The Tongue IS Mightier Than The Sword!

January 30, 2011 at 00:55 | Posted in ancestry, Bits and Pieces, Current Events, family history, genealogy, Political Opinions, Spiritual Walk | 1 Comment
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This is another one of those posts that isn’t sure where it belongs. It is alternating positions from genealogy to politics to religion and back again. I wouldn’t be surprised if some of your dear readers (all 1 or 2 of you) could not make it fit elsewhere! Within the families I research there were at various times several family feuds taking place. Seems someone managed to find a reason to be distrustful or even downright hateful over someone or something else. This amongst families who prided themselves on being “god-fearing” decent folks! Consequently researching those families at times I am met with a branch pruned off our tree when it should still be flourishing.

Back on my honeymoon I had a missed opportunity to take a photograph of a family member – an elderly person so I should have known better. Foolishly I thought I would have another opportunity but of course that did not happen. I not only did not get that photograph, no one recalled her correct name. Were there valid reasons for the family rift? Sure. Was it worth not keeping family together? No. Thanks to younger generations learning that painful lesson, we are all benefitting from reuniting the family. I was blessed to have someone find me on a social networking site and even sharing photographs with me. Cousins are getting to reunite and getting to meet newer family members. It’s nice.

One of the other families has a member who took off for an adventure. They never wrote home again or called. Several of us are looking for that person – we have been for a couple years now. No trace, no mentions anywhere. It’s as if they never lived. It is hard to understand why they no longer wanted family. Stranger still that family did not try to keep connected with them because no one could point to a specific problem. Even the family stories never included a remark about this person. Just gone?

One family member decided to marry someone not approved of by the parents for the odd reason of being from another town. “Those” people weren’t as “good”. Or some such foolishness. The marriage lasted through the birth of several children and well into their eighties. Theirs was an incredible love story when men were not so openly professing their devotion to their wives. They stand holding hands in the only known photograph taken just before his death.

I have unfortunately also seen family feuds amongst the church family. Back a few generations most family members didn’t have the option of leaving one church to go to another one. Here in America rural communities usually had one Protestant or one Catholic church. Later there would be more choices and larger cities would also offer others. In Italy most towns only had one parish priest and one church so folks learned to get along or not attend. Sadly now churches seem to splinter frequently or people jump from church to church each time something or someone upsets them. Further those disagreements often take very public and very messy turns especially when the preacher or priest is involved in the disagreement!

And then we come to those public families such as blogs or politics. Nothing sets me on edge, teeth jarring, nerves screeching like fingernails scraping on a blackboard like flame wars on blogs. How is it we can all find ways to banter and chat on a forum, everyone getting along even as they may disagree about problems and solutions until some unknown spark sets off a maelstrom of epic proportions? Suddenly one poster will call out another and off everyone goes huffing and puffing. Name-calling is usually only the least of it. Worse are the threats to drag someone through a “Joe the Plumber” scenario. Google bombs are created to publically harass and humiliate. If Google isn’t enough we can then also subject them to YouTube recordings to live forever in the bowels of the Internet. Some have even had the distinction of driving weaker victims to suicide via the social network. I personally love to read all sorts of blogs and follow all sort of political viewpoints. I tend to lean conservative on most issues but thanks to incidents within my own life, I often understand and even (Horrors! Gasp!) agree with some liberal views also. The last election cycle was a wonder to behold. Members of the conservative family have taken great delight in devouring their own young. The slightest difference of opinion has no room for acceptance.

Granted sometimes we have valid reasons to walk away from a loved one or family member. I just wish we would try to find it in our collective hearts to think long and hard before we say or do things that amount to pruning that branch off the tree. Admittedly I am not a super green thumb but I have learned one lesson over time. When you carelessly whack off branches too aggressively without care or in the wrong season, the tree dies. Soon that branch rots where it was pruned and the whole tree trunk is infected and dies.

Perhaps it was best said long ago – “The tongue is mightier than the sword.”

Treasure Chest Thursday July 22, 2010

July 22, 2010 at 02:48 | Posted in Amore di Italia, Carnival of Genealogy, family history, family research, genealogy, Hints and Tips, memories, Treasure Chest Thursday | Leave a comment
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I took off a bit of time from writing to concentrate on family and some changes we are experiencing along with some test of family loyalties through some trying times. Thankfully love for each other has triumphed in every situation we faced. During this time we have each in our own way found what matters most to us. We have each come to the realization that even as we face anger and or disappointment in one another, we can still know overwhelming love and loyalty and even respect for each other. My treasure chest is full of love for all my family and memories of all the special moments we have shared, the tears, laughter, hurts, and joys. This time has made us grow closer and more committed than ever to each other. As a parent I have been touched by the depth of feeling my sons have shown one another as they have grown. Valentino and I are proud parents as we watch each son make the decisions for where their place is to be in life. We can rest assured our sons will never lose their bonds to one another whether we are here to guide them or not. Rather now we can see that even as they may or may not agree with all decisions the others make, they support one another through good and bad ready to offer a lending hand when needed or just an ear to listen.

In the midst of this we also have been enjoying the visit of a family member from overseas. I personally had not seen this person since he was a young boy of about four or five years old. My sons had never met him. When we first met, there was instant love. I was enthralled with his precious smile and his sparkling dark eyes. I just knew our own children (not yet born) would share those same wonderful handsome good looks! Sure enough – they did! And still do! We met our nephew at the airport and immediately we recognized him in the crowd at the same instant he connected with us. The years melted away and once again the smile and dark sparkling eyes dazzled us. Now however that sweet boy is a handsome charming 6 foot plus professor. His personality fit right in to our family mix easily. His quiet strength has been a plus to us as well as his humor. He is an outsider willing to listen and not judge but he is also a beloved family member who is respected and treasured! We are his chance to practice and polish his English as my sons and I practice our broken Italian. For our granddaughters he is the charming gentleman who has captured all of their hearts. I have warned his mother I am going to find it very difficult to return him back home to her! I suspect his uncle is going to find it even more difficult than I will!

One enticing fact is that he shares a deep love of family history. His long term plans include writing about a particular part of the family history. He began to talk about the trials and dead-ends of attempting to find information on the distant relatives. He knew I had already written of more recent family and he also knew I had worked on the family genealogy. What he didn’t know was how much more information I had accumulated in the last few years. As I began bringing out workbook after workbook and file after file, he was in amazement over all the information laid out. It covered the entire pool table – and filled many folders on my laptop! But the best part was that suddenly I was being forced to do what should have been done already. And if he wasn’t enough encouragement a phone call from another relative in Rhode Island was the final prodding I needed. It was time to actually name and label and date as many of the digital images as possible and fit them to their “proper owners” on the family tree. Every trip to far flung relatives meant I gained more scanned copies of old photos or digital images I made of them with my camera. Needless to say there is not a photo for all of the twelve hundred plus people but it felt like double that number as I have been working on them diligently for over a month using every spare moment. For some family members it meant cropping their face out of a group photo. For still others it meant dating them through many photos showing them as they changed over the years of their lives. It also meant labeling all the digital images of the villages and towns and churches and schools and even the old family homes when possible. There are even photos of the streets where family members lived over 200 years ago. I may not be able to prove which house belonged to them but thanks to information on birth certificates I was able to ascertain streets!

So this brings me to today’s treasure chest moment. My treasure chest has become my laptop. Everywhere I go it comes along for the trip. Blessed with a 6 hour battery life, I can steal many moments no matter where I am to work on the photo project. My laptop wallpaper is a replica of an antique print of the family village in Italy. Somehow I find that relaxing as I flip through files and folders saved across my desktop. As I have worked I also made certain to save frequent updates to my portable hard drive. At this point although I am not finished I have also burned CDs to send home to Italy with our nephew and to mail to Rhode Island to another cousin! Let me use this opportunity to once again admonish you all to make backups of all your work. If my laptop crashes, I would be one unhappy woman to have lost all of my hard work! It is not enough to save work only for myself. If a hurricane or other natural disaster were to destroy our home, I would risk losing all of my research. Knowing that copies have been sent to reside with other family members is double insurance against such a loss!

Treasure Chest Rethink 9/17/09

September 17, 2009 at 00:02 | Posted in Carnival of Genealogy, family history, family research, genealogy, Hints and Tips, memories, Treasure Chest Thursday | 4 Comments
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It’s hurricane season here in Florida again. California is still suffering though wildfires. And of course overseas many of you also worry through tsunamis and earthquakes too. How many of you consider from time to time what you would save if you had only minutes or less to evacuate your home? What if you weren’t hone and unable to save anything? I used to tell my family to save as many photographs as possible – everything else could be replaced. But overtime my opinion has changed sharply. Our family research has consumed over ten years of my life now. Every bit of free time I could, I would spend searching online or reading the rolls of microfilm as the local FHL. I’ve finally written a family history book and have started more. There’s also the tree itself in book format filled with photographs and timeless bits of history and timelines. Then there are notebooks full of all my research, color coded and cross indexed to ease my research. And photographs! Wondrous old photographs! And crisp clear new ones! Thousands of photographs literally. So all of this has meant I needed to rethink my strategy. First, I have begun the long process of scanning and labeling with names, dates, and locations all of our photographs. Then they are grouped and saved to a CD as well as backed up to a portable hard drive. Each of our sons has been given copies of all that are finished so far. I figured they would enjoy the ones from their childhood so I also gave them the originals applicable to each of them. (Helped clean out a cabinet too!) I have already scanned and labeled all the original documents and certificates and backed those up in similar fashion. Each son has been given complete sets of all family history I have completed to date and the books as well as photographs. So everything is protected in quadruplicate by a set going to each son in addition to my own backups. But I still wanted to preserve my own notes of the unfinished research. So I purchased a large plastic tub that seals tightly against water. It is kept inside my room in an easily accessible place. If we are hit with flooding, I have a chance to save everything. Everyone in my family knows about this plastic tub. All my CDs of photographs and certificates as well as the notebooks are kept in here. So now my family has their orders clear: save mom’s plastic treasure chest! Grab the laptop and grab the chest! Our lives obviously come first because they are irreplaceable – but the laptop and plastic treasure tub come closely behind!

Protect and Preserve

February 24, 2009 at 09:38 | Posted in genealogy | Leave a comment
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I previously wrote about organizing all those notes, Pedigree sheets, surname databases. Today I want to discuss how to preserve and protect those precious photographs. My sister inherited many wonderful antiques and ephemera from her mother-in-law. Wonderful trunks full of family journals, old calendars, cards, letters. All fantastically organized and labeled. Then there were boxes of old family photographs, most labeled with names and dates. Then there were the boxes of super old (more than 100 years old) photographs completely unlabeled, undated. Too wonderful and poignant to toss but no clue to who, what, when, or where. We figure she inherited and did not have the heart to toss either. But that is the unusual – or is it? What will your children say to you in about twenty or thirty years? Mom, dad, who are these people? What were you, they doing? Where was this taken? Will you be there to answer or will they have inherited shoe boxes of photographs of the unknown? When they open those shoe boxes, what will those photos even look like? Will they be stuck together like glue and tear as they attempt to separate them? Or will ink and colors be so faded that the faces are rendered unidentifiable? We live in Florida – land of rain, , lightening strikes, brush fires, hurricanes, floods, and tornadoes. The time to think about protecting and preserving is sooner rather than later! One horrible occurrence could wipe out years of family memories and years of family research. Start by taking some tips from contingency planners and insurance companies. Be prepared ahead of time instead of thinking it will never happen to you. Instead assume it will!

First — keep copies of everything possible. Scan and burn to CDs. Then pass a copy of that CD to an entrusted friend or family member who lives elsewhere. Do a sort of round robin exchange – everyone can find space for a few CDs for someone else. If your cousin holds for you, you return the favor and hold for her. This is even better if you do not live next door to each other! Some folks even go so far as to rent a safe deposit box for safe keeping of the really old special family certificates such as foreign birth and marriage certificates. You have to decide how valuable those are to you and if your budget can handle the expense. Some banks used to offer one free with an account.

Second – back up any of your information on your computer to an external hard drive. I make special folders for the photographs and back them up to the external hard drive along with any family files. Computers do crash and it is not easy to reclaim lost data when that happens.

Third – use a watertight container to store your photographs and other papers. When the roof falls in allowing in rain, or the flood waters rise, this may save those precious photographs.

Fourth – take those digital photographs of the family keepsakes and heirlooms. Maybe it isn’t even a priceless (financially) object – I have an old hat of my dad’s. He’s been gone 25 years but that old straw hat is seen in many photographs and it is priceless to me! Label and caption the photograph. That way at least everyone else will know what it is!

Fifth – don’t forget cassette and video tapes. Burn them to DVDs – not that difficult or expensive to do at home now via SDS cables and a little time. Again remember that CDs and DVDs also degrade, break, or scratch. Make extra copies to share.

Lastly – There are commercial web sites that one can pay to back up computer files  to and store photographs. Using the commercial genealogy sites is an option but remember that the information you post there can bring privacy and copyright issues into play. Research who owns those files you post if you want to be sole owner. Remember too that some family members may not want their information posted on the Internet – so a family tree specifying Living as a name is not really helpful to recreating that destroyed or lost tree! Be especially careful posting information and photographs of children.

I have been spending a lot of my spare time scanning all of our family photo albums. Each photo is scanned, touched up if needed (old color inks faded) and then labeled with names, dates, locations, occasions. Maybe a funny or accurate caption is added when appropriate. These are grouped into manageable file folders. All my wedding folders are into one folder, honeymoon to another, baby’s first year to another, etc.  I tried to take time to label many of the actual photographs also. Never use ink on them but soft pencil on the back to at least give names. If you really want to be industrious, you can print out a scan and label that. Those are a great solution for the family group shots to know who was whom!

If you feel overwhelmed, start with family groups shots, especially the old ones. Then pick one or two favorites from each holiday to save and protect. The reality is that it is not likely all of your children will want all those scenery photo shots from all the family vacations anyway. Trees are nice – but how many tree photos do they want? They will be taking their own someday too! Do this in small bites and you will not be so overwhelmed. And as you take new photos, make it a habit to label them instead of going back later! Your children will thank you someday!

Unexplained Urgency Part I

February 9, 2009 at 11:54 | Posted in ancestry, family research | Leave a comment
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I have been pulled in so many directions and left feeling like there is never enough “me time” and that leads to feeling so selfish that I want to be left alone to indulge in my personal passions. Working nights on twelve hour shifts 3 or 4 nights weekly means days spent sleeping. During my off days I work on all the normal family tasks of keeping a house running smoothly and get to relax with my personal projects only in small increments.

One of those selfish projects is scanning all the old photo albums from my own childhood, my children, and any other photos I find laying around. Most of our photos were labeled and stored in albums fortunately but I do have the usual unlabeled ones that take research to learn who those people were/are or where that one was taken and when. One copy of a photo is saved to a file of similar photos and each labeled properly and completely – then the file is both burned to CDs and saved to an external hard drive. CDs will be given to each son along with his own albums of the actual photos. (This cleans Mom’s house in the process too – ha ha) Hopefully it will mean the photos will last to hand to another generation someday and preserve that much more family history.

My dad used to be a part time photographer around WWII era. He would take portrait photographs of the children in the area, my mom would then hand tint them with color in the style of that era – using a delicate hand to bring the photos to life! He then sold those photos to the parents. By the 1950′s he no longer was selling his work but enjoyed the hobby and passed that love and skill on to his daughters.

My grandmother was the family photographer as I was growing up. Everywhere we went, she held her Brownie camera – an old box camera – in her hands taking photos, posing everyone at every chance. Family would be so frustrated as she made each stand for their picture to be taken – sometimes alone or sometimes in groups. They dreaded those photo sessions at every family gathering. I recently realized that is probably what caused me to avoid taking many photos of people. Mostly I have enjoyed photos of places and things, with people only incidently there. Or my real passion has been candid photos of the people taken without intruding, without posing. Instead I love taking photos of people being themselves. My request to our wedding photographer had been to take candids, not pose groups of people.

It is these bits and pieces – candids in time, or a flower, a tree, a mountain,or a landscape, or an object that for me evoke an emotion, a feeling, a memory. It is these photos that speak to my soul, that call to me to be taken. Yet, recently I have found another call to my spirit, a call to photograph faces, expressions, eyes. There is a need to save those snippets, to preserve the emotions shown there. Now it remains to be seen where this new urgency takes me.

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