Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Interviewing People for Family History

Since the holiday season is upon us, I thought I would share some insights I have gathered recently about how to get family history information.

When we met for Thanksgiving, I had one question prepared for asking.  I have found that some people get nervous when you ask them for a formal "interview."  They might be afraid they don't have the answers, and it feels more like a test. And they wonder what you are going to do with the information they provide.   So I try to have informational conversations.  And since I'm being sneaky that way, I try not to ask too many questions.  I turned on the video for my camera, put the camera down so it didn't look like I was videotaping, and asked my question.  The reason I videoed it was because I was afraid I would forget something, so it was more like tape recording.  I have watched this video since then, and here's what I learned.

1.  Having only one theme question is a great idea.  Of course it has to be something that generates conversation, so ask open ended questions.  Something that starts with "Can you tell me about the time..." or "What was such and such like?,"  where such and such can be a location, event or person.  Taking something to talk about, like a photo, might help.  This, of course, can backfire, and not be a subject that is interesting enough for a long enough conversation.  Or it might be too controversial to discuss.  You can have a backup question that you can save for later on in the conversation, or you can just let it go.  Asking a different question right after your flopped question might clue them into the fact that they are being interviewed.

2.  Having follow up questions or an idea of what it is you want to know would have been a good idea.  I found that I kept trying to think of questions, and by the time I thought of them, I was waiting for a lull in the conversation to ask, and then they seemed to be the wrong time to ask, and I didn't follow up on some interesting thing that was said.  Following the conversation as it is rolling is a much better idea, even if it is harder to do.

3.  Asking in front of other people is a great idea.  They can add in what they know. And they can correct each other, and you can learn where the discrepancies are.  They also help by asking their own questions, so it keeps it more of a conversation instead of an interview.  The bonus is that the questions might not have been something you thought of.   Once, during my very first interview, my daughter asked my sister-in-law if she had her own room as a child.  I would never have thought to ask that. I thought I knew, but it turns out that they had an uncle who was also living with them, so she shared a room with her sister.

4. Sitting closer to the interviewee would have been a good idea.  There are times when I couldn't hear the conversation (both in real life and on the tape) because other people walked between us and were having their own conversation.  There was a conversation off to the side, and sometimes it drowned out our conversation.

5.  Sitting in a better lit location would have been nice.  The picture quality is awful, but since that wasn't my main objective, it isn't a big problem.  If I had planned it, I might have set up the area better before the guests arrived.

6.  There are other people who know things.  One thing I realized is that my older brother remembers a lot more things than I do.  He would be a good person to ask too.  Also, my mother seemed to direct a lot of her conversation to my sister-in-law, maybe because she thinks we know most of what she knows, so I think she would be a big source of information as well.  I did turn the camera towards other people in the conversation from time to time, but mostly I kept it in one spot, so it wasn't obvious that I was working it.

7.  The timing of the question is critical.  You want to ask when people are resting, not when they are about to get up to do something else.  The less they have to do instead of talking to you, the better!  I asked after we were done eating and had moved to the living room to digest our food.  Also, if you work in your question when someone has brought up a topic about the past or about something related to your question, that's an extra bonus.  Then it is more of a conversation than an interview.

8.  Videoing / tape recording is a great tool.  I had forgotten many rich details, and am glad that I did it.  If you can't do any of those, go to the bathroom (or someplace else) after the conversation is over, and jot down your notes.  Try to record who said what.  It is very easy to forget the details. You want to get the facts as they were told to you, not as you digested them.    Recording them while they are fresh in your mind is the best way.

9.  Do not rehearse the question ahead of time.  Just have a general feeling of the question you want to ask.  I phrased my question very awkwardly, which maybe helped the "conversation" aspect of it.  Also, because it was awkwardly phased, I could ask it again, better phrased, to keep the conversation going.

10.  Do ask questions.  You will learn more about the people you are talking to and about your family.  And they will feel more valued that you care enough to learn about them.

Writing down the information is another bonus.  It doesn't have to be perfectly done.  You can write down what you learned on your blog, or maybe make one of those photo books or scrap book.  Or just write your notes on a sheet of paper and put the paper in the family Bible.  You don't have to be a genealogist to do this.  And if you are, this information will make your genealogy much less dry and so much more interesting.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Black Friday Shopping


I started out the day thinking that I was going to skip the shopping. Someone had stolen my newspaper on Thursday (if indeed I got one since I only subscribe to the Sunday paper, but usually they give you a Thanksgiving paper anyway because of all the ads.) I didn't know what was on sale, and I really couldn't think of any big thing I wanted that would be worth getting up early for if I could find a good price for it.

So I stayed up late on Thanksgiving, and was about to get ready for bed when my daughter said she wanted to go shopping for clothes.  We weren't about to wake up at stupid hours of the morning to get clothes, but she did want to go reasonably early.  We bought the things she wanted, and I bought some of the holiday gifts on my list. I have most of my holiday shopping done, and have a good idea of what to get the rest.  We did pretty good.  She had planned on going to another store, but she decided she had found what she needed, and was satisfied.

Then I found out that the drug stores had their free sales.  Both Walgreens and CVS had things you could buy, and they would give you a coupon for the price of the item that you could use for anything in the store.  They both had a nice selection of different things.  So I went, and got some.  I was choosy and only got the things I knew we could use.  Sometimes I get things for other people, but I didn't do that this year.   My daughter chose half of those as her own.  I went home and ordered a free 8 x 10 that was also available at Walgreens.

On Saturday, I remembered that I had forgotten to get headphones at CVS. This is something we need.  So I went back to the store.  It was a bonus, because I could use the six coupons I received on Friday for the items.   On Friday, I had gotten one of each of the things I wanted, but when I looked at the ad again, some of the things had a limit of 2 or 5.  So I bought more of the things I knew we could use more of, like chocolate! I bought a lot more of the "free" stuff than I had the day before.  If I had known I was going to do this, I would have balanced out my purchases better and bought more on Friday.

The important thing is to use these coupons before they expire, preferably on things that are on sale.  Using the coupons is pretty easy, since CVS sells quilt magazines!

There weren't any big crowds or big lines anywhere I went, so the shopping was quick and easy.  There were no big purchases this year, but I got lots of regular daily stuff at good prices.

Saturday, November 27, 2010


Hello everyone, welcome back. I hope you had a Happy Thanksgiving.  We did. We met with the entire family at my sister's house, and had a great feast, and great conversation.

Just some random thoughts today.  I am still spending a few minutes to sew the Simply Squares together.  At one time, I had decided that I would no longer buy any pins or safety pins.  The ones I have are enough to make maybe two quilts, and if the supplies are in use, I have to finish the project, so the supplies are free to use.  This is a way to limit myself from starting too many new things.


One of the tips I read or heard, and use, is to identify rows by designating the row # by using that number of pins.  I was afraid I was going to run out of pins using this method, since I had fourteen rows. I needed pins for the seams.  One thing I did, was turn them over in pairs, since they had to be sewn up anyway, so I only had to label seven pairs.  I put the labeling pins on the left side of the row, so it was clear which way the pair went.  I also got smart, and I used a safety pin to designate the number 5, kinda like tallies. No, I don't do it neatly, I am going to take them out anyway, although I recommend not pinning the rows together with the tally pins, and not so close to the edge, so you can leave them in until the entire quilt top is done.

It turns out I have a whole box of pins upstairs - safety pins stay on a quilt until the basted quilt is quilted, but straight pins don't stay on very long.  I am not in a habit of straight pinning fabric or blocks and leaving a project in the pinned state.

Also if you are the kind of person who remembers things, you should know that when I brought the rows downstairs after pressing them, it didn't seem like I had enough rows, so I took the leftover squares, cut a couple more (from a new to this quilt fabric), and made another row.  Now I have fully used all the fabric, and except for the part that was too small.  Then I found that I had dropped two rows upstairs on my way down.  So, when you see the quilt, don't expect fourteen rows.  I don't know how many I have, I'm not the kind who remembers these things. Logic says 15, but I'm not making any promises.

so cute
I received my mushrooms I requested from Meyer Imports, who by the way is having a different giveaway this month. I talked about it here on this post.  When I saw them on Allie's blog, I was hoping that the little bottles were part of the gift, and not something she had bought. And they are!  It's glass glitter.  So adorable.  My first thought was "What do I do with these?"  I think it would be smart for the business owner to show what can be done with this stuff, in order to increase sales.

so tiny
But not to worry, John.  I have signed up for Another Little Quilt Swap with Kate, and ideas are brewing in my mind that uses these.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Reading: Uncle Sam's Plantation

The welfare system has problems.  There are policies that are made to help, but wind up hurting the situation. They lose the incentive to solve their own problems.  And people use the system to what they think is their best advantage.  If you only get help if your electricity is shut off, there are people who will deliberately not pay their bill until their electricity is shut off, so that they can get the help.  There are cutoffs for certain programs.  I have experienced and know several people who, by making an effort to help themselves, have wound up ever so slightly over the cutoff for lots of help.  There are moral and ethical issues about which is better, so we decided that we are better off in helping ourselves, but not everybody makes that decision.

On the other hand, there are people who did wind up getting into situations where they need temporary help.  If you got laid off, or had a major health crisis, then it seems like a little help is appropriate.  Chances are, that if you are financially disadvantaged, your friends and family members are also living on a shoestring, and would be less able to help you.  It is a complex, sticky situation. While there is a lot people can do to help themselves, there are some conditions that some people are born with that are beyond their control.  How do you help people that need help without making them dependent or tempt them to work the system to get the most they can?

In my view, there aren't any clear, simple solutions.  But we do need to find solutions, so a book that purports to provide them sounds like a worthy read.

I got the book Uncle Sam's Plantation: How Big Government Enslaves America's Poor and What We Can Do About It by Star Parker from Booksneeze. It is about how the "government manipulates, controls and ultimately devastates the lives of the poor."  The title was very intriguing.  I was expecting to learn more about what was wrong with the welfare system, and what she thought were plausible solutions.  I was trying to imagine what life would be like if there was no welfare.

A book that talks about different aspects of the system, and explains what is wrong with it, and suggests a better alternative for that aspect would have been nice.

I am having a hard time figuring out how to discuss this book without talking about politics.  This book obviously espouses the Republican philosophy, and is anti-Democrats.   I personally don't choose between either Democratic or Republican philosophy - I like parts of both.  The world isn't black and white, and it seems like you have to see it as such when you choose one.

It was a rambling book - talking about the difficulties of defining poverty, stating that raising the minimum wage meant either raising prices or laying off people, problems with her mother working while on social security, education, health insurance, etc.  I was struck by the fact that there were some facts that were pointed out without any citations, and but mostly it was conjectures that were purported to be facts without any evidence. There are no footnotes or bibliography.  There were also Republican philosophies that had nothing to do with the subject of the book.

She talks about the changing face of America, with fewer people getting married, more out-of-wedlock babies, etc., but doesn't state how this should affect policies.  I think the implication is that all of these things are a result of Democrat philosophies, and somehow going back to the old ways would be best, although she doesn't say how that could be accomplished.

I was looking forward to the "What We Can Do About It" part of the book, which was at the very end, but it seems like the only recommendation was "A bold Republican agenda." 

The book was interesting enough, but it is basically an Anti-Democrat book, and there were no realistic solutions. It spent so much time complaining and not enough time explaining how her way would be better.

I received this book for free from Booksneeze in exchange for my review. You can click on the link to read more reviews on this book.

Saturday, November 20, 2010


I added some lighter fabric to my simple squares quilt.  I was worried it might be too dark.  Then I worry that the lighter fabric will change the mood too much from the original.  I decided to just add a few pieces of the lighter fabric, but then I worried that the light fabrics, especially the lightest one, might stand out too much compared to all the darker and dark medium fabrics.

I bought the fabric in quarter yard increments.  I decided to cut the squares four and a half inches, in order to best use the fabric.  Then when I was done with cutting the first row, I worried that there wouldn't be enough to cut a second row, considering that any fabric I cut to get a clean cut, would eat into my nine inches of fabric.  I thought I should have cut something slightly smaller than four and a half inches.  I did buy some pieces in half yards, since they were a great price, but I decided to leave those to leave the proportions intact.

The fabric was cut perfectly though, just a sliver over nine inches, so that there was no waste at all, and I was able to get to get two rows out of every piece of fabric.  I started sewing, and then I worried that I didn't make the quilt big enough.  Sure it is big enough for a small lap quilt, but I like my lap quilts to really cover me, and another row would make me feel better.  So I cut the rest of my fabric.  In fact, I am using it all up.  All of it, in fact, so the proportions are dictated more by circumstance, than by choice.

Since the last quilt I finished is the rail fence, where every single fabric matched, whether it "matched" or not. I am out of practice in the "will these play together nicely" decision making.  I am pretty sure it will work regardless, but I will have to finish the quilt before I am reassured.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010


I have finished putting the borders of my rail fence quilt. Unfortunately, I didn't record on this blog when I started it, but it was at least a year ago.  Eventually I got motivated to work on it as the main project.  I would like to finish the rail fence quilt now, instead of saving it for later. I am working on piecing the backing now.  Nothing fancy, just getting it big enough.

I have decided that I am not going to be making all of my holiday gifts this year.  I will buy something, and supplement it with a quick handmade gift - like the tissue holders I showed earlier. This leaves my time left to finish quilts. [No, Michele, I am not going to promise to finish 10 quilts. or even one.] It also gives me permission to make little things to get the thrill of making something new as well.

I went shopping for batting, and bought some sale fabric as well, pictured above.  I haven't bought any fabric in a long time, so this was really enjoyable.  I have been fondling the fabric since I bought it, thinking I have so many unfinished projects, and fabric kitted up, that I should just put this away. I hadn't bought the fabric to go together, just what I was in the mood to get at the time, but I think they do look good together.  And I have decided to use it up.  This keeps my promise of not buying fabric for the stash.  I am going to make a quilt simply with squares, like this - letting the fabric do the work.  I'm not sure if I will be doing it as a Leader and Ender or simply just make it now. I'm thinking it is something quick and easy that I should just be able to chain piece, but we all know that those kinds of words should never be uttered.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Meyer Imports

Allie did it, so I am doing it to.

Meyer Imports is having an offer.  I haven't ordered from them before.

I am cutting and pasting the post, so you can get the full details directly from them.

Every order gets a Free sample set of Vintage Spun Cotton and Plaster Mushrooms! And, in fact, you do not even need to order them to win! Here's how it works:
For every order we get during the month of November, we will add a free Sample Kit of our Vintage Mushrooms with the other items you ordered. Just for you to play with and have fun! We just want everyone to know we are more than just great Glass Glitter!
Write about this free offer on your blog and send us a link to the posting with your mailing address! We will send you the same free sample just for helping get the word out! No cost!

And yes I am aware that this is my third post today.  I am making up for the times when I wasn't writing as much!

Blog References

I've come across some interesting blog posts, and I thought I would share them with you. Some of them might be old news to you.

Libby Fife has written a great post about using the word fear when it comes to art.  It is the vocabulary we use and the things we tell ourselves that sometimes stop us from accomplishing what we want.

Geneabloggers is doing their annual Christmas Memories calendar.  You can start on December 1, and follow their prompts for blog topics.  You're not required to do each one, and of course, since it is your blog, you can also choose other blog topics.  Basically it is a way to document your  memories and share them with others.  I think it is a great way to document your history. Also, it helps that someone else has already come up with blog topics, so all you have to do is follow them!  I personally won't be doing this, because of issues specific to my family, but I think it would work well for a majority of bloggers.

Robyne Melia sold a crazy quilt for $70,000. It is beautiful, and it is nice to know that the time and effort and money spent on quilts is appreciated.

The photo is of a beautiful art quilt that was displayed at our local library.

Time Travelling

I was a reading a quilt blog last week that referred to 2009 as almost two years ago. And she is right, January 2009 was almost two years ago.  Really makes you think about time.

I have been thinking about time.  I was looking at city directories for 1900.  Since the family appeared there, I needed to keep searching backwards to see when they first appeared.  It just seemed like the family wouldn't be here earlier, because the parents were elsewhere, but some of them were.  In fact, I found one of them in 1895, and I still don't know if that was when he came, since that is the age he would have been old enough to have his own place and be in the directory.  It felt strange looking at the directory from so long ago.  They even had a colored lithograph in it.  And it was in pretty good condition for being so old.

Then I got a general history book.   It is obviously a school book. I like those - they are easier to read and get a broad understanding  On the left side, there are spaces to mark the student who is using it that year.  Remember when we had to do that?  Do they still do that?  On the right side, was a sticker showing the old library system, with due dates stamped in the paper.  Above that is the bar code that we use now to electronically scan the book.  At least it didn't have the older card in a slot in the book, with borrower's names written on them.  I liked looking at those and figuring out what kind of people would read that book.

This last thing, the library book, is what makes me feel old.  The oldest date in the book, 1993 doesn't seem that long ago, but it's almost two decades ago, before some kids about to graduate from high school were born .  And so it is ancient history to all of them. It won't be long before they get their own place and start showing up in city directories, for as long as they continue to make them.

I hear a couple of cities are giving up publishing the white pages. We'll have to tell the people being born today about a time when we used to get a whole book that listed all the people in the city delivered to us annually.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

2 Days Only – Get 1 Free Photo Wall Calendar, plus Free Shipping!

As I have been a bargain shopper for decades, I have gotten accustomed to reading the fine print. If they had told me that there was a charge for shipping, I may have gotten it anyway. That seems fair. (In fact, the last free thing I got was a personalized book from another company. I paid the shipping. They told me up front that there would be shipping charges. I decided that when I buy another book from them, I should order better covers.)

That's why, when I got the offer for a free calendar, I decided to test it first, by limiting myself to the free calendar, and then tweak future decisions if I wanted to buy more. The fact that the shipping was free (capital letters, exclamation point) made it more enticing. This was truly supposed to be a no obligation offer.  I was sure they would try to sell me other stuff, (like extra copies) but I could get that stuff later.

VistaPrint clearly made an error in their advertising. They put the wrong clause in their offer.
The 3-for-1 Photo Calendar offer applies only when ordering three of the same calendar.
Instead of owning up to that fact, they are going to blame me for being too dense to understand their offer. I don't appreciate the insinuation.  So I ask you, dear readers, do you see anywhere in the offer that says that shipping is free only when you order more than $30? To me the big print (complete with capital letters and exclamation mark) overrides the fine print, which clearly says "unless otherwise specified."

To me, this is false advertising, plain and simple.  I do not like being lied to, and will not be doing business with this company.  There were some form emails I also received, but I'll skip them because, while they add to the frustration, they don't get to the heart of the matter. Here's their response and the ad:

RE: 2 Days Only – Get 1 Free Photo Wall Calendar, plus Free Shipping!
...(vista print)

To:XX (me)

Dear XX XX, (me)
Thank you for sharing your concern with me.
A review of the below promotional offer confirms that the offer is reflecting correctly on the website. The offer extended is for free shipping on orders valuing $30 or more.
The Subject of the email is intended to provide a general overview of the offers being included in the promotion, and is in no way meant to describe the details of the offer. The body of the email further details that the customer should see the website for details as ‘additional charges may apply for shipping and processing’
We extend our apology if the conditions were not immediately clear to you.
Kind Regards,
Care Supervisor
T: 1.800.721.6214 x5275

Vistaprint Make an impression.

Business Cards are FREE at www.vistaprint.com!
From:XX (me)
Sent: Nov.
To: XX (vista print)
Subject: Fw: 2 Days Only – Get 1 Free Photo Wall Calendar, plus Free Shipping!
Vistaprint Inquiry Response REF#[XX

I am trying to place my order through an email from Martha Stewart which states that the calendar is free and the shipping is free. The email does not state a minimum of a $30 order. The site is trying to charge me for shipping. I would like to try out your service without charge as advertised.

I was asked to forward the original message to you.  As you can see, there is nothing in this message about a minimum order for shipping. There is a weird message about a 3-for-1 photo calendar, but that isn't part of the offer.

----- Forwarded Message ----
From: Martha Stewart Special Partners
To: XX
Sent: November XX
Subject: 2 Days Only – Get 1 Free Photo Wall Calendar, plus Free Shipping!

If you cannot see this email, please click here.

Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia would like to thank you for your continued loyalty and bring you this offer from one of our advertising partners.

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The 3-for-1 Photo Calendar offer applies only when ordering three of the same calendar.


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Friday, November 12, 2010

Memory Lane

I received a offer for a free calendar with free shipping.  It was one where you use your pictures for the calendar. I figured that they would try to sell me more stuff, but I like to try out the company before trusting them wholeheartedly with my money.

I only had two days to choose my pictures.  I knew that it would take me more than two days to choose family pictures.  I would have to choose a proper theme, or arrangement, or pictures, etc.

I decided to use pictures of my quilts.  It was very late on the second day by that time, so I had very little time to choose.  I grabbed some photos of some finished quilts, but also added some work in process ones.  Since it is the process of quilting that is more enjoyable to me, those quilts in their unfinished stages (alas they are still unfinished) were really attractive to me. With the rug and the couch and the wall in the picture, this isn't a "pretty" picture, and wouldn't get published in anyone else's calendar, but it really shows the reality of how quilting happens around here.

I chose the thirteen pictures and added them randomly.  And pressed the continue button.  It turns out that they were charging for shipping.  It was just $5 which is pretty good for a personalized calendar, but on principle, since they said no shipping, I wasn't buying it.

You had to buy two calendars at $15 each to get the free shipping.  Ten bucks a calendar for three calendars is a pretty good deal for personalized holiday gifts, but if I had known I had to buy three, I would have taken the time to choose family pictures.  They do try to sell you other things, oh so tempting things with your picture on them, but I was strong and resisted.

I sent an email to the company to see if they could fix the free shipping problem.

But in the meantime, I did enjoy getting to see my quilts again.  In a way, I do feel guilty for the unfinished quilts, but I really enjoyed seeing their pictures alongside all the finished ones.  It is all a part of the journey.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Brick Wall Demolished

A brick wall in genealogy terms is what it sounds like.  An huge obstacle in the path that looks insurmountable.  I had one of those.  Mary White. She was single, so there wasn't any other name associated with her, besides her son.  She probably died young, or remarried or something, but with a name like that, I thought it would be impossible to find her parents, or anything more about her.

It was frustrating because I had information extending several generations on every other line but this one.

But last week, I found a death certificate for Mary White on familysearch.org.   She died three years after her only son was born, which explains why I couldn't find references to her except for his birth, marriage and death certificates.  And after some easy research, I am sure that this is my Mary White. So now I have her parents names, her siblings, and one set of grandparent's names.  She has a large family, so hopefully I can find out more about her through her family members.

Now the brick wall has turned into a climbable fence.

I know I should be finishing up quilts, and making holiday gifts, but having more than one obsessive hobby is difficult, and I have to go where I am led.