RIM-Brain: Records of Christmas Past

There’s nothing like the holiday season to get you thinking about history and traditions. But have you ever pondered the of role government records in documenting yuletide events? A recent history documentary sparked some Christmassy RIM-brain for me. It’s beginning to look a lot like records and information management (RIM) everywhere you go!

A handwritten page from King Henry's Chamber Books.
A page from King Henry VIII’s Chamber Books.

In the BBC documentary Lucy Worsley’s 12 Days of Tudor Christmas, the host explains and recreates Christmas traditions from King Henry VIII’s reign in England (1509-1547). Much has changed over the last 500 years, but one thing has stayed the same: hardworking public servants creating records to document government business.

In one scene, a historian shows the host excerpts from King Henry’s Chamber Books, account books listing the public and private expenditures of the king. According to the records, in Henry’s first year as king when he was 18 years old (1509), he allocated £7,000 for Christmas goods and provisions. This was an enormous sum of money. To put this in perspective, the historian explains that Henry’s father, Henry VII, spent about £12,000 per year for his entire household when he was king. That’s some party!

By reviewing government records, historians can tell quite a bit about King Henry VIII and what life was like in the royal court. For example, later in the documentary a historian shows a log of gifts given and received by the king in 1532 on the Seventh Day of Christmas (New Year’s Day). The record of gifts shows evidence of the ongoing drama at court that year. Queen Catherine of Aragon, who had recently been banished, received no present from the king. Meanwhile, Anne Boleyn gifted the king a lavish boar hunting spear. She would go on to marry the king the following year.

Will the records of your Texas government entity be examined by historians 500 years from now? Maybe! While most financial records only need to be retained a few years, other government records have permanent retention periods that will make them available for future historians.

For example, what evidence of holiday events do you think will surface in these permanent records?

  • Meeting Minutes (Local: GR1000-03a, State Agency and Universities: 1.1.058)
  • Budgets and Budget Documentation (Local: GR1025-04a, GR1025-04b)
  • Financial Reports (Local: GR1025-07b)

Just for fun, check out these historical holiday photos courtesy of the Texas Digital Archive.

Here we have a Christmas card featuring Governor James Allred, his family, and Santa Claus standing around the Christmas tree (see details).

And here is Santa Claus at a Department of Public Safety Christmas party in 1949 (see details).

Governor James Allred and his family stand around the Christmas tree with Santa Claus. Below is the handwritten text: Christmas Greetings from the Mansion. Governor and Mrs. James Allred.
A man in a Santa suit and mask stands in front of the Christmas tree, speaking into a microphone.

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