Wednesday, February 29, 2012

What I Scanned: Lead Paint and Filled Blanks

On Tuesdays I'm paid to scan someone else's stuff. This is part of a larger family history project I'm working on. 

The act of scanning isn't very exciting, but I've enjoyed getting to know these people from the past as I do my part to preserve their history.

Yesterday, I scanned some photos and mostly letters.

My favorite photo was of a gentleman inside his store, circa 1905. I've been told it is a lumber store, but the photo showed neatly stacked cans of paint and related items. Perhaps the lumber was in the back. One thing that did stand out in the photo was a sign advertising different types of paint. You could buy lead paint back then. Judging by the size of the sign, they wanted you buy a lot of it.

I also scanned a lot of letters yesterday. Most weren't very exciting. A lot of talk of aches and pains. Among the correspondence was a set of letters from a sister to a brother. This lady was very into her family history. She wrote letters, recorded her stories and shared common ancestry with her family members. 

Sometimes this lady wrote to her father, who was the big family historian in the bunch. He didn't have neat charts, though. He liked to doodle and write genealogy notes on the backs of envelopes. He saved them all and passed them down, which is why I'm scanning them today. I've scanned a lot of old envelopes.

In some of these gentleman's notes, he'd write "John had 2 kids _____ and _____" which meant that he didn't know their names. He'd write letters all over the country looking for family history information, then he'd fill in the blanks when he could.

I scanned some of those documents with blanks. Then I decided to see if I could fill them. With a very quick search of, I had the names of the two children and new research paths to explore. 

I don't know the man who kept all these notes, but I feel compelled to continue the research he started, even if it is not my own. Something tells me he'd appreciate that.

The information for which this man searched and sent letters of request took weeks, months, or years to receive. He did this faithfully and painstakingly for decades. Then in one instant, I filled two blanks on his notes with one swipe of the Internet.

We are very fortunate to live when we do. I'll keep that in mind until my next scanning day. 


  1. I've been scanning the notes,letters, hand diagrammed charts, and essays written by my wife's grandfather in the early 1900's. I too marvel at the time and effort compared to what we experience today.

  2. I'm glad that someone had the foresight to have you scan this material, knowing that often these notes, letters and envelopes are all too often swept in to recycling bins, garbage pails and dumpsters, by those with no awareness of their value.

    Cheers, K.

  3. These handwritten notes are little treasures! It's a treat to me to go through my grandfather's notebook - everything from family tree notes to obituary clippings on neighbors to his cows' milk production. It's valuable to us as an object and also for its content, so scanning it would be a great project idea!

  4. I've scanned so many family photos that I think my printer is going to burn out!

  5. We certainly are fortunate to have the online access that we do. I have been able to make a lot of progress in only 4 years on my search for my ancestors, thanks to the internet.

  6. Wow, great article, I really appreciate your thought process and having it explained properly, thank you!