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A Genealogist In The Archives

Monday, February 19, 2018

Presidential Libraries

Since this is President's Day, I thought I would highlight our wonderful Presidential Libraries all across the United States.

Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and Museum


Fourteen of the Presidential Libraries are under the auspices of the U.S. National Archives. They describe the libraries as:

Presidential Libraries and Museums promote understanding of the presidency and the American experience. We preserve and provide access to historical materials, support research, and create interactive programs and exhibits that educate and inspire.

These fourteen libraries have websites and the links can be found on the U.S. National Archives site:

https://www.archives.gov/presidential-libraries

William McKinley Presidential Library and Museum



Five of the Presidential Libraries are operated by private foundations, historical societies or state governments. They are:

William McKinley Presidential Library and Museum
https://mckinleymuseum.org/

Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Library and Museum
http://www.rbhayes.org/

Calvin Coolidge Presidential Library and Museum
http://forbeslibrary.org/calvin-coolidge-presidential-library-and-museum/

Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum
https://www.illinois.gov/alplm/library/Pages/default.aspx

Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library and Museum
http://www.woodrowwilson.org/

Many of you may be thinking that these Presidential library would be of no help to the genealogy research that you are doing. I admit that not everyone will find their ancestors in the records at these libraries, however, how will you know if you don't try?

John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum


Think about where these Presidents lived, who they were related to and who they may have interacted with during their lifetime. Presidential libraries hold more than just papers and records from the Presidency, many of them hold personal papers, diaries, photographs and records about their ancestors. These records could include friends, associates and neighbors (F.A.N. Club)!

Do not discount these Presidential libraries. Check out their websites, records indexes, manuscript collection finding aids and anything else that might tell you what these repositories hold.

You might just be surprised what you find at a Presidential Library!

Happy President's Day!

REMEMBER: IT'S NOT ALL ONLINE, CONTACT OR VISIT AN ARCHIVE TODAY!

*****

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Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Preserving Old Family Letters and Postcards

Stationary, envelopes, postage stamps....what am I describing? Yes, an old fashioned, handwritten letter.

Handwritten letter from Mattie to Miss Alice Reynolds dated October 25, 1903.
Located at the Houston County, Tennessee Archives

Today, most of us write emails, tweets, Facebook posts and texts to communicate with our family and friends. When was the last time you sat down and wrote an actual handwritten letter and mailed it to someone? This type of genealogy record source is what I call a "rare genealogical record source" because while the old letters still exist there are practically no new records of this type being produced.

As genealogists, what do we do with these old letters that we have in our family collections? We preserve and archive them!

Before the actual physical archiving starts, I always encourage genealogists to scan or digitize their letters and to transcribe them word for word, that way once you have physically archived them you don't need to handle them as much. Handling them with your hands can cause damage over time if the items are handled a lot.


Original envelope for letter by Miss Mary Carpenter with post mark of December 17, 1889, Erin, Tennessee.
Located at Houston County, Tennessee Archives

When archiving old letters, it is important to keep the original envelope with the letter if it has been saved. There is valuable genealogical information on the envelope that you want to save. My advice is to remove the letter from the envelope, flatten the letter and put both the letter and the envelope into an archival polyester sleeve or into an archival page protector. Store them in an archival file folder or in a 3-ring binder and keep in a dry, dark place where it is preferably as cold as possible. Heat and humidity can destroy your documents, so it is always a good idea to store your records in a cold environment.

Now, how do you find old letters in archives, libraries or any of our wonderful repositories that hold genealogical records? This task can be a bit difficult but if you are diligent you might just get rewarded.

Most old letters will be found in Manuscript Collections. These collections of records are usually arranged by subject, surname or with titles such as "John Doe Papers 1871-1922". Once you have identified a collection that interests you, then you need to look at the finding aid. The finding aid is a document that is produced by the archivist and is an outline of what the collection is all about and will include a list of what is contained in each box. Most of the time the box list is not detailed by what each piece of paper is in each folder but rather it will say "Folder #1: Correspondence 1871-1888". You will have to open the file and read through the correspondence to see if there is anything of interest to your research.

Greeting card with letter sent to Mrs. W.T. Smith of Erin, Tennessee dated 1919.  Notice how small this letter is next to this cell phone. Located in the Houston County, Tennessee Archives

Lastly, let's not forget postcards! Our ancestors were avid users of postcards of all kinds. The preservation methods described earlier in this blog can be used with postcards. Also, postcards will be found in Manuscript Collections the same as old letters. Postcards come in all shapes, sizes and kinds. There are even postcards made from photographs. If you are looking for a photograph of your ancestor, just maybe there is one out there that is on a postcard. 

Postcard to Master Marshall W. Wynns in Erin, Tennessee from L.F.J.
        Located in the Houston County, Tennessee Archives

While the art of letter writing is no longer in fashion, we as genealogists have an opportunity to peer into our ancestors lives by reading their wonderful letters. The information that could be contained on our ancestors letters help us to put "meat on the bones" of the ones we are researching and helps their story come alive!


REMEMBER: IT'S NOT ALL ONLINE, CONTACT OR VISIT AN ARCHIVE TODAY!


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Monday, February 12, 2018

Thumbing Through Your Ancestor's Books

Today in the Houston County, Tennessee Archives we received a donation of various books from a local resident. She had been cleaning out her attic and found them and brought them to the archives to be donated.

This collection of books includes mostly music books but there was also a couple of other books of interest. One of those books was actually a composition notebook where one of her family members copied stories from a history book when he was in school. Not tremendously historical but it was in someone's own handwriting and was dated 1928.

Donated Composition Book, Houston County, TN. Archives


One action that I always take when I receive any kind of book in the archives is to thumb through it's pages. "Why?" you ask. The reason is because it's amazing what people will put inside of books for a place holder, bookmark or to stash for safe keeping.

In this donated composition book was a small card that has the name John L. Emery and the address Summers St, Cohasset, Mass.

Card Found in Composition Book, Houston County, TN. Archives


What a find! This card will be documented and processed with the book as it was found.

Have you received or inherited a collection of books from your ancestors? Make sure you take the time to thumb through each book to see if there are any scraps of paper, ephemera or other items that have been tucked into those books. What you find just might have information that could help you with your genealogy research.


REMEMBER: IT'S NOT ALL ONLINE, CONTACT OR VISIT AN ARCHIVE TODAY!

*******

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Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Finding Archival Supplies

One question that I get asked all the time as an archivist is "Where can I buy archival supplies to preserve my records?"

I use archival supplies on a daily basis working in the Houston County, TN. Archives. I order our supplies from various archival supply stores depending on what the need is and the price.

Tools of the Trade, Houston County, TN. Archives


One important aspect of purchasing archival supplies is the fact that they can be pricey. For example, to order a box of archival file folders, the cost is approximately $30.00 for a box of 100. For a box of non-archival file folders the price is substantially less at office supply stores.

The fact is, it is important to preserve our family documents in archival materials so they do not deteriorate or become damaged.

Lyle Family Records Collection, Houston County, TN. Archives


Many archival supply stores have an online website (see listing below) and you can also sign-up to receive emails when they have sales on their products. These stores even have "Free Shipping" days once or twice a year.

Almost all of these archival supply stores will send you a paper catalog. Some of us have a hard time finding what we are looking for on an online catalog, so why not get a paper catalog! When I get my catalog in the mail, it's like Christmas time and getting the Sears Christmas Wish Book Catalog!

Gaylord Archival 2017 Catalog


Our ancestor's records, photographs, ephemera and artifacts have lasted this long, why not put them in archival materials so they can last even longer!

Online Archival Supply Stores

Gaylord Archival
http://www.gaylord.com/

Hollinger Metal Edge
http://www.hollingermetaledge.com/

Light Impressions
http://www.lightimpressionsdirect.com/

University Products
https://www.universityproducts.com/

Archival Methods
https://www.archivalmethods.com/



REMEMBER: IT'S NOT ALL ONLINE, CONTACT OR VISIT AN ARCHIVE TODAY!

*****

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Monday, February 5, 2018

5 Easy Steps to Preserving Newspaper Clippings

Obituaries, marriage announcements, birth announcements are just a few of the types of newspaper clippings that can be in genealogical records. Are you archiving and preserving them so they don't harm other documents? Yes, newspaper clippings and news print can harm, even damage, other documents.

Various Newspaper Clippings

The chemicals in newspaper print, if in contact with another document, can leave an orange or dark stain. You don't want this to happen to original documents such as death certificates, birth certificates and marriage records. The damage is not reversible!

"Golden Wedding" announcement newspaper clipping, ca. 1944, Houston County, TN. Archives.

Here are 5 steps that the home archivist can use to archive newspaper clippings:

1. Digitize the newspaper clippings. This can be done by scanning or photographing them, then saving them to a computer, thumb drive or backup hard drive.

2. Make good quality photocopies of the clippings. Be sure to record the source citation of the clipping, if there is any, on the photocopy with a pencil. Many newspaper clippings don't have the date or name of the newspaper because that information was clipped off. 

3. Purchase archival safe sleeves to store the clippings. These sleeves can be purchased at any online archival materials store or through Amazon.com.

4. Only put one clipping in one sleeve. Stuffing the sleeve with newspaper clippings could damage them. Newspaper clippings, in sleeves, will insure that they don't touch any other documents.

5. File the preserved newspaper clippings in genealogy files, 3-ring binders or wherever genealogical records are stored.

These 5 steps will insure the newspaper clippings are preserved and the information contained in them is saved.

CAUTION: Do not laminate newspaper clippings or any genealogical documents. The laminating sheets contain chemicals that can leech into the documents and destroy them over time. Lamination is very difficult to reverse. Do not do anything to documents that can't be undone. 

Erin Lodge No. 382 I.O.O.F., undated, Houston County, TN. Archives

Be sure to store all genealogical records, newspapers and newspaper clippings in a cool, dry and dark place. Newspapers deteriorate very rapidly when stored in a warm and humid environment.

Newspapers and newspaper clippings can be gold mine for the genealogist, be sure to preserve the ones you have!

REMEMBER: IT'S NOT ALL ONLINE, CONTACT OR VISIT AN ARCHIVE TODAY!!


*******

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Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Preserving Our Ancestor's Heirloom Textiles

Some of the most interesting items we have in our own family genealogy collections as well as in archives are items made of some sort of fabric. Things such as a christening gowns, quilts, high school sweaters and doilies are just a few of the items some of us have as part of our family archive.

Preserving and storing these items can be a challenge and if not done properly could result in the destruction of these precious heirlooms.

Hand embroidered handkerchief. Houston County, TN. Archives 

For most fabric items you will need archival tissue paper and the correct size archival box for storage. 

Put a layer of tissue paper in the bottom of the box. Then put your fabric item on the tissue paper. If the item is large, such as a quilt or a piece of clothing, it is okay to fold it but put layers of tissue paper between the folds making sure that none of the fabric touches itself.  I also like to put extra tissue paper as a "filler" in the box so that the item doesn't move around in the box. Just ball the tissue paper up and put it around the item and that will keep it still in the box. Then place the box in a dark, cool and dry storage place. With fabric items I like to take the archival box and place it in another box such as a plastic tote which can be sealed, this is to deter moths and insects which can destroy fabrics.

Be sure to put documentation in the box to explain in detail all pertinent information about the item.  If it was handmade, include the name of the person who made it. Also, if applicable, include the "chain of ownership" of the item and how it has been passed down in the family and which ancestors owned it before it was passed down to you. The more information you include in your description, the better!

Handmade christening gown. Houston County, TN. Archives 
         
Finding fabric items in an archives can be a challenge but they do exist in collections housed in many of the our wonderful repositories. Most items of this kind will be found in families records collections which are normally part of the archives larger Manuscript Collection or Special Collections. When family records have been donated to an archive, the collection could include fabric items and they would be processed right along with the documents and should be listed in the finding aid.

Another way a fabric item could be cataloged in an archive is in a group collection such as a "Quilt Collection" which could include many quilts by different makers and are housed in one collection. Or maybe these items are cataloged in a local high school collection, such as the letterman sweater in the photo below.

Letterman sweater from Erin High School. Houston County, TN. Archives 
         
As genealogists we are always searching for that next important document to help tell our ancestor's story.  Don't forget our ancestors are also trying to tell us their story through things that they made, things that they wore and things that they used on a daily basis. The story behind a handmade quilt can be just as interesting as the story behind a document.

Preserving the fabric of our ancestors and the stories that go with them should be part of every genealogists journey to document our families.



REMEMBER: IT'S NOT ALL ONLINE, CONTACT OR VISIT AN ARCHIVE TODAY!

*******

Gaylord Archival Quilt Preservation Kit at Amazon




Monday, January 29, 2018

Archival Tissue Paper for the Home Archivist

Archival materials are something that archivists and conservators work with on a daily basis. When we are working on an archival project, we reach for the materials we need to help us preserve documents, photographs and artifacts.

As genealogists and home archivists, you need to be using archival materials to preserve the documents, photographs and artifacts you have in your collections. Knowing the right kinds of archival materials to use is a necessity.



One of the staples of any archive is archival tissue paper. Archival tissue paper is a must for any genealogist and home archivist. We use this archival material to line archival boxes before putting things into them. We crumple it up and put it around items in boxes so that they don't move around in the box and get damaged. There are many uses for archival tissue paper and just like white gloves, the home archivist should have a supply on hand.

There are two kinds of archival tissue paper, buffered and unbuffered.

The difference between these two kinds of archival tissue paper is:

Buffered Archival Tissue Paper: This tissue paper is "buffered" because it contains an alkaline substance, usually calcium carbonate, added as an alkaline reserve or "buffer" to counteract acids that may form in the material.

Unbuffered Archival Tissue Paper: This tissue paper is free of the alkaline substance



Most genealogy records, photographs and artifacts would benefit from being archived in buffered materials like boxes, tissue paper, folders, etc. There are some exceptions:

Dye Transfer Prints or Cyanotypes Photographs: Should only be archived in unbuffered materials. These particular types of photographs and/or blueprints should never be archived in buffered materials due to the reaction of the calcium carbonate that could happen with the photographs.

Protein Based Materials: Materials that come from animals should be stored in unbuffered archival materials or at least should not come in contact with buffered materials. These items could include silk, wool, leather, feathers, animal specimens, horsehair, etc.

Using the right materials to preserve our family documents and heirlooms will help them to last for generations to come!


REMEMBER: IT'S NOT ALL ONLINE, CONTACT OR VISIT AN ARCHIVE TODAY!


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