Online searching has undoubtedly revolutionized information gathering. Census rolls, vital records, family trees, and genealogies are among the familiar, much-used digital resources at our fingertips free of charge in the Society’s reading room. A lesser utilized treasure trove of information is held in the Society’s collection of printed college and school catalogs. These “catalogs” were issued annually and often listed the names and city of origin of its students and faculty. Many of these names—nearly three quarters of a million of them—have been indexed in the Student, Teacher and Trustee Database Project, 1800-1900, freely accessible on the AAS website.
AAS member Richard P. Morgan saw the research value in indexing student and faculty names and has made this database his mission. Always striving to improve the online presentation and functionality of the database, Rich will periodically call upon me to tweak the search or results interface pages. Recently, in the midst of testing an update, I searched for a name that popped into my head—“Aaron Scott.” It’s the name of my great-grandfather, a Connecticut Valley tobacco farmer born in the 1860s. I was surprised when four results from the 1850s for an Aaron Scott of North Hadley, Massachusetts, appeared. I was well aware of this Aaron Scott—the uncle after whom my own great-grandfather was named. Stories of this beloved uncle and the circumstance of his death as a Civil War soldier have long loomed large in our family lore. I had no idea, however, that this son of a farming family had the opportunity to attend Wesleyan Academy in Wilbraham, Massachusetts, from 1850 to 1851, and Kimball Union Academy in Meriden, New Hampshire, from 1854 to 1857, as the database now showed me.
During the Atlanta campaign on August 2, 1864, Aaron Scott, having suffered a serious wound to his face, was lying on his bunk reading his Bible when he was struck by a bullet. An account of the event, recorded in a history of his regiment, describes Scott’s refusal of whiskey; he preferred to sip cold water. His dramatic passing was recorded as having a profound effect on the other soldiers. This tragic end is really all that our family had remembered about Uncle Aaron, but his educational background does help explain how, at the time of his enlistment, he was a teacher in charge of the agricultural department of the Reform School at Chicago. Without the indexing provided by the Student, Teacher and Trustee Database Project, the knowledge of Aaron Scott’s education and experience as a student would have most likely have remained a missing piece of his story.
 History of the Ninety-Sixth Regiment: Illinois Volunteer Infantry. Edited by Charles A. Partridge. Chicago: Brown, Pettibone, printers, 1887.