Tag Archives: Ancestors

Monday’s Link Roundup.

Monday's Link Roundup

In this Monday’s Link Roundup there’s lots of practical advice. In particular, I recommend Freelancing: a Complete Guide to Setting and Negotiating Rates. It’s useful no matter what kind of service you provide. For something to feast your eyes on, take a look at Best Bookstore In The World? It’s stunning!

  • Google Death: A Tool to Take Care of Your Gmail When You’re Gone. “It’s always seemed to be the case that the difficulty of planning for one’s “digital afterlife” isn’t so much the logistics of it but the psychological effort it requires to deal with one’s own mortality in a utilitarian, businesslike way. Perhaps the greater service Google has provided here isn’t so much the functionality of the tool — that it will execute your plans without you once you’re gone — but that they’ve made making those plans simple, requiring few decisions on your part.”
  • Discover Your Strengths and Supercharge Your Business. “What are strengths, anyway? Until recently, I never realized this was a trick question. I thought that your strengths were things you were good at, and your weaknesses were things you sucked at. But Marcus Buckingham, who’s made a career out of writing about strengths, put it this way:”
  • In China, Fake Apple Products Are an Acceptable Offering for Your Ancestors. “During this year’s Qingming Festival, fake Apple products made out of paper and cardboard were one of the biggest hits. One man, who makes cardboard replicas of luxury products like cars and houses, added Apple goods to his repertoire this year and said they were a hot ticket item. For just $7, you can offer your ancestors a Mac, an iPhone and an iPad, but if you want an iPhone 5, you have to pay an extra 50 cents.”
  • Freelancing: a Complete Guide to Setting and Negotiating Rates. “Setting and negotiating rates can seem like one of the most complicated and intimidating parts of freelancing but it really doesn’t have to be. Today I am going to give you an in-depth overview of how to set and negotiate rates with prospective and existing clients. Although I am a freelance writer, I believe that most of the following advice applies to any service-based business.”
  • Anne Frank’s The Diary of a Young Girl: the digital edition. “A introductory film for the new digital edition of The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank, a classic book that has played a key role in the world’s understanding of the Holocaust. The app takes the original text, published 65 years ago, and adds video interviews and other background material. The Diary of a Young Girl app, made by Beyond the Story, is available on iPad via Apple’s AppStore.”
  • Best Bookstore In The World? “…Dutch bookstore Selexyz might just be the prettiest bookstore we’ve ever seen. Housed in a seven hundred-year-old former Dominican church, it’s a stunning house of worship now devoted to the cult of physical books. El Ateneo in Buenos Aires is pretty special, but right now we’re leaning towards Selexyz.”

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Encore! Bringing the Dead to Life: Writing a Biography of an Ancestor.

The other day I was asked if I had any ideas about writing the biography of a dead family member. This struck a responsive chord in me. For some time I’ve wanted to write  about my mother’s father, my grandfather. He was only thirty-two when he died in 1920. A Winnipeg fire fighter, he succumbed to the great flu pandemic that was sweeping the world. My mother was only two when he died and she had few stories about him…Read more.

Monday’s Link Roundup.

In this week’s Monday’s Link Roundup, don’t miss I Will always be there with you. If you teach Ethical Will writing or are thinking of composing your own, this letter from an American soldier is a must read.  Given the recent destruction brought on by Hurricane Sandy, you’ll find some timely advice in Emergency Salvage of Flood Damaged Family Papers. Finally, someone has touched on what is missing for me with an e-reader. If you feel the same, take a moment to read Out of Touch: E-reading isn’t reading.

  • Joan Didion on Keeping a Notebook. “As a lover — and keeper — of diaries and notebooks, I find myself returning again and again to the question of what compels us — what propels us — to record our impressions of the present moment in all their fragile subjectivity. From Joan Didion’s 1968 anthology Slouching Towards Bethlehem (public library — the same volume that gave us her timeless meditation on self-respect — comes a wonderful essay titled “On Keeping a Notebook,” in which Didion considers precisely that.”
  • Social Media Isn’t Dead: It’s Boring. “Social media are a set of tools. They’re not all that interesting to talk about in and of themselves. The “gee whiz” has left the station. We want to talk about action– or if you’ll pardon the self-reference, impact. There are details and technologies you must master if you want to succeed. But that’s the keyboard-level and tactical part of what you’ll do. We wanted to give you something more encompassing.The strategies around and behind The Impact Equation boil down to 5 Cs.”
  • Emergency Salvage of Flood Damaged Family Papers. [National Archives] “During the mid-west floods of 1993, the staff of the National Archives developed some technical tips to guide individuals in emergency stabilization and salvage of damaged documents, photographs, books, and other personal papers. It is important to note that flood damage to some items may be irreversible. The treatment of objects of high monetary, historic, or sentimental value should only be performed in consultation with a conservator.”
  • New eBook: Bring Your Ancestors to Life Using Newspapers. “EasyFamilyHistory.com has announced a new e-book by Paul Larsen called Bring Your Ancestors to Life Using Newspapers. The announcement for the new book states, “Archived newspapers allow you to tap into a reliable source of hundreds of years of history, and give you the remarkable ability to see it through eyewitness accounts. You can easily explore your family tree and bring your family history to life for free using historical newspapers… if you know where to look.”
  • Out of Touch: E-reading isn’t reading. “Amid the seemingly endless debates today about the future of reading, there remains one salient, yet often overlooked fact: Reading isn’t only a matter of our brains; it’s something that we do with our bodies.”
  • Google engineer builds $1,500 page-turning scanner out of sheet metal and a vacuum. “For the past eight years, Google has been working on digitizing the world’s 130 million or so unique books. While the pace of new additions to the Google Books initiative has been slowing down, members of the team have come up with a new automated scanner design that could both make the project much more cost efficient and give everyone with $1,500 and a little know-how access to a page-turning scanner of their very own. In the video below, Google Books engineer Dany Qumsiyeh presents the prototype design that he and other teammates created during the “20 percent time” that Google (and now Apple, among others) allocates for personal projects, showing the design challenges he overcame along the way.”
  • I Will always be there with you. On May 1st of 2003, just weeks after being deployed to Iraq, Army Pfc. Jesse A. Givens, of Springfield, Missouri was killed when his tank fell into the Euphrates river. He was 34-years-old. Shortly after his death, the following farewell letter was delivered to his bereaved wife, Melissa, and his 6-year-old stepson, Dakota (“Toad”).

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From the Archives: Act Now to Save and Store Your Old Photos.

Act Now to Save and Store Your Old Photos. If you’re like me, you’ve inherited old photo albums with the pictures held down on so called magnetic pages. The trouble with these albums  is that the adhesive used and the plastic liners damage the photos over time. Removing the photos is a priority. I went looking for help and boiled my research down to these seven essential steps. Step 1. Before attempting any photo removal make certain to scan digitally  each album page so that should a … Read More

Monday’s Link Roundup.

In today’s Monday’s Link Roundup, with the New Year days away, you’ll want to check out 13 Tips for Sticking to Your New Year’s Resolutions. If you have this week to relax, why not take some time to feast your eyes on 10 books to inspire you to make art. And for a piece of “blatant self-promotion” ;-)  I’d be remiss in not pointing you to the article A gift that lasts beyond a lifetime. It’s about my work at Victoria Hospice.

  • Lives of the dead come to life on tombstones. “A standard Memory Medallion remembrance package costs $225 and includes a barcode medallion for the gravesite, a website of eight photos and 1,000-word story and a printed biography. Family members also can record a video about the deceased that plays on smart phones that scan the barcode, called a QR code.”
  • The benefits of thinking about our ancestors. ” Anecdotally, there’s reason to believe that such thoughts are beneficial. Why else the public fascination with genealogy and programmes like the BBC’s Who Do You Think You Are? Now Peter Fischer and his colleagues at the Universities of Graz, Berlin and Munich have shown that thinking about our ancestors boosts our performance on intelligence tests – what they’ve dubbed the ancestor effect.”
  • A gift that lasts beyond a lifetime. “A free program through [Victoria]hospice matches volunteers trained in interview techniques with patients for up to five hours of digital recordings — preferably before they enter the facility.”
  • 10 books to inspire you to make art. “When I finish a long project I don’t actually collapse but rather wander around in a state of unfocused activity. When that happened yesterday I decided to settle down and read. Not knowing exactly what I wanted to read, I pulled a slew of books off my bookshelves. And because I love sorting things into piles and classifying them, I eventually ended up with this pile of ten books that never fail to pull me into their beauty.”
  • Vimeo Video School. “Vimeo Video School is a fun place for anyone to learn how to make better videos. Start by browsing our Vimeo Lessons, or find specific video tutorials created by other members.”

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Bringing the Dead to Life: Writing a Biography of an Ancestor.

My grandfather

The other day I was asked if I had any ideas about writing the biography of a dead family member. This struck a responsive chord in me. For some time I’ve wanted to write  about my mother’s father, my grandfather. He was only thirty-two when he died in 1920. A Winnipeg fire fighter, he succumbed to the great flu pandemic that was sweeping the world. My mother was only two when he died and she had few stories about him.

Maybe you’re also thinking about writing the life story of a distant family member. Before beginning, you’ll need to pull together as much information as you can on your ancestor. Here’s an approach I’m going to use for my grandfather’s story. You might want to try this.

Locate relatives and friends. Where possible,audio record interviews with descendants. Try to find out as much as you can, whether it’s first person accounts, documents, or leads to other people who may have information about your relative.

Research documents. Personal letters, diaries, and wills, as well as census, land, church, probate, and court records, may yield details of your subject’s life. For example, I’ve contacted The Fire Fighters Museum of Winnipeg to ascertain if there are any records of my grandfather.

Search for historical and cultural information. This will give you some clues about your relative’s  life. In my case, I want to find out about the working life of Winnipeg fire fighters around 1920. What were the qualifications to get into the fire department? What did the job pay? How many hours a day did they work? Was there a pension plan?

Read local and ethnic histories. These can provide clues as to how your relative may have lived and provide interesting texture to your story. For example, I want to read newspaper accounts of the impact the the flu pandemic was having on Winnipeg.

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How to Identify Old Family Photographs.

In a previous article,  How to Make Your Life Story Workshop Memorable, I showed the  photo below from my personal collection.

from Dan Curtis photo collection

I suggested that an interesting workshop exercise would be to make copies of this photo, hand them out to the participants, and then  have them write  what they thought was the story behind the  photo. After people shared stories, I’d reveal the actual story. I haven’t yet used this exercise  but for those of you who read last week’s post and are curious  to know the real story, here it is.

The man second from the right in the group is my father. It was 1941 and he was sailing from England back to Canada on a merchant ship, the Port Freemantle. He was a radio operator and  navigator with the Ferry Command. The men surrounding him were fellow airmen who had recently flown bombers to England from Canada as part of the war effort. What I find interesting is how formally the men are dressed with their ties and jackets. You wouldn’t see that today!

All of this is a way of introducing you to the wonderful world of photo identification. This is fascinating and highly skilled work and no one does it better than Maureen Taylor, also known as The Photo Detective. The Wall Street Journal has called her “the nation’s foremost historical photo detective”. If you attended last year’s Association of Personal Historians conference, you would have had the privilege of hearing and meeting Maureen in person. If you’re not familiar with her work, check out her blog and her articles in Family Tree Magazine. If you have an old photo whose history is long lost, you can send your mystery photo to Maureen and for a fee she’ll work on identifying it.

For those of you who want to do it yourself,  here are some resources to get you started.

***Be sure not to miss Cyndi’s List: Photographs and Memories. It’s an amazing collection of sites that will keep you busy for a long, long time!***

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Life Story Quote of The Week.


To forget one’s ancestors is to be a brook without a source, a tree without a root.

- Chinese proverb

How many of you can name all of your eight great grandparents? That’s the question posed by Dr. Barry Baines at one of his Ethical Will Workshops. I must admit I can only name one. How about you? Probably very few – right? Think for a moment. If you don’t do something to preserve and record your life story then your children’s grandchildren will not know your name. Pretty sobering isn’t it? What are you doing to ensure that your name isn’t forgotten?

Photo by David Fielke

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You don’t have to be a famous to be recognized.

My grandfather, Jesse Weeks

My grandfather, Jesse Weeks

As a personal historian, one of the great myths that I continually encounter goes something like this, “My life hasn’t been all that interesting. Why would anyone want to read a book or watch a video about my life?” I usually respond to such arguments by asking, “If there was one person among your ancestors you could read about and discover something of their life story, who would that be?” Invariably people have little trouble coming up with a name or two. And when I ask, “So, what about that person interests you?” I’m told it’s because they want to know how that relative lived, so long ago. Or they’ve heard bits of stories that whets their appetite to know more. No one I talk to ever says, “Oh, I want to read about Aunt Mary because she was famous.”

We are intrigued by family who’ve come before. How did they live? What dreams did they have? How did they cope with love and marriage and loss? I think we know deep down that something of who we are today is a result of those who came before us. Call it DNA or something more intangible.

So, to those who say their life story isn’t interesting or worthy of preserving, I say think to the future. One day someone will want to know about you – just as now, you want to know about a long lost relative.

Remember someone in the future wants to hear from you.