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Archive for the ‘Preservation’ Category

What to do with literally hundreds of old letters?

What do I have:

  • All of the Christmas letters described in a previous post
  • Letters that my uncle sent to his parents while serving in World War II
  • Letters exchanged between my parents before they married as well as some intermittent correspondence in their early married years
  • Letters between Dave and me during our courtship and our early married years while Dave was in the military
  • Letters Dave and I sent to family and friends during our three years in Germany. It is probably very unusual to have copies of all the letters sent, but I had a typewriter in Germany and had access to carbon-sets… these consisted of 6 sheets of paper with carbon paper between the sheets. I typed a letter every week and sent copies to family members, retaining the final carbon copy for our own records. At least three family members also saved all of the letters sent to them, and now we have those copies, as well. Many times, I wrote individualized notes at the end of the letters to family members, so we now also have those notes.
  • The letters Dave and I received from family and friends during our years in Germany
  • Many letters my aunt sent to my parents over the years
  • Other miscellaneous letters that my grandmother saved from her family

    The plan: sort, scan, place in archival sheet protectors, and transcribe.

    Priority: All (including envelopes) need to be sorted, scanned and placed in archival protection ASAP. Especially important is being sure we have additional copies in case disaster strikes the originals!!!

    The transcription process can be done later.

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  • Recently while working on a writing project I realized that our family might not realize what they held in their hands when they find this Bible (wrapped in Tyvek in our home safe)… writing the story of a family Bible was needed:

    Warren and Nancy McNeill Family Bible, Holy Bible, (New York: The American Bible Society, 1828); original owned in 2014 by Marieta (Pehrson) Grissom (Indianola, IA 50125).

    The Bible is 4½” by 7½” by 2¼” thick, and has a well-worn leather cover. In somewhat dilapidated condition, it is possible other pages are missing, however, the birth page is in tact and secure in the binding of the volume.

    The person(s) who wrote the entries was literate, but not accustomed to writing, as evidenced by the inconsistent capitalization and punctuation, and difficulty judging how much space it would take to record a date and having to continue to another line.

    The birth dates (1832 to 1850) of all known children of Warren and Nancy (Deem) McNeill are recorded in various inks and handwriting. (Transcribed below, punctuation and capitalization are as found on the Bible page.)

    Orren McNeill Was Born August the, 21. 1832
    Norman McNeill Was Born August the, 30. 1834 and Died the 22 of January 1835 [this is the only evidence we have of Norman’s existence]
    William Anderson McNeill Was born November the 14: 1835
    Solomon McNeill Was born April the 22 1839
    Alford McNeill Was born May the 26: 1841 [note the spelling of Alfred’s first name]
    Henry Clay McNeill Was born June the 1: 1847
    Margaret Lavina McNeill Was Born November the 8 1850

    Warren (1810-1868) and Nancy (1812-1870) were my great-great-great grandparents; I’m descended through their son Alfred.

    This Bible is OLD! How many of us have artifacts that have been touched by so many generations? How many of us have actual samples of penmanship by a family member 180+ years ago?

    The McNeill Family Bible apparently passed from Warren and Nancy McNeill to their son Alfred McNeill, to his daughter, Edith (McNeill) Morrill, to her son, Ernest Morrill, then, to his cousin, O. R. Pehrson, a grandson of Edith’s brother, Leonard, in approximately 1984. My mother, Thelma Pehrson, gave it to me in July 2006.

    This Bible is a family treasure; it must be preserved and saved for the generations!

    McNeill Bible - inside enh

    McNeill Bible cover

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    Dust & Grime

    I have written about the shelving in my genealogy room, approximately 110 linear feet of shelving, most of it is the heavy duty steel, office type. Unfortunately, no adjustable shelves, but three-ring binders fit comfortably with 3+ inches of clearance at the top (enough room to pile loose papers on top of the binders). Fortunately, the shelving is a cream color, not a warehouse grey.

    It has been twelve years since we added onto our house and created my lower level genealogy room. While moving items from the shelves to the filing cabinets, I have made an interesting discovery. Dust and grime have settled into the tops of my notebooks, scrapbooks, photo albums and piles of papers! Imagine that!

    It is a good thing I am moving most of the notebook materials and loose papers into the filing cabinets. This should be a safer environment for them.

    By the way, the filing cabinets are sitting on 2″x4″ blocks to allow ventilation under them, and we have two dehumidifiers in our basement and keep a close eye on their function.

    However, what about the scrapbooks and photo albums? Currently many of them are laying on my shelves, gathering dust and grime. As I’ve toured Iowa’s various repositories I’ve noticed that many archives store scrapbooks in preservation boxes. I have too many scrapbooks in too many odd sizes to do this within my retirement budget.

    However, while visiting another archives, I noticed many of their scrapbooks were wrapped in something and laying on the shelves. I asked the archivist what they use for wrapping their scrapbooks. Tyvek was the answer. Light bulb flash in brain: what about using the tyvek product that is used in home construction? Would that be any cheaper than ordering tyvek from a preservation company?

    I started my research, reviewing websites for three archival supply companies (Gaylord, Hollinger Metal Edge, and Light Impressions), pages for building construction materials (Lowe’s and Home Depot) and searched for general information on “tyvek.” Findings: Materials from both the archival supply companies as well as the building construction companies are labeled “tyvek.” DuPont owns the rights to the tyvek product name. Tyvek is a light weight, pH neutral, high-density polyethylene (HDPE) product that protects from water, dirt, dust, UV rays, and is resistant to tearing, mold, and mildew. Sounds like the perfect product for preserving scrapbooks!

    My husband thought I’d have to buy a roll 12 feet wide and miles long costing hundreds of dollars. But I discovered that Lowe’s sells a 3′ x 100′ roll of DuPont Tyvek HomeWrap for $35.99. This fits my budget!

    Would an archivist agree with my thinking? I submitted a query to the Association of Professional Genealogists (APG) email list. A respected archivist responded, “You are correct. Tyvek is tyvek.” Another professional responded with the reminder, “The only difference is that the Tyvek used on buildings has a logo on it. As long as that side isn’t facing the item you’re protecting (I know, you didn’t need me to tell you that), you’re fine.”

    Hurrah! Looks like I have figured out how to keep dust and grime out of my scrapbooks and photo albums. Looks like I need to find hours in the day to do another project!

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