Saturday, October 10, 2015

Sepia Saturday #300: The Heavenly faces of Earthly Sprites.

For the last few weeks I have been 'virtually' absent, spending time away in the world of university and military archives in Ireland, doing research for my history work, as well as a tiny bit of family history research, and enjoying a holiday in London and Paris with my husband in celebration of our 25th Wedding Anniversary. Sepia Saturday offers the perfect opportunity to jump back into blogging.

The inspiration image for this Sepia Saturday takes us far from the light and the lovely toward the dark and the ugly, but for my contribution on this very special anniversary I am going to flip the inspiration on its head and look at some of the little lives lived on, or near, our family tree.

Some of the most charming images to be found in my parents' archive of photographs are those of young children. Their cherubic faces and bright wide eyes convey an innocence that warms the heart and lightens the soul. So, with best wishes to the Sepia Saturday blog on this anniversary #300, and a big thank you to Marilyn and Alan, I offer you 'The Heavenly faces of Earthly Sprites'.

This little cherub faced sweetie is a member of my mother's family. According to the information on the back of the photograph, it was taken in Dublin, but no name is noted. I was told by an aunt that this tiny boy is my mother's youngest brother. Strange to think that when the photograph was taken, this poor little fellow and his siblings were motherless. Their mother Mary Fitzpatrick Ball had died in the winter of 1936, leaving seven children to the care of their father Patrick Ball and an elderly grand-aunt Alice Fitzpatrick Ward. Baby John was only six months old at the time of his mother's death.

The adorable little girl in this photograph is not a member of my family, but is a daughter of the Brennan family, near neighbours of the Ball family in Ringsend, Dublin. The Brennan family lived at #73 Gordon Street, just four houses away from the Ball family home at #69.

The photograph was taken in the early 1940s, and the name written on the back of the photograph in very light pencil is barely legible, but reads 'D. Brennan'. Long ago my mother told me this little one's name, and if I recall correctly, her name is Dolly Brennan, though the name Dottie seems to stick in my brain.

Dolly (or Dottie) is such a tiny girl that she does not look old enough to be making her First Holy Communion, since at the time children aged around six or seven were eligible. After her family returned home following her First Communion mass, she was captured in this photograph while making the rounds of the neighbourhood to show off her lovely outfit, and be given scapulas or holy medals, and perhaps a penny or two, by admiring neighbours. Her little lace dress is exquisite, as is the veil, and the tiny white leather shoes beautifully complete the outfit. There is just a hint of mischief in her lovely eyes.

The last in my trio of photographs is one of my favourite images. The photo was taken in 1937 and features my dad (on the far right) at almost six years of age, as well as his eldest brother Patrick (holding the arm of a Magee child), on summer holidays with their Magee cousins in Rush, North County Dublin. Dad had fond memories of holidays at Rush with his brother and their grandparents Patrick and Mary Magee, their Aunt Mollie Magee Halpin and Uncle Willie Halpin, and their Aunt Anne Maher Magee and Uncle Frank Magee. The look of joy on Dad's face in the series of photos from Rush always makes me smile.

Be sure to skip on over to the Sepia Saturday blog to see how others have connected with today's inspiration image, and perhaps you'll be inspired too.


Tuesday, September 8, 2015

'Share a Memory': Preserving your family history and genealogy

Inspiration in Sepia: Although they speak to us through images,
it would be lovely if we could hear the sound of their voices.
This post is inspired by DearMyrtle, a.k.a. Pat Richley-Erickson, who has created the series '#30 ways in 30 days, Share a Memory'.  In addition to writing my blog, a favourite ‘Share a Memory’ idea I have for preserving my Irish family history and genealogy is my ongoing and ever evolving project of creating audio files.

After the death of my mother, one of the things I missed most was the sound of my mom’s voice, with her lovely Dublin accent gently touching her words. Although I am sometimes visited by the sound of my dad's voice, it breaks my heart that my mother's is now lost to me. I long to hear Mom call me 'Jenn', as only she could do. I struggle to remember the intonations in her voice, the sounds of happiness playing on her words, the sounds of sadness too, and the timbre of her laughter. On rare occasions, just for an instant I hear my mother's voice in my own, when I am talking about certain subjects, or laughing at a good story, and it is a comfort to me.

When I began to consider the special impact the voices of those we love can have on us, my feelings prompted me to create a series of audio files. Essentially, the files comprise an audiobook in which I read aloud stories which hold special meaning for our family, as well as share family history and genealogy, and favourite blog posts. Once I have created the audio files, I can save them on my computer, post them on iTunes, send them in an email as an mp3, or burn the recordings onto a disc or discs so they can be shared.

The GarageBand software on my Mac works well for creating audio because it enables me to work with a number of aspects of the recording to change the tonal quality, add music, and so on. I have made a few recordings, but am still experimenting in order to get them exactly the way I want them. Also, although my Mac has a built-in microphone, which works really well for podcasting or web chat purposes, I have found using an external mic produces the best results. GarageBand is also available as an iPad and iPhone app. The devices app gives you fewer options than the Mac version, but it does also work well for recording the spoken word.

Here are 10 tips I use to help me when recording audio files:

1. Speak in calm, dulcet tones. When I record I speak in the way I would when reading a story to a child, adding spirits of excitement, joy, etc. where appropriate, and being especially careful not to sound monotone. If it fits the mood, I smile as I am speaking in order to ‘put a smile into my voice’, something I learned from a voice coach many moons ago.

2. Practice before recording. Producing a good sound track is not easy, so you will have to practice before creating your audio file. You may find yourself recording, erasing, and then recording again when you trip on your words, and believe me you will occasionally trip — ‘brass plaque’ is my achilles heel. Those who are more experienced with audio recording may wish to clap loudly when an error is made, so the visual wave form in the audio file spikes, making it easier to find when you go back to correct it. 

3. Sit up tall and open your chest as if you were going to sing. Sometimes I stand in order to maintain a feeling of energy when I am recording.

4. Exercise your vocal cords before you begin recording your voice. I use vocal exercises: motor boat lips, vowel sounds, and running a scale of musical notes. If necessary, sip room temperature water in very small sips. Soothing herbal tea is also helpful for lubricating the vocal cords.

5. Chant sound phrases in order to improve diction, using for example, 'la, lo, le, lo’, ’ma, mo, me, mo’ and 'ta, toe, te, toe’.

6. Recite tongue twisters such as ‘She sells sea shells by the seashore’ or 'If two witches were watching two watches, which witch would watch which watch?', or any number of other tongue twisters you might enjoy reciting. Repeated recitation of tongue twisters will help you to improve your diction.

7. Read aloud at a measured pace, as you would when presenting a paper at a conference, or performing at a public speaking engagement. It should take you about 15 to 20 minutes to read aloud an 8 page double spaced piece. If you speak too quickly your listeners may not be able to follow along.

8. Enunciate, being sure to pronounce all the syllables in a word, while endeavouring not to sound stiff. Be careful not to drop syllables in your words. Be sure to speak the entire word.

9. ‘Pronounce’ punctuation, so you hit a pause when there is a comma, and have a brief stop when there is a period. Remember, your voice should go up when there is a question mark at the end of a sentence, and there should be a tone of exclamation when there is an exclamation point.

10. Above all relax — yeah, right — and have fun, so your voice sounds as natural as possible, like you only a slightly better version.


What 'Share a Memory' ideas do you have 
for preserving your family history and genealogy?

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