Family History Book(s)

There is nothing quite like digging up the past! Whether it’s visiting your local library  or visiting a research center to sift through primary documents. I find myself getting a taste of a topic and then wanting to know as much about it as I can. Believe me, its hard not to get lost in hours and hours of research–it’s so exhilarating. What’s even more exciting and engaging is when your research takes you into your family’s past.

family-grid

Old Family Photos

I’ve looked into making a family history album in the past, but I have not had time to devote to it. My folks have boxes full of Frederick family photos and documents sitting in the attic–not a good spot for them! It would be good to go through them, organize, scan and print them in an album. Face it, this stuff won’t last forever. I just hope my future children and their children will cherish and take interest in it like I have.

Additionally, Molly’s folks gave me a treasure trove of her family photos and mementos. One of those items is her great great grandpa’s passport!  I also have her great grandparents wedding announcements and other documents. There are also boxes full of photographs that I have yet to go through. These are such wonderful items that piece together to tell her family’s story.

You would think that writing this would be easy. I mean, it is my family’s story. The tough part is how to make a family history album more than just birthday, marriage, and death dates. These family members had personal experiences that I need to capture. I remember Grandpa Frederick telling me that shortly after marrying Grandma Millie in 1943 the “G-Men” showed up to take him to a physical exam for the draft. He said that he went through the examination, but that he would not be required to serve. Molly’s Great Grandma, whom I was fortunate enough to meet when we started dating, told us the story of the transatlantic trip her family took to Switzerland when she was a little girl. They were going to Europe to stay with her father’s family. She talked about walking on the deck of the ship as they crossed the Atlantic. These are just a few of the great stories that will fill the pages of a book.

arthurs-draft-card

Great Grandpa Frederick’s WWII draft registration

I am really looking forward to doing this…it is long overdue. I am making it my goal to do at least one of these books before the end of 2017. I have a mass of photos and documents ready to go into one of these books; it’s just a matter organizing and making sense of it. There are a lot of examples of how to assemble a book like this on Pinterest that will guide me through the process.  I will post my progress as I work on it in the next year.

Have you put together a family history album? How did you go about doing it?  What was the most exciting details you uncovered about your family history? Share some of your project stories in the comment section below.

Archival Organization Project

Cataloging Work Station

Cataloging Work Station

I’ve been a board member of the Winnebago County Historical & Archaeological Society here in Oshkosh for the last three years. We have an awesome facility in the old John Morgan house. The Morgans were the founders of one of the reputable sash and door factories back in Oshkosh’s heyday of the lumber industry. Our society inherited the house in the 1980s from a generous donor, and it has been restored since then. We are fortunate to have such a nice facility to be able to house a diverse collection of books, photographs, and documents.

When I joined the board of directors back in 2013, I took on the big project of archiving our decent-sized collections of photographs, books, and assorted documents. We have a great variety of items that have been donated over the years. We are also contacted on a regular basis for new items people want to donate.  I’ve put a plan in motion to organize, catalog, and make them accessible to people.

In 2015, I applied for the Wisconsin Historical Society’s annual mini-grantwhich is to help fund preservation projects at affiliate organizations. They award up to $700, and the organization applying must match the amount being asked for. My request was for $565, which we were awarded, and with the matching funds gave us a total of $1,130 to spend for preservation. We purchased the following items for our archives with the money we were given:

  • Shelving
  • Archival Boxes for Storage  (Gaylord Archival)
  • 2 TB External Hard Drive Storage ( backup for scanned photos/records)
  • Media Upgrade for PastPerfect Museum Software ( adding photographs to computer catalog)

Due to a massive restoration project from water damage in another part of the house in 2015, the archival project was put on hold for most of last year. Now that the restoration is complete, I have been able to get back to it. I have started by taking all of the items we received in 2015 and 2016 and started cataloging them into our computer database. After those are in, I will go back and start examining everything we have gotten in the past and organize it. It’s important we document the donor information as well.

When you work with a lot of old photographs...you start seeing yourself in them

When you work with a lot of old photographs…you start seeing yourself in them

I earned my undergraduate degree in history from UW Oshkosh, and I have decided to get some hands-on experience rather than going on for a higher degree. I’ve taken an online training course through the American Association for State and Local History (AASLH) on the basics of archiving. There are also a lot of great resources online to help us out. It would be great to have a professional come in and volunteer!

Once organized and in the computer catalog, I would like to put together a plan in which we can make this more accessible to our members and the general public. We do not have a specific space laid out for researchers to come in and use our resources, which is the purpose of collecting and preserving the material. I envision one of our rooms being arranged so people can come in and scan documents and photographs or come in and use our library collection.

Morgan Library

Morgan Library

This summer my good friend and fellow board member Patti and I worked on cataloging the library collection. We finished that up before the end of summer–over 300 books in the library. Of course, our society needs all the help we can get with preservation projects like this. I encourage you to contact our society, if you are in the area, and get involved with this cataloging project. It is actually a lot of fun. Sometimes it’s hard to focus and keep working because you can’t help but examine the stuff you are cataloging.

You can email the society at WinnebagoHistoricalSociety@gmail.com and say that you want to help the Collections Committee catalog.