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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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    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.




    Dow Jones: "Some days, it's up, some days, it's down"

    Quilters have always used their art to reflect the culture and politics of their times. The names of quilt blocks and whole quilts speak for the times -- Burgoyne Surrounded, Rocky Road to California, and Log Cabin. This last design became especially popular in the 19th century because of its symbolic associations with President Abraham Lincoln.

    Now we even have a new quilt design for OUR times, as uncertain as they may be. The Dow Jones Quilt, designed by Miss Rosie's Quilt Company speaks to economy, uncertainty, and whimsy. The pattern for this quilt requires 61 charm squares for the basic pattern. For non-quilters, a charm square is a 5 x 5-inch square of fabric commonly packaged to spotlight a new line of fabrics. A fabric designer usually designs an entire line of 20 to 40 different complementary fabrics in different color-ways. The "charm pack" consists of one "charm square" of each fabric, providing an economical way for the quilter (or fabric "collector") to acquire a sample of the entire collection.

    Charm packs and patterns have become increasingly popular as the price of quilt fabric has risen in the past few years to about $9.95/yard (at my Southern California quilt shops).

    Dow Jones makes good use of charm squares in a graphic image of the stock exchange graph. If I make this quilt, I think I will leave the market moving in an upward trend. It doesn't hurt to hope!


    Tech Tuesday: A Student Wish List for Online Learning

    You can take the teacher out of the classroom, but it's hard to keep a teacher from learning. Now that I am not teaching high schoolers, I have more time for my own educational pursuits, and the internet is bringing the classroom to me. At least it was, until our Southern California rain cut off phone and internet service. Unfortunately, the days I had set aside to complete the first lesson for my online genealogy course were spent organizing papers and filing. That ugly task is nearly finished, DSL is restored, and the sun is peeking through the rainclouds.

    This semester I am enrolled at Monterey Peninsula College's distance learning program for a course in intermediate genealogy . I completed the first course this Fall, an introduction to basic genealogy and research. Now, we are moving back farther in time to research a family who lived 1820-1900. This class promises to be as challenging and rewarding as the first, and I am already excited about the material we will be learning.

    Although I used classroom web pages for my students, this is the first time that I have been the student myself. The experience has given me new insights into some of the challenges of distance learning, and I have come up with a Student Wish List for Online Learning. These goals would apply not only to a full online course, but also to any kind of instructional materials presented online.

    A Student Wish List for Online Learning

    1. Easy Login/Signup Instructions -- Why is this information often buried in lines and lines of text? Make it clear and obvious. See Google (or most any successful website) for an example.
    2. Easy to Understand Structure -- Students are accustomed to understanding course assignments in a certain form in the same way that cooks are accustomed to finding a list of ingredients followed by directions in a recipe. Typically, a professor hands out a Syllabus or Reading List broken into weekly assignments. This didn't change much from my undergrad days in the 1970s to my grad school classes in 2000. Now, more assignments are on the web, but they are still listed in a weekly format. Occasionally, a professor will break these into a group or unit of study, but the best syllabi offer clear, concise language. A student should not have to search for the link to the online reading for Week 2. Build the link right into the assignment line.
    3. One-Stop Shopping -- Assignments listed and linked in one place. Less confusion.
    4. Interactive Learning -- Those who don't like distance learning cite its "impersonal" structure. They must never have been a part of an active course. As both teacher and student, I have used online discussion boards and list-servs to foster interaction. More learning came out of those sessions at times, then a weeks' worth of face-to-face classes. If students seem reluctant, require a set number of postings. They soon forget the requirement and join in the discussion.
    5. Faculty Office Hours -- Instructors, be available to your students, either by email, chat room, or phone. It doesn't need to be 24/7, but regular feedback is vital to success.
    6. Rewarding Success -- Learners miss hearing "good work" or "interesting comment" from classmates and teachers when the only interaction is submitting papers and seeing a grade on the screen. Many online students are taking courses for enrichment, they truly want to know if they are moving in the right direction. Be generous with your comments.
    7. Realistic Deadlines -- It is easy to get sidetracked when you are attending school online. After all, you can go to class in your pajamas at 5 a.m.! I do so appreciate deadlines that are set with sensitivity to major holidays and with reasonable time between assignments.
    8. Resources For Further Study -- I love links and resources for more information. I don't always have time to read everything, but I do save those resources and often go back to them for additional ideas.
    9. Professionalism -- Students appreciate a professional instructor who guides forums to minimize off-topic chat, gossip, or commentary. Set rules and enforce them. Most students will appreciate your efforts.
    10. Patience -- If I don't understand a topic, or how to access information, be patient with my efforts. I will keep trying with your encouragement.

    I am appreciating the great effort that goes into a well-designed online course. If you can add to the list, share your own wishes and thoughts in the comments.
    This article was written in springnote.


    Internet Down? Read a Book!

    This past weekend I have enjoyed reconnecting with my ancestors' pre-bandwidth lives. Our DSL internet lines went down first. . . email came through and then an annoying message from Outlook Explorer "searching... searching... searching." Finally, it became obvious that this was a serious problem.

    When I called the telephone company, they suggested working on the phone lines first; "don't you notice the poor connection?" And I was so focused on the internet, that I was ignoring the snap, crackle, pop of the phone wires. Sure, fix the phone lines.

    Then, they were dead too.


    More silence.

    It was raining in Southern California (don't believe what you hear in songs) and our wires were FRIED! The repairman could not come for two days.

    So, I organized my genealogy papers, cleaned up my desk, and finally curled up in front of the fireplace with a book. Afternoons with Emily became "evenings" and I managed to spend a wonderful weekend enjoying my cozy home with a book. Haven't done that in a while!

    When the repairman arrived, to nod his approval at Mr. Curator's "fixes," our phone and DSL service was revived. Alas, the novel is too good to put down.


    Tech Tuesday: Sometimes, Low-Tech is Just Fine

    Okay, we all love the bells and whistles, the slick new gear, the cutting-edge idea . . . but, sometimes Low-Tech is just fine. This past weekend, I was reminded of the old Boy Scout maxim, KISS (Keep It Simple, Silly) when my 20-something son, Christian, was visibly excited by a gift of 3x5 cards.

    Christian dropped in for dinner this weekend and we gave him the Levenger Note Card Action Board along with an extra set of ToDo Cards. The response overwhelmingly positive.

    Mr. Curator first spotted the Levenger 3x5 system for organizing ideas using the Note Card Action Board and ordered it for our son, a first-class list-maker, an Eagle Scout of List Makers. The Note Card Action Board speaks his language.

    Christian loves to make lists on scraps of paper in his Germanic-precise handwriting. The kitchen island of his lovely new home is covered with carefully scribed lists. The Levenger Note Card Action Board serves as a launch pad for such lists; and with the included 3x5 notecards (or any 3x5 index card) Christian can add as many lists as he likes. With a bit of organizing, they can even be divided into categories such as for his various projects: Back Yard Landscape, Lowe's Shopping, Places to Visit When We Go to Germany. . .

    I use 3x5 cards often for quick lists. They are convenient and inexpensive. Years ago, when I was a young mother of two boys looking for divine inspiration to organize the chaos of our life, I remember stumbling across a woman whose business motto was "we change lives with 3x5s." The jingle always stuck by me, even though I have long since abandoned the idea of scheduling every vacuuming and ironing date on a 3x5 note card.

    The idea of using 3x5 cards has been taken to its elegant and sophisticated peak with the Levenger Company, an online source of reader and writer tools. Levenger has captured the essential easy and "cool" factor of 3x5 cards, and brought this to new limits. They offer personalized cards, launch pads, and accessories. I find that combining their products with the affordable office supply pack of notecards offers a reasonable and effective system for keeping track of things to do, projects, and "notes to self."

    Sometimes, paper and pencil are all that is needed to stay on top of a task. In the midst of bandwidth, and gigabytes, and wonderful new apps, sometimes I have to remind myself to Keep It Simple, Silly! It's just a grocery list, for goodness sake!


    Cheap! Family Memories For Sale

    While searching for letterpress printing equipment (my other vice) this week on eBay I stumbled upon an auction for a bundle of family letters. Over one hundred letters from a young man at college in the 1930's written home to Mom. Letters asking about laundry, mending, and even breaking the news of his engagement. Photos enclosed. Sold for ephemera value, marketed to scrapbookers and paper artists.

    I was heartbroken to see such memories for sale and attempted to purchase the lot, just so I could try to return them to the family. Alas, I was outbid in the final seconds... the winner paying less than $40.00 for such a treasure. I am haunted by the thought that I should have been willing to pay more, but consoled by the hope that maybe the bundle was purchased by a like-minded family-history lover who will do the same. Were you the highest bidder?


    Tech Tuesday: "Share Your Where" with Blip for Blackberry

    Blackberry users might feel a bit jealous of all the cool tools for the iPhone, but some applications are still exclusively Blackberry, including the GPS tracking program, Blip by BlackLine GPS.

    I have been using Blip since last summer, mostly to find out if Mr. Curator has left work for home so that I can put the tuna casserole in the oven. This FREE application runs on GPS enabled Blackberry mobile phones. Activated on the phone, it works as a mini-tracking device. Go to Blip, and any shared phones are listed. Select the phone you want to view, and choose "Map Last Location." In a few seconds, a Google Map of the area appears identifying the selected user.

    Now, it's obvious that Blip would be great for a bit of detective work if you wanted to follow someone's movements, but tracking can be turned off any time by the user. Do I really want Mr. Curator to know that I am at the quilt shop again? When I tell friends about the program, their reactions mostly run to "cool, but not on my phone." Some think it is just a bit too Big Brother-ish. I think it is useful, however, especially if you are travelling in an unfamiliar area or alone. I first activated Blip on my Blackberry last summer when we were in New England and I planned to spend a day on the backroads by myself doing a bit of family history research. You can be sure I showed my husband how it worked, just in case my car went off the road and into a ditch.

    Blip is a step-brother application to Blackline's portable tracking device, Snitch GPS. The palm-size Snitch, and it's counterpart Loner, act much like an auto LoJack anti-theft device. The difference is portability. GPS Snitch protects your auto, RV, truck, or other vehicle. If activated by a break-in it will silently notify you via email and initiate GPS tracking that you can follow on the Snitch Website. Loner GPS works in much the same way, but is designed to act as an emergency safety device for employees working alone in the field. The device is worn by the person and activated by motion-sensor technology. Way cool. Both are available from Blackline.

    I am playing around with using Blip to record tracking information that I can transfer to a saved Google Earth map. This would be a convenient way to mark gravesites or residences with GPS coordinates.


    Quilting and Family History: Report from Road, Honoring Eleanor Burns

    The Family Curator meets with Eleanor Burns at
    Road to California Quilt Show in Ontario, California

    The Road to California Quilt Show is wonderful again this year. My first order of business was to visit one of my favorite booths, Beyond the Reef Patterns, and find the fabric to finish a baby quilt for nephew Ryan and his wife, Jordana. Baby Rojo (as they call her) is due soon, so I have to get busy. Natalie loved the quilt top made with their island-style fabrics and has already posted a picture of me with the quilt top on the shop blog.

    Then it was on to the floor of the convention center to view the quilt exhibits, talk to friends, and shop with the hundreds of vendors.

    Among my favorites are the historical and reproduction fabric and pattern lines. I am continually amazed at the beautiful reproduction fabrics designed by Judie Rothermel at Schoolhouse Quilts and by Froncie Quinn at Hoopla. Both design fabric lines from textiles at New England museums so that today's quilters can use authentic period colors and designs in new interpretations of antique quilts.

    One of my last stops at the end of a very long day was at Eleanor Burns' Quilt in a Day booth. Most quilters have heard of Eleanor, even if they didn't learn to quilt by her methods. I learned how to quilt from her! With a book on the table, I was able to design, cut, sew, and actually finish my first quilt. In fact, the pattern I am using for Baby Rojo is the same one I used for that first quilt and is still one of my favorites.

    Eleanor revolutionized the world of quilting with her first book in 1978, Make a Quilt in a Day Log Cabin. Her theme seems to be "you can do it." She helped people find success in quilting by rewriting patterns in plain language and streamlining construction techniques for modern equipment. And, everything was always done with a smile and a laugh.

    She has written quilt patterns and books featuring designs from the Civil War through the mid-20th century. Each book includes notes about the culture of the times and serve as a helpful memory-jogger for working with the period.

    Her latest book, Victory Quilts, is a treasure-trove for history-buffs and filled with stories about World War II and the 1940's. Anyone interested in making a special family memory quilt would enjoy the sampler patterns and Eleanor's conversational writing.

    Eleanor has been honored by many quilt guilds and associations for her contributions to the craft, and I think quilting family historians would also acknowledge her efforts to make history personal and more meaningful. I don't know if she compiles pedigrees or researches her family history, but for her contributions to family history and culture, I name Eleanor Burns to be an Honorary Family Historian.

    Is there someone in your sphere of interest whose work enriches that of genealogists and family history researchers? Perhaps they deserve to be an Honorary Family Historian too. If you write about them on your blog, post a comment here and I will round up the list for easy viewing.

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