Saturday, January 31, 2015

Louise's Lost Files - Taking Stock

Provenance Image

I love going through boxes of "old stuff" as much as any other genealogist out there. And I could spend hours doing so, especially if I am looking for that elusive brickwall-busting document or photo. However, I am also aware of the importance of being able to go back and locate an item I thought was interesting without having to rummage through the entire box's contents all over again. This is why I have decided to inventory and subsequently preserve, or in more practical terms "file" these items away for easy access and with little risk of degradation or damage. 

Although I was trained in the arrangement and description of archival material while obtaining my Library of Science Master's Degree, I'm not going to go THAT FAR. I do not intend to preserve these materials for the next 150 years. Let the actual archives take care of that when I'm gone (because of course I'm going to donate ALL of my genealogical materials to the Archives before I die!) What I do intend to do, however, is to inventory the boxes' contents, organize (and describe) the materials, and arrange them into a manner in which they can be retrieved and shared as necessary. 

There is one aspect of training that I will adhere to called RESPECT des FONDS. You may recognize the two main components of this pricinple: PROVENANCE and ORIGINAL ORDER.[1] 

  1. PROVENANCE: refers to the individual, family, or organization that created items in a collection
  2. ORIGINAL ORDER: refers to the order in which items in a collection were organized by their creator
An example of why this is important was evident in some of the photos I quickly looked through prior to starting the inventory process... There was a small box about 3x5 that contained photos of my great-grandmother and her school friends, her siblings, her aunts and uncles. Some of the photos had writing on them. The photos of my great-grandmother were labeled "Louise" because that was her name. The photos of my great-grandmother and her mother were labeled "Me and Louise." Do you know what this box of photos was, but more importantly, who they belonged to? They belonged to my 2nd great-grandmother, Eva Benson! I mean it's pretty exciting to have photos of my 2nd great-grandparents, but even more exciting that my great-grandmother had a little something that was her mother's. Her mother did not live with them. In fact, she lived in Oklahoma and she had 7 children and umteen grandchildren and she visited every single one of them. My Benson cousins in Oklahoma have a ton of photos of my 2nd great-grandmother and I'm sure they have all of her possessions and personal items. And now I do too. 

I feel that it is important to identify these photos as those having belonged to my 2nd great-grandmother - they were collected by her; they were written on by her; they were important to her. I therefore want to keep these items separate from my great-grandmother Louise's personal items. They will probably get their own photo box. In this manner I am preserving the provenance of the collection by ensuring that the materials that belonged to my 2nd great-grandmother are kept separate from those belonging to my great-grandmother. 

I will also try to keep the original order of the things as I find them. I am not sure if they are in the original order that their creators initiated; but the least I can do is keep them in the order that I found them in. This can be important if and when I run across a photo that is not labeled. Sometimes, the photos it is grouped with can be helpful in identifying the unlabeled and unidentified photo. 

Here is my bulleted list of goals for this project: 

1.  Inventory
  • Who, What, When, & Where?
  • Lined notebook
  • Materials bundled with rubber bands and post it notes
  • Materials bundled in envelops
  • Stored in numbered photo boxes
2.  Organize
  • Photo boxes (stage 1)
  • File folders (stage 2?)
  • Letters, Documents, Bills, Photos, Memorabilia, etc
3.  Preserve
  • Scan Items in Collection
  • How many file folders or boxes are required? 
4.  Extract Genealogical Data
  • Marriage, Death, Birth Certificates
  • Photos, etc
I hope to do a little with these boxes each week and report back to you on what I found, what I did with it, and what I learned from it.

[1] Society of American Archivists, Website, Glossary,, accessed 17 January 2015.
[2] Image of Provenance Text Box created by the author, Ginger R. Smith, 21 January 2015. Feel free to use for noncommercial purposes with attribution back to this website. 

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Louise's Lost Files

In December of 2014, my mother and I returned to Arkansas to clean out my grandfather's house. While we were there, my mother's maternal cousin brought over 3 boxes of family files that had come from my great-grandmother Louise Lasiter's house.

Louise Lasiter, 1955
My great-grandmother was born Thelma Louise Benson, January 1st, 1912 in Avant, Osage County, Oklahoma. She was the first child born to Barney Benson and Eva Dennis and became the oldest of eight children. She was a strong and independent young woman who graduated from Spiro High School in 1929. In the early 1930s she married James Putman Lasiter and they had 3 children: the oldest was Barbara Jean Lasiter, the middle child was James Putman Lasiter, Jr, and the youngest child was my grandmother, Sue Carolyn Lasiter. Unfortunately they have all passed away now. Louise and James "Put" Lasiter raised their three children in Fort Smith, Arkansas. They lived in the same house their whole life at 3720 Park Avenue. My great-grandmother lived in this house until she died in 1997. "Put" had already been gone for 20 years by then.

When my great-grandmother died, I was away at college. There had just been a big Christmas celebration and then she passed shortly after on the 27th of December.  After her death, her estate was divided between her three children, her personal belongings distributed or sold, and the house was sold and the profits also distributed between the three children. When my grandmother died in 2003, I helped my  mother clean out her house. Surprisingly I did not find anything from her mother, my great-grandmother's house. I assumed at the time that my grandmother had simply thrown everything out.

I did not become interested in genealogy until many years later. Then my mother showed me a couple of boxes of family photos that she had retrieved from my great-grandmother's house. She gave them to me in 2009. I inventoried and scanned all the contents and was able to extend the Lasiter tree out one more generation based on some writing on the back of a photo. But there were things missing. These boxes contained photos of my grandmother when she was young and of my mother and I throughout the years, and a few of my great-grandmother and her siblings, but nothing more from her Benson side of the family. I knew if my great-grandmother had kept any keepsakes from her childhood or from her parents, then they had to be in the boxes that were distributed to the other two children. And I was pretty darn sure my great-grandmother had kept some keepsakes. She kept everything and she wrote on everything!

Well you better believe that I sent letters to the children of my grandmother's oldest sister, Barbara. But they went unanswered. I queried her brother, but he too, said he didn't have anything. Now they are both gone. But his son surprised me. And guess what? His son is now interested in genealogy. Yep, he got the bug now too! And he decided to help me out.

I had found the genealogy gold mine!

I found room for 2 bankers sized boxes (they were bigger back then, by the way) and one small box that has two drawers in it on the trailer for the drive back to Georgia and then to North Carolina. I opened the boxes and you wouldn't believe what I found!

Photos of course! 
School Report Cards!
More Photos! 

Louise's Lost Files - the Boxes
Three Boxes of Photos, Letters, and Family Memorabilia 
from my great-grandmother's house. 
Photo taken by Ginger R. Smith, 17 January 2015. 
My goal is to inventory all the items in these three boxes, preserve them, and scan the items of genealogical and historical value and post about them here, under Louise's Lost Files and share them on my tree.  I will also be extracting genealogical data from the items and saving it to my genealogy software. My goal is to two-fold: to share the genealogy gold mine and to show how I can apply research methodology to extract genealogical data from the items within.

All posts relating to my great-grandmother's materials will be labeled with "Louise's Lost Files" followed by a brief description of their contents. I am estimating this project will take the better part of a year to complete. So stay tuned for more details!