Librarian Problem Solver: Community Members and Primary Sources

Posted on
May 7, 2020
By Paul Showalter - Coordinator of Instruction & Assessment

 

Who needed help: A community member emailed the Research Desk looking for some help.

Librarian problem solver: Paul Showalter, Coordinator of Library Instruction and Assessment

Problem: The patron’s question was pretty interesting and well-written, so I’ll just copy and paste it here:

Greetings,

I'm trying to locate a copy of The Western Christian Advocate, which the Library of Congress and the Library of Virginia state that the College of William and Mary has a copy. Specifically, I'm trying to determine where the attached story came from and hoping the actual publication may explain its derivation.

CAPTIVES OF THE WYANDOTES

Taken from an account in the Western Christian Advocate, Vol. II, No. 1, Cincinnati, May 1, 1835. Whole No. 53.

While the attached copy has come through family sources, I have seen very similar copies elsewhere, but have had zero success in locating an original.

Any assistance you can provide is much appreciated.

Solution: Based on the information contained in the patron’s email (an email which, I should add, did NOT include an attached copy of the article in question), the first thing I did was search Primo-Journals for the Western Christian Advocate. Turns out, we do have full text access through the database American Periodical Series and the dates of coverage, 1834-1883, encompass the date of the article about which the patron inquired. So, things were looking promising.

The situation took a less-promising turn when I found the specific issue mentioned in the patron’s email, Volume 2, Issue 1. In that issue, there was no mention of any form of the word “Wyandote,” which I had chosen as my search term due to its uniqueness. I then searched across the entire range of the journal in the database and, again, came up empty. No “Wyandote.”

At that point, I considered emailing the patron with the bad news, but I thought that, since the patron mentioned his information had “come through family sources,” maybe there was a misspelling or some other miscommunication about the article that had persisted over the years.  So I decided to look more closely at Volume 2, Issue 1 for myself to see if it contained anything that might be relevant to the patron’s request.

And there was! Keeping in mind that the language would not have evolved to anything else at the time, right there in Volume 2, Issue 1 of the Western Christian Advocate was an article about “Indian captivity.” I read the article and had a pretty strong feeling that it was the one the patron was looking for. I also noticed a note at the end of the article informing the reader that the story would be continued in future issues. Fortunately, the database helpfully provided links to issues containing the rest of the story.  In all, the story was told over four issues from a couple different volumes. I was able to download all parts of the story as .pdfs. Then I renamed the files as 1, 2, 3, and 4 and attached them to a reply to the patron. I still wasn’t 100% sure it was the same article the patron wanted, but I had a good feeling about it. And then, a little while later, we received a reply from a very happy patron.

Response: By email, the patron replied, “This is fantastic! Thank you very much for taking the time to research this for me. Have a great day and stay safe!”