LinkConnector Validation

A Genealogist In The Archives

Saturday, September 7, 2019

GenFriends Talk Ancestor's Occupation

This past Monday, September 2, 2019, was Labor Day here in the United States. This is a federal holiday that pays tribute to the contributions and achievements of American workers. This holiday is traditionally celebrated on the first Monday in September. It was created by the labor movement in the late 19th century and became a federal holiday in 1894.

W.L. Cary Motor Co., Erin, Tenn. 1948, Houston County, TN. Archives

Many may not know that Canada also celebrated their own version of Labor Day this past Monday. The origins of their Labor Day can be traced back to April 15, 1872 when the Toronto Trades Assembly organized Canada's first significant demonstration for worker's rights. Canada's Labor Day was originally celebrated in the Spring but it was moved to the fall in 1894.

I was pleased to be a part of a very special GenFriends Monday night where two Americans (Cheri Hudson Passey and Myself) and two Canadians (Kathryn Lake Hogan and Christine Woodcock) came together virtually to talk about Labor Day and our ancestor's occupations.

You can view the GenFriends episode at this link on YouTube:

We talked about why genealogists should be researching their ancestor's occupations, where to find occupational records and we shared our own ancestor's occupations.

Cheri Hudson Passey, who leads GenFriends, blogs about our GenFriends episodes and includes all the show notes and links, you can see her blog over at Carolina Girl Genealogy Blog:

So, if you haven't considered researching your ancestor's occupation, check out this GenFriends episode and get some great tips!

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


Legacy Family Tree Webinars by Melissa Barker

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

It's Not All Online: Researching in Archives

Using Archives to Fill the Gaps in Your Ancestor's Timeline

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

Preserving Your Ancestor's American Flag

Tomorrow we celebrate the 4th of July which a federal holiday commemorating the Declaration of Independence of the United States on July 4, 1776.

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:

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:
Hollinger Metal Edge:
University Products:
Light Impressions:

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.



Need Help Preserving Those Old Family Letters?

Get My Legacy QuickGuide!

Preserving Old Family Letters: Tips from an Archivist

PDF Version:

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Preserving Our Ancestor's 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 and laced handkerchief. Located at the Houston County, TN. Archives

For most fabric items you will need archival tissue paper and the correct size archival box for storage. First, 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. Located in the Houston County, Tennessee 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. Located in the 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.



Do you have scrapbooks in your family records?

Get my Legacy Family Tree Webinar:

Scrapbooks: A Genealogists Gold Mine

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Researching Your Ancestor's Vacations

Summer Vacation!

I just got back from my Summer Vacation and I know a lot of you will be taking yours in the coming months. Have you ever thought about your ancestors and the vacations they took? Are you researching this aspect of your family history? You Should Be!

Many of our ancestors made annual treks to vacation spots across the globe. Maybe they went to a National Park, a favorite camp ground or even to another country. As genealogists we should be researching, documenting and telling the stories of our ancestor's vacations. Many of our families got together during the Summer months for the annual family reunion. Researching our ancestor's vacations should be on our genealogy to-do list!

When I received old photographs that belonged to my Grandmother Ida Kathryn (Drummond) Bartram I found some true gems of my Grandfather and her husband Forrest Cecil Bartram. They were taken during the family vacation to Rice Lake in Ontario, Canada. The whole family would travel from Ellet, Summit County, Ohio to this particular vacation spot year after year. Their daughter, my Mom, Marjorie Ann (Bartram) LeMaster talked about the family vacations at Rice Lake and how much the entire family enjoyed going there year after year. I have documented this vacation spot in my family tree database by adding photos, maps and references to the vacation spot.

Forrest Cecil Bartram, Vacationing at Rice Lake, Canada

Researching your ancestor's vacations can be fun, educational and most importantly help to tell more of our ancestor's life story. Even if your ancestor was poor or you can't imagine they had money to take a vacation, maybe they just took time to visit family, attend that family reunion or better yet go on a honeymoon!

Another ancestor that I researched their vacation was my Great-Great Grandmother, Ida Issadore (Boughner) (Debolt) Ladd. In this case, Ida had married for the second time after the passing of her first husband John T. Debolt. She married John Talbert Renow Ladd and for their honeymoon vacation, they traveled from Salpulpa, Creek County, Oklahoma to Put-in-Bay, Ohio which is a village on South Bass Island in Lake Erie. They even sent a post card to Ida's daughter and son-in-law Mr. and Mrs. Joseph Arn. I find their expression on this picture postcard quite funny, especially with the postcard reading "I am on the wings of Love". Really?? Put-in-Bay is still a vacation destination today!

Postcard from Mr. and Mrs. J.T.R. Ladd to Mr. and Mrs. Joe Arn, ca. 1925

If you are looking to your own vacation, why not plan it around a historic place that your ancestor was known to have been. Many of our ancestors were involved with the Civil War and maybe even fought at a particular battle. Maybe visiting that battlefield will give you a new perspective on your ancestor and the time they spent there. Both my husband's great-great-grandfather Andrew Jackson Barker and my great-great grandfather Oliver Coonrod fought at the battle of Fort Donelson. One for the Confederacy and the other for the Union. Visiting this battlefield has given me a new perspective of our ancestors time there that looking at and reading records can't give me.

Battle of Fort Donelson, cannon batteries on the Cumberland River, Stewart County, Tennessee

Documenting our ancestors vacations and also those places that we know they were during their lives will give us more of their life story. So, while you are vacationing this Summer, think about your ancestors and their vacations and start researching!

Until next time....Remember...It's Not All Online, Contact or Visit an Archive Today!


Get My Legacy Family Tree Quick Guide 

Family Gatherings: Dragging Genealogy Information Out of Your Family

Monday, May 20, 2019

I'm Back! New Archives Room!

I'm Back! I have been on a bit of a hiatus and not blogging because I have been moving the archives!

We were fortunate enough to be given an office across the hall from our original archives office to expand our archives last year. After some refurbishments to that room (drop ceiling installed with LED lighting, painting, carpet cleaning) we started the big move!

This new room will be our "Patrons Research Room" where genealogists, historians, students and anyone else doing research about their ancestors or our local area can come and have a nice place to do that research. The old archives room will be our records storage room. This is going to give us more room to store our local government records as well as genealogical and historical records. We still have the records vault that was built with the courthouse in 1956 that houses our oldest and most fragile records.

New Patrons Research Room, Houston County, TN. Archives

So, during the past few months we have been making the Houston County Archives larger and better! This is why I have not been able to blog because all my time was spent moving!

I should be back on my regular schedule blogging once a week and bringing to YOU great tips, advice and helps about researching in archives and records preservation.

The Summer months are just around the corner and many of you will be traveling to do genealogy research. Be sure to call ahead and talk to the archives where you want to visit to see if they are moving, redecorating or for some other reason will be closed when you want to visit. You do not want to show up and find the doors locked.

Map Cabinets, Houston County, TN. Archives

If you happen to be in the area of Erin, Tennessee, stop by and say "Hi" to me, The Archive Lady, at the Houston County, Tennessee Archives and see our new space!

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


Get My Legacy Family Tree QuickGuide 

Metal Paper Clips, Rubber Bands and Tape, OH MY!

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Genealogy Research Behind Closed Doors

Genealogists are always looking for new, unique or unknown record sources to research in to find their ancestors. One of the best places to find these types of records is in an archive. An archive could be a county archive, a state archive, historical society, genealogical society, university archive or even a museum. Anywhere genealogical and historical records are stored and preserved is considered an archive.

"The Stacks" in an Archive

A popular phrase that a genealogist might hear in an archive is “The Stacks”. According to the Society of American Archivists Glossary of Archival and Records Terminology (, the word stacks is defined as “an area where materials are stored, especially an area furnished principally with shelving”. The area where the stacks are located is usually behind closed doors and not visible by the genealogist in the research area of the archive.

So, what kind genealogy records can be found in the stacks?

·      Manuscript Collections: These collections of records are some of the most valuable and useful records to the genealogist. The archive should have an index of their Manuscript Collections either in paper form, on their website or on an in-house computer. Once you have found a specific collection that you want to look at, for instance maybe the collection is entitled “The John Smith Papers 1648-1772”, ask to see the Finding Aid. The Finding Aid is a document that is a box-by-box, folder-by-folder description of what is contained in the specifically named collection. Be aware that each and every document, photograph or record is not individually named in the Finding Aid. You will probably have listings that look something like, “Box #1, Folder #3: Correspondence 1762-1772”. If you feel that there could be something in this folder of interest to your research, then you can request that the folder be pulled so you can examine it. 

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

·       Vertical Files: This collection of records, sometimes called Subject Files, are a hodge-podge of individual documents stored in file folders and then in filing cabinets. These filing cabinets are sometimes found in the research area of the archive but many times they are located in back rooms among the stacks. Vertical Files can include obituary clippings, family genealogies, family group sheets and other various unique documents. The records found in vertical files are normally donated records or records found during the archiving process that do not belong to any other larger collection of records. There should be an index to the vertical files that could include surnames, subject names or location names. This collection is a great place to find records that are not microfilmed or digitized.

Vertical Files, Houston County, TN. Archives

·       Loose Records: Loose records are considered the “working papers” or “accompanying paper work” to records that are in bound volumes. Loose records, many times, can hold additional information and fantastic discoveries for the genealogist. It is always a good idea to ask the archivist about loose records in their collections. Some examples of record collections that could have loose records associated with them are court records, marriage records and probate records.

Loose Court Records, Houston County, TN. Archives

These three types of records that are found in the stacks is just the tip of the genealogy iceberg when it comes to records stored behind closed doors. The best way to find out about what records are available is to talk to the archivist and staff at the archives. Ask them about the records that are housed in the stacks and see if they have an index or finding aid that will help you know if the records are important to your research.

The next time you are visiting or contacting an archive, ask about “The Stacks”.



Looking for some great Genealogy Education!

Check out:

Melissa Barker's Legacy Family Tree Webinar Presenter Page

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Removing Metal Staples, Paper Clips and Rubber Bands from Genealogy Records

Working in an archive on a daily basis, there is a lot of time spent removing staples, metal paper clips and rubber bands from documents. Why do archivists remove these items from documents? Because they cause damage and sometimes so bad that it can not be repaired.

  • Staples: A stapler is a common office supply that every genealogist has and uses. Using staples to fasten multiple pages of documents together has been in use since 1877 when Henry R. Heyl filed the first patent for the stapler. The metal staples, however, can cause damage to genealogical records. The staples will rust and leave stains on documents and that rust can eat away at the paper. It is highly recommended that all genealogists remove all staples from their documents, ephemera and memorabilia. In place of staples, use plastic paper clips.

    Rusty Staple

    • Metal Paper Clips: Another hazard to genealogy records are metal paper clips. Many of our ancestor's records are held together with metal paper clips. The metal will rust over time and stain the documents in such a way that can not be repaired. If the metal paper clips have been attached to the documents for a long time, they may be even be stuck to the documents. Remove all metal paper clips very carefully and replace them with the recommended plastic paper clips. 

      Rusty Metal Paper Clip

      • Rubber Bands: These types of fasteners are not used near as much as staples or metal paper clips but they can be just as destructive, if not more. Rubber bands that are wrapped around stacks of documents, old letters or photographs is a disaster waiting to happen. Over time, rubber bands will deteriorate and actually rot. They will stick to whatever they are touching and cause damage. Also, if rubber bands are wound tightly around a stack of old letters the pressure can cause damage to the letters. Do not use rubber bands under any circumstances. If something is to be wrapped around a stack of documents, old letters or photographs, use soft string or yarn loosely around the stack. Better yet, put the items in an archival box, folder or envelope.

        Rubber Band Stuck to Document

        A lot of time is spent on researching and collecting records on our ancestors. Using items like staples, metal paper clips and rubber bands that can cause damage to these records needs to be avoided at all costs. Future generations will be grateful for the efforts made to preserve those family records.



        Legacy Family Tree QuickGuide

        "Preserving Old Family Letters: Tips from an Archivist"