Civil War documents Tucked Away in Shoeboxes Across Virginia have been Digitized and Placed Online

The Virginia Sesquicentennial of the American Civil War Commission funded the State Library to send two archivists around the state with digital scanners, making high-resolution copies of documents brought by residents. They roamed Virginia between 2010 and 2015. The archivists traveled the state in an “Antiques Roadshow” style campaign to unearth the past. Organizers had thought the effort might produce a few hundred new items. They were a little off. It flushed out more than 33,000 pages of letters, diaries, documents and photographs that the library scanned and has made available for study online. The originals were all returned to the owners.


Best of all, the documents are available online and can be searched at

My thanks to the several newsletter readers who sent me links to this article.

Newberry Library Acquires Collection of 2.5 Million Postcards

illinois_postcardThrough an agreement with the Lake County Forest Preserves District, the Newberry Library in Chicago will become the new home of the Curt Teich Postcard Archives Collection, widely regarded as the largest public collection of postcards and related materials in the United States.

The postcards, about 2.5 million in number, feature a range of subjects and genres: rural vistas and urban skylines, tourist attractions and emergent industries, domestic scenes and global conflicts. Standing at the intersection of American commerce and visual culture, they demonstrate the country’s evolving conception of itself—and its place in the world—during the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

Preserve Your… — Bookmarks (2016 edition)

The Library of Congress Preservation Directorate has developed the bookmarks below to celebrate Preservation Week, an initiative launched by the Library of Congress, Institute of Library and Museum Services, American Library Association, American Institute for Conservation, Society of American Archivists, and Heritage Preservation to highlight what we can do, individually and together, to preserve our personal and shared collections. The original versions of these bookmarks (2009, 2011) were made possible in part by funding from the Institute of Museum and Library Services.

Afghan Officials Receive Digitized Cultural Treasures

Here is another strong argument why libraries, archives, and museums should make digital copies of everything in their collections and store the copies off-site. During recent warfare and insurrections, tens of thousands of historical items were stolen and most apparently are lost forever. Now more than 163,000 digital pages of documents are being returned to the owners of the originals.

A digital copy is never as good as the original but it is a lot better than staring at an empty space where the original was once housed!

The following announcement was written by the Library of Congress:

Library of Congress, Carnegie Corporation provide Cultural, Historical Materials

The Library of Congress has completed a three-year project, financed by Carnegie Corporation of New York, to digitize holdings of the Library of Congress relating to the culture and history of Afghanistan, for use by that nation’s cultural and educational institutions.

Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden, joined by Carnegie Corporation of New York President Vartan Gregorian, presented hard drives containing more than 163,000 pages of documents to the Afghan Minister of Information and Culture, Abdul Bari Jahani, and to Abdul Wahid Wafa, Executive Director of the Afghanistan Centre at Kabul University.

Federation of Genealogical Societies and National Park Service Announce a Partnership for a New Preservation Project

The following announcement was written by the Federation of Genealogical Societies:

FGS Marshals Volunteers to Help National Historic Park Tell the Stories of Over 130,000 U.S.-Mexican War Soldiers

FGS-LogoAugust 8, 2016 – Austin, TX. and Brownsville, TX. The Federation of Genealogical Societies (FGS) and the National Park Service’s Palo Alto Battlefield National Historical Park announce a partnership to develop a searchable database of more than 130,000 soldiers of the U.S.-Mexican War.

The database will allow descendants of U.S. soldiers to connect to their personal history and help Palo Alto commemorate and tell the stories of these soldiers. After the database is developed, unit histories, digitized documents, and information on U.S.-Mexican War soldiers will be added. Efforts will also be made to include names and information about Mexican soldiers in this war.

Old Iron Gall Ink Often Destroys Paper

iron_gall_inkHere is still another reason for making digital copies or photocopies of old documents: iron gall ink was the standard writing and drawing ink in Europe, from about the 5th century to the 19th century, and remained in use well into the 20th century. Many of our most valuable documents were written with iron gall ink. However, the ink slowly destroys itself and the paper on which it sits. Words are literally eating themselves into oblivion.

Iron gall ink worked well on parchment, the most common writing material for centuries. However, when the world started moving to paper, problems arose. According to Wikipedia:

Preserving Medieval Graffiti

st-georgeWe have all read about the Middle Ages, right? A time of kings, princes, knights and fair damsels in distress. It is a vision of the past that includes the splendor of great cathedrals and the brooding darkness of mighty castles. A past of banquets and battles.

There’s only one thing wrong with that vision: 95% of the people were not a part of it.

Most men, women and children were commoners. 95 per cent of the population performed about 99% of the work. This undoubtedly includes your ancestors and mine.

We rarely read about the 95% of the population who were common people. With low levels of literacy throughout much of the Middle Ages, these people did not leave written records behind. The few texts that described the common people were actually written and compiled by the priests, scribes and lawyers of the elite. They refer to the lower orders, but are most certainly not in their own words. However, many of these common folks did leave something written behind: graffiti.

Pittsylvania County, Virginia, Circuit Court Records Preserved Through Grant

Pittsylvania_County.svgPittsylvania County Circuit Court recently received a Circuit Court Records Preservation (CCRP) Grant from the Library of Virginia in the amount of $13,398 for the preservation and restoration of public records contained within the Pittsylvania County Clerk’s Office.

CCRP consulting archivist Greg Crawford said, ““The value is preserving the history of this locality. There’s also a genealogy value to it. A lot of these records are highly valued by genealogists who are doing their family research, looking for their ancestors in deed books and will books, but also the value of the books themselves. These were books that were done in the 1700s and 1800s and they tell about what life was like and what was going on in [Pittsylvania County] at that time. They tell stories.”

FamilySearch Recruits 100,000 to Save the World’s Records

This should be a huge event with more than 100,000 participants expected. It will happen on Friday, July 15. The following announcement was written by FamilySearch:

Worldwide genealogy event unites volunteers in making historical records discoverable online

FamilySearch_LogoSALT LAKE CITY (July 15, 2016) — On July 15, FamilySearch International will launch the world’s largest indexing event with a goal of bringing more than 100,000 people from around the globe together online during a 72-hour period to save the world’s records by making them searchable to the public.

“FamilySearch believes everyone deserves to be remembered,” said Shipley Munson, FamilySearch International’s Senior Vice President of Marketing. “All should have the opportunity to find their ancestors, and we provide a simple way for people to make those family connections.”

Join the Nationwide Service Project “Finding the Fallen”

Boy Scouts, members of the United States Armed Forces, all genealogists, and the American public are invited to help preserve the memories of our fallen veterans by photographing and logging veteran memorials and headstones throughout the United States. Since I am a veteran of the US military, this project also means a lot to me. I plan to participate. If you have any Boy Scouts in the family, you might want to forward this announcement to them and to their leaders.

The following announcement was written by Melany Gardner:


Boy Scouts and members of the United States Armed Forces are invited to participate in a nationwide service project, “Finding the Fallen,” Saturday, July 30. This service project will help preserve the memories of our fallen veterans by photographing and logging veteran memorials and headstones throughout the United States.

Your CD Collection is Dying

If you’ve tried listening to any of your old music CDs lately—if you even own them anymore—you may have noticed they often won’t play. The same is probably true of data stored on CD-ROM disks; the older ones are deteriorating and are becoming more and more difficult to use. The data CD-ROM disks are producing more read errors than they used to.

Luckily, there are easy solutions available if you take steps NOW.

A Cartoon about Long-term Storage of Digital Data

Genealogists, archivists, and historians are always concerned about preserving information, pictures, videos, and more. Unlike paper or microfilm, storing data digitally can preserve information for centuries if the data is properly preserved and is copied to new, more modern media and file formats every few years.

The geek cartoon, xkcd, has an interesting viewpoint on long-term digital storage at

My thanks to newsletter reader Russell Houlton for telling me about the cartoon.

Long-Lost Slave Cemetery Discovered and Preserved in Rural Virginia

At least 24 men and women and one child who died before the end of the Civil War were buried in “Sam Moore’s slave cemetery.” Samuel Moore, a slave owner, bought the property in 1846. The cemetery was abandoned years later and eventually disappeared beneath brush, vines and spreading woods. A century or more may have passed since anyone last visited it.

The cemetery was recently discovered and restored. A brass plaque identifies the graveyard and reads: “The names of the unknown souls buried here were not recorded. Yet we know the names of some of the enslaved persons who once labored long on this plantation. Some may lie here. We recognize their dignity. We honor their memory.”

Pennsylvania to Move the State’s Archives in Harrisburg

Planning is underway to move the Pennsylvania State Archives – just days after the state announced its building a new facility in Harrisburg. The state says the $24 million facility will help meet the needs of a digital world.

State Archivist David Carmichael says the process to preserve paper archives is pretty straightforward: control the environment where it’s stored.

Preserve Family Recipes Via Video

Here’s an idea. Preserve family recipes by taking videos of the family member who makes it the best. Perhaps that person is you.

Ann-Terese Barket, aka The Food Archivist, thinks the perfect gift just might be a two-inch flash drive containing the video. Make lots of copies and distribute them as gifts. The videos do not need to be professional Hollywood productions. Your family members will probably appreciate watching the family expert “as is.”

Barket documents family recipes via videos and transcripts so they may be easily shared with relatives and friends. She officially started her business after realizing how important recipes were in maintaining the cherished culinary memories of her own family.

A Beginners Guide to Record Retention

Writing in the Library of Congress’ Digital Preservation Blog, Carmel Curtis offers thoughts about creating a record retention policy. The intended audience of the article includes anyone responsible for maintaining institutional or organizational archives. The information won’t benefit individual genealogists very much. However, if you have an interest in preserving your employer’s, school’s, church’s, or other organization’s records, you might want to read the short article at

MyHeritage Digitizes Papua New Guinea’s Traditions

An Israeli-based online genealogy company is going where no genealogists have gone before. The Times of Israel has published an interesting story about one company’s efforts to digitize and preserve the customs of one of the world’s more primitive cultures. MyHeritage (the sponsors of this newsletter) sent a team to Papua New Guinea last month, determined to document the family history, lifestyle and rituals that have been passed along only by word of mouth within tribes.


The project, said Golan Levi, who headed the Israeli delegation, was undertaken to prevent further erosion of the collective memory of the mountain people of Papua New Guinea, who are losing some of their long-held traditions as modernity begins to creep into their traditional way of life.

Pascagoula, Mississippi, Public Library is Digitizing Valuable Items of Local History

Hurricane Katrina taught us many lessons. One is how quickly material things can be destroyed. Members of the Jackson County Historical and Genealogical Society became keenly aware of the vulnerability of one-of-a-kind records, books, maps and photographs housed at the Pascagoula Public Library’s Local Genealogy and History Department. The society has raised funds for computer and scanning equipment to begin the task to digitize and organize these assets and back them up in safe locations.

The first project tackled hundreds of file folders containing local family histories collected over a period of years. These are heavily used by local and family history researchers. Future plans include digitizing approximately 7,687 books, 5,725 periodicals, 3,833 microfilm rolls, 2,600 microfiche, 750 maps, 2,860 scanned family vertical files, 2,030 local history vertical files, 60 oral histories, 1,365 photos, 130 slides from local newspapers, 59 VHS tapes, 34,408 scanned obituaries, and 194 boxes of archives from Jackson County.

Norfolk County, Massachusetts, Registry of Deeds Project is Transcribing Handwritten Land Records from 1793 to 1900

A nearly completed initiative by the Norfolk County registry is promising to make it much easier for modern readers to decipher the contents of old land records. In what officials say is the first project of its kind in New England, the registry in Dedham is transcribing into type all the county’s handwritten deeds from the time of its founding in 1793 to 1900, when the office switched to typing its documents. The transcriptions can be a valuable time-saver for historians and genealogists.

Lewes, Delaware, Historical Society is Building a Database of Tombstones and Supporting Documents

Lots of societies are creating databases of local tombstones and, of course, we have the huge international tombstone databases at and However, one local society is documenting tombstones and a lot more.

The Lewes Historical Society spend several years creating a a database of about 8,500 graves in Lewes & Rehoboth Hundred, Sussex County, Delaware, each with a GPS location to pinpoint not only where a grave can be found, but also where within a cemetery a grave is located. The project is now moving into a new phase, as the historical society is building a new website that will connect the graves to photographs, letters and other artifacts about the individuals in the society’s collection.