Archive for the ‘Wichita Eagle Articles’ Category
Sherry Stocking Kline
first published in Wichita Eagle’s “Active Life” magazine – February 2005
This Valentine’s Day after you stuff, lick, and stamp your Valentine’s cards and drop them in the mail, don’t forget to rummage through your drawers, boxes, and attics for those old Valentines you’ve saved.
If you are a packrat (or lucky enough to have a packrat ancestor) you may find several old Valentine’s with hidden clues to your family’s history.
Old Valentine’s may contain clues…
One of Virginia Downing’s favorite genealogy classes to teach is Valentine and old letter research.
According to Downing, Education Chairman for Wichita Genealogical Society,old Valentine’s may contain clues to births, deaths, marriages, and more.
“You can find addresses of where people lived,” said Downing, “and dates on the envelopes.”
Downing bought a collection of postcards at an antique shop and said she was able to connect the dots between several members of a family even though she did not personally know them. Downing read the postcards, checked addresses of senders and recipients and paid particular attention to the notes written inside and the way the cards were signed.
Checking addresses may yield surprising results…
Knowing where your ancestor lived at a given time allows you to do further research in area newspapers, libraries, and other town records, so checking those addresses may yield important clues for further research.
According to Ancestry.com, return addresses that don’t match the postmark location may mean the town was too small to have its own post office or your ancestor may have been on vacation or visiting relatives.
Besides learning the location of family residences, Downing said the notes or letters included often contain clues about family relationships, occupations, and daily life. “A lot of times they may sign the card “‘Aunt Vita’ or ‘your cousin,’” Downing said. “If Aunt Vita mentions in the letter that ‘Uncle John is out feeding the cattle’ you have clues to the family’s occupation as well.”
Downing said some collectors can tell the date of a Valentine without seeing a postmark. “Some people can look and say that was an early 1900 or that was a 1930’s Valentine.” Downing said, adding that if you aren’t one of those people a little research at your library may help you narrow down the dates.
Take one more trip through your keepsake boxes…
According to Ancestry Daily News, even though you may think you have all the family information out of your own cards, one more trip through those keepsake boxes may reveal facts you forgot, photographs you missed, and memories worth preserving for future generations.
The popularity of e-mail may mean your descendants won’t have as many letters to find when they go searching through your old boxes and files according to Ancestry Daily News, so after you check out those old Valentines, be sure and save them for your genealogist descendants to find.
by Sherry Stocking Kline
February 12, 2010
They say time flies when you’re having fun, and I didn’t realize just how much fun I’d had or how much time had flown past until I received the following Congratulatory e-mail from National Federation of Press Women on Friday.
It was my Ten Year Anniversary! What a nice reminder:
SUBJECT: NFPW MILESTONE CONGRATS!
Fri, February 12, 2010 1:57:27 PM
February 12, 2010
As a member of the National Federation of Press Women, you have reached the 10-year Milestone in your membership.
Your name will be in the 2010 NFPW Chicago Conference Program recognizing your 10 years of membership
Our thanks from the entire membership for your support of this wonderful organization through your dedicated membership.
Information about the conference in Chicago is forthcoming, and I hope you will be attending the entire event. As anyone knows who has attended a conference, they quickly become addictive. Not only for the information gained, but the priceless friendship and memories as well.
Again, my congratulations to you. I hope you will join us for the informative workshops, the inspiration gained, and the never-ending fellowship and fun that fills every conference.
Barb Micek, NFPW Historian
And it’s by such little choices that lives are changed…
Just a little over ten years ago, shortly after I graduated from Kansas State University’s distance learning program with a bachelor’s degree in Arts & Sciences, (emphasis on home economics taken in the late 1960′s) and history (taken in the 1990′s), I took a writing class at Wichita State University.
Seeing a flyer on the bulletin board for a writing group, I went to the meeting. Would we like a mentor?
Well, yes, of course!
And it’s by such little choices that lives are changed. I was assigned Beth Bower, editor of a newspaper that I’m ashamed to say I can’t recall the name of right now. I went to meet Beth, we hit it off, and she asked me to write an article about my genealogy hobby.
So I did.
One thing led to another…
Shortly after that, Beth called and told me that she was leaving that newspaper to go to the Wichita Eagle, Special Publications Division, and before I could get sad about not doing any more writing for her, she said “Give me a little time, (to get settled into her new job) and I think I can get you some work.”
Beth encouraged me to join the local and state chapters of Press Women, now Wichita Professional Communicators and Kansas Professional Communicators. It was excellent advice.
One thing led to another and genealogy continued to grow in popularity, and that’s how my column “The Family Tree” that ran in “Active Life” and now in “Healthy Living” came to be. And now I’ve been writing about genealogy in the Wichita Eagle for ten years also.
Thanks to Beth’s encouragement, advice, (and excellent editing) I’ve won state awards and national honorable mentions. Woo Hoo!
Thank you, Beth!
Time does fly when you are having fun!
by Sherry Stocking Kline
Published in October 2002 in the Wichita Eagle “Active Life” Magazine
When people start to climb their family tree they often hope to find royalty, presidents, or founding fathers, but imagine the surprise of two Wichita women when they found out their ancestor was a Salem witch.
Ardith Ott was in Salt Lake City researching her family tree when she made a surprising discovery.
“I was looking at my Bixby/Byxbe line,” Ott said, “and I found out that this woman who was hung as a Salem witch was one of my ancestors.”
Your Famous Ancestor May Show up in Books, Plays, or Movies…
As Ott soon learned, when your ancestor is famous (or infamous) your family information may be included in history books, show up on the front pages of newspapers, and be documented in trial transcripts. And your ancestor and the events surrounding them may be turned into books, movies, and plays, and your ancestral home be turned into a tourist attraction.
Ott’s ancestor was Rebecca Nurse, accused of witchcraft in March, 1692, tried, found innocent, re-tried, found guilty, excommunicated from her church in Salem, and hanged on July 19, 1692.
At first, Ott said she found it amusing to tell people that her ancestor was a Salem witch.
“I thought it was pretty funny when I discovered it,” Ott said, “until I read more about it; then I felt guilty for laughing. She was a victim.”
“My ancestor was hard of hearing,” Ott said, and would turn her head like a deaf person, so her accusers said that she was communicating with a bird in the rafters.”
Forty Friends Testified to Her Character…
Ott added that Nurse had almost forty friends, neighbors, and family members that testified to her character and innocence, and the Salem Witches Web site at the University of Virginia, said that seventy-year-old Rebecca Nurse was an elderly and respected member of the Salem Village community.
Betty McGehee, member of Associated Daughters of Early American Witches and a 14th great-granddaughter of Rebecca Nurse, said she joined the association to educate others that the people accused were not practicing witchcraft but were victims of the superstitions and hysteria of the times.
McGehee said that three of William Towne’s daughters, Rebecca Nurse and her two sisters, Sarah Cloyce and Mary Easty were also accused of witchcraft. Mary was hung in September of 1692 and Sarah was acquitted after spending months in jail.
What Started it All?
You know how when you tell a story sometimes it grows out of bounds,” Ott said.
“It was just a form of hysteria, and it all started with a couple of mischievous girls who started blaming everybody for something that went wrong,” McGehee said.
Tales of Voodoo and Witchcraft Fueled the Fire…
Fueling the hysteria, McGehee said, was a man who blamed the witches for the birth of a two-headed calf, and a couple of little girls that fell on the floor in church and claimed that Nurse had cast a spell on them. Adding fuel to the fire were the Barbados-raised servant girl Tituba’s tales of voodoo and witchcraft.
Research since then has indicated that some of Nurse’s accusers were individuals involved in land disputes with the family. Individuals who benefited from the Nurse’s death and the family’s problems.
Another possibility, according to “Poisons of the Past: Molds, Epidemics and History” by University of Maryland Historian, Mary Kilbourne Motassian, was that exposure to a dangerous grain mold called ergot may have caused some of the strange symptoms people reported, symptoms that included nausea, temporary blindness and deafness, and hallucinations.
According to Dick Eastman, journalist for Ancestry Daily News at www.ancestry.com, “By the end of May 1692, two hundred accused witches were in jail, and twenty men and women were hanged, crushed to death, or left to die in prison…..” (map of witchcraft accusations can be found here.)
The Graves Were so Shallow…
Ott’s research uncovered the fact that her ancestor was thrown into a grave on Witch Hill with other witches, graves that were so shallow that the dead people’s hands stuck up in the air.
Nurse’s sons recovered her body and buried her in an unmarked grave. Nearly 200 years later her descendants erected a monument to her memory, listed the names of those who came to her defense, and inscribed the monument with a poem written especially for her by John Greenleaf Whittier.
Ott and her family visited her famous ancestor’s home, Salem Village, viewed the diorama, and the monument that her descendants erected to her memory.
Infamous Ancestors More Interesting?
“It’s nice when your ancestor’s were good people,” Ott said, “but when you find something unusual, that makes it more interesting.”
by Sherry Stocking Kline
published in the Wichita Eagle – August 2007
For Christmas of 1984, J. P. Buellesfeld ‘s great-great uncle gave him a black, leather-bound journal.
Buellesfeld was so impressed with the gift and the fact that his great-great uncle, head of the history department at Washburn University, had been keeping a journal for 45 years that a few months later he began keeping his own journal.
Every Single Day…
Twenty-four years later, he’s still doing it. Every. Single. Day.
In fact, the journal has become so important to him that he keeps notes throughout the day in a notebook at his investment office, then takes the notebook home, and uses it to write in his journal.
For Buellesfeld, it is a matter of documenting the happenings in his life, his family’s lives, and those of his close friends. As someone who has taught and is fascinated by history, it’s also his way of documenting world happenings.
Writing in a journal can be fun, informative, and according to Buellesfeld, help settle future arguments.
Journaling Can Promote Good Health …
It can also promote good health. According to research conducted at Southern Methodist University writing in a journal for a few minutes each day about what has happened and how we feel about it can help promote emotional well-being, lower blood pressure and boost the immune system.
There’s never been a better time to start your own journal. It’s easy to find how-to-do-it books, and when you type “journaling” into Google there are 3 million plus “hits” to help you get started.
Every bookstore has a selection of journals, hard-backed, paper-backed, and beautiful leather-bound versions; some have themes, such as nature or inspirational, and many include questions and inspirational quotes to get you started.
To personalize your journal, Lori Ritchie, www.writersdigest.com, suggests that you add your favorite prayers or verses, the lyrics to your favorite songs, share your family history and family tree information, and record important events. Ritchie also suggested you add a table of contents to your journal and devote a page telling how it was acquired.
What Should You Journal About?
You can journal about everything you do or only one area of your life.
Going on a trip? Take along a traveler’s journal.
Are you a New Grandma? (Or Grandpa?) Fill out a journal about your life and your hopes and dreams for the new grandbaby.
Want to grow in your faith? There are journals with daily Bible verses and questions to stimulate thought and spiritual growth.
Grieving a loss? A grief journal can help you through your journey of recovery.
Just Remember That it’s Your Journal…
It can be anything that you want it to be, a place to document daily happenings, the story of your family’s life, or a secret place to write down your emotions, share your goals and dreams, and unload your daily cares.
Journals don’t have to be leather bound, and they don’t have to be fancy, a simple spiral notebook or a word document on your computer or laptop will do.
Use whatever works for you, and whatever allows you the freedom to express yourself.
What Goes into Buellesfeld’s Journal?
“Everything. I put everything in there,” Buellesfeld said, adding that “Once you do it everyday for 24 years it becomes an obsession.”
Buellesfeld said that his journal is absolutely more about his personal life than his business. While he hasn’t decided what provision he will make for his journals after his death, he said that many make provisions to keep their journals private for a number of years.
“Every night, and I mean every night, no matter how tired I am, I write in that journal.”
by Sherry Stocking Kline
First published in the Wichita Eagle’s Active Life Magazine – April 2002
Getting Grandpa to talk about the “good ole’ days” really isn’t as hard as you might think. All you have to do is set the stage, bring along some props, and be prepared with plenty of questions.
Pat Gaddie grew up listening to her Grandpa Sam tell his Irish jingles, share stories about blue racer snakes chasing him through fields, and the wagon trip he made in 1902 when he was eighteen and his family moved from Tennessee to Oklahoma.
“He lived next door to us when I was small,” Gaddie said, “and when I was eight or nine years old, he used to tell stories to entertain me.”
How to Keep Them Story Telling…
Not everyone enjoys reminiscing, but if your Grandpa (or Grandma) does, here are a few tips to keep them story telling.
Decide what you want to know, make a list of questions, then ask the most important ones first.
What’s your priority? Is it facts, figures, dates, and places, the who begat who and where or when, or is it the stories that you want to hear?
Are there family legends that you want to verify or clarify, or do you want to hear how he proposed to Grandma, laugh about the night he and his bride were chivareed, or see D-Day through his eyes?
Set the stage.
Old photographs and family memorabilia are great memory triggers, and can prompt a flood of memories, so bring out the high school play bills and yearbooks, wedding photos, and photographs of the plane Grandpa flew in the service. When he shows you the photo of his first car, be sure and ask him about the job he took to pay for it.
Take field trips to old schools, cemeteries, and other meaningful places, and travel to Grandpa’s hometown and drive by his old schoolhouse. You may learn who put the snake in the teacher’s desk, the story behind Grandpa’s nickname, and more.
Remember that Grandpa’s dates may be approximate, as he’ll likely remember events as happening “the year of the big blizzard, the summer of the drought, or just before Beverly was born”.
Bev Malone interviews older family members to flesh out stories and verify the information.
“The best way to get the stories flowing about family members is to ask about people and things, not personalities,” Malone said.
Make sure your cameras, and audio or video recorders have fresh batteries, and take along spares. If you need an extra memory card for your cameras (or film) be sure to take that along, too.
“Recorders can make people nervous,” Malone said, so she breaks the ice by asking, “Do you mind if I tape this? My brain can’t keep it all in my head.”
Take notes, just in case technology lets you down, and transcribe your notes as soon as possible.
Need help with your list of questions?
There are books that can help, such Emily Anne Croom’s “Unpuzzling Your Past Workbook” with questions tailored for different decades in history, and Janice T. Dixon’s “Family Focused” with question lists and suggestions to help you conduct interviews and gather information.
What’s Dixon’s advice in “Family Focused” to interviewers?
“Be relaxed, don’t interrupt, don’t contradict, and don’t ask questions that can be answered with a yes or no.”
“Keep the flow of conversation going,” Dixon said, “you can go back and ask questions later.”
Gaddie cherishes and shares her Grandpa Sam’s stories with her family, a process that can add valuable information to your research as well as give you new questions to ask.
With a little planning, the next time you visit Grandpa, you may learn more about your grandfather, your parents – perhaps even yourself.
by Sherry Stocking Kline written for Wichita Eagle’s Active Life Magazine – December 2008 (and just in case Santa is reading this, I’d still like to have this in my Christmas Stocking!) If you’ve ever been at a cemetery, library, or family gathering and wished you had your whole family tree in your shirt pocket or purse, you may want to ask your favorite Santa to leave the Pocket Genealogist Software in your Christmas stocking this year. Laura Phillips and her husband Kevin are the developers, owners, and tech support people for the Pocket Genealogist, a nifty little software package that will let you carry around up to a quarter million family members (plus photographs) on your PDA or smartphone, support GPS latitudes and longitudes, calculate dates, Soundex, add data, and search for individuals or places.
Carry Your Family Tree with You…
Phillips said that her husband, Kevin, got frustrated while trying to organize his family tree information to go on an out-of-state trip to visit family. He wanted to carry his whole family tree on his PDA (personal digital assistant) and leave his laptop at home. “He couldn’t find a program that would do what he wanted it to do,” said Laura Phillips, business manager and self-proclaimed “dummy tester” of Northern Hills Software’s Pocket Genealogist, “his standards are pretty high. So he put together a program to do what he wanted it to do.”
Software works on Windows Mobile Smart Phones & PDA’s
According to Phillips and the www.pocketgenealogist.com website, the software will run on any Windows Mobile Software, and depending on your PDA’s memory, the program can hold up to a quarter million individuals, allow you to view photographs, calculate those tricky ‘how-are-we-related anyway’ questions, and enter data for transfer back to your desktop computer. “You won’t get a free cell phone that is capable of running this software,” Phillips said.
Decide What Uses Before You Buy!
So before you buy a phone or PDA, you need to decide how you want to use it and what software you want to run and then purchase the smart phone or PDA that will do what you need it to do. Phillips said the Pocket Genealogist won’t work on IPhones, Blackberry’s or PDA’s that use the Palm Operating System. (Phillips said that the Gedstar Pro software program will work with Palm Operating systems.) Besides English, Pocket Genealogist supports nine languages and will import directly from Legacy Family Tree without conversion to a GEDCOM. Phillips said that it also “works with anything that adheres to the GEDCOM standard, including Family Treemaker, The Master Genealogist, and Roots Magic
Desktop In Your Pocket?
“We try to mirror the experience that you have with your desktop,” Phillips said, and added a reminder to software users to “back up” their information. “Your system is getting hauled around everywhere,” Phillips said, “so it’s important to back up your PDA’s information, just as you would a desktop computer.” Phillips said that Pocket Genealogist is very easy to navigate and has a very low learning curve, making it easy for new users. “I’m considered the dummy tester,” Phillips said, “if I can read the manual and make it work, we figure anybody can.”
by Sherry Stocking Kline
Written for the Wichita Eagle’s Active Life Magazine – February 2009
Want Your Family Tree Researched? Get Famous!
Probably no one knows better by now than Barack Obama and his family that if you want to have your family tree researched for you, just become famous and run for office.
There is a fascination with knowing more about famous people, especially our presidents, and even those who didn’t vote for Obama want to know more about him and his family.
There are websites, blogs, and numerous articles devoted to discovering, talking about and arguing about Obama’s family history, even going so far as trying to determine what ethnic percentage he has of Caucasian, African, and Arab in his ancestry.
Marsha Stenholm, retired genealogy librarian at the Wichita, Kansas Public Library, said there is a great deal of interest in Obama’s Kansas roots from journalists, television anchors, and individuals.
Are You Related to Barack Obama?
Are you related to Obama? You may be.
Obama’s family has ties to several cities and counties in Kansas, including Wichita in Sedgwick County, Argonia in Sumner County, El Dorado and Augusta in Butler County, as well as Chautauqua, Howard, Labette, and Johnson Counties.
“Obama has ties to El Dorado and Wichita,” Stenholm said, “and if you go back another generation, his great-grandparents and great-great grandparents have ties to Wichita and Argonia in Sumner County as well.”
According to Stenholm, Obama’s mother, Stanley Ann Dunham, (who was named for her father), was born in Wichita, possibly in St. Francis Hospital, in 1942. Her father, Stanley Armour Dunham, was born in Kansas in 1918 to Ralph Dunham and Ruth Lucille Armour. Her mother, Madelyn Lee Payne, was born in Wichita in 1922 to parent’s Rolla Charles Payne, who was born in Olathe, Kansas and Leona McCurry, born circa 1897 in Kansas. According to Federal Census resources, Stanley Armour Dunham worked in the furniture business.
Obama’s Great-Grandfather Born in Argonia, Kansas
“Obama’s great-grandfather, Ralph Waldo Emerson Dunham was born in Argonia, Kansas,” Stenholm said, to parents’ Jacob William and Mary Ann (Kearney) Dunham, and are on the 1900 Federal Census in Dixon Township Stenholm said the census records are available online at www.ancestry.com or at the Wichita Public Library.
By 1909, Stenholm said that Wichita City Directories indicate the family was living in Wichita. They also showed up in the 1910, 1920, and 1930 Federal census, where Jacob was listed in 1910 as a manufacturer of drugs in a drug store, in 1920 he was listed as a pharmacist in a drug store, and in 1930, he was listed as a physician in a medical business.
In 1915, Ralph married Ruth Lucille Armour, whose parents were Harry Ellington Armour and Gabriella Clark, who appeared in the 1910 and 1920 Federal Census of Wichita, Sedgwick County, Kansas, and in the 1930 Federal Census are listed as living in El Dorado, Butler County, Kansas.
Obama’s Grandma Toot born in Kansas…
Two different sources have Madelyn Lee Payne, Obama’s grandmother “Toot” born either in 1922 in Wichita, Kansas, or in Peru, in Chautauqua County, Kansas, to father Rolla Charles Payne, who was born in Johnson County, Kansas and Leona McCurry Payne, born circa 1897 in Kansas. The 1930 Federal Census lists seven-year-old Madelyn living with her parents in Augusta, and her father’s occupation is listed as a bookkeeper for an oil company.
Are you related to Obama? Whether you are or not, you may find researching Obama’s family ties at http://genealogy.about.com/od/aframertrees/p/barack_obama.htm fascinating. And if your name is Dunham, Payne, Armour, Stroup, Kearney, Holloway, Clark, Overall, McCurry, Wright, Black, Wolfley, Abbott, Creekmore, Wright, or Allred, you might just want to take a quick look into your family history and see if you, too, have ancestral ties to our new President.
Wichita Public Library
223 S. Main
Wichita, KS 67202
“Complete Idiot’s Guide to Genealogy” by Christine Rose and Kay Germain Ingalls
“Unpuzzling Your Past: The Best Selling Basic Guide to Genealogy” by Croom
“Tracking Your African-American Family History” – David T. Thackery
by Sherry Stocking Kline
first published in Wichita Eagle’s Active Life Magazine – September 2000
Now that summer’s over, and you’ve got a shoebox full of vacation, grandchildren, wedding, and graduation photographs, it’s time for you to preserve those memories between the pages of a book, like a pressed flower, to be enjoyed again and again.
So where do you start first?
“Get some history attached to those photos,” said Bob McCreary, “that’s the first and probably the most important step.”
McCreary and his wife Kathy co-own Scrapbook Garden, Wichita, Kansas. McCreary said that Kathy carries photographs with her in her purse and whenever she has a few minutes while watching television, waiting for the doctor, or waiting to get a driver’s license she sorts photos and makes quick notes on the back with a photo safe pencil.
Once you have them sorted, McCreary said it’s really a quick step after that to put the photos in an acid-free, lignin-free photo album, and then “journal” or tell about the photos.
Each year, Gerry Reimer does a summer vacation album, and adds more pages to her all-Christmas album.
Journals Don’t Have to Be Elaborate…
Reimer said not to let your friends’ elaborate journals scare you off. “Streamline,” Reimer said, “get the photos on the page, and get the people identified.”
“First of all,” Reimer said, “Tell yourself it’s o.k. not to use all the photos you have.” Reimer said to choose pictures that tell who you are and where you were at that time, and be sure and include names and dates in your albums.
“I don’t keep a travel diary,” Reimer said, but Reimer said she jots down a few notes, picks up ticket stubs, colored brochures, saves travel itineraries and whatever else they might want to use in their vacation albums.
Reimer said you’ll know what you want to do, and what you don’t, after you finish your first book. Reimer’s first photo album was her wedding album.
“We’d been married 49 years,” Reimer said, and I didn’t like our wedding photos, so I had a wonderful time cropping off what I didn’t like and journaling about the pictures.” Reimer said she does “bullet journaling”, or writes short statements under most photos, saving long stories for special photographs or events.
Start With Recent Photo’s…
Bonnie Loewen, Creative Memories consultant, said the easiest way to get started is with your last roll of film while your memory of the event is fresh, and work your way backwards.
Tell A Story…
Loewen said to tell a story with words as well as with pictures. How were you feeling? What was going on in the family, and the world? Loewen said even the current price of bread and gasoline will be interesting to future generations.
Loewen said to write as you would talk, don’t worry about punctuation, and write a sloppy first draft. You can re-write it later, Loewen said.
Answer the Five W’s – Engage the Five Senses…
Think about the five senses and the five W’s, advised both McCreary and Loewen, adding that it will make ideas for captioning your photos come easier. Just remember to answer the questions who, what, when, where, and why questions, and engage the emotions by writing about how something looked, sounded, tasted, felt, and smelled.
Preserve Your Handwriting, too…
McCreary said and its faster to use a computer to journal, but it’s not as personal, so he said not to be afraid to write in pencil and go over it later with a permanent marker, or even cover up mistakes with cardstock.
“Some people don’t like their handwriting,” McCreary said, “but people years from now will cherish seeing the handwriting of the person who made the journal.”
Scrapbooks can help bridge the generation gap, so along with vacation, wedding and family photos, include stories and pictures of military service and other events to help future generations understand the times you lived through, and what makes your family special.
Ordinary Days are Important…
Loewen said it’s also good to make pages of what an ordinary day was like in your family, too, not just the special events. “And make a signature page,” Loewen said, with your name, date, who the album is for, and why you did it, “it’s kind of like signing a quilt.”
If you have a lifetime of photographs ask for help from your family. Reimer said that kids and grandchildren are great to help photo captions.
McCreary agreed, “it’s good to get family members involved.”
“Make it a fun activity,” McCreary said, “have everyone sit down and talk about the photos, and try to communicate some of the emotion.” You get different perspectives of an event by talking to different people.
“It’s really exciting that people are making a legacy and trying to pass on their roots and their values,” Loewen said, “values can be lost in one generation if they are not preserved.”
“People will forget you in one generation if you don’t tell your story,” Loewen said, “you can make such a difference in people’s lives with a scrapbook.”
“In a sense,” Reimer said, “your whole book is the story of your family.”
By Sherry Stocking Kline
published in the Wichita Eagle’s “Active Life” magazine in November 2005
If disaster strikes, whether it’s Hurricane Katrina, your water heater sprung a leak, or your photographs have water and smoke-damage from a fire, don’t make the trash your first destination of choice for the remains.
Sometimes, even wet, stuck together photographs can be salvaged, but you have to act fast.
“A lot depends on the circumstances,” said Darrell Garwood, preservation officer, library archives division, Kansas State Historical Society, “There is a lot of dirt and contaminants in flood water,” Garwood said, “If they have been in water, especially dirty water longer than 48 hours they may not be able to be re-claimed.”
A lot also depends on what type of photographs are damaged. Are they fairly modern? Are they old? One-of-a-kind? Hand-tinted? What kind of paper are they on?
Before you do anything, you need to know what kind of photographs you are dealing with, and it may be necessary to consult a professional for help. To help you determine what kind of photographs you can safely repair yourself, or if you have no choice but to attempt the repair yourself, there are books, such as “How to Save Your Stuff From a Disaster” by Scott Haskins, and websites such as Northeast Document Conservation Center, www.nedcc.org, and the Kansas State Historical Society’s website at www.kshs.org, (click on preserve) can help you determine what kind of photographs you have, and how best to preserve them.
According to Gary Albright, senior paper/photograph conservator, Northeast Document Conservation Center, there are a number of different photographic processes, and while some photographs can be immersed for a day or more and still be restored, others will be completely ruined by a just a few minutes of water exposure.
“Time is of the essence: the longer the period of time between the emergency and salvage, the greater the amount of permanent damage that will occur,” Albright said.
Haskins stated that it’s best to consult a professional who can deal with the photographs without adding to the damage, especially if you have old or vintage photographs.
Wet photographs should always be a priority. Albright said that wet photographs should be air dried or frozen as quickly as possible to prevent mold damage. (Yes, he really did say frozen.)
If the photographs are still wet, it’s best to put them in clean, cool water, distilled water. Change the water often to make sure the water stays clean. Do not use bleach, detergent, fungicide or disinfectants. Do not touch, rub, scrub, or try to force stuck-together photographs apart. Handle them by the edge only, preferably with a blunt, clean pair of tweezers.
Drain excess water off the photographs, and lay them out flat, and separated, on clean, lint-free material to dry. Do not use newspapers. Negatives should be hung up by the edges to dry vertically. Circulate the air the help speed up the drying process and to prevent mold. Do not use a heater.
Can’t deal with them right away? Freeze any photographs that cannot be cleaned and dried within 72 hours.
If they are already wet, rinse off any dirt, mud, etc., separate photos or groups of stuck together photographs with wax paper, put them into zip lock freezer bags and put them in the freezer. Do NOT stack anything on top of them.
If your photos are damaged, you still may be able to scan them at 300dpi or better, and use image editing software such as Adobe Photoshop or Corel’s Paint Shop Pro to repair copies of your damaged photographs. You can use that new, digital copy to make new photographs.
Garwood stated that prevention is the most important thing, and Garwood agreed.
“Address prevention first,” Garwood said, “store them properly and avoid basement storage because basements are always the first thing to flood in a house.”
After prevention, Garwood suggested that you spend a little time in disaster preparedness. Know where your photographs, family letters, video tapes, DVD’s, and important papers are, so you can go right to them for a speedy recovery should it become necessary.
If possible, Garwood said, have back-ups and replacements.
“Make this part of your emergency preparedness plan, and remember that your papers and photos are not as important as yourself,” Garwood said, “People should always come first in a disaster.”
2009 Author’s Suggestion: Before freezing or beginning any restoration attempts, consult with professionals if at all possible.
This article idea came to mind following Hurricane Katrina, and the tornado that struck the Haysville, Kansas area. We drove through the tornado devastation where houses were turned into matchsticks, and papers and pictures were blowing in the wind. I realized that after life and limb were safe, it was the thought of losing my photographs that bothered me most if we were to be struck by a tornado.
by Sherry Stocking Kline
Wichita Eagle’s June 2001 “Active Life”
When Tammy Pontious’s great-grandchildren look at her family history scrapbook many years from now, Pontious doesn’t want them to see stiff, posed photos of people in their Sunday best clothes. She wants them to be able to see what they were like when they were working and playing.
“The key is to carry your camera with you,” said Pontious, who keeps her camera handy and often carries it along when she drives her daily school-bus route. “You’ll have missed opportunities if you don’t.”
Bob McCreary, who co-owns Scrapbook Garden, www.scrapbookgarden.com, with his wife Kathy, agreed. Many people keep one of the “point-and-shoot” or disposable cameras that take remarkably good photographs handy, said McCreary, adding that for a clearer photo with a point and shoot camera, you must aim the focal point of the camera at someone in the group and not at the background.
Because photographing people in front of a simple background is often better, Pontious looks at the background before snapping and decides if it will help tell the story or just clutter up the photograph, though with today’s digital software, it’s fairly simple to crop out, blur, or even replace an unwanted background.
Close-up’s are great for people photos and eliminating distracting backgrounds, but check your camera’s manual before taking one, advises Kodak.com, as some cameras cannot focus closer than four feet from the subject. When using a flash, you need to check your flashes’ useful range as well. For many cameras, anything past 10 to 12 feet is a dark blur, as any concert goer can attest to after snapping photo after photo only to get home with photos of a shiny bald head about eight feet in front of them.
Pontious, who calls herself “a picture fanatic,” said you need to take lots of photographs.
“You just can’t be stingy with the film,” Pontious said, “for $8.00, you’ll probably come up with two or three photos that you’re in love with.”
For sharp, clear photographs, hold the camera steady, and try Pontious’ technique of visualizing the photo before gently pressing the shutter button. Pontious said she also tries a variety of different and unique angles, works to capture candid facial expressions, and likes to catch her family’s silhouettes in profile shots.
Pontious also ‘stalks’ the wildlife on their river farm, catches her dogs in silly poses, snaps her mom relaxing on the porch swing, and her husband and son while they work, hunt, and fish.
“That’s our lives,” Pontious said. Our descendants may say, “look what great-grandpa did back in those days.”
“You know the old saying about 1000 words? There is a lot of information that finds its way into a photo almost by accident, and sometimes it becomes significant to us later.” McCreary said.
“It’s candid shots of people doing things that tell the story of our lives,” McCreary said, “if Uncle Ralph was a farmer – take a photo of him on his combine. If someone hunts or fishes a lot get a photo of the big catch.”
To avoid that squinty-eyed look outdoors, photograph people on overcast days or in the shade using fill-in flash to highlight faces and chase away the shadows. Pontious said her favorite time of the day to take outdoor photographs is in the early morning or late afternoon, and said that she also likes to photograph subjects using the warm, natural lighting near a window.
“I just don’t like what I end up with at high noon,” Pontious said, “the photos all end up looking washed out.”
Pontious said that she looks for little situations and happenings, but she also works to create photographic events.
How does she do that? She sets up fun events for people to enjoy. One event that yielded some favorite photographs was a tea party she held for several laughing and giggling young cousins while she sat the corner of the porch “click, click, clicking away.”
McCreary said that while you are capturing your family in photographs, don’t forget to photograph your home(s), inside and out, and your yard, farm, barns, and outbuildings that are a part of your life today, and may be only a memory someday.
Pontious treasures the family resemblances she sees in the photographs of grandparents that died before she was born. She said that many of their photographs have been passed down from one person to another, from one generation to another, from trunks to attics, and came on covered wagons from there to here. She feels she is handing down a family history treasure to her son Dallas.
“A photo can tell you everything in the world,” Pontious said, “emotions, social status, whether they were rich or poor, lifestyle, facial features, looks and personality. What I would hope,” Pontious said, “is that it will tell them my values, hopes, dreams and what I accomplished.”
Someday she hopes that her descendants will look at her family history book and read the anecdotes, stories, and poems that are woven throughout, and will choose to preserve it, and hand it down again.
“Who knows where they’ll go in my son’s journey,” Pontious said.