28 December 2011

(Nearly) Wordless Wednesday: Let it Snow!

Let it snow! Let it snow! Let it snow!
My Brother, Going Skiing, ca 1955, copyright Liz Stratton
This photo is of my brother. The board-chair backpack was designed by my father in the days before 'baby backpacks' were available. We all enjoyed riding in the pack either skiing or hiking and continued the tradition with our own kids using commercially available baby backpacks.

22 December 2011

Sepia Saturday 106: The Intrepid Postman and the Very Special Package.

Waiting for the postman's package delivery each day during the month of December was one of my children's favorite activities. All their aunts and uncles lived out-of-state and it seemed that each new day brought more presents to put under tree. The phone rang early in morning ...

"Ma'am, this is the Post Office. We have a suspicious package for you. The zip code is wrong .... Are you expecting anything from Arkansas?" The return address may have been missing as well.

"My sister lives in Arkansas and she usually sends presents" was my confused reply. Why all the fuss?

"Well, okay then, I'll have the package put on the truck."

A few minutes later the phone rang ...

"Ma'am, this is the Post Office again. Is there any chance your sister might have sent you something alive? The box moves whenever we try to pick it up."

"Well, yes, I suppose it is possible ...."  Immediately the thought of snakes and other reptiles sprang to mind. Did my sister send a pet iguana? I knew my nephew loved his iguana ....

"I'm afraid we are going to have to x-ray the package before we deliver it. There is something very suspicious about this box."

Time passed and I waited to learn what would unfold next .... Exactly what did they do to you if you sent live animals through the mail? Would the package be delivered? Would my sister end up in jail? I didn't have to wait long before the next call came.

"Ma'am, this is the Post Office. I'm afraid we are going to have to open the package. It doesn't look like there is anything alive in there but there are a lot of wires and we can't rule out the possibility that it is a bomb."

An interminable wait longer ...

A relieved postman called to say, "Everything is just fine. It was a Christmas present - two in fact. I unwrapped them as carefully as I could. [Well, wouldn't you if you thought there was a bomb inside!] It should be no problem to wrap them back up again. It's too late to put these on the truck for delivery before Christmas. Oh, tell your sister to leave the batteries out the next time she ships something."

A little while later the phone rang again. What next?

"Ma'am, I re-wrapped the presents as well as I could. I'm headed your way and can drop off the package  personally."

I soon met the intrepid postman who had braved the moving box and then re-wrapped the presents so carefully that no one would be the wiser. The batteries were now loose in the box. So what was inside ...

Chris Stratton trying to uncover the mysterious movement of the Hip-Hopper.
He was fast asleep soon after.
To get an idea of what the poor postman saw in the x-ray ...

Yuri Gitman, http://yg.typepad.com/makingtoys5/2008/09/02-disassemble.html
"Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night[, nor live animals, nor bomb squads nor departed delivery trucks] stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds." Thank you Mr. Postman and all postmen and deliverymen everywhere. You make our Christmas brighter.

This is but one of many Sepia Saturday posts inspired by Mr. Postman. Hop on over to Sepia Saturday 106 to read more. Merry Christmas to all!

This true story was first sent to family and friends as our Christmas letter in the late 1990s. If, by chance, you have a copy floating around, I'd love to have one. If one of the postmen who made this story possible should happen upon this post, I'd love to hear your side of the tale! All comments welcome!

20 December 2011

Tuesday's Tip: Finding Smith, Jones and every other Tom, Dick and Harry in the Census

Perhaps because Loretta was the first person mentioned in Mira Rockwell (Main) Stratton's diary (The Best Medicine - New Clues), she immediately intrigued me. A "Loretta" is included in the listing of birthdays and Loretta's frequent visits with Mira clinched the deal. I had to find out who she was!
Mira Rockwell (Main) Stratton Diary

 January 1
1913 Wednesday. At home today.  
Loretta went home yesterday. Chas 
had smash up with Gasoline. Drove to 
Tyringham after supper.
1914 Thursday. I must make a good 
resolution & keep it to write in my Line a day  
Gave G. K. S. a supper at Miller House. Anne H. 
Jennie H. Loretta Miss Leyden & myself last night.
Mira Rockwell (Main) Stratton Diary

Mira Rockwell (Main) Stratton Diary
And now for the bad news, Loretta is Loretta A. Smith! Searching Smiths in New York City, even those with somewhat unusual given names, can be a daunting task. Fortunately, Mira included Loretta's address in her diary. When faced with a common name in a large city it is often faster to search for their census listing using the street address rather than their name. This is especially true in this case as I have no year of birth or other identifying information about Loretta. Steve Morse's website for Obtaining Enumeration Districts (EDs) and Streets  for the 1900-1940 Census makes this process simple.

There are no guarantees that Loretta would still be living at the same address in 1920 but it is a reasonable place to start.  To determine the ED on Steve Morse's website, I need to know both the street "West 129th St." and also a nearby cross street. A quick search for 153 West 129th Street gives me the exact location between 7th Avenue and Lenox. The directions are easy to follow on the website and tell me that the address is in ED 1332.
Google Maps

One of my favorite features on Ancestry is the ability to 'drill down' and search a specific record.  [See Update below for an even easier way to get to the correct census record. I've chosen to leave this description intact since the 'drill down' procedure is a good strategy in many situations.] In this case, I chose to 'browse' the 1920 census entering the state and county. The next option is to select the 'Assembly District.' I don't know which assembly district contains ED 1332 but by selecting any of the Assembly Districts, a list of the EDs in that assembly district is provided. ED 1332 is in Manhattan Assembly District 19. There are 56 pages in ED 1332 but since I am looking for the street address, I simply advance to the street address. And there she is!

1920 Census, Loretta A. Smith
Surprise! Based on the information known of the family, it is unlikely that Loretta A. Smith is a close relation. But, I'm still intrigued by Loretta's close ties and frequent visits. With Loretta's year of birth from the census, further research is possible. It is possible that Loretta is the daughter of Andrew J. Smith by a prior marriage - perhaps to one of Mira's Aunts.

So how do you find a street address if you don't have any diaries? Often a street address is included on vital records, social security applications, etc. Begin with the censuses closest to the date of the record that provides an address. City directories can be used to track moves from one residence to another. But care must be taken with common names that you have identified the correct 'John Smith.' Happy hunting!

Update: Joel Weintraub emailed me with "I hadn't considered your use of the tools in my list of why people need to have locational search strategies in their bag of tricks."  He forwarded another aspect of Obtaining EDs for the 1900-1940 Census in One Step (Large Cities). Steve Morse wrote, "we do all the work of "drilling down" into ancestry to get to the designated ED ... click our VIEW MICROFILM button to get to our viewing tool, and then click the DISPLAY button.  ...we do all the necessary browsing of the records ... and take you directly to ancestry's display of the census images." Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus! I expected only a microfilm number behind that link. Thank you Steve Morse, Joel Weintraub and David Kehs for putting Obtaining EDs for the 1900-1940 Census in One Step (Large Cities) on the web.

This research was conducted while writing The Best Medicine - New Clues. Because the search was not productive, I did not include it. I was sharing the tale with Kathy Reed of Jones Family Matters and she said 'You have to put that on the blog.' This one is for you Kathy! You know better than most the challenges of researching common surnames.

Google. Google Maps. http://maps.google.com/ : 2011. Specifically "153 West 129th Street."

Morse, Stephen P., Joel D. Weintraub and David R. Kehs.  Obtaining EDs for the 1900-1940 Census in One Step (Large Cities). http://stevemorse.org/census/ : 2006.

New York. New York. 1930 U.S. census, population schedule.  Digital images.  Ancestry.com. http://ancestry.com: 2011. [Specifically, Manhattan, Assembly District 19, enumeration district (ED) 1332, sheet 6-B, dwelling 46, family 120, Loretta A. Smith; digital image, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 2 December 2011), citing National Archives microfilm publication T625, roll 1221.]

Stratton, Mira Rockwell (Main). "Line-a-Day Diary, 1913-1923." MS.  Lee, Massachusetts, 1913-1923.  Privately held by Liz Stratton, [ADDRESS FOR PERSONAL USE,] Cincinnati, Ohio. 2011.

17 December 2011

Sepia Saturday 105: Bringing Home the Bird

Charles W. Stratton II and unknown companion, ca 1986-1906
The Sepia Saturday prompt for this week shows a delightful array of wonderful Christmas treats including several fowl dishes. (I think I will pass on the pigeon pie!)

Charles W. Stratton II (1876-1945), on left, is shown bringing home a bird for dinner. Prior to medical school, Charles' favorite past-time was hunting.  Much of his free time was spent hunting with friends and training and breeding hunting dogs.  He had developed a reputation for his skill with dogs.  In 1899, he was offered $100 for his dog, Jack, but turned it down.  Jack was an orange and white English Setter born in 1897.

The following year Charles noted, "Getting a reputation as a dog doctor.   A fellow from Stockbridge to see me about his dog." [diary, 4/2/1900].  In December, 1899, he wrote an article for Field & Stream [diary, 12/28/1899].  A collection of Field and Stream Cover Images is available online but I've not yet found the article or confirmed its publication. In another place and time, Charles might have become a veterinarian instead of a physician.

The photograph above is on a card with no photographer identification on either the back or front making dating the photograph problematic. Charles appears to be fairly young - perhaps in his 20s giving the date as ca 1896-1906. Charles diaries cover this time period and there may be a mention of the photograph in them. The guns and dogs might also provide clues. Who would have thought that dog photographs and licenses might be the key to providing a more exact date!

I'd love to hear your thoughts on the date of this photograph as it might be a critical clue in identifying Charles' companion. I suspect that Charles' cousin, Harry Mallory, might be the other gentleman in the picture.

See Sepia Saturday 105 for more takes on the theme. There are certain to be some posts that will inspire your holiday meal planning that won't require a hunting trip! 

Charles W. Stratton II has been featured previously as the husband of Mira Rockwell (Main) Stratton in The Best Medicine -- New Clues; as a young boy in Just Another Cock and Bull Story; and as one of The Horse-and-Buggy Doctors of Lee Massachusetts.

Stratton, Charles W., II. "1899 Diary." MS.  Lee, Massachusetts, 1899.  Privately held by Liz Stratton, [ADDRESS FOR PERSONAL USE,] Cincinnati, Ohio. 2011.

Stratton, Charles W., II. "1900 Diary." MS.  Lee, Massachusetts, 1900.  Privately held by Liz Stratton, [ADDRESS FOR PERSONAL USE,] Cincinnati, Ohio. 2011.

Stratton, Charles W., II and unidentified hunter.  Portrait.  Ca 1986-1906.  Cardstock.  Privately held by Liz Stratton, [ADDRESS FOR PERSONAL USE,] Cincinnati, Ohio. 2011.

02 December 2011

Sepia Saturday 103: The Best Medicine - New Clues!

Mira Rockwell (Main) Stratton, ca 1900
Perhaps not surprisingly given the long line of medical doctors, there has also been a long history of wives who worked in medicine. At a large gathering of extended family, my brother-in-law commented that it was a bit like attending a medical convention!

Mira Rockwell (Main) Stratton (19 May 1881-2 December 1926) was the wife of Dr. Charles W. Stratton II (Sepia Saturday: Horse and Buggy Doctors of Lee, Massachusetts). Mira died young and only snippets of family lore remain. Her diary provides our only glimpse of her daily life as a nurse.

I would relate Mira's December entries from her Line-a-Day diary but, she was a diarist after my own heart. Entries stop on 21 September 1913 and in 1914, on 6 August. On 1 January 1923 she resumes with "8 years since I left writing in a Line A Day ...." Her last entry is January 2. So much for New Year's resolutions.... I'll have to remember not to make any resolutions to write a blog a day!

The genealogist in me jumped for joy when perusing the diary. Not only does Mira include notations of visits by aunties and letters from family; she included in her Memoranda a list of birthdays! It just doesn't get any better than that. (Unless you want to shoot for the moon and wish that she had included the year as well.) The clues to determine Mira's paternal grandparents might be waiting to be discovered in the pages of her diary. Thank you Mira for the best medicine ever!
Mira Rockwell (Main) Stratton
(19 May 1881- 2 December 1926)

This is a Sepia  Saturday post on the theme of nurses or anything else inspired by the photograph. To see more wonderful nurses or other cathartic takes on the theme, see Sepia Saturday 103.
Stratton, Mira Rockwell (Main). "Line-a-Day Diary." MS.  Lee, Massachusetts, 1913-1923.  Privately held by Liz Stratton, [ADDRESS FOR PERSONAL USE,] Cincinnati, Ohio. 2011.

Stratton, Mira Rockwell (Main).  Portrait.  ca 1900.  Digital image.  Privately held by Liz Stratton, [ADDRESS FOR PERSONAL USE,] Cincinnati, Ohio. 1999.

01 December 2011

Opening Day 4: The Slides are Back!

Slide Enhanced by ScanDigital
Color faded slide from the 1960s, uncorrected Tif
On Opening Day 2, I opened a large box of slides. Knowing how long it takes to scan a slide and make the necessary corrections, I wanted to try using a photo digitization service. Armed with a 60% discount, I decided to give ScanDigital a try. Alternative digitizing companies are listed in Opening Day 2.

The same slide, manually cropped and auto-corrected in LR
 Yesterday the slides were returned along with DVD copies of the digital images - perfect timing for Opening Day 4! The slides were scanned at 4800 ppi as both Tiffs and Jpgs. There is an extra charge to get the scans in uncorrected Tiff format. Photo editing software is continually improving and I wanted to have an unaltered version to use in the future. Next time, I may not bother as the enhancement done by ScanDigital was not heavy-handed and exceeded results achieved using auto-corrections in Lightroom (LR). It is important to convert the Jpgs to Tiffs on import. (Always save at least one copy of all archival digital photographs in a Tiff or other loss-less format.)

Below are some examples of common slide problems before and after correction.

Uncorrected Tif with color darkening
Optimized by ScanDigital
This slide is both faded and has deteriorated, shown here with no corrections
After optimization, the colors have been corrected
but no extensive and potentially damaging corrections were made.
For an excellent and detailed discussion on the care and handling of slides, see Handling and Preservation of Color Slide Collections. The 30-page chapter also includes an extensive discussion of slide types and typical preservation issues involved with each type.