10 September 2014

Wednesday's Child - Krystine Lorenzana Cabalfin

This post was first published on 9 September 2011; it has been slightly edited. Today is the eighth anniversary of Krystine's passing from our world. 

When we think of genealogy, I believe most of us think of it in a ‘far off’ way. Even when our genealogy includes putting our grandparents or parents ‘Died on’ date in that space in the software or on the sheet of paper, somehow we always think of the past. And even when we miss our Grannys and Grandpas (sadly, both my grandfathers died when I was an infant), I think there’s a nostalgia that goes along with it that somehow makes it OK.

Of course, anyone who goes back beyond even the mid 20th Century has seen plenty of death in their tree. It’s a simple fact to us, that there’ll be a date on that line, and that the date will make sense. But every once in a while, there’ll be one that tugs at your heart. The mom and baby that died the same day, or the siblings that die within days of one another due to illness. This was a fact that pre-20th Century parents dealt with on a regular basis: children and young people die.

But, in the late 20th Century, and certainly in the 21st Century, especially in the developed world, fewer and fewer children die. We’re so blessed to live in a country that, for the most part, is a safe place for us to live.  Modern medicine, sanitation, clean water and safe sources of food have increased our life expectancy significantly.

Then there’s the day that you can never quite get right in your head. The day that changes how you look at life, and love, and the way you fit in the world. For me, that day was September 10, 2006. It was a Sunday, and my parents were over because we were going to take them out to celebrate their wedding anniversary, September 11th. The phone rang, my sister-in-law’s phone number showed on the caller ID, and because my husband was busy, I picked it up. I can still hear her voice in my head, incomprehensible words through screams and cries, “Krystine’s dead.”

I could write pages and pages about the minute details of that day; for as crummy a memory as I have, the details of that day are crystal clear. I won’t do that, or at least I’ll try not to. But I do want to share some things with you, if you’ll indulge me.

Krystine Summer Lorenzana Cabalfin was my niece. She was the daughter of Edgar and Crisel Lorenzana, my husband’s oldest brother and his sister-in-law. She was a precocious little girl, and a vibrant young woman. She was the quintessential ‘social butterfly’ with an incredible array of friends and a very tight knit, though far strewn, family. At her funeral, when discussing who she was, with the priest who would provide her eulogy, I described her as the family’s Social Director. She would’ve taken that title willingly. Most importantly, I considered Krystine not only my niece, she was a confidant and friend.

Krystine was married to Jose Cabalfin in January, 2001. Christopher Joel Cabalfin was born May 4, 2001, and his little brother Matthew Ryan followed December 21, 2002. The role of ‘Mom’ took a while for Krystine to manage; she was challenged with lots of what I called “loving interference” from the older women in the family. But when her daughter Emilyn was born, November 9, 2005, Krystine had finally grown into her role as mother, wife, student, friend, and Ate (a Filipino word).

I like to tell the story of the last time I saw Krystine, because I find a lot of comfort in it. We were celebrating her older brother’s birthday; Edgar Jr, who we all call Jay-R, was celebrating his 29th birthday on September 2nd so we all got together at my in-laws.  Krystine was there with her family, and as the youngest, she was ‘working’ the party, preparing food, filling dishes, running errands, etc. all while trying to fulfill her role as the Social Director, Mom and Friend. It wasn’t going well…LOL. I came into the little kitchen and asked if I could help her wash the dirty dishes and she happily accepted. As we stood at the sink, shoulder to shoulder in the cramped space, she began to share with me how she was feeling about some of the things going on in her life, and as I normally did, I tried to make her feel she had the strength to handle it all. Because I knew she did. We were interrupted and she was called away, and hours later, as the party was winding down, Cas and I prepared to leave. I found Krystine, gave her a big hug and as she squeezed me tightly I said, "I love you, Tin" and she replied, "I love you too, Auntie Laura. Those are the last words she said to me. I treasure them like the gift they are, and I can smile, even with a sad heart when I think of her, because we shared that moment. 

Krystine died the morning of September 10, 2006. She died when her heart stopped beating while she was sleeping. There were many questions regarding her death because of her age and the fact that many in her family were/are in the healthcare profession. And none of us were prepared to lose her so soon, to put that date in that space in the software. As I copied her funeral card, I was surprised at it’s simplicity. Because Tin was everything but simple. She was a shining light, a mother, a wife, a daughter, an Ate…and she was my friend.

31 August 2014

A blog update...

Well after missing my blogiversary earlier this month, but having an absolute blast at FGS 2014, I knew it was time to let you all know that I do still exist and I have every intention of continuing the blog. However, I may be moving it to another platform so I can integrate the blog with some resources and other information I often get asked about as an Archivist. 

As soon as I get back home (I'm still in San Antonio), I'll be working on getting the new platform in place.

Thank you for continuing to read...


18 March 2014

Tuesday Tip - Citing Sources vs Starting an Archives?

I received a question last night that made me more uncomfortable than any question I’ve had in a very long time. I honestly didn’t know how to respond. This morning I brought it up to my husband and, after discussing it through with him, I decided how best to answer it. Here’s the question:

"I will be archiving some material at my local public library. Is there a simple how-to for newbie archivists? It's all volunteer there, so there's no trained archivists on site."

This may seem like an innocent enough question, but it’s not unlike someone who’s been in a major accident asking the doctor, ‘Is anything wrong?’ There is no right or wrong answer because there’s simply no way to know with the information that’s available at that point in time. Of course, I could have responded to the person and asked for additional information. But that’s not the issue about this question that makes me so uncomfortable. 

Let me ask you this: would you hire someone off the street to do your family research? Or how about going up to a random person in a Library’s genealogy section and asking them? That person may or may not know anything about the Genealogical Proof Standard. I didn’t when I started researching my family in 1996. Heck, I didn’t know there was a GPS until 2011! I hadn’t heard of Elizabeth Shown Mills, Dr. Thomas Jones or pretty much any other highly respected professional in the Genealogical community. That’s not to say that I didn’t know how to find a family tree on RootsWeb or how to go to the Newberry Library to look up information in a book, but I had no concept of the proper standard for genealogical work.

Even more, I didn’t know how important it was to cite my sources. This is an element of the GPS that probably causes the most heated debate. But, as anyone who’s done genealogical research for more than a few years can probably tell you, there’s a painful lesson in looking at a key piece of information needed for a proof statement and realizing you can’t use it because you have no clue where that information came from.  It’s a lesson that may not be learned for years, because the lack of a proper citation might take years to uncover in a large volume of research. The simple fact remains, you can’t just say that “Joe Smith is the direct descendant of Charlemagne” without some corresponding evidence. Well, you can say it, but that doesn’t make it a fact.

How does this correlate with the question? “Archiving” is not something you learn in a few hours. Just like genealogical research skills and best practices, it takes years to learn the intricacies of the best practices in Archival Sciences. And yet we are faced with the realization that, just like someone who is starting to look into their family history, there is the need to protect and preserve primary materials in places that don’t have the resources to hire a Professional Archivist. There are steps to be taken to get the process started, but there are also mis-steps that could create challenges in the future, or worse, the loss of information and/or materials.

So, just as there’s a need for Professional Genealogists to get the word out to new family historians about best practices and proper standards, Professional Archivists need to find a way to educate those who ask questions that cause that uncomfortable feeling. Doing nothing, not sharing the knowledge that can ensure the material will be stabilized to preserve it for the long term, won’t suffice. Locating reasonable resources that can point beginners in the right direction is essential to ensure a safe start for any Archives not created by someone trained in the Archival Sciences. Because, believe it or not, there is a LOT of science involved in working in an Archives. There’s years worth of information to learn, some of which is critical to the long term health of the material over which someone is now the steward. And, what may seem to be the best thing to do may indeed be the worst thing to do for a collection. Just like not citing sources is one of the worst things that happens in genealogical research. (To be fair, I’m admitting that I have lots of material in my research that does not have source citations. I’ve been researching since 1996 and it wasn’t until the beginning of 2012 that I started looking at the best practices of genealogy. But, I've learned the importance of this best practice and apply it to all my current research.) 

As a trained Archivist who’s worked in a wide variety of Archives for the last eight years, I worry about the number of people being tasked with the responsibility of ‘archiving’ materials for public use, as is the person who asked me this question. Granted, this group may be forced into this situation by a lack of funding, but that shouldn’t stop the professionals in charge from seeking the assistance of a Professional Archivist to set the proper structure for their new Archives. They shouldn't be leaving that responsibility to someone without Archival Sciences education.

Fortunately, the Society of American Archivists is working on “Best Practices for Volunteers in Archives”, a document that, according to the website (http://www2.archivists.org/ accessed 18 March 2014), will go to the Standards Committee for review and be available in May 2014. In the meantime, for those who are interested in an answer to this question, I can direct you to several very good resources:

I wrote an article for Archives.com that explains, in layman’s terms, the process of ‘Processing’ material. You can find it here: 

This does not answer the person's question, I know. I wish I could go to their location and help them get their Archives started. But I can't, so I have to be satisfied with providing what information I can that will help. Researchers generations from now may depend on what we do.