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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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    Monday
    Feb182013

    Keeping Cozy in the Cotswolds

     

    Snowy Cotswold country road.

    If you're a fan of English "cozies" you probably know about the Cotswolds. They are the picture perfect little towns in the rolling English countryside where evil hides in plain sight and only Miss Marple is sharp enough to spot the culprit. But I digress. . .

     

    Approaching Burford

    The Cotswolds in winter can be c-o-l-d.

    We drove across the hills through Bibury and then to Burford, a little village Mr. Curator and I visited several years ago with a London Walks tour. These guided tours are a fabulous way to see the sights without being tied to a formal long-term tour. Of course, we visited on a warm and sunny day in June, not a snowy winter February afternoon.

    Our tour that day stopped in the picturesque village of Burford where we visited a tiny stone church and walked around crooked gravestones. As we left the churchyard and walked along the lane I tripped on the cobblestones and my camera went skidding across the bumpy road. That was the end of my trusty Kodak and my pictures for that trip.

    This time, we barely slowed down as we drove through Burford. I saw the same quaint shops and the church steeple peeking over the wall from it's hidden location set back from the main street. Everything was quiet and still on this sleepy, and snowy weekday morning. 

    As we drove back to our hotel near Tetford the snow flurries faded and then stopped and the lightly dusted fields gave way to green hills dotted with grazing sheep and occasional patches of the first signs of spring in blooming snowdrops.

     

    Look closely toward the far field and you'll see the sheep grazing in the hills.

    This lovely garden and blooming snowdrops were right outside my room.

    Sunday
    Feb172013

    Stained Glass, Stone Coffins and Blind Corners

    Where Do You Think I Am?

     

    Malmesbury Abbey

    I can't hear the bells of Westminster Abbey from my room, but I do hear the local Ding Ding Church as my grandson calls St. Luke's only a few blocks away. I am here in London for next week's big genealogy show, Who Do You Think You Are LIVE, billed as "The Biggest Family History Event in the World." Lucky me, I also have a chance to visit with my son and family who live in London, not far from Olympia where WDYTYA LIVE will be held.

    And. . . we've had a chance to do a little greater London sightseeing. I arrived with plenty of time to get over jet-lag, and join the family on a trip to the Cotswolds west of London. If you've seen "The Hobbit" film or read Tolkien's Lord of the Rings, you've had a wonderful introduciton to the Cotswolds. When Tolkien and C.S. Lewis were friends and fellow instructors (dons) at Oxford, they belonged to a group of literary friends called the Inklings. Their wonderful fantasy worlds grew out of their friendship, and in some ways, both men gave the Cotswold countryside a place in their tales.

    It's a beautiful landscape of rolling hills, narrow roads borded by close hedgerows, and fields dotted with woolly sheep. It was the Shire for Tolkien, the English countryside that was being threatened by world events larger than anyone knew at the time.

    Tucked in among the stone farm houses and villages are old castles, churches, and ruins. In midwinter, many of the sites are closed, but with a talkative three-and-a-half year old who wanted to see knights and castles, we were motivated to find something that might inspire and impress. We didn't have to look far.

    Malmesbury Abbey, dating from the 12th century, was the center of life in Malmesbury, thought to be the first capital of England and home of the first King of England, Athelstan.

      

    Note the huge reflective mirrow in the corner to give drivers a view of what's coming their way.

    We arrived at the Abbey by winding through narrow cobbled streets and blind corners on a grey midweek afternoon. Snow flurries made us walk quickly through the churchyard, but I did notice the stone coffin outside the beautiful carved Norman porch. Evidenty, the coffin had been excavated when a car park was renovated (sound familiar?) and placed at the front of the church. The helpful docent inside the church explained that the holes in the coffin were indeed drainage holes, left to help remove bodily fluids from the stone tomb. I had another theory, but will have to do more research on the subject.

     

    The tomb of King Athelstan, crowned King of Wessex in 925, stands in the north aisle of the Abbey. It's really only a memorial, however, as his remains were buried under a church tower, and the location is now lost. (Sounds a bit like the Richard III story, doesn't it?) Beautiful stained glass windows are espeically noticable. The windows from William Morris' shop made in 1901, are saturated with color and fabulous examples of early 20th century style.

     

    Luce Memorial Window, crafted in William Morris' workshops 1901

    Outside, we braved the snow flurries to stand and look up at the abbey walls and ruins where a great spire once stood higher than that of Salisbury Cathedral. I may not have ancestors buried in the churchyard at Malmesbury Abbey, but it was a very worthwhile afternoon.

     

     Malmesbury Abbey Churchyard

     

    Thursday
    Feb142013

    Join Me for a Chat with The Armchair Genealogist About Writing and Publishing 

     

    This week I'm honored to join Lynn Palermo during the Family History Writing Challenge for an interview at The Armchair Chair Genealogist about writing my new book How to Archive Family Keepsakes. I think Lynn must have been looking over my shoulder because she was on target with some great questions, from motivational tricks to working with a publisher.

    It isn't always easy to maintain focus and enthusiasm during a long writing project -- or even a month-long writing challenge! -- but you can do it! I hope you will join join us today at The Armchair Genealogist for another chat about the writing life, and peek inside my office in yesterday's post (the tidiness may not last long!)

     

    Wednesday
    Feb132013

    Peek Inside My Office and Chat at The Armchair Genealogist

    It's nearly the midway point in the Family History Writing Challenge, and if you're like me, it can be hard to maintain focus on a writing project about halfway through. I get excited about starting and ending a project, but many times, the middle can be a bit of slog and I have to pull all kinds of tricks to keep working. 

    Last month, during the blog book tour for How to Archive Family Keepsakes, Lynn and I talked about the book's focus on organization as a first-step toward becoming a more effective researcher and family history writer in A Coffee, A Comfy Chair, and a Q&A with the Author. On Thursday, 14 February, we continue the conversation at The Armchair Genealogist to talk about the writing, publishing, and marketing aspect of authorship. In these days of e-books, blogs, and self-publishing, it's not enough to simply write a book; authors have to be ready to take on many roles to get the word out about their work.

    Lynn's questions made me feel so "professional" that I was motivated to clean up my desk and snap a few pictures. My office doesn't always look this tidy, but I sure do feel more in control when it's like this.

    DML office

     

    DML desk

    Sometimes, a mid-project "tidy up" is all it takes to help me get over the slump and back to work. Other times I have to employ other tricks, like playing games with word counts or promising myself a special coffee treat. Whatever it takes, it's worth it if it can keep me moving and avoid the dreaded "writer's block."

    You might notice in the photos that my desk faces a wall in my office. I've thought about hanging a gallery of photos around the bulletin board, but I know it would probably tempt me to drift off into who-knows-where so I keep putting off that little decorating project. There is a wall of windows at my back, which isn't great for glare, but the trees outside the window and sheer curtains and blinds keep it pleasant. I don't work with music or tv, in fact I work best when it's pretty quiet and find that neighborhood noise is an unwelcome distraction. My office is quite small, about 9 x 12, but just right as a cozy niche for a day with words.

    I hope you'll join us this week at The Armchair Genealogist as we talk about writing, publishing, and marketing a family history book. I've got an extra chair in my office too!

    Friday
    Feb082013

    Ready to Get Started Organizing Your Family Keepsakes?

    Did the blog book tour leave you motivated to organize and digitize your family photos, documents, and letters? When I inherited my grandmother's treasures in 2000, I didn't know where to begin. I spent a lot of time just looking at stuff, reading letters, examining old photos, and trying to make sense of what I had. 

    If you're reading my book How to Archive Family Keepsakes, I suggest you use the book as a workbook to guide you step-by-step from taking stock to sorting and preserving. The 10 Checkpoints in chapters 1 through 5 are designed a worksheets to help you gain control of the project without being overwhelmed. 

    Just "looking at things" isn't a bad way to start a family archive project. You need to know what you have before you can do much of anything. The trick is, you want to MAINTAIN ORDER at all times (yes, that's a firm directive). By keeping "like with like" you help retain context that can provide clues to identification and meaning.

    Always work with clean hands on a sturdy clean surface. White cotton gloves are sometimes recommended, but they can be clumsy and actually cause damage too. It may be easier, and less risky to carefully handle paper and photos by the edges with clean hands. 

    Order in the Archive

    The original owner is the first level of organization important to maintain. For many years, I was only concerned with my maternal grandmother Arline's collection. Then, my father started sending over things from his parents, bit by bit. They didn't arrive in boxes, but as individual items, and were easily misplaced or mixed in with Arline's albums and boxes.

    Keep each collection separated by original owner or family.

    Keep items that arrive in groups or packets together, even if they are all different kinds of things such as photos, ticket stubs, or letters. Ask yourself why they were kept at all, and why they might be in this particular group?

    Maybe the assorted items are souvenirs of a weekend getaway, or mementoes from a relationship. The answer might not even be obvious for a long time. You can move things into archival envelopes and boxes when the time comes, but when you are just beginning to work with a collection, resist the urge to reorganize. 

    Get to know your family history treasures, but keep order in the archive.

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