Posts of interest to local history buffs, written by local history buffs!

Heritage Quest: Benjamin Franklin as a Genealogist by John W. Jordan

Benjamin Franklin Family TreeBenjamin Franklin Family TreeIn 1899, John Woolf Jordan (historian and genealogy writer of the late 1800's and early 1900's) wrote an article for the Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography titled, “Franklin as a Genealogist”. Mr. Jordan obtained original letters and records and wrote about Benjamin Franklin’s genealogical quest. Benjamin Franklin investigated his family line and created what Mr. Jordan referred to as a pedigree (a family tree, a portion of Benjamin Franklin's pedigree is displayed in the blog photo). You too can see the original documents (some in Benjamin Franklin’s own hand) using the Heritage Quest research database.

The Heritage Quest database (available @ AADL) has documents imaged from the 1790 - 1930 U.S. federal censuses and images from over 20,000 book titles, including family and local histories. To access the Heritage Quest database from home, simply login to your online library account. You can search census data, books and local histories, revolutionary war pension and bounty-land-warrant application files, Freedman's Bank documents, and Serial Set documents. I searched for books about Ann Arbor and found several, including: Polk's Ann Arbor City Directory,1915 and the Ann Arbor, Ypsilanti and Washtenaw County Directory, 1888-9.

African American Downtown Festival & the history of African Americans in Ann Arbor

This Saturday, June 4th, will be the annual African American Downtown Festival in Ann Arbor! The festival will be a multicultural and multi-generational celebration of African American history in Ann Arbor. The location of the festival (4th and Ann) is significant due to it being the historical epicenter in Ann Arbor of African American owned businesses, culture and family life. Fun times to be had by all!

If you're interested in doing some research into the history of African Americans in Washtenaw County, the AADL has several resources for you:

Additional local resources include:

The Dexter-Ann Arbor Run: From 195 to a Cast of Thousands

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They were a hale and hearty group in 1974 despite being temporarily delayed by a passing train at the first Dexter-Ann Arbor Run. We've gathered together a few articles and pictures from the Ann Arbor News Archives about the Dexter-Ann Arbor Run to jog your memory and get you motivated for this year's race on Sunday, June 5th.

Check out a few items from the archives:

-Article about the first race

-Photo of runners pack in the 1979 Dexter-Ann Arbor Run

-Article about friendly rivalry

Celebrities love The Making of Ann Arbor

The Local History databases aren't just for Ann Arborites, international celebrities like them too! The AADL's resources got some national attention this weekend when Russell Crowe retweeted a link to our The Making of Ann Arbor database!

Ann Arbor has been a used as a film location for many years, which means we've had our fair share of celebrity visitors to our fair city. This weekend, actor Russell Crowe tweeted about enjoying a visit to Ann Arbor and asked his followers if they knew the origin of the name. Local History Databases to the rescue! Woo hoo!

As Russell and his followers soon found out, the origin of the name "Ann Arbor" is still hotly debated. Ann's Arbor? Annarbour? Depending on which tome you consult, the name has a different origin. There are a litany of possible Ann's from history that could hold the honor of having the city named after them but which one? The world may never know! But if you want to do your own research beyond The Making of Ann Arbor be sure and check out:

New York Times databases

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The library subscribes to two slightly different New York Times databases. The first provides full text articles of the newspaper from 1980 to the present. The second is the New York Times Historical database covering the period 1851-2007. The historical database provides scanned copies of the original newspapers including obituaries and images when available as PDFs. A great resource for genealogists and history buffs alike! The daily New York Times in print is available at all our branches and we retain 6 weeks worth.

Clang, Clang, Clang Went the Trolley

Goodbye TrolleyGoodbye Trolley

While browsing through old newspapers and listening to the radio at our archive this afternoon, I caught part of a 2006 interview with Hugh Martin, composer, lyricist and arranger of such classics as "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas," "The Boy Next Door" and "The Trolley Song" from the great 1944 musical Meet Me In St. Louis. Martin, who died last Friday explained that he was browsing through an old newspaper at the Beverly Hills Library when he saw a photograph of a trolley with the caption, "Clang! Clang! went the trolley"...and three hours later the song was done. In his honor, and because my love of old musicals, libraries, newspapers and photographs just collided and I can't help myself, here's a photograph of an old Ann Arbor trolley. May it inspire you to write the next great American song.

Thanks to Site 3 of the Downtown Historical Street Exhibits Program there are several photographs of old Ann Arbor trolleys to choose from. And if songwriting isn't really your thing, we have an entire book on the subject.

101 Things You Didn’t Know About Ann Arbor…

…But Are About to Find Out Why is a new book by Martin Woodhouse. The author presents “fascinating tangents and tidbits in purposely random sequence” about the fair city of Ann Arbor. He ups the “quirk quotient” and treats readers to some interesting stories and facts about A2 and some of its story-worthy inhabitants.

Perhaps you’ve read Wicked Washtenaw County, Strange Tales of The Grisly and Unexplained, and are looking for more facts about the area. This book is right up your alley. Also recommended for some local trivia is another new book, Ghostly Tales of Michigan, which shares ghostly tales of some of Michigan’s more ghostly places.

AADL Talks To: Brett Callwood

Detroit author and music critic, Brett Callwood, was at AADL recently for a public talk about his book MC5: Sonically Speaking: A Tale of Revolution and Rock 'n' Roll. Prior to this event, I had the chance to chat with Brett about the MC5--their legacy, their significance to other musicians, and the influence of former manager, John Sinclair. Brett also discusses his journey to becoming a music critic and the inspiration behind his writing, most notably his love affair with Detroit and its music.

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Brookwater Farm Revisted: New Book, Old Articles

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A new book arrived in our Local History Collection recently, Brookwater Farm of Webster Township, and in one of those serendipitous moments we're having at the Archives lately, we came across some articles related to the history of the Brookwater Farm.

In 1948, the Ann Arbor News ran a long article, Restoration of Brookwater, complete with a description of the annual livestock auction and historic photos of the farm. The new owner, Lawrence F. Carlton, undertook an extensive restoration of the farm house. However, later articles from 1950 describe the "Corn War", a year-long legal battle with suits and countersuits over 29 acres of corn crop. There's even an article about Mr. Carlton temporarily blinding himself when a tear gas bomb went off as he was showing it to folks.

Why Did Washtenaw County Vote Against Suffrage, Not Once, But Twice?

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Liberty Awakes in Washtenaw County: When Women Won the Vote, a new exhibit at the Museum on Main Street runs January 8-February 27, 2011. The exhibit features artifacts, stories and images from the local woman suffrage movement. On the 2nd and 4th Thursday of January and February, please bring a lunch and join in a discussion on woman suffrage in Washtenaw County from 12 noon-1:00 PM.

The exhibit is sponsored by the League of Women Voters of the Ann Arbor Area and the Washtenaw County Historical Society. For more information or to arrange group tours or talks email Zoe Behnke at bliz468@yahoo.com

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