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.

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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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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,


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)

Saturday, January 29, 2011

An Excellent Book-Design Tutorial

How To Layout and Design Your Next Book Like a Pro from Blurb Books on Vimeo.

If you'd like to create a book, carve out a 60-minute timeslot this weekend to watch this great webinar by Mat Thorne. I'll post Part 2 next Saturday.

While the webinar is not specifically about family history books, the subject of design is relevant to any book.

Click here for additional Blurb tips & tutorials.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Exemplar: A Compelling Family History Book

Like most creative projects, creating a family history book is immensely satisfying, and the result needn't be dull or boring. Remember Me by Lesley Graham just blew me away. Because it's so stunning, today's post is the first of a new series here at Before My Time, in which I'll feature family history books I've happened upon which may inspire you with new ideas for your own book project.

Described as "a thesis design book that focuses on memory loss and the journey one might face," Remember Me is utterly compelling. I am a big fan of "grunge" style, but like any design element, it has to serve the project it lives in first and foremost, or it's just visual clutter. In Remember Me grunge serves to perfection, carrying the message of the book in a way that words simply can't.

I encourage you to view the book at full-screen. Just click the little square box next to the Blurb logo. You may have to squint a bit to read the text, but it's worth doing!

  • All the elements of a book--photos, fonts, background, text, colors, everything--combine to make the whole. Understanding the theme of your book helps you choose design elements accordingly. The better you stick to your theme, the more cohesive your book will be in the end.
  • Snapshots! What a mixed blessing they are! The overwhelming majority are terrible, but sometimes they're all we've got to work with. Treatment is everything. In Remember Me, Graham uses what are essentially a bunch of bad snapshots as a metaphor for memory, advancing the theme of the book and thus turning bad photos into great ones. 
Reader, what ideas do you get from this book?

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Mary June: A Poem

The other day I found this poem among things saved by my grandmother, Evelyn Hauer Kerr. The poem is about her first-born child, Mary June. As you can see, there is no byline. The poem is unquestionably written from Evelyn's perspective, but was it actually written by her? Or was it written for her by her daughter, poet Bonnie Elizabeth Parker? Or was it written by some other poet about some other lost child, and simply copied for Evelyn as a comforting memento? At present, I have no way of knowing for certain. I never knew my grandmother to be a writer of anything other than letters, but I was recently surprised to find another short typescript upon which Evelyn was named as the author. Maybe she had hidden talents!

Blog Archive


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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