Research tip: start with a timeline
Blog: Judge Robert M. Clayton III asked me for pointers in researching the political affiliations of his ancestors. I pointed him toward the microfilm at the Missouri Room at the Hannibal Free Public Library. Unfortunately, the bulk of Courier-Post issues are not yet digital, but there is microfilm available for the research cards that Roberta Hagood created during her lifetime, so the job may not be as daunting as it seems.
She basically card catalogued every edition of Hannibal's available newspaper, writing down what page numbers and dates to find stories on prominent people and topics. It is a tremendous resource.
I also told Judge Clayton that I start my research by making timelines. Tonight I have been researching John P. McMillan, a Hannibal attorney in 1860, who went on to serve as judge advocate in the Confederate Army. Here's the timeline I put together tonight. It helps me keep track of important information and build a story.
1860: McMillan in Hannibal, 5 slaves
1862: March 31, Col. John P. McMillan arrived in New Orleans to recruit soldiers for the confederacy.
1862: Oct. 9, Establishment of military courts; McMillan judge advocate on military court of Lieut. Gen. J.C. Pemberton
1862: Oct. 14, Pemberton took command of the Department of Mississippi and East Louisiana
1863: Feb. 13, McMillan judge advocate on military court of Lieut. Gen. J.C. Pemberton
1863: July 4, Pemberton surrendered Vicksburg to Grant
1863: Aug. 9, McMillan requisitioned for one water bucket and a tin cup.
1863, Aug. 31, McMillan paid $280.