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A Genealogist In The Archives: January 2024

Tuesday, January 30, 2024

Nesting Boxes for Small Storage Spaces

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:

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 NEW Nesting Boxes!

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


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

Thursday, January 25, 2024

Removing Staples, Paper Clips and Rubber Bands from Genealogy Records

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.



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        Tuesday, January 23, 2024

        Finding Photographs in an Archive

        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!!

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        Thursday, January 11, 2024

        Buffered vs Unbuffered Archival Tissue Paper: What's the Difference?

        Archival materials are something that archivists and conservators work with on a daily basis. When we are working on an archival project, we reach for the materials we need to help us preserve documents, photographs and artifacts.

        As genealogists and home archivists, you need to be using archival materials to preserve the documents, photographs and artifacts you have in your collections. Knowing the right kinds of archival materials to use is a necessity.

        One of the staples of any archive is archival tissue paper and is a must for any genealogist and home archivist. Archival tissue paper is used to line archival boxes before putting things into them. We crumple it up and put it around items in boxes so that they don't move around in the box and get damaged. There are many uses for archival tissue paper and the home archivist should have a supply on hand.

        There are two kinds of archival tissue paper, buffered and unbuffered.

        The difference between these two kinds of archival tissue paper is:

        Buffered Archival Tissue Paper: This tissue paper is "buffered" because it contains an alkaline substance, usually calcium carbonate, added as an alkaline reserve or "buffer" to counteract acids that may form in the material.

        Unbuffered Archival Tissue Paper: This tissue paper is free of the alkaline substance

        Most genealogy records, photographs and artifacts would benefit from being archived in buffered materials like boxes, tissue paper, folders, etc. There are some exceptions:

        Dye Transfer Prints or Cyanotypes Photographs: Should only be archived in unbuffered materials. These particular types of photographs and/or blueprints should never be archived in buffered materials due to the reaction of the calcium carbonate that could happen with the photographs.

        Protein Based Materials: Materials that come from animals should be stored in unbuffered archival materials or at least should not come in contact with buffered materials. These items could include silk, wool, leather, feathers, animal specimens, horsehair, etc.

        Where to purchase buffered and unbuffered tissue paper

        Both kinds of archival tissue paper can be purchased at Amazon:

        Buffered Tissue Paper:
        Unbuffered Tissue Paper:

        Using the right materials to preserve our family documents and heirlooms will help them to last for generations to come!



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        Tuesday, January 9, 2024

        There's An Archival Box for That!

        Let's face it, many of the items we as genealogists have in our family history collections are unique and even odd shaped. These are usually called family artifacts or family heirlooms. These items help to tell our ancestor's story and also help to remind us of our family members that are no longer with us.

        Trying to archive or preserve these items can be a challenge but with the right box it can be done!

        These items are those 3-dimensional items that we might display on a shelf or bring out at family gatherings to show to our family members.

        They are a point of contact with our ancestors and they have true family history meaning to us and are items we cherish.

        Just like our paper documents, our family artifacts should be preserved and stored correctly so that they survive for future generations to enjoy.

        Do you have your Grandfather's bowler hat? There's an archival box for that! Check out this hat box:

        Archival Hat Box from Gaylord Archival

        Do you have an American flag that was draped over your ancestor's casket during a military funeral service? There is a wonderful archival box just for American flags:

        Clamshell Flag Box from Gaylord Archival

        Do you have your Grandmother's favorite doll? Or maybe your favorite doll from when you were young? There is a perfect archival box for dolls:

        Doll Preservation Box from Gaylord Archival

        Do you have Christmas ornaments that are special and you consider family heirlooms? There is a great archival box available to keep them safe when they are stored:

        Christmas Decorations Box from Gaylord Archival

        And there is even an archival box to store Christmas wreaths:

        One of the best ways to find these wonderful and unique archival boxes is to search the archival store catalogs. I always encourage genealogists to order a FREE paper catalog and have it delivered to your home so that you can sit down and easily look at all the wonderful archival boxes that are available.

        Here is a listing of several archival stores that will send out FREE paper catalogs:

        Gaylord Archival:

        Hollinger Metal Edge:

        University Products:

        Light Impressions:

        Our family artifacts and heirlooms are very important and mean so much to us. Make sure they are being preserved in the right archival box!



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        Preserving Old Family Letters: Tips from an Archivist

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        Tuesday, January 2, 2024

        Organizing Your Genealogy Research, Tips from an Archivist

         Happy New Year!

        It's hard to believe it's 2024!

        I am excited about a New Year for genealogy research and being the archivist at the Houston County, TN. Archives & Museum. 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.

        Here are the links to this book on Amazon

        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 2024 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 2024 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.....



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