Linden Tree Leaves

Genealogy and Ancestry Explorations

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Tip: Use UV light to help read old scrapbook notations

In the process of working on the scrapbook I’m currently scanning and conserving, I found I was having trouble reading some of the notations. In this case, they are in white ink on black paper.

I happened to have a UV LED flashlight in my desk (what, everyone doesn’t have these sitting around?) and, as an experiment, I tried using it to view the notations and they were a LOT easier to read. I’ve not tried this on albums that are dark ink on a light background but the white ink used in the album I’m working on seems to fluoresce a bit which helps the readability.

These UV flashlights are pretty inexpensive and seem to make a good tool to provide an alternative light source in at least this situation.

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Old photos may not be square

I’ve been working on scanning and repairing/conserving an old family photo album over this last week or so. The album belongs to my mother-in-law’s family (the Ecks) and is almost a century old with a leather cover and probably a hundred 9″x 13″ pages. There are a lot of great photos from about 1915 on in this album. It’s pretty amazing it’s survived this well for so long and I want to help it and its contents survive even longer.

I’m going through it, page by page, dismounting the photos (held on by old photo corners, thankfully, and not glue) and then hi-res scanning each one. I scan both front and back if there is anything on the back of the photo. I’m scanning into a TIFF file (a loss-less format), then pulling that into LightRoom to crop the photo correctly from any blank space. These cropped images then get exported from LightRoom to a TIFF (again – for archiving) and to a JPEG for web distribution. Any reverse-side or album notations are copied into the file’s description field when the file is saved. Each image file is named with album, page and item numbers noted as part of the file name as well.

I’m not attempting to clean, spot remove or otherwise edit the photos right now – my goal is just to get them into a digital format so they can be shared and archived digitally.

In the process of this task, I keep finding the photos in the scans are not level and I’d have to adjust them digitally to be level and then they weren’t square either. (By “square” I mean the corners are at 90 degree angles, not that the photo itself is a square photo.) At first I thought this was because I wasn’t being careful enough when I put the photo down on my flatbed scanner but I was extremely careful and it still happened. I must have needed more coffee (not on the same desk as the album, thank you) but I eventually realized what the issue was and tested it on a few sample photos.

Eureka – the photos aren’t square to start with!

Sometimes the photo paper is itself not square. It’s easy to see this when I put the photo up to a t-square. Many are not off a lot, but enough to be annoying.

Sometimes the actual paper is square but the photo printed on it is askew on the paper so the margins are not even all the way around.

When I thought about it, this unevenness actually made sense. I bet that these irregularities are a product of the fact the photos in this album are hand-printed photos and likely on hand-cut paper or hand-trimmed after printing. In this modern era, we’re so used to having machines precisely line up and trim everything that a photo not square on its paper is a rarity.

At least that’s my excuse for not thinking of this sooner.

I decided to not try to trim the scans of these photos to be square. If a photo was askew on the paper, I left it that way. If a photo’s paper was not square, I trimmed the digital copy only to the edge of the paper so a sliver of white background sometimes appears. I would rather retain the imperfections of these old photos as a part of their history than try to make them closer to square. This way the whole of the original is preserved as well, since I don’t know what will be needed later.

When the photos are placed back in the album, I’m replacing any lost or torn photo corners with new archival ones (I couldn’t find the shape of the originals, so I’m using a newer style but the same flat black).

When I’m done scanning this album, I’ll place sheets of archival acid-free buffered tissue between each page as there is strong evidence of the photos reacting to each other where they are touching. Then I’ll publish this album’s photos for the family, burn some DVD’s of them to pass out, and return the original album to my mother-in-law.

It’s a long process, especially since I’m scanning the photos at 1200 dpi. Each photo takes about 4 minutes to scan.

For fun – here’s one of the photos I just love out of this album. This is a picture of my husband’s grandfather, Robert Nelson Eck, at age two in about 1915. I love the outfit, the pose, the little button shoes. This is an exception among the photos in this album as most are amateur photos and this is clearly a studio photo.

Album 01 Page 10 Item 04

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Nona’s Recipe: Tea Cakes

[This recipe was hidden among the collection of Nona’s stories. Nona was a great cook and I learned a lot about scratch cooking from her.]

Tea Cakes

1/2 cup butter
1 cup sugar
1 egg
3 cups flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 cup sweet milk
1/2 teaspoon Lemon or Vanilla flavoring

Cream butter and sugar, add egg and beat well.
Add dry ingredients, add milk and flavoring. Mix well.
Roll out on a floured board , cut with floured biscuit cutter.
Bake on buttered cookie sheet until lightly brown.

Tea cakes may be sprinkled with sugar and cinnamon before baking, or may be iced or frosted after baking and cooling.

(So written by Grandma Burns.)

This recipe was brought by wagon train from Tenn to Texas in 1851, by the Connelly family. Given to me by Grandma Burns in 1925.

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Nona’s Stories: Catching Field Mice

[There’s no date or reference included in this story but from the reference to the catching of crawfish and the fact it’s in North Texas, I believe it to also be 1910 to 1911.]

When we lived in North Texas, Ralph, Harry, and I used to catch the field mice.

They were a soft gray color, white underneath, light gray faces and feet, and longer tails, – and thereby hangs a tale!

Ralph and Harry had mastered the art of quickly picking them up – when I dug out of their nests – and dropping them into the screen-wire cage Ralph had made for them. But when I gingerally picked one up – it promptly climbed up it’s long tail and bit my fingers.

Ralph and Harry made me promise I wouldn’t cry if one bit me – or else I couldn’t go along.

I was, however, allowed an outraged “Ouch!!” This distressed Jack, our Bulldog, whose duty it was to protect us kids, so he was always with us. I guess he remembered when he was a pup and a rat severely bit his lip. So, he whined his sympathy when a mouse bit me.

But I didn’t get any sympathy from Ralph or Harry. Just a disgusted “I guess you’ll learn you can’t sneak up on a mouse!”

We kept them in a cage for a while, feeding them corn and other grain, then took them to the field and let them go. And caught others.

Dad said we fattened up about every mouse in the county, and the Screech owls should be happy.

It’s a wonder I didn’t get Tetnus, being pinched by crawfish and bitten by mice so many times. Seems I always had a few fingers bandaged. And when Grandma Burns visited us, or saw me at church and Sunday school, she was very disproving of such unladylike pursuits. So she bought me a pair of little while gloves to wear to church, to hide my mangled fingers!

– Nona

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A note on transciptions

In an effort to preserve the “as written” aspects of any transcriptions I do, especially Nona’s stories, I am transcribing them as written. I’m a writer and an editor but I am forcing that back and not “correcting” any of the spelling, grammar, punctuation in any transcriptions I make because I think efforts to correct real or perceived errors only detracts from the feel of the originals but it also can introduce new errors.

All errors in my own words or text are purely mine, though. 🙂

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Nona’s Stories: The Little Brook

[Nona was born in November 1905 so this story had to have taken place in 1910 or 1911 if she was five or six as she indicates.]

There was a little creek – more like a little brook – that crossed our fields in front of the house – the road was between this field and the house. This little creek ran on down along the edge of the Bottoms that were on our land – turned and crossed the road. It was under the bridge over it here that the Bumble Bees had their nest. This was a low wooden bridge. The little creek flowed on down into Wilson’s Bottoms where Old Man Cole lived.

Ralph, Harry and I used to play along the little creek in the field in front of the house. In the deeper little ponds there were beautiful little colorful sunperch – much too small for fishing. We used to take bread and oatmeal to feed them. They came flocking to the feeding places to eat.

All  along the edge of the water were crawfish holes in the mud. There were some quite large ones – red ones and blue ones. They remained in the same holes all the warm months. We each had one – mine was a blue one I called “Old Blue.”

They became quite accustomed to being caught, – spreading their pinchers and waving them defiantly at us while they quickly backed into their holes. There is a trick to catching a crawfish – or crawdad as some people called them. And it has to be done quickly. The trick is to grab them by the top side of their body just back of their pinchers. I got caught a lot of times because I was too slow. Many times I had several fingers bandaged at one time – a large crawfish can pinch pretty hard on a small child’s finger and I was only five or six years old. They hang on like a vise and it takes several hands to get the crawfist loose. It’s sort of like having a tiger by the tail. Some one has to hold the crawfish—and that other pincher is just looking for a finger to latch onto! So, you have to find a small stick and get him to hold it with that pincher—but they are smart enough to let go of the stick and grab any finger that comes near! Then some one has to pry the pincher open that has grasped the finger. This takes some doing as we didn’t want to break the pincher or injure the crawfish.

Those pinchers are hinged in such a way that when closed they sort of lock and it’s difficult to pry them open. And those crawfish were determined to hold onto any finger they grasped. These large crawfish are just a smaller model of a lobster, and they have a mean disposition.

We some times had crawfish races. We would each put his crawfish an equal distance from it’s own hole, and the crawfish that reached it’s hole first was the winner. They crawl forward, but scoot backward much faster. Some times the crawfish got into fights among themselves and Ralph and Harry had to pry their pinchers loose from each other.—And they sometimes got caught by an angry pincher. I learned the hard way to stay out of crawfish battles. Once my “Old Blue” was getting the worst of it and I tried to rescue him—he showed his gratitude by grabbing two of my fingers with his pinchers—he was hanging onto my fingers and the other crawfish was hanging onto him. It took both Ralph and Harry to untangle us.

I think my crawfish was either the meanest, or maybe the smartest of the lot.

When I would try to catch him he would suddenly scoot backward just as I was about to grasp him back of his pinchers and grab my finger. So I was the one that got caught. Ralph and Harry always said it was because I was too slow.

My opinion was the crawfish was too fast.

We always took took Jack, our Bulldog, with us. Mr. Reed’s mean Jersey Bull was in the adjoining field and pasture. There was a good strong fence between the two fields but that Bull was known to go through fences. Jack hated him, and the Bull hated every thing and every body.

We knew if he got after us Jack would attack him and keep him busy giving us enough time to escape. The little brook was only about the distance of a city block from our house.
One day we took Kate, Dad’s English Birddog, with us. She was prowling around in the grass and weeds when she suddenly “froze” pointing at a stump of a tree that had been chopped down. Many sprouts had come up around it. We went to investigate and saw a Bob White quail on it’s nest beneath the brush. We called Kate away so as to not disturb it.

About a week later we went back to check on it. The nest was empty, but with the egg shells indicating the little ones had hatched. But we couldn’t find the mother quail and chicks. On a later trip to the brook we saw her, but could never count the baby quail as they would dart in every direction and hide in the grass. So we started taking chicken feed and scattering it around for her.

She remained there and raised her brood. We sometimes heard the male quail calling but never saw him.

When Winter came the crawfish disappeared. I suppose they spent the Winter buried in their holes in the mud.

Often the little brook froze over. We broke the ice and fed the little sun perch every few days. They didn’t seem any the worse for the cold. We quite often found raccoon tracks along the edges of the water. Their tracks look much like a baby’s foot print.

Dad said the raccoons are very fond of crawdads and probably ate most of them.

Jack was wary of them after a big crawfish pinched his “nosy” nose once.



Adelene Saunders (Milam) aka “Nona”


This is a photo of my grandmother, Adelene Saunders Milam, as I most remember her. We called her Nona but she was also known as “Bobbie” during her youth. Not a shy and retiring woman at all 🙂

As a child, I spent some summers with her and my paternal grandparents in New Mexico and loved all the stories she would tell us of her childhood and youth during the Dust Bowl and Depression. I’m not sure if it was her idea or my mother’s, but she started writing these stories down for us and mailing them to our home in California. She put a lot of work into them, often attaching photos or newspaper articles she’d obviously taken from her own scrapbooks. Most of the stories are in her favorite blue ballpoint pen ink and there are little notes added alongside photos, etc. She was always a big record keeper so she would often note who took a photo.

My family now has a priceless treasure trove of stories, in Nona’s own hand, to read and re-read, pass on to our extended family and children and enjoy.

I now have a project to scan and transcribe all these stories with a goal of making them into a book for our family. I also plan to donate a copy to the historical societies of the places mentioned in them (mostly Northern Texas). They are more than just a personal treasure to hold close and jealously guard. I also plan to post transcriptions of them on this blog. They are truly fascinating and are great personal glimpses into a time in history that was tough and is now gone.

While my husband’s ancestor, Klaas van der Linden, was the spark to really get me working on genealogy in a focused way, Nona was the person who laid all the groundwork for my interest and her stories gave me the curiosity about the names and lives behind the dates in records.

Thank you, Nona, for taking all  the time and care to give us these lasting glimpses into your life.