Rescued from the Trash Barrell: Genealogical Collections Soon Available

Today, I want to share descriptions for three of the genealogy collections now in the Genealogy Library Center, Inc. a non-profit library established for the preservation of genealogy notes and sources–yours and mine. Some collections have never been in actual jeopardy–where the decision to destroy the stuff had already been made. The custodion or owner heard that I would accept genealogy materials and contacted me first.

This is true of the German Research Card File of Frederick Walter Hilbig, a German Genealogist employed by the Family History Library for 40+ years. He was also the German Research columnist for Heritage Quest Magazine published by Leland Meitzler, a post assumed several years ago by Horst Reschke of Riverton UT. There are 43 file drawers of cards that Mr. Hilbig used to answer correspondence. Several of them are labeled “Names.” These files have been transferred to the Genealogy Library Center, 56 West Main St. Suite B, Tremonton UT 84337.

Do the math–hundreds and hundreds of genealogy research questions can be answered with these cards. The rest of Hilbig’s collection was donated to the German Genealogical Society of America, 2125 Wright Ave., Suite C-9, LaVerne CA 91750-58144. This material includes 1,000 books, pamphlets, and family research files. Address your queries to GGSA Research Team.

Moore Family Files. Thelma Cagle, a Moore descendant from the Seattle area, visited my library some weeks ago with her cousins, Wilburta and Dwight Moore. They brought with them, the first deposit of the New York Smith Family Collection–a 5-drawer file cabinet of Smith family group sheets. They also brought Wilburta’s Hollinghead files and several boxes of books. Thelma went home to discover that several boxes of her own Moore genealogy were to be sent to the trash, because the library they had been given too, no longer had a place to put the files. Another cousin, Mrs. Bennett, had originally owned the files.

Thelma boxed up the materials and shipped them to Wilburta in Salt Lake City where I picked them up on Friday, 15 Sep 2006, literally rescuing them from the trash barrell!

Henry (Harry) Hollingsworth, Jr. Genealogy Research Collection. Mr. Hollingsworth was a professional genealogist in Inglewood CA for almost 50 years. He traced his own pedigree lines like Hollingsworth, Earle, Crawford, Todd, and several others as well as lineages sent him by clients. He supported himself and his mother with full-time work.

In 1991, Harry described his work to a cousin in Canada, with whom he had corresponded since 1964: “I have been so swamped with work for several clients that I seldom get to reply immediately to any letters. I hope you understand this. I type reports and index and type a man’s book from the time I get home on work days, or from evening on weekends, to dawn. I seldom get to sleep before six a.m. at this rate. It has been that way for decades and I guess it is now a habit. I can’t do such work by daylight, too many distractions.”

Harry did his work in the “age of correspondence.” His files are filled with descriptive letters from clients and relatives: some chatty with genealogy details, some with lists of questions about ancestors, some with references to photographs (also included) and newspaper clippings. Harry duly wrote dates and identities on the backs of these photos! He answered with lengthy letters and reports of information he found. The files also include abstracts of records both typed and handwritten, photostats of original documents from archives all over the U.S., the British Isles (including Ireland), and Canada, colored postcards with genealogy data written on the back.

The caretakers of Harry Hollingsworth’s files (I estimate they will fill more than 24 file drawers) tried to keep the collection together and to preserve it. A local genealogist donated her underground garage in Santa Monica. This storage garage was carved out of the hillside and given a cement floor. It was usually dry, but when Los Angeles experienced a very rainy Spring and Summer, the garage began to seep with water. Thanks to the quick action of Nancy Bier and Nancy Carlberg, volunteers at the Temple Family History Center in Santa Monica, I was called to come get the files. Took two trips, back to back, each time filling my 3/4-ton pickup truck. The files were damp, but safe. The bottoms of the filing cabinets had water in them. And several boxes of the newsletter Harry printed and some family history pages were wet. A paper index was moldy and stuck together.

We brought the whole collection back to UT, spread it out on tables in the back of our building to dry. Those pages that were wet, we will microwave to kill the mold spores before placing them with the rest of the files.

On Thursday, 14 Sep, I moved new file cabinets, counter tops, hanging files and folders, and a new photocopier, which does photographs as well as documents, into the finished portion of my building. And Saturday, I began to process the Hollingsworth files so they can be searched by appointment, in person by the public, or by requests from genealogists by postal mail, by telephone, by email. Very soon I can give you a schedule when this collection will be available for queries. And when a surname list will appear on this website.

Every day in America, someone’s genealogy is in jeopardy. Most libraries will not accept genealogy files, unless they deal with a very prominent family or were compiled by a celebrity. The thought ,that your life’s work on your family tree could end up in the trash, gives me nightmares.

I have been a professional genealogist for more than 35 years working for more than 600 clients and consulting with more than 400. What might happen to my files was of real concern to me. Even interested children usually have homes too small to store adequately a collection of books, card files, magazines and periodicals, maps, and family files. So my husband and I bought a building large enough to house my stuff and the stuff of hundreds more genealogists just like me!

Don’t forget! There is a place waiting for your stuff if you need it. We don’t buy collections, since this library is currently maintained solely by my income. If the collection is too large to ship, I will come and get it. Soon we will organize a formal “Friends of the Library” and actively sponsor fund-raisers.

For a short list of collections already donated, return to the home page of this website and click “Library.” From time to time, I will highlight other collections to keep you up-dated.

Next week–by request from 5 of our subscribers, I will focus on Virginia genealogy. Virginia and New York are my favorite places to research. They present different challenges, so you will want to log-in and study carefully what I have to say. And keep me posted where you have a special interest, so I can focus on what will help you too.

Watch my website–we are getting ready to post Arlene Eakle’s Genealogy Resources Catalog. Been over three years since I had an online catalog–and the one I had was inaccessible most of the time. So you probably did not know I ever had an online catalog!

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4 Responses to Rescued from the Trash Barrell: Genealogical Collections Soon Available

  1. Lou Daly says:

    Hi Arlene,

    I was especially intrigued by your recent mention of a collection of Smith families in New York that had been donated to you.

    Any particular time period or location? Index? Will there be access to the collection?

    I have multiple Smiths, mixed with Greens,Sicklers, Philo, Peck, Peters, and Potters in the Albany area ca. 1770-1880.

    Thank you

    Lou Daly

  2. arlene says:

    Access to the Smith Collection: no special time period is reflected in the Smith material–Colonial through present day, depending upon the source. The whole collection includes photocopies of original documents, extracts of records, information tabulated and organized on family worksheets and pedigree charts, and correspondence among researchers. All of New York is included, with more emphasis on central and western sections. Albany and Saratoga areas are included.
    Only the family group sheet collection has arrived in Genealogy Library Center. They are in alphabetical order and can be photocopied for you. Search cost $25.00 plus postage and photocopying. You can order anytime by writing Genealogy Library Center, Inc., P.O. Box 40, Garland UT 84312 with your check or credit card info or by calling 1-800-377-6058 and placing your order over the phone.
    Please include the names of those Smith ancestors you wish us to check. There is one caveat: The charts do not have an every-name index yet, so people mentioned on a sheet may not be located–there are too many charts in those 5 file drawers to examine individually.
    We can watch for other surnames involved in the charts to more precisely identify charts that will contribute to your research.
    Subscribers to this News Sheet will be the first to learn of indexing projects that reveal every name in this collection or others we hold. Be sure to stayed tuned every episode.
    This Center was established to provide you with the access to these focused materials. Fees are set to ensure we can continue to operate the Center. Arlene

  3. rjseaver says:


    This sounds like a wonderful service to rescue researchers life’s work. Do you have any requirements as to the sources in a collection?

    My small society has a file cabinet with the correspondence, group sheets, family bible pages, genealogy reports and other info for one of our former members, and we have been struggling with what to do about it. It is mainly written correspondence with lots of secondary source attachments.

    We were going to toss out the secondary source material, but keep the vital records, the pedigree charts and group sheets, the family bible pages and the genealogy reports. I was going to put the genealogy reports in our library collection and send copies of the bible pages to NGS.

    Is this something you would take en masse, or would you want only the “good stuff” (assuming someone makes that judgment)?

    Thanks — Randy

  4. arlene says:

    The decision to discard the secondary material needs re-examining. The value of the materials is that usually they apply to the ancestors in question. The researcher has already made the choice. For someone else seeking data on the same ancestors, the work is done. The next researcher can study the pages to determine if they fit without first having to retrieve them.

    I am working with a collection now where correspondence has been culled. The researcher made a list of the letters discarded, with dates, and names of writers, names of addressees, but not the subject of the letter nor the results. I would rather have the letters to study. Research takes a great deal of time, and considerable money. With the letters and all of the data collected, you and I can quickly determine: 1. The extent and completeness of the searches. 2. Whether additional research is needed. Or if that correspondent may have other details worth asking about. 3. If the conclusions about the ancestor are accurate.

    The total number of pages is minor to the savings in time and effort to re-do the work. This is especially true if the copies were obtained in an archive or library many miles away. I recall the courthouse in Minnesota where, by law, the clerks were required to cull the probate files. They made a calendar of the papers they destroyed. Their mission was to cut the files 2/3rds, since they were running out of storage space. I read the case file of an immigrant ancestor who received a “legacy from Sweden”–that’s what the calendar said. My heart sank–for the retained papers did not say who gave the legacy, nor what place in Sweden the bequest originiated! The clerk expressed dismay too. But in the process of thinning the files, they could take the time to read them.

    Research reports may not transcribe all of the documents or secondary source papers. They may only reference them. The reasoning of the researcher in those reports is valuable. Being able to run a check against the source is invaluable.

    Duplicate copies made and included in the same files can be discarded once you determine that the copy you retain has all the data.

    So my answer is, I prefer to get the whole collection en masse and leave the decisions about the “good stuff” to me. If you decide to part with the collection, I am interested. If you decide to keep it, you might prepare an inventory of families covered, with a good index. The index can be placed on your website with a reasonable search cost to have it checked. That way your small society, if it has the space to keep the materials safe, can receive some income to cover the costs of searching and sharing the information.

    Copies of Bible records or vital certificates can be made for other libraries of your choice.

    Many thanks for your questions. Arlene

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