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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 travel (27)

    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.

    Friday
    Oct212011

    What I Did On My Fall Foliage Vacation

    I have been home from my New England adventures long enough to recover from jet lag, unpack the suitcases, and learn that what I thought was a fracture is a less serious -- but still mighty painful -- injury. It seems that Boston's famous cobblestones can be treacherous even on the warmest fall days.

    It had been a fabulous day beginning with a drive from Woodstock, Vermont into Boston where I spent the afternoon at one of my favorite Boston landmarks -- the New England Historic and Genealogical Society. I enjoyed seeing the newly-renovated entrance to NEHGS. It gives the building a fresh look with mature plantings and well-designed walkways and benches, and looks like it's already become a favorite resting place for visitors.

    IMG 2312

    After an hour or so doing look-ups in the stacks, I was happy to discover that the hard-working NEHGS staff was still on-site on Friday afternoon of a holiday weekend. I said hello to Brenton Simons, chatted with Tom Wilcox and Kelly McCoulf, and then enjoyed a tour of the archives floor with Tom Champoux and Alessandra Magno. I even had time for a visit with Judy Lucey to talk about donating to NEHGS and organizing home archives.

    What could be better? Dinner with Mr. Curator and a walk back to our hotel would have been a perfect way to end the day; instead I took a nasty tumble on the sidewalk resulting in a trip to the Emergency Room. Cuts and bruises were minor, but the diagnosis of a likely fractured elbow left me in a splint and sling for the duration of our trip. Fortunately, our next stop was my-nephew-the-doctor and his family who made sure I was well cared for, and entertained by their lively two and three year olds.

    We did get to all the great New England fall activities like apple picking, cider tasting, and pumpkin festivals, but avoided the local corn maze after hearing about the family who became lost in the Danvers maze and had to use their cell phones to call for help. Oh, and did I mention cemetery rambles? We got those in too.

    HewittvilleCemetery 11

    Then it was more driving to rendezvous with my son and family in New York where we enjoyed more apples, pumpkins, and a few hours at the New York Sheep & Wool Festival. These things DO have genealogical connections... I'll be getting to those in future posts, but for now I'll be keeping things on the shorter side and letting my arm get back to normal.

     

    Friday
    Jan282011

    Remember to Label Your Gear

    I learned the hard way last year that there was a Very Good Reason we had to label our stuff for camp. Mom always said I was a bad camper and never came home with everything I packed. I guess I haven't changed much because while attending the NGS Conference in Salt Lake City last spring, i managed to lose my flash drive at the Family History Library.

    It's the way of things that I didn't realize it was gone until the next time I went to the library and wanted to save some scanned images. Suddenly, I couldn't find it. The helpful staff directed me to the Lost and Found desk where the Sherlock Holmes of lost data drives brought out a plastic shoe box (yes, an entire shoe box) filled with orphaned USB sticks.

    This young man had opened each drive looking for identifying information. Of course, all I could say was that my drive would have files with "Winsor" or "Kansas" in the title. . . maybe. Fortunately, I must have been the only one with those names because he was able to pull out a drive and double-check with me to be sure it was the correct one.

    While we had the drive open, he showed me how to make a simple Text Edit file which would identify the drive when (note, I am not saying "if") I lost it again.

    Here are three ways to help you find a wayward flash drive:

    1. Rename the flash drive with your last name.

    Labeled Flashdrive.png

    2. Use your PC or Mac simple text editor to open a new document. Give it a few simple lines with your name and contact information, and name the file something like IF FOUND. It's a good idea to use your mobile phone number or email; something that you can easily check when you are out of town.

    Lev FlashDrive.png

    3. Stick a printed label on the outside of the drive. I print labels with my P-Touch Label Maker stick them on everything from my netbook (lost that one in the airport screening) to flash drives.

    With the Roots Tech Conference fast approaching, attendees are starting to think about their tech tools and gadgets for the event. My friend Joan Miller at Luxegen has started her packing list, and I am sure she will have everything neatly labeled. I wonder if Joan was a Girl Scout?

     

    Thursday
    Jul082010

    What I Use for What I Do

    GeneaBloggers has issued a “call to share” genealogy tech tools via a “What I Do” meme. I like Thomas MacEntee’s post today at Destination Austin Family because it addresses my nosier nature and answers that burning question, “Hey, what do you use to . .  ?.”

    More importantly, as Thomas notes, “this meme is important to the genealogy blogging community because it gives others an idea of how we achieve the genealogy "voodoo" that we do do so well.”

    I hope other genealogy bloggers will pick up the theme and share their tools as well, and remember to add a little biographical note to give context to the list.

    CV – Although I have used Apple Macs in the past, I now use PCs only, and rely on several PC-only software programs for some of my most essential tasks. I’ve added my specific favorites to the list in the Genealogy tool section.

    • Genealogy database: Legacy FamilyTree 7.4, RootsMagic 4
    • Genealogy tools:  Transcript, CensusTracker (couldn’t do without it)
    • Writing and Research Tools: Evernote for Desktop, Online, Blackberry, iPod Touch
    • Archive and Research Database: AskSam (full-text searchable for transcribed letters and documents from my family archive)
    • Photo Organization, Meta Tagging, and File Conversion: Adobe PhotoShop Elements 7.0 (for personal and family photos); Adobe Lightroom 2 (for genealogy photos, scanned images); XnView (free version, for quick review, splitting multi-page TIFF images into individual JPGs, other tasks)
    • PDF generator: PDF Creator (easy and free)
    • Blog: SquareSpace (not free, but loaded with features and great spam filters)
    • Car audio: whatever’s in my car!
    • Other tech stuff: audiobooks from Audible.com and my local public library

    Thanks for the great topic, Thomas.

    

    Wednesday
    May132009

    Family Curator Visits NEHGS Spring Research Getaway 2009, Part 3: Researching at NEHGS

    Note: This is Part 3 of a three-part review "Family Curator Visits NEHGS Spring Research Getaway 2009" focusing on the three-day program and the one-on-one consultation sessions.
    Part 1: Preparing to Research
    Part 2:Consulting with the Experts

    Three full days of research at the New England Historical Genealogical Society Library may sound like quite a bit of research time, but it is not surprising that it is still not quite enough. Day One I spent mostly in consultations with the NEHGS experts. The Library was open in the evening, but I left about 5pm to join my husband for dinner, and did not take advantage of the extra research time.

    I vowed to be Focused on Day Two, and went to work immediately after Josh Taylor's excellent presentation on source citation. I have always been a "browser" and took full advantage of the library's open stack policy to examine the volumes on hand for my localities of interest. A handy photocopy machine made quick work of copies for my records, and then I was off to the microtext room where I was pleased to discover the full-text films of the Vermont probate records. Julie Otto helped me conquer my fear of film machines and before long I was making digital copies of the films to examine more closely when I returned home.

    Day Three promised considerable progress, but I had to leave the program at noon and could only attend the morning lecture by Judy Lacey on manuscripts in the HisGen archive collection. Her excellent presentation gave me so many ideas for further research: I would like to return and examine some of the letters, diaries, and journals in the collection with an eye toward finding friends or relatives of my ancestors. I was awed by the extent of the Society's collection; there will be wonderful discoveries in the years to come from this archive.

    So, what will I research on my NEXT visit?

    Local Histories
    Maps and Gazetteers
    Manuscript Collection
    more Family Histories
    Probate Records
    Military Records

    I was determined to use NEHGS resources that are unique to the Library, yet I found myself reading microfilms (can't I get these elsewhere?) and examining various printed volumes. When I returned home and did an internet search at World Cat for the same volumes I found that I would have to request the films from the local LDS Family History Center or visit NEHGS! This reaffirmed my appreciation for the HisGen collection, and made me more than a bit jealous for those researchers who live within easy driving distance of the library. I was also pleased that I had been able to use the digital copy machine to make copies of the microfilms I examined; this will give me many more hours of research time from home as I transcribe documents with the aid to computer enhanced images.

     

    Of course, the online databases also provide unique access to the NEHGS collections. I have found my ancestors in the Rhode Island Vital Records Index, in the Newspaper Archive collection, and in various other digitized resources. The recent addition the indexed TAG articles with The NEHGS Register make this resource indispensable for any researcher working with New England records.

    My experience at HisGen not only extended my pedigree, it also helped me feel confident to tackle research elsewhere. I think this was one of the greatest benefits of the program, I practiced "learning to learn." Thank you NEHGS.

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