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No More Fuzzy Faces, Part 2

Posted by Scott Saturday, September 26, 2009 0 comments

Digital Pictures 101: Part 2 - Compression

Awhile back, we explored “resolution” in digital imaging, and discussed tips on how to choose optimal scanning resolution. We also identified the problem that optimal scanning presents, especially in the case of creating a digital archive: image files can be huge – and can easily fill up your hard drive. And although hard drives are getting larger and cheaper every day, the limiting factor might be your backup media – which in this day and age tends to be CD’s DVD’s or online internet backups. Image compression can significantly reduce this burden. As the name suggests, “compression” technology results in smaller file sizes. There are two major types of compression: Lossless and Lossy:

LOSSLESS compression (PNG, TIFF, BMP file formats)

  • Reduces file size with no loss in image quality.
  • Does not compress to as small a file size as lossy. (See Table)
  • Use when archiving and editing images.
LOSSY compression (JPG or JPEG file formats)
  • Reduces files size with some loss of image quality.
  • Allows for variable levels of quality (compression) to be
  • selected by the user.
  • Use when sharing images.

Popular Digital Image File Formats

  • JPG or JPEG – Joint Photographic Experts Group. Most digital cameras use this by default. Lossy compression.
  • TIFF - Tagged Image File Format. This flexible image format allows for many color depths, and can use Lossless or Lossy compression
  • PNG - Portable Network Graphics. Handles 24-bit (true) color, Lossless compression.
  • BMP - Windows bitmap. Not compressed.
The following MB Comparison Shart is based on a sample image that is 5400x3600 pixels:
The main point to take away from all this is that JPG (pronounced jay-peg) is simply amazing at compressing file sizes with very little loss in image quality. This is especially true when scanning images at very high resolution (300 dpi or higher) and saving files with high quality settings (about 90% of the maximum setting). JPG compression allows you to store and share hundreds of high quality images on a CD instead of dozens.

In these examples, the three cropped images above, cropped from the original, shown are (1) Low-Quality JPG, (2) a High-Quality JPG, and (3) TIFF file (no compression).

Another factor to consider is color depth. Color depth is the number of bits (or bytes) per pixel. More bits per pixel result in more available colors in the final output. Color depth also effects file size, so pay attention to scanner settings.

Generally an uncompressed image will be 1/3 the file size if it is scanned in 8-bit per pixel gray scale instead of True Color— a good thing to remember if you are scanning a lot of documents or black and white photographs and need to save hard drive space.

  • Typewritten or handwritten documents should be scanned with 8-bit per pixel gray scale.
  • Black and white photographs should be scanned with 8-bit per pixel gray scale unless you want to preserve the subtle sepia or yellowing; then choose True Color.
  • All other color photographs or color documents should be scanned using True Color.
Doing the right thing with image compression:
  • Archive using lossless compression. (Please!)
  • Experiment before picking a compression: Zoom way in to your compressed files to see how the lossy-compression is effecting the quality.
  • Choose a compression that allows your project to fit on the media provided.
  • Share excellent quality copies using compressed files.
  • Use 8-bit gray scale color depth for documents and black and white photographs to save disk space.

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Wordless Wednesday: Where Dreams Began...

Posted by Renee Wednesday, September 23, 2009 0 comments

Dad & Me, 1966
Camp Baldwin (BSA-CPC) Oregon

In honor of my trip last week to the Pendleton Roundup,
(which was, by the way, awesome).

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Tombstone Tuesday: Cemetery Sleuths, Part 3

Posted by Renee Tuesday, September 22, 2009 0 comments

Cemetery Sleuths, Part 1
Cemetery Sleuths, Part 2

Congratulations, Detectives! Your CSI (Cemetery Sleuth Investigation) Team has identified the scene and you’re ready to gather evidence. Here’s a family-friendly method for making gravestone rubbings.

You will need:

  • Tracing Paper or Freezer Paper (works well even if stones are damp or wet) or Acid-free Vellum (for archival-quality rubbings)
  • Thick, dark-colored crayons with the labels removed
  • Soft bristle brush
  • Small spray bottle of water
  • Hand towel
  • Partner
  • Cardboard tube – for storing paper and finished rubbings

Select a solid gravestone and gently clean dirt and debris from the face using a soft bristle brush, and water if necessary. Have your partner hold the paper over the gravestone. (If using freezer paper, put the shiny side down.) With the flat side of the crayon, rub the entire area using gentle, even strokes. Before removing the paper, step back and check to see if you have completely rubbed all areas. When finished, it is a good idea to note somewhere on the rubbing where it was taken. Roll your paper up carefully so you don't crease it or smudge the tracing.

Cemetery Sleuth Code of Conduct: A good detective never disturbs the evidence. In other words, “Do no harm.” Always gain permission to do rubbings before you begin. Do not do rubbings on thin or unstable stones. Carelessness can cause damage to gravestones, and for this reason, some cemeteries do not permit gravestone rubbing.

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Just over a week ago, this picture of my friend Marilee and me on our first day of 1st grade appeared as part of another post. Now I'd like to tell you a little bit more about it, and what it represents.

Marilee and I have been friends for well over forty years. I hope we are friends for at least forty more. She appears in countless pictures and memories from my childhood, and my life might be completely different had I not experienced her friendship and her family.

But in a hundred years, when my great-great grandchildren look through my family history, will they find Marilee? Not likely, if I organize it with with the tools currently available: there’s no place for Marilee in traditional genealogy and family history programs, because she falls outside the fixed categories (i.e., mother, father, child, etc.) that they recognize. For them, Marilee doesn’t exist. Neither does my Grandpa Fred, or my birth-mother and her children (my siblings!), or Sheila, my cat of 16 years.

Family Photoloom is changing all that. Our Extended Relationship Indexing (patents pending) allows you to include anyone or anything that enriches your story in your family history – special friends, step and foster children, birth-family members, pets, family heirlooms, favorite vacation spots, secret family recipes…there is a place for every one with Family Photoloom. Here's how it works:

How to Set Extended Relationships with Family Photoloom
Relationship Setting means to attach one Record to another, creating a specific relationship between the the two.
Setting relationships in Family Photoloom takes less time than it took to read this sentence.
Before you begin either option, be sure the individual you wish to index is entered in your Records (the left column). You do not need to have a picture of them tagged to complete indexing.

  1. Go to the Relationship View, and select the Record of the individual you wish to be the focus. You can do this by clicking and dragging the Record, or by clicking the green Relationship Icon that appears by the Record.

  2. Select the Record of the individual you want to "attached" to the Focus Record, and click-&-drag the individual into the appropriate field in the Relationship Setter (e.g., Spouse, Sibling, Child, Other).

  3. Check the appropriate relationship boxes in the drop-down (Not necessary for "Other" field.) and customize the description of the relationship at the top of the screen.

Have some fun and experiment a little with your Family Photoloom account. (Get you FREE Family Photoloom Trial account here.) In coming weeks, I'll explain how you can organize images into categories, include things like memorabilia, and even organize your church wedding co-op (or any other groups).

Extended Relationship Indexing
is something we all need it, because family history isn’t just about branches—it’s about connections.

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Tombstone Tuesday: Cemetery Sleuths, Part 2

Posted by Renee Tuesday, September 15, 2009 0 comments

Last week, in Part One of this three-part series on Cemetery Symbolism, we discussed how much information (or evidence) can be gleaned from even a simple gravestone. Today, I offer these common cemetery symbols - and their meanings - to help you decipher your cryptic cemetery gravestones.

Anchors often mark the graves of sailors, but they were also employed as a clever deception by early Christians, used by to guide one another to secret places of worship, or to disguise a cross.

Animals of all kinds are depicted on tombstones, and each has it’s own connotation:

  • A Fish indicates faith.
  • A Hart (male deer) represents faithfulness or thirsting for God.
  • Horses stand for courage or generosity.
  • Lion recalls the power of God and guards the tomb.
  • Lambs are used to identify the grave of a child, and represents innocence.
  • A Squirrel with a nut implies religious meditation or spiritual striving.
Angels symbolize spirituality. Depending upon what they carry, or how they are posed, angels suggest many different ideas.

Birds often represent the flight of the soul to heaven.
  • Doves, for Christians, embody the Holy Spirit. On Jewish graves, a dove represents a symbol of peace.
  • Eagles (one-headed and two-headed) are often featured on Military and imperial graves as a nationalist symbol. On Native American graves, it can represent a spirit guide.
Bibles may indicate the deceased was a cleric, or a religious lay person.

Books frequently indicate that the deceased was a scholar. Arabic characters signify that the book is the Koran.

A Broken Column can mean an early grief; a life cut short.

Butterflys represent the soul. The three stages of a butterfly’s life - caterpillar, chrysalis, and butterfly – correspond to the three stage of Christ’s life – birth, death and resurrection. A butterfly can also indicate that the deceased lived only a short time.

A Candle carved onto the gravestone stands for the spirit or the soul.

Chains reflect a medieval belief that a golden chain bound the soul to the body. Severing the chain meant the release of the spirit from the body. The International Order of Odd Fellows also uses a chain as their insignia. If the letter IOOF or FLT (Friendship, Love, Truth) is found inside or near the chain, you can be sure of the association.

A Chariot Wheel with six or twelve spokes is an emblem of the Buddhist faith. The U.S. Veterans Administration uses the Wheel of the Law to mark the graves of Buddhists.

Cherubs mark the graves of children.

The Circle is universally known as the symbol of eternity and never-ending existence. Extremely common on grave sites, it is usually depicted surrounding a cross. Two circles, one above the other, represent earth and sky. Three interconnected circles represent the Holy Trinity.

A Cross symbolizes Christianity.

A Crescent indicates that the deceased was a Muslim in life.

Doors and gates are passages into the afterlife.

Drapery over anything indicates sorrow and mourning.

Flame represents eternity.

Hands, whether clasping, praying, pointing, or blessing, show that the deceased's relationships involve human beings. Clasping hands often symbolize a marriage or other close bond.

Harps may be found on the graves of musicians, and represent the joy to be found in Heaven.

Hearts stand for the affection of the living for the dead. Two joined hearts on a stone mark a marriage. (The Sacred Heart is found only on the graves of Catholics, and represents the suffering of Jesus for our sins.)

An Hour Glass is symbolic of time passing.

Keys stand for spiritual knowledge or, if held in the hands of an angel, the means to enter heaven.

A Lamp stands for knowledge and the immortality of the Spirit.

The Menorah is an emblem of Judaism that predates the Star of David.

A Pitcher is a traditional Jewish (Levite) symbol.

Plants & Trees of numerous species are depicted on headstones, and each has its own meaning. Here are a few of the most popular:
  • The Dogwood represents Christianity, divine sacrifice, triumph of eternal life, resurrection.
  • Roses can mean many things, including love, beauty, hope, unfailing love.
  • Rosebuds are normally reserved for a child under the age of 12.
  • A partial bloom normally indicates the grave of a teenager.
  • A rose in full bloom normally signifies the death of someone in their early to mid-twenties.
  • A broken rosebud represents life cut short, usually found on a young person’s grave.
  • Grapes and Leaves indicate Christian faith.
  • Lily of the Valley means a return of happiness, purity, humility.
  • An Oak tree signifies honor, strength and liberty; often seen on military tombs.
  • Shamrocks are a sign that the deceased was most likely from Ireland.
Scallops were a symbol of the Crusades, and a traditional symbol of the Puritans.

A Scroll is a symbol of life and time.

A Ship marks the grave of a seafarer.

A Wheat Sheaf indicates that the departed lived to an old age, and had a fruitful life.

A word of caution: every good detective analyzes the evidence carefully, so take these explanations with a grain of salt. While headstone carvings can provide valuable insight into the deceased’s life and death, they should not be taken as incontrovertible evidence. In other words, if your Great-great-grandfather’s tomb is adorned with a rosebud lying beside a pitcher encircled with chains, do not immediately assume that, in life, he was a young Jewish child who belonged to the International Order of Odd Fellows. That said; good luck cracking the code on your family’s cemetery ciphers!

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Family Threads: A Brother's Love

Posted by Renee Saturday, September 12, 2009 0 comments

My maternal grandfather, Lester A. Masters, with two of his six siblings,
Laurence and Hester (Hettie), Nodaway County, Iowa. (1902)

My Pop, Lester Masters, loved his little sister, Hettie. I can still remember the first time he showed me this photograph; how he ran his thumb around its edge, and how his eyes softened and his gravelly voice smoothed when he started to talk.

“Hettie was my only sister – I was three years older, but our birthdays were only a day apart, and we were awful close,” he told me. “Every day, I’d saddle up my little old horse, Dolly, and we’d ride off to school together. Then one year when the weather turned cold, it got to be too much for her and after that I had to go to school alone.” He paused, and we sat quiet for a moment before he continued, “Hettie died when she was twelve and I was fifteen. Last thing she told Mom before she died was, ‘Take care of Lester.’” Another pause, and then, “I’d’a done anything for her.”

I never met Hettie. But I know her. I look at this picture—Pop’s protective arm around her—and I hear her story whispering in my memory.

So now it’s my turn to pass on Hettie’s story, to weave the thread of her history with my own. And as I do, the fabric of our family becomes richer, and its connections more tightly entwined—not only between Hettie and Pop, but between us all; and not just for now, but for ever.

“Family Threads” is a periodic colemn in Above the Tree. If you have a photograph and family story (400 word max.) that you’d like to share with Photoloom News readers, please contact us today! All submissions are subject to editing for space and content.

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Wordless Wednesday: Shiny New Fire Engine

Posted by Renee Wednesday, September 9, 2009 0 comments

Maryville Missouri Volunteer Fire Department, circa 1936
My Pop, Lester Masters, stands 4th from the right

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Tombstone Tuesday: Cemetery Sleuths, Part 1

Posted by Renee Tuesday, September 8, 2009 0 comments

"'Dum Tacet Clamat,’” I read. “What do you think it means?”

"I don’t know. Let’s collect the evidence and take it in for analysis,” my partner responded.

Back at the house, our team formed a tight circled around the table. “We spent all morning collecting evidence at the scene, Chief. It seems to confirm our suspicions.”

“Show me what you’ve got,” she said, unrolling the tight paper tube. The evidence appeared in relief – a gravestone rubbing showing a dove with an olive branch flying over a split log - and the legend, ‘Dum Tacet Clamet,’ and below; ‘JAMES W. MORGAN, NOV. 4, 1855 – JUNE 1, 1904. GONE FROM OUR HOME, BUT NOT FROM OUR HEARTS. HERE RESTS A WOODMAN OF THE WORLD.’

‘Dum Tacet Clamat’ – it’s Latin for “Though silent, he speaks,” the Chief translated. And so he does…

The modest cemetery monument of James W. Morgan speaks silent volumes about the man who rests there. From it, we learned his name, his age, his likely social standing and fraternal affiliation, and how those who survived him felt toward him: a simple walk through an ancestral cemetery plot yields a legacy.

Cemeteries provide a valuable, tangible link with the past, and a trip there presents a perfect opportunity to form your own family Cemetery Sleuth Investigation (CSI) Team and explore your cryptic family mysteries.

Grave markers reveal not only names and dates, but often offer data that in many cases can be found nowhere else; ethnic origins, occupations and affiliations, beliefs and values, manner of death, names of relatives, even personal traits that survivors held dear. And, as in the case of James W. Morgan, not everything is clearly etched in epitaph – gravestones can hold intricately carved hidden clues. We might have easily dismissed the phrase ‘woodman of the world’ as simply homage to the man’s pioneering spirit, had not the ‘dove & log’ symbol (associated with ‘Woodmen of the World,’ a fraternal society founded in 1890) been carved above.

When gathering ‘evidence’ at the cemetery, make sure to record accurate source information for future researchers. And once back home, remember to follow up on clues: it took less than a minute on a Google search to determine the origins of the symbolism on James Morgan’s gravestone and trace his connection to the Woodmen of the World, as well as reveal the society’s compelling history.

If you would like to investigate to the scene, but aren’t sure where your ancestors are buried, there are a number on online resources for finding information about cemeteries across the globe (start at FamilySearch.org); also, a cemetery directory (such as Cemeteries of the U.S.: A Guide to Contact Information for U.S. Cemeteries and Their Records) can assist you in determining which cemeteries are in the area of your ancestors’ last residence. Once the burial site has been located, the cemetery, if still in existence, can be contacted to schedule a visit and request copies of burial records.

Your efforts will pay off – you and your team will gain valuable information, and might even solve a family mystery or two... in a place where even the silent speak.

Family Photoloom Members: Tombstones are easy to index (i.e. attach to specific names so you can find them later):

  1. Upload the tombstone picture to your Family Photoloom account.
  2. Drag-and-drop the individual's Record Icon onto the picture. (The Record Icon is the little box by their name on the left.)
That's it - you're done. The tombstone picture now will appear in the Portrait Column on the right any time that individual is selected, along with any other images you have tagged of that individual.

If you don't yet have a Family Photoloom account, please sign up for your Free Trial Account today!

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Wordless Wednesday: Back-to-School

Posted by Renee Wednesday, September 2, 2009 0 comments

Marilee & Me
First Day of 1st Grade - 1969

P.S. We are still good friends.

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