Today I read somewhere that it is two months until Christmas. This weekend we are expecting our first snowfall. The nights are chilly and I confess I've begun to think about Christmas cards and shopping for my nieces and nephews. That got me to thinking about sending the Christmas package to my siblings' families and a very special Christmas tradition between my sister and I.

Bless This House - Grandma's Tin

After our grandmother died and all the dust settled, there were a few mementoes that we kids were able to choose from. They weren’t the expensive pieces and they could easily have gone into a donation bin but we sifted through them and selected items that brought back
memories. Oddly enough, there was no overlap between what each of us selected until we got to one of Grandma’s cookie tins. It was the only thing that two of us really wanted.
My sister, Christine, and I both have wonderful memories of that tin –and the treats that Grandma made to go in it! We thought about what could make us both happy and found a way to share the tin. Each year at Christmas, we take turns sending it to each other in the Christmas package. Whichever of us receives it gets to keep it for the next year. We are
happy with our decision because we both get to enjoy Grandma’s tin and we have an additional benefit of carrying on a family tradition that spans five generations.

When Mom was growing up, her grandparents moved to the coast. Because they’d moved so far away, they sent a Christmas package every year and Mom still recalls the delight they felt when it arrived. We always send presents back and forth to the kids but Chris and I figured we’d add Grandma’s tin into the mix. It’s something for us to share every year, which is nice, but it’s also a way to encourage the continuation of our tradition and have an opportunity to share our family stories, too.
 
I believe it’s also a way to bring to life a woman we both loved very much. None of the kids were alive when she passed so they didn’t get to meet her in person. This tin, as beat up as it’s
getting, is a tangible connection they have to our Grandma, Mom, Grandma’s parents and my sister & I.
 
This year it’s my turn to send Grandma’s tin to my sister. As it is every year, it’ll be filled with treats both traditional and experimental. As I’m packing and as they are opening, we’ll also
be remembering the huge painted pine-cones and hand-sewn aprons that great-Grandma sent every year in the Christmas package that Mom and her siblings opened every year, too.
Side Views of Grandma's Tin
 
I'll admit it. My memory for dates is terrible. Tell me a story about your life and I'll probably remember it for decades but do not ask me to remember your birthday or anniversary.

One tool I use is a perpetual calendar. It's hanging on my office wall so I see it every day. The only slight snag is I still have to turn the page at the beginning of the month.
I like this option because I just use the same calendar year after year. I plan on creating one for family members that references all of our birthdates and anniversaries, including the year of the event. This will be a gift (so everyone act surprised when you open your Christmas presents!)

There are all kinds of options for making your own calendar if you want something specific to the current (or next) calendar year. I have not yet found a template for a perpetual calendar but it should be simple enough to create in Word or in Excel and then take it in to an office supply store to get it printed and bound.

I really like the practice of creating calendars for specific years, too. They provide a snapshot in time. My sister has created them in past years and I've kept them as pseud0-photo albums showing the growth of the family and where they live.

Another example of an annual calendar is in the form of fund-raisers. Below is an example of a hockey fund-raiser calendar. There is a lot of information that you could infer from it, including where the family lived, as well as an indication of an important element of the childs' lives.
You can create your own perpetual calendar to include whichever special occasions you want. They don't usually have a whole lot of writing room, but I suppose if you were keeping track of dates relating to ancestors then you could have one for births, baptisms, anniversaries and/or death. An alternative would also be to have one for different lineages.

If you'd like to create your own annual calendar, you have many, many options. Family Tree Maker has a publication option for calendars and you can specify the year, as well as who and what data is included. Check your local photo and camera supply store web sites (Blacks.ca and Walmartphotocentre.ca for example) as they often have on-line programs for creating the calendars.
 
PictureStanley and Stanley Herbert Daines during WWI.
My husband’s family has a long line of military service. As a surprise Christmas present, I created a shadow box
commemorating his grandfather, Stanley Herbert Daines. 

A shadow box is an opportunity to tell a
bit of a story about someone’s life. It’s also one way to display memorabilia  that isn’t just photographs. I still recall the images of ancestors from around the house when I was growing up but it didn’t engage me or give me any ideas about the person in the photo.

5 Tips for creating your shadow box
  1. Before you purchase the shadow box, gather everything together and try different layouts on your table. This way you'll get a good idea of the dimensions that will best suit your project.
  2. Decide how you will set the items into your display. Consider glue, thread, adhesive tape, or dimensional adhesives (3-D effect). Whichever you choose, use archival quality materials so the items won't get damaged. In the case of photographs, you could use a copy.
  3. Set items at different depths within the shadow box add to add more visual interest. If some items have a backing (pins or buttons, for example), insert Styrofoam behind the fabric or paper. Make small slices in the fabric to allow the backing through so the fabric doesn't pull.
  4.  Before you put it all together on the back board, MAKE SURE it is facing up! I made this mistake and it was a pain to re-set everything.
  5. Carefully clean the frame and glass to remove dust and debris and make sure it's dry before you put it all together.

In the shadow box I created, I used a heavy fabric over slim Styrofoam and a combination of dimensional adhesives, thread and glue to hold everything together. The photo is set onto contrasting colours of card stock paper that is raised from the background fabric using dimensional adhesive; the rope is threaded on in a co-ordinating colour of thread and I sewed all of the buttons on to the fabric, too, as well as setting them into the Styrofoam. The pins were probably the easiest because they got pinned to the fabric. That said, it was a bit fussy to get everything aligned!
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This was my first layout attempt with one fabric option. There is a spot where I was going to include the details of his military career.
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A sample. This is from Pinterest, citing Bradley's Art and Frame.com
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Finished project on a shelf in my husband's home office. His family's military service is something he's proud of.
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Another sample. This is also from Pinterest, citing thingsorganizedneatly.tumblr.com
Military Collection
 
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Why? Why would I need to do all that typing when I’ve got all this paper? That
might be the question you’re asking yourself. The answer is pretty simple when
you’re considering how to share your bounty with others. Having your information
stored electronically makes it so easy to share. There are other reasons, too,
not the least of which is ease of use and the organizational benefits, but I’m
concentrating on why it’s so handy for sharing.

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Once your information is stored electronically, there is so much you can do with
it to share with others. I think the most common thing that people think of is
charts of family trees. Most of us have seen the tree that starts with a single
name at the top or bottom of the page and then branch out to the parents,
grandparents, etc, etc. While these can be really lovely compositions, the
amount of information included generally relates to how much room there is on
the page. Depending on the genealogy software you use, these can be created
right at your computer. From there, you can print the chart or send it out
electronically to your family. I created a 6’x4’ chart for a client here in
Calgary and took it to a local printing company. The cost was very reasonable
and we were all thrilled with how it turned out.

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You can also include images in your databases which is truly amazing. If you
choose, you could include images of the people on your tree. If you’re not
printing out a family tree, maybe you want to create a report about a person and
his or her descendants, including the details
of their lives and pictures
accrued during their lifetimes. Once this information is in your database, the
options for creating and sharing are profound.

PictureAn iPad showing a Heredis screen shot.
Another way to share is using Apps available for your iPhone, iPad or tablet,
etc. I’ve tried 2 so far. GedView,
which costs about $5 ($3.99 US when I
last checked) and Heredis, which is free.

I like them
both. I love the fact that I can pop my iPad in my purse and be able to head
over to Mom’s to show here what I’ve found. A great side-benefit of the visit is
that quite often it jogs her memory and I hear all these stories. That leads me
into a whole new blog about LiveScribe, but I’ll save that for another day!
 
A final note... Once you have added your information into your database, it
can serve as a back-up for your paper
records. Of course, as with anything
stored electronically, remember to back up your work and store the back-up
off-site.

 
I worry about protecting the documents and photographs in my collection. At any given point in time, we hear about natural disasters that wipe out people’s homes and belongings. We all put a lot of effort into our family histories and want to avoid the pain of losing it! Digitizing is an excellent back-up tool and is also a great option for sharing.

 I’m thinking about this today because of a comment I read on-line this morning wondering about the value of digitizing records. In the back of my mind is the flooding we experienced here in southern Alberta last month - the worst in our recorded history. Downtown Calgary, an oil and gas city of well over a million people was shut down for over a week because the water threaded its way through the streets and buildings. Basements, where, let’s face it, many of us store our items, were flooded to the ceilings. If it isn’t water, maybe it’s a twister or a hurricane. So what can we do to protect our precious records and documents? 
 
Digitizing is one very clear option. It is easily accessible and can be relatively inexpensive and anyone can do it. Scanning documents and images is a pretty straightforward process. All you need is a computer and a scanner. Sometimes, all you need is the scanner! There are  companies who will do it for you if you don’t want or are unable to scan it yourself. 
 
Once you’ve got your digital collection, there are quite a few options for sharing it. Cloud storage has become increasingly popular and ranges from free to nominal fees depending on how much space you need. You can store the media on CDs or DVDs burned from your
computer. If this is your preferred method, then remember to store it somewhere else! An option I’ve just started hearing about gives clients the option to store their records on-line in Cloud Storage and include an option for heirs to inherit access to it. 
 
Future Access to Your Records
 
Something to consider when relying on electronic storage options is will you be able to access the materials in future years or decades? Paper has a proven track record of lasting for millennia. On the other hand, if you use a computer you know that the technology changes every couple of years and pretty soon something you stored 15 years ago is gone because there is no software and/or hardware to retrieve the information stored. 3½” disks are still around but do you see any drives to read them?
 
The other side of this coin is the information stored on the media. The software changes pretty regularly, too. I’ve got files stored in QuattroPro from 15 years ago that I just can’t open.
The contents are essentially gone. What I have noticed though, is that some file formats that are read by many software programs do seem to remain accessible for decades. I am thinking of txt, pdf, tif, jpg, bmp as specific examples. I think because these formats are generic, they tend to stick around longer. Text (txt) files don’t have any formatting so are readable by many programs.  Used by a variety of programs, pdf files, too, are (Adobe and NitroPro, for example) and are usually like snapshots of text. The rest are image files like those that you get from a digital camera or your phone. 
 
For genealogists, there is a very important file type, GEDCom. This is like a .txt file for genealogy software and it allows us to store our genealogy data from one software program into a format that can be opened up by other genealogy programs. If you’re using an iPad or
tablet, then you can download Apps to read GEDComs from your computer. This is a great tool if you’re out with family and want to show them your work!


 
 
PictureMom as a little girl. Note the chair she is sitting on remains in the family. Another chance to share your family's stories!
Last year I got this idea to collect all of our favourite family recipes and put them in a book. There are 4 of us kids, Mom, her sister and a number of grandchildren and the first great-grandchild.
A friend of mine (Spring Cochrane) who is a personal historian told me about Blurb so I checked it out as an option for self-publishing and found it suited my needs so I got to work.
This was going to be Mom's Christmas present and she has most of the family recipes. I went over to her place and just said that I wanted to scan in the recipes so we could all share them with each other.
Little did she know that EVERYONE was in on it. Well, she didn't know until 'someone' included her in the email exchanges. It was still a suprise at Christmas, so all good.
My original plan was to get the recipes scanned in and tell a bit of a story about why each was a favourite. I wanted scanned copies of the recipes because that, to me, is part of the memory and I feel warm and fuzzy when I see the Newfoundland Chicken recipe that we got from Grandma's sister, Aunty Clara, used to make. For some reason, it's more recognizable.
What ended up happening is that all of us started reminiscing about events that had taken place around food. The book became a compilation of memories that were triggered by different meals we'd had growing up.
Memories are priceless and they are one of the very few things that you can take with you. Don't take them with you; find a way to share them.

This is Aunty Clara’s Newfoundland Chicken recipe. This recipe triggers a bunch of
memories almost as if it took place yesterday (not 3 decades  ago!). It`s very faded and difficult to read so I typed over it. The image is of Great-Grandma Jessie Amos feeding the chickens at the family home in Dauphin, Manitoba.  

This is You-tube video showing how you can use Blurb. Note that this is not a promotion and I do not receive any compensation for sharing this.
 
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Photos are wonderful representations of important people and events in our lives. I have loads of my own, those inherited from other family members, and my husband's. The problem I've run into is how to display them. I mean, there are so many! I don't have that much shelf space. I do, however, have some wall space.
I took a lot of the inherited photos in the amazing frames and put them on a staircase wall. It was just standing there - a full two stories of blank space. Now we have the opportunity to look every time we go up or down the stairs.
There are a few things I would do differently. First, I would have painted the wall BEFORE putting all of them up. I would also like to get a better light fixture. All-in-all I am satisfied with the outcome.
If you don't want a lot of holes in the wall, you can install a rod and use ribbon to hang the the frames. You get the benefit of fewer holes and you can colour co-ordinate the ribbon to your decor. I did this in one home and just stapled the ribbon to the frames then slid them onto the rod. It worked really well and you can swap out the photos and/or frames whenever you want.

Other ideas I found on Pinterest

 
PictureThe final project - all completed.
This is a prized piece of art and is roughly 20"x26". It represents about 400 years of our family's history and covers a cabin in the woods in late 19th century Manitoba to the shores of Cornwall, England in the 1600's.
When I was growing up, I loved to hear the story of how Grandma's grandparents met. John Erwin Moss Firby saw a group of girls cutting through the cemetery and told his friends he  was going to marry "the little dark-eyed girl." Around 1880, he did marry Jessie Nankivell. After they wed, he took her to his homestead in Woodlands, Manitoba where they started their family.

PictureA photocopy from Grandma's Nankivell collection.
Grandma was able to  connect with others tracing the Nankivell family and received a copy of the document (left). James Nankivell and Edith Nankivell were two people who provided a lot of insight into her reseach and I believe it was one of them who gave her this page.
Grandma's uncle, Jim Nankivell, wrote a letter in 1936 that outlined the history of the Nankivell family and it matches the details in the document. One other thing he mentions: Nankivell is Cornish for Valley of the Wild Horses. I don't know if it's true but my teenage imagination was enthralled. This story had it all: romance, cemeteries and horses!

PictureThe sculpture created from a photocopied page (see above).
This is an example of how a story can be brought to life in a single piece so that it can be discussed and shared with the whole family.
Geoff Sandhurst is a wonderful metal sculpture artist. In 1994, I took a copy of the page (see above) and asked him if he could recreate the fist holding the anchor. He did an incredible job as you can see!
You can check out more of Geoff's artwork at, http://sandhurstsculpture.blogspot.ca/.
I am also very grateful to Felicia at the Michael's on Deerfoot Trail who pulled together my vague ideas and a beautiful piece of art and then created a beautiful family heirloom.