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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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    Thursday
    Feb192015

    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
    Tuesday
    Feb172015

    RootsTech 2015 Photo Album

    I hear some interesting and unusual questions when I talk about about preserving heirlooms and old photos, but the questions at RootsTech top them all. The best was a request from a lady who would like to have a swatch of her grandmother's hair fashioned into a period hair ornament. . . she's looking for a  Victorian hair artist. That's a new one~ I'm making inquiries (as Sherlock would say), but please leave a comment if you have a referral for this project!

    I loved the chance to introduce my new book How to Archive Family Photos, forthcoming this spring from Family Tree Books, and to share tips and ideas about organizing digital photos, scanning heritage prints, and sharing pictures with all kinds of projects. I also joined Family Tree Magazine publisher Allison Dolan, editor Diane Haddad, and online community editor Tyler Moss in the exhibit hall booth to answer questions and sign books, with the Out of the Box Sessions at the Family Tree booth.

    On Friday afternoon, Diane and I slipped into the Media Hub recording booth to chat about my new book and almost managed to complete the recording before the bagpipers paraded by for the evening music event. If you watch the video, see if you can catch the pipers toward the conclusion.

    Diane Haddad with Denise Levenick

    Diane Haddad, Editor FamilyTree Magazine and Denise Levenick
    talk about Denise's books at RootsTech 2015.

    Denise Randy

    Showing off my "Got Roots?" scarf to Randy Seaver, Genea-Musings blogger in the Media Hub. Fabric printing is one of the projects in my new book, How to Archive Family Photos. 

    It's hard to imagine the energy and noise generated by over 20,000 genealogists gathered for two national events under one roof. If it sounds like it might be LOUD, exciting, colorful, LOUD, and inspiring, you'd be right.

    Salt Palace Convention Center

    Salt Palace Convention Center, Salt Lake City 

    FGS Booth

    FGS Booth well staffed by Tonia Kendrick, Caroline Pointer
    and Paula Stuart Warren. . .

    IMG 0354

    . . . and Linda McCauley.

    BallroomStage

    Audience

    With Janet Horvaka (ChartChick), Lisa Alzo, AC Ivory (back) and
    mom Monica Ivory waiting for Laura Bush keynote.

    LauraBush

    Keynote presentation by former First Lady Laura Bush.

    Between sessions I enjoyed getting outside and meeting up with new and old genealogy friends for a meal. My grandmother Arline Kinsel lived in Salt Lake City for a time about 1918, so it was fun to look at the old buildings and imagine how they might have looked to her nearly one hundred years ago. I imagine that today's neon lights would have been quite the sensation then!

    RioGrande

    Lood all the way down the street to the Rio Grande railroad station, now home of the Utah State Archives

    Peery

    The Peery Hotel looks like it just stepped out of another time.

    Thursday
    Feb052015

    Got Stuff? Heirloom Roadshow Comes Outside the Box at RootsTech 2015

    Outside the Box FlyerHeirloom Roadshow title slide

    Looking for something new at RootsTech? Mark your schedule for Outside the Box free mini-sessions Thursday, Friday, and Saturday in the Vendor Hall Booth #1240. Each 30-minute presentation will feature tips and tricks to help you solve your genealogy puzzles, and I will be sharing favorite family heirlooms for the

    Heirloom Roadshow - Friday, Feb 13, 3:30 pm

     

    Genealogy Gems' Lisa Louise Cooke, Family ChartMasters' Janet Horvaka, and Maureen Taylor the Photo Detective debuted Outside the Box sessions at the 2014 National Genealogy Society conference, and it immediately become a favorite conference event. I'm excited to be representing FamilyTree Magazine for the RootsTech 2015 Edition of Outside the Box and hope you'll stop by to say "Hello" and join the fun for great prizes and mini-presentations.

    Outside the Box schedule

    Thursday
    Jan292015

    Let It Go? Save or Toss Those Old Family Escrow Papers?

    Photo of paper falling from tall office buildings.

    Yesterday I went into my basement family archive looking for my aunt's wedding album (yes, the basement is temperature controlled). The album wasn't upstairs in the house carefully stored in an archival box. . . it had to be downstairs, somewhere in the Holding Zone. That's what I call the precarious tower of banker's boxes and bins containing all the stuff a genealogist can't throw away when clearing out a relative's estate.

    Our basement storage closets are full of outgrown toys, my yarn stash, seven years worth of tax records and other household leftovers. A bank of metal file cabinets holds haphazard bundles of family letters, photos, and other papers inherited along with the file cabinets. But that's where the storage ends. The middle of the room is filled with boxes of personal items yet to be "processed" -- evaluated, organized, and stored in real archival storage containers.

    Someone dies and the house or apartment needs to cleaned out FAST! You open a drawer and find an assortment of rubber bands, bank receipts, and old letters. There's no time to stop, read the letters, wonder why your destitute uncle has a receipt for a $25,000 bank deposit. So, you shove everything into a box and take it home to sort later. And five years later, you are still looking at that box.

    Too many estates in too few years!

    As I looked through boxes for Auntie's album I discovered an entire box filled with financial papers, which got me thinking: 

    Why am I saving this stuff?

    Truly, what would you do if someone mailed you the 20th century escrow papers for your grandparent's home? It would include pages and pages of legal boilerplate and multiple copies of the same. The actual Title Deed would probably be absent.

    What would a genealogist glean from all that paper:

    • the fact that your grandparents were able to own their home
    • address and location of property
    • your grandparents full legal names and signatures, with addresses
    • purchase price and terms of sale for the property
    • property seller
    • potential notes on property improvements, non-compliance
    • possibly tax rate, insurance costs, hazard liability

    If your family member bought and sold several homes or property parcels, you'll be able to build a picture of their movements, their relative financial situation, and maybe social status as well.

    Working with property records found in a relative's home after they pass away is no different than working with property records on microfilm in the Family History Library. You still have to pull out the useful information, analyze what you find, and use the data to build a profile of your ancestor. All this takes time, which begs another question. Why do it at all? Unlike early land records, these papers are unlikely to shed light on murky kinships. And as for understanding the community: I'll learn more about the area from local histories and maps than poring over modern escrow papers.

    On the other hand, this is just the kind of information that will add color and detail to a biography or sketch. My grandparents never owned a home and moved from house to house exchanging my grandfather's labor as a housepainter for rent. Auntie remembered living in more than two dozen different houses and apartments as a child, so it's not surprising that she bought a home with her teacher's salary as soon as possible. 

    Let It Go?

    But, I'm thinking it might be time to let some of this stuff go. To the shredder. I'll go through the box and extract dates, addresses, sale prices. I might save the cover sheet of sales, or at least scan the paper for a digital file. But I don't need to save all the paper to save the story. Instead, I'll use the space for an archival storage box to hold Auntie's wedding album and diary, there's not much boilerplate in those pages.

    P.S. -- This is not an easy decision. What do you think? Have you been there, done that? Regrets? Is there something I'm missing, a reason I should hang on to every scrap? 

    Photo: Paper Party by Jason Sussberg, Flickr CC 2.0 https://flic.kr/p/4hQAqK

    Monday
    Jan262015

    Setting Genealogy Goals With Blogging Buddy Amy Coffin

    Amy denise 2014

    Almost every holiday season since 2009 blogging buddy Amy Coffin of the WeTree Blog and I have met up in the real world for a genealogy break. We set aside the gift returns, Christmas cleanup, and dirty dishes to review the last year and set out a few objectives for the months ahead. One year we even managed to sneak in a few memorable hours researching city directories at the Los Angeles Public Library. It's great fun to look back at 2010 and see what we accomplished.

    This year, we picked a rendezvous spot midway between Amy's family in Riverside and my home in Pasadena. We pretty much decided that we had done a fair job meeting our goals for the previous years, and should try it again in 2015. Amy came prepared with paper and pen, but I had to make do with the Notes app on my smartphone. Once again we each set goals in three areas. The only rule is that is has to be something actually doable, which eliminates "finishing" our genealogy by December. 

    My goals are:

    Organizational -- To move my blog to WordPress and create a reference archive of articles that is easy for readers to access. [Right now I'm a bit stuck on the tech part of this goal, but I'm working on it.]

    Research -- To finish my D.A.R. application at last! And, then, to work more on my Brown line.

    Writing -- To write a short e-book. I just finished a new print book due out in April, How to Archive Family Photos, and I'm looking for a shorter project that will let me learn the whole ebook process. Since Amy's Big Genealogy Blog Book grew out of our 2011 Genealogy Goals, I know I have a mentor when I run into a snag and need help. 

    Amy will be sharing her 2015 goals over at the WeTree Blog. I can hardly believe that we've been doing this for over five years, but if our progress is any indication, setting goals with a friend really works! I'm fortunate indeed to have met Amy a few years ago at the SCGS Jamboree, and have to echo her question:

    So genealogy friends, are you up to the challenge in 2015?

    Tuesday
    Jan202015

    Organize Your Genealogy NOW!

    Organize Your Genealogy In a Week

    Save 20% on Any Course at Family Tree University with Offer Code FTUCOURSE. Expires 03/10/2015.

    January is National Get Organized Month, and if you are looking for a boost to your genealogy organizing resolutions, check out Family Tree University's upcoming  Organize Your Genealogy in a Week online workshop where I will be on-hand to answer questions and share tips to help you be an organized genealogist in 2015. 

    A new year brings out the best of intentions in all of us -- I know that I'm looking at a pile of papers and a flash drive filled with digital images from my recent trip to the Family History Library in Salt Lake City. And everything needs to be labeled, filed, and organized so I can use this great information in my family history research. My goal is to process this new batch of material before this Friday, when we'll be talking more about organizing your genealogy at the FTU workshop.

    You can access the Organize Your Genealogy in a Week workshop anytime, anywhere, from your computer, tablet, or smartphone January 23rd through January 31st, 2015. The course features:

    • Six 30 to 60 minute instructional videos, and two written lessons on organizing your digital and paper genealogy. 
    • Advice from expert Denise May Levenick, author of How to Archive Family Keepsakes, (that's me!) on how to organize your research, and share your quandaries with fellow participants.
    • Unlimited viewing: Your all-access pass gets you into all videos throughout the week—you can even download the videos to watch again later or view ones you missed.
    • Make your own schedule: Because the classes are pre-recorded, you don’t have to show up at a specific time to catch the ones you want—or choose between sessions you’re interested in.
    • Message board discussions: Ask questions and share ideas to apply the research strategies you learn.
    • Convenience: Log in anywhere you can connect to the internet, at whatever times work for you.

    If you've been struggling with an avalanche papers, digital files, photos, memorabilia, and research notes, you'll find practical strategies to help you conquer the mess and find more time for your research.

    Sign up today for this one-week organizing course and Save 20% with this special coupon code:

    Save 20% on Any Course at Family Tree University with Offer Code FTUCOURSE. Expires 03/10/2015.

    And, in the meantime, you can get ready for the workshop by checking out the latest issue of the Genealogy Insider where Editor Diane Haddad offers Tips from the Pros: Baby Steps to Organize Your Genealogy from my article in Family Tree Magazine May/June 2014 issue.

    Monday
    Jan192015

    Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy Photo Album

    New England Experts

    Course coordinator Josh Taylor and instructors Cathi Desmarais and
    Diane Gravel presented five days filled with inside tips for learning more about
    New England ancestors in “Digging Deeper: Advanced New England Research.”

     

    I’m home from a great week at the Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy (SLIG) and already thinking about “next steps” for research uncovered in the Family History library collections with help from the instructors and course lessons. l  As a native Californian, I especially appreciated the compact New England history timelines, migration lore, and repository background. 

    In class, I learned what you need to research Connecticut records (a state genealogy society membership card), where to look for early printed sermons (Worcester, Mass.), and why it’s worth making friends with the Town Clerk (insider tips!). At the library, I narrowed my searches and found new records full of surprises.  

    The Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy (SLIG) holds a unique place among genealogy courses and institutes — it’s held in Salt Lake City near the extensive collections of the Family History Library and in recent years has been scheduled immediately following the Association of Professional Genealogists’ Professional Management Conference. The result is a busy two-weeks of genealogy meetings and meet-ups for researchers at all levels of experience.

    Sunday Brunch Bunch at SLIG 2015

    Genealogists have to eat too! Here’s a bunch at 
    Sunday Brunch at the Marriott Hotel. 

    Dinner at the Blue Iguana

    Blogger meet-up at the Blue Iguana in Salt Lake City with (from left)
    Shelley Bishop, me, Susan Clark, and Michelle Goodrum.
     

    The week-long Institute concluded Friday evening with the traditional Completion Banquet, featuring speaker David Rencher who shared the story of a small bundle of family letters that held the key to a decades-long family struggle with an Arizona land claim. At one suspenseful point, the slide changed to show a name and photo and a voice shouted from the back of the room: “That’s my third times great-grandfather!” It was Josh Taylor discovering something new about his ancestors, and a new connection to David Rencher. Only at a genealogy event!

    The evening continued with the Utah Genealogical Association annual awards presentations: Pamela Boyer Sayers and Rick Sayers were named as UGA Fellows, and Judy G. Russell was awarded the Silver Plate Award for excellence in publications. It’s a wonderful acknowledgement of their outstanding contributions to genealogy excellence and education. I feel fortunate to have attended lectures and courses presented by each one.

    UGA President Bret Petersen also announced the new courses for SLIG 2016 and introduced the new director Peg Ivanyo as Christy Davies Fillerup retires after four years as SLIG director. Christy was presented with the UGA Presidental Award, and will continue as Managing Editor of the Association of Professional Genealogists Quarterly.

    Judy Russell with Paula Williams

    Paula Williams congratulating cousin Judy Russell (right),
    recipient of the  UGA Silver Plate Award.

    SLIG Banquet 2015

    At the Completion Banquet with (from left) Michelle Goodrum, 
    Jamie Mayhew, Susan Clark and Paul Woodbury.

     

     

    Monday
    Jan122015

    This Just Looks Like Salt Lake City

    Sharon Church

    My family thinks I’m in Salt Lake City this week attending the Salt Lake Institute of Genealogy, fondly known as SLIG, but I’m actually in New England (virtually) tramping through churchyards and property boundaries in pursuit of my elusive ancestors. Tour guides Josh Taylor, with New Hampshire expert Diane Gravel and Vermont expert Cathi Desmarais, have planned a great schedule for “Diving Deeper into New England” and I plan to take advantage of every opportunity to channel my deepest northeastern roots.

    Sharon VT

    Sponsored each year by the Utah Genealogical Association, SLIG offers five days of intensive genealogy instruction in eleven tracks, including classes in DNA analysis, U.S. and German research, genealogy writing, and methodology. The institute follows the Association of Professional Genealogists annual Professional Management Conference, and many researchers have taken an extended sabbatical to attend both events. I’m enjoying catching up with old friends and meeting virtual friends face-to-face. 

    I can’t think of anywhere I’d rather be this week than in New England, but with the recent Eastern winter storms I’m one happy genealogist in Salt Lake City.

    FHL 2014

    Wednesday
    Dec312014

    Blog Posts I Almost Wrote in 2014, and a Few I Finished

    Lady typing

    I have a hard time getting a post from inspiration to publication. Sometimes, the words come easily. More often, I start to write, stutter, delete, start over, stammer, until I either push through to the final thoughts or hit the big red Delete button. Sometimes, a crisis intervenes mid-sentence and by the time I return to the post I've lost whatever thread I was chasing. Sigh. Such is the life of a blogger.

    5 Posts That Might Yet Be

    Who knows? One day, the Post Status on these Drafts may even change to Published:

    3 Things  -- This brief post on my Three Favorite Tech Gadgets appears finished except for one thing: a good title. Alas, doomed to Draft Status all for the want of a title. Any ideas?

    Unexpected Family History Discoveries at the Allen County Public Library -- Now why is this a Draft? It's a long article completed after FGS 2013 at Fort Wayne. Maybe the cat jumped on my keyboard and hit the Draft button. Another article to "review" and post.

    Murder and Mayhem: How Dreadfully Delicious -- Reading between the lines of this post title and skimming the few completed paragraphs, I can only guess where this article was going. . .  Maybe a visit to Shades of the Departed and footnoteMaven?

    More About Metadata -- Maybe this was a "need to write" title. I need a little "more" to go on here.

    Looking for a Texas Connection with T.W. and Maude (Chamblin) Saunders -- No article, just a title. I know what  happened here, though. I read another blogger's account of connecting with cousins because of a blog post and decided to throw out the bait. Unfortunately, I must have gotten lost on my way to the worm box.

    5 Top Posts of 2014

    Photo Tutorial: How to Relax and Rehumidify Old Rolled Photographs and Documents -- This post is The Family Curator's most popular, and most controversial, post of all time. Is it  safe? Is it a good idea? Will it work? All I can say, is "It worked for me!"

    Four Tried and True Systems for Organizing Genealogy Research -- A short round-up of genealogy organizing systems. 

    Tech Tuesday: Streamlined Scanning with a Genealogy Photo Workflow -- A peek at my scanning setup and workflow solution.

    Is It Worth the Trouble to Clean Dirty Old Negatives -- I tried two different methods; check out the results.

    Microfilm to Megapixel: Use a Digital Camera as a Film Scanner -- Discussion and review of my experiment in digital film photography at the Family History Center.

    Thank you for joining me at The Family Curator. Let me know what you enjoy reading, and what you'd like to know more about; your comments are the best part of this adventure.  See you in 2015!

    Friday
    Dec192014

    A Christmas Gift from the United States Census Bureau: the Long-Form Census

    American Community Survey Letter

    The first official notice arrived in early December. We are one of a small percentage of American households selected to complete what used to be known as the "long form" census and we feel pretty darn special, that's for sure! The one page letter, single sheet (English/Spanish) was addressed: 

    To the Resident of

    with one line instructions:

    Go to https://respond.conesus.gov/acs to complete the American Community Survey.

    We were invited us to go online to complete the survey. But with one thing and then another, the invitation was set aside. Until a reminder arrived yesterday with the BIG survey 28-page booklet, noting:

    This survey is so important that a Census Bureau representative may attempt to contact you by telephone or personal visit if we do not receive your response.

    Lest we think we are (too) special, the letter added:

    The Census Bureau chose your address, not you personally, as part of a randomly selected sample. You are required by U.S. law to respond to this survey. . .

     

    Failure to comply or providing false information is a federal offense punishable by fine, Title 18 U.S.C Section 3571 and Section 3559, which amends Title 13 U.S.C. Section 221How much you'd have to pay, and whether or not this law is enforced is a topic of discussion. The Austin American-Statesmanwebsite notes that "the fine for refusing to answer a bureau survey can be as much as $5000," although "no one has been prosecuted for failing to respond to a survey since the 1970 census."

    The printed questionnaire is a large booklet measuring 10-1/2 inches square with staple binding. It's filled with 28-pages or questions printed with black ink inside green boxes. The checkboxes and fill-in-the-blank response boxes are large white boxes. The Census Bureau obviously wants to make this form as easy as possible to read and complete.

    Why Don't They Just Call It, 'The Census'?

    Politicians seem to get itchy whenever Census is mentioned. Some like it, some don't. The questions are reviewed, approved (or not). Some questions have been asked in every Census since 1790 -- how cool is that! Some are new. In fact, a lot of questions are new… and controversial. I read a little about the battle for the census here and here and here.

    I wish they just called it "the old census" instead of the ACS. The new name and new random sampling are a response to public sentiment that the long-form every-decade full census was too long and too intrusive. The new ACS samples 250,000 households  per month, adding us in the final cut for 2014.

    The American Community Survey website helpfully lists the questions categories and provides a link to the American Community Survey Information Guide. I was interested in the questions asked and found a downloadable PDF of all questions as well as information about individual questions. Each question is presented with responses:

    Why We Ask

    History

    Federal Uses

    State and County Uses

    Private Sector Uses

    Questions We Wished They'd Asked in 1880

    Genealogists love information on births, immigration, and former residences, but it's not hard to imagine why some people might feel that the government is getting a little personal. As I rephrased and copied the questions from the booklet for this list, I felt a few twinges too. The official survey site labels the questions with official-sounding names like Fertility, Disability, or Plumbing Facilities, but what (or whom) do you think of when you read:

    Because of a physical, mental, or emotional condition, does this person have serious difficulty concentrating, remembering or making decisions?"

    Does this person have serious difficulty walking or climbing stairs?

    Does this person have difficulty dressing or bathing?

    Because of a physical, mental, or emotional condition, does this person have difficulty doing errands alone such s visiting a doctor's office or shopping?

    Wouldn't we love to have those answers on the 1880 census when multi-generational households were typical, not unusual? Or

    Does this person have any of his/her own grandchildren under the age of 18 living in this house or apartment?

    Is this grandparent currently responsible for most of the basic needs of any grandchildren under the age of 18 who live in this house or apartment?

    How long has this grandparent been responsible for these grandchildren?

    What They Ask in 2014

    Questions on today's American Community Survey begin with name and telephone number, and the number of people at the residence. The form asks the following Information for each person in the residence:

    1. Name
    2. Relationship to Person 1
    3. Sex
    4. Age, Date of Birth
    5. Hispanic, Latiino or Spanish origin
    6. Race

    Pages 2 through 4 provide space for up to itemized information for up to five household members; persons 6 through 12 are listed by name, sex, age.

    On page 5 through 7, the survey asks questions about Housing:

    1. Kind of building (mobile home, house, apartment, etc)
    2. When built
    3. When Person 1 moved in
    4. How many acres
    5. Actual sales of agricultural products from this property in last 12 months
    6. Business on the property (store, barber shop)
    7. How many separate rooms
    8. How many bedrooms
    9. Hot/cold running water, flush toilet, bathtub/shower, sink with faucet, stove, refrigerator, telephone including cell phone
    10. Do you or any household members own computers, handheld, other type of computer
    11. Subscribe to internet using dial-up, DSL, cabel, fiber-optic, mobile broadband plan, satellite Internet, other
    12. Number of vehicles
    13. Which fuel used most for heating
    14. Utilities
      • Cost of electricity last month
      • Cost of gas last month
      • Cost of water and sewer last 12 months
      • Cost of oil, coal, wood etc last 12 months
    15. Did you r receive Food Stamps last 12 months
    16. Part of a condominium
    17. Home owned with/without mortgage, rented, occupied without rent
    18. If rented, monthly rent
    19. If owned or mortgaged, potential sale value
    20. Annual property taxes
    21. Annual fire, flood, hazard insurance
    22. Other debt against property
      • Monthly mortgage payment
      • Include property taxes?
      • Include insurance?
    23. Second mortgage
    24. Total costs for taxes, rent, registration, license for mobile home and site

    Pages 8 through 11 ask questions about Person 1, followed by four pages each for responses from Persons 2, 3, 4, and 5.

    PERSONAL

    • Name
    • Where born
    • U.S. Citizen by birth in U.S., territories, abroad of U.S. parents, or by naturalization (give year)
    • What year to U.S.
    • Attended school or college in last 3 months, public or private
    • What grade atending
    • Highest degree or level of school
    • B.A. Degree major
    • Ancestry or ethnic origin
    • Language spoken at home
    • How well does this person speak English
    • Live in this house 1 year ago, if no whether outside U.S. or different house in U.S.
    • Where living 1 year ago, address

    HEALTH

    • Health insurance coverage
    • Deaf or hard of hearing
    • Blind or vision impaired
    • 5 years and  older:
      • Mental impairment due to physical, mental or emotional condition
      • Difficulty walking or climbing stairs
      • Difficulty dressing or bathing
    • 15 years and older
      • Difficulty doing errands alone due to physical, mental or emotional condition
      • Marital status
      • in last 12 months married, widowed, divorced
      • How many times married
      • What year last married
    • Female age 15 to 50
      • Given birth to any children in the past 12 months
      • his/her own grandchildren under 18 living in this house
      • this grandparent responsible for most of basic needs of under 18 children living in this house
      • how long responsible for these grandchildren
    • Active duty in U.S. Armed Forces, Reserves or National Guard
    • When served
    • VA servicie-connected disability rating
    • What is this persons service-connected disability rating

    EMPLOYMENT

    • Last week, work for pay at a job
    • Address where last worked
    • Transportation to work last week
    • How many people rode in vehicle
    • Left home at what time to go to work last week
    • How many minutes to get home from work last week
    • On layoff last week
    • Temporarily absent from job last week
    • Informed to return to work within 6 months
    • Actively looking for work
    • Could have started work if recalled
    • When last worked
    • In last 12 months, did this person work 50 or more weeks?
      • How many weeks worked?
    • How many hours worked each week
    • Current of most recent job activity
    • For whom worked
    • Kind of business or industry
    • Manufacturing, wholesale, retail, other?
    • What kind of work
    • Most important duties

    INCOME in Last 12 Months

    • Wages
    • Self-employmnet income
    • Interest, dividents, other income
    • Social Security or Railrod Reitrement
    • SSI
    • State or local assistance
    • Pensions
    • Other income
    • Total income

    The entire survey is rated to take 40 minutes to complete. The time required will certainly vary with the number of household members.

    We will do our civic duty this evening. Personally, I'm glad it's eggnog season.

     

     

    Monday
    Dec152014

    Until We Meet Again, Kathleen

    Kathleen LevenickA little over a week ago I said goodbye to my sister-in-law at LAX as she headed to Texas for the baptism of her newest grandchild. She had not been well, and this trip was a trial run for future travel at Christmas and beyond. We were both relieved that the baggage check-in and wheelchair assist went smoothly, and we confirmed plans for her return and as we hugged and said goodbye. In the early hours of Saturday morning I received a call from my nephew that she had passed away at her son’s home. Kathleen Edson Levenick was 70.

    Kathleeen and I were friends, allies, and eventually sisters (by law) for over forty years. When I first met my husband, he raved about his brother’s clever and witty young new wife. When I met her, I knew why he was a fan. Kathleen filled every room with her smile and charm. In a family of starke und stabile Deutsche, she was a wild Irish rose whose stories made post-dinner clean up hilarious. She was the first grown-up I’d ever heard use the “F” word. She pulled me outside the kitchen to share a cigarette from her secret stash and would then return to the house and tease her husband when he made excuses to run to the market, code for “I need a smoke.” It took years for me to finally realize that most of her stories were mostly. . . stories.

    While I aimed to follow Martha Stewart’s footsteps with one homemade cookie for each of the 12 day of Christmas, she was slicing and baking Pillsbury. I clipped recipes, she clipped open four boxes of Stouffer’s frozen Spinach Souffle, pressed the blocks into a Pyrex dish and passed it off as homemade. Our family spent most summer afternoons lazing around her pool, waiting for dinner. The brothers Lev would torch the barbeque and everyone dined on scorched beef with all the fixins. When I taught at the boy’s grade school, one nephew’s third grade teacher asked me to get the recipe for John’s favorite dessert, Pie in Minutes.

    Now I realize how smart she really was.

    Together we endured countless family dinners presided over by the family matriarch. We both heard the same refrain: What did we ever do to deserve her precious boys? Kathleen redeemed herself admirably by producing four more males to carry on the family name. It’s was a great irony that the women who weren’t good enough to marry the sons, could be the mothers of the smartest most wonderful grandsons in the world.

    Family: Sister-in-Law Kathleen (left), sister Deanna, Denise, and Dan

    Our homes were only four short blocks apart, with the grandparents' between. We spent Ski Week together at Yosemite and celebrated every birthday and holiday with a chaotic family dinner. We attended the same church, were members of the same volunteer organizations, and our six boys attended the same Catholic schools for thirteen years. When the last Levenick boy graduated from eighth grade, the Principal announced the milestone event to a standing ovation from the long-suffering faculty and fellow parents.

    Kathleen and I shared a love of all things English, especially Jane Austen, period drama, cozy mysteries, and tea. She remembered my birthday without fail, often with a new mystery series. Like an older wiser sister, she coaxed me into playing hooky from housework and childcare, praised my obsessive creative efforts, and teased me into taking risks with new friendships. Her friends became my friends too, and she generously shared her network of caring, interesting people.

    Thirteen years ago Kathleen lost much of the joy in her life with the unexpected death of her husband while they were in Boston for another family milestone, their son’s college graduation. The past few decades have been difficult, but the outpouring of love and support since Kathleen’s death is a testament of the lives she enriched with her laughter and the friendships she nourished in better times. I will miss her deeply.

    Kathleen Edson Levenick was born in Sacramento, 8 October 1944 and passed away 6 December 2014. She graduated from the University of Colorado and was a schoolteacher before a chance meeting with her future husband on a flight to Seattle. The couple settled in Pasadena where they raised four sons and were active in church, school and community life. Kathleen enjoyed gardening, playing bridge and travel. She will be greatly missed by her family and many friends.

    Thursday
    Dec042014

    Family Heirlooms: The Ultimate Holiday Regift

    My favorite heirloom brothers, Dan and Mike Hiestand, have thrown down the glove again this holiday season in their annual campaign against Too Much Stuff. If you follow The Heirloom Registry or the Home History Book, you may have met Dan and Mike. Together they founded Houstory, a small business dedicated to preserving family keepsakes and the home histories.

    I first met Dan at the SCGS Jamboree in Burbank a few years ago. I loved the Home History Book, a beautiful hand-crafted journal designed to help record the history of your house. And I really liked the The Heirloom Registry, a legacy website created to hold the history of family heirlooms and reconnect stories and artifacts through generations. I first wrote about The Heirloom Registry in Before the Pirate Toy Chest Became an Heirloom after we discovered my husband's childhood treasure in the family home. 

    NoMore 0681

    For the past few years, the Houstory Bros. have waged a quiet but effective campaign to bring sanity to holiday over-gifting. They call it the "#No More Stuff" campaign and you can read about it at the Houstory Blog. So, while The Family Curator is all about preserving and archiving the "stuff" that you inherit and treasure, the Houstory Brothers are encouraging us not to acquire a lot of additional "stuff" that we don't really need or want. I like the idea. I have more than enough wonderful keepsakes accumulated from my life, and my parents and grandparents. It's hard enough to care for what's under my roof right now, I certainly don't need more. The Houstory campaign reminds me of William Morris and the Arts and Crafts mantra:

    Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.

    At holiday time, especially, it's a worthwhile thought to bear in mind.

    I like the gift Dan and Mike's parents gave to their children last year -- they recorded the stories of their favorite family heirlooms to preserve online at The Heirloom Registry where their children, grandchildren, and extended family could read the history of those keepsakes.

    Pass It On

    Both my mother and my mother-in-law were thoughtful family historians. They didn't have The Heirloom Registry, but each woman wrote notes about the provenance of special items and tucked them inside the keepsake. My mom made notes of wedding gifts or where she bought something. My mother-in-law liked to leave the price tag and a note about the "priceless" treasure she found at a bargain. I tend to sketch a chain of ownership, starting as far back as possible to record the owner, their birth and death dates, residence, and anything I know about the manufacture and item.

    My goal for next year is to gift each family with a keepsake notebook with stories and photos of a few special heirlooms, and to start passing along some of those treasures to the next generation. I think it will feel good to see those things in a new home, and be a good answer to the Houstory campaign. Maybe we can call it "Pass It On."

    I created a form to help me remember the details I wanted to record about my family keepsakes, including description, previous owners, and former locations. Here is a link to download a free copy of my form to use for your own heirloom book or to help you prepare stories to upload to The Heirloom Registry:

    The Family Curator's Family History Form
    Monday
    Dec012014

    When Advent Meets Advertising

    Sony Center Advent Wreath

    Once again, Cyber Monday collides with the first week of the Advent Christmas Season reminding many to stop and reflect instead of reaching for the credit card . With only twenty-one shopping days between Thanksgiving and Christmas, the onslaught of marketing emails and ads have created a nervous frenzy that has nothing to do with traditional holiday activities like baking, decorating, or packing for a family vacation. Instead, it’s all about the presents.

    Advent is All About ‘The Present'

    Beginning the fourth Sunday before Christmas Day, churches light the first of four candles to begin the journey toward December 25. Each week a different them helps the congregation focus on one aspect of preparing for Christ’s birth. Although many Protestant denominations today celebrate this Advent ritual, it’s unlikely our Baptist ancestors would have practiced much about this more Roman Catholic tradition. The beginning of Advent also marks the start of a new church year for Roman Catholics, Anglicans, Lutherans, Moravians, Presbyterians, and Methodists. I suppose my grandparent’s Nebraska Lutheran church may have celebrated this tradition as well. Another connection to the past.

    The Four Weeks of Advent

    Liturgical colors shift to purple (Catholic) and Blue (Lutheran) as the first purple candle is lit to signify Hope. Each week another candle is lit, so that by Christmas Day all four are burning.

    • first week, violet: hope
    • second week, violet: peace
    • third week, rose: love
    • fourth week, violet: joy

    Some traditions add a white candle in the center, or vary the focus of each week’s prayers and reflections. And like many faith traditions, the Advent wreath with its evergreen circle and candles of light may have roots in older folk rituals to harken the return of spring in the midst of a cold, dark winter.

    Our Family Advent Traditions

    We didn’t celebrate the Advent wreath or candles when I was young, and I didn’t really discover Advent calendars until I learned German and spent a college semester in Heidelberg. My husband’s Catholic family had lived in post-war Germany, and beautiful glitter-decorated Advent calendars were popular gifts to our sons each year. My mother-in-law was famous for her Christmas card collage creations using re-purposed German Advent calendars. 

    As I unpack the felt Advent calendar handmade by my sister-in-law many years ago and unwrap the cellophane from the version hiding chocolates behind each numbered door, I find that I’m not only preparing and anticipating the joy of Christmas, but I’m also celebrating the memories of past seasons. This season of Advent holds it all: Past, Present, and Future.

    Read More about Advent Traditions

    Sacred Space, from the Irish Jesuits, my personal favorite 

    Advent 2014 - Roman Catholic

    Billy Graham’s Advent Devotional

    Photo Credit: oonola, Adventskranz XXL "Brilliant Xmas Season" im Sony Center am Potsdamer PlatzBerlin-Tiergarten, Dezember 2012. On Flickr.

     

    Friday
    Nov212014

    Exclusive Interview with Steve Robinson, Best-Selling Author of the Jefferson Tayte Genealogical Mystery Series


    There's nothing quite like a good book to fill the hours of a long holiday weekend. Make that a good genealogy mystery, and it's even better. Join me for a chat with Amazon author Steve Robinson talking about The Lost Empresshis newest addition to the Jefferson Tayte Genealogical Mystery Series .

    If you've never read about Robinson's family history sleuth, get ready to meet a quirky and interesting character who might remind you of a few genealogists you know. Tayte is a friendly, accomplished, professional American genealogist with a yearning to discover his own past. Blocked by brick walls to his own family history, J.T. unravels the secrets of other people's family stories instead. In The Lost Empress, J.T. returns to England looking for clues to to a survivor from The Empress of Ireland's tragic sinking in 1914. He finds espionage, twisted tales, and family secrets -- all the ingredients for a good book on a long winter evening.

    The Lost Empress cover

    Denise: The Lost Empress includes so much historical detail that it's obvious you spent a good deal of time researching the ship and the aftermath of her tragic sinking. How long did the actual research require to make you feel grounded in the story? And was Alice modeled after any actual passenger?

    Steve: I do spend a lot of time on research. It’s actually a big part of what I love about my writing. I find the historical research particularly fascinating and The Lost Empress was no exception. As I read about the tragic loss of the Empress of Ireland I honestly couldn’t believe that I’d never heard of the ship before – and yet the loss of life is comparable to the sinking of the Titanic and the Lusitania that same decade. Perhaps it’s for that reason that I felt particularly drawn to my research into the ship and the passengers aboard that fateful journey. I would strongly encourage everyone to find out more about the Empress of Ireland, and to share her story with others so that she might better be remembered.

    I also had to learn about life in post Edwardian times, of course, and I’ve tried to convey a sense of the time as much through the subtle nuances of the language as well as the everyday objects that help to describe the time. I love the idea of a penny lick – eating ice cream from a glass dish. Yum! As my lead character from the past, Alice Stilwell, was an admiral’s daughter, a great deal of naval research was also required, particularly concerning Chatham’s former royal dockyard and the naval warships of the time, which I found fascinating.

    On the whole I’d say that my research takes about a quarter, or perhaps even a third, of the time that it takes me to write a book. Alice is entirely fictional, although some of the incidents and actions aboard the ship in her last moments are drawn from real events and characters.

    About Alice...

    Denise:  The story is set at the eve of the Great War, when women's roles were still mostly defined by the men in their lives -- fathers, brothers, husbands. Alice Stillwell is aptly drawn, but was it difficult to put yourself into a mindset so different from 21st century sensibilities? Her character is very different from the strong female roles in your previous books.

    Steve:  Male dominance in Britain was very much on my mind when I imagined the life of Alice Stilwell. Women had no right to vote back then of course, and their place was seen as strictly in the home. It’s hard to imagine nowadays that this was only a hundred years ago. Equipped with that mindset, I wouldn’t say it was too difficult to portray Alice as a typical, if somewhat privileged, woman of her time.  I felt that her strength should come from within, rather than being overt, so I’ve not drawn her as such a strong character on the outside, perhaps. But what she goes through demands great strength of character nonetheless and it is through her resolve to protect the people closest to her that drives her on to the story’s conclusion.

    Denise: Alice was well balanced by the other female lead, JT's new British genealogy lady friend.  And I loved the genealogical clues you put right out there in front of our nose! Do you think you are becoming more of a genealogist as you work in this genre with JT?

    Steve: I hope so, and I do believe that I am. I put as much research into the genealogical aspect of my stories as I do for the historical sections. Essentially I have to set JT brick wall after brick wall, and then I have to help him to break them down, even though I rarely know the solution when that wall goes up. Working through the genealogy myself, and making sure it all stacks up, can take a lot of time and I learn a great deal each and every time I tackle something new. I really love old newspapers, which can help as much with my historical research as they can for the genealogy. Bringing crime fiction to genealogy means that my genealogical research isn’t always so much about family relationships either, but the family members lives, and very often the crimes they are either perpetrating, or are otherwise caught up in. The thing that strikes me most about genealogy is that it’s so diverse. All past documents are records or clues to our ancestors lives. It’s no wonder that the puzzle is often so difficult to piece together.

    Is DNA in J.T.'s Future?

    Denise: Your website mentions the next mystery in the series. Can you say what form of genealogical research might be involved? Will JT be working with DNA next?

    Steve: I’m sure DNA will feature in the series at some point, and there might well be a place for it in book 5. JT’s next mystery will largely focus on finding someone in a foreign land. That’s very cryptic, I know, but I find it difficult to talk about a new book without giving things away, and I do like to keep things close to my chest, at least until the first draft is written. I will say that I’m having quite a time translating records written in languages foreign to my own at the moment, which is an a entirely new challenge for me. Perhaps you could ask me again closer to the release date and I’ll tell you how I got on.

    The Lost Empress back

    In the Blood, Steve's first book in the Jefferson Tayte Genealogical Mystery Series earned widespread praise as an author-published title, and was selected by Amazon UK as one of the 'Best Books of 2011.' From Kindle editions, each book has gone on to be published in paperback and audio editions. The Lost Empress was released last month in all formats.
     
    Steve's been known to drop by The Family Curator, so feel free to leave any questions or comments for him here, or visit his website Steve Robinson.
    If you like to read series books in order (like I do), here's the chronology of mystery series:
     

             

     
     
     
    Friday
    Nov142014

    How to Host a Turkey Shoot (Camera Required)

     

    Our family has never been big on after-turkey day flag flag football. Instead, we've been known to drag out a jigsaw puzzle, mix up a spirited holiday eggnog, or round up a posse for the sorta-annual Thanksgiving Turkey Shoot. No firearms required. All you need is your smartphone, your car keys and a few willing turkeys. . . ummm relatives.

    Turkey Shoot Rules & Regulations

    Rule #1: Each team shall consist of a minimum of 3 turkeys (contestants), one automobile, and one Polaroid camera.

    The first time we tried this was 1998 when my sister and family lived in Silverado Canyon, an isolated canyon in the Orange County hills of Southern California. As I remember, the crowd that year included kids of all ages, aunts and uncles, parents and grandparents, and bewildered guests. My sister worked out the "Destinations" using local landmarks and the teams were pretty evenly filled with at least one "local" in each group.

    Smartphone cameras would work as a good substitute for the Polaroids, or you could use the fun new Instax Instant Film  cameras. Everyone likes to see their picture actually printed, so it might be worth borrowing a few instant-print cameras if possible.

    Rule #2: The objective of the competition is to navigate your team between suggested destinations and return with photographic proof of your adventures.

    This Thanksgiving Turkey Shoot is a riff on an old fashioned scavenger hunt.  The Regulation Handbook needs to list the Rules (VERY important to family harmony) and destinations with points.

    Rule #3: Depending upon the degree of difficulty, each potential destination has been awarded a point value.

    More points awarded for a photo of a live turkey than a pogo of a bale of hay.

    Rule #4: Teams which demonstrate ingenuity by devising a means to have a stranger operate their camera, (so that all team members appear in the photo) will be awarded 10 bonus points per destination.

    And, THIS, is where family harmony can begin to break down. The rules state that "a stranger" must operate the camera -- because Polaroid camera's didn't work with a remote shutter release, duh -- but what if you "know" the "stranger." Does the team still earn the points? 

    Rule #5: No team is allowed to leave the canyon.

    It's a good idea to establish geographic boundaries or you may lose your contestants.

    Rule #6: Desitnations may be visited in any sequence.

    Another good rule that helps to spread out the teams in your area. Watch out for neighbors who may help or hinder teams that follow the first one. Folks seem to get into the spirit of the event. It might be good to heat up more cider for the after-party.

    Rule #7: Return to the host's home at the designated time.

    Our teams dragged home in a most untimely fashion. Penalize tardiness with a point loss to get the turkeys home before dark.

    Rule #8: The team with the highest total point score will be honored at the Gala Awards Ceremoney and be exempt from dishwashing duties.

    Prizes are always welcome! Recycle old trophies, or make your own with chocolate turkeys!

    Turkey Shoot Destinations

    (Customize for your neighborhood. Don't make 'em too easy.)

    Turkey Class - 35 points each

    With a live turkey

    With something that embodies the spirit of Thanksiving

    In front of a "Kids at Play" sign

    In front of an Eiffel tower (!)

    Sitting on a hammock

    Stuffing Class - 30 points each

    On top of a castle

    In front of a roaring fire

    In front of a "Road Ends" sign

    With two dogs owned by a stranger

    On a boat

    Cranberry Class - 25 points each

    With a horse

    Standing next to a fire truck

    On a walking bridge

    In front of a "Happy Thanksgiving" sign

    Sitting on a bale of hay

    You won't want to miss a photo of all the teams, maybe holding up their winning photos.

    Turkey Shoot Handbook

    Turkey Shoot Variations 

    City Version

    My sister reminded me that the original version of this game included city destinations such as: Have your photo taken with a Starbucks Barista (you could add a Pumpkin Latte!). 

    Newspaper Edition

    The Newspaper in Education website includes a Thanksgiving Newspaper Scavenger Hunt that's a good option if the weather isn't cooperating with an outdoor driving shoot.

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