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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 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.


    Tech Tuesday: Streamlined Scanning with a Genealogy Photo Workflow, Part 2


    The Library Module in Adobe Lightroom3 shows the keyword and
    metadata tagging windows in the right-hand

    Using a scanning workflow speeds up my digitizing project and helps maintain consistency. This post continues with the genealogy scanning workflow I use for family history photographs, documents, and letters. Last week in Tech Tuesday: Streamlined Scanning with a Genealogy Workflow, Part 1, I described my typical scanner settings and scanning process.

    This week, we tackle Part 2, and move the digital image files to a photo organizer/editor such as Lightroom, Photoshop Elements, or iPhoto for tagging, cropping, and editing.

    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 Lightroom, 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

    Note: I decided to continue using a file identification number for correspondence rather than try to develop a suitable meaningful filename. This makes the post-scanning work much faster.

    4. Convert files as JPG and store in same folder as originals. File extension will differentiate TIFF and JPG.

    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 Lightroom 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. 

    Learn more about digitizing your family keepsakes and your genealogy papers in my new book, How to Archive Family Keepsakes. Special Offers now available from Family Tree Books, regularly priced $24.99, now $15.49, and save an additional 10%. Click here for info.

    This article is updated from Tech Tuesday Setting up a Genealogy Photo Workflow, Part 2 published 28 July 2009.

    You might also like -- Using Adobe Lightroom to Manage Genealogy Images


    Thanksgiving Blessings from The Family Curator

    TgivingPC 01f

    TgivingPC 01r

    At this certain time of year,
    We think of friends both far and near.
    We count our blessings, one-two-three,
    And give a heartfelt thanks to Thee.

    Happy Thanksgiving
    from The Family Curator

    Postcard from the collection of Arline Allen Kinsel.


    Tech Tuesday: Streamlined Scanning with a Genealogy Photo Workflow, Part 1

    Scan multiple


    Professional photographers call it a “workflow," but it's really just a “routine.” It’s the standard order of doing things that results in getting things done. Routines work. You don't have to use Adobe Lightroom or any particular photo organizing or editing software to get the benefit of a genealogy scanning workflow. Whether you use Photoshop Elements, XnView, iPhoto, Picasa, or Flickr to organize and store your photos, a consistent procedure for scanning, file naming, tagging, and editing will make your photo work run smoother and faster.

    A photography workflow can help a genealogist or family historian process a photo collection efficiently and carefully. I first wrote about my Genealogy Photo Workflow in 2009 when I was using the photo management software Adobe Lightroom2. The program is now up to version 4, although I continue to use Lightroom3. It looks like Lightroom version 4 has some great new features, but haven't felt to try them out… yet.

    My Genealogy Photo Workflow

    After a few years and considerable trial and error, I’ve tweaked my original photo workflow a bit, but it remains essentially the same as it was in 2009. I've come up with a photo workflow that continues to work well 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 Lightroom 3 software

    Part 1: Scanning Workflow

    Set up --

    1. Connect and turn on scanner to warm up 
    2. Connect external hard drives to computer
    3. Put on gloves 
    4. Clean scanner glass with soft cloth 
    5. Start scanner software: set for color scan, TIFF format, sent to folder on my Desktop named Scans, file name + sequential image number; check option 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 Lightroom 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, TIFF file format 
      I use 600 dpi for photos (1200 dpi for photos needing restoration or images that are very small), 300 dpi for documents
    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] 
    4. Turn photo to reverse side and 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. 
    5. Remove photo from scanner, place in archival sleeve and set in box lid [will be used later] 
    6. Repeat for each photo; I usually scan in batches of 20-25.

    This is a good place to stop working and tidy the work area. I'm not finished with the original photos, so they remain in the box temporarily. The next part of the workflow is to Import photos to Lightroom for tagging and jpg conversion. Stay tuned for Part 2 of Streamlined Scanning with a Genealogy Photo Workflow coming next week.

    Blogger Michelle Goodrum at The Turning of Generations wrote about using a similar workflow for her project to digitize her father's early correspondence, Letter Scanning Work Flow.

    Why Lightroom?

    In my years as a computer-user I have worked with many different photo editing and organizing programs on both PC and Mac computers. I've gone back and forth between PC and Mac a few times, so one of my "requirements" has been to select cross-platform software. I typically purchase a medium-speed computer, not something with a super-fast gaming processor, so my second "requirement" is a program that isn't a big memory hog.

    I was an early user of Adobe Photoshop Elements and used the tagging feature extensively with my genealogy photo scanning projects. However, when I started working with huge TIFF and PDF files, I found PE running slower and slower and slower. At the time, PE did not play nice with TIFF files so I had to use another program to manage these files. I found XnView, a cross-platform, free program that handled all kinds of file formats and managed batch renaming, file conversion, resizing, etc. in an easy and intuitive interface. I used both software programs for a few years, generally preferring XnView for management tasks and PE for photo restoration.

    In 2007, I was intrigued by the buzz about Adobe's new professional photo management program, Photoshop Lightroom 2. I attended a Scott Kelby Lightroom Workshop and came away ready to get to work. Lightroom is powerful, yet simple. In my opinion, it's aimed for pros who would rather be shooting photographs than managing files. It suits me very well, and I am happy with my current setup.

    One of my favorite features in Lightroom is non-destructive editing -- any changes are made to the file instructions rather than to the original file itself. You can always go back to the original. Lightroom expert David Marx explains this well: Photoshop and Elements save changes to the original, Lightroom "builds simulations."

    I continue to use Photoshop Elements for design and editing work because I like the layers feature As PE has matured through various versions, it has become friendlier to other file formats, too. If I were starting out with a new program right now AND had a smaller image archive project, I would probably seriously consider using only one program. But, for my current purposes, the combination of Adobe Lightroom and Adobe Photoshop Elements work very well together.

    Learn more about digitizing your family keepsakes and your genealogy papers in my new book, How to Archive Family Keepsakes. Special Offers now available from Family Tree Books, regularly priced $24.99, now $15.49, and save an additional 10%. Click here for info.

    You might also like -- Using Adobe Lightroom to Manage Genealogy Images

    Revised and Updated, from an article originally published 21 July 2009 Tech Tuesday -- Setting Up a Genealogy Photo Workflow, Part 1

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