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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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    Friday
    Sep272013

    Great Grandmothers Are ALWAYS In Style: Book Review of Betty Kreisel Shubert's New Book

    If you owned this photograph, wouldn't you want to know more about the young woman wearing the outrageous butterfly hat? I have looked at this image for years, but all I knew was that the photographer had captured my grandmother Arline Allen Kinsel in a very flattering window-seat pose. Arline's white muslin dress and huge hat hinted at a special occasion, but what could it have been?

    My aunt may have known more about the photo, but she never shared that with me. She was more excited about the porcelain doll she found and had painted and dressed to resemble Arline of the photo. Dolly Arline was displayed in a glass front curio cabinet for decades, seated on a glass shelf beside the original photograph. 

    By the time my aunt passed away, the doll had been sitting in that cabinet for at least thirty years. Her once-white muslin dress was brown and crisp and the exposed porcelain was dingy yellow. Ultraviolet light ambient light,, uncirculated air, and the wooden back and sides of the cabinet had created an "acid-chamber" where the doll slowly deteriorated.

    Nothing is forever, but the doll would certainly be in better condition if she had been stored in a dark closet, wrapped in a cotton pillowcase, and brought out for occasional display. It's a tough call, because the doll was designed to be displayed and enjoyed. And, everyone who visited my aunt, remarked on the beautiful young woman pictured in the photograph and mimicked by the doll's dress.

    DollCabinet

    So, I've wondered about the dress and hat. I knew my grandmother sewed -- her letters refer to shipping her sewing machine when she moved, and fabric and trim she bought for a handmade  "waist." I also knew that she loved stylish clothes and didn't have much money, good motivation for a fashion-forward young woman who could work a needle.

    What I needed was a kind of 20th century fashion maven who could look at the doll and the photo and offer more details about Arline. And, SCGS Jamboree proved to be the place to meet Betty Kreisel Shubert, former costume designer and fashion writer, and author of the new guide Out-Of-Style: A Modern Perspective of How, Why and When Vintage Fashions Evolved.

    It's a bit misleading to label Betty's 350-page book a simple "guidebook," because it's that and so much more. Betty's fashion career began when she sold her first dress design at age 13, in 1938. Since that time, she's gone on to design clothes and costumes for stage, screen, television, ready-to-wear, Las Vegas musicals, and Disneyland, as well as uniforms for major cruise lines, hotels, restaurants, and casinos. Out-of-Style is a lively, personal memoir and reference book. It's clear that when Betty writes about "The Twenty-Five-Year-Old Dress, When do 'Old' Clothes Become 'Vintage' Clothes?" and shares a story about her own classic gown, she knows what she's talking about.

    Betty was tapped to share her fashion wisdom with friends exploring their family history who were having trouble dating old photographs: "I can help that," Betty offered. "I can tell you the date from the clothes." And, a new career working with genealogists was born. Betty shared her knowledge in Ancestry Magazine, and has now assembled a comprehensive reference guide to 19th and 20th century styles in her book Out-of-Style.

    I especially like the artist sketches that bring together on one page the changing styles; this makes it easy to compare what you may have in a photo across several years or decades. For example, comparing Arline's hat to this page of compiled hat styles, helps identify the Arline's hat as a "Platter Hat."

    Outofstyle001

    Ladies' Hat Styles 1900-1914, Copyright Betty Kreisel Shubert, used with permission

    After talking with Betty, I asked her if she would "read" Arline's photo and share her thoughts on the dress and extravagant Butterfly Hat. I hoped for a few notes, but Betty sent so much more -- a handwritten historic evaluation of the clothing and an astute analysis of the kind of woman who might wear such an outfit. Without any extra information from me, Betty picked up Arline's personality and even anticipated her social life. Be sure to check back for Part 2 of this article for Betty's "reading" of Arline's portrait.

    You can read more from Betty Shubert at Goodreads, or listen to her talk about Hollywood, vintage fashion and her book with Nick Digilio, Radio 720 WGN The Voice of Chicago

    Find Out-Of-Style: A Modern Perspective of How, Why and When Vintage Fashions Evolved by Betty Kreisel Shubert at Amazon.com.

     

    Note: The Family Curator is an Amazon Affiliate.

    Tuesday
    Sep242013

    7 Steps to Disaster-Prep Your Genealogy

    What's Your Risk From Disaster?

    Join me on Wednesday, 25 September for an exclusive LIVE Webinar at Family Tree University, 7pm EST / 6pm CST / 5pm MST / 4pm PST, as we discuss how you can prepare for the next Big One.

    In Southern California, we worry about earthquakes and wildfires -- those natural disasters often lead to home (and keepsakes) damaged or destroyed by fire, water, or power loss.

    Fortunately, you CAN take steps to prevent the total loss of your research and your family keepsakes. This 7-Step Genealogy Disaster Plan can provide peace-of-mind and an action plan for preserving family history --

    Genealogy Disaster Plan

    1. Inventory, Prioritize, and Digitize

    You might not be able to save everything in the event of a devastating natural disaster, but digital copies can provide replacement copies of photos and documents, and information evidence of artifacts and other memorabilia. Inventory, prioritize, and digitize to create a digital archive of your most important materials.

    2. Backup Your Digital Files

    You can't hear it enough -- Backup, Backup, Backup. 

    3. Preserve Your Keepsakes

    Don't just throw your treasures in any box and think they are preserved. You need to use Archival  containers that will help your items last as long as possible.

    4. Store Your Keepsakes

    You also need to store those archival boxes in the best location possible -- moderate temperature and humidity, and free from pests, pollution, and light.

    5. Make a Genealogy Grab & Go List

    Sometimes, you'll have time to prepare for an impending disaster. Save time with a list of items that you want to preserve.

    6. Create a Genealogy Disaster Kit

    Follow our handy list of items to help you recover your keepsakes after a disaster. You'll need protective gear, cleaning supplies, and storage containers.

    7. Stay Alert and Up to Date

    Keep informed, backup often, and migrate digital files as media becomes older.

    Learn More

    Sign up for the Family Tree University LIVE Webinar Wednesday, 25 September 2013 for more information about what you can do BEFORE, DURING, and AFTER a natural disaster to protect and preserve your genealogy research and family keepsakes. You'll discover resources for:

    • local hazard maps
    • rescuing water-damaged items
    • getting rid of smoke odor
    • finding a professional conservator
    • where and how to store your keepsakes
    • what to put in your own Genealogy Disaster Kit

    The LIVE Webinar will be followed by Q & A time for your specific questions. Click here to sign up  and get 

    20% Off Entire Purchase at Family Tree University. Use coupon code FTUCOURSE during checkout. Expires 12/31/2013.

     

    Note: I am a contributor and affiliate for Family Tree University. See my Affiliates and Sponsors page for more information.

    Monday
    Sep232013

    Visiting Ventura

    Ventura pier

    This past Saturday I presented Preserving the Past: Archiving and Digitizing Family Keepsakes at the monthly meeting of the Ventura County Genealogical Society, and the group made me wish I lived closer to Ventura. With over 200 members, VCGS boasts a VERY active society and a full calendar of events, including their annual seminar next month featuring Lisa Louise Cooke. If you live within driving distance, it's well worth checking out the VCGS website for activities, lectures, and special events.

    I enjoyed meeting many genealogists and talking with members about their family heirlooms -- from family Bibles to wedding gowns to photos and documents. I even heard about a family history "rescue" trip that ended with boxes of memorabilia scattered across the airline baggage conveyer belt. (Thankfully, everything was returned to the boxes and made it home safely).

    The skies were blue when I arrived at the meeting, and dark blustery clouds covered the skies by the time I left to drive south. The weather changes "that" fast! I didn't get down to the pier on this trip, but the skies looked a lot like last year when I snapped this photograph.

    Thanks for the invitation, VCGS! And, it's fun to know that my blog is read by the group, even though I didn't get a new recipe for southern fried chicken from Fran Bumann! She reminded me, however, that it's probably better not to make that deep-fried delicious-ness too often!

    Wednesday
    Sep182013

    Mastering Genealogical Proof and Texas Fried Chicken

    Last Days of Summer: "Two New Things" I Learned This Summer

    Labor Day has come and gone. Summer is over, except for the official First Day of Fall this Sunday, 22 September. When life is no longer measured by school calendars, and you live in a temperate climate, one season tends to run into the next. I started off this summer with the goal that I would Make Time to Learn "One New Thing," (blog post here.)

    Actually, I wanted to learn Two New Things: more about the Genealogical Proof Standard, and how to make my step-mother's fantastic fried chicken. (Note I did not set out to "master" the GPS, although I am working toward that objective).

    Fried Chicken Attempt  2

    Fried Chicken Attempt #2 -- Looks Good, Tastes Bad

     

    MGP

    Tom Jones and Denise Levenick at GRIP 2013,
    Determining Kinship Reliably with the GPS

    Goal GPS -- I was determined that this summer I would shift my genealogy into gear and get into the nitty-gritty of the Genealogical Proof Standard. I spent a week at the Genealogical Institute of Pittsburgh in Dr. Tom Jones course, Determining Kinship Reliably with the GPS, and came home energized to apply the principles to my research. I'm now participating in an online study group to be a leader for future Mastering Genealogical Proof study groups.

    The classroom and online discussions are a great way to learn and really work with this material. I think my biggest "One New Thing" from the course is that using the GPS enables genealogists to reach logical conclusions with targeted research, not merely "collect" information with the hope of finding that straightforward and direct answer to a research question. AND, using the GPS is not some mystical or impossible skill. Any genealogist with time and interest can study and practice the steps outlined in Tom Jones' Mastering Genealogical Proof, and work toward mastering the concepts of the GPS.

    I also pursued some of my wayward FANS at the Allen County Public Library in Fort Wayne; transcribed land and probate records from my last trip to the Family History Library in Salt Lake City; and sifted, sorted, and organized more boxes of family keepsakes. With family activities, a huge remodeling project, and summer birthdays, that was about as much genealogy as I could manage.

    Fried Chicken Attempt  1

    Fried Chicken Attempt #1 -- Could Look Better, Tastes Great

    Goal Fried Chicken -- Of my two summer goals, Mastering Polly's Fried Chicken was the more difficult. There was no written guide, only the briefest of verbal instructions: Soak the cut-up bird in salty water while the oil heats in a cast iron frying pan. Coat bird in flour. Fry in hot oil. 

    My first attempt would qualify as Very Good. I followed Polly's directions. 

    My second attempt was not good at all. I used a recipe from a food magazine that called to soak the chicken pieces overnight in salted water. We were in the mountains and I thought it would be smart to fry the bird outdoors in an electric skillet. However, the pan wasn't very deep and it was made of thin aluminum so the heat dropped considerably when the meat was added. The chicken took forever to cook, and the texture was rubbery. The flour coating didn't stick at all. Overall it was a disaster. Yech. 

    What went wrong? I know that poultry doesn't benefit from long marinading and that the meat breaks down when salted. I also know that cast iron holds heat better than aluminum. And I know that high altitude is a game-changer all round. So, why didn't add my own knowledge to the recipe and tweak it to make wonderful fried chicken? I tried too hard to follow the written instructions, thinking my own knowledge was worth less. Maybe it is a good recipe at sea level with a different kind of bird in a different kind of pan, but it wasn't good for my purposes.

    Instead, I really should have remembered Dr. Jones advice when it comes to deciding one thing or another: "It depends."

     

    Monday
    Sep092013

    Celebrate Success with Author Steve Robinson -- You Helped!

    Steve rob banner

    Big News from a favorite genealogy mystery author -- Steve Robinson, author of the Jefferson Tayte Genealogical Crime Mystery Series, has just signed a four-book publishing contract with Amazon Publishing to rebrand the JT series under their Thomas & Mercer imprint. This means more exposure for Robinson's books and (hopefully) more adventures for genealogical sleuth Tayte.

    In the Blood   introduced American genealogist Jefferson Tayte to Kindle readers in June 2011 and was named as an Amazon UK "Best Book of 2011. J.T.'s adventures continued in To the Grave , released as a Kindle ebook in June 2012, and The Last Queen of England  released in November 2012. All three books are now available in paperback and Kindle ebook editions.

    It has been a pleasure to get to know Steve through interviews and email exchanges, and I am delighted for this new turn in his career. If you've been following him as well, you'll know that his style is friendly and approachable, whether he's talking about writing, researching or picking up genealogy skills to channel through his sleuth J.T.

    Steve shared the news in an email with a note of thanks that extends to fans in the genealogy community who embraced the series and encouraged Steve's career. He writes:

    If you've been following my blog then you'll no doubt already know this, although you probably haven't read today's blog post, so please take a look.  I just wanted to let everyone know that, following an offer for a four book publishing deal with Amazon Publishing, I now have the contract and will be signing it over the weekend.  One of the key reasons Amazon Publishing noticed me amongst the many other authors out there was because of all the reviews my books have accumulated.  The most important part of this email for me is to say a big thank you to everyone for your support in helping to bring this about.

    I'm a bit nervous if I'm honest, but I'm also very excited.  They're going to rebrand my books under their Thomas & Mercer imprint for release in spring next year, with the fourth book coming out as soon as possible after that.  This does mean that the next book will probably be a bit later than I would have liked, but hope you'll bear with things. The book is shaping into what I believe will be another worthy adventure for Jefferson Tayte - as if I would knowingly give you anything less. :o)

    I've posted a couple of blog entries about the deal with Amazon Publishing if you'd like to read more about it.  Here are the links:

    http://ancestryauthor.blogspot.co.uk/2013/08/ive-accepted-offer-from-amazon.html

    http://ancestryauthor.blogspot.co.uk/2013/09/jt-book-4-update-amazon-publishing.html


    My sincere thanks and well-wishes to you all,

    Steve.


    http://www.steve-robinson.me
    http://www.ancestryauthor.blogspot.com

    If you've enjoyed Steve's books and his interviews at The Family Curator, please let him know with a comment here (he does pop in regularly!) or on his blog.

    Read more --

    Book Review and Exclusive Interview with Steve Robinson, Author of the Genealogical Crime Mystery Series

    Heads Up! More GeneaFiction On the Way from Steve Robinson, Author of In the Blood

    He's Back! More Great GeneaFiction and Another Exclusive Interview with Steve Robinson

             

    Good news for Steve's fans, but sad news that the next book won't be out until spring. Looks like we may have bring out the Adventures of Sherlock Holmes to keep our skills sharp.

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