Delaware Public Archives to hold Workshop on Organizing Genealogical Information

October 22nd, 2014

Are your digital genealogy files all over the place? Have you discovered a record for your ancestor, twice? Librarian Leah Youse will be presenting a program at the Delaware Public Archives on Saturday, November 1, 10:30 a.m. on developing methods of genealogical arrangement and organization. Whether you are just getting started or you have been conducting online research for years, this talk will provide ideas to take your organizational system to the next level. Youse will focus on managing files and folders, email, and research, including a brief discussion on easing the burden with software.

Leah Youse earned her Master’s degree in Library and Information Science from The University of Alabama and currently provides reference services to patrons at the Elkton Central Library in Cecil County, Maryland. She has done archival work with the Historical Society of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia and the Historical Society of Cecil County. Youse’s primary interests include research methodology and genealogy blogging.

The program is free to the public and will last approximately one hour. No reservations are required. For more information, contact Tom Summers (302) 744-5047 or e-mail thomas.summers@state.de.us.

 

Leah Youse

Leah Youse

 

Trashing Treasures

October 22nd, 2014

This blog is part of a special behind the scenes series for Archives Month.

Connor Graham, processing archivist

The Processing Room is where we clean and organize documents so they can be properly preserved. Removing staples and paperclips, photocopying acidic documents, unfolding papers, and placing records in acid-free folders and boxes are among the basic preservation techniques that we use on a daily basis at the Delaware Public Archives.

When a document comes to the Archives, it is not always in pristine condition. Sometimes it comes rolled up or folded accordion style. In order to flatten out the documents we use the process of humidification.

This is what we at the Delaware Public Archives call a humidification chamber, but most will recognize it as a basic trash can.

Humidification chamber, milk crate, sponges.

Humidification chamber, milk crate, sponges.

The next step is to take 4-5 sponges, wet them, ring them out to make sure they are not dripping wet, and then place them at the bottom of the trash can. You then place a milk crate over top of the sponges and basically cage them in.

Next step is to lay the document over top of the milk crate and place the lid on the trash can. We usually let the document sit for 1-2 days depending on the condition.

When the humidification process is over, we pull the document out of the chamber. At this point the document is slightly damp and wrinkles have been loosened up. To ensure that the document will stay flat we lay it between two sheets of acid-free blotter paper and place weights on top of it. After a couple days, the document is ready to be organized, foldered, and put away in our vaults.

 

After documents are humidified, arranged, boxed and described, they find a home on a shelf in one of our vaults.

After documents are humidified, arranged, boxed and described, they find a home on a shelf in one of our vaults.

 

Do you want to know more about what happens behind-the-scenes at the Delaware Public Archives? Send us your questions and we may feature them here for Archives Month.

Newly Processed Archives Document Measures More than 25 Feet in Length

October 17th, 2014

This blog is part of a special behind the scenes series for Archives Month.

Tom Summer, Outreach Manager

Archivist Margaret Dunham with a very long Orphans Court document.

Archivist Margaret Dunham with a very long Orphans Court document.

 

Recently, processing and reference archivist Margaret Dunham uncovered a document in the Kent County Orphans Court Case Files Collection that measured almost 26 feet in length. The file, from the year 1822, focues on a section of property in Murderkill Hundred (located south of Dover) owned by Ezekial Hunn.

According to Ms. Dunham, “these Orphans Court materials are a great resource for historians and genealogists alike. Many times these files, including this one, contain maps with houses and other landmarks that can provide clues and details to what was located on the property. This document is actually a series of documents held together with wax seals. In order to effectively preserve these extremely long files, we have to cut the documents to make them fit into the storage boxes that we have.”

When possible, we try to use humidification techniques to make the adhesive and wax more pliable. This allows us to pull the documents apart where they are affixed and helps us safely remove the wax or adhesive, preventing further damage. It’s not always possible to do this, so we have to cut some documents to facilitate proper storage in our vaults. Come by the Delaware Public Archives to see this document (and many more like it!) for yourself.

Do you want to know more about what happens behind-the-scenes at the Delaware Public Archives? Send us your questions and we may feature them here for Archives Month.

To Retain or Not to Retain, That is the Question

October 15th, 2014

This blog is part of a special behind the scenes series for Archives Month.

Kit Carson, Government Services Manager

If you’ve ever been to the research room, you’re probably familiar with members of our public services and record services staff. These are the people that prepare and service the records from our holdings for the public to use. Perhaps you’ve wondered how we get these records in the first place. They don’t just appear – our Government Services staff works with agencies daily to make sure that records are kept for the correct amount of time and then are either transferred to DPA for permanent storage or are safely destroyed.

Government Services staff carefully trains agency record officers to properly handle their agency’s records through a series of three courses. These courses are a great way to train new employees who handle records or to refresh seasoned record managers who might need a refresher on best practices. Courses are scheduled regularly throughout the year through the Office of Management and Budget’s State Training and Development Office. These courses include:

Files Management: Provides basic instruction on creating and maintaining an effective filing system, the types and uses of filing systems, standard filing procedures and introduces the DPA Retention Schedule and explains how it is used.

Preparation of Records to Transfer to DPA: Provides step-by-step instruction of the process of preparing transfer documents and boxing records for transfer to the DPA for temporary storage, permanent preservation, or destruction.

Records and Information Management: Explains the benefits of proper records management, the use of retention schedules, the process of making changes to a records series, managing electronic records, technological maintenance requirements, their life cycles, and retention periods.

Record keeping can be made more effective and less costly through the use of efficient techniques. The information provided in the courses assist agencies in creating a foundation upon which their records system should be built. These courses are not intended to present a universal formula or the ultimate system. Rather, they are provided so that agencies can identify their needs, assess available resources and then develop a plan that is tailored to their operations.

 

Government Services Manager Kit Carson trains state record officers.

Government Services Manager Kit Carson trains state record officers.

 

Do you want to know more about what happens behind-the-scenes at the Delaware Public Archives? Send us your questions and we may feature them here for Archives Month.

Copying Your Documents Has Never Been Easier

October 13th, 2014

This blog is part of a special behind the scenes series for Archives Month.

Richard Hays, reference archivist

Reference archivist Rich Hays demonstrates DPA's new microfilm scanner.

Reference archivist Rich Hays demonstrates DPA’s new microfilm scanner.

In order to keep up with the demand for more ways to obtain digital records, the Delaware Public Archives has recently acquired a pair of new microfilm reader-scanners. These microfilm readers provide image quality that greatly surpasses what has previously been available to our patrons. We encourage researchers to use the new readers to take a second look at records that they have viewed previously, as these new machines could reveal fresh details that could have been missed in the past.

The new readers are operated using specialized software that features a plethora of options to help patrons achieve the best images possible. Among these features are the ability to scan only select parts of a document, and also to control the brightness and contrast of either the entire image or just a small area in real time. This makes it possible to achieve crystal-clear images of all records, including the notoriously difficult to read deed books. Any scanned images can be transferred to a personal flash drive free of charge!

As always, the research room staff is available to answer any questions you may have, or to offer demonstrations to help you get started using the new readers quickly and easily. There is also a set of comprehensive instructions for use of the scanner located at each station. We hope everyone will take advantage of the new technology that is available.  We look forward to seeing all of you!

Do you want to know more about what happens behind-the-scenes at the Delaware Public Archives? Send us your questions and we may feature them here for Archives Month.

Why Electronic Records Need Special Attention

October 10th, 2014

E-Rec Week

In recognition of Electronic Records Day 2014, here is a list of reasons why everyone should be thinking more about electronic records.

1. Managing electronic records is like caring for a perpetual toddler: they need regular attention and care in order to remain accessible.

2. Electronic records can become unreadable very quickly. While records on paper can sometimes be read after thousands of years, digital files can be virtually inaccessible after just a few.

3. Scanning paper records is not the end of the preservation process: it is the beginning. Careful planning for ongoing management expenses must be involved as well.

4. There are no permanent storage media. Hard drives, CDs, magnetic tape or any other storage formats will need to be tested and replaced on a regular schedule. Proactive management is required to avoid catastrophic loss of records.

5. The lack of a “physical” presence can make it very easy to lose track of electronic records. Agencies must take special care to ensure they remain in controlled custody and do not get lost in masses of other data.

6. It can be easy to create copies of electronic records and share them with others, but this can raise concerns about the authenticity of those records. Implementing extra security requirements prevents electronic records from being altered inappropriately.

7. The best time to plan for electronic records preservation is when they are created. Do not wait until software is being replaced or for a project to end to think about how records are going to be preserved.

8. No one system you buy will solve all your e-records problems. Despite what vendors say, there is not a “magic” solution to manage and preserve your e-records for you.

9. Electronic records can help ensure the rights of the public through greater accessibility than ever before, but only if creators, managers and users all recognize their importance and contribute resources to their preservation.

10. While they may seem commonplace now, electronic records will form the backbone of the historical record for future researchers.

Remember, the Delaware Public Archives is here to assist you tackle these difficult problems. Contact the Government Services section for more information and assistance. Prior planning will make sure your agency’s electronic records remain accessible for generations to come!

Delaware Records on Ancestry.com Expanded

October 8th, 2014

Your Delaware library card used to let you to view Delaware birth, death, marriage, naturalization, and will records on Ancestry.com. Now you can view all of these records plus Delaware land records from 1677-1947 with just a few quick clicks of the mouse without needing to enter your Delaware library card information!

The land records provide valuable information to researchers about where property was located and who owned it when. Land records or deeds include the names of grantor (the person releasing the property) and grantee (the person purchasing the land), as well as previous owners, the amount of payment, the dates the deed were recorded, and terms of the deed.

Explore the Delaware land records on Ancestry at no charge by visiting this website: Delaware Land Records on Ancestry.com

To browse the land records, select the county you would like to research and then the roll number that you would like to browse. You will be prompted to create a free account using your name and email address. If you have already registered for your free account, click on the “Sign In” button in the top right corner of the screen to enter your name and email address. Once registered, you will be able to see your desired record.

Unfortunately the Delaware land records on Ancestry.com have not yet been indexed. Although the beginning of each digitized deed book contains an index, we recommend that to save time, you visit the Delaware Public Archives in person to view the land record indexes and find your deed book references before delving into property research from this time period.

To access other Delaware records on Ancestry.com without subscribing to a membership, follow this link: Delaware Records on Ancestry.com.

 

Genealogy Help Session

October 6th, 2014

Have you ever wondered about your family history but didn’t know where to start? Are you a genealogist or researcher that has hit a wall with your research? The Delaware Public Archives is pleased to announce that in honor of Family History Month and Archives Month, volunteers from local genealogical societies will be on site to help you with your research on Saturday, October 11th from 9:30 am to 12:30 pm. Our volunteers will be available to answer your questions, show you what resources DPA has available and explain how you can use them. Don’t miss this opportunity to discover more about your family tree.

Pre-registration for this opportunity is required. Please call Dawn Mitchell at 302-744-5000 by 4:00 pm on Thursday, October 9 to reserve your spot.

(Left to right) Research Room Supervisor Dawn Mitchell stands with Genealogy Research Volunteers Nancy Lyons and Sally Williams.

(Left to right) Research Room Supervisor Dawn Mitchell stands with Genealogy Research Volunteers Nancy Lyons and Sally Williams.

Archives Month 2014

October 1st, 2014

October is Archives Month and throughout the month we are offering a behind-the-scenes look at the Delaware Public Archives on our blog. We will highlight things you might not know about or see on a regular visit to our research room.

During Archives Month we’re also going share the discoveries of our researchers. I Found It In The Archives is a month-long celebration of our researchers and their skills at uncovering clues about the past.

Join us in celebrating Archives Month by sending us your questions, comments and stories. We might share them here or on our other social media platforms. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and right here all month long.

The Lincolns: Portrait of a Family

September 25th, 2014

Abraham Lincoln was born in a log cabin in 1809. His son died in a mansion 117 years later. In those years, the country endured a series of dramatic changes which forever altered the course of American history. However, no family paid a more dramatic price. On Saturday, October 4, at 10:30 a.m., historian Daniel Pritchett will explore this famous American family at the Delaware Public Archives in a program titled “The Lincolns: Portrait of a Family.” Lincoln and Mary Todd, who met in 1839 and married in 1842, seemed at first glance to have nothing in common. Yet, their marriage was probably the most consequential in American history. When the Lincolns came to the White House two decades later, the country was in the midst of its greatest crisis. This presentation will focus on this improbable pair, their four sons, and the heartbreaking series of tragedies that struck the family before, during, and after the Civil War.

Daniel Pritchett has taught American history since 1969, when he moved from West Virginia to take a position with the Capital School District in Dover. After retiring in 2003, he worked for five years as an adjunct professor at Delaware State University. He presently teaches at the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute and is a speaker for the Delaware Humanities Forum.

The program is free to the public and will last approximately one hour. No reservations are required. For more information, contact Tom Summers (302) 744-5047 or e-mail thomas.summers@state.de.us.

Mary Lincoln

Mary Lincoln

Abraham Lincoln

Abraham Lincoln