Due to their fragile and ephemeral nature, paper records, like personal papers, are often difficult to find (if they survive) and to preserve. Many genealogists have horror stories of finding paper records (or not finding them) in burn piles and trash dumps or in ancient trunks and barns. Our ancestors often kept important pieces of paper, but with the passage of time, these fragile materials are forgotten and left to deteriorate. At a time when everyone seems to adhere to the motto that digitizing everything will fix all archival problems (bad news, it doesn’t work that way), paper records remain the sine qua non of genealogical research—and they require special attention when trying to preserve them.
“Adventures in Genealogy” is a regular department in Alabama Heritage magazine that spotlights the many ways people are uncovering their roots in Alabama.