Why is it Important to Preserve Historical Records?

Today, many important genealogy records have been digitally archived and made available online. Not all of them have, though! There are many reasons why it is important to preserve historical records.

In Case of Fire

The Great Chicago Fire burned from October 8, 1871, through October 10, 1871. Most of Chicago’s voting records were destroyed in the fire. In 1987, the Chicago Tribune reported that 16 “baked” volumes of Chicago’s earliest political history sat in a vault, waiting for technology that might restore them.

Among the damaged documents are: a notebook containing minutes from the Town of Chicago council meetings in 1883, and records about the installation of wooden planks for sidewalks. The fire also consumed the old City Cemetery, burning down wooden monuments and shattering stone vaults. Those monuments are gone, forever.

Genealogical and historical records can also be destroy by floods, hurricanes, typhoons, and earthquakes.

In Case of Loss

In 2017, The Guardian reported that thousands of government papers from the most controversial episodes in 20th-century British history had vanished from the country’s National Archives.

The missing papers included documents on the Falklands War, Northern Ireland’s Troubles, the British colonial administration in Palestine, tests on polio vaccines, and territorial disputes between the UK and Argentine. It was approximately 1,000 files, each containing dozens of papers.

In Case of Political Instability

On June 30, 1922, the Public Records Office suffered a two-day bombardment during the Irish Civil War. The result was the loss of the Irish Censuses of 1821, 1831, 1842 and 1851. Over half of the Anglican Church of Ireland registers were destroyed, and so were the majority of wills and testamentary records. All pre-1900 documents from the legal courts were destroyed.

In Case of Neglect

Documents and records that are left on shelves and ignored for too long can become damaged. Paper exposed to sunlight can fade and become brittle. Paper exposed to water can decay from mold, mildew, and insect infestation.

Related Articles at FamilyTree.com:

* Great Chicago Fire

* How to Start Indexing Online for FamilySearch

* Preserving Veteran Letters

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