7

When my father passed away, among his possessions were some items related to The South Australian United Ancient Order of Druids. He had been its Secretary in Moonta (South Australia) for many years prior to its closure in Moonta which I think happened in the 1980s. These items are not attractive in any way, but contain what I believe to be some very useful information for genealogists and family historians interested in the people they were created to record.

The main item is a heavy book about 3-4 cm thick, into which pages could be inserted. It has no title or frontispiece but appears to be an index to its members created for recording their medical contributions. There appears to be a member per page with their:

  • full name
  • address
  • date of birth
  • date of joining
  • dependents with their
    • full name
    • date of birth
  • funeral donation (which seems to be who was to receive it)

I think there are about 200 members included, with the earliest I saw scanning through being born in 1877, and the latest date of joining being 1964.

The other items are the stubs of forms from the 1960s-1980s headed:

  • Application by widow to register for funeral donation (name of applicant, name of deceased, name of beneficiary and their relationship) - I think these are about a member's widow having entitlement to a funeral donation too, and designates who it is to go to.
  • Application by member for reduction of contributions on attaining the age of 65 years (name of applicant, address, date of birth)
  • Surgeon's Certificate (stub only) with name of member, wife's name, date of death, cause of death, medical officer, sometimes occupation and date of joining too)

Is there an organization that I should contact who would be likely to digitize these items sooner rather than later, and respect the privacy of the individuals they relate to?

My first thought is Genealogy SA, but before I contact them, I thought I should investigate, starting here, whether these items are likely to still belong to the United Ancient Order of Druids, in which case I would return them with a request that the records could be made available to genealogists and family historians.

  • 1
    Since the number of records is small, have you considered digitizing them yourself and setting up a small website? At that point you could donate them to an archive for safe keeping. Any archive you donate them to will have hundreds of similar donations, and they probably won't have the time or resources to digitize the collection. – Harry Vervet May 2 '15 at 12:28
  • @vervet That is certainly a useful thought, and I think worthy of you writing up as an answer. – PolyGeo May 3 '15 at 0:12
  • 1
    I think the question of where the records belong is a very important one, which I have attempted to address. – Jan Murphy May 3 '15 at 16:11
  • I have a wooden wall cupboard with a roll of the names of members printed on it in gold lettering from the Druids Club of Seacliff South Australia No 89. It is dated 1929. Is this club still operational or is there another club I could donate this cupboard to? Walter Gregory Deer was the secretary/treasurer of this club for many years. – R.M.Deer Dec 28 '16 at 3:07
4

This question has two related parts - one to do with digitization of these records, and the other where the records should be archived. If possible, I would consider digitizing the records yourself. After having a digital record of the items, an archive, museum, or library is absolutely the best place for long-term preservation of these items. While an archive might accept the items, they probably recieve many donations of this kind each year and simply do not have the resources to digitize or publicize them.

Digitization

If you wish to digitize the documents yourself, there are a few things to consider.

  • Scanning: You will want to make high quality scans of each page. If you do not own a scanner, most public libraries will have one that you can use.
  • Indexing/Transcription: The next step would be indexing of the records. This could be done with basic spreadsheet software (such as Microsoft Excel). I would suggest a spreadsheet with, at minimum, columns for the surname, forename, date of birth, place, and scanned image reference. Depending on the information contained, it may be useful also to completely transcribe each page into a word processing program.
  • Website: If you wish to make the records publically accessible, creating your own website is a good option. This will give you complete control over how and when the records appear online. You will have to make decisions early on about what you want to display on the website. For example, is it necessary and useful to include the scanned images? Or will a detailed index and transcription of the records suffice?

    For the website, you might want to code it all yourself, in which case you could host it on a service such as RootsWeb Freepages. Note that RootsWeb does not support PHP or MySQL, so if you were going for a more database-driven site you would have to look elsewhere for hosting. You might consider it equally useful to use an image gallery app to display the records. I like SimpleViewer myself but there are many options out there which may be better suited for displaying documents.

    As noted in the question, regardless of which website route you take, you will have to consider what privacy measures need to be taken. A cut off date of all records older than, say, 100 years might not be appropriate or necessary in this case, since many of the records are more recent.

Archiving

Since the records have been in your father's possession for many years, and there is no reason to believe they should not have been in his possession, I do not think you have to be extremely concerned about who owns the records. It would be courteous to contact the United Ancient Order of Druids before placing the records online, though I do not think you have any obligation to do so. It is likely not necessary to return the documents to them, and they may not want them or be able to store them indefinitely. Personally, I think the records stand a much greater chance of long-term survival if they are deposited in a large library or archive rather than being returned to the organization.

You will be far more familiar with South Australian archives than I am, but I would consider the State Library of South Australia. Their website has information on their Digital collections, and this is what they say about Donation of materials:

The Library will consider donations of material that increase the depth and range of our collections. We're especially interested in materials that relate to South Australia. If the Library is unable to accept a donated item, we will suggest alternative placements for it.

So even if they cannot accept the records, they may be able to give you some advice.

| improve this answer | |
2

The questions of whether the records still belong to the United Ancient Order of Druids, and how to find a more permanent home for these records, are two related questions, which could be summed up together as Where do these records belong?

If I had records of a similar nature for the United States, to answer the legal question of where these records belonged, I would turn to Judy G. Russell, who writes the blog The Legal Genealogist. But even if there were no legal impediment to donating the records somewhere else, the question still remains: Where do these records belong? What repository would be the best place for them? This isn't like an item you are selling at auction, but you still want to get the best 'value' -- in this case, 'value' being measured as a place that would take the best care of the item, and allow the most access to it, while safeguarding the privacy of the people mentioned in the records.

Looking at the question another way: if other genealogists and family historians were looking for these records, where would they expect to find them? Digitising and publishing them yourself is only a temporary measure.

The United Ancient Order of Druids

I did a quick search to see if I could find out the status of the United Ancient Order of Druids. Apparently there are still lodges/groves in existence, which you can see from this searchable index at the website Druidicdawn.org. There are still groves of the UAOD active in my area; see this page written by the Freemasons of California for a history of the local groves.

Repositories

The Society of American Archivists article What Are Archives and How Do They Differ from Libraries? discusses the different function between the two kinds of institutions, but also says:

Note that there is a great deal of overlap between archives and libraries. An archives may have library as part of its name, or an archives may be a department within a library.

Imagine that you are a genealogist or family historian of the future, who is looking for primary material about the membership of this grove. Where would you expect to find it? This case is not unlike the problem of the non-conformist minister who keeps the records for his chapel instead of turning them in to the larger organization. For an active Druidic organization, the answer seems clear -- a researcher would consult the Grand Grove.

For an organization that is extinct, the answer is less clear. A local archive might be a good choice because the names within might be of local interest; a museum or archive dedicated to fraternal organizations might be more willing to take these materials because of their nature.

A search of repositories for similar materials might yield ideas of where to donate yours. Who holds the membership books for the other UOAD groves?

| improve this answer | |
0

I have not yet acted on the excellent advice offered in answers to my question but I just found out from an Australian Unity web page that:

The Noel Butlin Archives Centre (NBAC) holds records of some other friendly societies, including that of Manchester Unity (NSW) lodges, the Ancient Order of Foresters and the United Ancient Order of Druids. The NBAC Reading Room is located in the Menzies Building on the Australian National University campus in Canberra.

and:

The records created by friendly societies document how the societies governed themselves and conducted their meetings (for example minutes and attendance books), managed their members (for example members’ registers), their financial affairs (for example contribution books, ledgers and mortgage registers) and their sickness and medical benefits (for example records of sickness and hospital fund registers) . Other types of records include publications such as newsletters, photographs of conferences and correspondence files. The records also provide information about the importance of local, grassroots organisation for all the friendly societies. Likewise, they show the role of the central administration (or head office) became increasingly important over time.

This is something else for me to consider.

| improve this answer | |

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.