(Workday Wednesday is a daily prompt hosted by Geneabloggers) My post doesn’t exactly meet the criteria for an ancestor’s occupation, but one day I’ll be someone’s ancestor and that someone might like to learn about my volunteer work!
Genealogy is a part of nearly every day of my life these days, in one form or another. If I’m not working on my own family history, I’m helping someone else with theirs. On days I’m not doing research, I can almost always be found reading a book on genealogy, or working on assignments for a class at the National Institute of Genealogical Studies. There is always a genealogy periodical on my night stand, and I have a Google Reader app on my Smartphone so I can keep up to date with my favorite genealogy blogs, no matter where I am. I also try to write a little every day—either a blog post, a chapter of my family history tome, or my new pet project: a combination research log/proof argument/research plan for all of my brick walls. Genealogy fields trips consist of traipsing through graveyards and visits to historical societies in outlying areas during the warm months, and courthouse and library visits in the bad weather. I love it all, but Tuesdays and Thursday are special. They are the days I try to get to my local historical society where I volunteer a few hours of research time to help the archivist with whatever she needs.
The Erie County Historical Society’s Library & Archives is home to around a linear mile and a half of archival material relating to greater Erie, Pennsylvania, and neighboring counties. Archivist Annita Andrick has worked there just about a quarter of a century and, I suspect, has forgotten more about Erie’s history and the lives of its most interesting characters than most of us will ever know.
I originally signed on for data entry, and my first project was working on the transcription of Erie school teacher’s diary from the 1860s, but somehow my volunteer role has morphed into the research end of things. Annita gives me a family whose papers are part of the Archives’ manuscript collection and I create a genealogical sketch of the family and produce a chronology of the major players which gets added to the finding aid for the collection.
Why I love my work at the Historical Society:
- I get to handle old and interesting original documents.
- My knowledge of Erie and its early pioneer days is growing by leaps and bounds
- I love the research. I love the puzzles. I love the history.
- My access to the collections is a reminder that the “color” of people’s lives is made richer by going beyond vital records, and that color is found in the cavernous backrooms of the libraries and archives of historical societies, often not accessible via the Internet.
- Unlike my own research, which is never-ending, the projects I work on in the Archives are finite. There’s a beginning, a middle, and an end.
- Completing the research, compiling it into a nice package, and handing it in to the archivist is incredibly rewarding.
- It’s a chance to hone my research skills and put the skills I learned in the Boston University Genealogical Research program to practical use.
- There is a seemingly endless number of projects to work on.
- I’m learning tons about the preservation of documents, the assembling of collections, and the behind the scenes world of a library and archive.
- It’s great to be with people who love the same things I love!