28 January 2011

Paper Migration

compiled by Teresa Martin Klaiber
January 2011

People migrate for many reasons. Genealogists follow the migrations. When people migrate their "stuff" migrates with them. During the ten years that we had an established antique shop in the heart of Ohio, we often joked that items purchased on the East Coast eventually ended up in California where high end dealers sold the item back to New York.

I sat in the middle of the floor of my office the other day with stacks of original source materials including old diaries, ledgers and letters around me and thought about those analogies and what I was guilty of when we moved back to our beloved Eastern Kentucky from Ohio.

As Family Lineage Investigations Antiques & Genealogy, I purchased many ledgers and documents at auctions. My intent was to publish the materials and make them more accessible to everyone. It was a good plan and some were published. I also purchased many items from other states and donated them to respective libraries in the area where the items originated rather than sell them in our shop.

Good intentions aside, what actually happened to much of the Ohio materials could have made them less available or worse - lost.

Several years ago, I realized the materials just were not "at home" in Eastern Kentucky. I called the librarian for the Guernsey Chapter OGS who drove to Eastern Kentucky and retrieved a car load of original source ledgers for that county. They are now safely housed in their home county and available in a logical place for researchers to find them. Why didn't I do that before I moved? Moving is emotional and hurried and time slips by quickly. So I felt relieved that the items were returned and smug that they had not been scattered around the country or worse tossed by some uncaring person.

Over a period of time, I have donated other original source items found in my Eastern Kentucky office to various places. Mind you my office is not huge. I think it is homey. My sons shake their heads calling me that horrible name "pack rat". I take offense arguing that I am organized and everything has purpose. Or rather I did until that moment when I discovered a storage box that left me sitting on the floor with those wonderful items scattered around me.

I have spent the last several days making contacts and can report that they are migrating yet again but this time home. I hope they enjoyed their vacation in Eastern Kentucky.

Migration of documents is a problem that every genealogical researcher faces. It reminds me of the preparation of my book New Concord 1833-1902. A small article appeared in the local paper which noted that we could not find any volume of council minutes prior to 1900. Within a week I had a letter from George L. Carlos in Winter Haven, Florida. He wrote "I was born in New Concord and served the village for many years...I was a council member when the old Town Hall was torn down ...I retrieved from the city dump the council minutes...I have carried these with me for many years over half the country but it is time for them to go home." The ledger did come home and the original is safely archived at Muskingum University and extracted in my publication which is now available digitally.

As our new Eastern Kentucky home was in the midst of log raising, I was busy cleaning and organizing the estate of my father-in-law. Their home was small and never cluttered but something was jammed behind the head board of a bed. I was startled and excited when I pulled out a ledger. That ledger had migrated from the Boyd County Courthouse. I can only speculate how it made it to our rural farm but it is now extracted and published for all to use: Boyd County, Kentucky 1902 Tax Journal. While it is not a wealth of information it does verify that a person resided in the county and what district they were in during 1902. Mind you the book did not travel far but could easily have been lost for future generations.

In May 2010 I wrote about the Garrett Chapel United Methodist Church Records from Lawrence County, Kentucky which also migrated but luckily had been copied. When I wrote that blog I said "I stand firm that records belong where they were created in a safe environment for historical purposes."

Even after the reality that I had tucked away materials that needed to go home, I still feel that way. I have rectified my error and encourage everyone to be vigilant and make sure those wonderful jewels are placed where they can easily be utilized. I encourage everyone to enjoy regular visits to antique shops and auctions and help these items find their way home.

stock illustration, Image zoo thank you fotosearch.com

1 comment:

  1. You are SOOOO right about this! After my great-grandparents died, we found a family Bible in the attic that did not belong to our family. We have no idea how it got there, because my great-grandparent built the house and were the only ones ever to occupy it. We found the descendants of the family the Bible belonged to, and they were VERY happy to have it and all it's recording of births and deaths.