31 January 2011

Beware the Digital Dark Age

Wait a minute, didn't we just transfer all our paper files to digital in order to preserve them? Now we read articles like the one this morning in the Deseret News reporting that Janet Hovorka says we are risking our data to make it all digital (article not yet on-line this morning) without adequately backing it up. Hovorka recommends in her talk Jan 15 at the Riverton FamilySearch Library that we not only back up our data but that we spread it around, keeping several copies of everything important in a variety of places. Move it onto a storage center or hard drive. Disseminate it to family members. I recently restored a set of valuable DVDs to my uncle who was the originator of the digital recordings. He was grateful to have shared it!

Floppy disks and zip drives are disappearing; if you have something on this media, now is the time to migrate it. CDs need to be high quality to last very long, and flash drives are unreliable too. External hard drives and on-line storage are recommended, but they need to be continually updated.

Letters are a window to the past and we treasure old handwritten letters, but emails serve that purpose today. Are we saving them for the future or just feeding "the fire"?

"Digital materials are much more fragile than physical materials." This quote from Hovorka made me grateful once more for the inspiration to create our family's family history books. Digitization has its place. It makes materials more shareable, easier to copy, restore and index, but we have to work at making it last. Even websites and blogs need back-ups.

Hovorka's bottom line: Make our transfer and dissemination system so easy and simple that we are willing to do it. Don't gamble with the future. It's the first of the month again. Back-up.

30 January 2011

Something's Comin', Something Good

Following is the announcement I made on our website:
Yes, the long-awaited third and final volume of Christensen family history is going to press THIS WEEK. I should say Johnson family history because this book is all about Hazel Johnson Christensen and her ancestors. And believe me, she has a lot of them--all very interesting. We continued to receive new material as we worked on this and finally had to say--enough!

Just last week a cousin sent me the deed to Jens Jorgensen's (James Johnson Sr.) land in Brigham City and Annalee researched out some very interesting historical connections that explained it.
Other "new for the first time ever" history contained in this book are:
  • the transcription of Lawrence Hoke's thrasher invention and a picture of his patent
  • the amazing revelation that Jens Jorgensen's sister Maren also joined the LDS Church, but stayed in Denmark
  • the story of the German twin boys who died before they were "baptized" and thus had no recorded names
  • an updated and completely illustrated version of James Johnson's mission journal
  • stories of our miraculous connections with many previously unknown cousins with the very information we needed
  • family "mini" reports of our Danish ancestry back to Jens and Marie's (James and Mary Johnson) great-grandparents
  • the updated version of the recipe for floating island pudding and
  • the pattern for the heirloom knitted lace that adorns the pillowcases Grandma made for us.
We have done much more research in the Danish and German records, verifying and adding to much of the information we "inherited." We tried to be as all-inclusive as we can in this book, resulting again in a very hefty volume for a very reasonable price.

Send an email to BookOrderInformation@gmail.com now to reserve your copy of this book. We will NOT be ordering many extras. Watch this site for the updated price and projected distribution information.

PS A limited number of books containing MJ Christensen's ancestry information are still available. Contact BookOrderInformation@gmail.com. This is a special email created specifically for order information.

28 January 2011

A Dream

Addie and I
I dreamed about you, my dear granddaughter. We saw each other unexpectedly at a family gathering. We hugged each other tightly and I cried a little. I was so very glad to see you. You knew me and I was surprised about that. Then you showed me your coat. It was a little furry coat with an unusual lining. On that lining was written many pieces of history--to remember. In the dream I suddenly remembered making that coat for you, sewing it so lovingly and tenderly for your future away from me, to keep you warm and safe.

When it was sewn together, I wrote on the lining. It wasn't a personal letter that I wrote. I wrote many things I thought you might want to know. Most things were ordinary and commonplace, just so you wouldn't forget. I sewed my love into the coat and the things I wrote were written in love as well.

I felt warm when I awoke this morning. I knew the dream was true. There will be many grandchildren I won't be able to hug and play with in person. As time passes, so will I, but children will keep coming. The things I've written, even commonplace and seemingly of little value, will be left for them to tell of my love.

Now, as I write this post, I receive the love intended for me from those who have gone before. Those many many grandmothers and grandfathers and aunts and uncles and cousins who didn't leave specific messages for me personally, but what they left is written with love as well. I'm sure that they, like me, think of generations past and generations future and leave the written word with their love inscribed therein. It's winter now, and I am warmed by my little furry coat.

23 January 2011

Index? Oh yes!

In my eyes, a family history publication with no index is of limited value. I also like to include a complete Table of Contents (with the subheadings as well as headings and chapter titles) and a List of Illustrations. But those are in the front of the book. In the back of the book lies the treasure. A listing of all the names and places referred to in our work. We also add a reference to each census entry [Census: Last name, first name (Year)] and birth and death certificates and records [Birth record: Last name, first name]. We also index separately the names on the pedigree and family group records and then include a third index of people's photographs. I read a family history book once that indexed their family's favorite family stories--they called it the 2 1/2 minute talk index.

You may not find it necessary to index so thoroughly, but please index. The truth is that most of us don't read a book from cover to cover. We pick and choose. And how do we pick and choose--from the Table of Contents and the Index.

It's hard work to index, no doubt about that. We think we are through with a history, we breathe a giant sigh of relief and then...the index. I know. But it provides another opportunity to proofread and I guarantee will we find something that needs correcting. And most importantly, it makes our hard work accessible and useful. Even with a typesetting program like Quark or InDesign, indexing is not easy. Microsoft Word also provides indexing capability within their program. But it's not as easy as just searching electronically for each instance of a name.

A good index will index instances of "his father," "her brother," "Dad," etc. with the name of the individual referenced. And we have to decide and then remember how we indexed that name. If the text says "Will," does our index say "Will," "William" or "William D?" Last name first, of course. The possibilities are many and the best indexes are consistent. We choose to index women by their maiden name for that very reason.

It is possible to hand index a book. I've participated in that exercise too. Print out the text and highlight the desired information. Then list it and be thankful for a computer to compile the list alphabetically. However you choose to index, don't leave that last and very important step out. Enlist the help you need. Take the extra time. But please index! We need one.

21 January 2011

Some of the Many Blogs the Ancestors and I Approve of

Here are some interesting blogs I have perused and added to my personal list to check on:
Family History Research (http://familyhistorytips.wordpress.com/)
Letters from Home (http://suessgeisel.blogspot.com/)
No More Wriggling Out of Writing (http://nowrigglingoutofwriting.wordpress.com/social-historygenealogy/)
The USCT Chronicle (http://usctchronicle.blogspot.com/)
Yankee Cousin's Adventures in Ancestry (http://yankeecousin.blogspot.com/)
My Genealogy Girl (http://www.mygenealogygirl.com)
The We Tree Genealogy Blog (http://wetree.blogspot.com)

And this is one that I found some of my own genealogy on Yippee! 

And here are some that are just about writing history--my personal interest:
Dan Curtis: Professional Personal Historian (http://dancurtis.ca/)
The Heart and Craft of Life Writing (http://heartandcraft.blogspot.com/)
Wayne Groner: Personal Historian (http://waynegroner.blogspot.com)

Enjoy!! I have.

18 January 2011

Still Looking for Approval

Hopefully my ancestors approve even slow people like me. I took a trip to Mesa to be at my friend's wedding and here I am back again and still complaining of too much to do.
Five more reasons I am surprised, enlightened and what was that third thing? Oh yes, humbled.
I've discovered:
Lars Jørgensen birth record
1 - How much I can forget from one research adventure to another. Did I mention that I am slow? But thorough--I've been known to search in the same place 2, 3, or even more times. Mostly because I didn't keep a good enough research log, forgot to write something in my research log, forgot my research log, couldn't find my research log anywhere, etc. Keeping a research log is key for me. One night my sister Jill and I were at the library plowing through the Danish records. We came across a particularly hard-to-read parish entry so of course we asked for help from a consultant. After he read it, we looked at each other as the light dawned and held back our embarrassed giggles until we were out of his hearing. Yes, we now remembered that we had asked for help with that particular entry before. From the same consultant. He didn't indicate in any way that he remembered the last occasion only two weeks before, so we hoped...

2 - How much I don't know about nearly everything. I've been scanning blogs, looking for bloggers who haven't yet received ancestral approval. Most of you have. But I am learning so much in the search. I am reminded of the many conferences and classes I've attended. I always enjoy them and always learn so much. If only there were more time between classes so I could put what I learn into practice and hopefully retain something. I've borrowed a tip from my sister Beth when taking notes. She has a special spot in her notebook to write down something that she feels particularly inspired to do. Yes! Now, where did I put that last notebook?
BTW, I'm signed up for Rootstech. Are you?

3 - I can take photos to quickly scan an image from a microfilm. But I better put it in the right file, name it the right name, including the film name and number and enter it on my log that same day. And if I don't want to strain my eyes at it over and over again, I should really use Photoshop or another program to highlight, circle, or otherwise mark the place I found my ancestor.

4 - Books take forever to research, write and publish. And they grow! Enough said.

5- But they're worth it. You gotta love the process. The process of finding new cousins. The process of sharing photos and that one census that was hiding. The process of reading old letters and journals and really knowing an ancestor. The process of indexing (a good way of finding more errors even after the draft has been proofread three times).

So there they are. Five more wonderful insights gained by me in doing this work. I do have a list of blogs to highlight. I'm loving my reading. Meantime, send me a comment if you don't have ancestor approval and would like it.

By the way, thanks so much for the comments I receive. I love to get even a nod of, "yes, I agree" or "don't agree." Or anything that makes me think someone is reading (see title of blog above).

04 January 2011

Ancestor Approved

 Royalty-free image from Chumpy's Clipart
I was hoping that January would be less busy than December, but so far, no luck. The book we are working on is still pressing for a finish and seems to be ever-present. And even though all my children have left home, there are still worries and interactions with them every day--three today. Maybe nine children was a little over-the-top.

Nevertheless, I do so want to be "ancestor approved." And the rules, as I understand them, are this: Each recipient of this award is asked to list 10 things they have learned about their ancestors that have surprised, humbled, or enlightened them and then pass the award on to 10 other genealogy bloggers who they feel are doing their ancestors proud. I'm certainly grateful to have received the ancestor seal of approval. (I hope they do approve and I thank "Family Tree Gal," Carolyn Murphy for the vote of confidence.)

So first: 10 things I've learned:
1- I am fascinated by people's stories. I don't believe there is an uninteresting life.

2- I have been amazed at how much can be learned about a person even when he or she did not leave a written record of  his or her life. My great-great-grandparents Jens and Marie Jorgensen are an example of this. I'm not sure they could write in English. I've never seen anything from them, but my history of them keeps on growing and the insights about their lives haven't stopped yet.

3- Family history is addictive. Good thing I like the 12-step programs.

4- After some coaching and some practicing, I can read Danish and Swedish parish records--sort of. And I am humbly grateful for those parish priests who recorded all that info. Sometimes I look at records from the 1700s and think, "Really? I'm reading what they wrote? Real people and all?"

5- I'm never finished. I will never forget one intense day at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City. My sister and I were busily studying a roll of microfilm when another patron across the way stood up and said with some emphasis, "Well, I'm finished!" I looked up in surprise and replied, "You're finished with your genealogy?" The whole row of microfilm reader readers burst out laughing. Of course they knew, as we did, that answering a family history question only sparks more questions.

Ok, how about 5 for now and 5 later? My ancestors are calling. And I'm busy doing "blog research" for more "ancestor approved" blogs.

01 January 2011

Elizabeth Zimmerman Lamb wrote her own history. Is that enough?

We are still working on the third book of the M.J. Christensen series. This book is about Hazel Johnson Christensen and her ancestors. One of those ancestors is named Elizabeth. Elizabeth is my grandma's grandma, born in 1831 in Pennsylvania. When Elizabeth was 69 years old, she thought to write a "sketch" of her life, thinking it would be of some interest to her children. Yes, indeed it is, and has been for several generations. After that first sketch, written from memory, she wrote on several other occasions, in the form of journal entries. There she included several other incidents brought to mind by what she was writing. At age 79, she passed on to her reward, leaving this journal behind.

Elizabeth Zimmerman Lamb
Now Elizabeth's own writing is a rich resource for the chapter containing her history. One of my sisters believes it should be the only source. However we also have a nice history written by one of Elizabeth's great-great grandsons. He leaves out more detail and personality revealed in her journal than I would have, but he also clarifies several things that needed explaining and he adds detail that she didn't think to add. To one who has not studied her life or her times, the journal can be confusing and even misleading. I also know that what she wrote was not always precisely the facts. She wrote from her 69+ year-old memory, after all. At 63, I don't have ready access in my mind to all the dates and places of my history either.

So, the question arises: should we just publish the newer history, containing many quotes from her "sketch," but also other interesting material, or should we put it aside in preference to Elizabeth's original journal? We did collect a few more photos and documents pertaining her to life and added them to the illustrations provided by the author. Are we finished? The words of my "original sources only" sister echo in my mind. I agree that Elizabeth's personality does shine more freely from her unedited writings. I know her better after reading her own words. The decision made today is to publish the polished history by our cousin and then add her own history and journal to the end of the chapter as an appendix. Some of the words will be repeated, but the oldest original we have will be available. (The handwritten copy has been lost.) I hope it is what she would have wanted.