Wash Your Hands (Part 2)

We’re several weeks into the new normal, depending on how it came down for you. Here in California, Governor Gavin Newsom declared an official State of Emergency, which requires that everyone shelter in place. We’re not alone. The whole country, even the whole world, is responding to the COVID-19 pandemic. Collectively and individually we’re coming to terms with the reality of sheltering in place for an extended period of time.

By now you probably know what’s in your pantry and freezer, what is being hoarded and in short supply, how to work from home full time if possible (or how to survive if not), how to entertain and home-school kids that are cooped up with you, and ways to stay sane and get some exercise. So far there is no vaccine, but we can wash our hands thoroughly and often. This sign at a Kaiser Permanente restroom tells and shows you how (for more hand-washing signs, see Wash Your Hands).


This sign at Kaiser Permanente is very informative (and timely)!

One of the best things about this experience is seeing how creative folks can be. One co-worker built a standing desk for his laptop and screen. Another, who lives alone, is looking for a fish tank video on YouTube to provide restful company. Bloggers offer suggestions for coping with shortages (including alternatives to toilet paper). Some folks are using video conferencing software (such as Zoom) to meet electronically with friends, family, and groups. Grocery stores offer time slots for Seniors to shop for supplies. Churches are streaming service alternatives online. Stay safe, everyone, and find a way to stay connected. And don’t forget to wash your hands!

Organizing for Preservation

The next step in my project is to prepare artifacts for my Georgenie Sedgwick “movie”. I’ve already identified the items I have, and created a “to do” list for next steps (see Organizing for a Family History Project). According to the archivists at the Library of Congress (see Personal Archiving), part of this process is to take preservation steps if needed, for example, scan documents or photographs that are disintegrating, or place fragile items in acid free envelopes or boxes. I plan to digitize a lot of photos, and scan letters and magazine articles.


Sweater made by Grandma Nina for my brother Dave around 1960

Following are some of the activities that I’ve identified for the Georgenie Agusta Sedgwick project, some of which require preservation:

  • Artifacts – some need to be photographed
    • Blue-green beaded purse & calling card
    • Green and white sweater
    • Crocheted washcloths
    • Georgenie at 20 (framed)
    • Georgenie’s mom, Ann Walker Francis (framed)
    • Find photo of Georgenie’s dad?
    • Photos of houses in Rialto, Pomona, and Chino
    • Death/funeral announcement
  • Photographs – many need to be digitized
    • Photos in black photo albums (some are fading)
    • Photos of Georgenie and Will around marriage
    • Photos digitized when working on the Grandma Nina video
  • Interview with Grandma Nina in 1984
    • Transcribe the audio tape (add markers to the MP3 version)
    • Extract stories about Great Grandma Georgenie
    • Stretch – find the two photo albums used in the interview
  • Letters, Journals, and Lore
    • Review Grandma Nina’s letters for stories of Georgenie
    • Review MQ’s journals for stories of Georgenie
    • Collect stories about Georgenie from family (Dad, Mom, and CJ)

It’s a daunting list, but somehow seems more achievable when I see the tasks spelled out.

Organizing for a Family History Project

Last year I created family history videos based on letters written by my two grandmothers on January 7, 1968 (see Toolkit: Family History with Grandma Nina and Toolkit: Family History with Grandma Char). Both letters describe a 104th birthday party thrown for my paternal great grandmother, Georgenie Agusta Sedgwick. During production, I realized I have quite a bit of information and lore for Great Grandma Georgenie, and some interesting physical artifacts. I started thinking about a project to create a short family history “documentary” about her life.


Great Grandma Georgenie Agusta Sedgewick – notice the detailing on her dress and her pierced ears (punched with a sewing needle and thread). She is about 20.

I’m still in the early phases of researching and reviewing what I have for Great Grandma Georgenie. I thought I’d organize what I have, using the recommendations from the Library of Congress described in Personal Archiving. Somehow it seems less daunting to organize for a particular project, than to organize everything I have stored all over the house! This will give me experience for the big event. Here is an inventory of my “clumps” and their contents:

  • Photos
    • Photo Box: MQ’s youth and Pre-marriage (in living room)
    • Photo Albums (in upstairs office)
    • Digital photos (computer/cloud)
  • Physical items (upstairs office)
    • Georgenie’s beaded purse with calling card
    • Washcloths crocheted when she was almost blind
    • Green and white sweater crocheted for my infant brother
    • Newspaper article about Georgenie’s 104th birthday
  • Letters (info in Grandma Nina’s letters)
    • Georgenie’s early life
    • Courtship of Georgenie and Will Sedgwick – she was 20, he was 35 (widowed twice with children)
    • Migration: New York, Ohio, Kansas, then California
    • Georgenie’s 104th birthday
  • Stories (and story arc)
    • Georgenie was a dressmaker in New York
    • Her mother was a MacDonald and a violinist
    • Georgenie’s courtship with Will (from wedding guest to engaged)
    • Grandma Nina built several rental units in Rialto, and Georgenie lived in one
    • Later Georgenie lived near the railroad tracks (across the tracks was a Hooverville type encampment; Dad would sit on top of the arbor eating grapes and watching the trains and camp activity)
    • Later in Chino, Georgenie had a room (she had a green chenille bedspread and a beautiful comb and brush set)
    • Grandma Nina had great devotion for her mother, and they were very close
    • Her Dad, Will, was stern and called her “Girl”
  • Audio Recording
    • Grandma talks of her early life in Kansas, the Sedgwick Feedstore, her family, and her mother.
    • Related – check my own journals for stories I jotted down during visits.

This is a family history project, but the same kind of collection and analysis would be required for any kind of collection you might be dealing with. Stay tuned for more developments!