Here’s my postscript to this brief article: Make records of family heirlooms. In response to a reader question about what kind of info to write down about family heirlooms, Syracuse.com’s Sheila Burns says yes, write it down - both the object’s description, and additional details about its use in the family. [via GenWeekly] Don’t just write it, record it! Heirlooms are wonderful story triggers for family interviews. If you’re stuck for a starting place, or a way to get more stories from family members, ask questions about objects and heirlooms.
Each of the questions Burns poses about the object are wonderful triggers for a recorded interview.
Identify, photograph and maintain records of your treasures. Describe the history and condition of each object. Who owned it? Who made, purchased or used the object. Where did the person live? How was the item used? What did the item mean to your family?
Good interviews use lots of open-ended questions, the kind that lead to telling a story, rather than a simple “yes” or “no.” Each of these question starts with those wonderful words that elicit stories—Who? Where? How? What?
I can almost hear the story as it unwinds from one of those questions.
Burns talks about taking the story ...Read More
Just watched the first episode of Faces of America American Lives, the annual February PBS documentary by Henry Louis Gates Jr. He looks at the immigrant experience, and the family history that brought certain people to the United States – the parents and grandparents of Americans of note– Kristi Yamaguchi, Yo Yo Ma, Mike Nichols, Louise Edrich, Mehmet Oz, Elizabeth Alexander, Malcolm Gladwell, Eva Longoria and Mario Batali (I guess we hear more next time from Stephen Colbert, Meryl Streep, and Queen Noor). The heart of this episode dwelled in the events of World War II, and the way that great event shaped the lives of ancestors of Yamaguchi, Ma, Nichols and Edrich.
One trademark about these Gates productions is the revelation about an ancestor. You watch Gates direct the person to turn the page of the book and take in the surprise fact about the Ancestor To The Celebrity. What did figure skater Kristi Yamaguchi’s grandfather do when he served in WW2? Surprise! What became of the other family members of Mike Nichols who stayed in the old country? Surprise!
Some surprises are affirming and uplifting, others are revelation of unknown tragedy, examples of prejudice and injustice. Still others exemplify the torn loyalties of new Americans who support their adopted country that is now at war with The Old Country.
“Faces of America” illuminates the ...Read More
Pia Lopez of the SacBee opines that the census is much more than How Many People, What Ages are they? She describes all her family history that’s contained in census past. She recounts everything she knows of her family history that’d be lost if a proposed law that asks Just Four Questions Only (name, age, date of response, number of people living in one household) had been in force at the time her ancestors filled out the census. enacted.
From my family’s oral history, I knew that my mother’s grandfather had left Ireland for New York in 1893 and that he worked for James Butler’s Irish neighborhood grocery store chain.
But the June 6, 1900, census snapshot fills in a whole lot more fascinating detail. Martin E. Roache lived at 551 W. 152nd St., near Broadway (one block from the Hudson River) in Washington Heights, Manhattan. He was boarding with the Schmidt family.
The husband, age 42, had arrived from Germany in 1875 and was a baker. The wife, age 39, was born in New York, the daughter of a German immigrant and a native-born New Yorker. They had two children, ages 10 and 5. The older child was attending school. A ...Read More
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
MemoryMiner 2.0. Cool. Been looking forward to this, and readers of this site’s comment threads have had a slight heads up this was coming. The announcement arrived as I was out of town for the holiday. MemoryMiner’s developer, John Fox, is the digital family photo Santa. I came up with a wishlist of items while working with the till-now current version, will have to download it and check out the new version.
UPDATE: I’ve been taking a look at the demo movie, and I like the things I see in there so much that I’m putting the movie here, too.
Thought this movie is for the Mac version, MemoryMiner is cross-platform. Looks as though, at this point, MemoryMiner 2.0 is Mac-only at this point. I’ll get you more news about any plans for MemoryMiner 2.0 for Windows.
Do you want to interview parents or grandparents over the holidays? Here are some tips from Jens Lund – whom I met at the Oral History Association conference in Louisville this fall. As I see it, the problem for the family member interviewer is lack of experience conducting interviews. What one piece of advice would Lund, an experienced folklorist, give to the first time interviewer?
Jens (pronounced yens) Lund, from Washington state, pioneered aspects of creating the driving audio tour. Put in a cassette (this was a while ago, people) at a certain location on a road, drive and play. The tape tells you about what you’re seeing, with significant history and interviews with people from the area. There may be music from local people as well.
Here’s what he had to say:
Don’t interrupt. Give the person enough time. Don’t cut them off. Don’t hurry through your set of questions. Give a moment—a few breaths—at the end of what they say. They may be breathing or pausing before continuing with their story.
I asked him for one piece of advice. I got three good answers. ...Read More
Love this lead-in: “Instead of fixating on how aggravating [family] can be, focus instead on how interesting they actually are.” Thus begins Jennifer Davis’s overview of ways to preserve family stories. [via Randy Seaver’s Genea-Musings]
There are lists of resources, and an overview of the formats.
Alas, this one bit of caution isn’t warranted, really:
Audio recordings are fine but be aware that changing technologies could pose a problem in the future. Just ask any family that recorded their oral history on a cassette tape.
As long as your audio recording is an accepted, well-known format, such as AIFF or WAV, you’ll be okay. Just make multiple copies, burn multiple disks. The biggest risk is data loss.
Davis lists people who provide services and locations for equipment rental and the like. This site has an equipment section that discusses most major audio equipment types. And check out my equipment store, too, ...Read More
Memories of Jamboree, Burbank, California, from June of this year. Image: Footnotes at Jamboree. What fun it was to meet fellow Geneabloggers and hang out. I think I spent more time hanging and talking than I did going to the conference sessions at Jamboree.
I began composing this post the day after Jamboree. But then I got sick. All of July I was sick. Then other stuff happened. But hey, I know that today’s the day when plans for next year’s Jamboree kicks off, so what better time to belatedly recall Jamboree last June than today?
I didn’t make it to the Son of Blogger session (exhaustion set in, alas—June had been a jam-packed month), so that event was a micro-cosm of my posting of late (not much, you?)
I did make it to the Geneabloggers dinner on Saturday night, though. And, as you can tell by this image (click to view high rez version), a lot of other Geneabloggers made it, too! (not pictured: Thomas Macentee, nor I)
Here’s a ...Read More
This image is a gift, one I received in an email. My cousin sent it to me a couple of weeks back. Subject line: “Grandma Joe* Graduation Photo.” She went to MIT – Massachusetts Institute of Technology – and graduated in 1920.
I have Grandma’s letters that she received when she was at MIT, and one or two photos from that time, but this unexpected one is a beaut.
[Welcome, BoingBoingers & followers of @Xeni!
Stats about early MIT below; or maybe you’d be interested in a foto essay of my other, non-techy Grandma and her 1924 climb of Mt Rainier when she was 23 years old.]
Of the 40 people in this photo, Florence, also known as Flossie (upper right)—is the only woman. The photo arrived in email all by itself. The only clues were the file name and the subject line. Other than knowing that Flossie graduated from MIT in 1920, I don’t know much else about this photo. But one good gift leads ...Read More
My 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
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
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
I’ve been otherwise occupied for a while. As said in Winnie The Pooh, Bizy backson. A while back I mentioned that I might as well name this site Family Medical History Using Offline Tools, and that is so. My father is reaching the end of a long, long road. He is now at home, receiving hospice care. So. Well. suffice it to say, I haven’t been stoking this site with a ton of new posts and articles.
I’m going to be attending the Oral History Association annual meeting in Louisville, KY this month. I’ll be speaking there about doing family oral history (don’t take it personally? But I have to take it personally!)
There’s a part where I’ll talk about what it’s like to listen to oral histories after the interviewee has died. As I’ve been putting together the presentation, I planned to talk about my grandpa, and tell the story of my boyfriend’s Mom. But I don’t know that I want to talk about my reactions to listening to oral histories I’ve recorded with my dad—and my reactions to them—in real time.
A coupla years I came across a letter my Great Grandma Fannie wrote to her daughters Florence and Doris during the 1918 flu epidemic. I was captivated both by mentions of the flu (the letter was written during December, 1918) and tickled by the description of Vick’s VapoRub. You can read the whole thing here and see a page of the letter, and the clippings from the newspaper article, which I transcribed.
Last week, I was contacted by Donald W Patterson from the News-Record, and we spoke briefly about the Billings Gazette article and the letter and my thoughts. I told him more of what I knew, that Great Grandma Fannie wrote her daughters weekly. No, I didn’t know if there were more ...Read More
For Sony Walkman’s 30th anniversary, 13-year old Scott Campbell tries it for a week. Hilarious for us oldsters to see our old fave equipment through a young-person’s eyes.
My dad had told me it was the iPod of its day.
He had told me it was big, but I hadn’t realised he meant THAT big. It was the size of a small book.
Size? cumbersome. Handy belt-clip, but with that weight? (you hafta read the article to find out its effect for current 13 year olds).
When I wore it walking down the street or going into shops, I got strange looks, a mixture of surprise and curiosity, that made me a little embarrassed.
Though one teacher got nostalgic. Two tantalizing questions:
How long did it take for Campbell to figure out that there was a side B to this tape?
And how did he create his own impromptu “Shuffle” effect?
You hafta read the article to find out the ...Read More