"Our Loose Ends" Genealogy Column
by Lynna Kay Shuffield
Houston, Texas

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Printed in the Taylor Daily Press & Thorndale Champion
9 September 2004

Draper Manuscripts

The Draper Manuscripts (often referred to as the "Draper Papers") were compiled by Lyman Copeland Draper.

Draper was born in Lockport, NY, on September 4, 1815. A small man in stature, he went to school, worked on the farm and clerked in local stores. He was not suited for heavy or physical labor, so sought adventure in reading. His grandfather related tales of his service in the American Revolution and his father told stories of his captivity by the British during the War of 1812. These stories triggered his interest in the history of his native country. He began writing letters to seek reminiscences of Kentucky pioneers, delivered college orations, and wrote articles on American historical and archeological topics.

He had planned to do a book which he had named "Sketches of the Lives of the Pioneers." He was perhaps the greatest archivist of the 19th Century or the greatest pack-rat!

To compile his book, Draper conducted on a lengthy correspondence over 50-years with many individuals about the formative years of the American Republic. The book was never realized; however, his collection of interviews and documents does exist.

The collection is a series of interviews, which he conducted, many in person, some in letters, about the old pioneers. The time frame is expansive - from the 1740s through the War of 1812. The territory covered is just as impressive - 21 states east of the Mississippi River, Iowa, Missouri and parts of Canada!

The papers also include documents, 575 early maps and manuscripts. His interviews ranged from the heroes of the time to the unknown little settler. And, bless his historical heart, he sensed that we in later years needed more than a list of their names. He included their names, parents and grandparents; sometimes more.

In 1819, when Draper died, he had been working on the manuscripts for over 50-years. Draper himself, a New York man, was so intent on his research that he caught the attention of his cousin's husband, Peter Remen. Having the finances to help, Remen was a strong supporter of Draper's quest.

Draper willed his personal collection of manuscripts to the State Historical Society of Wisconsin. There, Reuben G. Thwaites, supervised the preparation of the collection for public use. It was under his guidance that the collection was subdivided into fifty series and titled. With two exceptions the series were arranged alphabetically by title.

The original collection is housed at the State Historical Society of Wisconsin, Madison, WI. You are allowed to see the originals there, but cannot photocopy them. Some of the information contained is absolutely a gold mine of information and includes information such as color of hair and eyes, where the individual was born, military service and much more.

How many manuscripts are there? - There are 491 volumes on 123 reels of microfilm which are divided into 50 separate series.

The entire collection was microfilmed in 1949 and re-filmed in the 1970s. More than 90 libraries across the country have complete sets of the microfilm, and many will send individual reels on interlibrary loan. Many other libraries have portions of the microfilm.

The microfilm may be purchased from Chadwyck-Healey Inc. (now part of ProQuest ): http://www.chadwyck.com.

The Clayton Library for Genealogical Research, Houston Public Library at 5300 Caroline in Houston, Texas has a complete set of the microfilm: http://www.hpl.lib.tx.us/clayton/.

The Dallas Public Library - Genealogy Section at 1515 Young St. in Dallas, Texas has a complete set of the microfilm: http://dallaslibrary.org/CHS/cgc.htm

The State Historical Society of Wisconsin will loan their film out of state. Check their website: http://www.wisconsinhistory.org/

You can also borrow any of the 147 reels of microfilm from any LDS Family History Center. Check their website: http://www.familysearch.org/

Click on Library
Click on Catalog
Click on Subject Search
Type in search box: Draper
Click on Draper Manuscript Collection

Good luck with trekking down the path of the Draper Collection. It can easily be classified as a labor of love but if you find your family, it will be well worth the effort!


In this column, I will be glad to highlight and review any family history, genealogy, county history, or similar book, free of charge, if you donate a copy of the book or item. After it has been highlighted and reviewed, on a space available basis, it will be donated to the genealogy section of a library. You will receive an acknowledgment of the donation from the library. Mail item or book to me at the below address.

Lynna Kay Shuffield has written several books related to Texas genealogy and military history. She has spoken before numerous genealogy and veterans groups. Also, is a County Coordinator for the Texas GenWeb Project. Regretfully, she cannot help with individual genealogical research. Please visit the website for this column at: http://www.geocities.com/lks_friday/COLUMN-001.htm or if you have any questions, comments, suggestions for column topics, genealogy or historical society announcements, please contact her at: P. O. Box 16604, Houston, Texas 77222-6604 or e-mail: lksfriday@sbcglobal.net

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This webpage was last created on 15 Mar 2005 and was last revised on __________

Copyright 1999, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004 Lynna Kay Shuffield - All rights reserved.
P. O. Box 16604
Houston, Texas 77222-6604