Stories told by Susan about Susan or Susan's family

After two decades, the conversation that changed EVERYTHING

My grandparents on their wedding day. 21 years later, I learned about a conversation that changed everything – everything – I thought about what happened on March 8, 1986. Over two decades after that harrowing event, knowing about that conversation has made all the difference.

I’ve written about this March 8 day before, in 2007 in a post “Why International Women’s Day is Hard.”

The kernel of the story is hard: Early that morning, my grandmother woke up. Fell. Pain. Broken hip. (this, some three months after falling and breaking her hip. The first time.) What we know comes from grandpa’s phone call. She fell. Broke her hip. She’s gone and by the time you get here, I’ll be gone, too. Gunshot wounds. Police tape. News stories, and shock.

The new revelation came to me a few months after I wrote the above blog post. I re-read it again, and thought, My perspective on this has completely changed. (If you want to, go read it. I’ll wait.)

Caution Tape
...Read More

Posted by Susan A. Kitchens on March 08, 2013 in • AudioAudio: HardwareInterviewingPersonalPersonal History
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Two generations removed from an Eyewitness to Lincoln

Abraham Lincoln He said, “I asked her if she’d seen anybody famous, anything I might have read about.” It bought a startling response. “She told she’d seen Lincoln debating Douglas when she was a girl.” That memory came back to him from freshly-baked bread.

It all began at dinner last Monday. The three of us sat down. Before long, the waiter brought us bread. He took a slice, buttered it, took a bite, and chewed it. Then a story came out, about a woman whose house he went to when he was a boy—about, oh, eight years old or so. He liked to be there on the day she baked bread.

He is my boyfriend’s father, Doc M Sr. He was in town for a visit.

Mrs. Knees at oven, baking bread to be sold at farmers' market. Du Bois, near Penfield, Pennsylvania. Jack Delano, photographer. 1940. [LC-USF34- 041170-D]  United States Farm Security Administration - Office of War Information Photograph Collection (Library of Congress) He was born in 1926, the year that Winnie The Pooh was published, and Henry Ford established the 40-hour work week. In the year he was born, Moussolini came into power, and Emperor Hirohito ascended the throne in Japan. World War 1, the war to end all wars, had been over a scant 8 years. ...Read More

Posted by Susan A. Kitchens on April 19, 2011 in • HistoryPersonal
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The Scrapbook Belonging to Great Aunt Doris

Great Aunt Doris stands atop her beloved horse, Pete. What an album, what a treasure. This is my Great Aunt Doris’ photo album/scrapbook. In honor of the 100th episode of the Carnival of Genealogy, I offer you an album that is nearly 100 years old. Doris attended the Fenway School of Illustration in Boston during the ’teens. There are photos from home in Montana, the Blackfoot Indian tribe, and photos from New York, where she lived with her sister and brother in law (my grandparents).

I pulled out this photo album again recently (it’s the topic of Intervewing with Photo Albums, part 2, and I’m using it to make a little movie for you). I got stalled on some of the movie making because, well, there’s so much interesting stuff in it. So much. It’s huge. I can’t share it all. (I haven’t even scanned the whole thing.) But I can give you a sample.

Doris moved from Billings, Montana, to Boston Massachusetts to attend the Fenway School of Illustration. The early pages of her album show her in school, with her friends from school.

Note: click any image to enlarge.

One of the first pages of Doris Fogler's album. FSI stands for Fenway School of Illustration, located in Boston. This album dates from the teens. 1915?

The FSI medallion in the image above was, I guess, the Fenway School logo. When my mother and I talked over these photos, Mama didn’t know what, exactly F.S.I. stood for. The Fenway School of Art? Something? What’s with the I? Thanks to a recent bout of searching on Google, I learned that Fenway School stands for Fenway School of Illustration.

Here's a spread of the artists and their models. Check out that model top center. That's Doris. In her full riding gear.

According to the Friends of Fenway Studio, the art school met in the Fenway Studio building.

...Read More

Posted by Susan A. Kitchens on December 01, 2010 in • GenealogyMemorabiliaPersonalPhotographs
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Saturday Evening Post: Interviewing Family During Holidays

Cover of the November/December 2010 issue of The Saturday Evening Post Whee! I’m in America’s oldest magazine. The cover story of the November/December 2010 issue of The Saturday Evening Post is about finding out more about your family’s history over holiday visits.

The five pages of the magazine covers ways to explore your family’s history, from asking questions of family members to genealogical research, in an article by Doug Donaldson, and one by Stephen C. George.

Plus there’s helpful advice. In a sidebar. I’m quoted there. About avoiding “Why?” when talking to family (more on Why Not Why here) and your seating arrangements when asking questions about pictures in photo albums. (More on that here and [new!] here.)

Cover story, first spread of the Saturday Evening Post's story Some fun stuff: Donaldson’s article and sidebar highlights family gatherings recorded using the built-in video camera on a laptop—that’s a new one on me! Among the experts interviewed is oral historian Stephen M. Sloan, a fellow member of the Oral History Association (too, I read his emails from time to time on the Oral History email list). Two fellow members of the Association of Personal Historians, Jennifer Sauers, and ...Read More

Posted by Susan A. Kitchens on November 17, 2010 in • Do it: YourselfOral history in the newsPersonal
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Preparing Mama to be an Interviewer

Here's Mom, standing in front of an old California stagecoach stop not far from Temecula, California. (from a recent road trip) What happens the person who’s usually the interviewee borrows your fancy digital recorder and becomes the interviewer? What happens when your Mom goes across the country and will see someone you’ve been wanting to interview for, like forever? Do you say, Okay Mom, please ask these questions. Oh, and would you record it? How do you make using the recorder as simple as possible? Will it work out?

The other week, my Mom went from West Coast to East Coast to attend her 60th high school reunion. I loaned her my easiest-to-use recorder with some very basic instruction. And hoped for the best.

Mount Pleasant High School Postcard (sent 1950, the same year Mom graduated).

Background: The stories I want to hear

Main entrance to General Electric's largest plant and its general offices. My gradmother worked for the General Electric Company twice—in the 1920s before her children were born, and again from 1941 until she retired in 1966. The person I’ve wanted to interview—a woman whose initials are NF—was mentored by my grandmother.  They both worked in an industry where women professionals were A Rare Thing.

Here’s something else that’s important: Grandma lived on the other side of the country.

I am back east at Grandma and Grandpa's house. In the snow (wow!) It's 1963; I am 3 and a half years old. (Grandma died 4 years later) I only have a few memory snapshots of her, from a visit East when I was a pre-schooler, and from a visit Grandma took west when my younger brother was born (I was 5?).

Grandma died a few months ...Read More

Posted by Susan A. Kitchens on September 29, 2010 in • AudioAudio: HardwareHow-ToPersonal
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Greetings from Jamboree

I’m at the Genealogy Jamboree in Burbank. You can follow twitter chatter about the conference at the hashtag #scgs10. This also serves as a demonstration to Jennifer, with whom I am talking here in the lounge where the genealogy bloggers hang out… Jennifer is not a geneablogger; in fact she is unfamiliar with what this whole blogging thing is, exactly. So, when words don’t suffice (or they obfuscate), then a show and tell helps. I hope. Her friend Vikki is also watching; in fact, she’s offering better wording suggestions than I first came up with. So this paragraph is a group effort.

Posted by Susan A. Kitchens on June 11, 2010 in • GenealogyPersonal
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I’m one in a hundred! ( Top 100 Genealogy Site recognition) 100 badge WooHoo! I’m proud to say that Family Oral History Using Digital Tools has been recognized in the Top 100 Genealogy Sites.

From the blog post/announcement of this distinction:

We wanted to identify and give recognition to websites which offered high-quality content, were innovative in topic or design, and which were frequently updated with new content. We also put some emphasis on finding hidden gems in the community, and bringing sites to attention which currently have relatively small audiences. As such, there are a number of lesser-known sites included, and a few more prominent sites unmentioned for the same reason.

Here’s the entire list of the 100 sites. To stay sane, I think I’ll be clicking a few a day over the next several (or several-several) days.

Congratulations to all the others, and ...Read More

Posted by Susan A. Kitchens on May 13, 2010 in • Cool WebsiteGenealogyPersonal
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How can I help you with your resolutions for 2010?

Happy 2010 to you. My biggest resolution is to help you with your New Year’s resolutions, especially if yours take the form of saying “I really ought to talk to my…” Mom or Dad or Grandpa or Grandma or Aunt or Uncle or family friend. And record that conversation. And then process it with your computer. And then archive it somehow.

In 2010, I wish to to devote more time and effort to this site than I did the last year, and here’s a toast to the posts, articles, reviews and videos that will appear here this year. I’m leery of getting too specific and too ambitious. (Been there, done that.) What can I write about that will help you?

On my own work with my own family oral histories, I have recordings of my dad and uncle—both veterans—that I want to finish processing and submit to the Veterans History Project.

I’ve got some family photos that I scanned. Or rather began scanning—there are so many more. I want to put them together in a MemoryMiner photo library to distribute to all the cousins (I’ve talked of this ...Read More

Posted by Susan A. Kitchens on January 01, 2010 in • Do it: Learn HowDo it: YourselfInterviewingPersonal
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Dad Memorial Scanfest, part 2: How we used the images

imageMy Dad’s memorial was filled with photos, dear reader. Filled with them. The memorial was a little over a week ago. Here’s what went down. Here’s what we did with the photos I scanned (as described in Part 1). (I’ll write one more post about lessons learned on a personal level)

The basic workflow of the images was: Scanning app → Photoshop where I did some basic color correction. When I scan images, I make them as big as possible, huuuuge file sizes. The scanner gave me the option of saving as TIFFs, so I did that. Before I brought them into MemoryMiner, I did a batch process in Photoshop to reduce the image size to half of what it was before, which left enough pixels for anyone who wanted to print out a high-ish resolution photo (longer dimensions average somewhere above 1200 pixels.) I changed foto format to high resolution JPEGs because I’m planning on eventually distributing the photo library, and I want it all to fit on a single DVD (capacity 4.7 GB) ...Read More

Posted by Susan A. Kitchens on November 23, 2009 in • PersonalPhotographs
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The Dad Memorial Scanfest Marathon

I’ve been on a tear, scanning family photos, for Dad’s memorial – the printed program, slideshow, and to burn on CD to share among extended family. I wrote most of this post when I was near the end of Marathon session #2, over the Hallowe’en/All Saints weekend a week+ ago. Find the album, pull out the fotos, scan at super high resolution. Open Photoshop to crop and/or copy paste just the individual image into its own image file. All of this has me thinking about the best way to share and manage a huge photo collection. This is one of those “thinking out loud” post, most composed 10 days ago, with some follow-up comments from today.

It’s been a month since Dad died, and the memorial is set for this weekend. This has allowed us some time to breathe, and to give family members time to plan a trip here for Dad’s memorial. It’ll be a Great Gathering. The scanfest(s) are to prepare for it.

Even though Dad’s memorial is a week and a half away, at 2 weeks out I felt the tug of this scanfest project drawing to a close. It could go on forever. Seriously. There are so. many. more. pictures. (And slides. So many slides!)

But there are other things to do. These photos need to be resized from gargantuan full-resolution .tif  or .psd file to high-rez jpegs, then brought into MemoryMiner. Where I identify who-where-when ...Read More

Posted by Susan A. Kitchens on November 11, 2009 in • PersonalPhotographs
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One month ago: Hootenanny in the Hospital

This post is about a music-filled night exactly one month ago. But it’s about far more than that. I won’t make you read to the end for the most important bit. My Dad died October 4. He had some music during his final days. One sing stands out in my mind; it took place exactly one month ago. I wrote about it the next day and posted it on a private family blog. I guess I’ll begin by giving some backstory, as I wrote it for those who were already following along:

<Background: Saturday, September 26—My Dad went into the hospital—his sixth hospitalization since May of last year. I had been with him Thursday (24th); it took 3 of us to get him from a wheeling walker w/ a sitting seat to his bed; he was too weak to stand. I left the next day; oldest bro D arrived late Friday night (25th) and Saturday got Dad admitted to the hospital. I spent that Saturday afternoon upgrading my ancient crappy cel phone (vintage 2002! spontaneously disconnect from battery at the worst times, rendering it highly unreliable) to a new one with a text-message plan, which turned out to be A Very Good Move in light of what was to come.

Also On Saturday the 26th, R, my ...Read More

Posted by Susan A. Kitchens on October 29, 2009 in • Personal
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