Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Archives Need Your Stuff

by Anita Mae Draper

This summer while on vacation, I'll be visiting municipal and provincial archives while researching family history and it's bringing up memories of other visits. Back in 1978, my husband and I visited the National Archives of Canada (now Library and Archives Canada) where we found census records that showed where his paternal grandmother lived in York County, Ontario.

In 2015, I went to the York County area - basically the area from Toronto north to Lake Simcoe - and spent a delightful day in the Georgina Pioneer Village & Archives (GPV&A) where I finally met the curator, Melissa Matt, who happens to be one of my husband's cousins by marriage. With Melissa's help, I was able to confirm that my husband's 3 x Great-grandfather, Rev Joel Draper Sr, bought land in 1807 in what was then known as Upper Canada.

Melissa brought out several old maps that I scanned in segments with my Flip-Pal scanner and then stitched them back together on my laptop. For example, this 1860 map shows 3 lots owned by Joel Draper. I know that the one on Lot 13, Concession 4, was owned by Joel Draper Jr as that was where my husband's great-grandfather was born, but the other two lots may have belonged to him as well, or to his father, Joel Draper Sr who died in 1856.

North Gwillibury, York County, 1860, South part Lots 1-17. Courtesy of GPV&A

The hand-drawn map is ripped and stained, but it's the only one for 1860 and that makes it a valuable resource. If I remember correctly, the Archives received the map collection while Melissa was going through the files of someone who had passed on after living in the area since birth. The relative who'd invited her to peruse the files to see if there was anything of worth was surprised that Melissa showed interest in the maps. The person donating the collection saw the rips and stains, but Melissa saw the historical value of the printed information.

The definition of an archives in this case is a place or collection of records, documents, or other materials of historical interest, such as:

  • land records and deeds
  • photographs
  • maps
  • books & periodicals
  • film & video
  • diaries & journals
  • letters & postcards
  • scrapbooks
Municipal, provincial, state, and national archives want the old stuff your grandmother has been storing in the attic. They want the old postcard collection your great uncle spent years gathering. They want the old letters your grandfather wrote to your grandmother when he served overseas in the war. They like old Bibles with family inscriptions of birth, death, and marriage records. 

This postcard is part of the donated collection at the Georgina Archives. The image may be Alberta, but according to the writing on the back it was sent to a local resident and deserves to be preserved.

1910 Alberta postcard found in the GPV&A postcard collection

Melissa said that someone was going to through out an old photograph album because they didn't know any of the people, and gladly handed it over to the archives when Melissa said it didn't matter because they may already have photographs of those people in the archives and can match them up. Any day, someone can walk into the archives and recognize someone and that's another mystery solved. The archives is the place to gather these different pieces of history to tell the story of the area.

This 1911 image of a Scottish immigrant and her children is one of many held at the Library and Archives Canada (LAC). This particular series was taken by photographer, William James Topley (1845-1930) who was commissioned to take photos of immigrants upon arrival in Canada. Although they don't know the woman's name, the LAC considers this image worth preserving. 

Scottish immigrant mother and her children upon arrival. Public Domain. Courtesy of LAC - Series:Topley Photographs of Qu├ębec Immigration Centre, 1911
However, an archive won't accept every donation. According to the LAC, "Various factors such as the offered material’s uniqueness, age, rareness, condition, relationship to other material in the collection, and restrictions on access or use are considered in the final decision."

Also, a donation of historical material to an archive is just that - a donation. They don't pay out for whatever you bring them.

As for leaving your old stuff at the back door of the archives and then running away with glee - DON'T. Not without leaving a note with your name and address in case they don't want it. An archive can only accept material that comes from a known source. The curator needs to know who owned it. Not only does it show that it wasn't stolen, but it helps the curator put it in perspective.


I've been using the word collection here, but there's nothing to stop you from donating one journal, or one photograph album, etc. An archives grows one historical piece at a time.

I was amazed to find funeral cards at the GPV&A, especially when I came upon those of family members, such as my husband's great-granduncle. 

Funeral card of Elemuel Draper (1840-1907). Courtesy of GPV&A

And this brings me to the collection of journals, letters, photographs, and other ephemera which my husband received from his grandmother. We posted their 1911 courtship letters and are now posting his grandfather's 100 year old World War 1 letters, including the photographs and postcards that accompany them. Once all the letters are published online for all to see we will donate the collection to either the Saskatchewan archives, the Ontario Archives, or maybe even the Library and Archives Canada. 

Regardless of where the collection ends up, we can be sure that it will be safeguarded from fire, theft, flood, etc and stored in a temperature-controlled room IF we donate it instead of hoarding it in our basement or garage.

What about you... have you visited an archives? What would you donate if you could?


Anita Mae Draper's historical romances are woven under the western skies of the Saskatchewan prairie where her love of research and genealogy yield fascinating truths that layer her stories with rich historical details. Her Christian faith is reflected in her stories of forgiveness and redemption as her characters struggle to find their way to that place we call home. Anita loves to correspond with her readers through any of the social media links found at

Readers can enrich their reading experience by checking out Anita's Pinterest boards for a visual idea of her stories at

Friday, February 10, 2017

Dusting off an Old Manuscript

by Dina Sleiman

When I teach writing classes, I always talk about how important it is to get those ideas out of your head and down on the paper. Lump of clay writing, I call it—or in less delicate terms, word vomit! In the winter of 2013-2014 I word vomited the sequel to Dance from Deep Within onto my computer while I awaited the decision on my Valiant Hearts Series from Bethany House Publishers. As many of you know, I landed that deal, and the next two years were a blur of writing, editing, and marketing Dauntless, Chivalrous, and Courageous.

But now those books are out on the market, and for the last year I’ve been launching a new career of public relations writing for the non-profit humanitarian organization, Operation Blessing. I haven’t had much time for writing anything new. You see where this is going, right? While I didn’t have time for writing something new, I did have time to edit and complete my 95% finished first draft.

So I dusted off (okay, I found and opened the old Microsoft Word file) of Dare from Deep Within and set to work. I still had some challenges to face since I had shifted directions somewhere in the middle and needed to clean up my characterization and motivation. The wording needed a good edit, and I had to write the ending. However, just a few months later, in my spare time, I’ve managed to complete a very solid draft of the novel. WhiteFire, who published the first book in the series, has agreed to release book 2 sometime in 2017! That's a mock cover, I still want to find a more youthful, thinner looking figure of a Muslim woman in a niqab.

It turns out what I teach my student’s is true. It’s always worth getting those ideas down on paper, even if they grow dusty on the shelf. How about you? Have you ever dusted off an old manuscript? What were the results?

Dance from Deep Within is Available on Amazon now.

Monday, February 6, 2017

Happy Birthday, Laura Ingalls Wilder

February 7, 2017, marks the 150th birthday of American author Laura Ingalls Wilder. Born in a log cabin near Pepin, Wisconsin, Wilder traveled in a covered wagon with her pioneering family through the Upper Midwest and Great Plains. Her beloved “Little House” series of books describe a young girl’s coming-of-age in a harsher, simpler time. Loosely based around Wilder’s late-1800’s childhood on the American frontier, they have never gone out of print, and later became the basis for a long-running television series, a television miniseries, and a musical. Because of their popularity, Wilder's later years inspired two made-for-TV movies and led to the posthumous publication of her earlier articles and journals.

Now, you may have noticed that I said the books were loosely based on her life, and the books were only the basis for the TV series. Like most authors, Laura didn't hesitate to change the timeline or details to make for a better story, and the TV show writers used creative license to take the story even further from actual events. (I don't think I ever watched more than a couple episodes of the TV show. They were just so very different from the books, I didn't particularly enjoy them.) So, how much do you know about the real Laura Ingalls Wilder vs. the literary and TV ones? Some of the questions are easy, but some of the answers may surprise you.

1    1.    What were Pa’s and Ma’s first names?
      (a) Carl and Charlotte
      (b) Charles and Caroline
      (c) Curt and Carla
      (d) James and Angeline

The correct answer is b, Charles and Caroline. Savvy readers may know that Charles and Caroline (and also Carl, Charlotte and Carla) all derive from the Latin name Carolus. (The two US states named for England's King Charles are North and South Carolina). Which means, Ma and Pa had the same first name, sort of. James and Angeline were the names of Almanzo’s parents.

Ma and Pa Ingalls. Unlike television Pa, real Pa had a beard.

2      2.    How many children were there in the Ingalls family?
            (a)  3
            (b)  4
            (c)  5
            (d)  6

The correct answer is c, 5. The books and TV series open when the family had only three: Mary, Laura, and Carrie. There was a seven-year gap between Carrie and the youngest child, Grace. Laura wrote her book series for children, which may be why she left out any mentions of her brother Charles Frederick (Freddie) who died at ten months of age in 1876. Freddie was the fourth child, between Carrie and Grace, and was named for his father and for Caroline Ingalls’s stepfather, Frederick Holbrook. Baby Freddie appeared briefly in Season 1 of the TV series. The adopted children introduced later in the TV series were pure literary license.

3    3.    How many children were there in the Wilder family?
             (a)  3
             (b)  4
             (c)  5
             (d)  6

The correct answer is d, 6. Laura wrote about Almanzo’s childhood in the book Farmer Boy, but the book only mentions the middle four children—Eliza Jane, Royal, Alice, and Almanzo. The oldest was Laura, who was 13 years older than Almanzo. She was left out so as not to confuse readers with another Laura character. In the book, Almanzo complains about being the youngest – which was true during the time the book covers. However, when Almanzo was 12, the Wilders had one more child, Perley Day. While Perley Day wasn't mentioned in any of the books, he did make it onto the television show.

      4.     Where did Laura and Almanzo meet? 
      (a)  Wisconsin
      (b)  Minnesota
      (c)  South Dakota
      (d)  Iowa

Trick question! The correct answer is e, none of the above. If you watched the television show but never read the books, you might have guessed Minnesota. The producers chose to keep the series set in Walnut Grove far longer than the Ingallses actually lived there. (I suppose making them move would have meant losing all the supporting cast members.) Of course, if you read the books, you might have chosen South Dakota...which isn't technically right either. After leaving Minnesota, the family settled near the new town of DeSmet, which is where Laura and Almanzo met. However, at the time, DeSmet was in the Dakota Territory. Three months after Laura and Almanzo’s marriage, the southern portion of the Dakota Territory joined the union as the new state of South Dakota.

      5.     So then, how many years did the Ingalls family actually live in Minnesota?
    (a) 4
    (b) 5
    (c) 6 
    (d) 7

The correct answer is a, 4 years—but there’s a catch. The timeline for the books follows the family more closely than the television series, but Laura left out the year the family spent in Iowa. The Ingallses moved to Minnesota in 1874. About a year after Freddie’s death, they moved to Burr Oak, Iowa, where Grace was born. They stayed about a year, then returned briefly to Walnut Grove, Minnesota before traveling west to the Dakota Territory. Altogether, they were in Minnesota about four years.

6. Who was Laura's nemesis at school?
    (a) Nellie Oleson
    (b) Stella Gilbert
    (c) Genevieve Masters
    (d) Nellie Owens

Oh, dear, it's another trick question. The correct answers are b, c, and d, so give yourself a point if you picked any of them. However, if you guessed Nellie Oleson, too badthere was no girl named Nellie Oleson in Laura's childhood. The character, which appears in three of the novels and seven seasons of the television show, was a composite of several girls Laura knew in Walnut Grove and DeSmet, probably Nellie Owens, Genevieve Masters, and Stella Gilbert. Nellie Owens was the daughter of a Walnut Grove shopkeeper and had a young brother Willie. Originally from New York, Genevieve Masters wore beautiful clothes and was fond of telling everyone how things were done back in the east. Stella Gilbert lived on a claim near DeSmet and apparently had a more than a friendly interest in bachelor Almanzo Wilder. 

      7.     Which musical instrument did Mary Ingalls play?
            (a)  piano
            (b)  fiddle
            (c)  organ
            (d)  drum

The correct answer is c, organ. Pa played his fiddle in each of the “Little House” books (except Farmer Boy, the one about Almanzo’s childhood), but nowhere is there a mention of any of the girls learning to play it. Mary went blind at 14 shortly before the family left Walnut Grove, Minnesota. (Those must have been some very difficult years, what with Freddie’s death followed so closely by Mary’s blindness.) During the 1880’s, Mary attended the Iowa Braille and Sight Saving School, where she learned to play the organ. Ma and Pa then bought one for their home in DeSmet, so Mary could play there.

8.     How old was Laura when Almanzo began to court her?
      (a)  15 
      (b)  16
      (c)  17 
      (d)  18

The correct answer is a, 15. In the book Little Town on the Prairie, Almanzo asked Laura if he could see her home after a revival service at church. She walked into the house to hear Ma saying, “But she’s only fifteen!”

Laura around the time she married Almanzo Wilder

9.     Almanzo was how many years older than Laura?
      (a)  4
      (b)  6
      (c)  8
      (d)  10

The correct answer is d, 10. In the books, Laura took liberties with the timeline in order to make the age difference smaller, perhaps in deference to modern sensibilities. In real life, Almanzo was ten years her senior. No wonder Ma expressed dismay. He did have honorable intentions, but I wouldn’t recommend this situation to any modern romance writers. Interestingly, the TV show portrayed them as having a sizable difference in their ages. Dean Butler, who played Almanzo, is eight years older than Melissa Gilbert, who played Laura. However, the producers of the show changed the dynamics of their relationship by having Laura pursue Almanzo rather than the other way around, perhaps another nod to modern notations of courtship. In her unpublished autobiography, Laura suggests that her teenage crush was actually schoolmate Cap Garland.

Almanzo, around the time he married Laura

10.     How many children did Laura and Almanzo have?
       (a)  1
       (b)  2
       (c)  3
       (d)  4

The correct answer is b, 2. Rose was their first, and she became a well-known writer before Laura started writing novels. Like Laura’s parents, the Wilders also lost a son at a very young age. Baby Boy Wilder had not even been named yet when he died at less than two weeks old. In the last season of the TV show, Almanzo got custody his niece Jenny after his brother Royal's death. The real life Royal lived to be 78 years old. And he never had a daughter named Jenny.

11.   How many grandchildren did Ma and Pa Ingalls have?
       (a)  2
       (b)  4   
       (c)  6
       (d)  10

I'm feeling generous, so count either a or b as the correct answer. Laura had Rose and the son who died as an infant. Unlike TV-show Mary, the real Mary Ingalls never married. Grace was 24 when she married Nathan Dow, but they had no children. Carrie married later in life (age 41) to widower David Swanzey. He had two young children (8 and 5) from his first marriage, whom Carrie raised as her own. Final total: two grandchildren and two step-grandchildren.

12.   Who was the first member of the family to be a published author?
       (a)  Mary Ingalls
       (b)  Laura Ingalls Wilder
       (c)  Carrie Ingalls Swanzey
       (d)  Rose Wilder Lane

The correct answer is c, Carrie. After high school, Carrie taught school for a short time (like Laura) and worked as a typesetter. She learned all facets of the newspaper business (including writing and editing) and eventually landed a job as manager for some of businessman E. L. Senn's newspapers. The job led her to Keystone, South Dakota, where she met David Swanzey. Laura sometimes consulted with Carrie about events from their childhood when she was writing the "Little House" books.

Carrie Ingalls

13.  How many grandchildren did Laura and Almanzo have?
      (a)  0
      (b)  1
      (c)  2
      (d)  3

Sadly, the correct answer is a, 0, although I suppose an argument could be made for b, 1. Rose Wilder Lane’s only child was stillborn, after which she was unable to have children. She and her husband later divorced. Rose went on to become an successful writer in her own right (and worthy of her own post...perhaps someday), being counted one of the highest paid female authors of her day. Unfortunately, the Great Depression wiped out most of her and her parents’ savings. She was living in a separate house on her parents’ farm in 1930 when Laura showed her a rough draft of a children's book later titled Little House in the Big Woods.

Rose Wilder Lane

14.   Where are Laura and Almanzo buried?
       (a)  South Dakota
       (b)  Florida
       (c)  Missouri 
       (d)  Minnesota

The correct  answer is c, Missouri. Life proved difficult on the Wilders’ South Dakota homestead, and they endured incredible hardship during the first four years of their marriage. Crop failures, the death of their second child, an illness that partially paralyzed Almanzo, and a house fire left the couple physically, emotionally, and financially broken. With their young daughter, they retreated to Minnesota to live with Almanzo’s parents for a time while they recovered. They tried a stint in Florida (the humidity didn’t agree with them), returned to DeSmet briefly, and then bought a farm in what would be their final home of Mansfield, Missouri. It was on Rocky Ridge Farm that Laura wrote her books. She was 65 when she sold the first one, and 75 when the last in the series came out. Almanzo passed away in 1949 at the age of 92, and Laura died three days past her 90th birthday. The books' success allowed the Wilders to finally enjoy financial security during their last years. 

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