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A Genealogist In The Archives: 2017

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Museums Have Archived Records Too!

Museum Week!

June 19-25, 2017 is National Museum Week, a time to recognize our wonderful museums and the part they play in our culture and preserving our historical artifacts and records.

A little unknown fact in the archive and genealogy world is museums have archived records too! Yes, that's right! Museums aren't just for artifacts and historical objects that patrons walk through and admire and then leave. 



I like to say that most museums have a "front room" and a "back room". The front room is filled with displays and exhibits. There could be multiple rooms filled with artifacts on display in glass cases for the visitor to enjoy.

What genealogists don't know is that many of our wonderful museums have "back rooms" full of historical and genealogical documents. 

For instance, at the Lincoln Memorial University Museum in Harrogate, Tennessee (http://museum.lmunet.edu/), they have the second largest collection of Abraham Lincoln artifacts and memorabilia in the United States in their museum. They also have a back room filled with historical and genealogical records. 

Here is a short video from the PBS program Tennessee Crossroads about the museum which shows the records room. (http://tennesseecrossroads.org/program-info-watch/?selected_segment=abraham-lincoln-library-and-museum)  

Lincoln Memorial University Museum in Harrogate, Tennessee

Locating museums in the area where your ancestor lived can be done by talking to the local librarian, local archivist or the local Chamber of Commerce. Once you have located the museum, contact them by phone or email and ask them about their archived records. 

Another option is to check out the website ArchiveGrid (https://beta.worldcat.org/archivegrid/). This is a fantastic genealogical and archival resource that should be utilized by every genealogist. Thousands of libraries, archives and museums have put information about their records on ArchiveGrid. One example is the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum-Frist Library and Archive. There are over 600 pages of record content for this one museum alone on ArchiveGrid.



So, the next time you travel to where your ancestors came from, check and see if there is a museum. If there is one, stop by and ask if they have a "back room" with archived records. You just might be pleasantly surprised.



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

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Monday, June 19, 2017

Buffered vs Unbuffered, What is the Difference?

Archival materials are something that archivists and conservationists 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.



For instance, do you know the difference between buffered archival tissue paper and unbuffered archival tissue paper? If not, here is the difference:

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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Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Preserving the American Flag

Today, June 14th, is Flag Day in the United States. This day is set aside to commemorate the adoption of the flag of the United States, which happened on June 14, 1777.



Many genealogists, for whatever reason, have in their possession an American flag. Maybe it was handed down from generation to generation and now it belongs to you. Maybe the flag you have was once draped over a casket of a deceased soldier or veteran from your family.

Whatever the reason, if you have an American flag among your genealogical records and artifacts, it is important that you know how to fold it and preserve it so that it will survive for generations to come.

First, the American flag must be folded property. Here is a great website to show you how to fold the flag and it includes visuals: http://www.usflag.org/foldflag.html

Once the American flag has been folded properly, it's time to archive is properly. To do this, you will only need to purchase two items.

You Will Need:

-Archival Tissue Paper to wrap the folded flag in before it is put in an archival box



-A special archival box specifically for folded flags



These items can be purchased at any online archival materials store:

Online Archival Supply Stores:

Gaylord Archival: http://www.gaylord.com/
Hollinger Metal Edge:  http://www.hollingermetaledge.com/
University Products: https://www.universityproducts.com/
Light Impressions: http://www.lightimpressionsdirect.com/


Take the folded flag and wrap it in archival tissue paper. Place the wrapped flag into the archival flag box. It would be a good idea to add a note in the box stating how you obtained the flag, the significance of the flag to your family and who it belonged to.

Store the boxed flag in a cool, dry and dark place. Do not store in an attic, basement on in direct sunlight. If you decide to frame the American flag, that is perfectly fine. I do suggest that you take it to a framing company that is experienced in archival framing with archival matting and UV protective glass. You can frame the flag yourself by purchasing a memorial flag case from an online archival materials store. They have one that you can hang on the wall or set on a table.

Memorial Flag Case for the Table



Memorial Flag Case for the Wall













It is important to preserve and archive our most precious family heirlooms and if we are fortunate enough to have an American flag in our collection, be sure to take care of it in a proper and archival way.



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


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Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Our Ancestors and Their Gardens

National Garden Clubs have proclaimed June 4-11 "National Garden Week".



As the Summer begins and gardens are being planted, have you thought about your ancestors and the gardens they planted?

Many of our ancestors were farmers and had fields and fields of crops. While some of us have ancestors that lived in the city and were lucky to have a potted plant.

Whatever our ancestors planted, harvested or just enjoyed, are we documenting it?



During this week, National Garden Week, why not take time to add to your genealogy the types of crops your ancestors raised, the different flowers that were in their home gardens and all the different kinds of vegetables and fruits they grew for the family table.

Maybe your ancestors planted "Victory Gardens" also called "War Gardens" during World War I or World War II. Victory Gardens were vegetable, fruit and herb gardens planted at homes and public parks in the United States, United Kingdom, Canada and Australia. These gardens were used to relieve the strain on the public food supply. These gardens were also considered a morale booster for those on the home front, especially those that had family members off fighting the war.



My Mother grew up in Ohio and she often tells me about the cherry trees that her father, Forrest Cecil Bartram, grew in their yard. I have documented this fact in my genealogy research. This same Grandfather retired from Goodyear Tire after over 40 years of service and moved with his wife and my Grandmother, Ida Kathryn (Drummond) Bartram, to Cocoa Beach, Florida where they raised all kinds of fruit trees. This was the first time I had ever heard of and tasted a kumquat. For the record, I don't like kumquats! LOL!



So, during this week long National Garden Week, take time to document your ancestors gardens!


******


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


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Sunday, June 4, 2017

Disaster Planning for Genealogists

On November 9, 1872, The  Great Boston Fire started in a dry-goods warehouse that spread fast in windy weather, destroying nearly 800 buildings. Damage was estimated at more than $75 million dollars. The fire could be seen in the sky as far as 100 miles away.

Ruins after the Great Boston Fire of 1872


Disaster preparedness is something that every archive plans for and reviews on a yearly basis. If archives are preparing their facility and records for a disaster, shouldn't genealogists do the same?

I have long lamented that genealogists are also "home archivists". Most genealogists don't work as archivists but they do have some of the same responsibilities that archivists have, which are:

  • Collect original records
  • Collect original photographs
  • Receiving donated records (from family and distant, new found, cousins)
  • Organizing and preserving records

Would it not be pertinent to preserve these original records and have a disaster plan in place in case the unthinkable happens? It would be difficult to explain an entire disaster plan in this blog post, so here is an example of a Disaster Preparedness Plan from the New York State Archives that the genealogists can use as a guide:


This plan describes the steps necessary to anticipate, prevent, plan for, and recover from a disaster affecting records in any format.

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


Many of the steps in this plan are ones that the genealogist or "home archivist" can implement to protect and preserve original records, photographs and artifacts in their possession. The main idea is to be prepared and keep your records in a state of preparedness in case of a disaster.

None of us know when the next fire, tornado, earthquake or flood may happen to us or our home. But we can prepare and plan ahead to save and preserve our genealogical records.



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



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Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Using Archival Boxes

A box is just a box, or is it?

Organizing and preserving family documents, photographs and artifacts is something that all genealogists have to contend with. In the Houston County, Tennessee Archives we work on processing and preserving county records and local historical records everyday.

Tools of the trade, Houston County, Tennessee Archives

Part of the preservation process is having the right tools for the job. I am asked all the time by genealogists about the boxes, file folders and other materials that we use here in the archives to preserve records. Many times I am asked the question, "A box is just a box, right?" and my answer is always NO!

Storing documents, photographs and artifacts in archival storage boxes is the only way to properly preserve these items so that future generations can enjoy them.

Flip Top Style Hollinger Box

The most popular boxes used in an archive setting and perfect for any genealogist to use with their own records is a Flip-Top Archival Storage Box, also called a Hollinger Box. These boxes are used the most in archives. They are durable, sturdy and will repel moisture. They come in different sizes to accommodate documents of all sizes.


Record Storage Carton with shallow lids, Houston County, Tennessee Archives

Another type of archival storage box that can be used is a Record Storage Carton with a Shallow Lid. These types of boxes are great for a large amount of records as well as to store 3-dimensional objects or artifacts.


Irish Celebration Records Collection 1963-Present Day, Houston County, Tennessee Archives


Whichever box you choose to use for your genealogical records and artifacts, make sure it has "Passed the P.A.T." test. This is the Photographic Activity Test and is a worldwide standard for archival quality.


So, the next time you start thinking "A box is just a box, right?". Thank again and make sure you get archival safe and archival quality boxes to store your precious family records and artifacts.



Online Archival Material Stores:

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

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

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

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

Brodart
http://www.brodart.com/


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


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Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Photographs in the Archives

Photographs of our ancestors is a great find!

If your like me and don't have very many photographs of the people you are researching, have you thought about checking at the local archives?

Archives, historical societies, genealogical societies, libraries and museums could have photograph collections. I have talked about photographs in the archives on this blog before, see my previous post:

http://agenealogistinthearchives.blogspot.com/2015/10/photographs-in-archives-are-you-looking.html

These photograph collections will not be on the shelf in the research room. Most likely they will be located in the back room and will have to be requested.


Many times there is an index of what photographs are available and that index is usually arranged by surnames and subject names. The index can usually be accessed by asking the archivist for it or it could be on the in-house computer.

Archives have photographs of people, local homes, local businesses, churches and other buildings that your ancestor may have been associated with. So, when looking for photographs, don't forget to locate those photographs of the church your ancestor went to or the local mercantile they frequented.
 
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. 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. 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 archives 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 archive, 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 house. The Finding Aid from the various Manuscript Collections would be helpful to you when researching in these archives. 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. 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, CONTACT OR VISIT AND ARCHIVE TODAY!

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Monday, May 8, 2017

Your Ancestor's Military Story

On this day, May 8th, in 1945, the United States and Great Britain celebrated "Victory in Europe" or VE Day. Cities in both nations displayed flags and banners celebrating the end of the war in Europe.



Many of our ancestors participated in this war and hopefully they left documents, photographs and stories of their time spent engaged in this terrible war.

As genealogists, we try to document every aspect of our ancestor's lives. Events that happened during our ancestor's lives and that affected our ancestor's directly, help to tell their story.



Documenting our ancestor's time in the military, especially during a wartime, can help us tell a more complete story.

Whether your family member served during the Revolutionary War, WWI, WWI, Vietnam or is serving today, their time in the service is part of their life story and should be documented.

Our service personnel, no matter how they served or where they served, is important and genealogists should do what we can to locate records and document that service.





Many of our archives, libraries, historical societies, genealogical societies, university archives and even museums have documents, photographs and ephemera that could help you tell your ancestor's military service story.



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

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Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Can You Find Family Histories in the Archives? Yes You Can!

As an archivist, I am asked all the time if we have Family Histories or Family Genealogies in our records collections. I am always pleased to be able to say "YES". Many of the archives across the United States and in other countries have compiled family histories.

Family histories that have been compiled by genealogy researchers are a great research tool for genealogists. While they may not be 100% correct, they can be used as a guide to help the researcher find more documents or give them an idea of where to look next for their ancestors.

Vertical Files, Houston County, TN. Archives

Most family histories are donated by genealogists to the archives. Many times genealogists who donate their family histories to archives are doing it for "cousin bait". They are hoping that other genealogists come along that are researching the same surnames and make a connection.

Recently, the Houston County, Tennessee Archives received a records donation of someone's genealogy research that included several 3-ring binders full of information and compiled family histories. This records donation represents a lifetime of genealogy research and we were so fortunate the records were donated to our archives.


Compiled genealogy research in 3-ring binders Houston County, TN. Archives

When you visit an archive, you will find these family histories in one of two places.

First, you can find them in the Vertical File Collections. Ask the archivist if they have an index to their Vertical File Collections. This index will have surnames listed and if you find a surname you are interested in, then ask for that file to be brought to you and hopefully there will be a family history in the file.

The other place family histories could be found are in Manuscript Collections. When working with manuscript collections, be sure to consult the Finding Aid. The finding aid contains a box-by-box, folder-by-folder listing of what is in the collection. Family histories should be indicated in the finding aid.

Ask the archivist to see an index of their Manuscript Collection and if you find a collection that catches your attention, ask to see the Finding Aid for that collection.

Unfortunately, many vertical file collections and manuscript collections are not online and will have be accessed by visiting an archive or contacting them by email, snail mail or by phone.

So, the next time you think to yourself, "Do archives have family histories?", you know the answer is YES!



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

*****

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It's Not All Online: Researching in Archives

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Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Deciphering Archivist Terminology

Have you ever heard an archivist say things like:

"Let me go get that box of records from the stacks"

"We have vertical files full of ephemera"

Did you find yourself wondering what does "stacks", "vertical files" and "ephemera" mean but were afraid to ask?

Wouldn't it be great to have a handy glossary of terms at your disposal to look up those words that archivist are always using?

Look no further than the Society of American Archivist.




They have a wonderful Glossary of Archival and Records Terminology right on their website. Here is the link:

http://www2.archivists.org/glossary




Now you will know that the term "stacks" refers to "An area where materials are stored, especially an area furnished principally with shelving."

The "stacks" at the Stewart County, TN. Archives


This glossary of terms is a great free resource to all genealogists. Be sure you bookmark it so you can come back to it often.



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



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Monday, May 1, 2017

May Day 2017 in the Archives is Here!

May 1st in the archives world is "MayDay"!

MayDay is a time when archivists and other preservation professionals take time out of their day to review disaster plans, review preservation guidelines and look at the overall archives preservation.



Individuals can also take steps on this MayDay! Genealogists, who have original records to preserve, can devise their own disaster plan, review preservation guidelines and look at their genealogy records to see if they are doing all they can do to preserve their records.

The Society of American Archives has always been at the forefront of MayDay and this year is no different.



They have provided Ideas for MayDay Activities at this link:
http://www2.archivists.org/initiatives/mayday-saving-our-archives/ideas-for-mayday-activities

Also, MayDay Quick Tips at this link
http://www2.archivists.org/initiatives/mayday-saving-our-archives/mayday-quick-tips

So, on this May 1, 2017, remember it's MayDay and let's take care of our genealogical records which will SAVE OUR HISTORY!

Lola Knight School Records Donation, Houston County, TN Archives

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


***** 

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