Sunday, December 31, 2017

Top 10 Posts of 2017

It's the last day of the year, so it must be time to do the accounting for my blog.  What did readers think was the most interesting?  What garnered the most commentary?

Just to show that you can't rely on past years as a guide, the top 10 posts this year for my blog went in a very different direction from what has gone before.  Six of the ten were Wordless Wednesdays, which are family photographs.  And only one episode of Who Do You Think You Are? made the list.

#10 is a Wordless Wednesday post with two photographs of my cousin Ben Kushner.

#9 is my comments about the first two days of the 2017 IAJGS International Conference on Jewish Genealogy, which took place in July in Orlando, Florida.

#8 on the list is a Saturday Night Genealogy Fun post where Randy Seaver asked his readers to write a 100-word story about an interesting ancestor.  I wrote about an 8x-great-grandmother who was a Quaker preacher.  Apparently other people found her interesting also.

Now there are three Wordless Wednesdays in a row.  #7 is another cousin, Fannie Perlman Amron, at the beach in the 1960's.  #6 is not actually of my family members, but those of a friend.  Edgar Orloff is the young boy, and the man is his uncle Izzie Oberstein.  For #5, my hypothesis is that this woman is related to my Szocherman cousins because the photo was with other ones from that branch of the family, but I don't actually know who she is.  I wish one of the people who saw this post could tell me!

#4 is a post I did for Elizabeth O'Neal's Genealogy Blog Party.  The theme that month was "How I Did It", and the point was to explain the process behind a discovery.  I wrote about how I identified the individuals in a photograph from Russia.

Then we return to more Wordless Wednesdays.  #3 is a photo of my mother when she is about 2 years old, with her parents in New York, probably Brooklyn.  #2 is my paternal grandfather holding his youngest daughter, my aunt Carol, with his dog Judy at his feet.

My #1 post for 2017 was my write-up and analysis of the season opener for Who Do You Think You Are?  Courteney Cox had 40% more views than the next closest post.  Surprisingly, the other three episodes of Who Do You Think You Are? that I posted about didn't even come that close, having only about half the number of views and far from being in the top 10.  I don't know if that's a reflection of interest in Cox as the subject compared to the other celebrities, waning interest in the series, or something else.

The most commented-on post this year was a Saturday Night Genealogy Fun, which is what happened last year.  This year's post was a list of the places to which I have traveled.  Apparently I'm far above average as compared to most Americans.

My overall most-viewed posts have again not changed from previous years.  Readers are still interested in potentially gaining dual citizenship via descent (also maintaining its lead with the most comments), followed by the Lionel Ritchie episode of Who Do You Think You Are?  Their leads might be unreachable at this point.

Thank Yous for This Year in Genealogy

I'm never certain that I say thank you often enough to everyone who deserves it.  Having a blog means that I can at least make sure that I publicly thank as many of my genealogy colleagues as possible, so they and everyone else know how appreciated they are.

I want to start with the groups that generously hosted me as a speaker during the year.  I am thankful that they considered my contributions helpful for their members and hope to be invited to speak again in the future.

Davis Genealogy Club
Sacramento Public Library
RootsTech/FamilySearch
Ventura County Genealogical Society
Oakland FamilySearch Library
San Francisco History Days
African American Family History Seminar
Sacramento FamilySearch Center
East Bay Genealogical Society
Solano County Genealogical Society
Corona Genealogical Society
Genealogy Jamboree/Southern California Genealogical Society
California Genealogical Society
International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies
Northwest Genealogy Conference/Stillaguamish Valley Genealogical Society
Contra Costa County Genealogical Society
Santa Clara County Historical and Genealogical Society
Jewish Genealogical Society of Oregon

I also want to thank those groups where I was privileged to learn from others.  I'll never know everything, but I try hard to take advantage of opportunities to learn whenever they are available.

African American Genealogical Society of Northern California
California Genealogical Society
Contemporary Jewish Museum
Contra Costa County Genealogical Society
East Bay Genealogical Society
Florida State Genealogical Society
Georgia Genealogical Society
Illinois State Genealogical Society
Legacy Family Tree Webinars
Minnesota Genealogical Society
Mt. Diablo Genealogical Society
Oakland FamilySearch Library
San Francisco Bay Area Jewish Genealogical Society
San Francisco Holocaust Center
San Francisco Jewish Community Library
San Francisco Public Library
San Mateo County Genealogical Society
Southern California Genealogical Society
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services
USDAR Mt. Diablo Chapter
Utah Genealogical Association
Wisconsin State Genealogical Society

And while many individuals helped me during the year, some simply went above and beyond what would have been expected and truly made my year better.  I especially want to thank Thom Reed of FamilySearch, without whose invaluable assistance I would not have been able to navigate RootsTech; and Alan, one of my readers, who helped me reunite a special photo with its owner.

Thanks also go to the readers of my blog.  I appreciate that you take the time to come along with me and learn new things about genealogy.  I hope you have enjoyed this year's trip and come back for more next year.

So happy new year to everyone!  Be safe but have fun!

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Saturday Night Genealogy Fun: Make ONE Resolution/Goal for 2018

This week for Saturday Night Genealogy Fun, Randy Seaver has a very logical suggestion, but one that's causing me a minor problem.

Your mission, should you decide to accept it (cue the Mission:  Impossible! music), is:

(1) Did you make any New Year's resolutions, or state goals and objectives, for genealogy research in 2018?  If so, tell us about them.

(2) If not, then make ONE resolution, or state one goal, for your genealogy research that you are determined to keep during 2018.  We'll check on progress toward that resolution/goal during the year in SNGF (if I remember!).

(3) Tell us about it in your own blog post, in a comment to this blog post, or in a Facebook status post or Google+ Stream post.


The minor problem is that I have followed the New Year's resolution I made so many years ago I've forgotten when it was:  never to make another New Year's resolution!  But I guess Randy has given me an out by saying I can call it a goal instead, so I'm going with that.

Hmm, so what is one genealogy goal I want to commit to for 2018?

I think I'll go with really working on trying to determine who my paternal grandfather's biological father was.  This means I need to get back to work on taking the Mundy family tree back a few more generations and then bringing all of those lines forward, to try to find living people with whom I can compare DNA.  It also means I might want to try out Family Tree DNA's Lazarus Tool, since I have already tested half a dozen of this man's descendants.  And, of course, I need to conduct more document-based research to see if I really can put my prime candidate in the right area at the right time.

All right!  Time to get started!

Sunday, December 24, 2017

My 2017 Dear Genea-Santa Letter


This year Randy Seaver didn't have the Genea-Santa letter as part of Saturday Night Genealogy Fun, but it's a fun tradition to maintain, so I'm writing one again.

I tried to be a good genealogy girl again this year, but I admit I slipped up later in the year.  I still do a lot of genealogy volunteer work, including editing three publications and sitting on three boards.  I moved from California to Oregon but found a new Family History Center at which to help people.  I attended four genealogy conferences, three one-day seminars, many in-person presentations, and several dozen Webinars, plus I taught twenty-nine classes.  I have not been able to keep up my blogging as well since I moved, as I'm still (!) unpacking boxes, but I do post regularly, at least once a week and usually twice.  And I have managed to continue researching my own family and helping others with their research.

I did receive some very nice genealogy gifts during 2017.  In July I connected with a cousin on my paternal grandmother's side of the family, from a branch on which I had little information.  She provided me with enough info that I was able to add a lot to my family tree, and we'll be working together more in 2018.  In March I was contacted by someone related to one of the families I've been writing about for Treasure Chest Thursday.  The person who wrote to me shared documents, photos, and stories that helped me learn more about the individuals.  And in January a reader was able to help me identify a found photograph and return it to the person who had lost it.

As much as I appreciate those gifts, I didn't get any of things I actually had on my list, so this year's requests are going to sound familiar.  But I've cut down the number of items by almost half.

• My absolute number-one priority is still that I want to help my now 92-year-old aunt find and make contact with Raymond Lawrence Sellers, the son she gave up for adoption 72 years ago, or his descendants, or at least find out what happened to him.  We haven't made any progress since last year.  She did a DNA test through Family Tree DNA, the results of which are also on GEDMatch.  (Unfortunately, AncestryDNA was unsuccessful at processing her test.)  She still doesn't show any close matches besides family members we already knew had tested.  Maybe her son didn't have any descendants, or absolutely none of them has decided to try DNA testing.  It is so very important for her to find him, so I really am hoping for this one.  It's the most important item on my list.

• I've seen more and more stories about surprise discoveries of stored-away documents in Eastern Europe, so I would love for someone to find a treasure trove of previously unknown surviving Jewish records from the former Grodno gubernia.  If some of my relatives were mentioned in them, so much the better.

• It would be really nice if optical character recognition (OCR) scanning of old newspapers could become more accurate and reliable.  I swear I heard that someone had come up with a way for computers to assess poor-quality spots on newspaper pages (torn, ink blobs, type dropped out) and try logical infilling, rather than merely scanning them as is and having something that looks like a bunch of control characters come out as the search text, but I haven't seen anything more about it.  Does anyone else remember reading about that?  Can you point me to a reference somewhere?

So that's my shortened list for this year.  Please, Santa, see what you can do, okay?  I have a really nice Port I'll be happy to share with you.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Best Genealogy Find This Year

Elizabeth O'Neal of My Descendants' Ancestors suggested writing about your best genealogy find during the year for her December Genealogy Blog Party.  I've had a rather unsettled year, what with selling my house in Oakland, moving 600 miles to a different state, and still being surrounded by far too many moving boxes.  So I haven't had a lot of time to work on my own family research.  But this summer I did manage to connect with a cousin on my paternal grandmother's side of the family.

Surprisingly (for me), I was looking at my DNA matches on Ancestry.com and found a close match with a family tree with names I recognized.  According to the tree, the woman appeared to be a daughter of my grandmother's sister, but the ages didn't seem to match up right based on the records I was able to find easily.  I sent a message anyway, and it turns out she's actually my grand-aunt's granddaughter, not daughter.  She shared more information about her side of the family, and I discovered that a lot of what I had been told previously wasn't quite accurate.  Based on what she sent I was able to find a lot more records and add substantially to my database.  And I even found several photographs of cousins on that side!

I'm looking forward to sharing my discoveries with my newfound cousin (when she answers my e-mail message!).

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Saturday Night Genealogy Fun: Have You Visited an Ancestral Town?

In this week's installment of Saturday Night Genealogy Fun, Randy Seaver asks us to comment on some of our genealogical travels.

Your mission, should you decide to accept it (cue the Mission:  Impossible! music), is:

(1) Have you ever visited one of your ancestral towns?  If so, tell us the town, where it is, when you went, and who your ancestors are from that town.

(2) Share your experience with us in a blog post of your own, a comment on this blog post, or in a Facebook post.  Please leave a comment on this post to lead us to your story.


I have visited more than one of my ancestral towns, but the one I spent the most time exploring is Mt. Holly (and surrounding area), New Jersey.  It is in Burlington County, not far from Philadelphia.


I went there in 2005 on a side trip to the Bahamas (long story).  My paternal grandfather was born in Mount Holly in 1903, and my paternal grandmother was born nearby in 1893.  Both of their families had long-established roots in the area dating back decades, if not centuries.

One of the main reasons I visited Mount Holly was to try to find my great-grandfather's grave and see if he had a tombstone.  My grandfather's sister Betty wanted to know if her father had a stone, and if not we were going to get one for him.

I learned from Elmer's death certificate that he was buried in Brotherhood Cemetery, which technically is not in Mount Holly proper.  It's that small red circle just to the west of the Mount Holly city line in the map above.

When I visited the cemetery, I discovered it was fairly small, so I thought it wouldn't be difficult to find the grave.  Boy, was I wrong.  I walked up and down every row at least three times and couldn't find him.  I knew from having spoken to the cemetery sexton before leaving for my trip that he was unavailable during the day, so I tried to figure out who else might be able to help me.

The only place I could think of that might have knowledge of the layout of the cemetery was the funeral home which had taken care of Elmer's burial in 1918 and which was still in business (at the time it was the second-oldest family-owned funeral home in the state, although I don't know if that is still true today).  So I called the Perinchief Funeral Home and explained my predicament.  I was totally surprised when the owner and his son (both Perinchiefs, of course) offered to come out to the cemetery to help me look!

And that they did.  The three of us walked through the cemetery, up and down and across, and none of could find Elmer.  I thanked them very much for making the effort and waited until that evening to call Mr. Szelc, the sexton.  I explained the two searches undertaken that day and our singular lack of success.  He told me to go back to the cemetery in the morning and that he would mark Elmer's grave with a small orange flag.

The next morning I dutifully returned to Brotherhood and walked up and down the rows yet again.  Even with Mr. Szelc's instructions, I almost missed the (very) small orange flag he had placed.  Once I found it, I realized why even the three of us searching the day before had missed the stone.  It was a very small half-circle made of marble, and it had heavily eroded in the intervening almost 90 years.  Even with the flag next to it, I could barely discern the name "SELLERS" on the stone.

So the good news was that I could tell my grand-aunt that yes, her father did have a tombstone.  When she heard about the condition, she wanted to have a replacement made.  I thought that would be easy to accomplish, as Mr. Szelc, along with being the cemetery sexton, was also a stonecutter (nice cross-over business).  Surprisingly, I could never get Mr. Szelc to return my calls after that, and we were unable to have a new stone made before my aunt passed away (and in fact I still haven't had the stone replaced).

The other important thing I did while visiting around Mount Holly was find the house in which my grandmother was born, in Masonville.  My father had visited some years earlier while traveling with my stepmother and told other family members about the sign over the door noting the date of the home's original deed, but somehow (!) he had neglected to take a photograph of the house for the rest of us (even though he's spent most of his life taking photos).  I made sure to take care of that omission on my trip.


Tuesday, December 5, 2017

The Season of Giving: Cairo Genizah, Dachau Survivors, Polish Films, and More

I've come across several more genealogically oriented projects that are looking for assistance.  While you consider which seasonal toy drive you might want to contribute to, also think about how you can help with your time, knowledge, or family items.

Scribes of the Cairo Geniza is a project to sort, transcribe, and translate the fragments of documents discovered in the Cairo Genizah.  During phase I of the project, volunteers will sort fragments into different categories based on their script types, which offers clues to the type of text a fragment contains.  Having this information for the entire collection will allow the fragments to be sorted into workflows for transcription in phase II (launching in Spring 2018).

The results from Scribes of the Cairo Geniza have the potential to rewrite the history of the premodern Middle East, Mediterranean and Indian Ocean trade, and the Jewish diaspora.  Until now, most of the information has remained locked away in undeciphered manuscript fragments; less than one third of the 350,000 items have been catalogued in the years that the cache has been known to exist.  Virtually all scholars who have studied these texts have come away with a transformed sense of the history of the region and the long ties of intimacy among its people.  Students and the general public will have the opportunity to benefit from encountering these fragments online and from learning how to sort and eventually transcribe them as members of a citizen scientist community.  This project is a way for people with shared interests and different skill levels from around the world to meet in a common endeavor and unlock this storage chamber of ancient fragments.

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If you or a relative spent any time in Kitchener Camp, a Jewish refugee camp in Sandwich, Kent, United Kingdom, immediately before or during World War II, the organizers of a site are seeking photos, memories, etc.  The intention is to establish the site and then find an institution to maintain it as a memorial.  More information can be found on the Web site, http://www.kitchenercamp.co.uk/.

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Marching Soldiers, 1916
The Port Hope Archives ((Northumberland County, Ontario, Canada) is asking for help in identifying soldiers and civilians iin its collection of photographs relating to World War I and World War II.  The primary focus was in connction with this year's Remembrance Day (Veterans Day here in the United States), but the archives continues to receive photos and welcomes any efforts to name the people in them.

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Judith Ellen Elam is in charge of bringing an exhibit titled "The German Roots of Zionism" to Maui, Hawaii.  It will be on display for three months at the local Nisei Veterans Memorial Center, probably starting in August 2018.  Her group is trying to tie the exhibit in with a Hawaiian-Japanese theme as well.  The 522nd Field Artillery Battalion was activated February 1, 1943 at Camp Shelby, Mississippi as part of the 442nd Regimental Combat Team.  The unit was composed of both mainland and Hawaiian Japanese-Americans.  It is best known for liberating some of the Dachau subcamps.

Judith would like to make contact with anyone who has personal information (documents, photos, testimonials, etc.) about Jews liberated from Dachau subcamps by the 522nd Field Artillery Battalion.  The group would like to showcase the personal items in a display for the duration of the exhibit.  Please contact Judith at elamj@hawaii.rr.com if you can assist her.

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The Columbus (Ohio) Jewish Historical Society is collecting the names of Jewish central Ohio World War I veterans who served in the United States armed forces, as well as those who served in other countries but had a link to central Ohio.  If your family had Jewish WWI veterans with a link to central Ohio, please contact Toby Brief at tbrief@hotmail.com or history@tcjf.org.  The society has collected more than 230 names so far and knows that there are more to be added.

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Australian soldiers in France, 1917
In another focused memorial effort relating to World War I, Flinders University in South Australia is seeking contributions toward a public event planned for February 23 and 24, 2018 in Adelaide.  "South Australians in France" will bring together people with heirlooms and specialists of various types to discuss the stories behind those objects.  The project has a Facebook page where photos can be posted leading up to next year's event.

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Arizona State University has received a grant that will permit it to hold workshops over the next three years to teach state residents how to care for their fragile family heirlooms and artifacts.  People will be able to digitize documents and will help build the state's community archive in the process.  A specific effort is being made to reach out to the Latino, Asian, black, and LGBTQ communities to make sure their stories are saved.

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The Quincentennial Foundation Museum of Turkish Jews in Istanbul is planning an exhibition on Jewish life in Trakya/Thrace.  It will attempt to include all the localities, from Edirne to Gelibolu, including Tekirdag, Tchorlu, Silivri, Kirklareli (Kirk Kilise), Canakkale, Luleburgaz, etc.  It will range from ancient days to the present time.  The museum is asking for digital photos of people and artifacts, and stories for the exhibition.  If you have something that might be of interest, contact Metin Delevi at metindelevi@gmail.com.

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David Sandler is working on a book about South African landsmanschaftn (sick and benefit societies) which will incorporate all brochures and booklets of societies he can obtain.  So far he has booklets from Keidan, Krakenowo, Ponevez and Malat and Districts.  Many associations were active in South Africa over the years, including ones related to Anykster, Birzer, Dwinsk, Keidan, Kelmer, Kovno, Krakinover, Kroze, Kupisker, Kurland and Riga, Lutzin, Minsk, Ponevez, Poswohl, Plungian, Rakishok, Schavlaner, Schawler, Shater, Tels, Utianer, Wilner, and Zagare.  The SAJBD archives at Beyachad are assisting David, but he is appealing to everyone for any publications from any of these South African societies.  You can contact him at sedsand@iinet.net.au.  Approximately 95% of the proceeds from David's books go to Arcadia (the JHB Chevra Kadisha) and the balance to Oranjia (CT) and the JDC.

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Agata Zalewska is the Film Collection Manager for Filmoteka Narodowa, the Polish National Film Archives in Warsaw.  As a state cultural institution, Filmoteka Narodowa is charged with protecting national cultural heritage in cinematography and dissemination of film culture.  Since its inception in 1955, the archives has been collecting and restoring films made in Poland, with the hope of finding copies of all films.  It has an almost complete collection of films made from 1946 onward.  Of course, more early silent films are missing than later films.

Filmoteka Narodowa has restored 75% of Polish feature films made between 1930 and 1939.  Besides films, it has extensive collections of promotional materials, books, posters, stills, and other materials related to films.  It makes its items available in its library; though movie showings, festivals, and lending; and though the production of print and digital media.  For example, it has published a DVD containing six restored shorts and an introduction about the early days of World War II for Poland, especially Warsaw; the DVD includes an English version with subtitles.

Agata’s primary interest at Filmoteka Narodowa is in finding missing Polish films.  Although it has become harder and harder to find films, and in many ways it is a race against time, Filmoteka Narodowa keeps turning up a gem here and there.  There is no telling where a film — full-length, documentary, or short — may be found.  For instance, in the late 1990's, a 1929 film was found in the Royal Archives in Brussels, and in 2003 a 1914 film was purchased from Filmmuseum in Amsterdam.  Others have been found in private collections stored away in attics and forgotten.

If you have any materials that would be of interest to Filmoteka Narodowa or know where any are or might be, please contact Abbey H. Brewer or Agata Zalewska.

Abbey H. Brewer
1422 E. Brooklake Drive
Houston, Texas 77077
USA
ahbrew1422@yahoo.com
(713) 882-7229

Agata Zalewska
Filmoteka Narodowa
ul. Puławska 61
00-975 Warszawa
POLAND
azalewska@fn.org.pl

(This information appeared in Gen Dobry! Volume XVIII, Number 5, May 2017.)

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A Jewish Reform synagogue in London is looking for help in deciphering an amulet in its possession.  The amulet was "dumped anonymously in the shul."  While most of the Hebrew has been translated, the central letters are still a mystery.  Anyone who has an idea as to the meaning is invited to contact the synagogue.

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Saturday Night Genealogy Fun: Drive Down Memory Lane: Family Cars

For this week's Saturday Night Genealogy Fun exercise, Randy Seaver has chosen a great topic, although I'm not sure I will be able to do it justice:

Your mission, should you decide to accept it (cue the Mission:  Impossible! music), is:

(1)  Drive down Memory Lane:  What were your family cars?  From childhood to now, year, model, color, features.  Can you remember?

(2)  Share your memories with us in your own blog post, in a Facebook post, or a comment on this post.  Please comment on this post if you write somewhere else.

My father is the person who will know exactly what cars we had when I was a kid, but first I'll see what I can remember and then ask him to supplement my comments.  I remember more from when I was older, of course.

• The first vehicle I remember any stories about was not a car but a motorcycle (and more of them will appear in my timeline later).  The story is that my father took my mother motorcycle riding to Death Valley while she was pregnant with my sister.  I don't know what kind of bike that was, although my guess is Indian or Harley-Davidson.

• My father sent me a scan of a photograph of me sitting on an Indian motorcycle which I believe belonged to him.  The photo is from 1967, so I was 5, but I don't know what year the motorcycle is.  The photo was taken in Southern California, probably in La Puente?


• The first car I remember my family having was a Plymouth Barracuda, which because my family liked to play around with words we called a Baccaruda.  No clue as to year, color, or whatever.  I remember it was a two-door and the three of us kids had to cram into the back seat.  I think we had it when we lived in Southern California, so my guess is sometime between 1969 and 1971.

• In Australia the only car I can recall is a Mini Cooper, which was awesome!  Even though my dad is 6'1" and we three kids were growing, it had plenty of room inside for everyone.  Again I don't remember year, color, or other details.  I know we had it while we lived in Pagewood, which was toward the end of the time we were in Australia, so definitely during the beginning of 1973, maybe extending back to the end of 1972?

• After we returned to the States and moved to Niceville, Florida (yes, that's really the name), at some point we had a Mercedes that wasn't really a Mercedes.  It was one of those kit cars where the outside is just a facade and the car underneath is something else.  I remember no details about it.  We probably had it around 1973–1974.

• After we moved from Niceville to Villa Tasso (still in Florida), my father had a Chevrolet Chevelle that ended up being painted BFY, for Bright (expletive deleted) Yellow.  I have a vague recollection that the man who later became my stepfather, who worked with my father, painted it that color as some sort of revenge, or maybe it was a bet.  It quickly became an albatross — everyone in town knew that car was ours.  We were immediately recognizable everywhere.

• One day while I was walking around Villa Tasso, which probably had only about 200 residents, I found a Mini Cooper in someone's yard.  I ran back home to get my father to drag him to look at it, because I wanted it.  He bought it for $75; I don't know if the title was in my name, but it was supposed to be for me.  The interior was shot and the tires were all flat.  Because it was going to be my car, I had to help my father take each tire off one at a time, roll it back to our house, pump it up with a compressor (yes, we had one at the house), roll it back to the car, and put it back on.  We then rolled the car to our house.  My father was going to get it into running condition for me.  I wanted to have it painted purple and yellow and call it the Minnesota Mini.  Nothing ever happened with it, and I believe my father sold it for the $75 he paid for it.

• My first motorcycle was a 75CC Yamahauler in 1975 or so, which I think my father bought for me.  It was kind of a starter motorcycle for kids.  My father, however, liked to ride around on it, but it was so small his knees were up by his ears.  I don't remember what happened to the bike.

• My mother drove a Chevy Corvair for a while.  I think it was white.  I remember that it was really low to the ground, because when we had heavy rains and the unpaved roads in Villa Tasso flooded, we couldn't go out in the Corvair, because the water came up through the floorboards.  At least once the only way we managed to get to school was the parent of another student who lived in Villa Tasso came and picked us up.

• After my parents divorced and my mother had married my stepfather, the latter promised me a 1964 1/2 Ford Mustang convertible (the only car I've ever really wanted) for my high school graduation present.  At one point he found a 1967 Mustang for me and started to fix it up.  While he was working on it he discovered that it was rusting out from the inside (the joys of unibody construction), so he slapped a quick paint job on it (I think it was light tan) and sold it to someone.  I never drove the car.

• I don't know when we got it, but in 1979 we had a Fiat 124.  It was a small, boxy yellow car.  My sister nicknamed it Turkey, after the character on Captain Kool and the Kongs.  In one of the few instances when I really got in trouble with my parents growing up, I drove the Fiat by myself in the summer of 1979 from Villa Tasso to Auburn, Alabama for a reunion of students who had participated in a math seminar the previous year.  It was a 200-mile trip in a torrential, driving Southern thunderstorm, and I had no idea that the car shouldn't have been able to make the trip.  It didn't give me any problems on the way.

• Sometime around 1980 or 1981 my parents moved to San Antonio, Texas.  No recollection as to when he found it, but my stepfather bought a 1964 1/2 Mustang that had been sitting on the back part of someone's property for many, many years.  It wasn't a convertible, and the tires, roof, and interior were shot, but the body was in decent shape.  Just like my Minnesota Mini, this was supposed to have been fixed up for me.  It never was, and in 1992 I had my parents sell the car so I could make a down payment on a house.  That was where I lived for 24 years in Oakland, California.  I used to tell people I was living in my Mustang.

• Maybe around 1983, while I was living in Los Angeles, I had a red Ford Pinto.  I don't remember where or how I got it.  I do remember someone broke into it one day while it was parked in front of where I was living.  The only thing stolen was the registration.  I have no memory of what happened to it.

• Sometime after the Pinto I acquired a Pontiac Firebird, or one of the GM cars that had the same body.  I think it was white (I seem to have had a lot of white cars).  I had it in 1984, because I drove it to San Antonio while the Olympics were in town.  All nonessential staff at USC were told to take two weeks of vacation during the Olympics to get us off the campus.  I drove the car to San Antonio because my stepfather was going to give it a spiffy paint job for me (he was primarily a paint and body man).  I had my bicycle in the back seat, so he could paint that also.  When I arrived, however, Ric looked over the car and discovered the head was cracked, so he wouldn't let me have it back.  He did paint the bicycle a beautiful pearl flake (which he had left over in the shop), and I brought it back to L.A. with me on the plane trip I had to take because I no longer had the car.

• After knee surgery in 1985, I could no longer ride a bicycle, so I decided to buy a motorcycle, because it was less expensive than a car.  I got a Suzuki GS550.  I think it was red.  I had a custom plate that read "JANS GS."  I kept it for a few years until I upgraded to a larger bike.

• Sometime around 1986 or 1987 I got a 1964 Pontiac Catalina (I think) 9-passenger station wagon from my parents.  I think I had determined that as cool as it was to ride the motorcycle, occasionally I needed to move stuff around (although I have moved furniture and large musical instruments on a motorcycle).  I wanted my stepfather to paint it black, so it would look like a hearse, but that's when I learned that black is a very difficult color to do well.  The car ended up green, which was a color he had left over in the shop (again).  It came in really handy while I was in the USC Marching Band, because it was almost big enough to fit an entire 10-piece band (used for small gigs) and all their instruments.  In 1988 or 1989, someone broke one of the quarter panel windows, which would have cost about $300 to replace, to steal a $20 emergency car care kit.  Luckily, my stepfather had another station wagon in the shop that used the same windows, so he shipped me the replacement, and all I had to pay for was the installation.  When I moved from Los Angeles to Berkeley, I drove the Oldsmobile.  One of my new friends in the Bay Area nicknamed the car Space Cruiser Yamato because it was so huge.  When the transmission started to go, it was too expensive to have the work done locally, so I put the car on a car carrier to send back to my stepfather to work on.  Through a series of events painful to recall, the station wagon was never retrieved from the shipper, so it was claimed on a lien and lost to me forever.

• While I was still in Los Angeles, I decided that the Suzuki 550 was not big enough anymore, so I sold it and bought a Honda CB750K.  It was blue.  It was also a relatively unpopular model.  It was tall and had a very high center of gravity.  To take out the battery, you had to remove the covers from both sides of the bike.  The center stand was an absolute bear to maneuver; it always took two people to get it to work.  The one thing the bike really had going for it was the 5 1/2 gallon gas tank, because it was built for touring.  I drove that motorcycle up and down I-5 several times to go to Renaissance Faires in the Bay Area.  It was stolen one night while I was working at the USC Hillel (I was the kosher cook there), so between fall of 1988 and spring of 1989.  (I'm pretty sure I know who stole it, in a revenge scheme, but I was never able to prove it.)  I lasted about a week before I bought a replacement bike (see my next entry).  A couple of months after I bought the new bike, the Honda was found by the police on the side of a freeway, where it had been abandoned by someone running from the police.  I don't remember how I got it up to Berkeley when I moved there in September 1989, but I couldn't find a buyer.  I ended up giving it to my landlady's lover.  I think I had a personal license plate for this bike also.

• Because I couldn't stand not having a motorcycle after the Honda was stolen, I went out and found a new bike.  I went bigger again, this time buying a Yamaha XJ 920 Virago.  It was black.  It was a pretty cool bike.  I rode it up and down I-5 a bunch of times also, although I had to stop for gas more often, because it wasn't a touring bike and had only a 3 1/2 gallon tank.  I had a personal plate for it, but I don't remember what it was.  I had the Virago until the summer of 1994, when the third (expletive deleted) who drove through a red light totaled it.  I was very lucky and came out of the incident with only a broken toe.  Of course the idiot didn't have insurance.

• Shortly before I moved to Berkeley, one of my housemates abruptly moved out and left her Honda Rebel 125 motorcycle behind.  I got a title for it purely so I could sell it, but that did make it mine for a while.  I think I rode it once or twice?

• I think it was after I bought the house in Oakland, therefore 1993 or later, that I got the 1971 Oldsmobile Delta 88 convertible.  This was also from my parents.  I was told it was one of the three largest production convertibles ever made; it was an absolute boat.  I remember the first thing that my stepfather and his business partner both told me when I saw the car:  "Never lock the doors."  It is too easy with a ragtop to just slice the cover, so there's no use taking the risk.  This car, which was another white one, was fun to drive.  It had tons of room and turned on a dime.  But with a 455 engine, it got 10 miles to the gallon when it was fully tuned, going downhill, with the wind behind it.  In addition to that problem, I realized I was never putting the top down.  I eventually sold the car to my cousin.  I don't know what he did with it.

• After selling the convertible I needed a replacement vehicle.  This time my parents provided me with a 1983 Chevy G20 short van.  I flew to Florida (they had moved back from Texas by that time) to pick it up and drive it to California.  This was probably in early 1995.  I loved that van; it was a workhorse.  Oh, did I mention it was white?  I drove it up and down I-5 to multiple Ren Faires and game conventions.  I took it to Reno for a conference for work and then down to Vegas for a get-together of game industry people.  I even had the engine rebuilt when the car hit 150,000 miles.  Eventually it died at 255,000 miles, in 2010, and I gave it to a charity reseller.  The personal license plate was "DRD PIR8" (for Dread Pirate, from The Princess Bride).



• Probably about 2007 my surgeon said I had recovered enough from shoulder surgery that it was ok for me to ride a motorcycle again.  I looked up bikes on Craigslist and found someone selling a red crotch rocket.  I don't remember what make it was, but it was definitely Japanese, because all I've ever owned are rice burners.  It turned out that I wasn't actually recovered enough, because the shoulder had torn again, so I didn't have the bike for long before I sold it.

• I don't do well without my own transportation.  When my Chevy van died in 2010, it took me only four days from when my mechanic told me it was a goner to buying a replacement.  My father helped me find a 2003 Chrysler PT Cruiser Turbo.  I transferred the DRD PIR8 license plate to it.  I was thinking I was finally going to have a vehicle with decent mileage, but my sister, who had owned a few Cruisers, warned me that the Turbo wasn't that great.  It was an improvement over the van, though:  I went from 15 to 20 miles per gallon.  The Putt Putt, as I fondly called it, was reasonably reliable.  It was black, which I discovered made the interior much warmer than I had expected.  After all those white cars, it was a huge difference.  The Cruiser and I got along fairly well, but it died on me in spectacular fashion this past June, conking out on Sepulveda Boulevard in the San Fernando Valley in rush-hour traffic.  My mechanic back home in Oakland wanted to check it out to make sure about the condition, so I had it towed the 400 miles back.  After performing last rites over it, it was time to move on.



• The vehicle I have now is a silver 2005 Toyota RAV4.  I think it took a couple of weeks after the Cruiser died to finalize this purchase, mostly because of being out of town when it happened.  This is kind of like having a van again, because it has a lot of room inside.  It was crammed totally full when I drove the 600 miles to Portland, Oregon on August 31.  I didn't transfer my personalized plates because the existing plates were still valid through November, and I already knew I was going to be moving to Oregon, so it made no sense to buy new California plates.  So I have some nondescript plates for the moment, but last week I registered the Toyota here in Portland, and my new custom plates are on the way.  Unfortunately, Oregon allows only six characters on a license plate, so I had to settle for DRD PR8.

Friday, November 24, 2017

National Day of Listening 2017

The Friday after Thanksgiving has been designated as the National Day of Listening since it was launched in 2008 by StoryCorps, a nonprofit oral history project.  Americans are encouraged to take the time to record the stories of family members, friends, and members of the community.  I'm posting a little later than I intended, but there is still time to participate!

StoryCorps has recommendations for equipment and resources if you want to conduct interviews today or even during the remainder of the holiday weekend.  Take some time to listen to a relative and record that person's memories.  Keep your family history alive by saving the stories and sharing them with other family members.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Giving Thanks for an Amazing Genealogy Resource

It's the time of year when people give thanks for many things in their lives.  Prompted by Elizabeth O'Neal of My Descendants' Ancestors, I want to give thanks for one of the most important, amazing resources in genealogy:  volunteers.  Without them far less would be accomplished.  It's particularly gratifying when someone is inspired by something you wrote to step in and help.

Earlier this year I wrote about a photo that I had found two years previously, for which I had been fruitlessly trying to find the owner.  One of my readers, Alan, took it upon himself to try to figure out who the beautiful woman in the photo was — and he succeeded.  By juggling well selected search terms in Google, he identified her as actress Juanita Moore, and even figured out who her nephew was.  Then I realized I knew the nephew, and I was able to return the photo to him.  I learned that he has been researching his aunt's career in order to nominate her for a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and the photo was the only known copy.  If not for Alan's help, it's unlikely the photo would have made its way back home.  So my biggest thanks this year go to him.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Saturday Night Genealogy Fun: Expanded Ancestor's Geneameme

You've heard of the game of 20 Questions, right?  How about 70 questions?  That's how many Randy Seaver is asking readers to answer for today's Saturday Night Genealogy Fun.

Your mission, should you decide to accept it (cue the Mission:  Impossible! music), is:

(1) Jill Ball created a 40-question "Ancestors' Geneameme" in 2011, and Linda Stufflebean recently expanded it to 70 questions on her Empty Branches on the Family Tree blog.

(2) Let's do Linda's expanded list this week for SNGF.

(3) Copy and paste the list of questions below and replace my answers with your own.

(4) Share your answers as a comment on this b;og post, in your own blog post, or on Facebook or Google+.   Please leave a comment and al ink to your answer in a comment on this blog post.


Ok, here are my answers.
  1. Can name my 16 great-great-grandparents  Yes
  2. Can name my 32 great-great-great-grandparents  No
  3. Can name more than 50 ancestors  Yes
  4. Have photos or portraits of my 8 great-grandparents  Yes
  5. Have an ancestor who was married more than three times  Yes
  6. Have an ancestor who was a bigamist  Not that I know of
  7. Met all four of my grandparents  Yes
  8. Met one or more of my great-grandparents  Yes, rumor has it
  9. Bear an ancestor’s given name/s  No
  10. Named a child after an ancestor  No
  11. Have an ancestor from Great Britain or Ireland  Yes
  12. Have an ancestor from Asia  Not that I know of
  13. Have an ancestor from continental Europe  Yes
  14. Have an ancestor from Africa  Not that I know of within recent history
  15. Have an ancestor who was an agricultural laborer  Yes
  16. Have an ancestor who had large land holdings  Not that I know of
  17. Have an ancestor who was a holy man:  minister, priest, rabbi  Yes
  18. Have an ancestor who was a midwife  Not that I know of
  19. Have an ancestor who was an author  Not that I know of
  20. Have an ancestor with the surname Wong, Kim, Suzuki, or Ng    No
  21. Have an ancestor with the surname Smith, Murphy, or Jones   Not that I know of
  22. Have an ancestor with a surname beginning with X  No
  23. Have an ancestor with a forename beginning with Z Yes
  24. Have an ancestor born on 25 December  Not that I know of
  25. Have an ancestor born on New Year’s Day  Not that I know of (whose New Year?)
  26. Have an ancestor who shares your day and month of birth  Not that I know of
  27. Have blue blood in your family lines  Yes
  28. Have a parent who was born in a country different from my country of birth  No
  29. Have a grandparent who was born in a country different from my country of birth  No
  30. Can trace a family line back to the 18th century  Yes
  31. Can trace a family line back to the 17th century  Yes
  32. Can trace a family line back to the 16th century  Yes
  33. Have seen signatures of some of my great-grandparents  Yes
  34. Have ancestors who signed with an X (or other mark)  Yes
  35. Have a grandparent or earlier ancestor who went to university  No
  36. Have an ancestor convicted of a criminal offense  Not that I know of
  37. Have an ancestor who was a victim of crime  Yes
  38. Have shared an ancestor’s story online or in a magazine/periodical  Yes
  39. Have published a family history online or in print  Yes
  40. Have visited an ancestor’s home from the 19th or earlier centuries  Yes
  41. Have a family Bible from the 19th century  No
  42. Have a family Bible from the 18th century or earlier  No
  43. Have an ancestor who was part of a multiple birth (twins, etc.)  Not that I know of
  44. Have a family member who closely resembles an ancestor  Yes
  45. Have an ancestor who owned their own business  Yes
  46. Have an ancestor who belonged to a trade guild  Not that I know of
  47. Have an ancestor who moved more than 100 miles away from his/her birth home, EXCLUDING immigration to another country  Yes
  48. Have an ancestor who gave birth to twelve or more children  Yes
  49. Have an ancestor with a rare/unusual/uncommon forename  Yes
  50. Have an ancestral family who changed their surname  Yes
  51. Have a passenger list or travel manifest for an ancestor  Yes
  52. Have an ancestor who was adopted  Yes
  53. Have an ancestor who adopted a child  Yes
  54. Have a naturalization record for an ancestor  Yes
  55. Have an ancestor who received a military pension  Yes
  56. Have a school record or school census for an ancestor  Yes
  57. Have an ancestor with a gravestone still in existence from the 18th century  Yes
  58. Have an ancestor with a gravestone still in existence from the 17th century or earlier  Not that I know of
  59. Have an ancestor who had only one child who survived to adulthood  Yes
  60. Are descended twice from one couple  Yes
  61. Are descended three times or more from one couple  Yes
  62. Are descended from an American president or other political figure  Not that I know of
  63. Are descended from a person famous in history, other than in politics  Yes
  64. Have an ancestor with a rare/unusual/unique surname  Yes
  65. Have an ancestor who you have found mentioned in a pre-1870 newspaper  Yes
  66. Can name the ship on which at least one ancestor emigrated  Yes
  67. Have a female ancestor who worked outside the home pre-World War II  Yes
  68. Know of at least one ancestor who returned to the ancestral home after emigration  Yes
  69. Know of at least one ancestor who permanently returned to the ancestral home after emigration  No
  70. Have an ancestor who was survived by 50 or more grandchildren  No
So I have 43 yeses out of 70.  I was expecting more.  Guess I have work to do!

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Genealogy Resources Are Like eBay


I can already hear some of you muttering out there:  Barely two months in Portland, and the rain has already turned her brain to mush.  I know it sounds like a weird comparison, but hear me out.

I search for lots of different kinds of items on eBay related to my family's history, particularly historic postcards with images of ancestral towns.  Something I've noticed over the years is that the sellers who post items on eBay generally target only the market they are involved in and don't think about any cross-marketing.  For example, a postcard with a scene from Tukums, Latvia might be listed as a postcard, with details about the postmark and/or the stamp, or possibly a description of the scene.  But practically no one includes the sender's and recipient's names written on the postcard, even if they are in Roman characters and easily readable, in the item's description.  I believe that happens because those sellers are totally focused on their own communities — collectors of stamps, postmarks, postcards, etc. — and don't see other value to the items beyond that focus.  It never occurs to them that there might be a descendant or other family member of the person to whom the postcard was sent who would be interested in the item.

So, for example, the image shown above is the address side of a postcard with postmarks from 1900.  It has a May 14 Warsaw postmark and one from May 29 from Paris.  The front of the postcard has two views of Kamenets Podolsky, from the north and south.  The description of the item mentioned the postmarks and that the images were of Kamenets Podolsky.  It did not list the addressee — Mademoiselle Suzanne Lambert, Chez Madam sa Mére, Rue de la Rochelle, Bar-le-Duc, which translates to Miss Suzanne Lambert, c/o her mother, Rue de la Rochelle, Bar-le-Duc — even though it's pretty easy to read.  If you were related to Suzanne Lambert, wouldn't you love to find this card available online?  But the odds of you doing so would be diminishingly small without her name in the listing.  So you need to think of other ways to search for items, such as looking for the towns your family members were in.  One man I knew used that method to find some postcards sent between relatives and then followed the sellers, who continued to post more over time.  Eventually my acquaintance acquired more than half a dozen postcards, which were instrumental in learning more about his family.

And how does that relate to genealogy resources?  Something many, many people forget is that the vast majority of resources genealogists use in our research were not created for genealogical purposes.  While the mega genealogy sites (FamilySearch, Ancestry, FindMyPast, and MyHeritage) have made it much easier to find records based on any individual's name, not all indices are that thorough.  Probate records are still often indexed only by the name of the decedent and not any of the heirs.  Many records in archives may not have a finding aid at all.  We can't count on the repositories to create indices that cater to us, because as I said, those records weren't created for us.  We need to keep in mind why records were created and how a repository uses them and then tailor our searches to fit those parameters.  It's nice if a repository allows something such as an every-name index to be made, but we can't count on that.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Saturday Night Genealogy Fun: Make an Ancestor's Timeline

 I haven't participated in Saturday Night Genealogy Fun for the past few weeks, partly because I'm still unpacking mountains of moving boxes (will it never end?!) and partly because the themes weren't really up my alley.  This week, however, Randy Seaver chose a topic that looked a little more fun to me.

Your mission, should you decide to accept it (cue the Mission:  Impossible! music), is:

(1) Have you created a timeline for one of your ancestors using a genealogy software program (e.g., Family Tree Maker, RootsMagic, Legacy, Reunion, etc.), an online family tree (e.g., Ancestry Member Tree, FamilySearch Family Tree, Geni, MyHeritage, etc.), or a spreadsheet (e.g., Excel)?

(2) If not, try to create a timeline using the program/Web site of your choice.  If so, create another one for the ancestor of your choice!

(3) Show us your timeline creation and tell us how you did it:  which program/Web site, the process you used, and how you captured the images to display your timeline.

(4) Share your timeline creation on your own blog post, in a comment to this post, or on Facebook or Google+.

1 and 2.  I have created a timeline before.  In fact, Randy used this idea in 2016, and I posted a timeline then.  In addition, the program I use, Family Tree Maker, automatically creates a timeline with the facts that you enter about each individual.  I created the timeline I'm posting tonight specifically for this exercise.

3.  I use Family Tree Maker v. 16.  I created a Genealogy Report that included all the facts I had for my great-grandfather Thomas Kirkland Gauntt.  I exported the information in an RTF file, then added additional facts and edited the file in MS Word.  I copied and pasted the text from Word directly into this blog post.  I have found that makes it easier to read, as opposed to doing a screen capture.  As Randy commented, it's pretty plain, but the benefit of exporting the file and opening it in a word processor is that I can add as much information as I want to it.


THOMAS KIRKLAND GAUNTT
May 25, 1870, born in Fairview, Medford Township, Burlington County, New Jersey
June 28, 1870, enumerated in U.S. federal census in Medford Township, Burlington County, New Jersey
June 15, 1880, enumerated in U.S. federal census in Mt. Laurel, Burlington County, New Jersey
May 15, 1885, enumerated in New Jersey state census in Centre, Camden County, New Jersey; occupation farm laborer
September 2, 1891, married Jane Dunstan in Greenland, Burlington County, New Jersey
May 15, 1895, enumerated in New Jersey state census in Centre, Camden County, New Jersey
June 27, 1900, enumerated in U.S. federal census in Mt. Laurel, Burlington County, New Jersey; occupation farm laborer
June 1, 1905, enumerated in New Jersey state census in Burlington County, New Jersey
April 27, 1910, enumerated in U.S. federal census in Mt. Holly, Northampton Township, Burlington County, New Jersey; occupation insurance agent
June 1, 1915, enumerated in New Jersey state census in Mt. Holly, Northampton Township, Burlington County, New Jersey
February 1920, enumerated in U.S. federal census in Burlington, Burlington County, New Jersey; occupation farm laborer
April 23, 1930, enumerated in U.S. federal census in Mt. Holly, Northampton Township, Burlington County, New Jersey
1935, living in Burlington, Burlington County, New Jersey
April 15, 1940, enumerated in U.S. federal census in Mt. Holly, Burlington County, New Jersey
August 1, 1954, died in Mount Holly, Burlington County, New Jersey of a pulmonary embolism
About January 23, 1951, buried in Brotherhood Cemetery, Hainesport, Burlington County, New Jersey

Monday, October 30, 2017

Photographs: A Cautionary Tale

Harriet Gordon,
bar mitzvah, 1960
I have posted before about the benefits of showing unidentified photographs to older family members to see if they recognize any of the faces.  It's important to do that as soon as possible — multiple times, if necessary — because once those older family members have passed away, no one else in the family may recognize the faces in those old photographs.  And sometimes it doesn't even have to be as dramatic as someone passing away for the opportunity to be lost.

Several years ago, in 2003, I visited my grandmother, Bubbie, in Florida.  We had lunch with several of her cousins, and she remembered that she had photos that were important to them:  "I have a photograph of your parents on their wedding day."  "I have a photo of you when you were a baby."  When we returned to her apartment after the luncheon, she had me drag out four big boxes of photos and we went through them looking for those she wanted to give to the cousins.  Bubbie wouldn't let me label any of the photos, but we put aside the ones she wanted to give to the cousins.

Fast forward two years to 2005.  Bubbie's memory had started to fade a little.  She hadn't actually begun to forget things, but she was repeating herself several times in one conversation.  I remembered those boxes of unlabeled photographs and thought I better do something.  I was already planning to visit a paternal cousin near Orlando, Florida for Thanksgiving, and my grandmother lived near Fort Lauderdale.  That was pretty close, so I  told Bubbie I wanted to visit her and quickly added a flight to Fort Lauderdale to my schedule.

This time Bubbie was much more amenable to labeling the photos.  I brought piles of sticky notes.  We went through all four boxes again, and she let me put a note on every photo.  This not only meant that every photo was identified, it led to the discovery that one photo was of my great-great-grandparents.

And why is this a cautionary tale?  The visit to my grandmother was in November.  The next summer, in 2006, she had a severe stroke.  While her brain and memory functions were left relatively intact, she was functionally blind.  She could no longer see the photographs and would not have been able to tell me who was in them.

I am very fortunate that I took advantage of the opportunity to visit my grandmother and convince her to let me label the photographs she had.  If you have a lot of unidentified photos in your family, don't wait.  Talk to those older relatives and ask for their help in letting you know who is in the photos.