Monday, February 20, 2012

A Library Burns

Browsing the Sunday paper, I saw a quotation that reminds me why I pursue genealogy. It's an old African proverb:

"When an old man dies, a library burns to the ground."

Talk to a relative today and help preserve the stories of your family's history.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

52 Weeks of Abundant Genealogy, Week 7, Historical Documents

Who Killed William Maddox, Sr.?

As well as scrapbooking heritage photos, we can use documents on scrapbook pages. Scanning or photographing them lets us adjust the size, use copies, and also protect the original documents from further damage. The documents on my sample page were collected during an extended research trip.

My cousin's wife, Lorna, and I visited several states together to research the Maddox heritage. You met my great-grandmother, Daisy Myrtle Maddox, last week. The most dramatic family legend said that Daisy's father had killed her grandfather. Lorna and I wanted to prove or disprove the legend. Our research took us to Scott County, Illinois.

Here's the story of our findings as I told it on the scrapbook page:

Day 11 - Friday, September 27, 2002

When asked what the best part of the trip was, Lorna and I were in agreement — this was the day! The courthouse in Winchester welcomed us with friendly people and wonderful records. We collected more cemetery lists, photos of a Civil War memorial plaque, a probate file, a recorded deed to sell the family farm, and a marriage certificate with an attached permission note for a minor to marry. The probate file verified the date of death, but we still had no proof that the legendary murder had actually taken place. Down country back roads we drove, looking for the old farm. The fields were full of grain and the creek ran dark with silt. There was no sign of the old log cabin of legend, though none was expected. We did not attempt to speak with the current residents, since we had not called ahead.

We drove north from the farm, soon crossing into Morgan County, the home of the Lake family. The gravesite of Lindsay Lake turned out to be totally inaccessible, so we instead decided to visit the Jacksonville library. I wanted to view microfilm for the year Lindsay Lake died, but Lorna was most insistent that we should also look for information about the murder. I thought it would be time wasted, but conceded to make the effort. Amazingly, she was right. We found no obituary for old Lindsay, but did find our proof of murder in an article about a Circuit Court session. We wanted to scream and dance! At closing time, we floated to the van and headed to Lorna's home in [Northern Illinois].

Birth of a book: Murder at Mauvaisterre

This single small newspaper clipping from 1869 fired my imagination. Since that day Lorna and I have again visited Scott County and surrounding counties, collecting court files and other documents. We've also visited the family's previous place of residence in Pickaway County, Ohio. I've collected at least 18 inches of files on the Maddox family, from 1800 to the present. I've started a book about the murder, which was committed, not by my ancestor, but by his older brother, Lewis Maddox. His brother William Maddox, Jr., and cousin William Knowles (Knoles) were charged as accessories. I'll no doubt write a lot about the Maddox family in weeks to come.

Sample Scrapbook Page
Day 11 Page Closed

For each day of that research trip, I created a scrapbook page to remember the highlights. This page contains images of several documents we found on that exciting day.

  • the newspaper clipping
  • a landowner map with the farm highlighted
  • a photo of the spine of the deed book with the sale of the dower portion of the farm (the rest was foreclosed)
  • under the book image are photos of the deed (no copies were available that day)
  • miniatures of our ancestors' marriage license with the permission note are tucked in a little clear envelope
  • the miniature outside jacket of the inventory from the victim's probate file is also in the clear envelope
Part of Day 11 Page Expanded

This is an interactive page that requires the viewer to flip and pull to see everything. This is one way to pack a lot of information into a layout.

I'm sure you'll find ways to include your family's historical documents in your scrapbook pages.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Short Tips for Scanning Heritage Photos

I have two little scanning tips for you before moving on to thoughts about scrapping the photos.

Beware of JPEG

Are you aware that saving a photo as a JPEG will cause minor loss in quality? I'm not saying it's bad, but that you just need to be aware of that fact.

If you scan a photo and it needs no editing or minor editing, go ahead and save it as JPEG (or JPG) at a high quality. It will save disk space and the quality will be nearly as good as your scan.

If, however, you scan a photo that needs a lot of editing you may want to save the scan in a higher quality format until you finish the edit. My personal preference is BMP, though there are other choices. I found that a test BMP file shrank to less than 20 percent when saved as a JPEG. To save disk space, do the final save as JPEG and delete the BMP.

If you would rather have the quality, choose a high-quality format for your photos and avoid JPEG entirely.

Now you're aware.

Don't Feed Heritage Photos

Feeding photos or documents into a scanner that pulls them through can tear or damage them. It's far better to use a flatbed scanner and just lay your precious photo on the glass where it will not be touched by any feed wheels.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Five Steps for Scrapbooking Heritage Photos

A year ago I was asked about the heritage scrapbook layouts that I'd been sharing in scrapbooking forums and galleries. Comments and questions touched on what to do with too many photos, what if there were only a few photos in the family, and how to move past the fear of actually using the photos.

Here is an amplified version of my reply.

I have five steps for those of you with too many heritage photos or too few:
  1. scan it
  2. scrap it
  3. research it
  4. talk about it
  5. share it
You know how, when we started scrapbooking, we were afraid to actually use these precious papers. It's the same with heritage photos. We think they need just the perfect layout and we are scared to commit to using them. We are paralyzed by that fear.

When we scan the photos, they lose their power. We can scrap them many times, in many ways. If we have too many photos, we can toss those that are not scrapworthy. With the scanned images, we can even do interesting things with digital manipulation.

The Rest of the Story

If you have too few heritage photos, the last three steps may lead to acquiring scanned photos from cousins and other researchers. You have to work hard to find those connections, but if you truly want to see photos of your ancestors, it is worth your time.

I cannot emphasize enough that scanning photos is the most important step to take. It allows us to preserve photos that may be in bad shape or may be lost to a future disaster. It enables us to quickly share the photos on photo-sharing sites, by email or attached to online family trees. It empowers us to use the photos on our scrapbook pages, whether digital or physical.

Club Scrap Renaissance paper kit, chart from Family Tree Maker 11
One Photo, Used Many Times
One enormous benefit of scanning is being able to reprint and reuse a photo at will. Here is an example of using one photo many times. My paternal grandparents' wedding photo is one of the few photos of them together. The original photo is not even in my possession. By following my five steps, I have a scan of this gorgeous photo that I use as often as I need it.

Club Scrap Journeys paper kit, title cut with Cricut
Club Scrap Memoirs digital kit

Saturday, February 11, 2012

52 Weeks of Abundant Genealogy, Week 6, Family Heirlooms

Never ask a scrapbooker the family heirloom for which she is most thankful! You know what the answer will be -- the old photos.

I do have an abundance of heirlooms. Among them are mementos from the Columbian Exposition of Chicago in 1893, costume jewelry from the 1800s and a Navajo rug from my grandmother's early days in Arizona. Each of these things are just that -- things. They do not represent my ancestors. I value my ancestors, rather than the things they owned. There are two heirlooms that are special to me because they remind me of the spirit of my ancestors.

A Lone Star Quilt

My great-grandmother, Daisy Myrtle Maddox, was a gifted quilter who left behind several beautiful handmade quilts. My brother and I each have one. Mine is a lone star quilt in shades of soft green that often adorned my parent's bed when I was a child. It is old and fragile and today I keep it packed away. The lone star is also special to me because it is a difficult design to execute well. Just the thought of it reminds me of Daisy's love of her family and the thousands of stitches with which she showed her caring throughout the 80 years of her life.

Three Images

The second heirloom I cherish is actually a trio that I scrapbooked several years ago. The focus is a small pin made between 1893 and 1904. It is similar to the common button pins made today, but it is mounted in a pretty spiral frame. The image on the pin is a photograph of my great-grandfather, Clark Earl Crispen. The same photograph is also on a cabinet card taken in Chicago by 1893, the year he went west. The third part of the trio is a 1904 photograph of Daisy wearing the pin as a brooch at her neck. Both of these photos are in my collection. They are precious to me because the objects form an infinite loop of connectivity between my great-grandparents, who later divorced, yet were always friendly.

Club Scrap Ivory Elegance paper kit, images scanned and stitched

How Was I So Lucky?

I was blessed with so many of the family heirlooms by chance. My grandmother's immediate family was small. My great-grandfather's mother and childless sister both left photo collections with Clark at their deaths, as he was the last survivor of his generation. Their collections and Clark's then passed to my grandmother, his youngest daughter, as she was caring for him at his death. Daisy's collection also fell to her, as she also cared for Daisy. My grandmother's only child predeceased her, leaving only my brother and myself. We have divided many heirlooms, but he wants scans of most photos, rather than the originals. I've spent many hours sorting, scanning, and discarding duplicates.

The Start of My Genealogy

If it were not for the photos, I might never have delved into my family history. When my grandmother and I started going through them in the early 1990s, I had no idea who all these people were and how they related to me or to each other. I couldn't keep them straight on paper, so I bought my first genealogy program and started putting in names and dates. The unknown photos captured my imagination, and I soon found myself launching into the research that has now grown my database to over 5000 names. Along the way I've identified unknowns, met new cousins and acquired photos for relatives I never knew I had. And I also turned to scrapbooking as a way to present and preserve the photos.

I'm very thankful indeed for the old family photos.

Scrapping A Memento

Some mementos are too thick or large for a scrapbook layout. They can be photographed or scanned and the image placed into a layout. Other keepsakes are small enough to use on a layout. This pin is flat enough to fit inside a foam core board.

The board has to be cut down to about 11 x 11 so it fits into a 12 x 12 album. The card stock also needs to be trimmed to make it just a little smaller. Trim the page by small increments until it fits. I cut the hole for the pin with a circle guide and cutter, then trimmed the edges with a strip of brown paper, slit to fan out at the front and back. A piece of the same brown is on the back of the hole. The pin is covered with a piece of a transparency, trimmed with the brown journaling circle to hold it all together. All journaling was computer-generated, using the RGB codes provided with the paper kit.

Using Scanned Photos

The photos were resized and reprinted from scanned images, so that they could be matched in size and shape. This is one of the many uses of the photos that you scan: making them larger or smaller to fit your design. These photos were cut to shape with an oval guide. Don't cut your original photos, as one day you might regret it. Rather, reprint the photos and trim with abandon.

Another Foam Core Layout

This layout was a hit when shared online. I took the letter off my high school letter sweater and traced it on foam core board. After making sure it fit, I added card stock, also with the letter cut out. The letter fits down in the core, but the pins ride above it a bit, making a bulky layout. Watch your bulky items to keep them from damaging important photos on the opposite page.

The scary thing to me is that this is almost a heritage layout, as high school kids today have never seen a letter sweater, except in their parent's closet.

Club Scrap Musical Interlude paper kit

Monday, February 6, 2012

52 Weeks of Abundant Genealogy, Week 5, Life Experiences

The idea of blogging about my genealogy, as well as sharing layouts, grabbed hold of me while watching the live feed from RootsTech 2012. I really need a great source of prompts to give me direction -- otherwise I'd be wandering randomly. I missed the first four weeks and am overdue for week 5, but better late than never. The prompts are coming from Amy Coffin at WeTree and are published at Geneabloggers.

Week 5 prompt is:
  • Sometimes the challenges in life provide the best learning experiences. Can you find an example of this in your own family tree? Which brick wall ancestor are you most thankful for, and how did that person shape your family history experience?
There is one ancestor whose life experiences must have been overwhelming, yet she persevered. She's no longer a brick wall, but I have not finished finding her story. She is the Elizabeth whose name I proudly bear.

Elizabeth Childers Wilson Vossler 
The Value of Collateral

Club Scrap Generations digital kit
Looking for Elizabeth

To find Elizabeth, I had to collaborate with many members of my extended family. To push back each generation required me to look sideways for assistance, using contemporary collateral lines. I could not have found her by myself or by pushing straight back. Nor would I have any of these photos without the help of others.

The story begins with my paternal grandmother, Ruth Dorothy McFarlane and her sister Margaret Elizabeth McFarlane. My grandparents died very young, leaving my father and his siblings orphaned. Aunt Peggy stepped in to provide as much guidance as she could, though the children went to boarding school. The gaps in family knowledge are vast, compared to the rich storehouse that came from my mother's family.

I toyed around with genealogy for several years before getting serious about finding my roots. When my maternal grandfather died, it struck me how much history was being lost from his generation. I immediately delved into his widow's family, as I knew my time with her would be limited.

Dad was jealous, so I worked a bit on his ancestry as well. My father and uncle weren't even sure of their grandmother's name, so my first stop for this line was the census. This was an early mistake. I needed to talk to other relatives, but did not. After all, they all knew the same facts, right?

One day in 1999, my father asked what I had learned about his grandmother. I was stuck. I knew her name was Mary E. and that in each census from 1900 to 1920, she knew that she was born in Illinois and her father in Germany, but her mother's birthplace was USA.  There were several candidates in the Illinois death index, but I didn't know which one to start with. 

Dad walked away and thought about it for a while. He then asked if I had talked to my Uncle C. Embarrassed, I admitted to omitting that step. I failed to consider that the children had spent time with different relatives over the years and that indeed they each would have different pieces of family history. Today I understand that even close siblings may have absorbed their experiences differently.

Dad explained that while the rest of the family had been overseas with their father at his death, Uncle C had been in Chicago with his paternal grandmother. To her fell the task of telling little C that his father and maternal grandmother had died within a day of each other. Sure enough, there was the name in the death index: McFarlane Mary Ellen 1935-10-23 Chicago.

If I had talked to Uncle C, I would have saved a year of fumbling. 

I sent off to the Illinois archive for the death certificate, but when it arrived, my hopes were crushed. Her father's name was given as George Vossler of Germany. Her mother's information was all marked unknown. Her birthplace read only Illinois. Now what? 

Mary Ellen Vossler was born in March, 1870. Maybe she would be in the 1880 census soundex of children under 10, and she should certainly appear in the 1870 census with her parents. Several more months passed. On each trip to the Family History Center in Mesa, AZ, I would spend some time with the census indexes. I tried every spelling variation I could think of. I asked a German friend how she might pronounce Vossler and she suggested Fusler. Still I could not find George Vossler in the indexes.

Among the available records at the FHC, I found two marriages in Decatur, IL, for George Vossler. Was I looking at my ancestor? I was stuck again until Easter of 2000. Uncle C was hosting two other uncles and his wife invited me to dinner. You bet I went!

Uncle David had a clue for me.

While discussing the puzzle, my Uncle David gave me another piece of the puzzle. Mary Ellen had also been orphaned at a young age. She went by the nickname Mollie and she claimed to have been raised by a childless aunt and uncle in far southern Illinois. Aunt K knew where Mollie's grave was and that it was unmarked. I then broadened my search to all Vossler families in southern Illinois. The wall held.

There was one more person who had information. In 1969, my younger brother, a mere child, had interviewed our older relatives in the Chicago area. He had drawn out a family tree, but it was in storage while he was overseas. He promised to retrieve it when he came home to Arizona later in the year. The wait felt interminable, but it was worth it. There on his tree was something no one else remembered.

Mary Ellen Vossler McFarlane had an older brother named John Vossler.

His death certificate again showed mother's information unknown, but his birthplace said Decatur, IL. The informant had been his sister, Mary McFarlane. Hallelujah! I researched every Macon County record I could find, but other than two marriage records, there was silence.

Computerized indexes were the key.

While at the FGS 2000 conference in Salt Lake City, I bought a wonderful CD that provided a searchable Illinois 1870 census index. I filtered and sorted and combed through it and finally found the family. George FASSLER from Wurttemberg with wife Elizabeth from Alabama, and children John and Mary. But who were these other children? Three boys named Wilson were in the household: Sylvester (14) born in Alabama, and Henry (10) and George (8), both born in Arkansas. Next door was Joel Wilson (12), also born in Alabama.

Elizabeth Vossler was married before.

Oh, my! How would I find a Wilson needle in an Arkansas haystack in 1860? Or would they have been in Alabama? I knew that Sylvester Wilson would be the only unique name that would lead me to the right family. I did some methodical searching of the census index and microfilm and found the John Wilson family in Searcy County, AR. There were even more Wilson children, older than Sylvester. I added them to my files. Armed with the childrens' names, I headed for the various forums then available. 

Linda Cates posted about Sylvester Wilson.

Linda was a descendant of an older Wilson son, and was looking for missing information on the family, leaning on the name of Sylvester Wilson, also known as Vess. We both were leveraging this common collateral line with an unusual name. Had she not left this information readily available, would I have broken through?

From her postings, I was able to find the records showing that Elizabeth Childers had married widower John Wilson in Blount County, AL. Linda and I met in 2001, and shared our research. I was able to connect with other Childers descendants. I also connected with Suzy Burt, a researcher who was involved with a family association that published a book on another collateral line, Our Blackburn Branch.

Without my collateral relatives, and those of my ancestors, I would have been stuck far longer than the couple of years this quest required. Coming early in my research, I truly learned to appreciate the value of collateral.

Elizabeth's Story
Courage in Adversity

Elizabeth Childers was born about 1834 in Blount County, Alabama. She married John N Wilson on December 10, 1853. He was the father of 7 children and had 5 more with Elizabeth. 

When the rumblings of war began in 1860, John joined an Arkansas Peace Society, also known as the Yellow Rag Boys. Along with others, he refused to enlist in the Confederate forces, but was forced to serve on pain of death. After making his way home partway through the war, he was bushwacked, likely by Confederate sympathizers. His teenage son escaped the attack and watched as his father was hanged.

The Wilson boy ran from Arkansas, joined another traveler and ended up in Illinois. Seeing a place of peace and plenty, he returned to Arkansas for his family. Elizabeth Wilson sold the farm for Confederate dollars and took her young sons to Illinois. The Wilson family legends are silent on the the intervening time before her marriage to George Vossler. How did she survive with small children and worthless money? Did she regret selling the farm, her only collateral?

George Vossler and Elizabeth Childers married in Macon County, IL, on October 30, 1866, and are last seen in the 1870 census. Wilson legend says they went to Missouri and disappeared. The youngest Wilson boys were placed into the guardianship of their elder siblings in Searcy County in January of 1875. The two Vossler children next turn up in the Chicago city directories in the early 1890s. 

Elizabeth's story is still unfinished. I want to know where she went and what happened to her. I am waiting for the day the right records come online. Then I can close the chapter for myself and all our collateral relatives.

Where Did the Photos Come From?

Uncle C and his wife have a number of family photos in their keeping. I took my portable scanner to their home one day and Aunt K took the photos out of frames and out of albums and allowed me to scan them. The two photos at the bottom of the layout are from their collection.

The photo at the top left is scanned from the book, Our Blackburn Branch.

The photo at the top right is an image of an early daguerreotype. The image was placed in a booklet about the Cox family that was in the keeping of Suzy Burt. Since the lines were not hers, Suzy sent the booklet to me. After scanning the relevant parts of the booklet, I passed it along to a Childers-Cox descendant. 

Only through collateral lines was I able to acquire these scans.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Ready, Set, Scrap

Club Scrap Artifacts digital kit, using quick drop page.
Hey, y'all. I promised what seems like a lifetime ago to get working on my tips for scrapbooking your heritage photos. Instead I went off and played with glass and paper and genealogy and left my friends to figure out what I meant by my 5 steps.

The first step is easy to describe, but may be daunting to do. That step is

SCAN, Scan, scan
Get a quality flatbed scanner and start scanning your old photos. Practice first, though, and get to know how your scanner works and how to work with the images. Learn about descreen for newspaper photos. Know how big your scanned files will be. There are plenty of web resources on how to scan. The important thing is to do it.

If you don't have a scanner and need to buy one, first think about how you will use it. Does it need to tag along on the plane to family reunions? Do you have slides or negatives to scan? My grandmother was a professional photographer in Kingman, AZ, in the 1930s, so I had to buy a scanner that was capable of backlighting and scanning very large negatives. I also needed a small one for travel. It's embarrassing to admit, but I have 6 scanners and not every image is scanned yet. Some of my early scans are also not up to my current standards, but at least I have them. As we say in scrapbooking, sometimes done is done.

The best practice is to scan any heritage photo before you scrapbook it. Ah-ha. Next question.

 What's a heritage photo?

Only you can decide. My personal definition is any photo that is black and white, or taken before about 1960. In general, it needs to have a person in it. A landscape photo or a unique photo taken after 1960 may also qualify. You decide what fits for you.

Club Scrap Bridges paper kit

On the left of this layout is a heritage photo with no one in it -- a view of Hoover Dam while it was being built.