Archive for the ‘pictures’ Tag

Your Family Tree   2 comments

Letha Shull, age 16, showing a bit of the grit that would power her genealogy research decades later!

My Mom got into genealogy by accident, really.  As part of the Bicentennial celebration, our home town was publishing a history of the community.  “On the Banks of the Elk Horn” was to include the history of the town and the families that had lived there.  Mom was tasked by the committee with writing the history of the Mowry family, so Mom dutifully talked to the older generation and wrote our history in 1972.

Multiple members of my family had copies of these pictures of my Great Great Grandparents, but not all of them were labeled so we knew who they were!

A year later, she was convinced, much of what she had written was wrong.  The oral history she relied on was proven inaccurate when confronted with basic research into county records that were easily available.

And Mom’s love of genealogy was born.

She began buying 3×5 cards by the case, and typing individual records of life events on each card (so, one for a birth, one for a marriage, etc).  She typed cards for every announcement in the local newspaper, and then began adding other published records.

Eventually, she typed thousands of cards for everything in the four counties in northwest Missouri, and then started adding more esoteric records, such as funeral home and cemetery records.  A database was created, and then re-written.  And she’s now begun entering all of those old index cards into the database.

She’s a few thousand cards in, and she’s still only in the B’s.  And this is still what she does for fun!

I knew my father was adopted, but I didn’t know he cost $23 until Mom showed me this receipt!

Mom has infected me with her passion, of course, and I’ve tried to help her around the edges since the ’80s. I had access to unique resources in LA back before everything was online.  Today, her decades of knowledge still far outweighs my access to the LDS library in Santa Monica!

She’s already done a huge, huge amount of work, taking our family back multiple generations (and proving multiple connections to the Revolutionary War soldiers which will eventually be used for my Granddaughter’s DAR membership, for example).  Mom’s work has taken the Mowry line now back 7 generations to John “Maurer” Mowry, born in 1725.  The Morgan and MacDonald family lines are also back into the 1700s.

Not all records are in the family bibles! These birth and marriage dates were recorded by my Great Grandmother on to a wall hanging that included photos of her 7 kids.

Remember, though, where her journey began: bad information from relatives that she had to record and then disprove on her way to a more complete understanding of our family tree.

So, how should YOU get started?

  1.  Write down what you know … for some people that’s their personal information only.  Some people are lucky enough to know their grandparents and even great-grandparents — and their birth dates.  It’s a very rare person, though, that actually knows birth, marriage and death dates back 3 generations.  Write down what you THINK you know … here are some forms you can download and use to get started, here or here.
  2. Write down what you don’t know … this could very well be a larger list.  Sometimes you discover things you don’t know along the way … like a new step grandmother that your grandfather never mentioned.
  3. Talk to your immediate family for information, direction & more.  You’ll probably know what you can talk about with your immediate family … and what subjects you best avoid.  It’s great to know “everything” … but do you really NEED to know every divorce date?  Avoid those topics that will incite relatives, and lead to them disengaging from your project.
  4. Get pictures!  If you have been following my blog, you know that I love family pictures.  You will be very surprised at the pictures that various members of your family have that you’ve never seen.  Even your immediate family will likely have pictures that you’ve never seen before.
  5. Talk to your extended family.  Some cousins may not be happy with prying questions about marriage dates, birth dates … not everyone will want to share private information!  Ask questions, be happy with the answers … and then you can check them for accuracy on your own time!
  6. Get pictures!  When you look at pictures from your extended family, you’ll be amazed what you will find.  Cousins will have new pictures, identifications on pictures that may be unlabeled in your collection, or simply better prints that are in better condition that the pictures in your immediate family’s collection.
  7. Begin your research.  I’ll leave research tips to the myriad of published and online resources that you have to call upon.  My go to is; it’ll help you in many ways — but be careful.  Just because something is online doesn’t mean it is true!

    This picture is from a tin type, and is probably the oldest in our family’s collection. John Blair Morgan died in 1865, age 73.

The Death of the Photograph   2 comments

Facebook is killing photography.  I cringe every time I see a blurry self portrait, or a snapshot that is oh so cute … that’s being consigned to the digital scrap heap of someone’s newsfeed.

William Henry Mowry, circa 1864. This tintype photograph is the earliest photo I have of a family member.

Photography is a relatively recent invention.  Aristotle contemplated how images of the sun projected through a hole in 330 BC.  The first practical, long-lived photographic image appeared in the 1830s, the Daguerreotype.  With the invention of flexible film by George Eastman in 1889, handheld cameras became possible … and mobile media soon followed.

This photo of Simon and Maria Chucalovich’s family was taken by an itinerant photographer, selling his services door to door in about 1922. Photography — much less mobile photography! — was still unusual in this era, and quite a crowd gathered to watch this photograph being taken on the front step of the family home.

Today, if you believe the hype from digital journalists, you might think the only cameras being used are smartphones.  There’s no doubt that the iPhone has changed the way that we think of and use cameras.  Today’s camera phones wirelessly upload your pictures using your favorite app, and they give you instant gratification when you share your snaps and friends see them NOW.

The best camera to take a photograph is the one in your hand … so the more accessible smartphones are, the more likely they will take more pictures.

However, smartphones currently deliver pictures that are generally lower in quality than even low priced “point and shoot” cameras.  The phone manufacturers are certainly improving the qualities of their cameras, but they have a long way to go before they will truly compete with the quality of dedicated handheld cameras.

So, here we are today.  We have more pictures being taken by lower quality cameras.  To deepen the problem, those pictures are almost never saved in a traditional sense … they’re uploaded to Facebook or Instagram or Flickr (and usually shrunk & degraded by the site’s algorithm).  Once on a social media site, the photographer loses control of the image (and those implications will be discussed in a later post).

So if you take a picture that’s important, what do you do with it?  Family photographs are heirlooms.  They are passed from generation to generation.  They are proudly displayed in their owner’s homes.

Unfortunately, today’s smartphones just aren’t up to that standard.  Make no mistake, those smartphone cameras are improving and mobile snapshots can be wonderful.  They are seldom, however, first quality photographs.

If your goal is to capture memories in photographs that last longer than your Facebook newsfeed allows, then you’ll want to find a way to take high quality photographs, display them and store them.

Here’s a resource for the key issues in purchasing a digital camera.

Here’s a “how to” resource for displaying and storing heirloom photographs.

The family of Phillip Patterson “PP” Shull, circa 1905.  This hundred-year-old photograph has been passed through many hands for you to see it.  Note the dog at the corner of the house, which must have been nailed in place to stay still long enough for the long exposure necessary for this photograph!  Click on the photo to enlarge the image and see the dog carefully watching his master.

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