Tuesday, January 24, 2012

SLIG - Day 2

I spent the whole morning feeling like I was back in grade school, anxiously waiting for the afternoon field trip. Luckily, I was grown-up enough to not spend the whole morning fidgeting in my seat, even I was doing just that on the inside.

The morning sessions focused on State Archives, the records they might contain, and how they differ from state to state with a lot of examples and case studies. Dr. Colletta also gave us a quick explanation of naturalization records, and laws.

When I registered I kinda grumbled about the fact that we were "stuck" in one course, one subject, instead of the traditional conference format of picking and choosing each hour. But as it turns out, I kinda like this way. Not only do I not have to decide every single hour what I want to take, but since we are taking the same series of classes, when the lecturer goes over, we can request that he/she keep going, instead of cutting the lecture short, and just sacrificing some of our break time, and/or adjusting the schedule as needed. No worrying about having to run to other classes, or someone else needing the classroom etc.

We further discussed the differences between State Archives, State Libraries, State Historical Societies, and the responsibilities of each. There are 2 basic types of state archives, centralized (one for the whole state) or regional (several scattered across the state). Though thanks to recent digitization efforts, there are now mixtures popping up.

Some records you may find in State Archives are state census, military, prison, state hospital, state court records, maps, photographs, land records. Some may have gathered up county, or even city records, some may have copies of NARA microfilms.

We learned that the key is just to contemplate your ancestor's life and think when and why they would have had to deal with the government. Even times like applying for business licenses. Personally, I've had fun with the on-line Brands and Markings collection on the Utah State Archive site, just finding what brands my ranching ancestors used.

A great site to help you find archives is www.nagara.org (National Association of Government Archives and Records Administrators)

Archive Finder is another great tool to not only help you find the archive, but help you know what they have, unfortunately they are a subscription site. But try your local library or university for access.

As for naturalization: I especially liked learning about naturalization laws, who could be naturalized and when. For example, it wasn't until 1922 that married women had to file their own naturalization papers. Previously, they simply had the same status as their husband.

Then came lunch and the field trip!!!!

After arriving at the archive, we went into a classroom where the Head Archivist, Patricia Smith-Mansfield, taught us about the purpose of State Archives, about manuscript collections, an overview of record laws.

Then came the tour. First stop was the archive room itself with a demo of the machine that automatically pulls the container-a bookshelf type thing holding several archive boxes-and brings it down to a person who can then scan the box barcode for the requested box to help track it.

Next stop was the imaging labs where we were shown a digital capture camera, and a microfilm scanner (both of which I'm more than familiar with) and then up to the digital specialist for more talk of preserving and some cool audio transfer equipment.

Finally, we ended up in the research room for a tour of that area.

Our tour was scheduled to end at 3. (and thus that's when the bus was coming to get us). But the research room was open to 4.

I decided to stick around, and was rewarded with copies of pictures that my GGG took, as well as some good ones of a couple of his stores as they changed over the years. I'm always on the lookout for his photos. He was a photographer before photography was cool, so many of his photos have a lot of historical value, especially since he was also one of the early founders of Provo, UT, so has many pictures of the city in its early years. But most of these were ones I hadn't seen before, and showed features of the town that I hadn't seen before.

As I mentioned, I've spent time on their website, and in their digital collections, but this was my first trip to the archives/historical society. I came up with a long to-do list as I heard more about what records are there. So I look forward both to spending more time in their on-line catalog, and more personal visit time.

Since another course I'd really wanted to take was the New England course with Josh Taylor, I didn't want to miss his evening class on the topic. But even with the hour of research time, I had 3 hours to kill. I tried to decide if I was going to head to the FHL, or to the study room for some homework time, or lesson prep time for a class I'm teaching Friday night, or just hanging out and visiting with other classmates.

I ended up grabbing some dinner at a great restaurant I've been meaning to try, then wound up running into some friends, and ended up killing over 2 hours that way. So then I just decided to "bag it" and enjoy the city. It was just the day-cation I needed!!!! I'd forgotten what it felt like to not have to be constantly rushing from one place to another, to be worrying about the mile long to-do list, or the kids or...

And of course Joshua's class was wonderful! If you haven't had the chance to hear him speak, do everything you can to get that opportunity. He's absolutely fabulous! And gave a lot of great resources for New England research, particularly Colonial NE.
His favorite sites are (of course) FamilySearch, American Ancestors, and Google Books

He also recommended a lot of great books, many depending on what state you're researching in. He also told us that when he moves he packs by priority. The books he uses most get top priority, then next and so forth so he knows what order to unpack, who cares about kitchen stuff or bedsheets. Sounds pretty familiar, is it any wonder I love his presentations?!?!

He claimed early New England research is some of the best there is because there is such a wide variety of records, so many compiled sources (so many compiled sources in public domain hence the Google Books link), so many on-line resources etc.

This is also one area that really does require your due diligence aka "exhaustive" searches, since there are many conflicting sources. He brought up how there are often debating and/or correcting TAG records. (TAG=The American Genealogist, published by the NEHGS). Not to mention other conflicting records.

I learned just enough about the NEHGS holdings to wet my appetite, but not enough that I feel confident in my ability to jump right into this area. But that's what the other guides and resources he recommended are for.

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