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On Doing Research on Origins

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Some researchers are still finding material using traditional methods, but it is the rise of internet searches that is now revolutionizing origins research.  A good place to start is the major online search engines. Don't neglect Google Books, which provides both full text and digital search capacity for acres of old books as photocopied from leading research libraries.  And with more and more old newspapers being digitized, and more and more genealogical data being captured, it's going to get even better.

Peter Morris, perhaps our most prolific current researcher on baseball's early days, has a useful guide to online resources at his website,  This guide has links to a good handful of genealogy sites and to a dozen key sites covering baseball history, several of them with plentiful material on the origins years.  Peter also recommends a directory to newspaper resources at, which has links to newspaper projects in 25 states -- maybe including yours.

When you're at the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, you'll find that Tim Wiles and his staff at the Giamatti Research Center to be helpful and thoughtful.  The Center has an Origins of Baseball folder, one that includes photocopies of materials from the long-lost Mills Commission file on its assessment of the origins of baseball.  For the Hall's holdings of published material, try its online catalog, ABNER.

Keeping up to date with origins research activities

For members of SABR, the easiest way to stay up to date with origins research is to join 19cBB, a Yahoo group dedicated to the discussion of 19th century baseball. It is not unusual for polite debates to break out there on currently-unresolved issues -- or as likely, for the questioning of long-held conventional wisdom on where baseball came from.  This listserve typically has 2-5 new posts daily, a good fraction of them focused on origins topics, the rest relating to later in the century.  The liveliest origins discussions are covered in the SABR Origins Committee's monthly electronic newsletter, Originals.  The archive of the newsletter is available on this site - click "Newsletter" on the menu at the top of any page.

The Next Destin'd Post, an irregular newsletter connected to Project Protoball, has featured short takes on recent and current projects for about 35 origins researchers.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 07 April 2010 14:34