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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 organize (13)


    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

    Digitize, Organize, and Archive with Genealogy Gems' Lisa Louise Cooke

    Gen Gem Logo

    How to Archive Family Keepsakes is featured in the newest Genealogy Gems Podcast, Episode 144, as Lisa Louise Cooke and I chat about the challenges of organizing family history photos and documents, genealogy research, and digital files. 

    I love talking with Lisa about genealogy and family history. Like me, Lisa inherited treasures from from her own family and her husband's family, too, and likes to use these special items for family history projects and genealogy research. Creating a home family archive can make it easier to locate photos for a quick photo project or find documents for a family tree; one trick is maintaining a good inventory list.

    Lisa and I also talked about using digitization to help preserve family artifacts, and how to move towards a paperless genealogy office when we're dealing with mountains of our own research papers. And yes, you can make real progress toward reducing paper in only seven steps!

    Tune in to the Episode 144 of the Genealogy Gems Podcast for tips and strategies from my new book, How to Archive Family Keepsakes, and ideas for digitizing, organizing and archiving your own family treasures.


    Short List: What to watch for in a family archive


    Can a genealogist ever have too much stuff? And, what do you do with all that inherited treasure? Allison Stacy, Editor at Family Tree Magazine, posed the question of how to Organize Grandma's Archive in the current issue of Family Tree Magazine and recently on the Genealogy Insider blog. Readers have responded with a host of ideas summarized by Managing Editor Diane Haddad.

    "I’m not one to make a mountain out of a molehill," writes Allison, "But this actually resembles a mountain."

    Allison has over two dozen bankers' boxes, several organized and labeled by her grandmother, and some packed full with notebooks, loose papers, and files. Any way you look at it, she has quite a task ahead of her. I know how she feels. When I first brought home my grandmother's accumulated treasures, I had no idea the sense of responsibility and confusion that would result.

    • How to preserve the most precious?
    • How to sift through the massive quantity?
    • How to decide what to keep and what to give away or throw away?
    • How to organize it all?

    I don't have all the answers, but in the past 12 years I've tried a lot of organizing schemes and settled on what works best for my situation. The Family Curator blog was born out of working with my grandmother's archive, and blogging has brought new insights to the problem.

    My first advice to Allison might seem overly simple, but I learned when it comes to family treasures -- think first, then act. Before you can begin to tackle your family history mountain, you need to know your goal.

    Do you want to simply climb to the summit, collating and labeling as you go? or Do you want take a leisurely hike, with time to admire the scenery along the way? Will you be taking along a movie crew to document your progress with plans for a book in the future? or Maybe you would prefer to conquer the summit, keep the memory, and move on to new adventures.

    Dealing with a family history archive is a lot like climbing a mountain. The mountain isn't going away, but the journey will be much more enjoyable with careful planning and preparation.

    I've compiled a short list of things to look for when sorting through a family archive, but sometimes it helps to get specific. Do you have a suggestion to add to the list?

    The Family Curator's Short List
    What to Watch for in a Family Archive

    1. Vital records (birth, marriage, death)
    2. Employment records (pay stubs, job contracts, resume)
    3. Educational records (school photos, report cards, citizenship certificates)
    4. Church records (church bulletin, receipt for donation, photos)
    5. Names and addresses (club, church and school rosters, personal address book, community directory)
    6. Military records (service record, correspondence, photos)
    7. Family history (narratives, charts, genealogy)




    Tech Tip: How to Auto-Create a List of Sequential Numbers in MS Word

    After spending way too much time manually typing numbers for my genealogy documents and files, I finally found a way to generate an automatic list of nicely formatted sequential numbers. Now I can quickly make:

    • divider tabs for MRIN family numbers
    • file folder tabs
    • sticky labels to correspond with my photo file numbering system

    Many people like to use a “real” filename for their family photos, but because so many of the photos from my grandmother’s collection are “subject unknown,” I decided to use an informative letter-number filename.

    The first two letters indicate the item is from the Arline Kinsel archive; the next letter indicates the Photo collection, the numbers indicate the photograph’s individual file number:

    AK-P001 = Arline Kinsel archive Photo 001

    In the past, I manually prepared a sheet of labels in Microsoft Word, but this was clumsy and time-consuming. Lately, however, I have used a very easy SEQ script that is already available in the program; I just didn’t know it was there.

    I found these easy to follow instructions at Allen Wyatt’s WordTips and adapted them for my own use.

    Here’s what I do to make sequentially numbered photo labels

    1. Open or download a Word Template for the labels I want to use; such as #5422 Multi-Use Labels.
    2. In the first label space, type the recurring prefix: AK-P0 [zero]. (see example 1)
    3. Immediately following the prefix, type Ctrl+F9 and Word inserts a field.
    4. Type SEQ and a space; type a name for the sequence numbers, such as Photo.
    5. Press F9. A number appears in the field.
    6. Format the text with font, size, style.
    7. Copy the first label using Ctrl + C.
    8. Paste the contents to each label in the left column using Ctrl + V.
    9. I now have one column of labels, all the same.
    10. Select and Copy this column (Ctrl + C) and paste into the second column (Ctrl + V).
    11. I now have a full sheet of labels all the same.
    12. Select ALL using Ctrl + A.
    13. Press F9. All fields are updated with sequential numbers.

    Hooray! Do you have another method to create easy sequential numbers?


    Steps 1-3, optional add a leading zero

    Step 9 - one column formatted for numbering

    The completed sheet of labels.


    Four Tried and True Systems for Organizing Genealogy Research

    This article was written for my local genealogy society newsletter. You are welcome to use it in your own society online or print publication; please credit

    Genealogists may not see eye to eye on the Perfect Organizational System for data and sources, but they will certainly agree that they would rather spend time finding ancestors than filing papers. The challenge is to create a system that suits the personality and habits of the user and is easy to create and maintain.

    Here are four systems worth investigating –

    Organize Your Paper Files

    Genealogical Research Associates recommends using a straightforward numerical system based on Marriage Record Numbers in conjunction with your genealogy database software program. An illustrated tutorial provides step-by-step instructions for setting up and filing papers.

    Finally, Get Organized

    Dear Myrtle (speaker and podcaster Pat Richley) describes her system of 3-ring notebooks in the first monthly installment of the series “Finally, Get Organized: January 2009 Checklist.” The monthly PDF checklists highlight different aspects of genealogy work, from organizing files to time management. Find the organizing blog posts by typing “checklist” in the “Search This Blog” search box.

    Organizing Your Files

    Folders, binders, and overall concepts are all discussed in a comprehensive article on the FamilySearch Wiki. Beginning with a discussion of the value of organizing your files, through organizing principles, setting up a system, maintaining your files, and using document numbers for filing, this article lays a good foundation for any genealogy filing system.

    How I Organize My Genealogy

    Elyse Doerflinger is a college student and experienced genealogy blogger and speaker. She has recorded a series of YouTube videos featuring step-by-step instructions for setting up a genealogy filing system and staying on top of the paper piles. Browse videos by Elyse90505 for more simple, effective filing tips.

    If you haven’t found The Perfect System yet, don’t despair; keep looking and asking questions. And, as you investigate all the many possibilities, use a simple system that helps you stay in control of your research so you can spend your time finding – instead of filing – your ancestors.

    Ten Tips for Organizing Genealogy Research

    1. Sheet Control – Use standard 8 ½ x 11-inch paper for all notes and printouts.
    2. Stay Single – One surname, one locality per sheet for easy filing.
    3. No Repeats – Avoid errors; write legibly the first time.
    4. Dating Yourself – Always write the current date on your research notes.
    5. Be Color Clever – Distinguish family lines with different colored folders, binders, tabs.
    6. File First – File one research trip or effort before starting the next one.
    7. Ask Directions – Write your own filing instructions; a big help when you take a long break.
    8. Supply Closet – Keep a stash of folders, plastic sleeves, tabs, printer ink.
    9. One File at a Time – Work through paper piles steadily; the mess didn’t happen in one day.
    10. KISS – Keep It Simple, Silly! Use an easy to set up, easy to maintain system.



    Tech Tuesday: Tech News the Genealogist Can Use

    Summertime is photo-time and if you are like The Family Curator, your digital camera is staying charged and ready for any photo-op. With longer days and holidays, you might also be thinking tagging and organizing your digital photos or catching up on a family heritage photo scan project. Visit The Family Curator on Tuesdays throughout the month of July, when Tech Tuesday will focus on tips and tech-niques for photo collections, beginning Tuesday July 7 with "It's Okay to Play Favorites" a look at how to winnow a photo collection so that the stars really shine.


    Treasure Hunters Round-Up

    Weigh anchor, mateys, we're sailin' to find buried treasure under the banner of the Show and Tell Family Treasure Challenge, courtesy of fair footnoteMaven.

    And shiver me timbers, I sure am glad to have company on this voyage to find the buried treasures in me own Magic Cupboard. It's a terrible task to take on without a tip-top crew at yer side.

    Here's a sneak peek at the treasure maps brought to the Challenge by our brave blogging buccaneers. Don't be shy about cheering them on! They will be posting about their treasures throughout the month – deadline October 20 – when we will have a Treasure Round-Up.

    Blogging Buccaneers, The Treasure Hunters

    • FootnoteMaven writes in "Treasure Hunt! A Challenge for Genea-Bloggers" that she has already found "something" in her closet of treasures, but she's not telling about it yet! It has been carefully wrapped in archival tissue and stored away to be found another day. I can hardly wait to read about this Treasure.
    • Treasures of a personal kind are in the mind of Midge Frazel in her post "Photo Challenge" at Granite in My Blood. Midge has made a comprehensive plan to organize, scan, and archive for her collection of family photographs, something that is probably at the top of a lot of To Do Lists.
    • Wendy Littrell at All My Branches writes about her plan to examine a box of property deeds and land transactions in "Searching for Buried Treasure." She is even hoping to find photos or satellite images of the property. I like her idea of "virtual" visits to our ancestors' homes; it sounds like a great addition to a family story.
    • JulieMc in "Looking for Buried Treasure" at Gen Blog has put together a very timely plan to explore a box of stock certificates from her grandmother and great grandmother; let's keep our fingers crossed that those companies are still on Wall Street for a few weeks. Wouldn't it be a real Treasure if those pieces of paper are still active?
    • The green-eyed monster peeked out when I saw the photos of Linda Stienstra's genealogy room in her post "My Treasure Chest Overfloweth" on From Axer to Ziegler. It has to be the family historian/genealogist dream-come-true. An entire room for research materials! In all those lovely shelves and drawers, Linda still has a box of "stuff" to explore; I can't wait to see what she finds and hopefully discover the secret to becoming more organized.
    • Becky Wiseman has a real mystery for this challenge. Just look at the photo on "Seeking Hidden Treasures" at kinexxions. It is a moving box, marked with her name and the every-mysterious "cards, letters, misc." How can she wait at all? It could be anything! We are looking forward to hearing all about it.
    • The Family Curator has a plan, too, in "Treasure Map to the Magic Cupboard," but mostly she just looks at the "stuff" and shakes her head. What will it take to move that mountain of paper? She wasn't even brave enough to photograph the cupboard with the doors open. Tsk, tsk.

    I hope you will join the Treasure Hunters on their voyage and cheer them on in their endeavors. Thanks one and all, for taking up the Challenge, and a special thanks to footnoteMaven for our very own "Jolly Roger" flag. Good luck hunters.


    Is the Magic Gone?

    In preparation for the next Smile for the Camera Carnival: Crowning Glory, today I went to the Magic Cupboard in search of a photo I know exists, but was unable to locate it. Instead, out tumbled loose snapshots, photo envelopes, and clippings. I have three cupboards, plus one old wooden chest, filled with family photos. Things are getting desperate here. Perhaps it’s time for a Clean Out the Clutter Challenge – Do any Genea-Bloggers want to keep me company?


    Control Files for Letters

    Last night while listening to Dear Myrtle's Family History Hour, I heard an interview with Sally Jacobs, professional archivist. It was an interesting conversation, mostly focusing on the best materials for preservation. I didn't know that CD-ROMs were so temporary and that archival bond paper was a better choice in many cases.

    -- DearMYRTLE'S Interview with Sally Jacobs 31 July 2007
    -- Sally Jacob's Blog, The Practical Archivist

    I am using archival supplies to store all of the AAK Papers, purchased from Metal Edge in Los Angeles. I started by purchasing archival file folders, but these are expensive and bulky for the number I need. I am now using paper file inserts; these are archival bond paper but cut like a file folder. I place the documents in the bond folder and then group about 10 inside an archival file folder for better support. The folders go inside a grey archival file box with flip-top lid. I started by storing the letters in the file boxes, and have purchased more to accommodate the file folders as I inventory the items.

    Entered and corrected letters in the ControlFile: Total 30 letters


    My Home Study Course in Editing

    Lacking a university-sponsored project, and with only Grandmother's voluminous papers available for my use, I am embarking on a Home Study Course in Editing. Like any good student, my first order of business is to acquire the necessary textbooks. I have already worked with Kline, and have two more recommendations in response to an inquiry to the Director of Publications at the National Archives Records and Administration. With all three books in hand, I feel ready to move forward:

    • A Guide to Documentary Editing, Mary-Jo Kline
    • Editing Historical Documents, Michael E. Stevens and Steven B. Burg
    • Editing Documents and Texts, Beth Luey
    I am also finding helpful material in two family history publications:

    • Organizing and Preserving Your Heirloom Documents, Katherine Scott Sturdevant
    • Organizing Your Family History Search, Sharon DeBartolo Carmack


    Back in the Trenches

    It is great to get back to Arline's papers after a long hiatus (getting son married, celebrating holidays, back to work teaching etc.) Thinking about editing processes and am now reading Mary-Jo Kline A Guide to Documentary Editing. The first thing I learn is that every project should start with a Control File to give each item an acquisition number and enter in an inventory. I hoped I could avoid this step, but perhaps it would be useful.


    Staying Organized

    It is a real challenge to keep a record of searches and research goals, but I can see that this entire project will only be as good as those records. Last week I didn't get too much done, but did manage a few rather random searches; at least they have familiarized me with the look and information available on different records.

    My goals this week

    1. get back into the AskSam database and input some of the information I am finding
    2. set up research records either in Legacy or on paper
    I like the outline set out by Val Greenwood in The Researcher's Guide to American Genealogy that suggests using a Research Calendar/Record as well as a Correspondance Calendar/Record both keyed to files for the documents located. Greenwood suggests using a filing system of SURNAME: LOCALITY for each search. I have to see if Legacy or askSam make this any easier as I don't want to get too many different systems going.


    Setting up the system

    This could become a web of minutiae, which I suppose, is a the basic foundation of research anyway, but I am determined to keep the old Cub Scout Motto in mind - KISS (Keep It Simple, Silly).

    According to Organizing & Preserving Your Heirloom Documents (Kathleen Scott Sturdevant) I am moving forward in a reasonable fashion. The letters and papers are mostly out of corrugated cardboard boxes and stored in archival file boxes and folders. The original order had been lost when papers were transferred from the original trunk at Auntie's house to boxes in Mom's condo, so I feel alright about rearranging them again. Looking though the contents again, it looks like there is quite a variety... mostly correspondence, but also quite a bit of handwritten family history notes and other miscellaneous.

    Following along with Sturdevant's suggestions:

    1. Define the nature and name of the collection -- The Arline Allen Kinsel Papers. I think I will use Arline's maiden name because the multiple marriages could be confusing.
    2. Inventory the contents -- This is difficult. There are so many items. I will use the askSam database for the inventory, and assign abbreviations and ID numbers. I think I could initially file by these ID numbers and then when all items are inventoried, I could assign a File # and refile chronologically within each series (AAK, Family Correspondence). This sounds like a lot of work, but I know that I will keep finding more letters and papers, so it just doesn't seem possible to file them chronologically right now. A thought: maybe I could use a decimal ID number that would allow for additional entries: AAK, Family Corr. 1905.02.01.01 (year, month, date, item number). This might do the double duty of Inventory and File Number. I should have a field in askSam for this.
    3. Determine the series within the collection - Series refers to the subdivisions, categories, or types of documents. I should have a field in askSam for this, too. Some of the categories are: correspondence - family, business, personal, general. What do I do with letters to Mercy from Minnie. I guess those are Family, but are they filed chronologically or in separate boxes?
    4. Document the provenance - ok, I have to write this up.
    5. Locate additional contents - this will be ongoing
    6. Remove and replace - newspapers are the big offender here, they need to isolated
    7. Establish the order of the series within the collection - huh? I think this means that I should pull out different authors, although I do think all letters TO/FROM AAK should be in one file. This includes business or personal correspondence. It will help in figuring out what was going on with her in a chronological way.
    8. Label folders - KSS suggests importance, alpha, chrono order using labels COLLECTION ABBREVIATION: Series: Specific Folder Name or Number.
    9. Date and cross-reference folders - ok
    10. Process, store, and label relevant materials such as ephemera and memorabilia - a BIG job
    11. Maintain these systems and procedures! - whew

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