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A Genealogist In The Archives: Unprocessed or Uncatalogued Records, Ask the Archivist!

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Unprocessed or Uncatalogued Records, Ask the Archivist!

(I would like to Thank my fellow archivist, Dean Debolt, University Archivist at The University Archives and West Florida History Center, for his comments on this subject that has generated this blog post)

As an archivist, working in an archive everyday, I get very excited when someone walks through the door with a records donation in hand. Many of our archives would not have the historical records they have without the generosity of others that make records donations. Whether it's documents, photographs, ephemera or artifacts, our archives are constantly accepting records donations.

Parker Surname Vertical File, Houston County, TN. Archives

Many archives have back rooms full of unprocessed and uncatalogued records collections. Sometimes they are even sitting in the original boxes they were donated. These records collections have not been microfilmed, they are not online anywhere but they exist and the genealogist needs to seek them out.

One tip that I like to share with genealogists is to ask the staff at the archives about these unprocessed and uncatalogued records collections. Many times these records collections haven't even been processed yet but the archivist might let you look through a specific collection. Be prepared, sometimes the archivist doesn't allow patrons to view unprocessed collections. But like I always say "It doesn't hurt to ask!" The archivist should know what they have in those collections and should be able to help the genealogist decide what could possibly help them with their research.

Many of our archives and archivists are very busy processing records, helping patrons, answer email, etc. that many records collections could just be sitting waiting to be processed. If you have made a research trip to an archive, it wouldn't hurt to ask about any new record donations or collections. There could very well be records in those boxes about your ancestors.

Houston County Lions Club Records Donation, Houston County, TN. Archives

If you are emailing or talking to the archives by phone, be sure and ask about any new records collections that have been processed or that have recently been donated and are waiting to be processed. Most likely you will have to travel to the facility to see the records but you can get an idea of what is available. 

The next time you are at an archive or communicating with them by email or phone, don't forget to ask the archivist about uncatalogued records or any new records donations that haven't been processed yet.



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  1. Melissa, I've benefited from archived files and donated materials to archives, but never thought to ask about "unprocessed" files. Thank you for this tip!

    1. Marian, you are very welcome! Thank You for reading my blog!

  2. Excellent suggestions Melissa but I have found not all archivists have your level of enthusiasm for accepting everything! Probably because of numerous criteria...

    1. Penny, Thank You! I think it has something to do with I was and still am a genealogist and always will be. I know the importance of keeping as much as possible. I think every archivist needs to be a genealogist! Thank You for reading my blog!