Showing posts with label Planning a Future for Your Family's Past. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Planning a Future for Your Family's Past. Show all posts

Monday, February 18, 2019

Taking Care of 102 Year Old Photos

Yesterday was the day. I slit open the package of special archival acid-free buffered tissue paper I purchased at the end of last year, intended for interleaving within photo albums. This was on my genealogy to-do list for 2019, and now it is checked off!

Above, a photo of my late father-in-law's 1917 photo album, with the archival box in which I store it (note identifying label on the box).

This 1917 album is the oldest I've been entrusted with, as the genealogist of this generation. I've also been entrusted with my late father-in-law's 1926 Tufts College album.

It's up to me to safeguard these old photo albums so they survive for future descendants to enjoy. Each album has its own archival box, so it doesn't get jostled or damaged. But without interleaving between the pages, items on the pages might deteriorate or rub off on each other. That's why I needed to work on interleaving.

Along the way, I learned a couple of lessons about how to carefully place interleaving paper between pages of albums. Of course, begin by washing/drying hands and putting all materials on a clean, dry surface, far from liquids, foods, perfumes, etc. Then:
  1. Start from the back of the album and work your way forward. That way, the paper doesn't slip out or shift as easily. 
  2. Turn pages gently so they don't rip or flake as you slip in the archival paper.
  3. If pages have multiple overlapping items glued down, place a small piece of interleaving paper between these so they don't rub off on each other or discolor each other. Then place one piece of paper over all.
  4. Don't overstuff between album pages! 
  5. If archival papers hang off too much, carefully cut off the edges (leaving a small margin all around the album) at the end of the project. I used the extra paper cut off to "stuff" next to one album so it doesn't rattle in the box.
Thanks to Amy Johnson Crow for this week's #52Ancestors prompt of "family photo."

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Why I Use Genealogy Software (It's Not Why You Think)

RootsMagic is my genealogy software of choice for one big reason: It syncs with Ancestry, my research/tree site of choice.

But unlike most researchers, I don't do my work in the software and then upload to Ancestry.

On the contrary, I prefer to work in Ancestry (including research and uploading photos/documents) and then download to my computer, via my sync with RootsMagic.

My Technology May Not Be Their Technology

Why? My mind is constantly thinking way ahead to what happens when I someday join my ancestors.

On that faraway day, even though my Mac computer will remain on my desk, it may as well be a pile of bricks as far as my genealogy heir(s) are concerned.

I'll bet none of the next generation will be bothered to open my genealogy software, let alone learn how it works. They'll have their own technology preferences, and any specialized genealogy software on my desktop Mac is unlikely to appeal to the mobile-first younger generation. Just ask your younger relatives and see if they agree.

With this in mind, I don't think of my genealogy software as the primary place to keep my tree and media. In a sense, my computer-based software acts like a backup to my Ancestry tree.

A Family Tree Grows Online

I believe descendants and relatives (and cousins I don't yet know about) are far more likely to find my public family tree on Ancestry, if they have any interest at all.

As I wrote in my book, Planning a Future for Your Family's Pastonline trees should be noted in any genealogical "will." For my part, I'm leaving my genealogical heirs a bit of money for an Ancestry subscription so they can noodle around and see how the tree works. They can use mobile or desktop devices, whatever suits their fancy.

Of course, I sync with RootsMagic very frequently so I always have the latest version of my tree on my computer, including all media. This is because I work on the Ancestry tree (multiple trees, actually) every week, sometimes every day. New documents become available, or new photos surface in the family--those are good reasons to add to my online tree and share with those who have been invited to see it. Also, I like to look at DNA hints and compare those trees with mine on Ancestry. It's just convenient to have the latest tree online.

Way in the future, my heirs can decide if they want their own genealogy software. If not, they and I can rest easy, knowing the tree and documentation are on Ancestry for the family to see at any time.

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

See You at Family Tree Live in London, April 26-27

Family Tree magazine has cooked up Family Tree Livea big new genealogy show in London on Friday and Saturday, April 26-27!

There will be more than 60 lectures, with three choices of expert speakers or panels per each time slot. For hands-on learning, the show also offers dozens of workshops, including a special track about DNA for genealogy.

You can buy tickets and prebook your seat in lectures and workshops right now!

It's new, it's live, and I'm thrilled to be on the program as a speaker and panelist during three sessions. Please say hello if you come to one of these talks:
  • #Genealogy and #familyhistory: How to use social media for genealogy (at 12:15 pm on Friday, April 26) - I'll decode the hashtags and show you how to get the most out of using Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest for genealogy, whether you want to join the conversation or follow to lurk and learn.
  • Planning a future for your family's past: Do you have a genealogical will? (at 10:00 am on Saturday, April 27) - After a brief overview of organizing genealogy files so they look like a legacy, I'll explain why and how to prepare a genealogical 'will' to keep old photos and documents safe for future generations.* 
  • Crash course in writing your family history (at 11:30 am on Saturday, April 27) - Gill Blanchard, Diane Lindsay, and I will offer practical ideas and tips for writing your family's history so descendants will know the more about the lives lived by their ancestors--not just names and dates.
* You can find out even more by reading my best-selling genealogy book, Planning a Future for Your Family's Past.

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Finding a Home for My WAC Aunt's Materials

My mother's twin sister, Dorothy H. Schwartz (1919-2001), enlisted as a WAC during WWII, just months after graduating from Hunter College in New York City. She had a distinguished military career and was transformed by her wartime experiences.

My family has long held a small collection of Auntie Dorothy's WAC documents and photos, plus a copy of the book she wrote as historian of her WAC unit.

My Sis and I wanted this collection to be in safe hands for the future, in a repository that can archive the documents and put her military service in context for future generations. The search was on.

Finding an Appropriate Repository

An online search of key terms "WAC museum" brought me to the website of the U.S. Army Women's Museum, located south of Richmond in Fort Lee, VA. As shown above, I located the "contact" page and there was specific information about how to proceed with a request to donate materials.

I sent a detailed email describing what my family has to donate, with background about my aunt's military experience. Of course I mentioned her Bronze Star Medal!

Preparing to Donate to the Museum

It didn't take long for the museum to respond. It is not accepting uniforms or medals (we have neither) but it would be delighted to accept documents and photographs in good condition.

The museum sent a four-page document formatted to help Sis and me provide biographical details and military details about my aunt. We filled in her rank, places she was stationed, campaigns supported by her WAC unit, and excerpts from a letter she wrote about having the opportunity to serve her country as the "woman behind the man behind the gun."

Also, we wrote a solid page summarizing Dorothy's life, from her birth date and parents' names to the schools she attended, her doctorate in education, and her post-war career as a New York City school teacher. We also mentioned her emphasis on social justice in her interests and activities after she retired.

Finally, we listed the contents of the collection so the museum can see exactly what is being donated (see above). Of course everything was scanned at high resolution before the donation was made.

Long after Sis and I join our ancestors, Dorothy Schwartz's bio and WAC materials will be available to researchers because they're safely in the museum's archives!

Keeping Dorothy Schwartz's Memory Alive in the Museum

As is usual, the museum requested that we send the collection and a printout of the bio pages via a shipping company that can track every movement of the package. We packed it securely in a padded envelope, including a cover note detailing the contents, and sent it on Monday.

The museum told me it will confirm receipt as soon as the package arrives (just heard the shipment arrived safely). Soon afterward, Sis and I will receive a formal acknowledgement of our donation.

Best of all, we have the satisfaction of knowing we're keeping Dorothy Schwartz's memory alive among the WAC artifacts held by the US Army Women's Museum.
---
For more about finding a suitable home for ancestors' materials, please see my best-selling #Genealogy book, Planning a Future for Your Family's Past.

Monday, January 7, 2019

The Power of Hands-On Family History Experiences

At a family holiday luncheon, my husband and I tried something new: We passed around an unopened MRE ("meal ready to eat") from 1986.

We slit it open to reveal individually wrapped packages of turkey, hash brown potatoes, giant cookie, crackers, hot cocoa mix, instant coffee, sugar, salt, matches, even chewing gum. Then we opened a couple of the individual food packages and tasted a bite of cookie...a bite of cracker...and lived to tell the tale! The youngest relatives were especially captivated by handling and tasting packs of food that are way, way, way older than they are.

This hands-on experience sparked a long and fascinating group discussion about Army life in two different periods. The family member who served in the US Army in the mid-1980s had supplied the MRE, and he reminisced about eating the best (and worst) of these meals. He also told anecdotes about Army life, with just enough detail to keep the younger crowd engaged.

My husband had served in the Army three decades earlier, and he described eating C-rations in the field, adding a couple of his own brief anecdotes. The stark contrast between our 2018 holiday meal and the 1950s/1980s Army meals was an important part of the experience.

Everyone around the table listened intently and asked questions. Several eagerly tried their hand at opening a can using a P-38 opener kept after the 1980s Army days. (Hint: You need to literally "get a grip" to get this right.)

I came away with a real appreciation of the power of hands-on family history experiences. From now on, I'll look for additional opportunities to get relatives involved in handling an heirloom or something else key to a family event or an ancestor memory. With luck, the stories will flow as hands touch the object, and family history will be passed down to more descendants! And isn't that the point?

- - -

For more ideas on safeguarding and sharing genealogy, please see my how-to book (in print or digital form), Planning a Future for Your Family's Past.

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

My Year in Genealogy - 2018

Time to look back at 2018, an exciting and also a satisfying year for genealogy.

One of the high points was attending RootsTech 2018 and meeting so many of my genealogy blogging friends in person! (I'm in the center of the front row in this photo, wearing a white sweater.) It was a joy to say hello and chat with you, genea-folks. Also I attended the New York State Family History Conference, learning from experts and enjoying the company of genealogy friends from around the northeast.

I came away from both conferences with new ideas and new techniques to add to my momentum. Leaving RootsTech, I crammed into my suitcase specially-priced DNA kits, a new genealogy T-shirt and socks, and several of Nathan Dylan Goodwin's genealogy mysteries. Joining VGA, I learned a lot from watching webinars and lurking in VGA discussions.

Alas, not a single family history breakthrough during a day's research at the fabulous Family History Library in Salt Lake City. Still, ruling things out counts as some progress in the Wood, Steiner, Rinehart, and Burk/Birk trees.

Another high point was hearing from a second cousin who had a set of "missing" monthly minutes and letters related to my mother's Farkas Family Tree. These were all from the WWII period, and were long thought to be gone. Receiving these to scan and index was a gift beyond measure.

Now my Farkas cousins and I have documents spanning the entire life of the family tree association, 1933-1964. I'm still integrating the index from the 1940s into the index for the complete set of minutes, with completion scheduled for very early 2019. Work on the Farkas family tree (including collaborating with cousins who helped identify all ancestors/relatives in large family portraits) was a very satisfying way to end the year.

During 2018, a sad discovery: the early death of a boy born into my Mahler family, a child who was previously not known to me or any of my cousins. And a happy gift: the full anniversary booklet of the Kossuth Society, a group in which my Farkas and Schwartz ancestors were active. Their photos are in the booklet!

In my husband's family, I finally learned the truth about the long-standing mystery surrounding his grandfather Wood's divorce from wife #2. Also I gained a deeper understanding of the poverty endured by his Slatter and Shehen ancestors, using the Charles Booth maps of poor areas in London. Through contact with a Gershwin expert, I received a detailed news clipping that explained the background behind a prize-winning song written by my late father-in-law Wood.



Another exciting moment was when my book, Planning a Future for Your Family's Pastwent to number one on the Kindle genealogy best-seller list in the middle of June!

This year, I made 15 genealogy presentations and led two hands-on workshops, with my husband, about writing family history.

Next year, I'm thrilled to be leading two sessions and participating in a panel discussion at Family Tree Live in London, April 26-27.

Quite a year in genealogy. Yet I didn't actually accomplish all I planned to do when 2018 began. More in my next post!

Thursday, November 1, 2018

Save the Dates: Family Tree Live 2019 in London


Have you heard about the new genealogy show--Family Tree Live--coming to London in April?

Friday and Saturday, two days packed full of interesting, informative, and entertaining talks and panels about #Genealogy and #family history.

Please take a look at the lecture program, downloadable and printable by day.

On Friday, April 26, I'll be presenting #Genealogy and #familyhistory: How to use social media for genealogy, at 12:15 pm.

On Saturday, April 27, I'll be presenting Planning a Future for Your Family's Past: Do You Have a Genealogical Will? at 10:00 am.

Then on Saturday at 11:30 am, I'm part of a panel talk: Crash Course in Writing Your Family Story. "Four experts in forty minutes! Get top tips from those who know in one crammed session."

Save the dates. Hope to see you in London in April!

Monday, October 1, 2018

Family History Month: Why I Love Archival Boxes

I really love archival boxes for storing family history materials like photos, original documents, and more. Some of my genealogy buddies love three-ring binders, others love file folders.* All have their strong points, I know because I've tried 'em all.

Twenty years ago when I began my genealogy journey, I created file folders with surname labels. I still use them for photocopies of originals, research notes, and assorted stuff that doesn't need special protection. One half of my file drawer is devoted to folders for "his family" and one half is devoted to folders for "my family."

I organize my folders according to family groupings. This means husband-wife surnames with separate folders are together inside one big accordion hanging file. For instance, my father-in-law Wood and mother-in-law McClure have separate folders inside a single hanging file for that family unit. In the same accordion file I have another file folder for Wood siblings. Yes, this accordion folder holds a lot of folders and papers!

But archival boxes are my preference for everything that's original and precious, important enough to protect for the long term. Why?

First, take a look at the photo at top. Which looks more valuable to the next generation, a bunch of stuff in a torn envelope with a scribbled label or a stack of neat archival boxes with proper labels? This alone might save family artifacts from a fate too horrible to contemplate (after I join my ancestors).

Also:
  • Archival boxes come in various sizes and shapes. I bought one especially for my father-in-law's college photo album, another for the big family wedding portrait from 1925. 
  • My father's WWII dog tags, insignia, etc. are in an archival box because they are odd-sized and enclosed in his old leather pouch, which I wanted to preserve as is.
  • Old movies and CDs can go into one archival box, marked by surname. (Remember to separate negatives from prints and store separately, to avoid deterioration.)
  • Documents and photos lay flat for storage, in individual sleeves for extra protection, inside each box. 
  • Archival boxes with metal corners can be stacked several high without crushing the contents.
  • Boxes are easy to label by surname and number. You can't see in the above photo, but I have a pencil-mark #1 and #2 next to the WOOD label on those two boxes. Other WOOD boxes have more descriptive labels like "WOOD negatives 1940s-1960s" so I can keep track of what's where.
  • Some day, when I join my ancestors, my heirs will know exactly which box has which family's materials. Everything is neat and ready to be transported to a new home. For now, I can easily shift boxes around and find what I need without a lot of fuss.
For more on preservation and storage ideas, see the links at Cyndi's List and the National Archives. And please take a look at my Amazon best-selling genealogy book, Planning a Future for Your Family's Past, with details about keeping your genealogy collection safe for future generations to enjoy. Thank you!
* Whether you love folders, binders, or archival boxes, gotta have a label maker for easy-to-read labels that jump out at a glance!

Saturday, August 25, 2018

Happy Blogiversary #10


Hard to believe that this is my 10th blogiversary. Above, the very first post I wrote in 2008, searching for when and where paternal Great-Grandpa Meyer Elias Mahler died. And, as sometimes happens, I had to retrace my steps and look at clues I'd already seen, checking with fresh eyes.

Making progress on family history projects begun since my last blogiversary:
  • Farkas Family Tree index. Thanks to a 2d cousin getting in touch, I have more family-tree association minutes to scan, index, and add to the thick book of minutes and historians' reports dating from 1933-1963. This will be finished before my next blogiversary. Here's a link to my popular post on how to index.
  • Farkas Family Tree letters. My wonderful cousin B has been helping me by proofreading my transcriptions of the WWII letters written by members of the Farkas Family Tree who served in the military. Almost done with that project.
  • Slatter and Shehen families. With the help of the Charles Booth poverty maps, I've been deepening my understanding of hubby's Slatter and Shehen family background in London. Turns out they were even poorer than I had imagined.
  • Wood family. Slowly continuing to scan and crop photos from the Wood family's 1972 trip to Venice for a planned photo book. The adults on that trip (and one or two kids) have shared memories to fill out the narrative. I need to begin arranging the photos and typing the captions, so the photo book will be ready by end of this year.
It was a year of learning and making connections! For the first time, I attended the amazing RootsTech conference and used the giant Family History Center in Salt Lake City. Next month, I will be at the New York State Family History Conference. In between, I've gone to numerous genealogy club meetings and gained new ideas from many expert speakers.

Speaking of speaking, my latest genealogy presentations include Do the "Write" Thing, Using Twitter and Facebook for Genealogy, and Genealogy 101. For next year, I'm prepping another new talk, Find Real Clues in Other People's Family Trees. And I was thrilled that my book, Planning a Future for Your Family's Past, became a #1 Amazon Kindle best-seller this year.

As my 11th year of genealogy blogging begins, I want to say thank you. Thank you, dear cousins, for finding me and getting in touch. Thank you, dear readers, for being along on the journey.

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

99-cent Kindle Special Ends at Midnight on June 14

Wow! #1 in Amazon's Kindle Genealogy list from June 13-17.
Would you like to learn how to . . .
  • put your genealogy collection in order and downsize duplicates?
  • inventory and index your materials to uncover hidden clues and make family connections?
  • write a genealogical "will" to protect your family's history for future generations?
  • share photos and stories with relatives today?
Now, for only 99 cents, you can download the Kindle version of my book, Planning a Future for Your Family's Past.

But this special price expires on midnight of Thursday, June 14th, New York time, so please click to take a look soon!

UPDATE: More than 260 ebooks sold in 5 days (plus printed copies too), keeping my book at the top of the Amazon Kindle genealogy best-seller list for five days in a row. Thank you! Please, if you own my book, would you take a moment to post a review on Amazon? Your feedback would be most appreciated!

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Do the "Write" Thing for Genealogy: Set the Stage

Harold Burk proposed to Daisy Schwartz on the last day of 1945 - a wintery, snowy day!
When writing family history, we can help our readers envision the lives of our ancestors (and what influenced their actions and decisions) by "setting the stage."

This week's 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks challenge by Amy Johnson Crow, about "storms," is a perfect prompt for setting the stage. I've been researching how weather affected my ancestors, to make the everyday lives of my ancestors more vivid and add drama to my family history.

Setting the Stage for My Parents' Engagement

I wanted to know what the weather was like on the final evening of 1945, when my parents (Harold Burk and Daisy Schwartz) got engaged. They had been dating since mid-October--just a couple weeks after Harold got out of the Army. Daisy hoped and believed that he would pop the question soon, and he chose that special night to propose.

Because both my parents were living in New York City, I researched the weather by clicking on Weather Underground's history tab. I entered the location (you can enter any city) and then the date of December 31, 1945. The result: It was a cold day (low of 28, high of 39 degrees F), but not windy. Just under a quarter-inch of snow fell that day. I can use this info when writing about my father proposing to my mother on a wintery New Year's Eve, with a dusting of snow all around. Sounds like a romantic setting, doesn't it?

Who Lived Through the Blizzard of 1888?

Another way to "set the stage" in family history is to consider who might have been affected by a terrible storm like the Blizzard of 1888. It came on suddenly, and dumped lots of snow on my ancestors who lived in New York City on Sunday, March 11, 1888. In fact, the city was paralyzed. Who in my family's past got caught in this snowstorm?

My paternal great-grandparents, Meyer Elias Mahler and Tillie Jacobs Mahler, were then living on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, in a tenement on Chrystie Street. Their second son, Morris Mahler, was born on Sunday, February 27, 1888--exactly two weeks before the Blizzard.

Did the heat stay on as the snow piled up? Did the family have enough food? How many days were they forced to stay inside until the city got the streets cleared? I don't know the answers to these questions, but raising them is a good way to show how ancestors were real people coping with real (and very challenging) situations.

The Hail Storm That Brought My Family to New York

Moritz Farkas
My maternal great-grandpa, Moritz Farkas, supervised farmland and vineyards for his family and in-laws in Hungary. One year, he saved money by not buying crop insurance. That was the year a big hail storm destroyed the crops. Financially ruined, Moritz left for America and never returned. His wife followed him to New York City a year later, and they sent for their children to join them.

So a huge hail storm in Hungary set the stage for my family's journey across the ocean. If not for hail, I might not be here today to keep these family memories alive for the next generation.

For more ideas about bringing family history to life and sharing with relatives, please see my book, Planning a Future for Your Family's Past, available in paperback and Kindle

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Doing the "Write" Thing for Family History

In my first post about writing family history, I suggested picking one ancestor/surname, one occasion, or one photo as the focus for writing something.

When possible, try to turn any family history writing project into a family-wide activity. Use materials from your genealogy collection to get relatives excited about documenting that person or occasion and to stimulate their memories. The more stories they hear, the more stories they can recall, the better!

Here's the special occasion I'm using as the focus of my next family history writing project: a 1972 Venice trip taken by all the adult children, spouses, and young grandchildren of Marian McClure Wood (1909-1983) & Edgar James Wood (1903-1986).

The family trip was intended as a reunion for the entire family, then scattered across the country. Marian paid for everyone's travel, hotel, and meals, using the modest inheritance she received when her father (Brice Larimer McClure, 1878-1970) died.

My first step was to photocopy Edgar Wood's diary entries from that period in 1972 and send to my husband's siblings and the grown children. These day-by-day notes helped spark memories as they thought back to the reunion 46 years in the past.

Next, my hubby sorted through several binders and a file box to select several dozen 35mm slides to transfer into digital images as possible illustrations for this booklet. Naturally, he concentrated on finding slides featuring family members, with just one or two famous landmarks to set the scene.

Before doing any writing, we'll print the images four or six to a page and send to the family for more comments and memories. Then we'll organize the booklet itself, devoting the majority of pages to the weeklong reunion.

Each of Marian & Edgar's adult children went on to other European cities after the family reunion in Venice. So I'm going to devote a page or two to each of those post-reunion adventures, to personalize the booklet even further and encourage story-telling within the family.

Stay tuned for more about doing the "write" thing for family history!

NOTE: For ideas about preserving family stories and planning for the future of your genealogical collection, please see my book, Planning a Future for Your Family's Past, available from Amazon and from the bookstore at the New England Historic Genealogical Society.

Friday, March 9, 2018

Where There's a Will, There's a Family Reunion (in Venice)

Last week's #52Ancestors challenge (#9 in the series by Amy Johnson Crow) was "Where there's a will..." Since I was at RootsTech then, I'm catching up on my regular genealogy blogging now. My husband suggested today's post, about the wonderful way that a will turned into a family reunion.

Hubby's granddaddy, Brice Larimer McCLURE, was born on Dec. 29, 1878 (in Little Traverse, Michigan) and died on Dec. 15, 1970 (in Cleveland, Ohio). He passed away just shy of his 92nd birthday.

Brice's will left his only child, my late mother-in-law, Marian McClure WOOD (1909-1983), a bank account with a modest four-digit balance.

Marian decided to take that money and treat her three children (and spouses) and three grandchildren to a trip to Venice. Her favorite city in the world!

Since the three children were scattered across the country, this trip was both a family reunion and an opportunity to experience Venice together, paid for by Brice's legacy.

Marian and her husband, Edgar James WOOD (1903-1986) were also big fans of trans-Atlantic cruises. The photo above is one of many cruise photos that Marian and Ed took during their yearly travels to Europe after he retired.

For the reunion trip, they booked passage on the S.S. France, Cabin P252, from New York to Southampton. (Ed was a prodigious diarist, writing a few lines every day for more than 30 years--that's how I know who/what/when/where.)

Ed and Marian and their children arrived in Venice starting on September 6, 1972, and did some sightseeing together for a week. Afterward, everyone scattered to visit other European destinations on their own, their flights home also paid for by Brice's legacy.

This year, I'm creating a family memory booklet with photos from that delightful Venice trip and comments from hubby, his siblings, and the youngsters who played with pigeons in Saint Marks Square (now grown with children of their own). That's one of the many ways* I'm helping to keep the family's history alive for future generations to enjoy!

--

*For more ideas, please check out my genealogy book, Planning a Future for Your Family's Past, available in paperback or Kindle.

Friday, February 23, 2018

52 Ancestors #8: Did They Ever Think These Would Be Heirlooms?

Over time, so many of the items left to me or given to me by relatives and ancestors have become treasured heirlooms, valued not for financial value but for emotional and sentimental reasons. This week's #52Ancestors challenge by Amy Johnson Crow is a great opportunity to think about accidental heirlooms, not just those intended to be special.

Above, the silver napkin ring awarded by my mother's Farkas Family Tree association to each newborn child, male or female. For years--seriously, years!--one of my aunts tried to get the tree to give a different gift to baby boys (like her son, my 1st cousin R). She was voted down every time. This napkin ring was an honored gift tradition for decades.
Above, another item that was an heirloom even in its own time. My grandma Hermina Farkas Schwartz kept this cut glass bowl close to her heart because, if I got the story straight, it came with the family from Hungary to America in the early 1900s. My mother inherited it and now I'm the lucky custodian, keeping it safe for the next generation.

But other heirlooms were surely not intended or appreciated as such. At right, a velvet banner used by my late father-in-law Edgar James Wood to promote his piano trio during 1950s/60s gigs in Cleveland. Did Ed ever imagine this would be an heirloom in the 21st century? I bet the answer is no.

We can never predict exactly what future generations will consider to be heirlooms. So we need to take good care of all these family items, just in case. And--most important--we need to tell the stories of why these are (or should be) heirlooms, so that information is passed down along with the items themselves.

For more about sharing family history with future generations, please check out my book, Planning a Future for Your Family's Past, available in paperback and Kindle.

Thursday, January 4, 2018

My Genealogy Agenda for 2018

Twins Dorothy & Daisy Schwartz, stars of my new family memory booklet
Building on what I learned in 2017, here's my genealogy agenda for 2018.

1. Keep documenting family history. Throughout the year, I'm going to be writing about ancestors for my relatives and my husband's relatives. I have two specific projects in mind right now (and a third, if I get to it: "Farkas Family in WWII"):
  • "Daisy and Dorothy," a new family memory booklet about my mother (Daisy Schwartz Burk) and her twin sister (Dorothy Helen Schwartz). In the past year, I've located new details about Dorothy's WWII role as a WAC. Also, my niece rediscovered letters from Dorothy written in her 70s, mentioning hobbies such as practicing at the gun range every week with her 9mm Smith & Wesson. Who knew? And this is a great opportunity to share insights about my Mom with the next generation.
  • "Marian and Edgar," a new photo book about my husband's parents (Marian McClure Wood and Edgar James Wood). My sister-in-law would like a hardcover photo book, reviewing their lives, from cradle to grave. I have a LOT of information, thanks to the dozens of photos she's shared with me, plus diaries, interviews, and more. Also, I'm going to draw on 2017 family memory booklets I wrote about Marian and Edgar's ancestors.
2. Continue my genealogy education. For the first time ever, I'm attending RootsTech 2018! So many sessions, so little time. I'm studying the schedule to select my first choice and my second choice session in each time slot. And of course I'll make time to visit the exhibit hall. All part of my planning for learning new research tricks and techniques!

Plus as a member of two local genealogy clubs and the Jewish Genealogy Society of Connecticut, I get to attend so many informative meetings. This year's topics include genetic genealogy, British genealogy, researching online newspapers, genealogy and data security, and so much more.

Another way I'm continuing my genealogy education is by following people and institutions on social media. Currently, my blog reading list stands at 104, including a handful of historical blogs but mainly family history and research blogs. I follow nearly 1,700 Twitter accounts (mostly genealogy but also history and related subjects). And I'm on Pinterest, checking out genealogy posts from time to time. PLUS I'm a member of a couple dozen Facebook groups, groups like GeneaBloggers Tribe, Tracing the Tribe, Genetic Genealogy Tips & Techniques, and many others, where I learn a great deal by lurking and by asking questions.

3. Genealogy presentations. My 2018 speaking schedule includes a new presentation, "Research Like a Pro!" about how to apply the Genealogical Proof Standard to solve family history mysteries and reconcile conflicting evidence. I'm also presenting "Planning a Future for Your Family's Past" (companion to my book of the same name, available at the NEHGS book store and on Amazon) and the ever-popular, "Genealogy, Free or Fee" about free and low-cost research strategies (and when it pays to pay for documents).

4. Connect with cousins via DNA. More cousins are taking DNA tests, which means I'll have even more DNA matches to figure out. This is the year I'll get down to color-coding my spreadsheet and family tree to understand where the matches belong. And with luck, I'll discover how, exactly, my Mitav/Chazan cousins are related to my Burk/Shuham ancestors! And how my Roth cousins fit with the Farkas family tree.

5. Have fun. For most of my 20 years of genealogy research, the process has been fun and engaging. Meeting "new" cousins brings new joy, and making new genealogy buddies gives me a strong sense of community and shared purpose. The DNA analyses are hard work, I admit. Still, it's deeply satisfying to keep learning new things as I add new leaves to the family tree and bring the family's past alive for future generations. Here's to another great year of genealogy fun in 2018!



Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Writing About the Wood Family in WWII

A page from my new family history booklet, showing some printed items saved by the WOOD family



This holiday season, I'm giving yet another gift of family history to hubby's siblings and to our grandchildren.

This time, it's a booklet about the WOOD family in World War II, focusing on Edgar James Wood, his wife Marian Jane McClure Wood, and their three children. For this booklet, I collected memories from hubby and his siblings, reread interviews with my late father-in-law, and picked through the boxes of artifacts, photos, and documents retained in the Wood family.

One goal is to show the younger generation how family history was actually affected by world history. Above, a page from my booklet, showing some ephemera saved by my late father-in-law. These everyday items (gas ration coupons, a gas ration identification folder, and a thank-you postcard from the Stage Door Canteen) add color and visual interest to the booklet. These items were kept by the family for more than 70 years, and will remain intact for future generations.*

How often do youngsters see gas ration coupons? Never. And did they know their ancestor entertained servicemen and servicewomen at the Stage Door Canteen on Playhouse Square in Cleveland? Nope.

Now, when grandkids leaf through this booklet, the colorful ephemera will hopefully grab their attention and draw them into the story. If they read a few paragraphs, they'll suddenly understand that during wartime, the Wood family's life changed in lots of ways.


*Looking for ways to safeguard family documents/photos and share family history with younger relatives? Please take a look at my affordable book, Planning a Future for Your Family's Past, available from Amazon in Kindle and paperback formats. Thanks!

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Kindle Countdown Deal: Buy My Book for Only 99 Cents

Black Friday is almost here! And that means the start of my first-ever Kindle Countdown Deal. From 1 am on Friday to 11 pm on Sunday, buy the Kindle version of Planning a Future for Your Family's Past for only 99 cents. Please click here for my Kindle edition.

For you or as a gift for a genealogy-obsessed friend, only 99 cents for 98 pages of practical, hands-on ideas:
  • Learn how to organize and analyze your genealogical materials, getting your collection ready for tomorrow while you uncover clues to solve family history mysteries today. My book includes specific suggestions for sorting materials, safely storing them, captioning photos, inventorying what you have, and indexing for new insights.
  • Decide what to keep and what to give away. You'll get ideas for winnowing down your collection by giving duplicate items to other family members and, if you choose, donating artifacts to institutions that will preserve them for the future.
  • See how to set up a genealogical "will," by identifying heirs to receive your photos and documents and writing down your instructions to clarify your wishes. Don't let your precious research end up in a flea market or garbage bin.
  • Share with heirs--now. Tell the stories, show the photos, explain DNA results, and get relatives excited about your family's history. It's their heritage too!
  • Kindle book includes dozens of hotlinks to online resources accessible with just a click while you read. Plus sample forms in the back of the book will help you get organized and stay organized.
Thanks for passing the word about this special deal. And please do me the favor of reviewing on Amazon! Your feedback would mean a lot to me. Thank you again.

PS: If you have Kindle Unlimited on Amazon, don't forget that you can read my book for free, anytime. 

Monday, November 6, 2017

The Case Against Paperless Genealogy

Sorry, paperless genealogy is NOT for me. Some avid genealogists advocate digitizing everything, not downloading any paper copies, and/or not printing images/documents found during research. Not me. I print everything. I file everything. Under more than one surname, if applicable.

Why print in the digital age?

Walter Isaacson--the author of the best-selling bio of Steve Jobs and, now, the best-selling book about Leonardo da Vinci--sums up my main reason in one sentence. Let me quote him (you can read the entire interview here):
Paper turns out to be a superb information-storage technology, still readable after 500 years, which our own tweets likely (and fortunately) won't be.
Isaacson was privileged to read more than 7,000 pages of da Vinci's own notebooks. And he found more than just words: the man's personality shines through in the scribbles and sketches that adorn the pages. So not only can paper survive, it also can reveal clues to ancestors' inner thoughts and feelings.

A senior Google exec also warns that consumers should print out key items, including selfies, for instance, because technology will certainly change over time. "Historians will tell you that sometimes documents, transactions, images and so on may turn out to have an importance which is not understood for hundreds of years. So failure to preserve [by printing] them will cause us to lose our perspective," he has said.

Technology comes and goes, as anyone who's ever had to unlearn WordPerfect and learn MS Word can attest. Anyone who began storing data on those big floppy discs and migrated to mini-discs and migrated to CDs and migrated to flash drives. And to the cloud, then to whatever overtakes the cloud.

Meanwhile, paper lives on and on. My goal is to ensure that the next generation inherits family history. Will they learn my technology? No. Will they open my files and archival boxes and leaf through photos and certificates and memorabilia? Yes!

At top, the back of a 1930s business card from hubby's grandpa, Brice Larimer McClure. Sometime before his death in 1970, he took cards and scraps of paper and recorded facts about his ancestors and the ancestors of his wife, Floyda Mabel Steiner McClure.

This card shows the birth years of Floyda and her siblings, including the infant who died young (I eventually found proof to confirm Brice's recollection).

Being able to pick out this card from Brice's effects gave us a headstart on piecing together the entire generation of Steiners. And some grandkids think it's a bit amazing to hold in their hands a business card that's now more than 80 years old, while they hear stories of how the family made ends meet during the Depression.

All in all, I plan to keep up the paper chase and leave a paper trail for future generations. AND I'm also digitizing everything, by the way, and doing daily/hourly backups to keep the data safe, filed by family and surname on my hard drives, flash drives, and cloud backups. But paper is my secret strategy for passing what I've learned to the younger generation. It worked for older generations--and it will work for mine.

--

For ideas about storing documents and paper in archival boxes, please check out my concise genealogy book, Planning a Future for Your Family's Past, available from Amazon (paperback and Kindle versions).

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Sepia Saturday: Use Photos to Sharpen Family Memories



My husband remembers that his father (Edgar James Wood) would take all the children out for a drive on Sunday afternoons while his mother (Marian Jane McClure Wood) cooked a special dinner.

They lived in Cleveland Heights, and his father would drive around to various spots, entertaining three kids under 8 for a couple of hours every week.

As the self-appointed family historian, my question was, of course: Where did he take you?

Well, there are some rather general family stories about these drives. But when my sister-in-law recently rediscovered a cache of old family photos taken by their father, more specific memories flooded back.

Here is a very atmospheric photo that my late father-in-law took of his two oldest children staring at a steam locomotive. Hubby immediately remembered going to Collinwood Yards. Actually, his memory was Collingwood, but a quick online search confirmed Collinwood was a thriving railroad center in East Cleveland, serving the New York Central RR.

We found photos and maps and other details about Collinwood Yards online. Such as the Cleveland Memory Project and the Rails & Trails maps, to name just two.

Old photos really help to sharpen family memories! I'm writing everything down, captions to go along with photos, for the sake of the next generation and beyond.

--

For ideas about storing family photos and captioning them safely via labels on the outside of archival sleeves, please check out my concise genealogy book, Planning a Future for Your Family's Past, available from Amazon (paperback and Kindle versions).


Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Confessions of a Downsizing Genealogist


As a downsizing genealogist, I have to confess: I've decided there's no reason for me to have to keep every photo or artifact that once belonged to my ancestors. In fact, because I no longer have as much storage room as I once did, I've been actively giving things away for the past few years. Finding good homes for every item, I might add. Of course, before anything leaves my possession, I photograph it and document it for my files, a way to preserve my family's past for the future even after an artifact passes to someone else.

How to decide what to keep and what to part with? I sort items into three categories and consult with my family before making final decisions.
  • Category 1: Items of personal and family significance that should remain in my immediate family (me, my siblings, or our direct descendants)
  • Category 2: Items that should remain in the family, more generally (hand off to cousins if possible)
  • Category 3: Items that have no particular family history importance but have some significance outside the family (donate if possible)
In category 1, I put items like my parents' wedding album, their original mahogany bedroom set, and needlepoint done by my mother. These I'm keeping and bequeathing to the next generation, along with the stories of who, what, when, where, and why. In a future post, I'll talk about how to handle situations where there's one original but multiple heirs.

In category 2, I put items like photos from family gatherings--especially if I have duplicates. My first and second cousins now have original photos of their parents and photos of our families taken for special occasions, for example. And I have digital copies, annotated, of everything, for my research records. Whenever possible, I give away originals not in my direct line, so these will be inherited by the next generation.

In category 3, I put items like air-raid posters, bank ledgers from non-relatives, and the 30 years of Playbills shown in the picture at top (collected by going to Broadway or off-Broadway shows). The family isn't really attached to these, and they don't add to research about ancestors. Still, they are worthy of being saved somewhere for their historical or cultural meaning. So I asked a cousin in college whether her theater teacher might be interested, and the answer was yes!

With permission, I donated hundreds of Playbills to the university's theater library, knowing that they will serve as valuable source material when students research a play or an actor. As the teacher pointed out, seeing ads of the time and reading interviews with the stars provides important context for each play. My family and I felt good that these items are not only in a new home, but have a new purpose.

--
For more tips like this, please take a look at my 98-page genealogy book, Planning a Future for Your Family's Past, available from Amazon (paperback and Kindle versions). And if you already have my book, please would you take a moment and write a review on Amazon? Thank you so much!