Family History Episode 8 – Best Genealogy Websites, Part 2


Family History: Genealogy Made Easy Podcast
Originally published Fall 2008

Republished November 26, 2013

by Lisa Louise Cooke

Download the Show Notes for this Episode

Family History: Genealogy Made Easy
Welcome to this step-by-step series for beginning genealogists—and more experienced ones who want to brush up or learn something new. I first ran this series in 2008. So many people have asked about it, I’m bringing it back in weekly segments.

Episode 8: Best Genealogy Websites, Part 2
In a follow up to last week’s episode about subscription genealogy records website, in my first segment our guest is Yvette Arts, Director of Content Partnerships at World Vital Records. She tells us about exciting developments at the website that have helped make it a success.

In our second segment we look at five organizations that provide free online access to genealogy records for those with North American roots: FamilySearch, the National Archives of the United States, Ellis Island Foundation, the National Archives of the United Kingdom, and Library and Archives Canada.

Now for some updates on these sites and MORE since the show first aired:

  • FamilySearch.org is still free and growing exponentially. It captures records from all over the world, not just North America and the U.K. It is now home to over 3.5 billion names in searchable databases, with over 35 million new records added every month. In addition, they’ve added over 60,000 digital books to the site. The layout of the website has changed dramatically since I described it in the original show. Click on Search to get to their databases, then enter an ancestor’s name and, if you can, a life event (birth, marriage, residence or death). A significant portion of new online records are browsable but not yet indexed. So now, after you search for individuals in their databases, scroll down to the Browse section below the search fields. There you’ll be able to see what records you can browse for a locale (choose the international region, then you can choose more specific locations). You can still order microfilmed records at the Family History Library to a satellite FamilySearch library near you. From the Search screen, choose Catalog, and you can search for and order available records by location.
  • The National Archives (U.S.), also known as the National Archives and Record Administration (NARA) also offers more on its website now. The portal for genealogists looks a little different now but still helps you see how to search and use the site for genealogy. There’s a direct link to the 1940 census, with images, maps and descriptions. Remember that Footnote, the subscription site I mentioned that’s digitizing military records, is now Fold3, which we talked about in Episode 7.
  • EllisIsland.org still offers free access to the passenger records of those who landed at Ellis Island. In addition, you can still look at ship information (click on Ships from the home page). The Immigrant Experience and timeline I mention can be found by clicking on the Ellis Island tab.
  • The National Archives (U.K.) links from the home page to resources for ordering birth, marriage and death certificates for England and Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. Read about updating order information, including costs, at these sites. There is still a portal for genealogists from which you can learn all about the various record groups I mention in the podcast and more.
  • Library and Archives Canada continues to add more valuable genealogical data to its site, including census data! Start from its Genealogy and Family History page. In addition to the features I mention in the show, they’ve improved their online indexes: scroll down on the above page and you’ll find the Ancestors Search (Databases) link to a main search engine and individual databases for vital records, censuses, immigration, land, military and several directories.
  • Cyndi’s List and U.S. GenWeb are still fantastic online resources, but add to your list these ones as well:
    • DeadFred, a photo identifying and sharing site;
    • Google, for searching across the Internet for everything from individual ancestor’s names to maps and local histories (especially through Google Books at www.books.google.com);
    • The Library of Congress family of websites, including the mega-newspaper site, Chronicling America;
    • WorldCat, an enormous card catalog for more than 10,000 libraries worldwide.
    • Find a Grave and Billion Graves, home to cemetery inscriptions for millions of tombstones.
    • Of course, there are many, many more websites for genealogists, but these will certainly keep you busy to start!

 

 

5 Ways to Improve Old Home Movies

Show Notes: In this video, Lisa Louise Cooke demonstrates 5 ways to improve your old family home movies so that they are more enjoyable to watch. See how you can transform a short home movie into an integral part of family history.  She will demonstrate editing techniques in Camtasia software, but these strategies can also be applied in many other video editing software programs. 

how to improve old home movies

Video and show notes

Watch the Video Lesson

Show Notes

Family History comes in many forms. But one of the most exciting is old home movies. I’m going to show you the five best ways to polish them up and make them shine so that your family can enjoy them for generations to come.  (Downloadable ad-free Show Notes handout for Premium Members.)

Video Digitization and Editors

Larsen Digital: I got my family video and audio tapes digitized at Larsen Digital, a family-owned business that cares about family history. Click here to get 15% off on your Larsen Digital order when you use our exclusive coupon code GenGem.

Camtasia: Use this link to Camtasia and our coupon code GENE15 to get 15% off for a limited time. Be sure to scroll down the page to find the Buy Now buttons for Camtasia and Snagit. (Note: Maintenance and asset add-ons are optional and can be opted out of if desired during checkout. Discount applies to Snagit as well!)

1. Correctly Size Your Video

The first way to improve your home movies is to get the size right. That’s one of the most challenging parts and probably the most overlooked item when it comes to video production. You need to determine the original video size. Chances are you have already gotten your old home movies digitized. But if you haven’t done that, first, you need to send them into a reputable company. I use Larsen Digital.

Or perhaps somebody in your family has sent you a video and you’re not sure what the size is. We can take a look at that in the file manager on our computer. Right-click on the video file and go to Properties. You will see what size of the file is in MB. Click on Details, and there you can see the frame width expressed in pixels. The example video I worked on is 480 px by 360 px. This is quite small when you consider that an HD video is more in the range of 1920 x 1080. Because my video was so small it means it’s probably better suited for sharing on social media or on a website; something that can take a smaller video and display it properly. The large HD size would play better on YouTube or a big screen.

Now that we know the size of our video, we’re going to set the canvas size to match in our video editing software. That’s the key. When you see a video that’s blurry or doesn’t look quite right, it may be because the canvas was set improperly, or the video is not large enough for the place where it is being displayed. If edits were made but the video size wasn’t taken into account it can cause problems. You can’t take a really small video and make it really big and expect it not to get blurry or distorted.

I use Camtasia as my video editing software, and the first thing I do is go in and set the canvas size so that it matches up with the size of my original video. To do this in Camtasia, go to the top of the canvas and you may see a percentage size, such as 50%. That means the canvas we see as we edit is actually about ½ the size of what the produced video will be. That just has to do with video editing, so don’t worry about it. Click the down arrow and go to Project Settings. Camtasia provides preset standard sizes to make it easy. You can see that 1920 by 1080 is HD. My video was much smaller, so I can either pick from a smaller preset size or select Custom.  I like to use Custom and enter the exact size I want. In this case I will enter the size of the digitized video I will be working on which is 480 by 360.

Next, import the video by clicking the Plus sign in the Media Bin and locating the file on your computer. You can then click it in the Media Bin and drag it and drop it on to the timeline at the bottom of the screen. It should fit the canvas perfectly.

I’m working on editing a short little home movie that one of my viewers, Kate, sent me. It’s a wonderful little video of her with her siblings and her parents when she was a child. The original video was pretty small, but there were some other issues with it as well. And that leads us into our next best practice.

2. Correct the Video Speed

Often times old home movies may appear speeded-up. That was certainly the case in Kate’s home movie. Things are moving very quickly making it really hard to figure out who’s who and just get a chance to look at their sweet faces. There are several things that we can do to correct this in Camtasia.

Speeded-up movies can happen due to issues with the little sprockets on the sides of the original film, or missing frames – there are a number of reasons why this might happen. Also, the person filming may have made many cuts, starting and stopping repeatedly in an effort to try and capture the action. Unfortunately, the end result can be the film moves far too quickly and appears jerky. When you’re in the middle of filming, that doesn’t seem so bad. But the final resulting film can seem jumpy as if you’re jumping from one thing to the next. We can slow this down and create some pauses so we can really see the people in the film.

Start by clicking the video clip to select it. Right-click the clip to reveal the menu and select Add Clip Speed. On the right-hand side of the screen, you will now see the Properties of Clip Speed. Here you can see the size of our video. Clip Speed will default at 1.00 which means we’re using the exact same speed of the original video. It is 100%. But we want to slow this down. Change the minutes and seconds to adjust the speed. Going from 1 minute to 2 minutes will make it twice as long, thereby slowing the video down accordingly. You can speed the video up by shortening the length of time.

Review your adjustments. You can drag the playhead to any location (this is called scrubbing) to review that portion of the video.

There are also opportunities to do additional things with speed to improve the viewing experience. One of the things we can do is Extend a Frame. If you have a spot on the video where you’d like to take a pause and be able to see someone in the film a little longer (such as a child running by the camera) you can select that moment and make it longer. Place the playhead at the exact spot where you want the moment to last longer, and right-click on the video clip. Select Extend a Frame. Select the seconds to the desired length. Review your work and make adjustments as needed.

You can Undo at any time by clicking Control Z or in the menu under Edit > Undo.

Another way that you can extend a frame is to click on the clip and split it by clicking the Split button. Then you can slide the section on the right down the timeline. With your playhead on the end of the first section, right-click and select Extend a Frame. Then you can click and drag the end of the extended frame to the desired length. (You can see how long it is by that little text box that’s showing up just down below.) Once you’re happy with it, drag the split off section back up against the first clip so that it will run smoothly when played.

3. Correct the Color

The next way you can improve your old home movie is by applying color correction. If the video is black and white (as in my example) there may be minimal work to do, but small adjustments can make a nice improvement.

You can also use color correction to be creative and distort things, but generally speaking, the goal will be to improve the overall look and make it as natural as possible.

If you’ve split your frames during the editing process, you’ll want to be sure to apply color correction to all of them. You can do that by dragging your cursor across all of the clips to highlight them. You can tell they’re highlighted because they have yellow outlines.

Next, go to Visual Effects in the menu on the left side of the screen. There are several from which to choose. Click Color adjustment which gives you several options and it’s fun to play with the various properties. You can colorize things make them interesting. You can change the frame of the entire video, such as rounding the corners, or making it look like the video is playing on a computer.

To apply Color Adjustment, drag and drop it onto the highlighted clips.  You can bring the settings back to the original colors by setting everything to zero. Then you can play with brightness, contrast and saturation to get exactly the look you want. Small adjustments can even improve black and white home movies. You can also make spot correction by just selecting portions of the film that need correction. You can isolate those portions by splitting the clip into sections.

4. Add Annotations

Have you got any old photo albums at home where nobody wrote down the names or the places or the dates. It drives you crazy, particularly if you love family history, and you’re trying to get things right. Well, we don’t have to leave our home movies unlabeled either. You can add context to this historical video document through annotations. We can’t assume that everybody’s going to know who everybody is in this old home movie. There are things that we can do to add that context to the film, so that no matter how far into the future, anybody watching this video will know who they’re looking at and what was important about it to the people who were involved.

Adding context is particularly important for older home movies that are silent. So, let’s put on our Cecil B DeMille or John Ford hat and do what they would have done to their silent movies: add titles. We will do this with Annotations in Camtasia.

How to Add Annotations / Callouts in Camtasia

Click Annotations in the left-hand menu to display your options. There are some nice basic annotations that come with Camtasia. You can also create your own custom library and themes. Select the desired style. (You can also get more of these types of assets over the TechSmith website.)

Since we’ve extended frames to highlight certain people and actions, these are great places to add annotations. Go to the extended frame and place the playhead there. Click the annotation style you want and drag it onto the canvas. I like to use the Callout that has text on a background which works well as a label on the screen. It’s very easy to read. Double-click on the text of the Callout and type the  name or context information.

Resizing Annotations

You may see that you have extra whitespace at the top and the bottom of the label. Click on the little handles around the label (Callout) and pull to resize.

Stylizing Annotations

You can also change the properties and the spacing in the Call Out Properties on the right side of the screen. You can change the label outline color and background color. Use the color picker to pick a coordinating color from the video or select from the color palette. You can also change the thickness of the border. Text can also be formatted to suit your needs.

Reposition annotations by clicking on it and dragging it to the desired location.

Copying Annotations

Speed up the process by copying annotations, pasting them at the desired location on the timeline, and then updating the text. If you don’t see the pasted annotation, it might be on top of the one you copied. Also, check the position of the playhead on the timeline. If the playhead isn’t on the annotation, it will not appear on the canvas.

You can extend each annotation to the exact desired length by grabbing the edge and dragging it on the timeline.

Fade Transitions

Another way to create a pleasant viewing experience is to add Fade Transitions at the beginning and end of annotations.

5. Cite Your Source: End Titles

We’ve added annotations to tell more about who is in the film along the way. However, the source of the overall package of this video needs to be cited as well, just like any good genealogy record. A great place to do is by adding a title card at the beginning and / or end of the home movie video.   

I particularly like to add the source citation at the end so that when they finish watching the video, they will see how it came to fruition, where it originally came from, who did the editing, and notes about the improvements applied.

If you’ve made changes such as color correction it’s important to mention that at the end in the source citation. This end title can explain what you did that alters it from the original piece. We do this with photos, and the same thing holds true here for home movies. We want to make sure that people know the difference between what was original and real and what was added in post-production.

You can create a simple custom title card at the end by using an annotation. Place the playhead at the desired location on the timeline and go back to the Callouts under Annotations. I like to use the simple text only callout. Drag and drop it onto the canvas or the timeline. Highlight the text to select it and type your text. I recommend small amounts of information on multiple callouts, separated by Fade Transitions. Review your work carefully to ensure that the viewer has enough time to read through each title card you create. You can drag the edges of each callout to shorten or lengthen them, but keep in mind you might need to move the callouts that follow the one you’re working on further down the timeline to make room.

Bonus: How to Add Music

One last little thing you can do to your video is music. Import that mp3 music file into your Media bin, and then drag and drop it onto the timeline. If the music isn’t long enough, add a second copy. Trim blank space at the end of the first piece of music and then butt the second piece up against it.

If your music is longer than your video, shorten the music to match. Then, go to Audio Properties on the left side of the screen (it may be under More) and drag and drop Fade Out to the end of the music.

Share Your Home Movies

I love old home movies, and I love getting them into tip top shape so that they can be enjoyed for many years to come by countless people. There are so many different ways you can share your home movies. You might want to upload it to YouTube. If you do, add some family information in the video description so that other people can find them. You can also share videos on social media, by text or email, etc. There are so many different ways to share your family history, and I think that moving pictures is one of the most exciting. Your family will appreciate the extra effort you put into improving them and making them more enjoyable to watch.

Resources

Find Genealogy Apps with the FamilySearch App Gallery

Do you ever wonder whether you’re missing something when you browse iTunes or Google Play  for genealogy apps? Well, FamilySearch has created a space JUST for family history apps: The FamilySearch App Gallery.

According to a FamilySearch press release, the gallery helps people “more easily find the right application from FamilySearch’s many partner applications, or services, to enhance their family history efforts. With just a few clicks, patrons can now begin to search partner apps to find those that meet their specific need.”

For example, you can search the App Gallery by:

  • what the app does (family tree software, find ancestor, photos and stories, charts and tree views and tree analyzing);
  • platform (web, windows, Mac OS, Android, iPhone/iPad and Windows phone);
  • price (free for everyone, one-time payment, subscription, or free trial);
  • language (English, French, German, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese and more);
  • and FamilySearch compatibility (reads from FS, updates into FS or FS account not required).

Remember, the nature of apps is usually very specific. The BillionGraves for Android (or iOS) app, for example, lets you image and index gravestones for the BillionGraves website. But you may not have ever come across some of these apps before–and may find them very useful for your current or future research. For example, Historic Journals lets you run your own indexing project with your own  group. You can tag, index, share or archive historic documents in a public or private environment.

Genealogy Gems Podcast and Family HistoryI’m pleased to report that the Genealogy Gems Podcast app for iOS and Android are in the FamilySearch App Gallery! In case you don’t already know about the Genealogy Gems Podcast app, it brings the free Genealogy Gems Podcast to your smart phone or tablet along with exclusive bonus material. And in January the app celebrated it’s 5th anniversary! In addition to getting access to the show, you’ll also receive access to special features like PDFs with tips and ideas from the show; Genealogy Gems wallpaper; bonus audio and video content; the ability to follow the show on Twitter; and call-in audio comment feature (iPhone only). (Not all features available for all episodes.)

While the FamilySearch App Gallery is a great resource, it isn’t a comprehensive home for ALL family history related apps. And a lot of genealogy-friendly apps aren’t categorized as such in Google Play or the App Store. Learn more about TONS of apps to further YOUR family history in Lisa’s book Turn Your iPad into a Genealogy Powerhouse. This book introduces you to the tablet/iPad way of “thinking” (it’s different than how you use a computer). It gives you an in-depth look at over 65 genealogy-friendly apps, 32 fabulous tips and tricks and links to online videos where you can watch things for yourself. Got a tablet? No problem–apps available in Google Play are included, and the tips include clues about features to look for in your brand of tablet.

Genealogy Gems Podcast Episode 230

with Lisa Louise Cooke
June 2019

Listen now, click player below:

Download the episode (mp3)

In this episode:

  • The story of Roy Thran
  • Writing your story with author Karen Dustman
  • Lisa’s adventures in England

Please take our quick PODCAST SURVEY which will take less than 1 minute.  Thank you!

GEM: The Story of Roy Thran

Have you thought about telling the story of your personal history? Most of us have at some point, but it can seem easier to research the stories of our ancestors than to weave together our own. I’ve spoken to a lot of genealogists through the years and I often hear comments like “My story isn’t all that interesting or important.” But nothing could be farther from the truth.

When we don’t tell our own story, we not only take a big risk that the memory of our life will be lost down the generations, but we rob our family and our community of an important piece of their history.

Karen Dustman is the author of the book Writing a Memoir, from Stuck to Finished! She’s been helping folks capture and record their stories for several years in her community in the Sierra Nevada, which spans Central and Eastern California into Western Nevada. She’s known widely there as a local historian, writing on her blog and in the local newspaper about the history of the area.

  Writing a Memoir from Stuck to Finished! by Karen Dustman

It was actually Karen’s story of the history an old house in the Carson Valley that shed light on the fact that one of its inhabitants was at risk of being forgotten. And no one wants to be forgotten.

In this episode, we travel back to 1925 to a sparsely populated ranching community to hear the story of 10-year-old Roy Thran. We’ll hear about his life and death, and how his story tentatively made its way through the generations of the family in one simple box all the way to the hands of his great grand-niece Krista Jenkins.

It was Krista who connected the all-important dots, eventually culminating in a museum exhibit that is now telling an important part of the Carson Valley history and touching the lives of its residents. In addition to Karen Dustman, you’ll hear from Krista Jenkins herself and Carson Valley Museum trustee Frank Dressel. My hope is that Roy’s story will transform your thinking about sharing your own story.

PART ONE: The Missing Boy

Last Fall, Krista Jenkins stumbled upon an article featuring a house she knew well. It was the home her grandmother grew up in, a beautiful white two-story home nestled on a ranch in Gardnerville, about an hour south of her home in Reno, Nevada.

The blog post called The Tale of the Thran House – and an Old Trunk was written by Karen Dustman, a local area historian and author.

It featured the story of Dick and Marie Thran, German immigrants who came to the Carson Valley in the late 19th century, and the four children they raised there, including Krista’s grandmother, Marie.

What jumps out at many readers about the blog post is the photograph of the beautifully restored German steamer trunk complete with heavy black ornate hardware, very likely the trunk that Krista’s great-grandmother had traveled with from the old country. The trunk had been discovered by the current owners in an old shed on the property, dirty and filled with auto parts.

But for Krista Jenkins, what jumped out was what was missing from the story: a little boy named Roy, the 5th and surviving Thran child.

Author Karen Dustman explains how the two women connected.

Karen: “I had mentioned the names of the four surviving children of this couple who lived in this house. But this relative reached out to me and said, ‘Did you know that there was this other child that they had named Roy?’

I was really curious, so we got in touch. She told me not only about Roy and his life, but that she had this amazing box. The family had kept this little boy’s possessions all these years after he died, and she had become the custodian of this box. So, she asked if I wanted to see it and of course I wanted to see it!”

The box contained the young Roy Thran’s childhood, a time capsule of sorts filled with the books, toys, and trinkets representing his interests and activities. In a sense, it was a boy in a box.

The Boy in the Box Roy Thran Story

PART TWO: The Birth of Roy Thran

Roy Thran was born Wednesday, June 10, 1925.

The folks in the Carsen Valley of Nevada were flocking to the new Tom Mix movie North of Hudson Bay playing at the Rex theater in town.

Tom Mix movie - Roy Thran Story

And everyone was looking forward to the big Carsen Valley Day Dance to be held that Saturday night at the CVIC Hall in Minden. Everyone, that is, except Anna Sophia Marie Thran, simply known as Marie. (Photo below)

Anna Maria Sophia Dieckhoff

A native of Hannover, Germany, Marie was in the last weeks of her pregnancy and was happy to deliver before the hot summer weather was in full swing.

She had reason to be apprehensive about this birth for several reasons. A 48-year-old mother of four, she was on borrowed maternity time with this late arrival. Her last surviving child was born in 1901 and since then she had suffered the loss of three more children, including little Katie Frieda who lived just three months.

Marie’s husband Diedrich Herman Thran (photo below), known around town as Dick, was 14 years her senior. Also a Hannover native, according to the 1900 census, Dick had immigrated in 1881 and became a naturalized citizen.Diedrich Herman Richard Dick Thran

Dick saved the money he earned working for ranchers in the area and at the age of 30 returned to Germany to find himself a wife.

In 1895 he returned with seven other Germans and most importantly, the beautiful Anna Sophia Marie Dieckhoff, his fiancé, on his arm. Within the month they exchanged vows at the home of Dietrich’s brother Herman. That was back on another lovely June day, the 29th of June 1895 on which the hard-working Dick presented her with a lavish wedding gift: a beautiful horse and buggy.

Lying there in her bed in the enchanting white two-story home on Dressler Lane fashioned after the grand homes of their native land, Marie gave birth to their son in 1925.

Author and local Carsen Valley historian Karen Dustman: “Roy’s birth must have been quite a surprise for Marie, especially after losing three children in the intervening years. I’m guessing it was a very happy surprise this late in life, and he was certainly welcomed into the family. They had a christening ceremony for him at the local Lutheran church on June 21, 1925, so eleven days after he was born.”

Thran descendant Krista Jenkins: “Because Roy was a late baby, my great-grandmother coveted this little guy. It was the joy of their life at this point.”

Roy with his mother, Marie Thran, c summer 1927

Roy’s childhood 

Roy grew up like many sons in the Carsen Valley at that time, likely carrying some responsibilities around the ranch, but also living a fairly free-range life. Historian Karen Dustman explains:

“Roy was born and grew up in the late 1920s and early 1930s, so he would have been part of a wonderful rural farming community here. And of course, he would have lived in the beautiful Thran house on his parents’ dairy ranch. And both of his parents were German as we talked about from the old country, so I imagine they were a little bit strict. And I would imagine he would have had chores to do on the ranch. But as the baby of the family, I’m picturing him doing less than the other kids in terms of chores. He went to the elementary school in Minden nearby where he would have gotten to know all the other ranchers’ kids.”

In the Thran family a few handed-down stories confirm this.

Krista: “It was your typical ranching family in the early 1900s where everybody pitched in and worked. And little Roy came along, and he was handed down the little toys that somebody else had in the family. And from descriptions that we’ve been told as far as my generation, is that he was just a happy-go-lucky little kid, liked to pitch in and work, and just very kind of a jolly good little guy.

He got relatively good grades in school and was conscientious, and just kind of the love of my great-grandmother and grandfather’s life at that point.”

But it’s really the box of Roy’s possessions that tell us a more complete story of his childhood.

“He had those classic metal toy trucks to play with and watercolor paints. We know that he played Tiddledy Winks with his friends, and marbles. One of the other things that he had as an item in his box was a homemade sling shot that somebody had carved out of a fork branch, so I can picture him out there trying to hit things with the sling shot.

Roy Thran Box Toy Car

We know that he played baseball, and someone had hand-carved a wooden baseball bat for him, if you can imagine. It wasn’t even perfectly round. It had these flat sides on the baseball bat so you can imagine it must have been really hard to hit the ball in a straight line.

Roy Thran bat and sling shot

And then one of his sweetest possessions that I really like is he had a stuffed toy rabbit that he must have carried around as a toddler. And it looks like one of those homemade things. Women back then used to buy a printed pattern that was on cotton cloth, and they’d cut it out and stuff it. The moms would sew around the edges and put stuffing inside. And this was a really stained and well-worn toy, so I just picture him carrying around this little stuffed rabbit as a child.”

Roy was also enamored with the great aviators of the day. He joined the Jimmy Allen Flying Club for kids, which came with an official acceptance letter, a bronze pin featuring “flying cadet” wings, and a silver pilot’s bracelet.

Jimmie Allen Flying Ace 1930

Jimmie Allen Book

In the box was also a treasured pint-sized version of the aviator cap that Charles Lindbergh wore on his history-making solo flight across the Atlantic Ocean in 1927.

The Premonition

One day in 1935, ten-year-old Roy entered the kitchen where his mother was working. But this was no ordinary day.

Roy Thran at school 1931

Krista: “Well, the story in the family is that my great grandmother was in the kitchen with my grandmother (her daughter), and little Roy walked in and my great-grandmother kind of shrieked a little bit, and written across his forehead was something in the order of ‘I won’t be here much longer.’”

Sometime after this unusual event, early on the afternoon of August 6, 1935 Roy headed over to his friend Henry Cordes’ home to pick up some Sunday school papers that he had left in the car. While visiting, Roy and Henry’s older brother, twelve-year-old Roy Cordes decided to head out on horseback for a ride. Around 4:00 they stopped to eat lunch and then, even though by all accounts from the family Roy hated water, they decided to make their way to the dam on the Carson River to go swimming.

According to Roy Cordes’s account of the event to the local newspaper, “After undressing Roy Cordes admonished his chum to be careful because the water near the dam was deep. The words were hardly out of his mouth when his chum stepped into deep water and disappeared. Neither of the boys could swim, but young Cordes made a heroic attempt to save his companion and came within an ace of losing his own life as he frantically grabbed for his chum.”

Record Courier Roy Thran Drowning headline

Realizing that he was helpless to save his friend, young Cordes hurriedly dressed, mounted his horse and rode at top speed into the home of his father and notified him of the tragic event. Mr. Cordes drove to the Thran ranch, telling the parents of the boy what had happened.

Krista: “Subsequently my Uncle, which would be Roy’s brother Carl, jumped in and he’s the one who found Roy’s body. And they pulled it out on the bank and tried CPR for quite a while, and it wasn’t working. So, he passed away there. But Roy’s brother Carl is the one who drug him out.”

(Image below: Roy Thran’s death certificate)

roy thran death certificate

PART THREE: A Life in a Box

After Roy’s tragic death, Roy’s mother Marie carefully collected not only his prized possessions like the aviator’s cap, but also some of the last things he would have personally used like his school slate and a small collection of books. They were placed in a box, and by all family accounts, Roy wasn’t spoken of again. That is, until years and generations later.

Krista: “When my Grandmother Marie’s brother died, who was Carl, who was also the brother of Roy, he died in the early 80s I believe, my grandmother was in the family house, and they were cleaning out the belongings in this house. And that was where she was raised, and of course Carl was also, and Roy. (Photo: Roy’s sister and Krista’s grandmother Marie Thran Cordes)

Roy Thran's Sister Marie

In the back portion of my great-grandmother’s closet was this box. My mom was there along with my aunt. And my grandmother came out of this closet area, and we don’t know why, gave this box to my mother with the instructions ‘make sure Krista gets this box.’ And so, they went on about their business. My mom, whenever we got together shortly after that, my mom said, ‘Oh, I have something for you from Grandma.’ So, it was this box, and we started going through it. And at that time, I didn’t know that little Roy had ever existed.”

In such a short period of time, one leaf on the family tree had grown dangerously close to being forgotten. And Krista learned very quickly how important it was to gather the stories of her elders.

Krista: “We started going through all of his belongings, and we kind of pieced together this story, and that’s when we kind of started figuring out ‘Oh my God!’ My mom remembered because she was told the story as a little girl growing up that these were Roy’s belongings.

You know, as time went on, the funny thing, and maybe this is what happened in these prior generations, is nobody really talked about Roy. In fact, I just read an article that my grandmother was interviewed in a long time ago, and she spoke of growing up and working on the ranch and such, and she didn’t even mention Roy. So it’s just maybe that generation was, you know, ‘He passed away,’ and they just parked him. Or again, speculation, maybe that was such a traumatic event for the family that they just decided to park it. That could be a generational thing that long ago. But it’s not like, you know, ‘Talk about Roy!’ It was just never really brought up.”

(Click here to read the article about Marie Thran Cordes.)

Over the years Krista kept the box and gathered the remaining family stories about Roy, really restoring him to the family tree. So, on the day that she came across Karen Dustman’s article about the Thran house, she seized the opportunity to restore him to the community’s history.

Karen: “She was wanting to know if I’d be willing to write a story about Roy and his box. And also, whether our local museum would be interested in maybe doing an exhibit of his things. So, we arranged to meet up at the museum with the museum curator, and thankfully Gail is wonderful. She was as excited and thrilled as I was about the box. And I said I would of course love to do a follow up story about Roy and his box. Gail welcomed the idea of an exhibit at the museum and made the arrangements and space for it to happen.”

Taking items on loan rather than as a donation was a rare occurrence for the Carson Valley Museum. But Museum Curator Gail Allen felt it was worth a closer look, and Douglas County Historical Society Trustee Frank Dressel whole-heartedly agreed.

Frank Dressel: “Krista brought the box in and they kind of analyzed the different things, the different artifacts of Roy’s, as far as with his childhood, the stuff that was in the box that they found in the attic. It’s a local story. It’s a great story. The box has all kinds of treasures as far as this life of Roy Thran.”

Krista: “And as I started bringing stuff out of this box, everybody was enamored. They were just like “Oh, my God!” And it just sort of fell into place.”

Frank: “And they weren’t ready to donate it to the museum. And the big thing about the museum is that we don’t like to take things on loan because of the responsibility and everything else. But with this being a local exhibit, what we decided to do was to have it on exhibit at the museum for a year.”

Karen: “Krista and her aunt Lois Thran worked together to assemble the exhibit and physically put it in place. There was also a curator who was really, really helpful and she involved an exhibit’s coordinator to help get the display cases arranged and do what he could. But really it was the two family members who put the display together and did a beautiful job. They have two tall glass cases devoted just to his exhibit, which is really a tremendous amount of space. And it’s this little snapshot in time of just amazing things. The people who have come to look at it have just been so impressed with the exhibit. They did a beautiful job of it.”

Krista: “My aunt, who’s my mother’s sister, her name is Lois Thran, she had a florist business for a long time. In fact, it’s still in the family. Her granddaughter is running it now.  And so, my aunt is just really good at putting things together. I mean, I can put stuff on a shelf, but my aunt kind of has that ability to design. My mom lives in Reno, and I asked my aunt, and she’s like ‘Yeah, I’ll help you!’ So, we put stuff there, and she’d go behind and she’d rearrange it, and she’d look at it and rearrange it. So, we didn’t just put stuff on a shelf. My aunt just kept moving things around and moving things around, and it just had some continuity. And that’s why we kind of drug her along. That and the fact that this was her uncle, really, and she got to participate in his story too.”

Roy’s story was quickly becoming the family’s – and the community’s – story. His childhood possessions are transforming how people think about the importance of the story of every life, even one that spanned only a decade.

The exhibit drives home the idea that everyone’s story is important, and really connected to everyone else’s story. You can just hear the enthusiasm in Frank Dressel’s voice as he describes and connects with the items that were so precious to Roy Thran.

Frank: “Well you know the big thing that caught me was the hand-written letter to a friend, looking forward to him visiting over the summer vacation and such. It’s just, that‘s how they communicated back then. And you can just tell how excited he was about his friend coming to visit for the summertime.

You know, the way kids are raised today with cell phones and everything like that, this boy didn’t have any of that back then. You know, it just shows the lifestyle here in the Carson Valley.”

Krista: “This is such a small community and you know life as we know it is changing on a daily basis. The old timers are leaving us, and it’s important, I think, that we don’t lose sight of history of our own families, or the history of the area that you’re living in.”

Karen: “I was really touched that the family wanted Roy’s story to be told and I was just really pleased that I was able to share his story and put that up on the blog. But the really big contribution was by the family coming forward and sharing his story. I just thought it was neat that this tragic event ultimately had a really positive outcome.”

Resources:

The Douglas County Historical Society,
1477 Old US 395 N Suite B
Gardnerville, NV 89410
http://historicnv.org

The free podcast is sponsored by:

 

GEM: Writing Family Stories with Author Karen Dustman

Karen Dustman

Why she wrote the book and what she hoped hope people would get out of it:
As a way to share her experience in sharing oral histories. After her mother’s unexpected death, she regretted not collecting more of her mother’s stories.
“It’s important, don’t wait. Get it done while you can” Karen Dustman

Everyone has great stories to tell. How do you help people find them?
Your family wants to the know the simple stories of how things happened, like how you met your spouse.

Involve a second person, someone who can ask you questions. Ask them what they would like to know about her life.

Why do you think stories are so healing?
You have a chance to look back and put things in perspective, which can be very freeing. As time passes the sweetness comes out. Remember, it’s not just one tragic event, but it’s a whole lifetime of events.

It can also be a way to take the monsters out of the closet. In Roy’s case, the family was able to go from sorrow and bitter grief (literally, all kept in a box!) to finding a way to celebrate and share his life. It was so good. Like they hadn’t known what to do with this sad tale, and now everyone finally could breathe a sigh of relief. They were able to come together and make the exhibit happen.

For 20 DOLLARS off, visit storyworth.com/gems when you subscribe!

What are some of the most common stumbling blocks that people face in telling their own stories?
Often it is “Where do I start telling my story?”

Find one single story you are excited about, hopefully a happy one, to get you started and make the scope a little smaller. Finish that one story and then keep on going.

There are also the practical issues: what if you don’t type well? What are the mechanical difficulties?

Karen recommends:

“It’s so important to capture those stories while we still have family who can tell them.”

Karen recommends that you “picture the words flowing freely for themselves and seeing it happening.”

In the first chapter of her book she discusses getting your mental game in gear. Realize it is possible. Rehearse it in your mind, and picture it happening and the words flowing freely. Imagine that you’re going to have a good time!

Reach out for help and encouragement. If you can share a little piece of your writing, you will get tremendous feedback from people, which can give you motivation.

“Do it now because there’s really no legacy you can leave that’s more important than that.” 

Why did you create Clairitage Press?
My mom was the motivating reason. I tell her story in my Memoir book — how my one real sadness is that I never got her full story, because she died suddenly and quite unexpectedly. But then I did find 12 handwritten pages later that she had left among her papers, talking about her life, which are so precious.

Here is her story on Karen’s blog, and a photo of her as a child. Interestingly, she was about age 7 in this photo and she was born in December 1927, so this would have been taken roughly about the time that Roy Thran died!

The author of 10 local history books and many family histories, Karen says “I’m all about preserving history and honoring family.”

Visit Karen Dustman at Clairitage.com > Blog

Click here to order a copy of Karen’s book Writing a Memoir from Stuck to Finished!

 

The free podcast is sponsored by:

Rootsmagic

GEM: Lisa’s Recent Adventures in England

This month I keynoted at a brand new genealogy conference called THE Genealogy Show. It was held at the NEC in Birmingham, England, the same location where the Who Do You Think You Are? Live conference was held before it folded.

It was a success with hundreds of genealogists attending and Kirsty Gray and her board members including DearMYRTLE here in America are already planning the next conference for June 26 & 27 of 2020 in Birmingham

Mentioned in this Gem:

Nathan Dylan Goodwin Interviews and books

Nathan Dylan Goodwin and Lisa Louise Cooke

Michelle and Jennie
These two ladies were waiting for me at the entrance of my first session, Time Travel with Google Earth. (Also available on video with Premium membership.)

Podcast listeners in England 2019 The Genealogy Show

“My friend Jennie and I are addicted to your website, podcasts and all you teach. As we said [at] the show we are postgraduate Diploma Students at Strath and whenever we get stuck we say “what would Lisa do….” We are thrilled you came over to the UK and any chance we get we spread the word.”

Lorna Moloney
Owner of Merriman Research and producer and host of The Genealogy Radio show aired from Kilkee, Ireland on a weekly basis on Thursdays at 4 PM in Ireland and it’s available as a recorded podcast.

Lorna Moloney

Bill and I celebrated our 35th wedding anniversary at these lovely locations in England:

  • Blenheim Palace – Birthplace of Sir Winston Churchill.
  • Chatsworth – Jane Austen’s inspiration for Mr. Darcy’s house in Pride and Prejudice.
  • Lyme Park – Used for the exterior shots of Mr. Darcy’s home, Pemberly, in the 1995 A&E Pride and Prejudice mini-series.
  • Sudbury Hall – Used for the interior shots of Pemberly.
  • Haddon Hall – Wonderful example of Tudor living. The Princess Bride and Pride and Prejudice filming location.
  • Kedleston Hall
  • Calke House –I’ll talk more about in the next Premium Podcast episode

We stayed at Dannah Farm Country House in Shottle, Derbyshire. Say “hi” to Joanne and Martin for me!

You can see photos and videos from my trip on my Instagram page.

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