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A Genealogist In The Archives: October 2015

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

The Care and Preservation of Family Bibles

Family Bibles, genealogists either have them in their collections or they are desperately seeking them.

                   Family Bibles owned by Melissa Barker, Houston County, Tennessee Archivist

The care and preservation of these precious family heirlooms should be taken very seriously so that they will survive for future generations to enjoy.  As an archivist, I have helped many a patron archive and preserve their family Bible.  Depending on the condition of the Bible you may just need to get some archival tissue paper to wrap the Bible in and an archival box to store the Bible.  For Bibles that are in much worse shape, my advice is to not use any kind of tape or glue to put it back together, there is no such thing as true "archival tape" or "archival glue".  First rule of archiving is, Don't do anything to your documents that you can't undo.

If your Bible is falling apart, put it back together as best as you can and then wrap it in archival tissue paper and store in an archival box.  Then store your boxed Bible in a cool dark place where the humidity is low.

                                                       Items found in a Family Bible

You may have a Bible that is chocked full of all kinds of records, newspaper clippings, photos or just about anything.  The best way to deal with these items is to make an inventory of what was found in the Bible. Scan and digitize each item and save them to your computer or hard drive. Take each piece and put it in an archival safe sleeve or envelope and then return all items to the Bible.  This is especially important for original newspaper clippings.  Newspapers are full of chemicals and over time the chemicals can bleed onto the Bible pages or onto other documents and leave a yellow or brown stain.  You don't want this to happen.  I suggest that all newspaper clippings be photocopied and the originals thrown away.  If you choose to keep the original clippings, make sure to put them in archival safe sleeves or envelopes so that they are not touching anything else in the Bible.  By returning the items to the Bible as they were originally found, you keep the integrity of the artifact intact and in original order.

                                          Handwritten family information in a Family Bible

Most family Bibles have places in them to fill out family trees or family information.  If your Bible has this in it, do not take it out.  The best thing to do is scan the pages and also make photocopies of the pages.  If your Bible is in very bad shape and the binding will not allow you to put the Bible on a scanner or a copier, then take a digital photograph of the pages like I did in the photo above.  This family information is important to your genealogy research and you want to make sure it gets preserved in case the Bible gets destroyed or comes up missing for some reason.

Family Bibles are a unique and precious piece of our family history.  There are many organizations online that have collected and digitized family Bibles.  One such place is the Tennessee State Library and Archives Bible Project where you can see actual digitized family Bibles.

If you have a family Bible, please be sure to preserve it properly so that it is still here 100 years from now.  If you are a genealogist searching for your family Bible like I am, don't give up! One day it might just surface.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Photographs In Archives

Are you looking for that photograph of your ancestor?  Or that photograph of your ancestors home, the church they went to, the school they attended?  Why not check out the local archives, historical society or library in the area where your ancestors lived.

          Erin Baptist Church, Summer 1943, Photograph from Houston County, Tennessee Archives 

Most repositories that collect and preserve documents also have collections of photographs.  Whether these photographs are in a collection all to their own or mixed in with other collections, they are there for genealogists and researchers to find.

George Washington Stringfield Family, ca. 1903, Photograph from Houston County, TN. Archives

Many of these repositories place their photograph collections online such as the Tennessee State Library and Archives who has put the Puryear Family Photograph Albums online, among other photograph collections.

Unfortunately, many photographs housed in archives collections are not unidentified. Archivists struggle to identify the people and places in the photographs they have in their collections and are forced to wait until a patron can come along and make the identification.

    E.E. Collision, Jr. Photography Studio, Erin, TN., Unidentified, Houston County, TN. Archives

A recent announcement that a newly identified photograph of Billy The Kid that has surfaced gives us all hope that we too will find the photographs of our ancestors.

If you are searching for your ancestors photographs, check out the local archives, historical society or library where they lived.  These repositories just might have what your looking for!


Thursday, October 8, 2015

Scrapbooks...A Genealogy Gold Mine

Scrapbooks are one of my favorite record sources to do research in and to also process in the archives.  There are all kinds of scrapbooks, each and everyone is unique and one of a kind!

The origins of scrapbooking is said to go back to the 15th century in England and it is still a hobby enjoyed today.  Most archives, libraries, historical and genealogical societies have them in their collections.  They will most likely be found in the Manuscript Collection as part of a specifically named collection.

Scrapbooks could contain any kind of record, clipping, photograph or even candy bar wrappers.  One of my favorite scrapbooks that we have here in the Houston County, Tennessee Archives is one that Evelyn Ellis compiled in the 1930's-1940's.  Among the normal newspaper clippings and event programs are interesting pieces such as a Baby Ruth candy bar wrapper with a caption "Always remember June 11, 1938 at Beach Grove at the Ice Cream Supper". 

This original ticket from the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville, Tennessee where Evelyn Ellis visited and recorded her comments.

And this Mexican cigarette that she received from a friend.

There are scrapbooks for just about any subject. Here in the Houston County, Tennessee Archives we have several personal scrapbooks but we also have a couple scrapbooks that were compiled during World War II and contain newspaper clippings detailing the war.  We also have a couple scrapbooks that contain only obituary clippings from the local newspaper.  A lot of these obituaries are unique because the original newspapers did not survive for the time period and so having these obituary clippings is great for genealogists.

I would encourage genealogists to check with the archives or historical society in the area where your ancestors were from and see if they have any scrapbooks that might contain newspaper clippings about your ancestor.  These local scrapbooks could also help tell the story of the area where your ancestor lived and what was going on during the time your ancestor lived there.

Scrapbooks....A Genealogy Gold Mine!