A Plot in the Shape of Delaware

December 8th, 2014

Tom Summers, Outreach Services Manager

One of the joys of working at the Delaware Public Archives is discovering interesting documents that have not been processed until now and has not been seen for hundreds of years. Recently, I blogged about a Kent County Orphans Court plot that was more than 25 feet long which was found by archivist Margaret Dunham. Now working in Sussex County Orphans Court records, Margaret called me again when she found the document seen in the picture below. The image shows the 1807 plot of Jacob Burton from Dagsboro Hundred. Unlike most similar documents in the Archives’ collections, this plot features color and actually shows a portion of the plot that resembles the shape of the State of Delaware. The Delaware shaped portion is referred to in the document as “Hog Range.” Take a look and decide for yourself! Within this record (dated 1807 – 1822), Mr. Burton is leaving his divided estate to his wife Sophia and thirteen children and grandchildren.

 

1807 Jacob Burton Plot

1807 Jacob Burton Plot

 

Thanksgiving Proclamations

November 24th, 2014

Katie Hallreference archivist

Americans have celebrated Thanksgiving in some form since 1789. President Abraham Lincoln signed a proclamation in 1863 that Thanksgiving should fall on the last Thursday of November and for the most part, states celebrated the holiday at the end of the month. However, it wasn’t until President Franklin Delano Roosevelt signed a Joint Resolution of Congress in 1941 that we began celebrating the holiday on the Fourth Thursday of November. The National Archives has that proclamation available online for all to see.

Between 1863 and 1941, before the day became a national holiday, presidents and state governors made annual Thanksgiving proclamations setting aside the day as one of thanksgiving and reflection. The Governors Papers Collection at the Delaware Public Archives has a nice selection of Thanksgiving proclamations from former Delaware governors’. Some invoke the “early settlers upon our shores, beset by hardships and perils,” like Governor Buck did in 1935:

Governor Buck Thanksgiving Proclamation, 1935 Governors Paper Collection RG 1302.007

 

In 1893, Governor Reynolds saw that Delawareans had been regarding Thanksgiving as “a day for indulgence in riotous living and worldly sports, contrary to the spirit in which the custom originated” and encouraged “the people of this State [to] lay aside all secular occupations” on that day:

Gov. Reynolds Thanksgiving Proclamation, 1893 Governors Papers Collection RG 1302.007

Gov. Reynolds Thanksgiving Proclamation, 1893
Governors Papers Collection
RG 1302.007

 

In a similar vein, in 1901, Governor John Hunn recommended “that on that day all business of whatever character be suspended, and that the people assemble in their accustomed places of public worship, and there render thanks for those inestimable benefits which have been accorded them.”

Gov. Hunn Thanksgiving Proclamation, 1901 Governors Papers Collection RG 1302.007

 

Which proclamation is your favorite?

Delaware Votes

November 3rd, 2014

Sarah Denison, processing archivist

Tomorrow Delawareans up and down the state will head to polling places to cast their vote in the midterm election. Not sure who to vote for? For hundreds of years political parties and special-interest groups have issued flyers endorsing candidates. Check out these tickets from the 1800s. They won’t help you make a decision tomorrow, but they might inspire you to follow in the footsteps of generations of Delawareans to get out and vote.

 

Working Mens Republican Reform Ballot, General Reference Collection 9270.001

Working Mens Republican Reform Ballot, General Reference Collection 9270.001

Republican Ballot 1840s, General Reference Collection 9270.001

Republican Ballot 1840s, General Reference Collection 9270.001

Democratic Ballot 1846, General Reference Collection 9270.001

Democratic Ballot 1846, General Reference Collection 9270.001

Sussex County American Republican Ballot 1834, General Reference Collection 9270.001

Sussex County American Republican Ballot 1834, General Reference Collection 9270.001

1874 Farmers Ticket, General Reference Collection 9270.001

1874 Farmers Ticket, General Reference Collection 9270.001

1858 Peoples Ticket,General Reference Collection 9270.001

1858 Peoples Ticket,General Reference Collection 9270.001

The End of Archives Month

October 31st, 2014

Archives Month comes to an end on October 31, even though we prefer to celebrate it all year long. We hope you’ve enjoyed the extra behind-the-scenes glimpses of life at the Delaware Public Archives this month. As we enter November, we just want to remind you of a few upcoming events at DPA:

 

Workshop: Organizing your Genealogical Information
Saturday, November 1
10:30 a.m.
Free and open to the public; pre-registration is not required

Are your digital genealogy files all over the place? Have you discovered a record for your ancestor, twice? Librarian Leah Youse will present a program at the Delaware Public Archives 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.

 

Genealogy Help Session
Saturday, November 8
9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
Free program, pre-registration is required
Call Dawn Mitchell at 302-744-5000 to pre-register by Thursday, November 6 at 4 p.m.

Have you ever wondered about your family history but didn’t know where to start? Are you a genealogist that has “hit a wall” with your research? The Delaware Public Archives is pleased to announce that volunteers from local genealogical societies will be on site to help you with your research on Saturday, November 8 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.

 

The Mabel Lloyd Ridgely Research Room will be closed on the following days in November:
Tuesday, November 4
Tuesday, November 11
Thursday, November 27
Friday, November 28

The research room may be closed on these days, but you can search some of our most-accessed collections and view digital images from our photograph collections online 24 hours a day.

 

Are you on Instagram? You can now keep up with our historical markers program on Instagram at @dpamarkers. Be sure to tag us if you take a picture of one of our historical markers!

Marking Delaware History

October 29th, 2014

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

Woodland United Methodist Church, Woodland Delaware

Woodland United Methodist Church, Woodland Delaware

Kate Fair, markers coordinator

Delaware has over 570 historical markers located throughout the state. Historical markers are first proposed by members of the public, vetted for historical significance by the Delaware Public Archives, and financially sponsored by state senators and representatives. The Delaware Historical Marker program was established in 1931 by an Act of the Delaware State Legislature to “determine and select such points of historic interest throughout the State … and erect monuments … to be appropriate at such points.”

Delaware historical markers are plaques and signs placed throughout the state to commemorate and visually educate the public about the people, places, and events that are significant to Delaware’s state, local, and national history. Since the program’s inception, Delaware historical markers have undergone a variety of stylistic changes. To view these changes and learn more about historical markers, log on to www.archives.delaware.gov/markers/index.shtml and follow us on Instagram @dpamarkers. Be sure to share your Delaware historical marker photos with us!

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.

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 Summers, 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.