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A Genealogist In The Archives: June 2017

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Museums Have Archived Records Too!

Museum Week!

June 19-25, 2017 is National Museum Week, a time to recognize our wonderful museums and the part they play in our culture and preserving our historical artifacts and records.

A little unknown fact in the archive and genealogy world is museums have archived records too! Yes, that's right! Museums aren't just for artifacts and historical objects that patrons walk through and admire and then leave. 

I like to say that most museums have a "front room" and a "back room". The front room is filled with displays and exhibits. There could be multiple rooms filled with artifacts on display in glass cases for the visitor to enjoy.

What genealogists don't know is that many of our wonderful museums have "back rooms" full of historical and genealogical documents. 

For instance, at the Lincoln Memorial University Museum in Harrogate, Tennessee (, they have the second largest collection of Abraham Lincoln artifacts and memorabilia in the United States in their museum. They also have a back room filled with historical and genealogical records. 

Here is a short video from the PBS program Tennessee Crossroads about the museum which shows the records room. (  

Lincoln Memorial University Museum in Harrogate, Tennessee

Locating museums in the area where your ancestor lived can be done by talking to the local librarian, local archivist or the local Chamber of Commerce. Once you have located the museum, contact them by phone or email and ask them about their archived records. 

Another option is to check out the website ArchiveGrid ( This is a fantastic genealogical and archival resource that should be utilized by every genealogist. Thousands of libraries, archives and museums have put information about their records on ArchiveGrid. One example is the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum-Frist Library and Archive. There are over 600 pages of record content for this one museum alone on ArchiveGrid.

So, the next time you travel to where your ancestors came from, check and see if there is a museum. If there is one, stop by and ask if they have a "back room" with archived records. You just might be pleasantly surprised.



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Monday, June 19, 2017

Buffered vs Unbuffered, What is the Difference?

Archival materials are something that archivists and conservationists 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.

For instance, do you know the difference between buffered archival tissue paper and unbuffered archival tissue paper? If not, here is the difference:

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.

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



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Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Preserving the American Flag

Today, June 14th, is Flag Day in the United States. This day is set aside to commemorate the adoption of the flag of the United States, which happened on June 14, 1777.

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:

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.



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Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Our Ancestors and Their Gardens

National Garden Clubs have proclaimed June 4-11 "National Garden Week".

As the Summer begins and gardens are being planted, have you thought about your ancestors and the gardens they planted?

Many of our ancestors were farmers and had fields and fields of crops. While some of us have ancestors that lived in the city and were lucky to have a potted plant.

Whatever our ancestors planted, harvested or just enjoyed, are we documenting it?

During this week, National Garden Week, why not take time to add to your genealogy the types of crops your ancestors raised, the different flowers that were in their home gardens and all the different kinds of vegetables and fruits they grew for the family table.

Maybe your ancestors planted "Victory Gardens" also called "War Gardens" during World War I or World War II. Victory Gardens were vegetable, fruit and herb gardens planted at homes and public parks in the United States, United Kingdom, Canada and Australia. These gardens were used to relieve the strain on the public food supply. These gardens were also considered a morale booster for those on the home front, especially those that had family members off fighting the war.

My Mother grew up in Ohio and she often tells me about the cherry trees that her father, Forrest Cecil Bartram, grew in their yard. I have documented this fact in my genealogy research. This same Grandfather retired from Goodyear Tire after over 40 years of service and moved with his wife and my Grandmother, Ida Kathryn (Drummond) Bartram, to Cocoa Beach, Florida where they raised all kinds of fruit trees. This was the first time I had ever heard of and tasted a kumquat. For the record, I don't like kumquats! LOL!

So, during this week long National Garden Week, take time to document your ancestors gardens!



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Sunday, June 4, 2017

Disaster Planning for Genealogists

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, which 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 pertinent 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 the genealogists 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.


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