Roots & Branches: Genealogy at HSP

Finding New Connections In Old Scrapbooks

Tuesday, 3/5/13
Topics: Genealogy

 

Tags: Conservation

 

I am posting this entry on behalf of Terry Brasko, a long-time volunteer in HSP's Conservation Department.

Andrew Boon, I know that name! I have been researching my mother’s family’s roots for years. I can quote you the dates, places of birth and death, and spouses of the entire tree right back to Johan and Helena Grelsson who landed on the shores of the Delaware River from Sweden in 1658. Those are the impersonal “facts,” but here was a name that I knew.

I was working on my volunteer assignment in HSP's Conservation Lab. I had, for some months, been deconstructing and conserving the scrapbooks that had been compiled by the HSP genealogists from about 1870 to the 1930s. These are books the size of a modern 4-inch, 3-ring binder. They contain old, acidic paper that is causing the attached research to disintegrate.

I take off the old research paper from the pages of the scrapbooks and put them in archival folders in an archival box to preserve them for future generations to use.

Sometimes the genealogist taped the file to the scrapbook page (an easy removal) and sometimes they pasted it to the page (a difficult removal as I have to prevent tearing the attached genealogy record). Also the difficulty can be compounded by the composition of paper of the research work. There are some items (genealogy charts mostly) that were written on paper used to make paper bags (not kidding here!). I believe they chose that paper because it is larger than most paper and they could fit the entire chart on it, but these can literally disintegrate in your hands. This is true for old newspaper articles, too. These items I photocopy and make a Conservation Note in the file that only the photocopy is to be given to researchers to use, because the original is too fragile to allow handling. 

The finished product!

I have been doing this work for three years, and it is a labor of love to get to conserve these family histories. I certainly had not yet found anything before that pertained to me or mine, and quite frankly did not expect to find any. 

Then I came to a file for a name I knew -- Boon! I turned the page of the scrapbook and yes, there in the genealogy file on a family named Boon, was a photostat of a deed. And on that deed was the signature (such as it was) of Andrew Boon. He wasn’t even part of the trunk of my family tree, but suddenly he and all those people in my family tree were REAL. A connection had been made. He was the husband of my 6 great grandfather’s sister, Martha Urian Boon.

It is really not even a signature as we know them today -- it was more his very original “mark” that someone who could write in English (for Andrew knew only Swedish) interpreted for us back then so that we could read it generations later and know whose mark it was. 

Andrew Boon signature and mark

The mark of Andrew Boon

In the years to follow, Andrew’s line would intersect with mine one more time, but that is a story for another day -- maybe my next blog entry.

You, too, may make that kind of connection. Type your family name in the “search” box in our online catalog, and you may find that HSP has a file (or if you are really lucky, files) on your family name. It could even be your tree and you, too, can make that connection!

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