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A Genealogist In The Archives: February 2017

Monday, February 20, 2017

Presidential Libraries

One of the things I wanted to do in 2017 was shine a light on many of our wonderful libraries and archives across the United States. While I can't talk about them all, I hope that the ones I do highlight in my blog in 2017 will inspire each and everyone of you to contact these archives and use the mountains of resources they painstakingly process and make available to the researching public.

Since this is President's Day, I thought I would highlight our wonderful Presidential Libraries all across the United States.

Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and Museum

Thirteen of the Presidential Libraries are under the auspices of the U.S. National Archives. They describe the libraries as:

Presidential Libraries and Museums promote understanding of the presidency and the American experience. We preserve and provide access to historical materials, support research, and create interactive programs and exhibits that educate and inspire.

These thirteen libraries have websites and the links can be found on the U.S. National Archives site:

William McKinley Presidential Library and Museum

Five of the Presidential Libraries are operated by private foundations, historical societies or state governments. They are:

William McKinley Presidential Library and Museum

Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Library and Museum

Calvin Coolidge Presidential Library and Museum

Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum

Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library and Museum

Many of you may be thinking that these Presidential library would be of no help to the genealogy research that you are doing. I admit that not everyone will find their ancestors in the records at these libraries, however, how will you know if you don't try?

John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum

Think about where these Presidents lived, who they were related to and who they may have interacted with during their lifetime. Presidential libraries hold more than just papers and records from the Presidency, many of them hold personal papers, diaries, photographs and records about their ancestors. These records could include friends, associates and neighbors (F.A.N. Club)!

Do not discount these Presidential libraries. Check out their websites, records indexes, manuscript collection finding aids and anything else that might tell you what these repositories hold.

You might just be surprised what you find at a Presidential Library and Museum!

Happy President's Day!



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Monday, February 13, 2017

Remove Staples Like An Archivist

One of the first rules in archiving documents that all archives and archivists follow is: Remove all metal from documents. This includes staples, paper clips, straight pins and any other fasteners keeping documents together that are metal.

Some of you are probably thinking, "I know how to remove staples, what's the big deal?"

As an archivist I have seen many damaged documents by those that thought they knew how to remove staples and yet still damaged their documents.

It is not unusual for all of us to find rusty staples attaching documents together in our genealogical records. Archivist encounter staples on a daily basis and removing them is of utmost importance.

Staples can rust and damage genealogical documents. Over time, with the act of turning the documents over and over, can cause the staples to tear the documents. Removing staples is an easy process and if done properly will not damage genealogical documents.

Do Not Use a claw staple remover that looks like this:

These can cause more damage to documents than helping to remove the staple.

Do Not Use this wand staple remover that looks like this:

These can also cause more damage to documents than helping to remove the staple.

In the archives, we use an archival microspatula to remove staples that looks like this:

The process to remove staples is an easy one:

-Turn the stapled documents over so you are seeing the back of the staple.

-Using the archival microspatula, gently pry up the two prongs

-Turn the stapled documents over to the front and using the archival microspatula, gently lift out the staple from the documents

Viola! The staple is removed!

Admittedly, this process takes more time to do than using a claw staple remover. Keep in mind that the goal is to do the least amount of damage as possible. Using this staple removing process will insure that no damage is done to the document or at least kept to a minimum.

Archivists and Genealogists both know the importance of genealogical records. Preserving these records is important and something we should all do.



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Thursday, February 2, 2017

Unprocessed or Uncatalogued Records, Ask the Archivist!

(I would like to Thank my fellow archivist, Dean Debolt, University Archivist at The University Archives and West Florida History Center, for his comments on this subject that has generated this blog post)

As an archivist, working in an archive everyday, I get very excited when someone walks through the door with a records donation in hand. Many of our archives would not have the historical records they have without the generosity of others that make records donations. Whether it's documents, photographs, ephemera or artifacts, our archives are constantly accepting records donations.

Parker Surname Vertical File, Houston County, TN. Archives

Many archives have back rooms full of unprocessed and uncatalogued records collections. Sometimes they are even sitting in the original boxes they were donated. These records collections have not been microfilmed, they are not online anywhere but they exist and the genealogist needs to seek them out.

One tip that I like to share with genealogists is to ask the staff at the archives about these unprocessed and uncatalogued records collections. Many times these records collections haven't even been processed yet but the archivist might let you look through a specific collection. Be prepared, sometimes the archivist doesn't allow patrons to view unprocessed collections. But like I always say "It doesn't hurt to ask!" The archivist should know what they have in those collections and should be able to help the genealogist decide what could possibly help them with their research.

Many of our archives and archivists are very busy processing records, helping patrons, answer email, etc. that many records collections could just be sitting waiting to be processed. If you have made a research trip to an archive, it wouldn't hurt to ask about any new record donations or collections. There could very well be records in those boxes about your ancestors.

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

If you are emailing or talking to the archives by phone, be sure and ask about any new records collections that have been processed or that have recently been donated and are waiting to be processed. Most likely you will have to travel to the facility to see the records but you can get an idea of what is available. 

The next time you are at an archive or communicating with them by email or phone, don't forget to ask the archivist about uncatalogued records or any new records donations that haven't been processed yet.



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