LinkConnector Validation

A Genealogist In The Archives: 2019

Thursday, December 19, 2019

Finding Records Where They Don't Belong

Ever wonder how some records get into some archives?

Are you looking for records for you ancestors that are possibly being housed in places that they seemingly don't belong?

As an archivist, I know full well that many of our archives have records in them that don't belong but thankfully they are being preserved.

Loose Records, Houston County, TN. Archives

For instance, in a recent announcement by the University of Arkansas, they revealed they had received a donation of the New York Post newspaper's photo archive.

Examples of Photographs from the New York Post

WAIT! What? The New York Post photo archive is being housed in Arkansas? Yep, you read that right!

How did that happen?!!

According to this article...

The collection was donated in 2017 by an anonymous donor. While it's not typically something you'd find at the University of Arkansas, Dennis T. Clark, dean of libraries, said it "we are fortunate to have this opportunity".

I know in my own case, as the archivist for the Houston County, Tennessee Archives, I have accepted a collection of genealogy research for surnames that have nothing to do with our area because they were going to be thrown away. Two sisters came to the archives with their mother's 50 years worth of genealogy research and told me "If you don't want it, we are just going to throw it away". Well, I couldn't let those records walk back out the archives door, so I accepted them. Our plan is to archive them and make them available to the public, this way they are being saved and preserved.

Genealogy Research Notebooks, Houston County, TN. Archives

So, how does someone find records where they don't belong? This is where the internet can be very helpful. Many of these types of records are housed in state archives, university archives and local county archives. Looking at the websites of these archives and specifically at their indexes, catalogs and digitized collections might help you locate records where they don't belong.

Other websites that could be of help are the following:

Internet Archive

Archive Grid

Searching these websites for surnames or locations might help you locate archived collections that are in archives where you wouldn't think they would be located.

So, the next time you think you have searched everywhere for your ancestors records, try looking in places where the records shouldn't be!

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


Needs some tips and tricks to get your family members talking about family history? 

Get my Legacy Family Tree Quick Guide

Family Gatherings: Dragging Genealogy Information Out of Your Family Members

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Finding Christmas in the Archives

We are now only 2 weeks away from Christmas 2019! Many of us are scrambling to get the grocery shopping done, present shopping completed and completing and mailing out those Christmas cards.

Vintage Postcard

As I work here in the archives, I am reminded of the Christmas items I run across as I process records. The records that are donated to an archive can literally encompass anything and it makes me smile when I am processing a records collection and come across a piece of Christmas cheer!

So, how do you find Christmas in the Archives? Here are some examples:

Local Store Advertisements: Many local stores advertise their Christmas sales and offerings. They will also produce special brochures and advertisements at Christmas time to entice the local shoppers to come into their stores. These types of ephemera, as it is usually called, can be located in the Vertical Files Collection of an archives or in the Manuscript Collection.

Mitchum Drug Co. Advertisement, Houston County, TN. Archives

Scrapbooks: Many archives have scrapbooks as part of their records collections. These scrapbooks are personally put together by an individual and could contain any number of documents, photographs and ephemera. In a few of the scrapbooks we have here in the Houston County, Tennessee Archives, there are Christmas cards and postcards. Seeing the vintage cards really puts you in the Christmas Spirit!

Christmas Postcard from Evelyn Ellis Scrapbook, Houston County, TN. Archives

Correspondence: A lot of our families were not able to be with each other at Christmas for whatever reason. Maybe it was war time and members of the family were off to war in a foreign country. Maybe our ancestors just lived too far away from each other and couldn't make the trek to meet up with family members for Christmas. If your lucky, possibly you have Christmas letters in your genealogy collection. These types of correspondence exist in the archives too! Most of the time these types of correspondence will be found in specific Manuscript Collections.

Christmas Greeting Letter, Houston County, TN. Archives

This is just a few ways you can "Find Christmas in the Archives"!



Old Family Letters! Do you have them? Are you preserving them properly? Find out how to preserve your old family letters from an archivist!

Preserving Old Family Letters: Tips from an Archivist

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

Preserving Our Ancestor's Military Medals and Ribbons

Many of us have military veterans in our families. As we celebrate them on Veterans Day, Monday, November 11th, we should remember them and honor them each and every day throughout the year.

Military medals and ribbons that our ancestor's received during their service may be part of our genealogical records and artifacts. Do you know how to store and preserve them?

Example of Military Medals

The process of preserving military medals and ribbons is quite simple. The materials you will need are:

Take each medal and each ribbon and wrap each one carefully in a piece of archival tissue paper. Then lay the tissue covered medal or ribbon in the archival storage box. Putting more than one medal or ribbon in the box is perfectly okay, just don't stack them on top of each other. To make sure they don't move around in the box, crumple up more archival tissue paper and put around the medals and ribbons. It's that simple!

It would also be a good idea to include a typed or handwritten description of who the medals belonged to, information about their service, what type of medals they are and why they were awarded. 

You may want to display the military medals and ribbons in frames or shadow boxes. Displaying them in this manner is perfectly fine. My only caution would be to keep the framed medals and ribbons out of the sunlight, especially the ribbons as they could fade if exposed to sunlight.

Example of Military Medal Display in a Shadow Box

So, as we Remember and Honor Our Veterans, let's also take time to preserve their medals and ribbons.



Get My Legacy Family Tree Webinar:

Preserving Old Family Letters: Tips from an Archivist

Friday, November 1, 2019

Dragging Genealogy Information Out of Our Family

The Holidays are Coming! Many of us will travel to be with our families or host our family members at our homes. Getting our family members to talk to us about genealogy and family history can be a daunting task for some of us. Let's face it, they don't make it easy do they?

Unidentified Family Gathering, Houston County, TN. Archives

There is always that one relative (or more) that just doesn’t understand why you are doing genealogy research. They ask questions like:

            - “Why do you want to know all that stuff about our family?”

            - “I don’t know, that was too long ago to remember”

            - “We just didn’t talk about it”

One of the first things that you have to realize is that not all our relatives have the passion and drive to research family history. It’s just not something they are interested in and so they don’t know why you are interested in doing it. They can be downright uncooperative.

You Have to be Sneaky (But Nice!)

To get any information out of our relatives, we are going to have to be sneaky about it but nice and you can even make it fun! 

            -They know more than they think they know

            -Get them started talking and they may not be able to quit

-As the family genealogist/family historian, it’s your job to coax that information out of them with whatever means you can think of to use

George Washington Stringfield Family, ca. 1901
Family Photographs

Most all of us have family photographs. Why not use these to jog the memories of your family members?

            -Bring photographs with you to the family event and start a discussion

            -Discuss the photographs that are displayed at the family members home

-Talk about the scenery in the photo, objects in the photo and the people, glean any piece of information you can

Unidentified Photograph, Houston County, TN. Archives
Home Movies

If your family has home movies, why not make viewing them part of the family get together. Gather the family members together in one place. Watch the movies and discuss among yourselves the people, places and scenery in the movies.

            -Arrange a special family gathering just to view family home movies

-Make the home movies part of the family event, like Thanksgiving!

-Discuss the people, places and objects in the home movies 

Family Recipes

What is almost always at a family gathering? FOOD! Why not use that to your advantage:

-Ask your family members about family recipes

-Who came up with certain food dishes, who cooked them?

-What does your family members remember about the food and the recipes

Fudge Pie Recipe, Houston County, TN. Archives
Family Traditions

Many of our families have family traditions that they observed during certain holidays, family reunions and other family events.

            -Get your family members talking about those family traditions

            -Ask who started those traditions

            -Find out where those traditions originated

How Do I Record All the Information?

Now that you have your family members talking, how do you record or capture the information they are sharing?

-Write it down. When you go to your family events, take something to write on and something to write with to record any and all tidbits of information that you can get from your family members.

-Use a recording device. Invest in a small recording device or use your cell phone to record your family members telling their stories or any tidbits of information. DO NOT RECORD WITHOUT PERMISSION 

Collect Today for Tomorrow

Most of us as are always looking for the old records, photographs and ephemera for our ancestors. It is also important to collect records, photographs and ephemera from TODAY! One day they will be considered “old records”.

-Take photographs at family events, download them to your computer, identify them, and add metadata

-Collect ephemera, such things as graduation programs, funeral home cards, wedding invitations, baby shower invitations, etc.  

With these tips and tricks, hopefully you will get your family members talking!


Want More Tips to Get Your Family Members Talking?

Get My Legacy Quick Guide!

Family Gatherings: Dragging Genealogy Information Out of Your Family

PDF Version:

Thursday, October 31, 2019

Genealogists are Home Archivists!

"31 Days of Tips from The Archive Lady"

DAY #31

Today is the last day of "31 Days of Tips from The Archive Lady". It has been so much fun sharing tips about researching in archives and preserving family records. I hope what I have shared has helped many of you advance in your genealogy research and now have the knowledge of how to take care of your precious family documents and heirlooms.

On this last day of October 2019, the last day of American Archives Month, I want you to know that as genealogists with original records, photographs and artifacts, You Are The Home Archivist! You are the keeper of the family history and I applaud each and every one of you that has taken on this responsibility.

Bartram Family Bible and Items Found Inside, Owned by Melissa Barker

I also want to remind you there are thousands of archives, historical societies, genealogical societies, university archives and museums are out there and they hold millions of records that are NOT ONLINE. I completely understand that it can be a hardship for many of us to travel to these places to do research. Keep in mind that calling and emailing are very viable tools to use in communicating with these facilities.

My tip for you today is to think outside the box as you are doing your genealogy research. Remember all the unique records I have shared with you over this last month that are not online. Communicate with local archives about your genealogy research. Talk to the archivists about the records they hold in their archives. Ask them about Manuscript Collections, Vertical Files, Loose Records and all the records they have that are not online. Most archivists are ready and willing to be a help to you!

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

Even though this series of posts will come to an end as of today, that is not the end of the advice, tips and guidance I hope to continue bring to you. I will continue to blog about wonderful records that are held not only in the Houston County, TN. Archives but in archives all across the United States. I will also continue to blog about records preservation and how to make sure all of us preserve our family records so that future generations can enjoy them.

And best of all, I want to hear from you! If you have questions about how to find records, how to preserve any of your family records, photographs and artifacts, I want you to drop me an email. I love hearing from my readers and helping them anyway I can. Please email me at:



Get My Legacy Family Tree Webinar

Researching in Libraries and Archives: The Do's and Don'ts

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Researching in Manuscript Collections

"31 Days of Tips from The Archive Lady"

DAY #30

Working in a county archive on a daily basis, I am surrounded by original records, photographs and ephemera. It is my job to organize the records we have in the Houston County (TN) Archives so that they are accessible to the pubic and that includes many of the wonderful genealogists that come through my door everyday.

Houston County, Tennessee Entrance

In my opinion, Manuscript Collections is one of the most underused and misunderstood record collections that a genealogist has at their disposal. A lot of genealogists don't even know to ask about this specific collection when they are doing research at an archive. One of the reasons for the "mystery" surrounding these record sources is these records are not sitting on shelves in the research area for the researchers to access themselves. These record sources are usually stored in back rooms or vaults and they have to be requested to be seen. Normally, genealogists have to request files be pulled the boxes of the Manuscript Collections and brought to them in the research room.

Genealogists need to know that archivist are there to help them. They stand at the ready to pull records that you request and they are ready to share the fantastic records found in Manuscript Collections.

Folder from a Manuscript Collection, Houston County, TN. Archives

One of the best ways to explain what Manuscript Collections are is to use this visual:

I have been doing my personal genealogy research for my family and my husband's family for the past 26 years. Let's say I have decided that I want to donate everything I have collected to my local archive. This includes all documents, photographs, ephemera, notes and artifacts. I box everything up in cardboard boxes, load them in my car, drive them to the archive and drop them off. Now, the archive will take all those boxes and will give it a collection name like "The Melissa Barker Records Collection" or possibly "The Melissa Barker Genealogical Papers". Then the archivist will organize the records by type, style and date. The records will be organized into file folders and each file folder is given a number like Folder #1. Then all these folders are places in boxes and these boxes are given a number like Box #3.

Most importantly, a "Finding Aid" is produced to go with the Manuscript Collection. The Finding Aid is a written guide explaining what is contained in the manuscript collection and includes a box-by-box and folder-by-folder listing of what the boxes and folders have in them. Now the collection is ready for researchers!

The Irish Celebration Manuscript Collection, Houston County, TN. Archives

I truly hope that all genealogists will start asking about Manuscript Collections in our many wonderful archives. They are just sitting there waiting for genealogists to discover their contents. Just because you can't see them on the shelves in the research area doesn't mean they don't exist. Ask the archivist about Manuscript Collections on your next research trip!



Want to know more about Vertical Files?

Get my Legacy Family Tree Webinar:

Vertical Files: What Are They and How To Use Them


Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Finding Unidentified Photographs in the Archives

"31 Days of Tips from The Archive Lady"

DAY #29

Finding a photograph of our ancestor can be a genealogical accomplishment and a reason to do the "Genealogy Happy Dance". Many genealogists, like myself, are still looking for their ancestor's photograph. Did you know that many archives have photograph collections? This fact may not be known by most genealogists because photograph collections are not in plain site and available in the research room. Photograph collections are usually housed in a records vault or in a back room in cold storage stacks.

Stewart County, TN. Archives Back Room Stacks

Photographs are donated to archives on a regular basis. Recently, the local newspaper in Houston County, Tennessee donated their entire collection of old photographs to the Houston County Archives. All photographs are now taken digitally and never printed. These boxes of photographs included people, buildings, local events and many other subjects. The Houston County Archives is now processing these photographs, inventorying them and will eventually digitize them to be shared online. 

Donated Photo Albums, Houston County, TN. Archives

Photographs of individuals, groups, couples and children are a big part of most photograph collections. Also, photographs of local buildings, houses and business can be part of the collection. There could also be school group photos, church Sunday school classes and the local Garden Club available in archived photograph collections.

Whenever visiting an archive, always ask about their Photograph Collection. The archivist may first give you an index to look through. If you see something of interest, tell the archivist or make a written request that those particular photographs be pulled and brought to you.

When the archivist brings the photographs, do not be surprised if you are asked to wear gloves to handle them. The oils and dirt on hands can damage photographs if handled without gloves. Even though the photographs maybe contained in archival sleeves, gloves may still be required. 

Tools of the Archivist, Including Gloves, Houston County, TN. Archives

Ask about the "Unidentified Photographs" in the collection. Almost all archives have unidentified photographs just waiting for someone to identify them. This group is usually the largest section of the photograph collection. If you know what your ancestor's looked like, please take time to search through the unidentified photographs to see if you can find identify any of the photographs. 

Unidentified Group Photo, Houston County, TN. Archives

It is always so sad when I receive a donation of photographs and most of them are unidentified. I look at the faces in those photographs and I know those people belong to someone who is doing genealogy research. I just wish I could reunite them.

The next time you are visiting an archive, talking with the archivist on the phone or emailing them, ask about their photograph collections. You might be pleasantly surprised!



Photographs Can be Found in Scrapbooks Too!!

Check Out My Legacy Family Tree Webinar:

Scrapbooks: A Genealogist's Gold Mine

Monday, October 28, 2019

Archiving Genealogical Documents

"31 Days of Tips from The Archive Lady"

DAY #28

Genealogists have tons of documents for their ancestors. Death Certificates, Birth Certificates, Marriage Certificates and more! Many of these records are originals and need to be protected and archived.

Original Deed for Bateman School, ca. 1923, Houston County, TN. Archives

In the archives world we use the word "encapsulate" to describe what we do with documents to preserve them. The term encapsulate means: "the process of placing a document between two sheets of plastic (usually polyester), which are sealed at the edges, in order to provide support and to protect it from handling and from the atmosphere" (from Society of American Archivists Glossary of Terms

Archival Sleeve and Document, Houston County, TN. Archives

This is one of the simplest forms of records preservation that a genealogist can do. To archive or encapsulate a document, all you will need to purchase is archival or acid free document sleeves. These sleeves come in all different sizes and shapes. It is very important that the ones that are used are made of Mylar, Polypropylene or Polyester and have passed the P.A.T. (Photographic Activity Test). On the packaging it will say "Passed P.A.T.".

Make sure the document is completely flat and has no turned down corners or other folds. Slide the document in the archival sleeve. The sleeve will automatically close up around the document and will instantly seal with the help of static electricity. Once you have the document encapsulated, then place it in an archival file folder and store in the filing cabinet or with your other genealogical documents.

I highly recommend that you encapsulate all original documents in archival sleeves. This layer of protection will insure that the documents last for future generations to enjoy!



Get my Legacy Family Tree Webinar and Learn All About Vertical Files

Vertical Files: What Are They and How to Use Them

Sunday, October 27, 2019

Preserving Diaries and Journals

"31 Days of Tips from The Archive Lady"

DAY #27

Diaries and journals are some of the most unique records that can be found in family records. Many genealogists can only hope that they will receive or inherit diaries or journals from their deceased family members or ancestors. These very personal record sources have helped many genealogy researchers by supplying dates of events, family secrets, family tragedies and family successes.

Preserving diaries and journals can prolong the life of the record. The process is quite simple and only takes purchasing a couple of archival items.

You will need:

An Archival Box: In the Houston County, TN. Archives we like to use this Adjustable 1-Piece Rare Book Box OR the Clamshell Custom Rare Book Box, which can be purchased at any online archival supply store.

Adjustable 1-Piece Rare Book Box

Clamshell Rare Book Box


Archival Tissue Paper: Tissue paper is not always necessary in this process but in an archive setting we like to use archival tissue paper to wrap the diary or journal for additional protection before the book is placed in the book box. Also, if there are pasted items in the diary or journal such as newspaper clippings, it is suggested that archival tissue paper be placed between the pages where these items are located to deter ink transfer or other damage. Feel free to insert archival tissue paper anywhere in the diary or journal that you feel necessary, it will be an additional layer of protection.

Wrap the diary or journal in the tissue paper. Do not use any tape or adhesive to secure the tissue paper, just fold the ends neatly. Place the diary or journal in the book box. If the diary or journal doesn't fix snuggly, crumple up some archival tissue paper and put around the book so that it does fit snuggly in the book box.

It's as simple as that!

When storing diaries and journals or any rare books, be sure to lay them down on their sides and do not stand them up on their ends. The pressure on the spine when they are stored on their ends on shelves can be damaging to the books. Store in a cool, dark and dry place. Do not store in an attic, basement or where the humidity levels are too high.

So, if you have your ancestor's diaries and journals, use these simple steps to preserve them for your descendants.

Online Archival Supply Stores:

Gaylord Archival:
Hollinger Metal Edge:
University Products:
Light Impressions:



Have Scrapbooks? Want to know how to Preserve them?

Get My Legacy Family Tree QuickGuide

Scrapbooks: A Genealogist's Gold Mine

Saturday, October 26, 2019

Removing Metal Staples, Paper Clips and Rubber Bands from Genealogy Records

"31 Days of Tips from The Archive Lady"

DAY #25

Working in an archive on a daily basis, there is a lot of time spent removing staples, metal paper clips and rubber bands from documents. Why do archivists remove these items from documents? Because they cause damage and sometimes so bad that it can not be repaired.

  • Staples: A stapler is a common office supply that every genealogist has and uses. Using staples to fasten multiple pages of documents together has been in use since 1877 when Henry R. Heyl filed the first patent for the stapler. The metal staples, however, can cause damage to genealogical records. The staples will rust and leave stains on documents and that rust can eat away at the paper. It is highly recommended that all genealogists remove all staples from their documents, ephemera and memorabilia. In place of staples, use plastic paper clips.

    Rusty Staple

    • Metal Paper Clips: Another hazard to genealogy records are metal paper clips. Many of our ancestor's records are held together with metal paper clips. The metal will rust over time and stain the documents in such a way that can not be repaired. If the metal paper clips have been attached to the documents for a long time, they may be even be stuck to the documents. Remove all metal paper clips very carefully and replace them with the recommended plastic paper clips. 

      Rusty Metal Paper Clip

      • Rubber Bands: These types of fasteners are not used near as much as staples or metal paper clips but they can be just as destructive, if not more. Rubber bands that are wrapped around stacks of documents, old letters or photographs is a disaster waiting to happen. Over time, rubber bands will deteriorate and actually rot. They will stick to whatever they are touching and cause damage. Also, if rubber bands are wound tightly around a stack of old letters the pressure can cause damage to the letters. Do not use rubber bands under any circumstances. If something is to be wrapped around a stack of documents, old letters or photographs, use soft string or yarn loosely around the stack. Better yet, put the items in an archival box, folder or envelope.

        Rubber Band Stuck to Document

        A lot of time is spent on researching and collecting records on our ancestors. Using items like staples, metal paper clips and rubber bands that can cause damage to these records needs to be avoided at all costs. Future generations will be grateful for the efforts made to preserve those family records.



        Legacy Family Tree QuickGuide

        "Preserving Old Family Letters: Tips from an Archivist"

        Tips for Small Storage Spaces

        "31 Days of Tips from The Archive Lady"

        DAY #26

        Let's face it, as genealogists we can collect a lot of "stuff"! Even if we try to digitize all that we can and do away with as much paper as we can, we sill have genealogy "stuff".

        Lyle Family Records Collection, Houston County, TN. Archives

        A storage space tip that I can give you is to use nesting boxes. In fact, Gaylord Archival has produced a NEW line of nesting boxes that are great for small spaces.

        Nesting boxes are smaller boxes that fit into a larger box. This way you can preserve several different items in small archival boxes and then nest those boxes into a standard archival storage carton.

        Gaylord Archival Nesting Boxes

        Now you can preserve your smaller family heirlooms in their own box but yet fit these nesting boxes into one large box that fits nicely on a shelf in your closet where it is cool, dark and dry, just the right climate conditions to preserve such items.

        Each box is sold separately so you can mix and match box sizes or choose multiples of the same size box to suit the needs of your collection. Once you have filled the smaller boxes you can then layer them as you would like into the large archival storage carton.

        Gaylord Archival Nesting Boxes

        You can purchase these very useful nesting boxes from their catalog on the
        Gaylord Archival Website:

        Or you can purchase them from

        I have chosen to use these nesting boxes for the Fenton Glass Shoes that I inherited from my Mom after her passing in June of 2017. I have 20 of them which I have wrapped each one with archival tissue paper and put each one in a separate nesting box. Once all the glass shoes have been boxed, I then put all the nesting boxes in the standard archival storage carton. These precious family heirlooms are now protected, preserved and in one box that stores very nicely on my closet shelf.

        Fenton Glass Slippers

        So, if you have a small space to store your family heirlooms, I would highly recommend Gaylord Archival's NEW Nesting Boxes!

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


        Want to Learn More from The Archive Lady?

        Check Out My Webinars and QuickGuides over at Legacy Family Tree Webinars:

        (Disclaimer: Gaylord Archival provided me with nesting boxes to try out for this blog post and review.)