Before My Time is about the ancestry and extended family of my four grandparents: John Samuel Krentz (Indiana/North Dakota), Margreta Tjode Hedwig (Gertie) Buss (North Dakota), Rosmer Pettis Kerr (Pennsylvania/Michigan), and Evelyn Elvina Hauer (Michigan). Archives, Labels (tags), and other links appear at the bottom of the page.

Sunday, September 07, 2014

Translating an 1821 Luxembourg Militia Record

Below is a militia record pertaining to Nicolas Petit (1802-1869), husband of Anne Maria Hauer (1804-1877) who was, according to calculations made by my Legacy database, my 3rd great grand-aunt. I've been working on the translation of this document and have used two colors to add what I have to the image below.

I'm fairly certain about the lines which appear in turquoise, but would appreciate corrections if I'm wrong. Also, I don't understand what is meant by "Sr." in the second line of text where it says "Sr. Petit, Nicolas."

I need help with the red items from someone who is familiar with the French language. I've included my guesses in brackets, but again, would appreciate corrections from anyone who knows better!

Monday, August 18, 2014

Family Entertainments of the Mid-1900s

Before TV made entertainment a passive thing, people used to sing and play musical instruments. My grandmother Evelyn Hauer Kerr, I'm told, was quite the piano player when friends gathered at her home in Detroit.

On my dad's side, my grandparents John and Gertie Krentz also had a piano in the living room at their farm in North Dakota. Although this photo is a little blurry, I can make out sheet music for Mockin' Bird Hill and something by Hank Snow.

I asked my cousin Mary, who grew up near my grandparents, what she remembered about that piano. "I used to play around on that piano on a Sunday afternoon," she said.  "I remember they had How Much is That Doggie in the Window? and The Tennessee Waltz."

Then she went on to tell me, "They had an old record player.  One of the songs on that was about a box that people opened and then tried to throw away.  You never learned what was in the box, that I remember.  Can't remember the name of it, but would sure recognize it if I heard it or heard the name.  Maybe it was called The Thing.  I used to play it over and over.  Probably drove everybody nuts as it was right inside the double doorway of the dining area."

Being the first-born grandchild, she probably got away with quite a bit. I think so anyway, because as it turns out, she's right about the title of the song, and I leave it to you, dear reader, to decide how many playings it would take to drive the whole family right over the edge into the abyss!

Monday, July 28, 2014

Ask your mother!

Today I did a Google search to find out what kinds of birds besides robins lay blue eggs. I clicked on Images in hopes of quickly finding a comparison chart. For whatever inexplicable net-surfer reason, I then clicked on a charming little picture of a nest with three blue eggs in it, and ... voilĂ ! ... serendipity happened! As family historians, we've all seen some great lists of questions to ask our relatives about the past. This list has some fresh questions that might result in some really interesting answers from your closest relative:
10 Questions to Ask Your Mother Now

Friday, June 20, 2014

Review: Blurb's New BookWright Software

In the interest of preserving my family history on real paper instead of letting it disappear into the virtual void, I've been making print-on-demand books for about four years. I use Blurb as my p-o-d company and the free BookSmart software they provide to create my books. I found the software easy to learn, and with it I've been able to do everything I've imagined. There's a glitch here and a quirk there, but I've learned to work around them, so I'm happy with BookSmart.

I've completed 21 book projects and had them printed. On three occasions, I had to contact Customer Support due to problems with the products I received, and my problems were satisfactorily addressed very quickly, so I'm happy with Customer Support and the finished products I receive.

My only complaint is that there is no option for any kind of sewn or stapled binding, as I lack confidence in glued bindings for the long term. In the earlier years, keeping the book under 120 pages might result in a side-sewn binding, but Blurb did not allow the customer the option of choosing that, even at an extra cost. It was a matter of luck depending, I imagine, upon which of their printing jobbers filled the order. If it's still done by any of their printers, you couldn't prove it by me, I'm sad to say.

Nevertheless, Blurb is still my p-o-d company of choice, and I currently have projects 22 through 38 in various stages of completion, four of which will be ready to upload within the next few days.

I interrupted work on them recently when I received the news that Blurb has created new bookmaking software called BookWright, and a new option with BookWright allows creation of an 8.5 x 11" magazine. I was curious about both the software and the quality of the magazine product, so I created a 40-page magazine to give it a test run. My thoughts on both the software and the end product follow.

BookWright software
  • Cropping and zooming images is easier in BookWright than in BookSmart.
  • When you're creating your own layout, the software lets you know when the edges of text or image containers are aligned with each other, helping you to create a tidy layout.
  • In BookWright, text entry is done in a box at the bottom of the window, not right on the page layout as it is in BookSmart. For me this is not instinctive and I see no advantage at all. None!
  • When you click to Preview your pages, a separate window opens, but it's not full-screen and cannot be enlarged. As a result, the preview you see is smaller than your printed product will be. In contrast, the Preview in BookSmart can be enlarged to whatever size your monitor can accomodate. My monitor is large enough that I can enlarge a BookSmart preview to the approximate size that the actual printed page will be, which allows me to judge whether the printed size of my text will be easily readable or uncomfortably large or small, and to have a better sense of how the finished page will impact the viewer's eye. 
Print Magazine product (see Update at the end of this post)
  • The magazine covers are made with 65-lb. cover stock. It's nicely heavy with a finish that reflects a soft glow. It takes the ink well and I was satisfied with the printed result of the covers.
  • The magazine is perfect-bound (i.e. glued binding) which gives it a nice professional appearance for a magazine. The pages seem to be well-secured.
  • The pages are said to be 60-lb. paper. Apparently I have no idea what that means, because I was thinking along the lines of a sturdy paper such as a classy art magazine might be printed upon. In reality the pages were more like what you'd find in a women's magazine at the supermarket. The paper feels thin and flimsy. It's glossy, and in the reflected glare you can see that the paper is slightly ripply, perhaps from the wetness of the ink, or maybe that's just the nature of this type of paper.
  • I'm dissatisfied with the way this paper took the ink. Color accuracy was disappointing and many pictures printed much darker than they would have on Blurb's standard book paper. I've attempted to create a fair comparison in the sample below. Please read the explanations of each numbered sample to understand exactly what I've done to show this.

Sample 1: This is the original .jpg image file I used for the bottom half of a magazine page.

Sample 2: I used my iPhone to take a picture of the page as it appears in the printed magazine, using a combination of a lamp and daylight from a window. This photo is a reasonable representation of the darkness of the printed image, but the color in this snapshot is not quite what I see on the page.

Sample 3: I scanned the printed page at 300 dpi and downsized the resulting image to fit in this display. This was also not an accurate representation of what I see when I look at the real page. I won't try to explain why the scan looks much lighter than the actual page. It doesn't matter. What I'm trying to do is show you what the printed page looks like, so let's look at Sample 4.

Sample 4: Using PaintShop Pro, I adjusted the brightness and contrast of the scan in Sample 3 until it looks, to the best of my ability, like the image I see on the printed page. On the printed page, the color is off, and much of the facial expression that's visible in the original photo is lost in darkness. To be fair, I will say that this was the worst example from the magazine.

My Comments

I ordered four copies of my 40-page magazine. The cost of printing ($7.99 each) plus the shipping charge totalled $42.92, which means I spent $10.73 per copy. I don't suppose this is an outrageous price for a print-on-demand magazine. But in the end, it's still a magazine, an entity that's really made to be disposable, so you shouldn't expect it to have the longevity or quality of a book.

The magazine can also be ordered as an e-zine. I didn't explore that feature, but if you're interested in creating e-zines, you can do so with BookWright.

BookWright software will probably please some people, but I have a strong preference for BookSmart. I contacted Blurb to see whether there are any plans afoot to discontinue support for BookSmart and I'm happy to say I was assured that there are no such plans, and BookSmart will continue as before.

UPDATE: Blurb has now introduced a Premium quality magazine in addition to what I reviewed above, which is now known as the Economy version. See Introducing Blurb Premium Magazine for more information.

Thursday, January 02, 2014

A Dishonorable New Marketing Strategy at Blurb

My favorite print-on-demand company, Blurb, has really pissed me off. When you upload a new book for printing, they are now pre-checking a box for you to include a PDF of your book with your order of actual real books, for which PDF you are charged $4.99. You have to notice and UNCHECK the box if you don't want it, and I did not notice until I had completed and paid for my order.

When I immediately tried to cancel the order to redo it without the PDF, a preemptive little memo popped up that says you CAN'T cancel the PDF part of the order. I guess that's because it was immediately available for download when the order was completed. This memo popped up BEFORE I indicated that it was the PDF that I wanted to cancel. This suggests to me that Blurb knows they are tricking customers into purchasing PDFs that we don't really want. This is a really underhanded and greedy marketing strategy, in my opinion.

BAD PIZZA, BLURB! Couldn't you be satisfied with selling me what I really wanted--real books? I've made well over a dozen different titles in Blurb and ordered multiple copies of each. I have several more titles in progress, so you'll be getting business from me for some time to come. Is that not a relationship that you want? Is that not good enough for you?

Don't get me wrong. I don't have any objection at all to PDFs being a product option. Some people may want that, just as some want the e-book option, and if you want to offer those products, more power to you. But your customers should not have to opt OUT of buying a PDF because you've already pre-checked a box on a cluttered screen. I'm sure you've made some easy money with this strategy, but at what cost of goodwill?

I feel really disrespected as a customer.

And I used to be such a big fan.


Our Family in Books: A Bibliography

  • My Ancestors in Books (a library of resources and notes pertaining to Reverend Samuel Stone, Major General Robert Sedgwick, Elder John Crandall, and other early Americans in the forest where my family tree was grown)
  • The Zahnisers: A History of the Family in America by Kate M. Zahniser and Charles Reed Zahniser (Mercer, Pa. 1906)
  • History of St. James Lutheran Church [full title: A little of this and a little of that in the 141 year (1861-2002) History of St. James Lutheran Church, Reynolds Indiana] by Harold B. Dodge, published at Reynolds, Indiana, 2002; 170 pages.
  • Lisbon, North Dakota 1880-2005 Quasuicentennial, published at Lisbon, North Dakota in 2005; 391 pages.
  • The Paschen and Redd Families of Cass County, Indiana by Alfred Paschen, c. 2005 (Gateway Press, Inc., Baltimore, MD); 322 pages.
  • Sheldon Community History: Sheldon Centennial 1881-1981, published at Sheldon, North Dakota in 1981; 376 pages.
  • Sheldon, North Dakota 1881-2006 - 125th Anniversary: The Queen of the Prairie, published at Sheldon, North Dakota in 2006; 498 pages.
  • A Standard History of White County, Indiana, written under the supervision of W.H. Hamelle, c. 1915 (The Lewis Publishing Company, Chicago and New York).
  • The Roots of Coventry, Connecticut by Betty Brook Messier and Janet Sutherland Aronson, c. 1987 (Coventry 275th Anniversary Committee, Coventry, CT); 206 pages.
  • "Elder John Crandall of Rhode Island and His Descendants" by John Cortland Crandall; New Woodstock, New York, 1949; 797 pages.
  • "The Descendants of Robert Burdick of Rhode Island." Nellie (Willard) Johnson, Pd.B.: H & L Creations, LLC.

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