People may not realize how interesting the online catalog of The Filson Historical Society can be. Most people may use the catalog to look up subjects pertaining to whatever research they are conducting at the moment. Usually that is the way I research, but just the other day I was poking around the online catalog with nothing much to do when a bolt of lightning hit me: the family papers of some of Kentucky’s most famous families contain very interesting subject matter; this is identifiable by looking at the subjects listed in the records of the family papers in The Filson’s online catalog. For example, let us look at collections of the Bullitt, Beatty-Quisenberry, and Speed families.
Within the confines of the Bullitt family papers – Oxmoor Collection, a plethora of topics abound. Subjects that are close to home, such as Louisville politics, social life, and economy, are listed side by side with such national topics as the Civil War and both World Wars. The Bullitt family’s correspondence focused on society of the day, including the Depression, temperance, and slavery. On the lighter side, there are mentions of horse races and distilleries. The Beatty-Quisenberry family papers span the end of the eighteenth century until the mid-twentieth. In that time the papers cover a wide range of topics, from fugitive slaves in Kentucky to the Soviet Union and everything in between. The Beatty-Quisenberry family papers even look into the sheepherding and wool industries! The Speed family authored several different collections of papers at The Filson, including Speed family papers – Farmington Collection (gathered by Farmington Historical Society), as well as two collections ranging from 1751-1921 and 1813-1981 (given to The Filson at different times and by different donors). In whichever Speed collection you decide to look there are bound to be numerous subjects that will catch your fancy: from frontier and pioneer life to dogs, courtship and weddings to cholera, and the Spanish-American War to the Iran Hostage Crisis.
All three of these Kentucky families deliver a wealth of information about the times and places they lived in through their collections. And the best thing is that most of the subjects you are looking for can be found by perusing the online catalog from your very own home. So next time you want to come down to The Filson to do some research, check out the online catalog for subjects you are interested in, and get a leg up!