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    In every family, someone ends up with “the stuff.” It is the goal of The Family Curator to inspire, enlighten, and encourage other family curators in their efforts to preserve and share their own family treasures.

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    Celebrate Family History Month with Your Ancestors


    October makes me long for New England. Crisp autumn days, color on the trees, and woodsmoke in the air. It's still warm enough for ancestor hunting in old cemeteries and cool enough for a real wool sweater, things we don't get much of in Southern California.

    I may not be visiting my favorite villages this fall, but I'm celebrating October's Family History Month with a few special family history projects. Some have been on the ToDo list for too long, and a few are new ideas for my holiday gift list. I figure any progress will be "some" progress, and I'm going to enjoy the process instead of worrying about getting everything perfect.

    First up, is to pull together the bits and pieces of information I have learned about my great grandfather, E. B. Kinsel. Mom and I found his burial plot in a local cemetery just a few miles from the Marriott Hotel in Burbank where the Southern California Genealogical Jamboree is held each year. E.B. rests in a lonely unmarked space in a quiet older area of the cemetery, and I want to confirm his birth and death information and make arrangements for a headstone.

    And while I have my notes open in front of me I need to write up what I know about E.B., his work as a railroad switchman and his life in New Mexico and Kansas. I'm going to do my best to stay focused on just writing what I know, not spinning off chasing loose ends. Instead, I'll make a note for future research. It's progress, not perfection, I'm after here. And it seems like finding E.B. is a good first step for Family History Month.

    What are you doing with your ancestors this month?


    Hanging Grandma on the Wall with Easy Document Decor [Project Tutorial]


    My handwriting has changed dramatically over the years, and I don’t just mean from block letter printing to Palmer-style cursive writing. Long hours at the keyboard have made it difficult to hold a pen such that most times I much prefer typing to writing. Maybe that’s why I love looking at old handwriting. Even bad old handwriting.

    My grandmother Arline’s baptismal certificate certainly isn’t an example of lovely penmanship. It seems to be a hastily completed form, signed by the pastor, incorrect birthdate notwithstanding. “Someone,” I’m guessing either mother Minnie L. Kinsel or my grandmother herself, corrected the date in red ink  and noted the mistake with a circle. As Dr. Thomas Jones so often notes, however, “Does it matter?” And “No, it doesn’t.” Whether Arline was born October 2nd or 3rd is not important. The year, the place, and the parents — now, this information is important.

    I like this document because it reminds me not only of Grandma Arline, but because it reminds me to stay focused on the things that do matter, and to  avoid the distraction of minutia. 

    The original baptismal certificate measures about 5 x 7-inches and is a pre-printed card. It is the earliest documentation of Arline’s birth I’ve been able to locate. As such, I don’t want to display the fragile original behind a frame or expose it to the elements in my home office. Instead, I created a wooden plaque that I can display in direct sunlight without fear of damage to an heirloom.

    Step-by-Step Project Instructions

    1. Scan the original

    Using my Epson Perfection Flatbed Scanner, I scanned the original certificate at 600 dpi in TIFF format, full color. The orange color-cast is a true representation of the discoloration that has occurred over time. 

    2. Resize as desired and print

    My photo software easily prints from TIFF or JPG images, but I could have converted to JPG for printing if needed. I printed to fill a letter-size sheet of paper, which fit the 7 x 10.5 wooden board I wanted to use.

    For decoupage, I wanted a lightweight paper that would accept a true-color print — regular inkjet copy paper worked well. 

    3. Prepare the wooden plaque

    I prepared the wooden board my sanding the surface and edges smooth and then painting with a diluted coat of white latex paint (leftover from a recent home decorating project). 

    4. Decoupage the print to wood

    When the board was dry, I added a coat of Mod Podge Matte-Mat decoupage glue using a foam brush, smoothed the paper baptism print on top of the goo, and then applied another coat of Mod Podge. I worked slowly and carefully to get the paper (mostly) smooth. When the plaque was dry, I added a final coat. 

    Find more photo project ideas in 25 Easy Keepsake Projects featured in How to Archive Family Photos.


    Go To (Genealogy) School this Weekend

    VC Banner

    Who says you can’t be two places at one time? This weekend I’ll be one of 15 presenters for the Fall 2015 Virtual Genealogy Conference presented by Family Tree University online with video classes in genetic genealogy, research strategies, genealogy technology, and ethnic research. I will also be presenting in-person at the Whittier Area Genealogical Society monthly meeting in California.

    If you can’t make it to Southern California, join me for the Fall Virtual Conference and save $20 on registration with an exclusive coupon for readers of The Family Curator. Use coupon code VCDENISE20 when you register to receive the savings.

    Online learning is fun, convenient, and motivating. Get more out of the weekend by participating in the live chats or message board discussions. Expert genealogists will be available to answer questions, and you can download all of the video classes for later viewing. You don’t have to show up at a specific time to participate; just check in during the conference September 18-20, 2015 for full access. A great “Swag Bag” of freebies from is also included with registration.

    Remember to use coupon code VCDENISE20 to save $20 on registration. 


    15 Habits of Highly Frugal Genealogists Free This Weekend [Review]

    15 Habits Highly Frugal  Cover

    Found money! That’s the subject of Thomas MacEntee’s new book 15 Habits of Highly Frugal Genealogists, and in true frugal-style the ebook will be completely FREE this weekend September 4 - 6, 2015. What genealogist doesn’t want to save some cash and spend it on archival supplies or vital records instead?

    As my family’s “keeper of the stuff” I’m always looking for ways to stretch my archiving budget. I was excited to download a pre-release copy of Thomas MacEntee’s new book where I found a lot more than 15 ways to save big on my genealogy purchases. It looks like 15 Habits grew to over 30, and were topped off with a dozen exclusive discount offers from some of the biggest names in the genealogy industry. 

    You’ll find savings offers from, Flip-Pal, ShopFamilyTree and more.

    Some of these tips I’d heard of before, but I didn’t remember the links or realize how easy they are to do. Reselling old technology? What a great idea! Good for the wallet, good for the next person. And now I now where to sell that old Epson Perfection V500 scanner!

    I especially appreciate the great deals for archival supplies and digitizing services, because that’s where most of my genealogy budget goes first. But, research savings from from online database services leave more cash for acid-free boxes, so I’m highlighting a LOT of ideas in this little book. 

    15 Habits of Highly Frugal Genealogists is a little book with a lot to offer. The Genealogy Ninja, Thomas MacEntee knows his way around the genealogy community and he’s pulled together a cost-cutting, time-saving collection for every family historian. 

    You don’t need an Amazon Kindle to read this free Kindle book. Remember, you can read free Kindle books on your computer or any mobile device with the FREE Kindle App available at

    From to Amazon, from DNA to digital services, I’ve already printed out the list of offers so I can take advantage of the savings. This weekend, download your free copy of 15 Habits of Highly Frugal Genealogists, and take advantage of the special offers valid through 2015. After September 6 the book will be on sale at Be a Frugal Genealogist, download your FREE copy this weekend.


    The Family Curator in the UK

    FamilyTree UK magazine Sept

    I’m pleased to share the news of my feature article appearing in the September Issue of Family Tree UK, the British family history magazine published in England for over 30 years. In “How to digitise and preserve your family photos,” I had the opportunity to work with Editor Helen Tovey and learn a little more about the British genealogy community.

    My article on focuses on caring for old family photos, from scanning to archiving. I selected a dozen of own favorite photos from my grandmother’s collection to illustrate the story. I think she would love the idea of being a British Pin-up Girl!

    How to digitise article

    With the emphasis on “family history,” it’s not surprising that many articles and books published in the Genealogy category focus on the historical aspect of ancestral research. I first noticed this when I attended the Who Do You Think You Are Conference in London a few years ago. I was unprepared for the large number of book and magazine publishers with stalls as compared to national genealogy conferences in the United States. If you are interested in a specific event, region, or group in British history, there’s a good chance you can find an entire book on the subject.

    Family Tree UK magazine shares a similar interest in historical subject matter, so I was honored to be invited to submit an article on preserving family photos for the September 2015 issue featuring:

    • WWI 1915 Crew List Project with Editor Helen Tovey
    • Cheese Making in North Dorset by Hilary Townsend
    • The Kipling Controversy by military historians Tonie and Valmai Holt
    • Childhood Then and Now by Australian historian Dr. Noeline Kyle
    • Getting Started with genealogy research by Scottish researcher Chris Paton

    Scores of color photographs and wonderful images of British research documents illustrate each article in the monthly magazine. If you have ancestors from Great Britain, or if you have a keen interest in British history and social culture, you are sure to find “smashing” feature reading in Family Tree UK.

    American readers can purchase single issues or subscribe to Family Tree UK with an affordable digital edition that can be read on computer or mobile device. More information is available through PocketMags.

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