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27 February 2015

Photo Friday: Jewelry on Black is Hit or Miss

The post Lessons Learned From FirstPhoto Session shared my first experiment with my new camera. I thought photographing gold rings on a black background would showcase the items. I have photographed many items with white backgrounds but have noticed that some things look better on black.

After photographing a number of different rings, I have to say that using black is really hit or miss if you are an amateur photographer.

f/5, exp 1/10 sec with -1 bias, ISO 200, 55 mm Focal Length
Partial Metering Mode, White Fluorescent White Balance

With this set up, the gold ring does not stand out against the black background. This was a Miss.

f/6.3 exp 1/6 sec with -1 bias, ISO 200, 55 mm Focal Length
Partial Metering Mode, White Fluorescent White Balance

Perhaps pairing the previous ring with a second ring helped this photograph. This is a Hit.

f/6.3 exp 1/8 sec with -1 bias, ISO 200, 55 mm Focal Length
Partial Metering Mode, White Fluorescent White Balance

Changing the rings orientation changed a Hit into a Miss.

f/6.3 exp 1/4 sec with -0.3 bias, ISO 200, 55 mm Focal Length
Partial Metering Mode, White Fluorescent White Balance

I added a foil covered board as a reflector to bounce more light to the front of the rings. The previous Miss became a Maybe.

f/6.3 exp 1/3 sec with -0.3 bias, ISO 200, 55 mm Focal Length
Partial Metering Mode, White Fluorescent White Balance

This ring, perhaps because it has less gold overall looks nice on the black background. Hit.

f/6.3 exp 1/4 sec with -1 bias, ISO 200, 55 mm Focal Length
Partial Metering Mode, White Fluorescent White Balance
One final ring, this photograph of the two high school rings is a definite possibility. Maybe.

Are there ways on camera and with the positioning of the lights (or a different lens) that I could make a gold ring on a black background look better? Should I should have used the shiny side of the backdrop and not the felt? These are questions to consider if the dark background is the look I have to achieve. However,  I want what's best for the piece and not necessarily a certain 'creative' look.

Next time, we'll examine some of these pieces with a white background.

My adventures in photography supports the chapter in my book 21st Century Family Historian about Photographing Memorabilia. Order your copy of the book through

23 February 2015

One Name Study: Where's Ida Townsend in 1880

Townsends of Franklin County, Ohio One Name Place Study
Last time, I shared the fact that I'm starting a one name study of Townsends in Franklin County, Ohio. Prior to digging into the study, I shared what I know about William James Townsends family. I have been as reasonably exhaustive as I am able within the constraints of time, location, and funds.

However, there is something I could do and that is research all the Townsends in Franklin County, Ohio. I am limiting my scope to those families I find in the 1880 US Census all because of William's daughter Ida.

Ida Jane Townsend was born 25 April 1867 in Hamilton Township, Franklin County1, Ohio. She is the second oldest of William and Mary (Clabaugh) Townsend's 10 children. Here are some other facts I know about Ida:
  • 1870 resides in Hamilton, Franklin, Ohio2
  • 1880 is not listed in the home of her parents3
  • 14 Nov 1885 marries Lawrence (or Loren) Sanborn in Franklin County, Ohio4
  • 13 Nov 1889 her father William Townsend dies5
    • by this time, Ida has had three children: Albert, Elmer and Vernie
    • Ida Sanborn will assist her mother obtain her pension by completing witness affidavits
  • 1892 & 1898 has two more children, which name variations reflecting her siblings: John Edward and Harry Leroy
  • 1900 - 1941 lives in Columbus, Franklin, Ohio6
  • 1907 prior to 1907 her husband Laurence dies (death certificate still needed)7
  • 20 May 1941 Ida Sanborn dies in Columbus, Franklin, Ohio8

There is a question... where is Ida in 1880? She's not living with her parents. Let's take a look at who could be living With William and Mary in 1880. 
  1. Nancy Elizabeth  b. 1865
  2. Ida Jane  b. 1867
  3. William James 1868
  4. Mary Ella b. 1869
  5. John Edward b. 1873
  6. Louisa b. 1875
  7. Harry A b. 1877
  8. Emma V b. 1880
Of the above listed children, only William, John, Harry and Emma are in the family household.3 Mary Ella had died in 1874. It is believed that Louisa also died prior to 1880 as she would have been 5 and certainly too young not to live at home.

That leaves Nancy and Ida unaccounted for in the 1880 Census. Both girls are 15 and 13 years of age respectively and believed too young to marry in the 1880. They should be living with their parents. However, when remembering the fact that William Townsend was a blind farmer, it's entirely probable that the girls are living else where to help their family financially. So the question becomes where are they?

I found a record for Ida Townsend in the home of Edward Townsend.9 Thanks to the census being from 1880, the relationship to Edward is listed. The informant said Ida is Edward's niece. Edward is living in Groveport, Franklin, Ohio and is a farmer.  There do not seem to be any other Ida Townsends in Franklin County at the time. 

Given that the center of Groveport to the Center of Hamilton is 11 miles and both are south of Obetz, where the 'family' cemetery is located, this probability that Edward is William's brother is strong. Additionally, Edward is listed at being born in 1855. Close enough to be a brother 13 years younger, assuming this census entry is accurate. 

The trouble comes when examining the census further. It is uncertain who provided the information regarding the original of William and Edward's parents. The census taker recorded that Edward's parents are from Maryland and William's parents are from Ohio. Is someone right? Is someone wrong? 

I am intrigued to learn more about  Edward Townsend of Groveport, Ohio in 1880. I'd still like to find out where Nancy is in the 1880 Census as well. Perhaps she is with other Townsend family members in the 1880s. Perhaps I'll discover more possible relatives of William and/or Edward.

Previous Post:
What I Know about Ida's father

Additional Reading:
Who Else is in 1880? That's Everyone Now What?

1. Family Search, "Ohio Death Index, 1908-1932, 1938-1944, and 1958-2007" database, (http:/ : Entry for Ida Jane Sanborn, died 20 May 1941 Source Film: 4035642, Reference No: fn 29964.
2. "United States Census, 1870," index and images, FamilySearch ( : accessed 5 January 2015), Ida Townsen in household of William Townsen, Ohio, United States; citing p. 43, family 298, NARA microfilm publication M593, National Archives and Records Administration, Washington D.C.; FHL microfilm 552,699.
3. "United States Census, 1880," index and images, FamilySearch ( : accessed 5 January 2015), William Townsend, Hamilton, Franklin, Ohio, United States, 9; citing sheet 
188A, film number 1015, NARA microfilm publication T9, National Archives and Records Administration, Washington D.C.; FHL microfilm 1,255,015.
4. "Ohio, County Marriages, 1789-1997," index and images, FamilySearch ( : accessed 5 January 2015), Loren H. Sanborn and Ida J. Townsen, 14 Nov 1885; citing Franklin, Ohio, United States, reference p233; county courthouses, Ohio; FHL microfilm 285,150.
5.  Civil War Pension file for William James Townson Col K  Reg 133rd; Franklin County Chapter of The Ohio Genealogical Society, compiled, Franklin County, Ohio Cemeteries: Vol I - XI (N.p.: n.p., 1980-1987, 1997), IX :70, William James Townsend. 
6. Numerous additional records available upon request
7. Ida Sanborn, Columbus, Ohio, City Directory, 1907. Images available U.S. City Directories, 1821-1989 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2011.
8. "Ohio, Deaths, 1908-1953," index and images, FamilySearch ( : accessed 5 January 2015), Ida Jane Sanborn, 20 May 1941; citing Columbus, Franklin, Ohio, reference fn 29964; FHL microfilm 2,023,915.
9. "United States Census, 1880," index and images, FamilySearch ( : accessed 5 January 2015), Ida J Townsend in household of Edward Townsend, Groveport, Franklin, Ohio, United States, 13; citing sheet 261C, film number 1015, NARA microfilm publication T9, National Archives and Records Administration, Washington D.C.; FHL microfilm 1,255,015.

18 February 2015

Heritage Scrapbooking: Use Journaling From the Past

Scrapbook pages without journaling are pretty photo album pages. However, journaling is regularly very difficult for most people, let alone folks who create scrapbooks. If you are working on a heritage scrapbook, try this trick. Use the journaling of someone else, especially of someone else at the time of the event.

Left side of portrait layout
Right side of portrait layout
Credits: Change is Good kit by Amber Shaw

My baby album was so helpful when I crafted my early years scrapbook. My mother is deceased and I have no memories of my earliest years. My journaling would be extremely limited. However, Mom kept a fairly detailed baby book. I scanned the stories she recorded in the book. Who better to tell the story of my first birthday, than mom. An added benefit to this trick, you preserve the handwriting of your loved one. I may have teased my mother about her handwriting when I was younger saying it was hard to ready because it was so fancy. However, I do recognize her script whenever I look at a variety of documents.

So, share the journaling job by using some historical pieces in your projects.

Note: This page was created digitally so that I could size mother's handwriting to the space I preferred. If you're creating a paper scrapbook, scan your original documents and print them out to the size you want.

17 February 2015

A Second RootsTech Streaming Recap

Before I recap some of the other things I learned or observed during the streaming of RootsTech, I have to say Tan Le and Donny Osmond were outstanding!

Tan's story was amazing. I love how she tied the lessons and the legacy of the women in her family tree together. Isn't that what we all hope to do. Pass on the story of our heritage. I love she discussed her struggles and that not everything was sunshine and roses.

Donny Osmond sings at RootsTech at the Salt Palace in Salt Lake City on
Saturday, Feb. 14, 2015. (Kristin Murphy, Deseret News)

So many individuals want to avoid family history because there are not lovely stories to share. Some legacies should not be passed on. Others have been forgotten. Still others are currently being revised for the better. Yet, how will the next generation learn the tragedy and triumph if no one takes the time to make a record?

Donny's presentation was a good mix of entertainment and poignant message. The best line of all was something to the effect that I'm famous and my life has been recorded for me, yet you're life is just as important so go and record it. My mother was a big Donny fan and I think he doesn't sing what I enjoy listening to. Regardless of my listening preferences, his speaking and performing talents were so much to be admired. Plus he's a family historian too! That's so cool. My favorite story is the radio greeting that was so embarrassing! You'll have to check out his keynote whenever it's made available.

What's New With Family Search

The presenter was lively and enjoyable to listen to. He demonstrated how he preserves his children, their photos, and so on online. Some folks are comfortable sharing these details of their minor children. I'm not on board with this. I can see using the Family Search website to preserve the records of my deceased ancestors. I just can't use it for the living.

In the presentation, I think I've learned what I wanted to better understand. I was wondering if the photos would be searchable. The current answer seems to be no. If you add a photo your FamilySearch account, it will only be discovered if it is attached to someone on the global tree. Darn, I was hoping that wasn't the case.

One question that I still have is how will the profiles of the living, who then die, be reconciled together? If we record stories of the living, how will his all play out when there is multiple versions of that living person who had many children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren. I understand the desire to protect the privacy of the living. I just do not conceptually understand what happens when the deceased box needs to be, or is, checked.

Genealogy Tool Box

Thomas MacEntee is amazing. Can I just say that? I'm not a Thomas groupie or anything, I promise. I just am amazed at all he does to promote family history and those in the genealogy sphere. What did he do this time?

He shared his Genealogy Tool Box and nearly all the ways you can currate and customize your own. Then he made said toolbox available for free. I'm not sure if I can share the link outside of the presentation. You'll just have to go watch and see. In the meantime, I need to capture my copy of it. Thank you Thomas!!!

I'm especially looking forward to trying two new to me sites Wolfram Alpha (specifically to learn about historic weather) and Am-Deadlink (to fish out all the Zombie Links my blog may have).

Bring Your Ancestor Back to the Future

Did you ever have the feeling when your interpretation of a phrase isn't want someone else's vision was? The title of this workshop was not what I had imagines it would be. I imagined it would be more in line with my Narrative Project to demonstrate how to put more meat on the bones of my research. When I saw the actual description for the class, the confusion was gone. Anne Leishman did a great job with the presentation and is well worth reviewing at a future date. I have just been reminded that one must not rely upon titles to know what is being presented. My bad.

The Write Stuff: Leaving a Recorded Legacy; Personal Histories, Journals, Diaries and Letters

Valerie Elkins was such a treat not only for her knowledge and recommendations, but her personality. My husband often says I need to be less 'formal' when I am teaching family history classes and let my passion shine through. Valerie, thanks to you, I understand what he wants me to do. Why should you review The Write Stuff? Because the presentation is packed full of tips and so on. needs to hurry up and post her presentation so I can watch it again and again. Plus, I need to go to her website to pickup her eBook of Journal Writing Prompts.

Family History on the Go Using Phones and Tablet Apps

WOW! There are so many apps to possibly use for family history. My head is still spinning. I had heard the ladies say that they had a blog for more information but there are no posts on that link. I am hearing impaired so if someone else caught the correct link, will you let me know?

Personal History Triage: How to Tell the Best Ten Stories of Your Life

I was so disappointed that I couldn't fully focus on this presentation. That's what you get when you attempt to watch a conference on a couch. Alison Taylor was a top notch presenter and I could personally learn more from her. The best quote she shared was this: A published book, however imperfect, is better than a perfectly conceived unpublished one." No truer words have been uttered. I hope to apply some of the tips she shared with my Narrative Project. And, when it's good enough, I'll publish it rather than wait for it to be perfect.

You may have noticed that I didn't watch every workshop that was broadcast. Part of it was because I also watched some of the LDS Specific broadcast from Family Discovery Day. The other reason has to do with my wonderful brother-in-law being in town and five adorable children I have the opportunity to raise. The great thing is that, as of today, has already posted some of the sessions I was not able to attend. Hooray!

16 February 2015

Initial RootsTech Impressions

Though I'm not an official RootsTech Ambassador, I want to share some of my initial takeaways from the opening streamed session.

During the session held on Thursday, Dennis Brimhall announced a major break through for Mexican Ancestry research. Indexing of Spanish records has lagged behind other languages making researching ancestors in Mexico challenging. Compound that by the fact that many Mexican records have been poorly preserved and one can quickly understand the struggles faced by those with this very family centered culture on their family tree. Somehow, a partnership between and will indexing 800 million Mexican records by the end of 2015. This is great news! Yet, I'm just trying to understand how Ancestry will make this happen when FamliySearch cannot. Do you ever wish you could be a little fly on the wall to see historic events like this unfold?

The Family Discovery Center is now open in the Joseph Smith Memorial Building. A mini-version of this center was demonstrated during the opening session. As the "Museum of Me" was featured, I loved the "year you were born" nuggets. It's not as easy to find this information online. I had a "go-to" resource when my first two children were born. After my third child arrived, the resource was no longer online and I struggled to find these facts for my subsequent kiddos and their memory albums. Call me odd if you wish, this stood out to me.

As cool as this center seems, there is a side of me that has several thoughts. Not criticisms, but questions. First, what transition is in place from the 'wow' factor of such centers to the work/research needed to expand a family's histories? Will this just be a fun thing to do but soon forgotten? Or is there a 'next step' that builds upon the experiences folk have? I don't have an answer and since I won't be traveling to Salt Lake City in the near future, I just have to wonder.

I love the idea of having smaller versions of Discovery Centers to help revitalize Family History Centers throughout the world. For the last 20 years, most Family History Centers have been 'open for business' but few people utilize the centers. One could say it's the fault of folks not going. On the other hand, many such centers do not have programs to bring folks in. A Discovery Center could be a first step. And then perhaps, those centers can find their own smooth the transition from excitement to participation with other educational offerings or activities to build upon the discovery experience. We'll have to wait and see how these things play out.

My last curiosity-laced question is this... what happens if there are no photos, stories, and audio for your family? Not everyone has something on Thus, the heritage percentages would not be available. Information about your ancestors would be absent. Would the lack of content ruin the experience? One could still record stories and add photos and learn about the year they were born. Will the discovery, or lack of discovery, still be exciting?  Again, I'm not being critical when I wonder about these things. My curious nature just wonders how these things play out and wish I could someone how satisfy my inquisitive nature.

Finally, there was something said that struck me, "the wider market requires immediate gratification to get started." I think that is true in some cases. In working with beginners, I like to plan ahead before meeting with them so we can find immediate successes.

The follow-up to this statement triggered more thoughts of my own. (Isn't it great when a speech does that?) There seems to be a need for 'our content' to be 'everywhere' to make the 'immediate gratification' work. How do I possibly manage all the tree sharing services such as MyHeritage, FindMyPast, FamilySearch, CrestLeaf, and so on?

Once I gained access to MyHeritage and FindMyPast, my excitement fizzled as I realized what placing my tree on these sites would mean (a lot of tedious work attaching sources that I have already found on Ancestry and FamilySearch). Should I find the time to redo my work on various sites, how on earth will I manage them all? Would the effort pay off?

Sometime during RootsTech, additional partnerships were revealed. The FamilySearch Family Tree database now being accessible on was announced. I quickly hopped onto MyHeritage to see what was meant. The database is just another database possibility that you could find on the online service. Unlike (as far as I could tell), you were not really sharing content between the two sites. There is no syncing, only search and link as a source kind of situation. Again, it's exciting on one hand but so tedious on the other. With my limited time and resources, I applaud the partnership but do not think I will make use of it much nor tell someone new to family history to be everywhere. (Okay, that was critical. Sorry.)

For me, the partnership announcements are not as exciting as perhaps they should be primarily because the specifics of the agreements are often presented in vague generalities. In the trenches of family history, there isn't much visible difference to what I'm already doing. Perhaps I do not truly understand all such partnerships entail. This just brings be back to the point. The partnerships are not explained in such a way that an average person (such as myself) can truly understand and feel excited about it. Additionally, when I play around with the results of said cooperation and it's tedious, I am left to wonder what the hub-bub is about. Perhaps a few more folks on the marketing end of such announcements who can boil things down might be beneficial.

Finally, I wrote down a thought that either the presenter said or I simply felt, "When you give a gift of family history, it can be overwhelming." My next thought was, "how do we make family history be less daunting?"

For me, I like to encourage people with small and simple things they can do regularly. Label your photos. Be a volunteer indexer and contribute a batch a week. Record one story about a family member that you hear all the time. When I present my findings, I like to make scrapbooks because, even the simplest ones, are so beautiful that they grab my family member's attention quickly. Then family members start talking about their relatives or they'll learning something they hadn't known before.

Wow! This is so long. I'm going to need another post to reflect on the additional things I learned, felt, or pondered after watching RootsTech from the comfort of my home. I can not imagine what I would have to write about had I been there in person. Thank you FamilySearch and everyone else for making streaming available. Someday I'll attend the conference live. Until then, I am appreciative of being to attend from home.

Motivation Monday: Don't Look Beyond the Mark

Inspiration to sustain me as a mother, home educator, and family historian was on my mind today. My desire to inspire family, friends, church members, and complete strangers to be involved in the conscious preservation of their family history perpetually consumes my thoughts. Additionally, I want to be a light of Christ to the world and become an instrument in my Savior's hands.

How often do we look for the glory when the journey matters most?
How often do we look for the glory when the journey matters most?

Typing that paragraph was tough. Having participated in pageants and having achievement oriented parents, if I'm going to do anything, I need to have grand ideas and accomplishments in the activity. Making an A wasn't good enough. The + beside the A mattered. There wasn't much glory in competing, one needed to bring home some ribbons or the crown to be successful. Only recognition mattered, and the higher the prize, the more noteworthy. Ultimately, this way of thinking creates too much stress. With heart disease in my family history, I need to find something that will off-set his mentality. 

Amazingly, the thought to "Not Look Beyond The Mark" popped out in a book I read, a talk I further researched and tied me back to family history. I don't know all the details of the lives of my ancestors, but many of them are dear to me because of the simple choices they made. The choice to raise a brother after a mother died. The choice to adopt two children in the 1920s. The choice to be happy even though a spouse has died. The choice to leave Germany and settle in Columbus, Ohio or Ontario, Canada. The choice to make smiley-faced pancakes for grandkids. 

There is so much magic in ordinary days and even simple moments. My brother-in-law was just in town and he went with four of my kids to the park. I thought I had walked four kids and one adult to the park across a busy street. What I saw was five kids having a great time together, one was just above average in height. The memory was of an Uncle sliding down a twist slide with Quatro in a hurry to be off the slide before Dos and Tres caught them on the way down. My BIL did not look beyond the mark of the moment. He embraced this opportunity to play with one niece and three nephews. 

Smiley Face Pancakes
These Smiley-faced Pancakes Tell A Lot of Stories
Those pancakes represent great stories. My mother-in-law introduced them to my oldest two children when they were very little. At the time, BJ lived quite a distance away. She planned to make the pancakes with her two little grandchildren but to make them super special. After the first introduction of these happy breakfast items, they have become a staple when Nana is in town. She did not look beyond the mark of an ordinary moment. 

Those pancakes are made from a "just  add water" mix. For a girl who grew up with a mother who thought if it wasn't "baked, nuked, or ordered in," it wasn't done for dinner, this is an achievement. I have since learned to make pancakes from scratch but the time spent is not as important as the fact that my children often have more than just cereal for breakfast. My mother's cooking habits and mine are the story behind that photo. 

As I press on forward with my family history and daily goals this year, I hope that I'll remember the motto to not look beyond the mark. I could become over zealous with family history that I annoy folks rather than inspire them. I could become so focused in learning the latest thing to hit the genealogy forefront that I don't spend time being a mother and home educator. I could become so hung up on the way something is presented, that I never complete a scrapbook, narrative essay or attach a memory to All of these situations look beyond what was most important. 

So I'm resetting my vision on the goals I set for the year. I'll rely on the magic of the doing what matters most rather than worry it's not going to win great acclaim. In doing so, my children and ancestors will remember me as someone who not only preserved our legacy but created one as well. 

13 February 2015

Photo Friday: Lessons Learned From First Photo Session

The post Photo Friday: New Camera First Attempt shares how I began the switch to a more professional camera. For the first memorabilia photo session, I started with a pearl ring that I received after winning a local beauty pageant. I thought the ring would look lovely with a black background mounted on a ring stand.

f/5.6, exp 1/60, ISO 400, 55 mm Focal Length
Pattern Metering Mode, Auto White Balance
Manual Mode

In order to learn about photography, you need to take a first shot. You have to start somewhere. (Same goes for family history, right?) This is my starting point shot. Notice that the overall photograph is too dark. I would love to ring have a spotlight effect and just sparkle and shine against an all black backdrop. Where should I go from here?

The next shot was taken after making many changes. I switched from full Manual mode to Aperture Priority (AV) mode. I switched the white balance, dropped the ISO, added a exposure compensation of +0.7 and switched the metering.

f/5.6, exp 2 sec, +2/3 bias, ISO 100, 55 mm Focal Length
Center Weighted Average Mode, Custom White Balance

One thing I learned about all of these changes is that there is no way I could keep still with such a long exposure time. I would always have blurry photos unless I switched to a timed delay of 2 seconds. I left this setting on throughout the remainder of my experiment.

f/5.6, exp 1.3 sec, ISO 100, 55 mm Focal Length
Center Weighted Average Mode, Custom White Balance

The timed delay and removing the exposure bias produced this result. The clarity of the image improved but the overall image has a yellowish-cast.

f/5.6, exp 1 sec, ISO 100, 55 mm Focal Length
Center Weighted Average Mode, Manual White Balance

The photo isn't bad. However, I notice that most of the light is behind the ring. I should experiment in adding lights infront of the ring and reducing the light behind. Would it help? Possibly, but the biggest problem I have running against the limits of the kit lens should with the dSLR. I can not get any closer to the ring than this. Additionally, I fill the frame using the manual view finder and thing I am super close to the ring, only to have a half inch of background tacked onto my image that I don't want.

All lenses have their limits and it's important to discover your camera's. I will say that this limit is better than the one on my camera that I recently had but probably not as great as what I had on my beloved PowerShot SX 110 IS. The solution would be to purchase a lens designed for macro photograph. However, I'm still trying to decide if a photo, with a little more tweaking, is good enough for my family history purposes. I'm not trying to sell my photographs, just use them to highlight the treasures in my 'chest'.

After finding the limits of how close I can get to my ring while maintaining clarity, I began playing with settings to see if I could get close to what the ring actually looks like. The first thing I did was to change the White Balance option on my camera.

f/5.6, exp 1 sec, ISO 100, 55 mm Focal Length
Center Weighted Average Mode, White Fluorescent White Balance

This small change removed the yellowish-cast. I wondered if there was a way to make the black background more black. I really liked the black background of the initial photograph. So, I changed the exposure.

f/5.6, exp 0.6 sec with -2/3 bias, ISO 100, 55 mm Focal Length
Center Weighted Average Mode, White Fluorescent White Balance

Reducing the exposure bias (using a negative number) makes the over all image darker, while a positive number makes it brighter. The background does darken, and so does the ring.

f/5.6, exp 0.6 sec with -0.7 bias, ISO 100, 55 mm Focal Length
Center Weighted Average Mode, White Fluorescent White Balance

This photograph is a keeper, however, I wanted to see if I could make it better.

f/2.8, exp 1/6 sec with +0.3 bias, ISO 200, 50 mm Focal Length
Partial Metering Mode, White Fluorescent White Balance

When I switched to a specialty lens that I purchased, all of the previous settings created a very dark image, so I had to made some changes such as raising the ISO, switching the metering, and more. I also decrease the depth of field in an attempt to blur out the black background and focus on the ring.

The limit of this camera is that you can take great photographs of people if you stand a few feet away. To far and the photographs do not look right. The lens is also not good for this kind of macro work. So, the kit lens went back on the dSLR and I tried a few more things.

f/5, exp 1/8 sec with -1 bias, ISO 200, 39 mm Focal Length
Partial Metering Mode, White Fluorescent White Balance

For this photo, I change the angle from which that I photographed ring. I needed to make adjustments to my camera settings. If I zoom in and crop this photograph, it's not too bad. I like that the background is black and not gray.

However, I was bugged by the ring stand. The stand was drawing my attention, rather than the ring.

After researching how othersphotographed rings, I realized a common tip. Don't use ring stands. Some photographers can make a ring stand up but the process is moretime consuming on camera and in editing than I want to pursue. The best advice was to lay the ring flat.

f/5, exp 1/8 sec with -1 bias, ISO 200, 39 mm Focal Length
Partial Metering Mode, White Fluorescent White Balance

Eliminating the ring stand has made a huge difference in likability. The ring stand is a cute idea but without it, I will be much happier and able to achieve a nice look quickly.

After this experiment, my excitement has increased 10 fold. I have learned the limits of my kit lens and that my specialty lens is not meant for this kind of work. With this experiment out of the way, it's time to start photographing my familytreasures once again! 2015 is going to be great!!!!

My adventures in photography supports the chapter in my book 21st Century Family Historian about Photographing Memorabilia. Order your copy of the book through

12 February 2015

Power Scrapbooking: Organizing Photos in Photoshop Elements

Why create a personal or family history scrapbook? I have answered that before in a post entitled Why create a  family history scrapbook?  I have also used scrapbooks to Gain Access to Other People's Stuff. I hope you'll review posts for more inspiration.

Family History Scrapbook Cover Page
Cover of my father's heritage scrapbook
Now that we've reviewed why I want to begin showing you how I Power Scrapbook and  Family History Scrapbooking Simplified using Photoshop Elements (PSE).

Optional Step: Organize in Windows Explorer

Being organized prior to jumping into a project pays off in efficiency... hence the term Power Scrapbooking. Being organized is an ongoing process, but you can start that process today.

Organize the original images

Before I organize my files in PSE 11, I have to digitize them with a scanner or by photographing them. I have written before about how I organize the photos into batches for scanning or the memorabilia into piles for photography.

After organizing the photos, it's time to digitize!
After organizing the photos, it's time to digitize!

Once my photos and memorabilia are organized, then I use Windows Explorer to organize these images electronically. I have written about this in previous posts entitled Keep the Story and Photos Together (Part 1 and Part 2).

Organizing Photos for Digital Scrapbooking
Files Organized in Windows Explorer

You do not need to do this as Photoshop Elements has a tandem program called Photoshop Elements Organizer that can organize your photos on your hard drive. I like to pre-sort my photos into files by year and month, which I have written about before. Then load these folders into PSE.

Sort through digital photos with Windows Photo Viewer
Using Windows Photo Viewer to Accept or Reject Photos. Only click on
the red "X" if it's a truly bad photo.
After sorting my photos chronologically, I use the Windows Photo Viewer which opens up when you double-click on a photo in Windows Explorer. I will use the forward and back arrows in the Photo Viewer to look at each photo. If the photo is unintentionally blurry or a definite reject, I will delete them immediately.

Again, you do not necessarily need to do this step. I do not like to bloat my PSE Organizer with photos that will definitely not make the cut. So... if you have iPhoto or Windows Explorer, preview the photos and delete the ones you won't ever use again. Then move on to loading the photos in PSE.

Step One: Load into PSE

1. Open Photoshop Elements Organizer
2. Click Import and Select Files and Folders

3.Select the photos or files in the Get Photos And Videos From Files and Folders dialog box.
- Turn off the Automatically Fix Red Eyes
- Check Automatically Suggest Photo Stacks.
- Click Get Media
4. Optional... import key words and tags (if any... don't select blurry, high resolution, etc)
You can keep the tags that may be associated with the files
by placing a check in the box beside these keywords.

Once you have imported your files, you'll see this.

Sometimes the file names will be the same when you import them.

Notice that the file folder names are similar to the ones you created in Windows Explorer. The confusion sets in when you import 01 Jan from 2014 and 01 Jan from 2015. You'll have two folders with the name 01 Jan. Clicking on the folder will show you what is in each one.

I solve this problem by only importing the folders I want to work on and leaving the remaining photos out of the PSE Organizer. 

Step Two: Create Album Category

Think of Album Category as the title of your project, for instance, Disney Vacation 2015 or Bob's Year in Review 2014. This is the preparatory step before your organize your photos into page groups. For now, create your scrapbook project's Album Category. 

1. Click the green plus sign beside Albums
2. Select New Album Category

Click on New Album Category
3. Type a name for the album (your project name)

Add Project Name (Bob Year in Review abbreviated to YIR)
4. Click OK
Album Category: Project File created

Step Three: Organize Photos Into Album

Albums are like the pages you will place in your scrapbook project. In your Disney Vacation album category, perhaps an album (or page) would be Space Mountain or Meeting Cinderella. In Bob's Year in Review, an album (or scrapbook page) would be Pinewood Derby or Last Day of School. You would have a number of albums under your album categories. 

1. Click the green plus sign beside Albums
2. Select New Album 
Select the New Album Entry
3. Type a name for the album (your project name) in the area where the red box is.
4. Drag-and-drop photos from the Media view to the Content area of the Add New Album panel.
5. Click OK.

In the rectangle, add the scrapbook page topic (Pinewood Derby).
Drag photos to the Content Pane from the media field (the center). Then click OK. 
The albums will become temporary folders that links to your files on your hard drive. You'll be able to add and remove photos and other images to these folders without altering where the files are on your computer (if you're careful). You can put the same image in multiple albums without making extra copies of the actual file on your hard drive. Does this make sense? If not, leave me a comment below.

Scrapbook Page (Pinewood Derby) in the Project (Bob YIR 2015)

When you remove an image from your album, you won't necessarily delete the image from your hard drive. If you encounter a prompt to delete from the album and/or your hard drive, never click the hard drive.

When removing a photo from an album category, you'll get this prompt.
To remove it from the scrapbook page folder but not the hard drive,
DON'T click the also delete from hard disk option.

The benefit of creating these albums is you can dump all the photos and visual items you may want to include on a scrapbook page. When you're ready to create the page, you can add more or remove excess without affecting the original digital media files.

In the future, we'll walk through the steps of crafting a scrapbook page. Before you embark on that wonderful journey, organize your overall project into an Album Category and with possible scrapbook page images sorted into Albums.

If you want more details on this step, leave comments below and I'll explain it further.

Tip about Photoshop Elements: The great thing about PSE is that you could have the latest version PSE 13 or an older one PSE 9 and have the power you need to create beautiful pages. Additionally, there is a tremendous amount of tutorials written and recorded about using this program, especially for scrapbooking. If you do not have a copy of this program already, look for an outdated copy (PSE 11 is what I use) or get the newest version near Black Friday for $50. Otherwise, the program generally runs $100. Additionally, you do not need to upgrade the program every year. Get your money's worth by using it for several years.

11 February 2015

Roots Tech Streaming Options Confusing, Exciting

I have been anticipating the Roots Tech streaming schedule since January 1st. Surely previous years would serve as precedent and the schedule would be available about a week or two before the event. I first noticed the streaming schedule on Monday of this week with Roots Tech streaming starting on Thursday. I was a bit disappointed in this late release, but we'll move on.

Some things have come out about the Live Streaming Schedule and I am having many mixed thought lines.

Confused About General Session / Keynotes

First, the streaming schedule available at Something I noticed was that only on Friday would the Keynote speaker presentation be available. On Thursday and Saturday, a General Session would be streamed.

If the FGS Conference site is to be believed, this means that the Thursday General Session speaker has yet to be determined (it's Feb 11th and the Thursday session starts tomorrow).  That seems odd. However, the RootsTech General Session Speaker page suggests that speakers have been determined and may include Dennis Brimhall of FamilySearch, Mike Mallin of MyHeritage, and Tan Le, of Emotiv. Guess we'll have to tune in tomorrow to see what's streamed.

Friday the General Session would include someone discussing a Global Family Reunion, which doesn't excite me because I'm not into things like this. But for others, that's cool. Regardless of personal feelings on this, RootsTech will not be streaming this session in favor the Keynote speaker D Joshua Taylor. If Ancestry Insider is to be believed, the Bush Keynote speakers for that day will not be streamed. So... will it just be another session of Mr. Taylor, will it cover the reunion or will the Bushes be streamed?

Saturday... the General Session will be broadcast with no speaker identified on the streaming page. However the FGS Conference page, and the RootsTech General Session page agree that Donny Osmond is involved in this session. Will we see a famous Osmond?

Last year, the streaming schedule was clear about who would lead off each morning. I knew that Stephanie Nielsen would be speaking and I was excited to hear her. There were other great Keynotes, specifically The Legal Genealogist, who I was also looking forward to hearing from. This year, things seem a little unclear and I don't like that.

Now... for some of you, the question I have is one of semantics. Perhaps it is. However, I like things to be stated clearly across resources to reduce confusion. Which brings me to my next point.

What time does the streaming start? 

Both RootsTech pages state that everything starts at 8:30 am. On a streaming page, wouldn't it be nice if someone would take the time to say when that 8:30 am is taking place. MST, EST, Pacific time? If I was halfway around the world and wanted to watch, it would be nice to know which time to use as the base to add the correct time zone difference to. Perhaps few people would be bothered by this not being clearly defined. However, I like things to be spelled out so that I do not make an assumption that is wrong. Nevertheless, let's assume that the times posted are MST because this is being held in Utah and would they really start a conference at 7:30 am (or earlier?). Now that I have a base, I know how many hours to add to the Mountain Standard Time for my location in Texas.

LDS Centric Separate Streaming Option on Saturday

Another thing taking place is the streaming of Family Discovery Day, which is on Saturday. This seems to be a separate streaming featuring LDS centered speakers and topics. Apparently, this streaming will also be archived and made available at at a later date. Family Discovery Day
"live" features many great acts like Studio C, which I adore. Will this be streamed as well? If so, sign me up. Otherwise, I'll opt for family history practical topics rather than doctrinal topics this Saturday. If the report is true, I can review the doctrinal presentations at a later date.

Content Seems Exciting

I will say that I hope that I can view most of these streamed sessions. I noticed many topics relate to story telling and personal history. Family history really is about the stories of ourselves and our ancestors. There are a few techie and research classes. Honestly, there is a nice variety and I'm wishing the presenters all the best. I truly hope their presentations are what I would expect from their suggested titles.

A Patient Genealogist in Disney World
Making Memories as a Fami-LEE!
Regardless of my confusion of what to expect the first sessions, what time the streaming starts, and whether I should be watching the Discovery Day or learning about "Personal History Triage," I am looking forward to learning from the comfort of my couch. All I need to do know is figure out what the kiddos will be doing since we're still not back to a normal home school schedule because we arrived back in Texas from Disney World on Tuesday.

06 February 2015

Narrative Project:Organizing Through Roots Magic

Jumping in without an outline to
write another story or teach another class
Whenever I have a grand idea to write a book or teach a family history workshop, I start recording all of my ideas and writing out things I will say. My husband patiently waits for me to hit a writer's block, because I do this every time. You'd think  I would learn. As time goes by, I catch myself falling into the familiar trap much faster and I stop. These days, when I fall into a familiar rut, I hear my husband's voice, "Did you make an outline?"

Why do I need an outline to write something? I have a flood of ideas. Shouldn't I write and record them before they disappear? Brainstorming and jotting down notes should be a fast, capture everything before it's lost process. However, communicating with a group through writing or teaching must be organized for it to be understood and retained.

So what does this have to do with our narrative project, Devon Lee?

Glad you asked! In order to be successful in crafting an enjoyable narrative without too much pain and anguish, you need to be organized so that you can easily access the information you want when the need arises.

If you are crafting an essay about one individual, perhaps you will not need a genealogy program. For your goal, a few file folders (online or hard copy) will serve your purpose well. Categorize your information in a way that will serve your purpose well and we'll see you next month when I talk about Starting with a Birth Event.

Louise Long Family Tree
Roots Magic keeps my relatives organized.
Should you be embarking on the task to write a lengthier project involving many generations and ancestors, you will do well to organize your information in a genealogy program. The one I prefer is RootsMagic (though I'm not paid to say that).

Sherman Lewis Brown of Columbus Ohio
RootsMagic keeps track of my ancestor's vital information
RootsMagic serves me well because it can organize the people on my tree and keep track of their vital information.

RootsMagic allows me to add dates between the vital facts.
Additionally, I can create events such as residence (based on city directories or census records), military service, education, property purchase and sale dates, immigration, and so on.

Organizing Sources in RootsMagic
Tracking where I find information and attaching it to specific events.

RootsMagic also allows me to organize my sources to help me remember where I found the facts for each individual.

RootsMagic Media Organizer
A quick look at the photographs and scanned supporting documents.
Links are made to media files on my hard drive as I attach photos and documents to an individual in my RootsMagic database.

RootsMagic General Notes for individual
General note for Sherman Brown
RootsMagic Specific Notes for individual's event
Note for specific events in Sherman Brown's life

The program allows me to attach general notes about the person I am working on and notes specific to events for each person.

RootsMagic To Do List Feature
What should I research today?

As I research an ancestor, I could keep a research log (which I admit I don't utilize as much at present) and create To Do items connected to specific individuals.

After I input all of these pieces of information while discovering my family history, RootsMagic has many ways to create organized ways to retrieve my information.

RootsMagic is the outline for my family history projects, no matter their size. With my research prepared in this fashion, I can move on to the business of writing my family stories. Next month, I will share the process of writing the story of when an ancestor was born.

To learn more about becoming a 21st Century Family Historian, check out my book available at in print or Kindle format.