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A Genealogist In The Archives: December 2015

Monday, December 21, 2015

Christmas In The Archives!

Yes, you can find Christmas in the Archives!

Record collections in a lot of archives, historical/genealogical societies and libraries have records that celebrate Christmas and they could have your ancestors name on them.

Postcards: One of the most popular forms of Christmas records in the archives are postcards. There were various kinds of postcards that depicted Christmas that our ancestors used to send messages to other family members or friends.

Christmas postcard ca. 1930 from the Bateman Family Records Collection, located in the Manuscript Collection of the Houston County, Tennessee Archives

Christmas Cards: Every year we send out Christmas cards to our friends, family and neighbors to wish them a "Merry Christmas". Our ancestors did the same thing. Many of our archives have wonderful vintage Christmas cards in their collections.

Inside of a Christmas Card ca. 1941 from Nashville Pure Milk Company from the Bateman Family Records Collection located at the Houston County, Tennessee Archives

Christmas Business Ad: If your ancestor owned a business, there is a possibility they could have put an ad in the local newspaper wishing the community and their patrons a "Merry Christmas". These types of records can be found in archived collections or in microfilmed newspapers.

Christmas business ad with recipes ca. 1991, located in the Vertical File Records Collection in the Houston County, Tennessee Archives

Letters to Santa: Children writing letters to Santa Claus was popular for our ancestors as well as today. Some newspapers would published these letters and maybe one of your ancestors or one of their children wrote a letter and it was published.

These are just a few of the Christmas records that can be found in an archive. You might have to do some research and dig a little bit but if these records exist you will find them.

These types of records will be found in Vertical File Collections sometimes called Subject File Collections. They can also be found in Manuscript Collections. When researching in Manuscript Collections be sure to read the Finding Aid to see what is specifically in the collection. They can also be found in microfilmed newspapers in various repositories.

I would encourage genealogists to read the month of December in local newspapers where their ancestors lived. There are a lot of advertisements, letters, Christmas greetings, baby's first Christmas photos and more that can be found.

So, YES, Christmas is in the Archives!

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

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Are Family Histories in the Archives?   You Bet They Are!

As the archivist for the Houston County, Tennessee Archives, I am asked all the time if we have Family Histories or Family Genealogies in our collections.  I am always pleased to be able to say "YES".  While we may not have one for every surname known to have lived in Houston County, we do have many in our records collections.

Family histories that have been compiled by genealogy researchers are a great research tool for the genealogist.  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 File Drawer for the letter "C" containing Surname Files, located at the Houston County, Tennessee Archives

Most family histories are donated as part of a larger collection of records that have been donated to the archives. Recently, the Houston County, Tennessee Archives received a records donation of someone's genealogy research that include several 3-ring binders full of information and compiled family histories. Some of these surnames are not native to Houston County but we will archive them anyway.  Once this collection is cataloged, it will be open to the public for research and in the Finding Aid it will indicated what family histories are included by surname.

There are times when family histories or family records are donated to an archives, historical society or library that are not native to the area where the facility is located. That is why it is very important for researchers to not give up looking for their ancestors records, you just don't know where you are going to find them!

Compiled genealogy research in 3-ring binders donated to the Houston County, Tennessee Archives

When you visit a repository, you will find these family histories in one of two places.  First, you can find them in the Vertical File Collection or sometimes they are called Subject File Collections.  Ask the archivist or clerk if they have an index to their Vertical File Collection. 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.

Second, the other place family histories could be found are in the Manuscript Collection. The manuscript collection contains the larger records collections that have been donated to the repository such as the collection mentioned above that the Houston County, Tennessee Archives just received.

Ask the archivist or clerk at the repository 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.  Within the finding aid will be a folder by folder listing of what is contained in the entire collection and there should be listed "Family History" or "Family Genealogy". You can ask the archivist or clerk to pull that folder that contains these records for you to look through.

Unfortunately, most of these types of records are not online and will have be accessed by visiting an archives or contacting them by email, snail mail or phone call.

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, Visit Or Contact An Archives Today!

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Loose Marriage Records....What Are They?

Marriage records is one of those record groups that is a staple in genealogy research.  After census records, birth and death records, we as genealogists always look for marriage records.

Marriage License Certificate, located in the Loose Marriage Records Collection at Houston County, Tennessee Archives

Most marriage records are recorded in large volumes or books and are referenced by Book and Page #.  Did you know there is another set of marriage records called "Loose Marriage Records"? 

"Loose Marriage Records" are a record source that a lot of archives, historical/genealogical societies and libraries who hold Manuscript Collections have on their shelves. These records are called "loose" because they are documents separate from the bound volumes and are considered the "working papers" of the marriage licensing process.  These files can hold just about anything but most of them have a copy of the original marriage license among other records. 

Marriage License located in Loose Marriage Records Collection at Houston County, Tennessee Archives

In the Houston County, Tennessee Archives we have these types of records dating from 1871-2010.  Our files have such things as parental permission to marry letters, blood test results, letters from clergy stating the couple went through pre-marriage counseling, etc.

Loose Marriage Records can hold interesting and unique records not found in the bound volumes.  When a genealogists visit a repository they should ask the archivist or clerk if they have "Loose Marriage Records".  Hopefully the repository will have an index that can be quickly checked to find the surname the researcher is looking for in the loose marriage records.

Parental consent form located in Loose Marriage Records at the Houston County, Tennessee Archives

This group of records is just another example of hidden treasures in our archives.  Some of these records have been microfilmed but very few are online. 

The next time you are at a repository researching marriage records, don't forget to ask if they have "Loose Marriage Records", you might surprised by what you find.

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

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

The Local Mercantile.....Did Your Ancestor Go Shopping And Leave A Paper Trail?

Christmas is almost upon us and as we all start bustling around putting up Christmas decorations, planning the Christmas meal and most of all shopping for Christmas presents, let's think about our ancestors and their shopping habits and what records we can find that help tell that story.

Until the advent of the "superstore", the mall or any larger retail store, there were the Mom and Pop stores that were in almost every community. These stores carried everything a person could ever need to live their daily lives. These stores prided themselves on the variety of products they stocked on their shelves. And a lot of them kept very good records, ledgers of accounts and other accounting records.

Invoice for Parker's & Richardson Store in Erin, Tennessee for the purchase of goods, located in the Houston County, Tennessee Archives

Here in the Houston County, Tennessee Archives we have several store ledgers that list the accounts of local persons who kept a tab of purchases and then would come in at some point and pay that tab. The store owner would keep up with these accounts in simple ledgers. To the store owner these ledgers are how they kept up with what was owed to them. To the genealogy researcher, these ledgers can be a gold mine of information.

Houston County, Tennessee Store Ledger ( unknown store) account tab for F.L. Goodspeed, located in the Houston County, Tennessee Archives

Information that can be found in these ledgers is varied but most of the time it will include the shoppers name, what they bought, how much the item cost and the date if was bought and then there would be a running tab with a total. When the shopper paid their bill that would be marked in the ledger with an amount and the date it was paid. Just this small amount of information can tell you a lot about your ancestor's daily life. Looking at the store ledger page pictured above for F.L. Goodspeed you can see that some of the items he bought were, 1/2 gallon of molasses, 1 pound of coffee, etc.

When trying to locate these types of records in an archive, historical society/genealogical society collection or at a library with genealogical records, the genealogy researcher will usually find them in the Manuscript Collection or the Special Collections part of the archive. For instance, in the Houston County, Tennessee Archives we have a collection entitled "Parker & Richardson Merchandise Store Records Collection". This collection includes various receipts, invoices, customer correspondence and ledger books detailing the customer's accounts like this document below.

Parker & Richardson Merchandise Store Letterhead, located in the Houston County, Tennessee Archives

So, while your out shopping this holiday season, think about your ancestors and the Mom and Pop stores they would shop at in their communities, maybe they left a paper trail!

As always, remember, "It's Not All Online, Visit An Archive".