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

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!