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14 December 2015

One Name Place Study: Nettie Townsend in Marion Ohio

Townsends of Franklin County, Ohio
It's once again time to investigate the Townsends of Franklin County, Ohio in an effort to find relatives of William James Townsend who was born around 1842 in Franklin County, Ohio. So far I have discovered one relative and I have a genealogy super-sense that I have found a few others. Let's continue with the second to last named Townsend in the 1880 US Census.

The next individual is Miss Nettie Townsend born in 1858 and is a 22 year-old servant for the John Bobbert family.



09 December 2015

Give the Gift of Fun

Tis the season to give gifts, but what if you have someone who just doesn't need another gift under their tree? What if funds are tight and you need a creative gift idea? What if you could share your passion for research with your grandchildren in a fun way?

Well, my kiddos have fallen in love with the FamilySearch certified website Ancestor Guru. You can use this kid approved site as a fun gift for your family.


Memory is one of four games that Ancestor Guru pulls from the information you have on FamilySearch.org (you'll have to grant access for Ancestor Guru to access your FamilySearch account. If you don't have a free FamilySearch account, you really need to get one today!) The kids are learning to recognize the faces from the past and the names that go along with them. I like doing the same thing. I would like to learn the names of my husband's line, and this would be a fun way to practice.

05 December 2015

Late Night #GenealogyHappyDance

Genealogy Happy Dance

This video was inspired by a wonderful helper at Green Lawn Cemetery in Columbus, Ohio. I said if she made a certain discovery, I would video a genealogy happy dance. She found the discovery and told me to get the video camera ready! My son was a great sport in recording this video and my daughter spliced it together. We're not professional videographers but this is the reenactment of my receiving a discovery on FamilySearch and in my email box.






Have you made moments that make you want to see "Celebration" by Kool and the Gang? What's your favorite tune to hum when you strike genealogy gold? Share your genealogy happy dance with the hashtag #GenealogyHappyDance so we can see you in action!

Merry Christmas. May your family tree be filled with lots of presents, even if your real Christmas tree has few presents underneath. If you don't celebrate Christmas, may you still find great discoveries for your family tree.

01 December 2015

Find My Grandbabies

Descendancy Research


This year, the world was invited to The Global Family Reunion and celebrities posed with a New York Times writer with white paper signs that said, "I'm a Cousin." Regardless of how anyone feels about this grand fiesta, an underlying current was there.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints has a fairly new motto of "Find, Take, Teach." They want their church members to engage finding their ancestors, taking those names to the temple and then teaching others how to do the same. The "I'm A Cousin" underlying current is also in this campaign.

At a local family history event, I finally heard the current articulated correctly.

"Find the Grandbabies"

24 November 2015

I Don't Have Great Stories

https://www.americasfootprints.com/cmsAdmin/uploads/i-don-t-have-great-stories.jpg

How often have you or someone else said, 'I Don't Have Great Stories." Truth be told. You're absolutely wrong.

The story behind the photo above is this: My now husband proposed to me under Albriton Tower on Texas A&M University Campus. It was the summer of notorious triple digit heat for days on end. I was working at the Dallas / Fort Worth Airport and had a weekend off. My plans were to leave work, pick up my boyfriend in College Station and then continue driving to introduce him to my parents in Houston. The trouble is that I only had two door air conditioning for the 4+ hour trek. Meaning, the actual a/c was out in my red Chevy S-10 extended cab pickup truck. The only way to say 'cool' was to leave the windows rolled down and a put a lead foot on the pedal.

My hubby had planned out a lovely proposal and had expected me to look hot, having just come straight from work. He hadn't planned on me stopping somewhere to change my clothes in order to endure the 100+ degree heat. I did look hot, but not the right 'hot.' Yet, his plans were in motion and I would just have to look like trash when he popped the question.

Now, I could go on and on about the intimate details and minute planning that went into the proposal. The short version is I did say yes and we were married. We have celebrated many happy years together. This is one of our family's 'great' stories that is often over looked. But, when I see this photo and look at my wedding ring, I remember the great story.

You may think you don't have great stories, but you're absolutely wrong. In fact, I dare say you're trying to hard to find your great stories. Read more about how wrong you are over at Americas Footprint. Then go capture some great memories when you're around family this weekend.

18 November 2015

Writing Better "I Know" Reason Statements

Writing Reason Statements on FamilySearch
The feedback to my post "Fill in the Box! Please" has been tremendous. Many experienced genealogists fully agree about the importance of the FamilySearch "Reason to Attach Source" box. Budding family historians say, "Sure, but will you teach me how to write a good reason statement?"

Yes, I will do my best.

16 November 2015

5 Truly Essential Tools for Family History

essential tools for family history

Regularly and with exasperated sighs, someone will exclaim, "I just don't know where to begin," when it comes to family history. My quick answer is, "You begin with your heart."

That's a great initial brief response but it doesn't have enough practicality. As I have pondered the question and my quip, my mind explored other ideas. Eventually, these thoughts clustered into the 5 truly essential tools for family history.


1. Memories
Researching your family history is challenging. It can have a steep learning curve and takes time. Yet, your mind is full of memories. Memories of your life, the life of your living family members, and the lives of your family members who have passed away. Each of these memories is a little page in the book of someone's life. However, many pages in our loved ones lives are blank, not because their lives were not worth recording. They're blank because no one recorded a memory.  
Before you embark on researching your family, revisit the memories of your family. Sometimes, these memories are very painful. Sometimes they are clouded because of other bad events. However, many memories are so incredibly sweet and beautiful.  
Start with your memories because they provide so much depth and are also so perishable.

2. Audience
Audience?!? What does that have to do with anything? Well, everything actually. Knowing who we want to share our memories with, helps as we dig deep into our memory bank and pull out the treasures we've kept for so long. Knowing what your audience is able to handle and most interested in, helps you be engaging with your stories.  
For instance, if I was going to tell the story of my 8th birthday party to an adult neighbor, I would probably be as brief as possible. Neighbors would be moderately interested in the story if it served a purpose in our conversation.
If I was sharing the story with a child of mine, or a grandchild someday, I would want to tell them every detail that I can remember. What I wore. What games we played. Who came. What was the best part of the event. What were my presents. 
The amount of detail is only limited to my memory bank, but I would tell the child every little detail. Many children LOVE birthday parties and will start planning the next birthday party even before they've finished celebrating the one they're celebrating today. 
 Now, if I were sharing a memory with a son who was trying to make a difficult college decision, then I would not only include my experience but perhaps some 'hindsight' perspective about how that choice played out. Perhaps some additional insight of what I may have done differently.  
As you can see, knowing my audience determines the focus and amount of detail I want to share. It would also determine what information I would want to seek after in my research. 

3. Purpose
Why do YOU want to do family history? Are you curious? Do you feel compelled? Are you trying to find relatives because you are adopted and do not feel you have a sense of history? Are you struggling with personal challenged and you're seeking to learn what are the root causes of those challenges? Do you want to share wisdom with the rising generation or not forgot those you have loved and lost?  
What is your purpose?  
My purpose is partly a religious belief but also a journey of self-discovery. The more I learn about my ancestors, the more I learn about myself. The more I learn about the ancestors in a chain of relationships, I understand my parents and grandparents and the impact they have on my life. I have found a lot of healing, gratitude, and appreciation. I have learned so many lessons that I want to pass these along to my children. In that way, I will leave a better path than the one that was before me.  My purpose drives me to continue to discover and then share what I learn with them.  
Again, what is your purpose? 

4. Format
Finally, an 'actual' tool!?!?!  
You have your memories. You know who you want to share these memories with and your purpose for it all. You'll need a format. Perhaps you'll use a family tree or pedigree chart. Perhaps you'll use a longhand letter and ink pen. Perhaps you'll type an email or write blog posts. Perhaps you'll video record yourself or someone else. Perhaps you'll sing with loved ones the songs your grandmother used to sing.  
The format possibilities are endless. Go to a large genealogy conference and the convention floor is overwhelming with so many options your head will spin. There are a plethora of options online as well. But how are you going to know which one is right for you? That all depends upon the memories you have to share, the person (or persons) you are sharing these memories with and the overall purpose you have for your efforts. (Ah... there is a method to this madness).  
If I wanted to share my family history with a young child, I would want to create something that is visual with lots of photos and simple words. A scrapbook of me as a young child, photobook with stories, a video with photos and spoken words about a memorable event, a MP3 of night times stories chapter book, or a craft of their ancestors, and so on. All of these formats are engaging for children, but which one you choose depends upon the first three truly essential tools for family history. 

5. Dedication
Investigating and compiling our memories takes time and effort. We need to be committed to completing the goals we set for ourselves. Thankfully, our memories and who we want to share them with helps provide the fuel for our dedication fire. And as we stay dedicated to our purpose, the memories come more readily. Thus, the end result for the people we want to share with in a format that is best suited for our needs becomes a treasure. 


The 5 truly essential tools for family history are the building blocks for everything else involved in building trees, finding records, and discovering new cousins. In my book, 21st Century Family Historian, the introductory chapters focuses on reorienting our view of family history. Strong emphasis is on realizing that "family history" is about your family and their stories. Thus, the truly essential tools for family history relate to recalling and capturing those stories. In so doing, our hearts turn toward the people that have gone before.

 If every beginner used these tools, they will develop a strong passion for family history.

Am I missing a truly essential tool for family history? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.

13 November 2015

Newspapers Exposing Smith Family Mystery

If birth, marriage, and death records are the skeleton of family history, then newspapers are the flesh and muscles? I have been skeptical of newspaper research, as being something I could pursue right now given the lack of search capabilities. Additionally, I have yet to see the Columbus Dispatch and German newspapers from Columbus, Ohio in abundance online. With a vast number of ancestors in Columbus, few newspapers would be of help for me outside of Franklin County, Ohio.  I'll admit to being slightly wrong in this line of thinking.

Putting that aside, I was playing around on NewspaperArchive.com primarily because it's available free to use in a Family History Center. My family names are very common on my mother's line: Smith, Brown, Long, Young. Oh, yeah. Thank you so much!

Anyway, I decided to play around with this service and I was in for a bit of a shock. I have often heard my family speak of Newark, Ohio which is about 40 miles east of downtown Columbus. Looking in the Newark Advocate turned up this notice.

Newark Advocate, September 28, 1929, 6th column

Sale Lacks Bidders
The sheriff's sale of the Loumar hotel, formerly known as the Jackson hotel, in Scheidler street, and opposite the B. and O. depot, failed for want of bidders when Deputy Sheriff A.A. Bollinger offered it at public auction in the court house today. The appraised value is $12,000, and the first offer of $8,001, or two-thirds of the amount was not taken. The sale is the result of a suit filed by Andrew N. Smith against Lura S. Long and others. 
Andrew Smith and Lura Long are my relatives and I have featured them on this site before in scrapbook pages in my Grannie's heritage album. I've also used Lura as the example in my narrative writing tips. So, here's the line:

Me > Mom > Louise Eleanor Long > Lura Maud Smith > Andrew Nelson Smith.

So, my 2nd great-grandfather Andrew Nelson Smith filed a law suit against my great-grandmother Lura S[mith] Long over a hotel? Andrew was supposedly a barber, not a hotel owner. My great-grandmother was a homemaker, not involved in property. Her husband Harry Howard Long was a stenographer. So, how on earth did this court case come to be? Was it amicable? Was it an inheritance? And, how could a court case filed in September 1929, which could develop ill feelings, leave room for Andrew to be recorded in the 1930 US Census in the home of his daughter Lura Long and her husband Harry?

You have to love genealogy when a new discover leads to more questions than answers.

09 November 2015

One Name Place Study: F Townsend of Marion Ohio

Townsend Family Research
Previously I wrote about the success of finding a relative by using the One Name Place Study method.  Let's continue investigating the remaining Townsends in the 1880 US Census for Franklin County, Ohio. There are five left.

As you'll remember, I am in the process of investigating the Townsends of Franklin County, Ohio in an effort to find relatives of William James Townsend who was born around 1842 in Franklin County, Ohio.

The second of the final four is F Townsend born about 1835 in England, with parents originally from England. F is working as a Paper Box Maker.

08 November 2015

06 November 2015

Going Festive at Texas State Conference

In the vendor hall at the Texas State Genealogy
Conference. Found a fellow Halloween celebratee!
On a rainy Friday, I left Houston and drove three hours to Austin, Texas. No, this Aggie wasn't going apostate in Longhorn country. She was headed to the Texas State Genealogical Society 2015 Family History Conference, which was held under the safe shelter of the Crowne Plaza.

During the drive I listened to a number of my favorite podcasts: Probloggers, Genealogy Gems, and Extreme Genes. These charming voices were a sense of comfort as the rains intensified and I drove through my first flash flood. I had seen trucks manage to get through the high water and I pushed ahead in my reliable van. After that hair raising experience, two thoughts flashed through my mind. First, I was so glad I wasn't driving my husband's little white VW Cabrio. Second, I don't ever want to do that again.


05 November 2015

Will Searching for Macks Help Me Find Joseph Geiszler?

Sometimes you need to work on collateral lines in order to crack through a brick wall.  I know very little about my 3rd Great Grandpa  Joseph Gei├čler who left his Baden homeland and settled in Franklin County, Ohio.

1856 northeast corner of Prairie Township, Franklin County, Ohio. Pusecker, Mack, and Guysler properties are
located to the east of the Kinnard property just above the railroad track. BTW... Thomas O'Harra's property
is in the upper left corner of this page. Was he the man who married Joseph Geiszler and Caroline Mack?

Joseph settled onto property previously owned by Mr, Kinnard in the northeast corner of Prairie Towniship in Franklin County, Ohio. A number of German immigrants settled in this area, two of which are connected with Joseph. The Puseckers (to the west of Joseph's land) were traveling companions to Joseph's father-in-law Heinrich Mack (who has property immediately to the west of Joseph's land). Additional neighbors to investigate or the Strunkenburgs (two properties to the east of the Geiszler land and then the Tenaper (Tinnapel) family one more to the east along the railroad track.

01 November 2015

Find Me a Name

Finding a Temple Name
One fine day, you are happily working at a quaint family history library. Word has spread that you willingly help others when they timidly begin their search for ancestors. A middle-aged man confidently approaches you and catches your eye. Today, your presence in the library is to serve so you ask, "How may I help?"

Without hesitation, the man blurts out, "Find me a name."

Like a balloon, the air of your enthusiasm is seeping out as you attempt to remain polite. Inside you're screaming, "Is that all you want out of family history?" and "Do you think I'm a genie in a bottle?"

Yeah. Okay. Let's fine you a name.

28 October 2015

Fill in the box! Please.

FamilySearch Reason Statements


FamilySearch's Family Tree is changing the way we do online family history, if we will play our part. Unlike other genealogy websites, if you find a birth, marriage, death, census, or military record on FamilySearch, you are presented with a box that says, "Reason to Attach Source."

Will you fill in the box!?! Please?

That box should not be skipped for sake of speed! Trust me. I know how time consuming it is to write a reason why you think the record on the left matches the person(s) on the right. It slows down the fun. It's a drag. You just want to get to the action of finding more records. I get it. I get it! However, a few moments of time can save hours of headaches later, for yourself and others.

Will you please fill in the box?

26 October 2015

Get Their Feet Wet With Writing Memories

Writing Family History
Photo by Nadia Priestley in the Creative Commons

What a blessing I have had to teach a beginning family historian in a 5-week series run throughout this year. When individuals are guided well in the beginning, genealogy does not have to be a huge, insurmountable task.

During this class series, I initially focus on the 'why' of family history. In a church setting, I will stress scriptures that support the need, blessings and promises of doing genealogy. In a conference, library, or society setting, then I stress the health and relationship benefits of preserving family memories and legacy. In a 45 minute class, half of my time will be spent on "Why."

Then it's time for them to dip their toes in the water. They are asked to think of one ancestor and write down their memories of that person. For 5 minutes quite minutes, participants reminisce and write down whatever comes to mind.

When the time beeps, class members are invited share their thoughts. Volunteers share sweet, simple stories or profound personal experiences. Stories range from a grandpa sharing grapes with a man when he was a young  to a poor mother working in Louisiana doing everything she could to lift her family out of poverty through education and good cooking. A funny story was about a grandfather who had his grandchildren every Saturday over to help do chores on the farm. When the work was done, the kindhearted but honest man would say, "Thank you so much for helping me today. The work would have gone faster without you." As the children were young, they believed the cheerfully delivered sentiment was a compliment. As they grew up, they would stop their grandpa as quizzically say, "Hey!" For the jolly grandpa, the speed of the work was not as important as the memory making experiences!

You see, family history isn't so hard. It's about recording memories. Each memory tells us something about our ancestors, and ourselves.

In the second class, participants are prepared to write for another 5 minutes and share once again. Now they have recorded 2 stories. Two more stories than they had recorded before. Two stories in their handwriting that can be passed down as a keepsake. Some participants accepted the home work assignment to write more stories between the first and second class. Others are thankful that they are kindly nudged into action during the class. Soon, they realize memory writing is so easy and fun to do! They won't need my promptings.

I love changing the myth that family history is hard and only the truly passionate should do it. When I start with the why of family history and stories, slowly but surely people's hearts change. And that's the best thing a beginner family historian can learn as they get their feet wet.

23 October 2015

Now I Know Who Is Dorothy Banta

Smith Family Plot, Section 46 Lot 79 in Green Lawn Cemetery Photo by Devon Lee

A few years ago, I asked the question, "Who is Dorothy Banta?" This large monument appeared to be a family but I wasn't sure. Previously I stated this:
I've been able to identify Helen G Smith as the daughter of Perry W and Minnie E Smith. So Perry and Minnie are the parents on this stone and are flanked by their daughter Helen. I haven't confirmed whether Harold is the son of Perry and Minnie Smith. But it seems likely given the ages.
The Smiths and Bantas are a part of a service project I did while on a research trip for my family members. As such, the urgency to flesh out the mystery was not a top priority. Recently, I have dabbled with this photography project again and I wanted to see if I could make headway on 'who is Dorothy Banta?'.

19 October 2015

Keep the Fire Burning

You may have attended a Family History Discovery Day. You may have visited the Family History Discovery Center in Salt Lake City. You may have gone to your first family history conference or genealogical society meeting. You may have heard a presentation at a social club or watched Who Do You Think You Are? or Genealogy Roadshow.  Or you have heard a commercial for Ancestry.com or 23andMe genetic genealogy testing program.

Your heart stirred and you want to know more about your ancestors and your heritage. A small spark ignited. And that's a wonderful thing.

Soon, your normal life will resume (if it hasn't already). Soon, you will be thinking about a presentation or deadline at work, a social function at church, a child's school and extracurricular activity schedule. Soon you'll be thinking about how you're going to get through a family crisis or continue caring for a disabled relative (be they young or old). Soon, the things you learned at the family history or genealogical event is behind you and quite possibly forgotten. 

But it doesn't have to be this way!

17 October 2015

Using RootsTech Site Tools to Create a Possible Schedule

Register for RootsTech 2016 !
My talented husband was selected to teach at the February 2016 RootsTech Conference in Salt Lake City, Utah. His presentation will be RT2028 - Audacity and the Power of Audio Editing.

Knowing that he's teaching on Friday, we made plans based on his real job's schedule and the needs of our children and child care providers. Thankfully, the RootsTech Schedule of classes is available to help us plan tickets and book our hotel. There are a few official hotels affiliated with the conference. We chose to stay a few blocks away and walk to the conference to have more amenities that fit our needs and budget. Hotels.com was a great resource to compare the options and make the best selection for us.

The RootsTech Schedule pages have a great tool for pre-selecting the classes that I'm most interested in attending. Additionally, I could mark alternative classes as well. The only challenge I have is remembering where the tool is located and how to drill down to my options and selections. I thought others might find themselves in the same boat, so here's what you need to know. (And if the site changes, let me know!)

14 October 2015

Who is Grandpa and His Brother?

After creating four heritage scrapbooks, I have learned so much and I wish to these share tips with you. In so doing, perhaps you will avoid the mistakes that frequent digital scrapbook gallery in heritage themed layouts or that I did personally.

family history scrapbooking
Life long friends: Word Art World's Ocean Views Kit
The first mistake mistakes plaques not only scrapbooks, but photo albums of various sorts. That mistake is to not use identify who is in the photo. More specifically, to use full names rather than titles such as father, brother, aunt, grandmother, and so on.


13 October 2015

Get Your PhD Before You Mrs

Read my guest post at Americas Footprints
Capturing the true character of a person can be difficult with simple descriptive words. Describing  their physical features and mentioning where they are from, may paint a visual picture of a person but the individual remains one dimensional.  If I reference phrases they often repeatedly, the person has more depth.


12 October 2015

One Name Place Study: Perry Townsend of Groveport

Previously I wrote about the success of finding a relative by using the One Name Place Study method.  Let's continue investigating the remaining Townsends in the 1880 US Census for Franklin County, Ohio. There are four left.

As you'll remember, I am in the process of investigating the Townsends of Franklin County, Ohio in an effort to find relatives of William James Townsend who was born around 1842 in Franklin County, Ohio.

The first of the final four is Perry Townsend born about 1855 in Ohio, with parents originally from Ohio.  Perry is working as a farm laborer.

06 October 2015

Tech Tuesday: Search Gateway on FamilySearch

For several months, FamilySearch has teased me with search possibilities on the the page where I view all the details of a particular ancestor. I watched as the link to search records, on the FamilySearch Records pages, evolve from a simple "search records" link to one that said "FamilySearch". The links functionality had not changed, but the terminology had. My super-sense told me that something would be coming soon that might provide the opportunity to search more than just FamilySearch.org. Recently, my hypothesis was proven correct, though little fanfare celebrated the change. I just logged in one day and noticed a difference.

When you look at the details for a particular ancestor and you look at the right hand side of the web page, you'll see a number of options grouped in boxes. The first boxed section will populate if FamilySearch has some hints to offer you. Do not be discouraged if you do not have receive hints. That doesn't mean there are no records available. It just means you might have to do some digging. And, a little hard work rarely hurts anyone.

This box also will have some other suggestions of potential problems and may suggest a person has a spouse or other children based on pattern assumptions. I won't get into those boxes, just know they could be there. If you haven't noticed this change, then you really need to log in to your account today! There could be some hints, or problems, waiting for you.

05 October 2015

Making Plans for Texas State Genealogy Conference

My darling hubby and kiddos are making room in our schedule for me to attend the Texas State Genealogy Conference scheduled for Oct 31-Nov 1 in Austin, Texas. The event will be held at the Crowne Plaza Austin and is targeted towards genealogists and family historians of all skill sets.

Texas State Genealogy Society Conference

After reviewing the class schedule, I will be attending Friday and Saturday and then attempting a hasty drive back home to help our family celebrate Halloween as a superhero troop. (Can you guess who I'm going to dress up as? Do you think she should appear at the conference?) 

01 October 2015

Double Header Photography Classes in Kingwood Texas

If you live in the Greater Houston Area and are interested in a few classes, I will be teaching at the Kingwood Library on 15 October 2015 on the topics of photography for family history. You do not have to be a dSLR toting expert to attend this class. If you are, you're welcome as well!


The first presentation is based on my Memorabilia series of posts on this blog. The second class stems from the lessons I learned while taking 500+ pictures at Ohio Cemeteries. I hope you'll come!

30 September 2015

Mailbag: Get Caught Up With a Photobook Site?

Get Caught Up With Scrapbooking Using Photobook Site



One of my Power Scrapbooking - Get Caught Up, No Matter Your Scrapbooking Style readers knows how much I love creating my own pages using digital scrapbooking supplies and the program Photoshop Elements. However, she has a room full of photo boxes, a change in her family dynamics, and wants to get caught up.
So since we last talked about digital scrapbooking I have found out about several websites that make it pretty easy. They have templates where you can drop photos into it to make it go fast. So I am wondering what your latest preferences would be if you were starting where I am and wanted to accomplish years worth of scrapbooks in a short period of time? I just want it done!

28 September 2015

5 Great Tips About Facing Brick Walls

5 Great Tips for Facing Brick Walls


I have a number of Brick Wall ancestors. Patiently I try to crack, write on, go around, or bust through the walls. I'd love to share some amazing success stories but alas, there is nothing to report just yet. However, I hope you'll remember these great tips from my friend at Genealogy Tip of the Day.

25 September 2015

5 Layouts That Downplay Poorly Cut Original Photos

In my post, "Need Help Fixing Poorly Cut Photos" I openly discussed my abuse of photos with a common cutting tool known scissors! (Eeekk!!!)

Scrapbooking Don'ts
Oh my poor photo!

Through my heritage scrapbooking post series, I have shared my experimental methods to downplay the poorly cut photos. Here's a sampling of strategies:

24 September 2015

5 Ways I Find Time For Family History

Family History and Home Schooling
How do I find time for family history while homeschooling these kiddos?
If I've heard it once, I've heard it a thousand times. How do you do it? How do you homeschool? Well, the answer is a topic for another day and possibly another forum. This initial puzzled analytical investigation of my daily life is regularly followed up with a second. How do you find time to do family history and scrapbooking while being so busy?


21 September 2015

Families Matter No Matter You Bubble

A Patient Genealogist
Devon Noel Lee
attempting a selfie at a
homeschooling conference
This summer I had attended a home schooling conference. Despite the focus of the conference, I walked away inspired not only as a home schooling mother but as a family historian as well. How is that possible?

At the home school conference, there were a variety of speakers. Some were definitely worth my time. They shared tips, strategies, and general inspiration on this unconventional education option. The entire presentation was focused and well delivered.

Some speakers were a flat out waste of my time, as it relates to home schooling. Having studied the conference brochure and class description thoroughly, I attempted to pick topics that I really needed to hear. I didn't necessarily want to only attend classes taught by the best teachers. Unfortunately, while in the class I soon realized the presenter was not only less than stellar but the material they covered did not match the class description.

Hmmm.... does this sound like any genealogy conference that you have ever attended? Great speakers delivering what you needed or expected to learn, but others drawing you into their class but failing to deliver?

14 September 2015

One Name Place Study: Elisabeth Townsend in Columbus

Townsends of Franklin County OhioAccording to the Guild of One-Name Studies, "People often start one-name studies when they get stuck on part of their own ancestry, and believe that if they were to collect all references they find to the surname then this will lead to a break-through."

I am in the process of investigating the Townsends of Franklin County, Ohio in an effort to find relatives of William James Townsend who was born around 1842 in Franklin County, Ohio. So far, most Townsends do not seem to be close relations, but I haven't given up yet.

The next individual listed 1880 US Census is Elisabeth  Townsend. Elisabeth indicates in this census that she was born about 1867 in Ohio, with parents also originally from Ohio. At age 13, she's listed as a servant in the home of Wm and Ruth Wildermuth (though the handwriting looks like Wildersmith).

11 September 2015

Mailbag: Reader Does Start Her Narrative Project


How to Write Family Histories


Previously, I shared tips on how to turn your names, dates, and places into a story. Then I followed up the tips with the question "Did You Start?" my Facebook fan Sandra Smith answered that question with a yes! 

10 September 2015

That 70's Scrapbook

70s Theme Scrapbook Layouts


That 70's Show attempted to portray the lives of teenagers to a semi-modern audience. My early years occurred during the time period noted for butterfly colors, bell bottoms pants, bright and loud patterns, and disco but without the Ashton Kutcher. The photos from that era do not reflect the trends. Many photos have a reddish-orange or green cast to them which makes coordinating scrapbook color schemes a CHAL-LENGE!

Since the 70s, people have done a poor job of caring for their original photos. In fact, many of us chopped up our photos to make collages to decorate art projects, our bedrooms, and in scrapbooks. These photos can not be restored as most of the negatives that produced the original photos are also lost to time. Additionally, many photos were not well cared for, making restorative work very difficult and cost prohibitive. So what can you do?


09 September 2015

How do I attach the sources I found to the Family Search Tree?

Once you find a cool record that relates to your relative, you will loose track of it in a heart beat if you do not save the discovery somewhere. Gone are the days of making photo copies of records and stuffing them in a binder (or at least, they should be). Instead, link your discoveries on Family Search to the tree! It's fast, easy, cheaper, and saves a lot of oxygen producing trees!!!


08 September 2015

The Work Goes Faster With Two

Capturing Family Memories
Read my guest post at America's Footprints


Capture. Preserve. Two words that for many are easier said than done. However, those words are more valuable to many than a mountain of money. How can you capture and preserve your personal and family history?

07 September 2015

Now Appearing At America's Footprints!

America's Footprints


My goal of inspiring others to capture and preserve their family history is expanding. America's Footprints.com extended an invitation for me to be a guest blogger focusing on capturing your life story!

"We first discovered Devon Lee through the Google+ Family History Writers community," says Joe Fiduccia, owner and founder of America's Footprints. "When we decided to review her blog one day, her bio was actually the first thing that caught our attention.  In her bio, Devon commented about her ancestors and how her children won’t know much about them.  She went on to say she will now do whatever she can to preserve the history she uncovers (and creates)…for the sake of keeping her family’s story alive."


05 September 2015

Have you Analyzed the Time vs Benefit of the New Genea-Tech

Family History Editorial
My husband and I were talking about a recent webinar which discussed a variety of technology choices someone uses to get their genealogy job done. The presenter shared a number of new genealogy tech tools that may be great for them. While listening to all the 'options', I kept thinking how many recommendations over complicate simple tasks. For instance, I don't need to use a subscription note service to accomplish the tasks that RootsMagic and Microsoft Office can achieve. At the conclusion of the webinar, I felt more overwhelmed than empowered.

Soon I realized the roots of these feels stems from the need to analyze the new genea-tech (or any tech for that matter) in view of time vs benefit. Just how much time will I spend learning the new 'tech'? Will the time spent benefit me more than my current methods enough to offset the learning curve and eventual usage time? If a benefit does not justify the time spent, it's not worth incorporating into my workflow. Here are two recent situations that I have faced with new technology.

02 September 2015

One Name Place Study: Ella Townsend of Columbus

Townsends of Franklin County OhioIt's once again time to investigate the Townsends of Franklin County, Ohio in an effort to find relatives of William James Townsend who was born around 1842 in Franklin County, Ohio.

The next individual listed 1880 US Census is Ella Townsend. Ella indicates in this census that she was born about 1855 in Connecticut. The twenty-five year old is working as an overseer at a box factory. Ella is living with her married sister, Minnie Center, in Columbus Ohio. Minnie's husband Orestes Center is a bookkeeper and they have two young children (aged 4 and 1) in the home, with a 19 year-old servant.


01 September 2015

Is My Relative in Family Search Family Tree?

FamilySearch Family Tree Basics


The FamilySearch Family Tree is a 'One Tree' Concept and has created it's collective database of names from a number of sources. It is entirely possible that your relative is already hanging out on the tree waiting for you to find them and add sources and memories to their profile. So, before you start adding someone to the tree, it's critical that you determine whether or not a profile exists for them.  

28 August 2015

3 Critical Tips about Preserving Your Family History

Preserve the stories behind the photos!
If you are not working to preserve what you have access to, it will be gone and you will kick yourself for the loss. Here are a few tips from my blogging pal at Genealogy Tip of the Day along with some of my remarks about the tip.

Save the Photo and the Facts Behind the Photos
For pictures, make certain to include identification if you have it, who made the digital image, where they got it, and who made identification.
Photos without identification are worthless to the vast majority of people. They will end up in the trash bin or in some random box at an estate sale for a crazy person to gather. Some of those crazy people have good hearts and want to reunite photos with families. However, their task is extremely difficult when there is very little information to go off of. 

Don't make your family choose between saving photos or tossing them because you didn't record what you knew (or asked someone)!


26 August 2015

Fab Finds: Proud 2B Canadian Kit

When you think of the color scheme red and white, what do you think of? 

Proud 2B Canadian Scrapbook kit
Proud 2B Canadian Scrapbook kit by Melissa Bennett

Now that I have visited Canada, the Maple Leaf flag comes immediately to mind when I think of red and white.

This kit was ABSOLUTELY PERFECT for my Canada vacation scrapbook. Here's the front cover for the overall album:

25 August 2015

How do I research someone I know little about?

How do I do genealogical research about someone I know little about


After working with a variety of beginners, I have encountered several questions. The most common question begins this way...

"I want to learn more about my great-grandmother, but I don't know much about her. How do I begin?"

Today I will walk you through the beginning steps I take to discover someone's family history. Then I will follow up with a few other posts, so stay tuned!

21 August 2015

Are your related to the Gusslers?

I received a lovely email from Marcia Barnes as she stumbled upon my website and my Geiszler family lines. It reads:
"Gussler is my ancestry. We might be related. I have hit a brick wall, my  great  great great grandfather reason was  raised by a family in Larue County KY. I think I have found his father but not for sure....  Name changed from Gussler to Gusler due to become angry due to fighting in Civil war. Father upset with son and side he fought on. Does any of this sound like a story you have heard  in your research.Are you related to any of the Gusslers who brothers came to US in 1700. "

'Are we related?' is a great question to which I do not believe I have the full answer.

19 August 2015

Heritage Scrapbooking: Collage With A Purpose




Remember back in the hey day of modern paper scrapbooking when the "Creative Memories" philosophy was king?
Cut your photos into pleasing shapes and add stickers and die-cut shapes to a layout and you'll have your memories preserved forever. 
Although the company was big on preservation, they forgot one little detail. When you start chopping your original photos up, you're stuck with those shapes FOR-EVER! I can't turn back time and fix the shapes of my photos, but I can redo a scrapbook page to make the mistakes less of a problem.

11 August 2015

Tech Tuesday: How Not to Write a Collaboration Email

Writing Collaborative Family History Email
Collaboration is the name of the game in 21st Century Family History and I love when someone contacts me asking about research that I have shared on Ancestry.com, FamilySearch, or FindAGrave. However, there's one little thing that folks can do to make their emails a little easier to respond to.

ADD A LINK OR ID

I know that seems too simplistic. However, I have received a number of emails asking about research pertaining to individuals and there is no link to the individual to help me refresh my memory. Here's one example,

I noticed that you had information about Jerry Lester stating that he was married to Sarah Quiggly and they had five children. You have him connected to James Lester as his father. Well, the Jerry Lester son of James from Massachusetts died before wedding and having children. I'm happy to find new information contrary to my research. Please let me know what supporting information you have for Jerry, husband of Sarah to Jerry son of James. 

While this email is extremely polite, what is it lacking?

Dates and places would certainly be nice. The email does mention Massachusetts but that isn't helping much (especially with common names). What is lacking is a link to who they are referring to. Let me say this another way.

A link is essential. 

In order to answer this email, I need some way to know which site was used to find the tree links. It really does make a difference which resourced was used.

First, my accounts on various websites are not always in sync. Perhaps I have new information that needs to be transferred to the other site. So tell me which site was used.

Second, I do a lot of volunteer work on various sites to 'pay it forward.' Sharing a link to Sarah Quiggly will quickly help me recognize if the person you are asking about is a volunteer project or a common ancestor.

Finally, I am a busy mother of five children. When I have free time, I spend it doing genealogy. If you want me to answer your email quickly, then make it easy for me to access the person you are asking about.

These are three of my reasons why sharing a link about an ancestor you want to collaborate on is essential. Other genealogists have different reasons why a link, or a person ID number, would be invaluable to quickly respond to your email.

Whenever I receive such emails, I attempt to politely ask, "Who are you talking about?" and request the website or link so we can start on the same page. Often, the person sending the first email is so gracious to respond, "Oh, yeah. That would be helpful. Sorry and here you go!" Others seem put off by my request and do not respond again.

Collaborative genealogy is nothing knew, it's just in a new format. For online trees and queries, let's all commit to better partnerships by sharing identifying information so the process flows just a little bit easier!

10 August 2015

One Name Place Study: Henry Townsend of Columbus

Townsends of Franklin County Ohio
It's once again time to investigate the Townsends of Franklin County, Ohio in an effort to find relatives of William James Townsend who was born around 1842 in Franklin County, Ohio.

The next individual listed 1880 US Census is Henry H Townsend. Henry indicates in this census that he was born around 1845 in Pennsylvania. His parents are listed as being from England. His occupation is a marble dealer.

Other household members include Anna M Townsend born around 1849 in England. She's 31 and again, her parents are from England. According to this document, they have a son named Grant Townsend who is 10 and a daughter Lulu C Townsend who is 7. Both children were born in Ohio.

At first glance, the birth place of Pennsylvania three years after William's birth in Ohio is making a close family relationship doubtful. Further, Henry states that his parents are from England and William has reported that his parents are from Maryland. Townsend is a common name so these little clues can help me quickly filter out likely connections. The important point to note is that some census information is incorrect, so I decided to investigate the family outside of this record set.

I discovered a will for Henry when I was searching through probate records for anyone with the Townsend name in Franklin County, Ohio. I discovered his will was dated 22 September 1886. I found a death date for F H Townsend on 22 September 1886 and discovered this was the same person, though his occupation was now an upholsterer. Using FindAGrave, I discovered that he's connected with his mother and siblings, though no father is connected. His mother is Harriet Burgess Townsend born in England. So, the census record does match these new findings and a likely relationship between Henry and William Townsend is doubtful.

Ulysses Grant Townsend
Thanks for traveling Ulysses! 


While investigating Henry's family, I discovered this photograph of his son Grant Townsend and learned more information about him.

Grant is actually Ulysses Grant Townsend who was born 25 March 1870 in Zanesville, Ohio. He took a trip to France in 1918, thanks to a passport I have this photograph. He's a smart looking man. I'm not certain what else happened to him.

Lulu C Townsend was born on 6 July 1873 in Zanesville, Ohio. She married Cory Ulen of Bainbridge, Ohio on 24 Jun 1903 in Franklin County, Ohio. She died eight years later in Columbus.

I had fun looking into this family but was so disappointed to not find a close connection to my Townsend family.


Previous Posts:
What I Know about William James Townsend


Additional Reading:

06 August 2015

5 Stories I Uncovered While Writing About My Ancestors

I have shared several tips and strategies for starting the process of writing a family narrative, an essay about the folks on your family tree. In writing these life sketches, I have uncovered several stories that I didn't know before I started the process. No one is alive to tell me these stories, just records we encounter during our early years of research (vital records, census documents, and city directories).

Here is a sampling of stories I uncovered during this process:

1. Great Grandpa's Family Shrinks between 1900-1901

My Great Grandfather Sherman Lewis Brown (father of Lewis Brown who I created a scrapbook for) lost several relatives in a an 16-month span. His father died 14 January 1900, his married sister Eliza Jane (Brown) Ranck died 27 October 1900. His mother Martha (Gordon) Brown died 9 April 1901.

At the time of his father's death, Sherman was 32 and married to Emma Virginia Townsend. They had one son Eugene Curtis Brown. The couple then had a daughter named Edna Irene Brown (their only daughter) born 14 December 1900. Sadly, little Edna died three days before her Grandma Brown on 6 April 1901.

How difficult it must have been Sherman to loose his parents, a sibling, and a daughter in such a short time period! Sherman and Emma's sons Eugene and Samuel (born in 1902) would only have one living grandparent: Mary (Clabaugh) Townsend.

Edna Irean Brown death
Brown Family Bible: Edna Irean's death

2. William and Mary Townsend may have an illegitimate child


Here's a paragraph of discovery about William Townsend who I have written about previously.
A 22 year-old nearly blind man with no parents to return home to [from the Civil War] would certainly consider himself fortunate to find a woman willing to marry him. Three months after his discharge, Mary Claybaugh, aged 18, did consent to marry William on 10 November 1864. They were married in a civil ceremony by a probate judge. In evaluating the birth date of their first child, Nancy Elizabeth Townsend, Mary would have been pregnant at the time of their ceremony.  It's possible that William and Mary knew each other prior to his leaving with Company K and that Mary learned she was pregnant while he was away. Upon his return, they would have made quick plans to marry and find a home before their daughter was born on 15 January 1865 in Hamilton, Franklin, Ohio.

Mind you, I don't want to defame my great grandparents, but it's not uncommon for such things to have occurred. Add this to a question I have for Great Grandpa when we meet on the other side of this life.

William James Townsend Gravestone
William James Townsend Gravestone

3. Andrew Nelson's Smith mother died and he soon had a step-mother.

Here's another story that did not become clear from the pedigree charts until I started writing events in story form:

Andrew Nelson Smith was born on 4 October 1855 in Central College, Ohio to Leon Philip Smith and Catherine Dague. The county for this town is uncertain and described in the footnotes.i Andrew's father was 21 and his mother was 23 at the time of his birth. They had previously lost a daughter two years before. Andrew's birth would have been a great joy to his parents. Three years later, his brother Charles Allen Smith was born in August 1858 in Blendon, Franklin County, Ohio. Six months later, Andrew's mother Catherine would die at the age of 27. This must have been a strange turn of events for three year-old Andrew to see his mother buried. He may not have understand what was happening but he would understand that someone who cared for him was no longer around. Then, four months later, Andrew's 25 year-old father would marry 24 year-old Mary E Smith in June 1859 in Amlin, Franklin County. Mary (Smith) Smith would assume the care of her three year-old and 10 month old step-sons. 

I do wonder what Andrew might have remembered about his own mother. Many people do not remember a mother who died when they were so young. However, his step-mother Mary (whose maiden name was also Smith) may have been the only woman Andrew really ever knew in that role, most certainly for his brother Charles.

Smith family plo
Smith family plot. No stone for Andrew's father, but a large one (right, cut off)
for his step-mother. Andrew and other half-siblings buried on this plot.

4. The Fickles and Browns might be further related

This excerpt is from the essay about Jane Fickle. It might be difficult to grasp the full context, but suffice it to say, that Samuel Brown (father of Sherman mentioned in #1) may be related to his Grandma Jane Fickle's family in another context.

At the age of 42, Jane (Fickle) Gordon should have witnessed the marriage of her second eldest daughter Martha Gordon to Samuel Brown in October 1846 in Hocking County, Ohio. Martha was 19 years of age and Samuel 25. A research mystery involves whether her daughter's husband Samuel and her her sister Mary Ann Fickle's husband William Brown are related. Records should that both Samuel and William Brown from Baltimore, Maryland. William was born in 1815 and Samuel in 1821. They both married related women (aunt/niece, but 'cousins' by age- Martha 19 and Mary Ann 22) from the same county. The relationship of the Brown men is currently unresolved, though plausible. 

So, if you can decipher the paragraph, which is understood better in the overall context of Jane Fickle's essay, you can see where I'm thinking I found a brother for my Samuel Brown (who is a brick wall for me!)

Jane Fickle Gordon's gravestone
Jane Fickle Gordon's gravestone in Worthington, Ohio Cemetery

5. Thomas Clabaugh has some explaining to do

I don't want to think poorly of the folks on my family tree, but a few things do not make much sense when I look at my 3rd Great Grandfather Thomas Clabaugh of Fairfield, Ohio. I hope you can follow this excerpt

Thomas Clabaugh's wife Polly (Nash) Clabaugh seemed to die in the 1840s but the death date is in dispute.d The gravestone in Dovel Memorial Cemetery in Pickerington, Ohio is badly faded. One attempt at reading the stone places Polly's death at 5 April 1848. This date is plausible but conflicts with the marriage of Thomas to his second wife Abigail Bonnell on 13 February 1848. With Polly's last known child's birth in September 1846 and the difficulty reading the faded stone, it's quite likely Polly died in April 1847 when her youngest daughter was 7 months old.   
I can not determine where Thomas and his new wife Abigal are living in 1850. What I can determine is that their household would be greatly reduced.  His 19 year-old daughter Fidelia married John Hamilton on 29 January 1850 in Franklin County, Ohio. In May, his daughter Julia, 18, married John Cartzdafner in Columbus, Ohio. It seems that his children Thomas, 13, and Martha, 10, are living in the Duval family home. According to family stories, the Duvals raised Thomas and Martha after Polly's death. Meanwhile, Thomas's oldest son Wesley, 20, was living in the Feasel home (the family of his future third wife). 
Those who could still be in Thomas' home are himself, wife Abigail, and children Harrison, Nicholas, Burgess, and Mary. To date, these Clabaughs have not been in the 1850 Census, which leads to more questions. 
In the family history, I wanted to give Thomas the benefit of the doubt an conjecture that the death date was 1847. This would prevent a shameful situation if he marries Abigail and his first wife dies two months after their wedding. However, if he did indeed marry Abigail before his first wife died, that could help explain why his children Thomas and Martha are with the Duval family rather than with Thomas and Abigail.  In 1850, Thomas' children Harrison would be 15, Nicholas 10, Burgess 8, and Mary 4. Where could they be? Are they also living with other families while he and Abigail go somewhere else? Or, is there a poor transcription that I have yet to uncover that keeps things more innocent? 

Give Narrative Writing a Try

It's Easier Than You Think

All of these stories and questions have developed since I took the time to write the stories about my mother's line, more specifically the line for her maiden name. Her maternal line has a lot of great documentation in the form of written histories and such that I'm finally compiling with discoveries similar to these listed above. I've also uncovered similar stories on my father's lines. 

What stories have you discovered as you've attempted to write a narrative for your family? 


05 August 2015

Heritage Scrapbooking: Use Busy Patterns to Hide Flaws

Once again, I'm sharing another page from my 70s era personal history scrapbook and it involves photos that were cut before I took the time to digitize them. At the end of this post, I'll link to some of the other page layouts that involve ways to downplay the damage I've done.

Use Busy Pattern to Hide Flaws in Scrapbooking
Party Girl

On this scrapbook page, I wanted to hide the edges of my photos on a busy pattern paper. However, I didn't want the paper to be overwhelming. It was a birthday party and the key colors I wanted to use were yellow and orange. Once again, I'm not a fan of orange but this layout needed it.

This birthday party was held at McDonald's back when the hamburger chain would host pre-arranged birthday parties. You and your guests would have a sectioned off part of the restaurant. A staff member would coordinate a Ronald McDonald cake, party games, and Ronald McDonald's party hats. We opened presents there and played on the small scale play ground out front involving rocking french fry thieves and hamburger heads. Back then, this set up was perfect for my working parents as we lived in a small apartment.

To balance busy floral paper, I clipped this to a circular shape. After adding a few more orange accents, the focus of this layout is more on the photos and story rather than the poorly cut photos. I'd love to see what you do to downplay some of your early scrapbooking mistakes. Share a link to your page in the comments section.

As promised, here is a list of pages where I overcame the short comings of my crop happy days:


There are many different ways to make a scrapbook page that hide flaws. What are your favorite ways to disguise your cutting errors?

For more tips on what goes into a Family History Scrapbook, order my eBook Creating A Family History Scrapbook Digitally in Twelve Simple Steps.