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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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    Brown and Obama are Cousins, NEHGS Research Reveals

    It's always interesting to see how fast the New England Historic Genealogical Society can research and write up the newsmakers of the moment. This morning I recieved word from Tom Champaux that researchers at NEHGS had uncovered the common ancestor of President Barack Obama and Republican Massachusetts Senator-Elect Scott Brown,

    Obama’s mother, Stanley Ann Dunham, and Brown’s mother, Judith Ann Rugg, both descend from Richard Singletary of Haverhill, Mass, who died in 1687 at the age of 102. Singletary, like his two descendants Obama and Brown, held public office, serving as town selectman in both Salisbury and Haverhill, Massachusetts in the 1650s.

    President Obama descends from Richard’s eldest son, Jonathan Singletary, who later changed his surname to Dunham. Scott Brown descends from Jonathan’s brother, Nathaniel Singletary. This kinship makes Obama and Brown 10th cousins.

    Research by Christopher Child and David Allen Lambert goes on to find that politics seem to be a strong current in the family line. President Obama and Senator-elect Brown are also related to George H. W. Bush, George W. Bush, Richard Nixon, Calvin Coolidge, Herbert Hoover, and Rutherford Hayes.

    Read the Press Release and view the Brown-Obama Family Tree at the NEHGS web site.


    Organize and Preserve Original Documents Used in Your Genealogy Research


    It doesn’t matter what kind of filing system you use for your genealogical research and sources, sooner or later most family historians need to file a primary document, or Heirloom Original. The easiest solution is to just file it with your census printouts and photocopies of birth certificates in binders or file folders, whatever you use. This is the method advocated in an online genealogy course I took last year.

    I am afraid I wasn’t a very cooperative student, however, and cringed at the thought of my grandmother’s marriage certificate peeking out the top of a protective sleeve in my 3-ring binder. It seemed that a better solution would be to store this original document archivally and cross-reference it in my files.  I also had other original documents such as my own children’s baptism certificates and assorted funeral programs, I needed a system for filing all of these special documents.

    In figuring out a workable system, it was helpful to consider

    The Curator’s Commandments:

    1.  First, thou shall do no harm to original artifacts
    2. AND thou shall endeavor to preserve same for future generations
    3.  Thou shall retain the original order of a collection whenever reasonable and possible
    4. Thou shall only file paper that 8 ½ x 11 inches in size in binders or in file folders
    5.  Thou shall set up a filing system that is simple and sustainable

     My own filing system consists of research and sources filed by surname in 3-ring binders. Instead of filing Heirloom Originals directly in the binder, I place an 8 ½ x 11 inch copy in the binder and write on the copy a reference to where the original is stored. This satisfies Commandments #1, #4 and hopefully #5.

    The original document needs to be preserved (see Commandment #2), therefore it is stored in a suitable archival container. My original documents come from different families, which I see as different collections. In order to keep those collections intact (#3), I set up separate file envelopes for each family. This mimics the order I use for my binders, keeping the arrangement as simple as possible (#5).

    Arline’s collection is so large that original documents are housed in several different boxes. All other family collections take up no more than one envelope each and are placed together inside one archival box.

    For example, my research lives in 3-ring binders filed by Surname with all sources in protective sleeves behind a tab for each couple. If the document is an Heirloom Original, I file a photocopy and write on the document a simple location code, the Surname or Collection and File (F) or Box (B) Number, for example, BROWN F01 or AAK B04. I don’t try to give each document a file number, although that would probably be good to do. Instead, I use an inventory sheet in the file itself to list the documents. If I digitize a document, I add the computer file name and location as well.

    Tip: I print out small white labels with the original document location to place on source copies using Avery Multi-Use Labels 5422.

    What makes a document an Heirloom Original?

    In my effort to KISS (Keep It Super Simple) I decided to consider only certain documents Heirloom Original and subject to archival preservation. Again, these criteria may not suit everyone, but I felt like I had to draw the line somewhere. Any document available only in the copy held in my hand, I deem an Heirloom Original. This includes my children’s special presentation baptism certificate, but not the official church copy. I figure that I can request that again from the church, and if I am worried about it, I can digitize the church copy and keep multiple copies of the files.

    So, state and county-issued birth and death certificates, along with census photocopies, are filed in protective sleeves in my 3-ring binders. As are modern newspaper obituaries. The only things in archival storage are irreplaceable documents and artifacts.

    One exception: Because my mom and I enjoy looking through Arline’s papers together, I also keep many documents from her collection in a 3-ring binder. Strictly speaking, I would like to keep everything from her collection in archival boxes, but then Mom and I lose the very wonderful connection of seeing Arline’s ink and paper. I use high-quality archival protective sleeves and 100% cotton rag paper for support if needed in these binders for the funeral programs, wedding notices, and cemetery locators that Arline collected. Oversize documents, like the marriage certificates, however are stored safely in an archival box.

    This system may not work for you, but what’s most important is to find a method of organizing that suits your style, your time, and your own level of control. Elyse is doing a great job reviewing ideas for setting up a genealogy filing system at Elyse’s Genealogy Blog and coming up with some good questions to ask when getting organized.

    I know that I need a system that will preserve my documents, be simple to set up and sustain, and give me some feeling of control. Works for me! What works for you?


    Photos: Edwards-Kinsel marriage certificate, Arline Allen Kinsel Papers; Privately held by Denise Levenick [ADDRESS FOR PRIVATE USE,] Pasadena, California. 2010.


    Organize and Preserve Your Family History Documents

    If "Getting Organized" is at the top your TTBD List for 2010, you might want to visit Elyse's Genealogy Blog where Elyse is posting a series of How To articles on getting your genealogy papers in order, appropriately titled "Organizing the Paper Mountain." Elyse really has her act together as far as controlling genealogical chaos, and she makes some good points about how to file rather than pile.

    I have to admit that one of the sessions I planned to attend this weekend at the Family History Expo in Mesa, Arizona was the Getting Organized session by Dear Myrtle. Alas, both Ole' Myrt and I were both rained out of attending the Expo -- she was sidelined by snow in Flagstaff, and I was washed out by rain in California.

    Meanwhile, I think Elyse is doing a great job with some very soul-searching questions. Surnames or Subjects? Binders or Files? Office Supply or Archival? All important questions to ask yourself as you embark on the task of Getting Organized.

    I hope I am not alone in party-hopping from one style to another over the years. I've tried file folders and found them drifting all over the house. I've tried binders and been frustrated by oversize and original heirloom source documents. I've tried archival supplies and nearly gone broke. My present system is a combination of all three, and thus far, it works for me.

    I like to think of my genealogy research in terms of families. I tried filing by Marriage Record Number (suggested by Legacy) but could never remember the numbers I was working with. It also bugged me that three generations of the same family with the same surname were scattered numerically in my files, whether I used file folders or a binder. I like to take the papers and talk about them with my mom, and it just makes more sense if we handle the files more like a notebook scrapbook than an office filing system with folders in drawers.

    The problem with using binders became apparent right away, however, when I came to Grandma Arline's marriage certificates. These were printed documents filled in by hand in ink. They were too large for the binder and also rather fragile. What to do? Preserve first, is my motto, and the filing system I have adapted accomodates heirloom originals and modern day print outs or photocopies equally well.

    More on Organizing and Preserving in my next post.


    and the rain was upon the Earth

    . . . and on the eighteenth day of the first month of the new year, the windows of heaven were opened.  And the rain was upon the earth five days and five nights which in the land of Disneyland and Hollywood is for-ever and ever and ever. And the flood was five days upon the earth; and the waters increased flowing down the slopes of the fire-scourged hillsides over the streets and curbsides bringing mud and great tree limbs and sending the creatures of the earth scurrying for shelter.  And the waters prevailed upon the oil-slicked streets and highways, and were increased greatly upon the earth; and the fierce winds forced planes to land and airports to darken their lights. And woe was theirs who travelled in those days, for the waters prevailed exceedingly upon the earth; and all the high hills, that were under the whole heaven, were covered until the foohill communities became valuable oceanfront property.


    Eastward Ho! Getting Out the Boat and Oars for Family History Expo, Mesa

    We may live in a desert here in Southern California, but natives know that sometimes watercraft is a necessity to navigate our city streets.

    Mom recently told me about her childhood experience in Anaheim (you know, the home of Mickey Mouse) during the Flood of 1938. After 30 days of rain, beginning January 27, 1938, the Santa Ana River overflowed its banks flooding the City of Anaheim. My mother had just turned five and the family was relatively new to California. Fortunately, as Mom recalls, their home had a substantial foundation which raised the floor high above ground level. As the waters began to rise, enterprising neighbors pulled out their rowboats and dinghys to navigate the streets.

    Not surprisingly, folks began to gather at my grandparents' house where they could remain safe and dry. Arline was such a lively and friendly person that I imagine she soon turned the "disaster" into a party. Mom remembers people everywhere in the house and water everywhere outside. It must have all seemed pretty exciting to a five-year-old and her seven-year-old sister.

    It's only been raining here for three days and already our neighboring community of La Canada is facing hundreds of evacuations this morning. This time it isn't a river overflowing, but runoff from the hillsides and mountains after the disasterous fires last year.

    Although we don't live in that immediate area, the rain has been pouring over the retaining wall outside our kitchen window making a waterfall and overflowing the drainage. The basement is wet, the raingutters are full, the cat won't venture outside.

    Hopefully, Mother Nature will take a brief break soon so I can ply my way eastward to the Family History Expo in Mesa this weekend. I have really been looking forward to some genealogy inspiration and seeing so many bloggers in one place. Right now though, I am just keeping my oars crossed.


    Act Fast to Save on Digitizing Home Movies with Scan Digital

    If one of your New Year's Goals included "Convert  home movies to DVD," you might like to know about a special promotion being offered by Scan Digital Photo Services that will save you 20% on your order. The offer ends today, January 20, so you will have to act fast.

    This past fall I made a little field trip to Scan Digital headquarters in El Segundo, California and was impressed with the facility and attention to detail shown by everyone there in preserving the customers photographs, movies, slides, and audio tape recordings. My two-part report can be read at

    To take advantage of the offer, enter Coupon Code: ORGANIZE2010.



    Goals? Schmoals. A Few Thoughts on Making Resolutions, Setting Goals, and Writing ToDo Lists

    Some folks would no sooner make a list of so called "new year's resolutions" than they would walk down a dark alley In the middle of the night carrying a bank deposit bag jingling with coins. "Why invite disaster," they may reason. The 87th Carnival of Genealogy hosted by Jasia at Creative Genes proves that genealogy bloggers are not of that mindset. Jasia lists 66 entries to the New Year's Resolution edition, the highest number of participants of all time! We are goal-setting bunch, for sure.

    While I didn’t participate in this edition of the COG, I too am a goal-setting, resolution-making kind of person. I make lists for everything. Groceries, books to read, closets to clean out, errands. Every list carries a heading shared by an Irish college friend; he called the lists TTBD, Things To Be Done. I like the emphatic ring of the statement, but usually add a subhead as well, TTBD Yard Chores, or whatever.

    I don't generally share these lists with a lot of people; after all, do my friends really need to know that I am so slovenly I need to make it a goal to "Make my bed everyday"? That was a TTBD back in 1985 when I had two little boys, a dog, a fish tank, and four cats, plus a business to manage. I do keep the annual TTBD in my planner, however, and look at it often. It nags me to keep moving ahead, and helps me focus on the big picture when I tend to be distracted by the minutiae of everyday life. You want dinner again?

    The lists seem to accumulate in my Circa project notebook, and I enjoy looking back to see what I have (and have not -- sigh) managed to accomplish. I am delighted that, yes, my bed is now made every day, I have read ALL mystery books and short stories by Agatha Christie (I think), and my china closet is neat and tidy.

    I am not so pleased with my progress in the genealogical department. My paper files are in chaos, my database has been in transition between programs for months, and my research is lagging behind Mom's online queries. This is not a good way to begin a new decade.

    Clearly, I need a big sheet of paper for my TTBD Genealogy. I am listing a few broad goals, and then working to break down the top three into Tasks and TTBDs. I know that if I can focus on just a few things, my chances of success are drastically improved. So, top three Genea-Goals for 2010:

    1. Obtain documentation to establish Arline’s family line at least to her grandparents.
    2. Enter said documentation and conclusions into my genealogy database program.
    3. Assemble said information into a format to share with Mom and Aunt Frances.

    One thing that seems to get me bogged down is a tendency to over-research. I have read about every possible genealogical organizing system possible, and so much information seems to just make moving forward difficult. What if I pick the wrong system? How hard will it be to change?

    Instead of worrying about finding the most perfect, best [insert problem area here, i.e. filing system, database, scanning scenario], I’m going to find something good enough and get to work.

    My son said something over the holidays that really struck a chord:

    Don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good enough.

    I like that. Sometimes, good enough is really just perfect.


    You're Happy, So am I

    Thank you, Bayside Blog, for treating me to the Happy 101 Awards. I like the idea -- 10 things that make me happy. And, I like the idea that they can be ANY thing, from any facet of life. But we all have had enough stress (holiday, and other), so this is award comes with no obligation. Pass it on if you wish, or just enjoy! (Thanks Greta, for the inspiration on this).

    In the spirit of the award, here are

    10 Things That Make Me Happy

    1. easy source citations
    2. a cat snoring
    3. party ice
    4. autumn in New England
    5. homemade eggnog
    6. turning the heel of a hand-knit sock
    7. home canned tomato sauce on the window sill
    8. fresh-from-a-chicken eggs
    9. poking around in a cemetery
    10. Sunday supper with the family

    And, I nominate for this award, the following wonderful blogs/bloggers (and trying not to duplicate previous nominations):


    Shades, the Magazine, Shining Bright for the New Year

    FootnoteMaven has done it again with a stunning edition of Shades of the Departed Magazine, now available via I am so honored to be included in the Company of Players working on this publication.

    I think one of the Shades Magazine's best features is it's broad range of subjects within the world of capturing images. Family historians and photo-buffs will find interesting articles on using the Ken Burns effect in sharing photographs, restoring and retouching images, dating old photographs, and the Kodak Company in wartime. Readers can lean more about the historical decades captured on film, and even be challenged to think like a sketch-artist in visualizing their ancestors.

    Penelope Dreadful is thrilled to be in print once more with a tale of bashful love and creative spirit in "A Dreadful Proposal, or a Little Birdie Told Her." The thread of this story just flew in the window with the new year.

    It is obvious from the elegant design and crisp images that the Editor is committed to producing a top-notch publication... and at no charge to the reader. Don't miss the January issue of Shades, the Magazine. And, if you like what you read, please take a minute to go back to and leave a comment for footnoteMaven.


    New Year, New Challenge

    I am taking up the challenge to update, clean-up, and move over to a new genealogy database program, and with Amy at We Tree whispering in my ear, I have decided to enter my data methodically and ONLY with sources in hand.

    As Amy discovered when she started this project some time ago, this may mean that one is born, but not married until you can actually put your hands on your marriage certificate (my particular conundrum at the moment). Of course, this does not mean that I can sign up at e-harmony; yea verily, instead, I must search 34 years worth of files looking for the elusive document. It must be around here somewhere.

    The up-side of this exercise is that I am truly cleaning house and putting things in order. As many of my notes and conclusions are on paper, and not recorded in any database, this project will give me an opportunity to start from scratch and be consistent.

    My goals --

    1. provide a source (even if it is "hearsay") for each item of information entered into the database
    2. properly file a photocopy of the source in my "Source Files" and file the original in an "Original Doc File"
    3. add a photo of each person, whenever possible

    I am intentionally keeping these goals to the bare minimum, knowing my own tendency to make things more complicated than necessary and lose interest in frustration. I am also trying to determine a reasonable goal of names per month to add to the database, but this seems rather elusive. I may do better just working on a set number of hours. To be determined...


    Another Party! It's Mom's 77th Birthday Today

    Mom extended her holiday visit to include her birthday, today January 5, and we are looking forward to a day of family celebration with a birthday dinner tonight with her grandson, Christian, and wife, Katie. Who knows, we may even convince her to change her name again!


    Color-tinted photograph of Sue Brown, c. 1940.

    About a year ago, Mom surprised me with the casual remark that her "real" name was not Suzanne, as we all had believed for so many years. Her formal birth name had been, Mercy, a family name of old tradition and also the name of her own aunt Mercy Kinsel MacPhee (of kidnapping fame).

    At the time Mom was born in Olathe, Kansas, her grandfather E.B. Kinsel was living in Los Angeles and very ill from the after-effects of a stroke. Her own mother, Arline, was unable to visit her father due to her advanced pregnancy and age (42 at Mom's birth). Instead, she kept informed of her father's condition by letters from friends and family.

    She also wrote her father to tell him when the baby was born, and that she had named the little girl afer his sister, Rebecca Suzanne. However, Mom's birth certificate listed her name as Mercy.

    Those letters are a snapshot of life in 1933. As grandfather Kinsel lay ill in Los Angeles, his daughters fretted about his health and financial resources. In early spring, he suffered another stroke and passed away in May 1933. Neither daughter was able to attend the funeral, but letters from friends shared details of the sad occasion. Sadly, without immediate family in Los Angeles, E.B. was buried and a tombstone was never placed at the gravesite. (We have plans to remedy this situation!)

    Mom remembers being called variations of Rebecca Suzanne as a little girl. Evenually, it just became Suzanne. As she was preparing for her own wedding at 1953, Arline realized that it would be important for names on the marriage certificate and the birth certificate to be the same. Mom's sister recalls a determined trip to the government offices with documentation in hand to make sure the paperwork was completed before the wedding date.

    Many women may change their surname during their lifetimes, but Mom is the only woman I know who  has had multiple first, middle, and last names. At least, we can still call her Mom and Grandma.

    Happy 77th birthday, Mom, Mercy Rebecca Suzanne Winsor Brown May Freeman.


    It's Party Time in Pasadena

     As my mother-in-law once quipped in her annual Christmas letter, much to the entertainment of her children and grandchildren, "The seats are up all along Colorado Boulevard." Of course, her six grandsons imagined something quite different than the reality of miles and miles of metal and wood grandstands.

    Mom is here from Arizona for a holiday visit and we have just returned from a not-so-quick drive along the route of the annual Tournament of Roses Parade. Our home is exactly one block off the formation area along Orange Grove Boulevard, and three blocks from the actual starting position of the parade. Driving along the parade route is an annual ritual, mostly so we can be mighty happy that we aren't spending the night on the ground.

    Folks typically start coming into town early on New Year's Eve day in preparation for the 12 noon opening of curbside camping. This year, people are prepared for a chilly California evening with barbeque-type fire pits, inflatable beds, lots of blankets, and warm clothes. The mecury will dip into the low 40s which is "nothing" for most of the country, but "freeeeezing" for us.



    Getting ready for the Rose Queen Float!

    We are ready for the expected unexpected guests that usually drop in on New Year's Eve... friends, and friends of friends in need of a warm up and rest stop while checking out the route and watching the huge floats move into position. This will begin after midnight, and is an annual tradition for Mr. Curator and sons. They walk along the formation area with big cigars checking out the floats and visiting with neighbors doing the same thing. Of course, such a late night means they are too wiped out to get up early for the parade itself, but we do usually manage to catch the stealth bombers as they fly overhead to mark the opening of the event.

    I think that all of Pasadena joins the party tonight. There will be thousands and thousands lining the streets just blocks away and at midnight we will be part of the loud shouts and noisemaking to welcome in 2010. Open your window tonight and you just might be able to hear us too!


    It's the Holiday Season at Princess Usha's Orange County Palace

    Earlier this week I was in Orange County to meet my sister and brother-in-law for lunch and she handed me a newspaper feature on the Santa Ana home of Princess Usha of Holkar. It didn't take much encouraging to make a very short detour to drive by the house at Heliotrope and Santa Clara Streets. It doesn't look like the palace has changed much since Mom played with the Princess in the upstairs nursery, although the holiday lawn decorations are surely new.


    Shades, the Magazine, is No Shadowy Publication


    Shades of the Departed Magazine Holiday IssueWith the Holiday Edition of Shades of the Departed Magazine, it is obvious that publisher/writer/photograph/footnote Maven has set a high standard of excellence for this new online publication, and I am excited to be one of the "Shadettes." So much better than being in the "shadows!"

    This issue features columns by Shades regular contributors, footnoteMaven, Vickie Everhart, Rebecca Fenning, Sheri Fenley, George Geder, Craig Manson, Denise Olson, Caroline Pointer, Donna Pointkouski, and a new feature by The Photo Detective, Maureen Taylor. And, oh, my friend, Miss Penelope Dreadful was tickled to write a little something to accompany the cover photograph of Miss Margery Waters.

    Pour yourself a cup of eggnog, put another log on the fire, and sit down with your laptop to enjoy a wonderful winter reading at Shades of the Departed Magazine. Then take a minute to drop footnoteMaven a note to let her know how much you like the project. It is truly a labor of love and a gift to the genealogy community. Thank you, fM.


    A Gift for You to Give Your Friends and Family, Merry Christmas Minestrone Soup Mix

    After years of cookie exchanges, jamfests, and baking extravaganzas, my friend Terry Jaurequi and I found a simple and delicious handmade gift for our friends and work colleagues. We get together to assemble an enormous batch of minestrone soup mix, which we then package for holiday delivery.

    Some years we have added a quick bread mix, or yummy crackers. Other times, we give the mix in a basket or tote bag with a  nice bottle of wine. We have found that our friends like the soup so well they start asking about it right after Thanksgiving.

    Since it is a little difficult to squeeze dried beans through the internet, here is a holiday gift to my genea-blogging friends -- the mix recipe and PDF package tag with cooking instructions ready for holiday gift-giving. Print the tag, assemble the mixes, and you are ready to go. It could be the ultimate re-gift! Stir up a batch of Merry Christmas Minestrone to cook while you make these gifts for your own friends, and enjoy. Bon Appetit!

    What You Need:

    • assorted dried beans, lentils, peas, etc. (1 1/2 cup per mix)
    • macaroni (1/2 cup per mix)
    • 2 sizes cellophane bags for packaging – small sucker size for macaroni, larger for mix
    • Merry Christmas Minestrone PDF cooking instructions to print and add to each mix

    A note on selecting beans – We try to use a nice variety of shapes, sizes, and colors. Nine pounds of beans will yield about 14 packages of mix. We like to use black beans, red kidney beans, small white beans, pink beans, green and yellow split peas, lentils, garbanzos, baby limas, pinto. We buy at least 1 pound bags.

    To Assemble:

    Find a huge pot. I use my canning kettle so there is plenty of room to mix things up. Dump in all the beans, peas, and legumes. Mix well using your hands.

    Use a glass 2-cup measuring cup to measure out about 1 1/2 cup of bean mixture and pour into the larger cello bag. A canning funnel is helpful for filling the bags. It’s also a good idea to set the bags in a roasting pan or some other container that will help them to stand upright.

    Pour 1/2 cup of macaroni to each of the smaller bags and fold the top over tightly. Staple closed if you like. Add the small bag of macaroni on top of the bean mixture in each bag.

    Fold the cooking instructions so that the name shows on the front with the recipe on the back and staple to the top of the bag. Add a ribbon or bow if you like; or place the bag inside a tote bag with colored tissue.

    Here is the recipe for each mix that is printed on the PDF, ready to cut and fold for your mixes.

    Merry Christmas Minestrone

    Cooking Instructions

    In addition to this mix, you will need

    7 cups water

    1 large can (28oz) ready-cut tomatoes, undrained

    1 small onion, chopped

    2 tsp. Italian seasoning

    4 cups assorted fresh vegetables, sliced

    1 can (8oz) tomato sauce

    1-2 cups water

    1 lb. cooked ground beef, Italian Sausage or chicken (optional)

    Put water in large pot and add bean portion of soup mix. Add 1 teaspoon salt. Bring to a boil. Cover and simmer 1 to 1 ½ hours.

    Add canned tomatoes (undrained), onion, and Italian seasoning. Bring to a boil. Add vegetables, tomato sauce, additional water, and macaroni. Lower heat and cook until macaroni and vegetables are tender, 15 to 20 minutes. Add meat if desired, and heat through.

    Makes 6 to 8 hearty servings.

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