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March 2019

Guest Post - Preserving and Restoring Your Old Photographs

Photograph restoration

We were contacted by people from a company in Germany called InstaRestoration, asking if they might submit a guest post. Normally, we refuse all such promotional efforts, but this submission does give some useful advice, so we decided to accept it. Please be aware that we do not know any of the company's employees and have never used its services but that we do think that the advice given below might help you, Dear Readers, to preserve your photographs (by not, for example, spilling  pasta sauce all over such treasures, as we once did).

 

I am Peter Rosenkranz from InstaRestoration.com a professional online photo restoration service with instant quotes. We are able to repair all kinds of damages such as watermarks, scratches, cracks or even photos torn into pieces. The image above was sent to us by a French Lady. She found the photo in an old box after her mother had passed away. Although she is not certain who that man is, she strongly believes this could be her father, who she has never met or seen before. We digitally restored the only photograph of her parents to its original state.

About 80% of all our restoration works are old family photos. An estimate of 60% of these photographs have suffered severe damage because of improper storing or displaying. In this tutorial, I would like to explain to you how to properly archive your old photographs and thereby save your family history.

First of all, you have to understand that the process of deterioration is very very slow. Most things that harm your photograph won't become visible today or tomorrow but eventually, they will. Keep in mind that the way you store your prints affects them day by day, year by year.

Here are some simple guidelines you should apply to guarantee proper archiving of your family photos.

1. Use acid free and bleach free materials.
When buying boxes or archiving sleeves to store your prints make sure that they are approved for archiving. Although paper sounds pretty natural it's often produced by using acid and bleach.

2. Temperature and humidity
This one is the most important one. Make sure that your photographs are stored in a dry and cool place. Most people store them either on the attic, which is too hot, or in the basement, which is too humid. High humidity causes mold and fungus and high temperatures bleach your photographs.

3. Photos only!
We literally have seen it hundreds of times. People storing their photos in boxes full of stuff that doesn't belong there. Every time you move the box the objects inside scratch the sensitive surface of the photographs, slowly worsening the damages. Put photographs in a photograph only box. No necklaces, no rings or any keepsakes. If you want to make things as safe as possible put each photograph in a single archive sleeve.

4. Ultraviolet light
The number one reason for faded and bleached out photographs. As much as sunlight hurts our skin it hurts photographs. Always try to hide your family photos form direct sunlight. If you display them in your living room or office make sure to use frames with UV blocking glass. The safest way is to only display a copy of the photo and store the original.

5. Adhesives
Most of us are guilty of this one. They might come in handy and are easy to use but those sticky strips and other adhesives often include chemicals that will slowly deteriorate the quality of your prints. Never use those things on one of your original photos.

6. Air pollutants
This one might sound silly but don't store your photos next to paint thinners or aggressive cleaning agents. What makes you dizzy makes your photographs dizzy as well.

7. Framing
When framing your images make sure to buy good quality frames. Quite often humidity and temperature cause your photograph to stick to the frame's glass. This is pretty much the worst thing to happen. To prevent that from happening buy either frames with a distance between picture and glass or use a special transparent plastic sheet in between glass and print.

8. Create digital copies
Always create digital copies of your images.

Apply these simple steps and you're good to go.
If any of your images are already damaged and you'd love to get them repaired check out our website.

 

 

©2019 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy


Was Your Ancestor a French Magistrate?

Judge

The most interesting talk that we attended at the Salon de la généalogie was that given by historian, author, researcher, and an editor of Criminocorpus (about which we have written here), Dr. Jean-Claude Farcy, on the database that he created, Annuaire rétrospectif de la magistrature XIXe-XXe siècles, ("Retrospective Directory of the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries"). The result of fifteen years of research and unfortunately presented on a drab, clumsy and awkward website (how is it that the country that gives us UbiSoft at the same time is notorious for rubbish websites?) this is yet a brilliant gathering of information on hundreds of France's magistrates.

The intention in creating the website was not so much genealogical as to historical, looking at each court or judgeship. Thus, the search es are designed to show a judgeship or position through time, listing all of the people who held the position and the dates when they did so. Yet, searches by surname are possible, so the site can be used to research a particular person. All of the search pages have the annoying quirk of requiring that a date be given, and in the required format. If no date be given, the form reverts to blank fields, with no explanation as to why. Another annoying point is that to search for Paris, one must recall that for most of the nineteenth century it was in the department of Seine, so one must put that as the location.

The results of any search are, however, impressive. Especially useful is that all sources, bibliographic and archival, for the information are provided. The details of these sources are given in full, ensuring not only that a user can trust but also can verify the information found here.

Included also are magistrates in Algeria, Guadeloupe, Martinique and other ex-colonies and overseas territories and departments. Genealogical research for these areas can be quite difficult and this website may offer an alternative route for tracing an ancestor.

Dr. Farcy is the author of the guide to research in French judicial records, Guide des Archives Judiciaires at Pénitentiaires, 1800-1958, which can be downloaded free of charge here, or viewed as a scanned book on Gallica here, or purchased as a new and slightly reworked version here.

More on the superb work of Dr. Farcy in future posts.

©2019 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy


Salon de la généalogie Paris 15e

Salon entrance

We have intended for some time to attend this annual event but the fates colluded with one another and conspired against our innocent plan. Until now, the fifth year that it has taken place, when we have at last succeeded in attending, twice. It was most impressive.

The "Grand salon de la généalogie" takes place in the Town Hall, or Mairie, of the fifteenth arrondissement of Paris, in two rooms on two floors of that imposing building. The rooms were far too small for the crowd that was there on a Thursday afternoon, much more comfortable for the slightly smaller crowd that showed up on Saturday, when we were able to attend with Madame O. It seems obvious that new accommodation will be required sooner rather than later.

There are moments when, in our intrepid reporting for you, Dear Readers, we feel that intense scrutiny may not be the best approach. We then take another approach to studying a situation, of standing aside and observing said situation (or, room, in this case) in its entirety. We found a spot up a few stairs, giving us an excellent view. What we observed at this salon was a presence of the same exhibitors of local genealogy societies or cercles, the same offensively oversized publicity posters of the commercial genealogy companies, the same professional genealogists at their tables as are always present at the Congrès national de généalogie we have described to you so often.

Salon

Yet, here, in this salon, there was more vibrant interest, more keen participation than, sad to say, we have ever seen at the Congrès event. As we continued our observation, it became apparent to us that one individual seemed to be moving everywhere, at times with the speed of a cockroach on amphetamines, speaking to everyone, instructing those at the very long table selling the publications of Archives & Culture (the sponsor of the salon, by the way), adjusting signs, seating, and anything else that was not perfect. We have never met Marie-Odile Mergnac, doyenne of genealogy publishing and author of about half of the books produced by her company, that selfsame Archives & Culture, but there was no mistaking the fact that this dynamo could be no other than she.

Salon Archives et Culture

We were awed as we watched her manipulate and manage the presenters and salespeople, all those with stands, with a quick and quiet efficiency. It would appear that she is also able to do this with consideration and finesse for we looked closely at the faces of those she instructed to see their reactions after she walked away and saw nary a negative one. Can the obvious success of this salon, seemingly so superior to the increasingly sad Congrès national de généalogie, really be down to the impressive skills of one woman? May we dare to add that the salon's success may also have been due to an element of that impetus so despised and reviled by the French: seeking to make a profit? As a large percentage of the exhibitors were also authors of books published by Archives & Culture, this is not an unreasonable supposition.

We decided to speak to some of the people we know who had stands there in order to test our theory. "How do you find this event in comparison with the Congrès?" we asked each. A disdainful "Pfffft!" was the general reply, meaning "No comparison," accompanied by just the slightest hint of that famed, French shrug. We then asked our key question: "Why do you think this event is so much livelier and better attended?" We expected some comment about the organizer or about business versus voluntary activity, which would support our theory, but no. Each gave us the same quizzical look, as if do say "Do you really need to ask?" Then they blurted the obvious for this poor foreigner: "C'est Paris!" ("It's Paris!")

Paris, Dear Readers, depending upon what kind of French person you may be, is either the heart and soul of France, or no part of France at all. In either case, the city seems to be able to add a frisson to all that takes place within her walls.

Paris

©2019 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy


Seeking a Sailor in the French Navy in World War II

French Navy

Because of legal restrictions to access, it is rather difficult to research the men and women who fought in the Second World War in France. For those who fought in the Resistance or secretly, it is even more difficult, as documents were destroyed, or may exist only under an unknown nom de guerre, or never were created in the first place. As the participants age and leave this world, memories and secrets are lost forever. Many have established associations or organizations to preserve camaraderie and their memories. Unfortunately,  their websites and their use of social media are not always the most sophisticated, so their laudable work often is missed.

For those of you seeking a parent or grandparent who served in the French Navy during World War Two, a bit of understanding of history is most necessary. Essentially, France was conquered and divided. Neither half was free. Occupied France was under Nazi rule and Vichy France was neutral and independent, but only so long as it complied with Nazi instructions. The French Navy's history during the war reflects this division. Part of it followed De Gaulle and part of it remained with Vichy France. It cannot have been an easy choice. (Should you wish to know more, we suggest that you read an extremely detailed defense of their positions by Rear Admiral Paul Auphan and Jacques Mordal, The French Navy in World War II.) 

Once you have done your homework and understand the French Navy at that time, you will then be better equipped to research the website of ALAMER, of primitive design and much valuable information. It is dedicated to preserving the memories of all those who were at sea between 1939 and 1945, with a recent addition of information on World War One. It is not an official site of the Marine française but one created by those who were there and, more recently, by those researching them. Here, you will find:

But the website is more than lists and ALAMER does more than just create those lists. There are photographs, of individuals and of vessels, and there are PDF versions of all issues of their publication, Faisons le point.

Excellent resource.

Other posts on naval research: 

©2019 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy


Napoleon Called Them "My Soldiers"

Napoleon 1

Whatever else may be said of the man, Napoleon cared deeply for his soldiers. He rode with them, fought with them, spoke to them from the heart, planted shade trees for them along the roads they had to march. Perhaps that loyalty that he felt for them was felt just as deeply on their side for him, and that may be why so many of you, Dear Readers, generations later, still write of your ancestor having been in "Napoleon's Army", of having "fought with Napoleon", and why you are so determined to prove that service. It is getting a great deal easier.

One really must praise the role that Geneanet is assuming in French genealogical research. If FamilySearch remains utterly bogged down in nothing more than French parish and civil registrations and Filae is at the forefront in increasing access to other French records such as census returns, the Bulletin des Lois and numerous collections that have already been indexed or extracted in some way, Geneanet is staking out the territory of deeper research, new scans of documents and collaborative indexing. The more interesting work can be found by clicking on "Projets" in the menu, then on "Autres projets" (Other projects).

Geneanet menu

There, you can find Matricules Napoléoniens 1802-1815, the astonishingly ambitious project of indexing the entirety of the registres matricules (muster rolls) of the Imperial Guard and the infantry of the line from 1802 to 1815. The muster rolls have been available for some time on the website Mémoire des Hommes, as we explained here, but they are not indexed on that site. One must know the regiment of the person sought and then trawl through the many, many pages of muster rolls. The only other way to find this information  has been to visit the relevant Departmental Archives and search through any surviving First Empire conscription lists.

This indexing project, which has already indexed over 600,000 names and is headed by the rather intimidating Alain Brugeat, will transform Napoleonic military research, for it will break through the barrier of Departmental Archives isolation, (the research equivalent of a virus breaching the blood-brain barrier). Once complete, it will, in effect, provide an index that will link to images of the national, military, regimental muster rolls (on Mémoire des Hommes) as well as, in some cases, to the Departmental Archives' First Empire conscription lists (images digitized and held on Geneanet). 

Now, Geneanet just needs to upgrade its capacity for searching these muster rolls. At the moment, they can be searched by name only. For genealogists to be able to exploit this new resource fully, a much more sophisticated search must be possible.

Kudos all round for this.

©2019 Anne Morddel

French Genealogy