A few years ago, the BBC and the British Museum began a series of radio reports called “A History of the World in 100 Objects” which used objects in the museum’s collections to tell a story about what was happening at the time the object was made or used. I love this series and felt that it is similar to how genealogists often discover history—in that when you research an ancestor, the times and places in which they lived come alive.
Additionally, I’ve had a lot of discussions lately with friends and fellow genealogists about the popularity of online research, the value of local societies in an increasingly digital world, and those hidden genealogical treasures lurking in attics and on eBay.
Local societies excel at discovering, preserving, and propagating local history—which is part of the founding mission of GSBC. Genealogical and historical societies collect information and artifacts about local families and neighborhoods and preserve them for future generations to discover and enjoy. When you’ve hit a brick wall with your research, are confused by a place name, or need to find local newspapers and materials, you can almost always find the experts and answers at a local society.
So with this project, the GSBC aims to rediscover some local artifacts, connect them to history, and capture new resources that family researchers can benefit from.
So, what makes an object eligible for this project?
1) The artifact should be directly related to the history of Bergen County;
2) The artifact should be largely unknown, unpublished, or otherwise have been generally overlooked by researchers or in need of revision; and
3) The artifact should tell its own story—and inspire the telling of a larger story about Bergen County, its history, and the individuals and families who lived here. (Being a genealogical society, we're also looking out for resources that help family history researchers.)
In this issue we present the first six objects in this series. We hope that you enjoy this issue and that it inspires you to bring forward your own nominations of artifacts for inclusion in future installments.
What’s next for the “Objects” series?
In response to a call for nominations to this project, GSBC Trustees and members brought forward a wonderful array of ideas—so many that I am planning on continuing to cover additional “Objects” in future issues of The Archivist. Some are slated for future publication while others are at the earliest stages of development.
Upcoming “Objects” in this series may include (more details to come after securing agreements from artifact owners):
– Transcription of a Bergen County Spanish-American War soldier’s journal
– Bergen County slave manumission records
– Bergen County Native American histories and genealogies
– Bergen County African Methodist Episcopal Church records
– Processing and indexing miscellaneous Bergen County deeds and tax lists
– Indexing an early privately-published Bergen County newspaper
– Re-transcribing an Bergen County nineteenth century journals
– Research into miscellaneous Bergen County court documents
…and if you know of an artifact that should be included in this series, let us know!
If you would like to nominate objects for future installments or contribute research, images, or writing for any of the proposed new objects, drop me a line at GSBCArchivist@icloud.com.
—Michelle D. Novak, Project Organizer and Editor, The Archivist