library card

Man, oh man, am I having fun with my mini-vacation. I promised myself a few days between Christmas and New Year’s–after family visits and home chores–to devote to research and writing for Antietam on the Web. Most people would see this as an odd use of valuable free time, but I find it therapeutic play.

Today I’m pulling threads in a huge source that’s new to me: the HeritageQuest database service from ProQuest. It’s a searchable collection of thousands of books and other documents. I’d not looked into it before, thinking wrongly that it was only genealogical information. If you’re as lucky as I, and your library has a subscription, you can get to it from home by the web at the price of a library card…

28th New York history title page

I’ve been delighted to find dozens of obscure Civil War regimental histories and hundreds of local historical and biographical references that I’d otherwise never see. The collection is word-searchable or browseable, and returns images of every page of every volume. I’ve been running from one work to another as they appear in search result lists. I spent a couple of happy hours this afternoon with A brief history of the Twenty-eighth Regiment New York State Volunteers, for example. Self-published by the author in 1896, it includes nuggets about the unit and it’s men I’ve found nowhere else.

28th New York history, page 164click to see larger image
28th New York history, page 164

Also among the HeritageQuest collection are gems like State Adjutant General’s reports, state and local military rosters, Census indices, and Federal court findings. Along with old friends like Heitman, Cullum, Dyer, and Powell – most of whom are poorly presented by GoogleBooks.

A Google search won’t find these because they’re behind a subscription wall. But I have the key.

Excuse me, won’t you? I’ve just stumbled over Fairchild’s 1888 history of the 27th New York Infantry, including a picture and brief bio of another of my guys

A.D. Adams, 27th New York Infantry

4 Responses to “Key to a piece of the deep web”

  1. Larry Freiheit says:


    Thanks for this info. My school has ProQuest on-line but apparently not HeritageQuest. You are fortunate to have access through your library. I will check with my local library but my guess is that it does not subscribe.

    I hope to send you my Antietam intel article shortly.

    Happy New Year,


  2. Don says:


    Thanks for the tip, my library actually subscribes. I haven’t had much luck doing unit searches, though, what’s your secret?


  3. Brian says:

    Hi Larry – and a happy New Year to you too. If your nearest library does not have a subscription, you might see if you can get a card in a nearby jurisdiction which does. Outside my little city the county libraries have reciprocal agreements permitting that. Thus the Arlington (Va) card shown.

    Looking forward to that Intelligence piece, thank you.

  4. Brian says:


    Searching seems a bit of a weak link, I agree. Or maybe I just haven’t grokked it yet. Some kind of proximity algorithm, I think, yields odd results.

    To get a meaningful set of books or docs to browse through, I have had success with general terms like ‘Civil War’ or place names, like “Jefferson County, New York”. Personal name searches work if the name’s unique enough.

    Thanks for coming by!

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