Genealogy and Photoshop

I know I’ve complained about modern technology a bit, but I love what I can do with a computer, a scanner, photographs and Adobe Photoshop. All I need is a photograph. It can be old and discolored, or spotted, even torn. If I have enough skill (which I’m not saying I do), I can transform even a small photograph into a beautiful image and make copies for friends and relatives. Amazing.

When I took a class in Digital Photography from the College of Mount St. Joseph in Cincinnati, Ohio several years ago, we did a collage project. One of my interests, or hobbies is genealogy (even thought I haven’t blogged much about it as of yet). So I did a genealogy collage of my Mom’s ancestors.

Copyright © 2011 by Christine M. Grote

I’m not a talented artist by anyone’s stretch of the imagination, but I had fun doing this. I put the photos of my mom’s parents and siblings in the bottom right corner. The large notebook paper behind these photos is a page from The Life of Anna Adams Lemmon — as I Remember It. This is a short autobiography that my grandmother wrote in the 1990s. I’ve shared an excerpt in an earlier tribute post I did for Grandma. My mom is the oldest child in the family group shots.

The bottom left corner contains the photographs of Grandma’s parents, Harrison Myron Adams and Katherine Roecker, and her siblings on the farm where she grew up. I had to edit or “fix” most of the older photos.

The small lined and dated papers are entries in Harrison’s journal where he kept track of his farm expenses and profits from the early to mid 1900s. These were a lot of fun to read through. I also included a scrap of paper that contained Harrison’s signature.

As you continue up the left side of the page you see photographs of Harrison and Katherine as they aged and with grandchildren (my mom and her sister) in the smaller photo and great-grandchildren (my two older sisters) with my mom and grandma in the four-generation photo at the top. My dad was always big on shooting four-generation photos.

On the upper right are photographs of my grandfather’s mother (Mary Etta Lemmon) and another four-generation photo with my sister, mom, grandfather and great-grandmother. All these people have fascinating stories, as I’m sure your ancestors do as well.

Underneath it all is a photo of one of a million doilies my grandmother crocheted.

Without my computer, scanner and Photoshop, I could have made a collage, but I would have either had to ruin single heirloom copies of photographs by cutting and pasting them, or had to get copies made at a photo store. Without Photoshop, the pictures, in some cases, would have been dark, scratched and torn. I would have been limited by the size of photographs I had to work with.

Don’t get me wrong. I enjoy hands-on cut and paste projects. Dad and I are currently (and quite slowly) working on a photo scrapbook. We’ve done pages of his parents and early childhood, the houses he lived in as a child, and his siblings. The next pages we will do will be about the time he spent in the army in Germany. I printed out copies of scanned photos to use. I read somewhere that this was a good project for someone with Alzheimers because you can use the book to help them remember if they start to forget. So far it seems like Dad remembers who we all are, and who the people in the photographs are. He’s not very good at hand-writing anymore, though. So that’s been something of a challenge.

I guess in some ways I follow in my dad’s footsteps. When my son, daughter-in-law and grandson came to visit in April, I made sure we got a four-generation photograph. Maybe it will show up in somebody’s digital (or even more high-tech) collage someday.

Mom, Me, Dad, Michael and Luke - April 2011 — Copyright © 2011 by Christine M. Grote

Fiddles, radio broadcasts, signing-off and I-pads

I know it sounds cliché, but I’ve got to get it off my chest. I miss the good old days.

Were people really kinder when times were slower, or is my aging memory fading the harsh colors of reality into softer, gentler images?

Here’s my point, which I think may be undeniable; people had more time for and with each other before the barrage of 24-hour newscasts, sportscasts, movie channels and reality television. People had more silence and fewer disruptions before the cell phones became the most necessary item to carry with you at all times with their jingling or sometimes jarring tunes announcing an undoubtedly urgent call, or a beep or buzz announcing a new text message of vital importance.

My grandmother’s family and a few friends seeking diversions, used to gather around the piano in the parlor. Grandma played the ivory keys while her father and brother coaxed lively tunes from their fiddles. They weren’t professional musicians, just farmers. Camaraderie, laugher, and shared endeavor could all be regularly found in that small parlor of an evening.

My parents used to gather with their respective families around the family radio for the broadcast of Only the Shadow Knows, or another favorite radio show. Intent listening, respectful silence and vivid imagination were all required in that living room of an afternoon.

We always had a television as far as I can remember. It was a big bulky thing that made an awful buzzing noise when my parents turned it on. The screen lit up with random horizontal lines struggling to form themselves into a coherent image.  It turned off in the same fashion—static noise and lines ending with a final pop. We received three major networks all of which signed off sometime in the evening. When something monumental was happening in the world, you waited until the evening newscast with Walter Cronkite to hear about it.

There was no popping in a DVD of Jungle Book to entertain a sick and sleepless child in the wee hours of the morning. What did our grandmothers do with their sick children in the middle of the night? Did you ever wonder about that?

Human interaction, I suppose.

I do believe people were different when things were different. But not always and only for the best. I don’t have to attempt to list for you all the things that are better now because of modern technology.

I just think we make a mistake if we assume that nothing was lost.

Even so, I for one am not now, and likely never will be, willing to part with my laptop and I-pad.

We march on.


Circa 1917—Katherine Roecker Adams holding my grandmother Anna behind Raymond, Harold, and Florence beside Harrison Myron Adams and two horses.


Copyright © 2011 by Christine M. Grote