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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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    The Family Curator Sends Heirloom Photographs to ScanDigital Photo Scanning Service

    Bigger treasures are not necessarily better, but they are a bigger challenge. My grandmother saved everything, and I am slowly and carefully scanning and storing each photo, letter, and document. That is, except the growing stack of oversize items that are too large for my flatbed scanner. I have hesitated to send them off to the Never-Neverland of a mail-order scanning service. . . who knows where they would go or how they would be cared for?

    That is, until I met the founders/scanners from ScanDigital at the Southern California Genealogy Society Jamboree last June. Matthew Stone, Vice-President, Operations, was answering questions in the exhibit hall and explained the service and procedures, emphasizing the LOCAL operation. ScanDigital's offices are located in El Segundo, the family beach-town known as one of L.A.'s best kept secrets. This didn't sound quite so scary. I was assured that all scanning was done on-site, not sent off to a foreign country (and, I didn't even know that some places did that!)

    Heirloom photos stored tightly rolled, now cracked and creased

    When I came across a cache of large panorama photos from the 1920s and 30s, I decided it was time to try  ScanDigtal. Since my son and daughter-in-law actually live in El Segundo and offered to drop off the photos for me, it didn't seem like I was sending my precious heirlooms off into the boonies. Katie was asked to use the lobby computer and register an account. She left the photos and within days we received an email that the order was complete; she returned to pick up the photos and image CD. Pretty nice daughter-in-law!

    Images were scanned at 600dpi as JPGs,as requested. As I do not plan to print the photos or greatly enlarge any portion, I felt the standard ScanDigital resolution would probably be fine. The scans came out clear and straight, but it was obvious my photos had major problems. Years spent tightly rolled resulted in creases, cracks, and tears; these will need some restoration work.

    Great Western Paint Mfg. Co. 5th Convention Kangaroo Club, K.C., Mo. Jan. 14-15, 1930

    ScanDigital was careful not to cause further damage to the photos, and as a result some images bear slight shadows where the scanning technician held back from flattening the photograph to the glass. When I called to ask about this, ScanDigital offered to rescan those images, but I will wait to do so until (and if) I am able to relax the photos.

    Employees of the Gurley Candy Co., Sept 20, 1929

    My conversations with ScanDigital left me very curious about their facility and procedure and I asked if I could bring in my next photos personally and take a tour.

     I imagined a large warehouse full of Kinko's-size scanners or maybe a front office and a fleet of vans who rushed orders to an nearby warehouse where the "big" equipment was manned by an army of busy technicians. There would be a low hum from the machines and everything would be sterile and white.

    I think they were a bit surprised by my request, but said to just "come on by." So, I did. 

    . . . to be continued with details of The Family Curator's tour of ScanDigital and a Special Savings Offer.


    Happy Birthday Princess Usha from your friend Susie Brown

    From Mom's 'Princess Diaries'

    My Mother has pushed and pulled me along our genealogical journey, and this week she brings out yet another surprise. Mom often talked about her little playmate, The Princess of Indore, and this week she asked me to make an Internet Appeal for Help – she would like to reconnect with her fondly remembered playmate, Usha-Devi Holkar.

    My research has revealed an intriguing family history (see below) and we are excited to see what more we can learn. If you can help, please leave a comment below. Mom will be watching!

    Princess Usha and family


    Happy Birthday to You

    Happy Birthday to You

    Happy Birthday Usha Holkar,

    Happy Birthday to You.

    Happy Happy Birthday Usha, The Maharani of Indore, India.  I remember our fun days when we attended Hoover School and then we would go to your Palace to play. What fun times we had.

    I remember celebrating with other school friends your 6th Birthday party in your upstairs playroom.  You were a fun friend and playmate and I have thought of you often over all these 70 years.  

    Celebrate and enjoy your October 20th Birthday.  

    Love, Susie Brown Freeman


    Mothers are always right.

    In 1937, the handsome young Maharajah of Indore, recently widowed and still in mourning for his first wife was reportedly visiting Southern California with his five-year-old daughter when he fell ill with bronchial asthma. He was admitted to the Hospital of the Good Samaritan in Los Angeles where he met an attractive young American divorcé, Marguerite Lawler, born in Fargo, North Dakota. She later accompanied the pair to Europe as the child’s governess and was married to the Maharajah Yeshwant Rao Holkar on September 19, 1938.

    That same year, the Maharajah moved into his newly-completed Southern California palace with his bride and young daughter. The Santa Ana Register noted, "A man's home is his castle, and the castle being built for the world's richest man, the Maharajah of Indore, in Santa Ana is not only a castle; it is literally a fortress. It will guard that which is more dear to him than all of his income-it will guard the safety and continued well-being of his daughter, Princess Usha."

    The gracious home at the corner of Heliotrope and Santa Clara in Santa Ana was estimated to cost $50,000 to build at the height of the Depression; another $150,000 was spent on furnishing the mansion. But while the Maharajah enjoyed a luxurious lifestyle that included custom automobiles, international travel, and over a dozen homes, his daughter Usha enjoyed attending the neighborhood public school, Hoover Elementary, and playing with the local children. Susie Brown was one of the little girls invited to join in playtime at the Princess’s palace home.

    Today Suzanne recalls the big black car that brought the girls from school to the palace, and the upstairs playroom filled with toys and games. A governess or other attendants were always within sight, the Princess was never alone.

    Too soon, life changed at the Palace for Usha and her little friends. The Maharajah and his bride, Marguerite returned to India where they enjoyed a much different lifestyle. In 1942, Marguerite returned to the United States, and the Maharajah followed the next year to file for divorce.  As part of the divorce settlement, she received the Santa Ana home and the couple’s home in Emerald Bay, along with the care of Princess Usha.

    Only hours after his Reno divorce from Marguerite was final, on 6 July 1943, the Maharajah married Mrs. Euphremia Watt Crane.  Their son, Richard Shivji Rao was born 18 May 1944. 

    Ever resilient, Marguerite joined the Waves and Princess Usha returned to India at age 10 to live with her family. Marguerite married again and lived once more at the home on Heliotrope and Santa Clara until moving to Corona del Mar where she lived until her death in 1963.

    Little Princess Usha inherited the throne of Indore, and now contributes to her native country as a generous patron of culture, medical advancement, and the arts. She will be 76 years old this year. Happy Birthday Princess.

    Usha-Devi Maharani Sahiba Holkar XV Bahadur


    Many thanks to footnoteMaven for pushing me to uncover more of Mom's Princess Diaries and for confirming Usha's story on the Internet.


     “The Fabulous Cars of the Holkars of Indore.” Indian Royalty, Maharajas and More, 9 September 2009.

    Indore, The Holkar Dynasty

    Marsh, Diann.  Santa Ana, An Illustrated History (Heritage Publishing, 1994), excerpt in “Santa Ana’s Richest Resident, The Maharajah of Indore.” Santa Ana Historical Preservation Society.

    naneria. Yeswantraro Holkar, Lifesketch of Yeswant Rao Holkar Bahadur.



    National Day on Writing Events Begin Today

    The United States Senate has passed a resolution declaring October 20, 2009 as the National Day on Writing highlighting the National Gallery of Writing and a webcast of special events. Sponsored by the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE), the National Day on Writing is "collecting a cross-section of everyday writing through a National Gallery of Writing" to "better understand what matters to writers today."

    The Gallery of Writing will collect writing in diverse styles from people across America. Contributions will be accepted until June 1, 2010 and will be open to readers through June 30, 2010. Be a part of history and submit a recent blog article, story, poem, email, or audiovisual piece.


    Start Writing with the Blogger's Almanac

    You have downloaded The Genealogy and Family History Blogger's Almanac and found a topic that you would like to write about, but you are having trouble getting started with the first sentence or two. Every writer knows the feeling of staring at a blank page or screen and waiting for inspiration. That's when it can be helpful to have a few reliable tricks; here are a few favorites to break writer's block --

    Be a Journalist, Find a Slant for your story -- You want to write about Uncle Ernie's expererience in the Korean War, but that's a big topic. Maybe you can narrow the topic a bit by writing about how he was so eager to enlist that he fibbed about his age, just like his dad had done a few decades earlier. Now you have more focus, and a smaller, more manageable topic.

    Be a Detective, Find the Five W's -- It helps to make notes as you brainstorm your topic. Jot down the five W's, and fill in the blanks: who? (Uncle Ernie), what? (carried on a family tradition), where? (Hometown, USA), when? (19xx), why? (because his older brother and two best friends had just enlisted).

    Be a Mason, Build the Foundation -- Use the elements of the 5 W's to craft a solid sentence (or two) that answers those questions. It doesn't have to be especially elegant at this point, it just has to be solid. Uncle Ernie kept with the family tradition of military service when he enlisted in in the Army during the Korean War.  Like his brother and best friends, Ernie would serve with distinction; and like his father before him, Ernie enlisted under false pretenses by pretending to be older than his actual years.

    Your story is off and running. Fill in the tale with details about each of those five w's, beginning with the most exciting or unusual, and the tale will take shape. Reread over what you have written to check spelling and grammar, and polish your prose. Then, post and enjoy.




    Tech Tuesday Delayed Due to Digital Disaster

    From Mr. Curator  

    With true trepidation it is announced that publication of Tuesdays’ Tutorial will be delayed due to a (not so Dreadful) digital disfiguration done at the dinner hour during the drudgery of preparation of a delicious gastronomic delight.  Clearly, chopping chives for Arista di Maiale can cause cessation of the creation and circulation of curatorial columns for the curious.  Publication will resume when the wraps are removed.


    Use Blog Prompts to Jump-Start Your Writing

    It’s October, do you know what you will be publishing on your blog for the next two months? By the time “Jingle Bells” hits the department stores it is nearly too late to “plan ahead” for holiday postings, but if you start now to organize your blogging life, by late November you will be enjoying your turkey dinner without blog-induced indigestion.

    The November Issue of The Genealogy and Family History Blogger’s Almanac presents a variety of seasonal writing prompts that make it easy to plan ahead for timely blogging articles.

    In contrast to an Editorial Calendar, which is used to schedule articles, writing prompts (or themes) are specific topics on what to write. By definition, an editorial calendar is used by newspapers and magazines to schedule major features. It is used by editors in assigning stories and by the sales and circulation departments to solicit advertising. Most magazine editors know that people will start thinking about cool-weather cooking in the fall when the weather turns cold, so they schedule crock-pot and soup recipes. The savvy advertising sales department sees this on the calendar and is able to sell advertising for slow-cookers, freezer containers, and even expensive enameled cast iron soup pots.

    Bloggers may not be slating advertising on an Editorial Calendar, but they can use it to keep track of upcoming Carnivals or daily themes and to schedule posts using their blogging platform's advance posting features. A calendar can encourage regular blog updates, and help you see when you last wrote on a certain topic. It can also give a quick overview as to how your blog-life will be be impacted by real-live activities. Veteran bloggers like footnoteMaven know the value of a personalized Editorial Calendar. Her recent article Set Up a Blog Editorial Calendar gives the nuts-and-bolts for designing and using a calendar, and shares several great ideas for keeping your blog-life organized.

    Are You a Writer or a Poster?

    Teachers know the value of writing prompts in the classroom, so do college admissions boards. Each year, the University of California releases the college essay topics (or prompts). These topics are so useful in helping students fashion thoughtful personal essays that they are used by many other colleges for their student applications. Just because a student writes to a prompt does not mean he is unoriginal or not creative. Quite the contrary, when hundreds of thousands of students write to the same prompt, excellent writing truly shines. In fact, the prompt all but disappears.

    So, how can bloggers effectively use writing prompts? First, you probably know the kind of blog you want to publish. Ask yourself a few questions:

    • Is my blog a casual activity? How much time do I want to spend writing blog posts?
    • How much time do I want to spend reading other blog posts?
    • How much time do I want to spend commenting?

    In my experience teaching English and journalism, writing prompts were helpful for most students. A good prompt helped get the pen moving across the page. Students happy to settle for a passing grade would often dash off the required word-length and submit the paper. Those high-achievers (ok, bloggers, you know who you are!), in contrast, used the prompt as a starting point for something else. Sometimes they wrote two or three entire papers before they got it right, but they kept working on it. Often, the prompt helped most in giving focus and direction to their paper.

    The same thing is true every Tombstone Tuesday --

    Writers publish carefully  researched and well-written interesting stories about people and places, often complete with source citations.

    Posters publish photos and brief captions, often focusing on artistic or humorous interpretation or on personal research.

    It doesn’t matter, though, if you are a writer or a poster, writing prompts can still be helpful. Sometimes bloggers switch back and forth between the two roles. Writers get busy, burned-out, or just plain bored and turn into Posters for a while. Posters surprise themselves by becoming inspired and motivated to write a full feature article that generates comments and tweets.

    Think "Outside the Blog-Box" With a Writing Prompt

    A writing prompt can help jump-start either writers or posters. Here are a few different ways to think about using a prompt --

    from  The Blogger’s Almanac, November

    Weather Report – Do you drink your morning coffee with your local weatherman (or woman)? Do you recall their names?

    How often do we think about something so mundane as the weather report? Most of us check it when we plan our clothes or activities for the day. Will it be sunny and warm, raining, humid?

    I turn on the television and watch the Los Angeles weather report on Channel 7 ABC News with Dallas Raines. What a great name for a weatherman!  We have Johnny Mountain here too.

    Idea! Is a good name a requirement for being a weather person?
    Idea! What other weather reporters have symbolic names?

    My husband listens to the radio beginning about 5am. He gets the weather report on the air. He needs to know if it’s going to rain unexpectedly because he might have a house open and under construction. That means he has to move fast to put the the house under cover.

    Idea! How much rain usually falls this time of year?
    Idea! Have we ever had a flood around here? Are there any photos?

    Thinking about rain brings to mind rainy days when the boys were younger.

    Idea! Where are those photos of the boys in slickers and rainboots?

    What about Blog Carnival themes or the Daily Blogging Themes posted at GeneaBloggers?

    Idea! For the next Carnival of Genealogy: Your Favorite Genealogy Society, tap your local society's riches to discover your town's weather history, or research the genealogy of weather reporters in your hometown. How long has the local weather person been at the job? Who did your parents turn to for the weather report?

    Idea! For Tombstone Tuesday stretch yourself to stay in the weather prompt. How does your local cemetery handle cemetery care are during the current season? What particular issues of tombstone care are a result of your particular local weather?

    Idea! For a quick Treasure Chest Thursday article find your oldest pair of weather related gear (umbrella, rainboots, bikini?) and write a story with article about how it came to be in your closet.

    You get the idea! Combine writing prompts like those in The Blogger's Almanac with a personal Editorial Calendar and you will be one step closer to blogging through the hectic holiday season with time and space for those serendipitous moments that beg to be shared. There's lots to write and post about. Happy Blogging!


    Blogger’s Almanac Available at CGS Conference and Online Saturday 10 October

    almanac-title-web The Genealogy and Family History Blogger’s Almanac , November Issue, will be available Saturday October 10 online at The Family Curator and in person at the California Genealogical Society and Library in Oakland, California where Thomas MacEntee iis presenting Become a Genealogy Blog User and Building a Genealogy Blog.

    If you can’t make it to Oakland to hear Thomas’s presentation, followed by Craig Manson on Blogging and the Law, you can still be one of the first to download a free copy of The Blogger’s Almanac at The Family Curator.

    The Almanac features weekly themes and blogging ideas for the month of November as a helpful calendar for scheduling blog posts in advance during the busy holiday season.


    Research in Boston with a Virtual Visit to NEHGS and 4 New Online Journals


    I love Boston, but if NEHGS keeps adding online material my visits might get fewer and farther between. Just this week, the New England Historic Genealogical Society announced the launch of “Genealogical Journals Online: A National Collection.”

    The Journal web page brings together access to several of the country’s premier publications in one easy-to-navigate place. At present the site includes searchable online databases for

    • The American Genealogist
    • The Connecticut Nutmegger
    • New England Ancestors Magazine
    • New Netherland Connections
    • The New England Historical and Genealogical Register
    • The Virginia Genealogist

    Membership in NEHGS is a great value if you live in New England or can conduct research there in person frequently. But if you have New England ancestors and live in another part of the country, it’s an exceptional value for the quality and quantity of available online resources. The only drawback is that membership doesn’t include clam chowder or a lobster roll.


    Thank You for Nominating The Family Curator


    The Family Curator is honored to be nominated for the Family Tree Magazine 40 Best Genealogy Blogs in the Photos/Heirlooms category for blogs whose content focuses on “sharing, researching, and preserving family photos and/or heirlooms.” The final list of the FT40 will be announced in the May 2010 issue of Family Tree Magazine.

    Since The Family Curator’s early days in 2007, the number of genealogy blogs has multiplied many times to nearly 1500 blogs, making it truly a compliment to be among the outstanding blogs nominated for the Family Tree 40 Best.

    Voting is open through November 5, 2009 at the Family Tree website where the nominations are listed in 10 different categories. Voters are asked to select a specified number of top blogs in each category. Nominations in the Photo/Heirloom Category include

    Above the Trees
    Sense of Face
    Shades of The Departed
    The Family Curator
    The Practical Archivist

    A helpful list of all nominated blogs with links is available at footnoteMaven where I am finding “new” favorites to add to my blog reader as well. Congratulations to all the nominated blogs and bloggers!


    Looking for Ideas? Genealogy and Family History Blogger’s Almanac Is Here




    Hot off the presses delivered right to your desktop. The November 2009 Genealogy and Family History Blogger's Almanac will debut this week at The Family Curator. Just like the old-fashioned Farmer’s Almanac, the Blogger’s version will feature seasonal tips for making your (blogging) life easier.

    from the Introduction

    The days are growing shorter, there’s a chill in the air, and the holidays are just around the corner. Long-time bloggers know that the months of October through January can be the toughest to maintain momentum in blog writing. Have you thought about how you will manage your blog during the busy months ahead?

    Veteran bloggers have learned that by planning ahead with a stock of prepared blog articles it’s possible to blog and have a life too. The Genealogy and Family History Bloggers Almanac combines a planning calendar with focused blogging prompts to offer scores of ideas to make your blog life easier. Combine the seasonal subjects here with daily blog prompts at and you can avoid the dreaded question, “What can I write about today?”

    The November Almanac will be available as a FREE PDF download at The Family Curator.


    Samuel Chamblin, By Many Other Names, Still Sam Chamblin


    Sam Chamblin, but which one?It’s not surprising that Samuel Chamblin shouild appear in the 19th century U.S. census under many guises, but I didn’t expect him to appear under an alias during his lifetime as well.

    Moving back through time, census records for my great-great-grandfather, Samuel Chamblin, husband of Mercy Winsor, seemed to begin with the 1885 U.S. population schedule where he appeared, age 35, with his wife and three children (ages 14, 10, 8) living in Grasshopper Township, Kansas. He did not appear in any earlier census – at least not under the name Samuel Chamblin.

    In 1880, he is listed as Samuel Clin, age 32. The indexer dutifully recorded what appears to be a hasty census-taker’s abbreviation. At least he fully recorded the name below, that of wife, Mercy Chamblin. The family of five (three children of the correct names and ages 9, 8, and 4) were again living in Grasshopper Township, Kansas.

    Ten years prior, in 1870, Samuel would have been 20 or 22, depending on which age date was more accurate, however, Samuel Chamblin or Samuel Clin, does not appear in the census in the state of Kansas, Illinois, or Missouri. The children would not have been born in 1870, and a search for Mercy Chamblin finds only Charles Chamblin, age 29, living with Mary Chamblin, age 20, with 8-year old Edward Galen and 24-year-old William Chamblin. Is this the missing Samuel Chamblin?

    Another census search reveals a young Charles Chamblin, age 5, living with his parents, Samuel and Carolin Chamblin, in 1850 and with Samuel and Caroline Chambler in 1860 in Illinois. Among the many brothers and sisters is an older brother William Chamblin (age 16) and sister (age 13).  A little math shows that this Mary Chamblin could not be the same Mary Chamblin living in Kansas in 1870, as the Illinois Mary would then be 33 years old. William, however, could be represented as 24; perhaps he was working when the census-taker called and Mary did not know his exact age.

    Could “Charles” actually be “Samuel” and “Mary” actually be “Mercy”? Perhaps the best supporting evidence is the fact that the household is found living directly next-door to the Henry M. Winsor family, parents and siblings of my ancestor, Mercy Winsor Chamblin. But why is Mercy’s husband here called “Charles” and in later census reports named as “Samuel”?

    One possibility is apparent in the 1880 and 1885 census reports where Samuel/Charles and Mercy/Mary name their son as “Norman Chamblin.” Family photographs and letters bear witness to the name of this son as “Samuel N. Chamblin” not Norman, although the initial may indicate that this was his middle name. Perhaps family naming traditions held that the youngest son was named after his father but used a middle name while the father was living.

    Death records from the Missouri State Archives show that Samuel Chamberlain (yet another name variant) died in Kansas City, Missouri on 18 September 1889. This naming theory might be proven if records were discovered showing that Sam [Junior] began using the name Samuel rather than Norman about this time.

    In addition, the eldest Samuel Chamblin, born about 1813 in Virginia, appears in the Illinois census with his wife and family in 1850 and in 1860 and on the IRS Tax Assessment lists for 1864 and 1865. He and his wife, Caroline, are not found in the 1870 census. More research in newspaper obituaries and state death records may result in finding his death record. Could Samuel/Charles name use indicate a year of death for his own father?

    Another, less innocent reason why Charles may have started using the name Samuel might have to do with his military service record. In 1864 a Charles Chamblin, living in Leavenworth, Kansas enlisted as a Private in the Union Army. He deserted his regiment one year and seven months later. Could Charles have been avoiding the Army?

    Further research may reveal the true identity of Samuel/Charles Chamblin, but for now, I am building a growing list of aliases to use in the search:

    • Surnames: Clin, Chamblin, Chamberlain, Chambler
    • Given Names: Charles/Samuel, Norman/Samuel, Mary/Mercy

    Tech Tuesday – Advice for Conserving Your Family Treasures at the NEDCC Website

    What’s the difference between acid-free, buffered, lignin-free, and archival? They are all terms frequently used to describe supposedly safe storage boxes and other enclosures for paper documents and photographs; however, according to The Northeast Document Conservation Center in Andover, Massachusetts these labels do not all refer to the best storage solutions for your family treasures.

    The NEDCC is a consortium of state libraries in New England and the Atlantic states sharing a conservation facility which provide services and educational workshops for historical societies, college and university libraries, public libraries, and town and state archives.  The organization also offers twice yearly conservation workshops and a series of pamphlets on conservation techniques.

    Family historians will be interested in The NEDCC Resources for Private and Family Collections which addresses questions such as how and where to store family documents and photographs, as well as how to choose suitable archival storage enclosures (hint: not “acid-free”).

    The article reiterates advice to keep documents and photographs out of light and heat or fluctuating temperatures, but also addresses specific tips for special situations such as wedding photographs, removing staples safely, and preserving newspaper clippings.

    The NEDCC also hosts a series of one-day Fall and Spring Workshops in Andover on a variety of conservation topics. Fall sessions run September 29 – October 8. The Spring 2010 session will be held in March and feature workshops on scrapbook preservation, metadata basics, grant writing, and preserving oversize artifacts. While the program is aimed at conservation professionals, some workshops are open to interested individuals as well.


    Tech Tuesday: Shhh… please don’t tell Facebook, I’m a Grandmother

    Wonderful news – we have a new leaf on our family tree. It’s been a blizzard of activity since the little guy’s earlier-than-expected arrival, with hardly time to pack my suitcase for a visit. I had great plans for an official announcement here and in RL (Real Life) but I discovered today that I’ve been pre-empted by Facebook.

    The lesson seems to be that granny’s gotta get moving, or Facebook will leave us standing in the dust with our little brag books in our hands and nobody to share them with who hasn’t already heard the news.

    So much for paper, ink, and postage stamps. Might as well set aside the photo-lab color prints. Hardly need them now.

    It doesn’t seem to matter that I’d decided NOT to post photos or vital statistics myself in the interest of personal privacy, or that I thought I made a pretty good case for restraint with the alarming stories in last week’s Tech Tuesday article --

    • the mom whose picture ended up in a Craigslist adoption scam
    • the parents whose chiildren were being enjoyed by voyeurs (and worse) on Flickr
    • the children who are victimized by identify theft

    So, if you heard it on Facebook or Twitter or some other virtual space before I had a chance to tell you myself, I’m sorry. The Little Old Lady from Pasadena just isn’t moving fast enough.


    Tech Tuesday: Protecting Young Leaves on the Family Tree; Does Your Blog Need a Standard of Privacy?

    If a blogger writes a post revealing the birth date of Great Aunt Martha, the worst result might be Auntie’s chagrin in discovering discover that the secret of her youth is “out.” The potential outcome, however, of posting family photos on a personal blog is unfortunately much more sinister.

    Jenni Brennan is a Massachusetts mother who discovered that a photo of her smiling son was apparently lifted from her family blog and used as part of an adoption scam advertised on Craigslist. After an email alerted her to the scam,  Jenni responded to the ad posing as a potential adoptive parent and received a picture of her son, along with a request for $300 to begin the adoption. The case is now under investigation.

    While the actual physical risk here may be small, the sense of violation and exposure is quite real.

    An ongoing Flickr discussion on posting children’s photographs offers another chilling look at who may be looking at your children, and why. Self-avowed voyeurs have found a treasure trove of titillating children’s photographs on public photo-sharing sites, and a strangely supportive parent-body to support their taste. Some users like muddylemon became alarmed when they discovered certain photos from their image file were scoring thousands upon thousands of hits; after following the trail of those marking the pictures as “favs,” parents decided to change the images from Public to Private.

    Yet another prevalent concern for family bloggers is the growing business of children’s identity theft . In 2007, the Federal Trade Commission estimated that about 400,000 children per year were victims of identity theft, according to CBS News. Children make especially good targets, it seems, because they have a clean credit record. Teens can be cautioned not to give out personal information, but what about infants and young children? Family bloggers might not post a social security number, but stories often reveal a child’s full name, mother’s maiden name, and address.

    Personal bloggers can minimize exposure to abuse of their family information by adopting a few tactics:

    1. Protect children by posting photos and anecdotes on a password-protected blog or website.
    2. Use low-resolution and/or watermarked images to deter easy pilfering.
    3. Restrain from publishing any personal information on a public blog.

    Julie Brennan never expected to see her son “up for adoption,” and muddylemon didn’t think his son’s bathtub photos would become “hot hits” at Flickr. The Brennans now blog at a password-protected site and muddylemon has marked his son’s photos as Private.

    Family history bloggers can also protect the use of their family photographs and information by devising a Standard of Privacy for their blog. Many bloggers already work with a loose, unwritten guideline, but the exercise of forming a written statement will help firm up your thoughts and make it easier to decide what material to post. Bloggers might consider

    • the purpose of the site and what level of access is desired; public or password-protected?
    • resolution to use in posting images; watermark or other protection?
    • whether or not to invoke Copyright or Creative Commons licensing
    • what level of individual to write about or include in photos: only non-living, only photos/information 25 years or older, only adults over age 21?
    • what level of privacy to afford when writing about other individuals: first names, initials, no maiden names? It is common for family history bloggers to omit full names and addresses of living individuals. It is also courteous to ask permission before posting photographs of family members, no matter how innocuous the image may seem.
    • how much personal information to reveal; a family photo with home address clearly displayed, children on the front school steps, pets and their names?

    A Blog Standard of Privacy can be as casual as a bullet-list tacked above your desk, or a formal as a typed statement posted on your blog. It can evolve as issues arise and decisions are made about what to include and not include on your site.

    Not everyone will agree with the need for such prudence, of course, but many careful genealogy researchers have considered the evidence and chosen to err on side of caution whenever an individual’s privacy is at stake. You will find them blogging on a variety of focused topics, with only an occasional discrete mention of family or personal life. It doesn’t mean they “have no life,” just that Real Life is separate from Virtual Life.

    Further reading -


    Blog Writing 101: Grab the Gold Ring with A Memorable Carnival Post, Part 2

    In Part 2 of this feature, Carnival Hostesses with the Mostest share some of their favorite carnival entries and talk about what makes a memorable article.

    In Part 1, Grab the Gold Ring With a Memorable Carnival Post discover what is a blog carnival and how you can participate. Carnival hosts also share their experiences and describe what it takes to run a successful carnival event.

    Carnival hosts have two thing in common – they love what they do and have a tough time singling out “favorites” from the many wonderful entries to the events.

    Carnival Entries That Make the Hostess Smile

    Jasia relates that after nearly 80 editions of the Carnival of Genealogy, “it’s more the edition topics that are memorable. . . but a few articles stand out for two reasons, passion and talent. The authors are all passionate about the topics they’re writing about, and they are very talented writers. It’s just that simple.”

    FootnoteMaven says, “In the case of Smile for the Camera it’s all about the photographs; the sheer joy of seeing how each participant interprets the word prompt in a pictorial submission. I’m also a sucker for a creative blog name. It always gets my attention.”

    For the Festival of Postcards, Host Evelyn Theriault notes that what stands out most to her is when bloggers do something different for them, such as a geneablogger “paying attention to the postcard publisher or postcrossers adding little research blurbs to accompany their modern postcards.” She likes seeing the ways that bloggers from different niches approach the postcard subject.

    When coaxed, the carnival hosts gave several examples of what they consider memorable entries, and it’s easy see the qualities that makes these articles stand out from the crowd. Careful research, humor, creativity, and good writing are all evident in the following articles (presented here in alphabetical order) –-

    Be Yourself

    Most importantly, memorable articles are written by bloggers who dare to “be themselves” and let their own unique voice be heard. Whether you are new to blogging, or an old hand looking for a fresh perspective, it’s a refrain that never gets old, “Be Yourself” as footnoteMaven says.

    “When writing for the COG, your article will be appearing alongside many others. Develop your own voice to stand out from the crowd,” Jasia advises writers. “if you’re quick-witted, go for some humor. . . if you’re detail oriented, deliver your content with source citations in all their glory. If your talent is writing emotional posts that touch people’s hearts, don’t submit anything less.”

    “I am continually amazed at the effort Smile participants put into each post,” adds footnoteMaven. “There’s a lot of love going on with those photographs. You cannot help but be touched by the enormity of pride, and the value to our family history that the participants place on, often one of a kind, photographs.”

    This pride of family is often the spark that moves an someone to respond to a particular carnival edition. If the theme fails to resonate, the writing can fall flat too for lack of passion. In fact, according to Jasia, passion is one of the key factors to a successful carnival posting. Without passion, the article will likely not be memorable at all.

    Mini-Step: Write a Very Short Piece

    Does an upcoming carnival topic appeal to you? Perhaps you have the perfect story to tell or photograph to share, but you’re still timid about joining in. Consider the words of Evelyn Theriault and “focus on writing a very short piece – a few paragraphs at most.” Don’t be intimidated, she adds, just do it.

    Write a mini-article, post it to your blog, and complete the submission form or email to meet the deadline (even better, be a day or two early). When the carnival goes online, post another article announcing it at your blog, and be sure to provide links from the original article to the carnival article as well.

    Mini-Step: Join the Carnival as a Commenter

    Another way to ease into carnival participation is to be an ACTIVE reader. Carefully read entries to current carnivals, ask yourself what you like about the article, what you might do differently. When you find a particularly memorable article, take time to leave a comment. These mini-moments are great writing practice and help you focus on what you really want to say, all useful in honing your own style.

    Comments are also the best way to convey your appreciation to the carnival hosts and writers. A few words lets them know that you enjoy the time and effort they give to producing the event, and encourages them to continue.

    Next Step: Just Do It, With Passion

    “To anyone contemplating participating in a carnival,” adds footnoteMaven, “Do it! I have always found it to be a very rewarding experience regardless of which side of the post you find me on.”

    “Just do it,” writes Evelyn. “

    Bring your passion to your piece, and, as Jasia says, “When the passion is there, the article will likely be memorable.”

    See you at the Carnival!

    Thanks to footnoteMaven, Jasia, and Evelyn Theriault for sharing their thoughts on hosting genealogy blog carnivals for this two-part article. Please leave your comments for the Carnival Hostesses or the author, Family Curator.

    What does it take for a carnival article to be your favorite?

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