Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Voting Records and Your Ancestors

"And the next President of the United States is.....". We will once again, for the 45th time in United States history, here these words come November 8, 2016. As a people, the United States will elect a President to govern our country.

Have you ever wondered what your ancestor's thought about politics? Did they vote in the Presidential Elections, state elections or even the local county or community elections? Did they participate in the political process in some way?

City of Erin Election Returns, August 7, 1924, Houston County, Tennessee Archives
Voting and election records are available to the genealogist at many of our different archives. Seeking out these types of records adds to our ancestor's life story. If you haven't researched your ancestors in these types of records, you should!

So, just what kinds of voting records can be found, I am highlighting just a few here but there is so much more. Be sure to check with all local archives, historical societies, genealogical societies, libraries and university archives in the areas where your ancestor's lived and voted to see what is available.

The Poll Tax:  One of the first types of records that I always suggest researchers look for are Poll Tax records A poll tax was a prerequisite to the registration for voting in many states. This Poll Tax would have been included on the regular tax records of the area or county where your ancestor lived. So, even if your ancestor didn't own property, you will want to check the tax records for this Poll Tax.

Voting Records: Many archives have voting records. These could be in the form of Election Returns, Voter Registrations, etc. These records are a great place to find your ancestor's names and possible signatures. These records could also have local election officials who worked the elections or were in charge of operating the elections and counting the ballots.

Listing of Voters in the 1924 Erin City Elections, Houston County, Tennessee Archives
Election Workers Records: Your ancestors may not have run for office but maybe they were still part of the election process by being an Election Worker. Maybe they worked the polls and registered voters. Maybe they campaigned for a local candidate. Possibly they were an election official or served on the local Election Board. There could be records for your ancestors that showed their service during an election.

Election Worker's Pay Roll, District 7, May 9, 1963, Houston County, Tennessee Archives
Availability of voting/election records will vary from place to place. Be sure to call ahead to the local archives and ask if they have these kinds of records. Or possibly check their website to see if they have their holdings listed. Never travel to an archive without knowing if they have the records you are looking for, this will save you time and disappointment.

The United States has been holding elections since our very founding. It only makes sense to include searching for voting/election records to the genealogists to-do list. As genealogists we want to tell our ancestor's full story and that includes voting/election records.

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

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

It's Not All Online: Researching in Archives

Scrapbooks: A Genealogist's Gold Mine

Preserving Old Family Letters: Tips from an Archivist

Vertical Files: What are They and How To Use Them

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It's Not All Online: Researching in Archives

Thursday, July 28, 2016

A Box is Just a Box, Or is It?

Organizing and preserving family documents, photographs and artifacts are something that all genealogists have to contend with. In the Houston County, Tennessee Archives we work on processing and preserving county records and local historical records everyday.

Tools of the trade, Houston County, Tennessee Archives
Part of the preservation process is having the right tools for the job. I am asked all the time by genealogists about the boxes, file folders and other materials that we use here in the archives to preserve records. So, today I had a patron ask, "A box is just a box, right?" and my answer was NO!

Storing your documents, photographs and artifacts in archival storage boxes is the only way to properly preserve these items so that future generations can enjoy them.

The most popular boxes used in an archive setting and are perfect for any genealogist to use with their own records is a Flip-Top Archival Storage Box or also called a Hollinger Box. These boxes are used the most in archives. They are durable, sturdy and will repel moisture. They come in different sizes to accommodate your documents.

Flip Top Style Hollinger Box

You can view and purchase these types of Hollinger boxes on Amazon at:

Another type of archival storage box that can be used is a Record Storage Carton with a Shallow Lid. These types of boxes are great for a large amount of records as well as to store 3-deminsional objects or artifacts.

Archival Storage Boxes with lids, Houston County, Tennessee Archives

You can view and purchase these types of Storage boxes on Amazon at:

Whichever box you choose to use for your genealogical records and artifacts, make sure it has passed the P.A.T. test. This is the Photographic Activity Test and is a worldwide standard for archival quality.

Irish Celebration Records Collection 1963-Present Day, Houston County, Tennessee Archives

So, the next time you start thinking "A box is just a box, right?". Thank again and make sure you get archival safe and archival quality boxes to store your precious family records and artifacts.

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

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

When Your Genealogy Has Gone to the Dogs!

As genealogists we are constantly searching for records for our ancestors that we have not seen before. Records that are unique and will fill in those gaps in our ancestor's timeline.

Archives, historical societies, genealogical societies, libraries, University archives and museums are full of these types of records. One such set of records in the Houston County, Tennessee Archives is a "Dog Registration" book.

Houston County, Tennessee Dog Registration Record Book spine, Houston County, Tennessee Archives

This particular "Dog Registration" book dates from 1901-1923. The purpose of this record book was to register dogs who were over 6-months old. The owner had to pay a fee or tax which started out in 1901 to be $1.00 and by 1923 was up to $3.00 per dog.

W.H. Griffin dog registration entry, July 16, 1907, Houston County, Tennessee Archives

The fees that were collected were put into what was called the Sheep Fund. The Sheep Fund was there for any farmers who had a sheep killed by a dog or had one damaged by a dog, they would be able to ask for funds from the Sheep Fund to replace the dead or damaged sheep. At the end of the year, if there was still funds left in the Sheep Fund, it would be given to the local schools to help purchase books and supplies.

W.R. Boone dog registration entry, May 16, 1901, Houston County, Tennessee Archives

Information that can be found on the dog registration receipts include the dog owner's name, the owner's address, the name of the dog, the description of the dog and the date of the receipt. Who knew that our ancestor's dogs could help us with genealogy information today!

As genealogists we can get some great information from records sources like this "Dog Registration".

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

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Using Archives to Fill the Gaps in Your Ancestor's Timeline

Do you have gaps in your ancestor's timeline? Are you curious about what your ancestor's did in-between the time the census was taken? You might just find what your looking for in the many records collections of an archive.

Working daily in an archive, I get to work with many kinds of records that are not your "normal" genealogical records. A lot of these unique records are not online and have to be sought out by the genealogist. Records in archives can help you fill in the gaps in your ancestor's timeline.

As a genealogists for the past 26 years, I have been working diligently on my own family history and that of my husbands. Recently, I was able to combine both archives work and genealogy research all in one with a fantastic result.

The Stewart County, Tennessee Archives is just one of our wonderful archives here in Tennessee and the area where my husband's family lived back in the 1800's. I recently became aware of a packet of records that had been found in the Stewart County, Tennessee Archives for a Jesse Glasgow (1816-1892), my husband's great great grandfather. I requested copies of these original records that included over 50 pages of documents and receipts that have never been microfilmed and are not online anywhere.

Inside the Stewart County, Tennessee Archives. Photo courtesy Stewart County, Tennessee Archives

One of the documents that was sent to me was a copy of a receipt for a Louisiana Lottery Ticket that Jesse Glasgow had purchased in June 1888. Jesse bought 1 ticket and the ticket number was #92074.

Courtesy Stewart County, Tennessee Archives, Jesse Glasgow Louisiana Lottery Ticket Notification, June 9, 1888

I found it interesting that Jesse Glasgow was buying a lottery ticket from Louisiana while living in Tennessee. And I didn't even know there was a lottery in the 1800's. So I did some research and found that the Louisiana Lottery was a very controversial even in the history of the State of Louisiana. You can read about the Louisiana Lottery here:

It is not known if Jesse Glasgow won anything from the Louisiana Lottery but the fact that he bought a ticket and I have a copy of the receipt from the Stewart County, Tennessee Archives helps me to document an event in his life that happened between the 1880 and 1900 census records. I had nothing recorded for Jesse between these census years and now I do because of a county archive with records that they have archived and preserved.

Courtesy "The Times-Picayune" Newspaper Photographs, an example of a Louisiana State Lottery Ticket, May 8, 1888

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

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Genealogy Has Gone To The Dogs!

As genealogist we are always looking for the next set of records that we can hopefully find information about our ancestors. One of the places we search are in archives because they have records that are not found online and are usually unique.

One such set of records that I would like to share with you is a "Dog Registration" book. This dog registration book dates from 1901-1919 and is located in the Houston County, Tennessee Archives.

Dog Registration Book 1901-1919 Spine, Houston County, Tennessee Archives

In Tennessee, about 1875, there was legislation passed that said counties were to collect a "dog tax". This dog tax was to be collected from anyone that owned a dog that was 6-months old or older. The dog tax was usually collected by the County Court Clerk.

Dog Tax Receipt for L.C. Powers and his dog Guard, May 16, 1901

As you can see by the recordings in the book the information given when the person paid his dog tax was:

Dog Owned by
Owner's Address
Dogs Name
Description of the Dog
Date the Tax was Paid
Signature of the Official Accepting the Tax

I love some of the names of the dogs, believe it or not there were a lot of people who named their dog "Fido".

The best part about this record source is the dog owner's name which could be one of your ancestors!

Dog Tax Receipt for A. L. Hayes and his dog Spot, May 16, 1901

Now, once the dog tax was collected it went into what was called the "Sheep Fund". When someone in the county had a sheep what was killed by a dog, they could request funds from the Sheep Fund to replace that sheep. At the end of the year, if there was money left over in the Sheep Fund, it would go to the schools to help with expenses.

The Dog Registration book is a great asset to any genealogists. To my knowledge, none of these have been digitized and put online. I hope one day to get the Houston County Archives Dog Registration book digitized so it can be shared.

I am also uncertain if the Dog Registration or Tax took place in other states, I know it took place in Tennessee.

Dog Tax Receipt for Dr. J.H. Stokes and his dog Jack, May 16, 1901

So, when you visit or contact archives, libraries, historical societies, genealogical societies and University repositories, ask them about unique collections of records that they have, like a Dog Registration Book!

Remember: It's Not All Online! Contact or Visit An Archives Today!!

Thursday, April 7, 2016

The Mystery of the Lock of Hair

Yes, even in archives we can have our own genealogical mysteries. A case in point is a mysterious lock of hair that is part of the Marie Stockard Records Collection, which is part of our larger Manuscript Collection.

This lock of hair is housed in an old harmonica box and is tied with a delicate blue ribbon. On the top of the box is handwritten "N.H. Scholes, Halls Creek, Tenn". You can also see a place where there was once a postage stamp. I estimate that this lock of hair and box are dated to the late 1800's or early 1900's.

Harmonica Box with lock of hair. Located in the Houston County, Tennessee Archives

I believe this harmonica box, with the lock of hair, was mailed to N.H. Scholes in Halls Creek, Tennessee which is in Humphreys County, Tennessee. I do not know who mailed the lock of hair or who it belonged to but obviously an admirer. It is also a mystery to us why this artifact was with the records collection of Marie Stockard, a local resident of Houston County, Tennessee.

This week, the Houston County, Tennessee Archives, completed the processing of the Marie Stockard Records Collection, which included preserving this lock of hair. I decided to share the preservation process in this blog to help all genealogists out there that have similar locks of hair or hair clippings.

First, the item was photographed, in the box and out of the box, to document the original disposition of the artifact as it was received by the archives from the donor.

Photo of artifact inside the box as received. Located at the Houston County, Tennessee Archives

Photo of artifact outside of the box. Located at the Houston County, Tennessee Archives

Next, the harmonica box was lined with a piece of acid free, archival safe tissue paper.

Harmonica box with acid free tissue paper. Located at the Houston County, Tennessee Archives

Then the lock of hair was carefully placed back in the tissue paper lined harmonica box.

Lock of hair in the box with acid free tissue paper. Located at the Houston County, Tennessee Archives

Lastly, I carefully folded in the sides and ends of the tissue paper so that the lock of hair is entirely covered. And then the lid back on the box.

Completed preservation of the lock of hair. Located at the Houston County, Tennessee Archives

The harmonica box is then placed in an acid free, archival Hollinger box along with the rest of the records collection. This particular collection is one of our smaller collections, only consisting of one Hollinger box of records.

Archives and other repositories use archival materials on a daily basis. Genealogists should also be using these materials to preserve their precious family documents, photographs and artifacts like locks of hair. There are a few companies that have these types of materials and most all of them can be accessed online and will send you a free catalog by postal mail. Here is a list of companies that are used most often by archives and other repositories:

Gaylord Archival

Hollinger Metal Edge

University Products

Preserving the documents, photographs and artifacts that help us tell our family stories and also tell our community stories is why we are genealogists and archivists.

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

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Preserving the Past, Collecting the Present, For the Future

What is an archive? What is the purpose of an archive? What do you do all day in an archive?

I am asked these questions all the time and I love to share my passion for archives and tell others what archives are all about.

The #1 job of any archive is "Preserving the Past". The past can come in many different forms such as documents, photographs, artifacts and even oral histories. The goal is to collect items about the past and preserve them for future generations. We are working everyday to preserve the past for genealogists, historians, family researchers and others who have an interest in the past. Without archives, where would our collections of the past be?

Photo of Unknowns located in the Houston County, Tennessee Archives

An archive also engages in "Collecting the Present". You might ask, what does that mean? That means as an archive we collect items that are produced today that one day will be part of our past. As people live their lives and as counties, cities and states conduct their business and as numerous organizations hold events and celebrate milestones and as our country experiences disasters and celebrates accomplishments, archives try to collect documents, artifacts and memorabilia to record these events because one day they will be part of the past.

Houston County Leadership Visit February 18, 2016 located in the Houston County, Tennessee Archives

And finally, I am asked "Why do you do this?" and I answer "For the Future". Preserving the past, collecting the present, for the future! Our descendants and future citizens of our cities, counties, states and our country will never know about the past if it isn't preserved and made available to them.

When looking for an archive where your ancestors lived, remember that they may not be named "archive". The records of your ancestors could be housed in a county archive, at a historical society, at a genealogical society, at university special collections, at a library or at a courthouse. Historical and genealogical records can be stored in any of these places.

Houston County, Tennessee Archives Office Door Graphic

Remember: It's Not All Online! And this becomes very evident when you realize just how much of our documents and records are sitting in archives just waiting to be processed, indexed and digitized. That is why it is important for the genealogist to contact and visit local repositories in search of records.

So, while you are doing your family history research, please remember to check with local archives to see what they have been doing to "Preserving the Past, Collecting the Present, For the Future"!