To date, I have 1,285 individual citations for Emmett Wilson, organized in a biographical database. I also have about 300 articles still to be put into the database, and I add a few more every day.
The articles include mention of family members and close colleagues, which I send to Wilson contacts for their own genealogical research.
When I started this project, I was initially dissuaded from doing Emmett’s story because of his obscurity. What has surprised me has been the amount of information I’ve found. It just goes to show that speculation in research is a big no-no. 🙂
But, I’m also stubborn when I think something is worthwhile. Obscure or not, Emmett’s story is worthwhile, and I’m on it.
One of my first steps with the Emmett Wilson bio was a visit at the Library of Congress. There, I met an archivist, Fred, who talked with me in-depth about the biography.
We searched the LOC’s databases. As expected, there wasn’t much about Emmett. Fred gave me some suggestions of where else I might look, then he turned to me, shrugged, and said, “He wasn’t a popular congressman. I doubt you’ll find much. You should try the periodicals.” This was good advice. However, he warned: “The Library of Congress, contrary to public belief, does not have everything. We may not have what you need.”
I hopped over to the Newspaper and Current Periodical Reading Room at the LOC . I started with the digital newspapers. Score! I found some articles about Emmett, but not much. However, the archivist there told me that what they didn’t have on hand could be ordered from different libraries. I was so excited to know that information probably was out there, somewhere, that I didn’t realize that most of the time, reading microfilm in this way is like looking for a needle in the haystack.
Still. I’m on a mission. I will track down the Elusive Emmett Wilson. And so far, all this wallowing in miles of positive silver duplicate has been worthwhile.
About six months ago, I’d have thought 1,285 citations would be more than enough on my very obscure Emmett Wilson, and I’d have no problem writing reams of copy! In reality: I’m only about midpoint in data gathering.
The good news is that I’ve been able to find so much information, even if it is just a single sentence mention here and there.
The bad news, of course, is that 90 percent of what I’ve found is not digital, and it is slow going and frustrating. We are talking about, at a minimum, 1,000 images on an individual reel. Still, I am finding information, and that is progress.
On second thought, this is also good news.
All of what I have found so far is unique to this research. Trust me, it’s obscure as hell. Also, it can be addictive: I can go through dozens of issues of the ancient Pensacola Evening News without seeing Emmett’s name. Lot of advertisements for trusses, but nothing on Mr. Elusive.
Suddenly, boom, there it is, a one-liner on the editorial page. This gives me such an adrenaline rush! After such an experience, I can read for hours.
In sum, I’d say that the sheer amount of information I am finding about Emmett makes me rethink his ‘elusive’ label. Granted, I’ve had to do a lot of digging and in oddball places; he’s not easily found. Also, 100 years later, most people with less than spectacular political careers are forgotten.
The questions I often ask myself are as follows: Once I ‘rescue’ Emmett from his obscurity, what is it that I want people to remember about him? What is the ‘hook’ in all of this?
I have miles to film still ahead to read. I don’t have to answer those questions this minute, thankfully. There is much information yet unfound to ponder.