Genealogy Carnival #12: Solving Technical Problems while doing Family History

Technical problems and family history. A favorite topic of mine, seeing as how my life is mired in often consumed by solving technical problems. Indeed that’s what this site is all about.

This edition’s entries include: magnetic tape and cinching; putting grandpa’s travel album online; research, kludgy sites and frustration; why one writes software; liberating photo albums of physical space; family geek fun; how to organize digitized family letters, how to use VoIP to record family research phone calls, finding family history videos on the net, and transparent technology in telling tales of Mom.

It’s a cinch. This is not the cinch you are looking for

Richard Hess keeps a blog called Restoration Tips and Notes; he’s a man with a collection of dang near every reel-to-reel tape recorder head ever made. And he buys special cassette players on eBay. Just because. He’s involved in the business of restoration, which means he doesn’t transform the tape itself, but works to restore and capture the sound on that tape. He works with tape recordings of all sorts and


skillfully coaxes old tape to play. He then transfers it to a digital format. Maybe he cleans it up, maybe he does a straight transfer. He’s witnessed ugly and hopeless spools of tape. His post, Let sleeping tapes lie—- what to do with poorly wound tapes is all about tape that’s scrunched and cinched (complete with a photo of a spool of tape that will make you cringe). You gotta go there for the gory story, but I’ll repeat his advice:

if you find a tape like this, do not rewind it and attempt to clear up the cinching unless you are also ready to transfer the tape, as there are no guarantees that it can be wound better after unwinding. [Read More]

Where family history intersects History-history and even recent current event history.

Peter Dawson submitted this older post with a scan of an old parchment related to his family history. Plus, he introduces what he calls his BlackBook, which is:

“BlackBook” titled “Memories of Mesopotamia”, Baghdad, 1918. It’s the chronicle of Grandpa’s observations, during his tenure in Mesopotamia (aka Iraq).

What fascinates me is that [my grandfather] was also a photo geek and a keen observer as he walked thru the Mesopotamia. Just think, his BlackBook actually has over 100 odd photographs along with notations against many of them. It reminds me of a blog in paper !!!Parchment_1I’ll digitize each page and hopefully, this will give my readers and idea of how Iraq was in the early 1900 !!

Peter uploads photos of pages in the BlackBook, and describes them in his posts. You can see them on his BlackBook page of posts.  Scroll from the bottom and read “up.”

Oh the places you will go!
Oh the problems you will find!
You will (not) use kludgy web sites
They will set you far behind.

In which Jasia (our usual Genealogy Carnival Host) travels far away to a library to conduct some research and the trouble she finds there. Her carnival entry comes in two parts:

Chapter 1: A Total Waste of Time. Our heroine travels to a library to access a set of web-based maps.

My mission was to obtain the Sanborn maps for my great grandfather’s neighborhood to use for reference for my novel writing next month.

Our heroine encounters disappointment after disappointment. She couldn’t find her grandfather’s house (groan). No index. (gasp!) No search feature (eek!). She presses on, however, and saves what information she can to her trusty thumb drive.

(Cue music: Night on Bald Mountain.) It’s only when she arrives home with her saved images that she discovers the awful truth about the maps.  You’ll have to go and read her post yourself; you’ll find no spoilers here.

Our heroine bravely refrains from whining about her fate, however. The current Carnival Host begs to differ with our Brave Heroine, however on this one matter of detail. When it comes to kludgy map sites (cough cough, Sanborn Maps, when we say kludgy , we’re talking about you), a detailed description is not a rant or a whine (well, then again, it’s both), but it’s highly valuable user feedback. But the current Carnival Host digresses.

Chapter 2: In Another Day of Research, Our intrepid heroine sets off for another library for another day of research. There is a happy denoument to the Sanborn Kludge Map Site saga.

Solve unto others, now that you have already solved unto yourself

John Fox’s post, Why I Wrote MemoryMiner, describes how a shared family experience around scanning photographs led to the creation of the software application, MemoryMiner.

[M]y brother suggested that we scan as many of the photos in “the” family album as possible. If for no other reason, so he reasoned, we should all have a CD copy of these precious memories. As he busied himself with the disassembly and scanning of the the albums, I noticed something interesting. As people came in, they started picking up photos and recalling stories. […] It was so much easier to make these connections when all the photos were “liberated” from the physical albums and could be rearranged quickly and easily. Essentially, I wanted to capture and extend this shared experience where both the memory artifacts and the people who knew about them were all working together. [Read More]

Fun Family Geekery, in Four Posts

I’ve had similar experiences at family reunions and family get-togethers, where we benefit from unalbumed photos. Not the brainstorm new software program kind of thing. No, I’m talking about the garden-variety LCD digital projector of all family photos. “What!?” I can hear you say. “An LCD project is not what I’d call garden variety.” Fair enough. But the advantage of a projector is that it takes the photo out of the “two people sit side by side on the couch looking in an album” experience and opens it up in other ways. Family Raves (minus the x-t-c) and joke-a-thons. Oh yeah, and telling stories.

Thanksgiving Family Geekery, 2004. How the sibs have all grown up and learned to play well together, and lookie now! Their geek toys and gadgets play well together, too.  And for an extended Kitchens family reunion in May 2005 (05/05/05, actually), there’s Photo Scans, and projection plans  (w/ a few pictures). It came off well.  Thanksgiving 2005 included audio recording  (see this site’s masthead photo in its original form!) and Dad email tech support. 

From Photo organization to family letters, too?

Also related to MemoryMiner and also related to this me-me-me interlude, I wrote a post on this site where I think through how MemoryMiner might work to organize a hefty slew of family letters, once I scan them. It’s an idea-stage post about a problem that needs solving. When I get a visit from The Great Round Tuit (cough, cough), I’ll be able to see if it worked or not.

When (Internet) Long Distance is the Next Best Thing to Being There

Juliann of Roots Rookie: Chronicles of a Novice Genealogist puts her mad podcasting skillz to work for family history in her post, Recording Phone Calls over the Internet.

A major problem in my research is that all of my living relatives are at least several thousand miles away. Add in that my memory isn’t what it was and that I find it hard to take notes and ask questions at the same time—I need to find a way to record these phone calls, for myself as well as for future generations and other researchers. Because I am a podcaster, I am aware of other people using their computer to record telephone calls. This sounds perfect so I decided to look into it. [Read More]

What follows is an excellent and detailed description of the two main Voice over IP software applications, Skype and Gizmo Project, and how one might use them to make phone calls and then record those conversations to your computer. Excellent, excellent stuff. (also very timely, in light of the fact that my younger brother just started using Gizmo Project and I downloaded and installed it the other day. Sweet.)

Videos, Slideshows, Digital Stories

I wanted to see what vloggers (video bloggers) are doing with family history. Were they describing technical problems? Solving them? I don’t know if I’ve found people describing tech problems as much as using video as a way to solve the problem to communicate about family history.

But this search and finding can be a solution to a technical problem. Sort of.

Solution #1 Find others who are making videos about family history: I used, a recently-launched internet video search engine, to find videos. Dabble searches the internet video sites, and looks at file descriptions and tags (hello, metadata!). I used the search terms genealogy and family history.

Solution #2: Create a collection. Once you sign up for a Dabble account, you can create a playlist. So I created one—called genealogy carnival with some of the different videos I found. I barely scratched the surface, so I may yet add to the playlist.

In the playlist there are family stories, an interview with Dad, a tour through old family albums, photo albums, and more. Consider this a collection of solutions. I may add to the playlist as I review more videos. In some places, I’ve added comments (see comments by auntialias) to provide a bit of description for what you’ll find in the video.

Tech Transparent… It’s about Tribute; it’s about Stories

Doc Searls is a blogger. He’s also co-author of the cluetrain manifesto, more of a marketing manifesto (we are humans, we are not eyeballs. markets are conversations. Your customer knows more than you do). He’s been blogging for some years and over the course of his blog about tech and internet and metaphor. But he’s written a lot about his mother. (I did a search on his blog for “Mom” and chose from the results to link here)

I feel obligated to describe why these links to Doc’s posts are about solving a technical problem. They’re not. This set of posts is more a matter of just using technology. Naturally, like breathing. Use technology to tell stories. Here, let me show you these photos of my mother. Let me tell you what she means to me. What emerges is a lot of history of his family. And he used the tools of tech to do so.

He said, in a series  of posts  (with  images) right  before  and after  her  death

So it’s occurred to me that over the last few days my mother’s spirit has taken over my blog. It’s the kind of thing that tended to happen when she was around.

It’s fine with me. I’ve got other stuff to do, like fly to North Carolina today to attend services there this weekend. I’m doing her eulogy on Sunday.

Since we needed a good picture for Mom’s obituary, I went ahead and put together another gallery, covering 1974 to 2003 — her years in North Carolina. The best of the bunch I turned into black & whites, with links from their pages in the gallery. (I think this is the best one.)

It’s so much more fun doing this than moping around. [Read More]

As time  passes , he continues  to remember his Mom.

I’ll excerpt this post, called Love On:

Two in the morning. The server’s still out and I’m still scanning pictures, thinking about what I’ll say in my eulogy for Mom today.

The picture above was taken in the summer of ‘48 when I was one year old, six years after the fishing picture from Alaska and fifty-five years before the picture last year at Manasquan Inlet.

Whatever else I’ve learned from going through boxes of old photographs, it’s clear to me now why people take pictures of people. It isn’t just to capture moments, to record history, to make art, or just to fool around, though it’s all those things and more. It’s to tell stories. Including stories people don’t even know they’re telling.

There’s a story in that smile of Mom’s, which lit the world for ninety years.

It’s a love story, isn’t it? What else could it be? [Read More]

Considering that I’ve composed this post around the time of my boyfriend Doc M’s mother’s memorial service—which was earlier today—these reflections by Doc Searls fit so well.

… …

The next


Carnival of Genealogy is all about




To Err Is Human

No two genealogists are just alike, but there is one thing all genealogists have in common: mistakes. Every genealogist has made at least one mistake. Tell us about yours. Are you still tracking down sources you neglected to cite for the first 5 years? Did you share a family secret one generation too soon? Or maybe, after making a left instead of a right in Albuquerque, you found yourself barking up the wrong tree. Whatever the blooper, we want to hear about it.

It will be hosted at Lee’s blog, Geneaholic. Submit your entries by November 30 at the blog carnival site.

UPDATE 4 December: The new carnival is up!

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Posted by Susan A. Kitchens on November 19, 2006 in • GenealogyLinks
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