Administrative records, Archives, Historical documents, Historical research, Research

It takes time to do archival research

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some archival documents are hand-written in an old style which adds to the challenge of reading them

It takes a lot of time to do what can seem like the simplest research in an archives.  You think you’re going to look up where someone lived or what a lot size was or if someone was a city counsellor in a given year.

It sounds straight-forward but chances are it won’t be.  Directories for a given year may only be arranged by address. Assessment rolls for given properties may have been lost in a fire many years earlier.

Missing records – for any number of reasons, or changes in policy that affect records organization can all add precious minutes to your research.

Other things you’ll need to allocate extra time for include tracking down the right  fiche/film for the records you’re looking for; loading it; winding it (sometimes manually) until you reach the record you’re searching for.  Then re-winding the film and returning it.

Another set-back to quick research could be time you’ll need to spend reading antiquated hand-writing.  Or trying to use logic and ingenuity to decipher abbreviations – sometimes for terms no longer in use.

You could have to wade through many pages or even folders-worth of correspondence – most often not subject-indexed,  before you glean that one little gem of information you were looking for.

It’s all part of the time it takes to do archival research and a phenomenon of the kind of document repository it is – namely one created to track the administrative work of the governing agency (city, province, church, society, etc).

It’s good to remember that archival records weren’t created  for you as a future researcher. It’s just a happy coincidence that so many of these records prove valuable for so much contemporary research.


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