Before you get a folder or volume of records from a research archive, consider the long, hard work that an archivist must do to keep these records organized. An archivist must have a set of skills to acquire, maintain, and preserve their collections and make them accessible for generations of family historians to view as needed. You as a genealogist can also use the components of an archivist’s job to maintain and make accessible, your family’s history, for your children and their children to view in the future. In this article, we will briefly discuss each component of an archivist’s job, so you too can build and maintain a family tree for future generations to view and add to in later years.
The work that an archivist does is broken down into five very important components or functions: record appraisal, acquiring records for the archives, description and arrangement by name or category, preservation, and providing access to researchers. At the heart of an archivist’s job, is the provision of access to the records, physically and intellectually. Each of the other components depends on one another, and an archivist can’t do his or her job without using each one of them in turn. You too can use these five components as a genealogist to conduct an accurate LDS family search. You can think of these archiving components as steps in the archiving process, but they appear in a circular fashion, because you may have to return to one or more of these components several times during your LDS family search to obtain all the information you need.
As a family researcher, you may wonder if creating a research policy will work for you. However, if you are researching your family history, and you get pulled down research trails that don’t make sense to you, or that have nothing to do with your family history, you will be wasting precious time and energy on needless research. With that being said, it is important to decide which documents you will keep and which ones will not be used for your LDS family search, so that you can keep your research strictly to information about your family heritage. When you think of appraisal, in this context we are not necessarily talking about getting antique items or jewellery appraised, but why is this document, or that oral account an important part of your family tree. When you are researching your family’s history, it is important to review the piece of information you have found to make sure it is an important part of your heritage, such as a map of your ancestor’s original homestead, for example.
If you have a box of old photos, you will want to go through your pictures to find out if they are available through another source, whether they are photos of your family members only, or just groups of family friends, and do these pictures fit the criteria you have set in your genealogical research policy. If you have items like that don’t fall under the materials in your policy, they are available from another source, or are not related to your family history in any way, then it is time to dispose of them. On the other hand, let’s say you have a box of newspapers that are dated between 1860 and 1920. Very gently review them and consider whether these papers can be found through other sources, such as historical societies, and libraries, and whether they are valuable to your research. If you find that the answer to these questions are as follows: they are not available in any other format, and yes they would be valuable to your family’s history, then you must preserve them and make them accessible to future generations. This means that you will appraise them as having a much higher value to your LDS family search, than some of the photos you may have found that are not related to your family tree. If you take the time to appraise the materials you have collected as an archivist does, this will help you keep your collections relevant to your research, and manageable. Appraising your materials will also help you find information you need in a timely manner.