As I mentioned in my last post, I was on my way to Washington, DC, for the Daughters of the American Revolution’s 117th Continental Congress. I was one of approximately 3,000 other members who made the annual trek to DAR Headquarters.
It’s always a whirlwind of a week, but it was even more so for me this year. I was busy behind the computer (not exactly a stretch for me) posting photo slideshows of the many different events after they happened so our members at home could “see” the action.
After a red-eye flight (ugh) from LAX to Dulles, my three travel companions/roommates decided that we should dump our luggage at the hotel and hike over to The National Archives. Had I actually been prepared to do this, I’m sure I would have been much more successful; however, I never thought I’d have time for a research outing on this trip and thus, brought nothing.
My roommates, on the other hand, came armed with copious notes and documents to look up. One of my roommates came home with 10 POUNDS (yes, you read that right; she weighed it) of copied documents. My other two roommates had almost as much. New ancestors were found, lines were proven… one Revolutionary War pension file not only contained copies of two marriage certificates, but also a prenuptial agreement (who knew they had those back then?), and a long affidavit from the wife raving about what a creep her husband was!
As for me, I had about 5 sheets of paper to carry home… none of which were new finds for me. I just wanted cleaner copies. In retrospect, this was probably a good thing, considering that my checked bag weighed 50.5 lbs., even with all of my shoes in my carry-on.
After hours of striking out and watching (read: envying) my roommates’ successes, I felt like Charlie Brown in It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown: “I got five pieces of candy!” “I got a chocolate bar!” “I got a quarter!” “I got a rock.”
Hmmmph. Next time, I’ll be prepared.
Some highlights of the week:
- Bill Conti, Oscar and five-time Emmy award-winning composer and conductor (and husband of a California DAR member) performed on Opening Night. It was fun to hear him play some of his own hits.
- The DAR Media Award went to HBO’s John Adams Miniseries, Kirk Saduski, Co-Producer.
- The Keynote Speaker on National Defense Night was Dr. Robert M. Gates, Secretary of Defense. Regardless of your political leanings, he does give a great speech.
- The DAR Medal of Honor went to Brigadier General Susan J. Helms, Commander of the 45th Space Wing at Patrick Air Force Base in Florida. It was nice to see a woman receive this honor.
On Sunday afternoon, I finally got a chance to visit the DAR Library, something I never had time to do on any of my 7 previous visits. Despite being armed with only one item to look up, I had my most productive research day of the trip.
My one item turned out to have information about my wayward Delaneys: my great-grandmother and her brother were listed in a 1905 Lancaster County, Nebraska, school record that had been indexed by members of the Nebraska Society DAR.
Although this wasn’t anything profoundly new to me, I was still moved to tears to find their names in print. I’m sure you know what I mean – finding that validation and connection after years and years of searching can be an emotional experience. It is for me, anyway.
I found some other, excellent books, simply by nosing around the Greene County, Tennessee, section:
- Tennessee’s First Settlers and Soldiers, (out of print) by Edward C. McAmis: Wow! I found many of my ancestors listed here, as well as notes about where/how various surnames are assumed to have originated.
- Greene County, Tennessee, Wills, 1783-1890, by Goldene Fillers Burgner: Again, I found lots of my ancestors listed, along with excerpts of their wills.
This may not seem like much to you, but as someone who usually gets a “research rock,” I was thrilled!
I also had a chance to search the online DAR Library File Collection (only accessible from within the Library or the Seimes Technology Center), which is a plethora of materials submitted along with DAR member applications. Specifically, I was trying to find proof of my Hays line, but what I think I may have done instead is disprove it. I think. Although my accountant-roommate pointed out that anything gleaned with my shoddy math skills really didn’t prove or disprove anything.
Back to the drawing board… next year.
If you’ve never had a chance to visit the DAR Library, you’ll want to put it on your list of must-visit libraries the next time you’re in Washington, DC. Here are a few pointers, based on my limited experience:
- Search the Library Catalog and the Genealogical Records Committee (GRC) Index before you go. This will save valuable research time in the library. Trust me, there’s never enough time. The librarians practically carried me out kicking and screaming at closing time.
- The Library has a free, wireless Internet connection. Bring your laptop. You can access the Library Catalog and GRC Index from the comfort of your own computer rather than wait for a library computer to open up.
- The on-site Library computers have access to Heritage Quest, Ancestry Library Edition, JSTOR, Footnote.com, NEHGS, and other databases. You cannot access these remotely, however, only from the in-house computers.
- Self-serve copies are 20 cents per page. Bring change if you want to use the copiers, as none will be available in the Library. There is no copy card, like at NARA.
- I’ll probably get in trouble for this, but… instead of making copies, bring your digital camera. Sure, copies are of better quality, but digital photos are free. You do the math.
If you can’t make it to the DAR Library, search services are available… for a fee.
And I’ll throw this out there… if you think you have a Revolutionary War Patriot in your lineage, feel free to contact me or leave a comment, and I’ll be happy to look him/her up for you.
So, those were a few of this year’s highlights. It really is an exciting week and a lot of fun. If nothing else, it’s a chance to visit with friends that I only get to see once a year.
But next year, I’m going to be prepared with a list of items to research and an extra suitcase… just in case I don’t get a rock.