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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...

24 December 2014

Heritage Scrapbooking: Favorite Layouts of 2014

In 2014, I have shared two heritage scrapbooks featuring my maternal grandparents Lewis Brown and Louise Long Brown. Towards the end of the year, I started series of my childhood heritage album. All of these posts have been well received and now I will highlight your favorite layouts shared in the past year.

Favorite Layouts (by page hits)

Have You Noticed the Page Size?
Same Topic, Different Approach
Lewis Brown Birth
Father's Page: Sherman Brown
A Final Page About Lew Brown
Incomplete Trees

Favorite Layouts (by Google+)

Magazine Style Timeline
Louise's Album Recap
Photo Timeline
Childhood: Americana Theme
70s Style Cover Page

Things I Learned About Myself
While Scanning

(not a layout, but lessons learned
while preparing to scrapbook)

Thanks to all of my wonderful readers for following, reading, and sharing my efforts to encourage and inspire you to create your own family history scrapbooks. Thank you to everyone who has supported me through leaving comments and sharing emails featuring their work. Such motivating communication keeps me wanting to not only scrapbook more but also share more of my work to keep the inspiration cycle going. And finally, thank you to all who have supported my scrapbooking addiction by purchasing my eBooks Power Scrapbooking and Family History Scrapbooking Simplified. The tremendous response to these books has me thinking about writing another one. All I need to do know is figure out what you would like me to write next!

Have a wonderful Holiday Season! My regularly scheduled scrapbooking series will resume after the first week in January.

22 December 2014

I Made A Difference For That One

Why did I write my book? Why do I love teaching at family history conferences? Why do I share the things I've learned about my family on this blog? Why do I talk non-stop about family history to anyone who would listen? Because my efforts will make a difference.

Bonnie Burgamy Starfish

Do you know this poem? I heard it so often as while I competed in pageants. It was such a great motivational piece. Today, it is now a great motivational piece for me as a family historian.

Earlier this month I helped a friend find the birth certificate for her husband's grandfather. We may have extended that family line back one generation (we'll find out after further research). I can't wait to hear what her husband has to say to all of this! (Especially since he kept asking her when she'd work on his line!)

Last Tuesday, a sweet friend shared with me a story of how she discovered more about an ancestor and the cousin she met along the way. I loved the story just as much as if this was my family discovery. She said this all started by sharing my love of family history. I'm so humbled.

In pageants, I was told to have a platform I was passionate about. Back then, it was "Lead By Example." It wasn't fit for pageantry, but certainly, something that I attempt to follow. Today, Family History might not be a 'pageant worthy' platform, but it is my passion. If I were ever to do a pageant again, it would be my platform, regardless of it was a 'good fit' or not. I don't plan on competing in heels and a gown anytime soon, but I do hope I can promote the benefits of family history as if I wore a crown.

 Order 21st Century Family Historian Today!
Order the book mentioned above!

I share, invite, and talk to a lot of people about how family history is for everyone, and how they should get involved. For many, my efforts seem a bit pointless. Getting those without motivation to become interested in family history, may seem like tossing starfish back into the sea. I still throw the starfish.

When I have or heard about experiences like these, I recognize that I am a part of something greater than myself. My little efforts do make a difference, and I am so glad I tossed. I have and do 'make a difference for that one.'

19 December 2014

Elusive Ancestor: Oscar Ward

If you look at my fan chart, you'll find it complete for many generations. In my 3rd great-grandparent bracket, there are names but no stories. Today I'm focusing on Oscar Ward for a challenge that I've been meaning to do since the Saturday Night Genealogy Fun post of April 2013. Better late than never, right?

Oscar Ward of New York and Michigan
Oscar Ward's partial family tree available at

I know that Oscar Ward was probably born in New York in 1836. I believe him to be the son of:

Chester Ward (b. about 1820 in New York)

Mariah (b about 1820 in New York or New Jersey)

Oscar's family moved to Genesee, Michigan prior to the 1850 US Census.

I believe that Oscar was their only child for a long time. The 1870 and 1880 US Census record suggest that Oscar has a brother named William Ward who was born in 1866 after Oscar married. 

Oscar married Jeanette between 1860 and 1870 as the family appeared in the 1870 US Census with two children:
1. Emeline Ward (b 1866 Bay City, Bassar, Michigan, United States)
2. George H Ward (b. 1869 in Michigan, United States)

I can not determine what happens to the family after the 1870 US Census, with the exception of Emeline, as she's my 2nd great-grandmother. The details for Oscar, his parents, wife, and son George just stop.

The Genea-Musing challenge asked what we should do to research this problem further. The truth is... I'm not sure. I'm stuck trying to figure out where these folks are in 1880, alive, dead, or misrecorded. I'm hoping that something will trigger a break in the wall so I can at least at some more details to these New York natives and Michigan residents. With a name like Oscar Ward and a father named Chester, both born in New York, the trouble is only just beginning.

17 December 2014

Heritage Scrapbooking: Baby's First Christmas

If there's one thing I love about Christmas, is that the color combination works beautifully for vintage Christmas photos.Look how nicely the green compliments the 1970s era photos and a splash of red draws your attention to the page.

Vintage Baby First Christmas Scrapbook
Baby's First Christmas: Paper: "All I Want For Christmas" kit by
Growing Pains Scrapped; Lace: from "Refreshing" kit by
Lyllah Raven Designs; Flowers from "Out with the Old" kit
by Irene at; Ribbon from "Americana" kit from
No Reimer Reason

I wanted to point out that the design elements for this layout came from several different kits. If you feel like your unable to find the one right kit for your layout, pick elements from different kits. The "All I Want for Christmas" and "Out With the Old" kits are holiday inspired but the "Refreshing" kit reminds me of summer and the "Americana" kit I used in my grandfather's heritage scrapbook.

This layout seems to feature my brother, rather than me, during my first Christmas. And that's okay. There probably wasn't much that I was doing my first Christmas other than sleeping and that doesn't make for a great story. I love these photos because you can see what the inside of my first home was like. You can see the pajama style my brother wore and the toys he obtained. There are so many wonderful details from the past in these busy photos, that again I opted for very limited embellishments. For more tips on how to craft a family history scrapbook, get a copy of my eBook Create a Family History Scrapbook Digitally in 12 Simple Steps.

I'd like to take this opportunity to wish you a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

Stay tuned in the New Year for more heritage scrapbook layouts.

10 December 2014

Best Personal and Family History Posts of 2014

Moving to Texas
The neighbors around our new place are amazing. The move
has been so much easier with this kind of community.
Perhaps I am jumping the gun for the first of my 2014 wrap up posts. Perhaps not. As the year comes to a close, I have reflected on all the many wonderful memories I have made, the changes that have occurred, and the stories I have shared. I have many guiding principles with respect to family history, but the major hone is "If family history isn't fun, you're doing it wrong!"

With that in mind, I wanted to share some reader and my personal favorite posts from the year that focus on this great hobby/work.

Personal History Favorites
  1. The worst day of my life, The lessons for my posterity
  2. Remember the time when Mom smashed her face
  3. Remember when Mom wore a swimsuit to buy a house
  4. Inspiring my husband to write a book
  5. Inspired by family history writing class

Family History Favorites

21st Century Family Historian
The additional highlight from this year is the release of my book 21st Century Family Historian. I wrote this book with two wonderful folks in mind and the project expanded to include a variety of individuals. The feedback has been so positive with many saying they're going to do something to capture and preserve their family history. That was the goal of my book. That is the goal of the educational posts on this blog. I want to inspire people to play their position on the family history team. We need the family history tent to get a lot bigger so the stories can become so much richer.

Google Analytics can only tell me so much. Leave a comment of which was your favorite ,Patient Genealogist post from 2014 (and perhaps why).

07 December 2014

Sentimental Sunday: Conference Class Triggers Bittersweet Memory

Last week I shared how inspired I was during the class Putting Family Back Into Family History. I briefly mentioned that I had several writing activities to do during the class. I was struck by the power this particular memory brought back to me. Two years ago this past Thursday, my mother passed away. In the writing class, I was able to capture and preserve a valuable life lesson.

Penny Geiszler in the 1980s
Mom about the time of this story
My mother worked as a secretary or an administrative assistance for most of my growing up years. One Friday, she had worked all day and was called into her boss's office. She was told she was being let go and given a pink slip. Her heart sank. 
Mom was the one with the stable job that had health benefits in the 1980s. She knew this would be a great loss to our family. In addition to bringing home her desk items, she had to pick up my birthday cake. You see, I was having a few friends over for a slumber party. She was supposed to leave work with a decorated cookie cake. Now, she was carrying home despair, her work belongings, and a cake. 
When Mom got home, she did what she could to focus on my party. Thankfully, only two friends were over. The thing that strikes me most is what I remember about my mom. I knew mom was sad but, in that moment, she was concerned about me and my special day.
This was a powerful 5-minute writing assignment. I love this memory in how it starts out really sad but then turns to a positive note.

Remember how I said last week the teacher took things from good to great? Again, I don't want to give away her whole class. However, I'll share what I was then inspired to do with this memory.

Leave the backgrounds in historic photos
The room where I believe this story took place, The photo is
horrible but I remember the house by that wall paper.
I have many memories based on certain elements in the story. I remember this was a time when mom had curly hair and big glasses (see photo above). I seem to remember which room she was in when she broke the news to dad. I seem to remember hearing it (perhaps Dad reacted loudly when her heard the news) and leaving my friends to give her a comforting hug.  Additionally, I remember several physical characteristics of one friend who came to the party. That helps me know which friends to look for in photos, if it is still possible. Perhaps I can look through my school files to try to remember who would have been at the party.

Because I could visualize the room the story took place, I knew which rental house we lived in at the time. As such, I am nearly certain of which years the story could have happen in.

With the memory of which house and the narrowed down year range, I could look at mom's resume (see below) and figure out the job she was released from. I am confident that I have the right time frame figured out for this story based on this resume, and the scribbled note.

Personal History
A resume is an important piece of personal history. Have you saved yours?

As I pieced together parts, I now have more depth to the memory. I can expand the 5-minute writing exercise to describe the home we were in, where it was located in Texas, the job mom was released from, and so much more. Without my mother here to help me expand on the story, I was surprised how much I could recreate on my own. All of this started with a great teacher inspiring me to write and showing how the memory can develop further.

Family history really is all about the stories. I'm so glad I took the writing class.

05 December 2014

Photo Friday: So Frustrated With Camera

Great photo from simple camera
Favorite photo taken using my PowerShot SX100IS
Last year, the camera that has captured much of what I have shared in my Treasure Chest Thursday posts stopped working. The lens just wouldn't open any longer. I can hear the tragic, "wa, wa, wah" as I recall the day I knew I needed a new camera.

My Canon PowerShot SX100IS was such a good little camera. It gave me enough freedom to learn the manual settings but had great shooting modes when I just wanted the camera to do all the work. The quality of the photos were an up grade from a point and shoot camera and the speed of taking photos was good enough for me.

I attempted to research a new camera and upgrade from what I had. I purchased the Canon SX 50 and I have been greatly disappointed basically since I opened the box. I thought I'd eventually learn the camera and I wouldn't have buyer's remorse; however, the more I used the camera the more frustrated I became. When it came time to photograph my treasure, I knew I had made a terrible purchase. This is not the kind of camera that does small object photography well. It also wasn't fast enough to photograph my kids either. Precious memories were filled with blurry photos more often than not. I essentially stopped taking many photos.

Best I could get with the Canon SX 50.
It's really blurry in full size. Some photos are much worse.
I know many people say you can take great photos no matter the camera you get. It's really the photographer. To an extent, I agree. My gut said this camera was not a good fit for my needs. That thought was confirmed when I took the camera to the pro shop in town. They said I had the wrong camera. My research was flawed somehow when the camera I purchased was recommended for what I wanted to do. There was no way around it.

Now the decision has to be made. Find something truly similar to the old SX100 or completely upgrade to a dSLR. I have been hesitant to upgrade to a dSLR because of the price and not truly knowing all the manual settings. I suppose it's time to learn.

So, I'm hoping to find a camera that fits my needs. I want to get back into photographing my personal history and the treasures of my ancestors. The challenge is I need to get familiar with this camera before a spring trip to Disney World. Let's just say, I'm going to be putting Treasure Chest Thursday on hold for awhile until a new camera purchase is made.

03 December 2014

Inspired By Family History Writing Class

I thoroughly enjoyed a class at a recent family history conference. Interestingly, it was probably the most 'simple' class of all, meaning it was a low technology class. The title was Putting Family Back Into Family History. This topic falls in line so well with what I teach in my book 21st Century Family Historian, I was anxious for the class.

To order your copy visit
Boy was I in for a treat! The teacher had a few simple display items: a house dress, an iron, and a quilt. Additionally, she gave everyone a copy of the My Family: STories That Bring Us Together booklet for use during the workshop. I used my notepad so that I would have plenty of writing room, but I loved this little touch. A booklet to keep all the stories together. Now it was time to think about the stories that could go into such a booklet.

The instructor managed her time so well by introducing her theme and working these pieces into the class. Then she asked for audience participation. As an experienced speaker, she allowed for silence to not scare her. She knew that many folks, including myself, were thinking. Additionally, she manager her time to allow for class participation. We had time to do writing exercises to take something home from the class. What a delight! I would love to take another class from her in the future.

Now, why was this writing class so good? The teacher shared a story and how it developed from one simple childhood memory. I don't want to give her entire class but I'll hit some highlights.

First, her memory started with her grandparents, her parents, and herself on a trip when their car broke down. Grandpa heads off to find help and the rest stay stranded in the car. She remembers her grandmother singing and comforting all in the car with her songs. Apparently the songs were popular during World War II.

Now, the instructor could have stopped her story right there, but she developed the memory further and walked us through the process. This is where she took her class from good to great. All the while, she stopped for brief writing exercises to have the class engaged rather than just listening. She ended the class by showing how we can post our story, accompanying photos, and audio recordings to go with them on

The highlight for me was I actually had a memory to write about. I didn't think I had any solid memories to share as I just can't remember many details from my childhood. However, I did remember one story. I'll share that story next week.