preserve documents, preserving genealogy, genealogy collection, genealogical collection

Don’t use tape, glue to preserve documents or books

Let’s all take a moment and remember the basics of preserving a genealogy collection. In a time when it’s increasingly easy to store your work on a flash drive or in the cloud, we may have to actively remember to take care of the priceless collections of memories held in books, documents and printed photographs, instead of just hastily taping up a tear or carelessly shoving them in a drawer.

The following repost of Caresa Alexander Randall’s article, “Don’t use tape, glue to preserve documents, books, specialists say,” appeared in the Deseret News. In this reprinted piece, Ms. Randall chats with Mr. Christopher McAfee, head conservator for the L. Tom Perry Special Collections at Brigham Young University’s Harold B. Lee Library, about the basics of caring for your collection.

Please enjoy “Don’t use tape, glue to preserve documents, books, specialists say,”:

After a flood damaged his personal memoirs, Christopher McAfee decided to complete an internship in book conservation.

Now as the head conservator for the L. Tom Perry Special Collections at Brigham Young University’s Harold B. Lee Library, McAfee is able to teach others how to properly handle cherished items.

April 24-30 is Preservation Week, which highlights preserving historical items and collections. McAfee and specialists with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ Church History Library and FamilySearch shared advice on how individuals can repair and preserve their personal collections of family history items.

“If you know memories about your ancestors, they will mean more to you,” said Dennis Meldrum, the partnership manager for FamilySearch Family History Books. “You’ll appreciate them more and you’ll love them more. They are more than just a name on the paper.”

DIY repairs

McAfee has seen a variety of do-it-yourself projects that people undertake in order to preserve an object. Some repair ideas are good, he said, while some can cause more damage.

“When I worked at (the) Church History (Library), we would always say that tape is a four-letter word,” McAfee said with a laugh. “I think tape is the most common amateur repair we see.”

In addition to being hard to remove, McAfee said, tape can sometimes crosslink with fibers in the paper and create a chemical reaction where the adhesive and paper become one. This reaction can lead to discoloration of the paper and make it brittle.

Another common amateur fix is glue.

“In most books, the spine of the cover breaks away from the spine of the textbook as the book is opened,” McAfee said. “As you glue them together, it makes it harder to open the book.”

McAfee said a person should ask, “How valuable is the book?” before any work is done to preserve it. He usually tells people to not repair their own things but to instead, if a book is rare and valuable, find and hire a conservator.


Joan Nay, a rare book specialist at the LDS Church History Library, also suggests asking if a book is valuable. She said that just because a book is old does not make it rare or mean that it has a high market value.

“For those who find a rare book and would like to have it appraised, they should contact a book dealer,” she said. She added that if a book is falling apart and pages are falling out, a person should take the book to a binder who can fix, preserve and restore the item.

Nay suggests digitizing family books that people want to keep.

Twelve years ago, FamilySearch launched Family History Books at, which digitizes and creates electronic books, Meldrum said.

“The total number of books we have online, as of today, is 270,627 books,” Meldrum said. “One of our goals in preservation is to gather as many of these as we can so people can share them.”

FamilySearch has scanners throughout the United States, including two in Utah. It usually takes two to three weeks for the information to appear online.

“If they have a book that they have written, we would like them to contact FamilySearch,” Meldrum said. “If they contact us, we will make arrangements to send them a permission form, because of copyright, letting FamilySearch digitize the book and put it online.”

To submit a family history book, contact


Preservation ideas

Here are some suggestions from Christopher McAfee, head conservator for the L. Tom Perry Special Collections at Brigham Young University’s Harold B. Lee Library; Joan Nay, a rare book specialist at the LDS Church History Library; and Dennis Meldrum, the partnership manager for FamilySearch Family History Books:

• Think about preservation as risk management to mitigate damage and minimize risks.

• Find a conservator to help restore items such as art, rare books, photographs, textiles or photographs, at the American Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works, online at

• To sell a rare book or have it appraised, contact a book dealer.

• Storing items in food-grade bags, such as Ziploc bags, is acceptable. Leave the bag open to allow for circulation.

• Organize and weed out things now. Save things that will tell your ancestors’ or your story.

• To store books, lay them flat or set them up on a shelf for storage (not in a box with the spine up). Keep them out of direct sunlight. Do not store them on the floor of the basement.

• Stories, photos, memories, audio files or scanned documents can be uploaded to A FamilySearch account is free for everyone. When labeling photos, include the names of the people in each photo. Like Facebook, FamilySearch has the ability to tag photos.

• Share family members’ stories. Start with a grandparent and focus on positive experiences, but be careful about sensitive information.

Image credit: Family record / designed and executed with a pen by A.L. Silvernail, Ionia, Mich. c1886, via Library of Congress.

pension, war pension, pension rolls, widows pension

Elusive ancestor holds on to his secrets

Editor’s note: I came across this piece from the Mercury News a few days ago in my daily traipsing around the Internet. The original author, Joan Morris, speaks of her search for a particularly hard to find ancestor. What caught my eye was her use of pension records and how important they were to finding her ancestor.

Please note that links related to sites mentioned or other resources have been added to this post for the convenience of our readers, and are not part of the original article.

You can follow Ms. Morris on

Elusive ancestor holds on to his secrets

Thomas Honea was born around 1812, got married, became a soldier and sometime during the Civil War, he died. Everything else was lost to history.

I’ve been searching for Thomas ever since I discovered my great-great-grandmother’s widow’s pension voucher tucked inside a bunch of old letters and photographs.

The voucher was for $24, covering three months starting in November 1906. A paltry $8 a month for a supreme sacrifice. What made it even more tragic is that the voucher was never cashed. Nancy Honea died before she could execute it.

That piece of paper has sent me on a long and frustrating search for answers. Who were Thomas Honea’s people? What role did he play in the Civil War and for which side? Most importantly, how did he die?

I asked my mother, who told the family story as she recalled it. Thomas had been pinned down during a prolonged battle. He took shelter behind an overturned table and in the course of the fighting, suffered frostbite on his feet. The wounds became infected and then gangrene set in. He died in a military hospital.

At the time, we assumed he was a Confederate soldier. My family always seems to be on the wrong side of things. It was nothing I took particular pride in, but I did want to know more about him and honor his personal sacrifice.

My sisters and I poured over Confederate roll calls, searching for him. When we hit dead ends there, we tried the Union rolls. There was nothing.

For years, the voucher lay in a drawer, ignored but not forgotten. Then I installed Family Tree Maker on my computer and got myself a membership to The chase was back on.

I added a membership to, which focuses on military records. I found a few Thomas Honeas listed, one in the Georgia volunteers and another in the Texas militia. Neither turned out to be my Thomas.

It was then that I noticed a curious hand-stamped notation on the pension voucher. It read, “Widows, Indian Wars.”

Although Thomas was old for the Civil War era — he would have been 49 when that first shot was fired on Fort Sumter — he was much too young for the War of 1812, also known as the Indian War. The Union Army, however, waged two wars during the 1860s — one against the South and one against American Indians in the West. But now I had one elusive answer: He’d been a Union soldier.

I turned to my friend, Kathy Echols, who volunteers at the Family History Center in Concord. The center is run by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. As part of the Mormon faith, church members build extensive family trees. They have amassed a trove of records and created a way for everyone to tap into them.

These days, Kathy spends much of her family-tree research on Swedish records, and although she doesn’t speak a word of Swedish, she has learned to read a good deal of it. If Kathy could find her Nordic relatives, then surely a farm boy from Mississippi couldn’t be much of a challenge.

Thomas wasn’t giving up his secrets easily, however, but I was able to find a bit more information on Nancy’s widow’s pension. The official pension record matched the scant information I had on my aging document, but it included a few more enticing clues. Thomas had been killed during a skirmish with the Creek Indians. No date or location, but I had another nugget for the file.

Kathy also was able to discover something I never knew. My great-grandmother, Rachel Honea Spears, had not been an only child, as I had assumed. Instead, she had been Thomas and Nancy’s last child. She had three older sisters, Minerva, Jane and Rhoda, and two older brothers, William and James.

This valuable if meager information has renewed my desire to find more, and I’ve since learned Thomas’ birth and marriage dates and the name of his parents, Wilks and Celia Honea.

I haven’t solved the question of how he died or where he last drew breath, and I don’t know that I’ll ever unearth all of his secrets, but trying is an adventure.

The LDS church has several Family History Centers throughout the Bay Area. They are free and open to the public. Go see what you can find.

Image credit: Un-civil pensions, created by artist Coffin, George Yost, 1850-1896, via the Library of Congress.


history for genealogists, 19th century sports

New Book Release: History for Genealogists

The recently updated and rereleased History for Genealogists—Using Chronological Time Lines to Find and Understand Your Ancestors is a rare bird for genealogists: it’s one of the very few history books in print that is written for genealogists

As the subtitle to the 2016 expanded and revised edition of Judy Jacobson’s best-selling book indicates, this sought after book contains scores of historical chronologies that genealogists can access in order to place their ancestors in time and place. As Judy puts it, “Genealogy lays the foundation to understand a person or family using tangible evidence. Yet history also lays the foundation to understand why individuals and societies behave the way they do. It provides the building materials needed to understand the human condition and provide an identity, be it for an individual or a group or an institution.”

That said, we would not want readers to overlook the many valuable narrative elements contained in History for Genealogists. For example, the chapter on new arrivals to America contains a number of important tables showing 19th-century migration patterns. Similarly the new chapter on “Fashion and Leisure,” prepared by Denise Larson – who you may remember as the author behind Companions of Champlain: Founding Families of Quebec, 1608-1635or for her posts here on Maine genealogy or Canadian genealogy – discusses the 19th-century relationship between the growth of amateur sports and recreational swimming and the time constraints imposed upon workers by the industrial revolution.

One of the most fascinating chapters in the new edition is entitled “Even Harder to Find Missing Persons.”  Here Mrs. Jacobson tackles such thorny genealogical problems as finding slave ancestors, origins of the “Orphan Train” riders, record challenges created by boundary changes, and the matter of isolated societies. By “isolated societies” Jacobson is referring to groups such as the Mellungeons of Appalachian Kentucky, Tennessee, and North Carolina; the “Cajans” of the Spanish frontier of Alabama; the Lumbees or Croatans of North Carolina; the Nanticokes of southeastern Delaware and others. Most of these groups possess mysterious origins and a number of them are mixed-race in make-up. According to Jacobson, as many as 200 multiracial groups of isolated societies could exist in the U.S., and for reasons that should be obvious, delving into the ancestry of any one of them could require the skills of a Sherlock Holmes.

So, whether you want to know when gold was discovered in Bannock City, Montana, when the first Scots Highlanders arrived in North Carolina, how to create a time line of your own or where do you turn when your ancestor lived in a “ghost town,” History for Genealogists may be the book you have been waiting for.

Image credit: Cricket, 1883 team, group photograph via the University of Pennsylvania Archives, Penn Library. Permanent link

peter zenger, german ancestry, german genealogy, Schegel

Schlegel’s American Families of German Ancestry in the United States

It’s an irony of German-American genealogy that what some consider the single greatest collection of family histories in this field is barely known to researchers. The work in question is Carl W. Schlegel’s four-volume American Families of German Ancestry in the United States, published between 1916 and 1926. Each of Schlegel’s four volumes was limited to 200 numbered and registered copies; consequently, only a dozen or so sets can be located today. In fact, only a handful of experts are even aware of the existence of the fourth volume, published in 1926, eight years following Volume 3.

Schlegel’s stated purpose was “to present in concise form the origin of German-American Families in this country,” to preserve a record of their descendants up to the time of the work’s original publication, and to demonstrate the German-American contribution in the U.S. – an objective no doubt influenced by the sentiments fostered during World War I.

In meeting these objectives, Schlegel assembled the largest collection of German-American genealogies ever published. Fittingly, the first volume starts with the life and family of such legendary German-Americans as Jacob Leisler, the 17th-century German who briefly became Governor-General of the colony of New York; and Peter Zenger, proprietor of the first newspaper in America. Beyond a handful of celebrities, however, the author’s 225 separate essays feature linked genealogies of families like Biertuempfel, Dittenhoefer, Haussling, Kleinert, Marquardt, Nungesser, Reppenhagen, Seyfarth, von Bernuth, and Zobel, and touch on thousands of individuals.

Unlike other great compendia, Schlegel’s American Families doesn’t just start out with the immigrant ancestor; rather, each family history usually begins two or three generations back, examining the family in its historic setting before bringing it forward to the immigrant ancestor and his descendants in America. Averaging about ten pages in length, sometimes including portraits and coats of arms, the family histories are no mere catalogues of births, marriages, and deaths but are rich biographical and genealogical studies, each depicting the education, service, achievements, life, and career of the various family members, and each tracing the roots of the first four or five generations in America, usually commencing in the 18th or 19th century, naming thousands of related family members.

For all of these reasons, we believe that Schlegel’s American Families should be the very first collection for anyone researching German-American ancestry. It is now available to researchers for the first time in nearly a century.

If you have been tempted to buy the Schlegel collection before, don’t wait—Genealogical Publishing Company only has 25 sets in inventory at present.

Image credit: Andrew Hamilton defending John Peter Zenger in court, 1734-5, via Library of Congress.



court record, court record research, genealogy

Learning about family trees through court records

We came across this article, “Learning about family trees through court records,” published in The Daily Nebraskan. It recounts the local Genealogy Over Lunch group’s discussion of utilizing court records for family history research. We have posted several pieces on this blog about the importance of visiting the courthouse in person, as well as the purpose of related chancery records, which can be a fantastic resource.

This recounting of the local genealogy group offers a local narrative of court record’s utility, which we appreciate and would like to share. Please note that the hyperlinks have been added below to assist our readers in learning more about the topic mentioned.

Learning about family trees through court records:

A paper history can be used to track down family ties, even if that paper trail winds through the courts. On March 18 the Genealogy Over Lunch group discussed how ancestral court records could be used to track down a person’s family history. The session was led by Joan Barnes, community engagement librarian, and Tom McFarland, staff development program officer.

Barnes started off the event with a discussion on one of her uncles, a half-Indian who worked as a scout and translator at Fort Beaufort in the 1880s. In summer of 1885, Barnes’ uncle was shot and killed by a fellow officer. While the officer was convicted, he later appealed the court and was found not guilty.

Barnes said she was amazed the court had record on her uncle’s murder, with detailed accounts of each witness’s testimony and deep examination of the crime scene.

“It’s an opportunity for people who are interested in genealogy and family history to get together and talk about different topics,” Barnes said. “Sometimes we help each other break through a mystery, or show off resources that others may not know about.”

McFarland said ancestors can be found in legal documents or court cases concerning written wills. Other court cases may label the defendant or plaintiff’s health at time of the incident, which may help someone find a family history of disease that would have otherwise remained unknown.

While the session focused mainly on the histories of those speaking at the event, audience members were also encouraged to share their own family history as well. If any confusion about research was reached, another participant might give out helpful hints where to look when searching for family histories.

The group discussed many different ways of discovering one’s family history, including court records, Love Library’s digital archive, DNA and various websites such as, the HathiTrust Digital Library and Google Books.

“We, of course, being an academic library, have a lot of historical records and information,” McFarland said. “For instance, one of the things that Jonesy used was the American fur trade records that we had.”

McFarland said he once did a presentation involving a revolutionary soldier, who was not well-known, and was able to find a variety of different sources in the collections.

The Genealogy Over Lunch group meets the third Thursday of each month at Love Library. The library will celebrate Genealogy Day on May 18.

Image credit: Court Record Fragment, 1804, via Library of Congress.