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A Genealogist In The Archives

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Finding Christmas in the Archives

We are now only 2 weeks away from Christmas 2019! Many of us are scrambling to get the grocery shopping done, present shopping completed and completing and mailing out those Christmas cards.

Vintage Postcard


As I work here in the archives, I am reminded of the Christmas items I run across as I process records. The records that are donated to an archive can literally encompass anything and it makes me smile when I am processing a records collection and come across a piece of Christmas cheer!

So, how do you find Christmas in the Archives? Here are some examples:

Local Store Advertisements: Many local stores advertise their Christmas sales and offerings. They will also produce special brochures and advertisements at Christmas time to entice the local shoppers to come into their stores. These types of ephemera, as it is usually called, can be located in the Vertical Files Collection of an archives or in the Manuscript Collection.

Mitchum Drug Co. Advertisement, Houston County, TN. Archives


Scrapbooks: Many archives have scrapbooks as part of their records collections. These scrapbooks are personally put together by an individual and could contain any number of documents, photographs and ephemera. In a few of the scrapbooks we have here in the Houston County, Tennessee Archives, there are Christmas cards and postcards. Seeing the vintage cards really puts you in the Christmas Spirit!

Christmas Postcard from Evelyn Ellis Scrapbook, Houston County, TN. Archives


Correspondence: A lot of our families were not able to be with each other at Christmas for whatever reason. Maybe it was war time and members of the family were off to war in a foreign country. Maybe our ancestors just lived too far away from each other and couldn't make the trek to meet up with family members for Christmas. If your lucky, possibly you have Christmas letters in your genealogy collection. These types of correspondence exist in the archives too! Most of the time these types of correspondence will be found in specific Manuscript Collections.

Christmas Greeting Letter, Houston County, TN. Archives


This is just a few ways you can "Find Christmas in the Archives"!

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

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Old Family Letters! Do you have them? Are you preserving them properly? Find out how to preserve your old family letters from an archivist!

Preserving Old Family Letters: Tips from an Archivist

http://legacy.familytreewebinars.com/?aid=1168













Wednesday, November 6, 2019

Preserving Our Ancestor's Military Medals and Ribbons

Many of us have military veterans in our families. As we celebrate them on Veterans Day, Monday, November 11th, we should remember them and honor them each and every day throughout the year.

Military medals and ribbons that our ancestor's received during their service may be part of our genealogical records and artifacts. Do you know how to store and preserve them?

Example of Military Medals


The process of preserving military medals and ribbons is quite simple. The materials you will need are:







Take each medal and each ribbon and wrap each one carefully in a piece of archival tissue paper. Then lay the tissue covered medal or ribbon in the archival storage box. Putting more than one medal or ribbon in the box is perfectly okay, just don't stack them on top of each other. To make sure they don't move around in the box, crumple up more archival tissue paper and put around the medals and ribbons. It's that simple!

It would also be a good idea to include a typed or handwritten description of who the medals belonged to, information about their service, what type of medals they are and why they were awarded. 

You may want to display the military medals and ribbons in frames or shadow boxes. Displaying them in this manner is perfectly fine. My only caution would be to keep the framed medals and ribbons out of the sunlight, especially the ribbons as they could fade if exposed to sunlight.

Example of Military Medal Display in a Shadow Box


So, as we Remember and Honor Our Veterans, let's also take time to preserve their medals and ribbons.


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

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Preserving Old Family Letters: Tips from an Archivist

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Friday, November 1, 2019

Dragging Genealogy Information Out of Our Family

The Holidays are Coming! Many of us will travel to be with our families or host our family members at our homes. Getting our family members to talk to us about genealogy and family history can be a daunting task for some of us. Let's face it, they don't make it easy do they?

Unidentified Family Gathering, Houston County, TN. Archives

There is always that one relative (or more) that just doesn’t understand why you are doing genealogy research. They ask questions like:

            - “Why do you want to know all that stuff about our family?”

            - “I don’t know, that was too long ago to remember”

            - “We just didn’t talk about it”

One of the first things that you have to realize is that not all our relatives have the passion and drive to research family history. It’s just not something they are interested in and so they don’t know why you are interested in doing it. They can be downright uncooperative.

You Have to be Sneaky (But Nice!)

To get any information out of our relatives, we are going to have to be sneaky about it but nice and you can even make it fun! 

            -They know more than they think they know

            -Get them started talking and they may not be able to quit

-As the family genealogist/family historian, it’s your job to coax that information out of them with whatever means you can think of to use

George Washington Stringfield Family, ca. 1901
Family Photographs

Most all of us have family photographs. Why not use these to jog the memories of your family members?

            -Bring photographs with you to the family event and start a discussion

            -Discuss the photographs that are displayed at the family members home

-Talk about the scenery in the photo, objects in the photo and the people, glean any piece of information you can


Unidentified Photograph, Houston County, TN. Archives
Home Movies

If your family has home movies, why not make viewing them part of the family get together. Gather the family members together in one place. Watch the movies and discuss among yourselves the people, places and scenery in the movies.

            -Arrange a special family gathering just to view family home movies

-Make the home movies part of the family event, like Thanksgiving!

-Discuss the people, places and objects in the home movies 


Family Recipes

What is almost always at a family gathering? FOOD! Why not use that to your advantage:

-Ask your family members about family recipes

-Who came up with certain food dishes, who cooked them?

-What does your family members remember about the food and the recipes

Fudge Pie Recipe, Houston County, TN. Archives
Family Traditions

Many of our families have family traditions that they observed during certain holidays, family reunions and other family events.

            -Get your family members talking about those family traditions

            -Ask who started those traditions

            -Find out where those traditions originated


How Do I Record All the Information?

Now that you have your family members talking, how do you record or capture the information they are sharing?

-Write it down. When you go to your family events, take something to write on and something to write with to record any and all tidbits of information that you can get from your family members.

-Use a recording device. Invest in a small recording device or use your cell phone to record your family members telling their stories or any tidbits of information. DO NOT RECORD WITHOUT PERMISSION 


Collect Today for Tomorrow

Most of us as are always looking for the old records, photographs and ephemera for our ancestors. It is also important to collect records, photographs and ephemera from TODAY! One day they will be considered “old records”.

-Take photographs at family events, download them to your computer, identify them, and add metadata

-Collect ephemera, such things as graduation programs, funeral home cards, wedding invitations, baby shower invitations, etc.  

With these tips and tricks, hopefully you will get your family members talking!



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


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Family Gatherings: Dragging Genealogy Information Out of Your Family

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Thursday, October 31, 2019

Genealogists are Home Archivists!

"31 Days of Tips from The Archive Lady"

DAY #31


Today is the last day of "31 Days of Tips from The Archive Lady". It has been so much fun sharing tips about researching in archives and preserving family records. I hope what I have shared has helped many of you advance in your genealogy research and now have the knowledge of how to take care of your precious family documents and heirlooms.

On this last day of October 2019, the last day of American Archives Month, I want you to know that as genealogists with original records, photographs and artifacts, You Are The Home Archivist! You are the keeper of the family history and I applaud each and every one of you that has taken on this responsibility.

Bartram Family Bible and Items Found Inside, Owned by Melissa Barker


I also want to remind you there are thousands of archives, historical societies, genealogical societies, university archives and museums are out there and they hold millions of records that are NOT ONLINE. I completely understand that it can be a hardship for many of us to travel to these places to do research. Keep in mind that calling and emailing are very viable tools to use in communicating with these facilities.

My tip for you today is to think outside the box as you are doing your genealogy research. Remember all the unique records I have shared with you over this last month that are not online. Communicate with local archives about your genealogy research. Talk to the archivists about the records they hold in their archives. Ask them about Manuscript Collections, Vertical Files, Loose Records and all the records they have that are not online. Most archivists are ready and willing to be a help to you!

Houston County, TN. Lions Club Records Donation, Located in Houston County, TN. Archives


Even though this series of posts will come to an end as of today, that is not the end of the advice, tips and guidance I hope to continue bring to you. I will continue to blog about wonderful records that are held not only in the Houston County, TN. Archives but in archives all across the United States. I will also continue to blog about records preservation and how to make sure all of us preserve our family records so that future generations can enjoy them.

And best of all, I want to hear from you! If you have questions about how to find records, how to preserve any of your family records, photographs and artifacts, I want you to drop me an email. I love hearing from my readers and helping them anyway I can. Please email me at:

melissabarker20@hotmail.com



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



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Researching in Libraries and Archives: The Do's and Don'ts

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Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Researching in Manuscript Collections

"31 Days of Tips from The Archive Lady"

DAY #30

Working in a county archive on a daily basis, I am surrounded by original records, photographs and ephemera. It is my job to organize the records we have in the Houston County (TN) Archives so that they are accessible to the pubic and that includes many of the wonderful genealogists that come through my door everyday.

Houston County, Tennessee Entrance

In my opinion, Manuscript Collections is one of the most underused and misunderstood record collections that a genealogist has at their disposal. A lot of genealogists don't even know to ask about this specific collection when they are doing research at an archive. One of the reasons for the "mystery" surrounding these record sources is these records are not sitting on shelves in the research area for the researchers to access themselves. These record sources are usually stored in back rooms or vaults and they have to be requested to be seen. Normally, genealogists have to request files be pulled the boxes of the Manuscript Collections and brought to them in the research room.

Genealogists need to know that archivist are there to help them. They stand at the ready to pull records that you request and they are ready to share the fantastic records found in Manuscript Collections.

Folder from a Manuscript Collection, Houston County, TN. Archives

One of the best ways to explain what Manuscript Collections are is to use this visual:

I have been doing my personal genealogy research for my family and my husband's family for the past 26 years. Let's say I have decided that I want to donate everything I have collected to my local archive. This includes all documents, photographs, ephemera, notes and artifacts. I box everything up in cardboard boxes, load them in my car, drive them to the archive and drop them off. Now, the archive will take all those boxes and will give it a collection name like "The Melissa Barker Records Collection" or possibly "The Melissa Barker Genealogical Papers". Then the archivist will organize the records by type, style and date. The records will be organized into file folders and each file folder is given a number like Folder #1. Then all these folders are places in boxes and these boxes are given a number like Box #3.

Most importantly, a "Finding Aid" is produced to go with the Manuscript Collection. The Finding Aid is a written guide explaining what is contained in the manuscript collection and includes a box-by-box and folder-by-folder listing of what the boxes and folders have in them. Now the collection is ready for researchers!

The Irish Celebration Manuscript Collection, Houston County, TN. Archives

I truly hope that all genealogists will start asking about Manuscript Collections in our many wonderful archives. They are just sitting there waiting for genealogists to discover their contents. Just because you can't see them on the shelves in the research area doesn't mean they don't exist. Ask the archivist about Manuscript Collections on your next research trip!



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


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Vertical Files: What Are They and How To Use Them

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Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Finding Unidentified Photographs in the Archives

"31 Days of Tips from The Archive Lady"


DAY #29


Finding a photograph of our ancestor can be a genealogical accomplishment and a reason to do the "Genealogy Happy Dance". Many genealogists, like myself, are still looking for their ancestor's photograph. Did you know that many archives have photograph collections? This fact may not be known by most genealogists because photograph collections are not in plain site and available in the research room. Photograph collections are usually housed in a records vault or in a back room in cold storage stacks.

Stewart County, TN. Archives Back Room Stacks


Photographs are donated to archives on a regular basis. Recently, the local newspaper in Houston County, Tennessee donated their entire collection of old photographs to the Houston County Archives. All photographs are now taken digitally and never printed. These boxes of photographs included people, buildings, local events and many other subjects. The Houston County Archives is now processing these photographs, inventorying them and will eventually digitize them to be shared online. 

Donated Photo Albums, Houston County, TN. Archives


Photographs of individuals, groups, couples and children are a big part of most photograph collections. Also, photographs of local buildings, houses and business can be part of the collection. There could also be school group photos, church Sunday school classes and the local Garden Club available in archived photograph collections.

Whenever visiting an archive, always ask about their Photograph Collection. The archivist may first give you an index to look through. If you see something of interest, tell the archivist or make a written request that those particular photographs be pulled and brought to you.

When the archivist brings the photographs, do not be surprised if you are asked to wear gloves to handle them. The oils and dirt on hands can damage photographs if handled without gloves. Even though the photographs maybe contained in archival sleeves, gloves may still be required. 

Tools of the Archivist, Including Gloves, Houston County, TN. Archives


Ask about the "Unidentified Photographs" in the collection. Almost all archives have unidentified photographs just waiting for someone to identify them. This group is usually the largest section of the photograph collection. If you know what your ancestor's looked like, please take time to search through the unidentified photographs to see if you can find identify any of the photographs. 

Unidentified Group Photo, Houston County, TN. Archives


It is always so sad when I receive a donation of photographs and most of them are unidentified. I look at the faces in those photographs and I know those people belong to someone who is doing genealogy research. I just wish I could reunite them.

The next time you are visiting an archive, talking with the archivist on the phone or emailing them, ask about their photograph collections. You might be pleasantly surprised!


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


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Photographs Can be Found in Scrapbooks Too!!


Check Out My Legacy Family Tree Webinar:


Scrapbooks: A Genealogist's Gold Mine




Monday, October 28, 2019

Archiving Genealogical Documents

"31 Days of Tips from The Archive Lady"

DAY #28


Genealogists have tons of documents for their ancestors. Death Certificates, Birth Certificates, Marriage Certificates and more! Many of these records are originals and need to be protected and archived.

Original Deed for Bateman School, ca. 1923, Houston County, TN. Archives


In the archives world we use the word "encapsulate" to describe what we do with documents to preserve them. The term encapsulate means: "the process of placing a document between two sheets of plastic (usually polyester), which are sealed at the edges, in order to provide support and to protect it from handling and from the atmosphere" (from Society of American Archivists Glossary of Terms http://www2.archivists.org/glossary)

Archival Sleeve and Document, Houston County, TN. Archives


This is one of the simplest forms of records preservation that a genealogist can do. To archive or encapsulate a document, all you will need to purchase is archival or acid free document sleeves. These sleeves come in all different sizes and shapes. It is very important that the ones that are used are made of Mylar, Polypropylene or Polyester and have passed the P.A.T. (Photographic Activity Test). On the packaging it will say "Passed P.A.T.".



Make sure the document is completely flat and has no turned down corners or other folds. Slide the document in the archival sleeve. The sleeve will automatically close up around the document and will instantly seal with the help of static electricity. Once you have the document encapsulated, then place it in an archival file folder and store in the filing cabinet or with your other genealogical documents.

I highly recommend that you encapsulate all original documents in archival sleeves. This layer of protection will insure that the documents last for future generations to enjoy!

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

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Vertical Files: What Are They and How to Use Them