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A Genealogist In The Archives: 2021

Wednesday, December 29, 2021

Big News! Legacy Family Tree Webinars 2022 Available for Registration!

MyHeritage and are pleased to announce that registration is now open for its 2022 Legacy Family Tree Webinar series, now in its 13th year.

Choose from 120 classes from genealogy's leading educators on topics ranging from the 1921 U.K. census to the 1950 U.S. census, from Greece and China to Prussia and Nova Scotia, from Backblaze and Instagram to Airtable, from organizing your papers to printing books on MyHeritage, and from organizing your DNA with the Leeds method to the madness of 'Mc' surnames. We are also introducing the brand new Mexico research series AND the brand new monthly online genealogy conferences.
Register for as many webinars as you want by clicking this Registration Page link!

Legacy Family Tree Webinars is one of the best educational opportunities for genealogists out there. For most of the webinars, anyone can watch the LIVE webinar for FREE and watch for 1-week after the webinar, then the webinar goes behind the Legacy Family Tree Webinar pay wall and you have to have a subscription to access it. I would encourage you to get a subscription to Legacy Family Tree Webinars so you can download the handouts to each webinar, which is a subscriber perk. 

You can subscribe to Legacy Family Tree Webinars by clicking on this link:

I am so excited for 2022 and the opportunities for genealogy education with Legacy Family Tree Webinars!

(Disclaimer: The post content above contains affiliate links)


Visit Melissa Barker's Presenter Page at Legacy Family Tree Webinars and Find:

17 Recorded Webinars
10 Legacy QuickGuides

Thursday, December 9, 2021

Finding Christmas in the Archives

 We are now only 16 days away from Christmas 2021! 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

These are 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

Monday, November 22, 2021

Thanksgiving Checklist for Genealogists!

 Thanksgiving 2021 is this week! Many of us will be busy preparing meals, preparing to receive traveling family members and friends or traveling ourselves. I hope the genealogists of the family is also preparing. Here is a handy checklist of items to help you get the most genealogical or family information out of your family members at Thanksgiving:

George Washington Stringfield family, ca. 1902

-Pen and Paper: To take notes while family members are telling family stories, sharing family recipes, etc.

-Voice Recording Device or Video Camera: To record family members during the holiday and capture old family stories as well as the new ones being made on Thanksgiving. Remember it's always a good idea to get your family's permission to record their conversations.

-Camera: To take a million photographs of family members. Just remember to download the photographs from your camera or phone immediately after Thanksgiving, identify them and organize them on your computer and backup devises.

-Family Group Sheets: Passing out family group sheets to family members might jog their memories about your shared ancestors and maybe more information can be gleaned. It might also get them interested in the family if they can see names and information right in front of them.

-Unidentified Photographs: Bring out the unidentified photographs so family members can take a look and hopefully identify those in the photos.

Unidentified Photograph, Houston County, TN. Archives

It's not everyday that our families get together and as genealogist we need to be prepared to take full advantage of the situation. We should never miss an opportunity to engage our family members and pick their brains for family information. Even if they roll their eyes and say under their breath "Here she/he comes again, the genealogist in the family"

So, enjoy your families, get as much genealogy information out of them that you can and:

    Happy Thanksgiving!



My Legacy Family Tree QuickGuide

Scrapbooks: A Genealogist's Gold Mine

Monday, June 14, 2021

Preserving Your Ancestor's American Flag

Today we Celebrate Flag 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 or at Amazon:

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.



Need Help Preserving Those Old Family Letters?

Get My Legacy QuickGuide!

Preserving Old Family Letters: Tips from an Archivist

PDF Version:

Friday, March 19, 2021

Book Review: "Guns and Gods in My Genes"

I am pleased to offer this review of the book Guns and Gods in My Genes: A 15,000 mile North American Search Through Four Centuries of History, to the Mayflower by Neill McKee

I love to read about the genealogy journeys of others. For those genealogists who have authored books about their genealogy quest to find their ancestors, Guns and Gods in My Genes ranks up there with the best of them. I enjoyed reading Neill McKee's family story and the how this book was put together. 

From the very beginning, McKee gives the reader a Genealogical Map on page xv which is a Principal North American Ancestors in the Chronology of this Book. This is a family tree the reader can use as easy reference to keep all the family members McKee mentions in the book straight.

McKee takes us on a journey of his trek through each generation. As the title states, he explores his ancestors as it pertains to guns and God. Chapter 1 starts it off by a story that is recounted of a deer hunt that occurred in November 1961. Each generation is presented in historical context as the author gives his own thoughts on how his ancestors may have responded to the events of their time.

From the McKee family farm in Waterloo County, Ontario to the Mayflower, the author gives us a wonderful look into his family history. The twists and turns, ups and downs of the McKee family will keep the reader turning the page to see what happens next. There are many photos included in the book of the family and that McKee took himself throughout his journey.

The family trees in the back of the book included in the Table section were put together well and will help the reader to following the family lines as the history and stories are read. As an archivist, I was pleased to see the Chapter Notes section where McKee lists his sources for research and I even found several references that I have marked to check out for myself and my own genealogy research.

I can highly recommend Guns and Gods in My Genes to any genealogist who is looking for a family history book to read or if you are thinking of writing your own family history book. 

Friday, February 26, 2021

Disaster Planning at RootsTech Connect

RootsTech Connect is LIVE!    

The most famous and largest genealogy conference is happening NOW! February 25-27th.

RootsTech Connect is a genealogy conference that is usually held in-person in Utah in February. 

This year, due to the Covid-19 restrictions, this wonderful conference is totally virtual and most excitedly FREE to EVERYONE

You will need to register for this FREE conference here: 

The best part is all the sessions will be available FREE for a year!

I am pleased to let you know that I have a teaching session at RootsTech Connect. 

It is titled Disaster Planning Safeguarding Your Genealogical Records. This presentation is about protecting your genealogical records from a natural or man-made disaster. I am so excited to have been chosen to be part of the RootsTech Connect Conference. 

You can view my session at this direct link:

So head over to RootsTech Connect and watch all the sessions but make sure to stop by my session and give me a thumbs up and even leave me a message!

Wednesday, February 17, 2021

Our Ancestors and the Four Seasons

As I write this blog post and look out my office window, here in Tennessee we have ice and snow on the ground. This got me to thinking about my ancestors and what they thought about each of the four seasons. Fall and Winter are my favorite seasons of the year. Many who know me, know that I hibernate in the Summer and come out in Fall and especially Winter. I even love snow!

Barker House, Tennessee Ridge, TN. February 16, 2021

Have you thought about what seasons your ancestors enjoyed? Were they Summer people or Winter people? Did they hate a particular season? 

I have been researching my family history for over 31 years. I am the type of researcher that wants to know what my ancestors had for breakfast, what were their hobbies and lately I have been thinking about what season they enjoyed the most and which season they detested.

I will admit it might be a bit difficult to really know if your 6th great-grandfather loved Summer as I imagine there are probably no records that actually state this fact unless you have his diary where he says it himself. But maybe we can glean from other sources if our ancestor was partial to a particular season.

Maybe your ancestor loved gardening and you know this because you have records where they bought gardening supplies or seeds from a catalog. Or maybe you have photographs of them next to the beautiful roses they grew in their garden. My Grandma Ida Kathryn (Drummond) Bartram loved gardening, especially growing flowers. She truly had a green thumb.

My Grandmother, Ida Kathryn (Drummond) Bartram, ca. 1968

Many of our ancestors grew their own food, either out of necessity or pleasure or both. There is a certain sense of accomplishment, I am told, when you can grow your own food during the Summer and feed your family throughout the Winter.

Mrs. P.L. Cook Prize Winning Canned Food, Houston County, TN. Archives

In the Fall of the year, here in Tennessee, it is sorghum molasses making time. This is an old tradition that dates back to the mid-1850s. Here is a great article from the Tennessee Encyclopedia about Sorghum Molasses making history: Possibly your ancestors made sorghum molasses and you can find evidence of that because they sold their jarred molasses to the local mercantile or they entered it in the local county fair and won a blue ribbon. Documenting our ancestors daily lives, in any season, helps to tell their life story. 

Lola Knight Scrapbook, ca. 1922-1923, Houston County, TN. Archives

Maybe it's the Summer season that your ancestors loved. They loved picnics, going creek stomping and attending that family reunion. Summer was a very busy time for farmers but they always took the time to enjoy themselves at the local watering hole or enjoying a summer treat of cold watermelon. My husband's family owned and operated a local public pool and it was the place to be in Houston County, Tennessee on a hot summer day. 

Southernaire Restauant & Motel Pool, ca. 1959, Houston County, TN. Archives

So, as you are reading through old letters, diaries, scrapbooks and any other records your ancestors left behind. Pay closer attention to any mention of the seasons and if there are any thoughts shared about if they preferred one season over another.  We can't know every thought and feeling our ancestors had but we can sure glean as much as we can from the records they left behind.


Get Melissa's Legacy QuickGuide

Family Gatherings: Dragging Genealogy Information Out of Your Family

Wednesday, January 6, 2021

Organizing Your Genealogy Research, Tips from an Archivist

Happy New Year!

It's hard to believe it's 2021!

I am excited about a New Year for genealogy research and being the archivist at the Houston County, TN. Archives. I am looking forward to meeting all the genealogist that will walk through the archives door, call me on the phone or send me an email with their genealogy research questions. Helping genealogists is the best part of my job as an archivist.

I am also looking forward to the opportunities to speak, teach and write about researching in archives and records preservation. I love teaching others about archives research and the best practices in preserving your genealogy research.

Today, I would like to talk about organizing your genealogy research. Many of you will make New Year's Resolutions that will have something to do with organizing genealogy research and records. Many of you will decide to go totally digital, many of you will try to eliminate piles of papers and many of you have tons of photographs to scan and organize.

Houston County Highway Dept. Records Before Organization

In an archives, organization is very important and something I do on a daily basis as I process the records in my care. If I don't use the proper methods to process record collections, they won't be in a form that can be used by genealogy researchers. Also, using archival safe materials is essential to protecting and preserving original documents so they will be around for the next generations of genealogists to enjoy.

There are all kinds of ways to organize your genealogy research, I will leave the method you choose up to you. I would like to give you three tips to help the organization go more smoothly and hopefully help you to not become overwhelmed during the process:

Choose an Organization Method that Works for You and be Consistent

It's true, there are many methods and ways to organize your genealogy research. You can talk to 10 people and get 10 different methods of organization. I always tell genealogists to figure out the method that works for you and just be consistent in implementing it. An organizational method that works for me may not work for you and that's okay! If you don't like the organization method you are using, most likely you won't stay very organized. So, find what works for you and be consistent in using it everyday.

One of the best books out there to help you organize your genealogy records Organize Your Genealogy: Strategies and Solutions for Every Researcher. It's actually on SALE at Amazon TODAY!

Here are the links:

Kindle Version:

Take Small Bites

There is a saying that goes something like this "How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time." This is also true for tackling the job of organizing genealogy research. Don't try to do it all in one day. You will get overwhelmed and discouraged if you try to take on too much at one time. In the archives, when I have a large records collection to process, I take it slow and steady. It might take me a few days or even a few weeks to complete the processing of a large records collection. I have one particular collection right now that has taken me a couple of months and I am still not done. The reason I take my time is because I want to process the collection properly so when genealogists want to use the records collection, it is organized and easy to find what they are looking for. So, don't try to organize everything as fast as possible. Take your time, you will be glad that you did.

Use Archival Materials

As an archivist, I can not emphasis this tip enough. I encourage everyone to use archival file folders, archival sheet protectors and archival boxes for all genealogical documents. Even if you have decided to go totally digital, I am sure there will be some original records that you will want to keep and preserving them should be at the top of your organizational list. Many of the documents we own as genealogists are one-of-a-kind and should be protected for future generations to enjoy.

Archival Materials Used in an Archives, Houston County, TN. Archives

The online archival material business are now advertising their 2019 catalogs. You can access their materials online or you can request that a catalog be mailed to you, here are links to their websites:

Online Archival Supply Stores:

Gaylord Archival

Hollinger Metal Edge

University Products

Light Impressions

Following these three tips as you organize your genealogy research will hopefully make the process more enjoyable and you won't get overwhelmed.

For the start of this New Year, I would like to encourage those that follow me and read my blog, writings and watch my webinars to contact me with your questions about researching in archives and preserving records. My email address is just to the right of this blog post at the end of the "About Me" section. I love talking to genealogists about the in's and out's of researching in archives and I love helping them get the right archival materials to preserve and protect their genealogy records, photographs, memorabilia and artifacts. So, please feel free to email me anytime!

Lastly, in 2021 I encourage everyone to seek out the thousands of archives, libraries, historical societies, genealogical societies, university libraries and archives and museums that hold genealogical records. More and more these repositories budgets are being cut because of non-use. We need to keep these facilities OPEN, so.....



Jump Start Your Genealogy by Getting My Legacy Family Tree Webinar:

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