Wednesday, June 08, 2016

Show and Tell for Posterity

Many family historians, myself included, take the necessary time and energy to track down every detail possible about their ancestors, but make very little time for recording their own lives and experiences.  Who would not rather learn about an ancestor through his or her own writings:  stories, letters, notes, and diaries?  Let's face it, though vital, census, and other genealogy records are useful in many regards, they lack personal perspective.  Like cocoa without sugar... hmmm, something's missing!

Family Tree magazine recently published an article with guidelines for answering some basic questions your descendants will probably want to know the answers to:  "16 Things to Write Down About Yourself for Posterity."  Diane Haddad, the author, states:  "We forget to preserve information about our own lives. Thus, in 100 or 200 years, our children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews will be struggling to understand our lives and what we were really like."  To make matters worse, most modern day correspondence is done digitally, through texting, e-mail, and social media, from which the data is not likely to be preserved.  We are less likely to find printed documentation generated by persons alive now within the archives, libraries, and depositories of the future, unlike the paper trail of previous generations.

So, what if you would like to leave a personalized record of your life experiences, but are not much into writing about yourself?  You have heard the saying that, "one picture is worth a thousand words."  A way to organize and preserve family history that I thoroughly enjoy is by designing photo books.  You can create them using many online vendors, including:  Costco Photo, Shutterfly, Snapfish, Walgreens, and others.  There are review websites than can help you determine which vendor to use.  Or, just pick one and dive right in!

Covers from a couple of photo "memory" books I created.

At this point, I have completed a half-dozen photo books, some that contain vintage family photographs, and others that serve as memory books (think "scrapbook").  I have plans for more, because they are fun to create, and the recipients really enjoy them.  Also, the books are "print-on-demand"; you can have just one printed at a time, or multiples.  Your book stays on the vendor website, protected by your log in and password, and it remains available to edit or print whenever you like.  As far as content goes, you could even address the "16 things to write down about yourself" by carefully selecting photographs, and then including names, dates, places, and other interesting information in the captions.  I scanned various memorabilia to add, as well:  cards, letters, childhood drawings, notes, and especially, genealogy and DNA charts.  I also created "favorites" collages using online images; these collages are based on the preferences of the person who is the subject of the memory book.

A "favorite things" collage.
Television shows that had a personal impact.

A Useful Tip
Since photo book vendors can only accept certain file extensions when images are uploaded (.jpg, .tif, .bmp, and .png), you may have to work around this a bit.  To create collages, I used a word processing program (Microsoft Word).  Then, I printed the finished pages out and scanned them as images, in order to create the correct file extension for uploading to the vendor's software.  There may be other methods to achieve the same result, but it is not as hard as it sounds--only a few extra steps are required.

A couple of photographs from my childhood along with a letter sent by Santa Claus (aka, my dad), mailed from North Pole, Alaska, of course!

A U.S. Army veteran's World War II memories.

As you can see, the possibilities are endless with photo books, either for your own story, or for someone else's.  They are fairly quick to self-publish, and there is no end to the ways you can be creative.  Once you get going, I think you will find it hard to stop.

Tuesday, June 07, 2016 Interview

I was pleasantly surprised to meet Tessa Keough recently, who prepares some of the "May I Introduce You to..." articles on the, an online genealogy-based community created by Thomas MacEntee.  I was even more surprised when Tessa wanted to interview me, even though I was previously interviewed in 2010.  She indicated that she wanted to address how a blogger's participation changes over time--how blogging, as well as focus and inspiration, evolves.  You can read the "May I [Re-] Introduce You To:  Chery Kinnick" interview on the Geneabloggers site.  Thank you, Tessa and!

Sunday, June 05, 2016

Elmer Strand, Norwegian-American Bachelor, Continued

As a child, I was occasionally delighted by the mystery of new adults entering into my sheltered world.  They came through the front door, often smiling, and left behind new sights, sounds, and stories.  From their visits, I developed a little more insight into human behavior, as well as a wider sense of connection, and sometimes good gossip to digest.

Relatives, relatives by marriage, or even friends from "back home" in Minnesota would sometimes land in our living room for a mere few hours.  They always left fully-fueled, since my mother's Norwegian-American habits would not have permitted her to let a guest leave without being offered the usual round of coffee and sandwiches, or cookies, fruit... whatever we had on hand.  As a quiet and cautious youngster, I did not ask many questions of my parents, but I could not ignore my curiosity about family connections or how my parents, who had obviously experienced things further afield than I was aware of at the time, came to know people. 

I clearly recall Elmer Strand, a lanky and laid-back older gentleman.  Our visit with him during the summer of 1965 was complemented by the experience of a new location, which was outside the comfortable frame of familiar surroundings at home.  The summer before I entered middle school, my mother asked Dad to drive the four of us (Dad, Mom, my 6 year-old sister Becky, and me) to Sonoma County to visit Elmer.  We had just moved from our house in Richmond, California (San Francisco East Bay), to nearby El Cerrito.  After all the work involved in moving, Mom probably looked for a little rest and recreation.  A drive to Sonoma County from the San Francisco Bay Area was the nearest thing to a pleasant day trip into the country you could manage in a large metropolitan area.  Sonoma County, part of the beautiful Redwood Coast area in California, is also wine country, with long, meandering two-lane highways that climb, dip, and roll gently past vineyards and farms, toward the rugged Northern California ocean beaches I knew and loved as a youngster.

Elmer Strand with his family, to that point (left to right):  Thomas (father), Theodore, Elmer, Arthur, and Regina (mother), ca. 1895, Chippewa County, Minnesota.

When I asked my mother who Elmer Strand was, she could only say that he was a longtime friend of my grandfather's.  Elmer, who was the eldest of his siblings, had never been married, and my maternal grandfather, Ernest Johnson, had been a widower for many years.  The two men were close in age to one another.   Elmer Strand was born on March 4, 1890, and Grandpa (Ernest) was born on January 23, 1889, both in Chippewa County, Minnesota.  Elmer eventually moved to California from Minnesota as an adult, as did Ernest. When Ernest Johnson retired in the early 1960s from the Ford Motor Plant in Campbell, California, he sold his house and took an extended vacation on the southern Oregon coast. Elmer Strand went along.  The two men lived in Ernest’s trailer for a few months and did a lot of fishing.  It must have been old Norwegian bachelor heaven!

It was not until many years later, after I began genealogy pursuits in earnest, that I found out Elmer Strand was not just a friend of my Grandpa's--he was a cousin.  Not even my own mother had been fully aware of the family connection.  Elmer Strand's parents were Thomas and Regina (Winje) Strand.  Elmer's mother, Regina (see post entitled Duty, Fate, and Beauty), was the younger half-sister of my grandfather's father, Ole M. Johnson.

Elmer Strand as a young man, ca. 1918.  Detroit Lakes, Minnesota.

In Elmer Strand’s later years, he worked as a ranch hand for a landowner in Sonoma County. Though he developed diabetes, he was wiry and still quite lively at the time my family visited him in 1965. Elmer lived simply, without many belongings, in a trailer on the ranch owner’s property. He ate his meals up at the main house. At the time of his death in 1985, he was a resident at the London House Convalescent Hospital in Sonoma. Elmer was a member of the Swedenborgian Church in San Francisco for some years.  Though Elmer was originally a Lutheran, it is thought that the ranch owners converted him to their church, since he had the opportunity to ride along to services with them.   After his death, his ashes were scattered in the ocean, just beyond the Golden Gate Bridge, in a communal, clergy-led ceremony aboard The Neptune Society’s yacht, the Naiad.

Related posts on Nordic Blue:

Elmer Strand, Norwegian-American Bachelor
Duty, Fate, and Beauty

Elmer Strand (center) with Ernest Johnson, and my mother, Doris Johnson (Wheeler).  Photograph was taken ca. 1948 in the front yard of the flourplex where Ernest's sister, Mabel Johnson, and daughter, Doris, lived in Richmond, California.