Every year for Christmas I try to give my parents and siblings a meaningful family history gift. Sometimes it’s simple, sometimes it’s not. What it always is, is a work of the heart.
This past Christmas, the gift was fairly simple, but definitely meaningful. And because it was created based on a family treasure found in my grandmother’s archives, I gave this particular gift to my children, my parents and siblings, my uncles and cousins, and my grandmother’s only living sibling.
So what was this special token of our shared heritage?
A slim, 23 page book.
The first 15 pages were a carefully scanned copy of a handwritten personal history recorded by my 2nd great grandmother Susan Kaziah Davis.
Susan is my Grandma’s Grandma. Susan was born in 1850 in Bath, Somerset, England to Edward George Davis and Sarah Esther Mudd. Edward and Sarah had joined The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in 1849. They continued to live in England for several years. After Edward’s death in 1863, Sarah and the children worked hard to earn enough money for passage to America and the journey to Utah. They arrived in the Salt Lake Valley on the 3rd of September, 1868, having travelled by wagon train. This makes Sarah, Susan, and the other children Mormon Pioneers.
At the age of 65, Susan wrote a 15 page personal history. Later, Susan and her son Claude, my great grandfather, used this handwritten history to write a more complete history of Susan’s life.
The original 15 pages are handwritten by Susan in her beautiful penmanship. I have that original handwritten history and wanted my whole family to be able to enjoy it.
I used a local printshop that I trust to create the scan. They scanned it in black and white and printed it on a creamy colored cardstock that was similar to the color of the original paper. I created 8 additional pages that were added after the history. The print shop printed them up and bound them with a small spiral binding at the top. Here is one of the books.
I tried to keep it almost as simple as I found it. I added my extra pages after Susan’s own writing. I wanted my family to be able to discover her life from her own writing, just like I had, when I found this treasure.
In the 8 additional pages, I included a letter from me, a few photos of Susan (reprints of scans), a photo of Susan’s mother Sarah, a lovely family group sheet for Susan, her husband and children, and one for Sarah, Edward and their children. I also created a relationship chart so that each recipient would know how they are related to Susan. Here are the 8 pages, in the order found in the book, with names of living people edited out except for mine.
I was very happy with this small gift I was able to share with my family.
The next step for me was a more permanent preservation effort for the handwritten history.
I instantly thought of the free FamilySearch book scanning service at RootsTech. I had used this service at RootsTech in 2016 and was very happy with the quality of the scan. The item I scanned that year was a Family Record book kept by Susan’s husband Frederick William Ellis. Here are two sample pages from that scan:
The scans turned out great! I was very pleased and thought this was a great way to preserve something for my extended family with little work on my part. The book is 86 pages long and while I certainly could have scanned them, this saved me lots of time.
Because of my previous experience with the FamilySearch Book Scanning service at RootsTech, I decided Susan’s handwritten history would be one of two books I had scanned at RootsTech 2017.
When I picked up my precious manuscript from the book scanning booth I very nearly walked over to a different booth that accepts donations of family items about early Mormon Pioneers. I almost donated this small history so it could be preserved and available for all of Susan’s descendants to view in person at the Church History Library. I had already recreated a physical copy for my family. I had already had a nice scan created by FamilySearch. Donating it would ensure it’s preservation. But some nagging feeling caused me to keep on walking.
After I returned home from RootsTech, I checked for my book to show up in the catalog several times. Eventually I quit checking and forgot about it until last week when I checked again. I was very puzzled when I couldn’t find it. I tried a bunch of tricks and I just wasn’t tracking it down. So I got extra creative and finally – there it was. The catalog name isn’t the best – A Brief sketch of the Life & Happenings of Susean (Susan) K. Ellis. The catalog entry can be found here. And the images of the scans can be found here.
Here is the first page from that scan:
I was sooooo disappointed in this scan! They scanned it in black and white. And at a low resolution.
Can I just say how glad I am that I did not donate Susan’s precious manuscript?!
After discovering this huge disappointment, I decided to scan the small treasure myself last week. I used a flatbed scanner and scanned each page at a very high resolution and saved them as a .tiff file.
Here is the first page at about one fourth the size of my scan and saved as a .jpeg. It looks so much better than the FS scan!
So what is the lesson?
I don’t know why I experienced such drastic quality differences with the FamilySearch Book Scanning service, but I did. In the future, I will not waste my time having them scan something so small. And I will definitely NEVER assume their scan has me covered and donate an item before making sure the scan is the quality I expect.
FamilySearch has earned my trust time and again. I almost let that well deserved trust cause me to donate an item before it had been properly scanned. I would have been heartbroken at my unnecessary loss.
I still trust FamilySearch and love their generous, inclusive, and vast efforts to help all people learn about their family’s history.
But I have now learned that my trust has a very important limit. Everything I consider donating will be properly scanned and saved to various locations before I even talk about making that donation.
Have you ever used the FamilySearch Book Scanning service? If so, what was your experience like?
Do you like to give family history gifts to your family? If so, what types of gifts have you given?
Happy Monday, I hope you are able to properly preserve and share a family treasure very soon!
ps – I will post my scans and a transcription of Susan’s history in an upcoming post for my extended family to find and enjoy.