Tag Archives: preserving family history

Creating Local History Community Archives, & Protecting Archives from Climate Change

Creating Local History Community Archives,

& Protecting Archives from Climate Change

5-31-2018 (updated)

by Vicki Hahn

SGS – Stateline Genealogy Sorter.

(Also see article from Pacific Standard Magazine on Protecting Archives from Climate Change below.)


We were very lucky at the Beloit Public Library that a recent major water leak did not affect our Genealogy/Local History Collection area.  As one Stateline Genealogy @ Beloit Public Library member said, “At least WE didn’t get any water damage.”  This water damage is not due to climate change, but a valid reminder of how vulnerable these archives are.

The recent prolific spring rains, and potential for flooding may be a good opportunity to pay attention to how you have your own personal valuable genealogy papers, artifacts, and books stored.  Years ago, the only things I cared about retrieving after a major house fire, were my purse and my photograph albums.  I have had items damaged by a furnace humidifier leaking, children recording over my Grandmother’s family history interview, dogs teething, etc.  Life happens – protect your history items.  Imagine anything happening.

The whole 1/4 of the Beloit Public Library, next to our Collection, was roped off for the month of April due to water damage from H-VACs leaking water overnight from the second floor.  The HVACs are not over the Genealogy/Local History Collection, but part of that was roped off also as the rehab crew worked.  The end of the Mystery Fiction Collection, and the Riverside Meeting Room were both inundated. The Library did lose 450 books from the Mystery Collection.  All of the furniture, carpet and ceiling in the Riverside Room had to be replaced, and some shelving ends. That being said, we were lucky.

And, I am continuing to add uniquely valuable items to our Local History Collection.

I have just gotten the go-ahead to start (retroactively to April 2015) get our Beloit Daily Newspapers microfilmed again, once we get funding from our Library FABL Friend at Beloit Library, or Foundation groups. The Beloit Daily News BDN cut paying for supplying the microfilms to Beloit Public Library and the Beloit College Archives Library at that time.  (This may take a few years.  It will include a request to purchase a second microfilm machine, as our old one has failed for good.)  I will also ask for the purchase of a third microfilm storage cabinet.  Sooner than that, we will move a third Local History lateral pamphlet file cabinet into our Genealogy/local History area.

Thanks to specialized Library Volunteers – we will soon have a complete Index to Book of Beloit (1 , 1836 – 1936) by  Linda Smith, which I will be getting into print.  (There has been an incomplete index available, but the new complete one will make searching so much more thorough.)  Linda also recently created a complete Index to Book of Beloit II, 1936 – 1986, which we have as a book in our Genealogy/Local History Collection.

The Beloit College Archives has a whole card catalog full of indexed cards to supplement the original Book of Beloit I.  I will have them compare our volunteer’s work to see if they have anything in addition (doubtful:) )  I will share the finished Index digitally with the other local history organizations – Beloit Historical Society, Rock County Historical Society, South Beloit Historical Society Wheeler House, Hedberg Public Library Janesville, and Beloit College Archives Library.

Phyllis DeGraff, another volunteer, has just finished creating an Index to, and digitally retyping a local history by Beloiter  “Woodrow Wilson Memoirs”.  This was from a typed manuscript that we received from Custom Book Binding (local publisher) . The manuscript is waiting my review, and later the publisher will give the Library some finished books once they are published.

Two other big local history collection additions are in the works (maybe done in a year?) Monette Bebow-Reinhard (a new volunteer) has started to transcribe the 1976 Beloit – Black Oral History CDs.  These are the interviews of several relatives/immigrants recruited from Pontotoc, Mississippi to work at Fairbanks Morse in Beloit Wisconsin.  These interviews have never been fully transcribed and will be a valuable printed resource on the important (local history) African American Up North Migration and Jim Crow experience.  The CDs can be checked out at the Library.  There are also on-line digital audio recordings that you can listen to on the WHS Wisconsin Historical Society website for free.

Fred Burwell, from Beloit College Archives Library, shared this:

“Here is a link to their main page on the oral histories:


If you click on any name at the side, it will lead you to a table of contents for that particular recording and you can click on a further link to the actual sound.  For some of the people there are multiple links to more than one recording.

There’s also a transcript for the Rubie Bond recording, although my guess is that it is not a complete transcript: https://www.wisconsinhistory.org/pdfs/lessons/EDU-LessonPlans-RubieBondOralHistory-Transcript.pdf

I am glad to hear that you have a volunteer interested in transcribing these incredibly valuable recordings.  I would love to have the transcripts!  They would be really useful for students and other researchers.”

Another project in the works, is a coincidence of timing.  We will have the work of a veteran on Vietnam Veteran Obituaries (donated to the Hedberg Public Library) in our Beloit People and Families Bookcase under “Veterans”.  And our Library Page, Susan Park, has gathered cemetery information as part of her long efforts to honor fellow military veterans while doing general volunteering work for FindaGrave.com .  An excellent photographer, and thorough researcher, Susan is working on creating books of all military burials in the Rock County cemeteries. In awhile, she will have her “Rock County Veterans in Oakwood Cemetery” book completed for our collection.   Later she will have her “Rock County Veterans in Eastlawn Cemetery” book completed.

Susan recently won the award from a  local Rock County veterans group – Montford Point Marine Post.:

“This past Saturday I was presented the Homer Hempstead Humanitarian Service Award by the National Montford Point Marine Association, Chapter 41.  An Award for Veterans, presented to Veterans, for serving Veterans.  The award was based on all the cemetery work I have done in Veterans Sections of our cemeteries.  I have photographed and created Memorial Pages for over 782 Veterans graves.  I strongly feel no Veteran should be lost or forgotten. 

Freedom is not Free.

Simply put, it’s Veterans taking care of Veterans.”

(On left – Major General Anderson, on the right Susan Park.)

And finally, a new book on Beloit by Robert Burdick,  “Growing Up in Beloit” was donated to the Library.  These are stories based on the articles that he wrote for years in the Beloit Daily News, Savoy Section.  http://squarepegbookshop.com/product/growing-up-in-beloit/  .  Bob has been coming to the Library for years to research aspects of his articles in our Genealogy/Local History Collection.


How to Protect Rare Books & Manuscripts From the Ravages of Climate Change

(Vicki’s note – on-line article from Pacific Standard magazine, thanks to Ron Zarnick.)

(Read the full article here:)

“Almost all American archives are at risk from disasters or changing temperatures. Community history will probably be the first to go…”
“Centuries of written history are at risk of being damaged by climate change. Yet archivists, the stewards of this history, have sometimes been slow to wake up to the danger.
This history, in the form of manuscripts, codices, printed books, and other material artifacts, is kept in expensive and well-ventilated university collections; it is tucked in crumpling cardboard boxes under the desks of local librarians; it sits crammed into the storage cupboards of city governments. Some documents attract scholars from around the world, while others hold scant interest beyond hobbyist historians. Many are irreplaceable.

Almost all are at risk of degradation caused by projected temperature changes, humidity, sea level rise, storm surges, and precipitation, according to new research on United States collections by a group of archivists and climate scientists.

…”The No. 1 thing you have to do to keep rare archival material from growing mildew or falling apart is to maintain a constant temperature and humidity,” Tansey says. “If the atmosphere outside is constantly hot one day, cold the next, that means you’re having to use that much more energy to keep your building at a consistent temperature for your collection, which is often contributing to climate change itself.” 

…There are measures that archivists can take to protect their collections, including identifying opportunities to relocate temporarily in the event of a disaster, or revamping storage facilities in light of local risks.”



The Hawk Took It! – Other Travelers Part 4

The Hawk Took It! –

Other Travelers Part 4

(Part of the Series – “Other Travelers”)

by Vicki Ruthe Hahn – SGS Stateline Genealogy Sorter


Well this is a new one for me.

We know all of the usual hazards in preserving and maintaining family history paperwork and electronic records while searching for our genealogy.  How many different ways can we lose important historical resources?:

  • computer crash
  • flash drive defect/aging out
  • our older relatives losing memory
  • those that know passing away without sharing
  • the library/house/historical society/architectural site/religious site/courthouse was burned or flooded or got bombed or torn down
  • paperwork got lost
  • the handwriting or photographs faded away
  • family members that have it, won’t share
  • deleted or thrown away by someone who thought it was just old junk
  • the baby tore it
  • the dog ate it
  • the hawk grabbed it and flew to the top of the neighbor’s tree!!

And the last one really happened to our speaker today before she got to the Library.

Kim Caswell did a great presentation on “Funeral Practices of Our Ancestors“.

She had a full program based on years of research, all saved onto her USB flashdrive which was protected from the morning mist in a ziplock bag.  Kim also had it in another bag with a battery operated stuffed cat that “mewed” when you moved it.  This was going to be a joke gift for her sister at a quick coffee time before the program.

Kim put the bag onto the top of her truck, while she went back in to get her laptop.  Meanwhile, the neighborhood hawk hearing the “cat” mew as Kim put down the bag, swooped down to snatch the bag and flew to the top of the neighbor’s tree!!

True story.

As Kim said, “I can’t make this stuff up”.

So as you face your usual genealogy search challenges, remember this to get some perspective, and a little chuckle, that at least you did not have your research snatched by a hawk!

I can’t even believe that Kim’s presentation could have been more awesome.  Her back-up was very informative and seemed complete to us, and even had photos.  Kim is determined to get her bag out of the hawk nest when she can.

Good luck Kim, and thanks for being a good sport.  We have fun at the Stateline Genealogy Club @ Beloit Public Library!

Remember to always back-up, off-site of hawk snatching locations.






Family-History Storytelling

(Vicki’s note – Monday, July 25, 2016 article from Family Tree Magazine.  Here’s my tip for remembering life experiences – write down all of the good and bad things that you remember smelling from your childhood, or from a life situation.  It makes for an easy way to get a lot written in a powerful way.  Note – there is a reason people burn their memoirs written to purge their powerful feelings.):
To Write or Not to Write: Respecting Privacy in Family-History Storytelling

Posted by Diane Haddad

When you start writing your life’s stories, you may wonder what to put in and what to leave out. Should you mention that time you got arrested, or when your best friend betrayed you? What about your difficult relationship with your dad? What if telling your stories will reveal someone else’s secrets?
Writing your life story can raise questions about how to be fair and honest, and what stories of your life should keep private. Story of My Life workbook author and guest blogger Sunny Morton has three quick things to consider when you start writing your family history:
Everyone has a right to privacy. Writing about your life doesn’t obligate you to share all your stories. Chances are there are some events, relationships, failures or disappointments in your past you’d rather not write about.

While you should consider acknowledging all life-changing events (even if you choose not to dwell on details), you don’t have to write about everything. For painful events that prompted major changes in your relationships, career, living circumstances or way of life, a passing mention—along with the results—may be sufficient: “After my divorce, I moved to Seattle, where my sister lived. I wanted to leave painful memories behind.”
Honesty is key. You don’t need to tell everything—but everything you tell should be true. Of course, you won’t intend to write falsehoods, but it can be tempting to downplay your role in a big family argument or skip over the nice things your “worthless” baby brother actually has done for you. Nobody is all good or all bad, including yourself. Try to write about everyone fairly. In doing so, you may discover some new truths in the process of writing: how you felt about someone, what you learned from a situation, how you feel now.

Consider including at least some of these insights in your life-story writings. You may think it’s obvious what the past taught you or how you might feel, but that may not be the case. And your insights or life lessons may turn out to be the most valuable part of sharing your memories (for you and others).
Think twice before revealing someone else’s secrets. Many who write their life stories have to decide whether to divulge confidential or sensitive information about someone else. Should you write about a relative’s addiction, debts, temper or marital problems? Consider the answers to three questions:
First, is this your story to tell? If it didn’t significantly affect your life, it doesn’t really belong in your life story.

Second, what are your motives? Revenge, or an unfortunate but real need to set the record straight?

Finally, who may be hurt by your revelation? Even if the person with the secret is dead, that person may have living loved ones who may suffer.

After considering these questions, you may still see the need to reveal confidences, but you may approach it more sensitively.
My new book Story of My Life guides you through the process of deciding what stories to tell, telling them (including lessons learned) honestly, and focusing on what’s most important. You’ll find hundreds of memory prompts and reflection questions about the people and events of your past.

Story of My Life is available as an easy-to-use softcover workbook and as a writeable PDF—just type your answers and save them in a preformatted document you can print or share as you like.

Allen County Public Library Genealogy Center in Indiana

(Note from Vicki – I was reminded about this wonderful genealogy resource. Allen  County Public Library Genealogy Center in Fort Wayne, Indiana.

–  It will accept your genealogy research if your family does not want it after you pass – remember to put your  genealogy work into your will – using form ‘My Genealogical Will For Preserving My Family History”.

– It has some great free databases available on-line, see link below.

-It might be worth a road trip to do research on their in-house databases there, or take one of their many workshops.)

.Allen  County Public Library Genealogy Center in Fort Wayne, Indiana.


Allen County Genealogy Center

Our Databases

Need help? Take the next step with your research.
Contact: Genealogy@ACPL.Info

About Our Databases
Our Goal is to make your search successful
Our databases are part of the unique collection of print materials, microtext, online resources, and staff expertise that comprise the great research experience in The Genealogy Center.

The Databases and Files have been compiled by the library and its various volunteer corps or have been given to The Center to post on the web for free use by all. Each database can be searched separately. Please be certain to read the details about each database, including search tips, for the best searches possible. On The Genealogy Center main page, in the Discovery box, there is a place for you to search all of our databases at once.

Databases & Files (which you can access online at http://www.genealogycenter.org/Databases.aspx
Browse a list of our databases
Microtext Catalog
African American Gateway
Allen County, Indiana Resources
Family Bible Records
Family Resources
Genealogy Center Surname File
Indiana Resources
Native American Gateway
Other States Resources
Our Military Heritage
Community Album

On-Site Databases
Databases for in-house use

The On-Site Databases are data files the library licenses from outside vendors. These databases are free to use when in The Genealogy Center but are not accessible remotely.

African American Heritage
African American Historical Newspapers
Archives Unbound: Evangelism in Africa: Correspondence of the Board of Foreign Mission, 1835-1910
Archives Unbound: The Civil War in Words and Deeds
Archives Unbound: The War of 1812: Diplomacy on the High Seas
PERiodical Source Index (PERSI)
Slavery and Anti-Slavery: A Transnational Archive


Allen County Preservation WeekAllen County Visit

Free Family Genealogy Charts

Here is a great website from Cyndi’s list that may have the family chart(s) (and other genealogy forms)  that you need:


I have not found the chart that I am looking for yet. I have been looking for a particular type of family genealogy chart which does not seem to exist, so I will be creating one.  My family is making a unique family history book that will be mostly photographs of ancestors and descendants.  My sisters and I are right in the middle of the generations that will be depicted, and we will have a chart in the middle of the large (12″ x 18″ ??) book that opens onto both pages showing ancestors and descendants of our parents.  My Mom’s ancestors will be on one side of the book, at the top of a page, and my Dad’s ancestors on the other side of the book on the top of that page.

My best way to describe the family chart that I am looking for is an angel-shaped chart (without the head.)  It will have 6 or 7 generations of ancestors as a wing from our Mom’s family, and another from our Dad’s family.  I don’t like the fan charts, as I don’t like standing on my head to read the names and dates, so their ancestors will be shown as 2 landscape hourglass wings.

The descendants will be split on both sides of the bottom of the pages, with (my) three siblings on one page and four on the other side.  Then the grandchildren, and great grandchildren will continue as the “skirt” of the angel. (Although – looking at  it, I may have to make it a two/five split to balance, because my own individual family has the most grandchildren/ great grandchildren.)  I’m not sure if it will include the descendant’s spouses yet; but I will include the dob, dom, dod, and places of birth for the ancestors, so that I can show the countries of origin.

It will look something like this, with the spine groove of the book in the middle, open to the center of the book. (I did this on Excel.)

Angel Family Chart

There will be more generations back, even if some of the names are blank. I want to get back far enough to show the diversity of the countries that our ancestors came from- Germany, Ireland, Scotland, French, Welsh, English, and (??)

So there will be bigger “wings’ and less “skirt”, unless we take too long and need more room for descendants.  The book will be (self) published years before that, but maybe I will leave room for more descendant names to be written in later as some of the grandchildren have not yet had children that are in our (unplanned near) future.

Happy Easter to all of you, and enjoy celebrating your families on this holiday, and everyday.


Protect an Overlooked Genealogy Treasure – Emails

April 14, 2015

Protect an Overlooked Genealogy Treasure

by Marian Pierre-Louis

Email picture

When it comes to recording, preserving and conservation genealogists have impressive skills. Genealogists will scan or photograph original documents for later review. They will enter their data in a genealogy program – and even cite the sources! They will put family letters into protective sleeves and precious photos into acid free boxes. But there’s one area that genealogists often overlook.

When was the last time you saved your email? While all email can be considered important, let’s just consider the email related to your family history. This could be correspondence with a distant cousin or sending a request to an archive for a document. It could be a group collaboration on a sticky genealogical puzzle. Or it could be correspondence with a genealogical professional located in your ancestor’s home town.

The Problem

Many people feel that saving email in their email program is good enough. That’s a dangerous game to play. Email programs were never intended to be database repositories. Many of them even have a size capacity limit. After that limit has been reached the programs can get glitches, crash or stop working. For instance, when using Outlook 2003 or 2007 the size limit of the file (a .pst file) is 20 GB. That may seem large but if you are emailing photos or videos you could reach capacity very quickly. The size limit for Outlook 2010 is 50 GB but from what I’ve read online 5GB is a good practical working limit for any of those programs.

While you may not experience software crashes with Google Mail (Gmail), you will encounter mailbox size limits. Most users have the standard free 15GB limit. Schools and businesses may have 30 GB limits. Items in your spam and trash folders count toward your limit. Beyond that you will either have to delete email to make more room or have to purchase extra space.

Even if your inbox doesn’t reach capacity there are other threats to the safety of your email. In my case, my HP laptop overheated (a known issue) and the hard drive crashed not once, but twice. Some of my data was salvaged but much of it was lost.

Over the years I have been negligent about saving my email properly. I did make backup copies but over a 10 year period sometimes even the backup copies get lost.

The Solution

So what is the solution? Save individual emails to another format. Using the “Save As” feature in Outlook, you can save individual emails as html, text (.txt) as well as some Outlook message formats. My recommendation is to save the email in .txt format to your genealogy directories. Txt is the most basic format and most easily read by other programs. It is the least likely to become obsolete due to software version changes.


Gmail users have a harder time saving their email beyond using copy and paste. It is now possible to save your Gmail in the .mbox format (see here for instructions). This will save all of your emails to a single file (which is great for backing up!). If you want to save individual emails to your genealogy folders, you’ll have to use the cut and paste method.

Another thing you can do (I would do this in addition to saving individual emails to your computer) is to copy and paste emails to the notes area for the relevant ancestor in your genealogy software program.

While some correspondence, as mentioned earlier, is very obvious and should be saved, there are other emails hiding in your inbox that are even more important. These are the emails you exchange with your parents, siblings and extended family.

Sometimes these emails are very short such as “when was Aunt Louise born?” and its corresponding answer. Others are important gems hidden in the midst of day to day chatting. For instance your mother might mention the weather being windy today and then mention that time when the family gathered together during the 1938 hurricane.

These are the emails that I’ve lost. I’ve emailed my uncles with quick queries or received unsolicited stories and memories. But my day to day life was too busy to stop what I was doing to save the emails to a different format on my hard drive in an organized manner. One of my uncles has since passed and all my email exchanges with him are lost.

There’s no teacher like experience! I now carefully consider each email I receive and quickly save it to the correct family directory. When saving emails be sure to capture the date and to and from fields Hopefully you will have the chance to learn from my experience before you make the same mistake yourself.

Do you have a different way to save your family history related email? Tell us about it!

Marian Pierre-Louis is the Social Media Marketing Manager for Legacy Family Tree. She is also the host of The Genealogy Professional podcast. Check out her webinars in the Legacy library.


(from comments – you can also save to Evernote.)