Two years ago, I joined WEGO’s Health Activist Writer’s Month Challenge for 30 days of writing throughout the month of April and loved the results. I enjoyed the extra interaction with my readers, appreciated the extra push to finish writing assignments, and liked that I was connecting to a larger community of bloggers. I missed doing a writing challenge last year (just not in the right state of mind to write), but when I read about the Blogging from A to Z April Challenge, where bloggers write 26 posts during the month of April using the letters of the alphabet as prompts, I knew I had to take a crack at it this year. However, this year I want to do something a little different and make a concerted effort to develop my family history blog at A Home for the Family Tree and put some of my research into blog posts. So, if you want to find me this month, that is where I will be.
Here we go!
A is for A Reclamation Project
Since my sister gave me my first scanner while I was in grad school 7 or 8 years ago, working on a Masters in Public History, I have put in sporadic attempts to preserve and share photos and documents from my own collection as well as those in my extended family’s collections. I have traveled with my scanner and laptop so that I could scan photos from my grandmother’s collection when I visited her and I have been ‘loaned’ photo albums and collections so that I could scan them. With all of the work I do in regards to family history, when I scan, I’m gathering more knowledge on who people were and I am trying to gather their stories. I’m all about trying to identify the characters in the pictures so that I can add them to my family tree as well as grow my personal base of genealogical and historical knowledge.
I’ve found that people can be very possessive and forgetful of the photos and documents they hold, both intentionally and unintentionally withholding their collections. They may want to keep these records boxed away, a big secret that they do not want exposed. Or since photos and documents have come up missing in the past, the holders do not want any more lost records. Individuals may have been given an album by a deceased parent and have never really gone through it, forgetting they even have it on a bookshelf. Or the big reason, people think that the documents they hold aren’t relevant or important. The challenge is to find the collections before it is too late so that there is still someone around to identify people and give insight into the players in the collection.
Most photos are not labeled and so people ‘disappear’ in plain view. There are many relatives that have been forgotten by more recent generations and I feel that when I add people to my tree, I am reclaiming them. When I can add photos and documents as well, I feel that I can reclaim some of their individual stories. And when I can find people who still have actual memories of these people–I have scored!
In late October, we were helping to move my in-laws into a new home when one of my brothers-in-law and I found 2 old, very large, photo albums, a scrap book and a box of slides. Of course I volunteered to curate this fantastic collection and put my public history archiving skills to work. Of course! And it’s been an amazing journey so far.
I finished Phase One at the beginning of March. So far, I have scanned the two photo albums (over 1000 photos) and over half of the slides (almost 500); made an initial presentation of the photos; spent an afternoon with my father-in-law identifying pictures; added over 400 people to my husband’s tree on Ancestry (building out family trees and discovering new relatives through photos and documents); spoken with one of my husband’s great-uncles about my research; and put together an initial arrangement of the collection, copying it onto jump drives and sending copies to members of my husband’s family.
This has been a larger undertaking then I thought it would be, but more worthwhile. I have crammed the 7-8 years of scanning that I have done for my own family’s collections into 5 months for my husband’s family’s collection, but I find it a treasure to process and protect. Not only do I finally have my husband’s baby pictures, but I am gaining an understanding of my husband’s family that is unsurpassed.