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30 October 2014

Thankful Thursday: Find A Grave Keeps Getting Better

If you've read any of my Tombstone Tuesday posts, you'll know that I'm a huge fan of My praises for the volunteer photographers should come through in every post. However, today I want to thank the developers who work behind the scenes to make this resource so amazing.

Previously, I shared how individuals could serve others by supporting Find A Grave efforts. One way would be to photograph stones. Another would be to submit information to memorial mangers. This process has become much easier and faster and I want to thank the developers.

Gay Curlis' Memorial Page Before

I found the parents buried in Green Lawn Cemetery and I wished to submit links to their memorials. I copied the father's and mother's Memorial ID number (I placed it into a notepad file, in case you're wondering). Then I selected the Edit tab in the upper right hand corner of the webpage.

Updating Memorials on Find A Grave
Select the Edit Tab to recommend changes for a Memorial Page
In the past, the page sent you to an email creation form. Now, you can select various options for the kinds of updates you want to make.

Updating Memorials on Find A Grave
Select the option that fits the information you have.
I knew the parent numbers and I wanted the Dave Davisson to link Gay Gean to her parents. There was another simple form to complete and the request was quickly on its way. No need to make sure I had all the information in the correct order. No need to draft a polite letter. A simple form and the information was on it's way.

And sooner than I expected, I received notification that Gay Gean's memorial page was updated.

Updating Memorials on Find A Grave
Gay Curlis' Memorial Page After
You'll notice that the place of her birth and death were also updated. A second link on the previous image took me to the form to submit this information. Again, no need to spend time crafting a polite request. Fill out the form with the specific information and it's done.

Thank you Dave Davisson for updating the records. Thank you Find A Grave for this painless process. I know that Dave has processed numerous memorial updates for me in the past and this process is making his life a whole lot easier.

24 October 2014

I Hate To Break It To You

Recently, a number of different people have been 'excited' to see how far their lineage will take them. Some claim their records go all the way back to Adam. Others say Jesus and in Jesus, the son of Mary and Joseph. Others say Charlemagne.

I hate to break it to you, but I just don't buy it. And, does it really matter if you're related to someone famous? Don't those ordinary folks who crossed the ocean from Germany to Ontario, Canada and cried when they saw the state of their new home matter just as much as Richard the Lionheart? To me, because I know what family history truly is, Phebe Zumstein matters more to me than any king of England.

As I share in my book, 21st Century Family Historian, your lineage to these famous people is more than likely false.

Ouch! How can I say that?

Well, here's an excerpt from my book:
As migrations across Europe and to the new world occurred, many people held on to their recorded heritage. Other families lost their lineage records as they migrated. Often, individuals seeking to re-establish their heritage would hire professionals and if they were lucky, the professional would compile an accurate lineage. In the past, several of these compilations were fabricated out of whole cloth. Far too often, these heritage books would link a person to Charlemagne or other historical hero when there was no such documented evidence.

As more and more lineage works were discovered to be fraudulent, genealogical proof became important. Thus, when genealogy was taught, the need to find documents verifying facts was stressed.
George Joseph Geiszler of Columbus Ohio
I'm related to a railroad pattern maker from
Columbus, Ohio. He may not be famous, but
he means a lot to me.

I really hate to break it to folks that they're work isn't done all the way back to Adam and Eve. I hate to tell them that their trees probably include references to Norse Gods, thus it's probably also fabricated. No one wants to hear that.

When I hear such things, I gently remind folks that the pattern maker from Columbus, Ohio who appeared to have overcome alcoholism matters more to me than how far back my line can go. I also suggest that their grandparents, great-grandparents, and 2x great grandparents should matter more than the famous folks from the 15th century. Family history is about our stories.

If you are truly related to royalty, great. Make sure you record the stories of your closest royal blood relatives that no one knows so the direct descendants can know the person behind the title. If you are like the vast majority of the world, you're perfectly normal but that doesn't mean your story isn't important.

Go ahead and have fun seeing how far back your line goes. Have a laugh and brag a bit, but don't be disappointed if it turns out to be false.

22 October 2014

Heritage Scrapbooking: My Parents

Heritage scrapbook layout
My Parents: Tan & teal papers - Triple J Designs Sun Kissed;
Embellishments - Just Saskia The Birds & The Bees

In crafting a heritage scrapbook about myself, an important page to include would be a little tribute to the folks you gave me life. Throughout most of my growing up years, mom had her wedding photos readily available. The other photos were tucked away and rarely accessed, how truly sad. The additional photos are beautiful glimpses of my parents during their courtship. My father was so skinny! My mother actually tried to be fashionable. These two things changed quite a bit after I was born. If either were alive, I'd ask them more about it.  Regardless, I shared a brief story on my layout of how they met and when they married.

For the layout, I've selected three colors from my color palette so that the pages in the book coordinate with each other. The three I chose for the page, compliments the featured 1960s era photos. I love the brown paper on the outside of the layout. It has a lot of great texture and frames the remaining elements nicely. I was quite pleased with the increase in embellishments I used on this page. They still play a supporting role, yet there is enough to not be boring.

You may notice that this series of posts featuring layouts from my personal heritage scrapbook takes a different approach than previous books I've created featuring my parents and grandparents. Having completed my first heritage scrapbook that my family actually enjoys reading, I'm now prepared to work on the photo albums and stories of my own life.  This project will be chronologically organized. I'll leave the focal person approach to my children to summarize some day.

To learn what additional pages you should include in a family history scrapbook, purchase the eBook Family History Scrapbooking Simplified at This series also features tips recommended from my other eBook Power Scrapbooking

16 October 2014

Treasure Chest Thursday: Another Coin with Different Lighting

Here's another comparisson of the same coin under different lighting conditions, much like the previous Treasure Chest Thursday post. The first example is using a black backdrop, artifical light and a light box. The second using a white backdrop, natural light, and a white reflector.

Apollo Coin
f/3.5, exp 1/8, ISO 80
Pattern Metering

Apollo Coin
f/4, exp 1/2, bias +0.7, ISO 80
Center Weighted Average Metering

Which one is better for your project? That's a matter of personal preference. Having fun photographing the stuff of your families' lives.

10 October 2014

Redefine Family History Goals for Youth

Having recently been part of the 'youth' in genealogy and having a child of my own entering this group, I am often frustrated with family history challenges presented to youth.

My daughter keeps hearing messages that she should work on finding and adding names to her tree. Well, that's a fine goal in the abstract. There's one small problem. I've been doing research on my line for 20 years. I'm a curious cat and have gone in many different directions. My husband and his family have done a lot of work on their lines. Finding a name isn't especially easy for her, because it isn't especially easy for my husband or I. The push to add names to the tree is lost on her. It's not hopeless, but unless a miracle tears down many brick walls, this isn't a task that will be achievable in the time frame of these challenges. (By the way, there are four more kiddos in my family who will be encouraged to add a name to the tree in the coming years.)
Question: Do I stop my research so that my children can find names that I would find over the course of the next years? What if I stop doing my research to help them find what I would have found but we wind up not finding what I would have found because we waited too long? 

What would be a better goal for a young person? 

Perhaps it would be to investigate what has been done in their family. Every family is different. Some will have huge stacks of books for the family. Some will have a handful of photos and nothing else. Each young person should learn what has been done in the their family and get to know who actively does research in their family. 

Then set goals that would fit the needs of their family. Ah... but we can't set big, impressive goals when we focus on the individual needs of the families. You're right. You can't. But you can turn these young people to their heritage by connecting them with what has been done and the people who have done something. 

If a youth should discover a lot of research has been done, encourage them to transform the research into presentations that are more appealing than names, dates, and places on a chart or in a thick book. Let their creativity drive them. Support them with resources to make their visions come to life and give them a place to present their results. That will certainly do more for those whose trees go back to the 16th century. 

If a youth has some research done but limited stories about their ancestors, have them capture and preserve their family's stories. Stories connect the generations and there is much a young person can do to save the memories that are within their living relatives.

If a youth is 'fortunate' to be starting from scratch, teach them how to build their tree but capture and preserve the history that their living relatives know at the same time. Then they'll have stories to go with the names, dates, and places they put on their charts.

Above all, inspire youth to capture and preserve the history their family is making today. Imagine what we'll have available to use 10 years from now if the youth are preserving the family stories of today. My daughter has been recording her personal history by doing her own yearly scrapbook. She has 90% control of the outcome of her book (I edit it for grammar and spelling and format it for printing). She and my other children regularly contribute to our family's year-in-review blog book that I've mentioned before. We do offset these activities by indexing and poking around on the tree. But her main contribution is preserving the memories we make today so that we have it available in the future. 

I'm not discounting the value of finding names or indexing records. These are great goals. Too often extreme goals are set to measure the participation of youth in these activities without thought as to what is achievable in the individual families. Instead of setting arbitrary goals, lets work to turn the individual hearts of young people to their families. Perhaps then, we'll have more youth finding their own place in the work, like my own daughter.

Get a copy of my book 21st Century Family Historian. You'll find many chapters that will appeal to a variety of youth depending upon the goals they have. 

08 October 2014

Heritage Scrapbooking: 70s Cover Page

A great way to set the stage for a scrapbook, after selecting a color palette, is to create a cover page.

Cover Page:
I chose two photos that would highlight the age range this book will cover: birth to pre-school. After I selected the two photos that were cover worthy, I noticed that I had clashing photo processing. As such, I needed to find a way to compliment these images. Soften and subtle was key.

Now I'm ready to start the story of my early years. If you wanted, you could swing the tag title to be the years covered in the book rather than "The Early Years." That way the book is very specific. It's really your call.

03 October 2014

Introducing Family History

Introduction to Family History

Leslie Drewitz wrote an interesting piece entitled Introducing Genealogy to the Un-inducted. She did a great job sharing small ways she shares genealogy to those who are borderline in their involvement or young.

Her ideas a nice and I wish to expand upon them, so you have a wealth of ways to introduce family history to the "Ugh, dead people crowd."

1. Share a story:

Many people love stories, even if the stories are not about their own family members. I often share the story of my Great-Grandma Evaline Peak and her two Carls. It's a touching story of why I want to meet a dead relative and talk to her about her losses and how she overcame them. When I discuss family history regarding stories with total strangers or professed genealogy haters, they are moved. What they do next depends on what needs to be done in their family.

2. "Today's memories are tomorrow's family history."

If they are still uninterested in long dead people, then invite them to capture and preserve the memories of their parents, grandparents, and children. Many people will gladly do family history if it's about those they know and love.

After photographing this treasure, I no
longer needed to keep it.
3. Suggest it as an organization / de-clutter strategy

With so many folks borderline hoarders or just disorganized in their homes in general, why not link family history and organizing? My two best friends when keeping my house clean are not a rag and a cleaner. They are a camera and a scanner. I often share that if you're having trouble deciding whether to keep something because of it's emotional attachment, photograph it. Then set it aside for two weeks (by the front door is great if you can handle the mess). If you can remember the item because of the photo, toss the item (or donate it, whatever). If you still need the item, find a place to display it. If it's not used or displayed, it's not a treasure so keep the photo instead. After you've decided whether the item stays or goes, take the time to record the memories associated with the item. Then you've cleaned up your house and preserved your personal and family history! Win-win.

4. Death and disaster happen, be prepared

Having seen the loss that occurs because of tornadoes, hurricanes, and floods, I recognize the heartache many people feel not because they lost their possessions. The heartache is generally because they lost the things that matter most, specifically their photo collection and heritage items.

Additionally, many friends and associates have gone through the process of losing a loved one. They grieve for their relative but then are stuck with the task of cleaning out their homes. Which is harder to deal with? The second is far more daunting. Invariably, much is tossed into the trash without a second thought because there's not enough time to handle what wasn't preserved before the person died.

Follow the Boy Scout motto of being prepared. What do you need? A camera and a scanner. Photograph or digitize the family photo collection, vital documents, journals, bibles, and other stuff. Then backup these digital images away from the family home. Eventually, someone can record the pertinent facts and stories associated with all of this digitized information and then create a project to share it. Also remember the adage, "Many hands make light work." Don't do all of these steps alone. But do something to preserve what matters most before its lost forever.

These are just a few of the ways I introduce family history to others. To learn more, read the book, Reimagine Family History, available at

Order Reimagine Family History at

02 October 2014

Treasure Chest Thursday: Same Medal Different Lighting

I'm amazed at how different a coin my husband had looked under different lighting.

Photograph Epcot Center Coins
Black background in light box
f/3.5, exp 1/6, ISO 80, Pattern Metering

Photograph Epcot Center Coins

Photograph Epcot Center Coins
Natural light, no light box
f/4, exp 1/2, bias +0.7, ISO 80
Center Weighted Average Metering
Photograph Epcot Center Coins

The first version of this Epcot Center coin looked more platinum and the second won looks more silver. If you have time to play around with your artifacts, test the items out under different lights and different backgrounds to see what's more true to life. And then, if you have distracting backgrounds, you can crop that out.

01 October 2014

Did You Think to Save?

There's a song I sing at church that beings something like this...

"Ere you left your room this morning,
Did you think to pray?"

For me, I simply ask this.... "Did you think to save?"

Scan Your Photos
Did you scan your documents and photos?
Photograph Your Family Treasures
Have you photographed the stuff?

Photography Daily Life
Did you preserve the family recipes?

Photograph Work Memorabilia
Did you write about your father's employment?

Love Inscribed on Bracelet

Love Inscribed on Bracelet
Did you write about the love story of your parents, or you?

Did you record the stories told at family gatherings?

This month is Family History Month... each day ask yourself, what you have you done to preserve your family history.