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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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    Entries in genealogy (4)

    Friday
    Nov212014

    Exclusive Interview with Steve Robinson, Best-Selling Author of the Jefferson Tayte Genealogical Mystery Series


    There's nothing quite like a good book to fill the hours of a long holiday weekend. Make that a good genealogy mystery, and it's even better. Join me for a chat with Amazon author Steve Robinson talking about The Lost Empresshis newest addition to the Jefferson Tayte Genealogical Mystery Series .

    If you've never read about Robinson's family history sleuth, get ready to meet a quirky and interesting character who might remind you of a few genealogists you know. Tayte is a friendly, accomplished, professional American genealogist with a yearning to discover his own past. Blocked by brick walls to his own family history, J.T. unravels the secrets of other people's family stories instead. In The Lost Empress, J.T. returns to England looking for clues to to a survivor from The Empress of Ireland's tragic sinking in 1914. He finds espionage, twisted tales, and family secrets -- all the ingredients for a good book on a long winter evening.

    The Lost Empress cover

    Denise: The Lost Empress includes so much historical detail that it's obvious you spent a good deal of time researching the ship and the aftermath of her tragic sinking. How long did the actual research require to make you feel grounded in the story? And was Alice modeled after any actual passenger?

    Steve: I do spend a lot of time on research. It’s actually a big part of what I love about my writing. I find the historical research particularly fascinating and The Lost Empress was no exception. As I read about the tragic loss of the Empress of Ireland I honestly couldn’t believe that I’d never heard of the ship before – and yet the loss of life is comparable to the sinking of the Titanic and the Lusitania that same decade. Perhaps it’s for that reason that I felt particularly drawn to my research into the ship and the passengers aboard that fateful journey. I would strongly encourage everyone to find out more about the Empress of Ireland, and to share her story with others so that she might better be remembered.

    I also had to learn about life in post Edwardian times, of course, and I’ve tried to convey a sense of the time as much through the subtle nuances of the language as well as the everyday objects that help to describe the time. I love the idea of a penny lick – eating ice cream from a glass dish. Yum! As my lead character from the past, Alice Stilwell, was an admiral’s daughter, a great deal of naval research was also required, particularly concerning Chatham’s former royal dockyard and the naval warships of the time, which I found fascinating.

    On the whole I’d say that my research takes about a quarter, or perhaps even a third, of the time that it takes me to write a book. Alice is entirely fictional, although some of the incidents and actions aboard the ship in her last moments are drawn from real events and characters.

    About Alice...

    Denise:  The story is set at the eve of the Great War, when women's roles were still mostly defined by the men in their lives -- fathers, brothers, husbands. Alice Stillwell is aptly drawn, but was it difficult to put yourself into a mindset so different from 21st century sensibilities? Her character is very different from the strong female roles in your previous books.

    Steve:  Male dominance in Britain was very much on my mind when I imagined the life of Alice Stilwell. Women had no right to vote back then of course, and their place was seen as strictly in the home. It’s hard to imagine nowadays that this was only a hundred years ago. Equipped with that mindset, I wouldn’t say it was too difficult to portray Alice as a typical, if somewhat privileged, woman of her time.  I felt that her strength should come from within, rather than being overt, so I’ve not drawn her as such a strong character on the outside, perhaps. But what she goes through demands great strength of character nonetheless and it is through her resolve to protect the people closest to her that drives her on to the story’s conclusion.

    Denise: Alice was well balanced by the other female lead, JT's new British genealogy lady friend.  And I loved the genealogical clues you put right out there in front of our nose! Do you think you are becoming more of a genealogist as you work in this genre with JT?

    Steve: I hope so, and I do believe that I am. I put as much research into the genealogical aspect of my stories as I do for the historical sections. Essentially I have to set JT brick wall after brick wall, and then I have to help him to break them down, even though I rarely know the solution when that wall goes up. Working through the genealogy myself, and making sure it all stacks up, can take a lot of time and I learn a great deal each and every time I tackle something new. I really love old newspapers, which can help as much with my historical research as they can for the genealogy. Bringing crime fiction to genealogy means that my genealogical research isn’t always so much about family relationships either, but the family members lives, and very often the crimes they are either perpetrating, or are otherwise caught up in. The thing that strikes me most about genealogy is that it’s so diverse. All past documents are records or clues to our ancestors lives. It’s no wonder that the puzzle is often so difficult to piece together.

    Is DNA in J.T.'s Future?

    Denise: Your website mentions the next mystery in the series. Can you say what form of genealogical research might be involved? Will JT be working with DNA next?

    Steve: I’m sure DNA will feature in the series at some point, and there might well be a place for it in book 5. JT’s next mystery will largely focus on finding someone in a foreign land. That’s very cryptic, I know, but I find it difficult to talk about a new book without giving things away, and I do like to keep things close to my chest, at least until the first draft is written. I will say that I’m having quite a time translating records written in languages foreign to my own at the moment, which is an a entirely new challenge for me. Perhaps you could ask me again closer to the release date and I’ll tell you how I got on.

    The Lost Empress back

    In the Blood, Steve's first book in the Jefferson Tayte Genealogical Mystery Series earned widespread praise as an author-published title, and was selected by Amazon UK as one of the 'Best Books of 2011.' From Kindle editions, each book has gone on to be published in paperback and audio editions. The Lost Empress was released last month in all formats.
     
    Steve's been known to drop by The Family Curator, so feel free to leave any questions or comments for him here, or visit his website Steve Robinson.
    If you like to read series books in order (like I do), here's the chronology of mystery series:
     

             

     
     
     
    Thursday
    Jan102013

    We're Off. . . on the How to Archive Family Keepsakes Blog Book Tour

    Get ready for a virtual book tour January 10-26, 2013 featuring author posts, interviews, excerpts and giveaways for my new book How to Archive Family Keepsakes: Learn How to Preserve Family Photos, Memorabilia & Genealogy Records

    The tour kicks off Friday, Janaury 11 with Meet & Greet the Author at Geneabloggers.com, hosted by blogger Thomas MacEntee, and continues each day for the next two weeks with stops at fourteen different genealogy blogs. 

    You will be able to sample tips from the book with book excerpts and downloads, learn more about preserving heirlooms and digitizing your records from guest posts, and hear and read exclusive interviews with the author (me!). In addition, proceeds from book sales during the tour will help fund the 2013 Student Genealogy Grant founded in 2010 in honor of Suzanne Winsor Freeman.

    WIN a Free Book or Archive Kit

    Weekly Giveaways will feature copies of How to Archive Family Keepsakes in paperback and ebook editions, and an ARCHIVE KIT and BOOK package that includes a copy of How to Archive Family Keepsakes and archival storage products from The Practical Archivist. 

    It’s easy to enter the weekly giveaway: Simply leave a comment to the Blog Tour Post hosted at one of the official tour blogs. 

    Each blog tour post comment gives you one chance to win; one entry per post, please. Leave a comment at each stop on the blog tour and increase your chances of winning. The lucky names will be announced each Saturday during the tour at The Family Curator.

    Random winners will also be selected from social media comments on Twitter #keepsakebooktour, FaceBook, and Google+.

    The complete tour schedule will be updated daily with permalinks on the Archive Keepsakes Tour Book Page. My special thanks goes to each of the Blog Tour Hosts for their hospitality and enthusiasm for this new project:

    Archive Keepsakes Blog Tour Hosts
    (a virtual round of applause...)

    Thomas MacEntee, Geneabloggers

    Lisa Louise Cooke, Genealogy Gems Podcast Blog

    Denise Olson, Moultrie Creek

    Caroline Pointer, 4 Your Family Story

    Lorine McGinnis Schultze, Olive Tree Genealogy

    Lynn Palermo, The Armchair Genealogist

    footnoteMaven, Shades of the Departed

    Dr. Bill Smith, Dr. Bill Tells Ancestor Stories

    Sally Jacobs, Practical Archivist

    Terri Connell , The In-Depth Genealogist

    Gena Philibert-Ortega, Food. Family. Ephemera.

    Pat Richley-Erickson, Dear Myrtle

    Miriam J. Robbins, AnceStories

    Dan Hiestand, The Houstory Hearth

    And, on the subject of "Thanks". . .  I loved every minute of writing this book, especially because of the cheering section --  genealogy friends whose support is the back-story to How to Archive Family Keepsakes. It was tough to tackle the project on the eve of family heartbreak, but your encouragement made it all worthwhile. In case you missed the book's acknowlegement page, please know that you have my heartfelt appreciation:

    Special Thanks to Special Friends

    Amy Coffin
, We Tree

    Lisa Louise Cooke, Genealogy Gems Podcast Blog

    Elyse Doerflinger, Elyse’s Genealogy Blog

    Allison Dolan, Publisher, Family Tree Magazine

    Sheri Fenley, The Educated Genealogist

    Midge Frazel, Granite in My Blood

    Diane Haddad, Family Tree Magazine Genealogy Insider

    Nancy Hendrickson, Writer, Coach

     A.C. Ivory, Genealogist

    Sally Jacobs, The Practical Archivist

    Judy Lucey
, NEHGS Archivist

    Thomas MacEntee
, Hi-Def Genealogy

    Craig Manson, GeneaBlogie

    Jackie Musser, Family Tree Editor

    Denise Olson, Moultrie Creek Books

    Kerry Scott, Clue Wagon

    Randy Seaver, Genea-Musings

    Maureen Taylor, Maureen Taylor, Photo Expert

    footnoteMaven, footnoteMaven

     

    Join the fun

    Tweet the Tour with hashtag #keepsakebooktour

    Share comments and links on FaceBook, Google+ and Goodreads

    Wednesday
    Dec052012

    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.

    Thursday
    Aug302012

    How to Archive Family Keepsakes Book Now Available

     

    It's Here!

    How to Archive Family Keepsakes -- Learn how to preserve family photos, memorabilia and genealogy records  includes over 200 pages of ideas and techniques to help family historians preserve heirlooms, organize research materials, and enhance genealogy skills. 

    It's exciting to write a book, but it's really exciting to see it in print!

    How to Archive Family Keepsakes is the book I needed -- and couldn't find -- when I inherited my grandmother's treasures. Instead, I spent weeks researching preservation techniques and archival best practices for family photos, documents, and artifacts. Writing How to Archive Family Keepsakes gave me a chance to share what I'd learned.

    The overall scope of the book expanded somewhat as I worked with my editors at Family Tree Books on the concept and outline. It became obvious that home archivists needed to know more than how to safely store old documents. They might also want to learn

    • best practices for digitizing heirlooms of all kinds
    • how to choose what to save and what to toss
    • how to catalog letters, documents, and artifacts
    • what file formats work best for archival copies
    • tips for moving toward a paperless genealogy life
    • new ideas for organizing the paper in their research world

    If you are looking for ideas and techniques to help you organize, preserve and share your family keepsakes, I hope you will take a look at How to Archive Family Keepsakes.

    Family Tree Books, is in the Exhibit Hall at the Federation of Genealogical Society conference this week in Birmingham with copies of the book "hot off the press." Stop by and say Hello!

    How to Archive Family Keepsakes now available from

    ShopFamilyTree.com - save 10% with code FAMILY10F

    Amazon.com

    and your local bookstore