31 December 2010

Time to Back-up

Thanks to Dick Eastman for the illustration as well
as much of the information in this post.
I shared earlier this year about my semi-backed-up computer crash. Yesterday I asked my daughter if I could copy her photos. She got some from me BC (before crash). She complained about the process. What a pain! She didn't want to spend the computer time doing that. I asked her if she had her computer backed up. "Well, yes," she said, "but I can't find the external hard drive I used." That's a real problem since she is a college student with frequent moves.  This post is dedicated to you, my dear.

There are some basic programs we can use that will automatically do some backing up. G-mail will preserve the emails we haven't deleted yet. I retrieved many attachments that I shared with cousins, sisters, etc. By the way, sharing is another good protection, no matter how you do it. Picassa is a way to store photos on-line. I-tunes can sync music on your ipod, but when I tried to restore, I was in trouble because the ipod thought I had a different computer. (I did have a different hard drive.) I use Drop box to share files with other committee members and it also syncs between computers.

But none of the above gave me the total security I needed when both my hard drives became corrupted. I consider Dick Eastman the guru of back-ups. Here are some recent quotes from his blog.

From December 1, 2010: It is the first day of the month. It's time to back up your genealogy files.
Actually, you can make backups at any time. However, it is easier and safer if you have a specific schedule. The first day of the month is easy to remember, so I would suggest you back up your genealogy files on the first of every month.
Of course, you might want to back up more than your genealogy files. Family photographs, your checkbook register, all sorts of word processing documents, and much more need to be backed up regularly. Why not do that on the first of each month?
How much information and how many pictures will you lose if your hard drive crashes this evening?  By the way, all hard drives WILL crash someday. The only question is "when?" Make your backups today.
Dick Eastman on November 20, 2010: I have written a number of times about Mozy, an excellent off-site backup program for both Windows and Macintosh systems. You can read some of my past articles if you start at http://goo.gl/T4lOF. I wrote about Mozy 2.0 for Windows at http://goo.gl/b6lkl. In that article, I wrote: "Mozy 2.0 is a free download for Windows systems only, with a Mac 2.0 version promised to follow 'later this year.'" The company made good on the promise: Mozy 2.0 for Macintosh is available now.
Version 2.0 for Macintosh adds several new background algorithm and efficiency improvements, resulting in significantly faster operation. The speed of file transfers across the Internet are still dependent of the speed of the Internet connection used, however. Both Home and Professional users get more advanced file sorting and search to find the stuff on their hard drive that needs backing up. Much of that is invisible to the user. However, anyone who has been using Mozy on a Macintosh will immediately notice the new, more native, Mac-like look.
Mozy 2.0 for both Windows and Macintosh systems is free for everyone with up to 2 gigabytes of storage space. Unlimited home and business plans can be obtained for reasonable monthly prices. Details may be found at http://mozy.com/
Additional information by Eastman: The Time Machine local backups do make backups of the entire hard drive while I use BackBlaze to make online backups ONLY of my Documents folders which include all my documents, pictures, income tax data, etc. I don't see any need to back up the entire hard drive as I can always reinstall the operating system and applications. I only worry about my DATA and that gets backed up in multiple places.
In addition to the above, I also use DROPBOX to automatically copy files from the desktop to laptop computers and vice versa. In effect, this gives me a third backup although that is not my primary purpose of it. I use it more simply to keep my files (documents) in sync so that I always have the latest versions on all computers.
I would suggest that you never, ever save only one copy of a file to any online service or to any one hard drive. If the file is important to you, always save at least two copies to different places. Three copies saved to three different places is even better and four copies to four different places is better still.
If you ever lose your only copy on Google Docs or your only copy on your local hard drive, you want to be able to go to your (multiple) backup copies and retrieve the file that you need.
So, can you trust Google Docs? No, not any more than you can trust your hard drive or anything else. The only safety comes in numbers. In this case, that means the number of backup copies you have stored in different places.
And finally, another scary thought from March 18, 2010: Sure, we all know how to back up files that are on our hard drives, right? There are multiple methods of accomplishing that. How about backing up your data on Facebook? or Google Docs? or Zoho Docs? or how about backing up your blog on Blogger.com or Wordpress? How about all your pictures on Flickr or Photobucket? What would happen of a system glitch erased all your information on those services? Could you recover? 
Perhaps most important of all, how about all your stored email messages on Gmail or Hotmail? Many of use use those online services as "filing cabinets" for our email messages and may have thousands of messages stored on one of those online services. If Hotmail or Google suddenly loses your stored messages, what will you do?
Other online services have gone out of business abruptly in the past. Still others have had system crashes that resulted in irrecoverable data. Sure, they all should be performing their own backups but even the best-run I.T. shops occasionally have unplanned outages. Online accounts also get hacked occasionally. Your information may be deleted and replaced by things you don't want. What will you do if your online information suddenly disappears?
Luckily, there is an easy answer: backupify
Backupify is an online service itself that performs daily automatic backups, archiving, and export for your data stored on many other online services. You can take back control of your online data with backupify.
Setting up backupify is easy. You first create a free account with the service (larger amounts of storage are available for a fee). You then enter your login credentials for each service you want to back up, and set your preferences. Backupify will take it from there. Daily backups are made automatically without further involvement from you. You will get regular emails confirming when your backups have completed. The backups are made at very high speeds as the data is transferred directly from one online service to another via very high speed lines. The speed of your Internet connection is irrelevant. In fact, this is probably the only effective method for dial-up users to back up large collections of online data.
All of your data is backed up on the Amazon cloud and fully follows Amazon's security and data duplication policies. In the unlikely event that something ever happens to backupify, you can easily contact Amazon to get your data back out.
Backupify will back up any one service free of charge as long as the amount of data is two gigabytes or less. A Premium account costs $39.95 a year (with a lower sale price in effect as I write these words) and will back up unlimited accounts to a maximum of ten gigabytes of stored data. Larger amounts of storage space are available at higher prices.
The online services, such as Gmail, Hotmail, Flickr, Google, and others are generally reliable but nothing is ever perfect. If you do not want to trust others to always "do the right thing," you will appreciate the extra insurance provided by backupify.
You can learn more at http://www.backupify.com
Thank you Dick Eastman, for your information and your generous "share" policy.


24 December 2010

Follow Friday - World Vital Records newsletter

What did your ancestors eat? What did they wear? What were they likely to do on holidays? The answers vary, of course, depending on the time and place. Your children and grandchildren will find it interesting to read about your everyday or holiday activities. Sometimes the commonplace events of life are lost because they are thought to be unimportant. Yet it is those very events that make up the fabric of a life.

The Information Desk for December 23, 2010, a FamilyLink or World Vital Records publication, had an article that caught my eye this morning. Gena Philibert Ortega posted a Gen Tip that reminds us to include social history in our family history writing. She suggests that we think of a shared experience, one that the reader has experienced as well as the subject of our family history. Compare and contrast is a technique we all learned in our high school or college English classes. We can apply this to our writing. Gena reminds us that our ancestors ate out just as we do and she gives us some sources to look at in determining the menus they may have perused.

Eating is a universal experience. Recipes from the past, holiday menus and food traditions all enrich our family history. We have included recipes right in the history of a great-grandmother. Cooking was a big part of her life. Knitting or crochet patterns are another possible inclusion. What fun for a young mother to replicate something that was made by her great-great grandmother.

Christmas is a one holiday especially replete with tradition. It's time to do a little research. Did your ancestors celebrate Christmas? If they did, what were their activities on Christmas Eve? Or you could take 15 minutes to write about your activities today or in the past and then share that writing with your grandchildren, either today or sometime in the future.

22 December 2010

Advent Calendar - December 22 - Christmas and Deceased Relatives

Sometimes my children accuse me of loving the dead more than the living. Hmm, my dead relatives don't criticize me as much, that's for sure.

Our community has a loosely organized candlelight memorial vigil at each city cemetery on Christmas Eve. Luminaries or candles are lit at each grave site where the families come to participate. It's a quiet peaceful time to remember the gift Jesus Christ gave us all--the power to rise again in our bodies. I often think of resurrection morning when I'm at the cemetery.

There are other ways to honor deceased relatives. Footnote has an interactive feature I like called Footnote Pages. To use footnote pages, no membership is required. You can search for a person and read what others have written or create a page of memories yourself. Attach documents, photos or memories about this person. A huge database is already provided by the Social Security death index. I established footnote pages for some of my loved ones that have passed on. Think social networking--Facebook for those who can't post for themselves (lol). Truly, I believe that the more we can share information and memories, the more our family history work will progress. I would like to make an interactive page for many more of the characters on my family tree.

Bert Whitney -- Merry Christmas Dad!
Here is a Christmas memory I posted last year on Footnote for my dad.
Dad made Christmas magical for his 10 children. He and Mom sacrificed to give us wonderful gifts every year when we were young. There was a grand display of toys for all of us on every Christmas morning. When we married and left home, he was generous with his financial gifts so we could do the same for our children if we desired. In the years he spent alone, he often worked for hours on homemade presents like the step stool and bench I still love. He enjoyed the family Christmas parties, loving the musical offerings of his children and grandchildren and serving, as always, as the main audience for our re-enactment of the Nativity story. He was a quiet generous man with a heart as big as the desert landscape that he loved.

18 December 2010

Advent Calendar - Dec 18 - Christmas Stockings

One of my early creations
"A story always begins in the middle." So says Michael York at the Mormon Tabernacle Choir 2010 Christmas concert. His beginning statement in the narration of a touching story of the Welch immigrant who began the first "Tabernacle Choir" caught my attention. How true! There is always something before that influences our stories. For instance, we all have parents and grandparents and so on and so on. Their stories become our own. It's impossible to truly find the beginning.

So I will begin my story of the Christmas stockings somewhere in the middle: the year I learned to knit a stocking--a Christmas stocking. I had my mother's pattern, and after several tries, I managed to produce one. The desire to knit a Christmas stocking came to me from my childhood. My mother knitted red and white rug yarn stockings for all of us. We were 10. They hung on the 3 sides of our fireplace that jutted out from the divider between our living room and kitchen (a unique design of our dad's). As we married and left home, my mother kept knitting. Every December there were new stockings--first for the in-laws and then for the new grandbabies that came along next. But our mother finished knitting before we finished marrying and producing grandchildren.

However, before our mother knitted the Christmas stockings, our grandmother knitted us stockings as a Christmas present. They shrunk when we washed them in the washer, but we still marveled that she could actually make such an item. I asked Grandma about it when I interviewed her for her history. "Oh yes," she said, "We knitted all our stockings when I was a girl. It didn't take that long."

How long? In her mother's history, my great-grandmother, it is said that she could start and finish one stocking in an evening. These were the long black knee socks all the girls wore at the time. So I thought I would try my hand at knitting Christmas stockings. After all, I keep having new grandchildren too. I made several one year. The next year I had forgotten how and had to make my previous mistakes all over again.

This year, my sister gave me her pattern for knitting stockings. She does the real thing for her grandchildren too. And advises that they be hand-washed to prevent shrinkage. After several false starts (one turned out so big I used it to wrap a big package), I think I have come up with a pattern that is easier to do than my mother's (no sewing up the back seam) and that is a reasonable facsimile of our family Christmas stockings.

17 December 2010

Advent Calendar - December 17 - Grab Bag

East face of the tabernacle (2006)
Today I awoke to some news that grabbed me. A historic old building in Provo Utah, the LDS Provo Tabernacle  is burning. The fire began in the early morning hours and the roof fell in at 6:00 am. I've attended Church services and community events there several times a year off and on for over 30 years. It was the kind of building that sent me into the past, imagining people from a different time working to make a thing of beauty without modern machinery, imagining people dressed in "old fashioned" clothing hearing "old fashioned" sermons and applying them to their lives just as I do today.

My children loved to sit in the balcony, and I spent many meetings closely monitoring their actions to make sure no pencils, papers or other extraneous matter were dropped onto unsuspecting heads below.
Balcony, window and left side of organ

There are original works of art in the tabernacle. The stained glass windows were installed in 1917 and later restored by local artisans. The architecture is beautiful to my eyes and was the subject of a paper one of our daughters did for school. I remember taking her to the site with a camera to capture the various details. The organ and the choir loft  are also unique. I am moved by memories of singing there and also of listening to holiday choirs as a member of the audience. Also in the building was an original 1934 painting by Minerva Teichert depicting Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery being visited by Peter, James and John. It remains to be seen how much is preserved. Right now, it doesn't look good.

For more information and photographs, see the unofficial tabernacle website. All photos included here are from that site, taken in 2006.

Woodwork inside tabernacle
This news causes me to reflect on the loss of the "home building" of my parents in Logandale, Nevada. When that building was also destroyed by fire in 2009, several of us took the occasion to write about our memories from that place. It helped us resolve our grief and it captured some important family history. Thinking about a specific place often triggers memories and sparks important family history writing.

15 December 2010

Advent Calendar - December 15 - Holiday Happenings

The family Christmas party was a high point of the Christmas season for many years. Generally we had some kind of program which always included the traditional re-enactment of the Nativity. I am the eldest of 10 children and it was always my job to organize my brothers and sisters into the family dramatic production which I narrated from Luke in the Bible.

There were memorable years when our brother, as a self-appointed donkey, stole the show by nibbling at the straw in the manger. The manger was our doll crib and we fitted it each year with the authentic Hawaiian grass skirts that  Grandma had brought home for my sister and I. We only wore those skirts for a few weeks when she gave them to us, but after they were carefully put away in their shoeboxes, we got them out each December for their more long-lasting use. I still have mine in the grandkids' dress-ups and if any children show up at my house at Christmastime, it is pressed into use again.

Later, we got together as adults and our children took over the Nativity dramatic reading and dress-up. The cousins took over the plum parts of Mary, Joseph, the angel and the wise men. Any extras were shepherds or some type of animal for the barn.

Sisters Annalee and Melanie sing a Christmas duet (Melanie is wearing her mother's Christmas dress 
from the cedar chest). McKay reads to baby Brian.

Cousins Brian (wise man), Sarah (Mary), Sam (wise man) and Nathan (Joseph)
Note the doll crib and Hawaiian skirt straw still serving as props.
Cousins Sheraya as Mary and Julia as a shepherd
Siblings Rachel, Nathan and Carl (shepherds) with cousin Brian as a walk-on
I'm sure we had refreshments and sometimes a gift exchange. I remember a couple of years when an energetic sister organized games for everyone. But the most constant memory of these get-togethers was the acting out of the Bible story of the birth of Jesus Christ. Our family loves dramatics and to be "on stage." Our Christmas parties reflect this interest as well as our interest in the Christmas story of the Bible.

14 December 2010

To Jeni: Another December Birthday

I have a December daughter, Rachel, born December 14, 1975. Thinking of the Virgin Mary, we gave her the middle name of Mary. She was a small sweet joy to our busy family with 4 older siblings, the eldest only 7 at her birth. The next year, also in December, her cousin Jeni was born. You may imagine that Rachel often got a little lost in the midst of so many other children for her mother and father to fuss over, but Rachel loved her family dearly and soon extended that love to her family beyond the immediate. We didn't live close to Jeni's family, but we saw each other at the yearly reunion and at other family gatherings. Rachel's cousin Jeni became her best friend. And with no older sisters, Jeni was willing to look up to and love her cousin Rachel too.

In high school, Jeni met with a serious car accident, one which broke her back and took her years in recovery. It left her with lingering pain that her cousin Rachel worried over. In college they became roommates, along with another cousin for a time. They laughed and played together and made memories enough for a lifetime. Then Rachel went to Australia on a mission. Jeni was bereft, but soon found solace in her new friend, soon to be husband. One of Rachel's first quests upon her return was to determine if the cousin seal of approval would be given to Jeni's new beau. It was.

College football, Rachel center
Reunions became the gathering time again. Jeni once soloed as a new mom on a reunion camping trip, but I misspeak. Jeni didn't have her supportive husband with her, but Rachel filled in and the cousins consoled and cavorted together to the fun of the whole group. Then came the reunion year in which Jeni was again called upon to suffer. Rachel's heart went to her dear cousin as she was undergoing chemotherapy treatment for unseasonable breast cancer. Why did her Jeni have so much to bear? Our Rachel Mary pondered these things. Her decision that year was to forgo the main reunion and to travel instead to her cousin's home to reunite with her. By this time both cousins had two small children. Rachel left hers home with her husband and drove the miles alone in her car to visit Jeni. I received a laughing phone message from Rachel, with details of some of their fun together. Later Jeni gave me an even fuller report. Their reunion was a success. Their hearts were knit even tighter in the family love they shared.

Rachel's 21st birthday
The month was June. Both had just passed their June half-birthdays when Rachel finally got in her car and headed back home to her husband and two small daughters. She never made it that far alive. Another car accident broke Rachel's body and killed her instantly. Jeni mourned. Though she was still recovering from her recent chemotherapy, she made the trip to Rachel's funeral and bravely spoke to the gathering. We felt her love and support. Dear Jeni, who had endured so much, was now left behind to carry on. She has done so with courage and with flair.

Jeni and her sweet husband have taken on the task of comforting her aunt and uncle in their loss. They bring us their children to love. They named their newest baby for our daughter. They keep in touch. And Jeni has supported our extended family history committee in our book writing efforts. She and her husband are our star copy editors for the books we are producing. She has appointed herself the family storyteller, thinking always of the children. In each family newsletter article she remembers some common ancestor and retells some experience of the past as it relates to the present.

A new baby, a miracle baby in the face of her cancer treatment, was her gift this year. But with a blessing, sometimes a sorrow comes along to sweeten the good. So it has been with our Jeni. Her cancer has re-appeared, and after a horrendous surgery, she is again undergoing the dreaded chemotherapy. As always, Jeni is enduring all with her typical courage and generosity.  This time she has been able to share her experiences with others who may have similar trials and those who are grateful not to have those trials. She is facing her fears, doing her best to keep her children's life normal and sane and still reaching out to others. You would enjoy her blog, in which she focuses her considerable story-telling talent on her own life at present. Jeni, you are my hero. Thanks for your December birth and for your wonderful life.

13 December 2010

Advent Calendar - December 10 - Christmas Gifts

One of my December babies
It isn't December 10 anymore, but I want to finish the post I started that day. I had 2 babies in December and 2 grandbabies. I also have 2 step-granddaughters with December birthdays to celebrate. These girls are twins whose birthday is Christmas Day. I wasn't there nor did I know them or the their mother on that day, but I can imagine the joy in that family the day they were born. Is there any gift more precious than a gift that is a reminder than the first Christmas gift--the Babe in Bethlehem? Christmas birthdays tend to get overshadowed by the more universal celebration, but my experience with December babies is that they are a precious blessing. A baby brings us back to one of the most basic joys in life--the continuation of the human race and even our specific heritage. It reminds us of all that is good in the world. It even gives us an excuse not to get too caught up in the external celebratory "stuff." I love babies and I'm especially fond of having a baby to celebrate in December

27 November 2010

To Addie and Elyzabeth

27 November 2010
Dear Addie,
It's Thanksgiving time again and you are in my heart, as always. Uncle Carl said the prayer. First he did his school principal thing. I can't remember the words he said, but all the grandchildren responded with eyes on him and mouths silent. Even the adults were quiet. I was stirring the gravy, and so many people were milling around the kitchen, but Carl was close enough for us to see and hear him in his end of the kitchen where the table is. The food everyone brought filled the table and the countertops. Uncle Brad just finished carving the turkey. Aunt Amy made rolls over here the day before Thanksgiving; Aunt Jenny brought pies; Aunt Anna made two kind of potatoes. Well, maybe it was Uncle Alan. You've never met him, but you'll like him. He's a sweetheart. He brought his twin girls (just a couple of years older than you are) and his son Brandon into our family.

Uncle Nate set up the tables and he and Julia set up her beautiful centerpiece that she made in college last year. It hangs above the table--good thing because the table is covered with good food and beautiful plates. Grandpa and I got out our wedding plates with the silver bands around them as well as the ones I got from Grandpa Whitney (when he died 5 years ago), and also the ones with pink roses ones that we were using when you left.  Everyone has been talking, laughing and having a good time greeting each other.

We were late starting because your cousin Zack had his tire blow-out on the freeway on his way over here.  (Yes, he's driving.) Aunt Amy is still feeling a little shaky about that. Your mother Rachel is always on our minds at holidays and any accident brings that little tummy pit, thinking about how she was killed.
Back to the prayer. Uncle Carl thanks Father for our family and the bounty we enjoy. He remembers Mark and his family and asks that they will be blessed and know we love them. He pauses and Aunt Anna says, "And Shelby." Cousin Shelby is in Alaska this year, in her own apartment.

Carl asks, "Anyone else?"

"Matt and Erin and the girls," I say quietly. Your parents and you and your sister leave a big hole in any get-together. I wish I knew what you are doing right now. I wish you knew how much I love you. I wish you all could come and ride on the trolley and see the Christmas lights with us tonight. It's Julia's birthday today. Her 20th. She misses you so much too. We all do.
Happy Thanksgiving, sweet granddaughter. I love you.

Dear Elyzabeth,
Yesterday I found a magnet on the floor of the archive room. It must have slipped off the file cabinet. It is a picture of you as a baby. Grandpa and I took you to Kiddie Candids to get your picture taken in your blessing dress and with the beautiful handmade quilt your great-aunt Beth made for you. You're special to her, you know, because your mother named you after her. After her and my mother, that is. You have a beautiful name. I'm not sure if I like the way your new mom changed the spelling, but that's okay. New moms have new ways. I'm glad you have a new mom. I would never have wanted you to be without a mother to love you and hug you.

I remember those first weeks after your Rachel mom died.  You were only 3 months old . I was up with you in the nighttime and walking the floors with you during the day. We kept a log of your feedings and your distress or calm. You were passed back and forth between Grandma Janis and I and also Aunt Anna and Aunt Amy so we passed your log along too. How we love you! We held you and we kissed your sweet hair and we cried too--for your mama.

This Thanksgiving we put your little cousin Alex in your old crib. My heart skips a beat whenever I get it out. It makes me think of you. It's been a long time since you've slept in a crib, but since I haven't seen you since you were a baby, I still remember you at that age and stage. How I long to talk to you and to know you now.

I'm thankful for you and for Addie, but my heart reaches out for you every day. I love you both and miss you tremendously. Until I see you again. (I have faith that will happen, no matter what your mom and dad do to keep us apart and only let you have one mother and one set of grandparents.) I'm here. It's Thanksgiving and you aren't far away and inaccessible. You are in my heart.
Love to you both,
Grandma Joy

16 November 2010

About the Crash

"It's not if, it's when." I have heard that so many times about a computer crash, but I had never had a really big crash happen to me. Until now. This blog is being posted from a borrowed computer. I've been computerless for several days and I'm still not back in business. Maybe today.

So was I backed up properly? I've learned that it could have been better. I have a mirrored hard drive (Raid 1), so hopefully everything is ok when I get it back. The guy just came and installed the 2 new hard drives. The rest is up to me and my pals in India. Deep breath. My second on-line helper, Ravi, who diagnosed the trouble told me I'd have to re-install everything, but they would help me get it back. Then he panicked a little. He panicked a little because I panicked a lot. In fact I began to cry. "Don't cry, mum," Ravi begged, "Please don't cry."

I handed the phone to my husband so he could give Ravi our address. "Tell Mum not to cry," he told my husband. My husband grinned.  "Okay," he thought, "but I've been telling her that for 43 years and it hasn't helped yet."

I have my book files in Dropbox, a "cloud" program that syncs my files and helps me when I work with my sister on her Mac and then come home and work on my PC. I use Ancestral Quest, which allows collaborative files that our whole committee can share. I've gmailed docs and photos back and forth to my cousins and those I work with so those files are available to me in gmail's huge storeroom in the cloud. I have back ups on external hard drives. All these things have been helpful to me. But while my computer has been down, I haven't been able to use some of my programs that are on the hard drive of my crashed computer. My friend who replaced my hard drives today told me that it is possible and very handy to install such programs on an external hard drive. Then they are both portable and usable in a situation that I find myself in. Check out Dick Eastman's blog for his expert recommendations. They can be low cost or free. They just take some thinking ahead.

09 November 2010

Tombstone Tuesday

This headstone marks the resting place of Jacob L. Workman,
buried in Virgin, Utah. According to the stone, he was born
July  7, 1812 in Overton County, Tennesee and died
July 28, 1878. "From this old oak sprang many branches."
(Photos taken by the author.)

Asmus Jorgensen was a stone carver of some renown in the backwater towns of Utah. He put his partially finished gravestones in a wagon and set off to peddle them along old Highway 89. This stone is found in the small southern Utah town of Virgin. The life-like dove perched on top of the carefully carved stone base delights those who appreciate Utah folk art and that includes me. And I really love the fact that he's my 2nd great-grandpa.

08 November 2010

More about Family History Blogging

There are a couple of different types of blogs. You may want a journal format like this blog or a website type blog for a particular ancestor or ancestors (like the one I'm working on for my worst brick wall--Samuel Wilson). It's important to think through what objectives you have in mind for your blog. Do you want to get your family history out there in hopes of collaboration with someone? Are you envisioning a website that a group of people will work on?

A blog type website requires less technical knowledge. You won't need special software because it's available on-line and can be accessed from any computer. Multiple people can work on it at the same time because it's flexible and pretty easy for a beginner. A home page or front page will make the site look more like a website than a diary and gives you more control over the layout you want. Besides the blogger.com technologies, check out WordPress, Joomla! or Drupal or you could use a web-based genealogy program specifically designed to set up a website. I'm familiar with TNG (The Next Generation) but there are others. It's possible to keep your genealogy "in the cloud" to simplify collaboration, to work on it and have access to it wherever you are and to keep it always "backed up."

Questions can be answered by on-line help and by user forums. Our friends at Geneabloggers (the genealogy community's resource for blogging) remind us above of the fantastic resources they have made available. Be sure to suggest your blog for their blog roll to help your blog get better known and to garner suggestions from the experts there. I'm going now to get some information at their primer and resources sites for my new blog. See you there!

07 November 2010

Publishing an ancestor "website" blog

"Can I put the certificates and stories I've collected on-line?" It was the question of the day. The answer is yes, yes and please do. A very easy-to-do no-cost platform to use is found at www.blogger.com. It's simple to create a blog. Just create a name (The Samuel Jones Family Tree), check out the name you would like to use (SamJonesGenealogy@blogspot.com) to see if it's available. Do the word verification game and then you're already picking your template. Choose something simple to begin with, then you can spend some time customizing the look or just start blogging. Begin with a simple paragraph describing the purpose and scope of your blog, what you wish to accomplish and where you will go next. Then add to it on a regular basis. You can describe your research efforts and publish the results. You can put up photos, documents and histories.

Play around with the design of your blog, adding gadgets that will fit your purpose. Take care to protect names and facts about living persons, including yourself. Divide the blog by categories for each person if you would like and add information from the reports section of your personal genealogical software. Or choose your own means of presentation. Read widely from the many many blogs on-line, looking for examples you want to use, instructions and suggestions for blogging in general or for setting up your particular type of information. Make comments and become involved in the genealogical community. Come on in, the water's fine.

03 November 2010

Wordless Wednesday

My grandfather, Marcus Joy Christensen, went by MJ as an adult, though his family and friends always called him Joy. He got his name because his mother Annie (pictured with him as a child) thought she would not be able to have children. Imagine her "joy" when she delivered a live infant. She gave him that name to express her delight. Her husband, Christen (CN), left for a mission soon after the baby's birth and was gone for two years. The letters she wrote to him, dated from 1900 to 1902 are filled with her love, gossip of their hometown of Brigham City, Utah and tales of little Joy's growing up. The year after CN returned home, Annie miscarried once more and lost her own life as well as the infant's.

01 November 2010

Write Non-fiction in November

Here it is--November 1st.
Quoting from the website Write Nonfiction in November:

Today marks the beginning of the fourth annual Write Nonfiction in November (WNFIN) challenge and blog. All over America and possibly the world, nonfiction writers are starting a variety of projects—books, e-books, booklets, articles, essays, information projects, book proposals—with the intention of finishing them in 30 days (Nina Amir).

Nina has presented a challenge to all of us who are writing nonfiction. And I'm assuming that our family history writing is nonfiction. Family history writing does present some unique challenges, however. Like memoir, it is story. Some fiction writing skills apply to writing family history. We need those skills as well as research and succinct writing abilities. Nina invited Linda Joy Meyers, a memoirist, to guest blog on her Write Nonfiction Now site on the topic: "The Top 6 Questions that Memoir Writers Ask." One of Linda Joy's insights that hit me very hard was this sentence, "People who read memoirs want to understand themselves better by entering into someone else’s story to find out how they lived and worked things out." If that doesn't sing to a family historian, I don't know what does. I believe we appreciate story about our own ancestors, "how they lived and worked things out," more than story about anyone else in the world. I think that makes our task as a family history writer very profound.

Nina's first entry in November is about building a platform for your writing. This is important for a family historian as well as a commercial writer. Why are we writing if not to be read? Even if we do not make money from our work, we do need to be known. Luckily, this happens very naturally as we do our research among cousins and other family historians. We share what we have, we collaborate on our information, and this generates interest. I keep a running list of family contacts and forward emails and phone calls continually asking about how to obtain our published work to our faithful committee treasurer. She has taken the burden of order fulfillment, an important piece of family history writing that needs to be considered early in the process of publishing family history.

Another successful tip. Involve family members in the work. Some will do transcription from handwriting or audio files. Some will read and critique the work. The job of proofreading has to be done by someone with "new" eyes, and this is another excellent way to involve family members who will then be interested in the finished project. Building blogs and websites is important too. I recommend Nina's insights. Adapt them to your own situation.

I'm taking the challenge to blog every day in November. What is your goal?

28 October 2010

Write and Re-write and Re-write and . . .

Marie Larsdatter and Jens Jorgensen who
became Mary and James Johnson
(enhanced from tintype belonging
to [cousin])
Will I ever be finished?  I sighed. How could I be sad or frustrated over finding new pieces of a story about my great-great grandparents, Jens and Marie,  that I've worked on for years and years?  I feel happy about it too, but it seems that I will never get this particular history published to my satisfaction because more material keeps surfacing. On Tuesday I breathed a sigh of relief because I finally added in all the bits that had come to me recently, I did a few little revisions here and there in the 50 pages I've labored over since my first much shorter version in the late 1980s and the major rewrite in 2008. It's part of the book our family history committee planned to publish that year and that we are still working on. Since 2008, we've added more illustrations and I have worked on it whenever I let myself read it again. 

But now, now I have finally added the 1855 Danish census with its further evidence of their conversion to Mormonism and the startling revelation that Jens' sister Maren was also a Mormon. I had tediously updated all 118 endnotes and then turned to another history in the book.

1855 census from Torup Sogn, Frederiksborg, Denmark
(emphasis added)
I was reviewing our most recent research on the Lamb family to see if anything needed to be added to their chapter when I discovered another short Utah pioneer history of Jens that someone had given my sister. Hmm, a few more details. I decided to just tack it onto the end of the chapter.

But it was too late. My mind was already picking up nuances and I had to search again on the internet to try to find answers to a question that hadn't ever been answered to my satisfaction. Nezbet? I had never spelled the mysteriously elusive pioneer company that way before. I just had to google the new spelling. It would only take a moment, I told myself. But then . . . Voila! I scanned the page. Nothing more about the phantom pioneer company, but I was looking at a very interesting website that had only been posted last summer. Someone else was researching and writing about my dear Jens and Marie. And she had access to resources handed down through her branch of the family that I had never seen or heard of. A citizenship document. Letters from Denmark. A new version of the miraculous stampeding buffalo story!
Sometimes I feel like I'm in a buffalo stampede.

I read quickly and excitedly. I faced facts. I had another cousin to contact. I had another rewrite to do. All the illustrations would have to be re-arranged and I wasn't ready to go on to the next chapter yet.

I know this. Everything I write must be reviewed, revised and re-written. Every time I undertake the process, the writing improves. And this fact too. I'm not making this stuff up. I'm writing about real people who are hungry and excited to have their lives known and understood. They help me and for some reason, they are not in the same hurry I'm in to be finished. Jens and Marie and all those on "the other side" seem to have a more eternal perspective. I think I need to learn from that piece of the story too.

26 October 2010

Family History Keeps Happening

Here's a challenge for us all.
Just 500 words a day
(or more)

Writing about the present is just as important as writing about the past. And it turns our hearts to each other just as the family history we do about ancestors does. Today my dear niece had a double mastectomy to rid herself of cancer (second time around). Of course I've been thinking about her all day. I tended 3 little neighbor kids and thought about her 3 little ones. Another niece came over and helped me clean out my pantry and pick some last garden produce. I couldn't help thinking about our garden talks. I picked flowers too and wished I could take them to the hospital where Jen is today. But she lives too far away. Instead I made an arrangement to take to my daughter's grave. That daughter is the same age and good friends with Jen, my cancer surviving niece.

Finally tonight I am so antsy, wishing for word about how she feels, I remembered her blog and went to check if there were any new posts. Bless her heart! She posted last night and this morning before her surgery. I love the way my nieces and nephews blog about their lives. I have several that I check regularly to see the photos and read about their lives. Thanks so much, dear ones. My heart is turned to you. Nothing says loving like something from the pen (computer).

And by the way, Jen's great example, as well as some others, has inspired me to write more often on my blog. Don't forget to write non-fiction in November as well as write non-fiction now. In fact, don't forget to write something every day. To be a writer, write!

24 October 2010

Are You a Family Historian? Then Write about it!

One of Dick Eastman's articles yesterday was about why we study family history. I agree with his premise that many of us are fascinated with the subject because it helps us discover who we are. I too cannot get enough of knowing those people whose DNA contributed to my own. And I love to write down what I know about them and what I think and feel about them too. What really caught my eye though, was a comment made by a person who described himself as "unqualified" to write about his family history.

I don't agree. Any person with the basic skills to read and write, or with a friend or relative who can read and write, can write about their family history. Folks, there are no grades assigned to our family history writing. We are writing for our own enjoyment and for anyone else who cares to read as well. If they do not enjoy it, believe me they will not read it. Many people who I love do not read my writing (including my husband--until I wrote about his dad and mom). And that's fine. It doesn't mean that I cannot or should not continue to write. My writing is a way of expressing myself about a topic that is dear to my heart--my family members.

Recently a dear young friend who has been developmentally delayed her whole life stopped me in the grocery store. "Joy, I wrote my history," she told me excitedly. "My sister helped me." She went on to tell me that since she likes jokes so much, she had included her favorite jokes in what had been written. She wanted to share it with me. She even told me a few of her best jokes on the spot. Her history helped her define herself. I don't think Carolyn would have been able to write that history without help, but she got help and she got something that she enjoyed and was able to share.

The form in which we record our family history varies. It may be a simple listing of facts in a computer program on or on paper. It may be a scrapbook or a journal. It may be a webpage or an entry on facebook. It may be a story for your children and grandchildren or one or several volumes of stories. We are each individuals with individual preferences and talents. But let's not ever stop ourselves by thinking or saying that we are "unqualified" or that we "can't" write. Let's never stop writing from our hearts; let's not stop expressing our individuality. If Carolyn can do it, so can we!

23 October 2010

Illustrations Again

My daughter (full name) casting her first ballot.
This was at our City Center using an electronic
card to download the ballot for her precinct
onto the machine. After she voted by touching
the buttons on a screen, her votes were printed
for counting. She is a student, so she voted in
the early voting provided by our county.
Contrast this photo with the one below.
(My husband took my daughter's photo on 22
November  2010 and I cropped it so she was
the only voter showing.)

  • De Lux election building and voting booth, Lanham, Md., created 4 November 1924 with a glass negative. This photo is part of the National Photo Company Collection in the Library of Congress (Call number: LC-F82- 466; no known restrictions on publication). To find this photo, I searched the Library of Congress website   (http://www.loc.gov) for an election photo. 
An important consideration in illustrating your history is to make sure the pictures you use are of a high enough resolution to print nicely. A picture that is enlarged past its resolution size will be fuzzy and "pixelated." Scan an original photo if you possibly can. An illustration from a book may sometimes work, but it will need to be worked with and won't turn out as clear as one from an original photo. Decide how big you want the illustration to be on your page, then make sure the resolution is at least 300 dpi for that size. A document or something that needs to be read should be 600 dpi at the size you choose (3x5 5x7, whole page, etc.). Most illustrations taken directly from the internet are too small, since a photo does not have have as high a resolution to be seen on a screen.

A picture with many people in it should be big enough to see each person clearly. A very good photo or one that is of someone that figures prominently in the story should be big enough to enjoy easily. A large illustration emphasizes the point it illustrates. The text in a newspaper article or document should be readable. You can make the photos you have any size you like by scanning them at a higher resolution or higher percentage of the original (depending on how your scanner works) and then enlarging them according to what you would like to highlight.

If you get discouraged with putting trying to place illustrations in the text you could have pages with several photos arranged on them like scrapbook pages interspersed with the text pages. Then just make the text double column to make it more readable.

The captions are an important part of an illustration. Be sure to identify any people in the photo in a way that is easily understandable. Don't forget the date and place of the photo if it is known. A little piece of the text could be used as part of the caption if desired. Many readers will first look at the illustrations and read the captions before they read the text, so it's an effective attention-getter to put something interesting in the caption. Generally speaking, captions are published in a smaller font size and are centered under the illustration. Be sure to leave adequate space around the caption so it doesn't run into the actual text.

I believe it's important to identify the source of the illustration. This is vital if you are using someone else's photo. Even if the illustration is from your own collection, a note in the caption or at the end of the history should indicate that. Also important is to acknowledge any changes you have made--a "photoshop" change or if you have cropped it drastically from the original. Making these type of changes can improve your illustration, but should be noted somewhere.

I am interested in various sources any of you have used for finding good illustrations. What are some pointers you would like to share with the rest of us?

18 October 2010

More about Illustrating Your Story

I like to have something to draw the eye or "break up" the page on every 2 page spread. Sometimes it is just indented quotes or dated diary entries. If I have nothing else, I have used text boxes with catch phrases from the text inside. This worked particularly well for my father-in-law's history. His text was taken from interviews and he is a master of the one-liner. The text boxes in his history serve as a quick summary of his story as a person leafs through the book as well as the means to draw a reader who is just taking a quick look into a story.

Using double columns is also easier on the eyes when the text is not broken into by illustration. What are some other illustration ideas? Here are a few:
  • Photographs, engravings and maps in city and county histories.
  • Histories of churches or schools attended--old yearbooks.
  • If you find something in a book, you can look to see where the author obtained it and then contact the owner for permission. Their copy will be better than a published copy and they may have other photos in their collection that would be good.
  • City directories with maps where you could pinpoint their address.
  • Advertisements of family businesses in the directory. 
  • Public buildings or residences still standing from the time. Check obituary for an address.
  • Local genealogical and historical societies for historical photographs may show the same area or activity that you have written about.
  • Take pictures in a museum.
  • Nearby universities and colleges often have collections of photographs.
  • Internet query for what you want--sometimes someone will take a photo of a certain location for you.
  • Check local public libraries and newspapers. Old newspaper articles are excellent illustrations and add spice to the history. Librarians are often very helpful and will check for obituaries and copy them for a small fee. 
  • Look for typical home, school or farm photos of the day--in magazines, newspapers, catalogues, etc. (Many ideas adapted from Loretta Evans, AG, in 2010 BYU Family History Conference)
My great-grandfather's home as it looks today

Pressed pansies found in a letter from Great-grandma to Great-grandpa (from 1900)
What have you found to illustrate your stories?

17 October 2010

Sentimental Sunday: Nothing Says It Like an Illustration

Family "artifacts" are a great way to illustrate a history. Illustrations bring a history to life and they draw the reader into the story. No pictures of the person or too few for your purpose? What about a family heirloom that belongs to you or someone you know. Take a photo of the item (or scan it if that's possible) and use it to illustrate.  Or go to a museum or historical society and take pictures there. The Library of Congress has many digital collections on-line. The legal restrictions for use are included with the item. Some may be used freely; others include known information regarding ownership and who to contact for permission. Work created by employees of the federal government as part of their job is in the public domain, not protected by copyright.

From a collection of kitchen articles found in museum
in the stockyards in Fort Worth, Texas

Roller box used for a teacher's visual aid--made by my
Great-grandfather C.N. Christensen and owned by
my sister Annalee Barajas
My personal experience is that most museums and historical societies are very generous with permission to use a photo if the use is limited to personal or family history use. Of course it is important to give credit for all illustrations used.

Make sure it's okay to use photography in a museum, too. And remember that just because it's on the internet, it's not necessarily free from copyright.  (And it may be too small in dpi resolution for adequate printing anyway--more on this tomorrow.)

15 October 2010

Follow Friday

How would you like to write a whole book (or article for magazine or newsletter) in one month? Nina Amir has given us memoir/family history writers just that challenge. Her blog WriteNonfictionInNovember.com provides hints, inspiration and that most important motivator--a deadline! She also is writing a sister blog (for months other than November) WriteNonfictionNow.com. Her latest post is about the value of a deadline. Check out her great ideas and join me in blogging or writing every day next month. Gulp. Can I really do that?

29 September 2010

Don't Forget "Her" Story

My Aunt Ellie could whistle just like a bird. Her wide smile greeted us whenever we saw her. I could never tell if she was teasing or being serious until those last years of her life when I chose to believe every word she spoke to me. Because they were always the same words.

I didn't know if she still knew me or not. The famous bird whistle had been silenced and the medications had taken their toll on her memory. So those last few times I saw Aunt Ellie, I was careful to tell her who I was before giving her my hug. "Hi Aunt Ellie, it's Joy." But I think she did know me. At least I hope she did. Her ready reply was always, "Joy (sounding so delighted to see me), I love you." Well, I love her too.

Just last weekend, I said goodbye to this aunt, the dear woman who married my dad's brother and became a vital part of the family for dozens of years. The family buried her on Friday. I've thought a lot about her loving nature, about her many talents, about her large family and about the way she extended herself to her nieces, nephews, other relatives and Church friends.

My Aunt Ellie
Many times when we write family history, our interest lies in the men. Their jobs, their adventures, their exploits may seem more exciting and certainly easier to discover and verify. But let's not forget our "herstory." The history of women who may "just" keep the home fires burning. The women who smiled, who loved and had talents like home canning, sewing, baking bread and maybe even whistling like a bird. Their contributions may be the most important contributions of all.

12 September 2010

WRITING HIS-STORY: God's Influence Revealed

In writing a personal or ancestral history, we cannot help but have some power over the story of a person's life. Choosing what events to include and what to leave out, how we tell the story, the voice we use all impact how we see that person's life. In an interesting history, we use techniques from fictional writing--scenes, drama, climax, themes, etc. In life we are always telling a story to ourselves and to others that means something to us. Our perspective is revealed in how we view events.

Something I have noticed is the goodness in each person's story. Knowing more about a person seems to endear him or her to me and hopefully to my readers. We see how the challenges a person faces causes growth or affects him or her in the other events of his or her life.

My own perspective is that each life is about a person's relationship with God. My belief is that we come from heaven and will return there. The tragedies and the joys of our lives are the things we learn and grow from. We may blame God or thank Him or even deny that He exists. However if I am looking for God's mercy or His blessings in a life, almost always a pattern can be seen as the life is examined. That pattern is the story that is being told.