Preservation

New Transcription Workflow: African American Civil War Soldiers

The following announcement was written by the African American Civil War Soldiers team:

African American Civil War Soldiers recently launched a new workflow to complete the transcription of the military records of all Black men who fought for the Union army, beginning with the famous 54th and 55th Massachusetts regiments. Read on to see how you can get involved!

Last year Zooniverse volunteers transcribed the records of a sample of 40,000 members of the United States Colored Troops (USCT), the African American soldiers who fought for their freedom in the American Civil War. Due to the enthusiasm and commitment of these volunteers we completed the sample ahead of schedule. Today we are launching a new site to transcribe the records of the rest of the USCT and make them all freely available to scholars, genealogists and members of the public. We have divided the remaining soldiers based on their state of enlistment, and will be launching each new batch of records state-by-state.

Preserving Pennsylvania’s Oldest Historical Documents

“History may not repeat itself, but the present often rhymes with the past.” And in order to understand the past, preserving old documents and records is key.

“Cumberland County archivists recently received a grant to preserve documents that are older than the United States. These records include pieces from signers of the Declaration of Independence, among other works of historical significance that give a glimpse of Pennsylvania’s past.”

You can read more and listen to a podcast in an article by Kate Sweigart in the WITF.ORG web site at: http://www.witf.org.

America is Losing its Memory

I will suggest that an article by T.J. Stiles should be required reading by all Americans. (T.J. Stiles is a member of the governing boards of the Society of American Historians and the Organization of American Historians. He received the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for History, the 2010 Pulitzer Prize for Biography, and the 2009 National Book Award for Nonfiction.)

Stiles starts by writing:

“America is losing its memory. The National Archives and Records Administration is in a budget crisis. More than a resource for historians or museum of founding documents, NARA stands at the heart of American democracy. It keeps the accounts of our struggles and triumphs, allows the people to learn what their government has done and is doing and it maintains records that fill in family histories. Genealogy researchers depend on it, as do journalists filing Freedom of Information Act requests. If Congress doesn’t save it, we all will suffer.”

You can read the full article in the Bangor Daily News‘ web site at: http://bit.ly/2WzLGjL.

New Online Records for an Old Cemetery in Sunbury, Pennsylvania

It’s now easier to look for relatives who are buried at the Sunbury Cemetery. The cemetery’s records are being put online. There are burials dating back to the 1700s, including people who fought in the American Revolution. Two United States congressmen are also buried there.

The effort to transcribe the records into an online database is just beginning. Sunbury Mayor Kurt Karlovich is looking for people who are interested in cemeteries and history to help with the effort.

You can read more and also watch a video in an article by Nikki Krize in the WNEO News web site at https://wnep.com/2019/04/23/new-records-at-old-cemetery-in-sunbury/.

The cemetery records that have already been placed online may be found at: http://www.sunburypa.org/sunbury-city-cemetery.html.

Fire Destroys Decades of Archives at a Tennessee Social Justice Center

A fire at a Tennessee social justice center that trained the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. has destroyed a building and decades of archives. Nobody was injured. New Market Volunteer Fire Department Capt. Sammy Solomon says the building was burned to the ground by the time crews arrived.

News outlets report officials are investigating what started the fire Friday morning at the Highlander Education and Research Center.

You can read more and view photos of the fire and of the historic Highlander Education and Research Center at: http://bit.ly/2YDuOu2.

Spared From the Shredder (for Now): ‘Priceless’ Bank Records of Old New York

The New York Times has published an interesting article by Jim Dwyer concerning the preservation of valuable records from New York City. A a shredding truck was about to shred a rare, powerful trove of the history of working-class New York: the archives of the Bowery Savings Bank, which was founded in 1834 for the benefit of its depositors. These records could be valuable to genealogists, historians, property title search professionals, and probably many others. The papers were among the materials being cleaned out of the basement of a Capital One branch in Brooklyn that is closing next month.

Four-alarm Fire Blazes Through St. Louis Museum of Rare Documents

Here is another reason you want to make digital copies of every document that is of value to you or to anyone else and then save the digital copies off site where they are safe from disasters in your home or office.

St. Louis, Missouri, firefighters responded Tuesday to a massive fire at a museum of rare documents, the cause of which is not yet known.

Will your valuable documents, pictures, and more end up like this collection?

How To Preserve Old Family Letters

The MyHeritage Blog has an interesting article about preserving old letters:

“If you are fortunate enough to have a cache of old family letters, you are sitting on a gold mine. Letter writing has gone by the wayside since the invention of the telephone, e-mail, texting, Twitter, and Facebook, just to name a few ways of modern communication. Those old letters in your genealogy records collection should be preserved for future generations. Whether you have 100 letters or just one, they are important to your family history and add to your family story.

It is the First Day of the Month: Back Up Your Genealogy Files

BackUpYourGenealogyFilesIt is the first day of the month. It’s time to back up your genealogy files. Then test your backups!

Actually, you can make backups at any time. However, it is easier and safer if you have a specific schedule. The first day of the month is easy to remember, so I would suggest you back up your genealogy files at least on the first day of every month, if not more often.

Israeli Lunar Lander Contains a 30-million-page Archive of Human Civilization built to last Billions of Years

I have written many times about preserving documents for use by future genealogists. I have often written why digital documents can last much longer than the equivalent information on paper. Last week, a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carried an Israeli-made spacecraft named Beresheet beyond the grasp of Earth’s gravity and sent it on its way to the surface of the moon. On board Beresheet is a specially designed digital disc encoded with a 30-million-page archive of human civilization. The disk is expected to last billions of years into the future.

Yes, that’s BILLIONS of years. I doubt if paper will last that long.

Preserving Documents Digitally Versus on Paper Alone

I frequently hear a genealogist say something like this: “Digital storage methods are dangerous and won’t last long. I am going to save everything on paper so it will last forever.”

I strongly disagree. That is one of the fallacies that seem to float around forever. Professional archivists and data center managers all know better than that.

I certainly do not object to saving information on paper as long as that is only one of the copies made and is in addition to digital copies However, I would never trust paper as the only means of storing information for many years.

Paper is one of the most delicate storage methods available.

Initiative Begins to Digitally Preserve Ontario’s Historical Vernon Directories

The following announcement was written by FamilySearch and by Library and Archives Canada:

Salt Lake City, Utah (19 February 2019), The Ontario Genealogical Society (OGS) and Library and Archives Canada (LAC) are working with FamilySearch International to digitize the historical Vernon directories for the province of Ontario. The initiative will begin immediately to preserve and make the directories freely searchable online for family historians, researchers, and Canadians.

Vernon directories were published yearly, by city, from the 1890s to 2014, except 2010, when the company’s ownership changed. They cover most of Ontario, including the province’s capital city of Toronto. The name “Vernon directories” is derived from the name of the publisher. The initiative will encompass an estimated 1,875 directories.

Genealogy Guys and Vivid-Pix Partner to Recognize Genealogy’s Unsung Heroes

The following announcement was written by the Genealogy Guys (George G. Morgan and Drew Smith) and by Vivid-Pix:

The Genealogy Guys, George G. Morgan and Drew Smith, co-hosts and producers of the oldest continually produced genealogy podcast, and Vivid-Pix, makers of RESTORE photo and document restoration software, today announce that they are partnering to acknowledge and to celebrate those members of the genealogy community who digitize or index photos and other documents of value to genealogical researchers. The Unsung Heroes Awards will be a quarterly awards program designed to recognize its recipients in four categories: individuals, genealogical/historical societies, libraries/archives, and young people.

Completed nomination forms (see below for link to the form) should be emailed to genealogyguys@gmail.com and winners will be selected each quarter. Winners will receive: a custom-made commemorative mug with their choice of image; an announcement on an episode of The Genealogy Guys Podcast; a profile of the winner published on The Genealogy Guys Blog and the Unsung Heroes Blog; and recognition at the Vivid-Pix website (www.vivid-pix.com).

Don’t Store Books or Documents in Sealed Plastic!

A newsletter reader sent me a link to an online article that made me shudder when I read it. The article claims:

“Do you have an old book or important document that has been passed down from generation to generation? These books and documents break down over time due to oxygen, moisture, and other hazards. By sealing it, you’re also giving it added protection in the event of a flood, fire (smoke), or accidental damage.”

I am no expert in preservation, but I believe the last thing you want to do to a valuable old book or photo or other document is to seal it in an airtight plastic bag, especially a bag that is not labeled “archival quality.” Sealing in a cheap plastic bag can cause more damage than it prevents!

How to Easily Convert Old Cassette Tapes to Modern MP3 Files

Do you have old cassette tapes but have no way to play them? Luckily for you, there are multiple ways to convert cassette tapes to modern MP3 or other format files that can be stored in your computer’s hard drive, an external hard drive, a flash drive, CD disks, stored in the cloud, or even sent to anyone via email.

There are at least two methods of copying cassette tapes to modern digital files. I will call the two methods the easy way and the much easier way.

The Easy Way

It’s Almost 2019. Do You Know Where Your Photos Are?

Do you plan to keep your family photographs forever? If so, where will you store them?

As printed photos: a bad idea as photos printed with most of today’s technology solutions, including those printed at the local drug store, will fade within a very few years. The problem is best seen on color photographs where the reds will fade first, only to be followed by the other colors over time. Even black-and-white photos made by today’s techniques will fade. (Photographs printed years ago by chemical means in a photographer’s darkroom lasted much longer than today’s photographs printed at home on an inkjet printer or in a commercial film development lab using a more-or-less instant printing process.

On floppy disks: a bad idea as floppy disks have almost disappeared. Within a few years, floppy disk drives probably will only be found in museums where they may or may not still function.

The New York Times will Digitize its Photo Archive

This may turn out to be a gold mine for historians and genealogists alike. The New York Times is planning to digitize more than a century’s worth of photographs, and it is going to use Google Cloud to do so.

The plan is to digitize MILLIONS of images — some dating back to the late nineteenth century — to ensure they can be accessed by generations to come. The digitization process will also prove useful for journalists who will be able to delve into the archives far more easily in future.

Until now, historic news articles and photos have been stored on microfilm and in other physical forms. This is not only difficult to catalog and navigate, but also prone to deterioration over time and through use.

Brian Stevens, Chief Technical Officer of Google Cloud, stated:

My Progress on Digitizing all my Old Genealogy Books

A newsletter reader wrote today and asked an embarrassing question:

“Over a year ago you said you were trying to scan 50 pages a day to get rid of most paper copies of books. How is that going??? Would be interested in reading more, esp. what programs, etc. you are using. I’ve been inclined to do the same, but with me it’s a “now and then if I’m totally bored” process.”

I must admit that I am a bit embarrassed that my progress has slowed down. There are multiple reasons: (1.) I spend my summers up north and my winters in the sunbelt which means the books to be digitized always seem to be in “the other place,” (2.) I travel a lot which is a good excuse for procrastinating on all sorts of plans, and (3.) I suffer from a severe case of general procrastination. I was going to join the Procrastinators’ Club of America but haven’t gotten around to it. (See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Procrastinators%27_Club_of_America and http://articles.latimes.com/1987-06-21/news/mn-9001_1_story-tomorrow for details concerning that organization.)

Luckily, I have found many of my genealogy books are already available in digital formats on Archive.org, Google Books, and numerous other web sites. If one of my books has already been digitized, I simply save the digitized version to my local hard drive and to the backup services, then throw away the paper copy. That has saved me a lot of work.

However, I have found an excellent method of digitizing my remaining books: give the work to someone else and let that company do the work for a rather modest price.

No More Room at National Archives of Iceland

What do you do when the National Archives runs out of room to store documents? That’s the question being asked now in Iceland.

National Archives of Iceland

The National Archives of Iceland (ÞSK) have temporarily stopped receiving government documents due to a lack of shelf space, RÚV reports. Representatives say the government has known about the situation since at least January, but has yet to solve the problem.

Bible Rescue Saves Family Bibles and the Genealogies Inside

This is the story of how the nonprofit, Bible Rescue, saves lost Bibles. They look for Bibles containing genealogy information to be reunited with families. A rare Bible owned by a slave family is among the collection, but the goal is not to keep them but rather, to return these priceless heirlooms.