Records Loss–by Accident or on Purpose–

Civil unrest, protests of any kind, setting fires, or explosions “too close for comfort” are responsible for innumerable acts of record destruction. By accident or on purpose, records have been destroyed from early times through 2020. Recent riots from the past nine months have created dangerous chaos at the Louisville (Kentucky) Public Library, the Kenosha (Wisconsin) Public Library, and The Oregon (Portland) Historical Society Library.

Wikipedia has 15 pages of Destroyed Libraries from the past. It lists the causes, the contents damaged, ;and even the estimated cost of the loss. No surprise: among the principle causes of loss–“cultural cleansing.”

When I was in graduate school, I discovered the cultural cleansing concept in New Orleans–a city where I had visited several times to obtain genealogy evidence for families I was tracing. In its heyday, New Orleans had a very active red-light district with numerous brothels and notorious public houses.Then the political climate changed–the City Council with referendum-backed public support voted to clean the city up. They changed the street signs; they pulled down the offending buildings; they put the city lots up for sale to new owners.

But…It was no longer the New Orleans that the people related to and deep down, loved. The tourist traffic dwindled. The new merchandise did not sell. And the tax base decreased–alarmingly. Restoration! Restoration! They cried. Out came the old signs. Even the payment tokens and the historic slave badges. When you visit the city now, you can find the historical district restored to its baudy glory. The records that were lost may or may not have been reconstructed.

So far no news organization has commented on the impact on our historical record trove of all the riots across the country. Even  the hurricanes that have clobbered our southern   coastlines have not been assessed from the viewpoint of the historical records and their safety.

When this country opens up again for genealogy travel,, I will have to visit the South. And its libraries and archives to determine for myself what ravages have occurred. You see, rioters intent on cultural cleansing, pay little heed to what they destroy! Your favorite genealogist, Arlene Eakle

PS Without records it gets more and more challenging to trace a pedigree lineage in the Old South. And if the printed books are burned or trashed–where transcripts have been published–and copies of documents reproduced, it is doubly hard. You see, the farther away we are from the creation of the documents to begin with, the more difficult it is to re-build the data that supports our conclusions.


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