If you saw the recent episode of Who Do You Think You Are? featuring Rachel and Kayleen McAdams, you might have noticed them wearing some special accessories. When they visited the Archives of Ontario, they had to don purple gloves when handling a map of land grants in Ontario. So, what’s up with the those?

Dr. Jane Errington with Rachel and Kayleen McAdams at the Archives of Ontario
Dr. Jane Errington with Rachel and Kayleen McAdams at the Archives of Ontario

The purple gloves weren’t intended as a fashion statement. Some archives use nitrile gloves instead of white cotton gloves for handling materials that could be harmed by the oil on your fingers. Nitrile gloves allow for better feeling and often fit better than cotton gloves. This helps reduce the chance of inadvertently tearing or creasing the document when you’re handling it. Nitrile gloves are also disposable, which means that they aren’t holding the dirt and grime from previous research sessions.

You might be wondering about latex gloves. Some people have allergic reactions to latex. Nitrile gloves have gained popularity over latex for that reason.

White gloves, nitrile gloves, bare hands – which is it?! As researchers, it comes down to this: Always have clean hands (even with gloves), use common sense, and follow the rules of whatever archive you are in.

Amy Johnson Crow

Amy Johnson Crow is a Certified Genealogist and an active lecturer and author. Her roots run deep in the Midwest and Mid-Atlantic states. She earned her Masters degree in Library and Information Science at Kent State University. Amy loves to help people discover the joys of learning about their ancestors and she thinks that there are few things better than a day in a cemetery. You can find her on Facebook, Twitter, and Amy Johnson Crow.


  1. JLangdon

    For the record, the Archives of Ontario moved out of downtown Toronto five years ago. The images of Queens Park and downtown, shown during the archives’ segment, were misleading. The Archives are now in a north-west corner of the city, at York University, and they’re a struggle to get to by transit. Potential visitors should be aware.

  2. Peggy

    It’s nice to meet another graduate from Kent State University Amy Johnson Crow. By any chance, are you Native American? If you had an ancestry.com DNA test, did the Native American show up on the testing? Just wondering.

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