As an archivist working in a county archives every day, I get asked lots of questions about researching in archives and records preservation. Most questions come from my favorite people: genealogists! In celebration of Ask an Archivist Day, here are the top 5 questions I get asked as an archivist–and my answers.
Today is “Ask an Archivist” day on Twitter, so Lisa asked me to share the top 5 questions I am asked all the time. Let’s jump right in!
Top 5 Questions I Get Asked as an Archivist
Archivist Question #1: What kinds of records can I find in an archive?
This is a great question that I never get tired of answering! Every archive is different in what records they have in their collections. That is why it is very important for genealogists to contact the archive and ask them about the various records they have available. I can tell you that archives have records that are unique, not online and just waiting for the genealogist to discover them. You can find records like photographs, oral histories, scrapbooks, store ledgers, and so much more.
Archivist Question #2: Why do I need to wear gloves when handling photographs?
When handling photographs, archivists almost always ask researchers to put on a pair of gloves. The reason for this is because the oils and dirt on our hands can transfer to photographs and will eventually damage the photographs. Wearing gloves ensures that damage will not occur but genealogists still get to enjoy holding original family photographs.
Archivist Question #3: What is a finding aid?
A finding aid is the “road map” to a manuscript collection. The finding aid lists what is contained in the collection and is arranged in a folder-by-folder, box-by-box listing. When accessing manuscript collections at any archives, the finding aid will help the genealogist know what is in the collection.
Archivist Question #4: Are there family histories in the archives?
Yes! Family histories are found in archives. Many of these family histories are in the form of family group sheets, compiled family histories, and even whole collections of family histories that have been donated to the archives. These family histories can be found in the vertical files collection or manuscript collections. When doing research at an archive, genealogists need to ask the archivist about family histories.
Archivist Question #5: Why aren’t all records in the archives digitized and online?
This is a question that I get all the time by genealogists who can’t travel to the archives but want to see the records. I wish all the records in all archives could be magically digitized and put online but the truth is that it takes money, equipment, and staff hours to digitize the vast amounts of records that are in all of our archives. While there are more and more records coming online every day, there are still records that may never be online and will need to be accessed at the archives.
Learn More from The Archive Lady
Jennifer recently wrote in with a question about how to archive family history documents. My answer in this blog post will help you care for your precious possessions, too. Then, listen to the Genealogy Gems Podcast to hear more from me, The Archive Lady!