Genealogy from the perspective of a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon, LDS)

Saturday, December 23, 2017

A Family History Mission: Our Introduction to the Maryland State Archives

Maryland State Archives 2017
No. 16

Note: You can do a Google search for "A Family History Mission" to see all the previous posts in this ongoing series. You can also search for "James Tanner genealogy" and find them.

We spent parts of two days at the Maryland State Archives getting a tour and an overview of the work we will be doing to digitize the records. There are two main divisions in the work being done: preparation of the documents for digitizing and the operation of the digital cameras to capture the images of the documents. While I was listening to the explanation of the workflow and the procedures involved, I was reminded of my first classes in Civil Procedure (court procedures) in law school. There is a set way to do everything from the opening of the file boxes containing the documents to sending the digitized images off to FamilySearch.

We have to learn both the procedures and the physical process of making the digital images so that the document images are in focus and readable. We had a little bit of an introduction while in the Missionary Training Center but seeing the actual documents and the setup with the cameras in the Archives is a completely different experience. Analogous to my first legal experiences, learning about Civil Procedure in law school was nothing like my early contacts with the court system. The MTC experience gave us a bit of the language and terminology but did not give the entire hands-on experience. 

The Archives building is impressive and very functional. From the size of the parking lot for visitors, it does not seem to be used by onsite researchers all that much. Of course, it is right before the Christmas holiday when this post is being written and once we get past the holidays perhaps the situation will change. 

We were told that there were three missionary couples at the Archives. As we found out, with us, there are six couples. There are four cameras in operation. Two of the couples will end their missions in the next few months so there may or may not be replacements. From what we have seen of the complexity of the operation, three months of overlap is barely sufficient. We are expected to work 40 hours a week, so this is a full-time job. We begin work at 7:00 am and work through, with a break for lunch, until 4:30 in the afternoon. Right now, of course, the sun is setting about 4:30 so we will be coming and going in the dark for a while. 

We will be digitizing court record books and probate files. The books and records seem to be from the early 1800s and are in pretty good physical condition. We understand that some of the records are not in such good shape and the workers wear dust masks because of the mold and dust. 

The Archive building is located right between the Naval Academy Football Stadium and the Academy Baseball Stadium. I don't think there are two parallel roads in the entire city. Few of the intersections we have seen so far are anything near right angles. From the perspective of years in Mesa, Arizona, the streets are narrow and there are no setbacks to most of the buildings in the older sections of the city. 

We have been too busy trying to get organized with our apartment and with the mail etc. to do any sightseeing. We are familiar with D.C. and the surrounding area. One thing that surprised me was the high hills (mountains?) in western Maryland. I did not realize so much of the state was forest land and high hills. The highest mountain in Maryland is known as Backbone Mountain at 3360 feet. Since our home in Provo is just under 5000 feet above sea level, we would consider that "mountain" to be a hill. Mount Timpanogos, which we can see from our front room, is 11,749 feet high. 

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