October 29, 2011

Dick Eastman's Tips for Preserving Your Genealogy Data

A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of hearing Dick Eastman, author of Eastman’s Online Genealogical Newsletter, speak at the Ohio Genealogical Society’s fall seminar. This was the first time I’ve heard one of Dick’s presentations, and I really enjoyed his discussion of technology and data preservation. He’s prompted me to think harder about how to store my family history information. Here are some of the points I took away from the seminar:

Dick Eastman at OGS

1. Conservation is an ongoing process.
How can you make sure your genealogy data is still readable by future generations? Dick told us that ink jet ink, toner, and photocopies will all fade within 50 years, so you can’t rely on what you print out from your computer for long-term storage. Handwritten notes using acid free paper and ink pens will last longer, but are time-consuming to create. Microfilm will last but is becoming obsolete. So the best way to preserve your data is to create digital files, then make multiple copies of those files on different media.

2. The keys to preservation are to back up and diversify.
Dick recommends backing up everything you create (files, photos, videos, blog posts, etc.). He stressed this key point: Make multiple backups, to different media, and store them in different locations. (I can’t help but think of the old adage, “Don’t put all your eggs in one basket.”) As technology evolves, migrate your data onto new types of media. He advocates a minimum of three ongoing backups:
  • an external hard drive connected to your computer
  • a flash drive or DVDs, stored off-site (not in the same home as your computer)
  • an online backup storage service (such as Mozy, Backblaze, iBackup, Carbonite, or CrashPlan) 

3. Cloud computing provides flexibility for both storage and sharing.
Dick defined cloud computing as the sharing of resources across the Internet. Examples include Gmail, Hotmail, Google Docs, Flickr, Picassa, Evernote, and Dropbox, to name just a few. With cloud computing, you can preserve and share your data as you wish. The benefits of putting your data “in the cloud” are that you:
  • remain in control of your information—you can choose to make it all public, share pieces of it with select people, or keep it all private
  • can easily find matching information from other people
  • receive security through off-site back ups 

4. Genealogy data can be put in the cloud in either shared or proprietary formats.
Shared genealogy sites work on a collaborative basis, pooling your information with others’ to make one giant tree. Examples include Ancestry’s One World Tree, RootsWeb’s World Connect Project, We Relate, WikiTree, Geni.com, and others. Proprietary sites keep you in full control as webmaster. Examples are The Next Generation, WebTrees.net, and owner-created websites. Dick stressed that while the choice of format is up to you, it’s important to get the information up there.

5. Wikis encourage collaboration between researchers.
Dick defined a wiki as a website that allows anyone to add, delete, or revise content via a web browser. Using a wiki for genealogy has several benefits, including simplicity, hyperlinked text, and inclusion of photos and media files. Moreover, most of them are free. Dick personally uses a wiki, WeRelate, for his genealogy data. Wikis such as his Encyclopedia of Genealogy and the FamilySearch Research Wiki have the potential to be tremendous resources for information on a wide variety of topics.

6. Online everywhere is a reality today.
The term “computer” now includes smart phones, iPads, tablets, e-readers, and similar devices. Keeping your data in the cloud allows access from multiple devices no matter where you are. Applications specifically built for mobile devices are becoming increasingly common.

Dick’s presentation gave me a lot of food for thought. Right now I’m doing pretty well with the back-up situation, thanks to my true life adventure with hard drive failure. I use a hard drive back-up at my desk, take a back-up copy to another house periodically, and subscribe to Mozy. But my genealogy data is stored mainly on my computer, not in the cloud. This hasn’t been a big issue for me because I can access it easily wherever I am with Reunion for iPhone and iPad. I do have some data entered into my Ancestry Family Trees, and my first step may be to expand those. I like that I have the option to make my trees public or private. Still, I’d like to explore some of other sites Dick mentioned. I’ve already found the FamilySearch Research Wiki helpful.

While at the seminar, I found out the Ohio Genealogical Society Quarterly had printed my article, “Jacob Roush, An Eminent Man: Building on a Published History,” in its Summer 2011 edition. What a thrill to be published for the first time! I’m excited that this, too, will help preserve my work.

Where do you store your genealogy data? What do you like, or dislike, about the various formats for sharing and collaboration? Have you found something you think will work well for long-term preservation? I’d like to hear your thoughts. 

Related posts:
My True Life Adventure in Hard Drive Failure
Roush Family Ancestry
Jacob Roush, 1803 Ohio Deed

October 26, 2011

Fall's Glory Days - Wordless Wednesday

These are views of Camp Wyandot, a summer camp in the Hocking Hills owned and operated by the Central Ohio Council Camp Fire USA. I attended Camp Wyandot for eleven summers, from the time I was a 9-year-old camper to the year I was a counselor after high school graduation. A few summers ago I went back as a volunteer staff member. It’s a place near and dear to my heart, with memories down every path. I think it looks especially peaceful and lovely in the fall, at rest.

This is my second “Fall’s Glory Days” post, which I hope to make an annual tradition. Click here to see last year’s edition.

October 20, 2011

Celebrating a Year of Firsts: My Blogiversary

Today marks the first anniversary of my first blog post here at A Sense of Family, and I’m in the mood to celebrate. It’s been a year of learning, discoveries, reminisces, and sharing. So pull up a chair, relax, and have a piece of cake on me.

When I took the initial plunge into blogging last October, I was a more than a little hesitant. It felt like jumping off the high dive into a pool of icy water—not something I usually attempt. Would anyone really want to read about my ancestors? What could I say that hadn’t been said before? How much is it safe to put on the internet? True confession: it was only realizing that I had no readers yet that actually gave me the courage to push the “Publish” button that first time. In the year since, with support from subscribers, followers, and fellow geneabloggers, I’m happy to say the water has warmed up considerably.

My blog seems almost like a living thing to me now. Like any living thing, it needs to be nurtured, watched, and fed regularly. It thrives on praise, benefits from a fresh look every now and then, and keeps me on my toes. It also has a way of demanding my attention when I’m already busy with other things! Time, in fact, continues to be my biggest challenge. I’m still learning the technical parts of blogging by trial and error. And I continue to explore different ideas in content to see what readers like and respond to most, because I've found it’s more rewarding to me to write things that people enjoy or find helpful.

Thank you to each and every one of my subscribers, followers, and readers. So often it feels like I’m writing into a vacuum (hello, is anyone out there?), but that’s the nature of the medium. Knowing you are reading keeps me going. A heartfelt thanks as well to everyone who has taken the time to leave a comment on one of my posts. You are appreciated more than you can imagine. I truly enjoy the feedback and interaction that flows from comments.

One of the highlights of my year was meeting other bloggers at the FGS Conference in Springfield. It was a pleasure to find real friendships springing from virtual acquaintances. The encouragement and camaraderie was just what I needed to propel me into my second year.

I picked the name “A Sense of Family” because, for me, that’s what genealogy is all about: developing a sense of who you are, where you came from, and how you fit into the stream of history. That’s what I try to accomplish with my research and convey in my writing. So this seems like a good time to say thanks to my family for their support. And to my ancestors—that delightfully mixed bag of farmers, housewives, carpenters, laborers, soldiers, mothers, restaurant owners, salesmen, blacksmiths, volunteers, factory workers, and cabinet makers that led to me. One thing’s for sure: I couldn’t do it without them.

I hope you’ll all ride along as I head down the road for a second year!

Some of my favorite posts from the past year:

October 18, 2011

Identifying a Mystery Photo

This photo from my father-in-law’s collection is unidentified. He thinks it resembles his grandmother, Mary Asenath Sanborn Crites (1869-1958), but can’t be sure. I wish he had a picture of Mary as a young woman or bride to compare it to, but he doesn’t. The only other photo I have of her is in old age, after she suffered a stroke. So I’m attempting to analyze some clues from the picture. I thought walking through the process here might help others trying to do the same, and maybe even generate additional tips from readers.

To start the identification process, I scanned both the front and back of the photo. The back identifies the photographer as N. W. Smith, Loudonville, Ohio. His decorative imprint advertised, “Old Pictures Copied & Enlarged.”

Mary was born in Loudonville in 1869, so the place is a good match. What about the time period? If I had to guess, I’d say the girl in the picture looks to be between 11-16 years old. If it’s Mary, that means the photo would have been taken roughly 1880-1886. To help me figure this out, I turned to three books in my collection: Uncovering Your Ancestry through Family Photographs, by Maureen A. Taylor, and the Family Chronicle publications Dating Old Photographs 1840-1929 and More Dating Old Photographs 1840-1929.

From Taylor’s book, I identified the type of photograph as a carte de visite, a cardboard-mounted print, usually 2½” x 4¼”, introduced in the U. S. in 1859 and quite popular for at least the next three decades. So far, so good.

Next I turned to clues within the picture itself. There’s no backdrop, but I can look at her hair and clothing. This girl has a center part and short, puffy bangs, with the rest of her hair pulled back in a single braid. I didn’t find very many examples of girls with bangs in the books, but there were some in the 1880’s. I even found one girl with puffy bangs posed in much the same way (front on, looking off to the side), dated 1880.

Regarding clothing, those lace collars seemed quite popular on girls’ dresses in the 1880’s and early 1890’s. There isn’t enough of the dress showing to see what the waist looks like, but the shoulders aren’t puffed or ruffled. Straight, tight sleeves were common in the 1880’s, it seems, but in the early 1890’s you start to see a “kick-up” on the shoulder, according to Taylor. So this dress probably predates 1890. 

And that’s about as far as I’ve gotten so far. Are the clues in the picture consistent with identification as a young Mary A. Sanborn? Yes, pretty much. Are they enough? Unfortunately, no. What can I do to help the process? Here’s my plan:

1. Research the photographer. Diane VanSkiver Gagel wrote a book, Ohio Photographers: 1839-1900, which I want to look at. Is N. W. Smith listed in there? If so, when did he have his studio in Loudonville? Have any of his records survived? Fortunately, Columbus Metropolitan Library has the book in its collection. Loudonville wasn't large enough to warrant a city directory, but that would be another way to find information on a photographer in a bigger city. 

2. Study the hairstyle. Numerous books contain illustrations and information on hairstyles and fashions of various time periods. One I want to look at is Maureen Taylor’s book Fashionable Folks: Hairstyles 1840-1900. I'm hoping it may shed some more light on those bangs and single braid.

3. Look in my database. If not Mary, who could this girl be? Who else in the family tree fits into that place and time frame?

4. Try to locate more photographs. My father-in-law believes his sister may have more family photos, but he hasn't been successful in getting her to find or share them with him. Perhaps he and I could visit her together next summer. She might be willing to let me scan some photos that she's reluctant to part with. It seems highly likely that other photos of Mary Sanborn, either before or after her marriage to George F. Crites, exist somewhere. It's just a matter of finding them. 

I hope to get a little closer to an answer by following those steps. I’d be interested in hearing from anyone who has more experience with this sort of thing. Any suggestions for what else I might do?

Disclaimer: I purchased the publications I used for this little study, which are, in no particular order:
Maureen A. Taylor, Uncovering Your Ancestry through Family Photographs, 2nd Edition (Cincinnati, Ohio: Family Tree Books, 2005).
Halvor Moorshead, editor, Dating Old Photographs, 2nd edition (Moorshead Magazines, 2004).
Edward Zapletal, editor, More Dating Old Photographs, 3rd edition (Moorshead Magazines, 2011).

(Written in response to 31 Weeks to a Better Genealogy Blog: Solve a Problem, an ongoing series by Tonia Kendrick at Tonia's Roots.)

October 13, 2011

Baptismal Fraktur of Mary Comfort - Treasure Chest Thursday

A few weeks ago, I wrote about my surprise discovery of two large, old rolled-up parchments in my aunt’s basement. The parchments, beautifully illustrated and written in Gothic German, turned out to be the original baptismal frakturs of my great-grandparents, John Llewellyn Eberhard and Mary Madina Comfort. To me, this discovery of original documents that my aunt didn’t realize she had and couldn’t identify brought home the old adage, “You never know unless you ask.” I think a lot of family historians can relate to finding pieces of their puzzle in places they never expected.

In that first post, I presented Llewellyn’s certificate, which you can see here. Today I’d like to share Mary Comfort’s fraktur. I’m no expert at reading German script, but I've been told it’s not all that difficult to decipher the family information from records like these. Those of you that have more experience with this are welcome to correct any errors you see! Here is the portion of Mary’s certificate with her birth and baptism information:

My admittedly very rough translation is as follows:

Louis A. Kumfert
and his wife Polly
who was born Scheirer
had a daughter born to them on the 28th day of
May in the year 1875
Their daughter was born in Whitehall
Township in Lehigh County
in the state of Pennsylvania in North America, and was
baptized on the 18th day of November in
the year 1875 by the Pastor J. S. 
Renninger and given the name
Mary Madina
The sponsors are:
the parents
[signed] Wm. Gross

Just goes to show, like love in Love Actually (one of my favorite movies), treasure is all around us!

Related posts:

October 9, 2011

Robert Baxter of Cleveland - Sunday's Obituary

       Know to hundreds of patrons of the Cleveland Museum of Art, Robert Cleeland Baxter, who died Saturday night at the home of a daughter, Mrs. Margaret Twigg, 900 Vineshire Rd., Cleveland Heights, had been a guard and stationary engineer at the Museum 25 years. Services will be Tuesday, 1 p. m. at the Merle Owen & Son Funeral Home, 16049 Euclid Ave., East Cleveland. Burial will be at Garrettsville, Ohio.
       Born in Belfast, Ireland, 82 years ago, Mr. Baxter was an engineer in the British Merchant Marine as a youth. He came to America in 1908, and worked in various parts of the country as a lumberjack and section foreman. In 1920, he came here, joining the Museum staff. He retired in 1945, and had made his home with a son, Harry Baxter, in Garretville (sic). His son died in 1950. He was a member of Welsh Westminster Presbyterian Church for 33 years.
        Surviving are another daughter, Mrs. Agnes Jones of Florida; seven grandchildren and three great-grandchildren. His wife, Mrs. Annie Gawne Flack Baxter, died shortly after his retirement from the Museum.

My mother-in-law gave me this unidentified newspaper clipping, probably snipped out of a Cleveland area paper. Robert Baxter was her paternal grandfather. Robert was the son of Henry Baxter and Elizabeth Cleeland, from whom he received his unusual middle name. Born September 28, 1874 in Belfast, Northern Ireland, he married Annie Flack in Belfast in 1896. As the obituary states, he immigrated to America in 1908, but she didn’t come over with their children until 1921. I can’t help but wonder why they stayed apart so many years, although I realize overseas travel was extremely risky during the Great War. My mother-in-law lived with her grandparents during the Depression and remembers him working as a guard at the Cleveland Art Museum. Robert died October 22, 1955 in Cleveland.

Related Posts:

October 4, 2011

Eberhards at Otterbein - Tombstone Tuesday

My great-grandparents are buried side-by-side in Otterbein Cemetery in Westerville, Ohio.

Their tombstone reads:
                         FATHER                             MOTHER
                       LLEWELLYN J.                      MARY M.
                     JAN. 29, 1868                  MAY 28, 1875
                    SEPT. 11, 1946                 APRIL 15, 1958

The unexpected discovery of Llewellyn’s original baptismal fraktur (see my earlier post, You Never Know Unless You Ask) showed that he was actually named John Llewellyn. The use of John as a forename was a common practice in German families. He always went by Llewellyn, though. He was born in Upper Milford Township, Lehigh County, Pennsylvania to parents Catherine and David Eberhard. He died at age 78 in Galena, Delaware County, Ohio.

Mary Madina Comfort was born in Whitehall Township, Lehigh County, Pennsylvania to parents Polly and Louis Comfort. She and Llewellyn had a Christmas Eve wedding. They were married December 24, 1891, in Allentown, Pennsylvania. She was 82 years old when she died in Sunbury, Ohio.

As both of them died before I was born, I never knew either one, but my grandmother gave me a few pictures. Here’s my favorite:

They were hard-working people, raising 16 children on a dairy farm, but their faces look kind. Wish I had had the chance to know them.

Related Posts:

October 1, 2011

Updating my Pages: #31WBGB

I’ve been following along with the blog improvement challenges being posted each week by Tonia Kendrick in her series, “31 Weeks to a Better Genealogy Blog.” While I don’t write about them each week, I’m trying to make some steady changes that will result in a better, more attractive blog. This week’s challenge is to update a key page—the home page, About Me page, or other page where readers might turn for information. To see all of Tonia’s ideas and suggestions, click to read her post at Tonia’s Roots.

Here's the three things I did for for this week’s challenge:

I decided I needed to add more to my Research Tools page, so I wrote a post about Social History Resources for Genealogists. I then added those sources to the list of Research Tools. I also streamlined the links for the other resources on there, to give the whole list a cleaner appearance. I’m happy with the way it looks now, but I need to keep adding more to it on a regular basis.

I consolidated “My Ancestors” and “Ancestors-in-Law” to a single page (still called “My Ancestors”). Basically, I mixed my husband’s surnames in with mine to create a single, alphabetized list of surnames that I’m researching. I also noted the state(s), counties, and/or country of interest for each surname. Hopefully that will make it easier for potential cousins or fellow researchers to make connections with my information.

I created a stand-alone About Me page. I have an “About Me” feature on my home page, so I didn’t see the need for a separate page until recently. But the blogging “GenSpiration” session led by Amy Coffin at the 2011 FGS Conference in Springfield convinced me otherwise. The new page tells a little about my background in genealogy and my interests. It also includes my disclosure statement (another “absolute must” I picked up from the session), my copyright statement, a note about source citations, and my contact information. I hope readers will find it helpful and easy to access. 

There are some other ideas I want to try out in the coming weeks. In the meantime, I’d be interested to know what you think!

Related Posts:


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