The Archive Lady: Great-Grandma’s Lock of Hair

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The Archive Lady – Melissa Barker – offers solid advice on the best to preserve a lock of hair from an ancestor.

 

The Archive Lady - Melissa Barker - offers solid advice on the best to preserve a lock of hair from an ancestor.

Chris from Tennessee asks “When my paternal grandmother passed away several years ago, I inherited all of the photographs from that side of the family. Among the photos were photos of my great-grandmother, my grandmother’s mother, on her death bed and an envelope containing a lock of hair I am pretty sure was clipped at the time of her death. How do I preserve this lock of hair?”

Chris has inherited a treasure trove of photographs and this lock of hair from his paternal side of the family. Many of us could only wish that we were so fortunate. I am so glad that Chris realizes the importance of preserving the history of his family.

Clipping locks of hair from the deceased has been a very popular family tradition in many families. Many times, strands of hair from the deceased were incorporated into mourning jewelry or some other form of remembrance display. Keepers of the family memorabilia may come across locks of hair in the boxes of records, photographs, and artifacts they receive from family members today. Knowing how to properly preserve these items is important so that they are not destroyed or damaged. We always want to be able to pass down our heritage and family heirlooms to the next generation.

The Archive Lady - Melissa Barker - offers solid advice on the best to preserve a lock of hair from an ancestor.

Lock of hair from Marie Stockard Records Collection,
Houston County, Tennessee Archives

One of the first steps in preserving anything is to document the item digitally. Since a lock of hair is a three-dimensional item, it is best to take good photographs of the hair and the container it is stored. This should be done so that if anything happens to the lock of hair, it has been preserved digitally.

The next step is to obtain an archival box to properly store the lock of hair. Any of the online archival materials stores have boxes that will fit a small item like a lock of hair (See List Below). They also have clear suspension boxes that will allow for the lock of hair to be displayed and seen. A suspension box is a clear, polystyrene box that has flexible polyether polyurethane membranes in the top and bottom that conforms to the item, holding it securely in place. If the lock of hair is not going to be on display, a small archival box will do.

The Archive Lady - Melissa Barker - offers solid advice on the best to preserve a lock of hair from an ancestor.

Examples of Suspension boxes

Using archival tissue paper, lay the lock of hair on the tissue paper and then put the tissue paper and hair in the archival box. If there are any notes or information to go along with the lock of hair, be sure to include that in the box as well. If the original container has writing on it or information, it is permissible to put the container in the archival box with the lock of hair, separated with tissue paper. It is very important to preserve all original items with an artifact if possible.

Putting locks of hair on display would need to be done with caution. The clear suspension boxes would be a great way to preserve and display the locks of hair. It is extremely important that the area where the hair is displayed is not in direct sunlight. The sun is very damaging for displayed photographs, documents, and artifacts like locks of hair. The sun will damage the hair by bleaching it out and cause the original color of the hair to change. Keeping genealogical records and artifacts out of the direct sun is always recommended. It is better to bring out the locks of hair for display at family events, reunions and to show family members. Otherwise, it is recommended that the locks of hair stay in a cool, dry, and dark storage area.

The Archive Lady - Melissa Barker - offers solid advice on the best to preserve a lock of hair from an ancestor.

Example of Gaylord Archival Boxes

Having a lock of hair from an ancestor is a precious family heirloom and should be preserved properly so that future generations can experience their ancestors.

Archival tissue paper and boxes can be purchased at any of the following online archival stores:

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If you have a question for The Archive Lady, please send them via email and I could use your archival question in an upcoming edition of The Archive Lady column. Melissa Barker, a.k.a. The Archive Lady E-Mail: melissabarker20@hotmail.com

 


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Legacy Family Tree Webinar: Diaries, Journals and Calendars: Documenting Your Ancestor’s Day-to-Day Life
http://legacy.familytreewebinars.com/?aid=6689

 


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If you have a question about researching in archives or records preservation for The Archive Lady, send an email with your question to: melissabarker20@hotmail.com

Melissa Barker lives in Tennessee Ridge, Tennessee. She is the Houston County (TN) Archivist and a Professional Genealogist. She writes the blog, A Genealogist in the Archives, and has been researching her own family for over 26 years. She lectures, teaches and writes about researching in archives and records preservation. 

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