John Martin Smith’s Books

front view of Willennar Genealogy Center

Willennar Genealogy Center (Original photo from Charlie Chat)

Today I volunteered at the Auburn, Indiana Willennar Genealogy library. John Martin Smith was a historian in DeKalb County. According to his obituary from 2011, he was the founder of the DeKalb County Historical Society and had many other accolades. He had built a very large collection of historical documents and artifacts. His family loaned the materials to the genealogy library to be indexed and archived. The phase that I’m participating in now will index all of the books from the collection.

Books that I indexed today include The Cold Spring Tragedy about a murder near Indianapolis in the 1860s. Also, I added a trade catalog from the Atlas Engine Company and a self-promotion piece about Midwest Engine company from 1919. It turns out that the Atlas Engine company evolved into the Midwest Engine company. The Midwest Engine company was very proud of their part in helping win WW I.

It was very interesting glancing through these books. My part is to take the pre-scanned images of each page and add them to a PastPerfect record. I also write a description of the books and select search terms and subject topics.

The archive software has a locally developed list of subject keywords, but with the books, that list is usually inadequate.  I go to Library of Congress Authorities and search for topics.  After taking Cataloging last year and a related class “Organization and Representation of Knowledge and Information” this spring, I feel pretty comfortable using the authority file.

In the classes, we had access to an OCLC service, Connexion, that has a more powerful interface than the Library of Congress, but we are only supposed to use that for class-related work. There’s another useful tool available, Cataloging Calculator, but I don’t have its URL memorized.

After finding The Cold Spring Tragedy on WorldCat, I found that the authority file has records for the murderer and her victim in the database. I was surprised, but I guess I shouldn’t have been. Some of the collection’s conventional books are not rarities. However, today’s books about the engine companies probably are.

This cataloging project is a lot of fun for me.  It’s a mixture of activities and I get to look at very interesting books, usually from the 19th century.

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