Got A Box of Photos? Three things to evaluate first.

Did you get handed a box of family photos?  Not sure what to do with that box? I can help. First, take a breath and let’s consider setting the boundaries of the project before you.

Screen Shot 2018-07-31 at 11.50.37 AMFirst, evaluate what you have. Do you have a precious few images, meticulously annotated with dates and names?

Or (more likely) do you have  lots of random images, some unidentified? Does your collection include blurry images, unknown landscapes, and duplicates?  Those three categories may be options for what you may want to release from your collection.

Second, evaluate where they may go: Do you want to place them in a historical society or archive related to your background, community, or family? Will you keep them? Share them with family? Have copies stored in a high-level digital cloud for prosperity?

Third, consider what work you want to do: Last week I did a live video on extracting photos from adhesive albums. Can you get them out of these sticky situations? Do you feel compelled to research and annotate them? Add them to an online genealogy? Frame and display them? Digitize all of them yourself?

ONE MORE THING: who can help? Perhaps, like me, you hold them dear and want to keep this time capsule to pore over and love.  But that is not the answer for everyone.  Many hands do make light work. Can you share the project with someone else, say a sibling or a cousin? Perhaps you’d like to have a family reunion and get everyone involved, or a smaller luncheon and get the close crew together.

For more extensive instruction, be sure to get on the wait list for my fall course Triage: A Course on Family Photos. Just e-mail and let me know you’re interested –and let me know what you’re dealing with — angela[@]angelaltodd.com. Or, you can get on my general mailing list.  Hop on over HERE, and you’ll immediately get two family history prompts: one to help Ask Your Elders, and one to help you Tell Your Youngsters about your family.  Then you’ll get a free 2-week mini-course: an email every other day with tips for considering and building your own family history.

Happy history!

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“We don’t have family traditions…

…like we would if we were religious.”

One early client reached out to not just trace, but to establish her family’s path to the present. Some unique markers on that West Coast path came to light.

An important job of family traditions is to transport the story of your family. What is a family tradition?

You know the big ones:  Gatherings, rituals, and events that mark spiritual or cultural journeys (communion, bat mitzvah) or times of year (Kwanzaa, Easter, Solstice, Seder).

Repetition of seasonal or annual community holidays and their foods, songs, and rituals (Bastille Day, Thanksgiving, or my favorite: April Fools Day).

But a family tradition can also be daily practice that everyone can expect and count on: asking “what made you laugh today” as they come home from

Or a place. I related when this client talked about her grandmother’s west coast home. Going to grandma’s house meant:

  • anticipation
  • turning down the drive to those familiar sights, signaling the start of a warm visit
  • walking in to that smell: giant chocolate chip cookies with only three chips apiece, haha
  • roaming the house
  • feeding the birds
  • skirting sea roses to get to the beach.

Maybe Gram wasn’t on a regular schedule the way national and religious holidays are, but Grandma counts! The latest news about grandmas gives them credit for evolution itself, and says that while men hunted, “grandmothers and babies were building the foundation of our species’ success – sharing food, cooperating on more and more complex levels and developing new social relationships.”

If you would like to record all your stories and memories about grandma, I have a Family Narrative Coaching plan for that. If you’d like to hear Nana’s memories (and some surprising facts!) we can do the whole project with her.

Get started on getting the story from your mom or grandma on your own with these five FREE prompts.

#TellYourStory

#SaveYourStory

 

 

Any kid will do: Be sure to ask youngsters what THEY remember!

Phone Pictures 1390.jpgIf you give a kid a camera, you’re going to be surprised!

I was delighted to find this gem on my camera a few summers ago.  My dad’s living room, shot from the sleeping loft.

Dad saves the Sunday comics all year — on the shelf under that coffee table, and that’s the hub around which my kids gravitate when we visit in the summer — like moths to a flame.  They remember the card games we play, the cloud shapes at the beach — really, they have a completely different set of touch points.

Likewise, when you include kids in your remembering and your storytelling, you will be thrilled by the little details they see and remember that have passed you by!  They don’t have to be your kids, either. Any kid that was there will have something great to share. Their path to the present has its own details!

My adult nephews and nieces have lots to add to family stories.  Including youngsters in remembering will teach them the importance of memory, contribution, viewpoints, and sharing.  Try it, and be amazed!  If you’d like some talking points, sign up for 5 free prompts to start talking to your elders, or telling your youngsters, on my website.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

To Love What Is Ugly: Family stories

We giggled onscreen together when she told me about the ring her grandmother had left her. ”It is so ugly! And I so love it.”

My pink-haired tattooed client also knew her great grandmother, which is a little unusual.

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Photo by Charisse Kenion on Unsplash

Indeed, we picked a path through five generations of what turns out that be a kind of matriarchy: great grandma, granny, mom, herself, and her kids.  We were interrupted oh so briefly by her own handsome son. We had tea together, and we got a little choked up together at one point.

Her grandmother was an antiques dealer, and had an eye for all things glimmering, glitzy, and gold.  She’d melted down some other jewelry pieces and designed this “ugly” ring and had it made for herself.  What a badass, we agreed. Creative self-care before it was all the rage. And recycling, too!

We passed our planned hourlong interview as the stories unfolded, and finally broke session — with another interview planned for the future — when the tea took it’s inevitable course.

If you’d like to jump on a video call and hit record as we talk through YOUR generations, reach out to me at Angela@AngelaLTodd.com, or start with a great photo and bring someone else in on the call with One Special Photo.  I’d love to hear in the comments below if you have inherited an unusual item that you love. ❤

 

Happy Galentines Day!

Happy V/Galentines Day!

In this Facebook live, I talk about Galentines Day — a new holiday on the scene.  What it is, how to celebrate it…

I share some pictures of my cousins, of my grad school “girldinner” crew, and talk about the ways that we can honor each other (and ourselves) on this new holiday.

I would love to facilitate YOUR photo-based storytelling, and have a fun and easy way to get started detailed HERE.

Three-pack purchases are now available for both the One Special Photo package (organized around a great photo of yours) and the Capturing Family Voices package (includes customized interviews aimed at your specific interests).  These make amazing gifts, and they are great, manageable, ways to begin saving YOUR family stories — inside or outside of blood lines. 🙂

PS! Did you hear my podcast interview on The Sparkle Hour about how important it is to “take control of your story” and TELL IT yourself? YOU can still listen here!

On honoring a mentor who set me on my path…

They say we die twice — once when our bodies give out, and again the last time our name is spoken aloud.

My high school English teacher was the first womakimberly-farmer-287677.jpgn I had ever heard go by the title “Ms.”  I was a high school freshman in 1979, in a small mill town in southern Maine.  Ms. Sullivan was tall, angular, smart, independent, kind of cranky, and gave no f$&ks — I loved her.

I think we all giggled about the term “Ms.” when we were arrived from Junior High.  And here I am, all these years later, remembering and writing about her.  And yes, I said her name aloud as I wrote.

Several months ago I went searching for her contact information so I could thank her for being a thought leader to me. I’ve been a marching activist for 30 years, with her to thank.  I learned that she was active in the state teachers’ union, and that she did some community service related to her love of literature. I also learned another thing.

I was too late.

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I would love to have asked her the back story about her early adoption of “Ms.”

Who do you hold in high esteem?

A mentor? Grandparent? Chill and steady Uncle Bill, who taught you to parallel park? A moms night out “colleague” who has been listening, laughing, and struggling along beside you for the last 8 years?

Want a gift of honor to commemorate a loved one and their impact on you? I have just the thing!  Gather some folks to discuss a great photo that captures your feelings.  It might be the person, the school, that old Plymouth that . Uncle Bill taught you to park.  We’ll meet online to discuss it, and I’ll add your comments to a glossy keepsake photo print. Examples and details are HERE. 

Or spend time getting to know your elders with this FREE list of 5 prompts to help the conversation flow.  It’s a great way to bond, re-bond, or hold space for someone as they remember.  If you use the questions, I’d love to know how it goes!

My grandparents’ shocking first date.

24281661_10157035223238916_2063691728_o.jpg“Once upon a time there was a farm girl — the youngest of six kids.  She was shy and thought she was ugly.  She had some very glamorous older sisters and some very rowdy older brothers. They all lived in Aroostook County, Maine.

Imagine rural Northern Maine farm country in the 1920s — all hands on deck to harvest potatoes for 6 weeks in the fall — schools closed, housewives left their homes.  Every man, woman, and child headed to the fields.

Long days were spent bent over, digging potatoes out of the earth by hand.

Generation after generation.

Paid by the barrel.

The girl did, too. For those 4 to 8 weeks, she traded her smart dresses for a black-and-red wool plaid coat, heavy pants, work boots, and gloves. Up to fourteen hours a day.  Most workers ate hearty picnic lunches in the dirt fields.  Some farms fed their workers huge hot lunches at midday.

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One day a tall dark stranger (okay, there were no strangers in the small farm town) — a tall dark older boy noticed her and asked her on a date — and she said yes!

For their first date, Percy flew her over those potato fields in a post office airplane!  According to the Smithsonian Institution web site, the US Postal Service took over air mail services from the Army in 1918. The promise of the mail drove decisions to light landing strips, push for electric beacons, and floodlight tall buildings.  If the planes couldn’t fly at night, the mail didn’t actually move any faster than by land. The airmail pilots were considered a “suicide club” and we can only imagine what Sybil might have thought of all of this!

 

PostalAirplane.jpgNobody really remembers how soon after that first date it was that they married.  They did not “live happily ever after” — nobody does!  Haha.  But they had a family of their own and a farm of their own — where Sybil fed the farmhands enormous 4-course meals at noon — and they did good works in their community. ”

This is a bedtime story I told my kids, and after its first telling, they were shocked that the story was about their own family! Thirty years ago I gave my beloved grandparents one of those “grandparent books.” They filled it out and I thanked them.  I looked it over and was delighted, then put it on a shelf.  They were both gone by the time I read the four lines about their first date, and I have so many questions!

Family history gives kids a foothold in history.  Kids see their role within a larger context, and learn the value of their actions and contributions. It humanizes the players, too, to trace the path to the present.  The gruff terse one, and the doting, perhaps nervous one.  Our kids won’t know about any of that, its importance to us, or what their elders were like as people — unless we tell them.

Pass your stories along with FREE prompts to talk about over dinner.  And consider capturing your family history.  It is SO MUCH FUN to get together to discuss a photo like the potato-picking one above! Once the conversation starts, everyone remembers more.  It’s all here:  http://bit.ly/2h3aYmX

Path to the Present: what’s your story?

I worked in academic archives for almost 20 years, and I know how the documents of history are collected. Mostly, “those four guys over there” decide that their work is important and they put it in boxes and give it to someone.

And those documents are how we write history.

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What historical stories are YOU keeping under wraps?   Photo by Dương Trần Quốc on Unsplash

If I sat down with you, and you told me about your history, and we talked about what the women in your family did, and you told me about how your mom made it through domestic violence, how your family came to this country via a different route than Ellis Island, what happened when there were no heirs to carry on the family name, or what the transition from farm to city was like in your family, that story would be unique. And it should be saved.

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Each of my kids came to work with me a couple of days a week in the archives. Yes, that is a typewriter in the background…

There are lots of paths to the present.  And the only stories we can tell about our present and how we got here are the stories that “those four guys over there” decided that they wanted to save.  You can certainly find musicians, or women, or even lefties that collaborate on growing a collection of papers. But the documents of history are only collected by, and saved at, large institutions — when someone does make an effort.  Until now.

What I think is important is this: telling the stories of the real history, and what’s really happening on the ground — for two reasons. First, because it helps families feel grounded and kids feel confident to know their family narrative (stories of hardships, and the coping skills that got everyone through, are particularly strengthening). Second, because the story of history will never be thick enough.

To get started passing your family history to your own kids, I have a handy guide to get you started.  Dinnertime Family History gives you five prompts to talk your way through the school week about your generation and your parents’.  Get your free guide OVER HERE and start tonight!

If you’d like to do more, I can walk you through it, researching and sculpting the perfect interview questions, conducting the online meeting/s with up to four attendees from anywhere with online access, and ensuring that you have multiple, accessible copies of your results.  You’ll know more about your family and yourself, and you’ll have another tool in your parenting toolbox, too!  Read more about it here.  Reach out to have a conversation about Capturing Oral Family History: Angela@AngelaLTodd.com

My dad’s handwriting, and his laugh: why interviewing family matters.

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My dad’s upper-and-lower-case handwriting takes me back to long summers in Maine every time I see it.

Do your parents text you? They do? Then I was jealous of you: I imagine little notes, daily check-ins, a joke, sending them cute pictures of the kids all of the time…. Plus, no long calls, squeezing that flat cel phone between your shoulder and ear, getting your brain irradiated to greater or lesser degrees… My 14-year-old son joked that it’s like sending telegrams, morse code — or even smoke signals!

Anyway, neither of my parents have smart phones, and we don’t do any of that. I used to be jealous of you.

Then, I took a good look at this: my name, in my dad’s handwriting. Very distinctive. Every time I look at it, I remember: living with my Dad all summer — shopping lists on the fridge, notes to remind us what time the yellow school bus left for swimming lessons at the lake, things to do at work the next day (he was town manager of our wee Maine town), notes to himself about house projects he always had going — or about the businesses in development or currently underway.

I went everywhere with him: the dump, grocery store, (he taught me to jump up and click my heels in the air by practicing on a grocery cart!).  We went to the hardware store with wooden floors and to the Red Barn antique shop, where we would stock up on puzzles to get through the winter.  In winter we’d assemble puzzles and play cribbage, as he did growing up in northern Maine farm country.

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Pa’s boots.

And every summer when I visit, we spend at least ONE night sitting at the kitchen table remembering together and reminding each other: when we had a concession stand at the local stock car racing track, when we got pulled over TWICE in a borrowed Cadillac on the way to my grandmother’s house.  That time my car broke down in the Shaker Village (luckily they had a phone!); that time my car broke down and the store-owner wouldn’t let me make a toll call; that time when my car spun into a snowbank and I was closing my eyes to calm my nerves and didn’t see the skiers coming to bail me out — so when they knocked on my window we all screamed and scared each other to death!

Pa has a distinctive laugh, a low throaty chortle. Even if I felt confident that I could remember all the stories, I would only remember my side — not that he’d left a party HE was hosting to pick me up in that broken down car. Or that he’d had words with the shopkeeper. Or that he’d overheard skiers telling friends about stopping to help and getting scared out of their ski pants… And then there’s his laugh.

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Big Nanny

Recording is the answer.

My mother has a recording of HER mother from the early 1980s, and hearing Big Nanny’s voice, her tisk-tisk sound, her laugh… it’s soothing and exciting.  I’m a cultural historian, and her voice is as important to me as hearing her words, hearing about her early childhood, and how far we’ve come as a family — and a nation — that nobody lives within FEET of the railroad tracks any more.  The sound of her voice says as much as her words.

A preservation technology firm will preserve and make available my grandmother’s voice.  And I suggest that we get to work on capturing YOUR Family Oral History while you can.  I will walk you through the whole process, researching and sculpting the perfect interview questions, conducting the online meeting/s with up to four attendees from anywhere with online access, and ensuring that you have multiple, accessible copies of your results.  You’ll know more about your family and yourself, and you’ll have another tool in your parenting toolbox, too!  Read more about it here.  Reach out to have a conversation about Capturing Oral Family History: Angela@AngelaLTodd.com

And to get started passing your family history to your own kids, I have a handy guide to get you started.  Dinnertime Family History gives you five prompts to talk your way through the school week about your generation and your parents’.  Get your free guide OVER HERE and start tonight!

And follow along on Facebook, where I’ll be posting a family history prompt every #ThrowbackThursday !

xoxox

Angela