Thursday, February 24, 2011

Home Town Celebrations

The early morning murmurings of birds and insects was interrupted by the 6:00 a.m. blast of a cannon on the road outside my bedroom window.  It was Home Town Day! 

That wasn’t the name of the celebration, but the activities of the day could be transposed on about any small town in America with a comfortable fit.

Folks in town didn’t have much money, but they had a lot of spirit and they knew how to use the resources at hand to maximize their innate but usually unseen “fun” content.

The old hay wagons were wrapped with crepe paper streamers of red, white and blue.  Old wood chairs were set on the sometimes warped floor so the folks in the town band would have a perch on which to balance as the horse team pulled them on a tour through town and later on the parade route.

When the cannon shot went off by our home, the fellows would watch the curtains in my bedroom window for the certain rapid movement and emergence of a scruffy looking red head in the window frame.

I was chosen to be “Uncle Sam” in the parade a couple of times.  The size of the horse increased in successive years.  My physical grown also necessitated my mother having to find a larger costume or modify the costume that some other patriotic symbol uncle_samhad worn in years past.  You didn’t build these garbs yourself, you borrowed them from a town newcomer that had been suckered into making it the first year they were in town.

The parade route was short.  Very short.  It was only about 3 blocks long but even at that length, it passed by all of the commercial, city and church properties in town.  Of course, its length differed based on your perspective.  It depended on your age or if you were an entrant as compared to watching from alongside the road.

When I was four, my brother-in-law made a herd of wooden rocking horses for one of the floats.  We rocked our way all the way through town.  That was a lot of rockin’ and wavin’ for young cowboys and cowgirls.

A carnival of small booths created by putting planks on 55-gallon drums was sited in the park just south of the church.  Bean bag and ring toss games, fish ponds and grab bag stations filled the newly established blocks of space.  Pronto pups and cotton candy booths were behind the church.  

The recreational hall in the church was full of residents and visitors from all over.  Quilting and other crafts were on exhibit.  Chairs were set up as gathering spots for old friends to sit and visit. 

A wonderful lunch was offered in the lower level of the church that had been prepared by the ladies in town.  There were a lot of men who helped but the ladies did most of the work.  Men were just underfoot and were usually only good for washing dishes and setting up and taking down the tables and chairs, although there were several hidden chefs in the group.

An evening program presented representation from the talents of residents and surprisingly, some of them really had talent.

There was always one corner somewhere in the church where folks would gather and talk genealogy.  Everyone would receive the latest updates for the extended families of residents.  Folks would proudly tell of linkages and photos that they had discovered in their family tree during the past year.  I loved listening to these discussions.

There are still celebrations like this in some small towns today.  They don’t and can’t exist in larger cities.  If you haven’t visited one before or imbibed in the warm glow and conviviality of these gatherings, put it on your summer schedule.  Find one, then go visit.  Get a taste of the celebration of life as it used to be enjoyed in most communities across America. 



Small Town Parade in Gagetown - 1959

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Using Springpad for Genealogy Research

A research plan and related notes are required for any successful genealogical research project.  Each of us has a method or methods that we use with some level of success.

Some of us use our laptop or smartphones to reference research plan files.  Others use paper notes that they carry on research trips.  I use the tasks that I’ve created in my Legacy database.  That tool has worked well for me over the years and I’ll continue to use it.  However ….

Recently, I found myself unexpectedly stopping at a library without my laptop, my notes and apparently without a functioning memory tool in my brain.  The library had ‘stuff’ that I really wanted but I couldn’t remember exactly what I needed and time was limited.

ToDo Header

SpringpadEven though the library had Internet access, I couldn’t get to my files at home because I don’t run server apps on my home servers that can be accessed from the outside world. Without my research plan and notes, I had to guess at what I probably wanted.  The fact that closing time was near only added to the pressure of finding what I hoped to obtain if I ever visited this location.

Lesson learned.  There had to be a way to access my research notes and images from any computer in the world via the Internet.  Posting the data in private directories on one of my websites was an option but I didn’t want to take the time to install and customize a CMS or other application just for these notes. 

Evernote came to mind, but it didn’t have some of the functions that I wanted to use.  I’d heard about Springpad and decided to give it a try.  It was a good choice.

Springpad is accessed directly through your browser or on your smartphone.  Creating an account is free.  You can use your login credentials from other entities such as Google, Yahoo, Twitter and Facebook or you can create a user account directly on the site.

Springpad can be used for a large variety of useful applications, but let’s look at it from a Genealogical Researchers point of view.

Create New Notebook

Click on the “+” icon on the desktop to create your new Genealogy Research Notebook.   Name it, change the color, etc., to make it meaningful to you.

Create A Note

Add the details, links, images and other information for each person or activity you want to follow in your plan.

Tags, Permisions, Alarms in Springpad

Create Task

Tasks function as your ToDo entries.  Add details, links, images, due dates, alarms, etc., for each of them.  I have my tasks send me reminder email messages a few days ahead of the due date that I’ve established to complete the task. 

Take a few minutes and create tags for each entry so you can search for them later.  Set flags and permissions.  Springpad allows you to share each Note or Task with others if you change the permissions accordingly.

Click on the “+” on the top right corner of the screen to create another Note or Task.   I title them using the surname of the person associated with them and then sort by name.  Example: Logie, Rosa Clara ……

Add Note or Task in Springpad

You can add images, links, movies, etc., to your Notes and Tasks.  Just add the URL link path to them.  Images will need to be posted on your Picasa, Flickr or called from another online site.

Add Notes, Images, Movies to Springpad Notes and Tasks

Springpad Note with Image

Inside each Note or Task you can add additional Notes, Tasks, etc.  Use them to keep track of your related progress and comments.  If you are working with others, you can instruct Springpad to send email to them and grant them access rights to your post.

Springpad - notes inside a Note or Task 

When you complete a Task in your Research, click on the Task icon to mark it completed.  It won’t be deleted until you mark it for deletion.


Springpad also gives you a “Board” (think post-it board) in each of your Notebooks.  Use it to post notes, maps or other items like you would on the wall board by your phone at home.

Springpad Board Tools

Springpad Board Notes

I’ve created a separate Notebook with a list of Genealogy related links and another one for Technology links and notes, in addition to those used for family and social activities. 

Give Springpad a try and see if it meets the needs of some of your genealogy research and note taking / storage activities. Leave a comment here or make a blog post about how you are using Springpad in your family history quest.

Once you spend a little time with Springpad, you’ll undoubted find it to be very useful in many aspects of your daily life too.

Here’s Jeff Janer, CEO of Springpad, showing Springpad to Leo Leporte and Amber MacArthur on the twit@night show.

Jeff Janer showing Springpad to Amber MacArthur and Leo Leporte

Disclaimer: There is no disclaimer.  I’m just a happy user of Springpad.