Sunday, July 31, 2011

Remembering Disc Negatives

Genealogists and historians often look back at the early days of photography and consider the type of photograph when determining the date when a particular photograph was taken.

When perusing old family photographs, we may see ambrotypes, daguerreotypes, tintypes, and cabinet cards – all from the 1800s.

Although most of us use a digital camera – no film – these days, we are familiar with 35 mm cameras and their film.  We remember Polaroid instant photographs.  Some of us may remember 110 and 126 film as well.

Recently, while scanning old photographs, I came across an envelope of photos along with the Disc negatives.

In 1982, Kodak introduced the Disc camera, aimed at the consumer market because of it's ease of use.  The Disc camera’s weren’t around too long, officially discontinued in 1999; however, I don’t think they were readily available for even that long.  Although I have no proof, my guess is that they were popular for Christmas 1982, then rapidly faded in popularity. 

One of the key reasons for the demise of Disc cameras would be the extremely small negative size:  just 11x8 mm.  That’s less than half the size of “pocket instamatic” 110 film, which I thought was really small.  A small negative typically yields a grainy photograph.  The ones I found were definitely grainy.

I’m definitely glad that I had the photographs, and not just the negative, though.  I don’t think there’s a consumer-grade scanner anywhere that would effectively scan these negatives.

For your entertainment, though, I scanned a whole cartridge and its sleeve.
Disc Negative #1Disc Negative #2
Interestingly, the images here are about the actual size.  Fifteen photographs in that one small space.

Friday, July 29, 2011

The Collins Family Chest

I have never seen the Family Chest in person, but I hope to some day.  The story of the chest comes from the hand of my great grandfather, Albert Buell Collins, and was handwritten by him in 1922.  I have modernized the spelling and punctuation, and have added just a few editorial comments in [braces].

AB Collins Chest - ClosedThe tree that this chest was made from grew on my father’s, Thomas A. Collins’, farm in Russell County, Kentucky.

This farm was transferred to my brother, Samuel B. Collins sometime in the seventies [1870s].  It furnished shelter and shade for my brothers S. B. and Uriah when we were boys.  Uriah and I left there in the early eighties and went to Texas.  Sam remained on the old homestead or a part of it. 

After I had been away for about thirty six years, Wife [Amanda Jane Perryman] and I went back to visit our old homes, and while there found the old cedar grove nearly all gone.  In looking around, I found the trunk of one tree that had been cut about two years but in good condition.

AB Collins Chest - OpenWife and I conceived the idea of having a chest made of it.

We told Sam our plans and he said, “I am delighted with it and I will haul it to my sawmill and saw the lumber for you”, which he did. 

Then we told my sister Susie Antle about it and she said, “My husband, Sampson Antle, who is a carpenter, will make it for you.” When she told him about it, he seemed to be delighted and took great pains with it.

Then my niece became interested – Kate Browning – and said, “I will have my husband Sam Browning to haul it to the station for you.”

After we got home in Texas, we decided to give it to our only daughter, Beulah Emma Williams who was living in New Mexico at that time.  Two years later, she came to visit us, at Abilene, Texas.  We presented it to her with this little history, hoping it will remain in the family as long as possible.

As you can see from the story, this is truly a Family Chest, as many family members participated in its creation.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

83 Years Ago Today

1928 was a tough year in Grammy’s family.  Two children in the family died in separate accidents that summer.  One of those children was Grammy’s only sister, Carolyn.

Carolyn CollinsGrammy and Carolyn’s mother had died in 1927, leaving Grammy’s father as a single parent.  Single parenting isn’t an easy job now; it was at least as hard if not harder back then.

Probably because of the family situation, Grammy and Carolyn spent the summer of 1928 with their grandmother, Susan Emma Prince, in the Boulder Colorado area.
Carolyn Car

One day that summer, the family was driving through the mountains – possibly in this car – and stopped to stretch legs and take in the view.  Carolyn ran across the road to join her Uncle Arthur, and was hit by a car.  She was not quite 5 years old.

We don’t talk about Carolyn much in the family.  Certainly her death was tragic and painful to all involved; however, I think the reason we don’t speak of Carolyn is that we never knew her.

We remember you today, Carolyn, 83 years after your left this world.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Adopting Grave Memorials

Recently, I’ve been “adopting” gravesite memorials at Find A Grave.  There are lots of generous people out there who have uploaded whole cemetery’s worth of memorials, including those of many who are strangers to them.  We can show our appreciation by adopting the memorials of our ancestors.

When adopting a memorial, the current custodian needs a few pieces of information:  your name, your Find A Grave id (accounts are free), and your relationship to the person whose memorial you want to adopt.

The best way to request a transfer is to do the following:
  1. From the particular memorial page, click on the Edit tab near the top.
  2. Click on the “Suggest a correction or provide additional information” link.  This brings up an e-mail entry form.
  3. Provide the needed information:  your relationship to the person of the memorial, your name, your Find A Grave id number.
  4. Click on the “Send This Message” button.
Here’s a sample e-mail text that has worked well for me:

If you are not a relative of John Parker, who was my 2nd great grandfather, I would love to take over responsibility for the memorial.

Your name here
From one memorial to the next, the only thing you would need to change are the parts in italics:  the name of the person memorialized and their relationship to you.
If you’re adopting multiple memorials, it is polite to send a message for each memorial.  Asking someone to do something like “transfer all of the Perrymans in the Oaklawn Cemetery” places a burden on the current custodian and should be avoided.
Sometimes you will find that the memorial is already maintained by a relative.  When that happens, you can get excited – you have just found a distant cousin.  I recommend contacting them via e-mail and sharing your connection.  You’ll likely receive a timely, equally excited, response.
Here are some graves that I have recently adopted:

By adopting memorials on Find A Grave, you can take ownership for the accuracy and completeness of the information online, and long lost cousins may also find you some day.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Looking for a Billion Graves

Find A Grave boasts over 64 million grave records.  I use it all the time as one source for birth and death dates.  I’ve used it to connect with a distant cousin.  I’ve even helped out someone I don’t know who lives half-way across the US by taking a few gravesite photographs at their request.  There's something very personal about Find A Grave – people create “memorials” for relatives who have passed on, and leave virtual flowers.

However, there is a new website in town for recording and researching graves sites:  Billion Graves.   I’d like to compare the two sites.

Find A Grave
Billion Graves
Mission / Purpose
Primarily, to provide a graves registration website.
Secondarily, to provide a site for memorials and remembrances.

Third, to provide a genealogical resource.
To provide an expansive family history database for records and images from the world’s cemeteries.
1995, first focused on the graves of famous people
Number of gravesites
Over 64 million
Process / Participation
Contributors add biographical information for a memorial.  Optionally, the creator or others can follow-up with photographs.
Contributors take photographs with cell phones, automatically uploading to the site.
Contributors also transcribe uploaded photographs.
What makes it unique
Strong emphasis on famous people.
Easy to add biographical information over and above what is on the grave marker.
Satellite images of cemeteries are available.Photos are geo-coded and can be located on a map or satellite image.

Ease of use
Easy to register a grave.
Only one photo can be uploaded at a time. 
Common-sized photographs must be manually made smaller before uploading.
Uploading a photograph via cell phone app (Android or iPhone) is easy.
Transcribing is as easy as the clarity of the photographs.

Search by any combination of facts:  name, cemetery location (country, state, county), year of birth, year of death.  Search by name within cemetery.  Several other searches.
Search by cemetery OR person’s name.  No combination searches.

One of the most helpful features is the geo-coded map.  A pin is shown on a satellite image showing exactly where the photograph was taken.  This is the feature that will make Billion Graves stand out.  At right are the markers for the photographs or graves that I took on July 3.

All in all, I think that Billion Graves has promise – but the website needs more work.  Here are some things that I would like to see the owners of Billion Graves address:
  • Session timeout is too short.  It should give me the opportunity to save my user id and password for a longer period of time.  It’s not my bank account after all.
  • The website needs the ability to search by person name AND location and by person name WITHIN a cemetery.
  • The link to view a single grave on the map was not working when I last checked.

I wish Billion Graves the best of luck.  I’m all for anything that gives me even more ways to locate my ancestors.

Monday, July 4, 2011

The Map I Wish I’d Had

Some months back, I found the birth certificate for my second great grandmother, Emily Jane Melton Davis Olive, on  I knew the day would come when I would make the trek to find her gravestone at Itasca Cemetery in Itasca, Texas.

My first stop for grave markers now is  From there, I found information that I already had plus a plot number – D3.  Unfortunately, I didn’t have a cemetery map, so the D3 didn’t hold a lot of promise for me.

I came prepared with my camera and a folder with a) a list of photo requests from for gravesites in Itasca Cemetery, and b) a list of all Davises and Olives in the cemetery in case I found any relatives.

When I arrived, I noticed that the crossroads within the cemetery were marked with numbers.  I was hoping that the 3 of D3 referred to the crossroad.  After wandering for a while, I found a group of Davises from my list.  I took the pictures, then noticed that they were listed at B3.  Eventually I got my orientation and later found the grave I was looking for.  Score!  The search took about an hour.

An interesting discovery was that the cemetery land is actually two cemeteries side by side:  Itasca Cemetery and Luke Tipton Cemetery.

The next day, while I was uploading photographs to, I decided to check out the Luke Tipton Cemetery.  Wouldn’t you know it?  There was the cemetery map I had needed the night before.

July 4th through 18th Century Eyes

I was a good student in school, but I can’t say that I had a particular talent or interest in history. My research into my family tree – my family history – has made me think about American history in a new way and given me a new interest.

I am not a member of the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR), but it looks like I could be if I took the time to button up a few connections. I apparently have at least 3 Revolutionary War veterans in my family tree, possibly more.

In honor of Independence Day, I bring to you the account of Nathaniel Maxwell, American Revolutionary War soldier and 4th great grandfather of Grammy’s Daughter, as recorded in his pension application files.

Here [Chester County, Pennsylvania] I grew to manhood, and was living, when the war of the revolution commenced. I am too old to recollect dates with exactness; but according to my personal recollection, the summer after the tea was destroyed at Boston, I was called out to perform a two months tour of duty as a militia man. I was mustered into service under Captain Witheroe in a Regiment commanded by Colonel Matthew Boyd and was stationed at Princeton where I was discharged.

The second year afterwards I was again called out on a similar tour and served two months under Capt. Moore, but cannot recollect any Regiment to which he was attached. The company was marched to White Marsh and stationed there. General Mifflin commanded and General Washington was there sometimes. The battle of Trenton took place while they were on the march.

My next tour of service was not long before the cessation of hostilities. At this time I was called out for a third tour of service of two months under Captain Elkton. At the close of this service peace was declared and I was discharged, my whole service being six months.

Often I think that we don’t realize that history is happening while we are living it. The historical significance of some events, such as the terrorist attacks of 9-11-2001, are obvious. Others, not so much. I have often wondered whether events such as the Boston Tea Party where recognized at the time as historically significant. Apparently Nathaniel Maxwell recalled that event and remembered it years later, even though he was living in Pennsylvania at the time.

Nathaniel Maxwell’s pension application files, and those of many other Revolutionary War veterans, are available online at (Revolutionary War Pension and Bounty-Land Warrant Application Files, 1800-1900).

Friday, July 1, 2011

Argh! Vinyl

As I’ve mentioned before, I have received boxes of binders of genealogical information from Grammy. For the most part, she organized her artifacts and research into binders. I’m sure she spent a fortune on page protectors!

Recently I came across a page protector in one of the binders that contained 3 pages, all copies. All items were related to the military service of Carlos C. Collins in the US Army in World War I.

I had a few of goals with regards to these documents:

  • Glean the genealogical facts from the 3 documents
  • Scan the originals so that I could attach the digital image to my genealogy database
  • Split the documents into separate page protectors so that they could all be seen without having to handle them
When I started to remove the certificate of Honorable Discharge from The United States Army from the page protector for scanning, I found it hopelessly stuck. That’s when I realized that this was an old page protector made of vinyl. I've learned from dealing with photographs from the 1970s that vinyl photo pages or sheet protectors were bad news. This was hard evidence to that fact! Fortunately, it’s only a photocopy, but it’s my only copy nevertheless.

At first I tried to force the sheet out of the protector but realized that I was damaging it irreparably. “Stop! Don’t do anything that can’t be undone,” I told myself. I ended up putting the document, page protector and all, on the scanner while I thought about my next steps. I was able to extract the other two pages with minimal damage, but was still left with the stuck Honorable Discharge certificate.

After placing the Enlistment Record in a fresh (safe) page protector and the certificate of promotion to Sergeant in a separate one, I trimmed the edges and back off of the vinyl page protector containing the Honorable Discharge certificate and placed the certificate, along with the remaining vinyl inside a new safe page protector. Now, at least only the one page is affected by the vinyl.

If anyone has an idea on a better solution to the problem, please comment.