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A Genealogist In The Archives

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Are Family Histories in the Archives? You Bet They Are!

As the archivist for the Houston County, Tennessee Archives, I am asked all the time if we have Family Histories or Family Genealogies in our collections.  I am always pleased to be able to say "YES".  While we may not have one for every surname known to have lived in Houston County, we do have many in our records collections.

Family histories that have been compiled by genealogy researchers are a great research tool for the genealogist. While they may not be 100% correct, they can be used as a guide to help you find more documents or give you an idea of where to look next for your ancestors.

Vertical File Drawer for the letter "C" containing Surname Files, located at the Houston County, Tennessee Archives

Most family histories are part of a larger collection of records that have been donated to the archives. Recently, the Houston County Archives received a records donation of someone's genealogy research that include several 3-ring binders full of information and compiled family histories. Some of these surnames are not native to Houston County but we will archive them anyway. Once this collection is cataloged, it will be open to the public for research and in the Finding Aid it will indicated what family histories are included by surname.

There are times when family histories or family records are donated to an archive, historical society or library that are not native to the area where the facility is located. That is why it is very important that you don't give up looking for your ancestor's records.

Compiled genealogy research in 3-ring binders donated to the Houston County, Tennessee Archives


When visiting an archive, family histories will be in one of two places. First, they could be in the Vertical File Collections, sometimes called Subject File Collections. Ask the archivist if there is an index to the Vertical File Collection. This index will have surnames listed and if a surname of interest is found, ask for that file to be pulled for research.

The other place family histories could be found is in Manuscript Collections. The manuscript collection contains records collections that have been donated to the archive such as the collection mentioned above that the Houston County Archives just received. Also, see my blog post about Manuscript Collections here.

Ask the archivist to view the index of their Manuscript Collection and if a collection is of interest, ask to see the Finding Aid for that collection. Within the finding aid will be a folder by folder listing of what is contained in the entire collection and there should be listed "Family History" or "Family Genealogy".

Unfortunately, most of these types of records are not online and will have be accessed by visiting an archive or contacting them by email, snail mail or phone call.

So, the next time you think to yourself, "Do archives have family histories?", you know the answer is YES!



REMEMBER: IT'S NOT ALL ONLINE, CONTACT OR VISIT AN ARCHIVE TODAY!



*******


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Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Autograph Books, The Social Media of Yesterday

Many of us enjoy Facebook or Twitter everyday to keep up with our family and friends. Connecting with others by social media has become the norm today.

Autograph books at the Houston County, Tennessee Archives

Our ancestors used different mediums to connect with friends and family. One of those mediums were autograph books. Many of our ancestors had these types of books and filled them with signatures of friends, family, schoolmates and other people they came in contact with on a daily basis. Sometimes there was just a signature and other times there was a short message of encouragement, a poem or a pleasant greeting.

Inside of Autograph books at the Houston County, Tennessee Archives

Autograph books come in all shapes and sizes. Some were leather bound and others had different colored pages. These books were a type of "social media" back in the day and were very popular.

Autograph book page for Ruth McAuley dated 1893 at the Houston County, Tennessee Archives

Autograph books were very popular with school children, especially graduating seniors or college graduates. These students used autograph books to capture their final year of school and to record memories from their school friends.

Autograph book page for Shirley (Unknown) dated 1938 at the Houston County, Tennessee Archives 

Some of you may have an autograph book that belonged to your ancestor in your own personal genealogy collection. If you don't, it's possible there could be one located in a local archive collection, historical society or genealogical society collection.

Autograph book page for Ludelia Marable, Senior at Erin High School 1934-1935 at Houston County, Tennessee Archives

Autograph books are usually located in the Manuscript Collection of an archive. They will probably be part of a larger collection of records. You will need to check the Finding Aid to the individual collection to see if an autograph book is listed as being in the collection.

Next time you are researching in an archive, ask if they have autograph books and maybe they will have one for your ancestor. Or maybe they will have one for someone your ancestor knew and your ancestor signed it. Autograph books are a great genealogical resource to find information or just a signature to document your ancestor's life story.


REMEMBER: IT'S NOT ALL ONLINE, CONTACT OR VISIT AN ARCHIVE TODAY!

*****

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Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Genealogy and the Local Fair

Next week, September 13-16, 2017, Houston County, Tennessee will have it's annual County Fair!

Stewart and Houston Counties Fair, ca. 1900, Houston County, TN. Archives

I love this time of year because it means Fall is on the way and attending the fair brings back such wonderful childhood memories.

Have you ever thought about your ancestors and if they attended or better yet participated in the county fair?

Another great record source for genealogist are Fair Records!

Many of our wonderful archives have collections of records and memorabilia from the local county fair or the state fair in their records collections. These collections could be archived by themselves or they could be part of a larger manuscript collection.

Houston County Agricultural and School Fair, ca. 1930, Houston County, TN. Archives


So, what can a genealogists find in Fair Records?

  • Information that your ancestor helped organize the fair as a committee member or head of a particular event

  • Information that your ancestor submitted her best canned peaches for judging and even won a blue ribbon.

  • Information that your ancestor put his best cow on display and won a cash prize

  • Information that your ancestor showed her handmade quilt and won "Best in Show"

And this is just to name a few items that can be found in fair records. Maybe your ancestor just attended the fair and wrote about it in their diary. Fair records at an archive can give you more background and details about that particular fair that your ancestor wrote about.

Houston County Agricultural and School Fair Program, ca. 1930, Houston County, TN. Archives


The county fair was usually a major event in our ancestor's towns and lives. Seeking out these records and recording the information found in them can add to our ancestor's life story.

Knowing how our ancestor's lived and what they participated in helps us to know them better.

The next time you are researching at the archives, ask them if they have Fair Records!

Until next time......Remember.......

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


**********

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Thursday, August 31, 2017

Free Download of Disaster Planning for the Genealogist!

Legacy Family Tree is offering my Legacy Quick Guide Disaster Planning for the Genealogist for FREE through Sunday, September 3, 2017!

Here is the official announcement!





FREE DOWNLOAD: Disaster Planning for the Genealogist

Given this past week’s events in Texas related to Hurricane Harvey, and as the storm makes its way through the American South this weekend, it is easy to feel helpless if you and your family are not directly impacted. In speaking with genealogy friends and colleagues, I don’t think there is any degree of separation from this disaster: we likely all know at least one person who has lost their home, their business and their possessions.
Besides contributing to various charities, gathering relief supplies and volunteering, here is something you can do for yourself: put together a disaster plan related to your genealogy and family history research.

Download this FREE GUIDE on Disaster Planning by Melissa Barker

Melissa Barker, aka The Archive Lady, knows all too well what can happen to important papers and artifacts as well as data when a disaster hits. Whether it is fire, flood or simply a computer failure, Melissa has created a guide at Legacy Family Tree entitled Disaster Planning for the Genealogist

Through a special arrangement with our friends at Legacy Family Tree, Melissa wants to make sure that every genealogist has access to this important information. That is why Disaster Planning for the Genealogist is available as a FREE DOWNLOAD starting Thursday, August 31st through Sunday, September 3rd, 2017. Click HERE to get your PDF copy now!

Please take a minute not to just download the guide, but please read it and seriously consider what would happen if you lost treasured family heirlooms or research data related to your genealogy. You can at least minimize damage from various disasters, if not prevent such damage all together.

So this weekend as you keep others in Texas in your thoughts and prayers, take a minute to do your homework and put together a disaster plan for your genealogy.


Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Preserving Genealogy Records by Preparing for a Disaster

This very week there are many in the United States that are experiencing Hurricane Harvey. This natural disaster has caused enormous damage to homes, businesses, schools and libraries. 



Whenever there is a disaster that destroys, I am reminded of how important it is to preserve our family records so they are not destroyed. We have lost so much in the past due to disasters....

On November 9, 1872, The Great Boston Fire started in a dry-goods warehouse that spread fast in windy weather, destroying nearly 800 buildings. Damage was estimated at more than $75 million dollars. The fire could be seen in the sky as far as 100 miles away.

Ruins after the Great Boston Fire of 1872

Disaster preparedness is something that every archive plans for and reviews on a yearly basis. If archives are preparing their facility and records for a disaster, shouldn't genealogists do the same?

I have long lamented that genealogists are also "home archivists". Most genealogists don't work as archivists but they do have some of the same responsibilities that archivists have, some are:

  • Collect original records
  • Collect original photographs
  • Receiving donated records (from family and distant, new found, cousins)
  • Organizing and preserving records

Would it not be important to preserve these original records and have a disaster plan in place in case the unthinkable happens? It would be difficult to explain an entire disaster plan in this blog post, so here is an example of a Disaster Preparedness Plan from the New York State Archives that you can use as a guide:


This plan describes the steps necessary to anticipate, prevent, plan for, and recover from a disaster affecting records in any format.

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


Many of the steps in this plan are ones that the genealogist or "home archivist" can implement to protect and preserve original records, photographs and artifacts in their possession. The main idea is to be prepared and keep your records in a state of preparedness in case of a disaster.

None of us know when the next fire, tornado, earthquake or flood may happen to us or our home. But we can prepare and plan ahead to save and preserve our genealogical records.



REMEMBER: IT'S NOT ALL ONLINE, CONTACT OR VISIT AN ARCHIVE TODAY!



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Disaster Planning for the Genealogist





Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Archival Supplies

One question that I get asked all the time as an archivist is "Where can I buy archival supplies to preserve my records?"

I use archival supplies on a daily basis. I order our supplies from various archival supply stores depending on what the need is and the price.

Tools of the Trade, Houston County, TN. Archives


One important aspect of purchasing archival supplies is the fact that they can be pricey. For example, to order a box of archival file folders, the cost is approximately $30.00 for a box of 100. For a  box of non-archival file folders the price is substantially less at office supply stores.

The fact is, it is important to preserve our family documents in archival materials so they do not deteriorate or become damaged.

Lyle Family Records Collection, Houston County, TN. Archives


Many archival supply stores have an online website (see listing below) and you can also sign-up to receive emails when they have sales on their products. These stores even have "Free Shipping" days once or twice a year.

Almost all of these archival supply stores will send you a paper catalog. Some of us have a hard time finding what we are looking for on an online catalog, so why not get a paper catalog! When I get my catalog in the mail, it's like Christmas time and getting the Sears Christmas Wish Book Catalog!

Gaylord Archival 2017 Catalog


Our ancestor's records, photographs, ephemera and artifacts have lasted this long, why not put them in archival materials so they can last even longer!

Online Archival Supply Stores

Gaylord Archival
http://www.gaylord.com/

Hollinger Metal Edge
http://www.hollingermetaledge.com/

Light Impressions
http://www.lightimpressionsdirect.com/

University Products
https://www.universityproducts.com/

Archival Methods
https://www.archivalmethods.com/



REMEMBER: IT'S NOT ALL ONLINE, CONTACT OR VISIT AN ARCHIVE TODAY!

*****

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Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Genealogy Education

As many of you may know, I am a Certified Archives Manager working as an archivist at the Houston County, Tennessee Archives.



Before I became an archivist I was a very active genealogist and I have been actively researching my family history for the past 27 years.

Not only have I been doing my own genealogy research for the past 27 years but I have been a Professional Genealogist since 2004 helping other genealogists with their research in Tennessee records.

It is very important to me to keep up-to-date on the latest records and research that is coming to the genealogy community. I also love educating myself on aspects of genealogy research in other areas, new (to me) record sources and those record sources that are online or only found in archives. And let's not forget the new kid on the block, DNA!

Lyle Family Records Collection, Houston County, TN. Archives


One question that I get all the time is "Where do you find materials for continuing your genealogy education if you can't travel to hear speakers?".

One of the best places I can recommend to get webinars, quick guides and pure genealogy education is Legacy Family Tree. And right NOW they are having a SALE that lasts until Sunday, August 20, 2017!

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***Disclaimer: I am a Legacy Family Tree Webinar presenter, author of Legacy Quick Guides and an affiliate for Legacy Family Tree. If you purchase a subscription to the webinars or software, I will receive a small affiliate fee because of that purchase***