Thursday, 13 February 2020

Colourized Photos

MyHeritage has a new service. As they describe it, “MyHeritage In Color™ is an exciting new feature that lets you colorize your black and white photos automatically. The results are mind-blowing and are sure to impress your family and friends.

Like probably most members of the website I tried my hand at colourizing some old photos this week. The results truly are “mind-blowing.”

I started with old wedding photos of my direct ancestors. Here they are, along with the originals.
1890 James Shepheard & Mary Elizabeth Pearson wedding photo
1914 James Pearson Shepheard & Carrie Jane Thompson wedding photo
1939 William Calvin Shepheard & Norma Mabel Miller wedding photo
I also tried the photo that is the background of this blogsite. You can see the original in the right side margin. It is not quite as good as the others, but I think that is due to the original probably not being the best in terms of contrast.
1886 Miller-Watson Family
The process works pretty well on snapshots as well as studio portraits. Here is one taken of my wife and me - a few years ago.
1969 Linda & Wayne
This is a really neat idea! One could spend days going through their library and seeing how the people looked like if they had had colour photography. I am sure I won’t be able to resist doing many more.

Tuesday, 4 February 2020

Military Veteran Recordings

Recordings of parents, grandparents and others born a long time ago are invaluable in learning about family history and history in general. While not always entirely accurate due to fading memories, they allow, firstly, preservation of the voices of those now gone from our lives and, secondly, glimpses into actual events by people who were there.

I will be giving talks at the Family Tree Live event in April. In addition to activities and presentations about family history, the event will also celebrate the 75th anniversary of VE Day, which tool place on 8 May 1945. Many of the speakers and exhibitors will focus on the military.

In this post, though, I want to deal with sources that I came across several years ago, but for whatever reason have never used in a blog post.

There are a few websites on which you can hear individuals speak about their experiences during the major wars of the 20th century, as well as other military activities. These are actual recordings of soldiers or their family members talking about actual events. Most have transcripts available with the recordings.

One site is called The Memory Project, which “houses more than 2,800 testimonials and over 10,000 images from veterans of the First World War, Second World War, the Korean War and peacekeeping missions. While the archive no longer accepts submissions, it remains the largest of its kind in Canada.” The group also provides speakers for schools and communities. Information and recordings are available in both English and French.

Veterans Affairs Canada hosts a First World War Audio Archive where, again, you can “[l]isten to Veterans as they recall their life and times during the war years.” The site also has a substantial amount of information about other aspects of the war and Canadians’ involvement. The Veterans Affairs site itself is the place to go to learn about all of Canada’s military activities, in English and in French.

For the United States, “[t]he Veterans History Project of the American Folklife Center collects, preserves, and makes accessible the personal accounts of American war veterans so that future generations may hear directly from veterans and better understand the realities of war.”

The US Library of Congress has a department, Recorded Sound Research Center, where audio and visual material is stored and accessible by the public. One such library is the Marine Corps Combat Recordings.

The Imperial War Museum, in the United Kingdom, has a Sound Archive which “holds over 33,000 recordings relating to conflict since 1914. This consists of the largest oral history collection of its type in the world, with contributions from both service personnel and non-combatants as well as significant holdings of speeches, sound effects, broadcasts, poetry and music.”

Family historians may find any or all these sites of interest. Members of their own family might even be featured. In addition to the audio recordings, they also contain substantial information about past war records.

Monday, 27 January 2020

The Power of Photography: 75 years after Auschwitz

I have written before about old photos, mostly those taken by my family members and which have become valuable keepsakes. I am hoping my pictures, many of which go back into the 19th century, will survive many more generations

This past weekend, the Calgary Herald and National Post, carried a few stories about people whose lives were forever altered when they were caught up in the Holocaust during the 1940s. We have heard the stories before, at least enough of them to feel the sadness and disgust about what atrocities can be inflicted on people.

The first thing that struck me in the newspaper article were the photos of three young women, the aunts of the one article author, Jack Jedwab. Their beauty and innocence were startling, preserved forever in photos belonging to Jack’s family, when the girls themselves perished before they could achieve a full life. As the time in which the events occurred fades into history, photographs like this are powerful reminders that death was served to real people who could have been part of any of our families.

Today, January 27th, is the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, in Poland. It is a day when all the world should remember what happened there, whether they are Jewish or not. Many recollections have already been written by the survivors, and by historians. But it is the pictures that bring home the truth of these events, about Auschwitz, indeed about all such death camps.

It is incumbent of all of us to not let the memories of these terrible acts disappear. Publishing and republishing photos of the aunts, uncles, fathers, mothers, grandparents and children, and remembering them as members of real families like our own, may help to prevent such things from happening again.