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

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

A Family History Mission: More on Technological Changes

No. 61

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

There is nothing particularly different about the above probate document except that it was typewritten in 1890. As we are working on digitizing documents from the Maryland State Archives, we have handled documents from the 1700s through to the 1900s. We do cut off digitizing documents after 1940 in our particular projects, but because of this huge time span, we see dramatic changes in the documents because of changes in technology. 

The typewritten document above is a good example. The first commercial typewriters were introduced beginning in 1874. According to the Wikipedia article on typewriters, they did not become common until the 1880s. We can confirm that by our observations at the Archives. We begin seeing typewritten documents in the 1880s and early 1890s. The obvious advantage is the replacement of hard to decipher handwriting with typewritten text. 

Some of the technological changes are not so obvious. We can see the changes in the paper used to produce the documents. This is hard to see in a photograph, but here is some paper from the early 1800s.

The old paper is stiff and heavy, almost like the heavy construction paper I used to use in grade school.

The newer paper is light and flexible. You can see the improvement. But the real question is will it last as long as the older paper?

Some of the other changes we see are less obvious. We have been digitizing probate inventories and sales. These documents contain lists of the deceased person's property. It is interesting to see how the lists change from farm implements to cars and appliances. You could get a major insight into the lives of your ancestors by reading their probate property lists. 

My wife and I are mainly digitizing books and another example of the changing technology is the binding of the books. Most of the original bindings are almost completely disintegrated and the books are rebound with a standard binding. Here is an example showing the old bindings, the brown books, and the new bindings, the white, not so clean, books. 

The books in this example have been extensively used. Eventually, around the beginning of the 1900s, the courts started using bindings with removable pages. Here is an example of the metal binding technology.

This makes the books much easier to digitize since the pages can be removed and digitized as flat documents. Of course, the Archives also preserves some of the old technology. You might recognize this.

No comments:

Post a Comment