Thursday, February 04, 2010

Genealogical meanderings ...

Isn’t it fascinating how searching for one little piece of information leads to another? It is sort of like following a meandering path through the woods, as in those childhood stories, and instead of finding the way home we discover a whole new meadow. (Or we follow a stream and come upon a waterfall.)

Pardon me while I wax poetic … I was looking for information on some children who seemed to disappear when their father died and their mother remarried; instead I found another elusive child, and evidence of the deceased parent having had an earlier marriage. So no anwers, yet, but some more questions!

Now and then, when I am stumped in my research, when census records and other documents just don’t seem to help, I simply Google the name of someone I am looking for. In this case, searching for more on Samuel Walton Currie (d. GA 1891), I was led to a GenForum query from 2002 about his very family. When messages are that old, chances of getting a response are slim, but I was lucky, and an answer came within 24 hours. And with it, ideas for more paths to follow, of course.


Yes, I am still cleaning out the office, but needed to take a break (all those decisions about what to throw away were making me crazy), and a chance question from someone stirred me to return to this particular problem. I am truly fortunate to have friends who care about the human interest aspects of this kind of research even though they are not genealogists.

In the matter of cleaning up, I am trying to adopt the philosophy of “The Practical Archivist,” who flatly states that you do not have to keep every photograph ever taken. (This applies to my travel memorabilia, NOT my ancestral portraits!) It was always hard for me to discard even the blurriest from-a-train-window shots, but with hardened resolve I have tossed quite a few -- PLUS all those duplicates the film developers used to bless us with. Furthermore, once I scan them I intend to get rid of the old fading film. So there.

I doubt I will ever sit down and create elaborate albums of ALL my trips, but the most memorable are being arranged in an accessible format (at least that is my plan). The envelopes, bags and cartons are slowly being emptied, and I have -- at the moment -- a mild sense of accomplishment. And I am getting rid of not only useless photos, but a lot of other tangential material -- clippings and guidebook pages that have outlived their usefulness, outdated local guides, now-meaningless scribbled notes, etc. Instead I am keeping maps, GOOD pictures, tickets, interesting brochures, local newspaper items that grabbed my attention, and other things that have specific meaning to me. It helps that I keep journals, so pictures are easier to identify and I can reconstruct itineraries as needed.

I have tried using those expandable envelopes for “temporary” storage, but find them too floppy to stack or shelve, so have resorted to shunting the lot into those impersonal (boring) bankers’ boxes. Once hiddden away like that, they tend to be forgotten.

Then I found some cardboard document storage boxes from a library supply house which claim to be acid-free (though in this case I don’t really care), and which can stand upright on a bookshelf (or back on the floor in my office -- oops). Each is large enough to hold at least one trip's worth of stuff, and they will be convenient to work on, but neatly -- and uniformly -- contained in the meanwhile.


“Why we make home videos” is the headline of David Pogue’s Personal Tech column in today’s New York Times. He discusses his efforts to transfer the tapes to a newer format, AND his readers’ comments on the whole project. (Can you believe that there are some people who don’t think he should even bother recording family activities???)

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