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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 is Moving


    Bulldozer and work crew moving a house; from a c. 1920 original photograph. Unknown location within the United States. [Wikipedia: Image in the Public Domain in the United States]


    The Family Curator is moving to a new home and getting a fresh coat of paint. Thank you for your patience while we unpack!


    2 Good Reasons to Use a Genealogy Blogging Prompt, and 3 Tips for a Top-Notch Post

    No matter how long you’ve been blogging, sooner or later you may find yourself staring at an empty page with nothing new to say. It happens to everyone. If you are just getting started in the world of family history and genealogy blogging, you may find that you have the opposite problem, so many ideas that you don’t quite know where to begin.

    Blog Carnivals, Daily Themes, and Memes are all other names for old-fashioned writing prompts, and they can help get your fingers flying over the keyboard once again.

    A Writing Prompt by Any Other Name is still a Writing Prompt

    A basic writing prompt is a simple instruction about a specific topic, designed to help the writer focus on the subject at hand.

    • The prompt can be as straightforward as proposing a theme
      • Write about one day you spent as a 13-year-old
    • or it may encourage the writer to try a new approach
      • Recall the worst day of your teenage years, and write about it from your mother’s or father’s point of view

    Where To Find ‘em

    Look for writing prompts, memes, and carnivals at

    3 Things to Think About Before You Write

    After selecting a prompt, carnival, or theme, take a few minutes to think about what you will write. Ask yourself, How can I make this interesting and well-crafted?

    1. Use a hook to pull a reader into your story. Open your article with the most interesting thing of all.
    2. Stick with the topic. Focus, focus, focus. Try to address the prompt in 300 words or less; hard to do, but it will help you be clear and concise.
    3. Write the headline AFTER you’ve written the article. Make it even more interesting than the opening hook. If you’re clever, use a joke, a pun, a song or movie reference.

    Using genealogy and family history writing prompts can help you enjoy writing blog articles instead of dreading deadlines.


    Ride 'em Cowgirls, Remembering the Traveling Photographer

    In the days when California suburbs welcomed the Helms' Bread truck and the Ice Cream van cruising the neighborhood to the tune of their company jingle, it was not uncommon to see a pony being led along the streets by an traveling photographer similarily looking for a little business from the housebound housewives.

    My mother and aunt remember the photographer and his pony who had a regular route through their Anaheim neighborhood. For a small fee, he would hoist excited children to the back of his patient pony and snap their photograph. Mothers could order prints to be delivered at a later time, and no doubt many were tempted to buy the deluxe versions hand-colored and enlarged in the photographer's studio.

    Frances and Susie Brown, Anaheim, about 1938.


    Tech Tuesday – Taken by a Tech Surprise

    No such thing as a ho-hum day in the blogosphere.

    The Family Curator woke with a start and the realization, "Hooray, it's my birthday!" quickly followed by the horrid thought, "will anyone remember???"

    Junior, the cat, looked up from his nest in the covers and blinked in reply, "We’ll see."

    Although the sky was just beginning to show the first signs of dawn, the Curator sprang from bed to retrieve a cup of morning brew from the kitchen. In a few minutes, she was back in bed with cat and coffee, cruising the internet for the day's news. FREE for three days! at GeneaMusings

    Blog Type Spotlight – Crafts and Charts Blogs at GeneaBloggers

    Twice Told Tuesday - A Birthday Story at Shades of the Departed

    That sounds interesting, the Curator thought. It’s my birthday too, I’d like to read a little birthday story.

    . . . Please continue reading this article under the Comments to today's post at Shades of the Departed, Twice Told Tuesday - A Birthday Story



    Tech Tuesday: RVers Stay Connected with Satellite Internet

    Last week Mom forwarded an email from a member of her local genealogical association which was interesting itself, but I was really taken with the tagline from the sender:
    Home is where I hang my @
    To see exactly where that is today, view the map at:
    [I deleted her user number, here]
    The link took me to a map showing internet satellite dishes registered to different owners. How cool is that?

    Now, this could be a little creepy from a security/Big Brother-point of view, but it is very "geek-cool" from the idea of staying in touch. I followed along to the main website of and found that the site provides location mapping for users of the Motosat Datastorm, particularly targeting RV users.

    Just think, internet connections and tracking virtually anywhere. It is like a giant GPS/satellite address book. What would our ancestors have thought of this? No more lost wagon trains.


    Footnote Gets Bigger and Better Every Day

    Footnote just keeps getting BIGGER and BETTER first appeared on my monitor just about the time I was gearing up for my classroom project Reading Women's Lives. It looked like a site with lots of potential, but I was a little wary of posting Arline's personal correspondence online for all to read.

    Fast-forward two and a half years and over 58 MILLION original historic documents -- the growth and impact of Footnote is monumental. As a former English teacher, I am especially excited about Footnote's potential for classroom interaction. I saw my last-semester Seniors come to life when they read and transcribed my grandmother's original correspondence. In deciphering the archaic handwriting and colloquialisms, the students became more aware of early twentieth century culture. One question led to ten more, their personal response with the original documents drove the lessons each day.

    Of course, any scholar or lover of history can interact with the documents as well; we can all be students again, excited by the discovery of learning. I am delighted to see Footnote's partnership with the National Archives and Records Administration and can only imagine the future archive content, but it is exciting to think that my contributions of obituaries clipped from 100 years ago from Midwest newspapers can be used by other Footnote readers to help answer their family history questions. That's truly collaborative learning.

    Access to the 1930 US Census is available free of charge at throughout the month of August; and Footnote has also extended the special membership subscription rate of $59.95 until August 10. Go to for more details.


    Still Talking About the Jamboree

    The Southern California Genealogical Society has just posted the latest edition of News & Notes which features more comments and acknowledgements from the very successful Jamboree, and news about upcoming events.

    The participation and efforts of Geneablogger Thomas MacEntee and the blogging community were noted on page 11:

    Thanks, too, to the terrific group of genealogy bloggers who traveled from points around the US and met at Jamboree. They helped keep everyone informed about Jamboree and kept everyone excited and interested. “Mr. Geneablogger,” Thomas MacEntee, helped set up the Twitter wall display, performed the technical magic behind the Virtual Surname Wall. Thanks to all.
    Mark your calendars now – Southern California Genealogy Jamboree, June 11-13, 2010, again at the Marriott in Burbank . See you there!


    Miss Penny Dreadful Writes for Weekend With Shades, “No Fish Tale – How a Lady Learned to Cast a Line and Landed Quite a Catch”

    Penny Our friend Miss Penelope Dreadful is at it again for Shades of the Departed with a family story of summer romance and youthful hi-jinks.

    When the Evergreen Anglers Association casts its net for new members, two sisters get a notion to bring together a favorite spinster aunt and the widowed fisherman in charge of the new group. How they manage to persuade Aunt Millie to go on an overnight fishing trip makes for an old-fashioned tale of summer adventure.

    If you have ever felt the urge to play matchmaker for an elderly aunt and a suitable gentleman, you will enjoy Penny’s story, “No Fish Tale – How a Lady Learned to Cast a Line and Landed Quite a Catch” appearing in today’s edition of Weekend With Shades. And please do leave a comment for Penny, she loves to hear from her readers.


    The Family Curator Meets Lisa Louise Cooke for a Chat About Blogging, Technology, and Caring for Your Family Treasures

    h-lisa-louise-cooke-SMLisa Louise Cooke makes it look so easy. This week, The Family Curator is honored to be the guest of popular podcast host Lisa Louise Cooke in Episode 39 of Family History: Genealogy Made Easy, recorded last month at the Southern California Genealogical Society Jamboree in Burbank.

    Lisa is the creator and producer of Genealogy Gems and Family History: Genealogy Made Easy, and hosts the monthly Family Tree Magazine Podcast and videocasts for Family History Expos. Her warm voice and wonderful laugh quickly put interview subjects at ease and set the stage for an engaging conversation on all subjects related to genealogy and family history.

    I have enjoyed listening to Lisa’s interviews and news for well over a year on the Genealogy Gems Podcast, but I never imagined that one day I would be sitting across from Lisa chatting about caring for family treasures and using technology to share family history. It’s not hard to see why Lisa’s podcasts are enjoyed by both beginners and experienced genealogists and family historians; she is a skillful interviewer who packs the session with helpful tips, news, and interesting topics.

    Thank you, Lisa, for the opportunity to join you at Family History: Genealogy Made Easy. It was fun chatting about our Southern California roots and those Orange County memories. I hope to see you in Burbank again next year, and introduce you to my friend, Penny Dreadful too!


    Tech Tuesday and Setting up a Genealogy Photo Workflow, Part 2

    Last week in this column, I wrote about the scanning procedure in Setting Up a Genealogy Photo Workflow, Part 1. This week, we tackle Part 2, where we move the photographs to a photo organizer/editor.

    After scanning my photographs and storing the images on my external MyBook hard drive (Western Digital), I turn to Part 2 of my Photo Workflow.

    Importing Images to a Photo Organizer/Editor:

    Note: TIFF Images are stored on an external hard drive.

    1. Connect hard drive to desktop computer.

    2. Open Adobe Lightroom2, Import photos, with settings to retain file names.

    3. After import, tag photos with useful keywords, location, names of subjects, place, date.

    4. Rename files with descriptive file name prior to original scan filename. For example: aak-001 becomes
    kinsel-arline_1912_ portait_aak-002
    I use a hyphen to separate names and placenames and an underscore to separate categories, thus name_year_description/place_original file name

    4. Convert files as JPG and store on C Drive of Desktop computer.

    5. Back up file on second MyBook hard drive.

    6. After tagging, converting, and backing up, TIFF files are never touched! All edits are made to jpg files. In Adobe Lightroom, all edits are “nondestructive” meaning you can return to the original without loss of data. Files may be resized, emailed, cropped, etc. all without damage to the original image file.

    Other photo editing software can do a similar job with tagging, renaming, and converting from TIFF to jpg. Adobe Photoshop Elements is a great program and easy to learn and use; Apple iPhoto or Adobe Photoshop Elements for Mac does the job for Mac users. But, to the best of my knowledge, Adobe Lightroom2 is the only software that offers “nondestructive” editing. If you use a program that records changes on the original file, it is wise to always work from a copy, and save an archived original.

    With my originals safely archived on MyBook (#1), and backed up to MyBook (#2), I am comfortable editing and working with the jpg images on my hard drive. Next step, printing a contact sheet and 4 x 6 prints from a local warehouse store to use as reference.



    When It’s Not So Dreadful to be Talked About

    Penny My friend, Penny Dreadful, returned this afternoon from a weekend out-of-town and dropped by all a-twitter to see me. It seems that Penny overheard our mutual friend footnoteMaven talking with broadcaster Lisa Louise Cooke about fM’s popular magazine, Shades of the Departed, the very publication that Penny writes for each month, and she just so-happened to hear her own name mentioned. You can imagine, how Penny pricked up her ears to catch the conversation.

    Without really intending to eavesdrop (SUCH a nasty word), Penny had stumbled into a conversation between footnoteMaven and Lisa Louise Cooke. They were talking about the Maven’s life as an editor/publisher and her break from legal life to publishing. As any good journalist, Penny couldn’t simply ignore their remarks, so rather she leaned in closer to catch every word. What a surprise to hear her own name mentioned! I am sure her ears were on fire!

    “I was shocked,” she told me. “Absolutely stunned. To be mentioned as a fine writer by Editor Maven, herself. To have my work noted in the same breath as Ms. Maven named so many other outstanding writers including Miss Fenley, Miss Jasia, Miss Olson, Miss Pointkouski, Mr. Geder, and Mr. Manson.”

    "You do keep illustrious company, Penny,” I laughed.

    “Well, yes, I guess I do,” she admitted. “But you must know that each person named by Miss Maven has at one time or another encouraged and aided my own fledgling career. Why, if it weren’t for Miss Maven, I wouldn’t be who I am today!”

    “I agree, Penny,” I told her. “We are indeed fortunate to be working in a field where we are welcomed not so much as competitors but as colleagues.”

    It’s a fine time to be a geneablogger, indeed.

    Psst: You can listen in to the conversation too at Family History: Genealogy Made Easy, Episode 38, a podcast interview by Lisa Louise Cooke of Genealogy Gems with footnoteMaven, recorded at the SCGS Jamboree June 2009.



    Tech Tuesday – Setting Up a Genealogy Photo Workflow, Part 1

    Professional photographers call it a “workflow',” as a mom I just called it a “routine.” It’s the standard order of doing things that results in Getting Things Done.

    Lay out the school clothes, tuck them in bed, read a story, turn out the light, go to sleep. It just works. If you forget the school clothes, things don’t go so well in the morning. And woe to the parent who tries to skip the bedtime story. Routines work.

    A photography workflow can help any genealogist or family historian process a photo collection efficiently and carefully. After reading books and blogs, posting on numerous forums, and exchanging emails with dozens of photographers and archivists, I’ve come up with a photo workflow that works for me. . . today, at any rate.

    I have broken the workflow into separate activities; this works for me because I can process the photos in smaller chunks of time. I can scan or import depending on the time available, and still make progress toward completing the project.

    Supplies and Equipment Needed --

    flatbed scanner, (Epson Perfection V500)
    2 external hard drives, (MyBook)
    white cotton gloves
    archival drop-front box 12 x 15-inch (for oversize photos)
    archival flip-top box  8 x 5-inch
    archival sleeves, 5 x 7-inch and 8 x 10-inch
    permanent ink pen, archival safe
    Adobe Lightroom2 software

    Part 1: Scanning Workflow

    Set up --

    1. Connect and turn on scanner to warm up
    2. Connect external hard drive
    3. Put on gloves
    4. Clean scanner glass with soft cloth
    5. Start scanner software: set for color scan, TIFF format, stored on external hard drive, file name + image number; check box to open folder after scanning [this is my confirmation that I have completed the scan]

    Note: for file name, I use a general name for my current archive [aak] plus the next number in my series [045]. I will edit names in Lightroom2 when I add metadata.

    Scanning --

    Note: I scan both sides of every photo, front first, then back [thanks for that tip, footnoteMaven!].

    1. Set resolution to 1200dpi, double-check TIFF file format
    2. Preview Scan front side of image; rotate image on Preview panel if needed
    3. Scan; folder will open showing new file image with name of filename-number [aak-045]. This may take a few minutes at 1200dpi.
    4. Turn over photo
    5. Change settings to 300dpi if photo has information; if blank scan at 72dpi
    6. Scan; folder will open showing new file image with name of filename-number [aak-046]. Notice that front sides of photos are odd numbers, reverse sides are consecutive even numbers.
    7. Remove photo from scanner, place in archival sleeve and set in box lid [will be used later]
    8. Repeat steps 1-7 for each photo; I usually scan in batches of 20-25.

    This is a good place to stop working and tidy the work area. The next part of the workflow is to Import photos to Lightroom2 for tagging and jpg conversion. Visit The Family Curator next week for Tech Tuesday and Setting up a Genealogy Photo Workflow, Part 2.



    Happy Blogoversary to Me!

    The 2nd Anniversary of The Family Curator came . . . fireworks exploded in the night sky . . . and went. The date is purposefully shared with two other auspicious anniversaries -- national independence and Henry David Thoreau's personal independence -- yet, this year the Family Curator was celebrating a family holiday in George Washington country rather than posting on the blogosphere.

    Anniversaries, like birthdays, are a good time to reflect on the twelve-months past, and it has been a momentous year in the life of The Family Curator. Some of the posts and events I enjoyed most included

    A Mystery in Two Acts and The Plot Thickens, the "back story" to a popular melodrama performed by a troupe of local actors, including my grandmother Arline Kinsel. I was able to locate a copy of the original script and posted a three-part synopsis of the story, as well as photographs of the "Cast of Characters" from Arline's treasure trove.

    The Family Curator Writes at Shades of the Departed was my debut with footnoteMaven's exceptional blog, Shades. "Reading Women's Lives" focused on a project I used with my high school English students where they transcribed and analyzed some of my grandmother's correspondance from 1910-1920.

    My Kind of Athletics -- The Genea-Blogger Games kicked off a great time of blog-centric events dreamed up by the official Games Committee (Thomas, Terry, Miriam, Kathryn, footnoteMaven, and Denise). Great fun for those dog-days of summer, and participants were also able to hone their varied blogging skills and win medals!

    Treasure Hunt! was a bloggers' challenge that resulted in a great find right in my own Magic Cupboard, detailed in Treasure Revealed -- a folder of black-and-white negatives to images I had never seen in print. What a find! It was so much fun to see what other bloggers found on their own expeditions Treasure Hunt Challenge Round-Up: Just Look What We Found in Our Cupboards & Closets & Boxes!

    Ten Tips for Making Family Connections highlighted some of the ways blogging can help family historians and genealogists connect with other family members. The article grew out of a guest column at Shades of the Departed entitled Making Connections which chronicled some of the family members I've met through my writing at Shades. Now that's a winding road!

    and in January 2009, The Family Curator initiated a new weekly column, Tech Tuesday, a regular feature highlighting technology related reviews, ideas, tips, and information. It's been a challenge to post every single week, not so much on due to lack of subject matter, but just to "do it." My goal now is to post more family history to balance the content and share some of the great treasures in my Magic Cupboard.

    It seems fitting that my anniversary date follows one of the highlights of the year, the Southern California Genealogical Society Jamboree, because this year I was able to meet so many bloggers face-to-face at SCGS Jamboree 2009. I hope that this annual event will bring even more bloggers together next year -- both virtually and physically.

    Of course, it wouldn't be nearly as rewarding or interesting to write in a void, and I am extremely grateful to readers of The Family Curator for comments and suggestions, and to fellow bloggers who so generously share blogging wisdom, encouragement, and enthusiasm. Thank you, you know who you are!


    Tech Tuesday: Easy Photo Tagging “Facebook Style”

    Have you ever wanted to tag your genealogy or family photos “Facebook style” to identify people in a group photo? Or maybe you just wanted to add balloon captions to your son’s prom picture. A recent listener of The Genealogy Guys podcast asked about software with this feature, and reminded me that tagging was a pretty fun summer activity.

    Prom Crew Merged 

    Your dates for the new millennium: Prom 2000.

    While not quite “Facebook style,” FotoTagger is a nifty little tool that features labels and balloon-style captions. This free software program allows you to add tags and captions, import/export tags, and email, save, or blog your tagged photos.

    CatinBowl Merged

    Taggers can define a more “Facebook style” look with mouse-over labels using the Passage Express multimedia presentation software. This product builds “projects” and allows the face labels as part of images used in the projects.


    Tech Tuesday: It's Okay to Play Favorites

    Was your mom like mine, insisting that you include all your siblings or classmates when you played a game or planned a party? Did you secretly long to not invite the class bully with a mean streak as wide as the Mississippi? Take heart! When it comes to creating a first rate photo collection, “It’s Okay to Play Favorites.”

    Recently I attended an Adobe Seminar presented by Photoshop Guru Scott Kelby focusing on how to use Adobe Lightroom2 to optimize photo workflow. I am definitely not a Pro in this field, but Scott demonstrated several easy techniques that are just as useful if you are using Mac iPhoto, Windows Microsoft Picture Viewer, Adobe Photoshop Elements, or Adobe Lightroom2.

    As I thought about establishing a photo workflow, I realized that these same techniques are even useful if you are working with a shoebox of family prints. Any photo collection will benefit from judicious sorting. As a bonus, your family will come to thank you that the slide show features 8 minutes of fabulous photos rather than 29 minutes of marginal memories.

    Professional photographers know that in order to survive they have to master the business end of taking pictures. This means photos cannot languish away on memory chips. They have to be uploaded to a computer, sorted, minimally touched-up, and then presented to a client for selection and (hopefully) purchase. Customers also want to see only The Best, after all that’s why they hired a Pro.

    When the family photographer begins to think like a Professional, it becomes easier to realize that Playing Favorites is not only Okay, it is necessary to building a quality photo collection. Of course, the family historian has other considerations as well. An out-of-focus or poorly framed shot of Aunt Mildred may be the only photograph of her at all. By all means, this one is a Keeper.

    So, your images are in front of you – either in a software program like iPhoto, PS Elements, or Lightroom, or spread out on the dining room table. How do you select The Best?

    First, pull together the “Photo Shoot” or set. This would be the Rehearsal Dinner, the Birthday Party, or your walking tour of Paris. From this set of photos you want to choose the best, which also means dumping the worst. Why waste time and effort with bad photos? Some photo programs tempt you to use Star Ratings, but why? As Scott Kelby notes, do you think you will ever want to look at one or two star photos? Those should be the ones that are out of focus or have heads cut off. Even three star photos? The Star selection system is slow; pros would never earn a living if they spent their time deciding if a photo was worth two stars or three stars. If you think you might want the picture some day, there is a way to keep it without inviting it to the party. Read on.

    Lightroom2 Compare Window
    Select Left or Right as Keepers

    How to Play Favorites with your Photos
    1. Assemble Photo Shoot pictures
    2. Ignore typical Star Ratings; instead quickly select the Best, reject the Worst. Use stars (or flags) to assign one star Keep and five stars Reject. That’s it; two choices. Keep or Reject. (Using stars or flags allows you to create a group which can be easily selected later.)
    3. Can’t decide which of six is the best? Place two similar photos side-by-side (Lightroom2 and PS Elements allow this comparison view.) Choose the best of the two, reject the other. Bring a new photo in to compete with the winner. Audition each photo against the winner. Try to move quickly; don’t let yourself get bogged down in selecting; go with your instinct.
    4. Make a New Collection Set and drag all the Keeps into this set. Label it Rehearsal Dinner. (You could call it Rehearsal Dinner Keeps, if you like).
    5. Now, you have to make one more decision. If you want to get rid of the bad photos, select the Reject group and Delete. If you just can’t throw them away, make a second New Collection Set and drag all the Rejects into this set. Label it clearly Rehearsal Dinner Rejects. There, you saved them, but no one has to look at them ever again if they don’t want to!

    Playing Favorites will eliminate bullies from your photo collection and give you the best and the brightest to work with for your slideshow, album, or web page. You may even gain a reputation as the Family Pro Photograher.

    More Photo Tips and Tech-Tricks next week at Tech Tuesday.

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