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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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    Wednesday
    Sep032008

    LibraryThing and Shelfari Become Awkward Step-Siblings

    If you love books -- and what genealogist doesn't? -- you have probably heard of latest blended family in the booklovers' social networking community. Last week, Amazon.com acquired 100% ownership of Shelfari, the upstart rival to LibraryThing. Both sites are aim to provide an online meeting place for book lovers: LibraryThing has been around since May 2006 and was created by Tim Spalding who holds the majority interest; Shelfari hit the net in October 2006 with Amazon investing in the company in February 2007, and completing a total buyout August 2008.

    And this is where things get interesting. LibraryThing is fiercely independent and somewhat resentful (to put it mildly) of what Spalding calls Shelfari's cloning of LibraryThing. In a recent blog post, Spalding notes that when Amazon acquires Abebooks, as it recently announced, the mega-bookseller will hold 40% ownership in LibraryThing and 100% ownership in its competitor. Doesn't that constitute a monopoly, or is that just "business"?

    What's this all mean for genealogy and family history booklovers? I wonder. . . I have been planning to catalog my library on LibraryThing, but will it go away? Which site will have the most genealogy users? The time required to catalog at either site could be extensive, is the independent LibraryThing in jeopardy?

    Fellow genealogists -- what is your take on this? Are you a user of either book site? It seems that there are more genealogy groups on LibraryThing, but they don't appear very active. If you are a member of either site, please ring in with your comments. I suppose the alternative may be to use both LibraryThing and Shelfari!

    Thursday
    Aug282008

    It's Back to School Time -- Tell a Teacher "Thank You" Today

    Last night about dinner time I received an unusual phone call. It was the parent of a student I taught last fall. Alexxa graduated and had just attended her first day of college classes. The phone call was from her mother -- also a teacher -- who wanted to pass on a nice word from her daughter.

    It seemed that on the first day of college freshman English the instructor terrorized the class with tales of MLA citation-mania. My former student had called to tell her parents about her classes and said that she wasn't worried about English because she had been so well prepared with my citation-hammering in English last year. She said something about the teachers that seemed so tough were actually the ones that taught her the most. Whaddoyouknowaboutthat?

    Sometimes I thought I was preaching to the wind about good old MLA. I love citing sources.... "pretend it's a game," I said. "Pretend it's a code that you have to decipher. Pretend it's a puzzle to solve. It's easy, just follow the rules." But, many of them just couldn't be bothered. It was easier for them to triple space, number entries, and create their own unique citation style every time.

    Thank you, Alexxa. You make it all worth while. Encourage your student to let their teachers know how they made a difference. It could just be the one thing that keeps them going this year.

    Wednesday
    Aug272008

    The Magic Cupboard


    Lately I am feeling a lot like Peter and Susan in C.S. Lewis's classic, The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe. It seems that every time I go to my living room photo cabinet, I find a new treasure. Just before leaving on our trip to New England I discovered another stash of photo negatives from my grandmother's trunk. I must have tucked them away out of the light when I first unpacked the boxes and then forgotten about them.

    Last night I discovered more negatives and another treasure. Nearly 20 years ago we took a trip to Montana for a Boy Scout campout on a local member's private riverside ranch. It was a fabulous week and after the camp we headed west through Missoula towards Spokane and Coeur d'Alene where we have relatives. The countryside was beautiful, green, hot.

    Just outside Couer d'Alene we spotted a country fair and pulled over. The boys weren't too thrilled, but we trooped around for a few hours and spotted a booth where two beautiful quilts were on display among the crafts and homemade goodies. One was a double-bed size in the Delectable Mountain pattern, the other was hand-embroidered flower blocks assembled into a twin size quilt. Both were pink and white, not exactly colors much used in my house with two boys. The women had only the two quilts for sale, and the price was pretty stiff for our budget, although now it would be a ridiculous bargain. I was surprised that the two women running the booth were actually selling the beautiful quilts. Evidently it was a mother-daughter team and the older woman shrugged off my surprise, "They were 'extras'," she said.

    My own few sorry attempts at quilting had taught me that it was truly a labor of love and skill. Both quilts were completely hand-quilted and had that lovely soft hand that comes from cotton throughout. As my ever-indulgent husband pulled out his wallet, I asked the maker if she would make a label with her name and the date for the quilts, and although she modestly refused at first, eventually she agreed to take my address and send me the labels.

    Now, I know those labels arrived in good time, I remember seeing them sometime, but I have not been able to find them since. I started quilting in 2000 and have often looked at those two spreads with a greater appreciation of the work and skill that went into them. What a surprise to find that envelope with the labels tucked inside a packet of photos from about the same time.


    The quiltmaker carefully embroidered her name and the year she made the quilts on each tag. One bears the inscription "Louis Nixon, 1943-1954." This is the Delectable Mountain Quilt, as I recall that she said she had made it some years previously. I have never heard of the pattern referred to by this name and am unsure of the meaning of the words. A quick search on Google has turned up a few entries in Find a Grave and links to a actor in Band of Brothers for "Louis Nixon." My best guess is that the quilt might have been made for a person by this name, or the block setting was known locally by the name. Meanwhile, I have a bit of careful cleaning to attend to on the larger quilt and then a bit of hand sewing to finally place those labels where they belong.

    Sources:

    Boicourt, Alice L. Quilt dated 1943-1954. Privately held by Denise Levenick [address for private use,] Pasadena, California, 2008, purchased from the quiltmaker in 1979.

    Boicourt, Alice L. Quilt dated October 1979. Privately held by Denise Levenick [address for private use,] Pasadena, California, 2008, purchased from the quiltmaker in 1979.

    "Louis Nixon." Blockbase: The CD Version of Barbara Brackman's Encyclopedia of Pieced Quilt Patterns. CD-ROM. Bowling Green, Ohio: The Electric Quilt Company, 2000.

    Tuesday
    Aug262008

    Post-Games Celebration

     


    Have you noticed? There's no "post-party" blues dogging this celebration. The Games may be concluded (for this year) but the spirit of collegiality and inspiration is alive and even growing. It seems that every blog I read on Sunday and Monday of this week was filled with appreciation for the organizers and anecdotes of personal growth.

     

    No doubt it was a time-consuming undertaking for the organizers. Hats off to Miriam who hosted the Opening Ceremonies, Kathryn who was ALWAYS on Facebook keeping the Facebook Genea-Bloggers Group active, and Thomas who hosted the Closing Ceremonies; as well as footnoteMaven who designed the medals. In addition to organizing, they all answered emails, helped with a myriad of questions, and blogged, blogged, blogged.

    Congratulations to all the participants; we are already looking forward to 2010!

    Saturday
    Aug232008

    Final Report for the GB Games

    What an experience! I feel "accomplished" just being part of the 1st GB Summer Games. Any talk of this as an annual event? I am sure there will be lots of kudos and comments for the organizers and all the participants. Highlights for me were: meeting new genea-bloggers on Facebook, sharing ideas, learning new tips, and getting that nudge for being a better researcher/curator. Thank you again, Thomas, Miriam, Kathryn for putting this together.

    Here are my Final Standings:

    1. Cite Your Sources - Bronze
    2. Back Up – Silver
    3. Organize -- Diamond
    4. Write – Gold
    5. Acts of Genealogical Kindness – Platinum

     

    Friday
    Aug222008

    Progress Report for the Genea-Bloggers Games


    I was skeptical about my participation level for the Games due to travel plans, but the categories were so varied that I have been able to “show” in each event after all. The organizers did a great job assembling a diverse selection of events all under the umbrella of the new Genea-Bloggers Group on Facebook. Thanks, Thomas, Kathryn, and Miriam. I am power-working today; plan to post the final stats tomorrow morning.

    1 –Cite Your Sources! – Bronze
    Hooray! I was able to get started on this before our trip to New England and am currently at 10 Citations.

    2 – Back Up – Bronze
    This was a good thing to think about while we were on our trip. I came up with a three-way backup plan for digital files and a Master Plan for original documents. I wish I could store all the letters and photos in waterproof/fireproof cabinets, but it just isn’t feasible with the quantity of material involved. Next best, has been to transfer everything to archival storage and place in a dark, dry cupboard in the safest room in the house. I guess I miss this medal.

    3 – Organize – in progress

    4 – Write – Gold
    Too bad there wasn’t an event for Mobile Blogging. I think I managed to post just about every day of my trip, even if the family history research did take a backseat when we hit Maine and all that wonderful lobster. Also completed the Blog Summary (check it out on The Family Curator), pre-published, and wrote an ancestor bio posted.

    5 – Acts of Genealogical Kindness – Platinum
    This was lots of fun to do, especially with all of the Genea-Blogging activity on Facebook. I am meeting so many new people and reading a great mix of articles. I love this event!

    Friday
    Aug222008

    The Elusive James Winsor

    James Winsor has proven to be a most elusive ancestor. As the last of the Winsors born in Rhode Island he is the “missing link” between generations in our family, and as a young father who died before he was 33 years old, James continues to baffle his descendents. Much work remains, but here is what I have been able to learn.

    According to Aunt Mercy MacPhee’s genealogy charts, James Winsor was born May 2, 1796. He was the son of James Winsor and Betsy Randall of Johnston, Rhode Island and married Mercy Mathewson, also of Rhode Island and born August 19, 1795.

    Records show that James immigrated to Vermont as a young adult, returning to Rhode Island to marry Mercy Mathewson. The couple settled in Windsor County, Vermont and had a son, Henry M. Winsor June 23, 1821 in Clarendon. State records do not record Henry’s birth, but this is not surprising as Vermont did not require that births be recorded until 1857.

    James did not survive the harsh New England conditions long. Legal proceedings in the State of Vermont Supreme Court show that his estate was sued by Calvin French in 1852 for a dispute over land purchased by Josiah French from James Winsor in 1825. Josiah French was the step-father of James’s wife. Court documents reveal that James Winsor died August 8, 1827 leaving Henry M. Winsor his only child. At the time, James was a widower and his death left Henry an orphan.

    He would never know that Henry would grow to manhood and enlist in the Union Army to serve from 1864-1865, nor that Henry would marry and father seven children. He would never know that Henry left Vermont with hopes for land of his own and settle in Kansas, where he farmed, died and was buried at the age of 60. James would never know that his descendents live in California, Arizona, Colorado, and New Mexico.

    I am so glad to find that we have cousins through Henry’s children in Sara Winsor and her daughter Kate. James can be proud of the legacy he left behind, even though he could never have imagined the sprawling family tree he planted.

    Thursday
    Aug212008

    Story Hour at the Drive-Thru Window


    Once upon a time. . . two confused Californians were whizzing through a little town in the far northern reaches of Vermont looking for a blacksmith. . .

    Why did they want a blacksmith?" you might ask, for their trusty rental automobile surely did not need new shoes. But that's another story.
    Anyway, as the visitors drove through Hardwick they spotted an old brick building on the street corner. It was clearly a noble Bank at one time, offering financial accommodations to the funds of local businessmen and farmers. The Bank must have moved on to new virtual space or loftier headquarters, and the brick building became a bookstore offering literary enlightenment to the townspeople. A drive ran along the structure's side, right to a window declaring
    "The Story Teller Drive-Up Window"
    In the way of most good stories, it took a while to get back to the treasure; that is, the visitors still had to find that blacksmith. . . but, later in the day. . . before leaving the little town, they made a special point to visit the Drive-Up Story Teller.

    By that time of day, the weather had changed from humid and sticky to humid and wet. The rain was falling in big drops as their car pulled up to the window and they asked the sweet lady for a story. She laughed, trilled really, and leaned in to the metal box to speak.

    "I can't tell you a story," she said. "But, I can sell you a book."
    Cruel words for the fantasy-starved.
    "What?" the travellers cried, incredulously. "No story?"
    "No," she replied.
    "But it says right there," they added, pointing to the sign over the window, "Drive Up Story Teller."
    "No, no," the lady corrected. "This is The Story-Teller's Drive-Up Window. Bank Teller, Story Teller. Would you like to buy a book?"
    Perhaps the residents of Hardwick, Vermont are actually lucky to have The Story Teller offering a Drive-Up Window. Instead of a quick story, they can buy a good weekend read without having to get their pajamas wet in the rain and snow. Maybe that's the Vermont version of living "Happily Ever After."

    Wednesday
    Aug202008

    About that Maine Lobster


    Sometimes a family historian has to step into the present day and pause for a look at events that may be history tomorrow. While most people are tuned in to the what's happening in the water in Beijing at the Summer Olympic Games, lobstermen in Maine are watching the Atlantic water and probably shaking their heads.

    No, this isn't a foodie blog, but readers who have been following along on my New England rambles, may have noted a running lobster commentary. Before leaving Los Angeles on August 10, I noted a small newspaper article reporting on the drop in fresh lobster prices. It seems that the high fuel costs were contributing to higher trapping expenses for lobstermen and less tourists to purchase live lobster when dining out. The result was an expected price drop for retail live lobster.

    If you enjoy these delicious crustaceans, you probably know that restaurants rarely quote a price on the menu. Typically, fresh lobster is sold at "Market" price, cost plus the restaurant's markup and preparation expense. We paid the not-too-high Maine restaurant price of $14-$16 for a fresh lobster roll, and $20-$25 for a steamed 1-1/2 lb. lobster. Probably on the low side of restaurant market price.

    Local home cooks, however, must be enjoying the dramatic price drop in lobster available at dockside markets. This sign on Commercial Street along the Portland harbor says it all: Lobster $5.49/lb. Lobstermen and their families must be having a rough time of it these days.

    Only one year ago, a lobster shortage pushed retail prices to over $15/lb, estimated to be at an all-time high by The Sun Journal Maine newspaper.

    Harsh winter weather, abnormally cold water temperatures and the timing of fishing seasons are blamed for the shortage. "Everything that can go wrong has gone wrong," said Peter McAleney, owner of New Meadows Lobster. . .
    "When it falls, it's going to fall hard," he said.
    And it sure has fallen. Hopefully, lobstermen will weather the times and be around for next season, but this may be the stuff that goes down in the record books as the lean summer of 2008. Spread the word, support the lobster industry and EAT MORE LOBSTER!

    Sunday
    Aug172008

    Maine-ly More Lobster

    Ok, ok, maybe it's cruel, but have you ever seen anything more yummy than fresh Maine lobster with farm-ripened corn on the cob? Especially when it's enjoyed dockside with your favorite people?

    Saturday
    Aug162008

    Maine-ly Lobster

    When in Maine -- eat lobster. Drove out to Two Lights to view the lighthouses and, most importantly, try the Lobster Shack lobster rolls. A split bun bursting with fresh picked meat. Serious competition for yesterday's lunch washed down with a splash of bubbly.



    Too bad I don't know about any Maine ancestors... yet.

    Friday
    Aug152008

    Lobster Roll in Maine

    Just had to share... Lunch for the common man.

    Friday
    Aug152008

    GB Games Progress

    The GB Games must be going strong, but I think I am falling behind in the medal count... Unless onsite research and mobile blogging fit in somewhere. Hmmm... Maybe, organizing? I've been careful to collect the source information I will need to document my "finds" so that should be easy when I get home.



    I'm doing this entire trip without my laptop, only a mobile phone. It's working well except for the difficulty of reading the genea blogs on a micro-screen. I will have some catch up to do.

    Sent from my BlackBerry® smartphone with SprintSpeed

    Thursday
    Aug142008

    A Mis-marked Marker?

    The quest for family tombstones led to the grave of "Abigail, wife of Josiah French, died May 10, 1790 [5], aged 23 years." The slate marker stands about 3-1/2 or 4 feet tall and features a carved mourning urn across the tympanum. While the numerals are sharp and clear, the number "5" appears to have been carved next to the "0" of 1790. A correction?



    It is also curious that to the left of Abigail's grave stands a small slate marker for "Mary, dau. of Josiah and Rebecca French, died May 14, 1795, aged 3 years." Little Mary was born to Josiah's second wife, but buried next to Abigail, his first wife. Perhaps they didn't want her to be alone in her final slumber. Somehow I like that.

    Sent from my BlackBerry® smartphone with SprintSpeed

    Thursday
    Aug142008

    Tombstone hunting in Cavendish VT

    "It's just right off the road" has to be what every ancestor-hunter wants to hear from their spouse. Mine insisted we drive out Hwy 2 to see what we could find in Cavendish, home to James Winsor.



    Drove past the great old brick building home to the Cavendish Historical Society (open Sundays only 2-4 pm). Drove on and came to Procterville where the Cavendish Library was open and staffed by a delightful and helpful young woman. Found "Cemeteries of Cavendish" listing several members of the French family and where they were buried.



    After a quick stop for sandwiches, we made our way to the Cavendish town cemetery. Had our tailgate picnic at the top of the hill overlooking regiments of marble, slate, and granite.



    Mr. Curator found Josiah French and second wife Rebecca. My ancestor was his third wife, who died elsewhere. Also found a bit of a mystery in the first wife's stone, will post that pic next. A most fruitful little side trip.