It’s been a busy year which means I have found myself “behind schedule” a LOT, blog posts included. So, here’s a synopsis of what I’ve been up to, especially writing-wise. Given my busy schedule, my new motto is “Better Late Than Half-Baked”.
I started off 2021 with what I thought would begin perhaps a two-issue series entitled, “From Whence We Came: Appalachia”. Little did I know what was in store. It was an ambitious project and, as it turns out, couldn’t be accomplished in two issues. I just finished the FOURTH (and final!) issue of this interesting and informative series. Here’s a synopsis of each issue’s highlights and a link to purchase or subscribe:
- Part 1: This issue featured a cover depicting Daniel Boone leading settlers over the Cumberland Gap into Kentucky. This issue featured a “Mining Genealogical Gold” column which highlighted the history and resources for finding ancestors who settled in the Appalachian regions of Kentucky, Tennessee, North and South Carolina. “Hurrah for the Ladies: The Confederate Women of East Tennessee” was a fascinating article to research and write. East Tennessee was a unique place to be during the Civil War — more voted against secession than voting for it, and after the Union Army took over early in the war, it made for an interesting way of life for “the other side”, in particular the Confederate-sympathizing women. The issue included book reviews and a fascinating “Family History Toolbox”. The issue wrapped up with a genealogical mystery — just how old was John Shell. Everyone knew when he died, but when exactly was he born? January-February 2021 issue available here.
- Part 2: This issue featured a “Mining Genealogical Gold” column which highlighted the history and resources for finding ancestors who settled in the Appalachian region of Virginia and West Virginia (which lies entirely in Appalachia). Also included were a couple of articles which featured a bit of Kentucky history — one from the early twentieth century (“Moonlight School: Teaching ABC’s to Mountain Moonshiners”) and another from the Depression area (“Book Lady, we’ve been waiting for you!”). I have been wanting to write an article on the so-called Melungeons for some time and I finally got around to it — “Melungeons: a very strange people (who made moonshine whiskey)”. A great story about a much maligned and misunderstood people. March-April 2021 issue available here.
- Part 3: This issue featured a “Mining Genealogical Gold” column which highlighted the history and resources for finding ancestors who settled in the Appalachian region of Georgia and Alabama. This one was of particular interest to me since I have ancestors who settled in this part of Alabama. This issue also featured yet another article I’ve been meaning to write for some time. This one, set in the Depression era, is entitled “Moving Mattie”. It’s the story of one woman’s defiance when Franklin Roosevelt and one of his many “alphabet soup” agencies decided to flood the land she and and family lived on. After coming across the records documenting her scrap with the government some time ago, I knew I had to write about Mattie Randolph’s plight. May-June 2021 issue available here.
- Part 4 (The End!): This issue was a wrap-up of the series and featured three extensive articles which I wasn’t able to squeeze in earlier. Another “Appalachian Way” article features everything from folk medicine, folk magic and granny witches to snake handlers and child brides. A second article — “Appalachian Feuds (between people not named Hatfield or McCoy)” — features two long and bloody Kentucky feuds. An article entitled “Oh, The Stories I Find!” features what I call a “December-May” marriage which began making headlines in 1946. What a character was Mattie Lyons Large Sprouse! July-August 2021 issue available here.
I have a special offer with these four extensive Appalachian issues. Subscribe before the next issue comes out (October 31) and you’ll get all four issues. Subscription options are available to fit any budget: https://digging-history.com/digging-history-magazine-subscription/. Need help subscribing? Contact me for assistance: firstname.lastname@example.org.
The next two issues are shaping up. The September-October issue will be another “Un-Shelved” issue, similar to a couple of 2020 issues when I featured a number of articles that were previously “shelved” because I couldn’t squeeze them in (or I was too far behind schedule!). Plans are to include an article from last year’s two-issue New Mexico series, entitled “Tales From the Bootheel and Beyond: The Ghost Towns and Storied History of Southwestern New Mexico”. An “OK, I Give Up… what is it?” column will feature some obsolete terminology I’ve come across in researching family history. Should be a fascinating article!
The last issue of 2021 will be an ambitious one covering what became known as “Manifest Destiny”, a phrase coined by John O’Sullivan and executed by President James K. Polk (and beyond). Some historians view it as a way for 1840s-era Democrats to justify the Mexican-American War. That war was in fact central to the whole concept of Manifest Destiny and this issue will also feature an article about finding resources for Mexican-American War ancestors.
All of which means I will be busy from now until the end of the year with not only writing but genealogical research for clients. Say a prayer for me!
Sharon Hall, Publisher & Editor, Digging History Magazine