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A Genealogist In The Archives

Thursday, April 7, 2016

The Mystery of the Lock of Hair

Yes, even in archives we can have our own genealogical mysteries. A case in point is a mysterious lock of hair that is part of the Marie Stockard Records Collection, which is part of our larger Manuscript Collection.

This lock of hair is housed in an old harmonica box and is tied with a delicate blue ribbon. On the top of the box is handwritten "N.H. Scholes, Halls Creek, Tenn". You can also see a place where there was once a postage stamp. I estimate that this lock of hair and box are dated to the late 1800's or early 1900's.

Harmonica Box with lock of hair. Located in the Houston County, Tennessee Archives

I believe this harmonica box, with the lock of hair, was mailed to N.H. Scholes in Halls Creek, Tennessee which is in Humphreys County, Tennessee. I do not know who mailed the lock of hair or who it belonged to but obviously an admirer. It is also a mystery to us why this artifact was with the records collection of Marie Stockard, a local resident of Houston County, Tennessee.

This week, the Houston County, Tennessee Archives, completed the processing of the Marie Stockard Records Collection, which included preserving this lock of hair. I decided to share the preservation process in this blog to help all genealogists out there that have similar locks of hair or hair clippings.

First, the item was photographed, in the box and out of the box, to document the original disposition of the artifact as it was received by the archives from the donor.

Photo of artifact inside the box as received. Located at the Houston County, Tennessee Archives

Photo of artifact outside of the box. Located at the Houston County, Tennessee Archives

Next, the harmonica box was lined with a piece of acid free, archival safe tissue paper.

Harmonica box with acid free tissue paper. Located at the Houston County, Tennessee Archives

Then the lock of hair was carefully placed back in the tissue paper lined harmonica box.

Lock of hair in the box with acid free tissue paper. Located at the Houston County, Tennessee Archives

Lastly, I carefully folded in the sides and ends of the tissue paper so that the lock of hair is entirely covered. And then the lid back on the box.

Completed preservation of the lock of hair. Located at the Houston County, Tennessee Archives

The harmonica box is then placed in an acid free, archival Hollinger box along with the rest of the records collection. This particular collection is one of our smaller collections, only consisting of one Hollinger box of records.

Archives and other repositories use archival materials on a daily basis. Genealogists should also be using these materials to preserve their precious family documents, photographs and artifacts like locks of hair. There are a few companies that have these types of materials and most all of them can be accessed online and will send you a free catalog by postal mail. Here is a list of companies that are used most often by archives and other repositories:

Gaylord Archival

Hollinger Metal Edge

University Products

Preserving the documents, photographs and artifacts that help us tell our family stories and also tell our community stories is why we are genealogists and archivists.

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

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