St Clair Cemetery, Mt Lebanon, Allegheny Co, PA

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Friday, March 25, 2011

Fearless Females: Grandma Massey Harbison, Surviving an Indian Kidnapping in 1792

Fearless and courageous are only two of the words used to describe Massey (Massa) White HARBISON.  Her story still makes me catch my breath every time I read it.

Massey WHITE,  a child of American Revolution patriot Edward WHITE, was born in 1770 and witnessed early American history firsthand.  She is believed to have witnessed battles close to her home in Somerset County, NJ.  Her father relocated the family to western Pennsylvania, and that is where her hair raising story really begins.

Massey married John HARBISON in 1787 and they became one of the first settlers on the headwaters of Chartier's Creek in the northwestern part of Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania.  They were accustomed to making mad dashes to nearby blockhouses when the Indians attacked and killed the locals.

John fought in St. Clair's army and was wounded when St. Clair and men suffered a huge defeat against the western Indian tribes in 1791.  After he had healed, he served as an Indian Scout in the Allegheny frontier.

In May of 1792, Indians attacked their home while John was away and dragged Massa and her children out of bed.  One of the small boys was crying such that the Indians dashed his head on the doorstep, before stabbing and scalping him.  To her horror, Massey and her remaining two children were taken hostage.

Many of her captives were known to her and could speak English.

As the band of Indians and their captives were crossing down a steep bank to the Allegheny River, Massey threw herself off the horse.  The horse that carried her son fell and injured her son.  The Indians then killed him.  She wrote, .."When I beheld this second scend of inhuman butchery, I fell to the ground senseless, with my infant in my arms..." (1).

When she awoke, she saw the scalp of her child on the ground and was beaten yet again. They later crossed into the Indian side of the country.  She thought death would be welcome at this point, and expected to die when she threw down the powder horn (not once, but three times) that the Indians forced her to carry (as she was carrying her infant.)

She passed the first night of her captivity with her arms pinioned to her back and with a savage to each side of her.  The next morning, Massey bravely tried to take a tomahawk before being detected.  Quick on her feet, she explained her infant was trying to play with it.

The Indians had been successful in losing the settlers and were vigilant in their lookout for pursuit.  The second night, Massey was moved to another station.  The next morning, some of the Indians went off again to see if the settlers could be seen.  Massey faked being asleep, and her one remaining guard did fall asleep.  She grabbed a pillowcase and hankerchief and made her escape.  She changed courses several times during her escape in order to deceive the Indians.  The Indians did search for her and came close to her hiding spot.  She stuffed the cloth in her infant's mouth to keep him quiet. For over two hours, the Indian stood still and close to her hiding spot.  He did not leave until his friends called for him.

She crossed the creek above Pittsburgh and found a path to follow. For a few days, she wandered trying to find help, while fearful of being detected by the Indians.  She despaired that both she and her infant would die.  Only the thought of her infant dying after her kept her determined to find help.

When she heard a cow bell and saw some settlers, she called out to them.  They asked her name, and checked to see if it was a trap.  When one of the men saw her condition, he asked her again who she was.  It was one of her neighbors who knew her but did not recognize her in the week since she had been gone.  Her appearance and voice had been altered.

Massey survived, although the events of the kidnapping altered her life forever.  Her story was told and retold after the event in newspapers of the time.  In 1825, she published a book on the ordeal.

You can call her brave.  I can call her grandma.  You see, her daughter, Margaret, is the third wife of my 4g grandfather.  While I don't share her blood, Massey was the only grandmother my 3g and 2g grandfathers knew.

There is a park named for Massey as well as a DAR chapter in Pennsylvania.

Ahh, genealogy.  Honoring the amazing women in my family history makes me so thankful for them and their sacrifices.


(1) Flood Tides Along the Allegheny by Francis R Harbison, 1941.;cc=pitttext;xc=1;idno=00z836437m;g=text-all;xg=1;q1=massey%20harbison;frm=frameset;view=image;seq=7;page=root;size=s

History of Butler County Pennsylvania, 1883


©2011 AS Eldredge

Watching the Family Tree Bloom

Have you noticed the pollen counts lately?  Where I live, the trees and early spring flowers are blooming their little heads off and sending those of us with (and without) pollen allergies running for our boxes of kleenex. 

I so marvel at the wonder of spring as the trees awaken from their deep winter slumber and everything comes to life once more. Branches you thought were dead spring to life with new leaves,  just like my genealogy trees.

A cousin just popped up as a result of reading some of my earlier posts.  How fun is that?  It's always interesting to be able to share the information as you know it to be with other family members who are just beginning their search for their roots.  Of course, it is even more fun for me to be able to solve some mysteries of the past and verify what I think I know.

A good source to research is that of old obituaries.  They can be hard to locate, but sometimes, they can really send you into screaming fits of joy.

Take, for example, the obit of Austin McClain BRENDEL.  His May 1935 obit confirms the name of his wife and their two children.  The surprise of the obit came in two parts:  "...Mr. Brendel leaves.....and a daughter, Mrs Floyd TAYLOR of Akron, OH......."  and "He was buried in the Southside Cemetery beside his mother."

Really? Another daughter?  Does that mean an earlier marriage?

The obit led us on a goose chase for Mrs. Floyd TAYLOR.  We found evidence of her and, then we lost her.  The name was just too common and she appeared to have left the area.  That was several years ago. 

We've just found her daughter alive and well.  Or rather, she found us with the able assistance of her son.  This is so cool.  Emails are flying and more tidbits of information are coming in.  Now we have more leads to follow to try and nail down some of the past that we think we know.  Will we have moments of "aha" waiting for us?

We knew where Austin was buried as I have been to the site and my father's cousins had told me.  This had also been confirmed by the cemetery.  What we didn't know was that his mother, Henrietta Renton McCLAIN BRENDEL, was also buried there.  Surprise.  There are no headstones for either of them.

The newly found cousin was able to supply the name of the first wife, so now it's off to see what supporting documentation will show up on her family.  A local history book has identified the family names, so the search is on.  A local hysterical society :) in the area has confirmed they have information on her family and I am patiently waiting for them to identify what the information is. 

I have also been able to find when his first wife filed for divorce by finding it in a 1910 Pittsburgh newspaper.  Now I wait for my "sweet tea" buddy to make his monthly trek to the Allegheny County courthouse to find the hard evidence for me.

Old obituaries are really great.  They can provide the names of those grieving for the deceased.  Those names, in turn, can sometimes be traced to a living descendant.  If you are lucky enough to locate an old obituary, you can then start the hunt for a living, breathing kinsman who may be able to fill in some gaps.  Even the smallest tidbit can lead you to finding a pot of gold. 

You can also compare the names with some of the early censuses to see if you are following the correct family.  Censuses can be difficult as they are not always accurate.  The early ones were done by folks in the neighborhood who sometimes were known to make educated guesses.  Just remember, a census is secondary evidence when trying to find your roots.  If possible, go by the death, marriage, land, wills, probate, church, draft registration, SSDI or other records.  Look for patterns and a preponderance of evidence to support your theories.

If you've got roots in the Pittsburgh area, my merry little band of 47 volunteers is still busy digging them up out of old newspapers.  The list blooms each day and we strive to send a new upload to the web about once a month or so.  To date, we have almost 70,000 death entries, over 16,000 (so 32,000 names) marriage entries, and 1103 divorces.  The dates of the newspapers range from 1806-1997. 

You can check out the dates here:

And the names here:

We also have been hard at work on a military service personnel index for WWI.  This information is also coming from the old Pittsburgh newspapers.  We currently have almost 70,000 entires uploaded on this index and I have more waiting to go.  Check it out here:

Ahh, genealogy.  Sometimes, it's not the pollen that has you running for the kleenex, it's the new branches on the family tree.

©2011 AS Eldredge

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Treasure Chest Thursday: There's a New Search Engine in Genealogy Town

Recently, I've seen a couple of references to the new online genealogy research tool,  While I don't know much about it from personal use, its presence may help to redefine the future for those of us who have been bitten with "the bug." 

After hearing about the site, I thought I'd take a look and see what all the fuss is about.  After typing in several names which I am interested in, I did find some old entries of mine from Genforum and some from Find a Grave. It is nice to see just genealogical connections on the site.

I hadn't found anything of use to me when I typed in my grandmother's uncommon maiden name.  Not expecting much, I was surprised to her listed with her siblings and parents.  As her parents came direct from Sweden and changed names when they landed, I was intrigued to find her name.  Lucky for me, I clicked on the link and it took me to the site where her name is mentioned.  No new information was spotted, but the name and email address of the submitter was there.  

I've jotted off an email to the submitter to see if I can determine who they are and if they share my blood.  I'll let you know.

Overall, current reviews are mixed, but here is Eastman's take on the site.  I suspect the reviews will become more in favor of the site as new information is uploaded on the internet.  It is certainly a great place to include in the search for your elusive ancestors.

The following article is from Eastman's Online Genealogy Newsletter and is copyright by Richard W. Eastman. It is re-published here with the permission of the author. Information about the newsletter is available at - a Genealogy Search Engine

I suggest you remember this web site: I bet you are going to hear a lot about it in the next few weeks and months. In fact, I'd suggest you try it right now. I've been using the site for a while during its testing and have been very impressed. This thing actually works! Today, went public and is now available to everyone. is a genealogy search engine that is available to you at no charge. It searches hundreds of thousands of genealogy web sites, looking for the words that you specify. Web sites searched include thousands of genealogy message boards, society web pages, genealogy pages uploaded by individuals, state historical societies, family societies, Find-A-Grave, the Internet Archive (mostly scanned genealogy books from the Allen County Public Library), the Library of Congress, several sites containing scanned images of old photographs, and tens of thousands of distinct sites sites that contain various transcribed records of genealogical interest.

Unlike other search engines, limits its searches solely to genealogy sites. That makes a big difference to many of us who are searching for names that also are common words or corporate names. For instance, if I search for my own surname, Eastman, on most any other search engine, I receive hundreds of thousands of "hits" from photography sites and other sites that have nothing to do with genealogy. Performing a search for "Eastman" on returns thousands of "hits," all of them from genealogy sites and with very few references to photography. Even the few that refer to the Eastman Kodak Company were references found on genealogy sites. A search for my own surname did return a "hit" for one page about the "Eastman Sea Rover airplane," something I had never heard of previously. Even that one "hit" was from a genealogy message board, providing information about the ancestry of the airplane's designer. Regardless of your search terms, always returns information found on web sites that contain significant genealogy information.

I suspect you will always have better luck searching for your own surnames of interest on than on any other search engine.

As an example of how works, I'd suggest you first go to the site and perform a search for Amos Shaw who was married to Sarah Maxey. I found the couple by a search of:
"amos shaw" "sarah maxey"
(Include the quote marks.)

That search found 41 "hits," but the one that was really productive was the fifth "hit" on the first page. That fifth "hit" may change up or down in the future, but you can always return to the correct page if you go to It is a FindAGrave result with an amazing photograph of a lady who was born in 1793 and died in 1868. You can find a photograph of her husband (who died in 1859) one click away. Those are old photos! It is rare to find a photograph of someone born in the 1700s. You will find it much more difficult to find old photographs like this using Google searches for genealogy!

Now try a few searches on with your own names of interest.

Of course, searches on are not limited to names. As with any other search engine, you can search for towns, states, occupations, relatives, or any other text information you think might be included with an ancestor's name. Whatever you specify, the search will be limited to pages on genealogy web sites. For instance, I have long been looking for the origins of Washington Harvey Eastman who lived his adult life in Corinth, Maine. I performed the following search on

"Washington Harvey Eastman" Corinth
This returned only two results, both referring to the specific person I have been looking for (although they only provided information I had already seen previously). Searching for the same person without his town of residence produces many more "hits," most of them for other men with the same or similar names. Adding the town of reference quickly produces focused results.

With the exception of the sites being searched, operates in much the same manner as Google and most other search engines. Mocavo always displays the full URL of the web site(s) found, along with a line of text from the site that contains the words you searched for. Clicking on the URL displays the original web site. never "hides" anything; the original web site is always displayed in its entirety.

According to Cliff Shaw, the creator of

“Genealogy has always had the problem of information and potential clues being spread across thousands of disparate web sites and sources. Imagine a world where you have all of the Web’s free genealogy content at your fingertips within seconds. That is

“ has the capacity to index every single piece of free genealogy content found anywhere on the web, and will be growing by leaps and bounds in the coming months. We expect to shortly offer all of the web’s free genealogy information, searchable and accessible to all – something that has never been done before. It’s set to become the go-to search engine for every family history enthusiast.”

At this time, finds mostly North American genealogy information. I suspect that will expand in the future as the site grows "by leaps and bounds every day."

Cliff Shaw has created a great genealogy search engine, the best I have seen. Try it. I suspect you'll be as pleased with as I am. Go to

I still plan on using other search engines for a lot for my other web searches. However, all my future genealogy searches will start on I've been using the site for a while during its testing and have been very impressed. I suspect you will always have better luck searching for your own surnames of interest on than on any other search engine.


Ahh, genealogy.  Always shaking those trees for my roots.

Update:  I heard back from the submitter of my great grandparents' information.  No kin here.  They had just pulled something off the census.  Disappointing.

©2011 AS Eldredge

Monday, March 21, 2011

24 Visits from the Stork: A True Labor of Love

While looking around at an old Pittsburgh Press newspaper today dated December 27, 1923, I ran across this story. 

While I can say with confidence that I am not related by blood to this clan, I can add that my dear spouse is distantly related to William Penn, thus to this lady as well.

What a story.  What a lady.

M'Keesport Couple Bring a Family of Twenty-Four into World--Mother a Penn

France and England have decorated their sons and daughters who brought 24 children into the world. America probably does not know that in McKeesport, not so long ago, John and Sarah Tauber had a like number of visitations from the stork.

And added to this self sacrifice of the mother, she endowed each child with rightful honor of declaring a lineage in the historical family of William Penn. She, before her marriage, was Sarah Virginia Penn, a direct descendant of the founder of Pennsylvania.

There is nothing unusual in the lives of John Tauber and his wife. John Tauber was born in Germany in 1830. Alone, he came to America 15 years later. In his early days, he learned the locksmith trade and established himself in Cumberland, MD, repairing locks, clocks and guns.

It was while he was repairing the flint lock rifle that belonged to the father of Sarah Penn, he met his future wife and mother of the largest family in western Pennsylvania, if not in the entire state.

John Tauber was 26 when he was married. His wife, nine years his junior. The ceremony took place Nov 20, 1856 in Cumberland, MD.

Early in the morning of March 4, 1857, the stork made its initial visit to the Tauber home. John J Tauber, the first child to the union, was born dead.  The second child, born in June 1858, a short time after the young couple moved from Cumberland to McKeesport, lived for 43 years. John Tauber II, third child lived but two weeks.

List of Children

The children, the dates on which they were born, are as follows:  John J, March 4, 1857; George I, Feb 22, 1858; John A Jan 15, 1859; Harry T, Feb 18, 1860; Adam A, March 12, 1861; Conrad W, May 23, 1862; Otto, Aug 23, 1863; Morgan, Mar 11, 1865; Rebecca S, Mar 18, 1866; Anna R, April 10, 1867; Barbara N, Nov 12, 1868; Martin, Dec 21, 1870, Minella, March 8, 1871; George II, Mary 17, 1872; Clara P, April 26, 1873; Elizabeth S, May 20, 1874; Fred, Feb 26, 1873; Thomas, Nov 10, 1875; Frank, Sept 8, 1876; Mary E, July 15, 1877; Amelia, July 18, 1878, Phoebe V, June 21, 1880, James A, May 15, 1881, Susan V, May 22, 1882.......

Story on family continues with the note that only six of the children died before age 14.

It just boggles my mind to think of the 26 years this lady spent either in maternity clothes or having a newborn with diapers around the house.  Can you imagine how tired she was?

And I thought my one distant family member who had 18 children was so noteworthy.  But wait, there's more.  I think my distant family member's children all lived to adulthood. 

Ahh genealogy.  Counting the labor of love, one by one.

Source:  Pittsburgh Press, Dec 27, 1923 pg7

©2011 AS Eldredge

Friday, March 18, 2011

Searching for Ancestors with Revolutionary Online Databases

The Daughters of the American Revolution have been collecting genealogy data since its 1890 beginnings. Women who have proven blood descent of American Revolution patriots have been working nonstop to digitize many of their records.

The general public can easily search DAR databases to locate names of known patriots, descendants, and documentation of over 20,000 typescript records, which have been donated by DAR members.

Begun in 1913, the collection of genealogical records consists of Bible, cemetery, county histories, and other types of genealogical records. By entering a name and state, titles of reports are displayed online. The details are available for a small fee.

In addition, volunteers are busily engaged in transcribing all DAR applications. The Analytical Card and Revolutionary War Pension indices have been digitized, thus providing a valuable resource not found elsewhere.

Growing daily with volunteer efforts, these databases can provide patriot names, descendants, land records, or other genealogical documentation useful to researchers.

The DAR is a great source to augment your genealogy research and record copies are available for purchase. Go to Click on genealogy to begin your search in their records. Who knows? You just may find revolutionary news of your own.

Ahh, genealogy. Did you know that over 2 million women have served in the defense of America since the times of the American Revolution? Do you have one in your line? I do. Perhaps it's time to honor her story.

2011 AS Eldredge

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Wordless Wednesday: Pittsburgh area WWI Military Index Updated

Unbelievable.  The World War I Military Personnel Index that I am involved with now has almost 70,000 entries.  Ok, so it's really ONLY 67,989 entries.

These entries are all marching in from old Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, newspapers courtesy of my genealogy buddy, Lynn B in Arizona. 

The most recent entries are coming from dates after the war ended in 1918.  It's really cool to read some of the stories of the boys as they come home from the horrendous battlefields in Europe.  Even the headlines of the daily newspapers provide a snapshot to the emotions and events at the end of the Great War.

I found myself just stopping my daily routine just to spend time reading some of the articles.  One article which caught my eye is from the January 19, 1919, Pittsburgh Press. While the article is about one John E STANTON who was among the first Americans in German territory, names of his family members are also mentioned.  What a great find for that family!

Other articles provide pictures and memories of battles in France.  What great reading!

The index can be seen here:

If you are among the fortunate to see your beloved's name, you will be able to identify the date and which newspaper and page to search.  Even if you don't readily find your family, the tales are fascinating.

Ahh, genealogy. While my grandfather's name hasn't been seen yet, he was exposed to mustard gas in France and ended up losing part of one leg due to being wounded.

©2011 AS Eldredge

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Southern American Revolution Patriots Pension Online Transcriptions

While reading the daily EOGN which is delivered to my inbox every day, I stumbled across a post on Revolutionary War Southern Campaign Pension Application Transcriptions Online.  How cool is this?

After reading the posted American Revolution pension application for one Dan Alexander, I thought I'd wander over to the site, , and see if I could locate a pension file from my maternal side.

Bingo!  There it was!  And, I'm excited to report this one pension contains the death date and the marriage date!  So here 'tis just in case you share my maternal blood.

Southern Campaign American Revolution Pension Statements & Rosters
Pension application of John Poston W26923    Rebecca    fn30NC
Transcribed by Will Graves    9/17/09

[Methodology: Spelling, punctuation and/or grammar have been corrected in some instances for ease of reading and to facilitate searches of the database. Also, the handwriting of the original scribes often lends itself to varying interpretations. Users of this database are urged to view the original and to make their own decision as to how to decipher what the original scribe actually wrote. Blanks appearing in the transcripts reflect blanks in the original. Folks are free to make non-commercial use this transcript in any manner they may see fit, but please extend the courtesy of acknowledging the transcriber—besides, if it turns out the transcript contains mistakes, the resulting embarrassment will fall on the transcriber.]

[fn p. 3 family record]
Peggy was Born the 9th day of February in the year 1782
Rebekah was born the 31st day May in the year 1783
Jenny was born the 17th day of October in the year 1785
Elizabeth was born the 30th day of January in the year 1786
Salley was born the 15 day of January in the year 1888 [sic]
Robert Postion [sic] was born the 28th of December in the year 1889 [sic]
Polley was born the 30th day of August in the year 1890 [sic]
Jno A. B. Poston was born the 7th day of November in the year 1894 [sic]
Nancy Poston was born the 9th day of April in the year 1897 [sic]
Send the Poston was born the 6th day of March in the year 1801
John Poston Senior departed this life August 22nd Day 1819
William Poston was born in the year of our Lord August 14th Day 1809

[fn p. 8] State of North Carolina Buncombe County
On this 4th day of July 1845 Personally appeared before the Court of Pleas and quarter Sessions in and for the County aforesaid Rebecca Poston a Resident of North Carolina in the County of Buncombe aged seventy-nine years, Who being first duly sworn according to law doth on her oath make the following Declaration in order to obtain the benefit of the provision made by the acts of Congress passed July 7th 1838, entitled an act granting half pay and pensions to certain Widows -- That she is the widow of John Poston who was a Private in the Army of the Revolution And who entered the service of the United States as a Drafted Soldier sometime in the year 1779 or 80 in the County of Roan [sic, Rowan], North Carolina and served out 13 months tour: soon after which he again volunteered or was drafted & entered the service of the United States in which he remained as she has often heard him say, until after the surrender of Cornwallis at which time he was present and saw Cornwallis surrender his sword to (she thinks) General Lincoln, the names of the Captains under which he mustered she does not Recollect: She however recollects to have heard him say that he was commanded by Generals McDowell and Davidson. She further Recollects that he was in the Battle at the Cowpens. She further declares that she was married to the said John Poston on the 25th day of April in the year 1782. That her said Husband the aforesaid John Poston Died on the 22nd day of August 1819, that she was not married to him prior to his leaving the service but the marriage took place previous to the first day of January 1794 (viz.) at the time above stated.
She further states that she has no Record proof of her said marriage, but that she has a Record of the ages of her children and of the Death of her Husband the aforesaid John Poston. That she was married to him the said John Poston at the time aforesaid in the County of Lincoln in the State of North Carolina. That she never has since been Death of her said husband again married. But that she still remains the widow of the said John Poston -- the Record of the ages of her children & of the death of her said Husband are here with remitted.
S/ Rebecca Poston, X her mark Sworn to and subscribed in Open Court on the day and date above written.
S/ N. Harrison, Clerk of the Buncombe County Court
[fn p. 11: On December 30, 1851 in Buncombe County North Carolina, Charles McFee, the administrator of the estate of Rebecca Poston filed a claim for pension due her as the widow of John Poston; in this application the affiant states that John Poston served in a company commanded by Captain John Work; that John Poston married Rebecca Balldridge in Iredell County, date unknown but prior to January one, 1794; that John Poston died August 22nd, 1819 survived by Rebecca Poston, his widow and the following children now living: Mary Davis, Jane Bryson, Rebeco [Rebecca] Bryson, Nancy Nicholas, Lusindia [Lucinda] Stines, Ruthy Smith & Robert Poston.]
[fn p.15: bond taken out by John Poston, Junior and John Poston, Senior, of Rowan County North Carolina dated April 24, 1782 to secure the marriage of John Poston to Rebecca Baldridge of Lincoln County.]
[fn p. 20: certificate dated September 30th 1851 issued by the North Carolina Comptroller's Office showing payments made to John Poston for services in the revolution including service under Captain John Work in January 1776 for 32 days in an expedition to Moore's Creek.]

My mom used to tell me that her kin had fought under General Francis Marion, and I've been itching to document that tidbit.  

I looked around at some of the other surnames from my maternal side and checked them out as well. While it is possible a couple of them could be related somehow, there are others I could immediately rule out.  Guess I'll keep searching for the name Marion used in conjunction with my blood kin who had migrated to that little area of South Carolina.

Ahh, genealogy.  Another day, another unexpected find.

©2011 AS Eldredge

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Emory Libraries to Preserve Rare African American Scrapbooks

How many hours have we sat down to chronicle our lives and the lives of our children?  Scrapbooking has become so popular today, but it was also a very important part of our nation's history.  Thought you'd enjoy seeing some of the preservation efforts.


Rare African American scrapbooks at Emory’s Manuscript, Archives and Rare Books Library (MARBL) can be saved from the perils of disintegration thanks to a $170,000 three-year matching Save America’s Treasures grant. 

The grant will be used to conserve African American scrapbooks and create digital surrogates to enhance access to the historical materials – the scrapbooks of artists, writers, students, vaudeville performers, preachers and former slaves. The Emory Libraries will provide the matching amount.

Thirty-four scrapbooks have been selected, with dates ranging from 1883 to 1975. They include the scrapbooks of author Alice Walker, vaudeville performers “Jolly” John Larkin and Johnny Hudgins, entertainer and playwright Flourney Miller, Spelman College graduate Virginia Hannon, and former slave and author W.S. Scarborough, who became a professor of classics at Wilberforce University, and eventually its president.

“Scrapbooks have often been treated as the unwanted children or the neglected orphans of the archives. They are difficult to handle, they are often in fragile physical condition, and they are a mix of memorabilia of every description and taste,” says Randall K. Burkett, MARBL’s curator of African American collections.

“These scrapbooks give us a glimpse into how these artists and students and former slaves thought about themselves, their families, their work. The funding for this project will allow us to preserve these important memory books.”

'The scrapbooks are deteriorating rapidly'

MARBL and the Emory Libraries’ preservation department and Digital Curation Center will collaborate on the project, says Laura Carroll, manuscript archivist and principal investigator for the grant.

The scrapbooks contain items that disintegrate quickly or are easily damaged, such as folded newspaper clippings, pressed flowers and single-use paper items such as ticket stubs, napkins and telegram paper. The objects usually were attached with adhesives such as cheap tape, pastes or cement glue, also harmful to the archival materials.

The project is urgent because the scrapbooks are deteriorating rapidly, Carroll says. “We’re losing original information. People annotate their photographs.” Walker, for example, wrote original poems in her scrapbook. “The clock is ticking.”

Once the project begins, the scrapbooks first will be sent to preservation to be stabilized to prevent further damage. Digital surrogates will be created, which will be used in classrooms and MARBL’s reading room, unless researchers request the originals.

“The originals will still be available,” Carroll says. “Nothing replaces the original.” The work is expected to begin when funds arrive mid-year and will take place over the next three years.

The Save America’s Treasures grant is awarded through the Department of Interior and the National Park Service, in collaboration with the National Endowment for the Arts, National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Institute of Museum and Library Services.


Ahh, genealogy.  Reading this article has me in the mood to pull out some old scrapbooks of my own.

©2011 AS Eldredge