Every October, archives across the United States celebrate Archives Month. This year, the State Archives of Florida is focusing on how archives change lives. Join us throughout the month as we share stories about the impact the Archives has had on staff and patrons like you!
With genealogy as the fastest growing hobby in America, many Floridians seek out resources at the State Archives of Florida to research their ancestors and connect with their past. In the process of digitizing photographs, documents and audio, Archives staff members sometimes make surprising discoveries–including insights into the lives of their own relatives.
Isabella Folmar, Florida Memory administrative assistant, was working as a scanner when she came across the above image of her grandfather Terry Folmar with fellow acrobats Margie Herold and Sandra Brooks.
“I was looking through the Tallahassee Democrat Collection on Florida Memory, and there he was. I remember once, when I lived with my grandparents as a little girl, my grandfather told me about being in the circus when he was a boy. But I had never seen any pictures,” said Folmar.
“This photo is really special to me. I remember sharing it with everyone in my family after I found it. My grandfather appreciated this little window into the past, and asked me to be on the lookout for more photos of his childhood,” she added.
Similarly, Photographic Archivist Adam Watson discovered a photo of his great grandfather in a collection of photographs taken in Madison.
“My great grandfather was a doctor in Madison. I had never seen anything but formal portraits of him. I had heard many stories about him from family and former patients. I knew that he primarily made house calls but also had an office in the back of one of the drug stores downtown. In this photo he is apparently hanging out in front of the drug store with his ‘buds.’ It was interesting to see an informal photo of him from head to toe,” said Watson.
“I was surprised at how small and kind of tough looking he was. It was easier now to imagine this man whom former patients told me could often be spotted in front of his house early in the morning, asleep behind the reins of his carriage after a late night house call–his horse having found the way home.”
Sound Archivist Ross Brand has uncovered a number of records of various family members in the State Archives, but two regarding his mother, Charlotte, were of particular sentimental value.
“The first thing I found after I started working in the Archives was a photo of my mom as a child mailing a letter to Santa. In fact, most of her brothers and sisters are gathered around in the photo as well. I don’t even think my mom had ever realized that it ran in the Democrat!”
Later, while digitizing Florida Folk Festival recordings, Brand found an even more charming record of his mother: “When I heard Thelma Boltin say my mom’s name, I couldn’t believe it. My mom used to joke that she sang at the Folk Festival when she was in high school, but the fact that it somehow got captured on tape is incredibly serendipitous.” This was the only recording of the Godby High School Folk Singers, and it just happened to be the year that Charlotte Pullen, as she was known then, was co-leader. “Hearing not only her speaking voice, but her singing voice, too, was amazing,” Brand said, continuing that he “couldn’t wait to sneak her version of John Denver’s ‘Grandma’s Feather Bed’ onto a mix CD with all of her favorite folk music from the 1970s.”
Archives are home to historically significant materials that often bear personal meaning to archives staff and the communities they serve. This October, make the most of Archives Month by investigating your family’s history using resources from the State Archives of Florida. Have you found a photograph of a loved one on Florida Memory? Let us know in the comments section!