Archive for the ‘Sharing with Children’ Category

Speak To Me and Use a Good Microphone!

May 10, 2011

Start Recording Yourself

Creating a slide show with narrative makes a huge difference. Getting the best sound quality is very important.  However, one of the big problems is finding the right microphone without putting it on your charge card.

Price – Not an Indicator of a Quality Microphone

Over the years I’ve tested many types of microphones with disappointing results. Price does not seem to be the discriminator unless you spend over $100 which is more than I can not justify.

In my experience, pricey technology does not seem to make any difference. In fact, the more expensive microphones provided inferior sound quality.  The least expensive USB microphone I used made me sound like I was recording in the bathroom. Not exactly the image I wanted to portray of where I make my recordings even though no one bothers you there!

Previously I recommended the GE microphone / headset sold at Target. However, you had to get the headset with a removable microphone to get the right one. Unfortunately my local Target no longer carries that model of the GE headset and requires you purchase on-line. I’m too impatient to wait so I checked out the microphones at Radio Shack.

A Great Little Secret

Excellent and Inexpensive MicI’m delighted to report that Radio Shack carries an outstanding microphone for about $15. You read correctly, fifteen bucks! It gets even better. It has a six foot cable, lapel clip and mute button. What more could you ask? Does it sound like a $15 mic? Nope! The sound quality is excellent. I’m so impressed I’ve been using it for the webinars I produce.

Go to Radio Shack and ask for the “Gigaware, Clip on Microphone.”

Good things still come in small packages.

Speaking makes you look so good so record yourself for the kids and family to treasure in the future.

Get more sound recoding tips from the Old Shoebox Newsletter.

Want more proof? Listen to me on our next Family History Webinar. Click  here to view our webinar schedule.

Are Your Photos Overwhelming You?

April 12, 2010

Photo Management Suggestions

During the past fifteen years I’ve struggled with many strategies to preserve, organize and manage photos. I have many different types and sizes of photos including slides and newspaper clippings.

The photo at the left is one of many photos in my Olsen family photo collection. This photo represents an avoidable tragedy. The photo was taken about 1900 in Norway. These two beautiful young ladies are probably relatives. Unfortunately we may never know their names, where they lived and how they were related, No one took the time to write any information on the back of the photo. Hopefully I may find a relative who has the same photo with information.

Here are a few things I’ve learned about working with photos:

  1. Scan and save only the best quality photos. No one will be interested in looking at poor quality photos unless a photo is ‘one of kind.’ Refer to my blog about scanning recommendations so you don’t waste time creating poor quality scans. More scanning information can be accessed by clicking this link.
  2. Eliminate duplicate photos. Pick and save the best photo when you have several similar photos.
  3. Photos without descriptive information are worthless. Sorry to be so blunt. Few people enjoy looking at meaningless photos. Click this link for more information.
  4. DO NOT copy photos into your computer without a plan. You will discover it’s easier to find photos in boxes than disorganized folders on your computer. See the next suggestion.
  5. Avoid organizing photos by names and dates. Maintain the context in which photos were taken when copying photos into folders. Use topical names for folder or collection names such as the occasion when photos were taken. For example, you take photos on a picnic or hike. Put all the photos taken during the picnic or hike into a folder named “Dry Canyon Hike” because that is the location where the hike occurred. For a graduation you might name the photo folder “Nathan Graduation 2009.” Photos of my great grandfather’s rock home are in a collection called, “Carl Steen’s Rock Home.” More information may be found by clicking this link.
  6. Do not break up photo albums. Scan photos into categories (folders) similar to the pages in the album. This will maintain the organization that was used to create the album. For example, you may discover the photos on an album page were all cousins. Studying the photo grouping of album pages and sections may reveal other hidden information.
  7. Add oral narrative and stories to photos. Next time you visit your grandparents ask to see their photo album. Be prepared to hear fascinating stories of their history that you’ve never heard. Don’t forget to ask about how they met, courted, and married. Old photos were expensive and usually taken for a reason, Your challenge is to discover the story hidden in each photo. Record the stories and information with a tape recorder or digital voice recorder. Associating oral narrative with a photo is priceless, enhances meaning and really brings a photo back to life. 
  8. Keep Information within the photo file. Use a computer software program to embed (store) descriptive text information and dates in the computer photo file. Learn more about “Photo & Information Survivability by clicking this newsletter link.
  9. Improve your digital camera skills. Learn to take better quality photos. For more information, click this newsletter link. Digital Photography in Family History.
  10. Avoid scanning promotions. If someone comes to your door and offers to scan and preserve all your photos – Smile and then RUN! All you will end up with is several DVDs and a big bill. Your photos will be preserved but without any of the descriptive information that makes the photo meaningful and valuable. There is still hope if you copy the images from the DVDs and use another program such as Heritage Collector to add photo captions and identify the people in the photos. Make new DVD archives of the photos and information. Note: Having someone scan and enhance your photos maybe helpful and save time if you do not want to scan your photos. Sort photos into groups so you will have some general photo organization when you receive the DVD photo collections.

More information links about photos

Old Shoebox Newsletter 

Photo Identification Suggestions

Scanning Tutorial

Photo Management Software

Finding a Needle in the Haystack

February 19, 2010

Is a Cemetery Really a Big Haystack?

The following definition of finding a needle in a haystack summarizes my recent trip to a cemetery.   

 “If trying to find something is like looking for a needle in a haystack, it means that it is very difficult, if not impossible to find among everything around it.” from   

Last September my cousin passed away. I attended the funeral and graveside service. I returned to the cemetery in November to get a photo of the marker and the exact GPS coordinates. I knew his grave would be easy to find because it was located between the road and a fence in the north corner of the cemetery. There was a large tree not far from the grave to use as reference point. Unfortunately I was not successful finding his grave and assumed the headstone still needed to be placed.   

In January I decided to try again but a foot of snow now covered all the graves. This cemetery requires all markers to be flat and flush with the ground so I’d have to wait until the snow melted.   

Most of the snow was gone in February so I made another trip to the cemetery. I took my oldest son along so I’d have a second pair of eyes to make it easier to find the grave. We stopped near the big tree and walked about fifty feet toward the fence which should have put us right over the grave.   

I didn’t see the grave nearby so I enlarged my search to about a fifteen foot radius. Still no grave. I verified I was in line with the big tree near the road so I should be in the right area. I wondered if they were waiting for the ground to settle before placing the stone.   

Which tree?

I used the wrong tree as a reference point.


I decided not to give up but to widen my search area. A cold wind was blowing as I searched causing the hand holding my big camera to start hurting. I looked back at the tree and decided I was aligned with the wrong tree! I walked about another fifty feet down and started reading more markers. Still no success and my hand was almost numb.   

Finally I had success. I told my son it was frustrating it took so long to find the grave since I was there for the burial only a few months ago.   

This personal experience reinforces the importance of having GPS coordinates for burial sites. Using trees and other landmarks is not dependable since cemetery topography changes our memory fades of the exact location. It would have been more difficult if my cousin had been buried in another part of the cemetery where there are fewer trees and his grave would been partially covered by snow.  

Take photo of GPS device and the grave

Take photo of GPS device and the grave


Take Photos and Get GPS Coordinates

Use a Garmin Nuvi, car GPS navigator, cell phone or a dedicated GPS device to display and record coordinates at the cemetery. 


How to Save GPS Coordinates For a Grave

  1. Take a photo of the grave marker.
  2. Display the coordinates screen on your GPS device. To get coordinates on a Garmin Nuvi: Touch “Where To?” → press the down arrow on the right side of the screen → select “Coordinates.” The coordinates display will appear showing your location.
  3. Place your GPS directly on the marker or hold your GPS and stand near the grave.
  4. Position the GPS device (place it near your body and turn your back to the sun to eliminate glare).
  5. Take photo of GPS device.
  6. Preview the photo to make certain you can read the GPS coordinates.
  7. Import photos of graves and GPS coordinate photos into your computer.

Saving Photos and GPS Coordinates for Future Reference

I returned home and imported my cemetery photos into Heritage Collector. Next I displayed the photo of the Garmin coordinate screen, typed in coordinates and then used the cut/paste option to put the GPS coordinates into the photo of the grave.   

I was concerned the GPS coordinates and photo of the grave may be lost or become unassociated with the photo of the grave. I used the new Embed Information option to put the photo caption, date, and GPS coordinates into the IPTC portion of each image file. That way the important information will always remain with the photo file for future reference. Now it’s possible for ALL information to stay embedded in the IPTC portion of the image file.   

Printing a Cemetery Map With GPS Coordinates

The last step was to go into the Heritage Collector’s GPS Track module and create screen captures of the cemetery map at different satellite magnifications (elevations) to make it easier for family members to find my cousin’s grave – even if the cemetery is covered by snow and the old trees are gone. 

A GPS Map makes it easier to find the cemetery and grave

A Family Reunion Treasure Hunt – “A Fun For All”

February 5, 2010

Searching For Treasure and Sharing Stories – A Perfect Combination

An adventure guaranteed  to capture the attention and the imagination of ALL ages.

Many years ago (more than I care to count) when I was in high school, we’d take turns hosting a Friday night party. We’d divide up into teams and write some fun clues. Next we would spend an hour hiding the clues around town. We’d spend a couple of hours engaged in the challenge of a timed treasure hunt.

I remember our team getting one very difficult clue that was almost impossible to retrieve. The clue had been secured to the minute hand of a large lighted clock on a billboard facing a very busy highway. Climbing up the ladder to the clock face was easy but embarrassing because everyone traveling on the busy highway could see us standing there waving a broom around in front of the clock.  We hoped we’d be able get the clue down before the cops arrived. 

The problem was the clue was placed on the minute hand at about 8:30 PM. We arrived at 9:00 PM when the hand was straight up. So we had to wait until 9:15 PM and had to acquire the assistance of a broom to “wipe” off the clue from the minute hand.  Our treasure hunts were some of our favorite party activities.

Let’s morph the key elements of  my high school treasure hunt into a family history treasure hunt. Here are a few of the positive things you will accomplish with the tried and proven activity from our past:

  • Divide up into teams – a great way to mix everyone up so they have to get to know each other.
  • Provide a challenging competition to keep things interesting and motivating.
  • Each clue leads to a family history site – farm, home, country store, swimin’ pond, grandpa’s secret fishing hole, or other locations with a historical significance to the family.
  • Continue the challenge by hiding clues at the desired location in an old can or other rustic hiding place.
  • Station one of the older relatives at each clue site to share a “live” rendition of a family history event or story that occurred there.
  • Honor older relatives by allowing them to participate and get to know the younger generation as they share stories and experiences at each clue site.
  • Make family history real and tangible by visiting actual locations.
  • Encrypt each clue so it incorporates an aspect of family history that adds some interest, mystery, intrigue or humor.
  • Use old maps, GPS coordinates and /or car navigation systems to add a challenge that involves the assistance of the technology geeks (teenagers).
  • Provide some nice prizes since everyone should win something with a “reunion” significance.

I can’t think of a better way to help everyone become better acquainted with their past family heritage and living relatives.

Please make sure the captain of each team is an adult and/or  responsible driver.

Refer to my free newsletters for more information about using a global Positioning System (GPS).

You can do this! There’s no need to stress if you are not technology savvy. Enlist the help of the younger generation. Their involvement and support will assure the success of this fun activity for all ages.

Do a Google search of the word “Geocache” for more information about high technology treasure hunts.  

Heritage Collector Pro software can assist you with the printing of maps and help with GPS coordinates.

 Let’s all have some fun and go on a treasure hunt at the next family reunion!

A Family History Quilt

February 4, 2010

A Fun Idea For Your Next Family Reunion

Reunions are about family – remembering past and celebrating the present.  A successful reunion helps us renew family associations and introduces our kids to their cousins, older relatives and ancestors.  

Each year we struggle with the same challenge – finding new ways to associate a name a face and history. A few years ago we solved this problem with a quilt. Yes, you read correctly, I said a QUILT.  Not just any old quilt – a family history quilt.  

Baadsgaard Family Reunion Quilt

Baadsgaard Family Reunion Quilt


A few months prior to the reunion, material was purchased, a pattern and color scheme decided, and quilt blocks were cut out.  

I volunteered to find and enhance the photos. Next I took each photo into Photoshop to add curved text of the names, birth, and death date of each relative. I used my color inkjet printer to create t-shirt transfers. Not for t-shirts but for quilt blocks.  

I had stressful visions of scorching and ironing wrinkles onto the quilt blocks. I was most relieved when my wife volunteered to iron the transfers onto the large white quilt blocks. She was careful to select a smooth cloth (broadcloth) so the transfers would be clear and easy to read. She experimented on the first one and then turned each t-shirt transfer into a mini history masterpiece.  

Each block was delivered to another relative to be sewn into the quilt.  

It was gratifying to see the tremendous interest generated by the Baadsgaard Family History Quilt. The quilt was drapped over a quilt stand strategically positioned next to the podium where the program was delivered.  

The final event is always a raffle to acquire funds to cover the expenses and gifts for the next reunion. Several relatives purchased multiple tickets to improve their odds of winning which greatly enlarged the family reunion fund.  

Now’s the time to talk and plan with your family reunion organization about making a family history quilt.  

Try it – you will like it!

Is Your GPS Tracking You?

December 29, 2009

The Value of a Trip Log 

I was recently studying and getting acquainted with many of the awesome capabilities of the new Garmin GPS I received for Christmas. In my reading I discovered a previously unknown feature of the newer Garmin GPS units. I was alarmed to learn my new GPS was already keeping a “second by second” log of everywhere I travel. At first I didn’t like the idea and felt it was a bit too intrusive into my personal life. Next I wondered if my new GPS had logged a few of my embarrassing side trips such as getting lost trying to find one of the metro train stations to retrieve a relative for the holidays.

My GPS didn’t let me down. I soon discovered the GPS “Trip Log” and displayed it on Google Earth. There was my travel route detailing the exact circle we had taken when we got lost trying to find the station. More embarrassment awaited. I zoomed down on the route in Google Earth which clearly outlined, in great detail, the complicated and elongated route I took trying to find my way out of the train station parking lot! My wife now has indisputable proof to justify and merit her backseat driving recommendations!

Start Making Travel Journeys

The embarrassment gradually disappeared and rational thought soon returned. I started to get a little excited about this new GPS “snooping” capability. I intend to start creating photo collections called “Journeys.” My purpose is to log and document interesting discoveries we happen onto when traveling. Later we can share these locations with our children so they can discover and visit these same undocumented treasures. I want to enrich my family history journeys with information, narrative, photos, GPS coordinates, and maps.

I hope my journey collections will entice my children and grandchildren to take mini travel safaris to specific geographic locations of their ancestors. Such journeys will present tangible evidence and historical narrative in a geographic context. I’m including one of the many journeys of my grandfather to demonstrate how traveling to a location helps us experience and become a part of his history.

My grandpa T. E. Olsen homesteaded a “dry farm” in the arid and dusty hills east of Idaho Falls, Idaho. Grandpa was a grand fisherman and took every opportunity to “wet his fishin’ line” whenever a stream was near. In the summer grandpa would escape the heat with a short two mile hike to fish down in Willow Creek. Grandpa was convinced you could avoid heart disease by going to stream to soak your feet in its medicinal waters. I’m assuming grandpa was also holding a fishing pole as he soaked his feet to achieve the greatest medical benefit.

A few years ago my 80 year old cousin, my wife and oldest son retraced grandpa’s journey from the dry farm to Willow Creek. What a treat! You have to go there to experience the cooling temperature and take in the smell of willow trees outlining the pristine little stream. The creek still has crystal clear water and probably looks the same as it did 100 years ago when grandpa fished there. Someday I hope to travel back there again with my two sons and grandchildren to fish and recreate the magic of this secret ancestral place. Yes, I have recorded the GPS coordinates to make such a journey both easy and possible. (GPS of Willow Creek photo: 43 27.1890 N 111 48.0930 W).

Making a GPS Map

Back to reality. You will be able to create a map of your journeys to be included with photos and printed information in a journey collection. Here’s how to access the trip log your Garmin is already faithfully keeping and to display the journey(log) in Google Earth.

  1. Plug the USB cable into your Garmin and computer.
  2. Go to “My Computer.” You should see an icon for your Garmin GPS.
  3. Double click on the Garmin icon. You will see several folders.
  4. Open the GPS folder.
  5. Start Google Earth and zoom down.
  6. Drag the “Currrent.gpx” file onto Google Earth.
  7. A GPS Data Import box will appear. Click OK.
  8. A blue line will appear on Google Earth that represents where you have traveled.
  9. Zoom down to see more detail unless you have recently been lost in a parking lot.

Teenagers – Take care! Your dad’s Garmin is watching everywhere you go in his car!

My next blog will show you how to geotag photos using the coordinates automatically saved by your Garmin using a freeware program you can downland.

Skype Your Kids For Christmas

December 9, 2009

How To Communicate Anywhere in the World

Talk and send live video anywhere in the world for free using Skype, an inexpensive web camera, and the internet.

 Sharing Family History

Christmas, holidays, birthday parties and other special occasions are when family history is made and shared with the next generation. This can be a challenge in today’s world when family is scattered all over the globe. Cards and letters make occasions special. However, nothing beats being there in person to sing songs, tell stories and see each other.

As an old Star Trek fan, I’d love to have Scotty beam me and Santa to each child’s home for special occasions and Christmas. Thankfully we can use new computer technology to transmit our images and voices anywhere on the world in real time.

Earlier this year we were happily sharing birthdays, Halloween, the 4th of July and other special events with our kids and grandkids. Unfortunately, everything changed a few months ago. Two of our daughters moved out of state; one to find employment in Arizona and one to attend medical school in New York state. Suddenly all the fun with eleven grandkids shrunk down to two. Empty nest? It feels like no nest at all!

We all have the same cell phone network so 24/7 long distance calling is not a limitation or expense. However, our two young grandsons do not relate well speaking to Grandma and Grandpa on a cell phone. We really miss seeing their little smiling faces. You can’t see your grandkids all dressed for Halloween on a cell phone! They change so fast you need to see them often.

Skype, a Web Cam and the Internet to the Rescue!

We’ve discovered using a web cam is almost like being there. In the past few months we’ve seen the grandchildren in their Halloween costumes, had front row seats as they delivered their school speeches and little church talks to us. Our two grandsons think Grandma and Grandpa live in the computer monitor! My wife beams when they smile big and point to the monitor (web cam) and say GRANDMA!

Our tradition of sharing a special Christmas story will still happen this year. We’ve selected “The Christmas Pickle.” Thanks to the internet we have one of the two last signed books arriving in time for Christmas. Visualize this scenario. My wife and I will seat ourselves comfortably in front of our web cam. We will click the Video Call button. Next, we will take turns reading selected parts of the story to all the grandkids. In advance we will prepare some photos to flash up on the screen as we share the story. We will be able to hear and see their response to the story and our questions. Life is good again!

What You Need

You still have time to be ready for Christmas if you act this week.

  1. Web Cam. Get two web cams. They are not expensive. Check out Staples or Amazon. If you purchase on-line have one delivered to your children to save time and expense. Get a web cam with a built-in microphone to cut down on all the wires and USB connections. Tip: It will be easier if you both have the same kind of cameras so you can help each other if you have problems.
  2. Skype. This FREE software program allows you to connect to a family or friend’s computer anywhere in the world. (You both need the software installed). We will be video conferencing with our friends in Australia for free. Skype will indicate when you are both on-line making it easier to connect. To initiate a call, you click the “Call” button and they will hear a ringing sound on their computer speakers. The connection is also FREE. There is no time limit so talk as long as you like. Note: You do not need a web cam. You can use microphones to communicate. Tip: Turn off your web cams if your internet connection breaks up. Skype is easy to use and well documented. Get more information and download it here. SKYPE.
  3. Fast Internet Connection. Sending video requires a DSL, cable or other relatively fast internet connection.