The Family Files. Sounds like a made-for-TV movie. They are actually a much-requested commodity here at The Charles A. Weyerhaeuser Memorial Museum. When visitors stop by the Front Desk and ask to do genealogical research, the first thing I do is hand them an Archival Research form to fill out. This form lets the staff and board of the Morrison County Historical Society know the types of research people are doing and from where these researchers are traveling. The second thing I do is lead them to the Family Files.
The Family Files are housed in two large, wooden cabinets containing three pull-out drawers in the Gordon Rosenmeier Room. Within these drawers are large file folders with the last names of families in the Morrison County area. Each family name has its own folder. For example, any information MCHS has on any Smith family in the area would be in the Smith folder.
The Family Files were started with a collection of interviews done during the 1930s under the Works Projects Administration (WPA). During that time, Val Kasparek, then director of the Morrison County Historical Society, with the help of several interviewers, went into the county and took the oral histories of about a third of the families living in the area. These interviews were transcribed and can now be found within individual Family Files.
WPA biographies are not the only thing to be found in the Family Files. One or more Family Sheets are found in practically all of the files. The Family Sheet was developed to record the name of a particular person, his or her spouse and their children. Space for birth, death, and marriage dates is also included on this form. The Family Sheet nicely encapsulates the history of a family on a single sheet of paper.
While the Family Sheets and WPA biographies are the basis of the Family Files, they may be joined by various scraps and snippets of information about families and their individual members. Frequently, a copy of an obituary is to be found, or perhaps a death card. Sometimes there is correspondence concerning a family or, maybe, a photocopy of a newspaper article dealing with the activities of a family member. Occasionally, a copy of a photograph is included. Descendants of a family name may even include their own family histories. Some of these family histories are so large as to be in book form. They are stored in the archives rather than in the files in the interest of space.
So how does MCHS grow its Family Files? Staff adds to the files whenever family information is run across in the newspapers or from other sources. School kids fill out their own family sheets when they are visiting with their classes. Genealogists add significant amounts of information when they come to do family research. Local residents donate documents concerning their relatives. And, let’s not forget you! You are welcome to stop by the museum anytime and fill out a Family Sheet or add other forms of information about your relatives to the files. In the interest of family history, no scrap is too small to add to the Family Files.
For online access to an index of the Family Files, visit this page.
By Mary Warner
Copyright 1997, Morrison County Historical Society