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For the Record

Published on Wed, 03/21/2018 - 11:15am

My kids dreaded when their teacher asked what their parents did for a living because when they answered that their dad was an archivist, the question that inevitably followed was, “What is an archivist?” If a teacher didn’t know, how could a kid know the answer? My daughter came up with the perfect solution. She bought a t-shirt at the National Archives that had the word archivist phonetically spelled out along with a definition of the word on the back of the t-shirt. My kids are now grown, and both their parents are archivists; so to avoid confused looks and some curious comments, they just tell people that their parents work in libraries.

Simply stated, an archive is a place where a collection of historical documents or records is stored, and an archivist is the person responsible for preserving and providing access to those records. The Midwest Genealogy Center has an archival collection focusing on Jackson, Clay, and Platte Counties in Missouri. MGC’s collection contains many unique records that may help with researching your family history. You can browse our online archival collection by visiting our Genealogy Gallery. Not everything in our archival collection has been digitized, but you can view the finding aids and name indexes online and then access the materials in the Library.

One collection that contains genealogical information about local residents is the Independent Order of Odd Fellows Lodges of Jackson Co., MO Collection. At first glance, the membership records look more like a financial accounting of dues. Looking closely at the membership record for William English of the Elmwood Lodge, his death date and age were added at the bottom of the record. Other records within this collection have birth dates, occupations, addresses, and names of widows and children who were receiving support from the organization.

Because each archive has unique collections, you may or may not find something about your ancestor. Think how exciting it would be to find a photo of an ancestor that you have never seen before or to read an entry from a diary that you never knew existed. Check out the Genealogy Gallery; you may find a genealogical gem waiting for you. What has been your most exciting find in an archive?

Jolene C.
Midwest Genealogy Center

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