Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Library and Archives Hosts Free How-to Workshop on Using Historical Newspapers for Research

Newspapers are some of the most valuable resources for piecing together history. On Jan. 26 the Tennessee State Library and Archives is hosting a free workshop with tips and tricks to make your newspaper research more fruitful.

Attendees will watch Old News is Good News: Using Historical Newspapers for Your Research presented by Genealogist Taneya Koonce, MLS, MPH. Koonce is an avid genealogist with more than 18 years of professional experience in information organization and management. Koonce is also the State Coordinator of the TNGenWeb Project, is a Board Member of the Middle Tennessee Genealogical Society, and is President-elect of the Nashville Chapter of the Afro-American Historical and Genealogical Society.

“The Tennessee State Library and Archives has one of the largest collection of Tennessee newspapers in the country,” said Secretary of State Tre Hargett. “I’m glad this workshop will highlight the newspaper collections and records available to the public and teach how to use them most effectively. There is a vast amount of information waiting to be re-discovered.”

Koonce will navigate attendees through the benefits of using historical newspapers and highlight strategies to make the newspaper research process even more successful. Improve your skills, speed, and accuracy when searching newspaper collections and learn more about the print, microfilm, and digitized formats available through the Tennessee State Library and Archives.

The workshop will be held 9:30 a.m. until 11 a.m. Saturday, Jan. 26, in the Library and Archives auditorium. The Library and Archives is located at 403 Seventh Ave. N. Free parking is available around the Library and Archives building.

Although the presentation is free and open to the public, registration is required due to seating limitations in the auditorium. To reserve seats, please visit newspaperresearch.eventbrite.com.


The Tennessee State Library and Archives is a division of the Office of Tennessee Secretary of State Tre Hargett

Meet the Staff - Jessica Opalinski

Meet Jessica Opalinski. She is a Micrographics Technician with Preservation and Digitization.

How long have you worked here?

I started in June 2016 as a micrographics imaging processor. (It took me several months to memorize that job title!) In August of 2018 I moved into the micrographics technician position. What are some of the things you do as a Micrographics Technician?

Our section of the preservation department is focused primarily on managing the microfilm collection. We process raw film that the microfilmers shoot, make duplicate copies for orders, and store the original reels in the vault. We work with public services to ensure their microfilm collection is up-to-date and available to patrons.

Recently our department acquired two digital cameras for filming documents. We can keep the images as digital files or convert them to microfilm. My time has been split between the physical process of processing and quality checking microfilm, and transitioning projects onto the new cameras. It’s quite a change from the old microfilm cameras, but it gives us much more control over the quality of the final product.

What is your favorite part of your job?

I enjoy seeing the final results of the images I’ve taken. It’s so fascinating to watch the images suddenly appear as the film runs through the processor. I particularly like when we have to film unusual items. One time we had to film a car key as part of the governor’s papers!

Do you have a favorite collection?

I love the Grassmere Collection. As a huge fan of the Nashville Zoo, I was excited when this collection was first put together to explore the history of the five generations that lived at the Grassmere Farm and how the land eventually became the zoo as we know it today. The family’s connections and travels in Cuba were something I’d never heard of before and added an interesting layer to their history. It’s a great collection to look through if you love animal photos!



What makes libraries and archives relevant to modern society?

Before I started working here, I didn’t realize how much valuable information we record and store! From vital records such as birth certificates and marriage records to political documents and key information about Tennessee history, this building is a treasure trove of knowledge. It allows people to research their genealogy and discover parts of their family history they may have been unaware of. Often we don’t realize just how important a record is until someone needs it. And with so much data available, our staff is crucial for sorting through it and helping to make sense of it all.


The Tennessee State Library and Archives is a division of the Office of Tennessee Secretary of State Tre Hargett

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

How to use TEL to improve Health and Wellness in 2019!

By Andrea Zielke

Making a resolution for the New Year? Want to start off 2019 with improved health and wellness? There are many resources on Tennessee Electronic Library (TEL) that can help you find vetted, reliable health information. Even better, these resources are free for Tennesseans! Of course, no online database should take the place of expert advice from a qualified physician. These resources can help to prepare you to have informed conversations with your health care provider. There is no such thing as too much information when it comes to health and wellness!




Health and Wellness Resource Center

One of TEL’s most popular resources is the Health and Wellness Resource Center. The Health and Wellness Resource Center provides authoritative information on a full range of health-related issues, from current disease and disorder information to in-depth coverage of alternative and complementary medical practices. Inside you’ll have access to full-text medical journals, magazines, reference works, multimedia, and much more! One of the best features of this database is that Gale publishes their information in plain, easy-to-understand language!





MedLine Plus

Another great, free resource that provides information about diseases, conditions, and wellness issues is MedLine Plus. MedLine Plus is a free, public online source provided by the National Library of Medicine. MedlinePlus offers health information in non-technical, understandable language. You can easily look up prescription drugs, over-the-counter medicines, herbs and supplements. Find out why your doctor orders various laboratory tests and what the results may mean. You can even watch surgical videos so you are fully prepared for any surgical procedures. You do not need to be a health professional to use MedlinePlus, although it is used by many health providers.





Health Reference Center Academic

If you are looking for the latest information published in peer reviewed journals, you may want to check out Health Reference Center Academic. This database provides up-to-date information on the complete range of health care topics for students, consumer health researchers, and health care professionals. Health Reference Center Academic includes full-text periodicals, reference books, pamphlets, and hundreds of videos demonstrating medical procedures and live surgeries to ensure that researchers get current, scholarly, comprehensive answers to health-related questions.





These are just a few of the databases on TEL, don’t forget to check out the other Health resources available at https://tntel.info/general-public/health.


The State Library and Archives is a division of the Tennessee Department of State and Tre Hargett, Secretary of State

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Meet the Staff - Ellen Robison

Meet Ellen Robison. She is an Archival Assistant with Archival Technical Services.

How long have you worked here?

A: I was originally hired in the Public Services department in January 2016 and transferred to my current role in October 2017.

What are some of the things you do as an archival assistant?

A: There are 3 main parts to my job. I process collections by cleaning, researching, and organizing the materials to make them accessible to the public. I also serve on the rotation of designated staff who fulfill the requests of the public to view original materials kept in locked storage. Additionally, when the state legislature is in session each year, I am one of the recorders we send to record the House and Senate committee meetings and floor sessions.

What is your favorite part of your job?

A: I love how much I learn. Whether I’m researching the history of a family or event for a collection or recording a legislative meeting, there is always something new and interesting to learn about Tennessee, her past, and her people.

Do you have a favorite collection?

A: Picking a single favorite collection is difficult but I would have to say the World War II Veteran Survey collection (https://sos.tn.gov/products/tsla/world-war-ii-veterans-survey-1996). This record group is comprised of over 6,000 surveys of men and women from all walks of life who served during the Second World War. Many veterans, or their family members, submitted supplemental materials such as photographs or personal accounts along with their questionnaires. It is a treasure trove of individual legacies and provides a unique perspective on the war.



What makes libraries and archives relevant to modern society?

A: Preserving our society’s past is a vital part of society’s development. One of the best ways to improve our future is by studying our past, uncovering our failures as well as our successes, and applying that knowledge as we move forward. By understanding the foundations of our society, we can work to improve it for future generations. Libraries and archives ensure that future generations will be able to do the same.


The Tennessee State Library and Archives is a division of the Office of Tennessee Secretary of State Tre Hargett

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Genealogy Resources available through TEL and beyond!

By Andrea Zielke

Maybe it is the time of the season, the shorter days or just my age but I’ve become more interested in learning about my family tree. I’m from Wisconsin but now a Tennessee resident so I’ve had search for new resources available from my new home state. Through the Tennessee Electronic Library and the Tennessee State Library and Archives, there are a number of free resources available to Tennesseans who want to learn more about their family history. 




Beginner and professional genealogists can use HeritageQuest Online to trace family histories and American culture from the comfort of their home. This resource includes the digitized U.S. Federal Censuses from 1790 through 1940, genealogy and local history books, Revolutionary War records, Freedman’s Bank Records, and U.S. Congressional Serial Set records.

HeritageQuest Online can be used to answer questions including:
  • Where did my family live in the United States between 1790 and 1940?
  • Where can I find information about my African American ancestors?
  • Some of my ancestors fought in the Revolutionary War. What records are available?
  • I am writing a story set in Knoxville, TN in 1930. How can I find information about the families and businesses found there during that time?
  • How did county boundaries appear when each census was taken?




In my initial family search, I have found some ancestors that lived and died in Tennessee. In partnership with Ancestry.com, the Tennessee State Library and Archives provides access to several important collections of Tennessee records. 
  • Tennessee, Delayed Birth Records, 1869-1909
  • Tennessee, Death Records, 1908-1958
  • Tennessee, City Birth Records, 1881-1915
  • North Carolina and Tennessee, Early Land Records, 1753-1931
  • Tennessee, Early Tax List Records, 1783-1895
  • Tennessee, Enumeration of Male Voters, 1891
  • North Carolina and Tennessee, Revolutionary War Land Warrants, 1783-1843
  • Tennessee, Early Land Registers, 1778-1927
  • Tennessee, City Death Records, 1872-1923
  • Tennessee, Wills and Probate Records, 1779-2008
  • Web: Tennessee, Supreme Court Case Index, 1809-1950

While searching the Tennessean, I have found that some of my ancestors that have made news! Through TEL, Tennesseans can now search the full archive of the newspaper back to 1812. Full scans of each page of the paper are available to search including the articles, wedding announcements, death notices, ads and classifieds. I even found Minnie Pearl’s engagement announcement!




If you are from a smaller town and your ancestors did not make Nashville news, there are other resources available to search online.  Chronicling America, a project of the Library of Congress, has digitized 125 Tennessee newspapers (1690-present) that are available to the public.


Additional resources

Beyond just newspapers, the Tennessee Virtual Archive (TeVA) is a digital repository of Tennessee history and culture featuring historical records, photographs, documents, maps, postcards, film, audio and other original materials of enduring value.  TeVA contains a subset of the Library & Archives materials and is updated monthly with new content. Plus, it is free and available to everyone!




The Tennessee State Library and Archives also provides indexes to some collections and county genealogical fact sheets. Although the indexes do not provide access to the records themselves, you can submit order forms, request materials through interlibrary loan, or plan a visit to the Tennessee State Library and Archives to dig into the collections!


If you cannot find a digitized version of what you are looking for, the Tennessee State Library and Archives have amazing staff that can help aid you on your search. If you can’t come to the library in person, you can call, email, or even chat live with a librarian if you have questions!

Don’t forget to check out what resources are available at your local public library or local archive.  Many libraries and archives have additional genealogy resources about their community. 


Editor's Note: The author is grateful for research and editorial assistance provided by Library and Archives staff members Trent Hanner, Allison Griffey, Jennifer Randles, and Lisa Walker


The Tennessee State Library and Archives is a division of the Office of Tennessee Secretary of State Tre Hargett

Friday, November 30, 2018

Tennessee Connections to the Tropics: the Croft and Dallas Families

By Jennifer Randles

When doing historical research, have you ever wished you could talk to the people who wrote the documents you are using, or visit the places where they once live? I recently got the chance to find out while traveling for research on the Grassmere Collection. This October, Tori Mason, Historic Site Manager at the Nashville Zoo, and I set off on an adventure to record an oral history in Miami and walk in the steps of Elise and Margaret Croft in Cuba.

The Grassmere digital collection is a sampling of the larger collection housed here at the Library & Archives. The Grassmere Collection, 1786-1985, centers around five generations of the same family that lived at Grassmere Farm in Nashville. The home is one of the oldest residences in Davidson County open to the public, and the property served as a family farm for 175 years. Margaret and Elise Croft willed the Grassmere property to be used as a nature preserve upon their deaths, and the Croft home is now managed as part of the Nashville Zoo. While working on this collection, I became fascinated with the Croft sisters and their lives, particularly their life in Cuba in the early 1900s.

1955 Advertisement for Antillian & General Concrete Construction Companies.


William Croft moved to Cuba shortly after the Spanish-American War to found the General Concrete Construction Company of Cuba, which made reinforced concrete chimneys for the sugar industry. He brought his wife Kate and daughters Elise and Margaret to live on the island a few years later. In 1925, Mrs. Croft, Elise, and Margaret moved back to Grassmere, while Mr. Croft remained in Cuba to run the business. After Mr. Croft’s death in 1938, Elise and Margaret owned the company until the Cuban government seized their property in 1961. This aspect of the collection sparked my interest, as it is unusual to find material on the Cuban Revolution in a collection about Tennessee. In particular, the letters from Bradford Dallas stood out, as they give a glimpse on what it was like to live in Havana during the Revolution.


1958 letter from Bradford Dallas to Elise Croft.


Bradford B. Dallas, now 94 years old, was born in Havana to Charles F. Dallas, a native Knoxvillian. Both Bradford and his father attended the University of Tennessee for engineering. Charles Dallas founded the Antillian Construction Company in 1917, and Bradford managed both Antillian and the Crofts’ General Concrete from 1953 to 1961. Bradford’s vivid letters detail the change in political climate on the island during these years. In the first of these letters, he discusses the political changes on the island, noting that “things have not been as bad as the newspapers in the United States have said.” Only three years later, he notes that he barely escaped Cuba with his life, saying “we will have nothing left when we get back there. If and when!”

While researching Bradford for the digital collection earlier this year, I found what appeared to be his phone number and sent it to Tori- who made the leap and called Bradford himself! This first contact led to conversations with his son, Bob, who arranged a visit to Miami in early October for an oral history interview. Joining Bradford and Bob for the interviews were Bradford’s wife Sonia and his youngest daughter Christine. They were all fantastic hosts who treated us like family and kept our interview with Bradford lively.

Bradford Dallas discusses the procedure for building reinforced concrete chimneys.


We covered many topics over our time in Miami: stories from the Cuban Revolution, his dramatic escape from Cuba (he flew a plane back to Miami, taking his slide rule with him!), his experience growing up on the island, managing the construction companies, concrete chimney building, his family history in Tennessee, and his relationship with the Croft sisters.

Bradford Dallas points out his office location on a 1951 map of Havana. Bob Dallas conducts research in the background.


One of the highlights of our trip was working with a large 1951 map of Havana I printed. We brought this along with photos and documents from the collection to help guide the interviews along. We rolled the map out on the table and Bradford marked several locations on it. I marked the same locations on a smaller version of the map we took with us to Havana. Bradford has a great sense of humor and shared many fascinating stories, and I feel so fortunate and grateful to have been able to record them for the future. We ended up with around three hours of oral history, and plan to release excerpts from it on TeVA in the future.

Once we wrapped up the interviews, Tori and I got ready for the next leg of our trip: Cuba! Since we were already traveling, we decided to take a leap and head to Cuba to see some of the places we’d researched for ourselves. We had about 48 hours in Havana to track down the locations on our list and take photos. We knew 48 hours would be tight, so we hit the ground running!

Sonia and Alejandro match old streets with their new names.


Once we arrived in Havana, we in at an apartment in Vedado, the neighborhood where the Croft family lived. We told our hostess Sonia what we needed to do and she arranged for her son Alejandro to drive us in his 1955 Chevrolet Bel Air the next day. Using a smaller version of the 1951 map, they compared the old and new street names and planned out a route for our big day out.

Image of Croft House at 419 Calle 19, in front of current buildings at that address.


Hand-colored print / current-day pillars on Calle 19.


Our top priority was going to the Croft family’s home at 419 Calle 19. There is a lovely hand-colored print of the house in the digital collection, and we had hopes that it was still standing. Sadly, it was not standing, but the pink concrete posts nearby do look a lot like the ones in our image! Despite our disappointment, we ventured on, knowing that we were treading where Elise and Margaret once walked.

Elise & Margaret Croft at the Chinese Embassy / Chinese Embassy badminton courts.


Since the Crofts socialized with members of multiple legations, we made sure to visit some embassies. We saw the ball courts at the Chinese embassy, where the sisters were photographed playing badminton. We could not get inside, but we did get to see the tops of the nets from the street. We then visited two locations Bradford had marked on the map: his 1960 residence on Calle 28 and his father’s 1953 residence in a neighborhood near the world-famous Cabaret Tropicana.

Presidential Palace / Museo de la Revolución.


Bank of Nova Scotia building, Calle Cuba & O’Reilly.


That afternoon, we headed to old Havana (La Habana Vieja). We saw the Spanish Embassy, the former Presidential Palace (now Museo de la Revolución), the construction companies’ office building on Calle Cuba, and finally the neoclassical Bank of Nova Scotia building, where William Croft had an office until he died there in 1938.

Masonic Mausoleum in Necrópolis Cristóbal Colón. Charles F. Dallas, Jr. and Sr. are buried here.


The next morning, we made one more outing before leaving the island to find Charles F. Dallas’s gravesite in Necrópolis Cristóbal Colón. One of the largest cemeteries in the Americas, it is truly a “city of the dead,” spanning over 140 acres and containing over 1 million interments. With the help of the cemetery staff, we found the mausoleum where Bradford’s father (d. 1953) and brother (d. 1934) are buried. We continued taking photos in the cemetery until we were exhausted, and then headed back to the airport.

In the end, we brought back a fascinating oral history, documentation on the Croft and Dallas families’ lives in Cuba, and tons of photographs. Looking back through the collection and listening to the interview, I get excited when I recognize many of the places we visited in person. It has been a truly rewarding journey, and I feel fortunate to have been able to contribute to and help preserve the Croft and Dallas families’ stories. Learn more by visiting the digital collection at http://bit.ly/GrassmereTeVA.


The Tennessee State Library and Archives is a division of the Office of Tennessee Secretary of State Tre Hargett

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Meet the Staff - Carol Roberts

Welcome to another installment of “Meet the Staff.” Today, let’s meet Carol Roberts. She is the Conservation Manager for the Tennessee State Library and Archives.


How long have you worked here?

I have worked here since September 1986. That is 32 years, or 5 governors soon to be six, 5 Secretaries of State and 4 State Librarians.


What are some of the things you do as a Conservation manager?

Being the Conservation Manager involves being responsible for the preservation of the collection; books, documents, photographs, anything that is permanent part of the collection. That involves any and all techniques and environments to lengthen the lifespan of the item. We match unique techniques to the needs of the item; such as basic cleaning, then stabilizing the item based on the chemistry of it, and the care and handling of each item or collection. I use a different process or archival conservation technique each day to preserve something in Tennessee history.


What is your favorite part of your job?

I have many favorite things about the Library and Archives, but my top projects include helping counties care for their permanent records either on microfilm and or permanent documents related to the county. I love touring county courthouse attics, basements, and storage looking for rare historic documents to help the citizens of the county preserve their history. In 32 years I have visited all 95 counties to help either a county official, county archivist, museum, or public library.





Do you have a favorite collection?

In addition to county records that tell neat stories, I enjoy working on historic photographs. They provide wonderful clues to the story of historic events or people. The type of photographic style, the studio details, and any notes add clues to build historic story. Photographs help bring in much more interest than just words on paper. I never look at a historic image without looking at every detail of the subject and even the background.


What makes libraries and archives relevant to modern society?

Libraries and archives bring the detail of history and current events into perspective. It helps understand why it is important to do things a certain way, or why laws exist. Or, it can even be as simple as why that road or creek is named the way it is. There is always a story from the past and it should be the strong foundation for the future.


The Tennessee State Library and Archives is a division of the Office of Tennessee Secretary of State Tre Hargett