Sunday, May 28, 2017

Snapping Stones - Tips for Photographing


Each Memorial Day when I was growing up, I’d accompany my family to tend the graves of ancestors I never knew.  Small flags stood at attention on the graves of veterans and the scent from flowers filled the air. 

My grandmother had a “cemetery box” in the trunk of her car; it contained hand clippers, a trowel, garden gloves, a rag and a paper bag.  Grandma would don the gloves and clip any tall grass growing around the stone, putting the clippings in the paper bag.  If weeds were sprouting my mom carefully pulled them out or used the trowel to remove before tossing them into the paper bag.  Finally, the stone would be wiped down.  I don’t remember seeing either spraying the stones with a cleaning product but I had usually lost interest by that time and was wandering around looking at the pictures on nearby markers.

In the older part of the cemetery where my great grandfather lay, many stones contained photos of the deceased.   Frozen in time, I was fascinated by the faces staring out at me.  Many were in uniform having died during World War I.  Others were like my great grandfather who had died in the 1919 flu epidemic.  Who knew from which others had succumbed?  My imagination would kick in and I’d make up stories about their demise.  I was usually in the middle of some epic made up tale when I was called to return.  Back into the car we drove to yet another area of the cemetery to pay respects to family friends and former neighbors. 

In all those visits it never once occurred to me to take a picture of the stones.  Assuming they would always be there, why would a photo be needed?  By the time I had entered by teens vandals had toppled many stones in the older part of the cemetery and those that couldn’t be moved were damaged by having the picture obliterated by blows.  My great grandfather’s picture was one that was destroyed.  We had a copy of the photo but the stone was never repaired. 
Thank goodness for Find-A-Grave, Billion Graves and individuals who have posted gravestone photos on other sites.  If you’re planning an upcoming cemetery visit, make sure you snap a picture during your visit and upload to preserve the record.  Although we don’t think of a tombstone as a record, they are and need to be cited just like paper documents.

Here are a few hints for photographing stones:
  • It’s okay to tidy up the stone a bit but avoid major scrubbing.  I’ve added a spray bottle and bleach tablets to my cemetery kit.  Placing one tablet in the bottle and adding water, I can spray the stone to remove algae and dirt quickly.  I sometimes need to use a soft bristle brush, too, but be gentle! 
  • If someone has placed flowers or other adornments in front of the stone it’s alright to move them for the photo but please carefully replace when you’re done.
  • For upright standing stones – get down in front and level with the stone.  It reduces distortion and if the photo is taken close up, minimizes your shadow. 
  • For flat stones – try to take the picture from directly above making sure you don’t include your feet.  If you can’t do that, please crop the photo before uploading. 
  • Back up and take a photo of stones adjacent to the one that is of interest to you.  Possible relatives, neighbors or friends may have been buried close by and might be of help when you are researching paper documents when you return home.  This method may alert you to a child who died between census years or an uncle who came for a visit and passed away unexpectedly.  


Remember, just because it’s engraved in granite doesn’t make it so!  Conflicting evidence does occur; an error could have been made just like with paper.  If the cemetery office is open, stop in and ask for a copy of the records.  To save the staff time I often photograph them in lieu of having a photocopy made.  Being thoughtful goes a long way!

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Preserving Your Genealogy


At the recent National Genealogical Society conference, there was a lot of chatter about preserving your genealogical records after you’re gone.  I have to disagree with those that say if you don’t cite your work it will be tossed.  I don’t know about you, but my family could care less where I find what I find.  Unless the finder has been bitten by the genealogy bug, no one will understand the importance of citing and analyzing sources. 

That said, I’m definitely in favor of following the standards.  I think you should do the right thing but that is not going to save your years of effort from other destruction by surviving family members.  I firmly believe there is only 3 ways to make sure that your research is preserved but you must plan ahead:

  • Donate your work locally and/or electronically so that future folks you don’t even know can benefit.  These are the people who will not value your work if you didn't follow the standards soundly.
  • Publish now and get your work in as many hands as possible.  It’s quite simple to publish an eBook or you can print from whatever word processing program you use and have copies made at one of the big box office supply stores.  Just type "how to publish an eBook" in amazon.com's search engine and many free books are available to get you started.  The holidays are around the corner and who knows?!  A recipient might just get interested.
  • Getting a family member hooked is not as difficult as it sounds.  The idea here is to match the living person's passion to an ancestor.  My kids could care less about their Great Grandma Elsie's china.  I understand that; we've used it for years as they've grown so it's not so special. Will it be preserved?  Most definitely, but it's just not that exciting to them.  On the other hand, they're into medicine and research so learning about the life of that great uncle doctor in the 1800's and a 5th great grandfather who was a chemist really gets them listening. The old tool box is a draw for our son while the old thread is a tie for my daughter to her 2 x's great grandmother.  An attachment develops when you can relate so find the connection and you're work is safe!

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Neat Ideas from the National Genealogical Society Conference



Here are a ten of my most favorite experiences, most of which were FREE, at the National Genealogical Society Conference in Raleigh:

©      FamilySearch gave away #52Stories designed by @KenSikate – they are 3” x 3” cards with questions to help you get started writing your story.  I think they could also be used as an icebreaker activity for a family reunion or a starting point when interviewing a relative.  Visit FamilySearch for more writing ideas.
©      Palatines to America had a useful handout containing a What is the Relationship? Form.  If you get confused between Great Nephews and 3rd Cousin Once Removed this handy dandy template would be helpful. 
©      The National Archives’ (NARA) updated handout listed the links to their most used records.  I sometimes get lost on their site so this “Just the Facts, Ma’am” was nice.
©      NARA also hosts History Hub, an online site with blogs, discussion boards and community pages for anyone interested in history.  That was news to me and a place I plan on checking out.
©      Did you know that the Federation of Genealogical Societies publishes a quarterly electronic magazine for only $15.00/year?  That’s just $3.00 per issue!
©      I joined the New York Genealogical and Biographical Society as I want to get back into researching some of my hubby’s Long Island folks.  As a member, besides the wonderful journal, you get access to Findmypast AND the New York Public Library online. 
©      The USGenWeb Project had a laminated postcard with the 88 Ohio counties – very useful for me to track my people from Trumbull to Stark to Darke to Mercer and finally, to Van Wert.  I learned from an attendee I’ve been mispronouncing my dad’s birth city my whole life – Celina is pronounced Seh lie nah and not Seh lee na.  Who Knew?!
©      Fun Stuff for Genealogists had cute t-shirts, inexpensive jewelry, archive materials and historic map reproductions.  See their full catalog online.  I bought a tree bead and a brass tree charm. 
©      The Ohio Genealogical Society gave me a few ideas about my darling Duers who left so few records in their travels across that state.  The volunteer even consulted his own resources to see if my folks were named (they weren’t but it was a valiant attempt on his part). 
©      Bought the just released Mastering Genealogical Documentation by Thomas Jones with the plan on working through it this summer.  You can purchase a copy through the National Genealogical Society.


I’m hoping to be able to attend next year, too.  Paths to Your Past will be held in Grand Rapids, Michigan May 2-5, 2018.  

Thursday, May 18, 2017

DNA Plan


Had a wonderful time in Raleigh last week at the National Genealogical Society Conference!  I focused on DNA workshops as that is an area where I would like to gain more knowledge and practical experience.

My 3 favorite sessions on this topic were by Debbie Parker Wayne, Blaine Bettinger and Judy Russell.  Now that I have a rudimentary understanding, I plan on working through the book, Genetic Genealogy in Practice by Bettinger and Wayne this summer.  

I also learned that the Journal of Genetic Genealogy (JoGG) had been reactivated as a free peer reviewed online resource.  Check it out!

Two of the major DNA players, MyHeritage and Ancestry.com, offered conference specials but I decided to wait until Black Friday to make purchases.  My plan is to purchase kits from either or several organizations but more likely from Ancestry first since it has the larger database.  Then, I’ll download the results and upload to Family Tree DNA and Gedmatch.    
   
Hubby and I tested years ago through Ancestry – he did X and Y and I did X but that version is no longer supported.  I’d like to do add Autosomal this time around and include other family members. Besides the benefit of identifying new family members and confirming ones we are aware of, I think it would be fascinating to see if any mutations occurred between our kids and us and between my husband and his sister. 

For Mother’s Day, my family got me an e-Book, Mansions of the Dead, by Sarah Stewart Taylor.
It’s a genealogical murder mystery that I find interesting as it takes place in Boston, a city I’ve happily researched in, and revolves around mourning jewelry, which I’ve been fascinated with since working with a Client several years ago that inherited a mystery piece from a paternal grandmother.  The book was written when DNA analysis was relatively new and I question some of the info but it is a fun read and I can’t wait to confirm my hypothesis of who done it.  Happy Hunting!
     

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Raleigh Bound - Genealogy At Heart Hiatus



I’m off to North Carolina to attend the National Genealogical Society Conference.  I’m looking forward to seeing old friends and making new ones.  If you're planning on attending friend me on the conference ap.  Traveling with a co-worker is making the trip even more fun.  I'm planning on purchasing Tom Jones’ new book that will be released there – buying that as my own Mother’s Day present.  No blog until I return.  In the meantime, Happy Hunting!

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Genealogy Evolution


One of my local libraries was spring cleaning and decided to give away back issues of old magazines.  I picked up a few of Ancestry from the late 1990’s and last weekend, decided to sit outside to enjoy our beautiful weather and page through the September/October 1999, Vol. 17, No. 5 issue.  Holy Smokes did it jar me!
The main feature was a story entitled “Victorian Rites of Passage” which focused on changing burial practices.  Interesting but nothing new.  In fact, I remember reading the article back in the day.  I was about to just move on to the next magazine when I decided to thumb through the rest of the issue.  Glad I did as I paused at “FamilySearch Online:  The New LDS Web Site.”  I had to stop and think for a moment.  Has it really been 18 years since FamilySearch has been active online?!  That was my go to place then and continues to be so today.
Genealogy has moved by leaps and bounds since home computers became a norm and we have continued to adapt to the changes.  Prior to 1983 when my husband purchased our first home computer, a TI/99 with a genealogy program on a cartridge, all my work was handwritten group sheets and pedigree charts.  I diligently typed the information into the computer program while I was pregnant with my first child.  We had no printer so I don’t have a printout of those records but it did help me neatly organize names and dates.
By the time our second child was born a few years later, we had moved on to a Compaq system with a printer.  Genealogy software in the late 1980’s and 90’s was primarily CD-ROMs which were pricy and always on my birthday/Christmas list.  
As educators, my husband and I had FIRN accounts, a text only email and list serv, that we had used beginning in 1994.  That was strictly for the education world and no genealogy information was available.  Thanks to the free software at Kmart while back to school shopping, my family went America Online (AOL) in August 1995.  I remember the date because our oldest had started middle school and wanted to know if we could also get a fax machine so she could fax group assignments to peers.  We bought a HP printer-fax-scanner that lasted for years.  That was the machine I used to scan all my family photos and documents. 
There was little genealogy information available online during those days and I used the internet mostly for the AOL interest groups or emailing distant relatives mining for information.  Most of that was done late at night as we had dial-up and if we were online, the home phone was out of service.  We got our first mobile phone about that time but it was hardwired into our car and looked like a home phone of the day – cord and all! 
I’m not sure when I first downloaded the LDS’ free Personal Ancestral File (PAF) but I remember grumbling about having to re-enter all the data that was stored in the old cartridge program.  The Ancestry article mentions the release of PAF 4.0.  I used PAF, World Family Tree and Ancestry Family Tree at the time.  These were pre-Gedcom days.  These were pre-smart phone days.  These were limited search engine days.  These were pre-gotomeeting days.  These were pre-facebook-twitter-linkedin, etc. days.   
Wow, isn’t it amazing how far the genealogy world has progressed in less than 20 years?  Think about how far we’ve yet to grow.  How exciting!