August 10, 2017 at 4:17 p.m.

Technology brings records out of church basements

Technology brings records out of church basements
Technology brings records out of church basements

If you enjoy doing research into your family tree you know that you can unlock truckloads of information using the Internet.  And, now you can add the historic records of Chisago Lake Lutheran Church, in Center City,  to that vast electronic file cabinet.

A specialist who was working last week digitizing all the church’s records, says church written records are  invaluable.  In the same way DNA molecules link to form a human being; it is documentation providing the link to what was going on in somebody’s life.  Where and when did they marry, live? What did they donate to the church, how did they volunteer?   Jan Carlson, image gatherer for Arkiv Digital, explains that her love of doing the painstaking photographing of church record is due partly to her getting to know characters in church records who are every bit as interesting as something you’d read in a novel.   

Chisago Lake Lutheran has one of the biggest church records collection she’s been allowed to shoot.  Although in St Paul, a ‘Swede Hollow’ church collection was perhaps close in size, she adds.
Arkiv Digital, the company she works for, embarked on its mission in 2014, with the goal to digitize all the church records in heavily-Swedish parts of the U.S.  

These will compliment a records database digitized in Sweden already.

Carlson travels all over Minnesota and the west side of Wisconsin.  She gets scheduled for work dates with churches that have collections of baptism, membership, birth/death and even the minutes books of committee meetings.  She uses her own camera and equipment.     Churches are welcome to contact her for details: e mail her at [email protected] or 763-420-5823.

The data will go onto a flash drive with copies for the church to keep. This means the fragile documents are preserved electronically for all time.  The Arkiv Digital database is a subscription service but public libraries will often subscribe for their patrons and offer access as well.  And, the data is also made accessible on-line to participating churches for a limited time.

Carlson is tasked with collecting from the earliest recorded documents up to 1946-- or 70 years’ back from modern day.  She said as the database fills out  years will be added heading forward.

Due to the condition of some of these records, it is obviously important to preserve the oldest ones first, she added.  Condition is a hurdle at times, and there have been books with text written in pencil that were too faded to photograph.  Even at Chisago Lake Lutheran she came across bound records that have burn marks on pages hit with flying embers.  The church had a fire in 1888, according to Bob Porter a local historian and church archives committee volunteer.

Carlson sexplained she has Swedish lineage but you don’t have to read Swedish to get something out of even Swedish language churches’ records.

“You see a name, you can read the locations, towns,  you can read the dates,” the rest can be fleshed out intuitively or through a translator.

Carlson has also been granted access to the records’ rooms of First Methodist in Lindstrom, Immanuel in Almelund, First Lutheran in Taylors Falls and now in Center City.  She has Elim in Scandia on a to-do list.

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