Saturday, January 23, 2010

An Online Resource for Historians and Genealogists

Several months ago a blog reader mentioned the online resource Footnote to me, and just recently Stuart Salling, the creator of the new Louisiana during the Civil War blog, mentioned the resource. When I first heard about the site, I investigated it and found it to be quite intriguing, but I did not actually subscribe to it until last week. By the way, it is possible to sign up for a free basic membership that allows partial access. The Footnote company is based in Utah and has a partnership with the National Archives to scan various historical documents from throughout American history. What makes this site unusual is the ability that members have to upload documents and photographs, add facts to documents, and annotate or index documents. Members are also allowed to download and print off documents. Although designed primarily for genealogists, there is much of interest for historical researchers on the site. The following collections seemed most helpful for purposes of a trans-Mississippi researcher:

1860 census records

Confederate Amnesty Papers

Confederate Citizens File: These documents “pertain to goods furnished or services rendered to the Confederate government by private individuals or business firms.”

Compiled Service Records for Confederate Soldiers

Compiled Service Records for Union Soldiers [These records have not all been scanned in.]

Southern Claims Commission [This also appears to be incomplete at this time.]

The only drawback with this site is that it is addictive!! I found myself searching census records, reading amnesty papers, looking at service records, examining FBI case files, and perusing newspaper ads—before I knew it an hour had gone by.

I’m amazed at how much has changed in regard to historical research in a relatively short time. When I worked on my dissertation, I had to use microfilm to examine census records and certain other types of documents. Now I can read census records in my den and download journal articles from databases subscribed to by my university’s library. Wow!


  1. Thanks for the review regarding Footnote. I'm still debating upgrading from the basic "free" membership and your opinion is valuable because it is trustworthy (none of your information has ever steered me wrong).

  2. Your comment about my trustworthiness is quite flattering, and I hope that I can maintain my high rating!