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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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    Day Progress

    Boston has never looked so good for a birthday celebration. Landed 7 hrs behind schedule due to 1) weather, then 2) mechanical, then 3) onboard med emerg with a stop in Chicago for EMTs -- of course I'm glad the airline can do that so quickly -- then 4) crew over time limit, had to wait for new crew, finally 5) broken lavatories. Considering everything, maybe a 7 hour delay isn't too bad.

    Now off ancestor chasing. Rec'd an email just this morning confirming family burials in Clarendon, VT.


    Day 2 Challenge

    Only the second day of the games and already a challenge - flight delayed til midnight. Patience...

    I will be mobile bloggung with my games progress and research highlights beginning tonight -- note the new look of the blog for the duration of the GB Games. Fresh and bright like the 08 Olympic Games.

    In preparation for the trip I pulled together my notes and goals - find vitals for Henry M. Winsor, wife Fanny and parents James and Mercy Mathewson Winsor. Wish me luck!

    I'll be mobile blogging and posting to Facebook from now on, and hope to keep up with the Genea Bloggers Summer Games.


    Day 1 Report

    10 Sources entered and cited for Henry M in prep for research in the Archives.


    GB Games -

    Participated in the Opening Ceremonies, and WOW were they spectacular. Thank you Miriam for a wonderful show. The parade of participants was especially inspiring . . . now it's time to pull out the keyboard and really get busy.


    Treasure! Look what I found in the cupboard. . .

    Ok, ok, I'm trying to find photos to post on my Profile here on the blog and also on my new Facebook Profile. It's awfully difficult when one is the principal family photographer; we've got everyone and the family dog, but me. I was rummaging in my archive (ie. living room bookcase cupboard) and discovered a cache of old black and white snapshots from childhood days.

    Jumbled in with all the old snaps I found a plastic grocery bag full of yellowed photo envelopes. I didn't realize what they were until I caught the handwritten notations: Mrs. Arline Parker, Olathe, Kansas; C.H. Parker. These are from the years when Arline was married to Charles Parker, about 1921-1929.

    Every envelope is jammed full of old black and white negatives. Some envelopes are newer, from Arline's years in Santa Ana, California after 1931. Some are from photo services in Kansas City, Missouri. There are negatives of photos I have seen, many of formal studio portraits, and I am sure, negatives of photos new to me.

    I know from Arline's letters that the family exchanged photos continually; it looks like Arline wisely had studio copies made so that she didn't lose the originals. Hooray for our original "Family Curator." I will have to do more research on the negatives, even at least one tintype or daguerreotype (don't know which yet), to see what I have here.

    Meanwhile, I would love comments on how to store these negatives. Obviously, they need to be handled with "white gloves" and placed in protective sleeves or folders. I sure would like to have prints made of each of them, as well.


    My Kind of Athletics -- The Genea-Blogger Games

    What excitement! Opening Ceremonies tomorrow at Noon. Competitors from around the globe preparing for their events. Media converging at the playing fields (note Thomas Mac Entee of Destination:Austin to be featured on Angies List®). I'm talking about the Genea-Bloggers Group Games, although former state championship swimmer Katie Libardi Levenick (my daughter-in-law) is really looking forward the the athletic rendition of the Summer Olympics.

    Katie kindly helped me overcome my Facebook angst so that I could join up and participate in the Games. She is certain that my students will find me on Facebook, and might even want to be my Friend.

    I would have loved viewing the proposed (and rejected) Top Ten Genea-Blogger Group Games That Were Cut by the Olympic Committee, but "maybe next year." Looks like the competition will be tough enough in this inaugural year.

    As required by the Games Committee, herein is my Entrance Registration:

    Name: Denise Levenick
    Blog: The Family Curator
    Country of Origin: USA
    Hometown: Los Angeles, California


    1 - Cite Your Sources (intermediate)
    2 - Back Up Your Data (novice level)
    3 - Organize Your Research (Go for the Platinum!)
    4 - Write - (push that pen)
    5 - Reach Out - (all the way)

    It is always exciting to be in on the beginning of something even if you aren't as highly trained as you might like to be for competition. Remember -- it's the spirit, it's the spirit. I plan to compete in all divisions, although I'm travelling for some of the time -- on a little family history trip, no less. I'll be posting about where I'm going and inviting look-up requests (Division 5) soon. I'm aiming to finish all Events in at least one division, and to show in the others. The Committee did a great job selecting the Events -- I think they could be a TTBD (Things To Be Done) for the corkboard.


    Let the Games Begin!


    A Happy Ending -- Act III

    Arline Kinsel as France Lee and Will Tully as Jack Worthinton
    in the 1906 production of "A Noble Outcast," Pueblo, Colorado

    At the close of Act II, Jerry Weston discovers that he is the father of France and goes to prison rather than cause her to marry the evil James Blackburn. France is reunited with her love, Jack Worthington.

    Act III -- In front of the Lee's southern mansion
    Sadie is sweeping the porch when Blackburn arrives with the news that Jerry has escaped prison and his mangled body been found after being run over by a train. He denies Sadie's story that he "arranged" the escape to ensure Weston's death. Blackburn's new plot involves the financial ruin of Colonel Lee and Jack Worthington through the fraudulent Silver Bar Mine, and he is confident that France will marry him rather than see Col. Lee destroyed. He cries with fury and leaves when France refuses to see him. A telegram brings news of the worthless Mine; the Lees learn from Blackburn that all of their funds have been lost. Alas, France finally relents, agreeing to marry Blackburn to keep Colonel Lee from prison. . . and then, Jack arrives, followed by the white-haired Jerry Weston holding the title to the Silver Bar Mine. "I am the original owner," he says, the sale "was a fraud." Jack adds to the story by revealing that Weston's brother confessed his guilt, and Jerry has been pardoned for "a crime he did not commit." With all the other characters now free of Blackburn's clutches, Blackburn himself begs for forgiveness. The men seem resolved to turn him in to the law, but France begs for his freedom. Jerry is content to banish Blackburn, satisfying France, and turns to the men, "Jack, my boy, take her. Colonel, let's have a drink!"



    The Story Resumes -- Act II. Scene 1

    At the close of Act I, James Blackburn was gleefully twirling his black moustache and rubbing his hand together as he plotted the ruin of beautiful young France Lee and her aristocratic southern family.

    Act II, Scene 1 - Colonel Lee's drawing room.
    Jack Worthington announces that he has resigned from his firm so that he will not have to relocate to Paris with his bride, France, thus taking her away from her parents. He plans to live off the profits from his investment in the Silver Bar Mines. Worthington departs as another guest arrives; it is Jerry the Tramp now cleaned up and presenting himself as Robert Graham, the true father of France. His documents convince the Colonel who reveals all to France and Mrs. Lee. In asides to the audience, Jerry admits his moral difficulty with the ruse; Mrs. Lee exclaims, "In spite of your rough manner you have a noble heart." Jack returns and after meeting "Mr. Graham" promptly asks for and receives permission to marry France. The family moves to the dining room for luncheon and a humorous exchange occurs between the maid, Sadie, and Jerry. The happy scene is broken by Blackburn's arrival. When he learns that Jerry has promised France to Worthington he points out that it is illegal for the false Graham to take such action, and insists that Jerry take France away from her home. Jack seizes France and cries, "she remains here! The law alone shall take her from me" as the curtain falls.

    Act II, Scene 2 - Jerry's hut.
    France is now living with her "father" and sending letters to Jack and her parents through cousin Blackburn. She thinks they have all forgotten her, now that her status is reduced, but obviously the letters are never delivered. Instead, Blackburn prevails upon France, now the "daughter of an outcast" to marry him. He threatens to turn Jerry in to the law if France continues to refuse him. Blackburn leaves France to consider his offer and she picks up Jerry's Bible to read. A letter drifts to the floor, "To my dear daughter Lillian" It confirms that her father has gone to prison -- to shield his brother who committed a crime. Their child will be raised by the Lees, who are told that the family name is Graham to "hide our disgrace." Her true name is Weston, like that of Jerry Weston the Tramp. Jerry realizes that France is indeed his daughter and that he has destroyed the happiness of his own child. Blackburn returns to claim France, but before he can take her Jack and a lawman arrive to arrest Jerry Weston. As he is taken away in handcuffs, Jerry begs France to marry the man she loves and rails against Blackburn's vilany.
    to be continued


    The Plot Thickens

    In my quest for the “back story” to “The Noble Outcast” a local drama presented by Arline Kinsel and friends, I have been doing a bit of research on the genre of the melodrama.

    Long before the ladies of Wisteria Lane were spreading dirt in the neighborhood and decades before J.R. Ewing and fiends were riding rough in Dallas, the heroes and villains of 19th century melodrama were thrilling audiences in big and little towns throughout the United States, England, and Canada. The stock plot included mistaken identity, property swindles, and love lost and found.

    The melo-drama (melody and drama) was characterized by music and drama, one playing off the other. Piano accompaniment was standard fare, and the heavy dramatic notes became associated with the genre, even when theatrical productions gave way to films such as The Perils of Pauline. Eventually music became less essential, but the melodrama remained “characterized by sensational incident and violent appeals to the emotions, but with a happy ending”.

    The drama featured a set of stock characters as well – the hero and the heroine, the villain, the old man, an old woman, a comic man, and a comic woman. Three couples and an odd man out. What a great opportunity for tension.

    The 1888 melodrama, “The Noble Outcast” by John A. Fraser “enjoyed a long run in England” and “delighted audiences in New York, Chicago, and, in fact, all the principal cities of this country,” according to the 1888 show notes.

    Curry County, New Mexico Historian Don McAlavy recently sent me a copy of the original script and a typewritten copy prepared by his wife for the 1994 revival of the drama at the Lyceum Theatre in Clovis, New Mexico. The McAlavys became interested in the play after learning that Kathy McAlavy’s grandfather, Levi J. Whiteman, played the villain in a 1906 production in Portales, New Mexico. In a scene where fact follows fiction, Whiteman and the leading lady fell in love and were married in 1909. After considerable sleuthing, McAlavy was able to locate the original script and worked with local actors to produce the drama in 1994.

    The plot of “The Noble Outcast” follows the prescription faithfully. The villain, James Blackburn wants France Lee (leading lady) who has fallen in love with noble Jack Worthington [more on the value of names later]. France is the daughter of the proper Colonel Lee and his frail wife, Mrs. Lee. Comic relief is provided by the maid, Sadie, and Jerry the Tramp. The drama is played out in three acts.

    Act One – In front of Colonel Lee’s southern Mansion

    Jack asks France to marry him; she accepts his proposal after teasing him a bit. Blackburn arrives planning to propose to his cousin [France] and inherit the Colonel’s estate. We learn that he gambles and has recently lost a sizeable sum. Jerry the Tramp comes to the door; Blackburn taunts him, France invites him to have a meal in the kitchen. Jack and the Colonel have a private conversation where the Colonel reveals that France is not his daughter. While traveling on a steam ship, Mrs. Lee gave birth to a stillborn child. The same night, the ship caught fire and another woman was fatally scalded after giving birth to a little girl. The doctor urged Col. Lee to substitute the dead woman’s child for his own and spare his wife further grief. The living child’s father never knew he had a daughter. Jack gladly agrees to keep France’s identity a secret, and reaffirms his desire to marry her. Blackburn overhears the entire conversation and concocts a plan to reveal all. He has recognized Jerry the Tramp as an escaped convict and threatens to turn him in to the police if he does not go along with his plan. Jerry must claim France as his daughter.

    As a literature teacher, I can’t resist a little analysis of the play. First, the characters are perfectly presented. The villain bears a villain’s name – he is BLACKburn. Like the bad guys in westerns, the villain is associated with the darkest color. In contrast, the hero is WORTHington, he will be worthy of Miss Lee. The Colonel and his wife are noble southerners who value family and name. Lee calls to mind the great General Robert E. Lee, heroic confederate soldier and leader. France is more modern than Frances, and is perhaps a nod to the Eiffel Tower under construction at the time. The name “Jerry” was at its peak of popularity in 1888 ranking 162 by the Social Security Administration, to be surpassed in 1896 (#171) and then not until nearly 100 years later in 1992 (#183). Jerry, then, is the common man in the same way that Sadie is the common woman. Both Jerry and Sadie provide a light element of relief when Blackburn’s treachery is most villainous.

    …to be continued


    Harvey, Sir Paul. The Oxford Companion to English Literature. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1932. Quoting the OED.

    "Melodrama." Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. 31 Jul 2008, 04:13 UTC. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. 31 Jul 2008 <>.

    “Popular baby names.” Social Security Online. 21 July 2008. Social Security Administration. 31 July 2008 <>.


    A Mystery in Two Acts -- Act One

    This photograph has intrigued me for many years. It shows Arline (front, center) with her sister Mercy (front left) and friends posing as the Cast of Characters from the drama "A Noble Outcast." My students laughed at the tall fellow in the back row. They thought he looked so mock-stern. We all understood the pose better when we realized that his part was "The Villian or James Blackburn." I have often wondered about this play. Was it a mystery? A parlour romance? A farce? Sometimes, mostly in the wee hours of the morning, I search on the internet for references to the drama but I don't seem to get very far.

    The Google gods were smiling recently, however, and I began to locate information about this late 19th century melodrama -- yes it was a melodrama. In fact, the number of references to the play indicate that it was a popular amateur theater production by at least 1907.

    Written in 1888 by John A. Fraser, the play was performed from Strathcona, Canada to Atlantic City to Wellington Township, Wisconsin. The number of references to local productions indicate that the drama was well known and well received throughout small-town America. Alas, it is difficult to find the script itself. Copies seem to be held in the Princeton Library and the New York City Library but it is not widely known today, and those libraries are a bit off my beaten path.

    Fortunately, a local historian in Curry County New Mexico also found an interest in the old-fashioned drama. Don McAlavy read about the play in the memoirs of his wife's grandfather, Levi J. Whiteman, who produced the play with friends in Portales, New Mexico in 1907 when he was 20 years old . Mr. McAlavy seems to enjoy a challenge and he took on the task of finding a copy of the script and then staging a production in 1994 for the Clovis Pioneer Days.

    With this new clue to the whereabouts of a script, I took to the internet for further research. Mr. McAlavy is no longer living in New Mexico, but he still writes a history column for the local newspaper. He responded quickly to my email and told me more about the script he located and used for the 20th century production.

    I have a copy of the original melodrama. That copy of the "A Noble Outcast" was used by others and many of the pages were written on, crossed out, but most of it is readable.

    Mr. McAlavy has very kindly offered to share a copy of the script with me, and I am excited at the prospect of actually reading the 80-page play and discovering the roles played by Arline and Mercy as Frances Lee, Leading Lady and Mrs. Lee, the Colonel's wife.


    Please stay in your seats; I will be back with more after the Intermission.




    An Ironic Epitaph

    Sometimes we celebrate home especially when it is no more. Arline Kinsel’s spidery handwriting leaves a poignant elegy for “Refuge Ranch,” her mother’s homestead property in Beulah, Colorado. Arline and her sister Mercy spent many happy summers at their mother’s ranch relaxing with friends, posing for photographs, and putting on theatrical productions. When Arline and her husband Roy were separated in 1912, Arline retreated to Beulah with their small daughter Lucille to find comfort with her mother and sister. Mercy taught at the Mace School and built a small log house on the property as her own “little house.”

    In December of 1913, Mercy was living at the ranch when she received this photo/postcard from either her mother or from Arline,


    “Oh, you can drop the insurance if you wish for I don’t suppose we will have a fier.”


    Arline’s note on the front of the card made when she was in her 60s are an ironic commentary to the sad end of “Our little Brown home in the West. . . it burned up finally” and was never rebuilt.


    The Family Curator Writes at Shades of the Departed

    I am honored and delighted to be the guest author today at footnoteMaven's historical photography blog, Shades of the Departed, where her articles have won a loyal following of readers enjoying her careful research and keen eye. FootnoteMaven features her own photographic collection in her discussion of a wide range of topics associated with understanding, preserving, and digitizing old photographs. She also hosts a monthly Blog Carnival “I Smile for the Camera.”

    Each week, Shades offers a guest column from other gen-bloggers in the “Friday from the Collectors” series. My article shares our classroom project, “Reading Women’s Lives,” and discuss how photographs enhanced our understanding of a personal correspondence. Students in my classes transcribed nearly 100 letters, but it was the photographs that helped bring the authors to life on the page. I am grateful to footnoteMaven for the opportunity to share our project with others, and do hope that it will inspire similar classroom projects. Please visit Shades to read the article.

    Today marks

    • The First Anniversary of The Family Curator
    • The Birthday of Nathaniel Hawthorne (4 July 1804, Salem, Massachusetts)
    • The Date Henry David Thoreau moved into his cabin on Walden Pond
    • And of course, American Independence Day! Happy Birthday America!


    Who is That Man?


    A Sweet Scene



    One of the girls’ favorite photos featured Arline and a handsome young man hugging on the lawn. He is tall and bends over Arline to embrace her in an affectionate bear hug. Both look quite young, probably teenagers. Although Arline carefully identified the people and places in scores of photographs, she missed this one. It wasn’t a very “good” picture, but the surface damage indicated that it might have been one of Arline’s favorites too. The yellowed marks reminded me of stains I found after perfume was spilled on a framed photograph.


    But who is the young man? The couple's faces are in the shadows making it hard to see their features. First guess would be Arline's first husband, and the

    girls assumed that the photograph showed Arline and Roy. The problem is that the young man in the damaged photo seems much taller when compared with Roy in another photograph.



    Arline and Roy with baby Lucile



    Could it be her second husband, Albert Edwards? Again, he doesn't seem tall enough. Albert is nearly Arline's height; he lacks the stature to bend over her like the young man in the hug.

    Albert Edwards and Arline

    Perhaps he was her third husband, Charley H. Parker, a handsome farmer from Kansas? He is tall enough. Charley was a big man and even in this snapshot of the couple both wearing hats it is clear that he was taller than Arline by quite a few inches. They weren’t married until 1921 when Arline was 31. Could they have known each other when they were younger? And does the young man “look” like Charley.

    Arline and Charles H. Parker



    The best conclusion might be that the young man in the first photo was an unidentified admirer, and definitely not Arline's first husband. Wouldn't we like it to be a happier photo story? Sorry, girls. It looks like Arline and Roy might not have had that happy moment on the lawn, after all.



    The Family Curator Meets the Press

    I did not expect to have much readership to this blog, so I was quite surprised when Footnote Maven emailed a few weeks ago regarding the classroom project and asked me to write a guest column for her historic photography blog Shades of the Departed. It seems that my comment on her article about postmortem photography prompted a visit to The Family Curator, and she wants to hear more about our classroom experience with transcribing old letters. My article will appear this week, Friday July 4th. Should be lots of fun.

    I have also learned more about the entire blogging community from attending the SCGS Jamboree in Burbank this weekend. Newsblogs, musing blogs, family history blogs were all featured at the two sessions I attended. It was great fun to "meet the bloggers" and hear new ideas about where the trend is heading. Schelley Dardashti, Dick Eastman, Leland Meitzler, and George G. Morgan represented the news and podcasting blog world; Randy Seaver and Megan Smolenyak Smolenyak were there as general musers, and Stephen Danko commented on writing a family history blog. I was especially interested in Megan's comments about blogging on Facebook and even MySpace because students are active on both sites. Family history and genealogy may be see a growth spurt of interest from young people if those sites build genealogy areas.

    Several members of the audience seemed to be there not as potential bloggers, but as readers; people wanted to know how to "read" a blog. They didn't quite understand how to subscribe and thought that perhaps they had to pay a fee, like most "subscriptions" require. I think there is real potential for educating the blogging audience about the genre itself. Many people have heard of this medium but just aren't too sure about it. I recall then when I wanted to start a classroom blog at my school a few years ago, the administration was absolutely against it. They did not want the students using blogs at all, and did not want the school providing this "suspicious" new medium of communication. Two years ago, I was able to host a class blog but students had to sign in with a password to access the site. I don't know if many other schools have a similar situation, but I think it does remind us that this is a new phenomenon. While many users are comfortable and have no trouble with technology, others are still trying to come to terms with this new media.


    Post Mortem Photography

    One of the photos that most impressed the students was that of a child "sleeping." It was difficult for them to accept that this was a postmortem photograph, a popular and very socially acceptable practice in the last century.

    Yesterday, footnoteMaven continued a discussion from her posting last week on postmortem photography, "I Still Think She's Dead and Here's Why." Her research is extensive and she brings several examples to the table in evaluating the status of the original photograph from "I Think She's Dead!"

    I hope Maven considers publishing her post as a magazine article or as part of a book. It was a useful summation of the genre.

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