Showing posts with label family photos. Show all posts
Showing posts with label family photos. Show all posts

Monday, March 18, 2019

From Photo CDs to Family Hands

If you're lucky, a family member has one or two or, say, two dozen photo CDs. You know, the kind you got in the "old" days when you brought photographic film into the local store to be developed and pick up prints, along with a CD of the images, digitally ready for viewing. The old CDs actually had software that ran the photos as a show.

That was then. This is now: Who has a CD reader built into a PC or Mac any more? Time to retrieve those digital photos before the CDs are unreadable.

Old Digital Images Meet New Technology

Happily for me, Sis has saved all these old photo CDs from the turn of the century up through 2010 or so, when she ditched her film camera for digital.

So rather than having to scan snapshots, I took each CD and put it in my external CD drive, hooked up to my Mac. Copied each one, which takes less than 90 seconds, and named it according to what I saw on the images.

You know what else is great about these CDs? Don't need no stinkin' negatives when I have high-quality images directly from the developer!

Name and Date That File! 

Each image on each CD has a number and date attached by the developer (see at right for one example).

So as I cleaned images up, I added the month and year to each new image name.

Admittedly, not every photo is worth cleaning up and saving. In fact, I usually cleaned up only 6 or so out of 24 (or 36) images on a CD. I didn't delete any of the other images! I just opened and fixed the few photos from each CD that showed recognizable people, or something else meaningful.

I cropped, lightened or darkened, straightened, and otherwise tinkered with the best images from each CD, leaving the original exactly as it came off the CD. Then I renamed the cleaned-up images with the names of people in them (such as "Marian_Halloween_2009").

Share Those Images Now

I'm not waiting until I look at every single image on every single CD. After cherry-picking the best 6 or so from 4 different CDs, I emailed those cleaned-up versions to family members now.

Later, I'll put all on flash drives to send to relatives. But why make them wait? They're happy to see faces from the past. Me too. As I open and check more images from more CDs, relatives will be surprised to see the past in their inboxes. The more people who have these images, the more who can pass those images along to the next generation and beyond.

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Sharing family photos, stories, and other details is a great way to not only interest relatives in genealogy but also keep family history "in the family" for future generations. For more ideas on safeguarding family history, please take a look at my book, Planning a Future for Your Family's Past.

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Family Photos: The Man Who Wasn't There

Excerpt from 1916 wedding photo of Alex Farkas and Jennie Katz in New York City
Earlier this month, I wrote about using city directories to track ancestors through the years, noting not only who was where and when but who was missing in a given year.

Same goes for family photos. I have several group photos taken at family weddings. But sometimes a key ancestor is missing, as in the 1916 wedding photo shown above (with an excerpt of the caption page superimposed). This is my #52Ancestors story of the man who wasn't there.

Name that Farkas ancestor

If you squint, you can see someone long ago wrote numbers in white ink on people's hats or lapels. At one time, there was surely an identification key. But 103 years later, no one has it or remembers ever seeing it.

Interestingly, the bride and groom weren't numbered. So when I added the numbers (following the numbering system used on the original), I called the bride A and the groom B. The groom is my great uncle Alex Farkas, the bride is my great aunt Jennie Katz. I also recorded the occasion, date, and geographic location on this numbered photo for future generations to know.

One of my favorite cousins had already identified all the Farkas siblings in this photo. I typed up the list by number (see excerpt above, superimposed on photo). My Grandma Minnie Farkas Schwartz is #19 and Grandpa Teddy Schwartz is #20.

We had a question about one of the Farkas siblings, and another cousin chimed in to confirm who it was. The many blanks on the caption page are, we suspect, members of the bride's side and some friends, whose names and faces none of us know. No one is left on the bride's side to ask, and they had no children.

The man who wasn't there

Stepping back from the identifications, it was clear one Farkas sibling was not in the photo: Albert Farkas (1888-1956). Why was he not at his older brother's wedding?
I searched his time-line again and noticed that he was inducted into the US Army in August, 1918, to serve in WWI (see above). But that didn't explain his absence from a photo in December, 1916.

Clicking to search for more, I found a registration form (above) from the U.S. Consulate in Canada, indicating that Albert Farkas had registered as an American citizen living in Vancouver in November, 1912. He was still there in October, 1916, but this certificate was to expire within months.

Write it down or risk losing it

Asking around, I found one cousin who remembered the story: Albert left Vancouver in 1917 because, with Canada already at war, he was going to be called to serve in their military. So Albert came home to New York City and wound up drafted when America entered the war soon afterward.

I added this explanation to the bottom of my page of identifications because someday, when I join my ancestors, someone might notice Albert's absence from this family photo. If I don't write it down, it could be forgotten and fall into the category of one of those family history mysteries we all puzzle over.

It would be a shame to have the identifications lost for a second time. That's why I've sent my first and second cousins a three-page .pdf file of this photo with numbers, a page of captioned names, and an unnumbered version of the photo, asking them to share with their descendants. I want to keep the names and faces alive into the future.

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."

Monday, October 29, 2018

Detailed Captions from Ninety Years Ago

My late father-in-law, Edgar James Wood (1903-1986) was gifted with a camera for his birthday in 1917. He was immediately smitten with photography, which became his lifelong hobby.

Even before Ed became an insurance adjustor (circa 1930 in Cleveland, Ohio), he was careful about recording details. (He kept a pocket diary for decades, and I'm lucky enough to have 30 full years to mine for genealogical gold.)

Sorting through a box of old snaps and negatives shared by my sis-in-law, I found this neat album of individual negatives from Ed's 1928 trip across the Atlantic.

Ed's European trip from 90 years ago was aboard the Berengaria sailing out of New York. He listed dates, places, names (not always full names), and more. This album consisted of more than three dozen negatives!

Ed played his way across the Atlantic several times as the piano player for a "college jazz band." The band sailed for free, in exchange for playing during meals and perhaps at other times.

Someone in Europe arranged additional bookings in France, Italy, and other countries eager to hear the latest American jazz music popular during the Roaring Twenties. At the end of the summer, Ed and his associates would sail back to New York, playing instead of paying for passage.

I already had Ed's passport from 1928. He said he was a college student, but in reality, he dropped out before graduating in mid-1926--because his mother died suddenly, a few weeks earlier.

Thank you, Ed, for preserving your past for future generations. I'm doing my best to follow in your footsteps by captioning photos (old and new) so descendants will know who's who, where, and when.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

The "Write" Way to Write Family History

Thinking about writing your family's history? Here are the two most important words to remember: Start writing.

That's the "write" thing to do.

Maybe you feel you're not a writer or you haven't done enough research or you need more details or photos. Please keep in mind that as the keeper of the family history, you know more than your relatives. And your relatives and heirs don't expect Shakespeare--they will be delighted just to find out who their ancestors were!

Doing the "write" thing is, in fact, an excellent way to identify gaps in research and missing leaves on the tree. If something is wrong or incomplete (incorrect spelling, inaccurate dates, missing details), you can always fix it later. Really.

Case in point: In 2012, I printed a small photo book about my parents' wedding, which united the Burk and Schwartz families. The main purpose was to reprint the many family photos with captions, for the sake of future generations. Cousins helped me identify nearly everyone in every photo. But there were some "unknowns" and I simply called them that in the captions (see above). Better done than perfect. 

Fast-forward to 2017, when I smashed a brick wall and found second cousins who--wonder of wonders!--are descendants of the "unidentified cousins" in the photos. Needless to say, I immediately hand-wrote the new names into my printed photo book. Remember, the goal is to share family history with future generations, not to have an immaculate book. Earlier this year, when I saw a big sale, I reprinted the original photo book with corrections and additions.

So go ahead and do the "write" thing. Some ideas to get you in the "write" mood:
  • Pick a person or a surname or an occasion, spread out your research, and jot notes you can then flesh out into sentences and paragraphs. I wrote about one set of grandparents at a time, since their lives were intertwined, but I had a separate page or two about birth/early childhood of each individual.
  • Pick a photo and list the people in it. Then write a bit about each person and the relationships between some or all. Include what you know about where and when, or other details to "set the scene" for descendants who never knew these people. I found some photos so evocative that the words poured out almost faster than I could type.
  • Ask your audience (children or nieces/nephews or any other readers) who or what they'd like to know about. My family asked for a booklet about Mom and her twin sister. I'm making notes already. My sis-in-law wants a book about her parents. I'm scanning photos in preparation.
Our ancestors had real lives, personalities, hopes, problems. It's up to us, the genealogists of our generation, to get the next generation interested in tales of the past and keep alive the memory of people no longer with us.

You don't have to start at the beginning as you write. Sometimes the best way to get yourself going is to begin with something dramatic or humorous or characteristic of the person. My blog posts often serve as a rough draft of a family history booklet.

There's no one "write" way to write family history. You can write one page about one person, or a pamphlet about a couple, or a book about a family. You might decide to tell the stories in photos with captions, rather than using a lot of text. The important thing, as I said at the beginning, is to start writing. Enjoy the journey, and your family will enjoy what you write.

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!