Tuesday’s Tip – Converting Cassette recordings to Digital Files

Last night, I was cleaning up my desk/computer area and came across some micro-cassettes that I had used to interview relatives about my family history.   I found one micro-cassette that had an interview of one of my paternal aunts and it reminded me that I wanted to try to convert all of my micro-cassettes with genealogical information on them to digital files.  I want to do this so that it would be 1) easier to listen to them and not have to pull out the old micro-cassette player every time; and 2) I think it would last  longer on my computer instead of the original tape material. 

I found easy to understand instructions on how to convert old cassette recordings to digital files at lifehacker.com.   Rick Broida wrote an article, Alpha Geek: How to digitize cassette tapes and I found it very interesting and though it might be helpful for others in the genealogy world and decided to blog about itYou can read his full article here.

Rick essentially says that there are three things needed to convert old cassettes to digital files.  They are 1) a cassette player; 2) a stereo patch cord (according to Rick about $5 at RadioShack) which connects your cassette player via headphone jack to your computer’s line-in jack; and 3) Audacity, which is a program that you can download and it makes it easy to convert the files from cassette tape to digital files.  Rick has more details on exactly how to convert the audio, but this is the gist of what is needed to accomplish this task.

For me, because I have a microcassette, I might need an adapter for the stereo patch cord, but that should be easy to find.  I am very happy to have found an easy to understand and easy to follow instructions on how to convert the old cassette tapes (and micro cassette tapes) to digital files.  I hope this tip helps some of you.  :-)

My Weekend Review

Last weekend was a really nice one, although it felt a bit short.  :-)  One of the brights spots of the weekend was a phone conversation I had with my mom regarding her genealogy research.

A little backstory first:  when I was first bit with the genealogy bug and started asking my mom questions, she was reluctant to offer up answers.  However, after several months of prodding, begging and pleading for answers and particularly when I showed her my grandparents in the 1920 census, she caught the bug too.  At first it was hard because we both were doing the same research but it wasn’t long until we decided that she should research her side of the family and I would research my Dad’s side of the family.

My mother worked a full-time job but with the odd hours she would work, she had free time during the day and would spend them at the local Family History Center.  It was during these trips to the local Family History Center that she was able to research her family all the way back to the early 1600’s!  She got farther than I did on my Dad’s side.  Well she has been going reallystrong in her family research but with medical and other life issues she has had a drop in interest. 

One day a few months ago, I went to visit her and she showed me the volumes and volumes of paperwork that she has accumulated during her research.  She felt so overwhelmed with what she had and she asked me to help her organize it and I of course said I would.  I first need to re-arrange me den because I will need ample room to organize her paperwork.  Well in our conversation during this past weekend, I asked her why she doesn’t just stop her research?  I thought she really did take the family tree as far back into history as we will be able to get, but she said that she didn’t know exactly where she was in her research.   She felt so overshelmed with the amount of paper accumulated that she coudn’t see the forest for the trees.  So I told her not to worry, that once we organize her family history research, that we will be able to determine not only just how far she has come, but whether or not she is ready to stop. 

I plan on doing several things that will help organizing this large project.  First I am going to seperate all of the documents by surname.  Then seperate the collateral family members from the direct family members and then put the documents in chronilogical order by family.  Once I am done with one direct family, I also want to prepare a timeline for them as well.  I am a firm believer that timelines will help put the large amount of paper research into a more understandable format and put into perspective the bigger genealogical picture, not just for my mother, but for me as well.

I undoubtedly have to buy a lot of folders to help organize the documents until they are ready to be put into a binder.  This will help my mother so that she will have it handy to show the family without having to go searching for it in the files or on the computer.

We talked about other genealogy things too but I just really enjoyed talking to my mom for almost a hour about genealogy.   We don’t do that as much as we should! 

Any other ideas to help tame the paper research monster?  Please leave your suggestions in the comment box below.

My Trip to the Los Angeles Superior Court

I made a trip to the Los Angeles Superior Court on my lunch break one day. My goal was to find out the case number of my mother and father-in-law’s divorce. I was hoping to look at their divorce file to find the date they were married and any other pertinent information about them. I was unsuccessful in getting the case number.

I had done preliminary research and found out that I needed to go to the index clerk first to find out the case number. I went to the Index clerk in Room 106 in the courthouse. In room 106, if you give them the names of the divorcing couple and the year it was originally filed, they can give you the case number of most cases filed from 1966 to present. Well the clerk told me that there was no listing for my couple. She suggested that I go to Archives down the street to see if it was filed before 1966. She directed me to Room 212 in Archives which was across the street and down a ways from the courthouse. It’s not easy finding Archives so they gave me a map, although it is underground, the only way there is with the use of an elevator/staircase. The offices are not above ground at all. After taking the elevator to the 2nd floor, I walked to room 212 from the elevator, the hallway was lined with boxes and boxes of case files. It has been many, many years since I was last in Archives and it all looked different to me.

The one thing that wasn’t different was the stuffiness feeling in the air. Although I do understand that in order to prevent the documents of deteriorate faster, they must be kept in climate controlled environment so I don’t understand the stuffiness. Because I didn’t know the exact year the divorce was filed, the information desk clerk gave me a form to fill out and told me to go to Counter #3 when I was done. After filling out the form, I went to counter #3 and a kindly older gentleman came to help me. He took my form and went to search for the case number. As I was waiting for his return, I noted that Counter #3 was the index counter for: Civil cases from 1940-1982 Family Law cases from 1940-1982 Probate cases from 1950 to 1982. The kindly gentleman came back and said that there was no case for my couple, but he found cases for my father-in-law from previous marriages. I noted the case numbers for a future visit. Because I wasn’t able to find a case number for my couple’s divorce, this could mean two things: (1) They were never divorced or (2) It was filed in a different county.

More research is needed for this couple to get their marriage date. Here are a few bits of information regarding the Los Angeles Superior Court that might also be useful to you.

  1. In California, each county has its own Superior Court system. What is used in L.A. won’t be the same in say, San Bernardino. In order to find the right court, you need to know which county the case was filed in. To find out, you can go online to: http://www.courtinfo.ca.gov. At the top of the screen, you will need to click on the “courts” button. This will take you to a new page and if you look on the left side of the screen you will find another menu and you need to click on the “Find A Court” button. This will take you to another new page and from here you can find the Superior Court, the Court of Appeals or the State Supreme Court along with links for their location, phone number and website. The Superior Court is listed by county and if you don’t know the county, you can search by city or by zip code to get to the right courthouse.
  2. If you already know the case number for a LA Superior Court case, you can get copies of some documents online. The type of documents available online are limited and a fee is charged. You can go to: http://www.lasuperiorcourt.org to order copies online.
  3. When going to Archives, dress in layers, bring bottle water and prepare to wait when using the microfiche machine.

I hope this was helpful.

Wordless Wednesday

Although this is my first Wordless Wednesday post, I don’t think it will be complete wordless.  This photo is of my Aunt and Uncles 2nd Grade Class photo.  Although it’s the 2nd Grade class, my Uncle was a year or two older than my Aunt .  I don’t know exactly where this school is located but it could have been taken in Colorado where my Aunt and Uncle were born, or here in California where the family ended up.  Further research will need to be done to determine where the picture was taken.

If you look closely at the picture, you will see my Aunt and Uncle marked with a check mark above their heads and their names written by my grandmother underneath the class.  Also as a side note, my Grandmother was approximately 5 months pregnant with my mother when this picture was taken.

Ramona School 2nd Grade Class Photo - 15 May 1935 (Photo owned by author and used with permission)

Tombstone Tuesday

Charles Sanchez (Photo owned by author and used with permission)

 

This is my uncle, Charles Sanchez or more commonly known as Uncle Charlie.  I think he took after my grandfather the most.  Not just in looks but also his philosophy when it came to family.  You give your all for your family and protect them as best you can. 

When ever me and my younger sister would spend the night at my uncle’s house, he would always go out and get McDonald’s for breakfast the next morning.  We would get up and he would just be getting back to the house with about 6 deluxe breakfasts, 3 pancake breakfasts and a couple of breakfast sandwiches.  He had three kids of his own, plus me and my sister and sometimes my other cousin would spend the night as well.  He was always a very generous man!

One story my mom told me about my Uncle Charlie was that when he was 16, he lied about his age and enlisted in the army.  He  was able to get as far as the beginning of boot camp before they found out and kicked him out of the Army.  When he was 17 years old, he lied again and enlisted again, but this time, because he was very close to being 18 years old, they kept him in the army.   When I attended his funeral and he was buried, because of his military service, there was a 21 gun salute.  My mom once told me many years ago that a military funeral was the saddest, now I knew what she was talking about.

Close up showing the Army symbol (Photo owned by author and used with permission)

My Uncle Charlie was the first one I knew in my family to get cable, the kind that only had two channels and he had a remote with his TV.  It was a box with buttons for the different channels and a long cable that hooked into the back of his TV. 

My Uncle Charlie was a hard-working man who loved his family, not just his immediate but also his extended family.  He is very much missed in our family.

Rest in peace Uncle Charlie!

Fearless Females – March 7th

There are a few blogging prompts I try to participate in, it helps me keep the content of my blog interesting and I try to do different things.  This one was brought to me by Thomas MacEntee at Geneabloggers blog but I believe that it originated with Lisa Alzo of the Accidental Genealogist blog. It was presented to celebrate Women’s History Month.

March 7 — Share a favorite recipe from your mother or grandmother’s kitchen. Why is this dish your favorite? If you don’t have one that’s been passed down, describe a favorite holiday or other meal you shared with your family.

I don’t have a favorite recipe of my mother’s not because I didn’t like her food,  but mainly because she never wrote her recipe’s down.  She always kept them in her head and never measured.  She would cook by taste and add ingredients if she felt she needed them.  I was never able to learn that technique but I loved the food she made.

We do have one cooking tradition in our family.   Every Christmas, we gather a week or two before the holiday and make tamales.  It’s not something that you are born to know how to make.  You have to learn the techniques and it does take some time and practice to learn it.

There are many tamales recipes online but the few tips I remember my mother giving me are as follows:

  • When using the masa, whether you made it your self or purchased it prepared, the way to tell if it is ready is by getting a small ball of masa and dropping it in a glass of ice-cold water.  If it floats, its ready.  If it drops, it’s not and you need to add lard by hand until it does float.  My mother told me that most prepared masa that is bought at the market are not fully prepared and that you do have to add lard to it.  Also, the glass of ice-cold water must be made of glass and not plastic.
  • When making the meat filing for the tamales with the chili, keep some of the chili juice to the side.  When the masa is ready to be used, mix the chili juice into the masa.  It adds to the flavor of the tamale and the masa won’t be so dry when the tamale is cooked.
  • Always use the smooth side of the husk when putting the masa on.  The masa is able to better stay on the way you want on that side.  The masa won’t stay on the way you want on the rough side of the husk.

One Christmas holiday several years back, I remember there being four generations of our family around the tamale making table.  There was my grandmother, my mother, myself and my nephew who was about 12 or so.  It was an awesome day to have all of us gathered around to talk and tell stories.  I believe that a picture was taken but it will need to be hunted down.

Making tamales at Christmas time has become a wonderfully happy tradition that will live forever in our family.