Archive for the ‘Scrapbooks’ Category

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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I’m on a roll with sorting and organizing! And the roll has gained such momentum that I want to work on it during nearly every spare moment! This is a good thing. I’ve tried to explain previously the enormity of the project I am facing; only my husband really knows. Let me assure you; it is huge!

My mother was typical of many (perhaps most) genealogists. She loved to do research and she did a considerable amount. Problems: 1) Mom only documented some of her sources and 2) she had difficulty organizing the information she found. For the most part she used the notebook method, but I’ve found multiple notebooks on the same surname, with much of the same information. To complicate the situation, she created a new family group sheet every time she worked on the family. I find photocopies of the same obituaries in multiple places. And, it isn’t unusual to find information for a completely different family surname stuck in the wrong binder. On top of that, I’m finding Mom was notorious for making notes for multiple surnames on the same piece of paper. Oh, my!

It isn’t just my mother’s collection I’m dealing with. My grandmother collected and saved, and my mother inherited a collection from her aunt and uncle. So, when I brought home the boxes, scrapbooks, photo albums, and binders from my mother, the contents was the conglomerate from all of these people. As I’ve worked on the materials, I’ve realized that my mother was overwhelmed!

Filing has never been my favorite activity, but I’ve been spending hours doing just that, and sort of enjoying it. I’m filing everything from Mom’s binders and boxes of loose papers into hanging folders in my file drawers. Some people would wonder “Why!” Why shouldn’t I just enter everything directly into a computer program? I’ve asked myself that question, also. However, I concluded that it is easier to get all of the information sorted using a filing system, first. That way when I enter someone into computer software, I’ll have everything that I know about that person in hand and won’t have to keep flipping from one person to another.

Mom should have owned stock in sheet protector manufacturing companies. Recently I told my husband that I can foresee the end of using large quantities of sheet protectors. I can see using archival sheet protectors for original documents; not for every family group sheet! I also told him that I foresee the eventual end of using hanging folders.

I hope I’ll live long enough to get these files scanned and the data entered into computer software. My goal to eventually write several books. Every step takes me closer to leaving something meaningful for future generations.

For now I need to get back to sorting and filing!

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Continuing the series of Iowa’s hidden genealogical treasures:

Mahaska County Genealogy and Historical Library
Nelson Pioneer Farm
2211 Nelson Lane, PO Box 578
Oskaloosa, Iowa

Phone: 641-672-2989 (phone answered year round)

Website: http://www.nelsonpioneer.org

Facility open May through September or by appointment.

I was very fortunate on the day of my visit. Information I had indicated that the facility was open until the end of October. In reality it isn’t. The curator happened to be working outside that morning and contacted the librarian who was able to come help me.

The library has numerous county district court docket books, probate indexes and inventories, which have most likely been microfilmed and are available elsewhere. I saw militia registration books, family histories, area newspaper clippings, such as birth, marriage, and a large collection of obituaries and cemetery indexes along with pictures of the stones at Centennial/Dunsmore and Spring Creek Friends Cemetery. Also, don’t underestimate the military collection which includes Civil War and WWI letters. The shelves include Oskaloosa city directories and phone books as well as pictures and year books for schools and William Penn College/University. Mahaska County Farm Bureau Women’s Committee records, pictures, scrapbooks are found here. Also included are funeral memorial cards from Bates, Garland-VanArkel-Langkamp, and Powers Funeral Homes.

In addition, the library has a large collection of country school records, original cards for WPA cemetery surveys, Quaker yearly meeting minutes, sizeable collection of information on coal mines and some information on underground railroad. I also found early naturalizations, assessors books, and in the back room is a large collection of original newspapers.

There is no computer in this library and apparently the society has not made any plans to digitize anything. The library is not heated during cold weather except when someone has an appointment to visit.

This is an exceptional library that needs greater accessibility, more technology, and more climate control with a stonger emphasis on preserving the collection.

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Continuing the series of Iowa’s hidden genealogical treasures:

New Virginia Public Library
504 Book Alley, PO Box 304
New Virginia, Iowa 50210

Hours: Tuesday 4:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m.
Wednesday 9:00 a.m. – 11:00 a.m. & 1:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m.
Thursday 4:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m.
Saturday 9:00 a.m. – 12 Noon.

Website: http://www.newvirginialibrary.org/

The library’s website says they have “a local history collection.” Those words don’t even begin to describe the wonderful collection. I had heard the collection existed, but was totally unprepared for its enormity and detail.

Leota Houlette (1921-2009) was a life-long Warren County resident. She lived primarily in the New Virginia area and was very interested in its history. Was she ever! I estimated that the collection of three-ring binders fills 27 lineal feet of shelf space in two steel cabinets. The binders are arranged chronologically beginning with 1836 and are filled with everything imaginable relating to the history of New Virginia and its citizens. Some notebooks contain multiple years and sometimes one year requires two binders.

Examples of things I found in the binders are:

photocopies of Bible records
land entry information
family group sheets
birth announcements
deaths and obituaries
many articles of general interest
photocopies of a Civil War letter
copies of parts of a Civil War pension file
excerpts from a diary

The list could go on and on and on! Items have been saved from Des Moines newspapers, the New Virginian, Indianola, Osceola, and Winterset newspapers. Some items are handwritten, some are typed, and some are photocopies. It is obvious that when people discovered that she had started a collection, they gave her more and more. Leota’s collection became more like a centralized repository for everything related to New Virginia and the people.

The librarian told me that about ten years ago the Friends of the Library took over the collection and have continued to update it, primarily with vital records: births, marriages and deaths.

I noticed a third steel cabinet contained a large box with many rolls of microfilm. The librarian told me that the notebooks up to 1980 have been microfilmed. The label on the boxes I looked at indicated that this was done by The Advantage Companies in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Stickers on the outside of the steel cabinets refer to Heritage Microfilm. As the Friends of the Library can afford to, they get more binders filmed. The microfilm company has the original silver copies and the library has the only other copy of this valuable collection. I was disappointed to learn that the State Historical Library does NOT have a copy.

Other items I found in the local history corner of this small-town library were:

Virginia Booster 4-H Club scrapbooks
Women for a Better Community scrapbook
Future Homemakers of America scrapbook
New Virginia Saddle Club
1979 Architectural Survey of New Virginia
Girl Scouts scrapbooks
Virginia Jolly Jills 4-H club scrapbooks
Bay View Club 1930-1960
New Virginia Melody Makers
New Virginia House of the Month with house histories
a dozen or more ledger books from local general stores and other businesses, at least one dating to 1881
Hazel Ridge telephone information dating to early 1900s
Zylphia Felton – 4 books of newspaper clippings
five other books donated in memory of various people by the Bay View Club – of clippings of weddings, obituaries, 50th anniversaries and such
New Virginia High School yearbooks 1940-1961
Interstate 35 school Travelogs and Road Runners 1967-1982
several family histories
Warren County history books
7th and 8th grade school records Sept 1917 – Nov 1917, Sept 1919 – May 1919 (includes name of students, attendance, and in some cases grades)
a few local church histories

A cover sheet in Leota’s notebooks announces the beginning of a new year, and on that cover sheet is the following:

Behold the World of the Old
Let your heritage not be lost
But bequeath it as a memory
Treasure and Blessing
Gather the lost and the hidden
And preserve it for thy Children
—–Christian Metz 1846

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Some projects just can’t be accomplished in one full swoop.

At one point my office and our basement family room were filled with boxes, as well as our spare bedroom and our store room… in other words, practically our entire basement was a massive storage unit. This was mostly the stuff I had received from my mother as she downsized a couple different times.

Not all of this stuff is paper, but a large percentage is paper. By paper, I mean undocumented research notes, photocopies of documents, notes with more than one surname on a sheet of paper, several different family groups sheets for the same individual—created at different times when my mother found something, loose photos, a few stories my mother has written, more photocopies of documents, and a few original documents. Then, also letters, diaries, calendars, lots of newspaper clippings, scrapbooks, and photo albums. Some of these things were my mother’s, but some belonged to her mother, other things belonged to her uncle and aunt.

Every time we have downsized my mother, for the most part, I have been more interested in the genealogy/family history side than in getting a lot of things: vases, dishes, baskets, silverware, glassware, needlework, etc. Please rest assured, however, I have gotten my share of those things, as well.

So, a few months ago, I purchased a bunch of cardboard file boxes. In fairly small letters I labeled the lids with family surnames. We set up a couple of 5-foot tables and placed the boxes side-by-side on the tables. One by one, I opened each of the many boxes of stuff and sorted as many paper and photographic items as possible into family groups placing the items in the appropriate surname box. I did not make any attempt to further divide the items within the surname or to label the items. I just sorted into the surname group. Otherwise, it would have been much too easy to get bogged down in the detail. These cardboard file boxes were then stacked in the spare bedroom. While sorted by family surname, they remained difficult to access, but certainly in better order than they were previously.

During the marathon sorting session last weekend, Dave and I emptied several file drawers. This past weekend I transferred items from the surname boxes into file drawers labeled with the respective surnames. I have hanging folders in the drawers, so I divided up the items and placed them into the hanging folders. Again, I did not make any other attempt to sort the items. That will come later. For now, I’m just happy to be making the treasures more accessible in the drawers.

I’m making progress—a baby step at a time.

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From May 1998 to May 2006 I was the newsletter editor for the Warren County Genealogical Society (WCGS). During that time I made an effort to collect as many of the society’s old newsletters as I could find. I made photocopies, as needed, so there was a complete set in the genealogy section at the Indianola Public Library and in the library of the Warren County Historical Society, as well as I kept a complete set, current up to that time.

Recently, WCGS has started its own website at www.warrencountygenes.com and I offered to scan all of these newsletters and put them on the website. Since my mother and mother-in-law were also members of WCGS, I have newsletters that they had as well as my own (as well as some others that I have somehow accumulated) putting this project in the realm of my sorting/throwing/keeping/donating mantra.

After studying the number of newsletters that I had in my possession, many of them being duplicates, I concluded that if I kept a complete set of paper copies and scanned/posted all of the newsletters to the website, that I could discard all of the other copies. That’s not quite the way it worked out because I found three more large notebooks with still another set, which I have decided to donate somewhere, I just have to determine the best home for them. At any rate, not only did I have the duplicate copies from other people, I had also kept extra copies of newsletters while I was editor, so when the tossing started, I nearly filled our recycle bin with WCGS newsletters.

Since then, I have found three previously unknown newsletters from the early days of the society amongst my many boxes of stuff. That was an unexpected surprise.

As I continue going through boxes, it’s so nice to already know that the individual duplicate copies of more current newsletters that I find can go directly to a recycle bin. I don’t have to make a decision.

It took me nearly two days to scan and post the newsletters to the website, but what a feeling of accomplishment when the project was completed. Then, there was the added benefit: I had opened up some filing cabinet space and book shelf space!

Win, win! I have gotten rid of a lot of paper, opened up storage space, and all the members of our society have access to all of the past newsletters!

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