Preservation

Hurricanes and Your Genealogy Data

The recent Hurricane Harvey, the present Hurricane Irma, and Hurricane Jose presently in tropical waters that might head northward all bring to mind questions, such as “How do I protect my personal belongings and information?”

I cannot speak to protecting belongings. However, I have written many times about preserving personal genealogy information that perhaps you spent years accumulating. The same procedures will also protect your family documents, insurance policies, photographs, and much more of the paper we all accumulate.

Many of the people who live through hurricanes will lose all paper documentation of their existence. Some cannot even not prove they ever lived. This is where going paperless can help.

A Michigan Newspaper Digitization Project is in Peril as Time Runs Out to Find a New Storage Facility

The Downriver Genealogical Society in south-eastern Wayne County, Michigan, has been working on a great project to preserve old newspapers that were about to be tossed out by The News-Herald, due to lack of storage space. Had the society not taken them, the newspapers since 1943 probably would have been thrown away.

The Downriver Genealogical Society also does not have storage space to keep the old newspapers for a long time but decided to take on a worthwhile volunteer project: digitize the old newspapers, make them available online, and then toss the originals away. The society took possession of the newspapers on Jan. 17, 2013. They’re currently being stored without charge at a building in Huron Township and digitization is underway.

There are problems with the plan, however. First, the owner of the storage facility has plans to lease the building in the very near future. The digitization project isn’t anywhere near completion. The newspapers and cabinets have to go. That is, they need to be moved or else thrown away.

Next, a leaking water issue recently damaged several of the papers entrusted to the Society.

The FGS Preserve the Pensions Project Announces Resumption of Document Conservation at National Archives, Digitization soon to Follow

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

Austin, Texas – The Federation of Genealogical Societies (FGS) is pleased to announce National Archives staff have recently resumed document conservation of the War of 1812 Pension files covering surnames M(Moore)-Q. Document conservation is the essential first step in digitizing these files. Our digitization partner, Ancestry.com, has scheduled image capture of these newly conserved documents to begin the second week of September 2017. As capture resumes, new images will be added to Fold3.com on a rolling basis. The Federation and the dedicated volunteers of the Preserve the Pensions project have worked tirelessly for well over a year to negotiate a resolution to the work stoppage. This portion of the project plan is expected to be completed by third quarter 2018.

What I Use Now for Backups

I write frequently about the need to make frequent backups of any computer information. After all, you don’t want to lose what you worked so hard to create, do you? I guess I haven’t written about it in a while as a newsletter reader sent a note today asking, “How about an update on what you use for backup now??”

This is my reply:

Well, I never backup to ONE thing! Having only one backup is almost as dangerous as having none. I don’t believe in placing all my eggs in one basket. I always make at least three backups of my desktop system and store them in at least three different locations. I probably backup more than that on my laptop computers.

I back up everything on my desktop computer’s hard drive to an external hard drive that sits beside the computer. I use TimeMachine software for that, a great backup program that is included with every Macintosh. That’s the fastest backup I have and it works automatically all day and night, making backups of all new files automatically within minutes after I create them. I never have to remember to make backups as TimeMachine does all that automatically. Several other companies produce similar software for Windows.

The Demise of CDs and DVDs

Alas, poor CDs and DVDs, we hardly knew ye.

Have you purchased any software lately? How about digital images of an old genealogy book? Did you obtain them on a CD or DVD disk? If so, keep that disk. It is already an antique and probably will be a collector’s item before long.

Twenty years ago, we all purchased software on floppy disks. Perhaps ten years ago, software was usually delivered on CD-ROM disks. When was the last time you purchased software that was delivered on a CD or even a high-capacity DVD-ROM disk? Yes, there are a few companies that still deliver software that way, but the number of such companies is dwindling.

Most software these days is delivered electronically, usually by means of a file download. Even Microsoft is now delivering Windows 10 by software download.

Grace A. Dow Memorial Library in Midland, Michigan Sustains $1.5 Million Flood Damage

Here is still another example why we cannot depend upon paper documents alone to be accessible in the future. Homes, streets, businesses, parks and city buildings in Midland, Michigan got soaked in a flood several weeks ago. In the city alone, more than 1,000 homes had some type of damage. Of interest to genealogists, the hardest hit city building was the Grace A. Dow Memorial Library. The early estimate puts clean up and repair work for the library at $1.5 million.

The library had never flooded before.

McLennan County, Texas, Marriage Records Since 1850 are being Digitized

McLennan County Clerk Andy Harwell and his staff have undertaken a project to digitally scan and preserve county marriage records from 1850 to 1996. After six weeks of work, the documents have been digitized, but that’s just a start, Harwell said. The county hired Edoc Technologies for about $36,000 to perform the digitization work, and Harwell’s staff is starting to index the more than 170,000 marriage records by groom’s name, bride’s name and date.

“You’ll be able to sit at home and research in McLennan County back to 1850,” Harwell said. “So if we would have had a fire or tornado or something or a flood, we would have lost everything.”

You can read more in an article by Cassie L. Smith in the Waco Tribune web site at: http://bit.ly/2v3qaXt.

Preserving Documents Digitally

What do the following headlines from past issues of this newsletter have in common?

Hancock County, Georgia, Courthouse Burned (August 12, 2014)

Van Buren County, Tennessee Offices Destroyed by Fire, Birth, Marriage, Death, and Many Other Records Lost (January 9, 2015)

Fire in Major Russian Library Destroys One Million Historic Documents (February 1, 2015)

Home of the Marissa (Illinois) Historical and Genealogical Society Destroyed by Fire (January 31, 2015)

Roof Collapses at Iowa Genealogical Society Library (December 31, 2009)

Fire Destroys Much of Indiana Historical Collection (December 30, 2009)

Cologne [Germany] Archives Building Collapses; 3 Missing, Many Escape (March 03, 2009)

Archives Damaged in Italian Earthquake (April 07, 2009)

Museum wants Revolutionary War Boat Saved from Lake Bottom

More than two decades after it was discovered at the bottom of Lake Champlain (between Vermont and New York), a Revolutionary War gunboat may see the light of day under a museum plan to raise, preserve and put the vessel on display.

The Spitfire, a 54-foot boat that’s part of a fleet built by Benedict Arnold before he turned traitor, sank a day after the 1776 Battle of Valcour Island, helping delay a British advance down the lake. The Spitfire’s sinking made it possible for the 1777 American victory at the Battle of Saratoga, a key moment in the American Revolution because it led to French recognition of the fledgling United States of America.

Digital Maine Transcription Project

The Digital Maine Transcription Project (DMTP) encourages “crowdsourcing.” That is, you or anyone else with an interest can help make significant Maine documents accessible online so that others may benefit.

According to the DMTP web site at http://www.digitalmaine.net/projects/about:

DMTP started in 2016 as a collaborative project of the Maine State Archives and Maine State Library. The decision was made to open up access to as many digital images of original documents as possible, but staff lacked time to transcribe them.

Watch the British Library Digitize One of the World’s Largest Books

Most experienced genealogists are familiar with over-sized books. Vital records, deeds, maps, and more are often published on larger-than-normal pages. Digitizing those books can be a challenge although several companies have already done a great job at digitization.

However, how do you digitize a book that is nearly six feet by seven and a half feet when open? It is so big that it even has wheels fixed onto it to make it easier to move around!

How to Manage Your Family’s Digital Assets

I am proud to announce that an article I wrote is now available on FamilySearch.orgHow to Manage Your Family’s Digital Assets. The article begins:

“In our digitally integrated lives, we create and share most of our pictures and home videos with snazzy digital cameras, incredible smart phones, or other easily portable devices. We download music purchases and perhaps even keep only digital receipts of our purchases through photos or emails. Someone said, “That [choose your device of choice] is so versatile that it can take pictures, chop celery, and keep us in touch with relatives as far away as Samoa.”

“Now that we have all these digital devices, have we figured out what to do with the fruits of those devices—the mounds of digital files and sources we amass daily, weekly, monthly, yearly? What do we do with all our personal digital content that makes up our digital lives?”

You can read the entire article at: http://media.familysearch.org/how-to-manage-your-familys-digital-assets/.

South Dakota State Historical Society to Digitize more Historical Newspapers

The South Dakota State Historical Society has announced that more historical newspapers will be digitized as part of a federal grant.

The following is the announcement from the South Dakota State Historical Society:

Newspaper digitization advisory board selects newspapers to digitize for federal grant

PIERRE, S.D. – The South Dakota State Historical Society has announced that more historical newspapers will be digitized as part of a federal grant.

In September the State Historical Society-Archives was awarded a second round of grant funding in the amount of $240,000 from the National Endowment for the Humanities to continue digitizing historical newspapers.

The Good Cemeterian

Andrew Lumish spends his free time in an unlikely place: cemeteries. On his weekly day off, he spends about ten hours using his cleaning skills to restore veterans’ tombstones around Tampa, Florida. To honor veterans for serving their country, Lumish taught himself how to properly clean graves. He found out the system the government uses for national cemeteries—including Arlington—and got to work.

Lumish tries to post four new pictures a week on his Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/TheGoodCemeterian/.

An Attempt to Save South Carolina’s Historical Documents is Destroying Them

This should be a lesson to all genealogists, archivists, historians, and to anyone with old documents or pictures they would like to preserve: Don’t laminate them!

Back in the 1950s, many people thought that laminating something was a method of preserving it. Even some archivists recommended laminating old documents. As the years went by, these people learned the folly of their recommendations. Laminating something actually hastens its deterioration.

For 20 years, beginning in the 1950s, the state of South Carolina laminated documents to protect them from aging. However, a chemical reaction caused the documents to deteriorate faster than they would have had they been left unlaminated. The natural acids from the paper mix with the degrading laminate to create a noxious vinegar. Each passing year will further degrade the document until it’s gone.

Families Torn Apart by Slavery Sought Lost Loved Ones in Newly Archived Ads

The ads are gut-wrenching, such as, “Where is John Person?”

“Ten years have gone by since his mother, Hannah Cole, last saw him. The pain of his disappearance, the mystery of his whereabouts, and the aching question of whether he is alive or dead have driven her to take out an advertisement in the Christian Recorder, seeking an answer.

hannahcolead

“This is the only child I have,” it reads, “and I desire to find him much.”

University of Delaware is Digitizing Thousands of Delaware Newspapers

The Delaware project began in 2015 with a mission to digitize 100,000 pages of newspaper previously only available on microfilm. An effort launched in the 1980s preserved many of the newspapers on reels of microfilm that can now be converted to digital form.

Delaware has approximately 30,000 pages available to researchers online with 70,000 more to be added by the end of 2017, Olney-Zide said. All newspapers included are in the public domain and were printed between 1690 and 1922, which means they are no longer copyrighted.

State Historical Society of Iowa to Digitally Preserve more than 12 Million Pages of Newspapers, Some as Old as the 1830s

The following announcement was written by the Advantage Companies, a Cedar Rapids business with a division dedicated to the preservation and digital access of historical newspapers:

DES MOINES – The process to save the first draft of Iowa history just got a lot smoother.

The State Historical Society of Iowa today unveiled a sweeping new plan to preserve more than 12 million pages of newspapers in its collection, giving Iowans greater access to more than 300 titles dating to the state’s pioneer days in the 1830s.

Under the authority of the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs, the State Historical Society has signed a 5-year contract to loan the newspapers to the Advantage Companies, a Cedar Rapids business with a division dedicated to the preservation and digital access of historical newspapers. Advantage will take on the ambitious new project at no cost to the state, and ownership of the physical newspapers will remain with the State Historical Society.

Navajo Nation Library To Digitize 1960s Oral History Archive

The Navajo Nation Library (NNL) is working to secure the funding necessary to digitize and catalog thousands of hours of stories, songs, and oral histories of the Navajo people, originally recorded in the 1960s by the Navajo Culture Center of the Office of Navajo Economic Opportunity (ONEO).

The tapes hold personal accounts by Navajos of their daily lives in the rural towns of the Navajo Nation, as well as songs, legends, stories, and religious music, including a recording of the sacred nine-night ceremony.

The 300 reel-to-reel tapes are extremely fragile, caused by aging. The digitization process needs to happen as soon as possible, says NNL program supervisor Irving Nelson, as it is only a matter of time until they deteriorate to the point where they can’t be transferred to another medium.

Complaints Filed After Logging Operations Damages Historic Illinois Cemetery

Local genealogists and archaeologists are concerned about logging damage in an historic black cemetery between Millstadt and Centreville, Illinois, that has graves from the 1800s and early 1900s, including those of Civil War soldiers. They’ve complained to local authorities about logging trucks driving through the hilly, overgrown property, known as St. George Cemetery, and knocking over, breaking or moving headstones, some a century or more old.

“It’s history, and it’s being destroyed, and nobody seems to care,” said cemetery researcher Judy Jennings, of O’Fallon, a member of the St. Clair County Genealogical Society.