When I was doing research regarding my great grandfather Professor R.Victor Zumstein, I decided to contact the universities where he attended and taught. Each university’s special collection department was courteous, though they had different amounts of resources.
My great grandfather taught at Ohio State University for nearly 40 years. When I contacted the OSU Archives Librarian, I received a wonderful response. They have biographical files for their past professors and many are available in PDF form (fantastic!). Grandpa Zumstein’s file included an alumni magazine article and several photographs of him. It was a wonderful collection of materials. A note said the following:
“Prof. Zumstein’s biographical file contained a number of OSU News Bureau faculty biographical records, Faculty Member’s Annual Reports and Basic Who’s Who. Some of the information is repetitive, but I wanted to give you everything we have to be of most use. The bio file also included an obituary that appeared in the Board of Trustees’ minutes in 1968. After that is a photocopy of an OSU Alumni Monthly article that includes him among a list of faculty members given emeritus titles that year. The article ran in the June 1967 issue of the magazine (vol. 58, no. 10). Finally, there are photocopies of two photos we have in our collection of Prof. Zumstein.
In addition, you might find references to him in the online archives of the student newspaper, The Lantern. Go to our web site and click on the link for the newspaper archives. Our web address is go.osu.edu/archives.”After a response such as this and the information in electronic form, I couldn’t have been more tickled pink if Mr. Tickle did the tickling. I laughed, cried, and did the proverbial genealogy happy dance. The PDF file was wonderful. It solved many problems with the timeline of my great-grandfather’s education. It provided his handwriting samples, photos, and his life works in a nutshell. It was truly a great blessing. I still can’t stop gushing about it.
As a good genealogist, I sent an appropriate thank you note. Perhaps I went overboard by saying the librarian was now one of my favorite people in the world. Truly, archive librarians should be praised when they help so quickly and with so much friendliness.
Now, the point of the post is not to brag about my find. After sending this response, I received a wonderful suggestion from the librarian.
“I don’t think I’ve gotten such a nice response to my answer to a reference question – thank you! I just wish we had more to send you. Your grandfather did, after all, work here for 40 years, but it is not atypical among faculty – they either retire or pass away and no one thinks to bring their “stuff” to the Archives. (I’m not exactly sure where it ends up, frankly.) I wish I had more to send to you, but I’m glad what I did send helped!” Kevlin Haire
The bold statements are what I wanted to share. If you have a relative that worked at a university, consider contacting the Archives Librarian and donating some material they might be interested in. Discuss their donation policies before you send them things cold turkey. Your donation could help someone from future generations know a little more about their professor’s ancestors.
Additionally, if your family member was a major player in your community, the local university might be interested in obtaining some items and documents from your historical collection.
Contact each library to determine what they might be interested in. The more places your family history is preserved, the more likely it can last past one or two generations.