What Would You Do?


Happy Labor Day Weekend and the last long weekend of summer. It’s my 40th wedding anniversary, too. On a not so happy note, it’s our 32nd anniversary of losing everything in Hurricane Elena. We spent that wedding anniversary camping out at North East High in St. Petersburg, Florida with our oldest child and my mom. Like Hurricane Harvey, the mega rain maker, Elena decided to park herself offshore where she rotated away for several days. It was the rain that did the most damage.

That life experience made me relate to a recent Washington Post article that asked victims of Harvey what they took with them when they evacuated. One woman had time to grab her lipstick, another, just his medicine. For people who have been fortunate enough to not have to evacuate quickly from a life threatening situation those answers might seem ridiculous. I can assure you they aren’t.

I overheard someone in the checkout line yesterday decline to donate for hurricane relief because he said the people should have taken precautions. I interjected that the initial recommendation had been to stay put and not evacuate. He considered that and then replied that they should have put together items they needed when they realized the severity of the situation. Clearly, this man never lived through a disaster.

In our case, we had sold our first home the Sunday before the storm. With the pending contract, we spent the following days looking for a new one which we found late Friday afternoon. We placed a contract on it and went out to dinner to celebrate. We had heard weather reports of a disturbance in the Gulf of Mexico but like so many others in late summer, the fickleness of the tract didn’t cause us to worry. We had lived in our home for 7 years and experienced minor street flooding but nothing more serious than that. We went to bed early, skipping the late weather report.

Close to midnight, we were awakened by the sound of a fire truck siren and a loudspeaker announcing, “Prepare to evacuate immediately.” This was pre-cell phone days and reverse home phone emergency contacts. Following the fire truck was a police car. We were told he needed the names of our next of kin in case we chose not to leave. We made the instant decision to go.

So what do you take? We grabbed a suit case and threw underwear, socks and a few changes of clothes. We didn’t even think about a toothbrush. I put a few books and toys in a grocery bag for our daughter. She went into the car seat first and was followed by the cat in a pillowcase which I held on my lap and our lab, who was the only one who was happy about a late night car ride. We drove to my mom’s and discovered she was also being evacuated so she crammed into the car and we headed to the high school. Mom had thought to pack snacks.

Did I take any insurance papers, family heirlooms, or cash? Nope. I had my driver’s license in my wallet with a couple of bucks. The car wasn’t even filled with gas and it didn’t occur to us that electricity was needed to operate gasoline pumps. Duh! When confronted with an emergency, fight or flight kicks in. All the long term planning in the world gets down to what can you take in an instant. If you’ve never experienced that I hope you never do.

We returned to our destroyed home 5 days later. The flood waters had receded leaving tell tale water lines on the walls, particle board furniture that had collapsed, broken windows from wind damage with curtains blowing outside, and soggy smelly carpet. Nothing is spared. Think of your kitchen and bathroom cabinets sitting in 3 feet of water for a day. Now imagine it for even longer. My husband’s grandmother’s wicker doll carriage was destroyed, along with my paternal great grandmother’s china sugar bowl that had fallen to the floor when the hutch collapsed. It’s not pretty.

Thankfully, the camera was high up on a shelf in the closet so we could take pictures for FEMA of the damage. Our important paperwork was also spared as it had been kept in the top drawer of a file cabinet in our home office. Pure dumb luck! We weren’t so lucky with the home sale, though. The buyer of our home cancelled the sale. FEMA lost our paperwork which included the pictures and we had to resubmit (hooray for negatives). We had no electricity for 2 weeks so my daughter and I stayed at my mom’s while my husband guarded the home with the dog as looters were coming out as bad as the critters. Disasters sure bring out the worse in humanity.

I swore I’d be better prepared next time. Technology has definitely helped as I’ve scanned every photo and document in case it doesn’t make it through the next time. Those items are saved in a cloud, on CDs that I’ve given to several individuals and on one that is in my plastic tub where I store important paperwork. If there’s time, I can take the plastic tote and if not, hopefully, the contents will be safe until I return. I haven’t been able to find a fireproof device but that would be best option.

Now that I think about it, it’s almost miraculous that any object survives to be past down for more than a generation or two! That thought makes me treasure what I’ve received and marvel at the historical events that have item has survived. If only they could talk!

Saving Family Heirlooms

I read a wonderful guest post on MyHeritage that you must read – Do Genealogists Care About Family Artifacts? Of course, the answer is yes, however, life often gets in the way of the “saving.”

My town has a wonderful antique district and I’ve been on the hunt for a demilune since May. Hubby and I have many much loved furniture that once belonged to families other than our own. I’m lucky to have purchased my guest bedroom furniture from an elderly woman who couldn’t take it to the nursing home with her. I promised her I’d care for it when I bought it in 1985 after we lost everything in Hurricane Elena and I’ve kept my word. I blogged last spring about the china cabinet I purchased from Craig’s List. A blended family didn’t have room for two. I know the piece’s history and its travels across the country with a military family. They know they can visit it if they like (it was hard for them to sell it but it was degrading in the unairconditioned 100 year plus garage where they were storing it.)

Some furniture I don’t know its history but would love to. When we first married, I wanted a rocking chair and found one in the classified ads of our then local newspaper. It was smaller than I had envisioned but the price was right – $10.00. It was also hideous – someone had recovered it in green and white gingham with lace glued around the edges. I stripped off the covering and discovered it had been covered several times. Two layers down was horsehair stuffing. After quickly taking that outside I discovered that it was originally caned. I had the piece examined and it’s considered a sewing rocker from the 1840’s. I couldn’t find anyone who caned so I bought a how to book from a craft store and ordered caning material. I can’t say I did a great job but it’s held up for 39 years.

My most favorite piece, though, I rescued from the basement of a house my grandmother rented out when I was 4 years old. I guess my interest in history and saving artifacts started quite young! I can’t explain why I was drawn to it. An old oak chest, it’s top cracked and stained and a piece missing on the back to give it support, it was forlorn sitting abandoned in a dark corner. The drawer and two front doors on the front were hand carved. Someone had painted the inside brown. When the renters skipped we discovered it left behind. Inside was a chemistry book according to my mom as I couldn’t read. I pitched a fit that the chest be brought home. I’m talking a full blown temper tantrum that I still remember to this day. My mom and grandmom were not going to give in to my behavior but I was adamant I wasn’t leaving unless the chest went, too. My grandmother drove a Chevy Nova and it certainly wasn’t going to fit in there. My wonderful grandpa tied it on the roof and my grandparents kept it in their basement. I had told them I would keep my toys in it when I visited their house but they were soon to move to another. They moved that chest to the new house and then a year later, back to their old home. By then, my parents had separated and I truly did use the chest to store my games as I went to live with my grandparents. In the late 1960’s my mom got a brilliant idea to spray paint the chest gold and put it in our bathroom. When my mom and I relocated to Florida in the 1970’s my husband’s family, my then future in-laws, kept it in their basement. After we married and bought a house, we brought it “home.” My husband stripped off the gold and left it unfinished. I’ve moved it three time since and it still contains board games. I’m thinking of finally getting it professional refinished.

My solution to the situation noted in the blog I recommend you read is to put stickers on the bottom of pieces that are of family history so when my time comes, the emotional distress of my surviving family members won’t cloud the stories of where the object came from. That way, family pieces can remain in the family for the next generation. Times a wastin’ – make a note of what’s important to you this week!

Preserving Your Genealogy

At the recent National Genealogical Society conference, there was a lot of chatter about preserving your genealogical records after you’re gone. I have to disagree with those that say if you don’t cite your work it will be tossed. I don’t know about you, but my family could care less where I find what I find. Unless the finder has been bitten by the genealogy bug, no one will understand the importance of citing and analyzing sources.

That said, I’m definitely in favor of following the standards. I think you should do the right thing but that is not going to save your years of effort from other destruction by surviving family members. I firmly believe there is only 3 ways to make sure that your research is preserved but you must plan ahead:

Donate your work locally and/or electronically so that future folks you don’t even know can benefit. These are the people who will not value your work if you didn’t follow the standards soundly.
Publish now and get your work in as many hands as possible. It’s quite simple to publish an eBook or you can print from whatever word processing program you use and have copies made at one of the big box office supply stores. Just type “how to publish an eBook” in amazon.com’s search engine and many free books are available to get you started. The holidays are around the corner and who knows?! A recipient might just get interested.
Getting a family member hooked is not as difficult as it sounds. The idea here is to match the living person’s passion to an ancestor. My kids could care less about their Great Grandma Elsie’s china. I understand that; we’ve used it for years as they’ve grown so it’s not so special. Will it be preserved? Most definitely, but it’s just not that exciting to them. On the other hand, they’re into medicine and research so learning about the life of that great uncle doctor in the 1800’s and a 5th great grandfather who was a chemist really gets them listening. The old tool box is a draw for our son while the old thread is a tie for my daughter to her 2 x’s great grandmother. An attachment develops when you can relate so find the connection and you’re work is safe!

Lighting A Fire

A former client informed me today that she thought about me all night long.  I could be flattered by that but the reason why was unsettling.  It’s summer in Florida and during this time we experience torrential storms.  Last evening was over the top with lightning and thunder and subsequently, one of my client’s neighbors home was hit and caught fire.  Thankfully, the fire department was able to extinguish the flames but the home sustained much damage.

Why my client thought of me at that time was due to my insistence a few months ago that her family documents be scanned and saved in several places.  She never got around to it.  Typical excuses – work, family, vacation, and it’s not fun to scan.  I’m not saying that those excuses aren’t valid but last evening she realized how quickly everything can be instantly destroyed.

First thing this morning she contacted me asking for help in cataloguing and scanning her documents and photos.

Please, readers, no more excuses!  Make the time now to save these valuable heirlooms today.

No Headstone? Here’s Some Ideas

Originally published on genealogyatheart.blogspot.com on 3 Jul 2016.

“Memory has become a sacred duty of all people of goodwill.” Elie Weisel


Hubby and I went to the cemetery last week – not to check a record, take a picture for a memorial request or to honor an ancestor.  Instead, we went to check on space availability for what would become our final real estate purchase.  It was a very weird experience.


We grew up with the Jackson 5, literally.  There are some historical moments that most Boomers claim to remember for the impact that it made on the world and to them personally  – where they were when the Kennedys and MLK was shot, the moon landing, and 9-11, for example, but one of the most pivotal moments to me was the death of Michael Jackson.  Seriously.  I grew up about a mile away from the Jackson family household in Gary, Indiana.  As a student council representative as a freshman in high school I was placed on a committee to select a band for an upcoming dance the organization would be sponsoring. That was how I first became involved with the Jacksons…


I am tone deaf – most people say they can’t carry a tune but for me it’s so bad that people ask my to stop singing  I can dance, though, and quite well.  So keep this in mind as I tell the tale….


The committee met one day after school to listen to 3 bands that had been narrowed down, I guess, from others that had expressed interest in playing the upcoming dance.  The Jacksons were one of those bands.  It was before they were famous. I’m not sure if Dianna Ross was dating Mayor Hatcher then.  Likely she hadn’t yet arranged for all those talented people to transform the Jackson family into – The Jacksons.  Michael was still too little, as was Janet, when the band auditioned.  I’m older then both of them.  The song they played was not danceable.  Very weird beat.  


I was not impressed with the Jackson’s performance and neither was the others on my committee.  Which says a lot about our ability to recognize talent or about how much practice (and the right coaching) makes perfect.  Either way, we selected another band.  Can’t remember their name, can’t even remember the dance very well but I remember the Jacksons because within a very short time after this they were everywhere.  


Gary’s previous favorite sons were Karl Malden (who had gone to high school with my uncle) and George Karras, who’s brother owned the house next door to us and who I price gouged once but that’s another story.  Oh, Gary was also famous for the dumb song from the Music Man that repeats “Gary, Indiana.”   Gary was not known for music so your can imagine the city’s pride in the Jackson 5.  They performed a concert at Gleason Park, just 3 blocks from our home.  They sounded great that night.


Like the Jacksons, my husband and I left Gary to follow our dreams elsewhere.  I haven’t been back there since 2001 when my mom passed.  


When Michael Jackson died I was on a bus with fellow educators on I 75 south of Tampa coming back from visiting a then brand new state of the art community college that had been built out in the sticks.  It had been a tiring day and we were being driven back to where we had all parked our cars so we could go home.  A counselor who was sitting a few rows up had gotten a phone call and I heard her exclaim, “Oh, no. That’s …” and her words trailed off.  I knew she had an elderly mom and assumed something had happened to her.  The woman ended the conversation, rose from her seat and half standing, announced, “Michael Jackson is dead.”  


I couldn’t process this sentence.  How could he be dead?  He was younger than me.  Certainly my lifestyle was not as stressful nor did I make the life choices that he had but….. he was younger than me.  Certainly I had experienced in my lifetime the passing of those that were young – several fellow students, friends of the family, colleagues and neighbors’ children.  But Michael, well, he was bigger than life.  In my mind, he was permanently young and invincible.  My memory wasn’t of him after the numerous plastic surgeries.  I still remembered the little kid and I was stunned.


I told my husband as soon as I returned home that afternoon.  I reached the conclusion, on the drive home that day, that our preparation for death needed to occur.  So we scheduled an appointment with our attorney the following day and had our wills updated.  That was as far as we got – didn’t think further than that.


A few weeks ago I received a thick packet in the mail from a rural Indiana county.  I was delighted to examine the probate file of a couple I was writing about.  My delight soon turned to sadness as I read that the grown children had to come up with the money for the burial, repay the man’s debts and take in their mom, all due to the lack of planning on the couple’s part.  When the mom died several years later the kids again had to put their money together to make sure the burial was paid.


I don’t want that to be me.  Hubby and I discussed it and decided that he, too, was going to donate his body to science.  I’ve previously written about that so check out my blog Death and the Genealogist from 23 June.  He wants his cremains returned so that’s how we ended up at the cemetery last week.  


Burial is big business and expensive.  I am thrifty.  We reached our decision of where to be buried based on 

  • where we live – we wanted it close to this area that we’ve called home for many years, 
  • what the place will be like in the future – have experienced too many forgotten cemeteries so we wanted assurance there would be some level of maintenance
  • reasonably priced

That led us to a local city owned cemetery.  On the way there the song, Stairway to Heaven, played on the radio.  Had to snicker about “and she’s buying a stairway to heaven…”

When we arrived we learned there was a problem (why is there always a problem?!).  The cemetery was running out of space.  We looked at the limited options and Hubby jokingly said it was kind of noisy, being right off the main street.  I laughed and reminded him we both grew up on main streets so it would be coming full circle.

In our community we can no longer be buried in ground.  Looking across the expanse I saw lots of empty space so I didn’t understand how there wasn’t much space left.  I was informed that many people didn’t have markers.  Lots of reasons for that – the cost, lack of planning, couldn’t decide, it aged and fell apart, and so on.

That made me really sad!  I recently did some client work and that was the case with the woman’s great grandma.  Buried between two of her children she was the only one with no marker.  The client was upset and said she was going to see that a marker was put up.  So I really wanted a marker


The cemetery employee said we could order the brass plaque now and they’d put the final dates, included in the price, on it later.  We sat in an office and looked at insignias to add to personalize the plaque and wasn’t real impressed.  Discovered my real first name, with my maiden and last name, is too long for the plaque so had to go with initial of my maiden name.  Can only put the year of birth and death and no relationship to each other.  Wow, so much for helping out a genealogist in the future.  I will be leaving in the cemetery file copies of our birth and marriage certificates and the obits for our parents so at the very least, if requested, the future inquirer will have a start of a paper trail.  Check to see if that’s available when you do your planning.


Yesterday, hubby and son were building a brick bbq grill in our backyard.  He had laid the cement foundation a long while ago but had never gotten around to finishing the project. Last night, he remarked about an idea that came to him when he was building.  I have to admit this is quite humorous to see how one’s mind works but here is the trail…. Building the bbq grill reminded him of my family stories about my grandmother’s house that had a bbq grill just like the one he was working on.  That led to him thinking about my mom who loved helping us with around the house projects and who would have loved to know that the crematorium had sent us a rebate after death because she had over paid.  That made him think about the cemetery we had just selected and the people who had no stones and why couldn’t inexpensive “stones” be used.  He recalled laying the cement for the bbq and he figured, if he could do it, anyone could and a cemetery base could be prefab and easy to install, too.  Always looking to recycle, why can’t someone use excess countertops, like Corian, and engrave the deceased’s name and dates, then affix it to the cement base?  I dunno!  Why can’t they?  Probably because there’s no money in it!  All I know is that as difficult and strange is the experience to select one’s final resting place for us, it’s done and we can happily live the rest of our lives knowing we planned til the end.  





Death and the Genealogist

Originally published on genealogyatheart.blogspot.com on 23 June 2016.

My friends and colleagues like to kid me about my genealogy passion and my organizational skills by asking if I’ve already written my own obituary.  My reply is always, “I haven’t – yet!”  I really will, though, and just might get a start on it this summer.  Although I wish my kids would write one like the son of a recently deceased woman’s did: “Faced with the prospect of voting for either Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton, Mary Anne Noland of Richmond chose, instead, to pass into the eternal love of God on Sunday,” the obituary read, which was published in the Richmond Times-Dispatch on Tuesday, May 17.”[1]  I’ll spare my children having to come up with something clever and will do it myself.  I plan on keeping it short but definitely not like this obituary, the shortest ever published:  “Doug died.”[2]  Perhaps a genealogists nightmare as there is so little information provided but it is telling about the gentleman’s personality.

I think it’s important to be prepared so that my living loved ones don’t have an added burden.  My mom had her will drawn and paid for her cremation more than 20 years before she passed.  I greatly appreciated that; her death was not unexpected as she had suffered with Alzheimers for many years but her loss was difficult for me, none the less. Her planning ahead made it much easier.
My mom was a product of the Great Depression and would have been very pleased when a small check was sent to me several weeks after her cremation – she had earned a rebate.  Perfect last business transaction!

Following in my mom’s lead, hubby and I have our wills done and our financials all up-to-date with our children able to pick up immediately when we’re gone.  What we haven’t done, however, is make a choice of a final resting place.  I want my body donated to science as I’ve spent my entire life in the educational realm and figure it’s a good way to end it . The process is called “silent teaching” which would be a first for me – teaching without opening my mouth.  I’d be happy to enhance a medical student’s education. Hubby has decided he wants to do that, too, but still wants our remains together after the students are done.

Unfortunately, some states have little to no standards regarding cadaver “donations” so if you’re thinking about it, make sure you’ve thoroughly investigated the laws where you reside.

When I write “donations” I need to clarify, too, that the donor is paying for some of the costs.  This is not a free burial.  In fact, some organizations will only take embalmed bodies with that cost incurred as a responsibility of the donor.  The (c)remains may or may not be returned to the family.  If they are, there is a cost involved there, as well.

Since hubby wants a standard burial I figure we’ll get one plot and do a two for one!  We have set up a meeting next week with our city cemetery to get additional information.
Then we have to decide on the marker.  Wow, designing a tombstone is a whole other area where I get to be creative!  Click to view some genealogist epitaphs I came across this week.

Thinking about tombstones led me to ponder about the discoveries we make on Find-A-Grave and Billion Graves.  For example, I know I have a distant cousin buried in a cemetery but the family couldn’t afford a stone so there is no visible sign of the interment.  The individual has a memorial on Find-A-Grave but no place of burial is listed.  That will be problematic for future genealogists!

I have also found a family member who has two stones in two different cemeteries.  Since obviously one cannot be buried in two places at one time there’s a problem here!  Turns out that the first stone was inscribed with the name and birthdate of the individual while married to wife 1.  Individual decided after marrying wife 2 to be buried elsewhere.  Without checking the cemetery records you don’t know for sure where the individual was buried. Yet another reason to seek more than online sources!

Do your descendants a favor and leave no genealogy mysteries about your life!

[1] http://www.usmagazine.com/celebrity-news/news/this-woman-chose-death-over-voting-for-trump-or-clinton-in-funny-obit-w207281

[2] http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/07/01/obituary-two-words-doug-died_n_7710444.html

Random Genealogy News

Originally published on genealogyatheart.blogspot.com on 9 June 2016.

Maybe due to the recent passing of Tropical Storm Colin through my area my thoughts are fairly random today! Several days of heavy rain and wind is pushing me to get outside and do some cleanup yard work so this will be brief!

First up – did you know that Family Tree Maker is back.  They have a newsletter that will keep you updated as to when they are going to start synching again with Ancestry.com.  If you’re a faithful reader you know I gave up on them about two years ago but now I’m thinking that maybe the problem was that I had the 2012 version and when they moved to the 2014 version it interfered with the synch. Neither FTM or Ancestry ever asked me what version I was using when I repeatedly called which says a lot about their customer support.  Anyway, the software is now owned by mackiev which used to make really good products, like Kidspics that my own children loved back in the day.   For $29.95 they’ll sell you their latest version of FTM at a discount if you had a previous one and I may do that as another backup.  To sign up for their newsletter click here.

Update to my last three blogs about frugality in genealogy – Should have definitely mentioned Linkedin and Facebook.  I use both and they are free!  Did you know that there are over 8,000 genealogy sites on Facebook?!  To view the list of them click here.

Two more reason to DO IT NOW! – Had a colleague from my educational job thank me for giving her the “Mean Momma” look when she told me two weeks ago that she had 14 boxes of family documents stored in an unair conditioned shed near a major river that floods.  I told her to move them in her house pronto but she insisted that she was going to spend the summer going through the boxes, one a week.  She had gone through 3 of the boxes when the flood advisory hit the area and she wasted no time in getting the boxes relocated in her home.  With the storm, she had time to go through them and found some wonderful genealogical stories that I’m encouraging her to write about and publish.  She’s an awesome writer so in the near future, look for a guest blog from her.

Another colleague asked me about how to go about collecting family history information.  I pointed her to my website that houses all of my blogs (www.genealogyatheart.com) and strongly encouraged her to talk with her parents when she went home for Memorial Day weekend.  When she returned the following Tuesday she told me that she relaxed all weekend and never got around to talking to her parents about the past.  Five days later one of her parents had a stroke and has lost the ability to speak.  Understandably, she is devastated on so many levels.  If that isn’t a wake up call for all of us, I don’t know what is!  Don’t delay – send that email, make that phone call, take the older relative to lunch and get the info today!

Those are my three random thoughts for the day – got to go get on the garden gloves and start picking up Spanish moss.

Heirlooms and Hand Me Downs – Who Cares?!

A FABULOUS FIND of 13 May 2016

Originally published on 11 May 2016.

I read recently an online article about the glazed over look that family members often get when we genealogists start talking about the past.  The author mentioned that he was frustrated that his family doesn’t seem to care while the actors featured on tv shows are always so excited about their genealogy finds.

I understand why our family members often don’t get it.  Here’s my top 5 reasons for the disconnect and a way to get around it:

1.  The past is done and it’s not relevant to me.  Geez, I even had that philosophy when I was young.  Think about the 1960’s mantra of not trusting anyone over 30!  It’s rare that young people can connect the dots of how several times great grandpa’s life could be meaningful today.  It’s not just young folks.  Some people never out grow this belief so don’t get me wrong and think this view only applies to youth.  The solution is simple – tell or write engaging family stories that are applicable to life today. Write the story as a cliffhanger and I bet your relatives will want to learn more about their past.

  1.  Concrete tactile learners – there are many learners that have to SEE the picture, TOUCH the artifact, or LISTEN to the voice in order to process the information so show that photo taken at the 1920 family reunion and point out the resemblance to Great Uncle Fred.  Caution is needed, though.  Don’t overload them with a lot of photos or items as they’ll disconnect from sensory overload. A little goes a long way and what you’re aiming for is to pique interest.
  1.  Money, Money, Money!  Of course the television actors are excited about their family history finds.  Your relatives would be, too, if they were being paid for appearing on tv.  This is not a suggestion to pay our family members to listen to us but it does explain why there may be a lack of enthusiasm.  D. Joshua Taylor, of Ancestry Roadshow, mentioned at the National Genealogical Society Conference that his grandma updated the family history annually and every one expected to receive a copy gift wrapped under the Christmas tree each year.  That tradition, coupled with the $20. bills she hid in the pages, did help family members look forward to the gift. (And he’s interested in the family genealogy so clearly this approach worked.  Thank you, Josh’s Grandma!)
  2. Individual Attention.  Another reason tv actors are enthusiastic is because they are exclusively meeting one on one with noted researchers who sweetly answer their every question and have the documents all nicely transcribed for them.  I tend to talk family genealogy when everyone is together and that may be counter intuitive.  Instead, mention some tidbit that can easily blend in with the conversation when you are with only one of your family members.  A few weeks ago, while cleaning out a closet, I wondered what happened to a collection of needles I once had – darning, knitting, embroidery, tapestry, etc. that originally belonged to various females in my lines.  When I was into arts and crafts, I used them and always thought about the original owners.  Daughter said, “Oh, I have those.” She brought them over on Mother’s Day and I pulled out a few and said, “I remember when your great grandma used these to embroider a kitchen towel” and “Grandma Duck used to use these when she repaired the hallway stairs carpet, the one I told you about that I used to slide down on my derriere when I was five.”  Will daughter remember and cherish?  I don’t know but I gave it my best shot!  She is quite artistic so I suspect she will make the connection and remember it.
  3. Road trip needed!  When you think of “Who Do You Think You Are?” or “Long Lost Family” you know the participants get to travel.  Most family members would just love it if they got to go somewhere, all expenses paid.  I always sneak in a side trip whenever we used to vacation and my family still talks about the house on Long Island that several times great grandpa John Hicks Williams had built that just happened to be for sale so we got to see the inside (online – couldn’t find an agent who was available to give us a tour). Walking in your ancestor’s foot steps is a powerful experience and with summer coming, perhaps you can take the most interested of the family on an excursion.

Hope these suggestions help get your family interested in your findings – Happy Hunting!

Life is Short, Do it Now!

Originally published on genealogyatheart.blogspot.com on 8 May 2016.

Just back from the National Genealogical Society conference in Ft. Lauderdale and it was awesome.  Wonderful to meet face-to-face with folks I have only interacted with online and some I haven’t seen in person in awhile.

The only downer was that a colleague of mine from my primary job had to cancel at the last minute due to a family emergency.  She is working towards a PhD in creative writing and was looking forward to attending the writing workshops that were offered.  Additionally, she is interested in family history and is the keeper of her family’s records so the conference was a great fit for her.

As genealogists, we typically place our family’s first so her disappointment in missing the conference was minimized by her right on priorities.  This got me thinking of the lost opportunities that we often miss with our own family members.  Wouldn’t it be wonderful to just have one hour with that brick wall ancestor (and maybe a translator included!)?  Don’t you wish you could ask dearly departed Great Aunt Alice a couple of questions?  Recording her answers would be icing on the cake.

Do yourself and the generations to come a favor and ASK TODAY your mom, grandma, and if you’re really lucky, great grandma, what you’re dying to know.  Make sure you write it down (and seriously, cite it).  It’ll be a Mother’s Day gift that will be appreciated long into the future.  Enjoy your day!

The Importance of Recording Your History

A FABULOUS FIND of 22 April 2016.

Originally published on genealogyatheart.blogspot.com on 21 Apr 2016

As genealogists, we search high and low for records left from the past.  After recently reading an article from National Geographic about what is considered “historical” for the purpose of digging up someone’s grave, I began to think about what historical means to me.  I’m with the dictionary on this one – historical is belonging in the past.  The past is what happened, it’s done and over.  The past can be as recent as a few minutes ago when I began writing this blog or several millennium.

I have a milestone birthday coming up and that probably further influenced these thoughts.  Coupled with the recent hurricane forecast from Colorado State University, I usually start thinking at this time of year about the “what ifs” regarding a severe storm coming my way.  I’m a tad paranoid having experienced several hurricanes and losing just about everything in one back in the 1980’s.

Another layer regarding my thoughts is that I recently acquired a diary written by a woman in the late 1800’s about her life in a rural community.  What I love most about her writing is that it was so succinct yet so telling.  I’m making up this example to demonstrate the style:

15 – Fri.- Cloudy and warm.  Rose early to set a hen in shed.   Tilled garden.  John to town to trade eggs.  Mary Madden poorly, doc Bailey called.  Jim and Liz – a girl.

There are 30+ years of entries and a wealth of genealogical gems in two lines!  She always recorded the weather, which was a critical factor in successful farming, the family’s jobs of the day, and bits and pieces about the social life of the community.  Sometimes she included major news, such as strikes in a far off city, the country’s election results and train wrecks.

What impressed me the most was how nonjudgmental were the writer’s entries.  When a store clerk shot a farmer she recorded the event but not the why or the sides of the story.  She was a “just the facts” kind of girl. I like that – let others form their own opinions of the events through their historical lens.

I decided I am going to start a diary on the day of my birthday in this format.  Why?  Simply because we don’t take the age in which we’re living as someday being considered worth remembering.  Since we’re living the events they are commonplace to us and thus, not important.  That’s wrong!

We’re also not vain so we tend to think that our lives don’t need recording.  Don’t you do a happy dance when you find a tidbit about your great great grandma?  I was so excited when I found one of mine had won a county fair award when she was 8 for sewing.  If I hadn’t found the newspaper clipping that listed all the blue ribbon winners I would have never known.  It told me a lot about her – that she sewed and did that well, her parents encouraged her to compete and be a part of the larger community at a young age, and that she was at the fair event.

Don’t neglect telling your tale!  You are important and one day, one of your descendants will appreciate that you recorded your life.  You don’t have to do it in the way I’ve selected.  You can write a mini-autobiography or use a letter format.  If you’re artistic, a collage of events in your life that were important to you can be depicted.  You might want to record and videotape yourself if you’re more of an oral story teller.  It doesn’t matter how you record your life, what matters is that you do!

Not sure where to start?  Interview yourself!  Here are some resources to get you started:

About.com Parenting

Ancestry.com

Deseret News

Family Search

Family Tree Magazine

You can see that many of the questions are redundant.  I really like FamilySearch.org’s approach, 52 questions – one a week.  You can do this!  Take the challenge!