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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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    Saturday
    Feb282015

    About Genealogy Conferences and Salt Lake City. . . One More Thing

    Before we wave farewell to February and the flurry of travel to and from Salt Lake City for RootsTech, the Federation of Genealogical Societies Conference, the Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy, the Association of Professional Genealogists Professional Management Conference, and various other personal and/or sponsored research trips to Salt Lake City, I have to mention just few more highlights that can't be overlooked.

    It didn't happen in the Salt Palace Convention Center or in the classrooms at SLIG. It wasn't part of a gaggle of genealogists gathered for dinner or lunch. 

    Salt Lake City is the Genealogist's Disneyland because it is home to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints Family History Library, otherwise known as The FHL, a deep and rich resource of worldwide family history information open to anyone from anywhere in the world. Yes, open, free of charge, to researchers who are not church members, yet are encouraged and assisted by LDS volunteers and staff at this world-class facility.

    FHL Reflection

    Main door of the Family History Library reflecting a view of Temple Square across the street.

    Each time I walked through the doors of the FHL I was greeted by friendly smiles and welcoming voices. And the thousands of genealogists visiting during January and February were greeted the same way. Unlike some libraries, museums, and other research facilities, there are no donation boxes, admission fees, or user forms to complete. The operating hours are expansive and the library is clean, well-lit, and well staffed.

    The Family History Library truly is a special place. 

    • Thank you, FHL volunteers and staff for the many wonderful hours I was able to spend browsing in the stacks, at the film readers, and working at the library tables during the conference and institute weeks this winter. 
    • Thank you, young assistants in the ScanPro line worked so earnestly to make sure my scanned film was "picture perfect."
    • And, Thank You, LDS Church for your all-inclusive policy to open the Family History Library doors to all.
    Because the FHL doors are open to everyone, I was able to locate my Vermont ancestors' birth records, view land deeds from my great-grandfather's Kansas farm, and read the shaky handwriting of a 17th century Connecticut church record. I found enough raw data to keep me busy for months, or at least until my next visit.

    It can't be easy to be a gracious host to over 22,000 visitors in one February week, or hundreds of avid researchers during an intensive institute, but the FHL does it well. Thank you.

    Thursday
    Feb192015

    Are You Doing the Genealogy Do-Over with GeneaBloggers Thomas MacEntee?

    Scan 2 images w guide

    Are you looking for a little help Digitizing Photos and Documents with the GeneaBloggers Genealogy Do-Over?. This week, GeneaBloggers Thomas MacEntee gives tips for eight best practices, including scanner settings, file formats, and duplicate copies for editing.

    You might be wondering why 300 or 600 dpi? Why TIFF? and Why create an archival TIFF copy? Good questions!

    Why Use a Standard Scanning Resolution?

    In researching standard best practices for archiving family history materials, I looked at the common practices of museums, libraries and archives nationwide where staff members and interns routinely digitize thousands and thousands of items. I learned that higher resolutions are used for film and for photo restoration projects, but for most items that will be viewed digitally or printed at the same size as the original, a standard scanning resolution is adequate and recommended.

    For institutions where volunteers and interns may be performing much of the digitizing and for family historians interested mostly in sharing and archiving photos and documents, standard scanner settings are efficient and easily understood. 

    Archives typically recommend scanning documents at 200 to 300 dpi and scanning photographs at 600 dpi. Images scanned at 300 dpi or more should print fine at the original size.

    Why TIFF?

    You may have heard recommendations to use the archival TIFF format when scanning your heirloom document and photos and been reluctant to devote computer storage to such large digital files. What could be so much better about a TIFF file?

    Thomas is right -- whenever possible, TIFF is the preferred file format for digitizing keepsake photos and documents. If you're going to the trouble to scan and save these items, scan only once with the optimal file format and resolution. Tagged Image File Format (TIFF) is a non-lossy archival format. The plain English translation: TIFF files aren't compressed when saved, so your file retains all of the digital information. In contrast, JPG files are lossy files; the file is compressed each time a file is saved and some information is lost.

    Why Create a JPG Copy of a Digital Image?

    Yes, TIFF files are large, but TIFF is the best choice for archiving. Create a duplicate file in JPG format to use for editing, email, and photo projects. Archive the TIFF version as Digital Insurance to help you recreate a lost or damaged original in case of disaster. If your original is a JPG format image, create a copy in TIFF or JPG and designate it as your Digital Master.

    More Questions?

    Learn more best practices for working with digital images in my paperback or ebook edition of How to Archive Family Keepsakes including

    • easy scanning workflows
    • file naming
    • folder organization
    • recommended digitizing resolutions
    • backup strategies
    • scanner suggestions
    Tuesday
    Feb172015

    RootsTech 2015 Photo Album

    I hear some interesting and unusual questions when I talk about about preserving heirlooms and old photos, but the questions at RootsTech top them all. The best was a request from a lady who would like to have a swatch of her grandmother's hair fashioned into a period hair ornament. . . she's looking for a  Victorian hair artist. That's a new one~ I'm making inquiries (as Sherlock would say), but please leave a comment if you have a referral for this project!

    I loved the chance to introduce my new book How to Archive Family Photos, forthcoming this spring from Family Tree Books, and to share tips and ideas about organizing digital photos, scanning heritage prints, and sharing pictures with all kinds of projects. I also joined Family Tree Magazine publisher Allison Dolan, editor Diane Haddad, and online community editor Tyler Moss in the exhibit hall booth to answer questions and sign books, with the Out of the Box Sessions at the Family Tree booth.

    On Friday afternoon, Diane and I slipped into the Media Hub recording booth to chat about my new book and almost managed to complete the recording before the bagpipers paraded by for the evening music event. If you watch the video, see if you can catch the pipers toward the conclusion.

    Diane Haddad with Denise Levenick

    Diane Haddad, Editor FamilyTree Magazine and Denise Levenick
    talk about Denise's books at RootsTech 2015.

    Denise Randy

    Showing off my "Got Roots?" scarf to Randy Seaver, Genea-Musings blogger in the Media Hub. Fabric printing is one of the projects in my new book, How to Archive Family Photos. 

    It's hard to imagine the energy and noise generated by over 20,000 genealogists gathered for two national events under one roof. If it sounds like it might be LOUD, exciting, colorful, LOUD, and inspiring, you'd be right.

    Salt Palace Convention Center

    Salt Palace Convention Center, Salt Lake City 

    FGS Booth

    FGS Booth well staffed by Tonia Kendrick, Caroline Pointer
    and Paula Stuart Warren. . .

    IMG 0354

    . . . and Linda McCauley.

    BallroomStage

    Audience

    With Janet Horvaka (ChartChick), Lisa Alzo, AC Ivory (back) and
    mom Monica Ivory waiting for Laura Bush keynote.

    LauraBush

    Keynote presentation by former First Lady Laura Bush.

    Between sessions I enjoyed getting outside and meeting up with new and old genealogy friends for a meal. My grandmother Arline Kinsel lived in Salt Lake City for a time about 1918, so it was fun to look at the old buildings and imagine how they might have looked to her nearly one hundred years ago. I imagine that today's neon lights would have been quite the sensation then!

    RioGrande

    Lood all the way down the street to the Rio Grande railroad station, now home of the Utah State Archives

    Peery

    The Peery Hotel looks like it just stepped out of another time.

    Thursday
    Feb052015

    Got Stuff? Heirloom Roadshow Comes Outside the Box at RootsTech 2015

    Outside the Box FlyerHeirloom Roadshow title slide

    Looking for something new at RootsTech? Mark your schedule for Outside the Box free mini-sessions Thursday, Friday, and Saturday in the Vendor Hall Booth #1240. Each 30-minute presentation will feature tips and tricks to help you solve your genealogy puzzles, and I will be sharing favorite family heirlooms for the

    Heirloom Roadshow - Friday, Feb 13, 3:30 pm

     

    Genealogy Gems' Lisa Louise Cooke, Family ChartMasters' Janet Horvaka, and Maureen Taylor the Photo Detective debuted Outside the Box sessions at the 2014 National Genealogy Society conference, and it immediately become a favorite conference event. I'm excited to be representing FamilyTree Magazine for the RootsTech 2015 Edition of Outside the Box and hope you'll stop by to say "Hello" and join the fun for great prizes and mini-presentations.

    Outside the Box schedule

    Thursday
    Jan292015

    Let It Go? Save or Toss Those Old Family Escrow Papers?

    Photo of paper falling from tall office buildings.

    Yesterday I went into my basement family archive looking for my aunt's wedding album (yes, the basement is temperature controlled). The album wasn't upstairs in the house carefully stored in an archival box. . . it had to be downstairs, somewhere in the Holding Zone. That's what I call the precarious tower of banker's boxes and bins containing all the stuff a genealogist can't throw away when clearing out a relative's estate.

    Our basement storage closets are full of outgrown toys, my yarn stash, seven years worth of tax records and other household leftovers. A bank of metal file cabinets holds haphazard bundles of family letters, photos, and other papers inherited along with the file cabinets. But that's where the storage ends. The middle of the room is filled with boxes of personal items yet to be "processed" -- evaluated, organized, and stored in real archival storage containers.

    Someone dies and the house or apartment needs to cleaned out FAST! You open a drawer and find an assortment of rubber bands, bank receipts, and old letters. There's no time to stop, read the letters, wonder why your destitute uncle has a receipt for a $25,000 bank deposit. So, you shove everything into a box and take it home to sort later. And five years later, you are still looking at that box.

    Too many estates in too few years!

    As I looked through boxes for Auntie's album I discovered an entire box filled with financial papers, which got me thinking: 

    Why am I saving this stuff?

    Truly, what would you do if someone mailed you the 20th century escrow papers for your grandparent's home? It would include pages and pages of legal boilerplate and multiple copies of the same. The actual Title Deed would probably be absent.

    What would a genealogist glean from all that paper:

    • the fact that your grandparents were able to own their home
    • address and location of property
    • your grandparents full legal names and signatures, with addresses
    • purchase price and terms of sale for the property
    • property seller
    • potential notes on property improvements, non-compliance
    • possibly tax rate, insurance costs, hazard liability

    If your family member bought and sold several homes or property parcels, you'll be able to build a picture of their movements, their relative financial situation, and maybe social status as well.

    Working with property records found in a relative's home after they pass away is no different than working with property records on microfilm in the Family History Library. You still have to pull out the useful information, analyze what you find, and use the data to build a profile of your ancestor. All this takes time, which begs another question. Why do it at all? Unlike early land records, these papers are unlikely to shed light on murky kinships. And as for understanding the community: I'll learn more about the area from local histories and maps than poring over modern escrow papers.

    On the other hand, this is just the kind of information that will add color and detail to a biography or sketch. My grandparents never owned a home and moved from house to house exchanging my grandfather's labor as a housepainter for rent. Auntie remembered living in more than two dozen different houses and apartments as a child, so it's not surprising that she bought a home with her teacher's salary as soon as possible. 

    Let It Go?

    But, I'm thinking it might be time to let some of this stuff go. To the shredder. I'll go through the box and extract dates, addresses, sale prices. I might save the cover sheet of sales, or at least scan the paper for a digital file. But I don't need to save all the paper to save the story. Instead, I'll use the space for an archival storage box to hold Auntie's wedding album and diary, there's not much boilerplate in those pages.

    P.S. -- This is not an easy decision. What do you think? Have you been there, done that? Regrets? Is there something I'm missing, a reason I should hang on to every scrap? 

    Photo: Paper Party by Jason Sussberg, Flickr CC 2.0 https://flic.kr/p/4hQAqK

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