Saturday, October 31, 2009

Weekend With Shades - October 31


A Monthly - Weekend With Shades

I recently had to have my photo taken for an identification card. It was meant to be a serious photo, but I had a hard time keeping a straight face because the picture was being taken in what resembled an “old time” photo booth. As any former child or teenager knows, photo booths are places to have fun, not some serious, straight-faced, “normal” picture-taking. Or is it just me?

Is it? Just wait till Donna gives us her take on an "old time" photo booth experience in November's "The Humor Of It."


Midge Frazel

Shades Of The Departed will be highlighting those "Friday From The Collector" contributors who have been nominated in The Family Tree Magazine 40 Best Genealogy Blogs! Midge Frazel's Blog, Granite In My Blood has been nominated in the Cemeteries category. Congratulations Midge!


I’m on a quest to photograph and research as many gravestones of my ancestors as I can. Most are buried in New England in the states of CT, MA and RI and some date back to the early 1700s. My immigrant ancestors were stone-cutters in their native country of Scotland, hence the name of my blog.

Isaac Denison

The spookiest graveyard I have visited holds many important, ancient gravestones. While exploring the graves my husband and I both have experienced an unsettled feeling in the Whitehall burying ground in Old Mystic, Connecticut that we don’t feel in any of the many other local or distant cemeteries we visit.

Whitehall Entrance
Old Mystic, Connecticut

The gloom and the gleam

It may be because my mean tempered 5th great grandfather Elisha Williams, Sr. who is buried there may be justifiably haunted by the women in his life. Unlucky in love, Elisha married three local women, each of whom, died before him. He finally married a widow who outlived him and is the only one not buried by his side. With only two children surviving to adulthood who had different mothers, Elisha was known by the community to be controlling, self-centered and angry.

Elisha Williams, Sr.

Elisha locked his teenage daughter Eunice in her room to wait for the man he chose for her to marry. Eunice, having her father’s defiant nature, had other ideas as she had her eye on Isaac Denison, who was not her father’s choice. With her father gone to get his chosen son-in-law, Eunice climbed out her second story window, jumped to the ground and ran to her dead mother’s brother’s home for sanctuary. She had to stay there until her father cooled off. Eunice got her way and married Isaac a short time later when she was eighteen. Isaac and Eunice were the parents of a dozen children and lived a privileged life for their time and certainly teenage Eunice’s choice of husband worked out just fine. Did her father hold a grudge?

Eunice Williams Dennison

With some research, I discovered that Elisha named each successive daughter after his previously deceased wives. Is this the reason his wives haunt him to this day? Read more about Elisha and his family in the Granite In My Blood blog.

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Copyright © 2008
Midge Frazel
Granite In My Blood


Friday, October 30, 2009


Shades Of The Departed will be highlighting those "Friday From The Collector" contributors who have been nominated in The Family Tree Magazine 40 Best Genealogy Blogs! Bob Franks's Blog, Itawamba History Review has been nominated in the Local/Regional category. Congratulations Bob!


I’ve always heard a picture is worth a thousand words. In the faces of our ancestors complex stories are told. And they are stories a thousand words simply cannot begin to describe. Stories of hope and happiness and tales of sadness and despair are projected from faces on yellowed and fragile images captured generations ago.

William Throckmorton Gillentine was my great great grandfather. He posed for such a portrait photograph in uniform during 1861 shortly before leaving his small family farm in Mississippi headed for Kentucky with fellow soldiers in Company F of the Second Mississippi Regiment. While in Kentucky the winter was brutal as snow lay on the ground for weeks. Unaccustomed to such harsh winter weather, the Mississippi soldiers suffered and many came down with camp diseases including measles. William was no exception and he died of that dreaded disease in early 1862 leaving a widow and small children. For years his large portrait in uniform had hung on the parlor wall of his modest family’s home until one cold December day during the Great Depression, a spark from a popping fire in the fireplace caused a house fire, reducing the old soldier’s portrait to ashes. This was the only known photograph of William Throckmorton Gillentine.

The destruction of the William Throckmorton Gillentine portrait illustrates how rare images of our ancestors can be destroyed in a matter of seconds – whether it be from fires, floods, other natural disasters, or simply being thrown away in the trash heap by those after us, who do not realize the importance of archival photographs in regards to history and family heritage.

One way to preserve the photographic heritage of our ancestors and help other researchers is donating such precious and rare images to the local historical society, library or archives. The donations need not be the original images, but can be professional-quality reproductions as well. Many local societies have an archival photograph collection and these growing collections serve as an excellent documentary detailing everyday local life throughout the country. Such collections are regularly utilized by thousands of researchers and students.

The tin-type is probably John H. Cason. He served in Company C (Town Creek Rifles of Itawamba County) of the Second Mississippi Regiment and was killed at the Battle of Second Manassas in Virginia during August of 1862. The old portrait was found in a family trunk.

My local society has a photographic collection including both original and quality reproductions. As with many organizations we are currently digitizing the collection and making the images available to researchers online. So far we have placed more than eighty of these images online with plans for many more to be added in the near future. There are many such organized collections online from various societies and archives throughout the country and the list is continuously growing. A good feature of a local society’s photographic collection is such a collection is usually geographic specific with all images relating to the area the society, library or agency serves.

When considering the donation of photographic materials - whether originals or copies, to a local society, library or archives always check with the agency first about their guidelines for such, and describe what you are offering to share. Many such agencies have a donation contract that will need to be completed and signed. These contracts usually discuss the potential uses of donated materials and other pertinent information.

Evergreen's First Automobile
The Evergreen community of
Itawamba County, Mississippi

I recall more than twenty years ago an elderly lady dropping by the local historical society for a visit. After chatting awhile with society volunteers she timidly asked if the society would like an old portrait from her farmhouse of her great grandfather. After the society accepted her gift, I helped her remove the old framed picture from her car. I remember it was neatly wrapped in a worn patchwork quilt and I could immediately tell the old portrait was precious to her when we removed the quilt wrapping. From her purse she gingerly removed a little neatly folded piece of paper torn from a writing tablet on which she had carefully written information with a pencil about her great granddad.

Two years ago I was working at the society’s museum when a group of school children arrived by bus for a visit. I couldn’t help but think of that particular generous lady, long since deceased, visiting the society on a hot summer day more than twenty years earlier. I quietly watched from a distance as the group of school children looked upon the old framed portrait, wide-eyed in amazement as the life story of her great grandfather was being told, long after her death.

When thinking of preserving your family’s photographic history for future generations, please don’t forget the local historical society, library or archives. It could mean thousands of words told in our ancestors’ faces from the past being preserved for those who come after us.

Photographic Sources:

The Itawamba Historical Society Photographic Archives


Thursday, October 29, 2009


Shades Of The Departed will be highlighting those "Friday From The Collector" contributors who have been nominated in The Family Tree Magazine 40 Best Genealogy Blogs! Terri Kallio's Blog, THE TIES THAT BIND has been nominated in the Personal/Family category. Congratulations Terri!


The Wanna-Be-Artist

I've always been a “wanna-be-artist”. In my minds eye are beautiful paintings of mountain villages and country people hard at the days task, but my imagination and ability don't seem to connect. My great grandfather, Gustav Bebensee was trained in Germany to be a mural painter and my grandfather, also named Gustav was likewise. A talent I have found through my genealogy research has been gifted to many of my family members.

After my grandpa Bebensee emigrated to the United States he settled in Nebraska and became a farmer, raised six children and lived a wonderful life with my grandma. He drew pencil drawings, a few oil paintings and sometimes he painted with left over house paint. His paintings were done for the joy of it and most were given as gifts to friends and relatives. Only a few remain in our family and of course are highly valued by all members.

Over the years I've done a variety of crafty type projects always loving to create something, but never getting over my “wanna-be-artist” feelings. My Mom always says “you know, where there's a will - there's a way” something I always have to remind myself of when I feel overwhelmed by things I want to accomplish. In the late 1980's she and I decided to fulfill the “wanna-be” in both of us and took up tole painting sometimes referred to as folk painting. Using a pattern that you transfer to an object you paint similar to coloring, but with a brush. The trick to making it actually look like more than blobs of paint is in the shading – and can be a challenge unto itself. With practice, patience and that never give up attitude, you can actually create something that is very nice. I soon discovered that by combining patterns that I could create my own designs and painted my own version of a wall mural in one of my rooms. I can hear my grandpa say “auchter de lieber – was ist das?” (oh dear, what is this?).

From early on in my life I loved making little booklets. I'd spend hours searching through magazines or old photographs of scenery and then taped them to a piece of construction paper. Writing little poems or special thoughts below them. Oh what I would give if computers had been invented 30 years ago. When I became involved in researching my family history a new passion arose and I became addicted to the “hunt.” That is when realized I could combine all of my talents into writing family history books and restoring photographs.

In 2006 I wrote my first self published book using, of all things, Borderbund's Print Shop 16. It was a learning experience for sure. Adapting a card making program to write a book – what was I thinking? I did it though, and now 50 people in my family, along with the Franklin Museum in Franklin, Nebraska, and the Adams County Genealogical Society in Hasting, Nebraska all have copies. I wanted to make sure that the sacrifice and the life of my Uncle be remembered. He was shot down in his P38 Lightening fighter plane over New Guinea on November 2, 1943. He was listed as missing in action until 1989 when an unexpected phone call from the Army came announcing that his plane had been found by a plantation surveyor. F/O Willis F. Evers was finally returned home some 47 years after his death. So with old photographs and 40 hand written letters from him I began my search for information. It was an exciting adventure for me and one that inspired me to do more of the same. However, going forward I was determined to find a better way to accomplish this work.

I always find it amazing how the little things that happen in a persons life culminate into something else. In March of last year I had asked a neighbor to take a few photo's of my family, which she gladly did. What I didn't expect was that she would spend time doctoring the photo's so that we all looked our best. Whenever you get a large group of people there's bound to be someone with closed eyes or just not smiling. I was so enthralled by the process that I just had to learn how to do that. So when I was asked what I wanted for my upcoming birthday I knew exactly what I wanted – Adobe Photoshop Elements 6&7.

With the click of my mouse the world was at my fingertips. I sought out good writing programs along with photo software and began my next project with a quality self publishing company. My project began as a little 30 page book with a photograph collection of my ancestors that my mother had. I felt a great way to share these photographs with other family members would be to do a digital book of the pictures along with that individuals genealogy information. The book grew along with my curiosity of who these people were. So back to my research through the world wide web. I was lucky and found other distant cousins who were researching family also. In the process I not only learned about my family and obtained more photographs but found that the values of my ancestors have been passed on through all these families.

Many of these photographs were damaged, faded or just plain deteriorating. Father time was certainly taking his revenge on too many. So armed with my new program and my “artist-wanna-be” training I set out to restore over 200 photographs for my book. Some took a matter of a few hours and some much more. I worked on one photograph from 1874 for over 40 hours trying to restore faces that just weren't there.

Stages Of Restoration

As many of you, reading this article, I have never had any art school or special training. I just possess a desire to “wanna-be” an artist and decided to take on the challenge to teach myself to accomplish it. If you possess the same desire I suggest you buy a good photo program, there a many available in a variety of price ranges. I happened to choose Adobe because when researching it appeared to do what I wanted to accomplish. (When I win power-ball I plan to purchase the super-duper Adobe program that costs around $650.00.) I believe you can accomplish anything you desire with a little patients and a will to learn. With all software take time to go through the tutorials, learn what each of the tools do and practice, practice, practice. Don't let fear overtake you – that's what they made the “undo” and “delete” key for.

After reading on footnoteMaven's blog site her description of the girl in glasses I just couldn't help but want to restore and colorize this beautiful photograph to match the visual that I had been given. Fortunately the photograph was in amazing condition and required very little restoration before I began the coloring process. The description read as follows:

"Her beautiful blouse sports the mutton sleeves that were the fashion around 1894. She has a locket pin attached to a velvet color with a lace dickey and diamond stud earrings. I wish I knew the color of this unique outfit. I'd like to think it was pale lavender with a dark blue velvet collar."

Judging by the oval shaped ring around the girl it appears this photograph was kept in a frame for many years. One thing I've learned about restoring and colorizing photographs is it is like a painting, always start the repair with what is furthest behind. Just like in a painting, you would not start with the subject and then later try to add the background. So I began a process called cloning to remove the ring. Where the ring appears on the dress, I chose to bring the clone to the area closest to the area needing repair. You will also notice that the background of the photograph appears to have some deterioration – you can repair that several ways. One is what I call smearing the clone, (that is not a term you will find in the instructions of the program) I choose an area of the photograph that has the least amount of damage and then clone it to the area that is damaged and continue the process until I feel the damage is repaired.

Once I've completed repairing the photograph I usually crop off the photographers markings. You may choose to leave it as part of the record or not that is individual choice. Since I am recreating the photograph I normally choose to crop it.

I've created my own personal color chart that I refer to when colorizing the photograph. It took me hours to find a combination to create flesh tones that were not too pink or too peach. With the antique photographs, once I've completed the restoration process I use the sepia conversion which is under “Effects” in the program. Although many of the photographs already appear to be in a sepia tone I still convert them because my color chart is designed to coordinate with those properties.

Now that the photograph is fully prepared to accept the process of digitally painting I again begin in layers working from what is underneath to what is on top. I normally begin with the face, the eyes and hair. Moving down to the dress, lace and jewelry. Just like in school - “stay in the lines” or you won't be happy with your results, especially if you plan to print a large 8x10 photograph. The best way to do this is to zoom in on the area you are colorizing.

I rarely color the background if it is plain and contains nothing of interest I find that the sepia tone usually will make the subject of the picture pop. The next step that will add dimension to your photograph is shading. This sounds difficult but really is the easiest step of all – just don't get carried away. Adobe provides a tool called a “burn tool”. You can set this tool for shadows, highlights or midtones. Areas where there are folds in the dress I will usually “burn” with a shadow burn – it provides depth to your photograph and makes for an outstanding affect. I also shadow burn around the eye's to add depth and in the hair which brings out the highlights so that the hair does not appear as just one color.

Just like the old home movies with no sound they are not always that interesting to the new generation – but add a little sound and they come to life. So it is with the old photographs when you add a little color the girl with the glasses comes to life. And can bring a great deal of satisfaction to the “artist-wanna-be” in all of us. Then take it a step further and create a family history book with your work's of art, add her story and ta-da you've made this person real and not just a name, and statistical data. If you're not up to the challenge yourself there are many who are that can assist you in creating a book about the life and times of your ancestors.

Copyright © 2009


Wednesday, October 28, 2009


Shades Of The Departed will be highlighting those "Friday From The Collector" contributors who have been nominated in The Family Tree Magazine 40 Best Genealogy Blogs! Brett Payne's Blog, The Photo-Sleuth has been nominated in the Photos/Heirlooms category. Congratulations Brett!



A rare visit from my grandparents, April 1966

While I was growing up in what was then Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe), I was often envious of my friends with their large networks of grandparents, uncles, aunts and cousins. My parents had both emigrated from the countries of their birth – England and the Netherlands – before they were married and I hardly knew my grandparents. By the time I left home, I could count on one hand the number of times that I’d met members of my family outside the immediate circle of parents and siblings. The photograph above shows one of those rare occasions in April 1966, after my grandparents had made the adventurous journey by train and ship from the English Midlands to the Eastern Highlands of Rhodesia. A decade ago, events unfolding in the country of my birth precipitated a further scattering of family members, something my father resignedly referred to as La Diaspora Continua, and I emigrated with my wife and children to New Zealand.

Perhaps it was a lack of contact with extended family that precipitated my fascination with my Dad’s large accumulation of family photographs. He inherited the collection, along with a hefty archive of family papers, from his parents. Much of the older material had originated from his great-uncle Hallam Payne (1870-1960), who had been the family archivist, although the existence of several items from the early 1800s points to an earlier origin for the hoarding gene. With my Dad’s encouragement, I drew my first rudimentary family tree when I was nine or ten years old. Nevertheless, it was only fifteen years ago, with my purchase of an early version of FTM, and an introduction to the internet, that my interest was piqued.

Like many readers of this blog, I’m sure, I've since become a family history addict. Building on the archives passed down by family members, I’ve spent an enormous amount of my spare time researching and building up the framework of ancestors and cousins, boring and confounding family members and friends alike with my tales of discovery. I still do make the occasional breakthrough, resulting in the adding of an extra generation or two, or the discovery of a new umpteenth cousin.

Along the way I have developed an even greater interest in the vast body of material which envelopes the bare bones of the family tree. I find that I have an intense need to discover ever more and more details of the life of a particular ancestor – anything that might embellish the character that my mind builds up around the bare essentials of a name, two or three dates, and a position in the tree. That’s why I tend to use the term family history instead of genealogy to describe my passion. It is ironic therefore that, despite being bored to distraction by history in my school years, I am now most intrigued by the historical aspects of my research. So much so, in fact, that I have some considerable trouble keeping myself from getting “too distracted.”

Charles Vincent Payne (1868-1941)
St Andrew's Middle Class School
Litchurch, Derby

I don’t really have much fascination with how major historical events in history might have influenced my family. Perhaps I have a little more interest in how a particular ancestor might have played a role in some local incident. I find myself more absorbed with building up a timeline of events that are likely to have shaped peoples lives, and hoping that this exercise will reveal something of their characters. In the course of this quest, I’m always hunting for new tools that might have the potential to open further avenues of research. However, I repeatedly find myself returning to the family photograph collection for clues and inspiration.

Postcard Photograph
Payne Family Off-Licence & Grocery Shop
New Normanton, Derby
c. 1908-1909

I would even go so far as to say that photographic portraits, both formal and informal, now form the fundamental framework of my attempts to unravel the life stories of these people who I never met, either because they lived so far away, or because they died long before I was born. Once the photos are assembled into chronological order, I am often able to gain an impression of what the person looked like and, if there are enough in the sequence, how they changed through the course of their life. While it helps me to build a concept of that person, I find that a detailed examination of the photographs can often reveal far more. Apart from a simple observation of the identity of the subject, other factors such as photograph type and style, studio name and location, inscriptions, clothing, studio backdrops and accessories used, other backgrounds, such as buildings, may also be usefully analysed. I will admit to setting less store on things like family likenesses, and expressions on the subjects’ faces, but they can be useful in certain circumstances.

My GG-Grandparents
Henry Payne (1842-1907)
Henrietta Payne nee Benfield (1843-1917)
A rather nice portrait, expertly colourised
by a kind Photo-Sleuth reader - just one of many examples of the
collaboration and co-operation which I have experienced.

Often, when I approach portraits from my family collection from a fresh point of view, I make exciting new discoveries. In my series of articles on Photo-Sleuth, I like to share these findings with fellow family and local history enthusiasts, and hope that they will prove to be of some use to others in their own research. It is, of course, a collaborative process, and I continue to learn a great deal from such exposure. I have presented my own analyses of some of the old family photos that researchers have kindly sent me from all over the world, and I value enormously the numerous and varying contributions that I receive.

It is to my own ancestors that I return perennially, building up a more detailed picture in my mind of who they were, how they lived, and why they chose to make certain decisions and changes in their lives. It is also important to me how those decisions and changes – in particular the successive emigrations, from village to village, county to county, country to country, and continent to continent – shaped the individuals and families that eventually produced me. The family photograph collection chronicles and illustrates many moments within that process of movement of my family through the Diaspora. What remains is for me, and others who follow, to document, describe and interpret, joining the lines between those moments to relate the stories of our tīpuna.

Post Script

In the spirit of collaboration referred to previously, I wondered if Shades of the Departed readers would like to offer some comments on the photograph that I’ve used to illustrate this article, "A rare visit from my grandparents." I’ve provided a few clues, which keen sleuths are welcome to use to delve a bit deeper, using whatever means they might have at their disposal. However, I’d also be interested in any general observations that you might have, so please feel free to leave comments or contact me privately by email. I will reveal more of the story behind the picture, together with a full analysis of the contributions, in a future article on Photo-Sleuth.

Article & Photographs
Copyright © 2008


Tuesday, October 27, 2009


Shades Of The Departed will be highlighting those "Friday From The Collector" contributors who have been nominated in The Family Tree Magazine 40 Best Genealogy Blogs! Everyone's favorite The Chart Chick, Janet Hovorka has been nominated in the News/Resources category. Congratulations Janet, you're our "It Girl!"

I'm going to start with one of the charts we have been showing at conferences this year, my current favorite.

Hourglass Chart

This is called an hourglass chart with ancestors on the top and descendants on the bottom. We do a lot of these at Christmas time. To the side on this one is a wedding picture, but you could put a group picture, or the home where this family lived. If you can imagine this chart without the pictures, it would not be nearly as engaging. We have done a few charts like this with even 100s of pictures. The more pictures, the more spectacular they are.

But you don't need to have a ton of pictures to make a great chart. Even one picture can make a chart come alive.

Pedigree Chart

This is a simple pedigree that we have done often with a picture of the current family, or here with the patriarchal ancestor who brought the family name to America.

Pedigree Chart - Patriarchal Ancestor

I particularly like this one for a child too.

Pedigree Chart - Child

If you don't have a bunch of pictures for the hourglass above, pictures of the central couple work as well.

Hourglass - Central Couple

One of my favorite charts that we did for family reunion season last year was this one. Luckily she gave me permission to share it. This lady focused on the family of 7 girls and one brother down the center right of this chart. To their right are the parents and grandparents. Then for each of the 8 children, she did a separate chart where she enlarged one of the 8 children, added that child's spouse(s) and then put their descendants to the left. She added wedding, group and house pictures at the bottom right for each family. The wonderful thing about these charts were that she had gone through and found pictures for each person in their early 20's. The 7 daughters all had these beautiful 1940's pictures so she added the art deco border and title to complement. It took her a month to collect photos for the descendants on all 8 charts, but she was thrilled with the attendance at the family reunion—everyone had to come see themselves and where they fit in. She wrote me afterward and expressed appreciation for the emotional healing she felt that this project had created in the family.

My Favorite

Another great descendancy chart we have permission to share is this Italian immigrant chart.

Italian Immigrant Chart

This client wanted to produce a chart for the Italian part of the family that showed all the American cousins. He added a map, copy of the immigrant's birth certificate and a narrative about the miracle he experienced finding these cousins on a trip to Italy. Again, it took some effort to get all the descendants pictures but it was spectacular in the end.

And here is another one where we have added some extra embellishment to bring the chart to life.

Ancestor Chart - Added Embellishments

This is an ancestor chart with an amazing amount of ancestor pictures in with the data. But then on top we added some family pictures and on the bottom right a timeline of her life. We split the mother's line from the father's line to be able to break it up a little and fit it to a normal frame size.

One of the new designs we are doing is a chart without all the vital information. Just focus on the good stuff—the pictures. The new timelines can be done lots of different ways. You can do the life span of one person, or all the children in a family.

The Life Span Of One Person

All The Children In One Family

The one I have in my office is my matriarchal line.

My Matriarchal Line

And a client gave us the idea for this one, a legacy chart.

Legacy Chart

You can do this with vital statistics or more explanation. It would work for your famous ancestors or for your more infamous. I like it in this format with just the pictures again. These are beautiful unframed as stretched canvas giclees.

Then, there is also the whole perspective in the family timeline chart we have developed. You could do this lots of ways too. This one has the wedding picture in the center with parent timelines on top, and family group and individual pictures below. It all centers on that wedding picture because that is what created this family.

Family Timeline Chart

And finally I'll end with my all-time favorite. This is the chart that hangs in our dining room, as a big beautiful framed canvas giclee. We call it a wedding chart, and I love how young and in love everyone is.

Wedding Chart

As we have developed our company, I have been impressed with the impact of having your family history out in front of you every day. I find that it inspires me, helps me reach a little farther and work a little harder. It is good for me to be reminded of the span of a life, and the reach of a family. However you decide to do it, I would encourage you to get your family history out in front of you, where you and the people you live with can enjoy it.

Article & Photographs
Copyright © 2008
Generation Maps

If you've seen something you just must have, please contact Janet at Generation Maps. You won't be disappointed.


Monday, October 26, 2009

Shades Of The Departed will be highlighting those "Friday From The Collector" contributors who have been nominated in The Family Tree Magazine 40 Best Genealogy Blogs! Apple's blog APPLE'S TREE can be found in the Personal/Family category. Congratulations Apple, well deserved!

My Family’s Letters, Preserved with Digital Photography

I have had an interest in genealogy since I was in my teens but really had no idea how to go about discovering more than what had already been recorded by other family members. In 1999 we connected to the Internet and I became obsessed. I really had no idea how to use search engines effectively but I started searching for Hannah Carlisle, who I knew to have been a nurse during the Civil War. I had lots of patience back then and hunted though page after page of results until I found a link to the Carlisle Family at Bentley Historical Library, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI.

"The papers of the Daniel Carlisle family of Buchanan, Mich. include thirty-two family letters (Aug. 17, 1862-Apr. 7, 1866) relating to Mrs. Hannah L. Carlisle, who served as a nurse during the Civil War."

Carlisle Family collection, Box 1

I called the library and asked about having the Carlisle Family collection copied and sent to me. They were very polite in explaining to me that the collection was 1.5 linear feet and they could not possibly photocopy that much. They would be willing to copy the collection to microfilm if I was willing to pay for it. The cost was prohibitive and that was the end of that. I don’t know why I didn’t ask them to copy just the thirty-two letters mentioned. Perhaps it was Providence.

17 August 1862, Daniel Carlisle writes to his wife,
Hannah, a nurse during the Civil War

A year or two later I took my mother to Buchanan, MI to visit her brother. I asked them about the collection and they both knew that some papers had been donated but thought they were mostly pamphlets and religious tracts. Mom wasn’t up to a side trip to Ann Arbor and my uncle and aunt had a shoebox full of old family pictures they were willing to let me scan as we visited. I felt so lucky to be able to talk with them about the pictures and family history that thoughts of the letters at the library were once again pushed aside.

Earlier this year I decided that it was time to make the trip to Michigan and started making plans to travel during my April vacation. I wrote about my plans and my genea-friends responded with encouragement and suggestions. The one suggestion that would never have occurred to me on my own, and for which I will forever be grateful, was to take my digital camera. I followed other suggestions and contacted the library prior to my visit and copied the finding aid. I read everything I could about the Carlisle Family collection and the Bentley Historical Library.

29 June 1883, Fannie Dillenbeck writes to her brother,
Ashley Carlisle, with congratulations on
the birth of his daughter.

Prior to the trip I had decided to request photo copies of the Civil War letters and then I’d see what else there was. My preparations did not prepare me for what I found. I was only able to request one box at a time and the first was full of folders. I was soon engrossed in reading and trying to decide what was important enough to have photocopied. After the first couple of hours I realized that with only two days planned at the library I was never going to get through the box and that I had to have it all!

I took a short break and then went back to the very first folder and started photographing every page. It had been suggested that I practice before I left and I wish I had. I cut off corners and occasionally the top, bottom, or side of a page. I still skimmed through the letters as I photographed them, I couldn’t stop myself. Many of the pages were written across in different directions and I took close-ups of these areas and any other hard to read pages. That first day I took 669 photos - less than a third of the letters. After I got back to the hotel I downloaded the camera card to my computer and then immediately backed them up to a flash drive. Many of the first images were unreadable and I noted which ones I needed to retake and recharged the batteries.

18 October 1873, Roscoe B Ashley writes to his aunt,
Hannah L. Carlisle, regarding a business matter
following the death of her husband.

My second day at the library was spent methodically taking pictures and turning pages. It took almost three hours to fill the card and drain the batteries. I took a short break to download, backup, change batteries and have a snack before starting again. Day two ended with more than 1,500 pictures taken and about a quarter of the first box was yet to be done. My plan had been to leave Ann Arbor early the next day. Instead I returned to the library and 1,000 photos later I completed Box 1. I was able to see Box 2 and photograph the letters my mother wrote while she was in the Navy and a few other things before I had to leave. The letters of my aunt and uncle as well as the diaries of Hannah L. Carlisle remain in the box, waiting for me to either return or find a student to photograph them for me.

I wish I had had a larger card for my camera or perhaps extra cards. I really needed three sets of batteries because when the two that I had were done, I was done for the day. I also needed either additional flash drives or one very large one. Standing over a table for hours on end is hard on the back and I should have taken more short breaks. I made notes on a pad as I went along and photographed the notes as I went so they are in the file at the proper place. This has saved me wondering, as I go through the files, if I forgot to photograph a page or if it was missing.

5 July 1882, Rose Camfield writes to her mother-in-law,
Sarah A. Camfield, and describes her new home.

In all I took close to 3,300 pictures. Many of the letters were several pages long and there were many pages that I took more than one picture of. I have had them more than six months and still have not read them all nor have I figured out how many individual letters there are. As I transcribe the letters I find it very easy to work between two screens. I can take my laptop anywhere and they are there for me to read or transcribe. Because the images are digital rather than photocopies it is very easy to zoom in on a section of a page that is difficult to read. I can also adjust the contrast as necessary. I could crop and straighten each image as I work but the task is already so overwhelming that I simply resize the images before I publish them.

As pictures go, they are not all that exciting to look at, yet to me they are just as priceless as the photographs that I scanned at my uncle’s, as each letter is also a snapshot of a moment in time. I can see Sarah Ann sitting in her bay window as she writes to her daughter and I laugh at the image of the cattle trying to walk after the ice storm. I sip my coffee and smile with Rose as she sits in her kitchen writing about her new home with window blinds. I cry as I see baby Russell’s coffin, covered with sprays of carnations and roses.

30 December 1885, Sarah A. Camfield writes to her daughter,
Anna Carlisle, to tell her she has a silver dollar
for her newest grandson.

I hope to make connections with distant relatives by publishing the letters. Many of the letters reference friends and neighbors. There are also letters written by friends or business associates of family members and these little gems of the family history of others will never be found by a search of the Bentley Historical Library catalog. I hope that as I transcribe and publish them that someone will find a piece of their family’s history too.


Carlisle Family; para. 1

Bentley Historial Library:

Apple’s Tree

Carlisle, Daniel. (Buchanan, MI) to “Dear Wife” [Hannah L. Carlisle]. Letter. 17 August 1862. Digital Image. Privately held by Apple, [ADDRESS FOR PRIVATE USE,] Fulton, New York. 2008. [Carlisle Family, Box #1, Correspondence, 1862, Bentley Historical Library, University of Michigan. 2008.]

Ashley, Roscoe Boyd. (Rochester, NY) to “Dear Aunt Hannah” [Hannah L. Carlisle]. Letter. 18 October 1873. Digital Image. Privately held by Apple, [ADDRESS FOR PRIVATE USE,] Fulton, New York. 2008. [Carlisle Family, Box #1, Correspondence, 1870 - 1874, Bentley Historical Library, University of Michigan. 2008.]

Camfield, Rose. (South Bend, IN) to “well mother” [Sarah Ann Camfield]. Letter. 5 July 1882. Digital Image.
Privately held by Apple, [ADDRESS FOR PRIVATE USE,] Fulton, New York. 2008. [Carlisle Family, Box #1, Correspondence, 1884 - 1886, Bentley Historical Library, University of Michigan. 2008.]

Camfield, Sarah Ann. (Noble Center, MI) “well we got your letter” [Anna Carlisle]. Letter. 30 December 1885. Digital Image. Privately held by Apple, [ADDRESS FOR PRIVATE USE,] Fulton, New York. 2008. [Carlisle Family, Box #1, Correspondence, 1884 - 1886, Bentley Historical Library, University of Michigan. 2008.]

Dillenbeck, Fannie. (Anthony, KS) to “Dear Brother Ashley and family” [Ashley Carlisle]. Letter. 17 April 1887. Digital Image. Privately held by Apple, [ADDRESS FOR PRIVATE USE,] Fulton, New York. 2008. [Carlisle Family, Box #1, Correspondence, 1887 - 1888, Bentley Historical Library, University of Michigan. 2008.]

Copyright © 2008



Another Connection

I received an email that left a lump in my throat. Shades has done several articles on Grace Mathewson and her collection of postcards; to her from friends and parents as they traveled the world. I'm sure you can all empathize with me; that as a researcher you find the ephemera and photographs, you trace the life stories, and you always want more. Today, Shades was honored to have more.

Another branch of Grace's family has found the homage to her on Shades. I have received several wonderful emails from Kathie Stafford, Grace Mathewson's Granddaughter.

I asked if Kathie had a photograph she would be willing to share, wanting very much to see the woman about whom I've written. Kathie has sent photographs and information as well as inviting me to meet with her and her father, Grace's son David, to talk more about Grace. I could not be more honored.

Here is Kathie's email and a photograph of a beautiful Grace on the occasion of her graduation from the University of Montana.

"I am Grace's granddaughter. We found your wonderful write up on her in 'Shades of the Departed'. We had no idea that these cards existed. . .those cards and letters would be treasures to me.

Your work is wonderful and I can't tell you how much I appreciate the work you did to preserve Grace's memory. My uncle Norman (Grace's son died during the Battle of the Bulge. After the war graves registration visited Grace to find out if she wanted Norman brought home. She asked to see the photographs of where Norman was, and said that he should rest there. She never did visit his grave as she didn't travel much after she married.)

Again, I can't thank you enough for what you do. I can picture Grace as an exuberant little girl; she was a cheerful and wise grandmother. She was known for her pithy remarks that cut right down to the truth. Grace loved her father and mother and spoke of them often. EP was a very strong advocate for educating women; he read to his children and encouraged them to learn. All of his daughters were college educated.

My father loved her very much and took care of her until her death in 1993."

Kathie Stafford

Thank you so much, Kathie, for sharing your family with the readers of Shades.

I traveled to Montana last month for my son's wedding and went back to the antiques store where I had purchased these postcards hoping for more. The postcards were gone and I was told they had been taken to an auction out of state and sold. I was heartbroken. Heartbroken for myself and now much more so for Grace's family.

So here are the articles on Shades about Grace Mathewson. Enjoy them now that you have made a connection with her.