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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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    Friday
    Dec192014

    A Christmas Gift from the United States Census Bureau: the Long-Form Census

    American Community Survey Letter

    The first official notice arrived in early December. We are one of a small percentage of American households selected to complete what used to be known as the "long form" census and we feel pretty darn special, that's for sure! The one page letter, single sheet (English/Spanish) was addressed: 

    To the Resident of

    with one line instructions:

    Go to https://respond.conesus.gov/acs to complete the American Community Survey.

    We were invited us to go online to complete the survey. But with one thing and then another, the invitation was set aside. Until a reminder arrived yesterday with the BIG survey 28-page booklet, noting:

    This survey is so important that a Census Bureau representative may attempt to contact you by telephone or personal visit if we do not receive your response.

    Lest we think we are (too) special, the letter added:

    The Census Bureau chose your address, not you personally, as part of a randomly selected sample. You are required by U.S. law to respond to this survey. . .

     

    Failure to comply or providing false information is a federal offense punishable by fine, Title 18 U.S.C Section 3571 and Section 3559, which amends Title 13 U.S.C. Section 221How much you'd have to pay, and whether or not this law is enforced is a topic of discussion. The Austin American-Statesmanwebsite notes that "the fine for refusing to answer a bureau survey can be as much as $5000," although "no one has been prosecuted for failing to respond to a survey since the 1970 census."

    The printed questionnaire is a large booklet measuring 10-1/2 inches square with staple binding. It's filled with 28-pages or questions printed with black ink inside green boxes. The checkboxes and fill-in-the-blank response boxes are large white boxes. The Census Bureau obviously wants to make this form as easy as possible to read and complete.

    Why Don't They Just Call It, 'The Census'?

    Politicians seem to get itchy whenever Census is mentioned. Some like it, some don't. The questions are reviewed, approved (or not). Some questions have been asked in every Census since 1790 -- how cool is that! Some are new. In fact, a lot of questions are new… and controversial. I read a little about the battle for the census here and here and here.

    I wish they just called it "the old census" instead of the ACS. The new name and new random sampling are a response to public sentiment that the long-form every-decade full census was too long and too intrusive. The new ACS samples 250,000 households  per month, adding us in the final cut for 2014.

    The American Community Survey website helpfully lists the questions categories and provides a link to the American Community Survey Information Guide. I was interested in the questions asked and found a downloadable PDF of all questions as well as information about individual questions. Each question is presented with responses:

    Why We Ask

    History

    Federal Uses

    State and County Uses

    Private Sector Uses

    Questions We Wished They'd Asked in 1880

    Genealogists love information on births, immigration, and former residences, but it's not hard to imagine why some people might feel that the government is getting a little personal. As I rephrased and copied the questions from the booklet for this list, I felt a few twinges too. The official survey site labels the questions with official-sounding names like Fertility, Disability, or Plumbing Facilities, but what (or whom) do you think of when you read:

    Because of a physical, mental, or emotional condition, does this person have serious difficulty concentrating, remembering or making decisions?"

    Does this person have serious difficulty walking or climbing stairs?

    Does this person have difficulty dressing or bathing?

    Because of a physical, mental, or emotional condition, does this person have difficulty doing errands alone such s visiting a doctor's office or shopping?

    Wouldn't we love to have those answers on the 1880 census when multi-generational households were typical, not unusual? Or

    Does this person have any of his/her own grandchildren under the age of 18 living in this house or apartment?

    Is this grandparent currently responsible for most of the basic needs of any grandchildren under the age of 18 who live in this house or apartment?

    How long has this grandparent been responsible for these grandchildren?

    What They Ask in 2014

    Questions on today's American Community Survey begin with name and telephone number, and the number of people at the residence. The form asks the following Information for each person in the residence:

    1. Name
    2. Relationship to Person 1
    3. Sex
    4. Age, Date of Birth
    5. Hispanic, Latiino or Spanish origin
    6. Race

    Pages 2 through 4 provide space for up to itemized information for up to five household members; persons 6 through 12 are listed by name, sex, age.

    On page 5 through 7, the survey asks questions about Housing:

    1. Kind of building (mobile home, house, apartment, etc)
    2. When built
    3. When Person 1 moved in
    4. How many acres
    5. Actual sales of agricultural products from this property in last 12 months
    6. Business on the property (store, barber shop)
    7. How many separate rooms
    8. How many bedrooms
    9. Hot/cold running water, flush toilet, bathtub/shower, sink with faucet, stove, refrigerator, telephone including cell phone
    10. Do you or any household members own computers, handheld, other type of computer
    11. Subscribe to internet using dial-up, DSL, cabel, fiber-optic, mobile broadband plan, satellite Internet, other
    12. Number of vehicles
    13. Which fuel used most for heating
    14. Utilities
      • Cost of electricity last month
      • Cost of gas last month
      • Cost of water and sewer last 12 months
      • Cost of oil, coal, wood etc last 12 months
    15. Did you r receive Food Stamps last 12 months
    16. Part of a condominium
    17. Home owned with/without mortgage, rented, occupied without rent
    18. If rented, monthly rent
    19. If owned or mortgaged, potential sale value
    20. Annual property taxes
    21. Annual fire, flood, hazard insurance
    22. Other debt against property
      • Monthly mortgage payment
      • Include property taxes?
      • Include insurance?
    23. Second mortgage
    24. Total costs for taxes, rent, registration, license for mobile home and site

    Pages 8 through 11 ask questions about Person 1, followed by four pages each for responses from Persons 2, 3, 4, and 5.

    PERSONAL

    • Name
    • Where born
    • U.S. Citizen by birth in U.S., territories, abroad of U.S. parents, or by naturalization (give year)
    • What year to U.S.
    • Attended school or college in last 3 months, public or private
    • What grade atending
    • Highest degree or level of school
    • B.A. Degree major
    • Ancestry or ethnic origin
    • Language spoken at home
    • How well does this person speak English
    • Live in this house 1 year ago, if no whether outside U.S. or different house in U.S.
    • Where living 1 year ago, address

    HEALTH

    • Health insurance coverage
    • Deaf or hard of hearing
    • Blind or vision impaired
    • 5 years and  older:
      • Mental impairment due to physical, mental or emotional condition
      • Difficulty walking or climbing stairs
      • Difficulty dressing or bathing
    • 15 years and older
      • Difficulty doing errands alone due to physical, mental or emotional condition
      • Marital status
      • in last 12 months married, widowed, divorced
      • How many times married
      • What year last married
    • Female age 15 to 50
      • Given birth to any children in the past 12 months
      • his/her own grandchildren under 18 living in this house
      • this grandparent responsible for most of basic needs of under 18 children living in this house
      • how long responsible for these grandchildren
    • Active duty in U.S. Armed Forces, Reserves or National Guard
    • When served
    • VA servicie-connected disability rating
    • What is this persons service-connected disability rating

    EMPLOYMENT

    • Last week, work for pay at a job
    • Address where last worked
    • Transportation to work last week
    • How many people rode in vehicle
    • Left home at what time to go to work last week
    • How many minutes to get home from work last week
    • On layoff last week
    • Temporarily absent from job last week
    • Informed to return to work within 6 months
    • Actively looking for work
    • Could have started work if recalled
    • When last worked
    • In last 12 months, did this person work 50 or more weeks?
      • How many weeks worked?
    • How many hours worked each week
    • Current of most recent job activity
    • For whom worked
    • Kind of business or industry
    • Manufacturing, wholesale, retail, other?
    • What kind of work
    • Most important duties

    INCOME in Last 12 Months

    • Wages
    • Self-employmnet income
    • Interest, dividents, other income
    • Social Security or Railrod Reitrement
    • SSI
    • State or local assistance
    • Pensions
    • Other income
    • Total income

    The entire survey is rated to take 40 minutes to complete. The time required will certainly vary with the number of household members.

    We will do our civic duty this evening. Personally, I'm glad it's eggnog season.

     

     

    Monday
    Dec152014

    Until We Meet Again, Kathleen

    Kathleen LevenickA little over a week ago I said goodbye to my sister-in-law at LAX as she headed to Texas for the baptism of her newest grandchild. She had not been well, and this trip was a trial run for future travel at Christmas and beyond. We were both relieved that the baggage check-in and wheelchair assist went smoothly, and we confirmed plans for her return and as we hugged and said goodbye. In the early hours of Saturday morning I received a call from my nephew that she had passed away at her son’s home. Kathleen Edson Levenick was 70.

    Kathleeen and I were friends, allies, and eventually sisters (by law) for over forty years. When I first met my husband, he raved about his brother’s clever and witty young new wife. When I met her, I knew why he was a fan. Kathleen filled every room with her smile and charm. In a family of starke und stabile Deutsche, she was a wild Irish rose whose stories made post-dinner clean up hilarious. She was the first grown-up I’d ever heard use the “F” word. She pulled me outside the kitchen to share a cigarette from her secret stash and would then return to the house and tease her husband when he made excuses to run to the market, code for “I need a smoke.” It took years for me to finally realize that most of her stories were mostly. . . stories.

    While I aimed to follow Martha Stewart’s footsteps with one homemade cookie for each of the 12 day of Christmas, she was slicing and baking Pillsbury. I clipped recipes, she clipped open four boxes of Stouffer’s frozen Spinach Souffle, pressed the blocks into a Pyrex dish and passed it off as homemade. Our family spent most summer afternoons lazing around her pool, waiting for dinner. The brothers Lev would torch the barbeque and everyone dined on scorched beef with all the fixins. When I taught at the boy’s grade school, one nephew’s third grade teacher asked me to get the recipe for John’s favorite dessert, Pie in Minutes.

    Now I realize how smart she really was.

    Together we endured countless family dinners presided over by the family matriarch. We both heard the same refrain: What did we ever do to deserve her precious boys? Kathleen redeemed herself admirably by producing four more males to carry on the family name. It’s was a great irony that the women who weren’t good enough to marry the sons, could be the mothers of the smartest most wonderful grandsons in the world.

    Family: Sister-in-Law Kathleen (left), sister Deanna, Denise, and Dan

    Our homes were only four short blocks apart, with the grandparents' between. We spent Ski Week together at Yosemite and celebrated every birthday and holiday with a chaotic family dinner. We attended the same church, were members of the same volunteer organizations, and our six boys attended the same Catholic schools for thirteen years. When the last Levenick boy graduated from eighth grade, the Principal announced the milestone event to a standing ovation from the long-suffering faculty and fellow parents.

    Kathleen and I shared a love of all things English, especially Jane Austen, period drama, cozy mysteries, and tea. She remembered my birthday without fail, often with a new mystery series. Like an older wiser sister, she coaxed me into playing hooky from housework and childcare, praised my obsessive creative efforts, and teased me into taking risks with new friendships. Her friends became my friends too, and she generously shared her network of caring, interesting people.

    Thirteen years ago Kathleen lost much of the joy in her life with the unexpected death of her husband while they were in Boston for another family milestone, their son’s college graduation. The past few decades have been difficult, but the outpouring of love and support since Kathleen’s death is a testament of the lives she enriched with her laughter and the friendships she nourished in better times. I will miss her deeply.

    Kathleen Edson Levenick was born in Sacramento, 8 October 1944 and passed away 6 December 2014. She graduated from the University of Colorado and was a schoolteacher before a chance meeting with her future husband on a flight to Seattle. The couple settled in Pasadena where they raised four sons and were active in church, school and community life. Kathleen enjoyed gardening, playing bridge and travel. She will be greatly missed by her family and many friends.

    Thursday
    Dec042014

    Family Heirlooms: The Ultimate Holiday Regift

    My favorite heirloom brothers, Dan and Mike Hiestand, have thrown down the glove again this holiday season in their annual campaign against Too Much Stuff. If you follow The Heirloom Registry or the Home History Book, you may have met Dan and Mike. Together they founded Houstory, a small business dedicated to preserving family keepsakes and the home histories.

    I first met Dan at the SCGS Jamboree in Burbank a few years ago. I loved the Home History Book, a beautiful hand-crafted journal designed to help record the history of your house. And I really liked the The Heirloom Registry, a legacy website created to hold the history of family heirlooms and reconnect stories and artifacts through generations. I first wrote about The Heirloom Registry in Before the Pirate Toy Chest Became an Heirloom after we discovered my husband's childhood treasure in the family home. 

    NoMore 0681

    For the past few years, the Houstory Bros. have waged a quiet but effective campaign to bring sanity to holiday over-gifting. They call it the "#No More Stuff" campaign and you can read about it at the Houstory Blog. So, while The Family Curator is all about preserving and archiving the "stuff" that you inherit and treasure, the Houstory Brothers are encouraging us not to acquire a lot of additional "stuff" that we don't really need or want. I like the idea. I have more than enough wonderful keepsakes accumulated from my life, and my parents and grandparents. It's hard enough to care for what's under my roof right now, I certainly don't need more. The Houstory campaign reminds me of William Morris and the Arts and Crafts mantra:

    Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.

    At holiday time, especially, it's a worthwhile thought to bear in mind.

    I like the gift Dan and Mike's parents gave to their children last year -- they recorded the stories of their favorite family heirlooms to preserve online at The Heirloom Registry where their children, grandchildren, and extended family could read the history of those keepsakes.

    Pass It On

    Both my mother and my mother-in-law were thoughtful family historians. They didn't have The Heirloom Registry, but each woman wrote notes about the provenance of special items and tucked them inside the keepsake. My mom made notes of wedding gifts or where she bought something. My mother-in-law liked to leave the price tag and a note about the "priceless" treasure she found at a bargain. I tend to sketch a chain of ownership, starting as far back as possible to record the owner, their birth and death dates, residence, and anything I know about the manufacture and item.

    My goal for next year is to gift each family with a keepsake notebook with stories and photos of a few special heirlooms, and to start passing along some of those treasures to the next generation. I think it will feel good to see those things in a new home, and be a good answer to the Houstory campaign. Maybe we can call it "Pass It On."

    I created a form to help me remember the details I wanted to record about my family keepsakes, including description, previous owners, and former locations. Here is a link to download a free copy of my form to use for your own heirloom book or to help you prepare stories to upload to The Heirloom Registry:

    The Family Curator's Family History Form
    Monday
    Dec012014

    When Advent Meets Advertising

    Sony Center Advent Wreath

    Once again, Cyber Monday collides with the first week of the Advent Christmas Season reminding many to stop and reflect instead of reaching for the credit card . With only twenty-one shopping days between Thanksgiving and Christmas, the onslaught of marketing emails and ads have created a nervous frenzy that has nothing to do with traditional holiday activities like baking, decorating, or packing for a family vacation. Instead, it’s all about the presents.

    Advent is All About ‘The Present'

    Beginning the fourth Sunday before Christmas Day, churches light the first of four candles to begin the journey toward December 25. Each week a different them helps the congregation focus on one aspect of preparing for Christ’s birth. Although many Protestant denominations today celebrate this Advent ritual, it’s unlikely our Baptist ancestors would have practiced much about this more Roman Catholic tradition. The beginning of Advent also marks the start of a new church year for Roman Catholics, Anglicans, Lutherans, Moravians, Presbyterians, and Methodists. I suppose my grandparent’s Nebraska Lutheran church may have celebrated this tradition as well. Another connection to the past.

    The Four Weeks of Advent

    Liturgical colors shift to purple (Catholic) and Blue (Lutheran) as the first purple candle is lit to signify Hope. Each week another candle is lit, so that by Christmas Day all four are burning.

    • first week, violet: hope
    • second week, violet: peace
    • third week, rose: love
    • fourth week, violet: joy

    Some traditions add a white candle in the center, or vary the focus of each week’s prayers and reflections. And like many faith traditions, the Advent wreath with its evergreen circle and candles of light may have roots in older folk rituals to harken the return of spring in the midst of a cold, dark winter.

    Our Family Advent Traditions

    We didn’t celebrate the Advent wreath or candles when I was young, and I didn’t really discover Advent calendars until I learned German and spent a college semester in Heidelberg. My husband’s Catholic family had lived in post-war Germany, and beautiful glitter-decorated Advent calendars were popular gifts to our sons each year. My mother-in-law was famous for her Christmas card collage creations using re-purposed German Advent calendars. 

    As I unpack the felt Advent calendar handmade by my sister-in-law many years ago and unwrap the cellophane from the version hiding chocolates behind each numbered door, I find that I’m not only preparing and anticipating the joy of Christmas, but I’m also celebrating the memories of past seasons. This season of Advent holds it all: Past, Present, and Future.

    Read More about Advent Traditions

    Sacred Space, from the Irish Jesuits, my personal favorite 

    Advent 2014 - Roman Catholic

    Billy Graham’s Advent Devotional

    Photo Credit: oonola, Adventskranz XXL "Brilliant Xmas Season" im Sony Center am Potsdamer PlatzBerlin-Tiergarten, Dezember 2012. On Flickr.

     

    Friday
    Nov212014

    Exclusive Interview with Steve Robinson, Best-Selling Author of the Jefferson Tayte Genealogical Mystery Series


    There's nothing quite like a good book to fill the hours of a long holiday weekend. Make that a good genealogy mystery, and it's even better. Join me for a chat with Amazon author Steve Robinson talking about The Lost Empresshis newest addition to the Jefferson Tayte Genealogical Mystery Series .

    If you've never read about Robinson's family history sleuth, get ready to meet a quirky and interesting character who might remind you of a few genealogists you know. Tayte is a friendly, accomplished, professional American genealogist with a yearning to discover his own past. Blocked by brick walls to his own family history, J.T. unravels the secrets of other people's family stories instead. In The Lost Empress, J.T. returns to England looking for clues to to a survivor from The Empress of Ireland's tragic sinking in 1914. He finds espionage, twisted tales, and family secrets -- all the ingredients for a good book on a long winter evening.

    The Lost Empress cover

    Denise: The Lost Empress includes so much historical detail that it's obvious you spent a good deal of time researching the ship and the aftermath of her tragic sinking. How long did the actual research require to make you feel grounded in the story? And was Alice modeled after any actual passenger?

    Steve: I do spend a lot of time on research. It’s actually a big part of what I love about my writing. I find the historical research particularly fascinating and The Lost Empress was no exception. As I read about the tragic loss of the Empress of Ireland I honestly couldn’t believe that I’d never heard of the ship before – and yet the loss of life is comparable to the sinking of the Titanic and the Lusitania that same decade. Perhaps it’s for that reason that I felt particularly drawn to my research into the ship and the passengers aboard that fateful journey. I would strongly encourage everyone to find out more about the Empress of Ireland, and to share her story with others so that she might better be remembered.

    I also had to learn about life in post Edwardian times, of course, and I’ve tried to convey a sense of the time as much through the subtle nuances of the language as well as the everyday objects that help to describe the time. I love the idea of a penny lick – eating ice cream from a glass dish. Yum! As my lead character from the past, Alice Stilwell, was an admiral’s daughter, a great deal of naval research was also required, particularly concerning Chatham’s former royal dockyard and the naval warships of the time, which I found fascinating.

    On the whole I’d say that my research takes about a quarter, or perhaps even a third, of the time that it takes me to write a book. Alice is entirely fictional, although some of the incidents and actions aboard the ship in her last moments are drawn from real events and characters.

    About Alice...

    Denise:  The story is set at the eve of the Great War, when women's roles were still mostly defined by the men in their lives -- fathers, brothers, husbands. Alice Stillwell is aptly drawn, but was it difficult to put yourself into a mindset so different from 21st century sensibilities? Her character is very different from the strong female roles in your previous books.

    Steve:  Male dominance in Britain was very much on my mind when I imagined the life of Alice Stilwell. Women had no right to vote back then of course, and their place was seen as strictly in the home. It’s hard to imagine nowadays that this was only a hundred years ago. Equipped with that mindset, I wouldn’t say it was too difficult to portray Alice as a typical, if somewhat privileged, woman of her time.  I felt that her strength should come from within, rather than being overt, so I’ve not drawn her as such a strong character on the outside, perhaps. But what she goes through demands great strength of character nonetheless and it is through her resolve to protect the people closest to her that drives her on to the story’s conclusion.

    Denise: Alice was well balanced by the other female lead, JT's new British genealogy lady friend.  And I loved the genealogical clues you put right out there in front of our nose! Do you think you are becoming more of a genealogist as you work in this genre with JT?

    Steve: I hope so, and I do believe that I am. I put as much research into the genealogical aspect of my stories as I do for the historical sections. Essentially I have to set JT brick wall after brick wall, and then I have to help him to break them down, even though I rarely know the solution when that wall goes up. Working through the genealogy myself, and making sure it all stacks up, can take a lot of time and I learn a great deal each and every time I tackle something new. I really love old newspapers, which can help as much with my historical research as they can for the genealogy. Bringing crime fiction to genealogy means that my genealogical research isn’t always so much about family relationships either, but the family members lives, and very often the crimes they are either perpetrating, or are otherwise caught up in. The thing that strikes me most about genealogy is that it’s so diverse. All past documents are records or clues to our ancestors lives. It’s no wonder that the puzzle is often so difficult to piece together.

    Is DNA in J.T.'s Future?

    Denise: Your website mentions the next mystery in the series. Can you say what form of genealogical research might be involved? Will JT be working with DNA next?

    Steve: I’m sure DNA will feature in the series at some point, and there might well be a place for it in book 5. JT’s next mystery will largely focus on finding someone in a foreign land. That’s very cryptic, I know, but I find it difficult to talk about a new book without giving things away, and I do like to keep things close to my chest, at least until the first draft is written. I will say that I’m having quite a time translating records written in languages foreign to my own at the moment, which is an a entirely new challenge for me. Perhaps you could ask me again closer to the release date and I’ll tell you how I got on.

    The Lost Empress back

    In the Blood, Steve's first book in the Jefferson Tayte Genealogical Mystery Series earned widespread praise as an author-published title, and was selected by Amazon UK as one of the 'Best Books of 2011.' From Kindle editions, each book has gone on to be published in paperback and audio editions. The Lost Empress was released last month in all formats.
     
    Steve's been known to drop by The Family Curator, so feel free to leave any questions or comments for him here, or visit his website Steve Robinson.
    If you like to read series books in order (like I do), here's the chronology of mystery series:
     

             

     
     
     
    Friday
    Nov142014

    How to Host a Turkey Shoot (Camera Required)

     

    Our family has never been big on after-turkey day flag flag football. Instead, we've been known to drag out a jigsaw puzzle, mix up a spirited holiday eggnog, or round up a posse for the sorta-annual Thanksgiving Turkey Shoot. No firearms required. All you need is your smartphone, your car keys and a few willing turkeys. . . ummm relatives.

    Turkey Shoot Rules & Regulations

    Rule #1: Each team shall consist of a minimum of 3 turkeys (contestants), one automobile, and one Polaroid camera.

    The first time we tried this was 1998 when my sister and family lived in Silverado Canyon, an isolated canyon in the Orange County hills of Southern California. As I remember, the crowd that year included kids of all ages, aunts and uncles, parents and grandparents, and bewildered guests. My sister worked out the "Destinations" using local landmarks and the teams were pretty evenly filled with at least one "local" in each group.

    Smartphone cameras would work as a good substitute for the Polaroids, or you could use the fun new Instax Instant Film  cameras. Everyone likes to see their picture actually printed, so it might be worth borrowing a few instant-print cameras if possible.

    Rule #2: The objective of the competition is to navigate your team between suggested destinations and return with photographic proof of your adventures.

    This Thanksgiving Turkey Shoot is a riff on an old fashioned scavenger hunt.  The Regulation Handbook needs to list the Rules (VERY important to family harmony) and destinations with points.

    Rule #3: Depending upon the degree of difficulty, each potential destination has been awarded a point value.

    More points awarded for a photo of a live turkey than a pogo of a bale of hay.

    Rule #4: Teams which demonstrate ingenuity by devising a means to have a stranger operate their camera, (so that all team members appear in the photo) will be awarded 10 bonus points per destination.

    And, THIS, is where family harmony can begin to break down. The rules state that "a stranger" must operate the camera -- because Polaroid camera's didn't work with a remote shutter release, duh -- but what if you "know" the "stranger." Does the team still earn the points? 

    Rule #5: No team is allowed to leave the canyon.

    It's a good idea to establish geographic boundaries or you may lose your contestants.

    Rule #6: Desitnations may be visited in any sequence.

    Another good rule that helps to spread out the teams in your area. Watch out for neighbors who may help or hinder teams that follow the first one. Folks seem to get into the spirit of the event. It might be good to heat up more cider for the after-party.

    Rule #7: Return to the host's home at the designated time.

    Our teams dragged home in a most untimely fashion. Penalize tardiness with a point loss to get the turkeys home before dark.

    Rule #8: The team with the highest total point score will be honored at the Gala Awards Ceremoney and be exempt from dishwashing duties.

    Prizes are always welcome! Recycle old trophies, or make your own with chocolate turkeys!

    Turkey Shoot Destinations

    (Customize for your neighborhood. Don't make 'em too easy.)

    Turkey Class - 35 points each

    With a live turkey

    With something that embodies the spirit of Thanksiving

    In front of a "Kids at Play" sign

    In front of an Eiffel tower (!)

    Sitting on a hammock

    Stuffing Class - 30 points each

    On top of a castle

    In front of a roaring fire

    In front of a "Road Ends" sign

    With two dogs owned by a stranger

    On a boat

    Cranberry Class - 25 points each

    With a horse

    Standing next to a fire truck

    On a walking bridge

    In front of a "Happy Thanksgiving" sign

    Sitting on a bale of hay

    You won't want to miss a photo of all the teams, maybe holding up their winning photos.

    Turkey Shoot Handbook

    Turkey Shoot Variations 

    City Version

    My sister reminded me that the original version of this game included city destinations such as: Have your photo taken with a Starbucks Barista (you could add a Pumpkin Latte!). 

    Newspaper Edition

    The Newspaper in Education website includes a Thanksgiving Newspaper Scavenger Hunt that's a good option if the weather isn't cooperating with an outdoor driving shoot.

    Monday
    Nov102014

    Armistice Day Parade 1921 in Lincoln, Nebraska

    My grandparents, Edna and Walter May, were great amateur photographers and filled several black paper photo albums with snapshots, all duly captioned and dated (thank you, Gma!). This photo was taken on Wednesday, November 11, 1921 in downtown Lincoln, Nebraska. My grandfather Walter G. served in the Army 314th Supply Train during World War I.

    May 1922 photo album064

    In Washington, D.C., Armistice Day was marked by the dedication of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier as the body of an American soldier fallen on the battlefield in France was buried in Arlington Cemetery. This was also the first year that November 11 was commemorated as a legal Federal holiday throughout the United States of America.

    Tuesday
    Nov042014

    Photo Hightlights from NARA in New York City

     from my Scrapbook. . .

    A few weeks ago I met up with Allison Dolan and Diane Haddad from Family Tree Magazine at the Alexander Hamilton U.S. Custom House in New York City for The Genealogy Event, a three-day genealogy and DNA conference. It was a great chance to meet other genealogists and tour the historic Custom House building located at Battery Park. Here are a few of my favorite snapshots from the weekend -- 

    Oct travel 23

    Alexander Hamilton U.S. Custom House on Bowling Green, built in 1906-07
    near the site of the original Fort Amsterdam settlement. Now home of 
    The National Archives of New York City and the National Museum of the
    American Indian. 

    Oct travel 22

    Family Tree Magazine Editor Diane Haddad and Publisher Allison Dolan
    at the Custom House. Sculpture by Daniel Chester French
    representing the four continents of international commerce.

    Oct travel 25

    Oct travel 26

    The Rotunda features a series of murals by Reginald Marsh depicting the shipping
    activities he observed on New York's shores.
    The panels are colorful and full of life. 

    Oct travel 27

    One of my favorite panels. I love Lady Liberty viewing the City and harbor.

    Oct travel 28

    View from the second floor (location of the NARA research rooms)
    of the colorful ceiling and beautiful lighting below. 

    Oct travel 29

    NARA exhibit of the early log book showing the first custom payments 
    made at the building.

    Oct travel 30

    This map is made up of tiny thumbnail images of documents and photos held at
    National Archives repositories throughout the nation. Very cool!

    Oct travel 21

    My walk through Battery Park included a view of the Statue of Liberty and
    the tourist boat waiting to depart. 

    Tuesday
    Oct142014

    Family Archivist Survival Kit Available for a Limited Time

    Sally Jacobs Madison Magazine

    Looking for archival boxes? Through the month of October Sally Jacobs, The Practical Archivist, is offering the Family Archivist Survival Kit to help family historians safely store photos, documents, and other family treasures. This is a once-a-year special package Sally created to help people get their "stuff" out of shoeboxes and into proper archival storage.

    "Like a Time Machine. . . without digging & burying"

    Sally is one of those generous genealogist who loves to talk about her favorite topic -- archiving -- and my go-to archivist when I need a consultation over a sticky preservation question. Her website is full of helpful tips and free advice, and the Family Archivist Survival Kit lives up to it's name with storage boxes, supplies, and a CD with 10 hours of recorded instruction from Sally.

    Read all about the Kit at The Practical Archivist and get your order placed before October 31, 2014. Kits ship in November and won't be available again until next Fall.

    Paper or Plastic?

    I get a lot of questions here at The Family Curator and when I present lectures about the pros and cons of using big plastic tubs for archival storage. People really really seem to want to use them. They're relatively inexpensive. They're easy to find (hello, Target!). And they are waterproof. But it's not a good idea. Ask Sally:

    Much of preservation (and all of archival work, really) comes down to compromise and balance. Archivist like to joke that our motto is “it depends” because we work with variations that don’t allow simple universal rules. Plastic is a perfect example. Americans have always placed a great faith in the protectiveness of plastic, but it’s not always the best choice for long term storage. All together now: “It depends.”

    The first rule is that any plastic you choose has to be neutral — it can’t be off-gassing anything that will affect what you place inside them. Vinyl is a big no-no. My favorite rule of thumb is that if it smells like a shower curtain, don’t put your photographs anywhere near it. Polypropylene is a popular plastic that is neutral, but your best bet is to find a product that has passed the Photographic Activity Test. The PAT is an accelerated aging test that tells the consumer it will not affect your photographs during storage.

    The waterproof question is a bit tougher. Obviously, it’s a good idea to keep water away from paper, photographic prints, and film. But a cheap plastic tub is going to off-gass and add volatile chemicals to your storage environment…which will interact with your photographs in ways we can’t predict. Ideally, you want to store your family treasures in an archival paper box. The qualities of paper and the way it changes over time *can* be predicted. Paper also allows air to circulate and prevents items from “stewing in their own juices” as my preservation teacher would always say. Of course, a cardboard box is not waterproof, but in a scenario where there is risk of water, Archival Best Practice is to store your collection somewhere else.

    But what about photos and documents?

    Ask yourself: Do I really need to put this in plastic? If you’ve scanned your photos and share them digitally, I don’t think it’s necessary to store the original prints in an album or clear sleeves. They can go into archival paper envelopes and then into archival boxes. Clear plastic is the best choice for photos that you plan to pass around to many hands, since the oils and salts on fingers will transfer to the prints. A small historical society that serves up local history photographs to the public is a good example of this kind of heavy use.

    Wouldn't silica gel packets help if moisture gets inside a plastic tub?

    Yes, but ideally you would store your treasures in something that wouldn’t collect moisture that way. I’ve been researching fireproof safes lately, and one of their main drawbacks is that the insulation needed to protect the contents from extreme heat will also create condensation inside the safe. How’s that for a trade off? (ugh) You can purchase metal canisters of desiccants that can be “recharged” by baking in an oven. Some even have a color indicator so you know when it’s time. I’m all for improving the bad storage areas you’re stuck with, but as always the best scenario is to keep your treasures somewhere where there isn’t a risk of water damage from either above or below.

    Happily, the metal edge archival boxes in The Practical Archivist's kits are strong, durable and provide excellent archival protection. Sally only sells the Family Archivist Survival Kit during the month of October, but she plans to offer a smaller De-Clutter Kit in Spring 2015. If you order one of her kits and need more supplies, she won't leave you stranded and will help you reorder what you need.

    I have to admit I'm a bit jealous of Sally's profession. She gets to hang out in libraries and archives and work with all kinds of interesting material. I asked her how she became an Archivist (instead of an astronaut or iron chef) and I wish I had an illustration to go with her reply:

    Ohmigosh, I love the idea of a wee little Sally J. drawing pictures of herself re-housing vintage photographs into archival folders…but that’s not how it happened. My “plan” was to become a photographer for Rolling Stone when I grew up. I don’t think anyone will be surprised to learn that this plan was a complete failure.

    After I graduated college with a BA in History and Anthropology, all I knew was that I didn’t want to be a high school social studies teacher or a college professor*, so grad school in History was out. Instead, I got a great job working at a Half Price Books where I could figure out what the heck I was going to do when I grew up. One day, my coworker Allison announced she was going to library school. I had no idea there was such a thing! When I took a look at the catalog, I learned that they offered a specialization in “Archives Management” and those courses were taught by archivists working at the Wisconsin Historical Society. As soon as I read that, it all clicked.

    Isn't' that the way it works? She didn't want to be a teacher, but here she is teaching us all about archives! Thanks, Sally!

    Feel free to leave Sally your archival questions here in the Comments, or drop her a note at The Practical Archivist and learn more about the Family Archivist Survival Kit.

    Wednesday
    Oct082014

    The Genealogy Event Returns to NYC

    Gen event

    Next week I'm off to The Big Apple for The Genealogy Event to be held this year at the historic Alexander Hamilton U.S. Custom House at One Bowling Green, New York City, NY home of the National Archives at New York City. NARA is also celebrating the 225th Anniversary of the U.S. Customs Service with an exhibit featuring the ledger book from the first ship entering the port of New York under the new regulations. Imagine, the first customs duty paid $774.41 August 5, 1789 for an entire ship load of cargo aboard the Persis sailing from Italy to New York Harbor.

    NARA NYC customs ledger

    The Persis ledger will be featured at the 225th Anniversary of the U.S. Customs Service exhibit.

    Attendees at The Genealogy Event will be able to tour the exhibit on the 3rd floor Welcome Center and use the research facilities. The Genealogy Event runs Friday and Saturday, October 17 and 18, with Sunday October 19 scheduled as a special DNA Day. Exhibitor booths, speakers and expert consultations are scheduled throughout the event.

    Speakers include Ron Arons, Nancy and Biff Barnes, James Beidler, Joe Buggy, Shannon Combs Bennett, Blaine Bettinger, Janeen Bjork, Angie Bush, Elaine Collins, Laura Congleton, Bennett Greenspan, Phyllis Kramer, Michael Leclerc, Denise Levenick, Dr. Rhoda Miller, CeCeMoore, Shellee Morehead, Trevor Plant, Maureen Taylor, and Pamela Weisberger.

    I'm looking forward to presenting two sessions on digitizing and preserving family keepsakes and making my first visit to NARA-NYC. If you have plans to be in New York City October 17-19, I hope you can attend The Genealogy Event at the historic U.S. Customs House on the tip of Battery Park. Tickets are available here.

    Sunday
    Sep212014

    Fire, Flood, Earthquake: Is Your Genealogy Safe?

    Smokeythebear

    Learn how to protect your family history research before and after disaster strikes whether you're at risk from natural disaster, home disaster or a computer crash in the September FamilyTree Magazine Podcast when I talk with with Lisa Louise Cooke about my article in the current issue of FamilyTree magazine, "Your Genealogy Disaster Plan." 

    Last week I shared disaster-preparedness tips "Prepare Your Family History to Survive Fire Season" prompted by the California wildfires that were burning in my sister's former hometown of Sliverado Canyon, California. Here are a few more tips you can hear more about in the September FamilyTree Magazine Podcast with Lisa Louise Cooke.

    Before Disaster: Know Your Risks

     

    Gather important numbers
    Practice prevention
    Prioritize keepsakes
    Digitize to safeguard
    Get an insurance checkup
    Back up computer files
    Save passwords
    Practice smart storage
    Make a genealogy grab and go list
    Create a genealogy disaster kit

    After a Disaster: Be Ready to Salvage Your Treasures

    Assess the damage
    Collect scattered items
    Contact your insurance agent
    Salvage wet photos for later attention

    Wednesday
    Sep172014

    Sneak Peek at Steve Robinson's New Jefferson Tayte Genealogical Mystery

    TLE cover

    Disaster at sea, an heirloom locket, and pre-war espionage all play a part in The Lost Empress, Steve Robinson's fourth novel in the Jefferson Tayte Genealogical Mystery series.  I received an advance review copy and Steve's promise for an interview to answer questions about Tayte's news adventures. I wish I could drop everything and start reading right now; but I know from the first three Tayte mysteries that the story will be an impossible to put down page-turner. <Sigh> Of course, the promise of a good mystery might be just the motivation to clear my desk faster! 

    Steve Robinson Profile Pic

    I'm looking forward to talking with Steve after I've read the book. It's great to chat with authors about their books and writing life, and even better when it includes more than a little genealogy. Steve is always generous with his time for the genealogy community, so don't be bashful about leaving comments and questions for him about any Jefferson Tayte book.

    Look for a full review and interview in the next few weeks, and in the meantime you can get your own preview of the book with Amazon's Look Inside feature offering the opening pages of the The Lost Empress.

    The Lost Empress is now available for pre-order; Kindle orders will be delivered wirelessly on the October 21, 2014 release date. While you're waiting for the book's release, check out the first three Tayte adventures or revisit Jefferson Tayte's career as professional genealogist and unwitting detective:

    1 - In the Blood

    2 - To the Grave

    3 - The Last Queen of England

     

    Note: I accepted an advance copy of The Lost Empress without obligation to review or publicize the book. I enjoy Steve Robinson's genealogical mystery series, and share news about his new releases because I think you might like them too. If you buy a book using one of the affiliate links on this website, the fees earned help support this site.

    Sunday
    Sep142014

    Prepare Your Family History to Survive Fire Season

     

    A common sight in Silverado Canyon every September.

    The rest of the country may be feeling the first chill of autumn, but in Southern California September heralds the arrival of California's 5th Season, Fire Season. Once again Silverado Canyon is on fire watch as a hot wildfire burns the dry hillsides along the narrow canyon walls.

    Santiago Fire 2007

    My sister and her family lived in Silverado for over twenty years and this is the first year in all that time we aren't watching the news anxious about their personal safety. Last winter they sold their custom-built Victorian house and moved to a parcel of land on Oregon's Deschutes River. We're relieved they aren't in the fire path once again, but sad to see their former home and community in danger. 

     

    Damage from fire retardant.

    Fire Danger to Family Keepsakes

    When we think about the danger of wildfire, we tend to think about losing our belongings to raging flames, but the bigger threat comes from smoke, fire retardant and water damage.

    • Paper will quickly absorb smoke odor, and the longer items remain enclosed in a box or sealed environment the harder it will be to remove the smoky smell.
    • Homes in fire zones are often treated with a fire retardant gel that brings its own special hazards, corroding copper and metal, staining paint and other surfaces, and killing landscaping. Your heirloom furniture and other keepsakes can be severely damaged if you aren't home to close windows and remove family heirlooms before the spray hits your house. My sister's family experienced this first-hand.
    • Water from burst plumbing, fire sprinklers or fire hoses can quickly turn a storage area into a water-soaked mess. 

    Be Prepared for Wildfire

    After living in a risky area for so many years, my sister says she actually feels better prepared now than ever before. The last time they evacuated their Silverado home, the family was unable to return for over 14 days and they learned a lot about emergency preparedness during that episode:

    1. Keep valuables organized and ready to grab in case of evacuation
    2. Store digital copies offsite at the office or on Cloud storage
    3. Give your young adult children the originals or copies of any documents they might need like birth certificates
    4. Know how to contact your insurance agent in case your home is damaged

    HD4100

    Store Valuables in a Home Safe

    While researching "Your Genealogy Disaster Plan" for the September 2014 issue of Family Tree Magazine I discovered a home storage container with an impressive disaster survival story. The SentrySafe HD4100CG fireproof waterproof home safe is rated for 30 minutes of fire endurance and water submersion. Models come in all sizes and configurations and are available on Amazon and home improvement stores. I spoke with a SentrySafe representative about a suitable size for genealogy materials and she sent me a link to a story about a safe filled with family history research that survived Hurricane Sandy. It's an emotional video, but brings home the reminder that some things need a bit of extra protection in our everyday life.

    When she lived in Silverado, my sister and I often talked about protecting photos and keepsakes from natural disasters. It can be hard to enjoy your family heirlooms if you're worried about fire or flood, but digital copies stored offsite or on the Cloud are a good backup in case of damage or loss. I don't live in a fire zone like Silverado Canyon, but I keep some family treasures and digital copies in a fireproof waterproof safe. And I hope I never see that safe sitting in a pile of charred rubble.

    Note: I'm providing links to the SentrySafe HD4100CG recommended by the company representative as most appropriate for a small genealogy collection. You can read more about the different models and compare prices at Amazon where I receive a small affiliate fee from orders, or see some models in local stores such as Target, Home Depot, and Lowe's. The featured model is large enough to hold file folders and a few small items. IMHO, it's a worthwhile investment.

    Friday
    Sep052014

    RootsMagic with MacBridge: Fabulous Friday!

    MacBridge 1024x698

    This is the best news I've had all week! RootsMagic has just announced the new MacBridge product that runs RootsMagic on a Mac computer without Windows! As the Roots Magician Bruce Buzzbee described it last summer, MacBridge is a easy-to-install single product workaround using CrossOver to install and run RootsMagic (hope I've got this right). I've run RootsMagic with the full CrossOver and been disappointed by the updates and mystifying WINE terminology, so I'm excited to try MacBridge and the easier and more direct installation process.

    MacBridge is listed to run both the free and paid versions of RootsMagic on a Mac, without Windows. Sure, a Mac can run RootsMagic with virtualization software like Parallels, VM Fusion, or Apple BootCamp, but you still need to install Microsoft Windows on the Mac. CrossOver from Codeweavers and Open Source WINE run many programs, including RootsMagic, but my experience has been less than wonderful with CrossOver. If the new MacBridge works as promised, the entry ticket of $9.95 will be well worth the price of admission to the Magic Show.

    Thank you, Roots Magician!

    Wednesday
    Sep032014

    Wordless Wednesday: Back to School 1923 Edition

     

    "First Graduates - '23" from the Edna and Walter May Photo Album; privately held by Denise Levenick, 2014. Edna McClure May was a teacher at the San Juan Capistrano School, California.