Preservation

Ontario Land Registry Offices are Moving io All Online Access to Land Records

All 54 Land Registry Offices (LRO) in Ontario are closing their in-person counter services to the public effective Tuesday, October 13th, right after the (Canadian) Thanksgiving long weekend. The last day you can visit a Land Registry Office in person is October 9th.

Normally, you might think the closure of the offices would be bad news. However, in this case, there is a silver lining: Traveling to one of the offices and looking up records on microfilm is being replaced by online images of the same microfilms. You can now search for and find the same records and even print them out, all without leaving home.

Yes, all those historical records that were stored on microfilm, are already available online.

FamilySearch and Ontario Ancestors Announce Book Scanning Project

The following announcement was written by FamilySearch:

FamilySearch Canada Digital Book Initiative

Ontario Ancestors and FamilySearch International announced their new book scanning partnership. Under the agreement, FamilySearch will provide specialized book scanning services and support volunteers in exchange for access to Ontario Ancestors’ extensive library of historical and genealogical books. Digitized documents will be publicly available on both websites. Digitization is scheduled to begin by the end of 2020, depending on pandemic restrictions.

This agreement is a first for a genealogical society in Canada. Steve Fulton, UE, and president of Ontario Ancestors, said, “This agreement has no direct cost to us, but the benefits to the society are immeasurable.” Fulton added that the agreement is a direct result of many conversations Ontario Ancestors has had with a number of partners, and [it] is a key to delivering on the society’s goal of building up its digital presence by utilizing strong partnerships.

The Digitisation of Historic Royal Australian Air Force Documents

The Australian public will soon be able to access a trove of significant Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) documents, many of which have been locked away for one hundred years.

The public will gain online access to approximately 191 bound volumes of documents – including the signatures of first Chiefs of Air Staff, Air Marshal Sir Richard Williams and Air Marshal Stanley Goble.

State Of Maine Archives Offers Grants for Preservation of Archival Collections

Would you like financial assistance in creating and displaying an archive of of information from Maine newspapers, digitized photographs, audio recordings, or transferring microfilm to digital (and hopefully online) formats? If so, the Maine State Archives wants to hear from you.

The following press release was written by the office of Maine Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap:

Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap and the Maine State Archives today launched the New Century Community Grant Program for the preservation of archival collections.

This grant program will provide resources for collecting institutions throughout Maine to care for and improve access to their archival collections. Funding for the grant program comes from the Maine State Cultural Affairs Council and the Maine State Archives.

“During the COVID-19 pandemic, many organizations are finding their resources strained, and we are pleased to be able to offer this assistance to help preserve Maine history far beyond our own collections,” said Secretary Dunlap.

The Archives will award grants of up to $1,500 to Maine government entities, non-profit collection or preservation organizations, and Maine State agencies charged with caring for historic collections.

Dealing with our Aging and Deteriorating Microfilm Collections

Do you or your local society or does the local library have a collection of microfilms? These films are great for long-term preservation of information but are you aware that microfilms do not last forever? Also, the life expectancy of microfilms and microfiche will be shortened significantly if they are not stored correctly.

Vinegar syndrome is a hazard for acetate-based microfilm which was widely used from 1950-1980. It can cause microfilm to shrink, curl and become brittle, as pictured above. Photo credit: NARA blog post

A recent article by Dave Westcott published in the The Crowley Company website describes the problems and offers solutions. As he writes:

“… most collection managers and archivists could not have provided the required [storage] conditions.”

Referring to past storage conditions, he writes:

Franco American Portal Project – Building a Discovery Tool for Franco American Collections

The Franco American Portal Project is a five-university collaboration to improve access to archival collections. The project identifies archival materials concerning French-Canadian, Québécois(e), and Acadian diaspora communities in the US Northeast––wherever these materials have been collected around the world––and brings them together in a single online space to make them searchable, discoverable, and accessible to the public.

The following is from a new web page at https://francoamericanportal.org/ describing the work of the Franco American Portal Project, funded by the University of Maine:

Our Project

The Franco American Portal Project is a five-university collaboration to build an online portal to Franco American archival collections. Our project addresses the need for online access to Franco American cultural history by: locating and identifying archival materials that concern French-Canadian, Québécois(e), and Acadian diaspora communities in the US Northeast–wherever these materials have been collected around the world; bringing together information about these collections and their contents in an organized, searchable, and culturally conscientious way; and making accessible these collections and their contents by directing the public toward their digital presence and the institutions that collect and preserve them.

 

How to Digitize Your Most Important Documents

The New York Times has published an article by J. D. Biersdorfer that I will suggest should be required reading by every genealogist. Here is a quote:

“But even if you’re already backing up your digital files, do you have a backup plan for your one-of-a-kind documents and photos that you have only on paper — like birth certificates, marriage licenses and military-discharge papers?

“Scanning copies of your personal papers creates a digital archive that can also be used as a backup, especially if you have the files password-protected and stored in a secure location. And even if you don’t have a document scanner, you can create your personal archive with a smartphone, a few apps and a bit of time. Here’s a guide to getting started.”

You Can Help the National Archives UK Uncover WW1 Ships Crew Logs

According to the IanVisits blog:

“If you’re stuck at home and want to do something good, then the National Archives [of Great Britain] is seeking volunteers to help transcribe First World War Royal Navy service records for a free online database it is building.

“Service records for the First World War can provide information about individuals and their lives. However, as crew lists for ships and submarines during this period rarely survive, it is difficult for researchers to determine who was on a ship or in a certain battle together.

Preservation Lab at the National Archives, St. Louis as Shown on YouTube

If you would like to see how the U.S. National Archives and Records Administration restores and preserves old records, especially fire-damaged documents, you should watch a YouTube video.

The video even shows how the National Personnel Records Center (NPRC) can scan and digitize fire-damaged documents that are blackened so much that the text is not readable by the human eye. The digitization process can actually read black text on black, fire-damaged paper.

NOTE: You may remember the National Personnel Records Center (NPRC) had a huge fire on July 12, 1973. It was not until July 16, nearly four and a half days after the first reports, that the local fire department called the fire officially out. Millions of military records were damaged or destroyed by the fire, by water from the firefighting effort, and by mold after the file. You can read more at https://www.archives.gov/personnel-records-center/fire-1973.

The video is several years old but the information in it appears to still be current.

It Would Take Hundreds of Years to Digitize Records at Seattle National Archives

See my earlier articles at http://bit.ly/3akPQT2 and at http://bit.ly/2S7S0iZ for background information about this ongoing story.

When officials from the Washington, D.C. office of the National Archives and Records Administration met with a handful of tribal representatives at the National Archives in Seattle earlier this month, one solution that was offered was digitization. That is, since access to the materials now stored in Seattle will be more difficult once those materials are moved to a NARA facility in California roughly four years from now, D.C. officials suggested that scanning the priceless photos, maps, and documents before they’re moved could help minimize any difficulties created by the surprise closure.

Very little of what’s stored in Seattle has been digitized — perhaps far, far less than even one percent, according to some estimates.

South Milwaukee Wants to Digitize Its Newspapers to Preserve the City’s History. But It Needs $15,000 to Do It

Hopefully, some genealogical or historical societies n the area can launch a fund drive or a GoFundMe campaign to help preserve old newspapers by digitizing them. According to an article by Erik S. Hamley in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

The South Milwaukee Library has three drawers of microfilm but none if it can be read because the reader and printer are broken. An effort is underway to digitize the microfilm which includes newspapers from 1892 to 2006 along with some census information. (Photo: Submitted)

“An effort is underway to save the first draft of South Milwaukee’s history.

“More than 100 rolls of 35mm microfilm containing South Milwaukee newspapers from 1892 to 2006 are currently not readable.

Historic Archives of Collapsed Thomas Cook Have Been Sold to the Record Office for Leicestershire, Leicester and Rutland

This could be a great resource for genealogists researching employees of Thomas Cook Travel. It also contains some passenger lists but certainly not all of them. Quoting from an article by Paul Grinnell in the Peterborough Telegraph web site:

The archives that were for years stored in the Thomas Cook offices in Bretton and more recently at Lynch Wood have been sold to the Record Office for Leicestershire, Leicester and Rutland.

The record office, which is run by Leicestershire County Council with Leicester City Council and Rutland County Council, secured the right to house the internationally significant collection following a bidding process following the holiday giant’s collapse last year with the loss of at least 1,000 jobs in Peterborough.

The entire Thomas Cook archive, which encompasses records from the earliest days of package travel right up to the modern day, is now being transferred to the record office in Wigston, Leicester.

Museum Of Chinese In America Archives “Very Much Salvageable” After Fire

The archives of the Museum of Chinese in America may be in better shape than feared, after a five-alarm fire destroyed part of the Chinatown building where they were kept.

City workers began the process of recovering the museum’s boxes from the building at 70 Mulberry Street, New York City, on Wednesday. The archives, which boast 85,000 items of historical and cultural significance, were stored on the second floor of the five-story building, where a fire on January 24th destroyed the top floors and roof. Nine firefighters and one civilian suffered non-life-threatening injuries. The NYPD said the cause of the fire was not “criminal” and the investigation is ongoing.

How You can Help the City of Seattle Document and Decode History

I suspect many genealogists will be interested in helping with this project. From the King5 News web site:

“The Seattle Municipal Archives department works to transcribe documents that tell Seattle’s story- and now, they’re asking for your help.

“Seattle is rich with history- and the archivists at the Seattle Municipal Archives keep it all safe and accounted for. But as dedicated as they are, this time, they need some help.

Get Those Records, Tapes and CDs Onto Your Smartphone

Want to preserve family photographs, videos, and audio recordings? I wouldn’t use a smartphone for the purpose of archiving things for years. However, having those items conveniently saved on a phone is a great method for sharing them with relatives at reunions, holiday events, and other family get-togethers.

J. D. Biersdorfer has published an article in the New York Times that should interest many genealogists:

Old Manchester, Connecticut Newspapers are being Digitized

Wouldn’t it be nice if ALL old newspapers were digitized and made available online? One genealogist is doing just that. According to an article by Jesse Leavenworth in The Hartford Courant web site at: http://bit.ly/2Sj0wMf:

Scrolling through newspaper microfilm last year with little sense of how long the search would take, Noreen Cullen remembered mumbling in frustration and “probably saying some bad words along the way.”

“I thought to myself, ‘This is 2018. Why am I still using microfilm?’” the Manchester native and genealogist said.

Front page of the Manchester Evening Herald, which was published for a little over a century before shutting down in 1991. (Manchester Historical Society)

Retrieval of Irish Archive Lost in 1922 Fire ‘Astounding’, Historian Says

Two days into the Civil War, a massive explosion destroyed the Public Records Office attached to Dublin’s Four Courts and with it hundreds of years of documented history, resulting in a huge loss for genealogists, historians, and many others who depend upon such records.

The census records for the whole of the 19th century going back to the first in 1821 were incinerated. Chancery records, detailing British rule in Ireland going back to the 14th century and grants of land by the crown, were also destroyed along with thousands of wills and title deeds. The records of various chief secretaries to Ireland and centuries of Church of Ireland parish registers vanished in the fire.

Greek-Americans look to Preserve Historic Archive

From an article by Mary Markos in the Boston Herald (newspaper’s) web site:

The remaining copies of newspapers documenting 50 years of the Greek American community are falling apart at the seams, threatening the loss of the history ingrained in the contents of its pages.

“They are literally crumbling like filo dough left on the kitchen counter,” former editor-in-chief Nancy Agris Savage said of the The Hellenic Chronicle archive. “The Greek-American community has just exploded in the United States and the history of it is about to disappear if we don’t do something about it.”

The Wikipedia Of Graves: Israeli App CemoMemo Brings Cemeteries Into The Digital World

CemoMemo, a collaborative documentation platform for gravestones, is undertaking the digitization of headstones to turn cemetery visitations into unique historical explorations.

The project started as a collaboration between the Software Engineering and the Land of Israel Studies departments at Kinneret Academic College. “The idea was to develop an online searchable database of cemetery headstones,” according to Dr. Michael J. May.

Forget Paper. Forget Hard Drives. Forget CD and DVD Disks. Forget Most Everything Else. For Long-Term preservation, Use a Piece of Glass.

Genealogists frequently discuss the best ways to preserve family tree information so that it can be read and perhaps updated by future generations. Some people plan to save everything on paper so that “it won’t become obsolete.” Of course, they forget that paper is probably the most fragile storage medium of all, easily destroyed by water, humidity, acids in the paper, fire, insects, and a variety of other dangers.

Probably the greatest threat to data storage on paper is simply fading ink. Most paper prepared with today’s paper and today’s inks will be unreadable within a century, perhaps much less time than that.

Floppy disks were the storage medium of choice for some number of years ago but have since fallen into disfavor. The magnetic information of floppy disks doesn’t last forever. Even worse, floppy disk drives are rapidly disappearing. Most of us doubt that there will be any floppy disk drives available to read the disks within the next decade or two.

A better(?) solution is to record the information on CD-ROM or DVD-ROM disks but that has similar problems. These plastic disks also do not last forever, especially those that are recorded individually on today’s computers.