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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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    Will You be NaNoWrMo-ing Next Month?

    Crest bda7b7a6e1b57bb9fb8ce9772b8faafb

    I sort of feel like I joined NaNoWriMo in spirit when I wrote How to Archive Family Keepsakes. Under deadline, I wrote 45,000 words from Sept 15 to Jan 15 with two New England trips, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and a fractured elbow. Ouch! I loved every minute.

    Something happens when I get totally, completely immersed in a project. It's a Zen sort of experience. The clock stops ticking and I forget everything outside the space where I am working. I've felt the same thing working on a big, complicated quilting project or in turning the heel of a sock [knit jargon for "knitting a sock heel" which can be tricky but is always very cool].

    NaNoWriMo is for writers what fair isle socks on #2 needles for the entire family are for knitters -- a chance to push yourself toward a big goal in a limited amount of time. During the month of November, writers commit to drafting a 50,000 word novel in 30 days. The "rules" stipulate that you can't include anything written before November 1, and the product must be a work of fiction. In 2012, over 340,000 writers participated.

    The Rebellion

    Every Crusade must have it's Rebels. The NaNoWriMo Creed is strict -- 50,000 word count valid Nov 1-30, 11:59pm, any language, fiction novel. 

    Writers who want to bend the rules to write nonfiction, scripts, academics, or just do their own thing yet still participate in the official NaNoWriMo project, are known as NaNo Rebels. If Clue Wagon Kerry Scott or We Tree Amy Coffin ever join NaNoWriMo, I bet they will be leading the Rebel Pack.

    Unlike most official programs, NaNoWriMo makes room for Rebels by giving a space on the official website forum and access to other Rebels. Wikiwrimo notes:

    "You're writing a memoir, a script, a nonfiction book about turtles or something else that's not a novel. You're a NaNoRebel, baby! Converse with your fellow outlaws here."

    Writing is a lonely life, and the NaNoWriMo forums are undoubtedly one of the strongest and most valuable reasons to participate in the project. When stuck for words, nothing is better than a whack on the side of the head by a fellow-writer. 

    A lot of people argue that NaNoWriMo doesn't really help produce novels, it just gives writers a push to write a 50,000 words. And, that's true. What comes out of intense writing sessions is a draft, not a finished polished product. But, a draft is a beginning. 


    Genealogists and family history writers are fortunate. We can join NaNoWriMo in November and craft an historical novel or mostly-fiction memoir, or we could be a Rebel and work toward that 50,000 word goal in another form of writing.


     we can start planning our family history writing project now and join The Armchair Genealogist's Family History Writing Challenge in February 2014.


    Writer Lynn Palermo organized the first Challenge three years ago to encourage family historians in writing their own family history during the month of February. The project has grown every year, and like NaNoWriMo, Lynn offers a forum where participants can share their ideas and reach out for support. Over 800 family history writers joined the Challenge in 2013. The Challenge helps family history writers commit to their own project, whatever it might be, and their own word count goal.

    Just think, if you started planning now for The Armchair Genealogist's Family History Writing Challenge, by researching, outlining, and organizing what you want to write, by February you might be ready to compile a pretty good first draft of the family history project you've always wanted to write.

    Think About It

    I came across this chart the other day and it made me think about getting into Zen writing again.


    The numbers on the left are words per day. Some days I barely made 500 words, but when I was in a crunch I managed to write over 3,500 a day. You can see that I didn't write every single day from December 12 to January 8; more like 14 days out of 28. I took time off for Christmas. My total word count for the 14 days was 24,465; draft writing, to be sure, but you have to start somewhere. And I had that deadline hanging over my head. Looking back at those statistics makes me realize that IF I could write almost 25,000 words in 14 days, the notion of 50,000 words in 30 days is ALMOST concievable. But, that's if I don't break any bones.

    I'm thinking about it.


    M-Disc the 1,000 Year Archival Solution - Tech Tuesday Review

    Right now, I have a stack of cassette tapes on my desk that need to be digitized and archived. I want those files readable in 25, 30, 50, or 100 years, and I don't want to have to worry about migrating from CD to CD or from one cloud service to another. I'm pretty excited about the M-Disc from Millenniata -- a new kind of archival disc that promises Write Once, Read Forever


    Until recently, family historians had to rely on multiple copies and regular updating to insure the good health and accessibility of digital files. The M-Disc (Millennial Disc) is a game-changer that brings long-term media storage to the home computer user in the popular DVD and Blu-ray format. The National Archives notes a 2 to 5 year life expectancy for CD/DVD media; M-Disc is rated to last at least 1,000 years and survived rigorous testing by the U.S. Department of Defense Naval Air Warfare Weapon's Division at China Lake, California

    The M-Disc records by engraving data on a single rock-hard layer, unlike conventional discs that record using organic dyes susceptible to fading and decay. If you've ever tried to read the files on a CD or DVD left on a car dashboard or forgotten on top of a CD player, you know that heat, humidity, and light can quickly destroy digital storage media. In contrast, the M-Disc is designed for longevity with materials resistant to oxidation and decay.

    The M-Disc looks different than a regular DVD -- it's transparent. Hold it up to the light and you can see through the disc. 

    M disc transparent

    This special disc technology requires an M-Disc compatible writer that can etch the rock-like layer of the M-Disc. I didn't have any difficulty using the LG Blu-ray BP40NS20 M-Disc-Ready burner sent to me by Millenniata with a pack of sample discs. The plug-and-play disc writer worked on both my iMac and Dell Windows 8 laptop; the included software is Windows only, but the writer was able to burn the M-Disc using my standard computer DVD software.

    I tested the M-Disc by burning the same set of files to an M-Disc using the PC and then the iMac. After successfully burning the discs, I was able to read both discs in either computer. 

    I also tried to burn the M-Disc using the regular iMac and Dell DVD burners and found that the disc was not recognized. You really do need an M-Disc Ready DVD writer to create the M-Disc, but the disc can be read by any computer CD/DVD reader. The M-Disc is designed for archiving files and does not allow erasing files.

    M-Disc Ready Drives are available in internal and externl models, and some PC computers are already offering the drives as a standard feature. Check the full list of compatible drives here.

    The M-Disc is available with 4.7GB capacity. If you have only JPEG image files, you will be able to archive thousands of images. According to Milleniata, on average, one disc can store

    • 8,000 photos [JPEG],
    • 240 minutes of video, or
    • over 100,000 documents
    My digital image files are mostly archival TIFF format, and very large files. On average a 600 dpi color scan might be 20 to 30 MB, many times the files are considerably larger. For instance, each scanned page of a 7 x 10-inch photo album is about 70 MB. One 4.7 DVD will hold about 60 of these extra-large TIFF images, or all of my digitized cassette tapes.
    Large file size translates into more discs or hard drives. Economical, efficient storage is important to me. I would much prefer to archive once to a disc, instead of regularly migrating files to new fresh DVDs. With one copy of my files online, one copy on an external hard drive, and one copy recorded to the archival M-Disc, I will have less work maintaining my digital archive.
    M-Disc longevity is appealing to anyone interested in long-term archival solutions. It's always a good idea to keep multiple copies of digital files, but any media that prolongs the life of the initial file makes preservation easier to manage over time. 

    Read more about M-Disc technology and Department of Defense testing at the M-Disc website








    Is It Worth the Trouble to Clean Dirty Old Negatives?


    Old film can get pretty grubby. At the least, loose negatives are often dusty and smudged. Inquiring minds wanted to know if do-it-yourself film cleaners made a difference, and how well they worked with dirty old negatives. So, The Family Curator burned up $20 so you don't have to. 

    First, I talked with photographers about cleaning old negatives. Their reply was something like, "Why bother? Fix it in Photoshop." 

    Next, I went to a pro camera store and talked with the developing tech. She recommended a product called, appropriately enough, Delta Film Cleaner, and PEC Pads, lint-free cleaning cloths. Another product, PEC-12, was deemed too caustic for amateurs to use (hmmm). I was instructed to lightly spray the cleaner on the cloth and wipe gently across the surface of the film. Sounds simple enough.

    At home, I pulled out an assortment of dirty, crinkled, stained, torn, cut, and otherwise messed up black and white negatives and selected a few with typical damage: water stains, ink, and splotches of "crud."

    I thought the lumpy gunk was just, well, gunk, but the photo tech had warned me that "stuff" on the surface of the film was probably fungus growing into the emulsion and it would not come off the negative. The cleaner would only help with dirt, dust, and spots.

    My negatives had it all -- water stains, ink, gunk, dust, and general grime.

    Test 1 -- Using Film Cleaner to Clean Old Negatives

    Damage: This negative showed bits of gunk (they appear as white dots in the image below), general grime, and scratches.

    Process: I spread out a few sheets of clean paper on my kitchen counter and sprayed the Film Cleaner on the lint-free cloth. Then, I gently wiped once across both front and back of the film. You can see the results here. 

    Clean streaking

    Uncleaned negative (left) vs. cleaned negative (right)

    Results: The little spots over the doorway are gunk, that won't come off. The film is marred with scratches obvious in the upper left corner of the doorway; the cleaner doesn't help that. It's hard to see on this image, but the cleaned negative (right) yielded a digital image with a bit of more grey tint. The image does seem a bit brighter. I did not use any adjustments on the scan.

    Comments: This image adjustment is easy with photo editing software. No major improvement in overall quality.

    BOTTOM LINE: Not worth the trouble. 

    Test 2 -- Using Water to Clean Old Negatives

    Damage: This negative showed a big blotch, possibly a water stain, in the upper right hand corner of sky. There were also bits of gunk in the tree area, and general dirt and grime on the entire image 

    Process: I held the negative under warm running water using my fingers like a squeegee to move the water and saturate the film. I then used the lint-free cloths to wipe off excess water and placed the negative on top of a cloth for a few minutes. Next, I sprayed the Film Cleaner on a cloth and gently wiped the surface of the film to remove any water spots. 


    Neg washed full

    Original dirty negative (left) and negative washed with warm water and Film Cleaner (right).

    Neg washed ex

    Close up of "gunk" in sky. Washed film is better, but remains stained.

    Results: The cloth showed dirt blotches and the film felt clean, not dusty and dirty. Most of the stain in the trees diminished. The entire image is brighter.

    Comments: I could touch up the sky with software, but now the film is "nice and clean." It might not look this good when enlarged, however.

    BOTTOM LINE: Probably not worth the trouble and expense.


    My main interest in old film is to salvage the family history information it may hold. For that purpose, scanned copies of the negative meets my needs. I don't throw away the original negative, but I also don't feel compelled to return the film to pristine condition before storing in archival sleeves.

    Admittedly, my experiment in film cleaning was not conducted under scientific conditions. My kitchen is pretty clean, but it's not completely dust-proof. If a house has static electricity from dry air or wind, exposed negatives probably attract everything floating around the room and cleaning might be even more difficult.

    I think a better, easier solution for working with dirty old film might be to use a soft brush made for dusting film and save the Film Cleaner for cleaning negatives that you want specifically want to preserve in analog (film) format. Clean film has to have a longer lifespan than dirty old pictures.

    The products I used for this test included:

    Film Cleaner




    P.P.S. I am an Amazon Affiliate



    My Grandma Was a Fashion Maverick -- Ancestral Fashion Review from Betty Shubert, Author of Out of Style for Treasure Chest Thursday


    How much do you know about your grandmother's fashion sense? 

    Hollywood costume designer Betty Kreisel Shubert, author of Out of Style, knows more than most about vintage fashion. I sent Betty three unidentified photos and she selected this portrait to study, not knowing the young woman was my grandmother, Arline Allen Kinsel.

    After enjoying Betty's delightful "reading" of Arline's outfit, and then "The Rest of the Story," I hope you agree that Betty is a family history fortune-teller when it comes to reading vintage styles.

    The Bolero Dress and the Double-Butterfly Hat

    At first glance, the overly decorated dress with fancy bolero and fanciful hat trimmed with two, too-tall butterflies, seemed an aberration of popular fashion. . . probably designed by a home dressmaker. (Although the unique hat shows expert millinery construction). [Photo #1, above].

    But surprisingly, research showed a dress with identical style lines in a 1915 Sears catalog! The only difference was in Sears' use of embroidery trim versus eyelet trim in our sample photograph.

    Arline kinsel style 2

    As seen in Sears Catalog 1915-1916. Sketch by Betty Kreisel Shubert

    Sears fashions were selected for, and sold to, average America women, but were about two years behind high-fashion magazines. Therefore, we can assume that the dress shown n the 1915 catalog could have been worn between 1913 to 1916.

    A key style clue in dating vintage dresses in is their ever-changing skirt lengths. Since this is not a full length picture it is helpful that the Sears 1915 dress is shown full length, ending at the ankle and revealing spool heel pumps. This was slightly longer than women were wearing their skirts at this time, but this was obviously a dressy summertime outfit and perhaps the lower skirt could could be left off to adapt to different skirt lengths.

    A chart illustrating "The Bottom Line About Hemlines and The March to Modernity" covering the years 1900 to 2000, appears on pages 216-217 in Betty's book, Out of Style.

    Counter to popular fashion in those years, the whimsical hat that dominates the picture is worn tilted UP. . . like a picture hat, instead of FLAT, like a platter hat. The only similar hat I found in the Sears catalog shows a sailor-like, platter hat. Although it was usually worn flat, it could have also been tilted up by a fashion maverick. . . like our lady.

    Her hair, shown peeking under the shirred, wired brim is bobbed in the Castle Bob style as worn by popular fashion icon, Irene Castle, of the famous dance team of Vernon and Irene Castle. ("Bobby pins" were invented to contain this hairstyle).

    Sears even devoted an entire page to show belts four to six inches wide, emphasizing the mid-to-low waist, as in our sample picture.

    From all these style clues, we can conclude that the woman in the picture was a self-confident individualist with a sense of humor who dared flaunt fashion rules. . . so, she flipped her hat UP and added a double butterfly, when the average woman would have only dared to wear ONE!

    © 2013, Betty Kreisel Shubert

    The "Rest of the Story" 

    I didn't know much more about this photograph than Betty when I sent it to her. I knew it was a photograph of my grandmother Arline Kinsel as a young woman. I guessed that it might have been an engagement or wedding photo taken about the time of Arline's marriage to John LeRoy Paulen 1908. I knew from her correspondence that she owned a sewing machine and that she loved being "in-style," but I had no idea she might have made something as elaborate as this outfit. 

    Betty's careful analysis prompted me to go back to Arline's photo album and look more carefully at her clothing. I spotted two more photos showing her wearing the dress. And, I discovered something interesting about the photograph my aunt displayed next to the custom-dressed doll in her curio cabinet -- it was a different pose than the photo I found in my mother's estate. Three photos appear to have been taken on the same occasion, but a fourth photo shows Arline in a different pose.

    Arline kinsel style 4

    Photo #2 Arline wearing the Bolero Dress and Double Butterfly Hat.
    Could this photo have been taken inside a church?

    It appears that Arline wore the Bolero Dress and Double Butterfly Hat for her wedding -- but it not her first! On the inside cover of her album, Arline clearly identifies Mr. and Mrs. Edwards 3rd, Helper Mt. Although the photos are undated, a marriage certificate notes that Albert Edwards and Miss Arline Paulen were married 11 August 1917 in Evanston, Wyoming. 

    Edwards 1

    Photo #3 Mr. and Mrs Edwards 3rd, Helper Mt.

    In this photo, Arline is wearing the Bolero Dress sans butterfly hat. What happened to it? Her hair is flying up in the air, and her hand poised jauntily at her waist. There are other differences from the formal portrait too -- different bodice, no flowers at the waist, and pearls instead of a medallion on a chain at her throat. I wonder if these are two entirely different occasions.

    Arline Kinsel and friend

    Photo #4, Arline and Friend. Arline wears the Bolero Jacket and Double-Butterfly Hat

    The other album photo shows Arline posing with a friend outside a stone building that looks like a church. Although the flowers at her waist are huge in this photo, it looks like the same dress and hat as photos #1 and #2. I don't recognize the other young woman in the photo and didn't find her in the album, but she may turn up in time. 

    The time frame for these photos appears to be about 1917, the year of Arline's marriage to Edwards. To confuse things, consider that by August 1917 Arline had already been married and divorced twice -- to the same man. Edwards was her third marriage and second husband.

    Given that Arline lived in the Western States of Utah and Colorado, it seems likely that fashion would lag behind big-city style. It's also possible that Arline wore the dress for two special occasions -- an earlier event where she was formally and informally photographed (Photos 1, 2, and 4), and a later event in 1917 as Mrs. Edwards 3rd wearing the skirt and eyelet jacket with a different blouse and jewelry and without the hat. 

    Which leads me to wonder, could Arline have worn the original dress and butterfly hat at her second wedding -- the remarriage to Paulen???

    P.S. -- What do you think about Betty's assessment of Arllne as a "self-confident individualist with a sense of humor who dared flaunt fashion rules"?

    Analyze your grandmother's fashion sense with Betty Shubert's new book, Out-of-Style: A Modern Perspective of How, Why and When Vintage Fashions Evolved

    Available in hardback and softcover

    Read my Book Review of Out of Style
         Great Grandmothers are Always in Style




    Travel Tuesday at the Clark County Genealogical Society and Library


    Clark County Genealogical Society

    Are you researching family history in Vancouver, Washington and Pacific Northwest? If so, you may want to investigate the many resources offered through the Clark County Genealogical Society and Library located minutes from historic Vancouver, Washington overlooking the Columbia River.

    I didn't expect to find a genealogy library staffed by friendly and helpful volunteers on a recent visit to Vancouver, but I discovered a hidden gem under the large signs on the strip-mall business front. Volunteer William "Bill" Whalley gave me a quick tour and highlights of the CCGS activities and programs. Founded in 1972, the Society runs a busy schedule and offers publications and research services.

    CCGS interior

    Volunteer Bill Whalley greeted me at the Library and gave me a quick tour.

    The CCGS Library includes over 8000 items with an emphasis on Washington and Oregon materials. My tour also showed resources from all states and a good-size microfilm collection. In addition, wireless internet and subscription database services are available for users. 

    The annual CCGS Fall Seminar -- Westward Migration -- will be held Saturday, 23 November at the Library, and will include sessions on Colonial Migration, Creating a Migration Map, and Finding Your Overland Trail Ancestor in Oregon and Washington Repositories.

    You can find more information about the Clark County Genealogical Society and Library at their website, The Library is located at 717 Grand Blvd, Vancouver, WA. See the website for hours and phone numbers.



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