When you are organizing your family archives, determining who wrote what papers and when might not be immediately apparent. Finding out the authorship and date of a document or a letter may be essential to organizing it among your documents or understanding how it fits within a grouping. Archivists use several techniques to establish authorship. They include:
- Handwriting comparisons
- References to people, places, events, and dates
- Location and ownership of a document or set of documents
- Proximity of other documents
- Age and nature of paper and ink
- Age and nature of handwriting style
- Age and nature of phrasing and abbreviations
- Researching specific details mentioned in the document
- Comparing the document with new ones found
- Asking others who may know more about the documents as a whole
- Oral tradition
- Common sense
Similarly, there are several methods to determine the date of letters and documents, which include:
- Looking for clues in surrounding documents, such as newspaper clippings or photographs
- Estimating dates by comparing documents from before and after the document in question
- Keeping envelopes with letters to study postmarks
- Estimating dates by references to people, places, events, or seasons
- Looking for an interruption within a group of documents to see if the document in question fills the gap
Creating family archives opens many mysteries for you to solve as you build a valuable resource of recorded information about your loved ones.
What methods do you use to determine authorship and chronology?
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