Showing posts with label Tuesday's Tip. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Tuesday's Tip. Show all posts

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Tuesday's Tip: Photo Captions with Context

Identifying the people (and their relationship) in old family photos is a must. But often that's not enough to convey the what, when, where, and why of the photo. That's why it's important to include some context when captioning photos, with future generations in mind. I often write a page of explanation to file with the photo, and when digitizing, I add info right on the image.

For example: When I captioned the photos from my parents' wedding, I included not only their names, but the hotel/city, date, and a description of what was happening in the photo. (In my printed version, I explained more about their ages, occupations, my mother's gold lame dress, and everything else I know about the wedding.)

In this photo, Mom and Dad were reading congratulatory telegrams they received during their wedding luncheon. Telegrams? Yup, I labeled the activity, because with ever-changing technology, younger relatives don't ordinarily encounter telegrams in daily life. How could they know what's happening in this photo? So I added that context.

Now future generations will have an idea of what a telegram looks like, and the light bulb will go on (an LED light bulb these days).

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Tuesday's Tip: Put a Sleeve on It!

Before I become an ancestor, I want to caption all the old family photos in my collection. I'm on my way, but it's going to be a process not to be finished in a day.

First, I bought archival boxes to lay photos flat, organized by family, rather than having them filed vertically in a folder. Next, I put every single photo into a clear, acid-free, protective sleeve or resealable envelope for long-term storage and protection. (Vendors who offer boxes and sleeves are mentioned on a number of sites, including on Cyndi's List.)

The recommendation to "put a sleeve on it" comes from multiple expert sources, such as:
Now when I have a few minutes, I choose one of the sleeved photos, write a caption on a separate adhesive label, and stick it to the front or back of the protective sleeve. Later, I'll type the captions, print them, and put them into the boxes with the photos (not inside the sleeves or touching any original photos).

The caption on this photo explains not only who the boy on the pony is, but why a pony is standing on the sidewalk in front of a Bronx apartment building, circa 1919. Future generations may not know that entrepreneurs brought ponies to street corners, offering "photo opps" for kids of city dwellers at a low price.

I really want my heirs to know! And for now, a scribbled caption is better than no caption at all, right?

PS: Don't forget to inventory the photos. See "sample templates" on the tab above right.

Want more detail on "how to" sort photos, preserve them, and decide what to keep/what to give away? Please check out my new book, Planning a Future for Your Family's Past.




Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Tuesday's Tip: New Page of Sample Templates

Before I become an ancestor, I want to have all my genealogy materials organized and analyzed, ready to pass to the next generation.

Getting organized means figuring out exactly what I have, who's mentioned in which materials, and the significance of those mentions. With Thomas MacEntee's Genealogy Do-Over in mind, I've been inventorying, indexing, and analyzing diaries, letters, and other materials for my side and my husband's side of the family.

Now I've added a "tab" at the top of this blog to show the various sample templates I've been using. (Please feel free to borrow my templates and adapt them to your own needs!)

Not only do these templates help me keep track of what I have and remember where everything is, they also summarize what I've learned. My goal is to help keep the family's past alive for future generations--so my genealogy heirs won't have to reinvent the wheel.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Tuesday's Tip: How to Index Your Family's Documents

Whether your relatives left you a small bundle of letters or 25 years' worth of diaries, you'll learn a lot about your ancestors by indexing what's in your family's documents. You'll also be able to tell your relatives details about their ancestors, by referring to your index. And you may uncover clues to family ties you weren't aware of!

Even a baby or wedding book can be indexed if it includes a family tree and/or names of people who visited or gave gifts. This has helped me trace more distant relatives, by the way.

My index for my father-in-law's 25 diaries (shown here) has a few headings. I use the "comments" column to add details referring back to particular documents, a way of reminding myself of the exact source:

Name (alphabetical by surname)
Relationship (as specific as possible)
Date/place (again, be specific if possible)
Comments (details, context, significance; identifying the particular document)

Indexing is not difficult if you take it one step at a time. Remember: Life by the inch is a cinch--life by the yard is hard. So build your index little by little:
  1. Organize the documents into chronological order. That way, you'll be able to follow along as the narrative mentions upcoming events or evolving relationships. I did this with letters to my mother during the time she was dating my father. It was exciting to read what led up to his proposal and their future plans!
  2. Focus on one document at a time. Don't try to index everything at one sitting. Just pick one letter, one month of the diary, one of anything in your collection. Complete one, and if you feel like it, complete another. Keep your place so you can pick up the indexing when you have a few minutes. Use your index to summarize the most critical info from each document before moving on to another.
  3. Identify the people and their relationships. Use a pad and pencil or, if you prefer, a spreadsheet or database. The first time you see a name mentioned, write it down in full and note the relationship, if you know it. Also jot down the date or some other way of going back to that document for the full reference. If you see a name mentioned repeatedly, note it even if you don't know the relationship. 
  4. Compile your list of people, dates, and brief explanations for each. For instance, say the Wood diaries mention a second cousin named Mac McClure for the first time on May 3, 1963. The next time Mac McClure is mentioned is July 4, 1963. My entry in the diary index might read: McClure, Mac (second cousin to E. Wood?). Visit to Wood family in Cleveland on May 3, 1963. Call on July 4, 1963 about birth of Mac's baby Julie. If baby Julie is mentioned later, you can cross-reference by saying something like: McClure, Julie (daughter of Mac McClure).
  5. Watch for groups of people and repeat appearances. Maybe a letter or diary mention of several people getting together is really a mention about a family occasion. If certain names pop up regularly, especially on significant dates (such as a birthday or a holiday), chances are they have some close connection to your family. It won't take long to determine who you should be following closely and who seems to be just a casual friend. 
  6. Watch for disappearances and enigmatic mentions. Sometimes people are mentioned once and never again--did they move away, was there a quarrel, did they pass away, was there a divorce? This is the puzzle part of our genealogy research. Maybe someone else in the family will have some insight if you mention what you're trying to figure out.
  7. Type up your index neatly, date it, and enclose it with the documents and with the main surnames mentioned. That will give you a handy reference when you're looking someone up and will also be available to anyone who takes care of your documents in the future. Return to update your index as you learn more about the relationships and who's who. Also note the "update date" so you can keep track of your most recent copy of the index. Colleen, in her comment below this post, suggests noting the location of the documents--an excellent idea!
  8. Talk up your index! Tell your relatives what you've learned, and offer to copy for them a few relevant sections of the documents. Who doesn't want to know something new about their parents and grandparents, whether just a hint of personality or a particularly surprising anecdote?
One of the most maddening things in my father-in-law's diaries was when he would write something like: "B called with disturbing news." What was the news? I knew who B was (figured it out as I indexed his diaries). But what did B have to say? Ah, the mysteries of family histories.

PS: See my next post here for ideas about how to use the indexes to solve genealogical mysteries.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Tuesday's Tip: Keep Black-and-White Negatives Separate from Color--Or Else

For decades, my family believed in a "one envelope" policy for dozens of large-format 1950s/1960s negatives from both black-and-white and color photos. Bad idea. Now I know, too late, that it's better to separate b/w from color negatives.

How did I find out, the hard way? I recently brought all the negatives to a professional photo firm to have contact sheets made. The idea was to see who and what are in the photos.

When I picked up the contact sheets today, the experts told me the chemical reaction between the color and b/w negatives had caused the color negatives to go nearly blank. Their advice: Store the color negatives separately from the b/w negatives to avoid further deterioration. Done.

Meanwhile, the experts printed all the b/w negatives on contact sheets. I scanned the photos from the contact sheets, and now I can print any photos I please.

The two photos above were taken just a week or two after my sister and I were born. Who's who? Who knows. But the bench supporting the twin at left is part of my parents' mahogany bedroom suite, which remains a treasured family heirloom to this day. 

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Tuesday's Tip: New Life for Old Slides--Going Digital

If I'm ever going to get my family histories into shape--illustrations and all--I have to admit that I can't always do everything myself. Up until now, I've been scanning my own slides, four at a time, then cleaning up the results with Picasa. It's slow and the results are, well, literally spotty.

Of course pros can scan slides at a higher dpi, much faster, and wind up with a higher-quality image full of detail and color. But with a bookshelf full of slides, I feared emptying my wallet over this.

Turns out my local Costco will scan 35 mm slides at high resolution for less than 30 cents each, including automated cleaning (especially important with old dusty slides) and other nitty-gritty services that make a big difference in the quality of the .jpg output. I bet other places have similarly reasonable prices for scanning slides, with good results.

Here's a slide taken more than 30 years ago, showing my oldest niece with my parakeet Tyrone. (Aren't they both the cutest things?!)

This professionally-scanned slide is obviously squeaky clean! And the image is really sharp. You can count almost the eyelashes on my niece's face and the feathers on Tyrone's wings.

I can't afford to scan every slide, but I'm picking and choosing the ones that matter. This is a worthwhile investment in documenting my family history.