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A Genealogist In The Archives: November 2020

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Stirring Up the Past: Revolutions in Tennessee Cooking Virtual Exhibit

So many of us are really missing visiting our favorite libraries, archives and museums. But wait, there are online exhibits that many of these archives are adding to their websites for us to enjoy.

One such archive is the Tennessee State Library and Archives. The TSLA has several online exhibits to explore and now they have a NEW one. 

Stirring Up the Past: Revolutions in Tennessee Cooking Virtual Exhibit was added to their website this week. The TSLA describes this virtual exhibit as: 

Prior to the current age, food preparation took months of planning and dedication.  Putting meals together was more than scanning directions on the back of the box; it required hard-earned wisdom and a lot of time.  For example, a vinegar recipe from the 1800s states, “It should be made in May to be ready for the fall pickling.”  The exhibit covers not only how food was prepared but also how the latest technology has transformed the face of modern day cooking.  The exhibit delves into Native American cooking, Pioneer/Civil War cooking, Victorian cooking and cooking in the Modern Age.  Join us for a nostalgic view of the way the original Betty Crockers got it done! Whether you eat fitness bars or indulge in Ben and Jerry’s, our exhibit will satisfy your hunger to know how food preparation originated.  Bring your intellectual appetite!

The topics covered in the exhibit are:

Native Americans
Pioneer Food Preparations
Civil War Era
Victorian Era
Modern Era

There is even a link in the exhibit where you can download old recipes from 1767-1985.

No exhibit would be complete without photos and documents and this virtual exhibit has both. 

Virtual exhibits are starting to become very popular with archives. They can reach a wider audience virtually than in-person visits, especially with this time of the coronavirus. The next time you are visiting an archives website, check and see if they have any virtual exhibits.


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Friday, November 13, 2020

Book Review: "The Psychology of Searching" by Dr. Penny Walters

The Psychology of Searching by Dr. Penny Walters is a self-published book about looking at the psychology of why we do genealogy research. Why are we interested in our family tree and our ancestor’s past. This look at the reasons why we genealogists do genealogy intrigued me because I am always asking “Why?” about my ancestors and part of that “why” is why do we do genealogy.

This book has only 163 pages with 22 pages dedicated to a robust reference section. The chapter headings themselves will no doubt interest any genealogist:

Chapter 1: Why do we ‘do’ genealogy?

Chapter 2: What is a relative?

Chapter 3: Reconstructing the past

Chapter 4: The psychology of naming

Chapter 5: How do you visually present your family?

Chapter 6: Death and dying

The author digs right in with Chapter 1: Why do we ‘do’ genealogy? She asks the question “What is your motivation to start compiling your family history?” which made me stop and think what my answer to that question would be. I think all genealogists can remember what it was that started them on their journey of researching their family history. Whatever the reason, Walters goes into the psychology of why genealogists do what they do. I appreciated the fact that on Page 8 the author says “Genealogy is not like other pastimes. In fact, it is not really a pastime at all. Genealogy is a field of study that is integral to the human condition.” I would completely agree with this quote.

Chapter 3 was probably my favorite chapter of this book. Dr. Penny Walters dedicates this chapter to genealogists reconstructing the past, their ancestor’s past. What I liked about this chapter is the fact that Walters emphasized the need to know everything about our ancestors. More than just dates of birth, marriage, and death. As the very beginning of the chapter, Walters asks “What did my ancestors do all day?” This is exactly the question I ask myself as I research my ancestors. I want to know everything there is to know about each ancestor. I want to know what they had for breakfast, what were their hobbies, what did they do daily. Walters quotes Bob Brooke on page 63 as stating “Tracing a family’s emotional behaviour patterns over the last few generations can shed light on present day problems.” This statement is so true and one that I have researched myself and have seen the correlation.

I must say that Chapter 6 addresses the question that I suspect all genealogists get “Why are you looking for dead people?” I have gotten this question from several of my family members who don’t understand why I want to know information about our ancestors who are dead and gone. Walters covers different religions and their beliefs about death. She then talks about genealogy records relating to death that the genealogists can seek online and at various archives.

The reference section starting on page 141 is quite extensive and I was pleased to see such a healthy reference section. As an archivist, when I read a book I usually go directly to the reference, notes or bibliography section just to see what the author used as reference for what they have written. Dr. Penny Walters has a variety of references, everything from academic psychology reference works to well known genealogists such as Lisa Louise Cooke owner of Genealogy Gems. I found myself highlighting and taking notes while reading through the reference section of this book so that I could do further reading.

Dr. Penny Walters has done a wonderful job with this most recent work and I recommend it to my genealogy friends. I can also recommend her previously published book Ethical Dilemmas in Genealogy.

Wednesday, November 11, 2020

Preserving Your Ancestor's American Flag

Today we honor our military veterans with Veteran's Day in the United States. 

Many genealogists, for whatever reason, have in their possession an American flag. Maybe it was handed down from generation to generation and now it belongs to you. Maybe the flag you have was once draped over a casket of a deceased soldier or veteran from your family.

Whatever the reason, if you have an American flag among your genealogical records and artifacts, it is important that you know how to fold it and preserve it so that it will survive for generations to come.

First, the American flag must be folded property. Here is a great website to show you how to fold the flag and it includes visuals:

Once the American flag has been folded properly, it's time to archive is properly. To do this, you will only need to purchase two items.

You Will Need:

-Archival Tissue Paper to wrap the folded flag in before it is put in an archival box

-A special archival box specifically for folded flags

These items can be purchased at any online archival materials store:

Online Archival Supply Stores:

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

Take the folded flag and wrap it in archival tissue paper. Place the wrapped flag into the archival flag box. It would be a good idea to add a note in the box stating how you obtained the flag, the significance of the flag to your family and who it belonged to.

Store the boxed flag in a cool, dry and dark place. Do not store in an attic, basement on in direct sunlight. If you decide to frame the American flag, that is perfectly fine. I do suggest that you take it to a framing company that is experienced in archival framing with archival matting and UV protective glass. You can frame the flag yourself by purchasing a memorial flag case from an online archival materials store. They have one that you can hang on the wall or set on a table.

Memorial Flag Case for the Table

Memorial Flag Case for the Wall

It is important to preserve and archive our most precious family heirlooms and if we are fortunate enough to have an American flag in our collection, be sure to take care of it in a proper and archival way.



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Sunday, November 1, 2020

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 2020, 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:



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