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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: Old-Fashioned Social Networking, It's Commonplace

    One of my favorite internet magazines, Common Place, has just published a special issue dedicated to American literature. Stanza and Kindle readers won't want to miss Max Cavitch on
    "Who Publishes an Early American Book? From Codex to Kindle," only one of several outstanding articles on American literature and publishing.

    Common Place takes its name from the commonplace book, a part of every educated person's schooling in Early Modern Europe. Young scholars used a sheaf of paper or bound book as a place to copy significant passages, essays, poetry, or even letters for reference and sharing. It was the earliest version of social bookmarking!

    "Literature as Evidence: Historians recommend American books" by Eric Slauter will be of special interest to researchers and family historians. Slauter briefly discusses the popularity (or not) of Adam Seybert's 1818 volume, Statistical Annals

    an eight-hundred-page, six-pound volume, printed in the dimensions of a modern metropolitan phone directory, with 175 numeric tables describing population, commerce, and debt—aimed at nothing less than a full representation of the United States in book form.
    When Seybert's Annals failed to be a bestseller (imagine that!), the U.S. government ended up purchasing hundreds of copies. Seybert's work helped establish America's love affair with statistics, numbers, and facts, "what historian Patricia Cline Cohen has called the 'quantitative mentality' of the early United States."

    Family historians and genealogists quickly find that there is more to a life than names, dates, and places. Discovering social context through literature is an exciting way to flesh out our ancestors' stories and bring the past to life. It is affirming to note that Slauter cites historians who have moved past data-only to include literature as evidence of shifts in social attitudes and as documentation of life experiences. This is exactly the kind of social context the family historian attempts to build.


    A Fine Feathered Tale for Friday

    Word on the street is that Miss Penelope Dreadful is preparing another "dreadful" tale for her monthly Weekend With Shades column. Follow Penny Dreadful at Twitter.


    Tech - Tombstone Tuesday: Look What We Found on the Web!

    This week's regular Tech Tuesday column has been pre-empted by Tombstone Tuesday: technology is helping break down walls with connections between Genea-Bloggers and even a virtual tombstone sighting.

    What began as a request for research tips at the New England Historical Genealogical Society, quickly turned into an online research-fest when blogger Midge Frazel, Granite in My Blood, read my research goals. Seems Midge loves a puzzle, and before I was out of bed this morning, Midge was emailing me from New England with all kinds of helpful information, including the possible burial place of my ancestor. It's a case of genealogical kindness of the best kind.

    The small Mathewson Cemetery located off Winsor Avenue in Johnston, RI is reported to have 75 burials, and yes, Midge, that looks like a monument to me too!

    Just in case there are still folks who think that technology isn't worth the bother, I thought it would be instructive to list how technology helped us connect:

    • Sunday morning - While reading the February 2009 Scanfest Archive from AnceStories, I noted that Midge Frazel mentioned doing research at the NEHGS.
    • Contacted Midge via her Facebook page; chatted briefly at Scanfest Sunday 27 March.
    • Monday, Midge and I talked via email and she gave me some good tips for working at "HisGen."
    • Tuesday, Midge finds a Will extract naming my ancestor Henry M. Winsor, at and locates a small Mathewson cemetery in Johnston, RI using GoogleMaps; forwards pdf and jpg image files.
    • I scan and send Midge pdf images of letters to and from the Mathewson family that I received from a Vermont researcher my mother found on a message board.
    Whew! It's not even noon on the West Coast and suddenly the walls are coming down. We've connected through Facebook, CoverItLive, and email; discovered information through database searches and virtual map imagery; and shared information through digital files scanned or copied and sent via email. I can only imagine how long it would have taken B.I. (Before Internet) to accomplish so much. Thanks Midge. This is the best Tombstone Tuesday ever!


    Tech Tuesday: Flashy Flash Drive Apps

    Who would have "thunk" it? SanDisk is now offering mini-applications designed to run directly from a "U3 smart" portable USB Drive. Known by many names -- thumb-drive, flash drive, USB drive, portable drive -- these handy little devices haved saved my skin in many situations. Before our campus IT department opened the network to sharing off-campus computers, I carried my digital life in a tiny 256 mini-cruzer. Now, I can carry 8mb or more and Life is definitely Good.

    While some U3 apps are available for purchase, others are free, including programs to run Evernote, OpenOffice, Firefox, WinAmp, and Skype. I have been running Evernote and like the easy portable access to the program. Hopefully, more developers will develop mini-versions of their programs to run from a USB drive. My wish list includes mini-iTunes and Adobe Reader.

    To install the U3 applications, either 1) plug the USB flash drive into your computer and follow the onscreen instructions to view, select, and download applicationa; or 2) download applications from the SanDisk U3 website.

    Users can also choose to delete the U3 application launcher and use the portable USB drive strictly for portable storage, but as netbooks grow in popularity, but not necessarily hard disk space, mini-applications can expand the device functionality or provide a mobile access to favorite programs.

    What's on your U3 smart drive?


    When it Hurts to be a Cupcake

    Sign of the times in South Pasadena, Calif

    Sent from my BlackBerry® smartphone with SprintSpeed


    9-1-1 for Family Historians

    As a fan of Rebecca Fenning's blog, A Sense of Face, I am delighted to see she will be joining footnoteMaven at Shades of the Departed as part of Weekend With Shades, beginning this Saturday, March 21with her new column Saving Face.

    Rebecca and I have corresponded a bit over various archival issues, and I look forward to reading her answers to the burning questions sure to be asked by Shades readers. Rebecca was a great help with some of my scanning questions for Arline's letters and photographs, so I know that she will be able to address a wide variety of archival situations.

    Join The Family Curator at Shades this Saturday for Rebecca's debut column.


    Tech Tuesday: Help for Genealogy Websites is Here

    Web searches can turn up the most serendipitous surprises! In searching for an online image of a will written by one of my ancestors prior to 1850 -- just another one of the weekly homework assignments for my online genealogy course -- I stumbled upon a well-designed personal genealogy site maintained by Pat Geary. Family Genealogy is much more than the online home to the "Geary, Jewel, Tucker, & Little Families," it is also Pat's pilot project to model elegant web design and offer assistance for other online family historians. She writes,
    Do you need some help with the design and layout of your genealogy site? I am willing to work with you on this project. Why? Because I enjoy doing it and it is my way of "paying it forward" for all of the help I have received. I do this on a volunteer basis so may occasionally have to limit the amount of time I can spend with you.
    Pat also teaches online courses and provides links and resources for genealogy website design at her website, Genealogy Web Creations and at her blog Genealogy Computer Tips & Tutorials. New web design courses will be starting April 5, 2009.

    It is obvious that Pat is a very busy lady, but her spirit of generosity is one that seems to run strong in the genealogy world. I am looking forward to spending more time exploring her web site and tutorials. . . and if I can't find a Winsor Last Will & Testament fairly soon, I may try to adopt Samuel Wood !


    How Did I Miss?: Weirdness in your own backyard

    New England researchers and other lovers of weirdness take note of The New England Anomaly: Weirdness in your own backyard, The Journal of Unusual Folklore, History and Lifestyle in the American Northeast.

    My favorite of the day, Rate a Shack: We risk our guts so you don't have to! I see that this will be a bookmarked site for my next trip to New England. Flo's Clam Shack in Middletown, RI looks promising!

    Current news and events on the New England Anomaly Newsblog includes more recent postings such as "Breaking the leapfrog record in Willimantic" Conn.


    Tech Tuesday: Do You Tweet?

    Twitter is quickly becoming more than a social networking tool for geeks. Last week The Wall Street Journal splashed a full-page article, "How to Twitter: The social rules and tips for gaining 'followers'; why opinionated people win" with accompanying sidebars, "Twitter Glossary" and "Celebrity Tweeting." Looks like Twitter is gaining status everywhere.

    I finally started tweeting after reading Denise Olson's posts at Family Matters about connecting via Twitter. She is a pro at sending out great links and other tech goodness she comes across on the web. It's obvious that Twitter can do much more than just update pals on where you are having lunch -- it's a fast and easy way to keep up on the news and stay connected with your interests. She's even running Twittersuite on her blog to note "Recently Tweeted" and "Favorite Tweets." It's a great way to integrate networking tools.

    Of course, tweeting really shines (crows?) when done from a mobile device. I've been using Twitterberry on my BlackBerry Curve and enjoying tweets presented in a timeline format similar to TwitterFox, a Foxfire add-on. Both support updates, replies, tagging, and personal messaging. Twitterberry works over the data network; SMS not required. It even allows URLs in tweets to be opened with the BlackBerry Browser.

    You can follow me on Twitter as familycurator. tweet tweet!


    A Delightfully Dreadful Experience

    Thank you, footnoteMaven for the opportunity to be a part of the Weekend with Shades series. Penny Dreadful has been having a great deal of fun discovering the stories behind your photographs.

    If you have been following Penny Dreadful on Twitter you know that Miss Dreadful had a frightening experience in the high desert just the other day. Traveling by automobile with her younger (sigh) sister to visit their mother, the two young women were surprised to find the fuel running low on their vehicle. It was a new contraption and the ladies were unaccustomed to its whims, so this was not too much of a surprise in and of itself.

    The lone service station passed some miles back would be most welcome now, but only sage and saguaro dotted the barren landscape ahead. Vehicles were even scarce on this stretch of the road, a less-travelled byroad that cut off many miles from their journey.

    "Don't tell my husband," the younger girl begged. "He will be so angry. And don't tell your family, they will never forgive me if something happens, especially after I jumped out of the car and left you that other time [but, oh, that's another story]."

    What could they do? The wind was whipping the automobile, the land was desolate. . .


    Monthly Melodrama from Penny Dreadful at Shades of the Departed

    Hold on to your hats, dear Readers, The Family Curator, will be writing a new monthly column at Shades of the Departed beginning this weekend, Saturday, March 7 under the nom de plume of her alter ego, Penelope Dreadful.

    Close your eyes and imagine a time when mustachioed villains lurked around every corner. . . when a young girl's fate might be tied to a train track. . . when a handsome young suitor's guileless honesty could lure him away from protecting his beloved. . .

    These will be the days brought to you in living black and white on the pages of Shades and every month. Penelope Dreadful will be burning the midnight oil to bring you what-may-have-been-true stories behind the Fantastic Photographs in the collection of Shades' footnoteMaven. You will laugh, you will cry, you will most certainly groan and be amazed at Penelope's skill in winding a twisting tale of love, suspense, mystery, mayhem, jealousy, suspicion, and all the rest.

    Don't miss the first installment of Penelope Dreadful: The Story Behind the Photograph, "All That He Needed," Saturday, March 7 at Shades of the Departed.


    Tech Tuesday: Audiobooks for Lean Times

    As a long-time audiobook lover I was excited to discover that my public library now offers an extensive selection of digital spoken-word texts free for downloading. I say that I "was" excited. That is, when I discovered that the books are published in a non-iPod compatible format I lost some of my enthusiasm.

    It seems that many libraries used audiobooks in a protected format known as Digital Rights Media (DRM). This is great for authors and publishers, but not so good for users who would like to convert the files from one format to another. The books I want to hear are mostly Windows Media Player (WPM) files with DRM protection. In other words, a user can listen on the computer or on a portable device that supports WPM files, but not on the iPod which accepts only mp3 or mp4 files. This is probably no problem for Mac users running iTunes, but a user looking to use a different player on Windows is left adrift.

    My reasons to break free from iTunes are fairly simple: I would like to avoid filling up my new netbook mini-hard drive with such a large program, and I would like to manage my audiobooks on the road.

    Ever in search of a workaround, I trawled the web looking for a solution. It seems that the only choice is to convert the files to mp3/mp4 (legally questionable) and then upload these files to the iPod. Some programs claim to upload directly, but I couldn't make this feature work on my iPod Touch. I downloaded several different trial programs to my old laptop and took them for a test drive. None were able to upload directly to the iPod without iTunes.

    Once again Mac and Windows don't play together nicely. But I've decided I'm not giving up on the library and all those wonderful free books; I'll just play by their rules. I will be syncing my iPod with iTunes for music, and going to sleep at my desk with the latest mystery thriller.

    If you know of a solution to this dilemma, I do hope you will share it with us.


    Tech Tuesday: Organizing Data with CensusMate

    Yesterday, I mentioned my quest for Arline's great-grandfather Henry M. Winsor. I could easily find the Union veteran after 1850, but I could not find Henry's home in the years before the 1850 census.

    Then I found CensusMate, a handy census utility by John L. Haynes that stacks data in a grid for easier analysis. Instead of the typical individual census extracts, Mr. Haynes proposes a timeline arrangement for data from pre-1850 censuses. Males are placed on one line, with females listed below using the same age brackets. This allows the researcher to follow a given individual from decade to decade and to see patterns within family groups.

    In addition to free census forms, Mr. Haynes also provides careful examples with explanatory notes. His sample family provides an understandable key for using the forms in your own research.

    I applied Mr. Haynes principles to my study of Henry Winsor using the family of Henry's guardian as my subject. Would Henry fit into this family grouping?

    The example shows that in 1820 (before Henry was born) the Dyer family included 2 boys and 1 girl 0-9, 2 boys and 2 girls 19-15, 2 boys and 1 girl 16-25, 1 male over 45, and 1 female 26-44.

    In 1830, when Henry was 9 years old, but one year before Edward Dyer was appointed his guardian, the Dyer family could account for the children in the 1820 census PLUS 2 boys and 1 girl 10-19, and 1 girl 5-9, as well as older adult children.

    In 1840, the same pattern appears. The Dyer family suddenly includes 1 boy 10-14 and 2 boys 15-19. These children do not appear in the corresponding age brackets for the 1830 census.

    My ancestor, Henry M. was 9 years old in 1830 and does not appear in Edward Dyer's household. Perhaps he was living with a relative or neighbor until the court order of 1831 appointed Dyer as Henry's legal guardian. In 1840, Henry could have been one of the two 15-19 year olds listed in Dyer's household. Where did the other boys come from?

    I wonder if Edward Dyer had the social and financial standing to act as a guardian or foster parents for other children. In 1820 the Dyers had 3 children age 0-9; in 1830 these 3 children should have fallen into the 10-19 age bracket; however, this age group shows a total of 6 children. Again, in 1830 the Dyers had 1 child under 9; in 1840 they had 4 children 10-19. It looks like the Dyers were taking in the children of relatives or others in the community.

    John Haynes CensusMate forms makes such relationships much more clear. Additional forms assist the researcher in determining birth or death years by using the stacked census data and the linear timeline.

    By using CensusMate, I discovered a new avenue of research: the Edward Dyer family. A brief Google search shows numerous hits; the Dyers seem to be a well-established Vermont family. Perhaps further research will lead to information about their children and household, and maybe even my elusive ancestor, Henry M. Winsor. Thank you, Mr. Haynes. CensusMate is a GEM!


    Where's Henry M.?

    We have a problem. Arline's great-grandfather, Henry M. Winsor was orphaned in 1827. After 1850 I know that he joined the Union Army, mustered out, and relocated his family to Kansas. Where was he living between 1827 and 1850?

    I found 29 year old Henry and his growing family in the 1850 census living in Rutland County, Vermont. At that time, his oldest child was 6-year old Martin. Henry and wife Fanny were probably married at least one-year prior to Martin's birth; they were likely still single in 1840. I was unable to find an indexed census record for Henry in 1840.

    According to Rutland County probate extracts, however, on 7 Sept 1831 Edward Dyer was appointed as the legal guardian of Henry Windsor, age 10. The 1840 census lists two Edward Dyer households: Edward S. Dyer and Edward Dyer in Rutland, Rutland County. Both were possibilities. Edward S., probably a son of Edward Dyer, and a female, probably his wife, were listed as age 20-29 with one male in their home age 15-19 and another male age 20-29. This 19 year old could be Henry. Nearby, the elder Edward Dyer, age 60-69, lived with a female, probably his wife, age 50-59 and 2 males 15-19. The household also included 1 male age 10-14, 1 male 20-29, 1 female 15-19, and 1 female 20-29. The 19 year old male in this house could also be Henry.

    I then looked at data from the 1830 and 1820 censuses to discover if a male in the correct age range was living in the Dyer household in those years. Instead of a 9-year-old male in 1830, I found extra children in other age brackets. These children did not appear in 1820; they seemed to come out of nowhere, and I was having a hard time keeping the data straight with the traditional census extract forms.

    The internet to the rescue. On Tech Tuesday this week, I will share the census tools I found that helped me unscramble my data and develop a game plan for a new line of research. I don't know if I found Henry, but I have a few more ideas of where to look. See you then!


    Tech Tuesday: Notetaking and Blogging with ScribeFire


    This week I have been using the ScribeFire Firefox plug-in for notetaking and blogging. I have been searching for a stand-alone application that I could use offline on my laptop, so I first bypassed ScribeFire. It kept popping up in searches and reviews, however, so I went back for a second look.


    ScribeFire comes in two versions -- ScribeFire Notes, initially designed for enGadget whose editors wanted "a tool just for taking notes and text-editing." Notes uses the ScribeFire base without the blog-specific features. The full ScribeFire Blog Editor adds several features including direct blog posting. I first tried the Notes version and liked it so much that I moved up to the Blog Editor.

    ScribeFire is very intuitive -- a top requirement on my list. The note window closely resembles the Blogger interface and I had no trouble figuring out how to create a new note, format text, and insert links and images. ScribeFire supports several blogging services and platforms includes WordPress, MovableType, and Blogger. It also offers a blog advertising program that I have not investigated.

    The overall note taking interface is different from Evernote and Springnote in that the note titles are listed in tabs along the top of the note window and in a list window on the right. It does not use a tree-format. The window itself is accessed by clicking on an always-present icon in the bottom bar of the Firefox window. A new note taking window pulls up from the bottom of the browser leaving the currently open page in view. I like the easy accessability and obvious commands. Each of the three programs offers something different: collaboration, bookmarking, and sharing with Evernote and Springnote, and a free note-taking and blogging app with ScribeFire.



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