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), and other topics in genealogy and family history.

Archives, Labels (tags), and other links appear at the bottom of the page.

Content at Before My Time is protected by copyright and may not be copied for publication elsewhere without permission. © T. K. Sand.

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Saturday, November 12, 2011

Postmarked 64 Years Ago Today

My parents had been married almost two years when they took this trip from Detroit to visit my dad's family in North Dakota. They didn't have any kids yet, but I was born nine months later.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

July Ruminations

I had occasion a couple weeks ago to start from scratch on researching a family. A friend of mine gave me her parents' names and birthdates, and I was curious to see what I could discover online.

Back when I started my research, there was no "online." To get a few census records, it took a four-hour drive to the National Archives branch, and a full day of hand-cranking through reels of microfilm squinting at names in hopes of finding the right ones. Next, vacations had to be planned around going to towns where my ancestors lived to find whatever records could be found there, or you had to mail a request to some librarian or county clerk or whatever, along with a check, in hopes they would find your needed document and mail you a copy when they got around to it. Every nugget of info was so hard-won. It was in times like those that the term "genealogy happy dance" came into being.

So, a couple weeks ago, I sat down at the computer with two names and birthdates in hand, and Ancestry open in one tab and FamilySearch open in another. I had no real idea what was about to happen.

By the end of the day, I had no less than five full generations of my friend's family tree documented with various census records, birth register records, and even a death certificate or two. Wow. I printed out each document, then turned it over and printed out the copied-and-pasted source info on the back. I used old-fashioned paper pedigree charts and family group sheets to build some quick-&-dirty family charts I could refer to as I went along. I also made a document inventory sheet for each direct-line ancestor and marked what documents I'd found for each.

During this process, I had the following thoughts:
  • Wow. Wow. Wow. (rinse and repeat....)
  • Wish I could have made these awesome print-outs right from the start when I was researching my own family tree, with all the source info printed so tidily right on the back!
  • Wish I could have also downloaded image files like these and had them on my computer for easy sharing and easy import to my database.
  • Speaking of which, if I were just now starting my research and my database from scratch, it would be a lot easier to cite sources than it was back in the day.
  • Should I give this to my friend or not? I feel like I've stolen five generations of genealogical discovery, i.e. GENEA-FUN, that she could be having herself.
  • Gosh, it would hardly be 20 years of genea-fun, would it? It wasn't even 12 hours of genea-fun. And really, it was so easily won, and could so easily be redone some other day, and by anyone, honestly, it seems a little less compelling as a pursuit.
My friend has never been interested in genealogy, and she still isn't. I did give her the work I'd done in hopes of sparking an interest, but she decided to pass it along to her genealogically-inclined uncle. He already had the info, of course, but was impressed with the way I'd prepared the documents. 

So, in the end, was it worth the time I spent on it? Most definitely yes! What a fascinating look at the way genealogy has changed in the last twenty years, for better, for worse, and particularly for different! And what a huge level of appreciation I have for all the people who have lent a hand to do scanning and uploading and indexing and all that's required to make records so readily available that twenty years' work can be done in a day.

And most of all, to those of us who did our research the old-fashioned way, before there was "online," I remind us that our labors were not time wasted. It was our interest that spurred the developments that make research a whole different animal today.

But I'm feelin' a little nostalgic for the old-time happy-dance. Didn't it have a little more vigor back then?


Tuesday, June 21, 2011

118 Years Ago Today: Schulte-Hauer Marriage

An evening reception had been planned, but Joseph Hauer, father of the groom, died June 6.

At my dad's house quite awhile ago, in the basement where, I'm sorry to say, all things archival have been buried for ages (yes! pictures too! feel my pain!), I happened upon a large manila envelope stuffed with greeting cards that my grandpa Rosmer Kerr had given to my grandma Evelyn during the many years of their marriage. Evelyn had even identified the contents as such on the front of the envelope.

I may have peeked at one or two of the cards. Most were still in their own little envelopes. It didn't seem like a motherlode of genealogical information or family history, just a big pack of sentimentality, and if you've been here before, you know I've had much bigger fish to fry from the archival pool in the basement. So back into the cupboard went the manila envelope full of greeting cards.

I happened to be at my dad's the other day waiting for an electrician, and since my sister had taken Dad shopping, I had nothing to do so I brought the greeting cards up and commenced going through them one by one, taking each from its envelope to have a look.

Amidst the greeting cards, tucked into one of the envelopes, I was stunned to find that several real treasures were stowed, including the one above, an invitation to the 1893 wedding of Evelyn's parents, Felix Hauer and Elizabeth Schulte.

Let this be a lesson to you, my genea-friends... make no assumptions! Go through everything!

Friday, May 06, 2011

Exemplar: It's Two! Two! Two Books in One!


This book was recently featured in the Blurberati Blog, but I like it so much I wanted to feature it here too. Author Dominic H. White has done a great job with an idea that's been kicking around in my head for awhile now. But I'm not going to tell what it is... I'll let you leaf through the book and discover it yourself.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Exemplar: Leaf by Leaf Through a Family Tree


Those Who Came Before Us by Researched and Written by Maggie and Ed Stokes | Make Your Own Book

This great idea is so simple and straightforward, I'm surprised I didn't think of it. Authors Maggie and Ed Stokes did a beautiful, elegant job of it!

Ideas:
  • Create a family history book by writing a short biography/character sketch of each person in your family tree. Whether a few paragraphs or a few pages, try to focus on the whole individual, not just his or her role in the family.
  • If available, choose a few good photos of each individual at different ages to illustrate his/her story.
  • Try to make the narrative warm and friendly, not clinical and detached!
Reader, what ideas do you get from this book?

Friday, April 01, 2011

How is Socrates not Plato? Let me count the ways...

'Twas the 30th of July, 2002, the 400th birthday anniversary of Reverend Samuel Stone. The First Congregational Church was celebrating the event with a public reading of his most erudite works. As we arrived, Reverend Peebles, a descendant of Reverend Stone, was reading aloud from his ancestor's well-known and very illuminating explanation of "Why Socrates Is Not Plato, Nor Plato Socrates." We were not surprised to see Natasha Guttbalm, the local TV station's fledgling reporter on the Religion and Philosophy beat, paying rapt attention to Reverend Peebles as he read from the text...


Reader, admit it. I know you're on the edge of your seat, waiting and hoping that I'll present the full scintillating text of Reverend Stone's lesson, and believe me, I have no intention of letting you down. Read on!

WHY SOCRATES IS NOT PLATO, NOR PLATO SOCRATES. 
[A Congregational Church is a Catholic Visible Church. 1652.] 
by Samuel Stone 
SOCRATES and Plato are distinguished one from another by their proper and essential forms. As a man and a lion differ in their common form, so Socrates and Plato in their proper form. All opposition is firstly from the form; hereby a thing is that which it is, and is therefore by this distinguished from all other things. All essential distinction and opposition is from the forms of things; they differ not only accidentally, but essentially one from the other, and are distinguished one from another by their essential forms.

The numerical difference between Socrates and Plato is an argument of their specifical distinction; it includeth and implieth an essential difference between things, being distinguished by their proper, individual, essential forms. It is true that our intellectuals are so wounded by the apostasy of the first man that it is exceeding hard for us to find out the forms of things; we are forced many times to describe the forms of things by their accidents, as we are constrained to describe the elements by their proper qualities arising from their forms; yet every one of them hath a proper form. The existence of every thing is from all the causes; nothing can exist and be that which it is without its proper form. And the difference of the proper form is no less than the difference of the common form but rather greater. Look how much greater the similitude and agreement is between singulars in regard of their common forms—so much greater is the difference of their proper form. The difference and opposition of contraries is the greatest and strongest, and yet they communicate in the same genus: these are more opposite one to another than things that are not under the same genus: white and black are more opposite than white and bitter, &c.  Gravia bella fratrum.

To differ so numerically is to differ formally; to differ in number is to differ in form; for number is an affection or proper adjunct following the essence. Socrates and Plato have two distinct forms; hence they differ in essence; hence they have two distinct essences and beings; hence they are two; one cannot be the other; they cannot be both one and the same, hence they differ numerically one from the other. Where there is one humanity and essential form of man, there is one essence of man, and one man; and where there are two humanities and essential, proper, and individual forms of man, there are two men; hence they differ numerically, and one is not the other, or the same with the other. Socrates is not Plato, but is numerically different from him. Socrates is one, and Plato is another, as London is one city and York another.

The difference of number is nothing but the difference of the proper and individual form, and to differ in number is to differ in form. Two men have two different forms, two lions have two different forms. If Socrates and Plato, or any other individual men differing in number, should not differ in essence and form, they should differ only accidentally one from the other, as one man differs from himself, or as Socrates in his old age differs from Socrates in his youth, being the same man and differing only in accidents, not in essence. Socrates should be Plato, and Plato Socrates, and when Alexander rides Bucephalus, Aristotle sits in the same saddle, and it were impossible not to set the saddle upon the right horse, for every horse is the same essentially; and he that stealeth one horse, he stealeth all the horses in the world, because the essence of the one is the same with the essence of the other. There is a difference, indeed, in accidents, but none in essence; there being, according to this account, no essential or substantial difference between them.

Lastly:—hence there is, upon the same account, no essential and substantial man in the world, but only Ideal; for all generals subsist in individuals, and individuals subsist only in themselves. If, therefore, individuals differ not essentially one from another, but only accidentally, there is no substantial and essential man subsisting by himself, because individual men only subsist in themselves. If, therefore, no individual, proper, essential, human form, there is no individual, essential man subsisting, and therefore no individual, substantial man in the world. Every individual man is an accidental man, having no proper, substantial individual form or essence. He that hath no substantial proper form, hath no substantial proper essence, and therefore cannot be a substantial, individual man. And hence there is no substantial, individual man in the world, but only ideal and common; and Socrates and Plato should differ essentially no more from one another than Doctor Martin and Doctor Luther. But the truth is, they have not one and the same essence, but differ in their essential form one from another. For an accidental form cannot be the prime and principal essential Cause of a substance.

------------

Say what?


Stedman, Edmund Clarence, Ellen Mackay Hutchinson Cortissoz, and Arthur Stedman. A Library of American Literature From the Earliest Settlement to the Present Time. New York: C.L. Webster, 1888. (Page 272-274)

Thursday, March 31, 2011

March Ruminations

I haven't ruminated all month... why would I start now?

------------

March Accomplishments
  • I've almost completed three books, thus maxing out my mental capacities. Deadline: April 3.
And in the other column . . .
  • Um . . . so where is that Phillips driver, anyway? No, don't tell me. I don't want to know.

    Friday, March 25, 2011

    Exemplar: A Colorful Family History Book


    Color can be tricky in a book of family pictures. Too many color pictures on a page can make for a wearying experience for the reader. Norma Strube Rue reined it in quite nicely in The Family Strube. She used two techniques to make color work successfully in her book. They are today's Ideas:
    • When using more than one color photo on a page or a spread, choose photos whose colors are similar and harmonious together. Clashing colors don't look any better together on a page than they do in the mirror when you dress yourself badly. There's not much chance that an orange polka-dotted shirt will look good with your red plaid pants, is there? Well, they don't want to spend eternity on the same page with each other either, even in separate pictures!
    • Norma carried a color theme through her book even on pages which had only neutral photos. She did so by using a two-tone scheme for her text, keeping the main body of text black, but using a dark reddish color for titles, captions and such. This creates a strong unity throughout her book no matter what kind of pictures are on any particular page-spread. And it looks terrific!
    Having said that, I should hasten to point out that I love the cover art as well, despite the flurry of activity therein. Norma brought a great sense of balance and harmony to it, along with a sense of fun, and that restful white spot in the middle where the title sits quietly, hinting that it's about to bring order to the flurry. Nice!
      Reader, what ideas do you get from this book?

      Saturday, March 19, 2011

      Blurb Software Upgrade Available Now

      I currently have several books in progress and, as you probably know, my POD publisher of choice is Blurb. (And in case you're wondering, I am not affiliated with Blurb in any way except as a customer, and I do not benefit in any way by writing about my Blurb experiences, positive or negative.) This week I received notice that they've released a new software upgrade, Booksmart 3.0. There are some interesting new features that customers have requested, and I'm looking forward to checking them out.

      You'll find more information about the upgrade here, including some advice about any works you may have in progress.

      Friday, March 18, 2011

      Exemplar: Memoir of a Special Place


      What makes a house your home? If you home could say, "This is what I want you to remember about me," what things would it point to? When your grandchildren come to visit, what do they see that's different from their own home?

      My father remembers a candy jar up on a shelf at his grandmother's house. My mother remembered the dark at the top of the stairs in her childhood home. I remember the carved lions that were the feet of my grandma's sofa. If I could go back in time, I'd photograph them all.

      Will a time machine ever be invented? Maybe, but I don't think we can count on it, and a photographic house memoir might be the next best thing.

      My house, I fear, will not be saying, "Look what a good housekeeper T.K. was."

      Ideas:
      • Charge up the camera and plan a photo shoot to motivate spring cleaning efforts.
      • The absence of text allows the viewer to fill in his own memories associated with the photos. Even though this was not my grandma's house, the images brought up memories for me.
      Reader, what ideas do you get from this book?

      Thursday, March 17, 2011

      The Mysterious "J" -- Who Was It?





      My grandmother celebrated her 20th birthday on April 1, 1914. She was single and working at the Palace Roller Rink in Detroit when she received these four postcards signed only "J."

      I haven't a clue who "J" was!

      Friday, March 11, 2011

      Exemplar: A Sketchbook of Childhood Memories

      Update: Sorry, reader, the preview of this exemplar has been disabled by the author. I'm leaving the post here though, as the creative idea is worth knowing.

      "Stuff I Remember" is truly delightful. Blurbarian Stuart Scolnik describes it thus:
      Our Dad sketched his childhood memories on a sketch pad. The images were sorted, printed and presented on his 80th birthday, with love from his family. The illustrations artistically tell the story of a simpler time and a boy's intimate relationship with a world around him called the Bronx. Dad's attention to detail helps us revisit the objects, experiences and emotions of his happy youth. We hope you enjoy his journey.
      I did! I enjoyed Willard's sense of humor too. You don't have to know Willard to enjoy this book, but by the time you finish it, you'll probably wish you did.

      Ideas:
      • Learn to sketch! I'll never be an artist, but art doesn't have to be fine to be fun. 
      • When there's no photo to illustrate a story you want to tell, creating a simple drawing could really personalize a page of text. Consider whether such a drawing would fit with the mood of your book--is your book formal/scholarly/research-oriented or informal/warm & fuzzy/personal?
      Reader, what ideas do you get from this book?

      Friday, March 04, 2011

      Exemplar: A Family History and Genealogy Book


      If you're thinking of putting all your research, or just all your research for one particular surname, into a big, comprehensive genealogy/family history book, you've probably spent some time considering how to lay out your book. There are plenty of ways to do it, and you can refine your own ideas by studying the approaches others have taken. If you visit the Blurb Bookstore and type in the search term genealogy, you'll find lots of examples to look at. Browse several. See what you like and what you don't like.

      In From New York to Indiana, author James P. Barber chose to include charts in a separate section, after a textual family history. If your readers are not consumed by genealogy (like us!), the odds are pretty good that they won't be inclined to sit around reading charts. An interesting text will have more appeal to that audience, as will pictures.

      Ideas:
      • If you're creating a book for family members who are, for the most part, not genealogically inclined, you might want to keep charts in a separate section toward the back of the book, where the hard-core genealogist among your readers will find them more easily anyway.
      • If you're using Blurb as your POD publisher, you may find yourself with extra pages available due to Blurb's pricing structure. Consider using them to add some blank family group sheets at the end of your book, as Barber has done here, so generations can be added as the book is handed down.
      Reader, what ideas do you get from this book?

      Monday, February 28, 2011

      February Ruminations

      I enjoyed watching a few of the webcasts from the RootsTech conference. It was interesting to hear about some of the issues being considered on the frontier where the techies and the genies come face to face. In the last decade or so, the development of technology, along with genealogy's embrace of it, have made astounding changes in the way we research, and in the ways we share and preserve our data. I don't think any of us who started our research the old-fashioned way would want to give up the newfangled methods that allow us to pursue our passion in pajamas.

      And it's easy to see how the technologically-inclined among us are lured by the convenience of the internet, and by the expansive capacity of cyberspace, and by the amazing science behind digitization. This is the way of the future, we hear. Digitize, digitize, digitize! And back up! Not once, not twice, but three times, and update your back-ups when the technology changes or every three years, whichever comes first. Password-protect it so the bad guys can't get it. Tell someone where you've hidden the password, so they can. Oh, if only your ancestors had done that! Imagine the happy dance you would have done when your complete genealogy appeared before you on a computer screen!

      Huh?

      Consider this: when you're watching Who Do You Think You Are?, have you ever thought they've made the research look too easy? Have you ever thought, hey, the celebrity didn't seem very excited (I recall someone saying this after the recent Tim McGraw episode)? Well, what if the scenario were this:
      It's the last game of a hard-fought season, and an athletic team (the Blue-Blooded Ancestor Hunters?) suddenly finds itself short by one member. Six players are required; they have only five. You're asked to fill in, even though you have no knowledge of the game. That doesn't matter, they assure you, the real team members will carry the ball and do the scoring. All you have to do is stand where the coach tells you to, and be counted. Some sort of reward is offered--fame? fortune? undying gratitude? some skeletons for your closet?--so you accept the deal. The team wins the game, and the highly-coveted blue ribbons are passed out to everyone on the team, including you. Tell me, how meaningful is that blue ribbon to you? Isn't it pretty much commensurate with how much you've invested in the game?
      Some people do genealogy because it's part of their religious practice. Some do it as a vocation. Many of us do it as an avocation and, oh, how we bristle if our pursuit is reduced to the lowly status of a mere hobby! No matter which category we fit into, though, I'd be willing to bet it's the thrill of the hunt that keeps us going, and that tantalizing prospect of another happy dance possibly just minutes away.

      I started out doing genealogy the old-fashioned way. It was kind of like going big-game hunting. You had to go someplace to do it; you had to learn how to hunt; you had to plan ahead for your trip; you had to pack carefully and be prepared for anything, or nothing. It was an adventure.

      The advent of digitization and online availability of records has made it a lot more like shooting fish in a barrel. A search engine, a name... BANG! Oh, look, another dead ancestor... no, two... three... But the number of records extant is finite. Sooner or later, all the fish in the barrel are gonna be floating belly-up. How long will it take? Another generation or two? When the barrel is passed on to your descendants, how much happy-dancing will there be when there's naught to do but dip out a couple thousand barcoded belly-up fish? How many of your descendants will be passionate about scanning the barcodes to look up those pedigree charts that you're so passionate about preserving? In fact, how many of your current, living relatives are passionate about it now?

      The techiest of the techies see the world through tech-colored glasses. Everything, they insist, should and will be virtual in the future. Maybe they're right, I don't know. But I do know that not all people are computer-savvy now, nor will they all be computer-savvy in the future. And not all who are computer-savvy prefer to spend their time in the virtual world rather than the real world. Believe it or not, Kindle fans, some people still prefer a book with paper pages. Some would rather talk than tweet. Some would even... I know this will come as a surprise... some would even prefer to receive a bouquet of real flowers from a three-dimensional boyfriend rather than a virtual-bouquet icon from a Facebook app. Go figger!

      In any case, it seems to me that it's a boon for everyone when the big players go digital with their records--and by big players, I mean any organization that has a body of records of the type we all seek as documentation for our family lines. I mean people who are in the records business (whether civil or commercial, profit or non-profit).

      As for me, I'm what I would call a micro-player--gathering records (from people in the records business!) that pertain to my own lines only. For me it's not business, it's personal. And I'd be lying if I said I was doing it just to pass down to my descendants. If I can stir up their interest, so much the better, but the truth is that I have a hunter-gatherer gene that's tickled by this pursuit. I do it for the pleasure of the hunt.

      I have decisions to make, then, along the way. Should I listen and learn from people with more skills, more experience, more credentials? Of course. Should I be grateful for what I learn from them? Most definitely. I am grateful. It's always better to be more informed. But should I then obediently follow all their advice?

      Hell, no! I'm a grown-up. It's up to me to weigh what's been offered and make my own choices. I reserve the right to enjoy and/or employ cyberspace to whatever extent works best for me, along with the right to use real paper. Why? Because at this moment I can reach across my desk and pick up a book that was published in 1884, and it still works. Nobody had to take any particular pains to preserve it, and I don't need anything but daylight to be able to use it. Am I glad there's a copy of it in cyberspace? Yes, of course I am, that's how I discovered it and decided I wanted the real thing. And, yippee!, I was able to order the real thing for $25 and about five minutes of my time online, thanks to technology. Yep, technology is great. But am I gonna digitize everything in triplicate, pay to store it in cyberspace until I die or run out of money, and replace it triennially in case it's deteriorating?

      Nope. Not today, thanks. But, reader, if it serves your purpose to do so, you go right ahead!

      ------------

      February Accomplishments

      I've been working on books this month, as usual, but have extended my deadline for completing the Stone book.

      And in the other column . . .

      I still haven't vacuumed yet this year. See, the vacuum cleaner needs a new belt and, while I did order and receive said belt, I am still waiting to see if it will crawl in there of its own accord, or if I'm actually going to have to find my Phillips-head screw driver and put it in there myself. I'm all for giving it plenty of time to take the initiative.

      Friday, February 25, 2011

      Exemplar: A Photo-Journal and Biography Book


      The Collector, the Guide and the Bone Digger by James P. Barber | Make Your Own Book

      "The original scope of this book was to provide a reproduction of the wonderful photos from a turn-of-the-century expedition into the rugged Sierra Madre Occidental Mountains of Mexico led by guide Charles M. Barber. However, as I began to add a few details, the book developed into two distinct parts. This meant including the photo journal in its entirety unedited as Part I of the book. It is unique and valuable in its own right, but it was just the beginning of the journey that Charles Barber seemed to have in mind for me. His role as the guide for this expedition was only a small part of a most fascinating life that unfolded before me." ~ James P. Barber

      In The Collector, the Guide and the Bone Digger, author James P. Barber takes the reader on two journeys, one his great-uncle Charles M. Barber's field research journey a century ago, and the other his own journey in creating this book. 

      I don't know who said it first, but we've all heard it: the more you know about something, the more interesting it becomes. Barber's willingness to dig up a little information about the photos he wanted to preserve in book form pulled him into a much grander project, and he's presented his findings beautifully.


      Ideas:
      • As you work with your materials, your book will start to tell you what it wants to be. Listen!
      • You may be able to find out a lot more about a photo than you ever thought possible.
      • In large or landscape-format books, large bodies of text are more easily read if presented in two columns rather than a single page-width column.
      Reader, what ideas do you get from this book?

        Sunday, February 20, 2011

        Getting Ready for the 1940 Census




        These four training films for 1940 census enumerators will give you a pretty good idea of what information we'll be getting, an understanding of what some of the terms actually mean, and an occasional guffaw. Grab your beverage of choice and begin with:

        Introduction to the 1940 Census (3:19)



        Population (10:23)



        Agriculture (10:39)



        Housing (10:49)



        Aw, go ahead, you might as well watch The Three Stooges in No Census, No Feeling... I mean, since the link is right up there and all... and it is about the census... and it's colorized! ... heh, you already did, didn't ya?

        Saturday, February 19, 2011

        Friday, February 18, 2011

        Exemplar: An Album of Memories About a Special Person


        The title of this 40-page book tells you exactly what it's about. You needn't have completed and documented your entire genealogy before putting together a book like this, so it would make a great first-book project.

        Author Darlene Schneck chose to do her book in a style similar to that which I chose for my book about my mom. We both chose black text on white pages, at least one image on every two-page spread, and a fairly neutral color scheme with minimal use of color images. In fact, Darlene has limited her use of color (other than sepia tones) to just three pages:
        • page 11, images of a beautifully colored family memento--here the colors are an integral feature of the object so they really need to be there; the photo is focused in tight on the object with very little distracting background showing, and the colors of the object itself are subtle and mellowed, so the mood of the book is not interrupted.
        • page 38, a color photo of family members gathered after Granny's funeral--as the last of the book's content, this use of color brings us back to the present, but without being jarring or garish, as the colors in the photo are subtle, limited, and quite in tune with the palette of the book.
        • page 40, centered on the back page above the Blurb logo, a small color image of a cast-iron frying pan with a wristwatch in it (no background, just the white of the page); Granny's frying pan? Granny's watch?--once again, the colors are subtle, and the image has the feel of a logo. I'd be inclined to use it as such, the final punctuation in a whole series of "I Remember..." books... because, you know, Time Fries.
        Ideas:
        • Consider creating a series of books around a similar idea. Give the project a name and a logo, so it will develop a momentum that will help keep it going. 
        • The smaller the photo, the higher the resolution you should scan it at. All those little square snapshots? Most are not much fun to look at; they're too small to really see. You'll find they're a lot more interesting if you don't have to squint to see them. Scan them at 600 dpi instead of 300 dpi so you can enlarge and crop them. Some may turn out to be not clear enough, but others will surprise you. You may be able to settle for a little bit of blur in a picture if it's all you've got. But don't make your reader go hunting for a magnifying glass.
        • Just because your snapshots happen to be in color, that doesn't mean you have to use them that way. Use your photo editing software to desaturate garish photos if the mood of your book calls for that. Or change them to a sepia tone.  Also, some of those old color snapshots have turned bad on us--faded, gone yellow or purple or some other hideously inhuman hue. Again, edit them!
        • Several color photos bunched on a page or a spread can be a visual assault that gives the viewer's eye something akin to caffeine jitters. A little quiet space around a photo lets the eye slow down and really 'get' the picture.
          Reader, what ideas do you get from this book?

          Monday, February 14, 2011

          Evelyn's Valentines

          My grandma! Honestly, I think she saved every greeting card that she ever got! I recently found an envelope addressed "To Mama" and there were several Valentines inside. Let's look at a few.

          Measuring about 3" across, this purchased Valentine was given to Evelyn (my grandma) by her daughter Mary (my mom). Mom must have been only about five years old at the time, judging from her handwriting. Was she in the habit of calling her mama Evelyn? I can't imagine it. I think it's much more likely she'd just recently learned her mama's first name and was trying it out.
          This little handmade gem is about 2.5" across, about the size of a heart-shaped cookie cutter. Was this one given before or after the previous one? The printing seems more confident to me, so I'd guess it was the year after. Notice the ribbon drawn on the front of the card. It's similar in concept to the one on the card below.

          Above: back and front of card
          Below: inside of card

          Closed, this card measures 3" wide and 4.5" tall. What does the "52" mean on the front of the card? Your guess is as good as mine. I can think of no explanation for it. But again, notice the ribbon drawn on the front. It's become pretty sophisticated:


          It's a peek-a-boo now, and pretty tidily cut, too!

          But what about FROM YOUR DAUGHTER? Evelyn had two daughters. Which one made this card, Bonnie or Mary? Again, I can only guess. I do suspect it was Mary though, not only because of the similarity in printing but also because the drawing of the ribbon is pretty similar to that on the previous card. I remember some of my own drawings from when I was a kid--I had a bed concept and a stairway concept in my head, and I repeated both in many drawings, never varying them much.

          Happy Valentine's Day!

          Friday, February 11, 2011

          Exemplar: A Then-&-Now Family History Book


          In G&G, Matthew Epler restages photos taken half a century ago to tell the life-long love story of his grandparents. The text is minimal and consists of bits of memory as told by the grandparents themselves. Used sparingly, these quoted remarks have much more impact than they would if they were lost in a large body of text.

          To view the book full-screen, click on the little square next to the Blurb logo. You might have to squint to read the text, but it's worth doing.

          Ideas:
          • Bring new life to old snapshots by restaging them in the present. Presenting the two together gives the viewer a reason to really look at them.
          • A good, pithy quote can tell a lot more than it says. It engages the reader in a way that a thousand words of third-person explanation doesn't.
          Reader, what ideas do you get from this book?
            Last year, Jasia (of Creative Gene) used restaged photos of places to tell a story about Detroit in her post, Melancholy Too. It was a very effective (and affecting) tool. If you'd like to try it, you'll find a very detailed how-to in this "Then and Now" tutorial by John Walker. (Even if you don't plan to photoshop the dickens out of it as Walker does, you'll learn a lot from the tutorial about perspective, etc.)

            Tuesday, February 08, 2011

            Yet Another Post on Making Books!

            Because I'm a one-dimensional girl these days, totally smitten with creating family history books, today's topic is a continuation from previous posts about print-on-demand bookmaking. I want to share some thoughts on creating and pricing a book that might be of interest to an audience beyond one's immediate family.

            Currently I have another book almost ready for printing. I'll be using Blurb again, and in this case I am prepared for the book to be perfect-bound because it's well over 120 pages, Blurb's limit for side-sewn binding. I promise I won't be traumatized by that this time (unless the glue fails again!). It's a less personal book than the one about my mother. Let me tell you a bit about it.

            Reverend Samuel Stone, one of the Pilgrims who founded Hartford, Connecticut, appears on my pedigree chart as a ninth great-grandfather. In trying to learn more about him, I didn't find a biography, per se, but I did collect a generous selection of materials written by, for, and about him. I thought, ever so briefly, that maybe I should write the missing biography myself. But I don't have the time, the money, or the attention span to spend months trying to ferret out original documents and such, nor do I know enough about history to really understand the significance of things I might find, much less organize it. What I do understand at this point is that history is like a 1000-piece jigsaw puzzle on fertility drugs. Nope! I'm not goin' there!

            And why should I, when others (better suited than I) did much of that research and writing centuries ago? As I read about Rev. Stone in one book and then another and another, a sort of biography of the man began to emerge from the pieces. At this point, I'm surprised to say I know him pretty well for a guy who was born over 400 years ago. I know his core beliefs, his career, his habits (both bad and good), his personality traits, who his friends and associates were and how they interacted, and some interesting anecdotes about events in his life.

            Google Books and Internet Archive made finding all this information infinitely easier than it would have been even a decade ago. It still took considerable time though, and I wanted to bring it all together in a way that would make it readily available to my descendants. A Blurb print-on-demand book made perfect sense to me, and I began work on it as soon as I completed the book about my mom.

            I thought I could put it together pretty quickly--just choose the materials, copy and paste, write an intro, and voilĂ !, a book! However, it turns out I haven't totally gotten over that perfectionist thing... so the project is taking quite a bit longer than planned. Still, it will be a cool book when it's done, which I hope will be no later than the end of this month.

            As I spent time working on the Stone book, I began to wonder whether there might be other Stone descendants who might like to have these materials in book form. To date, none of the books I've made are available to the public in Blurb's bookstore, but this one may have a bigger audience than just my immediate family.

            Yesterday I posted a bit about Blurb's pricing structure. The prices I mentioned are base prices; i.e., they represent only the cost of having the book printed. Blurb offers discounts during promotional sales, and discounts for purchases of more than ten copies of a book in one order. They also feature a bookstore on their website where, at no cost to you, your book can be listed for sale to the public. As the creator of a book, you have the option to adjust the price upward from Blurb's base price if you wish to make a profit from sales.

            If you decide to make your book available for public purchase, you'll have to consider how to price it. Before even thinking about that, you might want to read this article by author Scott Butcher. Although the article is about traditionally published books, not print-on-demand books, it's still a good reality-check.

            At the moment, my book has 174 pages. If I edit it down to 160 or less, Blurb's price for printing would be $39.95 for softcover, $49.95 for hardcover with a dust jacket, or $52.95 for a hardcover with image-wrap. Reader, when is the last time you spent that much for a 160-page book? College? I admit, I'm more of a penny-pincher than most people, and honestly, I'd have to be highly motivated to buy a book at those prices, never mind another dollar or five added onto that. So I have to ask myself, do I think my Stone book is going to motivate the masses highly enough to get out their wallets? Well, let's see:
            • How many Stone descendants do you suppose there are?
            • Of those, forget the ones who are not reading at an adult level.
            • Of those who are left, how many of them have any idea they're Stone descendants? Forget the rest.
            • The market is shrinking! Of those who are left, how many are actually interested in family history, or in reading 160 pages about Samuel Stone? Forget the rest.
            • How many of the remaining people have computers and access to the internet?
            • Of those, how many are likely to stumble across my book?
            • Among those who do, what fraction will have and be willing to spend some money to have a copy?
            • And in the case of my particular book, this number will doubtless be reduced further by the fact that the materials I've used are out of copyright and already freely available online.

            I think most family historians will agree: doing your family's genealogy has never been a way to make money. Heck, it's not even a real good way to get your family's attention! Your best bet is to do it for the pleasure of doing it. And I think the same is true of creating print-on-demand books about your family history. The market for your book is extremely small to begin with, and there's no way you'll ever be fairly compensated for all you put into it. Maybe it's better to genuflect, whisper a thank-you to all who made it possible for you to create the book, and consider it your pay-it-forward.

            All of which is to say, if I decide to make the Stone book publicly available, I'll be pricing it at the cost of the printing, nothing more. And if the only copy sold is to myself, that's okay too. That's who I made it for, and I've had a great time doing so.

            Reader, what are your thoughts on creating and pricing a family history book for sale?

            Monday, February 07, 2011

            Blurb Anyway?

            Back in the pre-cellular day, when your phone had to plug into a phone jack in the wall, a dear friend of mine bought herself a new telephone. One could expect, back then, that such a product would last for years, but only minutes after the 90-day warranty expired, so did the phone. She was really annoyed that she had to go out and buy another phone, and rightly so. But when I asked her what kind she got to replace the bad one, she replied, "The same thing."

            Honestly, I just wanted to slap her upside the head! "You vote with your dollars," I told her. "You just voted in favor of poorly made telephones!"

            It's true, you know. Every time you buy something, you're casting a consumer vote for that product in favor of others that you might have chosen instead. And you know what they say: fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me. In other words, you need to learn from your mistakes. A bad purchase, like any mistake, is redeemed when it's understood. Caveat emptor.

            I'm sure I've flaunted enough cliches to make my point. Are you wondering how this applies to today's topic? Yesterday I posted about a disappointing result I had with a Blurb book order. Today I want to talk about why I'm not abandoning the Blurbarian ship just yet.

            If you have a look at Jason Dunn's in-depth comparison of POD publishers or click around in this Photo Book Review, you'll discover how many factors go into your decision when choosing a POD publisher. As Heather pointed out in yesterday's comments, no one is perfect, and that certainly applies here. There is no "one perfect POD publisher," as every one offers a different set of features from which to choose. Your job as a consumer is to discover which features are most important to you. You'll have to consider things like cost-to-value ratio, what skills you bring to your project or what skills you're willing to learn, how much time you want to spend on your project, how many pages you'll need to present your material and whether it consists of photos, text, or both.

            One of the things I love about Blurb is their pricing structure. Unlike many other POD publishers, you don't start with a fixed number of pages (usually 20) for a base price, and then add $1 per page for additional pages (a 'page' means 'one side of a page', not both sides). Instead, Blurb prices in increments: 20-40 pages, 41-80 pages, 81-120 pages, and so on up to a maximum of 440 pages. Psychologically, I find this very freeing when it comes to designing a book. What's more, the cost of, say, a hundred-page book ends up being considerably less expensive at Blurb than at the other POD publishers I've considered. The 120-page book about my mom, for example, at a base price of $30 for 20 pages plus $1 per page for the next 100 pages, would have been $130 using that pricing structure, but at Blurb it was about $42. That, for me, is the difference between can-do and no-can-do.

            Also, many POD publishers have a page-limit much smaller than Blurb's. My Publisher, for example, limits you to 100 pages. I love that Blurb allows for a much longer book, and that it is not just a publisher of photo-books that you can add some text to. You can do much more than that with Blurb's free BookSmart software--from creating a text-based book with no photos to a photo book with no text, and everything in between. If there isn't a template for the way you want to lay out your page, you can easily create your own layout. You can even save it as a custom layout, and select it from the layout menu if you want to use it again.

            Using BookSmart, your project lives on your computer until it's finished. Then you upload it to Blurb for printing. Thus you don't have to be on the internet to work on it. On the other hand, there's definitely a learning curve to consider. BookSmart offers a lot of control, but it's a little quirky. If you're just hoping to make one simple photo book, you may not want to invest the time on learning how to use it. (Blurb recently added an online book creation tool, Bookify, which may be simpler to use if you haven't already learned BookSmart, but it offers less control. Having learned BookSmart first, I have a strong preference for that.)

            Tomorrow: A bit about my current Blurb project, and some thoughts about pricing your book for sale to the public.

            By the way, in case you're wondering, I am not affiliated with Blurb.com in any way except as a customer, and I receive nothing from them for sharing my thoughts.

            ------------

            You can read some user feedback on Lulu.com at Olive Tree Genealogy, and Cheryl Palmer has answered some questions about her experience with Blog2Print at Heritage Happens.

            Sunday, February 06, 2011

            Blurb Rant: I tried, and I tried, but . . .

            . . . I can't get no satisfaction!

            Reader, have I raved enough about Blurb in the past? I think so! I spent most of 2010 creating books--seven titles in print so far and at least another half-dozen in various stages of development--and Blurb has been my print-on-demand publisher of choice. It still is, in fact, although I am heartsick over something that happened with the printing of my most recent and most important book, Mary Roslyn Kerr: A Book of Childhood Memories. And so I'm sorry to have to backpedal some regarding my previous Blurb raves.

            Before creating this book about my mother, I created six books based on a number of personal blogs I've kept since 2005. I wanted to learn, before investing months of work creating a family history book, how to use Blurb's BookSmart software as well as what I could expect from Blurb in a finished product.

            According to Blurb's FAQ page What types of bindings and book sizes are available?:
            For you bindery aficionados, Blurb uses both "side sewn" and  "perfect bound" binding options on all hardcover books. Generally, books with fewer than 120 pages will be side-sewn. Books with more than 120 pages will be perfect bound.
            But what about books of exactly 120 pages, I wondered. Would they get sewn bindings or perfect (i.e., glued) bindings?

            I made my blog books in Blurb's 7" square format. Three of the books had 80 pages, while the other three had 120 pages. All six were made with sewn bindings. As a result, I set a limit of 120 pages for my future family history books. I am making them specifically with the intention of preserving family history for future generations, so the durability and longevity of a sewn binding is of great importance to me. My book-making dream is that my books will be handed down for generations to come, and with all their pages intact!

            Because of the information noted above from Blurb's FAQ combined with my own three 120-page book experiences, I fully expected the book about my mom to be made with sewn bindings. I ordered twelve copies of it in time for Christmas giving. I'd done my research, I'd done my homework, I'd done my test run with less important books, so I was feeling pretty confident, despite the use of the weasel-word "generally" in Blurb's FAQ.

            And of course you know why I'm writing about this today. When my order was delivered and I took the first copy out of the box to look at it, CRACK!!! went the binding of the book, and suddenly I was looking at an ugly glue-filled split between the last page and the end-paper.

            I contacted Blurb's customer service via a link on their website. A quick response was promised, and indeed it did come within a few hours. It was essentially a scripted or form response, telling me to submit a photo of the problem, which I then did. It took longer to get their next reply, which again seemed formulaic, but offered me a credit to have my book order reprinted. I asked if there was a way I could be assured that the reprinted books would have sewn bindings, and was told there would be "a better chance" if I removed pages from the book, but that there was still no guarantee that the binding would be sewn rather than glued; however, I was assured that Blurb does guarantee the quality of their products.

            To give my book the best chance, I did remove two pages, bringing the page-count down to 118 rather than 120. However, the reprinted edition also arrived with glued bindings.

            Soon there came another email from Blurb, asking me to take a survey about my experience with their customer service but saying that if my issue was not resolved to my satisfaction, I should reopen my customer service ticket rather than take the survey. At that time I was too depressed about the whole thing to deal with it any further, so I put it aside until last week, when I finally pulled myself together and contacted customer service again.

            In my email to them, I reviewed the issue I'd had, and asked them this:
            ... what I need from you today, before I write my post, is to know the following:
                1. how Blurb decides which books will be glued and which sewn--my readers
            and I would all like to increase our chances of getting the binding we want.
                2. why the customer doesn't get to decide this critical issue during the
            ordering process.
                3. whether Blurb has any plans to make it an option for Blurbarians in
            the future.
            Again the response was formulaic. It didn't add any new information in response to my first question, and did not address my second and third questions at all.

            As a result of this experience, I've learned (or think I've learned) several things about Blurb:
            • Blurb uses more than one printing company to print book orders. It seems that not all printers are created equally; some have the means to create books with side-sewn bindings and others create books with glued bindings. All of my 7" books were sent from an address in Washington, while my 8" x 10" family history book was sent to me from Missouri (both the original order and the replacement order). In my experience, the Washington printer sews, and the Missouri printer glues.
            • Even in the service of customer satisfaction, which Blurb seems to want, they have no means in place to assure than any particular book order will have a sewn binding. From my experience, it seems to depend on the luck of the draw. Maybe it depends on the dimensions of the book?
            • Blurb's customer service department seems to be scripted and unable to respond in a very personalized way, which left me feeling unheard. On the other hand, when I followed their complaint procedure, they readily replaced my order.
            I'd like to see Blurb make sewn bindings an option in the same way that premium paper is an option. I'd happily pay a couple dollars more per book for a sewn binding when long-range durability is an issue.

            I'll be sharing some additional thoughts about Blurb in my next post.

            Saturday, February 05, 2011

            Mat Thorne's Book-Design Tutorial, Part 2


            How to Sequence and Design Your Next Book Like a Pro from Blurb Books on Vimeo.

            Last Saturday I posted Part 1 of Mat Thorne's book-design webinar. This one, Part 2, covers an overview of typography, essentials of cover design, and laying out front and back matter. It runs about 70 minutes.

            Click here for additional Blurb tips & tutorials

            Friday, February 04, 2011

            Exemplar: An Artful Family History Book


            One of the best things about print-on-demand books is that you can create a family history book that doesn't have to be all things to all people. You can tailor a book to a specific audience, and later make a different book for a different audience. Marilyn Ramer Burroughs and Kathleen Ramer Harden created Cousins Remembering with the younger reader in mind. Marilyn brought her skill as an artist to the project, and the result is a great example of how art can replace photographs as a way of illustrating family history. A book like this one would be visually appealing to family members of all ages, and particularly to younger readers who might be less attracted to a book illustrated by old photographs. I enjoyed the text as well. This book will be a Ramer family treasure for generations to come.

            To view the book full-screen, click on the little square next to the Blurb logo.

            Ideas:
            • Before even beginning to make a book, think about its potential readers and how best to engage their interest. For whom do you want to make a book? What material do you have, and who might be interested in it?
            • Consider whether co-authoring with another family member would result in a richer book.
            • Consider whether your own art skills or those of another (willing!) family member could be used to enhance the book you're thinking of making. 
            Reader, what ideas do you get from this book?

              Thursday, February 03, 2011

              Posted from Saugatuck, Part 3


              The card above was postmarked at 11 a.m. on July 21, the same as yesterday's letter. The letter below was written on July 21 after 4 p.m. However, it wasn't postmarked until July 23.

              Also, on the back of today's letter, my mother noted that it was "LETTER #1." This would have been the first thing Evelyn would see upon taking it out of the envelope. It would seem, then, that there was also a LETTER #2 sent either in the same envelope or in another envelope mailed the same day. However, at this point in time, it's missing. Oddly, based upon the first paragraph, LETTER #1 appears to have been written after LETTER #2, not before.

               July 21, 1941
              Dear Folks,
                   Sunday and Monday were considerably warmer than Sat., and today, up until about 4 P.M. was really hot, but right now it is raining. That's why I'm writing another letter.
                   Yesterday, or rather Friday night, we met a couple of fellows from Detroit and they are staying in Saugatuck all this week too. They live on Drexel and Lakewood.  After the dance they took us out to eat and we made plans for swimming on Mon. Well, ~ we did go swimming and am I ever sunburned! I can't hardly move. We climbed Mt. Baldhead yesterday, too, and that's 367 steps. You'd love that, wouldn't you, mom? After we reached the top & looked around, we came down the opposite side in the sand, and I really believe that is harder than walking down the stairs. No wonder I'm worn out today.

                    We were supposed to go swimming again today, but my sunburn hurt so that I was afraid of getting a double dose so we told the fellows to go on alone. We, Frances & I, played shuffleboard all morning until it started to rain. It looks like it will be over soon though.
                   Ethel, that girl from the office, is down here now and we've seen here quite often, but we haven't actually gone out with her. Every now & then we get together and talk things over but that's about all.
                   Well, I guess that's all there is to tell you right now except ~ Don't worry. There is no need to.
                   Bye now.
                        Love,
                             Mary
              P.S. Excuse the x's. I was writing too fast & couldn't stop.


              Mary Kerr, age 19 ~ Saugatuck, Michigan ~ July 1941

              Wednesday, February 02, 2011

              Posted from Saugatuck, Part 2

              Frances and Mary ~ Saugatuck, July 1941

              My mom at nineteen... this one had me laughing out loud!

               July 20, 1941
              Sunday
              Dear Mom,
                   We are having a wonderful time! Yesterday we went bicycling and horse back riding. Then we came home, took a bath, and slept for a couple hours. When we woke up we dressed and went to the dance. It was so nice. There were hundreds of fellows and almost all of them were good looking. We just sat down when Gordon came up and asked me to dance, and he stayed with me all evening. I didn't get a chance to dance with anyone else, but it was fun anyway. He was a good dancer. He drove me home and wanted to take me to the beach today but his boyfriend was very short & Frances didn't want to go, so I left the house before he came. We met him on the street later this afternoon but we managed to get away from them after...


              ...a short talk. He was nice though. However he was only here for the weekend. He came from Chicago.
                   Today we met Bill Decker. We were sitting on the dock and he came along and began talking to us. We got him to take our picture together, and then Frances got the bright idea that Bill and I should have our picture taken together, so she took it. After a while he drove us to the beach and it's so nice. All white sand. Frances kinda' liked Bill & she wanted her picture taken with him so I took it while we were at the beach. You'll be able to see him when we get the films developed. He's awfully nice.
                   Gee! Mom, things sure are expensive around here. I'm afraid I'm going to need more money before the week is up. Will you stick a couple dollars in an envelope and mail it to me. Right away quick! I'm...


               ...going to need it. Just write Mary Kerr % Mrs. Dempster, Saugatuck, Mich. and I'll get it.
                   Thanks loads, Mom. I don't know what I'd do without you.
                   Will write again later.
                   Bye now.
                        Love,
                             Mary
              P.S. I just read over the letter & it seems like all I told you about was the men folks. Really, mom, they are only incidental. We have had lots of fun without them as well as with them. And I'll tell you a secret. I still like Charles best.
                        Love,
                             M.

              Too funny! The men are short and incidental! Send money right away quick! I wonder if my grandmother laughed as loud as I did. I bet she did.


              The photo of my mom on horseback is one of the snapshots I used in the book about my mom. I realized it was a Saugatuck photo when I noticed it had the same batch number stamped on the back as other photos now identified as being from the Saugatuck trip.

              Frances on the Chicago guy's car (Illinois plates!)

              Frances with Bill Decker

              This page from the book about my mom features two snapshots of her from the Saugatuck trip.

              Tuesday, February 01, 2011

              Posted from Saugatuck, Part 1


              In July of 1941, when my mom was nineteen, she took a trip to Saugatuck, Michigan, with her friend, a Chrysler co-worker named Frances. The other day, I found a few pieces of correspondence my mom wrote while on that trip. As a result, I was able to identify several snapshots taken there, a few of which I'd included in the book about my mom's childhood.

              Mary Kerr's friend Frances
              Saugatuck, July 1941

               My mom feigned hitch-hiking for a little photo-snapping fun . . .

              . . . but it looks like Frances had a lot more fun with that speed-limit sign!

              A rippin' good time so far, huh? Well, just wait until tomorrow, when they meet some... aw, never mind, I don't want to spoil the delicious anticipation...

              Monday, January 31, 2011

              January Ruminations

              I had occasion to read someone else's correspondence this month. Among my small group of genealogy friends, one had received a request to donate information to a genealogy library and wondered what others thought about the request. Several others had read the request and shared their thoughts before I got there, so I had the benefit of knowing not only the content of the request, but also how others responded.

              Because my own reaction to the shared email was immediate and strong, I was surprised that no one mentioned the issue that struck me right between the eyes. Perhaps courtesy demanded that this particular issue be ignored, particularly since the name of the email correspondent had been included. For that reason, I decided to withhold my comment, i.e., not have it appear in conjunction with the email. But I think there's an important point to be considered. Hence I'll make my remarks here, where they won't be associated with anyone by name. They are relevant to everyone, anyway.

              The email in question consisted of only 98 words, including the greeting and signature. In the body of the letter there were just seven sentences. But in that short bit of correspondence, there were no less than eight spelling errors and seven errors of grammar and/or punctuation.

              Call me the grammar police if you will, but this email was sent on behalf of an organization that hopes to get genealogists to hand over their research for preservation and sharing. Don't get me wrong--I think preservation and sharing is great, but I would be very reluctant to give my research to an organization for which correctness is apparently a nonexistent priority.

              Earlier in the month, the subject of poor grammar and the resulting lack of credibility had come up in another context. I won't go into it further except to say I'm so very thankful for the teachers who taught me how to use English correctly, and for the schools which deemed that an educational priority. It is, by far, the most essential skill I learned in school.

              ------------

              January Accomplishments

              I've been working on three books this month:
              • a photo book about a place I enjoyed almost daily in 2005-2006. Selecting photos for this one was fun, but drawing them together into a cohesive book is harder than I thought it would be. In the end, this may be two or three books instead of just one.
              • the dad book. I tried using a book of interview questions to get my dad talking, and used an iPhone app to unobtrusively record what he said. That didn't go along as easily as I'd have liked, although he was willing to answer questions. With my dad, it works best to ask the right question at the right moment. Spontaneity is key. Taking notes or asking questions from a list is like throwing a soggy blanket on a match. I totally get that... I'm the same way.
              • a compendium of materials about Reverend Samuel Stone. Currently this book stands at 174 pages, and in the interest of avoiding burn-out on the topic, I've taken a little break from it before deciding whether to cut pages or add more. Either way, my deadline for this one is the end of February.
              And in the other column . . .

              I haven't vacuumed yet this year . . . . . you got a problem with that?


              Sunday, January 30, 2011

              Don't ya hate when that happens?

              So. The other day I was looking for pictures to include in the dad book, which will eventually be a lovely shelf companion for the mom book. And I happened to find a few items for the mom book.

              The mom book... you know the one... that's right, the one that was published last month.

              The items found, while not key to my mom's overall childhood story, would properly have been included in the mom book. They won't fit into the dad book at all. I might be able to make a place for them in the Evelyn & Rosmer book someday. But really, they should have been in the mom book.

              Family historians, has this happened to you? Or does the dread of this ugly spectre keep you from making your own family history books?

              Genealogy-blogging has surely served to fill the gap for me, that gap between having lots of info and the illusive certainty that I have all the info I'll need for a book. With a blog, you can delete, redo, add more later... it's like a river. It flows, it changes, it adapts. But you can't hold it in your hand. A book is more like a rock. It's solid, permanent. You can hold it, keep it, and return to it because, barring catastrophic intervention, it will be just the way you left it.

              The case for real books is strong. Unlike a genealogy blog, it doesn't remain in existence at the whim of any service provider. What's more, and this applies to e-books as well as blogs, a real book doesn't require any supply of power or technology to enable the reader to use it. All you need is eyes.

              Nevertheless, it doesn't hurt to have a genealogy blog too. Coming up at this one, I'll be sharing the items that missed out on their spot in the mom book.

              My mother lived in Hollywood for several months during WWII, just after she turned twenty-one. Today's entry is a letter written from my mom to her mom. It's part of a series of Hollywood letters I included in the mom book, but was not kept with the others. Below the page images, I'll include a transcription with a little annotation to explain the threads that tie into topics from previous letters.


              February 9, 1944
              Dear Mom,
                   Helen is in Hollywood now. She arrived at 4:30 A.M. yesterday morning, and she is rooming in the house next door. She's there now, and I'm writing in between our conversations. [Helen was my mom's best friend. She had been living in northern California but decided to move down to Hollywood.]
                   Mom, don't bother to bring my spring coat. If you put all of my clothes in your suitcase ~ you won't have any room for your own. And I think I can get along without that coat for awhile. By the way, how is my room looking these days? I kinda' miss it! [My grandma Evelyn was planning to take the train from Detroit to go and visit her daughter. What she should pack was an ongoing topic.]
                   When you send your luggage ~ send it here in my name, and if I'm not home when it arrives, the manager will take it in. Also, send on a couple of blankets, 'cause we have very few. Then we can send them back again when you return.
                   San Luis Obispo is about 200...


               ...miles north of here. It will take about 4 hours on the train, and she'll have to change trains here in L.A. so you will both have to get off in the Los Angeles station. I think the fare from here to there will be about $4.00 or $6.00 round trip. [The "she" my mother refers to is her sister Bonnie, who planned to visit her husband Karl who was stationed at San Luis Obispo. See Karl's letter at the bottom of this post.]
                   If she wants any other information, perhaps she can get it at the station there in Detroit.
                   And say, you'd better save some of that clothes money you're spending. I think you might find something out here that you'll want to buy.
                   Do you remember I mentioned that I was sending you something to go with your navy blue dress? Well, I've decided to keep it here until you come, because it's breakable, and it might not get there all in one piece. So you see, you'll have something to look forward to.


                   What's this I've been hearing? You're going around telling important people like Miller and Jim that you are coming out here after me? That's a fine thing to be saying? You see, I hear all the latest gossip even if I am clear across the country.
                   Well, Mom, I'm going to close now. It's getting late, and my hair still has to be washed before I go to bed. Helen is going to give me a deluxe shampoo ~ or something, so until later . . .
                   Love to you,
                        Mary


              ------------

              The letter below appeared in a previous post about Karl Parker. It was written from Karl to my grandma in late February of 1944 and addresses the question of Bonnie traveling to California to visit him while Evelyn was visiting my mom.

              (click to enlarge)

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              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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