Back to top

Draper Manuscript Collection | Strategies for finding ancestors

> | Guide main page

Guide to finding your ancestors in the Draper Manuscript Collection

Strategies for finding ancestors

The key to a successful search is to exhaust all reasonable possibilities. The flow chart (download as a PDF, 43kb) is one example of a logical process to follow as you move through the various resources. If you follow the steps it will guide you through a process of searching for your ancestors in the Draper Manuscript Collection.

The Draper Manuscripts are not now and not ever likely to be an easy resource to use. With planning and persistence, however, they do not have to be an insurmountable challenge. 

Glossary of terms used in the flow chart

Calendar Series: Set of six books created by the Wisconsin Historical Society to make the Draper Manuscripts more accessible. Each of the six volumes covers one or more series of the collected manuscript volumes. The Calendars feature an index at the back of the book referencing abstracts of information in the front of the book which in turn reference a manuscript series, volume, and page number.

Documentaries: The Wisconsin Historical Society compiled five volumes of history from documents in the Draper Manuscript Collection. Scholars, including Draper himself, also created similar works based on documents found in the manuscripts.

Draper Manuscript Collection: A group of documents relating to the Revolutionary War and the settlement of the Trans-Appalachian west assembled by Lyman Copland Draper in the mid to late 19th century. Also known as the Draper Papers and the Draper Manuscripts.

Guide to the Draper Manuscripts: Book written by Josephine Harper detailing the contents of each volume of the manuscripts. Contains an index of all names mentioned in the book as well as four appendices.

Handwritten Index: These are indexes created by Draper for some of the volumes of the Manuscripts. Copies of these indexes for volumes that have not been calendared (see Calendar Series) or Transcribed (see Transcriptions) have been printed from the microfilm and placed in four binders in the History and Genealogy Department at St. Louis County Library.

Printed Index: Karen Mauer Green created an every name index for Series NN, the Pittsburgh and Northwest Virginia Papers.

Series: When the Wisconsin Historical Society took possession of Draper’s Manuscripts, they continued his organization system of combining the various volumes of the collection into 50 series by subject (such as the George Rogers Clark Papers, the Kentucky Papers, etc.). Each series was assigned a one or two letter pressmark to identify it. There are Series A-Z and AA-ZZ with I and II not being used.

Transcriptions: Various writers, scholars, and other individuals have created word for word transcriptions of individual volumes of the manuscripts. Most have an every name index.

Volume:  Set of manuscripts bound together into one book. These original books belong to the Wisconsin Historical Society and have been microfilmed. The films are available at many libraries including the History and Genealogy Department at St. Louis County Library.