LinkConnector Validation

A Genealogist In The Archives: January 2016

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Autograph Books: Facebook for Our Ancestors

Many of us enjoy Facebook everyday to keep up with our family members, connect with others researching the same surnames we are and to keep up with the latest news and events.

Autograph books at the Houston County, Tennessee Archives

Our ancestors used different mediums to connect with friends and family. One of those mediums were autograph books. Many of our ancestors had these types of books and filled them with signatures of friends, family, schoolmates and other people they came in contact with on a daily basis. Sometimes there was just a signature and other times there was a short message if encouragement, a poem or just a pleasant greeting.

Inside of Autograph books at the Houston County, Tennessee Archives

These autograph books come in all shapes and sizes. Some were leather bound and others had different colored pages. These books were a type of "social media" back in the day and were very popular.

Autograph book page for Ruth McAuley dated 1893 at the Houston County, Tennessee Archives

These books were very popular with school children, especially graduating seniors to capture their final year of school and to record memories from their school friends.

Autograph book page for Shirley (Unknown) dated 1938 at the Houston County, Tennessee Archives 

Some of you may have an autograph book that belonged to your ancestor in your own personal genealogy collection. If you don't, it's possible there could be one located in a local archive collection, historical society or genealogical society collection.

Autograph book page for Ludelia Marable, Senior at Erin High School 1934-1935 at Houston County, Tennessee Archives

Autograph books will be located in the Manuscript Collection of a repository. They will probably be part of a larger collection of records. You will need to check the Finding Aid to the individual collection to see if an autograph book is listed as being in the collection.

Next time you are researching in an archives, ask if they have autograph books and maybe they will have one for your ancestor.

Remember: It's Not All Online, Contact or Visit An Archive Today!

Thursday, January 14, 2016

School Records, Even if Your Ancestor Didn't Attend School

One of the more interesting sources of records available in a lot of archives are school records. Even if your ancestor didn't attend school as a child, you might be surprised by what can be found in the various types of school records.

School Enrollment from Camp Ground School in Houston County, TN., located at the Houston County, Tennessee Archives

School transcripts or attendance and grade reports. These types of records were kept at the teacher level and by the school district. These records would record when the person attended school and what grades they made in each subject. Sometimes a copy of these records were kept by the teacher and these records will get donated to an archive when that teacher passes away.

Cave Orchard School Register ca. 1929, located in the Houston County, Tennessee Archives

School Board Minute Books are a very interesting and a useful record source for the genealogist. These books record the business of the local school board which could include anything. This particular type of record is where you might find your ancestor even if they didn't attend school. Maybe they hauled coal for the coal buring stoves in the schools and they were appointed by the school board for this job, their name would be listed in these minutes. Possibly your adult ancestor had a problem with a teacher and they brought their greivance to the school board, this could have played out in the minute books and your ancestor would be named. A lot of local residents were involved with the school system but never actually attended school.

Houston County High School Yearbooks, located at the Houston County, Tennessee Archives

Yearbooks and school newspapers. Many of our archives, historical societies, genealogical societies and libraries have collections of yearbooks and school newspapers. Yearbooks not only have photos of students and information about school clubs but they also will have local business advertisments. These local business would have been solicited to pay a fee for the advertisement to help pay for the printing of the yearbook. Possibly your ancestor's business is in one of these yearbooks. School newspapers. Many of our schools published a school newspaper and the articles were written by students and a lot of times there are photographs from school events. Checking school newspapers for our ancestors and their school activities is something to put on your "To Do List".

Houston County High School Newspaper, ca. 1926, located at the Houston County, Tennessee Archives

Photographs. When looking for your ancestor's photographs in an archives be sure to check any school photograph collections. They could include individual photographs as well as photographs of sports teams or clubs that your ancestor was involved with.

Erin High School Girls Basketball Team, ca. 1946, located at the Houston County, Tennessee Archives
Unknown school photo, undated, located at the Houston County, Tennessee Archives

Maybe your ancestor was one of the teachers of one of the schools. Some archives do have collections of teachers records such as teaching certificates, student registeries and grade books.

Teaching License for Gertha Brooks, ca. 1919, located at the Houston County, Tennessee Archives

School records are a must when doing any genealogy research and even if your ancestor did not attend any organized schools, remember that they could still be named in some of the school records that exist. Don't overlook this very valuable resource!

*Remember: It's Not All Online, Contact or Visit An Archives Today!!

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Unidentified Photographs In The Archives

You may already know that archives, historical societies, genealogical societies and libraries that have record collections could also have a nice photo collection. I have talked about photographs in the archives on this blog before, see my previous post:

But did you know that within these photograph collections are most likely a collection of "Unidentified Photographs". The Houston County, Tennessee Archives has a collection of these types of photographs in our collection. We are always putting these photos on display and asking anyone that is interested to take a look at them and see if they recognize anyone in the photo or the places they were taken.

Unidentified photograph taken in Dawson Springs, Kentucky. Donated photograph located in the Houston County, Tennessee Archives.

These unidentified photographs could include photos of people and also places. The fact that they are unidentified can mean that the people who work in the archives don't know who or what is in the photograph and there is nothing written on the back of the photograph to help in the identification. They simple came to the archives unidentified.

When record collections are donated to the archives by patrons, they sometimes include photographs that not even the patron knows where they came from or who they depict. While it's not a high priority for the archivist to research the photographs and try to determine who or what is in them, we do love it when we have researchers come to our archives and want to look at them to try to find their ancestors or the places where their ancestors lived.

Unidentified photograph. Donated photograph located in the Houston County, Tennessee Archives.

I am always encouraging genealogists to visit the repository where your ancestors lived and look through their photograph collections, if they have them. You might just find a long lost photograph of your ancestor or a photograph of the school where they attended.

When you visit a repository, please take your own photographs with you of the ancestors from that area and even photographs of any buildings or anything from the area so that you can compare them to the "unidentified photographs" in the collections. You might just make a connection and be able to identify some of the photos that have been lying in collections for years.

Most photograph collections are processed in the Manuscript Collections section of the archives. Either the archives has put all their photographs in one big collection or most likely the photographs are included in the many separate records collections that the archives houses. The Finding Aid from the various Manuscript Collections would be helpful to you when researching in these repositories. Be prepared to be asked to put on gloves when you handle photographs. The oils and dirt on our hands can transfer to the photographs and cause damage over time.

Henry Marion Turner and wife Anna Elizabeth (West) Turner (second couple on the right in the back row), rest are unidentified. Located in the Houston County, Tennessee Archives.

Some archives have even digitized their photographs and put them online on their websites, so be sure to check out the website of the archives you are interested in researching. Also, before you travel to the archives, give them a phone call and ask them if they have photographs in their collections, this might save you some disappointment.

Most importantly, remember that archives and record repositories that do have photographs, ones that are clearly identified and ones that are not. It is always beneficial to the genealogists to check out these collections.

Remember: "It's Not All Online, Visit or Contact An Archives Today!!"