Monday, November 25, 2013

Interested in Photo Archives? You Should Be Reading This

The Society of American Archivists has several subgroups that focus on archiving particular types of materials.  One of the these is the Visual Materials Section, which focuses on, well, visual materials like photographs and other images.  Their most recent newsletter, Views, has a few articles of no interest whatsoever to genealogists, relating mostly to academic conferencing, and several articles that are very interesting to anyone interested in visual materials.

First, a quote I liked: "...every two minutes, the same number of photographs are made in the world today as was made during the entire nineteenth century."  Stephen Fletcher, in a review of a symposium called Magnum Photos into the Digital Age.  Imagine!

Second, the newsletter has a listing of new books and exhibits on photography, photographers and photographs.  I wish Twentieth-Century Color Photographs: Identification and Care by Sylvie Penishon wasn't $65. (And why aren't academic publishers making ebooks?  Seems like scholars, of all people, would be sympathetic to making books cheaper and easier to store!)

And third and best of all, the newsletter includes a listing of new digital archive projects.  For example, The American Museum of Natural History Research Library Digital Special Collections has an image website that includes, among other things, "the Julian Dimock Collection which documents moments in the daily lives of African Americans in South Carolina, new immigrants at Ellis Island, and the Seminole
Indians of Florida at the turn of the last century; and the Lumholtz Collection which documents four expeditions led by ethnographer Carl S. Lumholtz to northwestern Mexico between 1890 and 1898,
with important portraits of the indigenous peoples of Mexico."  Check it out at

Friday, October 4, 2013

You're Watching Genealogy Roadshow Wrong

Another genealogy television show, another round of comments online about how the show doesn't reflect how genealogy really works and is doing a disservice to new genealogy recruits.  Aside from the obvious response, which is that watching a real genealogist doing "real" genealogy would be a lot like watching grass grow, I think there's another way to look at this:

Those critics are watching it wrong.

They are assuming that the goal for the genealogy community is show people how rewarding it would be to be genealogists.  They are assuming that we want lots of new genealogists.  I think they're wrong.

Think about your own family and your own genealogy hobby.  Do you honestly want a lot of members of your family to become active genealogists?  Really?  Do you really want to share your files?  Your online tree?  Looking forward to the meeting where all 12 cousins want grandmother's family photo albums...and have 12 different ideas about how to digitize and display them?

I don't.  I think that sounds crowded.  In my ideal genealogy world, I have a few genealogy buddies, at a nice 2nd or 3rd cousin distance, each of which is also working on one of my major lines.  It would also be nice to have someone in the next generation of my closer family who looks like they can take over my research when I'm gone.

What do I want from Genealogy Roadshow?  I want it to model great family conversations.  I know that when I make a major discovery, my family doesn't stand around a table waiting expectantly for the great reveal...but wouldn't it be great if they did?  I don't expect Genealogy Roadshow to turn my family members into Kenyatta Berry...I want it to turn them into Kenyatta's audience!

I also want to use it to train myself to do a better of job of communicating my research to my family.  Think of the way they structure that conversation:  One simple question, a bit of context, maybe a tree, a couple of original documents and photos, and an answer to the question.  No long narratives about research methods.  No points for tree size.  One or two stories per session, strongly tied to the interests of the audience and, if possible, with an emotional payoff.  Since it's a new show, some segments are more successful than others...and I think we can learn from that, too.

Of course, more genealogists would be a good thing in a general sense.  More researchers = more money for records access and preservation, developing cool tools, and helping to dust the genealogy library. I'm exaggerating to make a point.  Mostly.

But it would be cool to have an audience act like that, wouldn't it?

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

An Interesting New Memorial

The National Teachers Hall of Fame has added a memorial to teachers who have died in the course of their teaching duties.  While recent teachers such as the Sandy Hook victims and Christa McAuliffe come immediately to mind, the earliest teacher on the list (currently) is Enoch Brown, who died in 1764.

The organizers are eager to hear about other teachers who are eligible for the memorial.  Contact them at

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

A Nifty Book About Wichita History

Found while looking for something else, which is how the best things are always discovered, the Illustrated History of Early Wichita.

A variety of digitized versions is available from this page at the Open Library. Very cool pictures.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Dear Kyerstin, with Deepest Apologies

Thanks to a free weekend trial at ArkivDigital, I recently discovered digitized parish records for your son, Magnus, my great-great grandfather, and your family in Soraby, Sweden.

This is where I discovered that the name our family has recorded for you, Soora Rottne, is actually the name of the neighborhood you lived in.

As a small gesture of penitence, for the rest of today I will refer to myself as

Yours truly,
Rocky Creek

Friday, February 15, 2013

Swedish Genealogy Workshop in Lindsborg, KS

Gotta sign up for this workshop!  Swedish Genealogy in Lindsborg, KS just seems so appropriate, especially since my Swedes settled right around there.

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Genealogy in Local News

The Wichita Eagle reprinted an interesting article from the Kansas City Star about some genealogists who solved a riddle that more mainstream historians hadn't resolved (not clear whether the historians couldn't solve the riddle or just hadn't bothered.)  Benjamin "Pap" Singleton was born a slave, escaped to freedom, and was instrumental in encouraging former slaves to move to Kansas and other states to escape the Jim Crow south after the Civil War.  The riddle?  What happened to him after his prominence faded?  Some Kansas genealogists and historians found his death certificate and cemetery records.

It's an interesting article that gives genealogy a positive shout out.  Read it here.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Wichita Women's Groups

Yowza, it's been a while since I last posted.  My excuse?  The stuff I've been doing with my genealogy time, while worthwhile to me, is unutterably dull to write about.  I've been labeling vacation photos and making backup disks at home, and conducting inventory at the genealogy library.  Yawn, right?

Anyway, I don't want to talk about that stuff now.  Tuesday, while I was staffing the front desk at the library, I was asked a question I totally failed to answer.  And, since I hate being clueless, I've been doing a little research.

The question:  Could I help identify this picture?

Known:  The known woman in this picture moved to Wichita in the late 1910s and died in 1942.  The picture has a Wichita photographer stamp on the back.  The woman's husband worked for a railroad.

Observed:  The dresses are almost identical, the women each have a dark ribbon tied in a bow on the left shoulder, they don't seem to have any other common jewelry or insignia, and the room looks more like a hotel banquet room than a church or home.

Answer: I have no idea what group this is.  It appears to be an organized group, and, if they went to the trouble of matching dresses, it's probably an on-going group.  The women are too old to be graduating from high school.  The consensus of the folks at the library was that it is probably some sort of women's group, like Eastern Star.

So what women's groups were active in Wichita during the 20s and 30s?

The History of Wichita and Sedgwick County, published in 1910 by Orsemus Bentley, provides a whole chapter on Wichita women's groups.  These include the Hypatia club, started in 1886 (and only recently ended), the Twentieth Century Club, the Wichita Musical Club, the South Side Delvers, the DAR, and the Fairmount Library Club.

There were many Masonic lodges in Wichita, and many wives and daughters joined Eastern Star.

There were trade organizations, with female auxiliaries, including the Peerless Princess Lodge auxiliary of the Brotherhood of Railway Trainmen, and the Peerless Princess Division auxiliary of the Order of Railway Conductors.

Many of the same organizations are mentioned in Helen Winslow's Official Register and Directory of Women's Clubs in America from 1913.

So, I have the beginnings of a list of possibilities, but no pictures, which might help narrow things down.
I'll have to keep looking in to this...