Saving your letters
Posted by Elisabeth Doucett on October 21st, 2016
Do you have boxes of old letters from various family members? Are you wondering about how to preserve them for future generations? If so, you might want to read the article about how to preserve letters from The Archive Lady which you can access here.
The article has some good, common-sense ideas for storing written family documents. The most important point is the first one – if you have letters folded in envelopes, take them out of the envelopes and unfold them before putting them in archival folders. Always keep a letter and its envelope together but by unfolding the letter and storing it that way, you allow people the chance to read the letters without folding and unfolding them which tends to stress the paper and cause rips.
An important point not mentioned in the article is that if there are staples in your letters, take them out carefully. Over time anything metal will degrade and rust and this can damage the letters. If you need to keep together several pages of a letter, use plastic paperclips.
Finally, the author recommends keeping the letters in archival boxes. That makes sense if you don’t envision the letters being read very often. If you think the letters might be looked at on a regular basis, you might want to consider keeping them in an archival sleeve in a binder instead. The binder will need to lie flat on a shelf to ensure there is no stress on the letters but it will make the letters much easier to look at and read than having to pull them out of a box.
Those are today’s ideas for taking care of your family’s historical documents – happy research!
P.S. At the end of The Archive Lady’s blog you’ll find some tips for taking care of locks of hair that might have been passed down in your family – very interesting!
A resource for those researching genealogy in Ireland
Posted by Elisabeth Doucett on October 11th, 2016
If your genealogy research focus is on Ireland, you might want to read this story in the Irish Times. It discusses the founding of the Irish Genealogical Research Society. I always knew that Irish genealogy research was challenging but didn’t really understand why. Apparently, during the Irish Civil War to establish the Irish free-state, the combatants seized the Irish Four Courts and blew it up along with a thousand years of Irish documents and history.
Because of the loss of so much of the paper history of Ireland, the Irish Genealogical Research Society (IGRS) was founded on September 15th, 1936 with the goal of finding abstracts and transcripts of the lost records. The society marked its 80th anniversary through an ongoing program to upload its collection to its website, www.irishancestors.ie where much of its collection can now be found.
Happy research and good luck!
Recipes and genealogy
Posted by Elisabeth Doucett on September 30th, 2016
My mother was a “collector” (she didn’t throw very much out) and my genealogy research has benefited from that. She kept all of my grandmother and great-grandmother’s recipe cards even though she rarely cooked from them. I never paid much attention to the recipe cards until after my mom passed away and my siblings and I were cleaning out her apartment. I became the keeper of “all things paper” because of my interest in family history and so the recipe cards came to my house. As I started to go through the recipes I realized what a wonderful addition they were to a deeper understanding of our family history.
The older recipes from my great-grandmother are a reflection of how different peoples’ lives were 150 years ago. The recipes were for huge quantities because my great-grandmother lived on a farm and meals served not just the family but all of the farm workers. Ingredients were very simple (eggs, molasses, flour) because exotic ingredients weren’t easy to find, much less buy. Many steps were left out of the recipes because in that time period everyone cooked and it was assumed you would just know specific things, like how to sour milk to put in a baking recipe to make the end result lighter. There were ingredients included that we would turn our noses up at today like lard. Reading through the recipes was fascinating and it gave me some insight into a person I never met.
My grandmother’s recipes were equally enlightening. I always knew my grandmother had a terrible sweet tooth (as do I!) but when I went through her recipes, it became even more obvious. About half of her recipe cards were for rich, fattening desserts (that sound absolutely wonderful). She and my grandfather loved to entertain and that was equally clear – there were lots and lots of recipes for appetizers and a few for what sound like very enticing cocktails. My grandmother was an old-time Yankee and her main courses reflected that, being for dishes like fish chowder or boiled dinners. I knew my grandmother so her recipes were more of an amplification of what I already knew but they were also very intriguing to read through.
I also have my mother’s recipes. I haven’t gone through them yet. I know they will be very evocative because they are about the food I ate in my childhood (jello being a key ingredient!) and I’m not quite ready to take on that job. However, eventually I will sort through them and put them in the archival binder in which the other recipes reside. At some point I will also add in some of my most used recipes and the “favorite recipe” cards that my mother’s friends gave me at my bridal shower. I love those particularly because each one of them represents a special person in my childhood and they are written out by each person, making them even more personal. Ultimately, I will pass all of the recipes on to a family member who will equally enjoy the stories embedded in the cards.
So, as you put together your genealogy research, don’t forget your family’s recipes. They tell lovely stories for those who are open to listening. Happy research!