Charlotte Anne Boon Ferretti Family Papers
I remember feeling apprehensive when I received an email from a lawyer executing a will that instructed over a dozen genealogical binders be donated to the Sutro Library. I felt this way not because I didn’t want to go through them (I am an archivist after all!) but because I feared the majority would be sent back. In the past, boxes or even trash bags of donor’s research have been known to show up without any notification or documentation denoting its origins. Sutro Library, similar to most libraries and archives, must be mindful of our space constraints, which makes us particular about the family papers we do keep: original primary sources and bound family histories. It is an uneasy and an even painful process to go through these binders knowing we cannot keep the meticulously filled out charts or copies of the original documents and other sources— all of which someone spent their lifetime researching. That isn’t to say there aren’t libraries out there who keep research notes, there are, and I will leave a few examples at the end of this post.
Now, let’s return to the two gargantuan boxes that arrived in my office housing a total of 15 black binders filled to the max with research. As I slowly began to review the contents, turning each heavy page of plastic sleeves stuffed with materials, the proverbial weight on my shoulders lightened. Among the four-generation and family unit charts, there was a narrative told through the scrapbook-like pages adorned with photos and blurbs typewritten by the donor. This was the donor’s form of a family history, and while it was not bound, it was still a fascinating collection. But wait, there’s more! In these binders, there were original manuscripts, records, photographs, objects, including a letter written by a great great grandfather and not one, but two locks of hair! One belonging to the donor herself.
And who was this person to have such fortitude and foresight to collect her family’s papers and paraphernalia with the goal of donating them to Sutro Library? Charlotte Anne Boon Ferretti born on May 16, 1932 in Fresno and died on April 30, 2018 in Madera. In addition to being a mother, a grandmother, an avid reader, a genealogist, a gardener, an equestrian, and lover of all animals, Charlotte was an exceptional family historian and archivist.
Here are more highlights from the collection curated by the marvelous Charlotte:
The Confederate money was not the first piece within this treasure trove that caught my attention, though I did get up excitedly from my desk to show my colleagues. Rather it was a section devoted to someone who lived far more recently, Charlotte’s daughter who had died almost 30 years prior to her mother. The collection on Diane Marie includes childhood photos, diplomas and other academic certificates of achievement, and even cards drawn by her as a child.
Charlotte didn’t just provide the basic details of each family member. She also provided personal effects showcasing the family member’s personality and creativity. In her own binder, Charlotte included a drawing she sketched that won a prize in the fair as well as the pedigree chart of her horse, Sir Napa Champ.
In another example of personal effects, along with the remarkable passport for her aunt, Vernie Gilmore, who was a nurse in World War I, Charlotte kept her aunt’s short stories and poems. One of which is a fascinating telling of her time as a nurse, titled “The Day I Knew A Miracle” personalizing this specific moment in time. And that’s really what we’re after with genealogy: the personalization and contextualization of one’s family history.
I truly am in awe by this collection and feel honored to have been the one to begin processing it. In a blurb found amongst the Confederate money, Charlotte speaks directly to her would-be repository, the Sutro Library:
“It is my hope that whomever becomes the possessor of my family history will care for this collection and keep it for the part of our country’s history that it is…”
We will fulfill Charlotte’s wish by caring for this collection and further processing it so that one day it will be accessible through a finding aid (aka inventory) enabling others to continue where she left off. Until then, the public is welcome to view these materials (some of which will have restricted access given the nature of the documents). We ask you contact us first via email firstname.lastname@example.org and notify us at least two business days prior to your visit.
Tips for those interested in preserving and donating their family papers:
- Email the repository of interest first, and if they cannot accept it, they will more often than not refer you to someone who can.
- Compile your research into a bound volume especially if you would like to donate to Sutro Library, preferably hardbound not spiral as the latter is not a friend of long-term preservation and access. Blog post by the Library of Congress regarding this request: https://blogs.loc.gov/loc/2014/01/write-your-family-history-and-send-it-to-the-library-of-congress/
- If you’re not ready to donate your family papers, please make sure they are housed in appropriate storage and a climate-controlled location to ensure their preservation. Feel free to contact Sutro Library if you have any questions or visit the National Archives website providing tips on preserving documents and photos: https://www.archives.gov/preservation/family-archives
- As mentioned above, there are libraries out there that accept research notes. Examples include: Anderson Public Library (Indiana); City of Fairfax Regional Library (Virginia); W. Dale Clark Main Library (Nebraska); and Huntington City Township Public Library (Indiana). This is not an exhaustive list, and similar to tip 1, we encourage you to reach out to local repositories, especially ones that are in the same region of where your ancestors lived.
A detailed obituary of Charlotte Anne Boon Ferretti was published in the Merced Sun-Star on May 9, 2018: https://www.legacy.com/obituaries/mercedsunstar/obituary.aspx?n=charlotte-ferretti&pid=188906817&fhid=3879
Written by the Genealogy Librarian, Dvorah Lewis.