Showing posts with label Antiques Roadshow. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Antiques Roadshow. Show all posts

Monday, October 13, 2014

Digitize and Share Those Newspapers!

Tonight on Antiques Roadshow I watched the first of three episodes from Jacksonville, Florida.  One of the items appraised was a bound collection of original copies of a newspaper running from 1861–1865.  The Family Friend was published in Monticello, Florida.  The appraiser, Ken Gloss, explained that this is a particularly rare find because it was a Confederate newspaper.  As the war went on the Confederacy ran out of supplies for everything and publishing a newspaper probably was not a high priority, so it's pretty impressive that this one had issues in 1865.  There are even two copies of the issue reporting on Abraham Lincoln's assassination, though it appeared almost two weeks after the fact, because news traveled slowly in those days.

The Family Friend appears in the newspaper directory that is part of the Library of Congress Chronicling America Web site.  While the site is known primarily for its collection of online digitized newspapers, it also includes the directory, a listing of newspapers that were published in the United States, not only those that have been digitized.  The only known issues listed in the directory are from February 22, 1859 to December 24, 1861 at the University of Florida in Gainesville and one issue, January 16, 1864, at the American Antiquarian Society in Worcester, Massachusetts.  The Florida Digital Newspaper Library at the University of Florida has 140 issues of The Family Friend digitized, apparently the issues listed in the Chronicling America directory.  The copies the guest on Antiques Roadshow owns may be the only ones still in existence for the later dates.  I checked the lists of newspapers on,, and, and it does not appear on any of them.

So my question is, who knows this man, and how do we convince him that the newspapers need to go somewhere where everyone can read them — such as being digitized and placed online?  Assuming that he still has the book, of course.  I hope he didn't simply place them in an auction to be sold to the highest bidder, then to be hidden away in someone's personal library.  I know the filming was done during the summer of 2013, so he's had a year — what has happened with those newspapers?

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Genealogy at "Antiques Roadshow"

I played hooky today.  I volunteered at the taping of Antiques Roadshow that took place at the Santa Clara County Convention Center in Santa Clara, California.  Instead of working on genealogy, I helped with production on the set, mostly by corraling lines of guests waiting for their appraisals.  I figured it was going to be a genealogy-free day.

But then I saw Ron and Pam Filion of SFGenealogy in the jewelry line and went over to say hello.  And a friend who used to be staff at the Oakland FamilySearch Library showed up in the collectibles line with her stepmother.  Then another woman in the collectibles line recognized me from a newspaper presentation I gave to the Santa Clara County Historical and Genealogical Society.  And a very sweet 91-year-old told me about her daughter, who used to be the director of the Santa Cruz FamilySearch Center.

On top of all that, David Gallagher of the Western Neighborhoods Project, with whom I worked on the committee that organized this year's San Francisco History Expo, was in the books and manuscripts line with a 1935 testimonial of some sort to "Uncle" Joe McLaren of the San Francisco Bohemian Club.  The oversize sheet was filled with signatures of people who wanted to say what a great guy Uncle Joe was.  The page had probably about 100 signatures.  What a fascinating resource to place those men in San Francisco in 1935!

Well, so much for my genealogy-free day!

I am a major Roadshow geek.  When I had time during my breaks I ran around and got autographs from almost all the appraisers.  I was sad that I wasn't able to get Kerry Shrives, because every time I went by she was busy doing appraisals.  And I didn't get Kevin Zavian, who kind of seemed to be in a grumpy mood anyway.  But I found out that Ted Trotta's mother's name is also Janice!

Volunteering to help at the Roadshow allows you to have two items appraised, the same as people who win tickets to attend.  I didn't do well with my jewelry items.  A brooch that my former boss sold me as early Victorian was appraised by Rhinestone Rosie as late Victorian and worth about only $50 (unfortunately, less than I paid for it).  A string of pearls the same boss had told me were cultured pearls from the 1920's Rosie and a second appraiser determined to be well made glass pearls with ground fish scales coating the outside to give a somewhat gritty texture, reminiscent of the texture of natural pearls.  She told me the sterling silver clasp was worth more than the pearls.  And this is the second time Rosie has told me my jewelry item was actually glass.  (I'm glad the pearls didn't cost me anything!)

I did much better with a gorgeous green silk cloak that was sold to me as having been worn by Maureen O'Hara in the movie Ten Gentlemen from West Point.  Two appraisers at the textiles table agreed that even without authentication of the provenance from the movie the cloak is worth what I paid for it (hooray!).  If I can find a still from the movie showing O'Hara in the cloak and get a certificate of authentication that the cloak was worn in the movie, however, the value goes to several thousand dollars.  I guess I gotta watch that movie sometime soon.  And O'Hara is still alive!  Maybe she remembers the cloak ....

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Transcription Mentioned on Television!

from Antiques Roadshow
I have written before about the importance of transcribing records so that they can be shared with more people.  Of course, one of the largest ongoing transcription projects in genealogy is FamilySearch's "indexing" work, with thousands and thousands of people around the world helping to create the searchable databases available on  Genealogists are fortunate to have this incredible free resource.  Commercial sites such as use paid transcribers to create their indices.

Families often have handwritten items that would benefit from being transcribed.  If you have your great-grandmother's diary, you're the only one who can read it.  If you transcribe her entries and put them in a word processor document, you can share the information with other family members.  The same goes for letters, bible entries, and other family items.

I've mentioned that I have written to Antiques Roadshow and suggested that their appraisers should bring up transcription to guests who bring items in.  Some of the letters and diaries that I have seen on the program have fantastic first-hand historical information, and I just know that almost all those people go home and lock up their heirlooms — and the information in them.  The items are preserved but no one can learn from them.  I received a response from AR saying my transcription suggestion was a good idea, but I hadn't seen anything come of it.

But on a recent episode of Antiques Roadshow, for the first time, I heard an appraiser tell a guest he should transcribe the letters he had!  Ken Gloss, of Brattle Book Shop in Boston, appraised a collection of Confederate Civil War letters that were found in an old house.  He asked the guest if he had ever considered transcribing the letters so he would know all the details in them.  Unfortunately, the guest's response was less than enthusiastic.  But I can hope that maybe after the episode aired and his lack of enthusiasm was broadcast nationwide he has had second thoughts.

Look at that sample up there at the top of this post.  That isn't hard to read.  I'll even start it for him:

Grenada Miss [probably Mississippi] June 14th 1862
... F. J. Sayle
Dear Sister
Yours of a late d [date, from complete image]
... to hand — While conveying the said
... –ie's critical situation, it gave grea [great, from complete image]

What family items have you transcribed and shared?

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Genetic Voiceprints?

BBC has posted an audio file of a discussion on forensic phonetics, the science of studying voices in relation to legal proceedings.  While voiceprints are not unique in the way that fingerprints are, phonetics scientists work on identifying distinctive characteristics in speech so as to identify specific speakers.

So this made me wonder if how much of a genetic component there is to what our voices sound like and what can be passed down in a family.  I know that I have always sounded like my mother (which definitely caused some problems after she passed away).  People often got us confused on the phone.

Twins often sound very much alike.  For example, if you've ever watched Antiques Roadshow and seen Leigh and Leslie Keno, they sound almost exactly like each other.  I used to practice listening to them without looking at the screen to see if I could figure out which brother was which.  But then one day I heard someone who sounded a lot like them, but not quite the same.  It took a while for the camera to show the appraiser, and it wasn't either one of them!  When they finally showed the person's name, it was Mitchell Keno, their older brother.  So there's something in their family that's come down through all three men's voices.

Wouldn't it be cool to find out that you sounded like your great-great-grandmother (or -grandfather)?  Unfortunately, I suspect very, very few of us have recordings of our ancestors beyond (maybe) our parents and grandparents.  But making digital recordings is so easy now, you can record your own voice so your descendants can hear you.  Or make a video!  Then maybe your great-great-granddaughter (or -grandson) will find out that she sounds just like you.

If you had an ancestor who was a performer of some sort, you might be able to find movies, albums, or some other sort of recordings of the person's voice.  I've even heard of people tracking down old radio recordings.  Hunt around and see what you can come up with.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011 and the Importance of Transcription

At the Sunday, February 13, meeting of the SFBAJGS, Margery Bell of the Oakland Regional Family History Center talked about in the past, present, and future.  She gave an overview of some of the site's history, demonstrated tools that are currently available, and talked a little about what is anticipated for the future. is in a state of transition.  Several different sites, including the old site and some beta sites, are being combined into one super-site.  The site has free educational resources, historical records, and family trees.  There is already a wealth of information available, and more is being added daily.  Some of the ideas for the future are linking documentation to individuals in order to substantiate facts, and the capability of uploading scans of personal documents and photos of family artifacts to share them with other researchers.  It is exciting to have so much available, and for free!  You should check back on a regular basis to see what has been added and what changes have been implemented.

Most genealogists are probably familiar with's massive ongoing project to transcribe and put online the LDS church's vast collection of microfilmed records.  (Personal rant:  The church calls this indexing, but the volunteers aren't actually creating indices.  They are *transcribing* information from records, and those transcriptions are compiled by programmers into searchable databases, which are the indices.)  Thinking about the church's transcription project reminded me of other items that should be transcribed.

The importance of transcription goes beyond public records of the types that have been microfilmed by the church.  Families often have historical items -- diaries, letters, family bibles.  Those items should be transcribed also, and the transcriptions shared with family members, at least.  Having only one copy of something increases the risk of losing the information.  Old paper is suspectible to ink bleeding, ink fading, and paper dissolution.  Items can be lost or stolen.  Fire and water can damage precious items.  Even if you still have the item, the paper in a diary can become so fragile that you can no longer turn the pages, or the ink can fade so that you cannot read it.

Monday night I was watching Antiques Roadshow.  One of the items appraised was a signal book used by the guest's great-great-grandfather during the U.S. Civil War.  This was the signal man's handwritten notes of the orders he was given and to whom he sent the information.  Pages were dated 1863; there were orders that had come from General U.S. Grant.  The appraiser, Rafael Eledge, said he had never actually seen a signal book in the 20 years he has been working with Civil War artifacts.  But that book is probably just sitting in a drawer in its owner's home again, the information locked inside it.

I wrote to Antiques Roadshow once through their Web form after a similar appraisal of paper items.  I asked why they didn't encourage the appraisers to suggest to guests that they transcribe the written information so that it can be shared, not only by family members but by scholars and researchers.  Not surprisingly, I received an autosponder e-mail:  "Thank you for your inquiry.  Many questions can be answered by visiting our FAQ page.  Blah blah blah."  So much for that idea, I thought.  But then a day or two later, an actual person from AR sent a message telling me what a great idea it was and that he was going to pass it on to a producer.  Unfortunately, nothing seems to have come of it, because I have not once seen an appraiser say anything about transcribing.

What family artifacts do you have that you haven't transcribed?