I had recently submitted a tip about getting â€œextraâ€ photos at the cemetery while doing volunteer photos, and it crossed my mind that it might be a good idea to list some â€œessentialsâ€ to take along with you. The list below is only a starting point and others may have ideas as well.
- First and foremost is water! To drink and to wet down the old stones; it makes them much easier to read. I use a one-gallon pump sprayer and carry water bottles in my car as extras.
- Some sort of ground cover–a blanket or old quilt works well–and will keep you dry and clean.
- Bug repellent in the warm weather.
- A sharp knife to carve the grass away from those stones that are flat in the ground and overgrown.
- A soft brush, to remove the surface dirt and mold. Spray first with the water and gently run the brush over the surface; do not scrub.
- A wooden Popsicle stick, to get some of the moss out of the lettering.
- An old towel or two to dry off the stone if it has water puddles.
- A foil, car windshield reflector; this will help to direct the sun to the face of the stone if you are on the shady side of the cemetery.
- I also carry a small pry-bar to help loosen those stones that are broken and embedded in the ground. I only use it when I have permission to do so–from the owner who has requested the photo, or from the individual who maintains the cemetery. I put a folded towel between the bar and the stone so as not to damage it.
Another thing to remember–no rubbing, no scraping, no shaving cream, no chalk–no kidding! Also never, never use bleach or any other chemical substance on any stone–WATER only.
Of course, donâ€™t forget your camera, making sure your memory card is in it, and the batteries are fully charged. Depending on your location a few other ideas would be a cell phone and a GPS.
E-mails Worth Saving!
Remember all those letters grandma had stashed in her attic? Remember the pictures that are old and cracked and torn, but still precious to someone, so they were not thrown away? They seem to be a thing of the past. What will future generations salvage of us, when Ancestry.com wants to know about us? The answer is e-mail!
Most of us know we can add folders in our e-mail by right-clicking on the Inbox. Click on â€œNew Folderâ€ and type in â€œE-mails Worth Savingâ€. Then, when you have an e-mail you have sent or one that you have received, it is saved for posterity.
What triggered this idea for me, was an e-mail I received from my sonâ€™s girlfriend. She wanted some information, which I shared with her. Her e-mail was one that I thought was worth saving. Then as I answered each question under her question in the reply, I realized this, too, was worth saving.
Then I got a nice thank you from a friend and did not want to delete it. So, save those letters, and donâ€™t edit them. Our computers today have enough room in them, and what may not interest you, may be the very thing your ancestors want to know.
I was so pleased with this idea of mine that I shared it with my wife, who promptly pricked my bubble. She is already saving e-mails. She is also saving her letters that she writes to others. But, I have a fear, which I have to share.
I fear that if we do not state clearly what this stuff is, it may be lost. Maybe we even need to say, e-mails worth saving for antiquity? But, I encouraged my wife to do one more thing. To make a note in these e-mails worth saving, that there are letters saved elsewhere on her computer for people to salvage. Name the files for others to find!
David J. Stratton
AWJ Editors Note: One more step toward preserving important correspondence would be to print it out. Technology changes and computers can crash. While even paper and ink properly preserved will not last forever, it outlasts most technology these days. I still have handwritten pages of notes my mother took in the 1970s when she first began researching our family, but diskettes with my family history data from the 1990s are useless now because my computer doesnâ€™t have a drive for them–which is also a reminder to keep your technology as current as possible.
A chance suggestion by a book group member has led me to discover for myself the book â€œMasquerade, The Life and Times of Deborah Sampson, Continental Soldier,â€ by Alfred F. Young, 2004. The author searches for and analyzes evidence regarding Deborah Sampson of Middleborough, Massachusetts, who claimed after the Revolution that she managed to enlist and serve in the Continental Army, disguised as a young man. In the process of reading, I’ve learned a lot about life for women in an area and time near where my husband had ancestors. I also learned about what the Revolution was really like in an area very close to where I had ancestors in New York, which was where Sampson served.
Young does a very clear job of examining stories that have been handed down, sorting details that could have been true from those that appear to be fanciful embroidery. He then looks for evidence to support or refute his hypotheses, sometimes surprising himself at what he was able to find.
It’s great reading for anyone interested in this period of U.S. history and in how one might use various sorts of evidence to draw conclusions. It even had relevance to today and the war in Iraq. In the time period that involved Deborah Sampson/Robert Shurtlef, the county of Westchester, just north of Manhattan, was mostly a no-man’s land, caught between Washington’s troops to the north and northwest and the British in Manhattan. Not only that, but inhabitants were a mix of patriots and Loyalists. Not only did the two opposing armies raid local farms for supplies, but locals often had to hide or change what side they appeared to support in order to survive interacting with military patrols and their own neighbors. It was apparently essentially civil war going on at the same time as the Revolution.
Susan C. Hopkins
If you have a suggestion you would like to share with other researchers, send it to: mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org . Thanks to all of this week’s contributors!
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