Thursday, January 20, 2011

A Winter Project

A few winters back, I had some spare time on my hands while working shift work and not supply teaching every waking moment.  I had done about as much local research as I could on mine and my wife's family trees.  All the data was stored in the computer and I was kind of casting about, wondering what to do as my next genealogy project.  I have been the keeper of the family photos for many years and seem to keep accumulating new lots every few years from other family members.  Some are originals and others are scans that I have begged, borrowed and cajoled.  Actually I find most people who have family photos are very good to lend.  Well there was one exception to that.  At some point I will write about my great great great grandmother, Rebecca Hobbs Croswell French.  She was an amazing pioneering spirit.

However as I say that is another story for another day.  One of the researchers from her line, thought she had the only surviving photo of this lady.  She kept telling us all that she had the photo, but was not going to share it, because she planned on writing a book and wanted to save the photo as a surprise for everyone.  So for several years the rest of us fumed and fussed to ourselves, waiting for alleged book to be published.  

In the mean time another photo surfaced from another researcher.  This photo was gladly shared, scanned and reproduced by all and sundry. I guess once the holder of the original photo realized she had been scooped, she begrudgingly allowed one scan to be made of her original.  Of course that one spread virally, via the internet.  Then it was decided that maybe the first shared one, was not Rebecca, but probably her daughter-in-law.  And now a third one, also allegedly of Rebecca, has come to light.  I'm beginning to wonder if any of them are the real McCoy!

But I've wandered way off topic.  For all my genealogy efforts, I really didn't feel I had a format that might appeal to everyone in the family, whether they had any interest in family history or not.  

At this time you could buy mats for photos that could be used for a child, from Kindergarten to Grade 12.  There was one large oval in the middle for the graduating photo, and 12 smaller ovals surrounding it for school photos from every year of the child's life. 

This gave me the inspiration to try and make a direct family tree in somewhat the same format.  I searched but there was nothing of that nature available that I could locate.  Necessity is the mother of invention, so I decided to make my own mats.

I purchased a large piece of mat board (cut to match an antique frame I already had).  I decided I wanted to show five generations of family, as I had photos available for most of those folks.  I started with a colour photo of my daughters as they will be the recipients of this project, eventually.  From there I branched out to photos of the missus and myself, then back to the four grand parents.  Another level is the eight great grandparents and finally around the outside, the sixteen great, great grandparents.  Unfortunately there are four of these individuals of whom a likeness has never been found.  All lived and died in an era when photography was quite common.  However house fires may have destroyed whatever photos may have ever existed.  I always live in hope that I may some day be able to fill in those "no photo available" gaps.

The biggest challenge in setting this up, was to get all the photos reproduced to roughly the same size and proportion.  First of all I tried to select the most flattering photos of each person.  In some the faces were only a quarter inch long, others like my great grandfather Patterson were large oval portraits (9" X 13").  I had to calculate the sizes for each face, so that the end result was a face about 1 inch long.  Another great grandfather, was only available as a tintype.  Tintypes do not scan well at all and I was very concerned about possible damage from the scanning lamp.  This photo is very dark and the features are not clear at all (top left hand corner in photo).

Because I have two daughters, I decided to do my project in duplicate.  It was twice as much work at the time, but far easier than deciding to do it at a later date.

My final product hangs in the entranceway to our house.  It is a great conversation piece for both friends and family.  Family can actually visually see the forefathers they've heard so much about, and friends just like to hear the story of the process.

There is one pair of photos that always brings out the questions (second and third from right top corner).  My wife's great grandmother is just a young girl in her shot (she died in childbirth in her early twenties and this is the only photo that has come to light.  Her husband however is an older man in his photo (probably in his sixties, judging by white hair and beard).  Again though, it is the only good photo of him that exists.

And then there is the Tom Selleck look-alike, my grandfather Patterson.  What a shame his genetics could not have passed on to yours truly.

And that is about all I have to say for today.

Musings and meanderings from the Musical Gardener.

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