Building a Home Archive

I am lucky enough to be trusted with a few collections of old family photos and documents, partially because I have shamelessly asked for them. It is my dream to have the family history I collect safely stored and digitized so that all my family members can have copies and that that they can be passed down in the future.

For a short period of time, I worked in the archives at UWSP. It was a learning experience I will cherish forever. It also sparked my passion for seeking out and preserving family photos and documents. While I was there, I examined and wrote descriptions for our county historical society’s small collections. It gave me a chance to see how archives are organized and documents stored. A lot goes into preserving the old photos and bits of history that we sometimes take for granted. Images and newspapers aren’t really made to last!

After leaving, I have been continuously working to better my own home archiving process and knowledge. Like all things, it’s a work in progress.  My dream would be to have an entire small room dedicated to a library and archives, but you know… a 1000 sq ft house doesn’t really have a lot of extra space. The spare room is my best choice. Fortunately,  one of its closets is a pretty good location. It’s free of light, stays even in humidity and temp. But, I do have to use it to store my sewing machine and all of my extra tack (a ton of spare bits and bridles).  I’ve been working on it for awhile to get it set up for a home archive.

I picked up a lot of knowledge from the university archives but I’ve also spent a lot time searching the internet and found some great resources for home/family archivists. My favorite blog is The Family Curator. Lisa’s advice on creating archives, storing photos, and million other things related to family history makes her blog my go to choice when I need advice or ideas for my own archival process.

I also rely heavily on articles published through museums small and large (like the National Archives), conservators, and archival companies like Gaylord Archival. I follow a variety of groups on Facebook too, and try to save articles that will help me. Every collection is a bit different, so do some searching around to find a method that works for yours.

Here is what my current archive situation looks like:

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As you can see, it needs some work. The bankers boxes aren’t archival, but they are clean and simple (I also got them on clearance). Most are pretty organized, but now I hope to go through and properly label everything. Currently, I have collections from my grandma, a great aunt, my mother, and a small mix from my Dad. I need to add a shelf and get a few more small boxes. These metal shelves came from Target. There are also some hooks that need to be added so I can hang my extra bridles a little easier.

I know it’s a weird mix of stuff to have in a closet, but I keep my leather nice and clean. The cool, dark, and dry closet keeps any mildew that the bridles are prone to from getting going.

Finding my Swedish Ancestors

A few weeks ago, I wrote about trying to read and translate a birth record for one of my Swedish ancestors, Carl Victor Johnson. I was so stuck that I turned to a Facebook genealogy group for help. They did help, so much so I posted about that too! From the help I was given and that other tidbits I picked up from other posts, I dove in to my Swedish roots. The Swedish National Archives take a little getting used to, but they are really quite amazing. I have been able to find several generations of Swedish ancestors on both my father’s and mother’s sides of the family.

johan and carl victor he 1861-1870

1861-1870 House Hold Examination for Carl Victor and his family in Högsby Parish, Kalmar County, Sweden.

In the records you can find a lot of details beyond birth, death, and marriage. The household examination records detail the movements of the family from what town the moved to next and departure dates to America. The records are also very specific down to farm names (I need to do a little more research into that)!

A couple of weeks ago, I upgraded my computer for the first time in a decade. Now that I have a faster, and not on its last-leg computer, I can research records faster, and put together compilations for my family. I’ve linked a document about my father’s Swedish ancestry, which included Carl Victor. It isn’t a professional genealogy examination, but it’s easy to share and understand for my family. I’ve included images and links throughout, as well as, my own commentary on what they’re looking at.

Our Swedish Ancestors

For me, the genealogical research is just a stepping stone to finding out more about the people and places my family comes from. I don’t just want names and dates (even though I love that, and all the old documents that go with it), I want to connect to the places, landscapes, and stories that come with finding those names and dates.  So, really, I’ve just started finding my Swedish ancestors. I can’t wait to find out more.