Friday, July 10, 2009

Friday Findings: A Potluck of Goodies

This week brought a hodgepodge of different genealogical goodies my way!

The Photo Album
I've been reviewing and analyzing the contents of a photograph album/scrapbook that my maternal great-grandmother kept (one of the items my uncle brought out to us from Michigan). It's not complete, as many photos were either lost or were removed to give to descendants of her three daughters. What was left in the album were photos and birth announcements of many extended family members and my uncle felt that I, of all people, would be able to identify many of the individuals that were unknown to him or other family members.

My great-grandmother was an invalid for the last 15 or 20 years of her life, and she spent much of her time in bed, labeling photographs in albums and writing in her Family Record book (which I also inherited) during the days when she felt well enough to do so. Of course, this is a boon to me, and I have been going back and forth between the labeled photos and the descriptions she listed of family members, friends, and neighbors in the Family Record book, as well as checking vital and census records at Ancestry, FamilySearch's Record Search, and SeekingMichigan. By doing so, I was able to figure out who some of the cousins she had listed were: the LANINGA "children" (they were elderly in the photos) were children of my great-grandfather's father's older half-sister, Geertje "Gertrude" (HOEKSTRA) LANINGA. In my records, I had three children listed for Aunt Gert, one of whom died at age 18; the photos showed four children, allowing me to add two more to the family tree. One of the daughters' photos listed her married surname and I was able to find her marriage record and her sister's birth record on FamilySearch Record Search (earlier attempts to find more children in this family group had been unsuccessful because the transcriptions of their name were spelled wrong).

Now I'm trying to get more information on the STRONG family, which is the maiden name of my great-grandmother. There are many photos and birth announcements of children and grandchildren of my great-grandmother's siblings. There were seven children who survived childhood in this family, and several of them had multiple marriages, so compiling a complete list of descendants has been tricky. The album is helping, but also challenging me, where some names and dates do not "jive".

Scanning Large Items
I also mentioned last week that I scanned a large number of photos and some documents that belonged to my mother. My flatbed scanner scans items at the standard 8 1/2" x 11" size, but there were a couple of larger photos, and rather than photograph them, which would create a .jpg file, I decided to see if I could take them to a copy shop and get them scanned into a .tif file. I called my neighborhood Office Depot and found out that they could scan items up to 11" x 17", so I brought a couple of large photos AND the marriage certificate of my ROBBINS great-grandparents (one of my goals for MayDay - better late than never, I say!). The copy clerk told me she could scan items in 300 or 600 dpi (dots per inch) resolution, in color or black-and-white, and in .jpg, .tif, or .pdf file formats. The first scan cost me $2.95, with each additional scans being .25 each! That is, I had three different things scanned and it only cost me $3.45 plus sales tax! The only problem is, the marriage certificate was larger than 11" x 17" and I had asked to have it centered to fit as much of the main document in the scan as possible, as it had wide margins on all four sides. However, when I viewed the file at home, it had been scanned from the bottom edge up, and the top part of the document, including the title, was cut off. I'll need to get it rescanned and ask the clerk to either try to center it again, or scan it from the top down, as there is a larger margin at the bottom of the document than at the top. This document was rolled up and its cracks and tears taped, which of course has damaged it greatly. When I got it, I slowly unrolled just a bit of it at a time, sandwiched between layers of cloth to protect it and using books to weigh down the unrolled edge until it could lie flat. It will deteriorate; there is no stopping that process, but by scanning it, I can preserve what it once looked like, and even perhaps clean up the image a bit to remove the yellow tape stains.

So there you go: if you have some large items too big for your scanner, call a copy shop! And make sure they handle your items with care (I brought my scanning gloves along).

Birth Certificates
I've been interested in genealogy for 30 years as of this summer, actively researching records for 15 years, have been a mother nearly 19 years, and only this week obtained the last of the birth certificates for my immediate family! Yes, that's right, I have birth certificates and birth records for great-great-grandparents and didn't have my own kids' documents (other than hospital certificates)! The motivation? My son got his driver's permit and the State of Washington has become increasingly picky about citizenship documentation, so what was acceptable two years ago when my daughter received her permit is no longer so. I figured since I was at the county public health building picking up my son's certificate, I might as well get my daughter's. My parents gave me mine a few years ago, and we purchased my children's father's three years ago when he had to prove citizenship while working for a company that contracted with the military. And yes, the kids' certificates will go in our safe deposit box.

Busy, Busy, Busy
I didn't work at all on my Online City, County, and Rural Directory Site since I was busy playing around with two new websites. First of all, I became a member of the New England Historical and Genealogical Society (NEHGS) - a great society if you have ancestors from New England, New York, French and Atlantic Canada, or mid-Atlantic states, or have Jewish, Irish, Scottish, or African-American roots. They have a $15 off special on their annual membership through the end of July now which offers access to their online and premium databases, a subscription to two publications, and discounts to a variety of goods and services (DNA, research assistance). The other website that has kept me busy is GenealogyWise, and I wrote about this earlier here. I also spent a lot of time preparing posts that my team members at the Eastern Washington Genealogical Society blog, Donna and Charles, had pre-written, getting them scheduled to be posted. My intent is to get a lot of publicity for the Washington State Genealogical Society 2009 State Conference through our blog, Facebook, Twitter, and GenealogyWise.

Both NEHGS and RootsWeb sent me their free electronic newsletters via e-mail this week. You do not have to have any kind of membership to receive them, and they are always chock full of genealogical goodies. Click on the links to sign up for these freebies yourself!

Home and Neighborhood History
This week an elderly woman stopped by with her daughter. This woman had lived in our home for 20-some years as a renter back in the 70s and 80s. She had all kinds of stories to tell about the house and the neighborhood. In addition, she had gone to school with a girl that had grown up in this house in the late 30s and early 40s, who had related the ghost story to her. However, it was a bit more chilling than what we had originally heard. Apparently, the story goes, two sisters lived here and one of them murdered the other and buried the victim in the basement. Supposedly, people heard the ghost of the murdered girl when they went into the basement. It so bothered the woman who lived here in the 70s and 80s that she had a priest come and bless the house. I don't believe that this story is true...I think it had its roots in the tale two sisters made up during the Depression years to get out of paying the rent. However, I will do a little investigation with city directories and old newspapers to see what I can find.

That same evening, I was talking to my 30-something next-door neighbor who told me she had grown up in a house over in the next block. She, too, had stories to share about the neighborhood. I felt like I had done some time traveling that day, having listened to tales encompassing seven decades!

Is your genealogy protected? Our main computer has been down for nearly two months, now, and attempts to get parts and repair it have been both frustratingly long and unsuccessful (we may actually have to take it to a shop!). It's especially been difficult not having easy access to my genealogy document and photo files, but I do have access, nonetheless. I have had everything backed up by Carbonite, and while my laptops do not have the room to download everything I need, I can remotely access a few things at a time. I spent some time this week doing an online chat with customer service to make sure those files and folders still are safe in online storage, although we are running out of time to reinstall everything. I am hoping that a) our hard drive was not damaged when the power supply blew; and b) if that is so, we'll be able to reinstall everything smoothly, once we get the computer back up and running. Fingers and toes crossed!

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