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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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    Family Curator Visits NEHGS Spring Research Getaway 2009, Part 1: Preparing to Research

    Note: This is Part 1 of a three-part review of my recent research trip to NEHGS. I have tried to address some of my own questions before attending the program for those who are considering research at the Library, and hope my comments are helpful. In Part 2, I will review the one-on-one consultation sessions, and in Part 3, I will discuss research opportunities at NEGHS.


    It has been one of my long-time goals to research my family history at the New England Historical Genealogical Society, and this month I was able to take advantage of the Spring Research Getaway offered each year by NEHGS. I classify myself as an Advanced Beginner in genealogical research, and I knew that I would benefit from an orientation and assistance in using the extensive collections at HisGen.

    The three-day Spring Research Getaway promising guided research with one-on-one consultations and special access to the collections appeared to be well-suited for my needs, and I was not disappointed. My experience with NEHGS was very positive from my first correspondence in January. Questions were answered promptly, and information about the program was directed to help me be successful in my research goals.

    I admit that I was quite nervous about attending the program; concerned that my research goals would be either too "big" or too "small." Although I have a graduate degree and know my way around a university library, I've always felt intimidated by microfilm readers and was sure that I would have an awful time with those monsters. I was also traveling alone for part of the trip, which is its own issue. Happily, by the time I left home for Boston I felt ready to research and confident that I would be able to accomplish at least some of my goals.

    Shortly after registering for the program I recieved an email letter and several attachments from Ryan Woods, Director of Education. In addition to travel information, schedule, and liability waiver, the packet included a Participant Interest Sheet. The accompanying "Tips for Completing Your Partipant Interest Sheet" was a mini-couse in how to write research goals: what to include, what NOT to include, and samples of well-written research questions.

    The schedule showed that we would have time for scheduled consultations with NEHGS experts, and time for personal research.

    A few weeks before the program, I received a packet in the mail with a copy of each participant's research sheet, a list of the consulting staff with notes on their areas of expertise with accompanying Facebook-style photo, a guide to the library, and information about Boston and the library vicinity.

    After laboring over my Interest Sheet I asked for a quick review from Midge Frazel, who has researched at HisGen. She gave me the go-ahead and a huge lead on our potentially-common ancestors.

    I also spent some time online at the NEHGS website. As a member, I was able to access the database resources and do some catalog look-ups for books I might want to investigate. I also viewed the Library orientation material so that I would have some idea of what was available where.

    I am glad that I took time to work on my research goals and review the program materials, so that I was able to move foward even after losing my laptop enroute to the program. Ryan Woods was helpful in working out alternate strategies for using computers at the library and took time to give me a brief tour when I stopped in the day before the program began. When I arrived on Day 1, I was ready to hit the ground running.

    Read More about NEHGS

    Part 2 - Consulting With the Experts

    Part 3 - Researching at NEHGS




    Tech Tuesday: Tips for Travel and More on Lojack for Laptops


    I have just returned from a 12-day trip which included genealogy research in Boston at NEHGS and family time in the Hudson Valley and Manhattan. As I mentioned last week, my research was nearly sidetracked by a lost laptop, but Dear Mr. Curator saved the day with a replacement, and I have learned quite a bit from the experience.


    First, when traveling alone, limit your carry-on baggage. With many airlines now charging a fee for checked bags, it's certainly frugal to carry on whatever you can; but, losing items can be an expensive alternative. When I went through the security checkpoint at LAX, I was instructed to place my items in four separate bins -- shoes, jacket, purse, laptop. I also had a small carry-on bag. At some point, that last bin was stopped in the scanner and in the confusion of reassembling my gear, I turned away from that last bin. When I returned to the line, the laptop was gone. Security and airport police could only run the taped video, but as I didn't want to miss my plane, I couldn't wait. I didn't know that I had to be there in person for the search to take place; this was something I found out later when I called security. As angry as I was with my own inattention, there is much to be said for staying focused as you go through security. The confusion and commotion are pretty distracting, and it is hard enough to keep track of boarding pass, ID, shoes, coat, and any other items.

    Second, be aware of any purchase protection services that may cover your loss. I was glad to discover that my new HP mini-notebook was covered from theft or loss by my American Express card purchase within the 90-day window. AmEx requires paperwork and approval, but hopefully I will be reimbursed for the loss. If I had been past the 90-day coverage, I may have filed a claim with our homeowners insurance and paid the $100 deductible charge to replace the laptop. When our sons left home for college, we added computer coverage to our insurance and were glad to have it in force when laptops were a big-ticket item some years ago.

    Third, carry your data on a flash drive separately from the laptop. I was SO GLAD that my genealogy data was on a little flash drive in my purse. This meant that even if I hadn't replaced my laptop, all was not lost. The only downside for me was that I was unable to access my Legacy data without the program itself. With the replacement laptop, however, I was able to log on to the internet, download Legacy and then open my file. I wouldn't be surprised if more genealogy software companies imitate Roots Magic with the Roots Magic To Go feature in the future. This would be a lifesaver.

    During my first session with Joshua Taylor, computer guru at NEHGS, I explained my mis-adventures and laughingly said I needed something like a lojack for laptops. Without blinking, Joshua said that he had used exactly such a service, and it's called just that "Lojack for Laptops."

    The subscriptions service registers your laptop and is activated when notified that the computer is lost or stolen. Standard service tracks the laptop for recovery; premium service also activates a command to securely delete data on the computer remotely the first time the computer is connected to the internet. Mr. Curator thinks this would be worth the price of admission if I travel again!!!




    Tech Tuesday: Needed--Leash for Laptops

    This week's regular Tech Tues column will be brief: avert Genealogical Disaster by carrying data on a flash drive that is NOT with the computer.

    More on "Lojack for Laptops" and "How to Replace a Lost Laptop when Travelling" next time.

    P.S. -- why do I feel that I am in one of Penelope Dreadful's tales?

    Sent from my BlackBerry® smartphone with SprintSpeed


    Hint, hint


    Sent from my BlackBerry® smartphone with SprintSpeed



    Where is the Family Curator?


    On location for research... Guess where?

    Sent from my BlackBerry® smartphone with SprintSpeed



    Tech Tuesday: At Last... Reading on a Netbook

    Wouldn't it be great if a mini-notebook, or netbook, could do duty as a Kindle-like book reader? This feature would add even more value to the already tiny but full-featured computer. I knew I could use my new HP Mini for email, Internet, and my geneaology software, but I didn't realize the high frustration of reading an ebook on the horizontal 9 x 5.5-inch screen. All that scrolling just to read a paperback-size page of text is no fun at all. Wouldn't it be nice if I could just turn the netbook on end and read in portrait-view?

    My library subscribes to a popular lending library program for ebooks. By accessing their Digital Library, I can check out both audio and ebook content. Audio programs are available in a variety of formats, but ebooks are available only as Digital Rights Managment (DRM) copy protected files that can only be viewed on Adobe Digital Editions reader. This is a nice little reader with severe limitations... The netbook screen is oriented in "landscape" mode, but if I turn the little netbook on its end holding the mouse/keypad side in my right hand, I could easily read a book in the more natural "portrait" mode and access the touchpad mouse to "turn" the pages. Alas, it was not to be.

    While the full Adobe Reader will allow page rotation, this capability has not yet come to Digital Editions, and Adobe Reader cannot access the DRM files. (Reader 7 will allow both rotation and DRM, but as it is no longer supported, a user must be using an original version.)

    Dan Ackerman at Kindle City must have felt my pain. "Kindle, schmindle...I've got your $350 e-book reader right here" he writes, with a free application called EeeRotate, designed for the Acus Eee PC, but that also works on amy PC.

    I tried it out first on my laptop computer and hit the magic key combination -- Ctrl, Alt, Rt Arrow. The entire screen, not just the active window, rotated on its side. Hey, couldn't you use it to view an entire document in a more natural format? Wouldn't this be useful if you were transcribing and wanted to see a full page? I think I like this!

    On the HP Mini, I am now reading a DRM library book -- sideways. Life is good.


    Randy Seaver's FTM Reviews Noted by SCGS

    Randy Seaver, popular blogger at GeneaMusings, may be getting even more traffic on his site with the Spring 2009 issue of The Searcher, publication of the Southern California Genealogical Society.

    The Searcher notes that Randy blogged "a comprehensive series of reports on the operation and performance of Family Tree Maker 2008" including screen shots and step-by-step instrucitons. Since this report was written, Randy has reviewed Family Tree Maker 2009 and also reviewed Roots Magic 4, and he may even have more reviews online by the time you read this!

    Randy seems to be "in the know" for most new programs and services, and writes comprehensive, objective reviews at Genea Musings. Use the Blogger Search box to find the program you would like to research.


    Tech Tuesday: Old-Fashioned Social Networking, It's Commonplace

    One of my favorite internet magazines, Common Place, has just published a special issue dedicated to American literature. Stanza and Kindle readers won't want to miss Max Cavitch on
    "Who Publishes an Early American Book? From Codex to Kindle," only one of several outstanding articles on American literature and publishing.

    Common Place takes its name from the commonplace book, a part of every educated person's schooling in Early Modern Europe. Young scholars used a sheaf of paper or bound book as a place to copy significant passages, essays, poetry, or even letters for reference and sharing. It was the earliest version of social bookmarking!

    "Literature as Evidence: Historians recommend American books" by Eric Slauter will be of special interest to researchers and family historians. Slauter briefly discusses the popularity (or not) of Adam Seybert's 1818 volume, Statistical Annals

    an eight-hundred-page, six-pound volume, printed in the dimensions of a modern metropolitan phone directory, with 175 numeric tables describing population, commerce, and debt—aimed at nothing less than a full representation of the United States in book form.
    When Seybert's Annals failed to be a bestseller (imagine that!), the U.S. government ended up purchasing hundreds of copies. Seybert's work helped establish America's love affair with statistics, numbers, and facts, "what historian Patricia Cline Cohen has called the 'quantitative mentality' of the early United States."

    Family historians and genealogists quickly find that there is more to a life than names, dates, and places. Discovering social context through literature is an exciting way to flesh out our ancestors' stories and bring the past to life. It is affirming to note that Slauter cites historians who have moved past data-only to include literature as evidence of shifts in social attitudes and as documentation of life experiences. This is exactly the kind of social context the family historian attempts to build.


    A Fine Feathered Tale for Friday

    Word on the street is that Miss Penelope Dreadful is preparing another "dreadful" tale for her monthly Weekend With Shades column. Follow Penny Dreadful at Twitter.


    Tech - Tombstone Tuesday: Look What We Found on the Web!

    This week's regular Tech Tuesday column has been pre-empted by Tombstone Tuesday: technology is helping break down walls with connections between Genea-Bloggers and even a virtual tombstone sighting.

    What began as a request for research tips at the New England Historical Genealogical Society, quickly turned into an online research-fest when blogger Midge Frazel, Granite in My Blood, read my research goals. Seems Midge loves a puzzle, and before I was out of bed this morning, Midge was emailing me from New England with all kinds of helpful information, including the possible burial place of my ancestor. It's a case of genealogical kindness of the best kind.

    The small Mathewson Cemetery located off Winsor Avenue in Johnston, RI is reported to have 75 burials, and yes, Midge, that looks like a monument to me too!

    Just in case there are still folks who think that technology isn't worth the bother, I thought it would be instructive to list how technology helped us connect:

    • Sunday morning - While reading the February 2009 Scanfest Archive from AnceStories, I noted that Midge Frazel mentioned doing research at the NEHGS.
    • Contacted Midge via her Facebook page; chatted briefly at Scanfest Sunday 27 March.
    • Monday, Midge and I talked via email and she gave me some good tips for working at "HisGen."
    • Tuesday, Midge finds a Will extract naming my ancestor Henry M. Winsor, at and locates a small Mathewson cemetery in Johnston, RI using GoogleMaps; forwards pdf and jpg image files.
    • I scan and send Midge pdf images of letters to and from the Mathewson family that I received from a Vermont researcher my mother found on a message board.
    Whew! It's not even noon on the West Coast and suddenly the walls are coming down. We've connected through Facebook, CoverItLive, and email; discovered information through database searches and virtual map imagery; and shared information through digital files scanned or copied and sent via email. I can only imagine how long it would have taken B.I. (Before Internet) to accomplish so much. Thanks Midge. This is the best Tombstone Tuesday ever!


    Tech Tuesday: Flashy Flash Drive Apps

    Who would have "thunk" it? SanDisk is now offering mini-applications designed to run directly from a "U3 smart" portable USB Drive. Known by many names -- thumb-drive, flash drive, USB drive, portable drive -- these handy little devices haved saved my skin in many situations. Before our campus IT department opened the network to sharing off-campus computers, I carried my digital life in a tiny 256 mini-cruzer. Now, I can carry 8mb or more and Life is definitely Good.

    While some U3 apps are available for purchase, others are free, including programs to run Evernote, OpenOffice, Firefox, WinAmp, and Skype. I have been running Evernote and like the easy portable access to the program. Hopefully, more developers will develop mini-versions of their programs to run from a USB drive. My wish list includes mini-iTunes and Adobe Reader.

    To install the U3 applications, either 1) plug the USB flash drive into your computer and follow the onscreen instructions to view, select, and download applicationa; or 2) download applications from the SanDisk U3 website.

    Users can also choose to delete the U3 application launcher and use the portable USB drive strictly for portable storage, but as netbooks grow in popularity, but not necessarily hard disk space, mini-applications can expand the device functionality or provide a mobile access to favorite programs.

    What's on your U3 smart drive?


    When it Hurts to be a Cupcake

    Sign of the times in South Pasadena, Calif

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    9-1-1 for Family Historians

    As a fan of Rebecca Fenning's blog, A Sense of Face, I am delighted to see she will be joining footnoteMaven at Shades of the Departed as part of Weekend With Shades, beginning this Saturday, March 21with her new column Saving Face.

    Rebecca and I have corresponded a bit over various archival issues, and I look forward to reading her answers to the burning questions sure to be asked by Shades readers. Rebecca was a great help with some of my scanning questions for Arline's letters and photographs, so I know that she will be able to address a wide variety of archival situations.

    Join The Family Curator at Shades this Saturday for Rebecca's debut column.


    Tech Tuesday: Help for Genealogy Websites is Here

    Web searches can turn up the most serendipitous surprises! In searching for an online image of a will written by one of my ancestors prior to 1850 -- just another one of the weekly homework assignments for my online genealogy course -- I stumbled upon a well-designed personal genealogy site maintained by Pat Geary. Family Genealogy is much more than the online home to the "Geary, Jewel, Tucker, & Little Families," it is also Pat's pilot project to model elegant web design and offer assistance for other online family historians. She writes,
    Do you need some help with the design and layout of your genealogy site? I am willing to work with you on this project. Why? Because I enjoy doing it and it is my way of "paying it forward" for all of the help I have received. I do this on a volunteer basis so may occasionally have to limit the amount of time I can spend with you.
    Pat also teaches online courses and provides links and resources for genealogy website design at her website, Genealogy Web Creations and at her blog Genealogy Computer Tips & Tutorials. New web design courses will be starting April 5, 2009.

    It is obvious that Pat is a very busy lady, but her spirit of generosity is one that seems to run strong in the genealogy world. I am looking forward to spending more time exploring her web site and tutorials. . . and if I can't find a Winsor Last Will & Testament fairly soon, I may try to adopt Samuel Wood !


    How Did I Miss?: Weirdness in your own backyard

    New England researchers and other lovers of weirdness take note of The New England Anomaly: Weirdness in your own backyard, The Journal of Unusual Folklore, History and Lifestyle in the American Northeast.

    My favorite of the day, Rate a Shack: We risk our guts so you don't have to! I see that this will be a bookmarked site for my next trip to New England. Flo's Clam Shack in Middletown, RI looks promising!

    Current news and events on the New England Anomaly Newsblog includes more recent postings such as "Breaking the leapfrog record in Willimantic" Conn.

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