primary sources

1 May 2016

Archives MayDay 2016

Today is Archives MayDay 2016 – the one day each year when the entire archives profession pays attention to emergency preparedness by writing, reviewing, and revising disaster preparedness plans.

At home, too often our emergency planning takes second place to more pressing demands. So I think it’s smart to take a leaf from the Society of American Archivists and take time today to review the emergency plans for your family history data. (I’m going to assume that everyone has already ensured their personal safety so that we can focus on data. But if you need to improve your personal safety measures, visit

A starting place for your data and papers:

Are you backing up your data?
If you are, could you grab that hard drive and go with only a few minutes’ warning?
Is that backup automated? Don’t depend on remembering once a month to make a backup. Let your […]

28 Apr 2016

Visiting Prussia for the Time-Traveling Genealogy Blog Party

Courtesy of Elizabeth O’Neal at LittleBytesofLife,
my entry is
Visiting Prussia for the Time-Traveling Genealogy Blog Party
Here’s this party’s theme:

You and The Doctor (of Doctor Who fame [who of course is David Tennant – hubba hubba]) have just finished saving the Earth from nasty, alien monsters. As your reward, The Doctor has offered to take you for a ride in his TARDIS to meet one of your ancestors!

Who is the ancestor you will meet?
I long to know Friedrich Wilhelm Alexander KIRSCHSTEIN, my great-great-grandfather, who has been my most persistent brick wall for lo these many many years. He married my great-great-grandmother, Florentine Mathilde BRAUN, on 20 Oct 1847 in Rawitsch, Posen, Prussia (now Poland). But before that he might as well have been a ghost for the past six years I’ve been looking for him and his parents. Until very recently, dundundun.*

What question(s) do you need him/her to answer?
When I meet him, I will heroically refrain from shaking him […]

10 Apr 2016

Free California Digital Archives for Genealogy Part 3

Free California Digital Archives for Genealogy Part 3
is part of  Sassy Jane Genealogy’s States on Sunday series,
providing links to free digital resources for each of the fifty states.
Part 1 featured the major resources available.
Part 2 includes institutional and small organization links.
Part 3 today concludes the entries for California. The state’s resources are so numerous, it is impossible to list them all here. Researchers are advised to search for specific public library and genealogical society resources by geographic areas to find additional resources.
Ethnic Resources
African Americans in California
1,800 items found in 60 collections at Calisphere, predominantly historic images.

Chinese in California Collection

UC Berkeley, Bancroft Library
The Chinese in California presents a balanced perspective on a tumultuous and changing history of this community in California. Major issues explored in these records include the Chinese contribution to California and the American West in the 19th and early 20th centuries; the rampant anti-Chinese sentiment encountered by these immigrants, eventually leading to the federal […]

19 Mar 2016

Why We Do Genealogy

How many times have you been asked why we do genealogy?
Back when I was a working archivist-librarian, the bosses who held the pursestrings would ask me why we should even bother with all that old stuff. After all, it was so expensive to take care of and nobody really cared about those dusty old archives. My immediate, though internal, answer was always, “How can you not care about history?”

None of my grad school classes in history or library science prepared me to justify archival preservation, research, or outreach, especially to bosses who had never done primary-source research themselves. Eventually I figured out ways (with more or less success) to make preservation and access to the historical records in my care palatable to administrators who only had eyes on the bottom line.

A few years ago, I posted about a visit to the Tenement Museum, one of the best historical museums anywhere.

I have eight great-grandparents […]