By: Carolyn L. Barkley
This article marks the fifth anniversary (and the 259th article) of GenealgyandFamilyHistory.com.
There is something about the dark days of winter that turns our thoughts to organizing our piles of family documents, artifacts and research notes. This year I am determined to do more than think about the project, as cleaning out my mother’s house last winter brought many additional boxes into my home.
My resolve to create order from disorder and to capture the meaning and provenance of various family objects and documents has led me to consider how Elizabeth Shown Mills’ Evidence Explained (2nd ed., Genealogical Publishing Co., 2010) might assist me in describing and inventorying these items.
I concentrated my investigation on Chapter 3, “Archives and Artifacts,” specifically sections 3.24 through 3.40 (pages 138 through 153), which discuss citing privately held materials. I quickly realized that I had many of the specific types of materials including loose Bible pages, marriage certificates, jewelry, portraits, military objects, quilts, newspaper articles, and school photographs. I’ve chosen a few examples to share with you to provide insight into how citations can bring context and order to your family archival materials, and make that information accessible to future generations. I have chosen to use the “First Reference Note” format, and you will notice that each entry includes similar descriptive information: identification of the type of item, current or last-known location, description, and provenance.
- Loose Bible pages. Family Bible citations normally include bibliographic information about the Bible. The date of publication and variations in ink and handwriting often allow us to determine if the entries are original or copied. Sometimes, however, we have only the family record pages from a Bible, the actual volume long lost or destroyed. These loose pages still require description, however.
Example: Buffinton/Buffington Bible Records, 1791-1830, loose “Family Record” pages [births] from unknown Bible; privately held by Carolyn L. Barkley, Roseland, Virginia, 2013. Entries suggest that the original owners were Royal Buffinton (born 1791) and wife Eunice Morse (born 1794), who married ca. 1810. Remaining ten entries are for their children, ranging in date from 1811 to 1830. Handwriting is consistent with the exception of the last entry. Page is in three columns: the left-hand column includes an undefined, non-consecutive number for each entry; the center column gives name and birth (month, day and year); the right-hand column indicates the numbered day of the week (1st-7th) of the birth. This document has passed through various related families to the current owner, who is the fourth great-granddaughter of Royal Buffinton/Buffington.
Example: Aldrich Bible Records, 1810-1916, loose “Family Record” pages [births, marriages, deaths] from unknown Bible; privately held by Carolyn L. Barkley, Roseland, Virginia, 2013. Entries suggest that the earliest owners were Nahum White Aldrich (1810-1879) and Cynthia Buffington (1811-1899), who married 23 December 1833. Handwriting is consistent until the entry for Nahum’s death in 1879. These documents have passed through the Aldrich and Smith families to the current owner who is the third great-granddaughter of Nahum White Aldrich.
- Marriage certificates. Certificates of marriage were provided to the bride and groom following their marriage to prove that the marriage took place. They were often quite ornate in design.
Example: Marriage Certificate; privately held by Carolyn L. Barkley, Roseland, Virginia, 2013. Certificate states that Edward S. Smith, of Ware [Massachusetts] and Jennie C. Aldrich, of Belchertown [Massachusetts] were married on 18 May 1859 in Belchertown [Massachusetts] by William N. Fay, Clergyman. The lines for witnesses’ signatures are blank. Illustration (single-color) drawn by W. Momberger and engraved by C. Craske of New York; printed by N. Tibbald, 100 Nassau St., N.Y. This document passed down through the Smith family to the current owner, who is the second great-granddaughter of Edward S. and Jennie C. [Cynthia Jane] Aldrich Smith.
Example: Clifford F. Smith, wedding ring, 1920; privately held by Carolyn L. Barkley, Roseland, Virginia, 2013. The band is inscribed M.C.A. C.F.S. 7-21-20 [Mildred Carolyn Abbe; Clifford F. Smith]. Ring has been passed from Clifford F. Smith (1890-1972) to his daughter Lois C. (Smith) Lopes (1921- ) to his granddaughter, the current owner.
- Quilt. My great grandmother made one quilt per year, spending the winter months cutting and piecing together the quilt top, and the summer months adding the batting and backing and tying the quilt. While I will eventually document at least the quilter, if not the date, of these quilts, the uniqueness of the following family quilt needs full documentation.
Example: Quilt; privately held by Carolyn L. Barkley, Roseland, Virginia, 2013. Crazy quilt- style quilt, measuring 64×64, made of various velvet and other materials; piecework U.S. flag in center; embroidered in various colors and shapes including the date 1884; among pieces are fifteen ribbons from Grand Army of the Republic reunions for units in which family members served (10th Massachusetts and 6th Connecticut Infantry and 1st Connecticut Cavalry) and for dedications of Civil War monuments in Springfield, Massachusetts, and New Haven, Connecticut. Quilters are not specified, but based on the time period and the ribbons used, any one of, or combination of, the following women may have worked on the quilt: Lois (Lanfare) Dodd (1818-1907), Kate (Duncan) Dodd (1839-1908), and Grace L. Dodd [later Grace (Dodd) Smith], (1865-1963). Item has passed through the Dodd and Smith families to the current owner, who is the 3rd great-granddaughter, 2nd great-granddaughter, and great-granddaughter, respectively, of the probable quilters.
- Military items.
Example: Uniform buttons; privately held by Carolyn L. Barkley, Roseland, Virginia, 2013. Gold Grand Army of the Republic uniform buttons, three large, one small, manufactured by the Waterbury (Connecticut) Button Company. Buttons belonged to either Frederick Dodd, 2nd Lt., Co. K., 6th Connecticut Infantry (1813-1871) or Frederick O. Dodd, Sgt., Co. K., 6th Connecticut Infantry (1837-1902). Items have passed through the Dodd and Smith families to the current owner, who is the 3rd and 2nd great-granddaughter of the GAR members.
Example: Lois (Lanfare) Dodd (1818-1907), carte-de-visite, November 1862; privately held by Carolyn L. Barkley, Roseland, Virginia, 2013. Sepia-tone photograph was taken and produced by F. W. Burwell, 301 Chapel Street, New Haven, and the reverse side states “Gramma Lois Dodd, New Haven, Nov. 1862.” Photograph has passed through the Dodd and Smith families to the current owner, who is Lois Dodd’s 3rd great-granddaughter.
Example: Classical High School (Springfield, Massachusetts) Class of 1939; privately held by Carolyn L. Barkley, Roseland, Virginia, 2013. Lois C. Smith (1921- ) is 4th from the right in 5th row of 8 x 10 sepia-tone photograph taken by Bosworth Studio of Springfield, Massachusetts. Current owner is the daughter of Lois C. (Smith) Lopes, member of the graduating class of 1939.
Example: Olivio A. Lopes (1921-2006), “Journal” (Troop train trip from Miami Beach, Florida, to [Oklahoma], 16 April 1943-?; pages are incomplete); privately held by Carolyn L. Barkley, Roseland, Virginia, 2013. Current owner is the daughter of the journal’s author.
Example: American Flag House and Betsey Ross Memorial Association Certificate No. G92026; privately held by Carolyn L. Barkley, Roseland, Virginia, 2013. Multicolor certificate awarded to Clifford Smith of Springfield, Massachusetts, (1890-1972) in 1899 certifying his membership and status as subscriber to the fund for the “purchase and preservation of the Historic House in which the First Flag of the United States of America was made and for the erection of a National Memorial in honor of Betsey Ross.” Document was passed to his daughter, Lois C. (Smith) Lopes and then to his granddaughter, the current owner.
Example: Proclamation from the City of Springfield, Massachusetts to Clifford F. Smith (1890-1972); privately held by Carolyn L. Barkley, Roseland, Virginia, 2013. Presented to Clifford F. Smith on his retirement after forty-five years of service – nine years as Assistant City Clerk and thirty-six years as City Clerk – dated 15 January 1959. Document passed to his daughter, Lois C. (Smith) Lopes, and then to his granddaughter, the current owner.
The foregoing illustrations show how the process of citing the information known about each item helps organize its place within family archives, preserving the provenance and importance of the item (while I can still remember them!). I will attach a label with the citation to each item (or to its container) and will also keep a compiled list of citations for easy access when documenting other writing or research.
This work has always been one of those projects “I’ll get to.” Now that I have created citations for just a few of the archival items passed down to me, I see both the value of the work and the ease with which I can accomplish several citations each week.
I had not previously thought of using Evidence Explained for this purpose, although my copy automatically opens to either the section for census records or the one for various types of courthouse records. I hope you will take time to delve deeper into the information provided in this seminal work and start your winter organization and citation project soon.