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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 summer reading (6)


    Kick-Off Summer With 40% Off Genealogy Books

    Save 40% at Shop Family Tree with Offer Code FFSUMMER40

    In our house, summer time is reading time, and the FRIENDS & FAMILY SUMMER SAVINGS at Shop Family Tree is a great time to stock up on family history books. Now through Sunday, June 7, 2015 save 40% on genealogy books, kits, and downloadable videos.


    NOTE:  This Summer Offer has ended, but you can still Save 20% at Shop Family Tree with Offer Code ARCHIVE20.

    My new book How to Archive Family Photos is only $11.39 with this great sale. Add The Family Curator’s "Digitizing Your Genealogy Cheat Sheet" and video “5 Easy DIY Genealogy Book Projects” for more step-by-step guidance to help you control the chaos of your ever-growing digital photo collection. 

    If you're ready to work with your family keepsakes this summer, you'll find complete archival kits for preserving photos, documents, textiles, and other family history heirlooms. Check out the complete collection of Family Tree Magazine Archivist Kits -- also on sale with the special savings code FFSUMMER40.

    Family Tree Magazine Archivist Kits

    The Friends & Family Summer Savings ends Sunday, June 7, 2015. Order Now.


    Summer Reading List for Genealogists 

    Part 2: Stretch Your Skills

    When I was teaching and had children in school, summer was a magical time to catch up on all the things I never seemed to have time to tackle during the other three seasons of the year. I dreamed of finishing all my Christmas shopping by September 1, but a trip to the library would send me on a new quest to master the art of canning fresh tomato sauce, or learn about stamp collecting with kids. 

    Genealogists with "other" lives might want to take on a challenging new research skill during a summer lull. It's a great time to be a family researcher, and these recent books are outstanding field books for any expedition.

    The family tree historical maps book 1

    The Family Tree Historical Maps Book: A State-by-State Atlas of US History, 1790-1900 (Family Tree Books, 2014).

    Genealogists use scores of maps, and this new large-format new book from Family Tree Magazine is an attractive and useful reference work for anyone researching American records. Full color United States maps show decade-by-decade changes in the nation's boundaries, and state maps provide milestone timelines to aid in understanding the images. Special maps illustrate average family sizes in 1900 and immigrant concentrations in 1880, among other subjects, and suggest possible themes to weave into your family history sketches.

    Hardcover, PDF eBook Available from ShopFamilyTree and Amazon.


    The Family Tree German Genealogy Guide: How to Trace Your Germanic Ancestry in Europe, by James Beidler (Family Tree Books, 2014)

    Did you know that more Americans today "claim German ancestry than any other ethnicity"? It's not surprising that German traditions, foods, and names are found in all fifty United States. In this new guidebook, professional genealogist James Beidler shares strategies for researching German immigrant ancestors, deciphering German-language records, and understanding clues in German names. Extensive lists of German repositories,  sample research requests in German, and helpful handwriting "cheat sheets" make this an especially useful book for historians (like me) seeking German ancestors.

    Paperback; Kindle Available from ShopFamilyTree and Amazon


    Advanced Genealogy Research Techniques, by George G. Morgan and Drew Smith (McGraw-Hill Osborne, 2013)

    Paperback; Kindle

    Authors Morgan and Smith, hosts of the popular Genealogy Guys Podcast, hear a lot of brick-wall stories from their listeners and have a good idea of the kinds of research problems that can helped with careful strategy. Generously illustrated and filled with examples and anecdotes, Advanced Genealogy Research Techniques is a solid next-step for the genealogist who feels blocked by elusive records or confused by conflicting information. The chapter on using DNA as part of a research strategy is especially instructive and helpful for anyone looking to understand the basics of genetic genealogy.


    Genetic Genealogy: The Basics and Beyond, by Emily D. Aulicino (Author House, 2013)

    Paperback; Kindle

    The fast-moving technology of DNA testing and it's uses for genealogical research have made genetic genealogy a frequent topic in the daily news. Author, speaker, and genealogist Aulicino has written a DNA guidebook that clearly explains the different DNA tests and how each one can be be used to further genealogical research.  Topics such as choosing a testing company, convincing people to take a DNA test, and how to understand the results are among the book's fifteen chapters. 


    Mastering Genealogical Proof , by Thomas W. Jones

    Paperback, Kindle

    In this workbook-handbook, Dr. Jones lays out a practical method for working with genealogical information, from locating and citing the bits and pieces you uncover, to evaluating, analyzing, correlating, and assembling evidence into reasonable written conclusions. With self-checking exercises, ample illustrations, charts and examples, MGP is the perfect Summer Learning experience. For an even richer understanding of the concepts, sign up for one of the MGP Study Groups coordinated by Angela McGhie.


    For a detailed look at building a personal research library, see Michael Hait's recent blog post at Planting the Seeds, Building a solid genealogy library (part one).

    Save 10% at Shop Family Tree with Offer Code FAMILY10F.  Note: Affiliate links.


    Summer Reading for Genealogists Part 1: Relax & Read

    For many book lovers, summer reading brings back memories of lazy beach days and poolside paperbacks. And with the recent popularity of family history, you can have your genealogy and a light mystery too, or historical fiction if that's more your style. Read on:

    NEW! Jefferson Tayte Genealogical Mystery: The Lost Empress, by Steve Robinson (Thomas & Mercer, October 21, 2014)

    Jefferson Tayte is at it again in the fourth book by British author Steve Robinson, due out this fall and now available for pre-order. From the book jacket:

    On a foggy night in 1914, the ocean liner Empress of Ireland sank en route to England and now lies at the bottom of Canada's St. Lawrence River. The disaster saw a loss of life comparable to the Titanic and the Lusitania, and yet her tragedy has been forgotten.

    When genealogist Jefferson Tayte is shown a locket belonging to one of the Empress's victims, a British admiral's daughter named Alice Stilwell, he must travel to England to understand the course of events that led to her death.

    Tayte is expert in tracking killers across centuries. In The Lost Empress, his unique talents draw him to one of the greatest tragedies in maritime history as he unravels the truth behind Alice's death amidst a backdrop of pre-WWI espionage.

    Now is the time to catch up on this well-written mystery series if you missed the first few books. 

    In the Blood (Jefferson Tayte Genealogical Mystery)  was named one of Amazon UK's  "Best Books of 2011," and followed by To the Grave , and The Last Queen of England . Each new book seems to ramp up the action, leading the endearing main character Tayte into more danger than any genealogist should ever have to face. I'm hoping this next installment will see Jefferson more involved with a love-interest; he seemed to be getting a bit lonely. The plot is well paced, and the characters well-developed, making for great mystery reading anytime of the year.

    I've enjoyed following Steve Robinson's career since the geneablogging community first took note of his sleuthing genealogist Jefferson Tayte in the self-published Kindle book In the Blood. I had the pleasure of interviewing Steve in 2012 and hearing more about his personal interest in genealogy -- he says he is not a genealogist, but he was fascinated by the notion of a researcher who "gets into plenty of action as other people try to stop him from uncovering the past."  

    All three books are now available in print, eBook, and audio editions. 

    Read More about JT and Steve Robinson

    Book Review: In the Blood GeneaFiction

    Exclusive Interview with author Steve Robinson

    Celebrate Success with Author Steve Robinson -- You Helped

    News of author Robinson's book contract with Amazon Publishing, due to the success of the Jefferson Tayte Genealogical Crime Mystery Series

    He's Back! New Interview with the Author of The Last Queen of England

    An inside look at the story behind Jefferson Tayte's third adventure in the Genealogical Crime Mystery Series.


    Hiding the Past (The Forensic Genealogist Book 1), by Nathan Dylan Goodwin (2013)

    I didn't get around to reading this debut genealogical mystery until last month when I was away from home and happy to find it on my iPad Kindle App. Since the success of Steve Robinson's family history series, it seems like a every month a new genealogy-themed mystery is pushed out on the Kindle platform. I've dipped my toe into some titles that, to be honest, were true yawners. An subscription is no substitute for the talent to craft a good tale.

    Hiding the Past (The Forensic Genealogist Book 1)  was a pleasant, and entertaining surprise. In this debut series mystery Goodwin introduces Morton Farrier, Forensic Genealogist, a professional researcher who senses something isn't quite right when his latest client is conveniently found dead "by his own hand." Morton's investigations are reluctantly aided by his policewoman girlfriend, and nicely dove-tailed by his own family issues. 

    More than once I found myself laughing out loud with Morton's worldview, for instance, his fascination with unusual names comes out with the author's character list: there's Dr. Garlick, who bears "a strong resemblance to a garlic bulb" and the perfect brother Jeremy with the perfect name. I'm wondering where "Farrier" will lead?

    The cozy British village setting hints of hidden secrets, and of course it isn't long until the long arm of the past reaches out to quiet nosy researchers. This Kindle book was a fast read mostly because I enjoyed the story so much. A very enjoyable book!


    Riders on the Orphan Train, by Alison Moore (Roadworthy, 2012)

    In preparation for the Federation of Genealogical Societies Conference in San Antonio, Texas later this summer and the featured keynote by Orphan Train author/performer Alison Moore, readers might want know a bit more about this episode in American history when 250,000 displaced children were relocated from urban life to Western foster homes.

    Moore's multi-media presentation, "Riders on the Orphan Train" will be presented Thursday, 28 August at the Opening Penary Session. The program is part of the official outreach program of the National Orphan Train Complex Museum and Research Center in Kansas, and has grown from a short-story into a full-length historical novel highlighting the stories of the children who rode the orphan trains.

    Riders on the Orphan Train  is the fictional story of two children placed on a train in New York headed West to new homes and new lives. Their brief time together aboard the train leaves 11-year old Ezra and 12 year-old Maud with a friendship that endures throughout their lives.

    Amazon Prime Members can borrow Riders on the Orphan Train Kindle Edition  free on their Kindle device. 


    Orphan Train, a novel by Christina Baker Kline (Morrow, 2013)

    If you'd like to read more about the orphan trains and the children who rode them, you might also enjoy this New York Times Bestseller and popular book club selection, Orphan Train  , a novel by Christina Baker Kline.

    Told in the voices of both adult and child, Orphan Train, is more than the story of relocated children. It's an exploration of friendship and common threads in the lives of 91-year old orphan train rider Vivian and a local teenage girl performing community service hours rather than be sent to juvenile detention.

    Huffington Post calls Orphan Train "a gem." I have a borrowed copy on my nightstand and look forward to reading this promising story.

    Visit The Family Curator again for more recommended books in Part 2 of Summer Reading for Genealogists.

    Books mentioned in this article (Amazon Affiliate Links):




    The Annual "What Are You Reading This Summer?" Post

    Summer is here, and it's time for The Family Curator's Summer Reading List for Genealogists. You can take the English teacher out of the classroom, but you can't take the book out of her hands.

    Each summer reading selection:

    1. is for or about genealogy and family history,
    2. is well-written, and
    3. is so enriching, engaging, or entertaining that you want to turn the page.

    Of course, we won't all agree on what makes a great, or even good, genealogy book, but I hope this list gives you a few new titles to try this summer. And do keep in mind something your English teacher probably never told you: If you don't like the book, it's okay to put it down and find another one. Books are a lot like vegetables; tastes change. Try it again later.

    The Summer Reading List for Genealogists will be presented in two parts with reading suggestions for assorted moods, whims, and needs.

    Part 1: R & R for Genealogists (or Relax and Read) offers fiction to lose yourself in, just in time for the long July Fourth Weekend. If you like series mysteries or historical fiction I hope you find something new to read here.

    Part 2: Stretch Your Skills, Learn Something New This Summer showcases recently published genealogy manuals and instructional titles. A thorough study of any titles from this list will lead to even more challenging works.

    The best part of this Summer Reading List, of course, is that there will be no grades. :>) I hope you find a new book that tempts you to charge up your e-Reader or visit your local library and settle in for a good summer read. And please, help this list grow by adding your favorites in the comments.

    Happy Summer Reading!

    Photo Op: That's our descendant in the photo holding a copy of my book How to Archive Family Keepsakes. He makes a good poster boy for reading any book any time of year.


    Remembering Summer and Making Time to Learn "One New Thing"

    The First Day of Summer is Almost Here: What New Thing Are You Ready to Learn?

    One golden summer I conquered the Lord of the Rings; another I learned to turn a heel in hand knit socks. In our house, summer has always been a season of opportunity.

    My sister and I never went to summer school; instead we passed the hot, smoggy Southern California months of July and August painting rocks and weaving pine-needle baskets at scout camp, solving mysteries with Nancy Drew at the public library, and molding clay at the city Parks and Recreation Department kids' program.

    If we had a gap between programs, Mom made sure we were learning about salesmanship by marketing lemons and avocados from our backyard trees, or becoming skilled craftsmen by  weaving loopy potholders or sewing doll clothes. 

    Girl Scout Day Camp, Orange County, California, about 1963.
    That's me in the back with the bucket hat next to my mom, Suzanne May. 

    I tried to continue the family summer tradition with my own two sons, with mixed results. One summer, when he was about eight years old, the older son was stuck on stamp collecting. I drove him to a weekly Kids and Stamps Club directed by a local postmaster, and we started ordering First Day Covers and soaking old stamps off envelopes. 

    The next year, it was baseball cards and player's autographs.

    The younger son was infatuated with model-making. He painted tiny model soldiers, and then graduated to building and flying model airplanes.

    The "no summer school" policy worked until high school when they wanted to spend the extra weeks with their friends in school programs.  We compromised. I insisted that they learn something different, something new, something fun. The first summer they learned to grill a steak. Extremely useful! Next, they became adept at omelets. With dinner and breakfast mastered, they have gone on to be pretty useful in the kitchen.

    Summer was always my time to learn something new, as well. As a high school English teacher, I usually needed to read several novels and develop new curriculum materials. It was a great  excuse to visit New England when I taught Early American Lit. But, summer wasn't always about school.

    I used the break to learn One New Thing Each Summer --

    • create tables, outlines, and Tables of Contents in Microsoft Word (useful)
    • basic photo editing in Photoshop Elements (fun)
    • how to can tomatoes (hot, but rewarding!)
    • how to make a reproduction civil war quilt
    • how to scan my grandmother's letters

    If it looks like each of these "skills" is a project, you'd be right. It seems like there is always some new project waiting for just the time, focus, or extra bit of knowledge needed to make it happen. I was a frustrated daily MS Word user until I bought a guide and worked through enough exercises to learn what I needed to know. Ditto, photo editing with PS Elements.

    Of course, some new skills just happen -- the tomato explosion that led to learning how to preserve salsa, tomatoes, and blended tomato sauce. I even won a few blue ribbons at the county fair for those projects!

    The last several years I've been working on organizing, sorting, and digitizing different family collections and learned -- 

    • the best scanning resolution for my papers and photos
    • how to put together a DIY copy stand
    • easy file naming and folder organization for my new digital images
    • how to file the original papers so I can find them again

    But, my own genealogy research has been set aside long enough. This summer, I have already decided on on One New Thing to Learn This Summer, (plus One Other New Thing just for fun).

    I have a copy of Mastering Genealogical Proof in hand; I am enrolled in Dr. Tom Jones course at the Genealogical Research Institute of Pittsburgh; and I am ready to become immersed in the Genealogical Proof Standard.

    All of this is probably enough for one summer learning experience, but I can't resist adding one more thing I really really want to learn this summer -- I am determined to master my step-mother's southern fried chicken. Hot, crispy, juicy. I don't think anyone will complain.

    So, what One New Thing are YOU Learning This Summer?

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