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

Sunday, July 1, 2018

A Family History Mission: Finishing Books, Moving to Paper

One of the last books we digitized
No. 69

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.

During our entire assignment here in Annapolis, Maryland at the Maryland State Archives, we have been digitizing books. We also understand that previous volunteers (missionaries) have been digitizing books at the Archives for about five or six years. These books are the copies of the documents made for the court records throughout Maryland since the 1600s. 

We finally digitized the last available book this week. However, there is still one county in question and some books that are in "conservation" that will eventually need to be digitized, but my wife and I are now moving on to digitize "flat paper" or in other words, the documents that were submitted to the courts in Maryland directly by the people involved in the probate actions. 

Our last few books were a real challenge. As you can see from the photo above, they were in pretty bad condition. But we finished all of the books that are readily available. 

Now in moving to paper records, I thought it a good idea to show how these records are processed for digitization. We are digitizing Probate Records from the Maryland State Archives and each of the counties. The individual records are stored in boxes on shelves in the archives around the state. The books are also stored on the same shelves. At the Maryland State Archives, these are all in climatically controlled storage areas. The county records are stored in other locations. Here is what some of the shelves look like.

I have written about the books previously. The paper records are stored in boxes or clamshell boxes. Here are photos of both types of boxes.

Different Archives have different methods of storing their records. They also have different levels of access and restrictions about viewing and handling the records. Note that the age of wearing white cloth gloves to work with paper documents has ended. Archives have learned that bare hands cause less damage to paper than gloves.

The boxes of documents, most of which have never been touched since they were filed away, are delivered to the document preparation (prep) area.

The volunteers and missionaries work at two long tables set up in the Main Reading Room of the Archives. Here is a photo of the table with the missionaries and volunteers working on preparing the documents.

It looks dark, but there are individual lights shining on the table for the workers. Here is a box of the folded documents ready to be sorted and put into folders for the prep work of opening the documents and filling out a target sheet that waypoints the information (i.e. partially indexes the name of the deceased, the date of the probate filing and other information used by the Archives, but not yet used by FamilySearch).

The documents are sorted by date and put in individual file folders a few in each folder to await unfolding.

Now the documents are ready for the missionaries and volunteers to process.

Each folder has from three to eight or nine documents. They are then processed by carefully unfolding the documents and then extracting information from the documents and entering the information in a target sheet. All work is done in pencil and no marks are made on the documents. If there are any metal fasteners on the documents, they are removed. The metal will rust and damage the documents. The processed documents are then replaced in the box. The processed documents are each reviewed to make sure that the information recorded is correct.

The information from the target sheets is then entered into a spreadsheet which becomes an index of the documents.

The processed documents are returned to the control of the Archive staff. The staff of the Archives continues processing the documents and then delivers the documents to the camera workstations.

The camera stations are set up to digitize the documents. During the process, the target sheets are also digitized and the information is cross-checked with the spreadsheet. This is how the processed documents are stacked and ready to digitize.

The camera operator takes each document and digitizes it while checking it off on the spreadsheet. The plastic plate shown sitting on the box is used when the documents will not lay flat.

The digitized documents are then returned to the Archives personnel for storage. The digital images are stored on a hard drive and each week, the hard drive is sent to Salt Lake City for further processing and ultimately, the images are put online on the website and the Archives receives a copy of the digital files for their own use.

This whole process runs smoothly because of the highly experienced Maryland State Archives staff members. The Archives staff are great to work with and provide a huge amount of support to all of the missionaries and volunteers. It is a great privilege to be involved in this great work of preserving genealogically important records.

1 comment:

  1. This is fascinating! We are so accustomed to seeing the images online, we forget all the effort that needs to be made for that to happen. Thank goodness for missionaries willing to do this rather tedious work and the Archives willing to share. With much appreciation.