29 October 2010

Scrappy Genealogist Announced at GeneaBloggers

Thank you to Thomas MacEntee and GeneaBloggers for announcing my blog on October 23 in his weekly roundup of new genealogy blogs. Thank you also to the many GeneaBlogger members who have chosen to Follow Me. I feel like I have guardian angel GeneaBloggers now. Sharing about genealogy and even writing on a regular basis are both new endeavors for me. One of the biggest reasons I have started this blog is to get myself writing. It has never been a source of confidence for me and is one of the biggest hurdles I am facing in my journey to becoming a professional genealogist. I welcome any and all comments; the good, the bad and well, maybe not the ugly. My skin isn't all that thick. 

Thank you again! 

Scrappy Gen

Scrappy Genealogist Goes to New York - Part 3 - The Lower East Side Tenement Museum

The Lower East Side Tenement Museum at 97 Orchard Street has been on my bucket list for a long time. For years as a Third Grade Hebrew school teacher, I facilitated an immigration project with my students. The students would first spend time learning about Jewish immigration through fiction and nonfiction books, maps, videos, websites and a visit with Mrs. Shapiro at the Shapiro House at the Strawbery Banke Museum in Portsmouth, N.H. The second part of their project involved interviewing a family member, who was an immigrant or who knew an immigrant ancestor. It was an ambitious project and so we only spent a brief period of time learning about the Tenement Museum in New York City, but every year my interest in visiting this place was renewed. 

97 Orchard Street is just a couple of blocks from Sammy's Roumanian Style Restaurant. We were due there at 6:00 PM for dinner with our 'long lost' cousin and so we made a reservation for the 4:45 PM Piecing it Together tour. One thing you should know about this museum is that the only way to see it is by guided tour. I would have loved to have spent the whole day going on all of the tours and seeing the entire tenement, but I knew that my husband, M.J., and the kids would stage a revolt. The best I could hope for them to do (if a little grudgingly) was a one hour tour. Conveniently I was able to make the reservation online and luckily as well because all tours were sold out by the time we arrived.

I chose the Piecing it Together tour for two reasons; the first because it would show how two Jewish families lived in the tenement and the second because one of the families was involved in the garment industry. M.J.'s Jewish immigrant ancestors were not involved in the garment industry, but my Irish Catholic immigrant ancestors were and lived not far from the museum at 401 East 10th Street.

All tours for the museum begin not at 97 Orchard Street, but at 108 Orchard Street, where their gift shop is located. This is at the corner of Orchard and the infamous Delancey Street. Just down the street you can see the tenement building. 
Our tour guide was Dave, a veteran guide of seven years at the museum and a descendant of Lithuanian and Italian immigrants. Dave knew his stuff and brought the Rogarshevsky and Levine families to life. More importantly he piqued and held the interest of my highly disinterested 11 and 14 year old kids. 
Before we entered the museum we found out we would not be able to take any photos, but that www.tenement.org had an entire section of photos available for free download. This made sense once we were inside and found that most of the interior is original. Very little restoration has been done. It feels very much like a tenement. It is dark, and the original layers of flooring and wall papers are there. Dave told us that there will be a museum project or exhibit that will show the process they are going to use to do some restoration, almost like an archeological dig, but on a building. It sounds fascinating.

Our hour on the third floor of the museum in the Rogarshevsky and Levine apartments passed very quickly. One last thing of interest to those who do genealogical research is that the museum has traced forward the ancestry of those known to have lived in the building. They have been able to gather pictures and oral interviews of former residents adding immeasurably to the experience for tour guests. It's a visit I will long remember. 

28 October 2010

Confessions of an American Mutt

It's time for a confession. My children are American mutts. Their mother is an American mutt. My ancestry includes (but is not yet limited to) Prussian German, English and Irish (both northern and southern for variety). Their father's ancestry is (but is not yet limited to) Latvian, Lithuanian and Russian Jewish as well as possibly Spanish Sephardic. Actually I am not sure which word in that sentence should have come first. Is it Spanish Sephardic or Sephardic Spanish? Perhaps someone will enlighten me.

The fact of the matter is...there are no purebreds living in our house ...except possibly our canine household members.
It makes me happy that the melting pot that is America is well represented in my children. It sure makes researching their ancestry interesting! 

Thank you for reading! 

Scrappy Gen

27 October 2010

The Scrappy Genealogist Goes to New York - Part 2 The Long Lost Cousin

Saturday’s crowning jewel was a visit with my husband’s “long lost” cousin Cathy and her husband and daughter. We met for dinner at Sammy's Roumanian Style Restaurant on Chrystie Street in the Lower East Side. Sammy’s is a story unto itself. The walls are plastered with pictures of guests of old and it is (at least according to my husband, MJ) like being at a Bar Mitzvah back in the day. That day must have been a long time ago!
Cousin Cathy is in the middle. MJ is seated to her left, I am on the right.

24 October 2010

The Scrappy Genealogist Goes to New York - Part 1

We’re stuck in a parking lot. The sign says 678 North, but right now it’s a parking lot. We are headed for Whitestone Bridge in Whitestone, NY. It’s our ticket off of Long Island and back to New Hampshire. We’ve spent a little less than 48 hours in New York City; lots of fun, lots of walking and lots to tell. We had dinner with a long lost cousin, visited the Lower East Side Tenement Museum and stood in front of the home of my Irish great, great, great grandparents, but it feels like we may never get home. The GPS says 4 hours and 38 minutes to go and hasn’t changed in the last twenty minutes. If we ever get over the bridge, I’ll tell you about our adventures.

22 October 2010

Repairing a Damaged Photo

My sister took a look at the repairs I made to Bubba's sailor photo and asked if I could do anything with a damaged photo that happened to be one of her husband's favorites. I love a challenge and so I set to work. Here is the original photo as she sent it to me by email:

There are lots of problems; several damaged areas, lots of dust and fading. The first thing I did after I opened the photo in Lightroom 2 is add a Direct Positive Lightroom preset. Here is the result:
Yes, it looks too extreme and too dark in areas, but I am bringing this image along with the original image into Photoshop Elements 8 where I will blend them together for a more pleasing color palette. Using my favorite tool, the clone tool, set to normal I repaired the two damaged areas in the center. Here is how it looks now that it is blended and the damage is repaired:
There are two things about this photo that are bugging me. One is the fact that the horizon is off kilter and the second is that the information board in the foreground is distracting from the image of my sister and the view of the beach. The board could be useful to keep in the photo if you might someday want a clue as to location, but I think my brother in law likes this picture because of the main subject, my sister The cropping I did back in Lightroom 2 because I like that crop tool better than the one in PSE 8. Here is a cropped image with the horizon straightened and the board removed:
Looks good, but we're not done yet. There is still way too much dust. I adjusted the Luminance in Lightroom, which affected the dust slightly, but not nearly enough. Here is the result, which doesn't show a discernible difference:
Back again in PSE 8 I used the clone tool set to darken and normal to repair the dust spots on the fence, beach and sky. The last thing that was really bugging me was my sister's face. Well, my sister's face doesn't bug me anymore (not since we were teenagers), but the pixels in her face were detracting from the final image. This is not something I have repaired before. I decided to try the smudge tool. The first time I used it at 100 percent and it just made her look weird. Finally I used it at 50 percent and stayed away from the defining lines of her face and it looks much better. Here is the final picture along with the original for comparison. Let me know what you think in the comment section below.

My Tree Has Deep Roots

My Tree in Gramma and Grampa's Yard:

When I was seven, I received a seedling on earth day. My parents, possibly with forethought that we wouldn't always be living in Longmeadow, had me plant my root in my grandparents' backyard. From that small root, a large evergreen (pictured here in 1994 - that's me on the left) has grown and today towers over us. It is tall and strong with deep roots, just like my family tree.

See more about genealogy bloggers' special trees in the Carnival of Genealogy, 110th edition on Creative Gene hosted by Jasia.  

Thanks for taking a peak at my tree. New evidence  about this story was unearthed when old slides were scanned. You know the old saying that a picture is worth a thousand words. True that. You can read the revised story in My First Blogiversary, The Truth Revealed

Scrappy Gen 
Let's Remember!

21 October 2010

Genealogical Goodness

There is an overflowing well of genealogical goodness in the blogging community. In the process of educating myself on how to blog I have found some amazing treasures. The one that most tickled my fancy today is Shades of the Departed. If you enjoy looking at priceless old photographs, this is a blog you shouldn't overlook. I actually can't believe I have never stumbled upon it before. The author is a long time collector of vintage photographs and with this blog she (or he?) humbly shares her wealth with us. She publishes a monthly digital magazine called Shades of the Departed. I would be embarrassed to tell you how much time I spent today perusing the endlessly beautiful pages. This magazine and blog are now at the top of my must reads. I must mention that this author writes several other notable blogs, of particular interest me is footnoteMaven.com, but they will have to wait for another day or my kids will start a revolt.

20 October 2010

Texas Road, Butzbach, Germany

My mother produced a genealogical gem last night. I called to ask her exactly where we had lived in Butzbach, Germany. She told me to hang on while she dug out her old address book. She has had this book since before I was born and she easily told me the exact dates and addresses for each of the places she and my Dad (and eventually my sister and I) lived in Germany. Her old address book was always at hand's reach when I was growing up. It came out for making calls and sending cards, but my Mom kept it for an additional reason as well. She was documenting our places of residence because she knew we would be moving frequently and that a record of those places might someday be needed by her children.

When my parents first arrived in Germany, they lived on Richard-Wagner-Strasse in Butzbach. This was temporary housing and my mother says she was very happy to move ten days after I was born because the apartment had hot water only in the shower. I asked and yes, they sometimes washed their dishes in the shower.

When I was ten days old we moved to Texas Road in Butzbach. This was in United States military housing. I found a blog called Forgotten Memories, which has a group of pictures taken in 2008 of the then defunct complex. The complex is still visible today through Google Maps. It looks like there may be people living in the buildings again as there are cars parked throughout the complex. I will have a chance to see these buildings in person in just a couple of months as I will be journeying to Frankfurt and Butzbach with my parents and sister to revisit the places where we were born (2 different hospitals) and the homes where we lived.

I pulled out an old picture of me taken in 1967. I have adjusted the contrast and a few other things in order to make visible what can be seen out the window just behind me.
How lucky it is that this photo wasn't taken during today's digital era. It might have been cropped to show just the cute little girl in the picture and would have eliminated the view of the apartment building across the way. Comparing this photo to the image on Google Maps, you can see that the little windows on the roof are still visible. The buildings look pretty much the same as they did 43 years ago.

I put a couple of pictures together on another scrapbook page for the Donna Downey class I am taking through Big Picture Classes. I am going to add additional information giving further details about our home in Butzbach to the back of the fabric page. Then this page will go into a little album I am making which will chronicle all of the homes I have had.

Texas Road, Butzbach

19 October 2010

Bubba the Sailor Man - Photo Edits

This picture of Bubba is one of my favorites of him. I love his mischievous grin and would love to know what the photographer was saying to him. Actually, it would probably be better for me not to know. A photographer, taking photos of thousands of sailors heading off to war, was probably saying some pretty raunchy things to get them to smile like that. 
Tear Below Chin
I scanned this photo a while back, but have never repaired it. I opened it in PhotoShop Elements 8 (there is a new version, but I just recently upgraded to 8) and went to work on the most glaring damage, the tear under his chin. I used the clone stamp tool, set to normal, for this area. Be sure when using the clone stamp tool to repair a large area, that you constantly take new samples of photo. The clone stamp tool is definitely my go to tool for photo repair.
Chin Fixed!
The next most obvious damage involved Bubba's hair and eyebrows. You might have to look closely to see the areas. Again using the clone stamp tool, but this time set to darken, I cloned different areas of hair and simply stamped over the damage. I also corrected some damage to his left eye and brightened the catch lights in both eyes. It takes some time and practice, but really isn't a difficult process. 
Hair, eyebrow & eyes fixed! 
Looks pretty good already, but that uniform could certainly be a little brighter. The tie has many white specks that also could be removed. Stamping with the clone tool set to lighten does a good job cleaning up the white uniform and cap. Stamping with the clone tool set to darken on the tie cleans that up. 
Uniform is clean and pressed!
Bubba is looking pretty spiffy now! All that is really left is to darken up some damaged areas and dust spots on the background. 
I could just leave it as is, but there are some areas of the photo that are just a bit too yellow and I would really like those whites to be whiter. De-saturating the yellow in the photo does the trick!

Here is the finished photo with the original untouched scan for comparison.
Actually I am kind of torn. Maybe I should have left a little more yellow in the photo to retain the aged look. The beauty of digital photography is I get to have my cake and eat it too! Here is a copy with the original coloring. Which one do you like best? 

18 October 2010

Military Monday; Boston Family History Day Presentation, David Allen Lambert & Maureen Taylor, The Infamous Bubba

My Dad may be shocked to learn that military history fascinates me. It is true, Dad, but it wasn't until the ancestry bug had bitten me, that I developed this interest. If you want to find out whether or not your ancestor served in the military, you must learn about the history of the period, the wars that occurred and the people who fought in them. Once you start reading and learning, it is almost impossible (at least for this Scrappy Genealogist) not to get caught up in the time and the place and the imagined struggles those who fought went through.

This interest in military history and finding my military ancestors led me to attend an incredibly informative lecture by David Allen Lambert called How-Tos for Military Research given at the Boston Family History Day 2010, which was held at the Seaport World Trade Center Boston on Saturday, October 16th. David Allen Lambert is the Online Genealogist at the New England Historic Genealogical Society and among many other accomplishments just contributed to a very cool book written by Maureen Taylor titled The Last Muster: Images of the Revolutionary War Generation. Maureen Taylor is an expert in finding clues to family history in old photographs and has written numerous books on the subject. Until hearing about this book, it never occurred to me that there could be photographs, not just drawings or paintings, of actual veterans of the Revolutionary War. According to David, when photography came to the United States in the late 1830s, images were captured of many elderly veterans. This book will be an invaluable resource for military historians, genealogists as well as those interested in the history of photography. It is at the top of my wish list!


David's talk on How-Tos for Military Research was as he put it, twelve hours of instruction in one hour. It was fast and furious, but oh so informative. I walked away with lots of ideas and a desire to learn more. My favorite idea was to 'Adopt a Regiment or Company'. His suggestion was that in order to learn more about your ancestor's time serving his country, it is beneficial to learn all you can about his company or regiment and the other members who served. He suggests that you may find a diary or letters written by another member, which could illuminate or describe your own ancestor's experience. I love this idea!


My maternal grandfather served in the Navy during World War II. He passed away in 2000, but he is still affectionately remembered by all who knew and loved him. He is the infamous Bubba, who gave me my first camera when I was five years old and he is the reason I take pictures today. He taught me how vital it is to capture family history as it is happening.


Bubba was a member a PT Boat Squadron, which had a rabbit on its' patch. I'm going to have to find that and scan it so you can see it. We went to Battleship Cove in Fall River, Massachusetts and saw a display there about his PT boat, but it's time to do some more research about who they were and what they may have gone through during the war. Plus, I think I remember that there may be some pictures from his time on the boat. It's time to adopt a boat. I'll let you know what I find out.

GeneaBloggers Saves Newbies

Blogging for newbies...that's me…there is help for us out there in cyberspace! Last night I connected with an online blogging community called GeneaBloggers. The founder and owner, Thomas MacEntee, sent me an email suggesting that I add a Followers link as well as the GeneaBloggers badge to my blog and sent me to the GeneaBloggers website to learn how to do it. Lo and behold, the site offers a resource page as well as Bootcamp for GeneaBloggers and I have started working my way through the helpful topics. Thank you GeneaBloggers for offering this supportive website!

One of the aids that GeneaBloggers offers is a group of daily blogging themes. There are so many family stories, hunts and finds I am excited to share, but where to start? Blogging themes appeal to me as a good starting point. Today is Monday and so my blog post later today will relate to the theme, Military Monday.

15 October 2010

Boston Family History Day

Tomorrow is a foot loose and fancy free day for me. I'll be leaving the house at 6:30 AM to attend the day long Boston Family History Day at the Seaport World Trade Center in Boston. This event is sponsored by Ancestry.com and New England Historic Genealogical Society. If you have ever been interested in pursuing your family history, this is a great opportunity to find out what it involves. It is only $38 for four classes with nationally known instructors. Online registration is closed, but I have been told that it will be possible to register on site on Saturday morning.

Time to

Time to Fly or Long Island Here We come

Six years is a long time when you are ten. I had spent a lifetime in this green house on Bliss Road in Longmeadow, Massachusetts. My best friend, Allyson, lived right across the street. Allyson's little sister, Tina, was best friends with my little sister. Moving felt like the end of the world.

Eventually the big day came and the moving truck arrived. I remember feeling really angry at the moving men as if it was their fault that we had to leave. I didn't take a lot of photos that day, but I did document that truck in front of our home. Wish I could remember if I was more interested in getting a picture of the truck, or the house, or the fact that the truck was in front of our house...taking our stuff!
1976 April, Longmeadow, Massachusetts

Whatever the reason, the picture exists and I am thankful to my ten year old self for taking it and also to Bubba for buying me the camera and insisting that I always take pictures. Who is Bubba, you ask? Well, in our family he has become in memory almost a mythical figure and definitely a guardian angel, but that is a story for another day. Today is just about a couple of pictures and the story that results when you put them together.

The picture of our departure from Longmeadow is only one half of the story. There is a second picture that tells the other half of this 'moving' story and here it is:
1976 April Northport, Long Island, New York
How cool is it that I took this picture too? The big truck has arrived at our new home. Some things I love about this picture are that it shows that the new house is green just like our old house. The loading ramp is visible on the front steps just like in the first moving picture. It is clearly much woodsier here, which reminds me of another story for another day. Finally I love this picture because it completes this moving story for me, but it also leaves open a myriad of possibilities of new stories in this new place.

What do I do when I have a story to tell? I don't usually write about it...this blog is really a stretch for me, but I want to show how ancestry, photos and scrapbooks come together in my work. Someday this story will be part of my descendants' ancestry. They may wonder, how did Great Great Grandma end up in Long Island for a year? Why did her family live there such a short time? These are questions that frequently arise as part of genealogical research. Creating scrapbooks is my method for answering these questions for my family. It is a way to document results of research in a way that is appealing and interesting to family and friends.

Here is a scrapbook page I created last week as part of a phenomenal online class called Fun with Fabric with a wonderful artist named Donna Downey.  If you ever have a chance to take a class with her, grab it!

This page was fun to make, as I learned some new tricks (painting on canvas and using dimensional glue) and used some photos I love, but there are several key things missing to make it a good page displaying genealogical information. Lots of unanswered questions. Any guesses?

14 October 2010

1976 April Moving Photo Edits

Let's take a look at the photo from my very first post yesterday. I took this picture with what was probably my second camera and most likely a 110 film camera. I scanned the picture using the Epson Perfection 4490 Photo Scanner at 600dpi. The scanned picture looks pretty close the the original.  I am happy that the scanner did such a great job scanning the photo, but I would like to repair the clearly visible damaged areas. 

I use Adobe Photoshop Lightroom for most of my photo edits, however these spots are pretty big, so I opened the photo in Adobe Photoshop Elements. Using the Clone Stamp tool, I quickly cloned areas near the spots and stamped over them, effectively hiding them. 

The other damaged areas I wanted to correct are shown below. If you double click on the picture, you can view a larger image.

I used the clone stamp tool in Elements again to cover up the orange areas and to draw in more window trim on the right hand window. The final result isn't perfect, but at least I have eliminated the glaring flaws.

Finally I decided to take the photo back into Lightroom to adjust the color slightly. I didn't want to edit it so much that it took away the 1970s feel, but I wanted the house to look a little more green and a little less purple. Here is the final result. 

That looks more like my house! Still miss it.

13 October 2010

About Me

It started here...

in Longmeadow, Massachusetts, during an unseasonably hot April in 1976. I was ten years old and in Fifth Grade and our family was moving again. This was the most difficult move for me as we had been living in Longmeadow for almost six years, more than half of my young life. 

I guess I should back up a bit. By age 4, I had lived in four different places, a lot for most kids at four years old, but not for most military children. You see my Dad was in the army and was stationed in Germany, where I was born. Longmeadow was my 5th home and we had put down some roots there after 6 years. With this move, I would be leaving lots of friends, and in particular one best friend, as well as familiar and comfortable surroundings. I was also very shy and was worried about making friends and going to a new school in Long Island. 

With my home changing yet again, my extended family roots became even more important to me. My extended family, one branch of which still lives mostly in one town in Connecticut, became my home base, the grounding influence in my life. Even though my nuclear family home location changed, my roots, the origins of my family and ancestors, stayed the same.  (Read about my Evergreen Tree.)  

The  more I learned about my roots and where my family and ancestors came from, the more firmly connected I felt. Thus began my search for my roots and my lifelong love of genealogy.
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