thegenealogygirl


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Major Milestone Right Here!

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Last week I filed and filed and filed letters.  Do you know what a treat it is to open letter after letter and see your grandparents handwriting?  To touch the pages they touched?  To hear their sweet and enduring love for each other?  It was completely joyful for me.

I am soooooo happy to say that I filed every single letter for the 5 1/2 years they wrote to each other!  Ten Hollinger boxes filled with letters.

(Of course, I still have the letters from the 1960s when my Grandpa was in graduate school.  But we won’t even think about those yet.)

As soon as I finish scanning Aunt Vera’s scrapbook – these letters are next on deck for scanning.  I think they deserve their own blog.  Maybe this fall.  😉

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These four boxes were mostly full on Wednesday when I started.  They look so beautiful empty, I might just leave them on my table for a day to enjoy their tender place in my heart.

 

Happy Monday, I hope you conquer a special genealogy project sometime this year – it is an incredible feeling!

 

 


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Treasures: Aunt Vera’s Scrapbook; A Perplexing Gem Riddled with Fact and Fiction

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In late April I wrote about Aunt Rosey and her girls and the crazy trip down the rabbit hole their story took me on.  Their story is complicated.  Very, very complicated.  One of the items I included in that post was this scan – including this very helpful wedding announcement – from Aunt Vera’s scrapbook.

Quick refresher:  Alice Hyde is my 2nd great grandmother.  Vera Duval is Alice’s daughter.  Rosey is Alice’s sister, and Vera’s aunt.  Plus – Rosey has a daughter named Elvera too.  (Just for fun I’ll also add that Alice and Rosey’s step-mother/aunt was also named Alice.)

So back to the scrapbook.  When I first shared this invitation, I wrote this:

At this point I reviewed a few old family notes and letters.  Now be careful not to get lost here.  I found a letter written by Vera, daughter of Alice Hyde Duval who is the sister of Rosey Hyde.  Yes that’s right, both sisters named a daughter Elvera.  This letter written by Vera to my Grandma, mentions an old scrapbook that Vera kept.  She asked my Grandma if she wanted to have it.

I had a lightbulb moment and remembered that my mom’s cousin Heather had emailed me a few scans of an old scrapbook she had.  I dug through my emails and found those scans.  Among them was this page.

When Heather sent this to me all those years ago, I had NO EARTHLY IDEA who Mr. and Mrs. Peter Williamson were.  I did some basic searching but came up empty.  I figured they were important to someone in my family so I went ahead and added them to FamilySearch and uploaded the announcement.  But now?  The minute that image opened, I knew exactly who they were – this was a marriage invitation for the daughter of Rose Elvera Hyde and Peter Williamson.

Rosey was a Grandma!

After writing this post, I contacted my mom’s 1st cousin Heather, and asked if she would be willing to scan the rest of the scrapbook so I could look for other clues.  She did me one better and mailed it to me so I could scan it.

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This is the cover of Vera’s scrapbook.  It’s a 3-ring binder filled with letters, cards, announcements, invitations, certificates, and tons of newspaper clippings.  TONS of newspaper clippings.

I’m about 2/3 of the way through scanning right now.  There are so many helpful items.  But the real fun comes when there are seemingly helpful items that I get to decided if they are fact or fiction.  Case in point:

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This scrapbook page has several parts to it:

  • Folded certificate (that we will ignore for the purposes of this post).
  • Torn newspaper clipping attached to the back of the folded certificate.
  • Newspaper photo with three print items taped to it and handwritten notes in pencil.
  • The name Duval in what appears to be my Grandma’s handwriting.  (Vera’s niece.)

Let’s start with the torn newspaper clipping.  It reads:

“-The candy had a bitter- ———- (ch)ocolate cover with flakes of (cocan)ut, and a marshmallow center.  No one asked me, but I finally took a piece.  I was chewing when a beautiful woman walked through the archway.

“I’m Dolores Hope,” she said.  “Are you waiting for Bob?”  My tongue pushed the candy frantically over into one cheek.  “Yes,” I said.  “My name is Bishop, Mrs. Hope.  This is Mrs. Bishop.”  We chatted a ——— Mrs. Hope, with a gold-leaf…”

Well, here is the fun part.  Vera had a sister named Dolores.  Dolores was married to a man with the last name of Hope.  This seems to be a piece of fiction included in the newspaper that struck Vera’s fancy because of the coincidental name use.  But, the album is full of these, so it starts to mess with my head a bit and I feel like I need to spend more time sorting fact and fiction.

Now on to the photo.

Above the photo is handwritten in pencil, “I opened the paper & there you were same Gay Grin & all”.  At the bottom of the photo is written in the same hand, “& you —– to ice skate”.

The caption of the photo is “Propriety On Ice”.

Taped to the photo are two different print items that read, “Elvera Duval”.

The photo itself looks very much like Vera, the scrapbook’s creator.  But just like the fictional stories make me question, the seemingly factual ones make me doubt a bit too.

The last item on the photo is the sideways bit of newsprint that reads:

“-efore Ike and Mamie arrived in —- Springs, Dolores Hope asked if she and the children could —- note and ask to call.”

I have no idea what that bit of news has to do with the photo.  Maybe they occurred close together?  Maybe Dolores sent the photo of Vera and she was the one who taped the bit about (possibly) herself to the side?

Oy!  Aunt Vera, you have created a lengthy and masterful puzzle in this wondrous scrapbook of yours.

 

I still have more scanning to do, but the scanning is the super easy part.  The study of each item is going to be complicated for sure.

 

What do you think?  Which items on this page are fact and which are fiction?

 

 

Many thanks to Heather for the kind use of this family treasure.  Once it’s fully scanned, it’s headed back to her care.

 


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My 7-second, $450 Miracle

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John Costello, front and center, looking away and pointing.

John Costello is my great grandfather.

 

My Mom knew him.

He died when she was about 11.

But more importantly, his three children that survived infancy were all still alive until November of 2015 when Uncle Dan died.

I have been grilling them for years.  (Nicely)

But…

John Costello is my brick wall.

 

My most recent, most tantalizing, most consuming, most stubborn, solid brick wall.

My collection of tid-bits about him is so small.  And so precious.  Every little bit I add to my John Costello treasury is cause for celebration.  I have exactly 5 pictures of him.  That one up there, plus another shot from this same sitting.  And these:

 

Young and Costello males

L-R: Andrew Young, George Vickers Young, ?, James Young, Alexander “Sandy” Young, John Costello, the two little boys are Vince and Dan.

Young and Costellos

L-R: John Costello, Mary Brown Young, Andrew Young, Catherine Brown, James Young, Alexander “Sandy” Young, George Vickers Young, front: Virginia, Dan, and Vince Costello.

Mary and John Costello

from the back of the photo: Mary and John Costello, Mistrey Castle Phoenix, Arizona, Jan 1965

 

Over Christmas my Mom was in a “I-want-to-get-stuff-outta-my-house” mood.  Among other things, she sent me home with this super-cool-clear-vinyl-60s-mod-flowers-decorated bag filled with old film reels.  She said, “I think it’s mostly dive videos of my Mom, but there may be some other stuff from when I was a kid.”  Intriguing.

(My Grandma was a rescue diver, hence the “dive stuff” comment.)

 

What hidden gems might there be in this magical bag from the 60s?

 

At RootsTech I entered the Larsen Digital drawing and picked up one of their coupons.  After RootsTech I got an email from Larsen Digital to let me know I had won $50 toward their services.  A few weeks later, two days before my RootsTech coupon was set to expire, I was headed in the direction of the closest Larsen Digital drop-off location.  I hadn’t yet figured anything out about the film reels – which had dive stuff and which had childhood stuff – so I just took a deep breath and dropped it all off so that I could take advantage of my coupon and my $50.

The next day I got a call to confirm my order – my nearly $600 order.

Gulp.

 

The one consolation was that they hadn’t yet applied my coupon or my $50 prize.

So, $450 and one month later, I picked up my film reels.

But I was packing to go spend some time with my Dad, so I just threw the thumb-drive in my backpack without watching anything and off I went to good old Kennewick, Washington.

I forgot all about that thumb-drive until my Mom arrived back home from a little trip she had taken.  We had one day together before I headed back home.  During that one day we were both taking care of a few things – she was unpacking, I was packing, laundry, etc.

Sometime in the early afternoon, I passed my backpack and remembered the thumb-drive.  I pulled it out and said, “Mom, let’s see what was on those old film reels.”  We sat at the kitchen table and started watching together.

About 13 minutes, and two video files in, we came across something that absolutely took my breath away.

There was John Costello.

 

Alive, in color, and showing me a 7-second glimpse into his personality.

As soon as his face appeared on screen, both my Mom and I said, “Oh.  {in gentle wonder}  There’s Grandpa Costello.”  After his precious 7-seconds, his wife Mary appears and then my sweet, infant Mom is passed to her Grandma Mary by someone off camera.

That 22-second family moment, immortalized on an old film reel, felt like the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, a priceless gift, a miracle.

A good friend taught me how to cut that little clip out of the longer video.

I think I have watched this 22-second video 100 times since last Thursday.  Especially the first 7 seconds.

How is it that those 7 precious seconds have told me more about John Costello the man, than the last 19 years of searching, pouring over records, and asking questions of his children and grandchildren?

I can’t explain it.

But those 7 incredible seconds were worth every single penny of the $450 I spent.

Every.  Single.  Penny.

 

And so my dear readers, I present to you, John & Mary Costello, in all of their color-filled glory.

 

 

My cup runneth over.

 

 

ps – There were 14 film reels in all.  The movies are positively filled with other treasures.  What a joy to have, and what a joy to share with my family.

 


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Learning New Things

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My sweet grandmother, Mary Margaret Ellis.

Last week was filled with learning new things.  On Thursday night I made my favorite discovery of the week while working at my local Family History Center.

This time of year I know that if the weather is nice we usually don’t have patrons come into the center.  Last Thursday was an especially nice day so I took a small stack of photos with me to scan.  The only patrons that came in were either attending a class or they were using one of the scanners and didn’t need assistance.  So, I spent my whole 2 hour shift scanning.

As I worked through the stack I had brought, I found a small bundle of negatives inside of a letter written to my grandmother by her older sister Beth.  I was excited to see what the photos were and held a bunch up to the light.  There were some sweet little gems in there.  As I was checking them out, a fellow consultant walked into the room and said, “You know our scanner can scan negatives don’t you?”

Well blow me down!

 

I DID NOT know that.

I got a quick lesson and proceeded to scan the stack of negatives.  Among them was this very sweet photo of my grandmother that I don’t recall having seen before.  A new treasure that I am delighted to have!

I have so many photo negatives at home.  SO. MANY.

Now that I know I can scan them at the center, I can save a bunch of pennies I was planning to spend having them professionally digitized.

But now I wonder how it would do with more modern photos?  Like the thousands of negatives I have saved from my whole life…

The lesson?

Know what resources are freely available to you.

 

I have been working at my local Family History Center for nearly 5 years.  I use the scanner all of the time and had no idea it could do this!  Such a happy discovery.

Happy Monday, I hope you make a fantastic genealogy discovery today!

 

 


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Piles and Piles of Letters – JOY!

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Just a small portion of the letters.

In early December I was given all of the boxes of photos, journals, albums, letters, and memorabilia that had been kept by my Grandmother.  It was a joyous day and the joy has just kept spreading itself all over my genealogy loving heart these many months.

I was given the boxes, in part, because I was looking for a handful of specific photos to complete my family Christmas gift.  I was in a hurry and quickly went through every single box gathering what I needed.  It was almost painful to be in such a hurry.  There were soooooooo many unbelievable treasures in those boxes and I wasn’t able to soak much in.  I had a deadline.  As I was digging I found a shoe-box of letters.  I gave them a cursory look and thought, “Awesome, Grandma and Grandpa’s letters from WWII and their missions.  I can’t wait to go through these later.”

Well, in early Spring I pulled that box out and was devastated when I realized that it contained letters from my Grandpa’s friends and extended family.  Don’t get me wrong.  I knew they were special too.  But I know that my Grandparents wrote to each other for 5 years and that my Grandma kept all of those letters.  Where were they?

I was stressed.  I wondered if a box had gotten lost or if someone had pulled out the letters thinking they would do something with them.  I asked my uncles.  No one knew anything.  I decided before I completely panicked I needed to comb through all of the boxes again.  Much more carefully.  Just in case.

So last week I started going through the boxes again.  I found and rediscovered so many cool things.  Several boxes in, I found a binder filled with letters.  But they were from the 1960s while my Grandpa was getting his doctorate.  A cool find to be sure, and something I was hoping hadn’t been lost, but still not the letters I was searching for.

As I worked my way through every box, I got down near the end and pulled a box onto my bed and was completely baffled about the fact that it was taped shut.  What on earth?!  Somehow I had totally missed one box.  My heart started to pound.  I noticed a note on the side that said letters.  Could it be?

I opened the box and started shouting for joy!  Total and complete joy.  I was staring at 4 shoe-boxes FILLED with letters.  Plus several bundles that weren’t in shoe-boxes.  There are hundreds and hundreds of letters.

Sweet relief!

I am a bit embarrassed that the letters had been in my bedroom for a few months and all that time I had been worrying about them being lost forever.  Oh boy.

Once they were discovered, I started organizing.  It wasn’t hard because my Grandma had already bundled them by months.  I just had to get the months in order.

Next I started filing the letters in my new Hollinger boxes and folders.  I filed away until I ran out of paper folder inserts.  I need to order more.  Lots more.  It’s going to get expensive.  I wonder if my family members would want to chip in…?  I’m going to need so many before I am finished.  But I digress.

The letters cover a 5 year time period beginning when my Grandpa went off to basic training for the Marine Corps.  They follow his service in the Marine Corps and then cover the time while he was serving an LDS mission in New Zealand.  During his mission my Grandma also served a mission in California.  There is also an entire shoe-box of letters from my great-grandmother Naomi to my Grandpa.  I was so surprised and delighted by that discovery.  She left no journal, no personal history, and she died very young.  I feel like I’ve been given such a gift.

I plan to digitize the letters and share them with my family.  I may post them here, I need to ask my uncles how they feel about that.  Once everything is digitized, I will publish a book for my family members.  Well, maybe more than one.  It’s A LOT of letters and may need to be broken up.

Here are my questions:

1 – Should I include all of the letters in one collection chronologically?  Or, should I separate them and have one collection of letters between my grandparents, one collection of letters from my great-grandparents and one collection from extended family and friends?

2 – If I separate the collections for the purposes of the books I will compile, should I still share the letters online in one collection?

3 – Do you have any tips for dealing with a collection of letters this large?

 

I can’t wait to get started!  Happy Monday.

 

 


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FamilySearch Book Scanning Service

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Title Page for a Family Record Book kept by my 2nd great grandfather Frederick William Ellis.

Among the many cool things in the boxes that belonged to my grandmother was a Family Record Book that her grandfather had kept.  It has a bunch of information that I already knew but it was handwritten by my 2nd great grandfather.  Such a treasure!  And while I say that it is information that I already knew, I think the important thing here is that he actually knew many of these people personally so his record will contain hidden gems that may help answer questions.

Like most of my genealogy adventures, I try to digitize and share what I find in a way that is useful for my family members.  Only one person can physically possess this book at a time but I certainly don’t want it’s existence to only benefit me.

That’s where FamilySearch comes in to help me out.  They offer a free book scanning service during RootsTech.  So I took my book along to RootsTech and had it scanned for free.  That book is now digitized and available on FamilySearch under the “Search” tab in the “Books” collection.  You can find it here.

If you have a book that is not under copyright, or a book that you own the copyright to, or a book that is under copyright but you get signed permission from the copyright holder, you can take that book to RootsTech and have it scanned.  A very cool service.

Additionally, FamilySearch will accept donations of items like journals, family Bibles, compiled histories and so on.  You can stipulate in your donation that they must scan the item and make it publicly available and they will!  The item will then be stored appropriately and can be viewed in person by family members at the Church Archives building.  This is a great option if you have an old item that is in danger of deterioration or if you have special family items and no one to care for them after you pass.  They have different storage methods including very cold storage that they use to help preserve really old items.  In fact, if your item is stored in one of these cold storage areas you have to make an appointment to view your item well in advance so they can slowly bring it to room temperature for your viewing.

I am so grateful for the many free services FamilySearch offers that help me to make my genealogy work available to my family members in a free and easily searchable way.  This book is a treasure and now it can be treasured in every household that descends from Frederick William Ellis and not just in my home.

Here is one last image from the book.  It’s the family group sheet for Frederick and his wife Susan, written in his own hand.

FWE & SKD family group sheet

 

Happy Wednesday.  I hope you make an amazing genealogy discovery today!

 

Note:  I could only find the information for donating items that are relevant to LDS church history.  I know that FamilySearch accepts donations of other items and stores them properly and digitizes them, I just couldn’t find the appropriate link in the time I have…  I’m off to pick up a preschooler.  If you are interested in this info let me know and I will track it down.


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My Happy Audio Digitizing Experience

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Tapes (Pascal Terjan) / CC BY-SA 2.0

Once upon a time in about the late 1970s, early 1980s, my mom interviewed her Grandpa and recorded that interview on two audio cassettes.  Fast forward to the early 2000s when my mom had a friend digitize those tapes.  She gave each of us kiddos three CDs of audio gold.  I loved listening to my Great Grandpa’s stories!

Fast forward to about 3 years ago and those CDs won’t work on my computer.  They’ll play for about 20-30 minutes and then they give up.  They play longer in my car but they still can’t make it to the end.  The sound quality is not awesome either.

I wanted to do something about that.

On a recent visit with my mom she gave me the original audio cassettes, plus two more that she said were recordings of my Grandpa Peterson reading children’s books.  Sweet!

Fast forward again to RootsTech.  I stopped by the booth for Larsen Digital and asked them a bunch of questions about their audio digitizing service.  I grilled them actually.  They were really nice and I loved their answers.  I’ve heard their name over and over so I felt pretty confident that they must have good customer service.  They were offering a RootsTech special that lasted a month or so after the conference was over.  I got home, got back into my everyday life and forgot about it.  The week the special was ending they sent an email reminder and so I decided to try them out.

I packed up my four precious audio cassettes and took them to the closest drop off location with instructions to have the digitizer call me.  He did.  We chatted.  I told him that I was worried about sound quality because the original digitization required quite a bit of sound editing and it still sounded bad.  He told me they would do their best and if they needed to do anything more than their normal service he would call me so we could discuss it.

A few weeks later I got an email with an invitation to the audio files.  I downloaded them and they sound amazing!  So much better than the CDs my mom made a few years ago.  Sound editing has come a long way.

Happy, happy day!!

Yesterday I picked up my cassettes plus CDs of each item.  If you have ever used a digitization service for audio or video you may know that some services put a file in the CD or DVD that makes it so you can’t import the audio or video and make a copy.  Larsen Digital doesn’t do anything like that.  In fact they gave me digital downloads and CDs.  I’ve already shared some of the files with my family.  So awesome!

So if you are in Utah, try Larsen Digital for your audio digitizing needs.  If you are not in Utah but can’t find a good place near you, well, call Larsen Digital.  I’m sure they would let you ship in your project if you are brave enough.

 

ps – I am not an affiliate of Larsen Digital.  I’m not benefiting from this post in anyway.  I’m just a very happy customer who felt like sharing a great genealogy consumer experience.