Thursday, June 12, 2014

Preserving Historical Documents: Caring for your family documents at home

Preservation at Home

Many family documents, photos, letters, and diaries are passed down from generation to generation. You can help to preserve your own family documents by properly storing and safely handling them in your home.

By keeping your documents in appropriate conditions, you can help ensure that they are preserved for generations.

Storage Conditions

Temperature extremes and fluctuations lead to degradation of documents. UV light from the sun or interior light bulbs can cause paper to degrade and ink to fade. To ensure that your documents last, keep them in conditions that are comfortable for people. A good rule of thumb is to keep your family documents in the central part of your home, where it is not too hot or cold, and not too dry or damp. 
  • Keep documents on the main floor (not in a hot attic or damp basement)
  • Keep the temperature between  15-21 degrees C (60-70 F) and 40-50% humidity
  • Ensure good air circulation
  • Keep away from light
  • Store flat in acid-free boxes, folders, or polyethylene plastic sheets (these can be found in stationary or art supply stores)
  • Keep like documents together (separate original papers, photos, and newspaper clippings from each other)

family photo in polyethylene plastic sheet and acid-free file folder
A family photo can be safely stored in a polyethylene plastic sheet or acid free folder.

Handling of Records

Treat your historical family documents with care. Don't do anything to the documents that cannot be reversed (such as writing on them, laminating, taping, or gluing them.) Avoid frequently handling your records which can expose them to wear and tear.
  • Don't eat or drink near records
  • Keep hands clean and dry (or wear white cotton gloves) since oil on skin can damage records
  • Use plastic paper clips instead of metal clips or rubber bands (which can rust or tear paper)
  • Don't put documents on permanent display (since light can damage them) and use copies for display purposes instead
  • Contact a professional conservator to repair or clean historic documents
gloved hand holding family photo
Ensure your hands are clean and dry when handling family documents or wear white cotton gloves to ensure skin oils don't cause damage.

Your Local Resource

If you have any questions, contact the Lambton County Archives. We may be able to assist you with storage suggestions or minor repairs. Remember that if you properly store and handle your family records today, they will be saved for your descendants!

Written by guest blogger Archivist Heather Lavallee.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

The Imperial City

Sarnia is celebrating its 100th year of incorporation as a city in 2014. There are numerous events, tributes, and celebrations occurring all year long and the Sarnia Centennial Celebration Committee is promoting many on their website. The Lambton County Museums department is also joining the celebrations! The feature exhibit at the Lambton Heritage Museum (LHM) this year is Sarnia: We Built This City which explores how Sarnia has changed, the challenges it has seen, and where the City is going in the future.
Incorporation Day flag
These flags were distributed to the crowds at the Incorporation Day Parade.

The Imperial City Exhibit

In partnership, the LHM along with the Lambton County Archives has created an exhibit titled The Imperial City at the Legislative Assembly of Ontario. This exhibit explores the festivities surrounding Incorporation Day in 1914 and contrasts that scene with the parade of 1916 where Sarnia bid farewell to troops heading off to fight in the First World War. Both days saw an emerging city come together in celebration and support but for very different reasons. This exhibit can be seen at the Legislature in Toronto from April until July and we've provided a peek at some of the most interesting images and artefacts here in this post.
Imperial City exhibit
The Imperial City exhibit installed at the Legislature in Toronto.

Incorporation Day

On May 7, 1914 Sarnia became a city. The day was filled with celebrations and the crowd that gathered along Front Street gave a loud welcome to Canada's Governor General, the Duke of Connaught, and his daughter Princess Patricia. A small village sixty years earlier, Sarnia had grown into a major industrial, manufacturing, and transportation centre.
Incorporation Day Parade
Citizens of Sarnia welcome the Governor General and his daughter in open top carriages along Front Street.

 First World War

Just three months later Canada entered into the First World War. Soldiers from Sarnia would fight and die in the Somme, at Vimy and Ypres. The men and women who stayed behind worked in factories farmed, raised funds, scavenged resources and wrote letters to loved ones overseas.

Troops Leave for War

Sarnia residents bid farewell to their local 149th Battalion in the spring of 1916. Troops marched from the city hall square to the Grand Truck railway station amid much pomp and ceremony. Though the crowds cheered and waved flags, it was a heart-breaking moment for many who would never see their sons, husbands, brothers or friends again.

149th Battalion board troop train
Soldiers of the 149th Battalion board a troop transport train at Sarnia's Grand Trunk Railway station.

Written by guest bloggers, Lambton County Archives Archivist Heather Lavallee and Lambton Heritage Museum Assistant Curator Luke Stempien.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Archives Awareness Week 2014


Many of our researchers at the Lambton County Archives are finding their genealogical roots. There are so many rich resources in our collection that can be used for a multitude of projects and during Archives Awareness Week (April 7-12, 2014) we are celebrating the variety of creative works that our researchers have produced.

Misunderstood: The Cookie Gilchrist Story

film poster for Misunderstood: The Cookie Gilchrist Story
Our photo and Sarnia Observer Negative Collections were highly accessed to locate images for the documentary film Misunderstood:The Cookie Gilchrist Story. This film uses images of Mr. Gilchrist, the Sarnia Imperial football team, and the city to tell the story of the life and career of football great and former Sarnia Imperial Cookie Gilchrist. By digitizing these images, researchers can use them in a variety of new and exciting projects.

Join us for a screening of this film on Monday, April 7 at 7pm in the Sarnia Library Theatre.

book cover for The Bells of Prosper Station

The Bells of Prosper Station

Our history files on Petrolia were used to research the town's history by local author Gloria Pearson-Vasey. Pearson-Vasey has used the information to provide the setting for her new historical fantasy novel The Bells of Prosper Station. Local history can provide inspiration for creative writing as Prosper Station is an oil town based on Victoria era Petrolia.

Join us for a presentation and reading by the author on Tuesday, April 8 at 7pm in the Lambton County Archives.

A River Runs By It

book cover for A River Runs By It
Local authors from the Writers in Transition group have written an anthology celebrating the Centennial of the City of Sarnia. In the book titled A River Runs By It, images from our photograph collection were used to supplement the text by providing visuals of the heritage of the city. 

Join us for a presentation and reading by the authors on Saturday, April 12 at 1pm in the Lambton County Archives.


 

Conclusion

The above examples are just a highlight of the amazing works that researchers at the Archives have produced. Join us during Archives Awareness Week for the above special events! We are also offering free admission to researchers April 7-12. Those who are interested in learning more about researching their family tree, the history of their home, or the heritage of their local community are invited to visit the Archives where staff will demonstrate the vast resources that can aid in research.


The above blog post was written by guest blogger Archivist Heather Lavallee.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

History Club: An Archival Program for Students

History Club was started by a group of teachers at LCCVI high school in Petrolia. Participating students were given the opportunity to research a local fallen soldier from the First World War and write an essay on their findings for submission to Library and Archives Canada's Lest We Forget Project. In the fall of 2012, a work-to-rule disruption threatened the survival of the initiative.

Thanks to a timely community partnership, the Lambton County Archives (LCA) was able to ensure the continuation of the club. Archivist Heather Lavallee and local librarian Leigh Jackson acted as consultants, providing research help, offering instructional sessions, and creating an online research guide for students.

Program Objectives: Fostering Community-Led Partnerships

Through History Club the LCA, which traditionally served retirees and seniors, saw an opportunity to connect with an underserviced user group -- teenagers. Previously, LCA programming and service priorities worked in favour of existing patrons.
Archivist explaining research methods to members of History Club. (Photo courtesy of David Pattenaude, The Petrolia Topic.)




By consulting and engaging with the club's teacher representatives, the LCA was able to design, plan, and deliver tailored outreach activities to meet the immediate needs of a local community group, and thereby shift the programming focus outward.

Program Outcomes

With the ACRL Information Literacy Standards as a framework, a series of monthly instructions sessions was developed. Using recommendations from William Horton's E-learning by Design manual, a dedicated research site was created to share links to recommended resources, research tips, presentation summaries, and contact information.

Participants:

  • learned genealogical and historical research skills
  • gained a better understanding of their community through the study of local history
  • created materials to add to the archival collection (local and national) while contributing to the historical record
  • developed an awareness of the role of the LCA within the community

LCA:

  •  promoted our collection and services
  • developed relationships with members of the community that were not typically represented
  • removed traditional barriers to archives use by developing an online research guide allowing students to easily access resources remotely and waived user fees for in-person visits
  • highlighted the value of the LCA as an important community resource
  • gained materials to add to the archival collection

Results

Through collecting statistics and using assessment metrics, we were able to
generate the following results.

Most importantly, the essays which
the students wrote will be added to
our collection at the LCA.


Conclusion

History Club was a successful program for participants, the LCA, and the local community. The students learned genealogical and historical research skills, and the club was able to continue and thrive thanks to the support and expertise of the LCA.

Through instructional sessions and the creation of a research site, the LCA reached an under-represented user group, developed new community partnerships, increased in-person visits, and raised awareness of LCA resources and services (while adding to the archival collection with user-generated content.)

Most importantly, the LCA was able to offer timely programming to meet community needs. Moving forward, the LCA hopes to establish further community-led partnerships and work to expand the History Club program by connecting with other local high schools.

The above blog post was written by guest bloggers Archivist Heather Lavallee and Librarian Leigh Jackson.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Future of Microfilm Machines

We have recently acquired a new microfilm machine at the Archives called the ST ViewScan. This post will highlight some of the most interesting features of this new technology.
ST ViewScan
The new ST ViewScan at the archives.




Background

Canon, the manufacturer of microfilm reader machines, has discontinued their micrographics line. This means that the traditional reader-printer machines are no longer available for purchase, and soon enough, we will not be able to find parts to service our older machines. Instead of the traditional lens and projection method of older microfilm machines, the most recent technology in microfilm readers is a system involving a high-powered digital camera. The image from the camera is viewable on a computer monitor, and the program allows for a larger number of options and functionality than the older machines. This is the future of microfilm machines!

Browse Tab

The Browse tab in the program lets the user adjust the image, much like the "wheel" in the lens of the older machines. However, inside this tab, the user has a higher degree of control over how much is "zoomed in" and how much is "focused." The user can also easily adjust light levels and even use the "Straighten" tool to level out the image!
Browse tab screenshot
A screenshot of the "Browse" tab where users can adjust the image on screen.



Cropping Tab

The Cropping tab in the program lets the user crop an image to only what they want, and eliminate the unnecessary text. By simply clicking and dragging boxes around content, the user can select just the specific article they want.
Cropping tab screenshot
A screenshot of the "Cropping" tab where users can crop the image to capture only what they want.

Saving

The images can be saved to a USB in various formats (PDF, JPEG, TIFF, etc.) Most useful is the Searchable PDF option which uses OCR (Optical Character Recognition) software to create a PDF which is searchable using the "Find" functionality in Adobe. (Click and hold Ctrl + F on your keyboard to "search" a document that has OCR capability.) This will make locating important names, dates, or locations in your research that much more effective!

Conclusion

The new ST ViewScan microfilm machine is an extremely useful piece of technology which gives users much more tools at their disposal than the older microfilm readers. Step-by-step instructions are available at the terminal and staff are more than happy to give users an orientation to our newest piece of equipment at the Archives.

The above blog post was written by guest blogger Archivist Heather Lavallee.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Genetic Genealogy


The Juggler's Children book coverThe Lambton County Archives recently held a presentation on genetic genealogy where presenter Carolyn Abraham explained the science behind using DNA testing to reveal secrets in your family ancestry. Carolyn is a former medical science reporter for the Globe and Mail and author whose recent non-fiction book The Juggler's Children: A Journey into Family, Legend and the Genes that Bind Us has been shortlisted for the Governor General's award for 2013. (If you are interested in obtaining a copy, please contact The Book Keeper.)

 
Carolyn Abraham
Presenter Carolyn Abraham.
Carolyn explained during her presentation that this book chronicles her personal experience with genetic genealogy as well as the how-to's and potential issues involved in this avenue of genealogy. There were always family mysteries surrounding both of Carolyn's great-grandfathers and the birth of her daughter around the time of the human genome project spurred her to research her ancestry.
 

Types of DNA Tests


As Carolyn explained, the "genome is a portal to the past" in that it can reveal where in the world our ancestors came from and how we are related to others. There are three basic DNA tests which all require a cheek swab:

1) Mitochondrial DNA Test: since mtDNA is passed from mother to children, this form of testing is limited by the fact that only women pass this DNA on. mtDNA does not change quickly from one generation to the next, so it is a powerful tool to reveal if people had a common female ancestor. This is limited since it can only reveal the commonality, and not when that commonality occurred (i.e. could be five years ago or 500 years ago.)

2) Genome Scan Test:  scans chromosomes from mother and father to provide a breakdown of ethnic percentages and ability to connect with relatives within approximately the last 5 generations.

3) Y-DNA Test: available for males only since the Y chromosome passes from father to son, this test can reveal ancestral paternal lines and allow you to connect with genetic cousins and also reveal your haplogroup (which area of the world your ancestors came from.) 

For all of these tests, after you send a cheek swab to the company, they analyze the DNA and compare it against other samples in their database. They will then contact you with the results (which vary depending on which test you pay for) but generally, they can tell you if you have genetic relatives (those whose DNA is close to yours meaning you share a common ancestor) and your ethnic background.
.

Possible Ethical Issues 


When you are testing something as personal as DNA, it is important to be aware of possible ethical concerns right from the beginning. There is always the potential to find that a relative you may be testing is not genetically related (i.e. father is not the biological father.) This issue is so common that software has been designed to catch these "false paternities" which has been estimated to account for about 10% of tests. 
dna tree
DNA testing can reveal results which affect the entire family.
It’s your obligation to give people the full information and potential results before they agree to contribute to your research. This not only impacts them, but their children and the wider family. DNA testing always has the potential to open up closed doors, so you should establish who you will be sharing information with at the beginning of your research.

Recommendations for Further Information


Carolyn recommends the company Family Tree DNA and suggests that those seeking more genetic genealogy information check the website of the International Society of Genetic Genealogy. This non-profit group promotes the use of genetic testing in genealogy, and has many free resources and links on their website.

Conclusion


Testing for DNA can help reveal secrets in family trees and fill in the blanks where paper records do not exist. It is a powerful tool to supplement traditional archival research. As always, the staff at the Lambton County Archives are here to help you with this research and we are also interested to hear your stories of genetic genealogy usage.

The above blog post was written by guest blogger Archivist Heather Lavallee.