Tuesday, June 19, 2012

6/19/12 Report - Tips on Research & More

Written by the TreasureGuide for the exclusive use of treasurebeachesreport.blogspot.com.

I was telling you a few days ago about the smart educated and informed people that read this blog.  James F. is a good example.  Being an engineer and a writer that contributes to magazines, he provided us with some tips on how he conducts research that leads to finds like the recent bronze steamboat strap and ring that I showed a few days ago.

Steamboat Parts.  Photo from http://journeyspast.wordpress.com/

First though, here is a nice article that he submitted that is about a historic Florida fort site where old steamboat parts remained neglected and abandoned until recently.

The parts seen in the above photo were dredged from the Apalachicola River and were left on the grounds of  the Fort Gadsden Recreation Area in Franklin County, Florida. They were rusting away until a few months ago when when a new project to rescue them began

Here is the link for more of this story.


I asked James to give me some tips on how he conducts research that leads to nice old finds like the steamboat strap and ring. 

One of the things he said is that  although the internet and computer makes finding certain facts quite easy, the overwhelming majority of historical information...maps, narratives, and photographs still exist only in hardcopy form.

Here is more of what he said.

The first thing I did to locate the steamboat artifact was a quick on-line search looking for generalities like major areas of steamboat activity in Florida. On-line sources indicated the St. Johns River (which flows northward, by the way) and the chain of lakes it includes (Lake Jesup, Mullet Lake, Lake Monroe, Lake Poinsett, et al) where almost teeming with steamboat traffic for almost 80 years ago, all the way from Jacksonville to Rockledge (Cocoa Beach) Florida. With this general data, I went to my local library and specifically searched for information about 19th century steamboat activity within my region...Sanford, Geneva, Oveido, Lake Mary etc. I then looked for historic facts specifically targeting those town's level of involvement with steamboat operations; Fruit and vegetable shipments, cargo and passenger operations, Seminole and Civil War materials and troops movements by steamboat, etc. It is all readily publicly available information using a few keywords like steamboat, shipping and check the index in the back of hardcover books. Once I identified the towns involved, I narrowed the focus down even further, by selecting a specific town or area to hunt.

One of my favorite sources of research material in this regard is best obtained from small local museums or historical societies. Many of these little (or not so little) organizations have some very specific resources available to you, you cannot find anywhere else; self-published books on the local area, old maps on display, people who can tell you, through family history, of certain things or places not found in a book. It was from a couple of these organizations I discovered information regarding several close-by areas where steamboat traffic and operations were very prevalent in the mid-19th Century. Using this information...old maps, photographs, drawings and other facts, I managed to piece together a promising site. A quick look on-line of aerial map views through either Google or Bing Bird's Eye (I like Bing best for this sort of search as it has very, very clear aerials that get within 25 feet of the ground) will yield current information about the site before your actual recon of the physical place. This gives you site coordinates that you will use to navigate to the location; nearby roads, landmarks and GPS information, etc.

From there, I find the online website of the local tax assessor and locate the property platt, which also gets me the name and address (sometimes even the phone number) of the owner. Again, all publicly available information. I then make a cursory visit to the site, and if it looks searchable (i.e. not swampy or too snake infested) I'll call or visit the owner and try to get permission. I always offer something in return: a free 2-hour metal detection search anytime in the future if they or someone they know loses a valuable item, or I ask if they would like to accompany me while I hunt and have their pick of the items recovered. It is their land. If you have any people skills at all, you should be able to get on site, and maybe even an invitation to come back by the landowner. That's it in a nutshell...remember to look out for snakes!

There it is.   Some great tips that have proven out.   Thanks James!

Let me repeat and summarize a few of the main points.

1.  Do a preliminary search to become more familiar with the topic, identify important key words that can lead to other resources, and reiteratively refine your search.

2.  Check with local museums and historical societies.

3.  Talk to people who may have personal knowledge.

4.  Use the internet but go beyond that.

Your research will become more productive as you accumulate a depth of knowledge and variety resources on specific locales and topics.

Of course everyone is interested in the 1715 Fleet, but it seems to me that Florida steamboat history is a thoroughly fascinating and a much overlooked are of interest.

If there is a knife/dagger collector out there, I'm sure you can give us some idea of the date on the dagger I posted yesterday.   Thanks.

Treasure Coast Beach Treasure Detecting Conditions and Forecast.

Treasure beach detecting conditions remain poor.  Conditions haven't changed for a few days.  We've had 3 or 4 foot seas for a while now, but that is about to change. 

The seas will decrease as the weekend approaches, finally going down nearly zero.  That means we'll have very nice water conditions again, and probably very good visibility.

Happy hunting,