13 August 2014

Even now records are at risk to be lost ... Fires, flooding, theft, etc., are NOT just something that happened to our ancestors!

Recent events remind us that fires and floods and theft are not just the purview of when our ancestors lived, they are events that happen every day.  Every time they happen, a bit of history can be lost or in these cases, a lot of history!

Late July 14/early July 15, burglars broke into the church through a window, and then broke into a locked office. There, across from Chaska’s City Square Park, they lugged out a 3-foot by 3-foot metal safe. The safe held about four ledgers recording births, weddings and deaths, as well as an index... All the pivotal moments in the life of a Moravian parishioner, from about 1920 all the way to a baptism recorded within the last two weeks, were in the books, Eder said. The earliest records of the Chaska church, founded in 1858, have been shipped to the church’s headquarters in Bethlehem, Penn., he said.

In 1885, the Hancock County Courthouse was two years old when an all-white jury upheld the wishes of David Dickson, a wealthy planter who had left much of his estate to his illegitimate daughter born of a slave mother... Investigators called the building a total loss. It housed the county commissioners’ office, Probate Court, Superior Court and the elections office... Foster said clerks of the Probate and Superior courts used walk-in vaults to store many important documents, like deeds and birth certificates. Doors to the vaults typically are closed at the end of the work day, he said... Joslyn said many court records were microfilmed in the 1950s. Although the microfilm can be tough to read at times, the film is stored at the state archives.

Though I often comment to my clients that “real life” can take precedence over our research into our ancestors as the long-deceased are just that and their records will continue to be available into the future. Events such as these serve as a reminder that my assertion might not be completely true.  Fortunately, even our modern court houses and churches do not hold ALL the records created during the lives of our ancestors.  We just have to be a bit more creative in what types of records we research.

That said, it behooves us to do what we can to “preserve” records important to future genealogists and family historians.

Please do what you can to help ensure that your local records remain safe.  Make sure they at least get transcribed by a person or society, or better yet, possibly provide financial support so they are microfilmed.

What have you or your society done recently to ensure that local records will remain available to future family historians?

Do you know of a situation where all was not lost in a fire, flood, theft, etc., due to steps having been taken to ensure that at least the content (if not the physical records themselves) of records was preserved?

Editor’s Note: Previous Upfront with NGS posts on related topics:

P.S. If you happen to know if the safe was recovered or if there is any knowledge on what survived (or didn't) the courthouse fire, please post a comment to let us know.

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