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Images of America: Three Tips for Researching and Writing Historical Captions

Marsha's knowledge about Woodlake before researching for Images of America:  Woodlake

A symbol of Marsha’s knowledge about Woodlake before researching for Images of America: Woodlake. (Courtesy of Google.)

You’ve seen pictures of the brain lighting up when ideas enter and make connections to random ideas. Pathways get brighter as the brain connects similar knowledge and experiences until eventually superhighways light up the scan.  You can reach the superhighway of understanding your topic quickly by following these tips.

Hanging with friends1

Woodlake Foundation Fundraiser featuring Courtney and Haley Hengst eating Vince’s Spamtures. (You don’t want to know – trust me!)

 

Tip #1 Offline Research:  Start with Friends – Be Social

You can’t research a community without talking about your project to as many people as possible.  You might as well have fun doing it!  Friends will know something interesting, have a resource you need, or know someone you should contact.  Those synapses will start to spark.  Next be brave and move into unfamiliar territory – schedule appointments.

Bob and Linda

Afterwards, take a walk with your friends and tell them what you learned, and how much you appreciated their lead.  Your conversation will sparkle because everyone wants to know all the gossip you learned – even if it is over 100 years old!  🙂

final cover proof

Tip #2   Offline Continued:  The Scanning/ Interview Appointment

Once I got this proof back from Arcadia Publishers, my step-son suggested that I print it up with the first few pictures and captions I had written.   It worked great! The proof primed the pump and assured strangers that I was a legitimate author.  Interviewees helped proof captions, gave more information about  pictures I already had, shared a different perspective, questioned my facts, or confirmed what I knew.

To prepare for the appointment pack your car with what you might need.  Include: your camera, scanner, a thumb drive (don’t forget this!), cell phone, and a computer for taking notes. I took lots of notes on the proofs I printed, too.  If the person I interviewed didn’t mind, I recorded parts of conversations on my cell phone.  Many times interviewees also had written material about their pictures as well:  interviews or newspaper articles, which I scanned.

Hengst3-16

Bob Hengst really was a rocket scientist in high school! (Courtesy of the Hengst family.)

 

A great purchase to make better use of this information is Wondershare PDF Editor Pro.  This software package is about 1/3 of the cost of Adobe Acrobat, and will convert your PDF document like the one above into a searchable document.  Unfortunately, I didn’t discover this until I almost had the book finished, but you don’t have to wait that long if you have read this post!  🙂

Abe Dinken's Shingle Factory in Elderwood,  CA  (Courtesy of the Hengst family.)

 (Courtesy of the Hengst family.)

Tip #3  Online Research

Some pictures showed people in occupations I didn’t know much about, like tenting orange trees in the early 1900s.  I found a U. S. patent by Abe Dinkins and Abe Upp for a scale that is still used today for weighing grapes.   Some schools, businesses and service organizations have a history blurb on their website. Google taught me about pesticides and the various methods used throughout history, what and how industries use steel containers, tuberculosis, how to tie grape vines, and many other useful tidbits of information.

Woodlake Elementary School 1923 (Courtesy of Marcy Miller.)

Woodlake Elementary School 1923 (Courtesy of Marcy Miller.)

California Council for the Humanities transcribed interviews of least 7 Woodlakers about World War II, agriculture, and their lives in general, including an interview of Alice (Hawkins) Mitchell.  These documents gave me interesting stories to use with pictures that were hard to describe interestingly because I didn’t know enough. (It might be hard for some to believe, but I didn’t attend school as early as 1923!)  Alice Hawkins is on the right hand side, third row up.  If I had used this picture, I might have quoted her California Humanities interview in the caption about this picture to preview  Alice’s future.

Redbanks (Courtesy of the Tulare County Library.)

Redbanks (Courtesy of the Tulare County Library.)

Research is the key to writing good captions as much as socializing, following up on leads, and appreciating your friends’ help is the answer to gathering MANY usable pictures.  Follow these tips, and your new synapses will glow brighter than your Christmas lights! 🙂

After researching for Images of America:  Woodlake

Marsha’s brain (popping)  after researching for Images of America: Woodlake (Courtesy of Google.)

If you like these tips join me on my writing journey and LIKE my Facebook Page, TC History Gal Productions.   🙂

 

10 replies »

  1. Superb post!!! Very comprehensive. LOVE the photos and was riveted as I read through the steps you have taken in research. Exquisite. What a wonderful journey. I am so excited about this book, dear Marsha…I just cannot WAIT. I’m loving these blog posts detailing this history-writing adventure. Again, I am imagining you interviewing people fully decked out in typical and flamboyant gumshoe attire, giant detective hat dipping into interviewee’s faces as you write furiously into your book of notes and then snap photos all over the place in sudden bursts. Then you pole-vault into your Prius and avidly hold your recorder (er…cell-phone rather!), with a wild and shaky hand, up to your ear as you scribble away even more furiously.

    Just amazing. I can clearly imagine interviewees faces and all the laughs and rich and crackling stories being shared…how vivid and truly alive stories become when they are being told by someone…even if they are 100-year-old! What a brilliant experience.

    P.S. Loved the photos and the captions here. Brilliant post.

    Bug hugs and smiling cheers,

    Smiling Toad

    Liked by 1 person

    • Vaulting was a little shaky after falling out of the car! Carrying a large scanner made vaulting quite impossible, too! 🙂 oh well!!! 🙂 Thanks for your ever present exuberance and support! 🙂 Cheers!

      Liked by 1 person

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Marsha

Marsha

Hi, I'm Marsha Ingrao, a retired educator and wife of a retired realtor. My all-consuming hobby is blogging and it has changed my life. My friends live all over the world. In November 2020, we sold everything and retired to the mile-high desert of Prescott, AZ. We live less than five miles from the Granite Dells, four lakes, and hundreds of trails with our dog, Kalev, and two cats, Moji and Nutter Butter. Vince's sister came with us and lives close by. Every day is a new adventure.

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