04 February 2011

My Day at the Georgia Archive

     Today I visited the Georgia Archive for the first time. I found a few things that I was interested and found out that they didn't have a few things that I was looking for.

     This is the Georgia Archive (which you might recognize from the Spike Lee episode of Who Do You Think You Are).

GA Archive

     Located just off of I-285 in Morrow, it's really easy to get to. It's also right next door to the National Archives SE branch. And I mean that literally. If the GA Archive played really loud music in the middle of the night, the National Archive would bang on the wall and tell them to "turn that racket down!"

     Anyway, when we entered the Archive the reception desk was right in front of us. There was another desk attached to the side where we sat down to fill out our researcher forms. This allows us to read the policies (no pens!) and receive our free card that we wear the entire time and that identifies us. We were able to put all of our "banned" items in a free locker (take the key with you) and followed the directions around the corner to the research room.

     The research room was guarded by a security guard, who made sure we didn't have any pens and had us sign in. We then went into the research room, that looks just like any other library - except that nothing was labeled! You know how library shelves usually have catalogue numbers or subjects listed at the end of each shelf? Not here. You just have to start at a random point and figure out which direction the decimals are flowing. At the GA Archive, the Georgia books are at the back, far end of the shelves. To get us started, I grabbed a few Lincoln County, Georgia book for mom to look through while I headed over to the microfilm side of the room.

     I have to say, I was confused. Like the bookshelves, there was a distinct lack of signage in this portion of the room and I didn't know how to start. I saw lots of microfilm machines and two long rows of shelves, labeled only with numbers. How would I find the film I wanted? I had to ask an archivist, who explained the system to me. One set of files is set up much like a card catalogue or inventory list. They're organized by type or location (ex. GA Counties Jefferson - Gwinnett or GA Tax Lists). On each card is a title and extremely short description of a film, as well as the drawer number and then box number where the film is located. From there you help yourself to the film and find a machine.

     I started by looking at Elbert and Emanuel County wills. I have two specific ancestors that I hoped to find wills for, as well as others that it would have been nice to find one for. Unfortunately, I didn't find a will for anyone. But at least now I know they're not there. I next looked at Lincoln County Estate Indexes for my Albea ancestors. There I found success, with a document where my GGG Grandfather indentured himself to purchase land (more on this later). From there I picked topics at random that struck me and continued to find small discoveries. Nothing dramatic or brick-wall breaking, but enough to make the trip worth it. Mom reading microfilmI also picked a few films for mom to browse through.  Look at her - hard at work!

     Also on the microfilm side of the room were the General Name Files and Vertical Files. The Name Files are available online and give extremely brief biographical information on folks, mainly politicians. I double checked the card for my GGGG Grandfather Willis Craft, who had been in the state House, but didn't find any more information than what was already online.

     The Vertical Files consist of random bits and pieces of material that might interest genealogists. I browsed church and cemetery records before checking the surname files. I found some great stuff in the Craft Family folder, in which a researcher wrote an affidavit about the previously mentioned Willis Craft who "had always understood that he was the son of John Craft, an early settler of Elbert County, Georgia." Great stuff!

     I made a number of photo copies (20¢ for the copier, 30¢ from microfilm) and will be transcribing the documents over the next few days. I hope to go back next week or the week after, my work schedule permitting. There's still a ton of stuff I didn't get to.


Myrt said...

This is just the sort of newsy blog post I love to read. It makes the thought of going to Morrow that much more "doable" to your readers. I've spent more time at NARA which does share the same parking lot, with a circular patio between the two buildings. The little research I've done at the Georgia archives was marked by helpful employees who were most happy to assist.

Thanks for sharing your impressions of the facility.

*GeorgiaTim said...

This is good to know. I'm hoping to make my first visit to the Georgia Archives when I go home to Georgia in April. One question: do they have digital copying to thumb drives from the microfilm readers or just paper copies? Thanks for the information.

Valerie Craft said...

They have two different types of microfilm machines, about 1/4 are a newer kind that are hooked up to computers. I'm 99% certain they have the ability to save to a flash drive, but I forgot to take mine on my visit and I can't quite remember the set up at this point. I'll be over there later this week and will confirm.

Gatlinburg Camera said...

Thanks for the great info - I feel much less intimidated and hope to visit in June. I have no archive research experience and very limited genealogy research other than online.


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