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A Genealogist In The Archives

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Preserving Pressed Flowers

Many genealogist's have inherited their family member's documents, books, photographs and other genealogical materials. When it comes to the books we have inherited, I hope that everyone reading this blog post takes the time to search through all the books you are given to make sure to retrieve any scrap of paper, newspaper clipping, photo or pressed flowers that your family member put in those books. Even if the books you received are not genealogical in nature, search through them anyway. You just never know what you might find in their pages.




Now, let's talk about preserving pressed flowers. Most of the time when a genealogists encounters these items in books they are brittle, fragile and falling apart. It can be a challenge to remove these items in one piece and transfer them to a medium that will protect and preserve these precious family items.

First and foremost, make sure your hands are clean and free of any lotions or hand creams. The chemicals in these lotions can adversely affect the pressed items. There is no need to wear gloves, in fact, it is preferred that gloves not be used in this instance. The reason being, when gloves are worn, they remove the textile sensation you need to feel the items. It is important to feel how you are handling the items so that they are not damaged.

Example of Pressed Flowers


If you don't feel comfortable picking up the pressed items with your hands, use a plastic or rubber spatula. Do not use metal spatulas as their sharp edges could damage the items. Be sure the head of the spatula is as big as the item so that all if it can be picked up and transferred at the same time. An ordinary kitchen egg turner or spatula that you already have will do just fine for this project. If you find that any part of the item is stuck or adhered to the page, gently use the spatula to separate the item. I have found that most of the time pressed flowers and leaves are not stuck to pages but can be removed quite easily.

Two options that I can recommend preserving and protecting your pressed flowers, leaves and ferns are:

Specimen Mounting Boxes

These boxes are easy to use and can be purchased at any of the online archival materials stores (see list below), the local hobby store, taxidermy stores and at Amazon.com. These types of mounting boxes are used for pressed flowers, leaves, preserving butterflies and other zoological items. These boxes are great to use if you plan to display the items.


Example Specimen Mounting Box from Gaylord Archival


Suspension Boxes

These boxes are also easy to use and will protect the pressed items once they are removed from the books. These boxes can also be purchased at any of the online archival materials store and at any hobby store. The clear, polystyrene box has flexible membranes in the top and bottom which conform to the item, holding it firmly in place. The nice thing about these particular boxes is they can be held and the items inside can be viewed from all sides. These suspension boxes also come in many different sizes to accommodate the different sizes of flowers, leaves and other pressed items.

Example of Suspension Boxes from Gaylord Archival


Remember, your ancestor or family member took the time to lay those flowers, leaves and ferns in books to be pressed. They were making a day of remembrance, remembering a family member or just appreciating the foliage itself. These items meant something to them at the time and it should mean something to us today. Sadly, many times there are no notes or writings to tell us exactly why our ancestors pressed these items. We are left to guess at their significance but what we can do is preserve and protect them for future generations to enjoy.

Archival Material Websites

Here is a listing of online archival materials stores. They all have online catalogs and paper catalogs that can be sent to your home. Also, be sure to sign up for email notifications because they periodically have sales and will send out email notifications:

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 AN ARCHIVE TODAY!


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Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Our Ancestors and Their Gardens


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. Then there are those of us that 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 Summer, why not take the 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. Did they grow prize winning roses or beautiful tulips?

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 told 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, as we begin the Summer, take time to document your ancestors gardens!


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Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Where are the Moonshine Records in the Archives?

Yes, you read that title correctly, "Where are the Moonshine Records?"

Working in an archive, in the South, one question I get A LOT is:

"Where are the Moonshine Records?"

Unfortunately, there may not be a set of records in an archive titled "Moonshine Records". But there are records that can be searched that can provide a genealogist with information about their ancestor and the part they played in the moonshine business.

Photo of police car full of moonshine, ca. 1962, Houston County, TN. Archives


Court Records

Many times our moonshine ancestors got caught! When they were caught distilling moonshine, transporting moonshine or selling moonshine, they ended up in court. Searching local court records is a great place to find our moonshine ancestors. Moonshine was a criminal act and would have been heard in criminal court.

Local Police Records and Mug Shot Photographs

Many of our local archives have been able to preserve old police records and mug shot records. Finding your moonshine ancestor on a police report detailing the incident would add to your ancestor's story. Finding a mug shot of that ancestor would be priceless! Unfortunately, these types of records are not as prevalent as court records but something to keep in mind when researching your moonshine relatives.

Photo of moonshine still, ca. 1959, Houston County, TN. Archives


Newspapers

If your ancestor was caught in the act by the police, it could have been big news in a small town! Searching newspapers for stories about the police catching local moonshiners may just be what you need to find your ancestor. Seems the police like to have their pictures taken with that trunk full of moonshine or with that discovered moonshine still and then it was published in the paper.

Oral Histories

Many of our local archives have collections of oral histories by local residents. These oral histories usually include the persons recollections of the people, places and events that happened locally. It is quite possible the person who was being interviewed could have mentioned the "local moonshiners" of the area. Oral histories can be found as a typed interview transcript or as an audio or video recording of the person.

Oral histories on DVD, Houston County, TN. Archives


So, the next time you are faced with trying to find "Moonshine Records" for your ancestor, check out the local court records, newspapers, police records and oral histories. These records just might help you document your ancestor's moonshine antics!



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



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Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Researching Behind Closed Doors in the "Stacks"


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 (https://www2.archivists.org/glossary), 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”.


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


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Thursday, April 26, 2018

Preservation and Conservation, What's the Difference?

These two words, "Preservation" and "Conservation" can be confusing. Many people use them interchangeably but truthfully they are not the same.

Let's Talk About It!

First, let's look at some definitions:

Preservation: n. ~ 1. The professional discipline of protecting materials by minimizing chemical and physical deterioration and damage to minimize the loss of information and to extend the life of cultural property. - 2. The act of keeping from harm, injury, decay, or destruction, especially through noninvasive treatment. - 3. Law · The obligation to protect records and other materials potentially relevant to litigation and subject to discovery.

Preserved Letters, Houston County, TN. Archives


Conservation: n. ~ 1. The repair or stabilization of materials through chemical or physical treatment to ensure that they survive in their original form as long as possible. - 2. The profession devoted to the preservation of cultural property for the future through examination, documentation, treatment, and preventive care, supported by research and education.



Letter in Pieces, Houston County, TN. Archives

Letter Conserved, Houston County, TN. Archives






















(Source: Society of American Archivists Glossary Terms http://www2.archivists.org/glossary/terms)



My easy definition and explanation I like to give to genealogists for these two terms is:

"To Preserve something is to protect it, to Conserve something is to fix it".

Many genealogists have made commitments to organize their genealogical records. This could mean filing piles of paper, putting photos in archival sleeves and putting everything in an archival box or filing cabinet.

This is "Preservation" at it's best! You are "keeping from harm, injury, decay, or destruction" all those wonderful genealogical records that you have in your care. Preserving those records, photographs, memorabilia and family heirlooms for future generations. I encourage all genealogists to actively preserve all the family records and artifacts and use archival materials to achieve that preservation.

Removing Metal Staples is Preservation, Houston County, TN. Archives


Now, let's say you have a photograph that is damaged and you want to "repair or stabilize it...to it's original form", then you would need to Conserve this photograph. Most likely, you will want to seek out a Professional Conservator that specializes in repairing and fixing photographs. Most genealogists don't feel comfortable doing these types of repairs and if you don't have the knowledge of the materials and methods of Conservation, then you need to leave it to the professionals.

But where to find a Conservator?

I suggest contacting the state archive in your state. They will either have an conservator on staff or they will have a name and contact information for one that they use for their archived materials. There could be different conservators for different mediums such as one for only photographs, one for only documents, etc.

I would also suggest going to the website:

American Institute for Conservation (http://www.conservation-us.org/), they have a section entitled "Find a Conservator" where you can find someone in your area to help you with your conservation problem.

So, hopefully now you know more about the different between Preservation and Conservation.

I encourage all genealogists to actively preserve your genealogy research, documents, photographs and family heirlooms.

If you have any questions about researching in archives or about records preservation, please E-MAIL ME!



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Scrapbooks! How to find scrapbooks in archives and how to preserve the ones you have!

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Tuesday, April 24, 2018

A Deed of Gift? What is it?


One of the most exciting aspects of being an archivist is when a person walks in the archives with a box of records they wish to donate.  Every archivist will admit that their heart skips a beat when they see someone walk into their archives with records to donate.  



 Houston County, Tennessee Retired Teachers Scrapbooks Donation

A lot of archives would not be an archive without donors and the records they bring to us.  We depend on people to help us save our history by donating family records that are not wanted, finds at garage sales and purchasing records at estate sales.  A lot of small archives like the Houston County, Tennessee Archives does not have the budget to go out and purchase records, photographs and memorabilia at auctions or anywhere else. 


When someone donates anything to an archive, the archivist should present the donor with a document that is called “A Deed of Gift”.  This document is a legally binding document between the donor and the archive that transfers ownership and legal rights of the records from the donor to the archive. 

Houston County, Tennessee Lions Club Records and Memorabilia Donation

Once the archivist has examined the records being donated and determines that the donated material will be a good addition to their collections, the archivist should produce “A Deed of Gift” document to complete the donation process.


Most archives will not accept a records donation without a signed deed of gift. 



Information included in the deed of gift can be:

          -name of the donor and archive

          -description of the materials being donated

          -terms of the transfer of ownership

          -any restrictions imposed by the donor

          -signatures of both the donor and the archivist



For more detailed information on a deed of gift, see the Society of American Archivists “A Guide to Deeds of Gift”



While a lot of genealogists prefer to keep their documents, photographs and artifacts and pass them down to their descendants, it might be that they don’t have any interested descendants to pass them down to.  If you find yourself in this predicament, consider making preparations as to where you would like your records to be donated. You have worked very hard, for many years gathering and researching your family, don’t let it get thrown away.

Saving your family's history for future generations is a good thing!


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Friday, April 20, 2018

Preserving Spiral Notebooks

Spiral notebooks are a type of record book that could pose a problem for any genealogist. Spiral bound notebooks have been around for many years. 
Originally called a loose–leaf spiral notebook in which the pages are held in position by a spiral or coil of metal wire. The use of these notebooks for all kinds of purposes is still done today. Many genealogists have these types of books in their genealogy records where family members made notes, kept a journal and even recorded their favorite recipe!
Example of Spiral Bound Notebooks, Houston County, TN. Archives


There are actually three options for preserving a spiral bound notebook. If the coiled metal in the notebook is not rusted or damaged in anyway, it would be permissible by records preservation standards to leave the entire notebook intact. Even though archivists strive to remove all metal, in this case, sometimes it is best to leave things as they are. I recommend that the pages in the notebook be digitized completely and then place the entire notebook in an archival file folder and then into an archival box.

The second option is to remove the metal coil but unscrewing it out of the notebook. Some notebooks will allow for this option to be performed with no trouble at all. But if there is any resistance or difficulty trying to unscrew the metal coil out of the notebook, stop immediately. The last thing you want is to damage the pages in the notebook that contain genealogical information.

The third option and one that many archivists choose to implement is to remove the metal coil from the notebook. This is especially true if the metal coil is rusted, damaged or causing damage in any way to the pages inside the notebook. 
In this process, it is recommended that all the pages in the notebook be digitized first. It should be noted that removing the metal coil will make scanning the pages of the notebook much easier. Next, using wire cutters, snip the metal coil in several places along the length of the coiled metal. Slowly and carefully, remove each section of coiled wire. If the wire will not remove easily, make more cuts with the wire cutters to make smaller pieces to make removal easier. If the metal coil is rusted and sticking to the pages, remove the metal very slowly as to not inflict more damage. This process is tedious, but well worth the time taken.

Once the metal coil is removed, make sure to keep the pages in their original order and place the notebook in an archival file folder. If desired, a plastic paper clip can be used to clip the pages of the notebook together but if the notebook is kept in a file folder, a fastener is not needed. The file folder can then be place in an archival box or in a filing cabinet.
As always, if you do not feel comfortable doing the preservation procedures yourself, please consult with a professional conservator.
Preserving our most precious genealogical documents and records is the only way they will survive for our descendants to enjoy.
(This information was originally published in The Archive Lady column at Abundant Genealogy, June 1, 2017 https://abundantgenealogy.com/archive-lady-spiral-notebooks/)

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