29 January 2011

Miscellaneous Serendipity!

Some of my favorite records are those labeled as “miscellaneous” or “loose.” Others are data in the back of a totally unrelated record book or on the back of a note or index card.
These may be a collection of related or unrelated papers and the dates of coverage may not be clear. The Family History Library Catalog www.familysearch.org does include some miscellaneous court and vital records. Do a keyword search for "miscellaneous" in the catalog or that of any record repository. A state or other archive online catalog or in-house inventory may show a couple of volumes of “Miscellaneous Records” for a town or county. A check of the catalog of the Missouri State Archives http://www.sos.mo.gov/archives/ using only the word miscellaneous yields “Miscellaneous Court Records.” The subject tracings include
elections and I would check this out to see if any personal names are listed.

The North Carolina State Archives http://www.ah.dcr.state.nc.us/Archives/records_county.htm has informative descriptions of what may be found in county records it holds and miscellaneous records are frequently listed. One items is “Miscellaneous Court Records: Includes boxes of miscellaneous court records and dockets from both Court of Pleas and Quarter Sessions and Superior Court.” It is possible that some miscellaneous records are not found in the most likely court indexes.

Loose Papers
Back at the Missouri State Archives site, I also noted some “loose papers” that refer to Missouri Militia 1861-1865 and include orders, discharges, deaths, and desertions. Neither the state or the counties were recording deaths at this time period. Loose papers may refer to records that were kept on loose pages or possibly a probate file (or parts) that is in a packet and not in a volume. Loose papers may be less likely to survive than a bound volume. When county records were turned over to an archive, the resulting finding aid often called a section of loose, possibly unrelated, or previously bound pages, simply “loose papers” or “miscellaneous.” Loose papers turn up when a courthouse or other government entity moves into a new building or transfers records to an archive.

A minister or justice of the peace faithfully turned in a piece of paper or a signed certificate with the details of an ancestor’s marriage. Are you sure the county clerk recorded that or did it end up in a pile of “loose papers?”

Back of the book
I have a couple pages that list teacher salaries with information on when they taught and their own education that I found in the back of another school related record book. A clerk may have run out of room in the proper volume and used the back of another volume to enter data. The clerks certainly did not have “print on demand” for volumes in which to record official business. If you ever saw me in an archive or a courthouse, you would know I go to the back of the book first. No, not to check for an index, but to see if there are any gems on those pages. When viewing microfilm, check at the end of that volume for such neat items. A notation there may be about a relative.

Turn it over

When taking my own genealogical notes by hand or printing out pages, I resist using the back side of the paper, index card, or other paper. I am afraid that later I will not remember to check that back side. A microfilm of a newspaper index might be helpful, but the camera operator may not have looked at the reverse side of the cards. I have a copy from a  microfilmed newspaper index which has cards with extensive hand abstracted details from an obituary. Thankfully this camera operator did turn the card over and film the notation stating that the details were incorrect and that it was actually the obit for the brother, and it also states the person listed on the other side was still alive!

The lesson?

The lesson from this? Turn over every piece of paper. Check state and federal archival catalogs and other finding aids for “loose” or miscellaneous” records. Ancestry.com has miscellaneous records within some databases. Use the online and microfilmed sources, but try to find the actual original records to check the back of the book, find the folder of loose paper, and look at the back of the index card.

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