Some people eat, sleep and chew gum, I do genealogy and write...

Friday, June 4, 2010

A gold mine in Special Collections

After our adventure in finding Kerlin's Well, I took advantage of the fact that we were already in Northern Arizona to go to the Northern Arizona University, Cline Library, Special Collections and Archives Department. The book with the faded picture of Kerlin's Well was written by my Great-uncle, George Shepherd Tanner.  See Tanner, George S. Henry Martin Tanner; Joseph City, Arizona Pioneer, Born June 11, 1852, San Bernardino, California, Died March 21, 1935, Gilbert, Arizona. 1964. NAU's Special Collections is typical of many other large university library collections. Finding NAU is not a problem, I have driven past the campus hundreds of times and visited parts of the university on many different occasions. But this was my first visit to the library.

I got to the library because of a search for information about my Great-grandfather, Henry Martin Tanner, the same one who carved his name in the rock at Kerlin's Well. A Google search had shown me that there were two collections of all of George Tanner's primary source documents used to write several books about colonization along the Little Colorado River in northern Arizona. The one I was interested in viewing was at NAU.  I also noted that the University of Utah Marriott Library Special Collections had the same collection but a lot of additional information. NAU has 16 boxes of documents and the U of U has 46 boxes. The NAU collection takes up 9 feet of shelf space.

My wife and I spent most of the day following the trip to Kerlin's Well, photographing documents in the Special Collections Library at NAU. As with all Special Collections libraries, there are some pretty stringent limitations on how and what you can copy. They limit the percentage of the documents you can copy due to copyright restrictions. At NAU any researcher was limited to taking digital photos of the documents. Scanning and/or photocopies were discouraged. In the time we had to make copies, we made almost 1000 copies of the documents in my Uncle's file. There were hundreds of references to my Great-grandfather.

Any time your family comes from a certain geographical area, it should be a high priority goal to research any special collections at any universities or colleges in the general area. In my case, the bulk of the papers on the Tanner family are in the University of Utah J. Willard Marriott Library in Salt Lake City, Utah but it turns out that NAU had a copy of some of the documents in the U of U library. Interestingly, the George S. Tanner papers that are in NAU do NOT show up in their online catalog. When I first ask the Reference Librarian about the collection, she told me it was at the U of U and they didn't have anything. But I insisted that the collection was there, and sure enough, a further search in their paper catalog showed the location of the records.

Among the documents in my Uncle's collection were dozens of biographies, journals and other records of many unrelated individuals. I am sure that none of the descendants of these people have any idea that their ancestors' records are in the NAU library.

1 comment:

  1. At any branch of the San Diego County Library patrons can order books (not special collections) but in some cases old books like the Pennsylvania Archives Collection at San Diego State University through the county library's Circuit system which allows patrons to order from San Diego State University, The University of San Diego, UCSD and CSU San Marcos libraries and have these books delivered to a county branch library.