Thursday, September 27, 2007

The Demise of a Great Photo

We all know that we should keep our photos in acid-free storage pages, standing upright in cool dark places, but how many of us do it? I'm sorry to say that not all of the photos in our home are stored this way. I didn't expect to be bitten by the ravages of time like I was though.

My parents had a very good photo taken of themselves a few years before my father passed away. The 7x9" photo hangs on the wall in the long hall in our home that is adorned with photos of our family and ancestors. I suppose there is paint on the walls of the hall, but you'd need to scoot the photo frames aside to find it. I look at the photos every day as I meander down the hall to the 'black hole'. My wife and daughters have so christened my office with that name because my sons and son-in-laws tend to never surface again after they walk down the hall to visit me.

A while ago I stopped and closely looked at the photo of my parents only to gasp when I noted that the colors were becoming severely faded. The photo hangs in a location out of the sun, in fact, you'd almost say that almost all of the light in the hall has been sucked into the 'black hole' unless you turn on the overhead lights.

So why were the colors fading so fast?

There are several reasons; aging photo paper, chemicals on the surface of the photo breaking down over time and so on... It was time to make a high resolution scan of the photo and burn the file to archival quality DVD's and CD's.

Down came the photo. I carefully opened the back to expose the 1968 vintage interior to 2007 air and light. I didn't anticipate the problem that I immediately encountered. The photo was stuck to the inside surface of the glass in the frame! Not only stuck, but fractured, slimed and possibly melded to the glass below the level of the surface tension of its molecules! What to do.....

Well, you ladies know what this guy did in this situation. I pealed the photo off the glass (carefully mind you) and of course left a lot of the photo on the glass. There probably is some photo restorer out there who could have saved the photo in its entirety or at least saved more than I did, but who could wait for that? Apparently, not me.

Not all was lost. I'd scanned a 3x5" version of the photo 15 years ago and although the resolution was much smaller than the setting I use now, I still have a fairly good copy of the photo for my files. It doesn't make me feel much better but it helps.

So, do as I say, not as I've done. Digitize your photos and burn the files to many DVD's or CD's. Give copies of them to family members who live some distance away from you for safe storage. Store their backed up files and photos in return. Make hard copy clones of the photos that you really want to display. Hang the copy on the walls or propped up on your tables or on dad's desk at work. Keep your good / original copy in an archival quality sleeve inside an archival storage box in a cool dark place. Then you'll be able to remind me and others to do it right if we really want to keep our photos in good condition for a long, long time.

I've always enjoyed the vocals of Gail Davies. Here she is singing one of my favorite songs: "Grandma's Song"

Monday, September 24, 2007

Tombstones and Wiki's

Tombstone Inscriptions

We often talk about viewing and posting headstone photos in our family history research. However, most cemetery records do not involve websites with just photos of headstones. They are lists of tombstone inscriptions gathered by volunteers around the world and posted on the web. If you haven't searched for these records before, try it today. Simply use your favorite search engine and enter the simple search parameters: "tombstone inscriptions" and include the location you are searching. You may use a city, county name, state, province, parish, etc., in your search string.

As an example, a Google search for "tombstone inscriptions" + "new hampshire" resulted in 955 hits which list thousands of tombstone inscriptions in New Hampshire. If you don't find listings for 'the' cemetery you hoped to find in a search that included a city name, broaden the search by to a county or even the full state. The same logic is true if you have used the name of a cemetery in your search and aren't successful. Back out a step and loosen the search parameters to the city, county or state level and try again.

Don't rely on just one search engine in your quest. Use several of them and review their varied results.

What's New In Family History Indexing?

Hopefully you are one of the index volunteers or soon will be. The current list of records that are now being indexed shows that the indexing is increasing in scope. They include state and federal census records, marriage and death records and Mexican, Belgian and U.S. records. The increasing international diversity is evident in the mix. Haven't signed up to be an indexer yet? Do it now by going to the registration site. Remember, helping with the indexing is one form of 'Paying It Forward'.

How Will I Find Help Using The "New FamilySearch"?

The assistants at all branch family history libraries have or are receiving training in the tools associated with the New FamilySearch. They, combined with family history consultants in every LDS ward, will be able to help you gain the skills to maximize your research skills with the new tools. New FamilySearch is already rolling out in various locations in the world and will continued in measured steps worldwide. The last location to be activated will be the Wasatch Front area of Utah in mid-summer 2008.

Additionally, a new Wiki is being added to FamilySearch to help all of us. The new FamilySearch Wiki will function much the same as
Wikipedia. Users and experts will populate the pages with postings covering the knowledge and skills they've obtained in their own ancestral quest. You can be one of the contributing authors to this online knowledgebase, so start jotting down your entries now.

Take a little time and page through the initial postings and then jump to Wikipedia to get the flavor of a mature Wiki. I think we'll see FamilySearch Wiki turn into one of the greatest family history research tools on the web.