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Whilst writing a book on tracing ancestors in British India, I explored the character and actions of one of the most notorious Britons in India, Robert Clive (1725-1774).

Emma Jolly, in the article The Urban Genealogist on Holiday: The Clive Collection at Powis Castle, Wales

Emma Jolly writer, historian, genealogist
  1. Photo Restoration Services

    Recently, I was contacted by Nick Harris from Photo Restoration Services offering to demonstrate his skills on some of my old family snaps.

    Increasingly, family historians are using photo restoration companies to repair damaged images digitally and to enhance dull likenesses, thus helping us to discover what our ancestors looked like and even to peek into their world.

    Although there is a variety of image editing software, I have never learned how to use it well. Far easier to email the images and let a professional bring them back to life.

    I sent Nick two photos from my family’s collection. The first was this portrait below of my great, great grandfather, William Jolly (1842-1889).

    The image on the left is the photograph I sent. On the right is the photo that Nick restored. As you can see, the first image has an odd colour, hiding the details of William’s face and the features of the garden. Thanks to Nick’s restoration skills, I can now see my ancestor’s face and the world he lived in far more clearly. The right side of the photograph was less damaged and it is now possible to make out the door handle and bell. It’s disappointing that my relatives left the lace curtains hanging as we may otherwise have been able to see some of the children peering out!

    My family believes this shows my great, great grandfather standing in his Royal Engineers uniform outside his home in Enfield. His bearing in the image suggests his pride in his military career. From a descendant’s perspective, though, I would have preferred to see him without the cap as that is hiding the shape of his face. It is difficult to be certain of the date, but we do know he was overseas from 1880-1885 and he died just fours years later.

    Nick also offers a black and white colourising service which could be used in military photos like the above to highlight the colour of the uniform.

    The second photo (pictured above left) I sent to Nick is more mysterious. No one in the family knows who this is, but I was hoping that if it was enhanced, we would be better placed to identify the sitter. Helpfully, Nick restored not only the portrait, enabling us to better see this young man, but also the details of the photographic studio where the image was taken.

    The photographers, Emberson & Sons, were based at three locations at the date this portrait was taken: Emberson & Sons, 6 Wilton Rd, Belgravia S.W., 57 St. Paul’s Churchyard E.C., and Chertsey, Surrey. According to the Photo London website, the firm was in  6 Wilton Road, Pimlico, Westminster 1885 – 1896, 1904 – 1925; 57 St Paul’s Churchyard, City of London 3 floor 1889 – 1908; and in Chertsey 1873 – 1905.

    We have many London ancestors, but few who lived near Chertsey. This suggests the photograph was taken either in the City or Belgravia (near Westminster) – both central London locations.

    There is so much to explore with old photos and I am in the early stages of poring over my family’s snaps. Restoration is a great way to aid historical photography investigation.

    Based in the Maidstone/ Medway area of Kent, Nick has over 10 years’ photo restoring experience in digital restoration and can be contacted via his website.

  2. Family History For Kids: New iPhone App

    As a genealogist and mother, I am keen to encourage my two boys, aged 6 and 8, to explore their ancestry in whatever way they can. So far, we have made family visits to exhibitions, living museums, and the former homes of ancestors. We watch history programmes on television, and period films. The 6 year old made a picture family tree chart by chopping up copies (I emphasize COPIES) of old photographs. And the 8 year old consulted census returns for a ‘family homes’ school project. But what they really, really like is playing with gadgets.

    Imagine their excitement when they were let loose on my usually prohibited iPhone to test a new app, Records Their Stories. This app is designed to aid family historians interview and record their relatives’ memories, using a list of over 100 suggested questions covering a range of topics.

    screen-shot-questions

    I gave the boys full control of the process. The 8 year old downloaded the app from iTunes http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/record-their-stories/id483574271?mt=8 He worked out how to select the questions he wanted to ask, and how to flip back to them during recording (press the question mark on the microphone). We found keeping all the questions on the phone easier and tidier than having loose papers everywhere. Once everything was downloaded and they had worked out what to press, the children found the app very easy to use. They could enter their own questions via ‘edit Questions’ but they were both happy with the range offered. Their grandfather also enjoyed the process, with the iPhone adding distraction and levity to the interview.

    screen-shot-recording

    Although the app contains its own editing device to cut out all the pauses, coughs and interruptions that are inevitable when children interview their grandparents, we opted for the professional editing service from the Record Their Stories team. The finished edit included a polished mix of the interview, and numerous additions, such as the soundtrack to their grandfather’s favourite film ‘Singin’ In The Rain’ and a bicycle bell and crashing noise to highlight his most embarrassing moment. Our edited version was just over 2 minutes long, but we’d recorded for at least quarter of an hour. In order to make the most of the professional edit you will need to record for as long as you can with as many relatives as possible.

    When my grandmother was still alive, I tried recording an interview with her using a cheap cassette with sellotape over the holes. We gave up after a while, as she tired easily and became confused. Thinking back, I know I would have recorded more with her if I didn’t have to lug around a radio-cassette player. If I’d owned an iPhone then, I would definitely have used Record Their Stories to interview Grandma whenever I could. Even though I lived with her for 15 years, I’m beginning to forget the way she spoke and her many expressions that I never hear anyone use now – ‘Dolly Daydream’, ‘a five and twenty to six’ . . . My children have already backed up their interview with their grandfather, and plan to record interviews with other older relatives whenever they see them.

    After listening to the edited interview, I asked the 8 year old how he had found the process and what he thought of the App. He replied simply: ‘Awesome!’

    screen-shot-editing

    The Record Their Stories iPhone app is available to download now. Professionally produced bespoke CDs from the RTS team start at £90 per recording.

    Website: www.recordtheirstories.com 

    Demo Video: http://vimeo.com/32479136 

    Fresh Air Production is a team of award-winning radio and audio producers, with clients including The BBC, UKTV, BMW and Channel 4.


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Member of The Association of Genealogists and Researchers in ArchivesGraduate of the Institute of Heraldic and Genealogical Studies CanterburyMember of the Society of Genealogists