A piece of family history can be found in a library book.
As a young girl, I spent a lot of time at the iconic New York Public Library – with those stone lions out front - working on school projects. I once found a book I needed and opened it. Out fell an old-fashioned photo postcard with my grandfather’s picture on it.
He was in the army and had sent the card, with a message, to his sister. She had likely stuck it in the book and forgotten about it, until I found it decades later.
I wasn’t a genealogist then, and in what I now believe was a misguided act of responsibility, I put the card back in the book. Perhaps the owner would come looking for it?
When I got home, I told my family about it, and everyone said I should have brought it home. Fortunately, we found a copy at another relative’s home much later.
Have you ever had to clear out the home of a deceased relative or had to help move an elderly relative to a retirement or nursing home?
Checking the dusty corners of a large home, or even a small apartment, can produce family treasures that would otherwise be lost forever.
One of my favorite blogs is The Signal, the digital preservation blog of the Library of Congress. A hot topic there centers on personal digital archiving, and much of that relates to family history and genealogy.
The LOC’s Mike Ashenfelder, who writes online articles about personal digital archiving, digital preservation leaders and developments in digital preservation, writes on preserving personal genealogical collections in a digital age.
The popularity of genealogy websites and TV shows is rapidly growing, mainly because the Internet has made it so convenient to access family history information. Almost everything can be done through the computer now. Before the digital age, genealogical research was not only laborious and time consuming, it also resulted in boxes of documents: photos, charts, letters, copies of records and more. Online genealogy has replaced all that paper with digital files. But the trade-off for the ease of finding and gathering the stuff is the challenge of preserving it.
About genealogical databases, Ashenfelder writes:
that relational databases are the engines that drive digital genealogy. Databases make it possible to quickly search through enormous quantities of records, find the person you’re looking for and discover related people and events. And when institutions collaborate and share databases, statistical information becomes enriched.
And, considering some demographics of family history aficionados, digital estate planning now a popular topic. What happens to our digital possessions after we die? And what can we do to preserve them? Getting your digital affairs in order offers much practical information.
University of Delaware professor Debra Hess Norris is chair of the Department of Art Conservation and offers some tips to save damaged photos.
An expert on photograph preservation, Norris - and her colleagues and students - are hoping to provide the public with advice and resources. They have event set up an email address for questions. Send questions to firstname.lastname@example.org, with the subject line “Save My Photograph,” and the team will provide recommendations.
“It’s about giving people who have had to deal with so much some hope and guidance for saving photographs that are precious to them,” Norris says. “In many cases, water-damaged photographs can be saved.”
National Hispanic Heritage Month, in the US, celebrates the culture and traditions of Americans with roots in Spain, Mexico, Central America, South America and the Caribbean. It is observed from September 15 through October 15.
First observed as Hispanic Heritage Week in 1968, it was expanded in 1988 to cover the 30-day period.
Some 14% of the US population – more than 42.7 million Americans – have an Hispanic origin, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. It is considered the largest ethnic minority in the country.
Tens of millions of Hispanics emigrated from Spain. Some came directly to the US and countries south, some first went to the Philippines or the Caribbean Islands and then arrived here. Spain was in the Caribbean and Mexico long before the English were in what would become the US. The state of New Mexico was settled by the Spanish in 1598, and they were in Saint Augustine, Florida, in 1565.
Tracing your Hispanic heritage may not lead directly back to Spain, but may go from the US to many other places, including Europe, Africa and even Eastern Europe. There may be many surprises along the way.
The 30th anniversary of Banned Books Week, from September 29-October 6, will be celebrated in the US as groups - some on college campuses - read passages from the American Library Association’s top banned and challenged books.
Lafayette College (Easton, Pennsylvania) will hold a literary flash mob read-out at 1pm on Monday, October 1, near the library.
Among the books on the list: To Kill a Mockingbird, Lord of the Flies, Harry Potter, Beloved, The Grapes of Wrath, The Great Gatsby, 1984, Brave New World, Animal Farm and many others.
Many of them illustrate relationships between families (conventional or not) and among family or group members. Today, most seem rather tame and quite ordinary but, when first published, the topics, characters and story lines were considered controversial.
Researchers of family history are in the business of preservation. We hope to preserve not only our own personal documents, but we may also be involved in a larger community project that aims to make content more widely accessible to genealogists and family historians around the world.
One needs only to look around to see digital content everywhere. No one today uses camera film; we take digital photos and videos. We don’t write real-time letters and mail them, but communicate via social media. Who buys music records, except collectors? Instead, we download digital music. What we need to plan for is how to preserve this content for the future. We also need to think about storing it and managing access.
One resource that has importantly contributed to helping researchers understand the value of this quest is the digital preservation blog – The Signal - of the Library of Congress. Access the blog here and also subscribe.
Launched a year ago, it has published 288 posts by nine staff bloggers and more than two dozen guest writers, has had nearly 270,000 page views, and garnered more than 100,000 web mentions. It has been mentioned on museum and library websites and on blogs devoted to art, law, music, genealogy (including this blog), photography and technology.
The goal of The Signal is to communicate with researchers, librarians, archivists and other digital content gatherers, and to raise awareness among everyone else with a personal or other reason to preserve content.
So many films are being released for the summer season, and there may well be lines we’ll be quoting for years to come.
We’ve all been going to see films – and eating lots of popcorn - since we were little kids.
Can you remember the first film or feature-length cartoon you saw with your parents? What was the first film you went to with your friends – no parents?
All of us have our favorite cinema lines. They range from “I’ll be baaack!” (The Terminator) to "Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn" (Gone With the Wind). Perhaps you prefer “There’s no place like home” (The Wizard of Oz), or “May the Force be with you,” a Star Wars favorite.
It must be fate that encouraged us to publish this post on the 35th anniversary of that space epic's opening!
Family history attracts people of all ages.
Recently, MyHeritage was happy to hear from member Jeff Zeitlin of Connecticut, who sent an email on behalf of his son Jared, 11. He explained that Jared was very interested in genealogy and asked if it was possible to get a MyHeritage souvenir.
Our marketing department wrote to Jeff and discovered that Jared had made remarkable family history discoveries.
We asked the family's permission to share their story and they were happy to do so. Of course, we sent Jared a MyHeritage fleece (see photo left).
Here’s Jared's story:
A fifth-grade student, Jared’s parents are Alyson and Jeffrey Zeitlin and he has an older sister, Mikayla. He also enjoys spending time with his grandparents in Connecticut and Florida.
Growing up in a Jewish family, Jared found great interest in religion and genealogy. These interests spurred his focus in researching his family history, which resulted in building the family tree on MyHeritage.com.
One day a few summers ago, Jared’s father’s first cousins visited them in Connecticut – the first time Jared had met them.
During the day we discussed how we were related. Cousin Arthur mentioned that another distant cousin had created a family tree on another website. That got me interested in looking at my family.
Preservation Week is celebrated in the US during the week of April 22-28.
Although it was created in 2010 to raise awareness of some 630 million items in institutions which require immediate care, it also focuses on protecting personal and family history collections.
Some 80% of institutions have no paid staff to care for collections; and 22% have no staff at all (paid or not) for that purpose. An estimated 2.6 billion items are not covered by an emergency plan, and are in danger from disasters.
Events and programs over the week bring attention to the fact that personal items, family history and community collections are also at risk.
During Preservation Week, libraries all over the US offer events, activities and resources that help us preserve personal and shared collections.