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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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    Treasure Hunt! A Challenge for Genea  Bloggers

    Lately I have written about The Magic Cupboard that seems to yield a treasure each time I open the door. First, I went looking for photos for my Personal Profile and out tumbled Arline's store of negatives from the early 1900's. Next I went back looking for pictures for the I Smile for the Camera Carnival and found that I couldn't find a thing. With a little encouragement from FootnoteMaven and Linda Stienstra I am proposing a Genea-Bloggers Challenge. How about a Treasure Hunt?

    Maybe with a some cheerleading from other Genea-Bloggers we can clear out the genealogy clutter from a box, closet, or cupboard and even find a treasure. So, here's the challenge.

    1. Select your destination. You probably have a genealogy Magic Cupboard in your house, too. Or maybe it's a Secret Desk, a Treasure chest, or a Box of Wonders. (Some people call them a rat's nest, Fibber McGee's Closet, or just plain "stuff".) It's the place you put those valuable photos, documents, or relics to take care of "later." The longer you live in one place, the more the magic grows.
    2. Make a plan (ie Treasure Map) to organize, preserve, document, return to rightful owners, pass on to relatives, or maybe even eliminate, keeping in mind the Sally Jacobs' archival advice that we don't have to save everything.
    3. Post your Plan/Treasure Map to your blog on or before Sept 30, 2008 AND send me an email with a link to your blog. Write Treasure Map in the subject line. A list of bloggers who have accepted the challenge will be posted at The Family Curator.
    4. Tackle that project. Post reports to your blog if you wish or ask for help if you get stuck. Let us know if you find some good tips to keep things moving or some greas archival supplies.
    5. Treasure! Post an article on your blog or share a photograph of your once-buried treasure.
    6. Send me an email with a link to your post for a final round-up of hunters. Write "Treasure" in the subject line. DEADLINE: Monday, Oct 20, 2008, midnight PDT. I will post the Treasure Hunt roundup during the week following.
    Please post any questions or comments here, or email me, dmlevenick at gmail dot com. You can also find me at Facebook. Good luck Treasure Hunters!


    Getting to Know Me, Getting to Know The Family Curator

    BB (Before Blogging), like most other high-school English teachers, my reading list consisted primarily of essays, college applications, and research papers, and my writing was mainly in the “short and direct” genre along the margins of student papers. Occasionally I scribbled in pencil in the blogosphere but didn’t get committed to ink until The Family Curator was born in 2007.

    I started the blog as a journal of my progress working with the treasure of my grandmother’s letters and photographs. My teaching schedule was pretty much all-consuming during the school year, and I found myself retracing steps each summer when I tried to get back to family history. The Family Curator helped me organize my research goals and plan where to go next. The blog also gave me a context to return to writing many years after working as a journalist and editor, and the more I wrote, the more I realized how much I missed writing regularly. When footnote Maven commented on my blog this spring and invited me to write a column for Shades of the Departed I realized that The Family Curator could be more than just a personal journal, and that other people might be interested in my project.

    I have tried to follow the lead of the many gracious genealogy bloggers who have been generous with encouragement and ideas, and hope that The Family Curator continues to grow and to be a useful part of the genealogy blogging community.

    My favorite article is probably the piece I wrote for Shades of the Departed on using a family history project in the high school classroom, but as for pieces posted on The Family Curator, I will have to cite Day 3 – The Transcription Project. It was rewarding to see the way things “clicked” for my high school students after they worked with Arline’s letters for a few days, and rereading this posting brings that day back to me.

    I still laugh when I read the very first posting at The Family Curator, Return to the Family History Project because I really did fall into genealogy out of self-defense. My mother was counting up cousins faster than I could figure out relationships. Of course, the recent postings from our trip to New England are favorites too, but I don’t know if I like the Vermont farm scene or the lobster roll photos best.

    As for the most beautiful posting, I do like the photo and short piece An Ironic Epitaph written for the 3rd Carnival of Genealogy Celebrating Home. I wish I could have seen that ranch house or the site where it stood.

    The genealogy blogging world has been an encouraging place to rediscover my love of writing and communicating. Although I am not teaching this year, I am learning every day, and much of what I learn is from the members of this community. I am continually impressed by the level of professionalism and commitment of the genea-bloggers who comment or email to The Family Curator, and hope that I can repay their generous spirit by passing on their support and goodwill.


    Treasure Revealed !!!

    All I can say is "Wow!" Arline sure knew how to set up a photo shoot. I've been working with the negatives that fell out of The Magic Cupboard to scan a few on my flatbed scanner. When I saw this one, I was stunned. It appears to be part of a series and I can't wait to scan and print the rest of them. Please help out, U.S. Military experts -- WWI or the Mexican American War? Some of Arline's letters from her cousin Sam talk about his Army unit getting ready for the Mexican invasion along the border states. But Arline also married a man who enlisted (or was drafted) in the Army shortly after the wedding in 1917. I'm putting the date of this photo about 1916-1917 until a better date comes up. Ideas?


    U.S. Military Unit. Negative. Digital image. Privately held by Denise Levenick, [ADDRESS FOR PRIVATE USE,] Pasadena, CA. 2008




    Yale, Family Papers & High School Students in Archival Project

    Archivist Rebecca Fanning kindly sent me a link to a posting in Spellbound Blog about a pilot program carried out by Yale archivists similar to the project I did last spring with the Arline Allen Kinsel Papers and my high school students.

    The pilot aimed to introduce them to what archivists do, work with them to find, understand and describe their family papers and also to present archives as a possible profession to students who might assume that it was only welcoming to Caucasians.
    It is exciting to see archival work and value of family history become a legitimate part of the curriculum. There is no substitute for hands-on experience, especially for teenagers. I hope we will see more of these projects in our schools. If you know of a teacher who might like to try something like this, please pass on these links and urge them to try it. I would be glad to answer questions, as well.


    Arline and Christian Smile for the Camera

    This rendition of I Smile for the Camera is especially appropriate for photographs from the extended Arline Allen Kinsel Papers. By that, I mean, extended from Arline’s turn of the century files into the current generation’s archive. It wasn’t hard to find photos on this topic, but narrowing the choices to two or three was pretty difficult.

    Arline loved hats, hair-coverings, and theatrical poses. I remember my grandmother always wearing a little hat of some sort when she left the house. A funny little straw or felt thing if we were just going downtown for lunch at the cafeteria, or a dressy chapeau for church and holidays. Here she is in a tiny little photo-booth print I found in the Archive:


    I wonder what kind of fowl contributed to that hat? Best guess is an ostrich or some other fluffy-feathered bird.

    Arline would have loved her spirited grandson, Christian, a fiery-headed Californian who likes hats just as much as she did. Maybe it is that near-translucent classic red-headed skin tone, but Christian has learned to beware Ole’ Sol, although he was taking it a bit far in this picture, one of my favorites. Yes, Christian "We like your hats."


    Of course with orange hair (not red, but orange), it is a shame to wear a hat at all. Here he is a few years earlier sporting Big Hair. Alas, it was a look that did not last long.



    ~ Shades Of The Departed ~ Guest Column Encore

    The ever-delightful footnoteMaven at ~ Shades Of The Departed ~ has posted an encore rendition of the Friday from the Collectors Guest Columns. If you missed The Family Curator's discussion on July 4 on using letters and documents in the classroom, click over the Shades and revisit the article. You can also catch the very fine writing of many other genealogy bloggers on a great assortment of topics.


    Is the Magic Gone?

    In preparation for the next Smile for the Camera Carnival: Crowning Glory, today I went to the Magic Cupboard in search of a photo I know exists, but was unable to locate it. Instead, out tumbled loose snapshots, photo envelopes, and clippings. I have three cupboards, plus one old wooden chest, filled with family photos. Things are getting desperate here. Perhaps it’s time for a Clean Out the Clutter Challenge – Do any Genea-Bloggers want to keep me company?


    LibraryThing and Shelfari Become Awkward Step-Siblings

    If you love books -- and what genealogist doesn't? -- you have probably heard of latest blended family in the booklovers' social networking community. Last week, acquired 100% ownership of Shelfari, the upstart rival to LibraryThing. Both sites are aim to provide an online meeting place for book lovers: LibraryThing has been around since May 2006 and was created by Tim Spalding who holds the majority interest; Shelfari hit the net in October 2006 with Amazon investing in the company in February 2007, and completing a total buyout August 2008.

    And this is where things get interesting. LibraryThing is fiercely independent and somewhat resentful (to put it mildly) of what Spalding calls Shelfari's cloning of LibraryThing. In a recent blog post, Spalding notes that when Amazon acquires Abebooks, as it recently announced, the mega-bookseller will hold 40% ownership in LibraryThing and 100% ownership in its competitor. Doesn't that constitute a monopoly, or is that just "business"?

    What's this all mean for genealogy and family history booklovers? I wonder. . . I have been planning to catalog my library on LibraryThing, but will it go away? Which site will have the most genealogy users? The time required to catalog at either site could be extensive, is the independent LibraryThing in jeopardy?

    Fellow genealogists -- what is your take on this? Are you a user of either book site? It seems that there are more genealogy groups on LibraryThing, but they don't appear very active. If you are a member of either site, please ring in with your comments. I suppose the alternative may be to use both LibraryThing and Shelfari!


    It's Back to School Time -- Tell a Teacher "Thank You" Today

    Last night about dinner time I received an unusual phone call. It was the parent of a student I taught last fall. Alexxa graduated and had just attended her first day of college classes. The phone call was from her mother -- also a teacher -- who wanted to pass on a nice word from her daughter.

    It seemed that on the first day of college freshman English the instructor terrorized the class with tales of MLA citation-mania. My former student had called to tell her parents about her classes and said that she wasn't worried about English because she had been so well prepared with my citation-hammering in English last year. She said something about the teachers that seemed so tough were actually the ones that taught her the most. Whaddoyouknowaboutthat?

    Sometimes I thought I was preaching to the wind about good old MLA. I love citing sources.... "pretend it's a game," I said. "Pretend it's a code that you have to decipher. Pretend it's a puzzle to solve. It's easy, just follow the rules." But, many of them just couldn't be bothered. It was easier for them to triple space, number entries, and create their own unique citation style every time.

    Thank you, Alexxa. You make it all worth while. Encourage your student to let their teachers know how they made a difference. It could just be the one thing that keeps them going this year.


    The Magic Cupboard

    Lately I am feeling a lot like Peter and Susan in C.S. Lewis's classic, The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe. It seems that every time I go to my living room photo cabinet, I find a new treasure. Just before leaving on our trip to New England I discovered another stash of photo negatives from my grandmother's trunk. I must have tucked them away out of the light when I first unpacked the boxes and then forgotten about them.

    Last night I discovered more negatives and another treasure. Nearly 20 years ago we took a trip to Montana for a Boy Scout campout on a local member's private riverside ranch. It was a fabulous week and after the camp we headed west through Missoula towards Spokane and Coeur d'Alene where we have relatives. The countryside was beautiful, green, hot.

    Just outside Couer d'Alene we spotted a country fair and pulled over. The boys weren't too thrilled, but we trooped around for a few hours and spotted a booth where two beautiful quilts were on display among the crafts and homemade goodies. One was a double-bed size in the Delectable Mountain pattern, the other was hand-embroidered flower blocks assembled into a twin size quilt. Both were pink and white, not exactly colors much used in my house with two boys. The women had only the two quilts for sale, and the price was pretty stiff for our budget, although now it would be a ridiculous bargain. I was surprised that the two women running the booth were actually selling the beautiful quilts. Evidently it was a mother-daughter team and the older woman shrugged off my surprise, "They were 'extras'," she said.

    My own few sorry attempts at quilting had taught me that it was truly a labor of love and skill. Both quilts were completely hand-quilted and had that lovely soft hand that comes from cotton throughout. As my ever-indulgent husband pulled out his wallet, I asked the maker if she would make a label with her name and the date for the quilts, and although she modestly refused at first, eventually she agreed to take my address and send me the labels.

    Now, I know those labels arrived in good time, I remember seeing them sometime, but I have not been able to find them since. I started quilting in 2000 and have often looked at those two spreads with a greater appreciation of the work and skill that went into them. What a surprise to find that envelope with the labels tucked inside a packet of photos from about the same time.

    The quiltmaker carefully embroidered her name and the year she made the quilts on each tag. One bears the inscription "Louis Nixon, 1943-1954." This is the Delectable Mountain Quilt, as I recall that she said she had made it some years previously. I have never heard of the pattern referred to by this name and am unsure of the meaning of the words. A quick search on Google has turned up a few entries in Find a Grave and links to a actor in Band of Brothers for "Louis Nixon." My best guess is that the quilt might have been made for a person by this name, or the block setting was known locally by the name. Meanwhile, I have a bit of careful cleaning to attend to on the larger quilt and then a bit of hand sewing to finally place those labels where they belong.


    Boicourt, Alice L. Quilt dated 1943-1954. Privately held by Denise Levenick [address for private use,] Pasadena, California, 2008, purchased from the quiltmaker in 1979.

    Boicourt, Alice L. Quilt dated October 1979. Privately held by Denise Levenick [address for private use,] Pasadena, California, 2008, purchased from the quiltmaker in 1979.

    "Louis Nixon." Blockbase: The CD Version of Barbara Brackman's Encyclopedia of Pieced Quilt Patterns. CD-ROM. Bowling Green, Ohio: The Electric Quilt Company, 2000.


    Post-Games Celebration


    Have you noticed? There's no "post-party" blues dogging this celebration. The Games may be concluded (for this year) but the spirit of collegiality and inspiration is alive and even growing. It seems that every blog I read on Sunday and Monday of this week was filled with appreciation for the organizers and anecdotes of personal growth.


    No doubt it was a time-consuming undertaking for the organizers. Hats off to Miriam who hosted the Opening Ceremonies, Kathryn who was ALWAYS on Facebook keeping the Facebook Genea-Bloggers Group active, and Thomas who hosted the Closing Ceremonies; as well as footnoteMaven who designed the medals. In addition to organizing, they all answered emails, helped with a myriad of questions, and blogged, blogged, blogged.

    Congratulations to all the participants; we are already looking forward to 2010!


    Final Report for the GB Games

    What an experience! I feel "accomplished" just being part of the 1st GB Summer Games. Any talk of this as an annual event? I am sure there will be lots of kudos and comments for the organizers and all the participants. Highlights for me were: meeting new genea-bloggers on Facebook, sharing ideas, learning new tips, and getting that nudge for being a better researcher/curator. Thank you again, Thomas, Miriam, Kathryn for putting this together.

    Here are my Final Standings:

    1. Cite Your Sources - Bronze
    2. Back Up – Silver
    3. Organize -- Diamond
    4. Write – Gold
    5. Acts of Genealogical Kindness – Platinum



    Progress Report for the Genea-Bloggers Games

    I was skeptical about my participation level for the Games due to travel plans, but the categories were so varied that I have been able to “show” in each event after all. The organizers did a great job assembling a diverse selection of events all under the umbrella of the new Genea-Bloggers Group on Facebook. Thanks, Thomas, Kathryn, and Miriam. I am power-working today; plan to post the final stats tomorrow morning.

    1 –Cite Your Sources! – Bronze
    Hooray! I was able to get started on this before our trip to New England and am currently at 10 Citations.

    2 – Back Up – Bronze
    This was a good thing to think about while we were on our trip. I came up with a three-way backup plan for digital files and a Master Plan for original documents. I wish I could store all the letters and photos in waterproof/fireproof cabinets, but it just isn’t feasible with the quantity of material involved. Next best, has been to transfer everything to archival storage and place in a dark, dry cupboard in the safest room in the house. I guess I miss this medal.

    3 – Organize – in progress

    4 – Write – Gold
    Too bad there wasn’t an event for Mobile Blogging. I think I managed to post just about every day of my trip, even if the family history research did take a backseat when we hit Maine and all that wonderful lobster. Also completed the Blog Summary (check it out on The Family Curator), pre-published, and wrote an ancestor bio posted.

    5 – Acts of Genealogical Kindness – Platinum
    This was lots of fun to do, especially with all of the Genea-Blogging activity on Facebook. I am meeting so many new people and reading a great mix of articles. I love this event!


    The Elusive James Winsor

    James Winsor has proven to be a most elusive ancestor. As the last of the Winsors born in Rhode Island he is the “missing link” between generations in our family, and as a young father who died before he was 33 years old, James continues to baffle his descendents. Much work remains, but here is what I have been able to learn.

    According to Aunt Mercy MacPhee’s genealogy charts, James Winsor was born May 2, 1796. He was the son of James Winsor and Betsy Randall of Johnston, Rhode Island and married Mercy Mathewson, also of Rhode Island and born August 19, 1795.

    Records show that James immigrated to Vermont as a young adult, returning to Rhode Island to marry Mercy Mathewson. The couple settled in Windsor County, Vermont and had a son, Henry M. Winsor June 23, 1821 in Clarendon. State records do not record Henry’s birth, but this is not surprising as Vermont did not require that births be recorded until 1857.

    James did not survive the harsh New England conditions long. Legal proceedings in the State of Vermont Supreme Court show that his estate was sued by Calvin French in 1852 for a dispute over land purchased by Josiah French from James Winsor in 1825. Josiah French was the step-father of James’s wife. Court documents reveal that James Winsor died August 8, 1827 leaving Henry M. Winsor his only child. At the time, James was a widower and his death left Henry an orphan.

    He would never know that Henry would grow to manhood and enlist in the Union Army to serve from 1864-1865, nor that Henry would marry and father seven children. He would never know that Henry left Vermont with hopes for land of his own and settle in Kansas, where he farmed, died and was buried at the age of 60. James would never know that his descendents live in California, Arizona, Colorado, and New Mexico.

    I am so glad to find that we have cousins through Henry’s children in Sara Winsor and her daughter Kate. James can be proud of the legacy he left behind, even though he could never have imagined the sprawling family tree he planted.


    Story Hour at the Drive-Thru Window

    Once upon a time. . . two confused Californians were whizzing through a little town in the far northern reaches of Vermont looking for a blacksmith. . .

    Why did they want a blacksmith?" you might ask, for their trusty rental automobile surely did not need new shoes. But that's another story.
    Anyway, as the visitors drove through Hardwick they spotted an old brick building on the street corner. It was clearly a noble Bank at one time, offering financial accommodations to the funds of local businessmen and farmers. The Bank must have moved on to new virtual space or loftier headquarters, and the brick building became a bookstore offering literary enlightenment to the townspeople. A drive ran along the structure's side, right to a window declaring
    "The Story Teller Drive-Up Window"
    In the way of most good stories, it took a while to get back to the treasure; that is, the visitors still had to find that blacksmith. . . but, later in the day. . . before leaving the little town, they made a special point to visit the Drive-Up Story Teller.

    By that time of day, the weather had changed from humid and sticky to humid and wet. The rain was falling in big drops as their car pulled up to the window and they asked the sweet lady for a story. She laughed, trilled really, and leaned in to the metal box to speak.

    "I can't tell you a story," she said. "But, I can sell you a book."
    Cruel words for the fantasy-starved.
    "What?" the travellers cried, incredulously. "No story?"
    "No," she replied.
    "But it says right there," they added, pointing to the sign over the window, "Drive Up Story Teller."
    "No, no," the lady corrected. "This is The Story-Teller's Drive-Up Window. Bank Teller, Story Teller. Would you like to buy a book?"
    Perhaps the residents of Hardwick, Vermont are actually lucky to have The Story Teller offering a Drive-Up Window. Instead of a quick story, they can buy a good weekend read without having to get their pajamas wet in the rain and snow. Maybe that's the Vermont version of living "Happily Ever After."

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