Win a RootsTech Pass as We Celebrate Our YouTube Anniversary

Last year, I told my husband that I wanted to expand my dream of inspiring and educating others about genealogy and family history by cre...

18 October 2017

Be Carefule Where You Walk - "An Outlander" Themed Genealogy Blog Party

#genealogy blog party

While walking down Broad Street in Elizabeth, New Jersey, I stumbled and fell. The pain in my head and the drops of blood down my eye told me I had fallen and blacked out for just a moment. However, when I woke up, things were very different. The cars were gone. The cell phones had disappeared. Horses and their droppings replaced the smell of gasoline engine exhaust. 
What had happened?  
A newspaper revealed that the year as 1817 and I was in a small town where the most significant technological advancement of the day was the improvement of a road (or the Morris Turnpike) between Elizabeth and Morristown, New Jersey. I was missing my new Dodge Grand Caravan.  
Suddenly, I realized that I had the opportunity to settle a dispute that 200 years later is still being discussed. I quickly found directions to the home of Effingham Townley, whose 16-year-old son John was relaxing in the family home. As a female, I struggled to develop a cover story for why I wanted to have John introduce me to his father Effingham and his mother and siblings. I struck upon the idea to suggest I was a member of the British Townley in the old country wondering what happened to the family line after it moved to America during the days before the Revolution.  
Thankfully John was amicable to the discussion regarding family members, ages, and who had married whom. John revealed who his mother was which made my heart skip. I knew exactly which Effingham Townley to align with my John Townley. I wouldn't drop any hints that John would be married within seven years to a woman from Stratford, Connecticut. I also wouldn't suggest that he would settle in the Ohio Territory. However, I would ask about whether his Townley's participated in the American Revolution because his grandfather might have been the age to have served or contributed to the cause. I would suggest to John to write more about his life (in hopes that when I returned to the future, those records would await my venture to this town.) 
After gaining these details and solving this mystery, I would thank John for his introduction to his extended family. I would then head back to town before I would have to eat oxtail soup or some other less desirable sounding meal. As I walked on Broad Street in Elizabeth, I once again fell. Thankfully I missed the fresh manure in the lane. But when I came to, I was once again in the modern day. I'm a suburban girl who loves modern conveniences in transportation and food, so I was happily back in the future. I call my husband to tell him that I might need to see a doctor because I keep falling and hitting my head. However, before I head to seek medical advice, I venture to the Litchfield Historical Society (in Connecticut) and discover a diary that belonged to Effingham Townley. It turns out that John didn't heed my journal writing council, but his father had. In the journal, I had the documentary proof to support the time-traveling experiences people would scoff off without evidence.  
Once I adjusted the family tree online, I'd tell the Townley family that I knew I had the solid proof (beyond a burial record for John Townley identifying his birthplace and father's name; and the will of an Effingham Townley mentioning a son named John) of who John's father was. 
Ha! Wasn't that fun? I don't like most creative writing assignments, but this month's Genealogy Blog Party sponsored by Elizabeth O'Neal just struck me in the right way.

The goal was to travel back 200 years and visit a relative and then asked if you'd return. Heck yeah, I'd come back to the future! I love my hubby and my children too much to stay in the past.  What I also discovered is that I don't have many options of where I could go 200 years ago from a similar place today.

I don't know the names of 3 grandparents from 200 years ago. For ten ancestors, I vaguely know their origins. Kentucky, Pennsylvania, Bavaria, and Hanover, are too large an area to be transported back in time to a specific reference point to locate my ancestors. There were only two options:

1. Gillershiem, Germany and visiting my Mack, Tinnappel, and Rottger and Henke lines (if they are accurate).

2. Elizabeth, Essex, New Jersey. Since the answer of who is John Townley's Effingham is one that many Townley relatives would want resolved. (I'm all about benefiting my extended family in my research. )

Thanks Elizabeth for this fun thought exercise. If you could 'fall through' a time-wrap that transported you back in time 200 years, who would it be? For more blog party details, visit this website.

16 October 2017

3 Tips to Start Writing About You

Tips for Writing About Your Life Story

Family History is not only about dead people. Your story matters as well. Are you recording it?

Far too often personal history takes a back seat or is left on the side of the road when people engage in genealogical research. It seems we forget that today we're alive and tomorrow we'll be someone's dead ancestor. Let me give you three principles of how why you should be working to record your story:

3 Tips to Write About You
Click Image to Tweet.

Keeping these three points in mind, you are ready to start writing a memoir, life story, or autobiography. But I bet you can’t start because you can't locate the starting line. Let’s tackle that right now!


It's often a good idea to begin with the end in mind so you know where you're headed. However, when writing about yourself, that end is not the details and mechanics of finalizing a manuscript or formatting for printing. The end is that you've written about yourself.

When you start to write about yourself, ignore all the end details and focus on the experiences and commentary you want to take out of your mind and put on a computer screen or writing pad.

  • Don’t worry about your target audience
  • Don’t worry about character development
  • Don't worry about developing a strong opening sentence
  • Don't worry about setting or story arcs
  • Don’t worry about grammatical mechanics 

In short, don't worry about the structure of your story and just start capturing the memories you have. All of these details will put obstacles in your way. It will be easy to not write because you can't answer the requestions related to these topics. There is a time and place to address these issues, but not at the beginning. Not when you're just starting on your journey.

After you have compiled many of the memories into text, you can reorganize the details to craft a better story. You can develop and explain your characters and settings. You can see where the natural highs and lows of the story take place. The trick is to capture your raw material without passing them through a filter until the time is right.


Instead of focusing on the what of writing, hone in on the why. Why did you think personal history was a good idea? Why do you want to tell your relatives about your career choices, your struggles, your triumphs? Why will feel better when you've written your story?

There are many reasons why people attempt to write about themselves, and it rarely has anything to do with reading a blog post that says, "You Need to Write About Yourself.' Many of the stronger reasons include:

  • Celebrating an accomplishment
  • Detailing a challenging life experience
  • Sharing your life with your extended family
  • Passing on heritage and legacy
  • Documenting a journey of healing
  • Providing answers to a relatives questions
  • Completing assignments for school or professionally

Focus on why you're writing about yourself and that will guide you through the process. Even if your 'why' is a royal pain (i.e. having to write for a school assignment), the 'why' will direct your path. 


Many writing tips say to outline, storyboard, or flowchart your projects. This is all well and good, but often the memories and experiences that are fighting for your attention need to be placated before you can tackle any other pre-writing activity. Additionally, you don't always have to start your story at the beginning. You can start at the end or somewhere in the middle. Start writing where your restless mind wants you to begin.  Then fill in the gaps between memories.

Here are a few examples: 

    • If you're writing your life story or a biography, are you feeling nostalgic for your childhood home or the early days of marriage? Start with your favorite childhood memories.
    • If you're writing about a healing journey, what experiences do you not want to forget? Record those first, no matter if they relate to the pain, the recovery, the miracles, or the mistakes that caused the problem. Start with the memories that will pain you more to forget.
    • If you're writing about a specific life event (such as your military years, college years, a mission trip, sports team participation, or a career change, among others), what memories and experiences pop into your mind first when you reflect on those life events? What is training, friendships, big events, words of wisdom, or leaders and mentors? Write about those things first.

Getting started is the hardest part of writing. The next challenge is to edit what you've recorded. For now, just capture your memories. 

When you get stuck, review this video on Pre-Writing Your Personal and Family History. You should find some clues on how to continue writing about yourself.

09 October 2017

Spare 15-minutes to Digitize Your Family Treasures

Quick Digitization Tasks

What enables easy sharing of your genealogical research, ensures backup of your discoveries, prepares for an emergency, and simplifies inheritance?  If you guessed digitization, give yourself a pat on the back.

In 2008, a massive flood that drowned parts of Cedar Rapids, Iowa impacted my friend. Before the waters submerged her neighborhood, she had time to save many things, but she didn’t think the flood would fill her basement. When she returned home, she realized that her high school treasures were water logged when the basement had taken in so much water, it came within one foot of reaching the ceiling. Salvaging these soggy, smelly treasures was impossible. Had she digitized her photos and photographed her memorabilia, she would have retained some of those treasures even though the physical items were unrecoverable.

Don't let this happen to you! Preserve, preserve, preserve. Recognize that disasters range from natural disasters such as flood, fire, hurricane, and tornado but can also include divorce, or misguided family members who are ‘trying to help’ clean your house.

03 October 2017

Dig into the Cemeteries - Boot Camp on October 14th!

Cemetery Boot Camp with Devon Noel Lee

The day after Friday the Thirteenth, we'll recover from the superstition and start digging into cemetery photography and a mystery of why two unrelated men were buried in the same plot.

Cemeteries are beautiful places to document our ancestor's lives. However, people often take less than stellar photos from when visiting graveyards. We'll talk about how to go from this:

Tidy Up the Gravestones

to this:

Better Gravestone Photography

Then, we'll use the principles of genealogy FAN charts (or cluster genealogy) to determine how two men buried in East Lawn Cemetery were buried in a plot in a family neither are obviously a part of.

Join me, alongside host Thomas MacEntee or Hack Genealogy, on:
Saturday, October 14th
from 11 am (CST) to 2:30 pm.

This three-hour education event normally costs $29.99, but if you want to take advantage of an early bird discount, you have until October 9th. Visit the registration page found here:

And then type in TOMBSTONE as your promotion code at checkout! You'll receive $10 the registration.

When you register, you'll receive access to the live boot camp, where you can ask questions along the way during the live chat. You'll also receive a cemetery photography tips handout and access to the recorded version for your replaying enjoyment. 

Let's have fun this Family History Month and talk cemeteries and burial.

02 October 2017

Win a RootsTech Pass as We Celebrate Our YouTube Anniversary

Family History Fanatics Anniversary

Last year, I told my husband that I wanted to expand my dream of inspiring and educating others about genealogy and family history by creating a YouTube channel. My darling husband helped me come up with a name that would allow for expansion (from myself to him, to our son, and someday to others). That's how I transitioned from A Patient Genealogist to being a part of Family History Fanatics.

Andy helped me film my first video, correcting me when I said something wrong and frustrating me to no end. Once the video was editing and uploaded to YouTube, I shared the video with friends and family. As with the launch of my first book Power Scrapbooking in 2009, I hoped the right people would stumble upon this crazy idea of mine.

When starting a genealogy channel on YouTube, what should the inaugural video discuss? I chose to explain "What Is Family History?" as my starting point.

(Click on any videos below to watch them! from this window.)

I followed this video up with a few more beginning genealogy videos, a book review, and then a series on how to select a photobook company (click these links to visit those videos).

In October, my oldest son Caleb expressed an interest in making videos. I figured, why not? This is a family channel and I'd love to have a youth perspective. So, Caleb joined the on-screen team with this first video:

Click the video and leave a comment for Caleb!

At the end of the month, I began to think beyond broadening my vision. What if I also promoted conferences and genealogy vendors? That would benefit the goal of educating others on genealogy. WHile at the  2017 Texas State Genealogy Conference, I put the plan to action. Mind you, I didn't prepare in advance so I'm super thankful that Randy Whited, the TxSGS President said, have at it! MyHeritage representatives were the first to agree to be interviewed for my channel. Andy and I conducted several interviews from the vendors at the TxSGS Conference.

Tragedy struck during the conference and I lost numerous interviews before I could share them online. Now I know the importance of keeping an eye on your gear and saving videos remotely when at a live event.

With Andy an onscreen part of Family History Fanatics,  we really are Family History Fanatics, proving that family history is a team sport!

In February, Andy and I were presenters for RootsTech 2017. Since feedback was so positive from the TxSGS Conference for our interviews, we decided to go crazy capturing interviews.  We captured and created 13 videos for RootsTech (you can binge watch by clicking this playlist link). The most popular video was my interview with Crista Cowan of She's such a gem, so that's no surprise.

A close second was my pre-RootsTech video, which will certainly come in handy as you prepare for RootsTech 2018

(BTW, when you click on the RootsTech links in this post, you let them know I'm doing a great job promoting the conference as an Ambassador. So, click the link.)

After RootsTech, we were approaching 100 subscribers. To anyone who was an early subscriber to my channel. THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU. Thanks for taking a chance on my dream and helping us grow as a team.

In the middle of posting RootsTech videos, Andy posted his first video about DNA. This video has gone 'viral' of sorts. It's our most popular video by a factor of 10.

In May, our YouTube channel started to grow rapidly and it has yet to stop. At our one-year anniversary mark, we had 700 subscribers, 74,000+ views, and an active community in the comments section (well, at least on the DNA videos).

We're super excited about how my crazy idea last year has turned into reality.  In the next year, we're going to post DNA related videos every Tuesday and genealogy/scrapbooking videos every Thursday.

We're also looking to partner with other genealogists around the world to create a third video a week offering from Extended Fanatics. If you're interested in teaching a genealogy principle while promoting yourself, use the contact form on our website.

In 2018, Andy and I will once again attend RootsTech. We're going to start scheduling interviews while we're in Salt Lake City. If you'd like to make the list, let me know. (Use that contact form.)

We'd like to attend additional conferences but unless we can also teach at those, the economics doesn't quite work out. So,  if you'd like to see us at a location near you, check out our speaking schedule or submit a request for us to present.

We're also venturing into managing eConferences for local and state genealogical societies. We take the hassle out of fundraising for society board members. If your society is interested in having us produce an eConference, follow this link to our contact page.


Enough about us! What about you? Anniversaries are about gift giving and we have one for you.

To celebrate our anniversary, we are giving away one 4-Day Pass to RootsTech 2018 held February 28–March 3, 2018, in Salt Lake City.  As an ambassador for RootsTech, I receive a complimentary pass to give to one of my readers/viewers. This includes:
  • Entrance for to the RootsTech track classes from Wednesday - Saturday 
  • Access to more than 300 classes, keynotes, and general sessions
  • Admission to the Expo Hall (starting Wednesday evening and running through Saturday)
  • Evening events on Thursday and Saturday.
  • (This giveaway does not include luncheon events, paid workshops, printed syllabus, travel, or hotel.)
RootsTech is genealogy conference on steroids. My daughter, our behind the scenes queen, says it's like a Comic Con. I have to agree. You'll learn so much and feel the intense energy! As a thank you for reading, watching, and supporting the Family History Fanatics, we want you to attend the craziness as our guest.

RootsTech 2018 Awaits
RootsTech 2018 Awaits You! 


To be eligible for our giveaway, do each of the following things to be entered into the drawing.

  1. Subscribe to the Family History Fanatics YouTube Channel (Click here and press the red subscribe button)
  2. Leave a comment on any video on the Family History Fanatics YouTube Channel
  3. Subscribe to our newsletter. (Click here)
  4. Send us a "RootsTech Contest Entry Complete" message using our the contact form on our website.
The contest runs from October 2nd to October 31st. Don't procrastinate!

We'll draw one winner on November 1st and announce their name in a future post.

No purchase necessary to enter. Void where prohibited by law.

Are You Overwhelmed Digitizing Your Family History?

Stress Free Genealogy Preservation

Do you have trunks in attics full of document papers videos and audio cassette that you haven't preserved into ditto format yet? Then now is the time to get the job done! But what if you don't know how to do the digitization or the thought of a DIY project sends you screaming and headed for the hills? Well that's when you can decide to outsource the digitization of your project. Here are four resources that are genealogically focused and can help you get the job done. Bye-Bye Overwhelm!


Larsen digital will digitize slides  In terms of the DPI that you want 2000 DPI will cost about $0.50 an image and 4000 DPI cost a little bit more. Negatives scanned at 2,000 GPI cost about $0.40 per image at 2000dpi and a gun a little bit more for 4000dpi. Reel-to-reel fans will cost in terms of per end so about $0.25 per inch for standard-definition video or $0.35 per inch for high definition video output. So if you have 50 feet of film which could be about 3 to 4 minute video it might cost you about $15. 4 videos that are on TV. 4 VHS tapes converted to a digital DVD it will be about $15 if you want to convert that to an mp4 it's about an extra five bucks so about $20 will give you both format that DVD and a MP4 that you can play with your family movies.

Larsen digital 4 office scan your photos convert your audio clips cassette tapes and various other digitization that you need be sure to give them a call at  800-776-8357 Email:


If you are if ExtremeGenes radio podcast, and then you will know about Tom Perry at TMC, The MultiMedia Center in Utah. Visit their website at to get contacts and details about what they do. They're very similar to Larsen digital in the services they provide in an a la carte pricing strategy. It doesn't matter if your material is moldy or damage, TMC can help you out, but be warned there will be a higher price for such items. If you have no where else to turn, turn to Tom and his staff.

What's also great about Tom, is that if he can help you find a local service provider that meets his standard of quality, then he will refer you locally if you don't happen to live in Salt Lake City, Utah. That's great advantage, so give them a call at 801-483-1716 .


Legacy Republic has a digitization system that different than individual pricing they give you a box and you feel it with the items that you need scanned and when the box is full that is what you get and so for $100 you can put in four items. A VHS counts as one item. A mini DVD is one item. A reel-to-reel film may count as  one or two items depending on the size.  50 slides counts together as one item, as do 50 photos or 50 negatives. So you mix and match to create a combination of 4 of those items to but into your packaging mailer. For about $100 you can get all of that digitized.

With Legacy Republic a local service provider will help you package your boxes to ensure that they are shipped safely and correctly. So if you're worried about how to package your items that is a nice advantage.

When your box is filled, your local rep ship it off to the company. The company will then send you back a DVD as well as access to an online cloud storage system and then you can order additional products and services if you so desire.  contact Legacy Republic using their website   


Legacybox is very similar to like a Supra public and not you fill a box with the items you want to the tide send it off to a company and then they send you back your digitized items. You get back and archival DVD or an optional thumb job drive for your storage items.  Legacybox offers a variety of different types of boxes that you can create for vet using a combination of item. What 1 tape is considered an item one film reel is considered an item apparently no matter the size. And 25 pictures is considered one item. you can also digitize audio tapes, slides, and negatives  as well.  A three item starter box starts around $75. Visit their website at

If you want to give a fantastic birthday, anniversary, or Christmas present to somebody, then consider paying for the digitization of your family's archive. If you want to know where to spend your time, money, and effort in your family history efforts, PRESERVE, PRESERVE, PRESERVE.

Just so you know, I don't get a kick back from any of these services, but I certainly wouldn't mind if I did. I just think they're great and want you to preserve your perishable family history.

26 September 2017

5 Tips for Recording the Stories of Your Heirlooms

Record Heirloom History

Do you have walls and shelves filled with family knick-knacks and keepsakes? Do you have attics and closets with heirlooms preserved with bubble wrap and specialty boxes? It’s time you spend a little time thinking and recording the meaning behind each family treasure before they become clutter and junk.

Heirlooms have the power to bind families together across time. But when the details regarding the objects are forgotten the family treasure often head into the trash pile. Prevent legacy loss by recording the unique stories behind the household items in your collection.

In my video, Where is Family History Hiding, I mentioned the four places where your genealogical clues are hiding. Warning: they’re usually not online! If you missed that video, check it out here:

Once you have collected, discovered, and corralled your family treasures, you'll want to record the stories, memories, and information so that it won't be forgotten. However, many people, perhaps you, experience writer's block. What should you record?

Let me demonstrate what you should record with two examples:


If you have a Boy Scout of America membership card that mentions your father or grandfather and it was dated in the 1930s, what information should you record?

First, extract the information from the card and then expand upon that information. Include any stories you've heard or were told about your Boy Scout's experiences. Do a quick Google Search to what the requirements, ranks, and advancement requirements were for a Boy Scout from that time period. See if you can track down information about the council or the troop your ancestor was a member of.  See if the council listed on the membership card has a current office that might have chapter histories. So, record what you know but expand upon it.

Then write a blog post, create a scrapbook page, write a photo journal entry, or record a video about the discoveries.


Perhaps you inherited jewelry from a mother or grandmother and discovered an Eastern Star ring. What should you record? If the owner of the ring is still alive, ask them about their participation in the group, why they joined, what offices they held, what events they enjoyed attending, and who their friends were from the group, If the ring's original owner is deceased, learn  what events the Eastern Star chapter hosted during the years your grandmother was a member. You may not know for certain if she attended the events, but you should record what was available.

I have five quick tips that will help you record the stories behind your family heirlooms: 

  1. Be Obvious: Who did the item belong to? What is the object?
  2. Identify the Significance: Why do we still have it? What does it tell us about the original owner?
  3. Trace the Inheritance: Who were the curators of these items throughout time?
  4. Explain the Traditions: What traditions were the items involved in? What is the tradition of who owns the item?
  5. Detail the Unknown History: Record if the item was saved from destruction or the funny stories relate to this particular item.

The best way to ensure that your family treasures are honored and cared for in the future is to record the stories behind the pieces. Then use the stories about the keepsake and photos of the items in family history projects such as written histories, scrapbooks, or video documentaries. You increase the value of your treasures by showcasing and preserving their stories.

If you have discovered an interesting story pertaining to your family heirlooms, share that item below.

Further Reading:

To learn more about how to uncover the stories behind your heirlooms, read