FamHist Blog

Family History Research Hints and Tips

There’s One In Every Family – The Tinkerer

Every family has fellows who love to tinker with stuff.  If there is something in the home that they think they can improve, its sanctity is lost. 

With tools and pocketknife in hand, the pristine factory casing is cracked and its interior is inspected, scrambled and tweaked.  Tim Taylor on Home Improvement has nothing on these guys.

Of course, sometimes, we, (yes, I’m one of tinkerer’s too), actually do make a worthwhile improvement.   Case in point:  My great grandfather, David Lewis Drew, moved to Copperopolis, Calaveras County, California from Plymouth, Massachusetts during the Gold Rush.  Eventually he married and a family was started. 

David Lewis Drew Family

David and Helen Drew Family

 

A house full of kids requires a LOT of water in everyday living.  Folks in Copperopolis either had wells that required a drop bucket or if they were lucky, had a windmill to pump the water out of the ground up to the surface.  Of course, that meant that you still had to haul a lot of water when needed or you had to have a cistern.  You still had to haul the water into your home by hand.   Work.  Lots of never-ending effort and work.

Tired of drudgery, David put his tinkering skills to use and built a greatly improved home water system. 

The family windmill was several hundred feet behind their home and about 40 feet upslope from the home elevation. 

Gravity is free, powerful and always on.  With this knowledge, David built the first and only gravity-fed, pressurized water system in town.  

David Lewis Drew Home water supply

David Drew Water System

 

After constructing a tower outside of the kitchen, he topped it off with a large metal tank.  Next, a hard-won trench was dug through the extremely rocky soil from the tower to the windmill.  Piping, like that used in the surrounding copper mines, brought the water from the windmill to the tank.  

It sounds like a simple project until you try to build one yourself, especially in the 1800’s.  The gravity fall of the water produces a lot of pressure.  At about 8 1/2 pounds per gallon, a 1-inch column of water several hundred feet long, results in a great weight and pressure that must be contained. 

The David Drew water system was designed with a float valve in the tank to turn the water on and off when needed against the pressure of the water and associated windmill pumping pressure.  The height of the tank above the ground partially offset the incoming pressure thus reducing the requirements on the valve.  I don’t know where he obtained or if he made the valve, but it worked. 

Without the tank, the home would only have flowing water when the wind was blowing.  With it, the family always had pressurized water in their home thanks again to gravity.

David Lewis Drew Home Water Tower

David Drew Home Water Tank

 

Great grandma was the envy of all of the ladies in town.  Water for cooking, washing and cleaning with a simple twist of the wrist … right at her kitchen sink.

Sometimes, life is pretty good when you are married to a tinkerer.

 

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30 November 2010 Posted by | Genealogy | , , , | Leave a comment

The Maiden’s Vow – Leap Year Proposal

Postcardthemaidensvowin1908

Well known post card from 1908.  A maiden shall propose to her sweet Charlie on Leap Year Day

29 November 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Death Certificates and Other Research Tools

The resources available for family history researchers has never been greater with another 30+ million records added to the FamilySearch.org site in the past few months. Volunteer Indexers like you and I are constantly working to add indexed information and images to the FamilySearch site, so as grand as the number of records are now, wait a few months and the number will drastically increase again and again and again.

familysearchFamilySearch Indexing I hope you are one of the volunteer indexers who are bringing the wealth of the records in the granite vaults to light in the digital world.

Check out the records collections on the FamilySearch Beta site and see how many records you find on your own ancestral families.  Save this link and check back often.findagrave

Find-a-grave An amazing amount of ancestral data and records can be gleaned from the pages of Find-a-grave. Folks are linking the memorials of their ancestral families together on the site with a seemingly frantic pace. I constantly find information about our ancestral families and extended cousins on the site. Missing dates, spouses names and their families are the reward for spending a few minutes on the site.

Births Marriages Deaths Some of you may have ancestors or extended family that lived in Australia and New Zealand. Both countries have great sites that offer indexes to births and marriage as well as very easy to use document ordering pages. I’ve obtained marriage and death certificates from both countries and it couldn’t have been easier.

While on the subject of Death Certificates, be sure to check for family death certificates on the sites of many states that offer them online at no cost. Just copy the image and save it to your hard drive for printing and use in your genealogical sources.

Many folks aren’t familiar with the great Special Collections and Family History records available online from BYU-Idaho. I’m constantly surprised at the records that I find on the site.

Family History records make a great Christmas present for family members. Share the wealth of your work with them this year.

28 November 2010 Posted by | FamilySearch, Genealogy | , , | Leave a comment

Happy Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving_turkeys

25 November 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Russian Imperial Train Wreck – 1888

Russian_imperial_train_crush18

A train wrecked here.  Bring a couple of tables and several sets of chairs so we can discuss this problem. 

23 November 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Out For A Flight #history

Dutrieuc

Hélène Dutrieu in the pilot’s seat

20 November 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Ink in the Worst Places – on Photos and Rice Paper

Scanning old photos always brings a cry of despair from my lips.  My mother and those before her, had a propensity to write on the face of photos.  I’m happy to have the names and places, but oh how I wish they would have written on the back of them in pencil rather than with the acid-rich ink they seemed to all use.

The images are permanently defaced.  Hours and hours of work with Photoshop helps in some cases, but in most situations, the old grainy small black and white or brown images were too small to allow a decent clean up on a digital copy.

I’ve entertained the offers of professionals, graphic arts students and others who profess an intimate relationship with Photoshop and other graphics programs, but alas, their results are little different than my own efforts.  In fact, none of them can or will spend the tens of hours that I do in the effort nor could I afford to pay them to do so to make the images ‘perfect’ again.

Years ago, I found the photo album of a cousin in a box tucked away at the back of the top shelf in a closet at a historical society in California.  I was absolutely delighted to find it.  The odds were beyond random chance.

Ashton Aldura Hammer Christine Ball Martha Brown Beth PetersonApparently, when my cousin died in the early 1900’s, her precious photos were given to her step children who had no interest in them.   The photos survived until the early 1980’s somehow, passing from one person to another, until they were rescued from the garbage by a sharp-eyed volunteer at the historical society who slammed on her brakes, jumped out of her vehicle in traffic and plucked the old album from the top of a garbage can.

The photos in the book included the old family home in Plymouth, Massachusetts, its rooms, contents and inhabitants.  No living member of the family had ever seen them or had been to the home.  The images were of my ancestral family and homestead!   Additionally, the images showed photos of old family homes in California and events in the lives of the family.  I didn’t recognize the faces of most of the folks in the images and wondered who they were …

Unfortunately, my cousin wrote the names on the rice paper pages of the album.  Eighty years later, the pages now contained fine paper-free engravings where the ink used to reside.   Sometimes the script outline was legible, sometimes it could be read when projecting a light source thorough it and studying the surviving image as it stuck black paper, but frequently, the holes surround the missing text looked like survivors of a young man’s work with a magnifying glass on a sunny day.

The photo identities were sorely missed, but the old photos were relatively intact and greatly appreciated.

Even with the old ink, smears, acid etching and crumbling layers, the photos are a precious, highly treasured part of our family history records. 

In our generation, let’s do a better job of passing quality images on to our descendants.  Don’t forget to embed the names and locations in you photos in the EXIF and Comments of our digital images.  Don’t write on hard copy images.  Store them in archival storage sleeves and boxes in a cool dark environment, and for your digital images, backup, backup and backup your files in numerous locations on archival quality disks in .TIFF or a subsequently newer universally accepted archival digital format.

For more information about preserving digital copies of your photos, read Gary Wright’s excellent "Preserving Your Family History Records Digitally" white paper. 

 

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16 November 2010 Posted by | Genealogy | | Leave a comment

Toning Turkeys for the Feast

Thanksgiving_turkeys_4

Two Toms providing service as they train for the November feast. 

12 November 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

News Headlines – Brockton, MA – Dec 1940 #genealogy

Headlines_at_newspaper_brockto

7 November 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

State Fair – Rutland Vermont – 1941

At_the_vermont_state_fair_rutl

A family visiting the State Fair in Rutland, Vermont – September 1941

3 November 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment