Click Here to Receive New Posts
in Your Inbox

This form does not yet contain any fields.

    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.

    Now Available

    Follow Me

    Entries in family history (5)


    Family Heirlooms: The Ultimate Re-Gift

    Treasure Chest Thursday

    All I really want for Christmas is my grand-dad's stereo card viewer and his collection of vintage stereograph cards. They were a little warped the last time my Dad shared them with me, but they still conjure lazy Sunday afternoons in Grandpa's little study listening to the tick-tock of a mantle clock while I marveled at the Wonders of the World or Scenes from The Great War.

    ReBox4 Flap 4

    Dad isn't quite ready yet to pass on this heirloom to the next generation, but I think I have some family treasures I might be ready move along to my sons and their families. If you are "re-gifting" family treasures this year, I hope you will take time to write a simple history for your family keepsake. It doesn't have to be a long involved project, but even a simple sentence or two could keep your treasure from being tossed into the trash. 

    If you aren't sure how to start, you can find ideas on crafting an heirloom history in my post Treasure Chest Thursday: Writing the History of Your Heirloom or on the Houstory Hearth Blog where Mike and Dan Hiestand, creators of The Heirloom Registry, write about saving family stories.

    I love meeting people like the Houstory Brothers who are dedicated to helping people save family history by preserving the provenance along with the heirloom. The Heirloom Registry online service is designed to help "stop the stories from disappearing." Whether you register your family keepsake on the Heirloom Registry or record it on paper and attach it to the item, by writing the history of your heirloom you are taking the single most important step toward preserving your family treasure.

    Too many times, we inherit things that seem significant, we just can't quite figure out why. Like the basket of stereo cards from my grandparents' home. I know my own story -- why I like the vintage cards -- but, I wonder if Dad ever looked at those as a kid and how they have survived all these years? Now, there's a conversation for our holiday gathering, and the beginning of an heirloom treasure tale.




    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,


    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.


    Digitize Your Family History Webinar

    Photo and Scan Your Genealogy Photos and Documents

    If you are looking for tips to speed up your family heirloom digitization project, you may be interested in a new webinar I will be presenting Thursday, 9 August 2012 for Family Tree University.

    Digitize Your Family History will feature:

    What does it mean "to digitize"

    Why you should digitize your family keepsakes

    Scanning vs. Digital Photography

    Choosing what to digitize

    Using a commercial digitizing service

    Tricks for making copies with your digital camera 

    Tips for scanning success

    Setting scan resolution (dpi)

    Naming digital files

    In addition, attendees have submitted how-to questions that will be answered during the webinar, and have an opportunity to ask further questions at the end of the presentation. Topics include:

    How to scan a tintype

    Setting up a digital camera to photograph framed items

    Scanner settings for cabinet card photographs

    Digitizing an oversize document

    and more

    My favorite part of the program shows my newest photo innovation -- using a flexible tripod for some camera gymnastics.

    Hope you can join us next Thursday, August 9 at 4 pm Pacific Time / 5 p.m. Mountain / 6 p.m. Central / 7 p.m. Eastern

    Use the code FAMILY10F when you register and save 10%. Click here to learn more and register.



    Lessons from the Archive: Finding Clues to Tell a Story


    Sometimes you have to do a bit of snooping on the way to sleuthing.

    By snooping, I mean that you just have to open your eyes to look at anything that comes along. Sleuthing seems to have a more defined goal and method, but snooping can pay off bigtime.

    My Sweet Aunt Frances saved a lot of stuff. The fact that her home contained only one tiny trashcan under the kitchen sink and an even smaller one in the bathroom are evidence that she didn't throw away much. She collected twisty-ties, rubber bands, and sugar packets, and crafted scratch paper from junk mail. Drawers were stuffed with old letters and cards, shirt boxes became repositories.

    Obviously, she was a saver. For the family historian and genealogist, that's all good news. People with the Saving Gene save most everything. If they saved paper clips, they probably saved photographs. If you need to tend to a Saver's home, you might be in the enviable position of curating a superabundance of stuff.

    My solution was to box it up, bring it home, and unwrap each box another time. So, when I have an extra few hours or especially miss Auntie I open a box and snoop around. I don't do any serious preservation of artifacts, scanning, or archiving, that comes next. For now, I just read old letters, look at picture, and leaf through books and journals.

    It might seem easy to separate the treasures from the trash, but it's not. Soon you come across the wedding guest book and wonder what to do with it. You get tired, and the old calendars and datebooks seem less important. The family photos are set aside to save, but what about the vacation albums and loose slides? Trash or treasure?

    A few weeks ago I came across Auntie's home economics notebook. It looked familiar because I was required to compile almost the same book when I was in high school home economics. Nothing changed very much. It was a school assignment, overall insignificant, but I set it aside and later decided it might be a fun project to create a reproduction copy. With budget cuts in California schools, home economics is becoming a dim memory. As I scanned the pages, I decided it would be even more interesting if I could add some kind of context to the book.

    Frances Louise Brown was 13 years old when she assembled the book. Her careful and beautiful penmanship testifies to a careful and good student. She carefully recorded the due dates for the book, noting extra credit points available for turning it in early. She included a Table of Contents and "My Half of Notebook" filled with recipes and clippings of foods, dishes, and products. I would say she was a bit of an overachiever!

    I learned all this from the notebook. To know more about teenage Franny, I had to go into my grandmother's photos and letters. Snooping led to sleuthing and now I am putting together the clues that tell the story of Franny's Foods Notebook.

    I'll be back with Part 2, and more photos to share.

    P.S. My inspiration for this project was planted by Denise Olson's eBook The Future of Memories. You are missing a treat, if you haven't read it yet.

    Find us on Google+