Writer's Guide to Government Information

Resources to inject real life detail into your fiction

Calling All Writers: Looking for New Blog Post Ideas!

I am very much enjoying reading, editing, fixing links, and thinking about new directions for the blog.  I have only added one new post, but would like to hear from everyone about what topics you would like to see added.  Is there a subject that isn’t covered or could be covered differently?  Please send me any ideas you have.  Also, if you run into a real-time research question while writing, feel free to contact me.  

Bee Sting Allergies

Stinging Insect Allergy page from the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (linked provided by MedlinePlus) – http://www.aaaai.org/conditions-and-treatments/library/allergy-library/stinging-insect-allergy

Often people will refer to being stung by saying, “I was stung by a bee,” so “bees” or “honeybees” tend to get a bad rap.  Just as likely they may have been stung by a yellow jacket, hornet, or wasp.  They also have different kinds of venom, so if one were allergic to honeybees, they would not necessarily have a reaction from a wasp sting.

Representative questions that can be answered by this resource:

  • What are the differences between bees, wasps, and hornets?
  • How do you identify different insect nests?
  • What is the best way to treat a sting?
  • What are the symptoms of a severe reaction?


Overview on insect stings including identification of insects, prevention, treatment, and link to finding an allergist/immunologist.

More links on this subject:

Medline’s Insect Bits and Stings page – https://medlineplus.gov/insectbitesandstings.html
ees, Wasps and Hornets Brochure by the NJ Beekeepers Association – http://www.nj.gov/agriculture/divisions/pi/pdf/beeswaspshornetsbrocure.pdf
edline’s Allergy Shots page  – https://medlineplus.gov/ency/patientinstructions/000405.htm

Hello from Kari Mofford

I am honored to be the new owner of this blog and a big thank you to Daniel for creating such a wonderful resource as well as for all his current (and future) help.

A little about me…I have been an academic librarian for almost 20 years with experience in reference/instruction, interlibrary loan, acquisitions, and access services.  I am currently the Undergraduate and User Services Librarian and Chair of the Access Services Department at UMass Dartmouth.  I am also subject liaison to English Composition.  My colleague and I run a dystopian/science fiction book club here at the library for faculty, staff, and students.  Other interests are backyard beekeeping with my husband and teaching yoga part-time on campus.

I am an avid reader, but actually “listener” might be more precise as I have a considerable commute and make the most of this time with audiobooks.  My fiction tastes have run from gamut over the years with a strong emphasis on fantasy/science fiction/dystopian fiction and lately I have been enjoying mystery cozies.  My TV tastes tend to run in the same direction…Buffy probably being my all-time favorite.

So while I love being immersed in a wonderful story…it only takes a one incorrect fact to pull you out of that state and the experience is completely altered.  This is what I loved about this blog, not to mention the mission to use government information, which appeals to my information literacy side.  And I very much appreciate the astronomy section of this blog, as my first job after college was part-time at Sky & Telescope Magazine and part-time in the library at the Harvard Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics.

This is my first blog, so I will be taking time this summer to really analyze the material and start planning how I want it to move forward.  In the beekeeper world, this would be akin to starting off with a nucleus hive (something already established… a mini version of a hive) as opposed to a package of bees that you put in an empty hive with just foundation frames for them to build out.  See “Basic Beekeeping Techniques” under  https://www.nal.usda.gov/afsic/beekeeping to learn more about starting a hive.

I want to find the best way to proceed that will both honor the original mission while exploring new ways to grow.  This will take time, so please be patient with me as I start this journey.  I look forward to working with Daniel and I welcome your feedback or ideas…so please contact me…Really.  🙂

Site Transition: Meet Your New Host

For quite some time now, I (Daniel) know I have not put maintenance or promotional energy into this site that it deserves. Partly that’s because I run this resource in my spare time. My job description has not included government information since 2007 and so I never sought work support for this project. In addition, I have other projects and lifelong learning opportunities going on. The result has been you getting the leftovers of my focus and energy. You writers and readers deserve more.

So several weeks ago, I made the choice of seeking a new owner for the Writer’s Guide to Government Information. Today I’m happy to announce that not only does the Writer’s Guide have a new owner, but one with institutional support!

The new owner is Kari Mofford, Undergraduate and User Services Librarian of the Claire T. Carney Library at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth. In addition to having the support of her dean for this project, Kari is also liaison to the English department at her school. This puts her in a great position to do outreach to the writing community.

Although not a government information librarian herself, she has really enjoyed the resources she’s found in the Writer’s guide, and is committed to maintaining the site and sharing her discoveries.

I’m going to be in the background for as long as Kari finds me useful, but this is her site and her show now. In the next few weeks Kari will be posting announcements about the site’s future direction. I imagine she will also be soliciting your input on how the Writer’s Guide can be made even more useful than it is now. I look forward to seeing the direction she takes it in. I hope you will too.


Resource for 19th Century DC social life

It’s been ages since I’ve posted anything here, but the Library of Congress recently digitized a collection that I think writers of stories set in early to mid 19th Century Washington DC would find helpful.

The collection is Anna Maria Brodeau Thornton papers, 1793-1861 and it can be found at https://www.loc.gov/collections/anna-maria-brodeau-thornton-papers/about-this-collection/.

Here’s the description from the “About this collection” page:

The seven volumes of diaries and notebooks, 1793-1861, of Anna Maria Brodeau Thornton (ca.1775-1865) document her position at the center of a Washington, D.C., social circle that included George and Martha Washington, James and Dolley Madison, Thomas Jefferson, Margaret Bayard Smith, and the cabinet members, congressmen, and diplomats who constituted the city’s entwined social and political worlds. Thornton was the daughter of Ann Brodeau, who emigrated from England in 1775 with the help of Benjamin Franklin and established a successful school in Philadelphia. The identity of Anna Maria Thornton’s father is unknown, but he may have been English clergyman William Dodd, who was hanged for forgery in 1777.

In 1790, at just fifteen, Anna Maria Brodeau married William Thornton (1759-1828), an architect who was born in Tortola and initially trained as a doctor. He is best known for his design of the United States Capitol. Thornton was one of the commissioners appointed to plan the capital city, and later in his career he became United States Superintendent of Patents. The Thorntons moved to Washington in 1792 and lived there for the rest of their lives.

Anna Maria Brodeau Thornton’s papers consist of diaries and commonplace books, 1793-1861, which she began when she was eighteen and ended at eighty-six, a period of sixty-eight years. These volumes document the operation of her household, including the management of slaves; travel, including visits to the Virginia homes of George and Martha Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and James and Dolley Madison; the construction of Washington, D.C., and the United States Capitol; the city under attack during the War of 1812; visits of the Count de Volney, 1796, and Alexander von Humboldt, 1804; an attempt on her life by Arthur, a slave, in 1835; the 1844 shipboard explosion that killed Secretary of State Abel Upshur and Treasury Secretary Thomas Gilmer; the inauguration of president James K. Polk in 1845; and the start of the Civil War.

Thornton’s entries show the networks of visiting and social events, including presidential “levees,” at which she, along with other wives of Washington’s leaders, observed and influenced power in the capital city. Included are household accounts, receipts, a visitors log, 1794-1798, book lists and reading notes, essays in French and English, recipes, a collection of autographs of Washington figures, photographs, and silhouettes. Among the silhouettes are a few done by Philadelphia artist Charles Willson Peale of Humboldt and his party during their 1804 visit to Washington (volume 6).

I haven’t examined this material in detail, but it seems like it would have to have a lot of authentic details for antebellum Washington DC. If you do find this material useful, I’d love to hear about it in comments.

This post is not a prelude to either posting more regularly or doing a thorough overhaul of the site. Sometimes I just can’t help myself from sharing. We’ll see what happens here as I get through a few other commitments.

New Catalog at US National Archives

To get started, here’s a preview of the improvements you can expect in this new release:

  • Enjoy the updated homepage featuring background images from catalog records
  • Add your comments on digitized records, descriptions, and authority records
  • Find what you need with a more intuitive advanced search
  • Efficiently browse hits with better “Next Page” link placement
  • Track your Citizen Archivist contributions with updated user account pages
  • Add data from scanned records to your developer toolbox with increased API functionality

Source: Searching for Something? Try the New Catalog! | NARAtions

I refer to the US National Archives in several entries in the Writer’s Guide. It looks like they’ve upgraded their catalog. It seems like it is all on the front end, but if you get results that don’t match anything in the Guide, please let me know.

Images from the History of Medicine (National Library of Medicine)

Images from the History of Medicine – http://www.nlm.nih.gov/hmd/ihm/

Representative questions that can be answered with this resource:

  • What did quarantine signs look like in the 20th Century?
  • Where can I find examples of AIDS posters?
  • How did the US Armed forces encourage soldiers to use their mosquito nets during World War II?
  • Where can I find health posters in Chinese?


From the website:

Images from the History of Medicine (IHM) provides access to over 70,000 images in the collections of the History of Medicine Division (HMD) of the U.S National Library of Medicine (NLM).

The collection includes portraits, photographs, caricatures, genre scenes, posters, and graphic art illustrating the social and historical aspects of medicine dated from the 15th to 21st century.

The records from the Images from the History of Medicine database are also searchable in LocatorPlus.

This database assists users in finding and viewing visual material for private study, scholarship, and research. This site contains some materials that may be protected by United States or foreign copyright laws. It is the users’ responsibility to determine compliance with the law when reproducing, transmitting, or distributing images found in IHM. Please note that some content in this database may contain material that some viewers may find to be challenging, disturbing or offensive. Viewer discretion is advised.

Strangely, it does not appear to be possible to do a straightforward date search in this resource. Using the faceted browsing on the left hand of the screen may help in your search. This database can be browsed as a single collection, by category, subject or geography. It may also be searched by the following fields:

  • Appears In
  • Call Number
  • Cited in
  • Contributor
  • Contributor (Conference)
  • Contributor (Organization)
  • Copyright Statement
  • Creator
  • Creator (Conference)
  • Creator (Organization)
  • Language
  • Manufacturer Information
  • Physical Description
  • Publication Country
  • Publication Information
  • Publisher Information
  • Series
  • Series Statement
  • Series Title
  • Subject (Conference)
  • Subject (Genre)
  • Subject (Geographic Name)
  • Subject (Keyword)
  • Subject (MeSH Term)
  • Subject (Organization)
  • Subject (Person)
  • Subject (Title)
  • Title
  • Title (Alternative)
  • URL

There is a very small subset of images from this library in Flickr Commons.

Writer’s Guide 2014 in review – Field Medicine and Character Names

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog. I was intrigued that two of the five most popular posts on this blog were field medicine related. Also, there is a need for character names:

  1. Sun or Moon Rise/Set Table for One Year (National Naval Observatory)
  2. How can I find a name so rare, that was only given to five or so babies in 1980?
  3. Brigade Combat Team (BCT) Physical Therapy Guide (2010)
  4. Marine Corps Combat Lifesaver Course Student Handout
  5. Social Security Popular Baby Names

Here’s an excerpt:

A New York City subway train holds 1,200 people. This blog was viewed about 7,500 times in 2014. If it were a NYC subway train, it would take about 6 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

Writer’s Guide to Gov Info October 2014 Link Check Completed

I ran a link check across the whole of Writer’s Guide to Government Information and found several dead links. These have been fixed now.  Now that the National Atlas has been mothballed, I changed links for that to https://wayback.archive-it.org/4416/20140919122742/http://nationalatlas.gov/.


If you haven’t been to the Writer’s Guide to Government Information in awhile, here’s a repeat of the table of contents for you:

About the Site – Background about how this site came to be.

Chapters – Links to 467 Resource Posts

Appendices – Articles to make your research easier

About the Author

Contact Daniel

Writer’s Guide September Link Check Done Early

In a recent post I mentioned that I was implementing monthly link checking for the sources I’ve written about on the Writer’s Guide. My schedule is to link check the first weekend of each month.

Next weekend is my first shift of the semester at my local university library, so I decided to do September’s link check today. 

During the course of this link check I found that Knowledge – the US Army’s safety magazine had not only changed its URL but also the way it presents articles. Despite that, I think it will remain a useful source of accident ideas for your stories. See my entry for Knowledge for details. 

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