What is Genealogy
Tid Bits
Tips and Gotcha's
Top ten myths
Top ten reasons to do it
Just for Fun
Getting Started
An exercise using a pedigree
Paperwork organization
Preserving your records
Labeling your records
Maps and geography
Old style dates
Old style handwriting
Tombstone reading
Calculating relationships
Family reunions
PC Software
Genealogical Programs
Genealogical Numbering Systems
Family Group Sheet form
GEDCOM format
Descendancy report
Ahnentafel report
Recap and Statistics
The data pyramid
Source Documents
Record types
Vital and primary records
Manuscript archives
Censuses and the soundex
Actual examples
Where to Look
Where to do your research
Kansas City area research
U.S. GenWeb
Recent immigrants
Ellis Island
African American
Native American
Hispanic American
Recommended web sites
Certified professionals
Genealogical publishers/sellers
Recommended books
Publishing your family history
Forms to use
Dewey Decimal system
Homework assignment

Manuscript Repositories - Keepers of Our Documents

Manuscript repositories are also called archives or special collections libraries. They house sets of documents donated by others. An archives has specially trained staff members who know how to care for and allow access to sets of documents of this nature. The facilities of an archives are usually equipped to give the best possible treatment to these documents. This includes stable temperatures and relative humidity, protection from bright lights, moisture, insects and pests, and, too many untrained hands handling the documents.

A given collection of documents donated to archives is called a deposit. These deposits give historians a special glimpse into the lives of our ancestors. These do so in a way that general history does not allow. This is because these documents can show the daily life of one or more persons. Each person, in his or her own way, contributes to the society as a whole.

Examples of the types of documents that archivists and future researchers would be interested in include:

  • letters
  • memoirs/reminiscences/diaries
  • finance/transaction ledgers/journals
  • family bibles
  • family group sheets
  • scrapbooks/photo albums
  • professional/business/occupational papers
  • legal documents
  • military records
  • obituaries, funeral/burial records
  • wills
  • certificates of birth, marriage, divorce, death
  • graduation/diploma certificates
  • wedding announcements
  • newspaper articles
  • photographs (labeled)
  • films/videos/audio tapes (labeled)
  • records of activities for:
    • business
    • religion
    • civic organizations
    • political
    • social
    • education

Donation ownership

When a person donates a set of documents to an archive, the archives receives full ownership of the documents. They are generally not "on loan" to the archives by the original owner. The owner has given up ownership of the documents.

Access to documents

Archives usually have a written policy that governs, in general, how all donated materials are granted access to the general public. As a rule, a special request must be made by persons to be granted the right to review a given set of documents.

Access restriction

Instead of deciding not to include certain sensitive documents with the donated set of documents, discuss them with the archivist. It can usually be arranged that these sensitive documents not be allowed to be viewed by others until a future date as specified by you.

For additional information

See the web site of the Society of American Archivists at http://info@archivists.org

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Copyright © 2004- by Larry Wilson, all rights reserved