All Good Wishes

Happy, happy Christmas, that can win us back to the delusions of our childhood days, recall to the old man the pleasures of his youth, and transport the traveler back to his own fireside and quiet home! — Charles Dickens

We wish our clients, colleagues and friends the blessings of peace, goodwill, faith and family this Christmas season and in the year ahead.

Precious Memories

After a busy autumn, I finally returned to my Veen family project. Scanning and digital organization of my husband’s photographs and papers is well in hand, so it’s time to organize and preserve his irreplaceable documents, photographs, and mementos. Because I want him to enjoy these precious memories, I’ve opted for archival-safe photo albums/scrapbooks for the bulk of his collection.

Removing newspaper clippings and photographs from old, self-adhesive pages is a challenge, and not all his newspaper clippings survived. But most were safely removed, and the few casualties have been scanned, so I’m ready to create a nice keepsake album. Items too bulky for an album are wrapped in acid-free tissue paper and stored in a cabinet drawer in his home office. My hope is that having the album and mementos close at hand will jog his memory and we can begin recording the stories of his life to share with our children.

Here are some key factors to keep in mind as you consider preservation options for your family treasures.

  • Climate control. Storage areas should be clean, dark, cool and dry. Try to maintain even temperatures and humidity. Avoid storage in attics or basements.
  • Plastics and wood emit gases that will damage your items—if you do not use archival-friendly storage boxes, wrap items in acid free tissue to protect them.
  • Don’t use metal fasteners such as paper clips or staples, or rubber bands, to secure documents.
  • Storage boxes, scrapbook and photo album pages should be comprised of acid-free, buffered material.
  • Don’t use glues or other types of adhesives or tapes to secure items in albums. Photo corners are a good option.
  • Newspapers are printed on a poor quality paper—they deteriorate more rapidly than other types of paper and can cause damage as they degrade. Use buffered “interleaving paper,” or polyester sheet protectors to keep them separated.


One of the best resources for learning more about historic preservation is the Library of Congress:

A couple of good resources for purchasing archival-quality albums & storage materials:

  • Gaylord Brothers, P.O. Box 4901, Syracuse NY 13211-4901. This company serves museums and archives, but also provides storage solutions and information for family historians.
  • Exposures, 1 Memory Lane, P.O. Box 3690, Oshkosh, WI  54903-3690. Products include archival-friendly photo albums, scrapbooks and supplies.

Just in time for Christmas (one year later) the first phase of my Veen family project is complete. The Big Blue Bin is still brim full; I look forward to digging for more undiscovered treasure!

Just Around the Corner…

October, Family History Month, is just around the corner – bringing boundless opportunities for family history education and fun at upcoming regional conferences!

The Minnesota Genealogical Society’s Tenth Annual North Star Conference, “Family History Crossroads,” will be held 6 – 7 October 2017 at the Earle Brown Heritage Center in Brooklyn Center, Minnesota; featured speakers: Paula Stuart-Warren, CG, FMGS, FUGA and Cyndi Ingle, creator of Cyndi’s List.

The two-day conference includes twenty breakout presentations by leading speakers from five states, plus a pre-conference DNA workshop on 5 October. Continue reading

Categories & Labels

With 300 images on my computer, it might seem a difficult task to provide each with a unique identifying label. Organizing images into logical categories is a good first step. Within my “VEEN” file, I create a file for my husband’s generation. My husband’s personal file is labeled 2_Norman J Veen, because he is the second child of the family. I’ve stored my 300 images in his personal file. Continue reading

Cropping & Corrections

Here’s an easy bit of project work. I need to go through all images and crop, straighten, rotate, correct color and contrast, etc. This is a good “multi-tasking item—it doesn’t require brain power, so I can work my way through 300 images with my feet up and the TV on!

Photo editing

Most corrections are accomplished with basic software—I like Microsoft Picture Manager, but there are plenty of choices. For more sophisticated photo work, Photoshop Elements works well. Between the two programs, just about any image can be properly adjusted and formatted.

Now those 300 images are ready to be tagged and documented.

Scanning and Saving

Boyden-Hull mementos

The next phase of my adventure with the Big Blue Bin doesn’t involve the Bin at all—for now I’m focused on dealing with the smaller bin that holds items from my husband’s life before our marriage. Again, I deconstruct this aspect of the project into smaller bites.

I like to deconstruct to the point that I can begin and finish a baby-step goal in a single session. Think of time in terms of blocks you can devote to your project. If you only have an hour to spare, what can you achieve with an hour’s work? Try to deconstruct to that point. Do you have an afternoon free? Or an entire day? What can you reasonably accomplish with that amount of time? Construct your baby-step plan accordingly. Continue reading

Setting Goals, Baby Steps

Unpacking the Big Blue Bin

Anytime we begin a new project, it’s necessary to articulate goals. Success is difficult to achieve if it’s undefined! The overarching goal of my new project is to reconstruct the family history of my husband’s Veen ancestors. This includes identifying and establishing relationships between the four surnames of his grandparents: Veen, Rensink, Rosenboom and Verrips. These are Dutch and German surnames. Although I have some Dutch ancestry, this type of research will be new to me.

Have you heard the word “deconstruction” before? I had not, until I began reading books on project management. “Deconstruction” in project management terms simply means to take a large, seemingly overwhelming task and break it down into manageable bites. Think of it as taking “baby steps” as you begin your family history project. Continue reading

The Big Blue Bin

Big Blue Bin

Last Christmas I promised my husband I’d organize, research and write his family history. OK, so maybe my motives were mixed: I’ve been shuffling around this big blue plastic storage bin of “Veen stuff” for several years. Every time I came across something “Veen” I added it to the bin, then as the bin filled, began piling items on top. I needed to get it out of the upstairs hallway, so this seemed like a good idea in addition to a nice gift. Continue reading


Like a prairie fire pioneers swept across the frontier, filling the land so quickly that by 1845 Iowa approached eligibility for statehood. Admitted as a free state in December 1846, Iowa served to balance Florida’s entry as a slave state.

Did statehood conclude the frontier era of Iowa? No. There was plenty of land left for settlement; the 1846 map defined Iowa’s new boundaries, but her internal organization remained incomplete. Another decade would pass before the last county, Hamilton, was formed.

Even county development did not truly draw to a close Iowa’s frontier era. Not until the years following the Civil War, when the railroad stretched its fingers across every part of the state, connecting farmers to eastern markets, goods and services, could Iowa finally say “done” with pioneer days.

From her earliest native inhabitants, to trappers, traders and adventurers; and finally to the American pioneers whose ambitions and ideals shaped a new state, Iowa continues to be the peaceful, prosperous, and beautiful “land between two rivers.”