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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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    Tech Tuesday: It's Okay to Play Favorites

    Was your mom like mine, insisting that you include all your siblings or classmates when you played a game or planned a party? Did you secretly long to not invite the class bully with a mean streak as wide as the Mississippi? Take heart! When it comes to creating a first rate photo collection, “It’s Okay to Play Favorites.”

    Recently I attended an Adobe Seminar presented by Photoshop Guru Scott Kelby focusing on how to use Adobe Lightroom2 to optimize photo workflow. I am definitely not a Pro in this field, but Scott demonstrated several easy techniques that are just as useful if you are using Mac iPhoto, Windows Microsoft Picture Viewer, Adobe Photoshop Elements, or Adobe Lightroom2.

    As I thought about establishing a photo workflow, I realized that these same techniques are even useful if you are working with a shoebox of family prints. Any photo collection will benefit from judicious sorting. As a bonus, your family will come to thank you that the slide show features 8 minutes of fabulous photos rather than 29 minutes of marginal memories.

    Professional photographers know that in order to survive they have to master the business end of taking pictures. This means photos cannot languish away on memory chips. They have to be uploaded to a computer, sorted, minimally touched-up, and then presented to a client for selection and (hopefully) purchase. Customers also want to see only The Best, after all that’s why they hired a Pro.

    When the family photographer begins to think like a Professional, it becomes easier to realize that Playing Favorites is not only Okay, it is necessary to building a quality photo collection. Of course, the family historian has other considerations as well. An out-of-focus or poorly framed shot of Aunt Mildred may be the only photograph of her at all. By all means, this one is a Keeper.

    So, your images are in front of you – either in a software program like iPhoto, PS Elements, or Lightroom, or spread out on the dining room table. How do you select The Best?

    First, pull together the “Photo Shoot” or set. This would be the Rehearsal Dinner, the Birthday Party, or your walking tour of Paris. From this set of photos you want to choose the best, which also means dumping the worst. Why waste time and effort with bad photos? Some photo programs tempt you to use Star Ratings, but why? As Scott Kelby notes, do you think you will ever want to look at one or two star photos? Those should be the ones that are out of focus or have heads cut off. Even three star photos? The Star selection system is slow; pros would never earn a living if they spent their time deciding if a photo was worth two stars or three stars. If you think you might want the picture some day, there is a way to keep it without inviting it to the party. Read on.

    Lightroom2 Compare Window
    Select Left or Right as Keepers

    How to Play Favorites with your Photos
    1. Assemble Photo Shoot pictures
    2. Ignore typical Star Ratings; instead quickly select the Best, reject the Worst. Use stars (or flags) to assign one star Keep and five stars Reject. That’s it; two choices. Keep or Reject. (Using stars or flags allows you to create a group which can be easily selected later.)
    3. Can’t decide which of six is the best? Place two similar photos side-by-side (Lightroom2 and PS Elements allow this comparison view.) Choose the best of the two, reject the other. Bring a new photo in to compete with the winner. Audition each photo against the winner. Try to move quickly; don’t let yourself get bogged down in selecting; go with your instinct.
    4. Make a New Collection Set and drag all the Keeps into this set. Label it Rehearsal Dinner. (You could call it Rehearsal Dinner Keeps, if you like).
    5. Now, you have to make one more decision. If you want to get rid of the bad photos, select the Reject group and Delete. If you just can’t throw them away, make a second New Collection Set and drag all the Rejects into this set. Label it clearly Rehearsal Dinner Rejects. There, you saved them, but no one has to look at them ever again if they don’t want to!

    Playing Favorites will eliminate bullies from your photo collection and give you the best and the brightest to work with for your slideshow, album, or web page. You may even gain a reputation as the Family Pro Photograher.

    More Photo Tips and Tech-Tricks next week at Tech Tuesday.


    Tech Tuesday: Tech News the Genealogist Can Use

    Summertime is photo-time and if you are like The Family Curator, your digital camera is staying charged and ready for any photo-op. With longer days and holidays, you might also be thinking tagging and organizing your digital photos or catching up on a family heritage photo scan project. Visit The Family Curator on Tuesdays throughout the month of July, when Tech Tuesday will focus on tips and tech-niques for photo collections, beginning Tuesday July 7 with "It's Okay to Play Favorites" a look at how to winnow a photo collection so that the stars really shine.


    Yankee Savings at the New England Historic Genealogical Society

    The New England Historic Genealogical Society once again sent a team of experts and staff members to the recent Southern California Genealogical Society Jamboree in Burbank and made themselves available for research assistance as well as presenting special sessions on New England topics. Their tables were always lively and crowded; I learned that it is wise to purchase books on the first day as they sold out as the weekend progressed.

    An email from Tom Champoux, Director of Marketing, confirmed NEHGS' popularity. Tom noted that at Jamboree 2009 the team enrolled 53 new members, almost double the typical conference record, but this year's registration for new members topped even that number at 80 new memberships. It looks like a lot of Southern Californians are anxious to research their New England roots.

    If you missed the NEHGS booth or didn't attend Jamboree, you may want to consider a terrific discount offered during the month of July for new memberships. The regular research membership costs $75, but new members can enroll through the end of July for $60 -- a savings of $15. What thrifty Yankee wouldn't like that?

    More information about membership benefits is available at the NEHGS website. If you have New England ancestors or if you just love American history, this society is well worth the price of admission. With more online collections added all the time, membership at NEHGS is on the top of my renewal list.


    Tech Tuesday: Tremendous Tweets

    This past weekend's Jamboree conference was a true showcase for social networking with Twitter and Facebook. Geneabloggers and Thomas MacEntee worked with Jamboree chair Paula Hinkel to set up a Twitter hashtag #scgs09, and twitterings prior to the event suggested that it would be well utilized.

    On arrival, tweeters found that a huge video screen had been set up in the foyer of the conference hall to show a projected image of scrolling tweets bearing the Jamboree tag. I was a bit startled the first time I walked into the room and saw my words rotating over the big screen. It really drove home the point to be careful about what I wrote!

    At each session I attended, and especially the Blogger Summit, attendees were tweeting ideas and responses throughout the program. During the Summit, the panel members as well as the attendees tweeted comments, creating a kind of "discussion within a discussion." Our teachers, probably would have called it "whispering" and rapped our hands, but it served a useful purpose of allowing side-conversations to develop without interrupting the main speaker or topic. Some of these comments also came through Facebook, genearating comments from non-attendees as well. I am sure we will here more about some of those topics in the weeks to come.

    It quickly became obvious that some folks have a gift for listening while typing, and I was one who relinquished the field to Randy Seaver when it became obvious that he was doing an excellent job of tweet-casting play-by-play action from the Blogger Summit.

    What a wonderful tool! I had to leave the Summit early for another appointment, and knew that I could catch up on what I missed by reading Randy's twitter report later. Wouldn't similar interaction be great with other kinds of groups? We saw it working this weekend, and felt that using Twitter and Facebook helped share our Jamboree experience with other bloggers not attending the event.


    Jamboree Thank-Yous

    The Family Curator and Mom Suzanne
    unload Blogger Welcome Bags at SCGS Jamboree 2009

    Before we move too far away from Jamboree 2009, I do want to say a heartfelt "thank you" for the surprise additions to the Blogger Welcome Bags. My email box started pinging when Thomas put out the word that out-of-town bloggers would be receiving a "swag bag" on check-in.

    The initial idea was just to give travelers a bit of fortification for the three-day extravaganza. Mom and I packed bright yellow tote bags with water, fresh fruit (a California orange, of course!), chips, chocolate, fortune cookie, and a welcome note. The Family Curator added a bit of shameless self-promotion in the form of a bright green highlighter pen, and then we had the fun of adding

    Geneabloggers Thomas MacEntee helped coordinate distribution of the Welcome Bags as well as sponsored the Bloggers Summit and organized the First Bloggers Banquet.

    Randy Seaver took on the role of roving reporter, play-by-play newscaster with Twitter feeds, with able assistance from Amy Coffin, Kathryn Doyle, Susan Kitchens, footnoteMaven, Elizabeth O'Neal, and so many many others.

    Thanks everyone (Mom too), for all your help! See you ALL next year!


    Home from Jamboree

    We are home from the three-day Jamboree extravaganza... exhausted but energized. For the second year, my mom came from Arizona to join me for the conference and we had a great time. The So Cal Genealogical Society put on a great conference, and the blogger contingent was enthusiastically represented. The room was never quiet when two or more bloggers were together, and at last-night's blogger dinner, the table covers were soon covered by pedigree charts.

    It was especially fun to meet bloggers from so many different venues -- volunteer, professional, commercial, and personal. Everyone found a common ground in genealogy and family history, and the conversation easily turned to sharing tips and stories.

    In fact, it was so much fun to chat with fellow bloggers, that I had trouble tearing myself away to attend the Jamboree sessions. I am glad I managed to attend several; the presentations and topics were outstanding, including:

    • Writing Your Research Plan, Betty Malesky
    • Writing Your Family History, Lisa Alzo
    • Blogger Summit 2
    • Tracing Ancestors Who Lived in Cities, Arlene Earkle
    • Roots Magic4, Bruce Buzbee
    • Understanding the Probate Process, Jana Broglin
    Randy Seaver at GeneaMusings did a top-notch job as play-by-play broadcaster via Twitter for the Blogger Summit. I think Randy has an unrealized dream to call play-by-play games for the Padres!

    Thomas MacEntee organized a fantastic blogger banquet and was the perfect blogger-host. I had a great evening with table-mates footnoteMaven and Kathryn Doyle, and enjoyed chatting around the room to match faces to names and blogs.

    Throughout the weekend, bloggers Kathryn Doyle, Amy Coffin, and footnoteMaven filled in the details at Facebook and Twitter as well. In fact, I was there when Penny Dreadful and footnoteMaven met face to face for the very first time, and a more touching moment has never been witnessed.

    Of course, a highlight of any conference is the exhibit hall and vendors. I was able to meet Lisa Louise Cooke, host of Genealogy Gems Podcast, who interviewed me for a forthcoming program; the Genealogy Guys, George Morgan and Drew Smith; as well as share a toast to genealogical success with my friends from NEHGS.

    (Almost) too much fun for only three days.


    Welcome to Jamboree, Geneabloggers!

    It's been fun following various Geneabloggers this week as they packed and planned for this weekend's SCGS Jamboree in Burbank. And it has been even more fun following their travels on Twitter. Amy Coffin (We Tree) appears to be driving west from Texas, Kathryn Doyle (California Genealogical Society and Library) is driving south through Ventura, Randy Seaver (GeneaMusings) is coming by train from San Diego, and Thomas MacEntee (GeneaBloggers), footnoteMaven, and so many others are coming by air. We are a far-flung bunch.

    If you can't attend, join the fun by posting blog comments, tweeting, or sending Facebook messages. I'll try to share as much as I can, and am glad to pass on questions or comments.


    Tech Tuesday: Follow Me at Jamboree

    Annual Church Mother-Daughter Breakfast
    Suzanne (center, back) with daughters Denise and Deanna
    (center and center front)
    all in matching striped dresses
    about 1961-62

    The Family Curator is in the thick of preparing for the Southern California Genealogical Society Annual Jamboree to be held this coming weekend, June 26-28 at the Burbank Convention Center. I am looking forward to meeting the 32 or so Geneabloggers slated to attend the event, and also planning to Tweet and blog about the event for those unable to attend.

    Check here for photos, updates, and more throughout the weekend. You can follow me on Twitter by clicking the "Follow Me" link in the left-hand column.

    My mother will be flying in from Tucson, Arizona this week to attend the Jamboree as well. I wonder how many mother/daughter teams will be present? We probably won't be wearing matching dresses as we used to do at the Baptist Church Mother-Daughter Tea, but we will be wearing our nametags and "Welcome to California" grins. If you are a blogger attending the conference, please make sure to say "hello."


    I'm My Own Domain!

    The Family Curator is now blogging at a custom domain: Blogger will redirect bookmarks and searches from the old blogspot domain name, or you can update your browser and blog reader with the new name.

    Thanks for reading and commenting.


    Tech Tuesday: Transcript 2.3.2 Now Supporting Side-by-Side Windows

    Jacob Boerema is the kind of software programmer that users truly appreciate. A few weeks ago, I wrote about Transcript 2.3, his thoughtful tool for transcribing documents, in Tools for Transcribing Documents. Transcript eliminates the need to have both image viewer and word processor windows open when transcribing a document. A host of helpful features make transcriptions faster and easier, from the synchronized scrolling of both image and typed transcript, to the many image enhancing options available.

    I found the program to be well-conceived overall, but added a wistful request for side-by-side windows; my landscape-oriented monitor limited the vertical real estate available for actual viewing and typing.

    When I emailed Jacob Boerema to ask if I had missed such an option, he replied that the program just didn't have that capability at present, but it would go on the "feature request" list. He is obviously very active with Transcript, because I received an email a few days ago notifying me that the a new beta version now supports this feature. Wow! I am impressed. I've never had a quicker response to "I wish. . ."

    Anyone who works with document images can benefit from Transcript's features, and now it is even more custom-rich with side-by-side window support. The newest feature is part of a beta update is 2.3.2 build 77, and can be downloaded at

    It's worth noting that the basic version of Transcript does just about everything most genealogists need and is available as Freeware. The registered version costs only 15 euro (about $20.00) and adds multiple projects, time tracking per project, auto-replacement, auto-correction, plus many more features. I am upgrading to the registered version, as much to support responsive programming as an excellent software program. Thanks, Jacob.


    Tech Tuesday: Book Collector for iPod Touch and iPhone

    Good news for collectors who have asked for mobile access to their collection database -- users of the Collectorz suite will soon be able to view their books, movies, games, music, and/or comic collections on their iPod touch and iPhone. I wrote about the Book Collector application a few weeks ago, Organizing a Book Collection with Book Collector, and have been following company press releases as they prepared and submitted the apps for approval with the Apple iPhone App Store.

    At present, the Movie and Book applications are available at the App Store; Games and Music are currently awaiting approval. Programs will work on both iPhone and iPod Touch and are available for $9.99 each. Users also need the latest Pro version of the Movie Collector or Book Collector. Currently the Windows version is available; the Mac edition is expected by August 2009.

    For Book Collector, while the app is "viewer only," users will be able to search for books already in their collection avoiding duplicate book purchases, manage a book Wish List, and view facts about the book.

    If you purchase a lot of books and can't always remember what is on your shelf, Book Collector and the mobile version could be a very useful tool for genealogy conferences and exhibit halls. Right now, I don't know of other apps that offer both a Windows and Mac database and an iPod Touch/iPhone application. If you know of a similar software situation, please leave a comment; I'd like to hear about it.


    So Very Dreadful

    My dear friend, Penny Dreadful, knows that it's always great fun to take a break from hard evidence and do a bit of daydreaming. Thank you footnoteMaven for providing today's storyline at Shades of the Departed.


    Tech Tuesday: On Deciphering Genealogy Software Citation Templates

    In the spirit of continuing Dialogue... I'd like offer a few comments sparked by Randy's Seaver's recent post at GeneaMusings, "Which census source citation should I use in RootsMagic 4?"

    It's always nice to know you're not alone when faced with frustration or confusion. Like Randy, I sometimes puzzle over which citation template to use (in Legacy 7 , for me). I often spend more time figuring out the appropriate template than in actually inputting the information to my genealogy software program. It's not that I am a total novice at sourcing citations; I taught high schoolers the fine art of MLA style for years. They would probably love to know that NOW, I feel their pain.

    Question of the week: How do you cite photocopies of Henry M. Winsor's military records sent to me by my mom who got them from a cousin, who got them. . . "where???" They look pretty official. Copies in spidery 19th century handwriting enumerating Muster-in and out dates, information about an injury on the "Casualty Sheet." But, what the heck are these? Compiled Service Records? Personal Correspondence? Family Artifacts? Junk Science?

    I know what my students would have done; they would create a citation style ALL THEIR OWN. It would

    1. suit the time available for homework (as little as possible)
    2. use only internet research, no library time or printed books
    3. be based on either what their parents did in 8th grade, or what their 23-year-old brother did for his State Bird Report
    4. be creative in the use of fonts, style, and color
    Some of my favorite renditions included a combination MLA, Chicago, and APA. I particularly enjoyed the blending of numerical notes with parenthetical in-text citations, when presented in magenta ink in 14-point Gothic type.

    I like the comments from Tina and ProGenealogists under Randy's article; they have designed their own RootsMagic templates using EE as a guide. They must be the Smart Kids! My problem is deeper, though. I can't even figure out what form to use from EE. Do you think my students would find out if I made my own template and label it "UFO"?


    Tech Tuesday: Tools for Transcribing Documents


    This week I've been trying out a few different tools for transcribing documents. My trip to NEHGS netted images of more than forty pages of microfilmed probate records, and as I didn't want to spend my time at the library deciphering the 19th century handwriting, I now have enough "home"work to keep me busy for a while.


    Before I could even begin to work with the documents, however, I had to organize the files. The microfilm image software that copied files to my flash drive used sequential numbering which was not helpful in identifying the file. Fortunately, at the advice of another researcher, I did copy the opening image of each roll as I started to work with the films, so I had some basis for my work.

    The machine also recorded TIFF copies which are good for archiving. I found it easiest to rename the files with a useful name and then make JPG copies that I could adjust for brightness and contrast. My transcription also carries the same filename, with a different extension, .doc. This keeps the image and transcriptions together in my file folder.

    To transcribe the documents I first tried the most obvious approach, open Microsoft Word and the image in MS Picture Viewer, adjust window size and get to work. I found that when I needed to adjust brightness or enlarge the document, however, I needed a more robust image viewer. I first tried Adobe Photoshop Elements 7, but quickly became frustrated by the time lag needed to open each image from the Organizer to the Edit window where I could view closer. I then tried Xnview, a freebie program that I turn to often. Using a Windows Explorer style sidebar, I could easily locate my image, magnify and adjust to my heart's content. I could also use Xnview to batch convert the image files from TIFF to JPG. With the image open in Xnview and my working transcription open in a second window with MS Word, I was quickly working through the documents.

    I then compared this setup with Transcript 2.3, a great program from a Dutch software developer. It allows you to work in one window with the image at the top and the transcription below. Transcript can be configured to scroll the image any number of pixels as you type and hit the Enter key in the transcription window. This is clearly a very useful feature, and combine with Transcript's image adjustment capabilities to make it a top transcription program. In fact, the only drawback I could find was that the windows were stacked rather than side-by-side, and this can be a problem on a small or landscape-oriented screen. I searched unsuccessfully for a way to configure the window layout, but in the end resorted to smaller font size so that I could have a larger image view.

    Both methods work well, with Transcript offering many special features appreciated by transcribers. If I had a portrait-oriented monitor I think it would be my first choice, but for now the landscape set-up with Xnview and MS Word are helping me to get the job done with my New England probate records.



    Reviewing Archival Practices with Rebecca Fenning

    Today's column at Shades of the Departed, "Raiders of the Lost Arc[hive]" by archivist Rebecca Fenning, is a wake-up call to all Family Curators. Who ever guessed at the untold, unprocessed treasures hidden in the depths of our favorite repositories? It is both frustrating and depressing to read that hundreds, if not thousands and tens of thousands, of documents are unavailable to researchers for lack of processing.

    This rather sounds like my own "archive" of family papers. When I began organizing my grandmother's letters and miscellaneous papers, I felt the call to do things right. In so doing, I fell into the very archival abyss described by Mark A. Greene and Dennis Meissner in their report, "More Product, Less Paper." As Greene and Meissner describe it, archivists routinely process a collection by item-level handling, whether or not the collection warrants such minute attention. And, just like the good little archivist I longed to be, I foldered and refoldered every item and removed every piece of metal I encountered. And at the end of the summer, I too had only "processed" a fraction of the collection.

    In fact, I should not be suprised. According to Greene and Meissner, an email survey of archivists estimated that it should require 14.8 hours per cubic foot to process 20th century material. I figure that I have a trunk-full of stuff, about 16 cubic feet; so it should take me about 236.8 hours or 29.6 days to organize it. That would be, of course, if I was experienced and knew what I was doing, which I am not.

    And, if those figures aren't depressing enough... compare this to the time archivists actually spent processing similar materials -- "the modal average -- the most frequent value in the range -- was 33 hours per foot." It's no wonder I didn't make much headway.

    While Rebecca's article for Shades is a heads-up for researchers to remember those hidden collections, I think she is also making a point which can help Family Curators work with their own material. We need to think about how we will use a collection, and preserve and process with that goal in mind. This might mean moving forward even if we don't have funds for expensive archival storage boxes, but it also means asking good questions if we donate our collection to a repository such as a library or museum so our treasures aren't forgotten in the back room of an archive.

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