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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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    It's That Time of Year: Blog Caroling with Footnote Maven, "Silent Night" on the Heirloom Music Box

    Thank you, footnote Maven, for this wonderful tradition to pause again and listen to the beautiful sounds of Christmas music. Last year I nominated Stille Nacht accompanied by a (rather grainy) photo snapped of a German church steeple high above the Rhine Valley one December night in 2003 in Stille Nacht is Still My Favorite.


    I knew there was a reason that photograph was a favorite! Not long ago Mr. Curator brought home a large inlaid music box he inherited from his parents. It was prominently displayed in their living room in front of a set of large French windows; and every holiday, the box would be opened, brass records carefully selected, and the hand crank firmly turned. Then the music would begin. Enjoy!


     "Silent Night" by Music Box, on The Family Curator's YouTube Channel,


    SCGS 2013 Jamboree Extension Webinar Series Announced


    The Southern California Genealogical Society has announced the webinar lineup for the 2013 Jamboree Extension Series, and I'm honored to be included in the April 2013 program with over two dozen outstanding genealogy speakers offering free genealogy and family history educational programs.

    The series offers FREE live genealogy webinars open to anyone, and archived on-demand versions for SCGS members. If you plan to attend the SCGS Jamboree, it's definitely worthwhile to join SCGS and take advantage of this additional society benefit.

    The 2013 webinar series will include presenters from Alzo to Woodward (no "Z") on topics as diverse as Mobile Capturing of Your Ancestor's Documents and Pictures by Leland K. Meitzler and Time Travel with Google Earth by Lisa Louise Cooke. Read the entire schedule at the Jamboree website here.

    I will be presenting Break Down Brick Walls with Home Sources: Solve genealogical mysteries with clues in family sources on Saturday, April 6 at 10 am Pacific Time. Using artifacts from family archives, I will share photos and examples of where to find hidden details about our ancestors' lives in the things they left behind. Registration for the webinar is now open here.

    Hope you can join us for the SCGS 2013 Jamboree Extension Series.


    Back to School: Online Genealogy Education 


    Monterey Peninsula College is now accepting registration for three genealogy courses taught by Karen Clifford, AG, for the Spring 2013 term. The session runs February 3 through May 30, 2013.

    Courses are offered through the Library Services Department and are part of a four-course program in Family Research Studies. Monterey Peninsula College is one of the only two institutions of higher education offering online courses in Genealogy. Each class is three units and meets once a week for one semester. California residents pay $46 per unit; non-residents pay an additional $179 per unit. This is a real bargain for California students.

    I have taken both Genealogy 1 and 2 through MPC Online Studies, and highly recommend the program for anyone looking for a solid foundation in genealogy research or for a helpful refresher. Genealogy 1 (LIB60) is a general introduction to genealogical research, and Genealogy 2 (LIB61) continues with an introduction to basic record groups. Each class required discussion, weekly reading, and assignments. The instructor feedback is a great way to learn if you analyzing information effectively and seeking logical sources.

    Karen Clifford has been teaching the series at MPC for several years and also presented a popular organizing webinar for the Legacy FamilyTree series. She's also the creator of the genealogy paper filing system detailed at Read student testimonials about the MPC courses here.

    The spring genealogy program includes:

    LIB60 Genealogy 1: This online course introduces students to family history research methods and sources (1850-present), including basic Internet and library sources as well as research methodologies for locating ancestors. Students are taught fundamental organization skills for preserving family materials by assembling a family history archival notebook using a genealogy computer program. Basic knowledge of computers and the Internet is recommended.

    LIB61 Genealogy 2: This online course helps students find their families by applying new methodologies for searching and analyzing genealogy's primary record groups for the 18th and 19th centuries: census, tax, probate, land, property, newspaper, biography, and military records, as well as learning how to read the handwriting of the period, focusing on the years 1750-1850 while using Internet, traditional, archival and specialty library resources. Students should complete LIB60 prior to taking this class.

    LIB62 Genealogy 3: This online course covers advanced genealogy research methods, as well as Internet, traditional and specialty library sources, federal records, and unique ethnic sources in order to research foreign records and resources. Included are methodologies focused on extending family lines beyond the U.S. to the countries of origin for the students' ancestors. Students should complete LIB60 and LIB61 prior to taking this class.

    If you would like to learn more about the courses offered or to register for 2013 Spring Courses, please use the following link:

    Karen Clifford, is an Accredited Genealogist Professional (AG), and a Fellow of the Utah Genealogical Association (FUGA). She is President/CEO of Genealogy Research Associates, Inc.; and a part-time faculty member, Distance Education Instructor, in Family History Studies, under the Library Department at Monterey Peninsula College. She has authored 7 college textbooks on genealogy and credentialing in genealogy, and numerous family histories.  She serves as Co-Chair of the Testing Committee of the International Commission for the Accreditation of Professional Genealogists (one of the two major credentialing bodies for genealogists in the United States see  She served 10 years on the board of the Federation of Genealogical Societies, and was the founding President of the Monterey County (CA) Genealogy Society.  Karen was the Director of the Monterey California Family History Center for ten years.

    You can also contact Karen Clifford for more information at karenmpc (at) aol (dot) com. 


    Treasure Chest Thursday: Top 15 Family Heirlooms

    A family heirloom isn't worth nearly as much without the story that goes with it. This seems to be the notion behind The Learning Channel's Top 10 list of the most common items passed on to the next generation. Jewelry leads the list in the #1 spot, but is nudged by Stories as #2. After all, unless the item is valuable itself, why would someone save and cherish anything at all?

    It's all about the stories. . .  which got me thinking about the jewelry I've inherited from my ancestors. . . funky 30's costume clip-on earrings from Grandmother Arline, designer costume bracelets from Mom, and ropes of polished amber from my mother-in-law. None of the pieces are especially valuable, and none were itemized in a list of personal property to be distributed to certain heirs. Do most people inherit valuable jewelry, or is it more the everyday bits and baubles that find their way into our jewelry boxes?

    I found this sweet brooch in Arline's trunk, mixed in with letters, photos, and documents. There's no identification, but I know the photograph is Arline's first child, Lucile Mae Paulen, my aunt. She must have been four or five years old at the time. By then, Arline and her first husband Roy were divorced and Lucy was living with Roy and his parents. Arline was heartbroken by the court's custody decision. Great story.

    What other things do people tend to save and pass on from generation to generation? Almost all kinds of memorabilia are included in TLC's list, and each one depends on the story behind the artifact: 

    1. Jewelry
    2. Stories
    3. Furniture
    4. Quilts
    5. Weapons
    6. Letters and Diaries
    7. Photos
    8. Recipes
    9. Clocks
    10. Musical Instruments

    I think a few popular categories are missing from this list, especially the proverbial Family Bible. Here's my version from Bible to Christmas baubles, with the reminder that each one needs a story to become an heirloom.

    Top 15 Family Heirlooms

    1. Bibles
    2. Photos, Albums and Scrapbooks
    3. Letters, Diaries, Datebooks
    4. Clocks and Watches
    5. Jewelry
    6. Furniture
    7. China and Silver
    8. Weapons
    9. Military Relics
    10. Quilts and Samplers
    11. Recipes
    12. Clothing
    13. Dolls and Toys
    14. Musical Instruments
    15. Christmas Decorations

    What do you think? Have you inherited something that should included in the list? Check out The Heirloom Registry for a great place to identify your family treasure and record its story for the next generation, and receive three free Heirloom Registry stickers with our special partnership when you purchase The Family Curator's new book, How to Archive Family Keepsakes. Click here for details of this offer.


    Chasing Descendants and Finding Family History

    We've just returned from a trip to London and France and It's no surprise that our two-week itinerary looked a lot like a genealogy research plan. Priority #1 was to meet the newest leaf on our family tree and spend time with the big brother and parents. And like any careful plan, we discovered unexpected surprises and new adventures along the way.

    It's been a very long time since Mr. Curator and I traveled without a genealogy research agenda. Last year at this time, after a New England research trip, I was writing 10-12 hours every day on my new book and nursing a fractured elbow. It seems like one thing rolled into another and now here it is December once again and finally time to step back and take a breath. I do remember a time when a vacation included a break from mail, phones, and daily routine, and I miss it sometimes. 

    For this trip we decided to forgo the wonderful travel apps on our iPhones and use the devices in wireless mode to retrieve email and as handy unobtrusive cameras. Limited cell-phone coverage also meant limited blogging, and and days filled with playing firefighter, snuggling baby, and exploring the neighborhood shops and parks gave new meaning to "social" network. 

    "Unplugging" technology, even minimally to wireless-only, sounded a little scary, but it added so much freedom to our travels that I'm thinking it would be worth doing more often. Instead of shooting out a quick tweet or status post as an instant reaction to sights, and events, pocketing your cell phone gives you time to sit back and reflect on an experience and spend some time thinking about what's going on around you.


    St. Luke's Church, London

    As it was, it took about a week for that "aha" moment to occur when I realized a particularly unique feature of our itinerary. Each night we went to sleep within earshot of church bells, whether we were in a London neighborhood, a Paris hotel, or the Cathedral square of Strasbourg. What a treat to begin and end each day hearing chimes and bells calling out the hour. That doesn't happen at home, but it did make me think of how so many of our ancestors' lived within a parish where everyday life was directed by the sound of church bells. (I think there is a post for The Catholic Gene in here, too.)

    We also experienced a taste of ex-pat life as we celebrated a traditional Thanksgiving dinner in the midst of London's Christmas preparations. I was surprised to see that the local grocery store sold turkeys and all the fixins from fresh cranberries to Libby's canned pumpkin pie mix. Turkey is a more traditional Christmas dish in England, so there weren't too many to choose from and they were rather small. Size was vital, we discovered, because the range oven was smaller than American ovens. 

    Mr. C carefully measured the oven and went back on the streets out to stalk our Thanksgiving bird. He didn't have to go far, just around the corner to the local butcher who took the order for the next day -- 5.44 kilos (12 lbs) "dressed" to roast. When I unwrapped that bird I knew it was going to be delicious. Unlike our U.S. grocery store turkeys that arrive in plastic and emerge gooey and messy, this bird was wrapped in white waxed butcher paper, trimmed of excess fat, cleaned of bit of gore, washed, dried, and tied with twine. The "innards" were neatly wrapped in a separate package for the stockpot.

    Behold: The Bird! Why doesn't my U.S. supermarket prep poultry like this?

    We didn't need to do more than season the turkey and slip a little butter under the skin. Our daughter-in-law mixed up her grandmother's special dressing using local sausage in place of Italian, and we made another grandmother's signature sweet potato and apple dish. The only thing we missed was Auntie's Cranberry Jello dish (that hardly anyone eats anyway). In her honor, we made orange finger jello (brought from the U.S.) which was a huge hit with the pre-schooler. It was a wonderful meal. When family members can't be present at a holiday table, food is the next-best way to savor a memory of the past. 

    Ex-Patriot Thanksgiving founded on family recipes.

    Thanksgiving isn't exactly much of a holiday in Britain, and we emerged from our turkey coma to see that the countdown to Christmas was in full swing along the streets of London. Twinkle lights cascaded down storefronts, illuminated trees decorated lampposts and starry banners crossed the streets.

    London Holiday Decorations

    The Story of Dick Whittington and His Cat,
    as told in Fortum & Mason's Chrismas window displays

    We trekked to the local tree lot and brought home a tall fir to decorate. Grand-boy was more interested in the salesman's hatchet than the tree, and decided that every fireman needs a yellow hatchet in his pack.

    Grocery shopping, cooking family recipes, celebrating traditional holidays with a new generation was an early Christmas gift. We had time in Paris and Strasbourg for our own adventures, but it doesn't get much better than chasing descendants around the walls of the Ding Ding Church.

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