Back to top

Draper Manuscript Collection | Josephine Harper's "Guide to the Draper Manuscripts"

> | Guide main page

Guide to finding your ancestors in the Draper Manuscript Collection

Josephine Harper's "Guide to the Draper Manuscripts"

Any discussion of the Draper Manuscript Collection must begin with a discussion of Josephine Harper’s Guide to the Draper Manuscripts.[1] Her work begins with a discussion of the entire collection, and then provides an overview of each series within the collection, and finally outlines the contents of each volume of the series.

Consider, for example, the description of the randomly chosen Series F, the Joseph Brandt Papers.  At a first glance, a researcher might conclude “My ancestors do not include any Brandts. I do not even know who Joseph Brandt was. This could not possibly apply to my research.”  According to the introduction to the series, Joseph Brant was a “noted Mohawk chief whose Indian name was Thayendanegea.” Early in the Revolution he “was given a British captain’s commission.” He became the leader of the “British Indians in New York and northern Pennsylvania where he directed or participated in battles and terror-inspiring raids from 1777 through 1783."[2] If your ancestors were from western New York or northern Pennsylvania during the Revolutionary War, this might be a series that would be of interest to you.

Harper provides additional information about each volume in each series. Typically she lists events and key names that are mentioned in it. For example, in Series F, Volume 2, she lists the Devil’s Hole Massacre, the Susquehanna Delawares, John Brown, Fort St. John, the Battle of the Cedars, Ezekiel Brown, John McKistry, Elizabeth Knox, Jonathan Maynard, and Lois Eaton among others. These descriptions may mention an ancestor’s name or a battle or other event he or she participated in.

Following the description of the series, Harper provides a general index of names and subjects included in her volume descriptions. It lists the series and volume numbers where the name or subject can be found.

Four appendices complete the book.  Appendix I contains an index to the Revolutionary War Pension Applications found in the Draper Manuscripts.   It lists the series and volume number where the individual’s papers can be found.  Not every Revolutionary War Pension recipient is included because Draper did not establish contact with all of them. This appendix is less useful than it once was, because all of the Revolutionary War Pension records are searchable on the Fold3 database available through St. Louis County Library.

Appendix II contains a listing of additional personal data found in the manuscripts.  The index includes authors of signed publications, cartographers, correspondents and other writers who contributed information to Draper, persons interviewed and subjects of obituaries.  The entries list the series and volume numbers of the reference.


Appendix III lists the more than 575 cartographic pieces in the collection.  Few of these maps are original to the Revolutionary War or settlement periods, but they offer a sense of place that cannot easily be found elsewhere.  Many of the maps were hand drawn by Draper.  The index lists pressmark, volume, and page number.

Appendix IV provides the reel list of the 1980 microfilm edition of the collection, the filming owned by the History and Genealogy Department.

[1] Harper, Josephine L, Guide to the Draper Manuscripts.  Madison: State Historical Society of Wisconsin, 1983. [R929.3 H294G and 929.3 H294G]

[2] Harper, p28.