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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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    Why Regional Genealogy Conferences are Worth Every Cent


    If you want to talk to the experts about researching in New England, it makes sense to go to the experts on their home turf. NERGC proved once again that you can get a lot of bang-for-your-buck if you can attend a regional conference in the area you are researching.

    Last Spring, the joint meeting of the Vermont and New Hampshire societies coincided with a family baptism in Hanover, and between events I was able to hear a top notch speaker and meet some new local contacts. This year, the 2011 New England Regional Genealogical Conference exceeded my expectations with three full days of excellent sessions focused on research in my target localities. You can't get much better than that.

    Travel for these events can get expensive, so it helps to plan family visits, use airline miles, or share with a friend. I was watching for the NERGC schedule as soon as it became available, and glad to see that I could learn more about Vermont maps, Rhode Island town formation, finding elusive New England women, region migration patterns, and working with colonial land grants, all at one conference. Stay tuned for highlights in the days to come.

    These topics just don't come up with the same frequency at West Coast events.

    Of course, the intensive schedule means planning ahead and pacing as much as possible. By the last day, I was ready for a break and a few days of on site research and family time.

    Vermonters said we were there for "mud season," and it was a bit grim. The trees have yet to leaf out, snow still covers north-facing slopes, and mud lies in the valleys. Good weather for Vermont cheddar soup, hot Green Mountain coffee, and something maple and sweet. I love New England. Must be something in the genes.



    More Fun in New England

    Some folks go kayaking, skiing or leaf-peeping in New England. Mr. Curator and I left NERGC to drive to New Hampshire for some family time with our nephew and a lot of intensive research time.

    When you are looking for ancestors in Vermont, it all goes back to the Town. Today we spent four hours looking for marriages in town records. The early marriages are mixed in with land and town meeting notices, and tough to find. Mr. Curator just won't quit, even when I am SO ready for a break. The high - low?- point came when we discovered that the subject of our search may not have been widow after all. This upends all hypothesis.

    So, tomorrow, a new tactic. County probate records were moved to the state archives as of Jan 2011, necessitating a trip to Middlesex to view the files. Wish us luck!


    A Californian in New England, at NERGC

    I like to think that my New England ancestors were as hospitable as the folks I've met the last few days here at the New England Regional Genealogical Conference. . . That would mean they were pretty nice folks, indeed.

    I FINALLY met up with my Rhode Island connection, and cousin, Midge Frazel with wonder-husband Steve to swap stories over a cup of iconic Dunkin Donuts coffee. Midge is the go-to blogger for my Mathewson / Winsor line and I will tell you, she is even more energetic and Smart in person than online.

    Between sessions with Sharon Sargeant and Josh Taylor I met up with friends from NEHGS, talked with Maureen Taylor The Photo Detective, picked up some valuable tips from Rhode Islander Cherry Bamberg, and had my palm read.. No, not really... But it was just that kind of surprising day.

    At tonite's banquet, I was treated to a glass of we by seat mate Bob from Albany, New York and enjoyed a lively and friendly exchange with NERGC Chair Pauline Cusson and others at our table. Then we all sat back to hear Paul Milner, "What Were Our Ancestors Really Like?"

    I'll be honest, I hadn't planned on attending the banquet and didn't have a ticket, but when I heard the buzz about Milner, I decided to check the message board for available seats. And, I'm so glad I was able to score a ticket. Banquet speakers are hopefully entertaining, often humorous, and sometimes inspiring... Paul Milner was all this . . . And more. When an after-dinner conference crowd becomes so quiet and still that you could hear the proverbial "pin drop," it's clear the speaker has captivated the audience.

    Milner told tales of battlefield casualties, of servant employment, of family loss that left more than a few people dabbing their eyes at the end of his talk. But he concluded his remarks with a great challenge -- to write down our own family stories for the next generation. Just one story. One person, one place, one point in time. One thing to remember.

    Inspirational. Thank you, Paul. Your stories will be remembered. I will be working on mine.


    Ready for Genealogy Good Times at NERGC

    I snapped this photo on a walk tonite... Guess where? Answer? It's a bit cooler in Springfield than Southern California, but I'm looking forward to a great conference this weekend.


    Behind-the-Scenes Tour of St. Andrew Church

    Doors will be unlocked this Saturday, and visitors will be given a rare glimpse into some of the very special places at St. Andrew Church in Pasadena, California as part of the church's 125th Anniversary Year Celebration special event Art and Architecture Tour series.

    The 140-foot bell tower of St. Andrew is a soaring landmark situated at the gateway to Old Pasadena. The Pasadena church completed in 1927  was modeled after two Roman basilicas built in the 5th and 6th centuries, Saint Mary in Cosmedin and Saint Sabina at the Aventine. Even today, the street-side approach to the church lends an Italian setting to the building.

    The exterior borrowed inspiration from the Basilica di Santa Maria, and features a colonade entrance and ornate wrought-iron gates. The warm terra-cotta hued finish of the outer walls was achieved by applying baking soda in the finish stucco.


    Inside, twenty-four marble scagliola columns line the nave in the style of the Basilica di Santa Sabina leading to the altar and spectaular murals of Carlo Wostry.

    The docent-led tours will include two stops typically not open to the general public -- a visit to the choir loft for a birds-eye view of the church's interior, as well as a look into the church Baptisty. Considered the most important area in the church after the main altar, the baptistry features a native marble fountain and ornate symbolic murals under a golden dome.

    Tours will be held Saturday, April 2, 2011 at 3pm. St. Andrew Catholic Church is located at 311 North Raymond Avenue, Pasadena 91103.


    Online Training Review: Learning Photo Restoration Techniques with Janine Smith at

    Lately I have been learning photo restoration from expert Janine Smith, owner artist at Landailyn CPR. Online learning is great; I work through a section or two of the course, and then spend time practicing and getting a little better with each round.

    Photoshop Elements 9: Scanning and Restoring Photos is available at, online website offering video training on all kinds of computer software and computer tasks. I've enjoyed Janine's regular feature articles and how-tos in Shades of the Departed Magazine, and am learning even more in the self-paced course.

    Original color print, faded and yellowed.
    The Brown Family (from left) Arline, Suzanne, Frank, date unknown. 

    I've been blessed with hundreds of old family photos in all conditions, but most of the images I want to share and reprint for the family need some touch-up work. Since I can't afford to have all the photos professionally repaired and restored, I wanted to learn a few techniques that might help me fix some of the less badly damaged pictures. Janine has obviously worked with more photos than I have in my collection because she knows exactly how to hone in on the major problems with many old photos.

    Ta-da! My first attempts at restoring the color to the photo. Much improved.

    It's easy to get started at After registering at the website, I was free to begin viewing any of the online courses. At $25 per month, membership is a bit like an all-you-can-learn buffet. I bookmarked Janine's course so I could get back to it easily, and started with the first section. The course outline describes each segment and lists the video length so you can plan ahead how much time you want to spend on a session. I liked working through at least three or four episodes at a sitting so I could see how they worked together.

    I did not opt to purchase the practice files for the course, but had no trouble using my own photos. I found I learned the material best by watching the video through completely, then importing a photo similar to the sample into Elements and working alongside as I played the video again. Online learning used as a working tutorial is a real advantage to old-fashioned classroom instruction.

    Janine’s skill as a trainer really shines as she demonstrates how to fix common problems with old family photos. She carefully explains each step, demonstrating with the video as she works to restore the photo. The course outline is clear and well-organized with skills building from easiest to more difficult.  Janine has a pleasant speaking voice, and her instructions are direct and clear. I found it helpful to use the pause, and replay buttons when I wanted to make sure I understood all steps of a technique.  I also turned on the Closed Captioning feature, and made use of the Transcript feature to check back at the instructions. 

    The course opens with a section on how to get photos into PSE9. I have used various versions of PS Elements since it’s first days as PS Album, so getting the photos into the progam wasn’t particularly difficult. I did have trouble, however, trying to save my photos and the various edited versions. Fortunately, my month-long membership to gave me access to the PSE9 Essentials course, where I picked up a few file management techniques for the program.

    While one major lesson I learned is that photo restoration is a fine craft requiring patience and experience, I also learned that it's a lot of fun and can greatly improved old damaged photographs.

    The course covers six essential photo restoration techniques

    • Fixing Faded Photos
    • Fixing Color Cast
    • Removing Dust, Spots, and Texture
    • Fixing Damaged and Torn Photos
    • Reassemblig a Photo from Pieces
    • Repairing Documents 

    In addition, Janine also demonstrates the Sharing features of PSE9

    • Making a photo book
    • Making a calendar
    • Creating a personalized greeting card
    • Making a Windows slideshow
    • Creating a unique flyer for your next family reunion

    Photoshop Elements 9: Scanning and Restoring Photos with Janine Smith is an excellent introduction to the art and craft of photo restoration. Anyone interested in learning or brushing up on photo restoration techniques with Adobe Photoshop Elements 9 could benefit from this online learning experience.

    Available through Membership $25/month.

    Disclosure. I purchased my own membership to for this course and did not receive any form of compensation for this review.




    Thank you for the compliments, Family Tree Magazine Top 40, and blog readers


    Family Tree Magazine's 40 Best Genealogy Blogs has named The Family Curator as "tops" in the Research Advice category, along with The Armchair Genealogist, Genealogy Tip of the Day, NARAations, and Shades of the Departed. It's an honor to be recognized in such good company, especially since the nominations are made by avid genealogy blog readers, and a panel of my favorite bloggers. Thank you, readers!

    Family Tree's Sunny Morton writes,

    Denise Levenick, aka Penelope Dreadful in the Shades of the Departed online magazine (this category's Panel Pick), writes as herself in this informative but personal blog. She favors how-to family archiving topics such as duplicating documents and photos. As one fan puts it, "She knows her curating." Levenick also easily segues into personal research and travel, offering lessons and motivation for any genealogist.

    So, what began as an online journal to keep track of a project for my high school students has truly evolved into much more. It has been quite a journey and I can't wait to see what's next.

    While 40 blogs are named to this final list, genealogy bloggers know that the blogosphere holds many more than 40 very fine and very active genealogy blogs. When we open our blog reader today, we may skim 50, 60, or 100 new posts, we may enjoy reading a score of brand-new bloggers, and we may carefully study the rhetoric of a few articles, but all we read becomes part of what we will write tomorrow. Bloggers, and geneabloggers in particular, are a community where the interaction of the whole is truly what makes the significance of the part.

    For me, it's all about the community. You inspire, teach, and encourage. Thank you, YOU are the BEST.



    Making a Book from a SquareSpace Blog

    Lately I've been trying to find a workaround to get my SquareSpace hosted blog into a print book. I haven't been completely successful, yet, but I think I am getting closer to a solution. If you use WordPress or Blogger, you will be  so happy that you don't have this problem.

    Blog2Print and Blurb BookSmart both offer easy solutions to move a blog into a book -- as long as you are using Blogger, WordPress or TypePad. Blurb also accepts LiveJournal blogs. My blog platform, oh-why-did-I-have-to-be-different SquareSpace, is an odd duck out of the game.

    SquareSpace Support seems to think this is a no-brainer project. They advise using the the Export facility (on the Journal congifuration page) to produce a full export of all blog posts; however the resulting MoveableType .txt file is not accepted by Blog2Print or Blurb. You have to go through some hoops, but it is do-able. Here's how I moved my SS Blog to a Blurb BookSmart book.

    1. In SquareSpace, access your Journal Page Configuration (following these instructions). You can only export your blog posts, the Journal, not the overall blog structure with multiple pages. Scroll down the configuration page to "export blog data" button and click the button. This copies all your blog posts to a Movable Type .txt file. Save it to your desktop.

    2. Go to the MovableType to Blogger conversion page here. Skip the Steps 1-3 since you already have your .txt file. Follow the directions on Step 4: Choose your .txt file and click the Convert button. Step 5: Save this file to your desktop. Continue with Steps 6-9 to create a new blog on Blogger. You can also use a test blog; just turn off Permissions so it isn't viewable by everyone. It can get messy. You will import the converted file into Blogger, populating it with your SquareSpace posts.

    3. You will have an option to Publish on Import. If you select this option, all posts will be published and available. If you deselect the option, you will need to go into the Edit Post window and manually select posts to publish. Only Published posts will be moved into your blog book, but you will have another opportunity to select posts for your book when you are in the Blurb BookSmart application.

    4. You should now have your blog posts in Blogger. Check View Blog to see that all posts transferred by comparing your monthly archive numbers with your SquareSpace archive count.

    5. Now it's time to move your blog to Blurb! Download the BookSmart desktop application, view the Blurb video, and follow the directions. It's that easy.

    A Few Tips I Learned Along the Way --

    Decide how you want to break up your book. My blog begins July 2007, so I decided to do annual editions. My first blog book included posts from July 2007 through June 2010, the first three years.

    Do you want to include photos? Blurb can "slurp" images from your blog but they may not print well due to the difference in web and print resolution. You can substitute the high-res images, but it will take more time.

    Do you want to print your entire book, or just selected posts? My first book came out to be 388 pages -- one blog post per page using the auto-populate feature. I haven't decided if I will try to reformat to condense the length to a less costly book or go back just select my favorite posts to print. Another option is to print at home, or print to PDF; however the Blurb book will not include the cover and each page will have a Blurb watermark.

    All the fancy formatting and page design of your blog does not carry over to a book. The export is strictly text and images.

    If you know of a better way to accomplish this task, I would love to hear about it. Please leave a comment.



    What I Learned About the Future of Genealogy from Running a Student Genealogy Grant, or A New Challenge for the Genealogy Community

    When we decided to set up a memorial grant as a tribute to my mother, Suzanne Freeman, I had no idea it would be so hard to give away money.

    It sounds easy enough, but it’s tough to select between so many well-deserving applicants representing the future of genealogy. From academically trained researchers to local society volunteers to tech-savvy innovators, applicants to the 2011 Suzanne Winsor Freeman Memorial Student Genealogy Fund represented the best of young genealogists today.

    What I Learned

    It was truly a privilege to learn more about what matters to young researchers and to see that a common theme runs strong from coast to coast – it’s all about family. Without exception, each applicant was moved to pursue their family history because one person in their family had taken the time to tell a family story that struck home.

    The lesson for the rest of us, of course, is to take time to BE that one person to the young people in our families. We have to step back from our books, papers, and computers to just tell stories in a way that engages our children, grandchildren, nieces, and nephews.

    In the same way that we labor over developing a well-honed research plan to ferret out elusive ancestors, we have to listen hard and work to craft stories that may catch some young person’s interest. Tell the young athlete about an uncle who played ball, give a pre-teen her grandmother’s party gloves with a story about her first dance, or help a new bride with an old family recipe.

    The Challenge

    All of this leaves me feeling that we, as a Genealogy Community, could do more

    We need to “Walk Your Talk,” as my mom often said. We hear a lot of talk about “the future of genealogy”. . . but what are we doing to help the young genealogist learn enough about the field to want to make it a serious avocation or even a career? 

    Students who applied for the Memorial Grant are all attending school, working jobs, and living on a tight budget with little room for genealogy expenses. Yet, it’s hard to find a genealogy conference, event, or seminar offering a discounted student rate. Students are expected to pay full price, or apply for one of the very few genealogy grants available.

    If there was an obvious youthful presence at RootsTech in Salt Lake City last month, it may be partly due to the discounted student registration fee of $35. Sponsored by Family Search, this sends a clear message to any student interested in genealogy today: We Want You!

    SCGS is one of the few genealogical organizations offering a substantial membership discount for students. When combined with Early Bird Registration for Jamboree, this can offer a real savings for student attendees. And, kudos to SCGS for donating a free three-day registration to the grant recipient, only hours after hearing the grant announcement.  

    Reading applications for the Student Genealogy Grant left me with three wishes –

    • I wish each applicant could be awarded a student genealogy grant to encourage their work.
    • I wish professional societies and event sponsors would make it easier for students to join professional organizations and to attend conferences by offering drastically discounted student rates.
    • I wish more organizations would take a cue from the Southern California Genealogical Society and offer full-registration scholarships to their events. 

    Maybe then we would see a real burst of new leaves in our great genealogy family.


    Memorial Grant Recipient Announced

    I am pleased to announce that Anthony Ray of Palmdale, California has been named as the recipient of the 2011 Suzanne Winsor Freeman Memorial Student Genealogy Grant. Anthony will receive a $500 cash award and free three-day registration to the 2011 Southern California Genealogical Society Jamboree conference in Burbank June 10-12.

    The 2011 Grant is the first awarded by the Suzanne Winsor Freeman Memorial Fund to assist young genealogists seeking to advance their genealogical education. In recognition of Suzanne Freeman’s interest in Jamboree, this year’s award was directed to help a student attend the 2011 SCGS Jamboree genealogy conference.

    The family grant committee is grateful to the SCGS Jamboree for their support of the grant by providing a free three-day registration to the grant recipient. Any genealogist 18-25 years of age, attending school within the last year, and attending the SCGS Jamboree was eligible to apply for the 2011 Grant. The Grant Committee received applications from young genealogists across the nation interested in attending the SCGS 2011 Jamboree.

    Anthony Ray heads the cemetery indexing project of the Antelope Valley Genealogical Society and is a volunteer researcher assisting with Hispanic research at the Palmdale Family History Center. He has participated in four AVGS Kin-Dig events; this will be his first time attending the SCGS Jamboree. His particular genealogical interests include international heritage research, oral history, cemetery transcriptions, photo restoration, video and audio. Anthony is sophomore at West Coast Baptist College in Lancaster, California where he majors in Music Studies.

    Readers of The Family Curator will know that the Grant was established in 2010 in tribute to my mother, Suzanne Freeman, who was an enthusiastic Jamboree attendee and GeneaBlogger supporter. For the past two years, Mom helped pack GeneaBlogger Welcome Bags and greet bloggers at the conference. I know she would enjoy meeting the young genealogists who will be attending Jamboree this year.






    New SCGS Webinars Available

    Have you heard today's exciting announcement from the Southern California Genealogical Society? Free web-based seminars featuring great speakers on timely topics will be available starting March 5 through the Jamboree Extension Series . According to the SCGS press release, each webinar can accommodate up to 1000 attendees and will also be available for viewing in the SCGS member-only area of the SCGS website. 

    Upcoming webinars in March and April include

     Thomas MacEntee, Social Networking - New Horizons for Genealogists

    • George G. Morgan, Tell Me About When You Were a Child
    • Marian Pierre-Louis, Looking After the Poor: Finding Your Ancestors in New England Poverty Records
    • Lisa Louise Cooke, Getting the Scoop on Your Ancestors from Old Newspapers

    The full listing is available at the SCGS website Jamboree Extension page.

    Online learning has stolen the headlines lately following the success of virtual participation at RootsTech earlier this month. Thank you, SCGS for your commitment to extending genealogy learning beyond the conference classroom. 


    Get Your SCGS Jamboree Blogger Badge Today

    The Southern California Genealogical Society Jamboree has just posted an assortment of great Jamboree badges you can include on your blog or website. It looks like Thomas MacEntee of GeneaBloggers has been VERY busy!

    In a new twist to conference badges, the Jamboree badges come in several styles to promote different kinds of participation --

    • Blogger
    • Speaker
    • Sponsor
    • Exhibitor
    • General Info
    • and yes, I wish I could go!

    You can choose your favorite badge at the SCGS Jamboree blog.


    Upcoming Tour of ScanDigital Facilities

    Have you considered sending your photos, films, or slides to a digitizing service, but held back because of that nagging worry that "something bad" might happen to your treasures? Fire, flood, tornadoes, earthquakes, loss of heirlooms are all equal in the eyes of the family historian.

    I'm not going to try to convince you to "let go," but I'm planning an article to review a local digitizing service that I have used with good success. I toured ScanDigital's facility in El Segundo, California in October, 2009 and was pleased with services and security systems in place. You can read the full review here.

    Not long ago, ScanDigital relocated in the same little beach community. I've seen the new building and it looks even larger than the old space. It helps that my son lives in El Segundo and passes on these Breaking News tidbits.

    Also not long ago, a reader commented on my article with her own worrisome experience at ScanDigital. I contacted the company and Pamela Weiss posted a helpful response. She also invited me to come to El Segundo to tour the new facility, and I've already said "Yes." I'm waiting for my own digitizing order to be completed, and will schedule to tour and pick up my items at the same time.

    Do you have questions about using a digitizing service? Maybe you would like to know about the tracking system or see photos of the techs at work? Leave your questions in the Comments to this post and I will do my best to get them answered.


    eBook Review: The Future of Memories

    Denise Barrett Olson, blogger, writer, scrapbooker, and editor of The Moultrie Creek Gazette, recently released The Future of Memories: A digital publishing primer for the family historian. Anyone who has sung the "I'll publish the family history some day" blues should read this book; it makes some day feel a lot like today.

    Denise has established a solid reputation as a tech-savvy writer at her several Moultrie Creek blogs, and I always learn something new from her software reviews, technique tutorials, and Research Notes. But what I enjoy most about Denise's blogs is seeing how she puts her tech know-how to work with her own family history projects. The Future of Memories is such a project.

    From scrapbook-style photo layouts to video slideshows to Blurb Books, Denise offers her own digital publishing projects as examples for the services and techniques showcased in The Future of Memories. This is a unique feature of digital publishing unheard of in the world of print books. Read the Barrett family's story of a toy boat regatta, learn how Denise organized and assembled photos to build a photo slideshow and create a movie, and finally, click a link to watch the 4-minute "Caroline Cup Regatta". That's something you just can't do with paper and ink.

    Denise is a big fan of Flickr, the photo-sharing website. I admit, I just can't find my way around it; every time I try to set up a group or photo share I end up creating a photostream of the wrong pictures with a really wrong name. I wish I had read Denise's step-by-step instructions first. I like her idea of using a Flickr group for events, like a wedding, as a way to collect photos from several people to build a photo book later.

    Cemetery researchers will also be delighted to read "The LIving Book of the Dead," detailing how digital publishing tools are being used to develop a guide for the Huguenot Cemetery in St. Augustine, Florida. Digital publication allows a "living document," one that can grow and expand as new research comes to light.

    Many eBooks are a horrible visual experience because the author/publisher fails to consider the vast difference between reading print pages and onscreen images. Happily, Denise Olson knows what she is doing and The Future of Memories is a pleasure to read onscreen. She has taken great care selecting appropriate fonts and designing a clean, crisp layout, and then presents the same design tips for the reader to follow.

    The attractive layout is designed in a horizontal page well-suited for the computer monitor and iPad. Each page can be easily read without scrolling. The type is a simple sans serif font well-suited for screen viewing. Use of color and graphics is attractive without being distracting. Generous white space makes each page comfortable to read.

    Denise's writing style is clear, concise, and friendly; she is a gifted technical teacher who must like her readers! The hyperlinks work as expected, page navigation is intuitive and unobtrusive.

    Overall organization is logical and easy-to-follow. I appreciated the Table of Contents, and didn't miss an Index (Spotlight Search is even better and easier), but I would have liked to use a link roundup at the end of the book. The author gives so many useful site recommendations that I had a little difficulty remembering names to search for them later. I would also like to see a few recommendations for useful photo editing tools, although this may be a topic for another book.

    Anyone who has ever thought of publishing a family history, making a slideshow or movie of family photos, or reproducing a treasured family album will enjoy the ideas and expertise shared by Denise Barrett Olson in The Future of Memories. Highly recommended.

    The Future of Memories: A digital publishing primer for the family historian 84-pages Available at The Moultrie Creek Gazette, delivered in PDF format from Scribd; $2.99.

    Disclosure. I purchased my own copy of The Future of Memories and did not receive any form of compensation for this review.


    More Videos on Personal Archiving 

    If #RootsTech has left you hungry for more video presentations on digitizing personal collections, check out the 2010 Personal Archiving Conference videos available at the Personal Archiving website.

    I viewed the presentation and slides on digitization by Eric Saund from the Palo Alto Research Center. Saund explored the demands of academic and business demands for document processing, but what I found most intriguing was Saund's revelation that he calls himself a "hobbyist" with his own personal family archive, and his conclusion that "the hobby stage brings together kindred spirits" and can drive innovation.

    Over twenty videos are available for viewing on topics including Projects, Tools, Movies, Narratives, and many more.

    The 2011 Personal Digital Archiving Conference will be held at The Internet Archive in San Francisco February 24 and 25. Thanks Bernard Kahle for mentioning this conference during your presentation this morning at RootsTech.