family studies I read in journal articles are written as if the family lived in a vacuum, there are seldom references to local politics, religious movements, economic conditions or the larger historical picture. Unless the family lived in the Dust Bowl or suffered through the Great Depression, you would think they had no contact with the outside world at all. I can't tell you how many pioneer stories I have read about my family in the 1800s that fail to even mention the American Civil War or any other national event.

State historical societies provide some of the context for the study of our families. Seeing the museum collections gives us a context for understanding our past, not just collecting names and dates.

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