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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 gift guide (2)


    The Family Curator's Guide to Holiday Re-Gifting

    Cased Photographs

    How to Re-Gift a Future Family Keepsake

    If you're thinking about passing on a family heirloom this holiday season, take time to make your something so special that the recipient will be delighted you stayed out of the Mall and went shopping in your family archive.

    My late mother-in-law was the Queen of ReGifting. No last-year's fad gifts for this lady; her double-duty gifts were typically last-generation. She loved to shop at local charity  thrift shops, estate sales, junk sales, department store sales. . . you get the picture.

    One year, all the men in the family received multiple pairs of swimming trunks -- for Christmas. They were on sale. No kidding. Even California has seasons. The women received estate jewelry -- one sister-in-law opened a beautiful gold and jet brooch; another received a matching bracelet; my package held the earrings to complete the set.  We took turns trying on the complete ensemble and drew straws to see who would take it home.

    First Rule of Re-Gifting

    Do NOT break up an heirloom set of anything.

    My husband and brother-in-law celebrated birthdays a few days apart, so their mother often gave them similar gifts -- shirts and pajamas were popular until she found a new thrift store specializing in estate silver, or sorta-silver. One year they each received lovely silver covered vegetable dishes, engraved with someone else's initials. Sorry, but there is no way that the letter "S" looks like "L."

    Second Rule of Re-Gifting

    Think twice about giving gifts with Superman's monogram. 

    I enjoy displaying our son's little silver baby cups, dents and all, on a table in the dining room. My mother-in-law kindly gave brought over my husband's silver cups to add to the collection, but she didn't stop there. Soon, I had brightly polished baby cups belonging to Edith, Millie, and Baby Susie -- and we don't even have daughters! 

    Third Rule of Re-Gifting

    Consider carefully before changing a collection into clutter.

    My mother-in-law was generous to a fault, but every so often she scored big in my book.

    Breaking the Rules

    In the days when she was still cruising the streets of Pasadena in her '87 Olds, Mary trawled a regular route of second-hand stores in the greater Los Angeles basin. Noticing my interest in family history, she picked up several cased photographs on one excursion and  gave them to me "because you like these pictures."

    My mother-in-law appreciated beautiful handwork, and often gave me hand stitched table linens or embroidered hand towels. She recognized memories held by family keepsakes and wasn't put off by personalization. In fact, I think she knew that often the most interesting pieces are personalized. And, what's wrong with that? As long as there's room to add a new initial or name, a keepsake can keep adding more history.

    As the lucky beneficiaries of many re-gifts, it's sometimes hard to remember what keepsakes started out "in the family" and what started out in another home. In some cases, many years have passed since these treasures moved into our house, and I can't remember much at all about them. All of which makes me very appreciative of the few items that still hold their stories, whether it's a handwritten note tucked inside a coffee pot or a little piece of paper in a candy dish. 

    Vintage Candy Dish

    One of my favorite keepsakes. No strings attached with this candy dish. The note reads: "Nothing special about this but it is nice -- for candy, olives, pickles, etc."

    A Family Keepsake Needs More than a Tiny Gift Tag

    Before presenting your gift on Christmas morning, take time to write a short note to go along with the item. You don't need to have perfect penmanship; you're handwritten note is a memento all by itself. Use a dark ink pen or pencil on the best quality paper you have available -- old-fashioned rag paper stationery or a piece of "resume" paper will last the longest. Avoid newsprint or recycled paper.

    Write a conversational letter to the recipient, or just  short history with bullet points, whatever style suits you best. Be sure to include --

    • the date and occasion for the gift
    • your name
    • the recipient's name
    • where you are each living
    • how you came to own or purchase the item
    • where and when it was made, if known
    • why it is significant to you or your family
    • why you are giving it to this person
    • a description that includes size, color, shape, etc. (If the item itself is lost or becomes separated from your note, someone will know what to look for.)

    You might consider attaching the note to the item in some way (on the back of a painting or piece of furniture), or adding an Heirloom Registry identification plaque with online registration of the keepsake's history. You could also photograph the item and place a copy of the photo and your note in your genealogy or estate papers so other family members will know what happened to this family heirloom.

    Family Heirlooms can be a wonderful legacy, but without the story, it's just stuff.



    Holiday Gift Guide: Geeky Gadgets for the Genealogist on Your List


    The teenagers and grands on your holiday shopping list might not think of themselves as family historians, but consider this: 

    Every instagram photo, every snap of that baby's smile is a future family keepsake!

    Lately I've been working on new articles and presentations featuring digitizing your family history, and I've come across several fun and useful new gadgets that have made their way into my gear bag. Of course, a few of these are still on my holiday wish list, but I couldn't resist sharing my favorite geeky finds that will make great holiday gifts for the genealogist, or shutterbug, on your gift list.

    Faves Under $15

    My Personal Favorite #1 Geeky Gadget: The Joby GripTight Smartphone Mount

    It might not look like much, but the Joby GripTight Mount is my choice for Number 1 Geeky Gadget of the year. This really, really small expandable grip fits iPhones and most smartphones and turns your camera phone into a digitizing powerhouse. Screw the Joby GripTight Mount to any tripod with a universal mount or add a GorillaPod Tripod to make a DIY tripod with a chair or fence rail. When you're finished, detach the phone and collapse the mount to stow it in your pocket or clip to a keychain. Also available as a kit including mount and tripod Joby GripTight GorillaPod Stand.

    #2 Favorite: Remote Shutter Release

    Anyone who spends time digitizing family keepsakes with a smartphone or digital camera knows that sometimes shutter jitter can create fuzzy shots. A remote shutter release, either wired or wireless, lets you step away from the camera to operate the shutter and achieve crisp, clear images. Unfortunately, most compact digital cameras don't include a port for a shutter remote, but it's worth checking to see if the genealogist on your gift list could use a remote.

    The $6.99 Satechi Remote Shutter works great with my Canon Powershot G11/12 series and is compatible with several other Canon cameral. 

    Genealogists' Gravestone Gadget

    Move the light where you need it most to photograph fading tombstone inscriptions using the NEEWER 32-Inch Collapsible Light Reflector. This portable reflector won't be as crisp and bright as a real mirror, but it's quite a bit less fragile.

    The kit comes with five different reflectors (translucent, silver, gold, white, and black) but the white and metallic will be most helpful directing light on tombstone carving. A handy pouch holds the reflectors between cemetery outings.



    Smartphone Camera Macro Lens

    If you use your smartphone to snap close-up photos the Easy-Macro Cell Phone Lens Band is an easy way to add optical zoom to most any smartphone. The lens is attached to a flexible band that snaps over the phone, with or without case, giving instant access to the macro lens without sticky adhesive or wobbly clips.

    I'm always on a quest for new camera filters and lenses, especially something that fits over a case. For this price the quality doesn't compare to a real camera lens, but it adds a bit of fun to the camera gear kit.

    Flip-Pal Mobile Scanner Sketch Kit

    Does your favorite genealogist already own a Flip-Pal Mobile Scanner? The Flip-Pal Sketch Kit accessory adds note-taking ability with a transparent write-on/wiipe-off film that lets you identify photos and make citation notes that will appear with the scanned image.

    Kit comes with three erasable markers and clear acrylic sketch sheet. 


    Great Gadgets Under $100

    Eye Fi SD Card

    These little memory cards speed up digitizing by automagically transferring your snapshots or scans directly to your computer, smartphone or tablet device. The Eye-Fi Mobi Wireless Memory Card, transfers image files to your mobile device, while the Eye-Fi Pro X2  model handles camera RAW files and transfers to MAC or PC computer.

    Olloclip iPhone Lenses

    Don't you sometimes wish you could get a really good close-up photo, or maybe a wide-angle shot with your iPhone camera? The Olloclip 3-in-1 Lens for iPhone 4 & iPhone 4S  is winning awards for  its high quality optical lenses designed to bring iPhonography to a new level. Choose from the 3-in-one Lens that delivers wide-angle, macro, and fish-eye capability, or the Olloclip Telephoto Lens + Circular Polarizer for iPhone 4/4S  that brings telephone and polarizer lens to the iPhone. Models for both iPhone 4/4S and iPhone 5 are available; unfortunately, Android smartphones are not included. The high-quality glass optics in Olloclip lenses have earned high praise in MacWorld and Wired. 

    I've been frustrated when trying to photograph framed documents and photos under glass one time too many, and am looking forward to putting the Olloclip Polarizing Lens to the test soon. Combined with the telephone, the CPL (Circular Polarizing Lens) will also cut through smog, haze, and fog making those grey winter skies less daunting.

    Big Ticket Gadgets

    Of course, you might also be looking for a Great Big Geeky Gadget for your favorite genealogist. Something like a new tablet or eReader.

    You'll have lots of choices in the world of mobile tablet devices, from Android devices like the Samsung Galaxy 7-inch Tab 3

    to the Apple iPad Mini

    and the Kindle Fire HD  and new HDX. 

    When comparing models, check compatibility with the available eBook platforms for access to a growing library of genealogy reference books and family histories. Titles available in the Amazon Kindle Store can be read on all kinds of tablets, not only the Kindle ebook readers. You will need the Kindle App, for iOS devices like the iPhone and iPad or for Windows Android.

    Amazon Prime members have the added benefit of borrowing books, including many genealogy titles, from the Kindle library to read for free with the Kindle App or on a Kindle device. 

    Talking About eBooks

    Save on shipping and wrapping by sending your favorite genealogist an eBook download via Family Tree Books, iTunes or the Amazon Kindle Store. Search Genealogy or Family History for a growing selection of titles, or lend a helping hand to the keeper of the stuff in your family by giving a copy of my book How to Archive Family Keepsakes.

    Happy Holidays!

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