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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
    Jan092013

    Genetic Genealogist Barbara (Joan) Miller Mourned

    The genealogy community is mourning the loss of a talented and generous colleague, Joan Miller, after learning of death Friday, 4 January 2013 in Calgary, Canada.

    Joan was keenly interested in applications for DNA in genealogical research, and as used her experience as a  medical research technician at the University of Calgary to further her genealogy projects. She was also an accomplished speaker and active in several genealogical societies, as well as creator and blogger of the popular Luxegen Genealogy and Family History Blog.

     

    2010 GeneaBloggers Welcome Bag assembly night
    (from left) Denise, George, Thomas, Joan, Reg, Amy, Suzanne.

    I had the pleasure of working with Joan for the 2010 Geneabloggers Welcome Bag project at the SCGS Jamboree. With Amy Coffin and Thomas MacEntee, we solicited and coordinated contributions to the bloggers' swag bags and met up at my home in Pasadena to pack bags for the conference. Joan's husband Reg joined in with Thomas' friend George, my mom Suzanne, and the "committee" to make quick work of the task so we could move on to a more relaxing patio dinner. Joan joined Amy for an encore of the project in 2011 with Reg's assistance once more.

    Joan's huge grin and ready Canadian wit made her a friend to all who met her. I was in awe of her skill in deftly encouraging her husband, Reg, to become a genealogist in his own right. Whether attending Jamboree, or Roots Tech where I met up with them in 2011, Joan and Reg were a team. And with their recent retirements, they were looking forward to conference-hopping in their new caravan motor home and family history searches throughout the continent.

    Reg and Joan Miller, 2011 SCGS Jamboree

    When she spoke of her home and family, Joan's voice grew warm and proud. She was especially happy to see her adult son and daughter happy with family and careers, and she enjoyed a lighter side of home life with the family cat.

    Joan will be greatly missed by all who knew her. My heartfelt condolences go out to her family and friends.

    The Obituary for Barbara (Joan) Miller is available at the Canada.com Leader-Post 

    Monday
    Dec312012

    Top Posts and Search Terms for 2012

     

    Organizing and scanning seem to be at the top of the list for popular content in 2012. Does this mean we want to get organized or we are just looking to refine our current system? And what about scanning documents and photos? Have we figured it out yet? I hope these posts helped!

    Four Tried and True Systems for Organizing Genealogy Research

    Whether To Scan or Photograph Old Documents

    Streamlined Scanning With a Genealogy Photo Workflow

    I enjoy Amy Coffin's monthly Fun with Search Terms. Reading her posts always moves me to check out my own. Here are some that come up over and over at The Family Curator:

    usha, usha holkar, usha devi holkar -- Presumably these result from the series of posts I wrote about my mother's friendship with Princess Usha Holkar, The Maharani of Indore India.

    Princess Diaries: Looking for Answers in the 1940 US Census

    Happy Birthday Princess Usha from your friend Susie Brown

    It's the Holiday Season at Princess Usha's Orange County Palace

    organizing genealogy files -- see popular posts above

    fish eye salad -- It must be difficult to find a good recipe for this delectable dish. Be sure to bookmark

    Feeling Adventurous? Mom's Recipe for Fish Eye Salad

    Thanks, Jenna, for the inspiration from your Review of Blog Stats for 2012 to pause and look back at the year. We'll be looking ahead soon enough!

    Thursday
    Dec272012

    Making "Order Out of Chaos" on Treasure Chest Thursday

     

    Are you trying to manage family keepsakes scattered througout your home? How can you make sure your family treasures aren't thrown out with the trash?

    Beth asks in the Family Curator Forum, "I have collected things over the years from various people and generally it was an item at a time. In addition, I have become the keeper of the stuff for both my family and my husband's family, and I love the stuff, but it's taking over my life and home!... Do you have any ideas on how to roundup the treasures and contain them?"

    She's right! These heirlooms tend to become mixed in with our own belongings, and their significance can easily become lost.

    Long before I inherited the contents of my Grandmother Arline's trunk, I received individual items that she enjoyed and treasured -- a bone china salt and pepper set, a handpainted dish, the head and shoulders of a porcelain doll. Over the years, they were mixed in with my own stuff, and more recently were joined by things from my mom's and aunt's homes. Is it better to keep things together by owner, or mix them in with your own things? 

    How do you organize, preserve, and document individual keepsakes stored or displayed throughout your house?

    Read more and join the discussion here.

    Thursday
    Dec202012

    Family Heirlooms: The Ultimate Re-Gift

    Treasure Chest Thursday

    All I really want for Christmas is my grand-dad's stereo card viewer and his collection of vintage stereograph cards. They were a little warped the last time my Dad shared them with me, but they still conjure lazy Sunday afternoons in Grandpa's little study listening to the tick-tock of a mantle clock while I marveled at the Wonders of the World or Scenes from The Great War.

    ReBox4 Flap 4

    Dad isn't quite ready yet to pass on this heirloom to the next generation, but I think I have some family treasures I might be ready move along to my sons and their families. If you are "re-gifting" family treasures this year, I hope you will take time to write a simple history for your family keepsake. It doesn't have to be a long involved project, but even a simple sentence or two could keep your treasure from being tossed into the trash. 

    If you aren't sure how to start, you can find ideas on crafting an heirloom history in my post Treasure Chest Thursday: Writing the History of Your Heirloom or on the Houstory Hearth Blog where Mike and Dan Hiestand, creators of The Heirloom Registry, write about saving family stories.

    I love meeting people like the Houstory Brothers who are dedicated to helping people save family history by preserving the provenance along with the heirloom. The Heirloom Registry online service is designed to help "stop the stories from disappearing." Whether you register your family keepsake on the Heirloom Registry or record it on paper and attach it to the item, by writing the history of your heirloom you are taking the single most important step toward preserving your family treasure.

    Too many times, we inherit things that seem significant, we just can't quite figure out why. Like the basket of stereo cards from my grandparents' home. I know my own story -- why I like the vintage cards -- but, I wonder if Dad ever looked at those as a kid and how they have survived all these years? Now, there's a conversation for our holiday gathering, and the beginning of an heirloom treasure tale.

     

     

    Tuesday
    Dec182012

    He's Back! More Great GeneaFiction with Jefferson Tayte Genealogical Sleuth

    Exclusive Interview with Steve Robinson, Author of the Genealogical Crime Mystery Series

    When it comes to contemporary British mystery novels and genealogy, it doesn't get much better than author Steve Robinson's newest addition to the Genealogical Crime Mystery Series, The Last Queen of England . Brew a perfect pot of tea, set a scone on your grandmother's china, and settle down in front of the fire with American genealogist Jefferson Tayte, on the trail of the biggest mystery since the fate of the Princes in the Tower.

    Introduced to readers in Robinson's debut novel, In the Blood , Tayte, or J.T., is an slightly pudgy researcher from Washington, D.C. who arrives in London to visit an old friend and finds himself on a quest to find a murderer. More than one person wants to know what Tayte's genealogist friend had uncovered in his latest research, and J.T. soon realizes that it will take fast feet, a keen knowledge of British history, and the best genealogical minds in Britain to unravel the truth.

    With historian Professor Jean Summer acting as history coach and sympathetic companion, J.T. retraces his friend's project using clues from archive logs and a careful reconstruction of research. Author Robinson has obviously done more than a little of his own research, as evident by the key role played by the ahnentafel numbering system.

    This book, written before the popularity of Robinson's first published mystery, In the Blood, reads a lot like an action thriller made-for-tv plot. It was so hard to stop reading when I was jet-lagged and exhausted that I actually woke up at 5 am to finish the book. Now, that's suspense!

    The Last Queen of England is Robinson's third Kindle-published mystery novel. In the Blood  debuted in 2011 and was chosen by Kindle readers as one of the "Best Books of 2011." It was followed last summer by To the Grave  a historical mystery set in 1944 England, also published as a Kindle e-book. Both novels are now available in paperback editions, as well.

    With the publication of The Last Queen of England, Robinson has clearly established himself as more than a "one book wonder." Family historians with a penchant for mystery can expect more from Steve Robinson and J.T. Tayte in the months to come.

    A Chat With Steve Robinson About The Last Queen of England

    Family Curator: On your website you mention that after reading your debut novel In the Blood, potential publisher Harper Collins commented that they didn’t see the book as “a really ‘big’ novel” and declined to accept it for publication. This must have struck a note with you, because The Last Queen of England does seem somehow BIGGER than In the Blood and To the Grave. What do you think constitutes a “Big” novel, and how did you get there in The Last Queen of England?

    Steve: By the time that rejection came back from Harper Collins, I’d been an unpaid full time writer for three years, during which time I’d written my first two books and yet I still felt I was right where I’d started from as far as getting anything published was concerned. So, yes, that comment really hit home. It told me that if I wanted a publisher like Harper Collins to take me on then I’d have to write something that would get their attention. When I set out to find my ‘Big’ story, I thought that the Monarchy of Great Britain was about as big as I could get with a genealogical crime mystery set in the UK. When I found the conspiracy that’s revealed in The Last Queen of England, I couldn’t quite believe what I’d discovered and knew there and then that it would form the basis of the perfect genealogical puzzle for Jefferson Tayte to solve. Of course, no mainstream publisher got to see the book because I became an independently published author soon after I finished it.

    Family Curator: I started reading The Last Queen of England on my flight home after a trip to London, so taxis, traffic, and Tube stops were still alive in my mind. As I followed Tayte on his hunt through greater London, I could see his progress unfolding like an action film, and at times it was absolutely exhausting. Did you personally trace all those chase-scenes as part of your research? Is the Big City setting part of the Big Novel?

    Steve: I’m very familiar with many of the places in the book and those I’m not familiar with I either visit or find photographs of so I can get a feel for what they’re like. I’ve certainly walked the route of many of the chase scenes and even had the roast rib of beef at Rules restaurant a few times. I think setting definitely plays an important part in how big a story feels, and given the subject matter there was never any question in my mind about where to set it. I set the first book in Cornwall and the second in Leicestershire and it almost feels like I was saving London for The Last Queen of England simply because I think that big locations need, or at least benefit from, a big story to go with them. I also wanted to make the pace match the bustle of the city, so it had to be fast from start to finish, which is why I didn’t write an historical narrative this time as I felt it would have upset the pace of the present-day story. It’s also a very important book for Jefferson Tayte, so I wanted to stay focused on him as much as possible.

    Family Curator: The historical plot is intriguing, especially to an American who is more familiar with a line of Presidents than Monarchs. My British history is definitely rusty, but Tayte’s historian companion Jean did a great job filling in the blanks. How did you conceive of her character, and is she destined to be a permanent part of J.T.’s life?

    Steve: When I was plotting the book, I knew that it would have to be as much about the history of London and the British monarchy as it would be about genealogy, and as this was not JT’s forte I knew I would have to give him a partner - and so historian Professor Jean Summer arrived on the page. Technically, she began as a device like any other - a means to tell the story in a credible way - but through writing the book, as with most of my characters as I get to know them, Jean became as real to me as anyone I’ve met. Is she destined to be a permanent part of JT’s life? I’d like to think so because I like Jean and I think they’re a good match, but I don’t know. As with real life, JT’s is no more mapped out for him than mine or yours. I have a sense of where his life is going, as I have with my own, but you never know what life is going to throw at you and that’s how I like to keep things with my characters. It’s only through plotting the next book and then writing it that I’ll really get to find out what happens next myself, and once I have I’ll be sure to share it with you.

    Family Curator: Speaking of characters, Michel Levant is a piece of work. Without spoiling the story for readers, can you tell us if he was inspired by any real or historical figure? Could I be right in thinking we may not have seen the last of him?

    Steve: Ah, Michel Levant. No, he certainly wasn’t inspired by anyone real - past or present, thank goodness. As I’ve shown in the book though, he draws much of his own character from an historical figure, and while that idea seemed to land in my lap (as most ideas do) I think that connecting him with a real person helped to make him seem all the more real himself. I don’t think I fully understand Levant yet and I love it when that happens. Among many other things, he’s multi-layered, complex and clever. When I began his character profile, I thought of him as being to Jefferson Tayte what Moriarty is to Sherlock Holmes. Have we seen the last of him? I very much doubt it.

    Family Curator: I love how professional genealogists become super-heroes in this story. Everyone from the police to pastors admire and respect them and their work. In the United States, most genealogists have learned they get further if they play to the “historical” rather than “genealogical” aspect of their research requests. How do you see the genealogical profession in Great Britain? Do you see a difference between professionals and family historians?

    Steve: As I’m writing and researching most of the time, I don’t really get to see enough of the wider profession to be able to say. My own genealogical research and the research I carry out for my books has always been met with interest, but thankfully I’ve never been in the position of having to help the police with their enquiries. Where someone needs help, however - such as the police - I imagine that they are invariably respectful of whoever is there to help them, whatever their field of expertise.

    Family Curator: With The Last Queen of England, your American genealogist Jefferson Tayte appears to be coming to terms with some of his demons: fear of flying, shyness with women, unhealthy lifestyle. . . and the final chapters leave the door open for him to examine his personal past even more closely. Do you have a definite plan for the series, perhaps a set number of books, or will J.T. just keep chasing ancestors as long as he can?

    Steve: I think we all go through changes in life, and if we’re to see a character in a book as someone who at least seems real, it’s to be expected that they too will change as a result of their journey, although I try not to let that get in the way of the story. I have a loose plan as far as the series goes. Right now I hope to write three more books and by the time they’re written, JT will have found the answers he’s looking for. But is a six book series enough? Having no real sense of place or identity is really what drives JT to do what he does. Once he’s found those answers, I’ve always imagined that would be it - his story told. The end. But there is of course no limit to the past stories he can bring to life through his research, so maybe I’ll write a second series. Or maybe at the end of the first series he’ll be left with more questions to answer and he’ll have to keep going. As a very kind eighty-six-year-old lady from Maine (who has been studying her own genealogy for the last thirty-five years) said to me in a recent email, family history is like a big puzzle you can never finish.

    Your Turn to Chat with the Author

    Steve will be checking in on the comments to this review, so please feel free to ask questions or leave him a note. If you are looking for a reason to curl up on the couch or just take a break from the holiday bustle, I think you might find a Jefferson Tayte a good companion.

    Read my review of In the Blood here, or more about Steve Robinson at his website www.steve-robinson.me.

    The Last Queen of England (Jefferson Tayte Genealogical Mystery) , Kindle, Paperback, Audio

    To the Grave (Jefferson Tayte Genealogical Mystery) , Kindle,  Paperback, Audio

    In the Blood (Jefferson Tayte Genealogical Mystery), Kindle Ediiton, Paperback, Audio

          

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