I recently started transcribing some documents from the Draper Manuscript Collection. Lyman C. Draper was an obsessive historian who lived during the 1800s and researched persons of interest to him, often from the south. Oddly, while searching for information about one individual, he would become interested in a colleague and would then pursue their life story as well. Draper was unique in that he sent questionnaires to related individuals sometimes long after his research target was deceased. He asked about family, migration, military service, and more. Women and children were also included in his research. He was an excellent example of a cluster researcher, far ahead of his time.
In the case of Tecumseh, he interviewed many who did battle with him, including those who had claim on taking his life. He interviewed people from his tribe to determine if Tecumseh had any remaining blood descendants.
In the case of my ancestor, Draper wrote letters to surviving family members and colleagues. These family members in turn interviewed war buddies, documented remembrances from parents and others now deceased, wrote letters to cousins to determine if any personal papers survived, and reported back their findings to Draper. The letters are dated in the 1840s and stretch back over a century in content, listing the migration patterns, revolutionary war activities, siblings, birth and death details, marriage information, and whether or not each sibling left behind any living posterity. The recollections take the family back several generations and even document the exchange or transfer of property to which heirs.
While Josephine Harper created a guide to the Draper Manuscript Collection, it is not a complete index of the collection. Letters from related individuals may be included, or ancestors may be mentioned in the letters, but without a complete index, this handwritten collection of ancestral gold it is still not easily searched.
While I'm certain that there were those who thought Draper a very unusual individual in his day, his work is priceless today. Indeed, when one is lucky enough to have an ancestor who caught Draper's attention, it's as good as stepping back in time and hiring a genealogist to locate early ancestral information that exists in no other form.