Of Monuments and Men – The National World War II Memorial Turns Ten

world war II memorialOne of the epic events in American and world history – the second World War – has been dedicated in the National World War II Memorial which opened to the public on April 29, 2004. In the ten years since the opening, over 40 million have visited the site commemorating those killed in the war and dedicated to honoring all who served.
To mark the tenth anniversary, the Friends of the World War II Memorial will hold a commemoration over the upcoming Memorial Day weekend in Washington, DC. But what of these “living monuments” that are approachable each and every day and that live among us?

The Fading of The Greatest Generation
Those who fought in World War II are part of what has been called The Greatest Generation and as time progresses, almost 600 veterans of this war die each and every day. With over 16 million serving in the war, there are now approximately 1 million vets from World War II still alive today. The Saving Memories Forever app is the perfect tool to capture the stories of those who served as well as those at home who waited for their return.
The National World War II Museum in New Orleans has a collection of oral history interviews which should serve as an inspiration to conduct your own interviews with family members. The Library of Congress offers a Veterans History Project Field Kit (http://www.loc.gov/vets/kit.html) to help you get started.
And don’t forget those who remained on the Home Front during the war! Their interviews are just as important to give a full perspective on World War II and its impact. The Minnesota Historical Society has a list of Suggested Questions for Civilians (http://www.mnhs.org/people/mngg/stories/oh_civilian.htm) that can help structure your interviews.

Search the Family Archives for World War II Artifacts
Besides oral history interviews, look for photos, letters, documents and more that may be tucked away in the family archives. Compared to the first World War, there are many more digital media items available from World War II: cameras were affordable to own and those in service took photos of their regiments, their friends as well as battle locations. In addition, some service men made recordings sent back home in the form of a “record” to be played for family members.
Look for these items as well as medals, patches and more. Scan them, document them through written narrative and even use them as “props” during recorded interviews.

Family History and World War II
Many of us have a family member who served in World War II or lived during the war – all have stories to share. In addition to what you can gain through personal interviews, you may want to extend your research to World War II related resources:
· World War 2 Family History (http://www.wikitree.com/articles/World-War-2.html)
WikiTree has a special project set up to share resources and advice as well a list of interview questions (http://www.wikitree.com/printable/World-War-2-interview-questions.html).
· World War II (1941-1945) Military Records (http://www.ancestry.com/cs/us/worldwar2records)
Ancestry.com’s collection contains more than 15 million names and over 11 million images. Note: Ancestry is a paid subscription site; if you don’t have a subscription, check for “free” days such as Memorial Day Weekend when military records are open to the public.
· FamilySearch Wiki – World War II (https://familysearch.org/learn/wiki/en/World_War_II_United_States_Military_Records,_1941_to_1945)
The FamilySearch wiki offers background information on World War II and can help you access different military record sets available for research.
· Pritzker Museum & Library (http://www.pritzkermilitary.org/)

The number of resources available both online and in-person are overwhelming. Of special note is the Holt Oral History Program (http://www.pritzkermilitary.org/whats_on/holt-oral-history-program/) which seeks to preserve “stories of service” from World War II and other conflicts.
© 2014, copyright Thomas MacEntee
Thomas MacEnteeThomas MacEntee is a genealogy professional specializing in the use of technology and social media to improve genealogical research and as a means of interacting with others in the family history community. For more information visit http://hidefgen.com.


The US Civil War Begins–April 1861

US Civil War - ChickamaugaOn April 12, 1861, General Pierre G.T. Beauregard fired shots on Fort Sumter, at Charleston, South Carolina, marking the beginning of the US Civil War. Ending four years later, the war left behind over 600,000 dead who fought in the war. For many families, the Civil War would have a lasting impact for generations to come.

Handling Sensitive Topics Related to the Civil War
The events leading up to the War are well document in history, but what about your own ancestors and their involvement? Many researchers shy away from Civil War research since many of the topics such as slavery and its history still have an impact on today’s society.
Genealogists and family historians should not embellish the facts that they find nor distort or change such facts. Accept the facts for what they are and document them as best as possible. Here are areas to explore in your search:
Slavery: What were your ancestors’ beliefs about slavery? Were they abolitionists? Were they slave owners? Also, think about sharing original documentation of enslaved ancestors, especially since it could help other researchers break down brick walls.
• Economic impact: How did your family fare during the War? Did they prosper through their own businesses which supplied the war effort? Or did they lose land and property during the War?
• Military service: Which ancestors served in the War? Can you determine why they served? Due to beliefs about slavery or did they serve simply for economic purposes?
• Border states: Pay special attention to border states since family loyalties to the Union or the Confederacy were not always clear cut. It is likely some family members favored or even fought for one side, while others took the opposite side.

Capturing Civil War Memories
While there are no living veterans of the US Civil War (although there are still two pensions being paid to children of Civil War veterans), there are many ways that you can capture and catalogue your family’s Civil War memories. If you are willing to do the research, you may find that even information involving these sensitive topics help present a more accurate picture of the lives of your ancestors.

• Determine Civil War Ancestors: Research family members alive during the Civil War and note those who served on either side of the war. Find out as much as possible about their lives and the impact of the War.
• Highlight Civil War Veterans: Once you’ve located the make ancestors who served, locate pension files, photos, newspaper article and anything you can. Consider creating a memorial page at fold 3 (free).
• Create a Virtual Relative: A great feature of Saving Memories Forever, is the ability to create a Virtual Relative and preserve their stories. If you are sitting on a collection of Civil War letters or a diary, consider narrating stories and excerpts from these items with the free app at Saving Memories Forever.
• Trace Post-War Activities: The War was a monumental event that impacted families for many years. Did your family migrate to a new location after the War? Did your family lose land or property during the War? Research the aftermath of the Civil War and document your family’s activities.
© 2014, copyright Thomas MacEntee

Thomas MacEnteeThomas MacEntee is a frequent guest blogger for Saving Memories Forever. He is also a genealogy professional specializing in the use of technology and social media to improve genealogical research and as a means of interacting with others in the family history community. For more information visit http://hidefgen.com.

Hank Aaron and the Home Run Record

hank aaron-1Whenever April arrives each year, it isn’t difficult for my mind to turn to baseball. After enduring another winter in Chicago, especially this past one, visions of a field of green tend to come easy. I used to live a mere 1/2 mile from Wrigley Field here in Chicago (which incidentally turns 100 years old this year) and Opening Day was, and continues to be, a big deal.

Childhood Memories of Baseball

I never played baseball as a child; I was more the academic non-sport kind of kid who could be found at the library rather than on or near the playing field. But I have fond memories of trips down to Yankee Stadium each summer for the Old Timers’ Double-Header game.

My Aunt Joan and Uncle Bill organized the trip and it was also at their home in New Jersey where I witnessed Hank Aaron’s historic breaking of Babe Ruth’s home run record. That happened in April 1974. My family had driven down to visit my aunt and uncle and, as we usually did, we stayed over. I remember the broadcast of the game between the Atlanta Braves and the Los Angeles Dodgers was on a Monday night, April 8th. So after dinner we settled in to watch and see when Aaron would break the home run record. There seemed to be no doubt that he could and most of the American public were certain that it would be that evening.

And in the fourth inning, the pitch was hit off into left field, flying 400 feet into the bull pen. A record was broken and memories were made for me and my family. While these event doesn’t rank up there with the proverbial “where were you when . . .” events that most of us recall, for me it is cemented in my memory. Years later I would visit the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York and see the Hank Aaron induction plaque and the special exhibit highlighting that special day. And those same memories came back in an instant, just as they do every Spring when baseball season starts up again.

What Are Your Baseball Memories?
With Major League Baseball launching its new season this month, have you ever thought about baseball and your own memories or the memories of family members? Remember, every family story deserves to be cherished and preserved.

Here are some baseball-related ideas for your next project including recording interviews using Saving Memories Forever:

· Did you play Little League baseball as a child? What about others in your family?
· Have you ever watched a professional baseball game in person? (either as a child or an adult) Were there any special games you remember?
· What about your own children and grandchildren: Have you told them stories about your childhood and baseball?

© 2014, copyright Thomas MacEntee

Thomas MacEnteeThomas MacEntee is a frequent guest blogger for Saving Memories Forever. He is also a genealogy professional specializing in the use of technology and social media to improve genealogical research and as a means of interacting with others in the family history community. For more information visit http://hidefgen.com.

Wash Day and Our Ancestors

happy day washing(1)On March 28, 1797, Nathaniel Briggs of New Hampshire, was granted a patent by the United States Patent Office for a device listed as “improvement in washing cloathes.” While Briggs is often considered the first inventor to have patented a washing machine, exact proof is difficult to establish: a Patent Office fire in 1836 destroyed many of the early patents and drawings, including that of Briggs.

To get an idea of what the Briggs machine may have looked like, there is speculation that such a machine may have been the basis for William Johnson Folsom and John Hayden’s 1805 patent: a machine with “parallel grids” used to press and squeeze clothing in a water solution. Over the subsequent decades there would be many more innovations in terms of laundry and washing machines.

So while we have no concrete documentation as to what the Briggs machine looked like, or how it may have improved the washing of “cloathes,” we do know that during the 19th century, many improvements were made to the process of laundry. Yes even in the 20th and 21st centuries, doing the “wash” is still a dreaded task, often put off until certain items are needed in order to be considered well-dressed and presentable.

How Did Your Great-Grandmother Do Laundry?
I remember hearing stories from my great-grandmother, who grew up in New York City, about how she and her sisters had to do the laundry for the family. Living in the city did not necessarily mean an easier process and it was much the same as those in the rural areas of America: you used a large wash tub with a scrub board and caustic lye soap. Add hot water, stir, wring out the clothes, rinse out the soap, repeat, etc. And drying clothes was a challenge, especially in the Lower East Side: hang them out the window (and risk dirt and pollution) or use clothes lines rigged up in the one room tenement apartment? And once dry, guess what? They had to be ironed since the days of “wash and wear” had not yet arrived!

Sounds like a lot of work, no? That’s why all the women in the household were involved because it helped speed up the process with more hands involved. As machines were added to the process, including washing machines and clothes wringers, wash day actually became more dangerous. Yes there had always been the danger of being scalded with hot water or burned by lye and other detergents, but now there were gears and levers that could trap a finger or a hand.

When it comes to doing laundry, to say that “we’ve come a long way baby” is not an exaggeration. Consider that most of us have access to modern machines that can agitate clothes at different levels, better detergents for cleaning, and dryers that can have clothes finished and ready to wear in no time. We can all thank Nathanial Briggs and subsequent inventors of washing machines and related laundry machinery for making a necessary chore so much easier to perform!

To get an idea of the evolution of Wash Day and how, in fact, ensuring clean clothes for the family was a day-long process prior to washing machines, look at Save Womens Lives: History of Washing Machines by Lee M. Maxwell. The author, an electrical engineer with a fascination for washing machines, not only gives a detailed account of the development of improvements in the mechanical process of cleaning clothes, but recounts the history of how women performed the laundry chores. Maxwell also runs the on-line Washing Machine Museum which offers images of early machines and patent information.

© 2014, copyright Thomas MacEntee
Thomas MacEnteeThomas MacEntee is a frequent guest blogger for Saving Memories Forever. He is also a genealogy professional specializing in the use of technology and social media to improve genealogical research and as a means of interacting with others in the family history community. For more information visit http://hidefgen.com.

Tools to Preserve Family Oral History

Some messages don’t change over time. When Thomas MacEntee first wrote this blog post last year, the timing seemed especially appropriate. September is, after all, National Disaster Preparedness Month. This March, as the weather continues to be unpredictable (at best) we thought that it was a good time to consider safeguarding the various files and data created as part of any oral history project.

As Ed McMann used to say ….here’s Johnny (Thomas)!

Data Backup Basics

SanDisk_Cruzer_MicroIf you have any family history data – documents, scanned photos and audio files – you will want to make sure you have a backup copy, and preferably stored in more than one place. Never rely upon just one backup location such as the cloud or an external hard drive. Stuff happens. Cloud sites go out of business. USB flash drives are lost. Make sure you have multiple backups.

A smart move is to go for the Data Backup Triple Play as I call it:

Out #1 is to download data from a website to your computer hard drive. This protects you from the website going out of business or being hacked into.

Out #2 is to backup that same data to an external device. This means copy to a CD/DVD, MDisc, a USB flash drive or an external hard drive.

Out #3 is to copy the data to at least one cloud computing storage site such as Box or Dropbox.

Your data stored at Saving Memories Forever is safe and backed up nightly on our servers. Also, don’t forget that Premium Subscribers of Saving Memories Forever can download their stories on the Saving Memories Forever website for free! Free subscribers can purchase the same ability for $12.95 for a three-month period.

Future Proofing Your Data

One area of data backup and technology that is not often discussed is the area of future proofing data. What exactly does this mean? Future proofing refers to ensuring that various data formats are accessible in the future.

Here’s an example: do you remember 3.5” diskettes or the 5.5” floppy diskette version from the 1980s and 1990s? Perhaps you still have family history data and even audio files saved to these diskettes. Can you still access that data? Did you copy those files to your hard drive or to a newer data format for easy access?

Being pro-active in terms of future proofing is staying on top of the latest data storage technology, including audio file formats, and then copying the data from the soon-to-be-outdated format to a newer and more common format.

Don’t wait until different data storage media and file formats are outdated. If you do, you’ll have to use third-party services that will convert your data for you, often for a fee.

Keep The Legacy Train Moving Forward

And now after all your hard work and your preparations to protect your data, have you thought about what will happen to all of it once you’ve left this earth and have become an ancestor yourself? One of the most troublesome areas right now is this: other family members don’t understand the value of collected family history research and simply dispose of it in the trash once a person has died.

Don’t let your work be in vain! Focus on these two areas: passing the family history torch on to another family member and adding specific instructions in your estate planning papers about the disposal of your research.

Tips and Tricks for Oral History Preservation

Here is some helpful advice on safeguarding your oral history data and information:

  • Create multiple backups. The phrase “never put all your eggs in one basket” applies to data files as well. Even if you have your audio files as part of Saving Memories Forever, make sure you’ve exported them and saved them in various places including a cloud data program, a flash drive and a CD/DVD.
  • Future proof your data. Make sure you are using one of the latest file formats for audio files and storing the files on accessible media such as DVD or in the cloud, instead of diskettes.
  • Transcribe your interviews. Yes this can be time consuming. Yes this is not the same as hearing a family members voice. But rather than have the interview be lost forever, take time to transcribe the conversation. At Saving Memories Forever, you can upload your transcribed interview to a Transcription file on the SavingMemoriesForever.com website. There is a transcription file for each story.
  • Preserve the legacy chain. Have you made plans for all your hard work and collected information after you’ve died? Find a family member who is willing to preserve the information you’ve prepared. Also consider donating items to a local historical or genealogical society.

© 2013, copyright Thomas MacEntee

downloadThomas MacEntee is a genealogy professional specializing in the use of technology and social media to improve genealogical research and as a means of interacting with others in the family history community. For more information visit http://hidefgen.com.

Memories Frozen In Time: Clarence Birdseye and Frozen Foods

birdseye-clarenceOn March 6, 1930, General Foods brought Birds Eye brand frozen peas to the consumer market in 18 stores in the Springfield, Massachusetts area. Clarence Birdseye, who many consider the “father of modern frozen food,” was responsible for changing the way our ancestors ate and how their food was preserved.

Do you remember when frozen foods became more popular in American culture during the 1950s? When TV dinners were all the rage and were seen as a novelty more than a convenience food? Let’s take a walk down the frozen food aisle and see what memories we can find . . .

A Brief History of Modern Frozen Food

Birdseye was a scientist and inventor who created a better way to freeze food in order to retain its freshness, taste and appearance. Prior to the development of his “flash freezing” techniques, frozen foods were often damaged by the freezing process and proved unpopular with the consumer market. Birdseye was inspired by freezing methods he learned while on an ice fishing expedition in parts of Canada.

In 1927, Birdseye patented a method of flash freezing and packaging certain foods such as vegetables. A few years after the 1930 debut of his products, frozen foods were introduced on a nationwide basis once insulated railroad cars were produced to ship products. More changes in the grocery store landscape soon took place once display cases were manufactured which could display frozen foods to the consumer as they shopped. By the early 1950s, the majority of grocery stores in the United States had a “frozen foods” section.

How Did Our Ancestors Preserve Food?

Food preservation was a constant challenge for our ancestors especially when the winter season set in and it was impractical to grow certain foods or to hunt for game. Prior to freezing foods for later consumption, our ancestors would either smoke or dry meats and vegetables or use salt as a preservation method.

One method of food preservation that was likely popular with your family was the use of canning jars. In many rural, farm-based communities, the canning season would begin in mid-summer once berries, fruits and vegetables were ready to be harvested. The ability to eat these foods at a later date no doubt contributed to better nutrition; prior to the advent of home canning, families survived on root vegetables, potatoes and apples, stored in the basement root cellar.

And in the warmer climates, dehydrating items such as grapes and plums was also common. Often, however, such methods produced a less-than-fresh flavor and consistency – a problem that frozen foods seemed to solve.

Frozen Foods: From Novelty to Convenience

Clarence Birdseye’s invention certainly seemed impractical at first; consumers couldn’t imagine buying foods that were frozen when they could either get them fresh or, during winter months, as canned foods (if they hadn’t canned their own items!). By the 1950s, the “TV dinner” consisting of a full meal, even with dessert, was still a novelty. If you grew up eating them, your mother thought they were great because it meant she didn’t need to prepare dinner that night, and as a kid you got a kick out of a foil-wrapped meal right out of the oven.

Fast forward two decades and as more women entered the workforce and families seemed to be always on the go, paired with the availability of the microwave oven, frozen foods were more about convenience. Add in the focus on dieting in the 1980s (with Lean Cuisine and Healthy Choice meals), and frozen foods were no longer novel, but had become a staple.

Also consider how the advent of frozen food changed the way we purchased refrigerators . . . they now needed larger freezers to accommodate the new frozen foods. Even large chest freezers were developed and sold to consumers allowing them to buy foods in bulk and freeze for later consumption.

Finally, in the 21st century, the “foodies” demanded freshness and the best quality in food and ethnic dishes and even organic foods can be found in the frozen food aisle of most grocery stores.

© 2014, copyright Thomas MacEntee

Thomas MacEnteeThomas MacEntee is a genealogy professional specializing in the use of technology and social media to improve genealogical research and as a means of interacting with others in the family history community. He is a frequent guest blogger for SavingMemoriesForever.com. For more information visit http://hidefgen.com.

Our RootsTech Story

Perhaps it seems a bit strange, but we are already looking beyond the holidays. Part of that thinking involves preparing for our big show of the year, RootsTech 2014.

Saving Memories Forever is a relative newbie to the genealogy world. Last year, for example, we attended our first RootsTech conference. And only a year before that, we launched our iPhone and Android apps and began the process of introducing ourselves and our system.

As the saying goes, we’ve come a long way. So has the genealogy market.

Consider this. Last year’s RootsTech theme promoted storytelling almost as if it was a new concept. In some respects, that indeed appeared to be the case. For example, Saving Memories Forever was, I believe, one of only two exhibitors there already focused on storytelling. And we were, I think, the only organization there equipped with an interactive and highly mobile smartphone app aimed at making the interviewing process seamless and mobile.

See How We’ve Grown

Things have changed over the course of this year. Storytelling has become much more mainstream, quickly evolving from being a new buzz word to an actual practice. Large, well-established organizations such as FamilySearch have welcomed fledgling story-oriented businesses such as Saving Memories Forever…even to the point of offering compatible API platforms. In time, with these platforms in place, who knows what sort of connections can be made? Surely they will benefit the field of genealogy.

In the overall market, storytelling is now often perceived as the gateway to family history. Storytelling is credited with the ability to “rope people in”. As family history grows in popularity, it seems that stories—more than mounds of census data– are now recognized as being a motivating force into the journey that is genealogy.

In addition, there has been more of a concerted effort to reach out to folks interested in the nuts and bolts of collecting stories. Thomas MacEntee’s recently published e-book entitled Preserving Your Family’s Oral History and Stories attests to that change. In addition, Saving Memories Forever now offers free webinars dealing with the same topic. Surely new interactive user-friendly technologies designed to capture stories are bound to come on the scene.

21st Century Tools for Capturing Stories

More and more family members are using modern technology to help them capture and preserve their family stories and legends. The range of tools varies and includes publishing online via blogs and websites or even creating self-published books.

But many realize that limiting stories to the written word can result in “flat” or “two-dimensional” ancestors. With today’s technologies via computers and smartphones, the options are not only limitless, but they can help build a vibrant family story using audio, photos and more. Saving Memories Forever offers a system that combines a free smartphone app with a private and secure website. It provides us with the means to create a “3D” legacy.

How Our Small Business Benefited from RootsTech 2013

While last year’s RootsTech focused on the importance of storytelling, attending the conference had an even greater personal and residual impact on us. As a direct result of attending the conference (Harvey was there; Jane wasn’t), our new business gained affirmation, direction, and those all-important connections.

We gained affirmation from the fact that the dominant message of the conference stressed the importance of telling, sharing, and saving stories. We gained direction in that we decided to focus primarily on the genealogy market. We gained connections in that Harvey was able to meet with contacts around the world. Several of the possibilities initially explored at RootsTech 2013 have come to fruition over the year. In addition, as a result of introductions at RootsTech 2013, Saving Memories Forever has developed key partnerships with other suppliers in the same field. Cathi Nelson from APPO and Saving Memories Forever now partner on several promotional programs.

His wife, Jane, also benefited via long distance. Unable to attend, Jane listened in on the live streaming of the major presentations from home. From that, she built invaluable new business relationships with some of the keynote speakers. Kim Weitkamp now provides monthly storytelling tips on the Saving Memories Forever website. In addition to serving as our business mentor, Thomas MacEntee frequently contributes genealogy tech tips in our weekly blog. Jane also reached out to several key genealogy bloggers who have since reviewed our system. We are grateful for their positive reviews.

To say that it has been an exciting year would be an understatement. We’ve had our share of bumps and turns, triumphs and tribulations. Almost every day we are greeted with new opportunities. Without doubt, we are better focused now and better prepared. We are thrilled by the prospect of learning and growing. We happily anticipate the lessons we will learn and the connections we will make at RootsTech 2014.

Jane_Harvey26d442This article was written by Harvey and Jane Baker, Co-Founders of Saving Memories Forever. Please visit their website at SavingMemoriesForever.com.