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A Genealogist In The Archives: "31 Days of Tips from The Archive Lady" Day #28 Family Histories in the Archives

Friday, October 28, 2016

"31 Days of Tips from The Archive Lady" Day #28 Family Histories in the Archives

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 part of a larger collection of records that have been donated to the archives. Recently, the Houston County 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 archive, 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.

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

When visiting an archive, family histories will be in one of two places.  First, they could be in the Vertical File Collections, sometimes called Subject File Collections. Ask the archivist if there is an index to the Vertical File Collection. This index will have surnames listed and if a surname of interest is found, ask for that file to be pulled for research.

Second, family histories could be found in Manuscript Collections. 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 Archives just received. Also, see my blog post about Manuscript Collections here.

Ask the archivist to view the index of their Manuscript Collection and if a collection is of interest, 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".

Unfortunately, most of these types of records are not online and will have be accessed by visiting an archive 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!



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