Category Archives: Genealogy

Rooting Around for Your Roots: A Little Genealogy Advice

Five middle-aged relatives on a sofa

Genealogy brings the family together.

The arrival of summer in the Copper Country brings with it many travelers who come to the Michigan Technological University Archives and Copper Country Historical Collections in search of their ancestors. Although we serve all kinds of patrons year-round, our staff affectionately dub the summer “genealogy season” in light of how many family historians arrive between Memorial Day and Labor Day. With that in mind, it seems that the summer is an ideal time for our blog to highlight some of the genealogy resources that the Michigan Tech Archives can offer and recommend a few online tools that have proven particularly useful to our staff.

Picture me, resident genealogist, rubbing my hands together in delighted anticipation.

With that, let’s begin our exploration.

Michigan Tech Archives

We’re fortunate at the Michigan Tech Archives to have a substantial number of collections of use to genealogists. In addition to a few resources that address the history of a particular family–such as MS-916: Baril Family Genealogy or MS-506: Bartle Family Genealogy Research–the holdings include several key collections with broad appeal.

If your ancestor(s) worked for Calumet & Hecla (C&H) or Quincy mining companies, you will find the information available in those companies’ employment records immensely valuable. Although the collections do not include every worker, their coverage is remarkable: in the case of C&H, employment cards number well over 50,000. Injury reports and employment cards from Quincy total some 20,000 records. The cards are full of gems, and researchers will find them immensely valuable to “mine” for such details as places of birth, physical descriptions, addresses, occupations, and names of family members. While some inaccuracies can appear in such records, they are often a tremendous starting point for further research and a wonderful snapshot of an individual’s working life. For more information about how to interpret a Calumet & Hecla employment card once you’ve found one, you may wish to read part 1 and part 2 of our posts on that topic from last year.

Sample Calumet & Hecla employment card.

Sample Calumet & Hecla employment card for a Slovenian miner, Peter Gasperic.

Should you be searching for an ancestor who didn’t work in the mines, or if you want to go beyond what the employment card offers, you’ll find numerous opportunities to do so at the Michigan Tech Archives. City directories published by the R.L. Polk Company–colloquially called “Polks” by our staff–offer information about individuals’ residences and occupations, mining and otherwise. The collection of Polks at Michigan Tech begins in 1895 and is generally complete through 1917. From there, the materials skip thirteen years to 1930 and then another nine years to 1939 before making one final leap to the 1970s. Each major town in the Copper Country (including Calumet, Houghton, Hancock, and Laurium) is included in the Polks; coverage of other areas, such as Lake Linden, Chassell, or South Range, can be more sporadic. Nevertheless, the Polks are a wonderful way to follow a family between census years, especially given the tragic loss of the 1890 federal census.

Once you’ve sketched in the basic outline of your family, you may wish to add some color and humanity to it. Perhaps you want to know a little more about your great-grandparents’ wedding, or you suspect that a great-uncle may have had an encounter with the law. For the former question, consider perusing our extensive collection of newspapers on microfilm. Michigan Tech holds titles from virtually every county in the Upper Peninsula, with a special focus on newspapers published in the Copper Country. This includes the Daily Mining Gazette and its predecessors, back to 1862, as well as several major titles that have since gone out of business: the Calumet News, the Copper Country Evening News, and the Evening Copper Journal, to name a few. Thanks to the hard work of volunteers from the Houghton-Keweenaw County Genealogical Society, staff at the Michigan Tech Archives can search for names in indices of several area newspapers through 1914 and provide the exact date and page on which an article about each person was published.

While most articles that appeared about individuals, aside from those especially prominent in the community, focused on major life events like marriage or death, at times your exploration of the newspapers may lead you to something more scandalous. For the details of criminal conduct or the dirty laundry surrounding a messy divorce, turn to the files of the Houghton County Circuit Court. A prior piece on this blog sheds greater light on that collection.

Online Sources

What if you’re not able to come to visit us here at Michigan Tech? You still have plenty of options for conducting your genealogical research! Our staff are always happy to assist with remote reference requests, such as copying obituaries, employment cards, or pages from Polks. Please feel free to contact us at copper@mtu.edu or (906) 487-2505 if you would like to put in a remote request.

Other resources can also help you to go further in your research. As a genealogist with deep roots in the Copper Country, I’ve found that several key websites have been crucial in helping me to dig into my family background, both here and abroad. All of these sites are free for basic use, though registration for no cost may be required to view some materials.

FamilySearch (www.familysearch.org/search): FamilySearch is a product of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, a group known for dedication to genealogy. Along with innumerable other collections, it includes an index of Michigan deaths from 1867 to 1897, marriage records to 1925, and birth records to 1902. FamilySearch does require users to sign up for a free account before they can view search results in detail.

For British research, Cornwall OPC Database (www.cornwall-opc-database.org): Cornwall Online Parish Clerks (OPC) Database transcribes parish records of key events–like baptisms, marriages, and burials–from the various Church of England parishes and non-conformist groups in Cornwall. The collections are extensive, continually growing, and all available for free access. In addition to these vital records, Cornwall OPC Database includes some bonus materials, such as select lists of institution inmates and prisoners. Now I know that one of my ancestors, sentenced in 1822 for having two children out of wedlock, was a little over five feet tall with “grey eyes, full face, pale [complexion], [and] dark hair.” She behaved “very well.”

Table showing Cornwall OPC Database baptism record

Sample baptism record from Chacewater parish on Cornwall OPC Database.

For Finnish research, HisKi (hiski.genealogia.fi/hiski): HisKi is something like the Finnish version of Cornwall OPC Database. Almost all historic Finnish parishes are represented, to some degree or another, in various types of events: christenings, marriages, burials, and migrations. Some parishes on HisKi include records as recent as the early 1900s, while others begin as early as 1700 and continue through 1850. The search is extremely flexible, checking for variations on names (remember that Finland recorded all such records in Swedish through the late 1800s) and allowing for wide ranges of years to be perused. HisKi was the difference between my knowing virtually nothing about my Finnish ancestors and being able to add hundreds to my tree.

Table showing HisKi marriage record

Sample HisKi marriage record for Herman Salonen and Lisa Haapala.

For Michigan research, Seeking Michigan (www.seekingmichigan.org): We have the fine folks at the Archives of Michigan to thank for Seeking Michigan. While it features a wide range of materials related to Michigan’s history, genealogists will probably find its collections of death certificates and state censuses to be most useful. Images of the certificates are available from 1897 (the year that Michigan implemented these documents) through the early 1940s, and more join the site as certificates enter the public record under state law. Additionally, Michigan conducted state censuses in the 19th century, generally in years ending in 4. Sadly, for reasons about which archivists can only speculate, most state census records have since been destroyed. Records from Houghton County in 1864 and 1874 and Keweenaw County in 1884 and 1894 survive and can be searched on Seeking Michigan.

And there you have it–a little advice for genealogy season, courtesy of the Michigan Tech Archives. Hopefully, these resources and tips will be useful to you in moving your research forward. If there is ever any way in which our staff may be of assistance, or if you have further questions about family history research, please do not hesitate to contact us. Once again, our e-mail address is copper@mtu.edu, and our phone number is (906) 487-2505.

Happy sleuthing!


A Calumet & Hecla Rosetta Stone: Reading a C&H Employment Card Part 2

The following post is part two of a two-part series, which was researched and authored by Emily Riippa, Assistant Archivist. 

Welcome to the second part of a discussion on deciphering Calumet & Hecla Mining Company (C&H) employment records held by the Michigan Technological University Archives and Copper Country Historical Collections. This post will concentrate on the back page of a C&H yellow employment card, which emphasized a worker’s job history and relationship to the company. If you missed the initial part of the series or would like to refresh your memory of the card’s front page–where the employee’s personal traits and family connections were in focus–you may find it valuable to reread the prior post before perusing this one.

We’ll continue our exploration of the yellow C&H employment cards, which the company used from about 1915 through at least 1957, by once again examining the sample record of Peter Gasperich, my great-great-grandfather. As a reminder, Peter was a Slovenian immigrant and resident of Osceola who worked for C&H at the time of his death. From the front page of his card, we learned that he was married and the father of seven children, that he had previously been employed by the Osceola and Champion copper companies, and that he was a literate man of modest height and solid build. On the reverse of the card, we will find the bulk of the information related to job titles, the divisions of C&H in which the employee worked, and rates of pay. Parsing this data is often the most complicated part of interpreting an employment card, both due to its density and the number of abbreviated, specialized terms used–enough, it seems, to fill a small book rather than a blog post. Still, with the space we have, let us try to unravel the mystery of the back page, piece by piece.

The back page of Peter Gasperich’s Calumet & Hecla employment card, which looks at his relationship to the company and the finer points of his job history.
The back page of Peter Gasperich’s Calumet & Hecla employment card, which looks at his relationship to the company and the finer points of his job history.

 

In the upper left corner of this page, C&H set aside a section that can best be described as a General Notes field. Here, the company documented matters like the date and cause of a worker’s death or information about his pension if he received one; here, too, were any explanations for why he left the company–willingly or involuntarily–including times when he and his boss had butted heads. As with the results of the worker’s physical exam on the front page, these remarks were consistently blunt, if not outright brusque: “losing time,” “lazy,” “no good,” to name a few. For Peter, the card’s most prominent note was that he had left the company’s employ permanently with his death on June 14, 1923 from bronchitis. Keep in mind that C&H did not always accurately record causes of death, either deliberately or from lack of knowledge, so it is wise to cross-reference this information with official death certificates whenever possible. In Peter’s case, the state’s explanation–stomach cancer–seems far more likely in light of clues given in other areas of his employment card.

We see those clues as we move clockwise around this part of the card to look at Peter’s financial relationship with Calumet & Hecla. Next to General Notes, the company recorded a list of dates and amounts of cash. These figures indicate money that Peter withdrew from the C&H Aid Fund, a benefit society of sorts operated by the company. A set deduction was taken from each paycheck of employees who agreed to participate, and C&H matched their contributions. Later, if, like Peter, the worker were laid low by illness or injury, he could draw on the aid fund to keep his family housed, clothed, and fed until he could be back on the job. Though generous by contemporary standards, C&H also kept a sharp eye on its aid fund and monitored the frequency and duration of use by each employee. Distrust fell on men who seemed overly dependent on charitable moneys. The company’s observation, however, and its recordkeeping can provide interesting insight to genealogists in particular. From Peter’s employee aid record, I was able to see that he had called upon the aid fund on several occasions, including one string of withdrawals that began in February 1923. It seemed likely that the fatal illness must have begun around this time, and picturing those last few months in the Gasperich house as Peter declined added a new dimension to my understanding of my ancestors.

Below the General Notes and accounts of Peter’s aid fund use came several additional fields whose meaning is more familiar to modern readers: a tally for dates that he had received workmen’s compensation funds for any injuries received on the job, a list of addresses he had occupied and changes he made to his residence, and the dates that he had been examined by a C&H physician. Individuals joining the company had to pass physicals, which were seemingly required at irregular intervals thereafter; any extraordinary results–described in General Notes–could mean the rescindment of an offer of employment, lest the worker become a threat to his colleagues or a financial drain on the company’s hospital.

The left side of the back page of Peter’s C&H employment card, concerning his death, his use of various company funds, his examination by a C&H physician, and his address history.
The left side of the back page of Peter’s C&H employment card, concerning his death, his use of various company funds, his examination by a C&H physician, and his address history.

Although interesting, these components are not the meat of the employment card’s back page. That honor belongs to the right side, where Peter’s work history was recorded in meticulous detail. This section began with Peter’s typed name and, below it, two identification numbers: an enrollment card number and a pay roll number (which also appeared on the front page). It is not uncommon for the latter of these numbers to be crossed off if the employee had passed away or replaced with digits in the form P-### if the worker had been pensioned. Further information on any such pensions were recorded, as we have already seen, in the General Notes field. Beneath these numbers came several columns designed to capture the nuances of Peter’s time at C&H. Two of them–the first and the next-to-last–simply listed the dates that Peter began his work, whether at the company or in a new position, and the dates that he ceased to hold that job.

Next was given the title of the occupation itself, often in abbreviated form. To most modern researchers, Peter’s having worked as a “tram” or a “pipe” seems nonsensical, but these terms indicate that Peter worked as a trammer–moving heavy cars of mine rock along a shaft level to be raised to the surface of the shaft–and a pipeman, someone who laid and repaired pipe for compressed air, steam, or water. Similarly, as a timberman (or “timb,” as C&H put it), Peter would have placed and maintained wooden mine structures, like ladders and hanging wall supports. Occupational shorthand abounded through the cards, but two other common terms of note were “dry” for “dry man”–often an older or partially disabled man who kept the workers’ change house clean and supplied–or “sfc,” for surface, preceding a job to distinguish employees who did the work on one side of the ground or the other. Keep in mind, as well, that sometimes words that seem straightforward today had nuances at the time the cards were created. It’s easy to think that every underground man at C&H was a miner, but the term was specific in its meaning and referred only to workers who drilled and blasted rock in search for copper.

Under the Rate column, C&H provided the wage paid for each occupation that an employee held. Notice on Peter’s card the word “cont” in several places, indicating that he was paid wages specified in a contract he had negotiated with the company. For other jobs, the amount of pay was given in numeric form: a monthly wage, generally speaking, until about 1918, when a daily rate began to be used. In the 1940s, C&H switched again, transitioning to listing pay in hourly terms. If you see an ancestor’s income listed as cents and fractional cents, that is a good indicator that this pay was hourly. If the card bears a number like $55.00, the rate was monthly.

The Company and Department (Dept) headings can also be a source of confusion. Although it is useful shorthand to think of C&H as a single entity, in many respects it was more of a corporate umbrella containing component companies, including some former competitors. A little history may help to explain this. Calumet & Hecla began life as two related organizations–the Calumet Mining Company and the Hecla Mining Company–that were combined into C&H in 1871. To ensure the company’s continued success, in the early 1900s C&H began to acquire large amounts of stock in some of its local competitors, placing them under C&H’s control. This method brought Osceola into the C&H “family” in 1909 and Tamarack in 1917. Ahmeek, Allouez, and Centennial were purchased outright in 1923, leading to the creation of the Calumet & Hecla Consolidated Copper Company. Other mines and facilities also came under the umbrella over the years, creating a C&H that employed workers in places far beyond the little village once called Red Jacket.

Given this history, the Company and Department columns seem more logical. “Company” allowed C&H’s clerks to specify which part of the organization an employee belonged to: Osceola, Kearsarge, South Hecla, C&H proper, etc. “Department” permitted greater specificity: a Hecla miner could be said to work in the #9 shaft, for example, or a C&H general laborer could be designated as a smelter employee. For companies that already had subsidiaries at the time of their incorporation into C&H–like Osceola’s operations at Kearsarge–the Department field could also be used to further distinguish among the company hierarchy. At other times, however, the two sections simply repeated each other. On Peter’s card, for example, we can see Company listed as in one place as “Osc. Cons,” referring to Osceola Consolidated Mining Company, and the Department simply listed as “Osc,” not shedding much light on his particular place within the organization. Where greater details than these were provided, these fields in conjunction with the Occupation column offer the genealogist significant insight into the nature of an ancestor’s work.

As with Occupation, abbreviations for Company and Department abound. Decoding the meaning of the more obscure shorthand is an ongoing project at the Michigan Tech Archives. A few basic words of advice are worth sharing at this point, however. Common entries in the Company column–in addition to the ones mentioned above–include LMS & R[ef] Co for Lake Milling, Smelting, and Refining Company; Tam for Tamarack, west of Calumet; I.R.C. and I. Royale for Isle Royale Copper Company, near Houghton; and a dizzying array of options for the Tamarack, Osceola, and Ahmeek mills on Torch Lake. Department abbreviations featured likewise ran the gamut. Rkhs, rchs, and r. hse indicated an employee assigned to the rock house; sm, smelt, and smelts, the smelter; mill or st. m, the stamp mill; or sfc, the surface. Where a number or single letter were given in the Department column, it referred to a particular designated mine shaft at the company in question.

The right side of the back page of Peter Gasperich’s employment card, showing the details of his positions and pay at C&H.
The right side of the back page of Peter Gasperich’s employment card, showing the details of his positions and pay at C&H.

Moving past the Date Left column that was mentioned earlier, we look at last to the Reason column, which provided a rationale for Peter’s departure from each position. Peter’s card included three of the most common explanations: Q for quit (he chose to find work elsewhere), L.O. for laid off (economic factors led C&H to cut his job), and Sett for settled up (he died, and C&H concluded its business with him). This last term also was used to address workers who resigned, possibly in lieu of termination, and sometimes men who had been drafted into the armed forces. If an employee’s reason for departure was given as “Dis.,” he certainly was dismissed or discharged–fired. “Ret” workers had simply retired. Peter’s card also used the word “Strike” in the explanation column. This does not necessarily mean that he was an active part of the 1913-1914 Western Federation of Miners (WFM) copper strike; rather, C&H used it to indicate that the mine at which he had worked shut down during that time. Occasionally, recordkeepers placed numbers in parentheses next to one of these reasons, indicating a more detailed explanation was available next to the corresponding number in the General Notes section. Look to that section, as well, to distinguish men who had joined the union from men whose note of “Strike” simply meant that they were bystanders: if the note indicates that a man burned or gave up his WFM book, he was a union member.

What more can be said about the Calumet & Hecla employment cards? Quite a lot. These documents mirror the organization that created them: they are as broad as the workforce and as deep as the company’s copper mines. The Michigan Tech Archives earnestly hopes that this overview of the C&H records has been useful, limited by necessity as it may have been. If your interest in learning more about your ancestors’ potential ties to C&H has been piqued, if you would like assistance in deciphering a record already located, or if you have any other research questions, please do not hesitate to contact the Michigan Tech Archives. We may be reached via e-mail at copper@mtu.edu or by telephone at (906) 487-2505, and, as always, we are very happy to help.


A Calumet & Hecla Rosetta Stone: Reading a C&H Employment Card, Part 1

The following post is part one of a two-part series, which was researched and authored by Emily Riippa, Assistant Archivist. 

Fall semester is always busy for our department, but October was an especially busy month of outreach for the Michigan Technological University Archives and Copper Country Historical Collections. Everyone on our staff had a part to play. It was my honor and privilege to speak at the monthly meeting of the Houghton-Keweenaw County Genealogical Society on some of our most popular documents: the employment records from the Calumet & Hecla Mining Companies Collection (MS-002).

The Michigan Tech Archives holds more than 54,000 of these records for workers–primarily male but, in some instances, female–hired by the company between 1865 and 1957. Astonishing though that number is, it still does not quite capture the vastness of the workforce under the Calumet & Hecla (C&H) umbrella. Records for an unknown number of employees who left the mines before the mid-1890s or stayed on with C&H until its bitter end in 1969 were lost or destroyed before the collection arrived at Michigan Tech. C&H’s habits when it acquired competitors also weighed negatively on documents from those companies: if a worker was employed by Tamarack Mining Company, for example, only before it ceased to be an independent organization in 1917, C&H apparently disposed of his employment information. If he stayed on when Tamarack officially came into the Calumet & Hecla family, the corporation’s clerks transferred his information to a new, C&H-specific document.

Sample Calumet & Hecla employment card.
Sample Calumet & Hecla employment card.

 

Rich with information about such topics as family backgrounds, occupations, rates of pay, and on-the-job injuries, the many cards that have survived are perennially in demand with genealogists, labor historians, and many other researchers. Yet the very wealth of information available often renders the cards challenging to read and decipher. Even more than its biggest competitors–Copper Range and Quincy–C&H created employment cards with a complex structure and devised a collection of information-storing abbreviations as expansive as the workforce it described. For researchers a hundred years later, understanding the C&H language and card structure can be a challenging proposition. In my presentation last October, I provided what I called a Cliffs Notes guide to what a person needs to know to read a C&H employment card, and I am pleased to be able to share a version of that with you. It would be a disservice to the records to abbreviate that discussion too dramatically, so this Cliffs Notes guide will be divided into two posts. The first entry will focus on the information that the cards provide on an employee’s background and personal traits.

When we speak of C&H employment cards at the Michigan Tech Archives, we are, in fact, referring to two distinct styles of record. A small, dense document that resembles a modern index card came into use for documenting C&H employees in the 1890s. A larger, yellow sheet with a more complex structure replaced it beginning in 1915. While the format might have changed, many of the company’s questions and abbreviations remained constant over the years. Understand the newer C&H employment record, and interpreting its predecessor will be simple. For that reason, both posts will examine the yellow document.

It’s easiest to understand yellow cards by looking at a sample record, so I selected the employment card for a relative of my own, Peter Gasperich. Peter was born in Slovenia and came to the United States in the late 1880s, settling near Calumet. He worked in the copper mines for more than thirty years and concluded his career at C&H, where he was employed at the time of his death.

On the front page of the yellow card, C&H employment clerks recorded the aforementioned information about Peter as an individual. The left side of the page began by asking for a substantial number of details of interest to genealogists; name, date and place of birth, current residence, and status with regard to marriage, citizenship, and parenthood lead the list. A genealogist may find that, if the individual’s name was unusual to American eyes or if the worker was an immigrant looking to blend in with his peers, the name given on the employment card varies from what is given elsewhere. Employees may also have misremembered or been motivated to obscure their years of birth, either to inflate or reduce their ages; this information is worth verifying with other sources whenever possible. It is worth noting, as well, that contemporary names were used for places of birth. Peter was born in Črnomelj, Slovenia, a town then part of the Austrian empire. He provided his hometown using its official German name (Tschernembl), which the C&H clerk attempted to transcribe phonetically–with little success. It took quite a bit of additional research to tie “Chernemble” back to Peter’s actual birthplace.

As they moved down the page, the clerks inquired about the name of Peter’s spouse and where she resided. Employees whose parents were still alive also provided information about them to C&H. Unfortunately, the company was not motivated to collect details about deceased relatives and simply recorded them as no longer living, rendering this section a–no pun intended–genealogical dead end. Names and dates of birth were noted for children, albeit with the same caveats as Peter’s name and age. The questions about Peter’s family also requested details about any relatives of his who were also working in Michigan’s copper mines. If the family member were employed at a different mine, both the person’s name and the name of their employer were listed, along with a succinct abbreviation of their relationship; if the person worked somewhere within the C&H empire, the employer’s name was replaced by the individual’s identification number. This portion of the front page concluded with information about Peter’s most recent employer prior to C&H and his reason for leaving that company.

The left side of the front page of Peter Gasperich’s C&H yellow employment card, which features a range of basic biographical data.
The left side of the front page of Peter Gasperich’s C&H yellow employment card, which features a range of basic biographical data.

Although the structure of the employment cards varied over the years, the right side of this front page here provided a space for C&H to expand on Peter’s work history. In this more detailed inquiry, the company asked about Peter’s employers in the twelve months prior to his hiring at C&H: the name and location of the firm, the dates that Peter worked there, and the position he held were all noted. At times, an employment card might show a smattering of jobs spread across multiple years: when workers returned to C&H after an absence, the company would simply update existing records rather than creating new ones. The genealogist who sees this apparent disarray on an employment card should see it as a clue that their ancestor moved from job to job with some frequency.

Perhaps more interesting to family history researchers, however, is the description of the employee’s appearance also provided. For genealogists who have only black-and-white photographs of their ancestors–or, in the case of Peter, no pictures at all–these details about hair and eye color, height, and weight are a particular treasure. Rest assured that C&H company physicians, who examined all prospective hires, spared no detail. I know more now about the scars and bodily oddities of long-dead family members than I ever desired to know. On the employment records produced in the years immediately following the 1913-1914 Western Federation of Miners copper strike, a paragraph authorizing a rudimentary background check and vowing no affiliation with the union was also included. By the time Peter’s card was created in 1921, this section had fallen by the wayside; its commitment was now implicit.

The new hire signed the card–or made his X mark–on this page, and a representative of the company added his own signature and the date. Updates here were made in much the same way as the employment history section. At the very bottom of the page, clerks wrote Peter’s name again and added one of the two numbers he was assigned within the C&H system.

The right side of the front page of Peter Gasperich’s C&H yellow employment card, which discusses his work history and physical appearance.
The right side of the front page of Peter Gasperich’s C&H yellow employment card, which discusses his work history and physical appearance.

The Calumet & Hecla employment cards offer extraordinary insight into the company’s workforce for a bevy of research interests. Hopefully, this primer will prove a useful orientation to the basic history and purpose of the cards, as well as the information available on their front side. A future blog post will turn to the back page, which shifts its attention away from personal details to focus more on a worker’s relationship to C&H. Watch this space for the second part of the guide. In the meantime, if your interest in learning more about your ancestors’ potential ties to C&H has been piqued, if you would like assistance in deciphering a record already located, or if you have any other research questions, please do not hesitate to contact the Michigan Tech Archives. We may be reached via e-mail at copper@mtu.edu or by telephone at (906) 487-2505, and we are always very happy to help.


Michigan Tech Archives and HKCGS to Present a Family Papers Workshop

Documents from a family papers collection being rehumidified at the Michigan Tech Archives, 2015.
Documents from a family papers collection being rehumidified at the Michigan Tech Archives, 2015.

 

The Houghton-Keweenaw County Genealogical Society is teaming up with the Michigan Technological University Archives and Copper Country Historical Collections to present a home archiving workshop at 6 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 11 at the Portage Lake District Library.

Lindsay Hiltunen, university archivist at the Michigan Tech Archives will discuss tips and tricks for taking care of family papers and photographs. Topics will include proper handling techniques, storage solutions, digitization and preservation concerns.

The meeting is free and open to the public. For further information, contact the HKCGS at 369-4083 or email. You can also contact Michigan Tech Archives at 7-2505 or email.


HeritageQuest is Now Powered by Ancestry.com

One of our favorite and most used databases, HeritageQuest (Proquest) underwent an interface makeover and is now powered by Ancestry.com. Along with the enhanced functionality that comes with the site’s redesign, there is a considerable amount of new content, not least of which are the available listings of U.S.Federal Census Records from 1790 to 1940, including the image and every-name indexes for each of these years.

Additional new content includes: city directories, 1850 and 1860 Slave Schedules, U.S. Indian Census Rolls, Mortality Schedules, Agricultural and Industrial Schedules, and the 1890 Veterans Schedule.

If you have any questions about using HeritageQuest, please call the the Michigan Technological University Archives and Copper Country Historical Collections at (906) 487-2505 or email us at copper@mtu.edu to learn more.

Michigan Tech students, faculty and staff can access HeritageQuest by following this link. Additionally, all Michigan residents may access HeritageQuest through the Michigan eLibrary (MeL) at mel.org/Databases. Another genealogy related database available through MeL is the Biography and Genealogy Master Index, a readily searchable reference sources index.

 

 


Historical Collections Now Searchable

A group of new online search tools has enhanced the search and discovery of historical records in the collections of the Michigan Technological University Archives and Copper Country Historical Collections in Houghton, Michigan. The improved access is the result of a two-year project to improve description of the Archives’ extensive holdings of regional manuscript material. The initiative was funded through a $167,600 grant from the National Historical Records and Publications Commission, a division of the National Archives and Records Administration.

During the project, Archives’ staff conducted a box-by-box survey of its entire collection, totaling more than 7,000 cubic feet and including personal papers, diaries, organizational records, business materials, mining company records, maps, newspapers, and other historical documents. The project identified more than 700 discrete collections and created standardized descriptions providing information about the size, content, and dates of coverage for each collection.

These descriptions have been revealed to potential researchers throughout the world via a number of online tools.  A full listing of the collections, including collection number, title, and brief description, is now available on the Michigan Tech Archives blog: http://blogs.mtu.edu/archives/nhprc-cataloging-project/collection-registers/.

Catalog records for each collection are also available on the Voyager catalog at Michigan Tech’s Van Pelt and Opie Library: http://ils.lib.mtu.edu/vwebv/searchAdvanced. Visitors may limit their searches by the location “Archives Manuscript Collection.” These records allow searches of collection names, keywords in their brief descriptions and histories, and also using standardized subject headings.

Versions of these catalog records are also searchable through WorldCat, an international bibliographic database maintained by the Online Computer Library Center (OCLC), a global cooperative of libraries, archives, and museums. The general public can search the main WorldCat catalog: http://www.worldcat.org/. Participating OCLC member institutions may also search these records through the FirstSearch version of WorldCat which allows researchers to limit type to “Archival Materials” and limit availability to library code “EZT” for Michigan Tech archival collection records.

For further information, contact the Michigan Tech Archives at 906-487-2505 or at copper@mtu.edu


Archives Moves Toward New Technologies

Working on mark-up of an EAD file during Michael Fox's recent archival description workshop.

The Archives was closed Thursday-Friday, September 8-9, 2011, so that staff could be  trained in several new software tools.

Michael Fox, recently retired from the Minnesota Historical Society, spent three days with staff of the Michigan Tech Archives (as well as some other friends). Fox reviewed some basic elements of how manuscript collections differ from museum and library collections. It is important to realize that unlike other item-level collections, archives have complex inter-relations within their manuscript collections. Very few archives catalog material to the item level. Instead, they gather descriptive data at the collection level, as well as information about groupings of documents in folders or within collections as records series. The hierarchical relationship between individual documents, the folders they reside in, the series of which they were created, as well as the overall collections which hold them require complex systems of description.

Encoded archival description (EAD) is a standard which has emerged in recent years to help archivists create and hold this type of hierarchical descriptive information. It uses extensible mark-up language (xml)  to take previous types of written inventories and finding aids and turn them into a standardized data format (it also relies on a descriptive standard called “describing archives: a content standard,” or DACS, to ensure that the contents of individual fields is consistent across the board). With information about our collections held in EAD format, the Michigan Tech Archives will be able to export information to web sites and other places where potential researchers might discover our collections.

This work is not for the faint of heart, however, and will involve many changes in the way that we do our work at the Michigan Tech Archives. One of these changes will be the migration of collections information to a new open source archival collections management software tool called Archivists’ Toolkit. AT will allow us to gather a variety of information about our collections, including both descriptive information and internal administrative notes about preservation and processing. From AT, we’ll be able to output descriptive information compliant to the EAD standard. We’ll also be able to export catalog records compliant to the library world’s MARC standard.  In these formats, we’ll be able to update and share information through sites like OCLC’s Worldcat and ArchiveGrid.

Although this may sound like technical mumbo-jumbo to some of our non-archivist researchers, it will mean a dramatic improvement to the variety and level of information that researchers may discover about our holdings.

We were pleased to have Fox’s training workshop supported through grant monies from the National Historical Records and Publications Commission. Over the course of the last two years, NHPRC’s funding of our current ‘basic archives’ grant has provided the first steps in this move toward better and more standardized description. During this period, we have already created collection-level records for each of the manuscript collections held at the Michigan Tech Archives (you can read some of these on our blog over here). With NHPRC funding for Michael Fox’s visit, we made the first steps toward implementation of Archivists’ Toolkit, EAD, and the next steps in our program.

Look for additional updates here.


Workshop: Introduction to Archival Research

Ever wonder how to start a historical research project? Not sure where to find the right documents to answer your question? Unclear how a research archives operates?  Join Michigan Tech archivists Julie Blair and Erik Nordberg at 1:00 p.m. on Wednesday, December 1, for an introduction to archival research. The workshop will take place in Room 244 of the Van Pelt and Opie Library.

This session will provide a general overview of research using historical records. The workshop will include an introduction to historical research methods and attendees will learn how to locate, integrate, and cite archival material in their research. Presenters will discuss what is meant by phrases like “manuscript collection” and “primary source,” how to describe different types of archival sources, and learn about the similarities and important differences between archives, libraries, and museums.

Attendees will also learn how to use the Keweenaw Digital Archives to easily find historic images online, how to create an account, make a digital album, and add their own comments and observations to the photos. The session will draw upon numerous examples from the holdings of the Michigan Tech Archives, which collects historical material about Michigan Tech and the people, communities, and industries of the surrounding Copper Country.

This workshop will also be repeated at 1:00 p.m. on Tuesday, December 7, and is part of a weekly series of programs offered by the Van Pelt and Opie Library. For more information on the Library’s workshop series, visit their blog.


Archives’ Genealogy Collections

Genealogical holdings of the Michigan Tech Archives were highlighted in a feature article in the November 7, 2009 issue of Houghton’s Daily Mining Gazette.  Here is the article:

Genealogy resources abound in Copper Country
By Garrett Neese, DMG Writer

HOUGHTON – Every year, thousands of people come to the Copper Country to research their heritage.

Fortunately for them, there are many resources available locally to help them with their quest.

Many of the records for which people are looking may be found in county courthouses. Houghton County’s clerk’s office has vital records dating back more than 150 years: births and deaths since 1867 (indexes starting 1893 and 1911, respectively), marriages since 1855 and naturalization records starting in 1848.

Some records are restricted, said Mary Sivonen, senior accounts processor with the county clerk’s office: Only family members may see birth records, while military discharge records may be seen by that person and a spouse.

Because of space and staffing constraints, Sivonen said people should call ahead and set aside a time to come.

“We limit it to just a couple at a time,” she said. “We don’t allow groups to come up because we only have a limited amount of space. The books are very large.”

Coming in to look at open records is free. There are small fees for services beyond that, including $2 for copies and $10 for any records that need to be typed.

The Michigan Technological University Archives and Copper Country Historical Collections has a wealth of sources, including Upper Peninsula census reports, local newspapers, tax and immigration records, and tract books showing purchases of land from the government.

Assistant archivist Julia Blair didn’t have total visitor numbers, but said hundreds of people come per month to do research.

There are microfilm archives from about 70 local papers, which can include pertinent information such as obituaries. Copies of the Daily Mining Gazette and its predecessor, the Portage Lake Mining Gazette, date back to 1862. There are other papers both major and minor, including three months of 1908 copies of the Hancock newspaper Wage Slave.

Other information includes census records, mine inspector reports of mining accidents, and Calumet & Hecla Mining Co. records, “probably the resource that is most valuable to people who come from outside the area,” Blair said.

The archives have telephone directories from Houghton and Keweenaw counties and Chassell, as well as their forerunner, the Polk directories, which included a list of residents with their job and address (for example, the 1898 Houghton County edition includes Dagenain Frederick, a laborer who lived at 129 Hecla St. in Laurium).

Many people also use Sanborn insurance maps, which shows the layout of streets in the town, as well as the businesses there at that point in time.

“It’s possible to trace a particular family dwelling and see if that home is still there,” she said.

Recently, Blair had a woman call who was interested in what business used to be in a particular building in South Range.

But as with any kind of historical research, Blair said, people should be prepared to put a little time into it.

“We can’t just type in a name, and say ‘Oh, we have this,'” she said.

In the event there’s nothing at the archives, they will also connect them to other resources, Blair said.

“It’s rare that we can’t connect somebody to some records in the past, but it has happened,” she said.

http://www.mininggazette.com/page/content.detail/id/507342.html?nav=5003