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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 kinsel (13)


    Lessons from the Archive #1: Examine Everything

    I nearly missed them. I was tired, frustrated, and saddened by the sheer volume of material to go through. My dear sweet aunt saved everything, and I do mean everything.

    It wasn't just the dried corsages, the snips of wrapping paper from gifts to my uncle, or even the old letters and cards that hit me hardest. It was sheets of old flyers and printouts carefully trimmed to be used for scratch paper. It was address labels cut off envelopes to be reused on outgoing mail. It was pencil stubs, old calendars, and rainy-day plastic bags from the newspaper.

    Since her death in late August, I have been bringing home boxes from Auntie's home to go through carefully as my sister and I work to settle her affairs. The old bumper pool table in our basement office, topped with a sturdy board, makes a good work surface for unpacking boxes. It's slow work looking at things one-by-one, but it's the only way to do it, I keep reminding myself.

    Somewhere between a stack of recycled scratch paper and some old restaurant receipts two cabinet card photographs came into view.

    Aak toddler001

    The little girl in one photo looked familiar, I think I've seen images of my Grandmother that look similar, and when I turned over the photo, on the reverse side I recognized her handwriting:  "That is the family cookbook I'm looking at. I think I was 2 or yrs. old" she had written.

    Aak baby001

    The second photo shows a smiling baby, but the reverse is blank. Then, looking closer I saw a faint inscription pencilled in the bottom margin: "Arline Allen Kinsel".

    I have no idea how these two photographs became separated from the mass of material I inherited in 2000 that had originally belonged to my grandmother. Clearly, these photos were part of the collection. Maybe my aunt had held them back so that she would have a few to enjoy. How sad that they must have become misplaced over the years, and how fortunate that I found them at all.

    I'm starting a new list of Lessons from the Archive, and this is #1-- Examine everything. Every scrap of paper, every box, bag, and bundle. Don't assume that a 6-inch stack of greeting cards contains only cards. You never know what might fall out and land in your lap!

    Please leave a comment if you've made your own lucky discovery in your family archive; I'd love to hear about it.


    Reading Other People's Mail

    This morning I woke up too early and couldn't go back to sleep. It was drizzly and gray at the window, and the coffee pot needed only a flip of the switch to brew a full pot. It seemed like a perfect time to look through old letters.

    When I was a growing up, one of the rules in our house would have made the United States Postal Service proud . . . we never ever ever opened or read mail addressed to another person. Letters were private affairs, akin to a conversation whispered between best friends on a shared schoolbus seat. That, I understood.

    Of course, letters are a research mainstay for genealogists. But it's one thing to read a letter for the purpose of extracting names, dates, and places, and quite another to just sit down and, well, read someone else's mail a bit like you are peering over their shoulder. At times, I still feel just a wee bit guilty of snooping.

    When my Mom's older sister phoned yesterday with a "genealogy question," as she put it, I knew the answer would be in Grandmother Arline's old letters, and to find what Auntie wants to know I would need to just sit down and read her mail. Permission to snoop -- granted.

    Mercy Winsor Kinsel MacPhee

    Auntie was reading a new book that caught her interest because the theme touched on the life of her own Aunt Mercy (Arline's sister). Nothing Daunted: The Unexpected Education of Two Society Girls in the West, by Dorothy Wickenden is the story of two Smith graduates who leave their privileged world to teach school in the wilds of 1917 Colorado. Mercy Kinsel never went to college, but she too was a rural schoolteacher in Colorado in the early 1900's. Reading the book had brought back old memories and Auntie wanted to know exactly when and where Mercy had taught.

    Sounds like a good reason to get into other people's mail.

    When I inherited my grandmother's papers, the boxes included dozens of letters from her sister, Mercy. Somewhere, I recalled, were at least a few letters from the time Mercy was teaching in Colorado. I am looking for letters from the years 1905 to about 1920 when Mercy was married and living in California. I wonder what I will find?


    Surname Saturday - Kinsels Were Considerate Folk

    Today is the 42nd Anniversary of my grandmother's death. Arline Allen Kinsel and my grandfather Frank Ammi Brown were both kind and considerate, if somewhat unconventional, grandparents. Frank was Arline's fourth husband and fifth marriage (she married one man twice).

    Born October 2, 1890 in Kansas City, Missouri, Arline was one of those unregistered births that twists genealogists into knots. No family Bible records names and events, no civil records include her name. But buried deep in a box at the bottom of a trunk of papers, I found a printed card completed by a conscientious clergyman after baptising 10-year old Arline on Easter, 1901. It records her birthdate, birthplace, and parents names. Thank you Reverend Mann.

    Arline may not have appeared in the civil birth registers, but she was no stranger to the newspapers. Clippings and full page tear sheets record the events of her life. Her marriages, divorces, court appearances, battles for child custody, and testimony during the investigation of her sister's disappearance all tell a story filled with more drama than Penny Dreadful could ever invent.

    The scandals disappeared as Arline grew older, married Frank, and raised a second more conventional family in Southern California. She became a respectable woman, wore a hat and gloves to church every Sunday, and didn't trouble anyone as she grew older and more feeble.

    When she finally died at the age of 77, the cause of death was a ruptured appendix; she couldn't or didn't want to trouble anyone. She died the day before Memorial Day 1968. My grandfather, Frank, had died a few years earlier on Christmas Eve. It is always easy to remember when they left us, courtesly leaving the holiday itself free for it's intended memories, and the day before to remember each of them.


    Not So Wordless Wednesday: The Uinta County Courthouse of the Edwards-Paulen Marriage


    Uinta County Courthouse, Evanston Wyoming

    When my grandmother, Arline Kinsel Paulen and Albert F. Edwards arrived at the Unita County Courthouse in Evanston, Wyoming to be married 11 August 1917, the Courthouse was already established as the oldest county courthouse in the state.

    The building probably looked in 1917, much as it looks today, but its exterior architecture had evolved through at least three expansions. The earliest building was the 1873 jail, a brick structure erected in the center of the town square by order of Governor John A. Cambell, first Territorial Governor of Wyoming. Uinta County was the first new county estabished by the First Wyoming Territorial Legislature, and this first jail and courthouse was authorized to be built an an expense not to exceed $25,000. The jail was to be built first, followed by the courthouse in 1874. It wasn't long before both jail and courthouse outgrew their spaces, and in 1887 a new jail was completed and the former jail converted into courthouse offices.

    The growing Evanston community demanded a still larger courthouse, and in 1910 a two-story addition was contructed at the front of the existing courthouse building. According to the Wyoming State Historic Preservation Office, "It changed the scale and character of the courthouse from that of a relatively simple, territorial building to a more pretentious, more national building. The addition is essentially Georgian Revival style."

    This is the building that Arline and Albert would have entered in 1917.

    Wyoming State Department of State Parks and Cultural Resources. "Uinta County Courthouse." Wyoming State Historic Preservation Office. [article online]. Accessed 17 February 2010. Available from

    Simpson, Tricia.  "Uinta County Courthouse Evanston Wyoming". 2009. Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike License. Photograph.


    Part 3, Questions Answered, Questions Posed -- What I Learned Reading Between the Lines of The Marriage Records of Arline Paulen and Albert F. Edwards

    This is a continuation of the analysis of marriage records recently received from the Wyoming State Archives. Although I already held a decorative Marriage Certificate, I was surprised at how much more there was to learn from the primary documents.

    Read more Reading Between the Lines, The Marriage Records of Arline Paulen and Albert F. Edwards,

    Part  1, Introduction

    Part 2, The Documents


    "Mr. Edwards" and Arline. [note bride's gunbelt]

    I was delighted to learn several new things about Arline and Albert from examining the original documents. Because Arline was an attractive young woman with a history of flirtations and numerous beaus, I surmised that she would marry a young man. The one photograph which identifies “Mr. Edwards” shows a man who seemed older than I expected. I thought the photo was mislabeled, but I was clearly wrong. The marriage documents indicate that Edwards was 36 years old when the couple was married in 1917, confirming the likelihood that the photo identification was correct.

    I was also unsure where Arline might have met Edwards. I knew she was living and working in Salt Lake City at one time, but the Wyoming marriage hinted that Edwards might be from that state. The records show that both bride and groom claimed Salt Lake City as their residence, indicating that they probably met in Utah.

    The Marriage Certificate from the State of Wyoming, “Utah” County initially confused me, but I surmise that perhaps this was a clerical error related to the bride and groom’s hometown, Salt Lake City, Utah. I looked closely at the letter formations on all the documents and found that the handwriting on the original decorative Marriage Certificate signed by Sims is unlike that on any other document except the official Certificate of Marriage. Perhaps a busy Court Commissioner was more likely to write “Utah” when he meant “Uinta” than would be a County Clerk or Deputy accustomed to writing the county name many times each day.

    The county documents also reveal the county courthouse occupations of the two witnesses who signed the decorative Marriage Certificate. Undoubtedly, J.B. Martin, County Clerk, and M. I. McCraig, Deputy were pressed into service as witnesses for the matrimonial vows, and were not friends who tagged along for the nuptials.

    On all documents, Arline Paulen is represented as “Miss,” an unmarried woman. I know that Paulen was her married name and that she was served divorce papers by her first husband John L. Paulen in 10 March 1917. I need to determine the date when the divorce became final.

    Although, it is not of vital significance, my curiosity was also piqued by the notation of the date and time of day that the marriage and licensing took place. I began to wonder about the geographical location of Evanston, Wyoming in relation to Salt Lake City, and the motivation to leave Utah to be married. I know this marriage did not last long; why did they marry in the first place? More research is indicated for the answer to this question.

    Beyond names and dates, examining these documents has given me invaluable social background for writing a narrative life history. I now know the wedding took place miles from the couple’s homes, probably on a warm summer day. I know that they were most probably alone, and had to rely on the county employees to serve as witnesses. I can only imagine the reasons for this marriage, and why it dissolved so soon thereafter. Those are questions for further research, or for the imagination of Miss Penelope Dreadful.

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