Dealing with a Smoky Bible


In May I was fortunate to get several bags full of family photographs and other items from my dad.  I was unprepared for a great find- my grandfather’s family Bible! Based on the names written in the inside cover, I believe that it was his mother’s originally.  Even more amazing was how much of the information matched what I had already discovered about the family.  Part of me wishes that dad had shown me this stuff years ago.  However, it is really exciting to find the information is corroborated by this Bible and have more photographs that I had not seen.  I also found it surprising that my grandfather had written in the weights and heights for his immediate family. I’m not sure why he felt the need to write those in, but it’s an interesting tidbit of information.

The only downside is everything in this bag of goodies smells like cigarette smoke due to being in my grandparent’s house soaking up 50 years worth of smoke.  I got all of the stuff right before the National Genealogical Society conference and knew that I would have a great opportunity to ask experts on how to remove the smell in a non-destructive way.  First I consulted photo detective, Maureen Taylor and I asked her what to do.  She didn’t have an answer for me, but said she would do some research and let me know.  Then I consulted with my friend Laura Cosgrove Lorenzana who is a professional archivist to see what she suggested.  She sent me the link to a product called Zeolite sold through Refreshingly Free  that helps get the odor and dampness out of items that are of a sensitive nature.


I ordered a bag and quickly realized that I needed a lot more.  Imagine my surprise as I was at The Container Store and saw the same stuff!  I bought two more that day along with several boxes for storage of the Bible and other photographs.  According to the instructions for Zeolite it can be “recharged” by putting the packets in the sun to dry and air out.  It seems to take a week to get most of the smell out of the photos and then I let it air out for a couple days too.


Once the smell has dissipated, I scan and document each batch so that I can put it in archival storage in my house.  My plan is to scan it all and then upload to 1000memories where I hope my family will assist in identifying people and time periods. There are a number of features that I like about the site such as the fact that you can set the privacy of the individual shoeboxes of photographs. Identifying the individuals in the photographs is very user friendly and the date taken can be specified by day, month, year, or even decade if you are unsure. Hopefully other family members can help narrow down those dates. Recently the creators of 1000memories developed the Shoebox app for the Droid and I was able to try it out. This works great when you are not able to scan, but want to get a copy of the photograph using the camera on your cell phone. Thanks to my dad and these wonderful tools I will have the opportunity to share the photographs with my relatives near and far.


Originally published on The In-Depth Genealogist 

© Jennifer Alford  2012

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