No Photo? No Problem! Scan Your Photo Negatives And Bring The Past To Life! – Treasure Chest Thursday

My family doesn’t have a lot of older photographs.  My paternal grandma remedied this from about 1942 onward, but the bulk of earlier thing, are simply not around.  “We had some at some point,” my grandma, great aunts, and older cousins used to say.  “But Aunt Clara (my great-grandmother’s younger sister) was a pistol.  She burned nearly everything of Grandma Masson’s before mother had a chance to go over there and take everything away.”

This is the universe’s way of taunting me, the family genealogist.  Lone compiler, researcher, and defender of the past.  Sole outreach and communications consultant for everything from DNA to the almighty Ancestry account.  But I should have learned this a long time ago.  If you start asking questions about the past, you might not always like the answer.  And nothing gets my goose quite like the statement: “We had it, but so-and-so burned it.”

My mother taunted me again with the promise of “A whole bunch of Dudek photographs,” which again, are virtually non-resistant.  It seems that other side of the family saw Aunt Clara’s bonfire and burned their photos too.  Either the universe really doesn’t like me or I’m descended from a long line of pyromaniacs.  I’m beginning to think its a little of both.

After buying into the taunt of “Dudek Photographs,” I spent a few hours with my mom back in Michigan, going through a suitcase of photographs from my grandmother’s estate. Through the barrage of family candid shots in all their glorious Kodak color from the 1980s onward, there was surprisingly very little I hadn’t seen.  There were a small pile of treasures: notably a better photo of my great-grandmother (Grandma Rhodes) and  3-month old me at a Fourth of July party; my kindergarten-aged father in his baseball uniform; a series of photos of my grandparents and their extended family dressed up for Easter in early 1953; and small rag-paper envelope of sheet film negatives.

In the envelope, I found this:

negativeI have a washed-out photograph of the same couple on my living room mantle!  Its my great-great grandmother Grandma Masson and her second husband, Grandpa Masson!

After consulting Maureen Taylor’s Family Photo Detective Book, I deduced was a clear plastic sheet film negative dating from about 1935.

The next question arose: Do I want to send a vintage negative to a photo reprint service and risk losing or having it damaged?  How much will reprints cost?  Is there any damage to the negative which will result in a bad reprint?

For the sake of shopping around for services, I inquired to the big box grocery and pharmacy stores regarding my negative.  For reprints (with no guarantee of return condition), everything would need to be sent via mail to another facility, and the wait for return service was 2-4 weeks.


I went to the folks at Fountaindale Public Library’s Studio 300 for advice.  I brought my negative (in a protective envelope), a flash drive, and my rusty Photoshop skills to the lower level of the library.

I met with Joe Petrick, a Studio Services Assistant, and shared my negative and my concerns.  I knew Studio 300 had the technology to pull prints off slides.  Could the same be done for an older non-roll negative?  “No problem!” Joe said with enthusiasm.  “Let me set up the scanner!”

Studio 300’s Epson scanner transmits light from both the top and the bottom of the device, allowing for photo slides and negatives to be viewed as a complete image.

ScannerThe setup for the photo was very quick and easy.  Joe connected the scanner directly into the iMac, and used the slide format tray (traditionally used for scanning slides) to center the negative.  This step took a bit of negotiation, as the photo first scanned backward, off kilter, and then two low on the photograph.  The rule of thumb with the process, Joe advised, was to be patient.  The negative was larger than the format tray, and had to be placed by hand under the tray to ensure it was straight. and centered.

In a few minutes, the scanner produced a straight and centered image from the negative:

Studio 300WOW!  This is the only the second image I have of Grandma and Grandpa Masson, and it simply outstanding!  I love it!  What made the scanning of this photo so successful, was how the photographer was able to snap a focused and balanced shot.  I love the details of Gradma Masson’s pinny apron and how her hankie or towel is placed in her pocket, how Grandpa Masson’s vest is buttoned, and a mysterious white pot appears behind them in the bushes near the house.

Where I was lucky with the focus of the photo, the negative was scratched or blurred in some areas.  This was a job for Photoshop!

Joe showed me how to use the Healing Stamp or ‘band aid’ tool in Photoshop.  This tool gathers portions of the photo which are undamaged to fill in a scratch or tear in the photo.  I was able to useHealing Tool this in an area around Grandma Masson’s face, as it seemed to have more than a few obvious scratches.  I wanted to eliminate as many of the large scratches as possible, without making the photo seem fake or overdone.  It’s a photo from the mid to late 1930s, and so I would expect it to have a bit of ware after 80 years of being in a photo album or in a mantle frame.

In about an hour, I had finished eliminating the scratches on the photo.  I saved the finished image at a high resolution, and saved it to my flash drive.  With the size I saved, I would be able to print off a poster sized copy of the image, which I may choose to do for a future family reunion.

I love this photo.  photo originalI absolutely love it.  Finding a little treasure like this is the reason I keep calling and writing extended relatives, as well as making new connections with extended kin on Facebook.  Because all of a sudden: BAM!  Something you never thought existed appears when you least expect it.  I see the two people who crossed the ocean from Scotland, who experienced the same loss of a spouse and separation from their families, but created a large and boisterous family together upon their marriage in 1917.  I see them now, as my grandmother and father remembered them, in the autumn of their lives surrounded by their family in a home they owned outright.

And this is the best part – I am making a copy for everyone in the family.  Don’t worry, I’m going to have each photo placed in a frame and wrap them up nicely.  Because I want everyone to see this photo the way I saw it when I opened first opened the photo negative envelope: an unexpected gift at an unexpected time.

So, I still haven’t seen the “Dudek Photographs.”  Maybe they’re a myth.  Maybe they will become my white whale.  Or maybe one of my Facebook connections will come through.  Who knows?  But for now, I’ve received my Christmas present early, and I will have the ability to share this with my family for years to come.

See you at the Library!


Posted in Fountaindale Public Library District, Photographs, Technology Tools | Tagged , , , , | 4 Comments A New Way of Looking at Death Records? – Black Sheep Sunday

“I think my house is haunted.  Can you see if anyone died or was murdered in my house?”

Believe it or not, this is a popular question at a library reference desk.  I thought about this subject quite a bit when I saw Jennifer Holik’s house history presentation last year.  Before the advent of modern hospitals and nursing homes, most natural deaths occurred at a family or individual’s place of residence.  This is still a trend today, as seen with at-home nursing services.

I haven’t found a definitive way to search for a death by way of address.  My ‘go to’ resources will allow for searches by city, township, county, state, or any of those combinations together.  This has limited genealogists, as there is not a definitive way to search for everyone who has died at a specific address.  In the instance of family members with differing last names who may have resided/died in a home, researchers are limited to searches for known individuals.  Inevitably, people fall through the cracks.

Which brings me to  For a search fee of $11.99, the website and their researchers will find death records by address.  I was suspicious of this, as modern deaths may not be a problem, but finding deaths prior to 1990 may be an issue.  Sure enough, the site cannot guarantee search results prior to the 1990s due to a lack of digitization records.  There is an indication that records may be available from the 1940s onward, but information is limited in the FAQs of the site.

I don’t see this site as a golden ticket to genealogists, or most people looking for solutions to a haunted house, but it brings up an intriguing concept: When will genealogists have an opportunity to search for records by address?  When?  I ask, WHEN?

Would address death searches be useful to you?  Post your response today!

See you at the Library!



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Sign Up for Free Polish Genealogy Workshops and a Military Research Presentation this November! – Motivation Monday

ImageOctober and November are the final push for family Thanksgiving genealogy projects!  If you’re discovering your Polish roots, you won’t want to miss Fountaindale Public Library’s Polish Genealogy Workshop day on Saturday, November 2 from 10 am to 3 pm.  Guest speaker Steve Szabados will host two sessions Polish Immigration: Where, When, Why? and Polish Genealogy: Where to Start.  Both of these sessions will which will help you unpuzzle your ancestor’s immigration from continental Europe to the United States.

polish genealogyFrom 10 am to Noon, Steve will present Polish Immigration: Where, When, Why; which will help you discover more about your Poilsh ancestors immigration experience.  Where did they leave, why did they leave, how did they get here? This presentation studies the history of Poland and gives some insights to possible answers to the questions about your ancestors’ immigration. All three Polish partitions are covered and the material will hopefully clear-up your confusion why your Polish ancestors listed that they were born in other countries on early U.S. documents.give an more about Polish Immigration from 1700-1920.

Following a one hour on-your-own lunch break, Steve will present Polish Genealogy – Where to Start from 1 pm to 3 pm.  Where do you start your research of your Polish Ancestors? This presentation starts at the beginning with a brief summary of the border changes in Polish history. Then Steve will discuss the records that are available in both the US and Poland and where to find them. The last part of the presentation will cover how to interpret the documents.

Steve will have three books available for purchase: Polish Genealogy: Four Steps to Success, Basic Genealogy: Saving Your Family History, and Finding Grandma’s European Ancestors.  Research suggestions and light refreshments will be provided.  Sign up is free and open to the public!  Invite several friends and call (630) 685-4176 to sign up today!

ImageThe last Fountaindale Library Genealogy Club presentation for the year will be held on Wednesday, November 13 at 7 pm.  This meeting will host Jennifer Holik and her presentation Stories of the Lost, which will feature research strategies and resources for locating World War II casualties of war.  Jennifer will share her experiences in working with these modern day military records and the people soar tigersdocumented in the paperwork.  This program is free and open to the public, no registration required!

Although Jennifer will not have books for purchase the day of the lecture, all of her books and quick guides are are available for purchase online.  Light refreshments will be served.

The Fountaindale Genealogy Club meeting on November 13 will also debut the list of 2014 program and workshop schedule!  So you won’t want to miss this exciting event!

Sunday Genealogy Help Sessions will begin in January 2014!  Sunday Sessions are a great opportunity to receive one-on-one assistance with your research in a place where databases, knowledgeable staff, and a state-of-the-art microfilm reader are in one convenient location.  Registration for Sunday Genealogy Help Sessions will begin in December 2013, so stay tuned for updates!

See you at the Library!


Posted in European Research, Fountaindale Public Library District, Genealogy Club, Workshops and Events | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Try-It! Illinois Databases Are Here! – Wishful Wednesday


The Try-It! Illinois Database trial is is now live!  From now through November 30, 2013, you will be able to use a variety of databases for free from the comfort of your home computer!

This fantastic opportunity is brought to all state residents by the generous sponsorship of Secretary of State and State Librarian Jesse White and the Illinois State Library. Thanks to the partnerships between the Illinois State Library and the participating electronic resource vendors, there is no charge for accessing these databases during the trial period.

This year, several new genealogy databases are available to researchers, including two new resources: Genealogy Connect & Archives Unbound.

You will need a username and password to access these resources.  The Try-It! Illinois administrators have asked libraries not to provide login information electronically.  You can request login and password information from participating local libraries.

The Fountaindale Public Library provides a one-page handout which can assist you in navigating the site.  Try-It Illinois! information sheets are available at the 2nd and 3rd Floor Service Desk.  For more information call me at the library (630) 685-4201.

See you at the library!


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Sign Up for Free Online Genealogy Classes this Summer! – Tuesdays Tip

Summer learning abounds at the Foundaindale Public Library!

Come in from the summer heat into our air conditioned computer lab for two free Online Genealogy Classes!  Our classes will introduce you to new websites and tools which can help you with your family history research, and put you in touch with people who share your passion for genealogy research.

Our Online Genealogy Class is held from 1-2:30 pm on Sunday, July 21 and Sunday, August 4. The class will include overviews of both new sites and how-to directions to use them successfully.  Handouts, flash drives, and book recommendations will be available.  Following class, participants may conduct their own research and receive one-on-one assistance.

Individuals wishing to use the session to conduct genealogy research but not participate in the class are also welcome. Registration is free and open to the public.  To register or for more information, contact the library at (630) 685-4176 or by e-mail at

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Sign up for June Civil War Genealogy Programming! – Tuesday’s Tip

Do yoImageu have a Civil War veteran in your family tree?   Learn how to research your veteran ancestors during Fountaindale Public Library’s Civil War Genealogy Workshop on Saturday, June 1 from 10 am to noon.  Librarians Tina Beaird and Debra Dudek will share the resources, records, newspapers, and other materials to help you with your research. You’ll walk away with new information which will give great insight into the lives of soldiers who fought for both sides of the conflict.

Later in the day, author Michael Weeks will present Finding Hallowed Ground: America’s Civil War Sites Today from 1-3 pm.  The program highlights the history and accessibility of Civil War sites and how small or obscure locations can hold incredible stories.  Following the program, Michael will sign copies of his book The Complete Civil War Road Trip Guide: 10 Weekend Tours and More than 400 Sites, from Antietam to Zagonyi’s Charge.  The cost for each book is $15.

These programs are free and open to the public.  Please register by calling the Fountaindale Public Library at (630) 685-4176.

Stop by the library on Sunday, June 23 from 1-2 pm for program entitled “The Underground Railroad”.  Appearing as an owner of a ‘safe house’ in Illinois, Terry Lynch explains how a safe house was used as a stopping point for the slaves to gain rest and nourishment before continuing on to safety in Canada. Several safe houses in the Chicagoland area will be highlighted.  This is a free drop-in program designed for attendees of all ages.

All three of these Civil War programs were made possible with a grant presented by The Library of America in partnership with The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History and is supported by a grant from The National Endowment for the Humanities.

ALSO: The next Genealogy Club meeting will be held on Wednesday, June 12 at 7pm and will feature Bruce Troyer’s presentation of Genealogical Clues in the Photographic Process.  Participants are invited to bring a few photographs with them to the program, as Bruce will be available after the lecture to assist with any photo identification questions.  This is the last meeting of the Genealogy Club before the summer break, so save the date for this great program!

See You At The Library!


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Exciting Summer Genealogy Programing @ The Fountaindale Library!

Looking for a great way to kick off your summer research season?  The Fountaindale Public Library his hosting a fantastic array of programming which will help engage your next genealogical challenge!

Did your ancestors take up sides during the Civil war?  Join us on Saturday, June 1 at 10 am for our Civil War Genealogy Workshop!  Learn about the resources, research sites, and strategies for learning more about your Artillery-Civil-War-001veteran ancestors!  Light refreshments served.  Handouts and research materials provided.

Later in the day, join us for a fantastic program entitled Finding Hallowed Ground: America’s Civil War Sites Today with author Michael Weeks.  While many Civil War sites are preserved as national or state parks, most are not. However, even the smallest sites hold incredible stories. Experiencing them firsthand remains the most memorable and enjoyable way to learn about the war and provides tangible ties to our not-so-distant past.  An author book signing will immediately follow the event.

Dofflemyer_familyThe FPLD Genealogy Club will host photographer Bruce Troyer for his program entitled Genealogical Clues in the Photographic Process on Wednesday, June 12 at 7 pm.  Following the progress of early American photography, Mr. Troyer will help you spot clues in your family photographs which will assist you in your research.  This program is a must for anyone interested in dating photographs, and discovering more about how early photography impacted our ancestors.  Bring a few of your photographs to share, and Mr. Troyer will help you access a time period and help you discover more information about your items!

Need some help with your online research?  Learn new skills with our free online genealogy classes!  Held on Sunday, July 14 and August 4 from 1-5 pm, our Beginning Online Genealogy Classes will held from 1-2:30 pm. Following class, participants may conduct their own research and receive one-on-one assistance. Individuals wishing to use the session to conduct genealogy research but not participate in the class are also welcome. Registration is required.

Good luck with your summer research and we’ll see you at the library!


Posted in Fountaindale Public Library District, Genealogy Club, Public Presentations, Workshops and Events | Tagged | Leave a comment