Caution: History Detective At Work

Disclaimer: This project is in no way affiliated with the PBS show of a similar name.

The project is underway! A couple of weeks ago, I posted about an idea I had to obtain a blacksmith’s ledger I had seen at the Great Trails Festival in Malvern, OH. I was able to get in touch with the bookseller, make the arrangements, and secure the ledger.

As my schedule slows down some, I hope to be able to spend a little more time with this and see if there is an interesting story waiting inside. The book does not list the name of the blacksmith or the location. However, since the ledger begins in 1849, using the 1850 census, it was pretty easy to determine where it is from. Using some of the more unique names listed, I found the common location.

1849 Blacksmith's Ledger; Saybrook Twp, Ashtabula, OH

The ledger belonged to someone working in Saybrook Township, Ashtabula, OH. The first transaction is recorded 16 Nov 1849. They continue through June of 1868. Interestingly, there are no entries between Apr 1864 and Jan 1865, which begs the question as to whether this blacksmith is a Civil War vet. Beginning in 1854, the ledger records work done largely for Lake Erie ships. Even the little work I’ve done to this point has been well worth the $25 I spent to get this. Once the project is completed, I will donate the book to a historical/genealogical society library local to that area, or other interested public institution.

Some pieces of the work soon be undertaken include:

1. digitizing the book so that I don’t have to keep opening and closing it while trying to transcribe it.
2. Complete transcription of the ledger and compilation of names of people and ships listed.
3. Compile a list of people who list “blacksmith” as their occupation on the 1850 and 1860 censuses.
4. Check into Ashtabula newspapers to see if I can find any of the period that might feature a blacksmith advertisement and provide a clue as to the owner of the journal.

Updates soon, I hope!

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One Response to Caution: History Detective At Work

  1. This sounds like a fascinating project. You’ve already made great sleuthing progress. I’m curious to see how it goes.