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26 June 2014

Treasure Chest Thursday: Aggie Baby Clothes

Family history is not soley about the people of the past. Today's memories are tomorrow's history. Such is the case with this item. It belonged to my eldest daughter. She wore these two items over a decade ago.

Photographing in natural lighting
Artifact photography doesn't necessarily need
an elaborate set-up. Natural light & white sheet!
See I told you that 'today's memories are tomorrow's history. I can't believe my amazing daughter is so old now and how long it has been since I picked this outfit out for her. I didn't find out if I was going to have a boy or a girl. So, my baby was going to have the gender neutral coming home outfit that every Aggie Baby (babies born to alums of Texas A&M University) should have. An Aggie onsie!

I have held on to this outfit through many moves thinking someday my daughter will want to pass this one to her own young one. Then I had a horrifying thought. What if she doesn't go to Texas A&M!?! I will have saved this outfit for nothing. So, when a fellow Aggie was pregnant, I asked if she wouldn't mind receiving these used but loved outfits. The friend said yes!

Family History Heirlooms
My first child's coming home outfit
f/8, exp 1/8 sec, ISO 100
Spot Metering

Photographing Childhood Memories
Would have made a great hand-me down for my kids
f/3.5, exp 1/40 sec, ISO 100
Spot Metering

I needed to snap a fast photo so I put a sheet on the couch. The couch was close to but not exactly near my open window. The light was soft, but not necessarily bright. After taking these two photos, I had what I needed to put into my daughter's scrapbook. And I shipped the outfits to a happy Aggie momma.

Photographing Childhood Clothing
Alumi gear for the youngling
f/8, exp 1/3 sec, ISO 100
Center Weighted Average Metering

Personal History
The cold weather outfit
f/8, exp 1/2 sec, ISO 100
Spot Metering

I had saved the outfit my daughter wore on cold days. She looked adorable in these outfits. I had specifically purchased these two outfits for all of my kiddos to wear home from the hospital. This is why the outfits were 'neutral.' However, my sentimentality exceeded my logic and Uno was the only one who wore the items.

I share these photos so you learn a little about me and my silliness as an alumni from my favorite university and as a mother. My family loves this quirky side of me.

As I tell everyone I meet, family history really can be fun. Our ancestors are important, but so are our living relatives. I really can't believe my daughter is more than ten years old. It seems like yesterday I was a new mom wondering how on earth I would care for a child when I barely knew how to cook and clean. Somehow, here I am with five amazing kiddos.

Family history includes personal history. Photograph all the treasures, the old and the new.

25 June 2014

The worst day of my life, The lessons for my posterity

Forest Park Funeral Home
Funeral home where the worst day of my life took place.

12 December 2012 was the absolute worst day of my life (thus far). My mother had passed away two days before, and I was at the funeral home. Despite how wonderful my parents were, they had a weakness. They were never good with money. The effects of this weakness were now squarely upon my shoulders. The funeral director handed me a bill for a bare bones service package that nearly gave me a heart attack. I left the office to 'think' about it.

I went outside, and my best friend Stacey followed me. My husband, my anchor, was back home in Iowa, one thousand miles away, but reachable by phone. I crumbled to the ground in soul-wrenching tears. My mother's poor decisions were now affecting my family and me, and it hurt. I couldn't focus on the grieving process. Instead, I was bitter, angry, and deeply hurt. My father had passed away 8 years prior, and my mother had experienced the pain of not being prepared. She should have known better, but she left me in the same situation. All of these emotions racked my soul.

Since I was young, I've tried to be frugal and spend money wisely. I hit a rough spot in my early adult years, but I paid off all my debts one month prior to my wedding day. It came at a great personal sacrifice. I gave up going to the beauty salon to get my hair and nails done. I rarely wore makeup anymore because the price was too much. I shopped sales and went without. Through it all, I witnessed many people being wasteful with welfare or donations. Things I could have loved to put to good use but didn't qualify for.  I tried my best not to judge others but keep digging myself out of my self-inflicted whole.  My worst trials resulted from others picking on me for being so frugal. Through it all, I trusted in the Lord and followed the counsel to live within our means and pay an honest tithe.

I had not fully expected this. I felt like I had been hit by a semi-truck while standing on a sidewalk. Please bare with the rest of this tale. I promise I'm not sharing this to air dirty laundry. There is a lesson for my posterity, and for people, I do not even know. And, it is tied to family history.

With the help of Aunt Stacey's knowledge of an alternative funeral home who offered a discounted rate,  the funeral arrangements were finally made. My husband and I would figure it out and move on. However, the agony would not abate. Stacey suggested I go to the temple. For those of you who do not know what the temple means to me, think of the holiest place on earth. Or think of the pearly gates where St. Peter stands. Or, think of the exclusive club you want to enter but it's restricted to those who are 'worthy.' That's what the temple is to me.

Houston Temple
A Spiritual Place in Houston, Texas
© 2005, George T. Hudson
When Aunt Stacey suggested going there, I said that I wouldn't be let in. I was bitter. I was mad. I was broken. There was no way I could go to such a holy place and be allowed to enter. Stacey knew better and took me anyway. In fact, she said this was the time I needed to go to such a place the most.

When I went to the check-in desk, I was welcomed with the friendliest of smiles by the sweetest of gentlemen. To his right, a beautiful woman smiled a great welcome to me, but her face showed that she knew I was in emotional and spiritual pain. Her eyes showed that I was in the right place.

During the worship service, I heard these words in my mind, “Cast your burdens at my feet that they may be light.” Oh, wow! My Savior knew me. He knew my heartache. And He knows my parents and their struggles. He loves us all. Having trusted the Lord in the past, I said, 'Here, take it. It's yours. I can't do this alone.' I didn't want to be bitter. I didn't want to be hurt. I wanted to leave it and move on.

When I left the temple, I felt free of the guilt, the bitterness, and the pain. The love I felt for my mother returned. The grieving for her being in a place I can not yet go started. 

In that experience, I learned what the parable of the Ten Virgins means from another perspective. Quite often, when this allegory is shared, we're told to prepare for the day of trials by having enough in reserve. Enough funds. Enough spiritual savings. A strong testimony. Whatever. 

But the part that is overlooked is that all of the young women actually used some of their oil. Yep. They used it and then needed to refill it. Some had enough to refill their lamps, and others did not. But they all had to use part of that oil. On this day, I had to use the oil that was in my lamp. Thankfully, I had some in reserve. So the worst day of my life became a very sweet soul soothing day.

Why did I share this?

If you think I'm trying to smear the good name of my parents, you are wrong. Instead, I shared this experience because the bad times of family history must also be recorded. Look at everything that can be learned when we record our stories, even if they are very painful.
  1. My children can know that their grandparents were good people but had a weakness. Who doesn't, right? They can also know that their decisions can affect others. Hopefully, they can see how I handled the same issue. When they are older and need to manage their own money, they can make their own decisions. Will they be more like their grandparents or their mother? Family history can teach lessons to our children with real stories, not some abstract story in a financial help book.
  2. My children will know that their daddy was my anchor. He wasn't there to help me and walk me through this experience. He was doing what he was supposed to be doing, caring for our five kiddos back home. He kept them away from the wreck mommy was becoming. I did have a phone and I called him. He reminded me that we would get through this and be fine. Although this isn't evident in the summarized version of the story, the full story details it more. In the summary, that one line about him being my anchor and not with me tells volumes. 
  3. My children will have a story about their Aunt Stacey. Notice that the first time I mentioned her, I write that she is my best friend. After that, she is referred to as Aunt Stacey. My kids know that Aunt Stacey is not a blood-related or marriage-related aunt. She's my best friend and practically my sister. We're that close and she was there for me on the worst day of my life. Now they have a crystal clear memory of what a best friend should do and how much I owe Stacey.
  4. My children have a story of my faith. When I was feeling the worst of all human emotions, I needed a place to turn. A good friend reminded me where to look. We went to that place and I felt my Savior's love for me. The scriptures came alive for me in the words I heard and the parable I was reminded of. In this story of faith, I want my children to know where to look for comfort and peace... the scriptures, their Savior, and the temple.
  5. What other nuggets do you see in this story? Feel free to share them in the comments below.
In my upcoming book 21st Century Family History, I open the book talking about the stories, stuff, and people that make up family history. This story does have a date in it. The date of my mother's death, though you have to extract it. Notice that her death date does not tell the whole story. There is so much more that needs to be shared so my family will know.

For this and many other reasons, I wrote the book. I want you to discover your family history in a new way. The way that preserves your legacy. Share the happy memories. Share the funny memories, like the one I'll be sharing soon. But also share the heart-wrenching ones. Our family and personal histories need to contain as many sides to our family as we can, so we can learn from them. 

When you and your family members start envisioning family history in this light, you will discover a deeper passion for the work. You may not become a full-fledged genealogist who loves archives, cemeteries, and seeking that elusive paper trail. But you will be involved in preserving memories in your own way using your own talent.

Preserve your family history, and let me show you how. Check out my books, at

Tuesday's Tip: Keep the Stories and Photos Together (Part 2)

A few weeks ago, I shared how I keep my stories and photos together. At the beginning of the year, I shared how I record my Personal History Through Blog Books, then I scrapbook later. I hope you have enjoyed these two posts. If not, go back and read them again.

One question a reader asked was how I kept the photos together now. Do I still create little text files and put them in folders, like I discussed last week? She noticed that I only include one photo in each blog book entry, so what do I do with the other photos?

The blog book method of keeping the stories with the photo has been a life saver for me. I can keep all the stories together in one place. I can also print the stories, with one or two photos, in a book for an addition way to share my memories. What I do with the all the other photos is similar to the method discussed last week, except I stop organizing them at the month level.

Here's the quick step view:

  1. Store photos arranged by year
  2. Store photos arranged by month
  3. Write memories related to photos in text editor.
  4. Save in a document in the year folder.
  5. Print document (optional)
Notice that this method's step three is not organize by subject within the month folder. 

Organize photos in Windows Explorer
Organizing Photos in Windows Explorer

Let's say I'm sorting photos from the year 2013. In Windows Explorer, I create a new file folder under My Photos and name it 2013. 

Then I create 12 folders and name them with the twelve months of the year. I like the folders sorted according to the month order, rather than alphabetically. So the folders are named with a two digit number before the month name: 01 Jan, 02 Feb, 03 Mar, and so forth.

I place the photos in the appropriate folders based on the date the photos were taken. Sometimes I take photos after an event to remember the event. I could take the photo a month after the event. In those cases, I'll place the photos in the correct month folder for when the memory happened (rather than date taken) in these instances.

That's as far as I go with sorting the photos. 

Then I record the memories in a text document using whatever text editor you want. I use a Windows computer, so for me I would record my memories in either Microsoft Word or Open Office Writer. I save the text document in the main 2013 folder. Mac users would use a TextEdit. You could also use a cloud text document creator such as Google Document in Google Drive. For more details on the process of creating the blog book, visit my previous post. Simply put... corral the photos in appropriate month of a year. Corral all the stories in a main document with a reference photo.

So there are two ways I keep the photos and stories together. I have played around with metadata and I'll share in a forthcoming post how I organize in that fashion.

18 June 2014

Heritage Scrapbooking: Marriage Page

If you read my book Create a Family History Scrapbook in 12 Simple Steps, you know that one topic page to include in a family history scrapbook about a single person is a page featuring their marriage. What do you do for your ancestors who eloped? Can you create a marriage page? Yes. Yes, you can.

Credits: altered diamond paper & swirl- Hello, Aunty; stitched frame - Chore Day; brad & tag - Mother May Iflowers - Spa Holiday

My grandparents Lewis Brown and Louise Long eloped. Louise's parents were deceased. Lew's father had died and his mother may have already become very ill. Louise was living with her married sister in the 1940s. So, when the time was right, who needed a big wedding? They didn't.

Instead my grandparents went on a honeymoon and took a lot of photos. They were married in Feburary but the honeymoon was in September. One has to keep this in mind when you read the full version of Grannie's honeymoon story. The couple went to Niagra Falls and visited various aunts, uncles, and other relatives along the way. And the story was written with a young audience in mind.

When you don't have wedding photos, you can share photos that feature the couple in love. Notice who the first page features many photos of the happy couple from their early year of marriage.  The second page of the layout features photos from the trip. They were very much in love and very happy.

I framed this layout with stitching, added a tag for the title and then a flourish accent to tie the flowers and brads together. Again, keep the design simple so the photos and story take center stage.

17 June 2014

Tuesday Tip: Consider a Donation to a Unviersity

When I was doing research regarding my great grandfather Professor R.Victor Zumstein, I decided to contact the universities where he attended and taught. Each university's special collection's department was courteous, though they had different amounts of resources. 

Postcard with an elevated view of the horseshoe shaped football stadium on the
campus of Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio, ca. 1930-1950.
Source: Ohio History Central 

My great grandfather taught at Ohio State University for nearly 40 years. When I contacted the OSU Archives Librarian, I received a wonderful response. They havie biographical files for their past professors and many are available in PDF form (fantastic!). Grandpa Zumstein's file included an alumni magazine article and several photographs of him. It was a wonderful collection of materials.

A note said the following, and I quote as it's better in the direct form:
"Prof. Zumstein’s biographical file contained a number of OSU News Bureau faculty biographical records, Faculty Member’s Annual Reports and Basic Who’s Who. Some of the information is repetitive, but I wanted to give you everything we have to be of most use. The bio file also included an obituary that appeared in the Board of Trustees’ minutes in 1968. After that is a photocopy of an OSU Alumni Monthly article that includes him among a list of faculty members given emeritus titles that year. The article ran in the June 1967 issue of the magazine (vol. 58, no. 10). Finally, there are photocopies of two photos we have in our collection of Prof. Zumstein. 
In addition, you might find references to him in the online archives of the student newspaper, The Lantern. Go to our web site and click on the link for the newspaper archives. Our web address is"

After a response such as this and the information in electronic form, I couldn't have been more tickled pink if Mr. Tickle did the tickling. I laughed, cried, and did the proverbial genealogy happy dance.

The PDF file was wonderful. It solved many problems with the timeline on my great-grandfather's education. It provided his handwriting samples, photos, and his life work in a nutshell. It was truly a great blessing. (I still can't stop gushing about it.)

As a good genealogist, I sent an appropriate thank you note. Perhaps I went overboard by saying the librarian was now one of my favorite people in the world. Truly, archive librarians should be praised when they help so quickly and with so much friendliness. 
Now, the point of post is not to brag about my find. After sending this response, I received a wonderful suggestion from the librarian. 
"I don’t think I've gotten such a nice response to my answer to a reference question – thank you! I just wish we had more to send you. Your grandfather did, after all, work here for 40 years, but it is not  atypical among faculty – they either retire or pass away and no one thinks to bring their “stuff” to the Archives. (I’m not exactly sure where it ends up, frankly.) I wish I had more to send to you, but I’m glad what I did send helped!"

Kevlin Haire

The bold statements are what I wanted to share. If you have a relative that worked at a university, consider contacting the Archives Librarian and donating some material they might be interested in. Discuss their donation policies before you send them things cold turkey. Your donation could help someone from future generations know a little more about their professor ancestors.

Additionally, if your family member was a major player in your community, the local university might be interested in obtaining some items and documents from your historical collection. Contact each library to determine what they might be interested in. The more places your family history is preserved, the more likely it can last past one or two generations.

12 June 2014

Treasure Chest Thursday: Boy's Blue Sweater

A few posts back, I shared how this photo was incorporated into a craft calling my hubby a "Chip of the Ol Block". I am fortunate enough to have a mother-in-law who saved the sweater my husband wore in this photograph. The sweater was handmade by his grandmother, so, it was truly worth saving.

I prefer to photograph clothing on a model. Unfortunately, I don't have a model or a dress form this small. Okay, perhaps I could have sweet talked one of my youngsters to wear the item, but they would not have held still long enough for me to take a good photo.

In that case, laying the sweater down was ideal. I have learned that if you fold the sleeves in, rather than have them lay flat out, makes the object more appealing. After trying to photograph the sweater both ways, that tip is awesome.

So, if you have clothing that can not be placed on a model, be sure to fold the sleeves and such, to give the item more life.

11 June 2014

Tuesday's Tip: Keep the Story and Photos Together (Part 1)

I was recently asked how I organize and preserve my memories. That's an amazing question and I want to share with you a few ways that I have done this process. For me, photos without stories are meaningless. I want to remember the hows and whys I took the photo in the first place. Especially since I have dramatically increased the number of photos taken since my first digital camera purchase in 2004.

With printed photos, the story can be written on the back, on a photo album page, or in a scrapbook containing the photo. The best thing would be to write on the back and the album or scrapbook page. That way, if the photo was ever removed from the album or scrapbook page, the information stayed with the photo.

What to do digitally? Since acquiring my first digital camera, I have asked myself that very question. In actuality, it has changed over time. Part One of this series will show you what I did initially. In future posts, I will share you what I do now. You can then decide what works best for you.


Regardless of whether my photos are scanned images or from my digital camera, I organize them on my hard drive chronologically and then by topic (sometimes).

Here's the quick step view:
  1. Store photos by year
  2. Store photos by month
  3. Add topic sub-folder when necessary
Pretty straight forward. I'm all about simplicity whenever possible. Let's see a case study.

Organizing Memories
Organizing Memories in Windows Explorer

Let's say I'm sorting photos from the year 2013. In Windows Explorer, I create a new file folder under My Photos and name it 2013. 

Then I create 12 folders and name them with the twelve months of the year. I like the folders sorted according to the month order, rather than alphabetically. So the folders are named with a two digit number before the month name: 01 Jan, 02 Feb, 03 Mar, and so forth.

Preserving Memories
Organizing Photos in Windows Explorer

Then I create additional folders under the appropriate month, when necessary. Some months do not have enough activities to separate the photos. However, some months, especially in December, have a lot of activities that are photo worthy. Within 12 Dec, I could create folders like Caroling Party, Christmas day, Nativity Display, Snow, and so on. If I have only a few photos from December that don't necessarily fit into a larger category, I leave those photos in the 12 December folder. If there are 7 or more photos for a topic, I make a sub folder simply to separate these groups away from the others. 


Photos without stories are meaningless to me. December 2013 was six months ago and I can't remember everything from the church Christmas Party.

Organize Memories
Photos sorted by category with text file

Imagine if the story was December 2003. That was over ten years ago. I have moved two states and no longer live in a college town (which is known for it's transient population). Without recording the story behind the photos, and the names of people in the photos, I will have forgotten the names and events easily. 

So, I would open Microsoft Notepad and write the story behind the photos. I would be sure to name the people in the photos (and mention the photo number when necessary). Then I would save the *.txt file in the correct month or month/topic sub folder. 

You would find these small .txt files in 2013 - 12 Dec that tell about all the miscellaneous photos in that folder. The .txt file would be named 201312ChurchParty.txt.  In the month/topic sub folder of 2013 - 12 Dec - Office Party, you would find .txt files that were named 201312OfficeParty.txt. 

With the story files saved in the folders where the images are contained, I have a place for the digitized memories to be preserved together. Whenever I wanted to use these items in a personal history project, the stories and photos are right there. If I can't remember something while watching a slide show that draws from the photo folder, I can stop the slide show, open the folder, and review the story file. 

Growing up with computers and embracing a digital camera almost immediately, this process worked well until I developed other habits. I will share some other systems in the coming weeks.

04 June 2014

Heritage Scrapbooking: Grandma's Grandparents

Last week, I shared pages from my Grannie's heritage scrapbook. The topic was mother's pages. The week before was father's pages. This week, I will share the two facing pages that feature Louise's Grandparents.

Credits:  altered background - Wishing for Spring; altered green & light green papers, swirl - Hello, Aunty; altered stitching  - Mother May I; brad-  Spa Holiday
My Grannie, Louise (Long) Brown, had a set of biological grandparents but she never knew them. They were only names on a paper. Her adopted parents' parents were William Lester and Sarah Angeline Long and Andrew and Emma Smith. Lester died when she was 4 years-old. Grandma Angie Long died when Louise was 10. Though she didn't share many memories of Angie, Louise had close ties to her Long aunts and uncles. The journaling on the Long page details the biographical nature of the grandparents and the closeness of Lousie to her aunts and uncles.

Grannie never her grandma Emma (Ward) Smith, but she has many memories of her grandpa Andrew Nelson Smith. Andrew was a barber and would cut Louise's hair when she was younger. Andrew also lived with Harry and Lura until his death in 1933. The following year, his daughter Lura Long died. Thus leaving Harry, Marguerite and Louise alone. Additionally, I mentioned the second marriage of Andrew Smith to Mary Etta Webb. Louise never mentioned her, only Emma.

As you can see with the journaling on these pages, you want to included stories whenever possible. When the stories are unavailable, you can share the biographical information in a story form.

As for design, these two layouts face each other in a printed book. The pages need to compliment each other. I chose a similar layout design and used repetitive papers to coordinate the pages.

My tips for grandparent pages is to stick to one page for a pair of grandparents. Unless your subject was born in the 1970s til now, the information and photos for grandparents will certainly be more limited than the 'photography' age.

03 June 2014

Tombstone Tuesday: John Long Has Two Stones

With a common name like John Long, it would be easy to confuse two people as one. However, I'm 95% certain that my 3rd Great Grandfather John Long has two stones.

Here's what I know about John W Long:
b. 16 February 1805 in Lycoming, Pennsylvania
d. 8 October 1870 in New Haven, Huron, Ohio

The recorded family story by John's granddaughter Elizabeth Long (the family historian of sorts) is this:

On 8 Oct 1870, John W. Long was stricken with a heart attack.  He did not die immediately so William, his third oldest son, was able to get home before he died. William had taken grain to the mill earlier in the day.
In a letter from Elizabeth, she said her grandfather was buried in New Haven. The Cemetery is believed now to be called the New Haven Cemetery in Willard, Huron, Ohio.

I found this stone in the cemetery:

John W and Charles Long Gravemarker
New Haven Cemetery
Memorial # 97722636, Photographer SavingRecordsForOurFuture

The inscription is hard to read but the name does say John W Long died 8 October 1870. The other name sis Charles Long with a date date of 1861. The 'how old' statement looks like the child was less than one year old. A better read of the stone would warrant greater information. What I do know is that John and his wife Hannah had a son named Charles who died as an infant in 1861 in Huron County.

There are no other stones currently listed on for Long family members in the New Haven Cemetery.

However, by coincidence, I found a stone for John W Long in the Greenlawn Cemetery in Plymouth, Richland County, Ohio. Having many family members buried in the Green Lawn Cemetery in Columbus, Ohio, I mistakenly assumed this was the same place. However, I know the Long family was from the Huron and Richland county areas.

The stone in this cemetery looks like this:

John W Long Monument
Greenlawn Cemetery
Memorial #44669082  Photographed by Bill Miller
The part that leads me to believe that John has two stones is the fact that his wife Hannah has a similar small stone inscription in this cemetery. She does not have one in the New Haven Cemetery that I know of. Additionally, Charles has a similar stone to go with this large monument. Another child named Clara (Long) Sillman is buried in this cemetery. So, the family does have gravemakers in the Greenlawn Cemetery.

The question is if there are any more Long photos in the New Haven Cemetery as I truly believe John had two stones.