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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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    Scanning Success!

    I am working on catching up with the scanning and have completed 33 documents. I am scanning all docs in Multi-Tiff format (this allows multiple pages to be saved to one file), at 300 dpi, in 24-bit color. I am not sure if this is too much or too little color resolution, but the images are clear and bright and sometimes easier to read than the originals.

    The files work equally well on my PC running XP and on the Mac computers at school. They open in Media Image Viewer on the PC and in Preview on the Mac. Both allow for printing.


    Square Bracket [ ] Workaround

    One "small" difficulty with AskSam is that square brackets [ ] are unavailable as key strokes; they are reserved as field indicators in the entry forms. This morning I spoke with Tech Support and they suggested using the "pipe" key | instead of the bracket. They also warned against using the "French bracket" (and I thought they were called "curly brackets"!) because of a conflict with some other feature. I had already decided that at times I would need to insert editorially supplied information such as a month or year in a date, or perhaps place when it was known but not stated; this should be done within square brackets. Instead, I will try the "pipe" key as a forward straight bracket and another key as the ending straight bracket. If I use two different symbols, I can do a Search and Replace command if necessary in the exported document to replace the symbols easily with the appropriate square brackets.

    Added Letters to the Control File with newly redesigned entry form and found it much easier.
    Total 33 Letters. Read a wonderful letter from Maud Saunders to her sister Minnie (Arline's mother). It was 10 sheets, front and back on 8 for a total of 18 pages of detailed news about their children, life on the ranch, her health, neighbors, and so much more. She even mentions her birthdate!


    Control Files for Letters

    Last night while listening to Dear Myrtle's Family History Hour, I heard an interview with Sally Jacobs, professional archivist. It was an interesting conversation, mostly focusing on the best materials for preservation. I didn't know that CD-ROMs were so temporary and that archival bond paper was a better choice in many cases.

    -- DearMYRTLE'S Interview with Sally Jacobs 31 July 2007
    -- Sally Jacob's Blog, The Practical Archivist

    I am using archival supplies to store all of the AAK Papers, purchased from Metal Edge in Los Angeles. I started by purchasing archival file folders, but these are expensive and bulky for the number I need. I am now using paper file inserts; these are archival bond paper but cut like a file folder. I place the documents in the bond folder and then group about 10 inside an archival file folder for better support. The folders go inside a grey archival file box with flip-top lid. I started by storing the letters in the file boxes, and have purchased more to accommodate the file folders as I inventory the items.

    Entered and corrected letters in the ControlFile: Total 30 letters


    ReDesigned Entry Form for Letters

    My total progress last summer resulted in "processing" only 11 documents. Clearly, there must be a better way. I am going to try entering each item in the database without attempting to transcribe or abstract the information. The re-designed entry form includes the following fields

    EntryDate (automatic)
    Item# (automatic)
    ItemType Letter
    Date (format: 15 April 2008)
    Author Pick List: builds from entries
    FromCity,ST enter data
    Recipient Pick List: builds from entries
    ToCity,ST enter data
    People Pick List: builds from entries
    Places Pick List: builds from entries
    Subjects Pick List: builds from entries
    Note (my summary or notes)

    This seems to be working out very well. Today I managed to enter 3 or 4 letters.


    Setting Up the Control File

    I've "hemmed and hawed" long enough... looks like I will just have to jump in and set up a master control file. I am not going to revisit all my summer research; I still think AskSam is a good database for my purposes. My entry forms needed tweaking, so today I spent a few hours working on the fields and testing reports. I think they still need work.


    My Home Study Course in Editing

    Lacking a university-sponsored project, and with only Grandmother's voluminous papers available for my use, I am embarking on a Home Study Course in Editing. Like any good student, my first order of business is to acquire the necessary textbooks. I have already worked with Kline, and have two more recommendations in response to an inquiry to the Director of Publications at the National Archives Records and Administration. With all three books in hand, I feel ready to move forward:

    • A Guide to Documentary Editing, Mary-Jo Kline
    • Editing Historical Documents, Michael E. Stevens and Steven B. Burg
    • Editing Documents and Texts, Beth Luey
    I am also finding helpful material in two family history publications:

    • Organizing and Preserving Your Heirloom Documents, Katherine Scott Sturdevant
    • Organizing Your Family History Search, Sharon DeBartolo Carmack


    Letters as Literature in the English Classroom

    The faculty has been charged with trying something altogether new this semester. Ideas were collected and approved and my project is to bring Arline's papers into the classroom to be read as women's literature. The students have read letters by published authors, but this should be new to everyone. I think I will have them prepare transcriptions and then work on an abstract and analysis as well. It my even provide me with some new insight as well.

    Started placing letters in archival bond folders with heading on top:
    Date To/From


    Back in the Trenches

    It is great to get back to Arline's papers after a long hiatus (getting son married, celebrating holidays, back to work teaching etc.) Thinking about editing processes and am now reading Mary-Jo Kline A Guide to Documentary Editing. The first thing I learn is that every project should start with a Control File to give each item an acquisition number and enter in an inventory. I hoped I could avoid this step, but perhaps it would be useful.


    Progress Report

    After spending nearly the entire summer on this project, I think I am beginning to get a grasp of the problem, and it isn't pretty. Just when I think I have determined a good system for filing the AAK Papers, I realize that I need more information about someone named in a letter. Then, off I go to track them down in a Census record or online search, and pretty soon my desk is covered in more paper without a home.

    I have at least two projects here: 1) Family Genealogy -- who, related to whom, etc; 2) A Biography or Family History -- the AAK Papers to inventory, archive, transcribe, and work with.

    Project #1 -- generates a mass of paper: census copies and extracts, notes, original and copies of vitals from the AAK papers
    Project #2 -- consists of all original documents needing archival attention NOW

    Most genealogy books for beginners seem to address a project from the perspective of #1, with #2 as a sideline. I have come into the Family Genealogy Project through the Biographical Project, so my needs are somewhat different.

    Funny how it has taken me over two months to figure out how to approach this. But I suppose I shouldn't be too disappointed -- my goal this summer was to investigate and select a research method, test it, and start using it. Progress thus far:

    1. Update Legacy, review sourcing guidelines
    2. Start Blog as a Journal of my project
    3. Join Legacy Users Group, learned more about sourcing, filing, etc
    4. Decide to scan all original documents
      1. buy new scanner
      2. decide on file format
    5. Investigate database programs
      1. test byGones
      2. test Clooz
      3. test askSam
      4. build entry forms in askSam
      5. buy askSam
      6. revise entry forms
    6. askSam
      1. decide to use very simple DocumentArchive form
      2. add fields for Entry Date, Place letter written from
      3. will try scanning documents, linking to docs in folder located in askSam directory folder
    7. Investigate and decide on file format for images
      1. TIFF for photos
      2. why not PDF for letters?
    8. Determine Workflow for handling documents


    Staying Organized

    It is a real challenge to keep a record of searches and research goals, but I can see that this entire project will only be as good as those records. Last week I didn't get too much done, but did manage a few rather random searches; at least they have familiarized me with the look and information available on different records.

    My goals this week

    1. get back into the AskSam database and input some of the information I am finding
    2. set up research records either in Legacy or on paper
    I like the outline set out by Val Greenwood in The Researcher's Guide to American Genealogy that suggests using a Research Calendar/Record as well as a Correspondance Calendar/Record both keyed to files for the documents located. Greenwood suggests using a filing system of SURNAME: LOCALITY for each search. I have to see if Legacy or askSam make this any easier as I don't want to get too many different systems going.


    Chamblin or Chamberlin?

    Yesterday I sorted more letters, photos, and papers. I can hardly believe the quantity of material that we have to work with. Yet, there are still big gaps...

    Mom has a death certificate for Minnie Chamblin Kinsel listing Samuel and Mercy Ann Winsor as her parents, but who are Mercy Ann's parents?

    I found a death record for a Mercy Chamberlin in KC, Missouri -- is this our Mercy Ann? Went online to see if I could locate where she was living; place of death listed as 12th and Hartesty. Google Aerial map showed a big cemetery only a block away... I checked it out, and found it is a very old cemetery. So, here is another possibility. Perhaps Mercy Ann was buried there. Worth looking into.

    That didn't take long -- they have a list of surnames online. No Chamblin or Chamberlin, Samuel or Mercy. But worth checking other cemeteries!


    Census Success

    It could be a little game -- how much information can I find for free! I went to the Pubic Library and found out that my library card will give access to the heritagequest databases which include all the US Census reports. Unfortunately, the local library is having a problem with the database so I renewed my LA card and accessed it through that account.

    I already found out by searching that there was info available; just didn't want to subscribe quite yet. A few more searches and I found two useful pieces -
    1880 Census - Samuel Chamblin and wife Mercy with children Minny, Maud, Norman
    1910 Census - Roy Paulen and wife Arline with child Lucile

    The next thing will be to chase either vital statistics or try to get names, places for Chamblin/Winsor parents.

    Also tweaked the database b/c the filenames weren't meshing with other entry forms - they all need to share similar field data in order to search and extract the info effectively. Deleted dedicated address fields, then added city, state. This family moved around so much I think those fields will prove to be very useful. Organized letters 1910-1920 in chronological order, although I know there will be more as I keep working with the boxes.


    The Arline Allen Kinsel Papers Database

    It's done! It has taken ALL day, but I now have a workable, attractive database to use in working with the AAK Papers. It did take me some time to figure out how to set up the askSam entry form -- hampered I am sure by the medication I am taking for my back pain and the numerous breaks to relieve the pressure on same -- but it seems to be pretty workable. I have the standard template entry forms for web pages, etc. and also my customized entry form for letters.

    This will allow me to give each letter an Item # (just for the purpose of keeping track of how much work I am doing!) as well as a File ID. This is the actual File Number I will use in filing the letter. I have decided to use the archival paper file folders (very thin) one per letter keeping the envelope and letter sheets together. I will try to put up to five or so of these paper file folders in one manila archival file folder. Each paper file folder will show the FILE ID and TO/FROM.

    I am rather pleased with the fields I have set up:
    In addition to Entry Date, Type (family, personal, business etc), I also have
    Letter Date, To, From
    People, Places, Events, Themes, notes
    Envelope Adressee, Return, Postmark

    I plan to do an overview of the letter, and then, if there is additional interest, I will go back and abstract or transcribe the letter adding to the CONTENTS field.

    I am hopeful that I will be able to pull out a chronology as well as family info from this data.

    Probably won't do much tomorrw as the SoCal Quilt Run is on again and I plan to hit the road as long as my back holds out!


    Setting up the system

    This could become a web of minutiae, which I suppose, is a the basic foundation of research anyway, but I am determined to keep the old Cub Scout Motto in mind - KISS (Keep It Simple, Silly).

    According to Organizing & Preserving Your Heirloom Documents (Kathleen Scott Sturdevant) I am moving forward in a reasonable fashion. The letters and papers are mostly out of corrugated cardboard boxes and stored in archival file boxes and folders. The original order had been lost when papers were transferred from the original trunk at Auntie's house to boxes in Mom's condo, so I feel alright about rearranging them again. Looking though the contents again, it looks like there is quite a variety... mostly correspondence, but also quite a bit of handwritten family history notes and other miscellaneous.

    Following along with Sturdevant's suggestions:

    1. Define the nature and name of the collection -- The Arline Allen Kinsel Papers. I think I will use Arline's maiden name because the multiple marriages could be confusing.
    2. Inventory the contents -- This is difficult. There are so many items. I will use the askSam database for the inventory, and assign abbreviations and ID numbers. I think I could initially file by these ID numbers and then when all items are inventoried, I could assign a File # and refile chronologically within each series (AAK, Family Correspondence). This sounds like a lot of work, but I know that I will keep finding more letters and papers, so it just doesn't seem possible to file them chronologically right now. A thought: maybe I could use a decimal ID number that would allow for additional entries: AAK, Family Corr. 1905.02.01.01 (year, month, date, item number). This might do the double duty of Inventory and File Number. I should have a field in askSam for this.
    3. Determine the series within the collection - Series refers to the subdivisions, categories, or types of documents. I should have a field in askSam for this, too. Some of the categories are: correspondence - family, business, personal, general. What do I do with letters to Mercy from Minnie. I guess those are Family, but are they filed chronologically or in separate boxes?
    4. Document the provenance - ok, I have to write this up.
    5. Locate additional contents - this will be ongoing
    6. Remove and replace - newspapers are the big offender here, they need to isolated
    7. Establish the order of the series within the collection - huh? I think this means that I should pull out different authors, although I do think all letters TO/FROM AAK should be in one file. This includes business or personal correspondence. It will help in figuring out what was going on with her in a chronological way.
    8. Label folders - KSS suggests importance, alpha, chrono order using labels COLLECTION ABBREVIATION: Series: Specific Folder Name or Number.
    9. Date and cross-reference folders - ok
    10. Process, store, and label relevant materials such as ephemera and memorabilia - a BIG job
    11. Maintain these systems and procedures! - whew


    Only by marriage...

    So, we are related to the Belonger Bros. by marriage -- Carrie Viles married Joe Blonger, later separated and divorced. It was her second marriage, as she was a widow. This in an email forwarded by Mom, written by one of the current-day Belonger Bros.

    Just in -- Getting it Right. Lots of basic info on how to enter names, dates, places, etc. Wish I had this a few years ago, but I think it will be helpful.