Wednesday, September 28, 2016

More Lessons from My Magnetic Photo Album Rescue

This week's magnetic album was a bit more tricky than the last and I did cause some damage to a few photos by ignoring my own advice.

This album, according to the backs of the photos I removed, was put together by my mother in January of 1973. I should have known it was from the 70s - fake wood, it wasn't just for station wagons!

Where I had many photos of the same quality in the last album and all taken within two years, this time there were photos spanning at least forty years. The quality of the paper on which they were printed was also all over the map, only a few photos at the end were taken at the same occasion.

The other complication was the size. The pages were square and larger than the bed of my scanner. This was letting light in when I tried to scan the photos in-place. After scanning the first page and getting some awful results, I made the decision not to scan the photos in-place for this album unless there were no other way.

So, my first lesson was that if I wasn't going to scan first, I should have been a bit more careful in removing the photos. I have another larger copy of this photo but without the decorative edges. I love old photos like this but the paper was so very thin. I started with the micro spatula, then tried no-wax floss and got nowhere and then went back to the spatula. Just as I was saying to myself that I should stop because this photo was clearly fused to the page, I did some damage (lower left corner).

My next lesson was that glossy photos on thin paper may show marks from the micro spatula. Unfortunately I wasn't able to get a clear picture of the photo to show you. Even though I was trying to keep the pressure from the spatula directed downward to the album page, I noticed that one photo I was working on was getting marked just from having the spatula pass underneath because the paper was very thin and it was firmly embedded in the adhesive. The digital scan didn't show the marks, thank goodness, but it is something to be aware of.

The last thing I learned with this album is that sometimes you just have to make a judgement call depending on your personal goals.

I'm fortunate to have photographs of my grandfather in wartime. During World War II he was commanding officer of a battalion of engineers who did important and sometimes dangerous work. I was a little anxious to work on these photos, but the reward was great when I found writing on the backs of most of them.

This photo was no different and although it had some existing condition issues, I didn't want to damage it any further. Oh, well! Again, just as I was thinking the micro spatula might not be the best tool for this photo, it ripped right through. Undeterred, I got out some waxed floss. I made a bit of progress with that, right before the floss ripped one of the edges. So, now, obviously, there was a decision to be made.

I decided to remove all of the other photos from this page and then cut the page around the photo so that the photo could be scanned. Once I did that, more of the photo began to peel away and I could see that there was writing on the back. I wanted the information and I had already damaged the photo so I decided to proceed as carefully as possible, which did get me the information and did not further damage the photo.

On to the next album, I'll let you know how that goes.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Tombstone Tuesday - The Gustafsons of Manchester, CT

Lillian Hildur Johnson is someone in my tree that I would like to know more about. I wish I'd had the same curiosity when she was still alive.

Aunt Lil, who is actually my cousin, was the daughter of my great-grandmother's sister, Anna Olivia Johnson. Lillian is buried with her husband's family, the Gustafsons, in the same cemetery as her parents and my great-grandparents, East Cemetery in Manchester, CT.

When I was preparing for my trip to Manchester I was very surprised to learn via Find-A-Grave that she had lived to the age of 107.  She died only a year before my father. I don't even remember hearing anything about her having a 100th birthday celebration.

An online obituary for Aunt Lillian says that she was one of the first women to vote in the state of Connecticut. I definitely want to learn more about her and will have to research this branch of my family more thoroughly.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Lessons From My Magnetic Photo Album Rescue

I am very happy to be able to tell you that I was able to remove all 31 photos from Donald's baby album with only minor damage to one photo. Here is what I learned.

Have a plan.
I first learned of the destructive nature of magnetic photo albums during one of Miriam Robins' Scanfests a few years ago. Since then I have periodically read and researched methods for rescuing and preserving the photos in these albums. This project has been a bit anxiety-inducing, having a plan is a big help.

Don't rush.
I didn't complete any step in this process in one sitting, but I did make sure that I had a good amount of free time ahead of me so that I wouldn't feel rushed.

Have patience.
Going hand-in-hand with the above is patience. Even with plenty of time ahead to work on the photos, I would occasionally feel impatient if work was progressing slowly. Rushing is not a good idea with this delicate work, so a deep breath or a break is a good idea if patience is wearing thin.

The information I used to formulate the plan for this rescue came primarily from three sources; the conversation at that Scanfest, some posts in a genealogy group on Facebook and the book "Preserve Your Family Pictures" by Amber Richards.

Donald's album was spiral bound so I first removed pages carefully with a craft knife. Then I slowly and carefully removed the plastic sheet from the outside of that page, making sure that it was not sticking to the photos underneath. Next, I scanned the photos and cleaned the scanner after each page to remove any residue from the acidic adhesive.

I know that some people would have stopped there. I was told by at least one person during that Scanfest that the photos would be so toxic after years in the album that they would be a threat to my other photos. I'm not a hoarder by any means, but the thought of throwing away a photo makes me a little sick to my stomach. I scan the images, I back them up online but even so, technology changes and the only way to ensure preservation of the images is to preserve the original - in my opinion.

So, on to the rescue then. I started by attempting to remove the first photo with a micro spatula. I heard about this on Facebook and in "Preserve Your Family Pictures". It is a small, very thin metal spatula which I ordered on Amazon for under $10.

Fortunately in this album most of the photos had at least a corner that came up easily so that I could slip the micro spatula underneath. I discovered pretty quickly that this is something you need to get a feel for. It can be a little disconcerting at first to see the spatula move around under the photo as if it is going to tear right through. Because these magnetic albums tend to have thick pages, I was able to direct the pressure down into the page instead of up into the photo.

Next I tried no-wax dental floss. It seems like a good idea but I found that after initial success on the first photo, the floss did not really work for me. It was slippery in my gloved hands and Donald had to hold down the album page for me. Progress with the floss was very slooooooow. Amber Richards' book recommends no-wax floss, but others disagree. I might try the waxed at some point.

I moved back to the spatula until I got to some photos printed on what felt like thinner paper. I decided to try the freezing method, placing the album page in the freezer for 5-10 minutes.  I made a mistake with this one. I put the page into a Ziplock first to protect it from the contents of the freezer. I think it was the very slight condensation from being in the bag that caused some temporary tackiness on the surface of the photos and some very slight damage to one of them where it came in contact with plastic while tacky.  Putting the page in the freezer is an attempt to make the adhesive brittle and hopefully release the photos easily. That was not my experience. It didn't seem to help at all.

I also tried a heat method, with the goal of softening the wax. I heated the micro spatula with a hair dryer and then worked it carefully under the photo as before. I didn't see a difference but I might try this again in the future.

This album contained photos from late 1969 to late 1971. All but one were color, most of them were on nice thick photo paper with coating on the back. For these photos the micro spatula was the best tool. Next, my experience with an older album.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Tombstone Tuesday - Johnson & Johnson

When Anna Olivia Johnson married Carl Johan Johnson in Manchester, Connecticut in 1895 it was not only the beginning of a new branch of our family tree, it was also a recipe for confusion for future generations of family historians, or at least for me.

1-Johan Albin Johnson, 2-Mathilda Alfina Johnson, 3-Carl Oskar Johnson
4-Anna Olivia Johnson, 5-Unknown

Anna Olivia Johnson, like my great-grandmother Mathilda Alfina and the rest of their sisters, was born with the last name Martensdotter because they were born in Sweden at a time when children were given the last name that indicated their lineage as children of their father. This is called patronymics. Their father was Marten Johansson, so their last names were Martensdotter for the girls and Martensson for the boys. I don't know for sure when Anna and her siblings started using Johnson as their last name, but I believe it was probably as they immigrated to America. Only one of their siblings stayed in Sweden and he continued to use the last name Martensson.

Johan is as popular a name in Sweden as John is here, so it is no surprise that there are many Swedish Johnsons in the United States and when Anna married Carl it meant that her maiden name and married name were both Johnson, something that gave me fits for a little bit as I sorted out who was who. At first I assumed (I know, I know) that all of the other Johnsons in Anna's plot were her husband's family, but I realized later that one of the Johnson men is a brother, Johan Albin, who never married and the other couple are Anna and Carl's son and his wife.

Anna Olivia Johnson, my great-grandmother's sister
Carl J. Johnson, Anna's husband
Johan Albin Johnson, my great grandmother's brother.

Ragnar Wilbert Luther Johnson was one of Anna and Carl's twin sons.
Dorothy May Bentley was Wilbert's wife.

I didn't even realize my mistake until I found Johan Albin on a census, listed as one of my great-grandmother's boarders, and began to research his life in America. A search for his burial led me back to the plot I had visited a few months earlier. Actually, I'm starting to think that every Johnson in East Cemetery is a relative!

It certainly taught me, though, how even just a fleeting thought you have while doing something as simple as taking photos of headstones can potentially lead to missed opportunities and even big mistakes in your tree.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Amanuensis Monday - Early Life of Carl John Anderson

An Amanuensis is a person employed to write what another dictates or to copy what has been written by another. Amanuensis Monday is a daily blogging theme which encourages the family historian to transcribe family letters, journals, audiotapes, and other historical artifacts. Not only do the documents contain genealogical information, the words breathe life into kin – some we never met – others we see a time in their life before we knew them. A fuller explanation can be found here.
Amanuensis Monday is a popular ongoing series created by John Newmark at Transylvanian Dutch.

One of the amazing things that I found in Dad's basement stash a year ago was this letter written by my great-grandfather, Carl Johan Anderson. It is chock-full of the details of his early life that we all crave. It was written in Swedish and translated by his son, my great-uncle Elmer Carl Ragnar Anderson. Carl Johan wrote this letter about fifteen years before his death.


Letter written in Swedish. Envelope marked "Only to be opened after my death"
Translation by Elmer C. Anderson.

      To my wife and children or to those that outlive me to read after my death.
      We have this day the 23rd of January 1941.
      I have long thought to write this but never have until now. No man knows when his time come to leave. It is best that it be done now before it is too late.
      I know that my children want to know something about their forefathers but as I myself do not know about them from further back than my own parents so I can not therefore give anything very enlightening.
      I was born on a small "Torp" that was called "Lomåsen" which was part of a Gård (Farm) of an estate named "Algerstorp," Elfsbor Län, Tranemo församling (church congregation) the 14th of June 1866.
      My Father's name was Anders Svenson and my Mother's name was Anna Katrina Månsdotter. My Father was born in "Algerstorp". My mother was from "Småland" but I do not know the name of her birthplace. Her father was a soldier and it seems that I remember hearing it told that he took part in the Finnish War in the years 1808-1809.
      My Father was a "Smed" by occupation which means a Blacksmith and was also a "Jordbrukare" which means a Farmer.
      As I was the youngest of five children my parents were already elderly when I was born. My Father died "Annandag Påsk" (which is the day before or the day after Easter) in 1873 at the age of 56 years. This left Mother with two children, one my sister 11 years old and I at the age of six.
In her poverty she accepted a job working for Patron Solomon Larson at "Limmareds Herregård", a large farm. Her duties were to take care of the barn, to feed and milk 50 cows and also care of the smaller animals on the farm. I remember she worked both day and night for 50 Kroner [1] for the years work. This sum was not enough to take care of her own expenses let alone that of her two children.
My sister Josephina was farmed out to work for a family for food and "keep" at the age of twelve.
I was sent to work at the "Limmareds Glasbruk" (Glass factory) at the age of 8 years and stayed there for 4 years. During these four years there was little or no schooling. Many bad habits were learned from the many young boys working and living there with no family supervision. He says in Swedish "så många barn some flick leva vild tutan tillsyn [2]."
      The pay for the work that started at 3 o'clock in the morning until three in the afternoon was 6 kroner a month. My Mother had to supply and get my food to me. I Can't figure to this day how she did it for 6 Kroner.
      When I was 12 years of age I was sent to an older brother who was "Torpare" under Katrinsberg in "Revesjö församling" (Congregation). There I went to school 3 days each week for two years time and this was about all of the schooling I had.
      When I was 14 years old I started my shoemakers apprenticeship with by Brother-in-law Per Johan Bengtson who had married my sister Josephina. Here I was for 6 years. During this period I was confirmed in the Tranemo church the 23rd of October 1881. During these six years I worked for my food and clothes and when I was 20 years old I had clothes made of cotton but no money.
      Then I moved to Svenljunga and worked for Carl Anderson at Carslund. Here I received 4 Kroner a week and board and in time I was able to buy Custom Clothes that I needed so badly.
When I was 21 years old I was taken for Military Service to "Frista Hed" in year 1887. Service lasted 21 days.
      Between ages of 19 and 21 I realized that it would be difficult to get anywhere in Sweden. Then I began like many others to think about America. The process of accumulating money for travel was the hardest problem. It was finally accomplished thanks to the poor but true friends eight of whom signed notes at a Bank in Svenljungs for 150 Kroner.
      This money paid for my passage from Göteborg Sweden to Portland, Conn. When I arrived at my destination I had slightly more than one dollar in American money left.
      The journey started from home the 23rd of March 1888 and from Göteborg the 25th on the North Sea boat "Romeo" which brought us to Hull, England. From there a ride by train across England to Liverpool where we waited for 3 days before boarding the steamer "City of Chester" of the Inman Line. After a stormy passage landed in New York the 8th of April. We had to sleep on the floor in the old "Castle Garden" (Customs Clearance) until we were processed. The next move was to board a Connecticut River boat which brought me to Middletown, Conn. and then by ferry across the river to Portland, Conn. At that time there was no bridge across the river.
      Sought work in Portland and New Britain with no success. Then I came here to Manchester the 30th of April the same year working first for Shoemaker Martinson. After a few weeks obtained work in the Silk Mills starting work near the end of May (date forgotten) but at the end of July I was laid off. Made my "keep" with Shoemakers work until the end of November when I started steady employment at Cheney Brothers Silk Mills which lasted until December 1938 when I due to old age and reduced physical state especially eyesight I retired from work having worked for this company for 50 years.
      My life as Husband and Father is so well known that I will not write about that. Will only give some advice regarding my Funeral. I have always lived as a retiring type of individual and would like to have my Funeral held from my home but not from the church and also let it be private. No flowers except from Wife and Children. Also use the cheapest casket you can find as I feel that a cheap casket is good enough to rot in the ground. The above is not an order. I just want it to go the way as I myself would do if there to plan it.
      I forgot to mention my Mother's age. She was born the 12th of May 1822 and died the 6th of May 1911, six days under age of 89 years.
      I am writing this so that my descendants should have some information about their forefathers. I am using the Swedish language in writing this account as I know my children can understand it and if they wish to translate it to English. And last of all I ask forgiveness for all my faults and mistakes I made as a Husband and Father and lastly to thank my wife who has stood by my side all of these years. Also to thank my children who have made my old age free from sorrow and backed me financially.
      There could be more to write about but this will be all. I hope what I have written stays in the family and not broadcast. I wish you all the best of luck and good future also that God be with you all during all of your days is hoped by your Husband and Father.

                                                                                                    Carl J. Anderson

[1] I haven't yet been able to determine what that might be worth today, but from Carl's description, it seems like it was barely enough to live on.

[2] Per Google Translate: "so many children who were living wild without supervision"

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Magnetic Photo Albums - Preparing for Battle

Now that Dad's slides have been scanned, labeled, tagged, shared, backed-up, the originals stored in new binders and the old carousels whisked away by a fellow Freecycler, it is time to turn to my next photo preservation project - rescuing photos from "Magnetic" albums.

Donald's baby photos and even a lock of his hair are stuck to the pages of this album but good; it is finally time to set them free.

I do not endorse any product or service, this is just what I happen to be using.

Wish me luck - I will document my progress and share with you soon.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Wedding Wednesday - Howard Matthews and Dagmar Anderson

Next Monday will be the 85th wedding anniversary of my paternal grandparents, Howard Bierley Matthews and Dagmar Alice Viola Anderson.

They were married at the home of my grandmother's brother, Elmer Carl Ragnar Anderson and the reception was held at the home of her parents.

Last year I had some home movies digitized which included their wedding reception.

This year I was able to confirm, with the help of a cousin, that my grandmother's maid of honor was the sister of her brother's wife. Dagmar C. Peterson is the sister of Anna Elizabeth Peterson who married Axel Heinrich Waldemar Anderson.

I was also able to confirm that I had correctly identified her in some later family photos, like this one from my grandmother's 75th birthday.

Who will I identify this year? Stay tuned.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Tombstone Tuesday - The Andersons

Last spring Donald and I visited Manchester, Connecticut when they opened their Town Hall records room for a Family History Day. After lunch we headed to East Cemetery where I knew I had relatives in at least three plots.

This plot holds at least seven of my ancestors starting with my maternal grandmother's parents, Carl Johan Anderson and Mathilda Alfina Johnson. Buried with them are their sons, Axel Heinrich Waldemar and Elmer Carl Ragnar, their wives, Anna Elizabeth Peterson and Isabel Madeline Weir and the baby, Robert Ragnar, that Elmer and Isabel lost only a few days after he was born in 1922.

The seven burials in this plot were confirmed for me by the cemetery office before we left for Manchester, and this headstone with the initials of my relatives engraved around the base, was the only one shown on Find-A-Grave, but when we arrived at the cemetery we found two more stones there, both courtesy of the US Military.

The first was for Uncle Elmer, who's burial the cemetery office had already confirmed.

The second unexpected stone was for Axel and Anna's oldest, Gilbert Waldemar Anderson. I must admit that I have not contacted the cemetery again or in any way tried to confirm whether or not Gilbert is buried here. I will have to add that to my to-do list and ask my cousin, Gilbert's niece, if she knows where he is buried.

Monday, September 12, 2016

One Huge Preservation Project Done

Saturday I scanned the last forty or so of my father's collection of slides. The last slide to be scanned was this photo of my great Aunt Anna Elizabeth Peterson who was one of the Annas for whom I am named. She was the wife of my paternal grandmother's brother, Axel Heinrich Valdemar Anderson, and is pictured here enjoying coffee and cake at a party for my grandmother's 75th birthday in October of 1980.

All told, I scanned 1,872 slides from Christmastime 1949 in Chicago to the summer of 1991 at the end of the Marion-Bermuda Cruising Yacht Race.

As I emptied each carousel of these slides I kept them in the closet in our spare bedroom so that I could offer them all together on Freecycle when I finished.

They were all claimed by one person within two hours of my post and will be picked up this afternoon. Now all of these slides, minus two carousels worth that I gave to my step-brother, have been placed in closed binders and sit safely on a shelf in that same closet in our spare room.

Next project - rescuing photos from the acid sandwiches of magnetic photo albums. Stay tuned!

Monday, September 5, 2016

Happy Labour Day

Pausing to remember all of my hardworking ancestors today. Especially those in occupations that didn't allow for holidays like Labour/Labor Day, like the farmers and those who's working lives came before the holiday.

This photo was taken by my maternal grandfather, George W. Smith about 1915. His father, George Robert Smith, was superintendent of the Bell Asbestos Mine in Thetford Mines, Quebec. These are the men working in the Machine Shop at the mine.