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A Genealogist In The Archives: Scrap Paper Found in Archives

Monday, April 10, 2017

Scrap Paper Found in Archives

How many of you have scrap paper in your genealogical records?

By that I mean, pieces of paper that have notes, numbers or other information jotted down by an ancestor that makes no sense to you, right now, but nevertheless is part of your genealogical records.

Maybe you have receipts, invoices or other scrap documents that you just can't figure out what they mean or how they fit into your family history.

Well, archives have the same type records and genealogists should be seeking them out.

Misc. Receipts, Houston County, TN. Archives

Most archives are known for their well organized and processed records that are in archival boxes and archival file folders. Most of the time, each document has a place in a larger collection of records that the archivist will catalog and index for their patrons.

But did you know that many of our archives have scrap paper that is discovered on a daily basis that doesn't belong to any particular records collection? Those records are kept too but they may be a little harder to locate in an archive.

So, how can you find genealogical scrap paper in archives? Here are some tips:

-Vertical File Collections: The best place to locate scrap paper. Many of the scrap pieces of paper that archives collect can be found in Vertical File Collections. Vertical Files are arranged by surname or subject name. If the scrap piece of paper has a surname on it or is related to a certain subject, they will be filed in Vertical Files.

Vertical File Drawer at Houston County, TN. Archives

-Manuscript Collections: Sometimes archivists will include scrap paper documents in a Manuscript Collection if they can determine the family or organization it belongs to. The scrap paper will be cataloged in the finding aid.

Irish Celebration Manuscript Collection, Houston County, TN. Archives

-Loose Records: If the scrap paper document has to do with a legal matter, like a court case or probate case, these are called "Loose Records". Archivists will put a folder at the beginning of a collection of Loose Records that will say "Misc. Documents" or "Orphan Documents" and place the scrap paper document in that file.

Misc. Documents Folder, Houston County, TN. Archives

Genealogists need to be aware of scrap paper as they do research in archives, historical societies, genealogical societies, libraries and museums. To anyone else these items may mean nothing but to you they may mean everything!




Metal Paper Clips, Rubber Bands and Tape, OH MY!


  1. I have a copy of an 1825 will from Morgan County, TN, which is a burned county. It survived in the loose records of Roane County because it was submitted as part of a lawsuit in their court. Boy, am I glad someone decided to sue!

    1. Linda! That is Awesome! You just never know what your going to find in archives records! Thank You for reading my blog!