What Exactly Do I Research?

This post is inspired by the post, “What Exactly Do I Research?” by Marian Pierre-Louis in her blog, Marian’s Roots & Rambles (18 June 2011). In this post, Marian describes her research interests. I enjoyed this post quite a bit, and have decided to emulate Marian here. Some of you may think you know what I research, and some of you may not have the slightest idea. So consider this an introduction to my research. …

My main interest is in writing, but my main income comes through client research projects. There are several kinds of projects that I work on:

  • Document retrievals. If someone just needs records from Maryland or Delaware, and lives too far to obtain them for themselves, they will hire me to do so.
  • Lineage research. The vast majority of my research projects are for clients who simply want to trace their lineage, but either do not have the time, knowledge, or access to records, to do so for themselves.
  • Brickwall research. In many cases, clients have worked on a problem for years, and finally decide to hire someone to help them with breaking through the brick wall. This is my favorite kind of project. Sometimes I cannot break through the brickwall, but I do have a high rate of success.

I have conducted research throughout every county in Maryland, though I have the most experience in Prince George’s, Anne Arundel, and Baltimore counties, and Baltimore city. Recent projects have been located in Frederick, Charles, St. Mary’s, and Dorchester counties, in Maryland, and New Castle and Sussex counties, in Delaware.

However, I have also researched African American families around the country, including Texas (click here for an ongoing Texas case study), Louisiana, Mississippi, and Virginia. My own family (not African American) comes primarily from New York, Connecticut, Virginia, and North Carolina, and my wife’s family is primarily from Tennessee, Mississippi, and South Dakota.

Aside from my clients (and my own family, if I ever had time to research them anymore!), I have several research interests of my own.

My primary interests are in African American genealogy and the U. S. Civil War and “Reconstruction” eras. As much progress as has been made on all of these fronts, there are still so many unknown or little-known resources yet to be tapped. Tying into these interests are several other projects:

  • Record groups nationwide, no matter how large or small their focus, that provide direct evidence connecting slaves or former slaves with their slave owners. Beyond the use of these records that provide direct evidence, I am also working on a guide to using indirect evidence to identify the slave owners of former slaves.
  • Compensated emancipation in the border states. Especially the records of the Slave Claims Commissions, which were active in Maryland, Delaware, Kentucky, Missouri, Tennessee, and West Virginia, during and immediately following the U. S. Civil War.
  • Slavery in southern Maryland. For nearly five years, I have been collecting records concerning enslaved families in Prince George’s County, Maryland. This project has included Civil War service and pension records, probate records, bills of sale, runaway slave advertisements, vital records, federal census records, tax lists, and several other record groups concerning slaves and their owners. Some of these families will be the subjects of research case studies, and transcriptions / abstracts / indexes of some of the records will begin to be published later this year. Other segments of this research project will be appearing in magazine and journal articles, and presentations/webinars.

Another of my research interests is network theory. A multi-faceted and multidisciplinary study of how networks develop, network theory can be applied to the study of communities. The study of our ancestral communities has already been proven to aid our genealogical research, but I believe that network theory and its application to the development of these communities can take our field to a whole new level. A brief article that I wrote on the subject–though barely scratching the surface of the potential application of network theory–was published in the article “Small Worlds: Researching Social Networks,” published in the Sept/Oct 2009 issue of Family Chronicle magazine. These theories are also being applied in the above long-term project on the enslaved families of Prince George’s County.

Now you know a little more about me and my research.

For more information, you can visit my website, particularly the “Publications” page. Or use the links below for more on my recent books:

If you would like to cite this post: Michael Hait, “What Exactly Do I Research?,” Planting the Seeds: Genealogy as a Profession blog, posted 28 Jun 2011 (http://michaelhait.wordpress.com : accessed [access date]).

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4 responses to this post.

  1. I love it. Love knowing more about what you do and what interests you. This should be a meme.

    Reply

  2. Michael: Thanks for giving us a glimpse into the real Michael Hait.

    Reply

  3. Interesting post, some I knew, some I did not. For instance, I wasn’t aware of the term “network theory” when studying social communities. That sounds similar to a long-term project I’m working on but I had never heard it described with that phrase before. Good to know!

    Reply

  4. [...] genealogist, and I have mentioned her blog on several occasions in this blog. (See “What Exactly Do I Research?” and “The top 5 books on my [...]

    Reply

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