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30 March 2015

Houston Family History Conference on April 25, Register Now

Family History Conference in Houston, Texas April 25, 2015
Family History Conference in Houston, Texas April 25, 2015

Howdy y'all. In case you didn't know, I now live in Texas. As such, I now am available to teach family history and scrapbooking classes in the area. My first opportunity to teach will be April 25, 2015 in the northeast corner of Houston, Texas at the Family History: Connecting Generations conference sponsored by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.

Registration is open to folks in the area until April 18th. Class sizes may be limited, so be sure to register early. There is no lunch provided, so be sure to bring something with you! Additionally, this conference is not just for adults. Teenagers are welcome and there are three classes specifically for them (meaning, adults can't register for them!!!). However, teens may nave interest in other class offerings and they are absolutely encouraged to take the class that best fits their needs and interests.

This conference has a wide variety of course offerings in three hours, so something should catch your interest. If you want to take one of my classes, they are:
  • Digitizing Grandma's Stuff: With an emphasis on scanning and photography (you've seen many such tips in my Treasure Chest Thursday series)
  • Writing Stories When No One Is Here to Tell Them: A demonstration on how to change the names, dates, and places on our charts into stories using the sources you have previously accessed. (My Narrative Project Series on this blog, in 45 minutes)

If you or anyone you know is in the local Houston area and wants to come, I'd love to see you there. Be sure to tell me you're a fan of A Patient Genealogist.

27 March 2015

Photo Friday: High School Rings Have Two Sides

Yesterday, I shared the importance of photographing all sides of a treasure, especially a ring rich in history and symbolism. Today, these photos are a follow-up to that reasoning.

Columbus South High School 1996 Senior Ring
Columbus South High School 1996 Senior Ring
Unlike my Aggie ring, I do not know the significance of the symbols for my mother's high school ring. I do know the "S" on the shield represents South High School from Columbus, Ohio. I know there is a 66 for the year that my mother graduated. The remaining symbols have no meaning for me.

However, the ring is a treasure for both my my mother and me. My mother gave me her Senior Ring when I was old enough to wear it with it not falling off. I wore this ring throughout high school and would eventually design my high school ring to resemble hers. The ring connects me to my mother and I to her.

Columbus South High School 1996 Senior Ring
Columbus South High School 1996 Senior Ring
To photograph this ring, I place it in a light box. I have purchased a Table Top Studio (not an affiliate link, I just like the product. I enjoy being able to collapse the studio and put it away, rather than store a cardboard box and attempt to be delicate with tissue paper. Many people would say, just make one every time, it's cheaper. Maybe in terms of dollars, but for me, I don't want to spend my time (which has a cost) making a light box every time.

The Table Top Studio comes with two lights and I'm aware they become very hot, very quickly. I will turn them on and off frequently to prevent a possible fire from overheating.

I used the Aperture Priority (AV) setting on my camera and focused on making adjustments to produce a nice white background and a focused image. The settings were: f / 7.1, ISO 100, Exp Bias +1.7 with Pattern Metering and no flash. Perhaps I can fine tune the settings on the camera to make a jewelry magazine quality image, but I like what I have. The focus is on the ring and the ring brings back memories.

What I also noticed was there is a chip of some kind on one side of my mother's ring. Unfortunately, she's not here for me to talk about what happened to damage the ring. However, I love that the chip is there. It means the ring was worn. It was worn by mom and it was worn by me.

Had I not photographed both sides of the ring, I might not have noticed the chip.

26 March 2015

Treasure Chest Thursday: All Sides of My Aggie Ring

In the past four posts, I have shared some of the lessons I have learned with my new dSLR camera. Today, I wish to review something I posted three years ago, the concept of playing and photographing an object from different angles.

Aggie Ring
Honoring the men and women who serve our country and are Aggies!

Texas A&M University is a college rich in tradition, with one of the most visible being the Aggie Ring. There are plenty of photographs available online of the ring, which is rich in symbolism and history.  However, these photos are of MY ring. I know in family history, Ron Tanner wants us not to have "My-tree-itis" and I'm on board with that fully. I don't think he would mind me wanting photographs of My Aggie Ring rather than 'any' Aggie Ring in My personal history. I wouldn't be a true Aggie if I didn't have pride in My ring.

Okay, that last paragraph was full of fun, but here's what I really want you to understand about photographing an object, especially a ring. You need to photograph each side of the ring. One side of the Aggie ring symbolizes the State of Texas, the desire for peace, and the strength to fight if necessary. The other side symbolizes the men and women of Texas who have and will continue to fight for their homeland (can you tell A&M was/is a military college?) and our dual allegiance to Texas and the United States of America. The shield honors the 13 original colonies but reminds the ring bearer to protect the good name of Texas A&M.  The front of my ring has the year of my Senior Class '98. I didn't graduate in '98 because I extended my program by a year to include a co-op, but I will forever be part of the Fightin' Texas Aggie Class of '98.

Photographing Your College Ring
Proud to be a member of the Class of '98
Without photographing each side of this ring, I would slowly forget the meaning etched into a ring I wear daily on the hand opposite my wedding band. My children would not know just how much meaning this ring has in it's design and the pride I have wearing it.

When I include these pictures in my personal history, I would have many stories to share. First, I would have the story of when I picked up the ring. I actually picked it up alone because I couldn't make it to the Alumni Center with anyone else in my class of '98 that I knew at the same time. I remember standing in line on a lovely morning wearing my Aggie Sweater Vest. A Party Pics photographer was on hand to photograph this special moment and I am so glad it didn't go undocumented.

Photographing Your College Ring
Texas Aggie ring, the side symbolizing Texas, the desire for peace but a
willingness to fight if called upon.

I can share the story of dunking my ring in a LARGE bowl of ice cream at Swensons with my room mate. There is another Aggie Ring Dunk tradition involving alcohol, but I don't drink so ice cream was the choice. Friends, and my fiance, came to enjoy the dunking tradition. My friend Kristi didn't eat her fair share of the ice cream and I still remember the brain freeze from that day!

Devon Geiszler, Aggie Class of 98
Look at me decked out the day I received my Aggie Senior Ring! Gig'em Class of '98!

Finally (and continually), there are many stories of meeting Aggies throughout the country because they recognize the hardware on my finger. It's big. It makes a statement. And it's a magnet for other Aggies. In fact, the most recent experience occured when I was standing in line with my family to meet Pocahontas in Walt Disney World. The man in front of me asked me, "What class?" as he pointed to the ring. That's the near universal sign that the person asking the question knows what the ring on my hand is. He didn't need to say, "Are you an Aggie?" He didn't need to ask, "Is that an Aggie Ring?" A fellow Ag recognized the ring and asked the appropriate question. We proceeded to talk as if we'd known each other back in Aggieland as we awaited the Native American Disney Princess. The Aggie ring unites Aggies around the world, and even in the land of a mouse.

Be sure to photograph all sides of your rings and heirlooms. Many objects have rich symbolism that should also be explained. And as you photograph these objects, be sure to record the stories that aren't apparent from the photograph.

24 March 2015

One Name Study: Who else is in 1880?

Townsend Study in Franklin County OhioTessa Keough discussed the basics of a One Name Studies in her One Name Study entitled "Who Does That?" An Introduction to One-Name (Surname) Studies. I loved the title and the question "Who Does That?" My answer is, "I do! Well, sort of."

In quickly researching the concept of searching for the occurrences of one name in one place and best practices for the process, I have found several One Name Study organizations. That is a little more intense than what I'm seeking to accomplish I simply want to see if any other Townsends in Franklin County, Ohio are possibly related to William James Townsend, my 2nd great-grandfather. If I find a Townsend living in Franklin County who is not likely to be a relative, I will stop researching that line rather than become an expert knowing all the migration and back story. For those who seek to have guild approved studies, I wish you all the best in your endeavors.

19 March 2015

Thankful Thursday: Transcription and Photo Identification

I have had two things in my family files for a long time:

George Schneitzer, photographed in Columbus, Ohio
George Schneitzer, photographed in Columbus, Ohio

This image from my 2nd Great Granmother Magdalena (Hoppe) Geiszler's photo album.  And this copy of the baptism of my Great Grandfather George Joseph Geiszler as recorded in the German Methodist and Episcopal Church from Franklin County, Ohio.

Baptism of George Joseph Geiszler of Columbus, Franklin, Ohio
Baptism of George Joseph Geiszler of Columbus, Franklin, Ohio

I wanted to add this image to for George Geiszler's Memory page; however, I realized that I really wanted to know what this image says. There are amazing folks who seem to enjoy transcribing records. I posted this image with a request for the actual written words on the page and what it would mean in English. Within hours, someone responded to my query on Facebook. I am SO grateful for this service. I always try to not abuse the gift.

Here's what the record says:
Georg? gebor. d. 8 ten Juny 1885. Sohn von
Heinrich und Magdalehna geborn. Hoppe
wurde getauft den 19.ten July 1885.
durch J. Rothweiler
Zeugen Eltern u.
George Schnitzer
Here's  the partial translation:
Georg? gebor. d. 8 ten Juny 1885 son of
Geborn Heinrich and Magdalehna. Hoppe
was baptized the 19.ten July 1885.
by J. Rothweiler
Witness parents u.
George Schnitzer
Do you see the connection of the photo and the record? George Schnitzer witnessed the baptism of George Joseph Geiszler. I am excited to see this connection. Now I need to learn more about what it means to be a witness to a baptism (is this a God Parent situation). Additionally, I now that George played a role in Henry and Maggie's life. He's possibly from the Columbus area. I'm excited to learn more.

I'm so thankful that we have such a great community that wants to help each other. I talk about the beauty of collaboration in my book 21st Century Family Historian. I now have yet another example to add to my chapter.

18 March 2015

Heritage Scrapbooking: Autumn Traditions

Howdy Y'all. It's Devon, A Family History Fanatic, live from the Great State of Texas!

I'm trying to remember my "Texan" roots because I completely forgot "Go Texan Day" (which marks the beginning of the Houston Live Stock Show & Rodeo), Texas Independence Day, and more. Yikes! I've been out of Texas too long folks. However, I'm on the lookout for bluebonnets so I can do the crazy thing of taking the family out to a random flower patch just to take photos in the middle of these flowers. You don't know what you have until it's gone. Bluebonnets in March are certainly something I miss dearly when we lived out of state.

Anyway, that's not what you came here for, especially since Bluebonnets and Rodeo are a spring thing, not Autumn.

Scrapbooking Badly Cut Photos
Autumn Traditions: Change Is Good kit by Amber Shaw

This layout emphasizes the importance of making the best out of a bad situation. From previous layouts, you know that about 10 years ago, I chopped up my photos to be 'artist' with my scrapbook (to be polite). The whack job I did on my photos is irreparable. At the time, I did not know about scanning photos before using them in paper scrapbooks. What is done, is done. The question is, what to do about it now?

This layout was a free-form 9-photo layout with a spot for journaling, a title, and another piece of mom's story telling. It combines Halloween, Thanksgiving, and romping in the leaves. Again, I had a lot of trouble correcting the colors of these 1970s photos, so I let them emphasize the photo paper quality of the era. With the soft pattern paper and a few pieces of Washi-Tape, the look is complete.

This arrangement deemphasizes the chopped photos. A perfectionist might attempt to further downplay the less than perfect shapes; however, collages were a big thing throughout the 70s, 80s, and 90s. The cluster positioning seems to compliment that trends as well.

The more I look at this simple design, the happier I am with it. What do you think?

Book Available at

To learn how you can get caught up with your scrapbooking projects, order my popular eBook Power Scrapbooking.

16 March 2015

Motivational Monday: Learning What To Do Next

"You've Mastered the Census Basic Search, Now What?
Can you believe that RootsTech 2015 was a month ago? I am certainly not ready to forget all the things I learned. This post might be followed up with a few other reviews of seminars presented.

 Karen Auman presented, "You've Mastered the Census Basic Search, Now What?" She was easy to listen to for this hearing impaired listener. Her presentation was well organized and thought out. If Karen was in my area, I would take another workshop from her.

Karen's organized approach introduced four areas to answer the "Now What?" portion of her topic. The first step was to make a plan. I cringe whenever I hear the need to plan. It's a weakness of my when I'm in a curious mode. When I'm in a 'formal mode', I'm a champion of planning. I'll admit that the curiosity research is more frequent than the formal.

While attending a local workshop at a library, I asked the presenter if she ever got to a point where she didn't 'plan' her research. Did she just do what needed to be done?  She said that in some cases, yes, but she preferred to plan things out.

When I'm looking for something, I just go look for it. Sometimes I'll document when I strike out. Sometimes, I won't. However, I have seen the value of starting some To Do Lists as I worked on my Narrative Project. Perhaps that's my plan. I know specific questions, gaps, and holes I have and I make a note to research how I can resolve said issues. I can see the benefit in a formal research project the idea to plan the question you're trying to answer.

If you're driven primarily by curiosity, planning may just happen naturally and fluidly. When curiosity strikes, I often go where the paper trail takes me, attaching sources to my online trees along the way. I also leave reason statements as to why I attached said sources (especially in FamilySearch). It's not planned but it is documented.

Now... despite my internal conflict, I continued to listen to Karen and benefited greatly. I won't go into too much details because you should listen to her rather reading my post. (Plus, I don't want to violate copyright. )

Karen had some wonderful nuggets sprinkled throughout her class.  One statement was "Rivers were the roads in America."

I have often wondered about why my ancestors settled where they did in Gainsboro, Ontario, Canada and in Columbus, Franklin County, Ohio. Karen suggested looking at topographical maps for a similar, yet different end purpose. Knowing the geography might help me understand the area better. Add to that local histories, which I have dabbled a little into, and I may come to understand my ancestors and the places they called home. I suppose I need to add maps and local histories to my To Do list.

Karen descried a detailed method for discovering what records to look for, if they exist, that could help you answer questions you may have (your plan). Reviewing her presentation will certainly remind me of underutilized resources when I become stumped.

As one point, Karen displayed a small sample of the variations of her Auman last name. I certainly need to follow her advice to make a similar list with my Geiszler, Hoppe, and Zumstein names. Perhaps some of my brick walls are there because I haven't compiled a similiar alternate name spelling list.

One more great tip was to use Google Search as a 'wild card'to just she what you may find. She emphasizes this to take place after you have searched methodically. What a great tip! I hadn't embraced Googling my family history because I am so frequently unsuccessful. In considering her advise, perhaps I'll add a Google challenge occasionally for fun.

I do hope I haven't given away all of Karen's tips. She's a gem of a presenter and gave me much to think about. Thank you so much!

To review this session or others from the February conference, visit and select Watch 2015 Sessions.

13 March 2015

Finding the White Balance

This post is a follow-up to Jewelry on Black is Hit or Miss. Having had success working with a bracelet and medals using a white background, I decided to return to what I knew to see how the color of the background impacted my memorabilia photography.

Photographing Family Heirloom Jewelry
f/5.6 exp 1/10 sec with +1 bias, ISO 100, 55 mm Focal Length
Pattern Metering Mode, Manual White Balance (Cropped)

In a future post I'll show what this ring looks like on a black background. For now, I know that with a little level adjustment in Photoshop Elements, I can make this ring look great. I still need to play with the camera settings, but I'm heading in the right direction.

Photographing Family Heirloom Jewelry
A preview of how adjusting the levels can improve a photo. Stay tuned
I want to share some additional things I learned while playing with my camera on a white background.

Learning to focus

Photographing Personal Heirloom Jewelry
f/6.3 exp 1/10 sec with +1 bias, ISO 100, 55 mm Focal Length
Pattern Metering Mode, Manual White Balance

This letter ring is difficult to focus on because the backside of the ring shows through the metal letter. With my Aperture Priority attempting to blur out the background and keep the foreground in sharp focus, I have a problem. I can solve this by increasing my “f/#” or by rotating the ring.

Photographing Personal Heirloom Jewelry
f/6.3 exp 1/10 sec with +1 bias, ISO 100, 55 mm Focal Length
Pattern Metering Mode, Manual White Balance

Notice the blurred back of the ring?

Where you place the focusing dots

Photographing Family Heirloom Jewelry
f/7.1 exp 1/4 sec with +1.7 bias, ISO 100, 55 mm Focal Length
Pattern Metering Mode, Manual White Balance

I have increased my “f/#” but the front of the ring is blurry in this photo but the inscription is not. The reason for this is because of where I told the camera to focus. There are little red dots that flash through the manual view finder. I had placed the focusing dot on the backside of this ring and that stayed in focus while the remainder of the image became blurred. I could have increased the “f/#” again or simply placed the red focusing dot on the front of the ring.

Photographing Family Heirloom Jewelry
f/7.1 exp 1/4 sec with +1.7 bias, ISO 100, 55 mm Focal Length
Pattern Metering Mode, Manual White Balance

Notice how the settings for the camera didn't change but the clarity of the front of the ring improved when I placed the red focusing dot on the front of the ring. Maybe you know all of these things, but I'm sharing  this tip just in case you didn't.

Problem with reflective jewelry

Photographing High School Senior Rings
f/6.3 exp 1/4 sec with +1.7 bias, ISO 100, 55 mm Focal Length
Pattern Metering Mode, Manual White Balance

Remember in the post New Camera First Attempt how I said that I probably picked one of the hardest projects to start with? One of the reasons jewelry is so difficult is because it reflects things you don't necessarily want. In this ring, I'm reflecting a large dark area in the upper section of the gold near the front face of the ring.

Photographing High School Senior Rings
f/6.3 exp 1/4 sec with +1.7 bias, ISO 100, 55 mm Focal Length
Pattern Metering Mode, Manual White Balance

One way to solve this problem is to move the ring around until that reflection is less of a nuisance. There are other ways to remove all reflections but this photo looks good enough for my family history projects.

Power of reflector

Photographing High School Senior Rings
f/6.3 exp 1/4 sec with +1.7 bias, ISO 100, 55 mm Focal Length
Pattern Metering Mode, Manual White Balance

Another tip I mentioned in Jewelry on Black is Hit or Miss was to use a reflector to bounce light back onto an object, in this case a ring. Your can have a professional grade reflector, a piece of white foam board, or a tin-foil covered piece of cardboard. You'll notice this most in the lower left corner of the topaz gem stone.

Photographing High School Senior Rings
f/6.3 exp 1/4 sec with +1.7 bias, ISO 100, 55 mm Focal Length
Pattern Metering Mode, Manual White Balance

The reflector bounces just enough light back on the rings to brighten their over all looks just a touch.

Which background is better, black or white? The answer is really is that it depends. After sorting through the bad photographs and focusing on what I have, I think many photos are keepers. Could I improve the quality of my images further? Yes. Would many of these photos work nicely in family history projects, such as scrapbooks about my family members. You bet!

With a light box and learning the settings on a compact or a dSLR, you can preserve a visual image of your family treasures. Go ahead. Play with your camera's settings and record the story behind these pieces.

21st Century Family History
21st Century Family History

For more suggestions on what you can do with photographs of your family heirlooms, read the chapters about sharing your family history in my book, 21st Century Family History.

12 March 2015

Narrative Project: Writing a Simple Birth Story

When I started my Family History Writing Challenge last February, I wanted to turn the names dates and places into a story. Throughout the year, I built on that initial push to write the stories of my ancestors, resulting in my narrative project. Sadly, the majority of the individuals who could tell me stories were no longer living. What could I do?

Profile of Lura Smith from Ancestry
Profile of Lura Maud Smith from

Though I admit to following my curious nature when pursing ancestors rather than keeping detailed research logs, I was very methodical about expanding the story of my ancestors. The process was simple enough for even the most challenging of ancestors with the fewest of documents.

Let's take a look at how I expanded the story of when my great-grandmother Lura Smith was born. Keep in mind, I have never met this ancestor but I have gathered many sources about her.

Step One: Make a Simple Sentence

Lura Maud Smith was born on 9 February 1884 in Bay City, Bassar, Michigan. 

It doesn't get much simpler than that. The sentence is factual and rather boring. Yet, how many times do you say, "I don't know what to write"? No more. You do not have that excuse any more. What do you write? You start with a very simple sentence that takes the facts off the chart and adds verbs and punctuation. These 14 simple words are a great start.

Roots Magic Family View
Family View in RootsMagic for Lura Smith (represents a Family Group Sheet)

Step Two: Expand the Sentence to Include Parents

Lura had two parents. The story of her birth, should include her parents.
Lura Maud Smith was born on 9 Feb 1884 in Bay City, Bay, Michigan to Andrew Nelson Smith and Emmeline “Emma” Ward.

That sentence now how has 22 words and it's still boring. I will now expand this sentence to include more information about Lura's parents. I'll include her parents' ages, where they were from and perhaps what their occupation at the time of her birth. To keep the tutorial brief, I'll state that the majority of this information was obtained from her birth record, her parent's marriage record, and using the group sheet above.
Lura Maud Smith was born on 9 Feb 1884 in Bay City, Bay, Michigan to 27 year-old Andrew Nelson Smith and 16 year-old Emmeline Ward.  Emma Ward was a native of Michigan while Andrew Smith was from Central College, Delaware, Ohio. They had been married for one year prior to their daughter's birth.
The addition of these facts greatly expanded Lura's story. I have shared a little more about her parents. Her father was much older than her mother, with the mother being 16, just into adulthood. You can now see that Emma and Andrew were from different states and had been married for one year prior to Lura's birth.

Step Three: Expand the Sentence to Discuss the Child's Name

Many cultures have naming traditions. That is not the case with Lura, but at this stage, I could expand the birth story for an ancestor if that applied. Lura however was often mistranscribed as Laura. Her name was often mispronounced. Future generations might appreciate knowing how to say and spell your ancestor's name if there is a chance of possible confusion. 
Lura Maud Smith was born on 9 Feb 1884 in Bay City, Bay, Michigan to 27 year-old Andrew Nelson Smith and 16 year-old Emmeline Ward. Often, Lura's name is often presented as Laura. However, Andrew and Emma did name their oldest child Lura (lʊər-ruh) not Laura (lAW-ruh). Emma Ward was a native of Michigan while Andrew Smith was from Central College, Delaware, Ohio. They had been married for one year prior to their daughter's birth.
The 14-word sentence based on an basic profile of Lura has now expanded to 75 words. And slowly the story of Lura is taking shape.

Step Four: Expand the Sentence to Discuss other Children in Family

So often, family histories briefly mention the siblings of ancestors and it's such a same. A chart could demonstrate that there are five children and your ancestor was the third among those children. What a chart does not clearly show is just how old siblings were when a child entered a family. Often, you can see age gaps on a chart, but sentences that say, the older children were separate from the middle two by 6 years and the last child by another 13 are clear. Then you can understand a phrase such as, "Mom always said she had three sets of children".

The sources for sibling information, if you're lucky, may be present in journals, family stories, photos, and more. If you only have group sheets, you can still comment on siblings in your ancestor's birth story.
Lura Maud Smith was born on 9 Feb 1884 in Bay City, Bay, Michigan to 27 year-old Andrew Nelson Smith and 16 year-old Emmeline Ward. Often, Lura's name is often presented as Laura. However, Andrew and Emma did name their oldest child Lura (lʊər-ruh) not Laura (lAW-ruh). Emma Ward was a native of Michigan while Andrew Smith was from Central College, Delaware, Ohio. They had been married for one year prior to their daughter's birth. Lura would be the couple's only child for eight years before her brother Earl was born. 

Lura's story is now 91 words and provides more perspective than an entry on a chart. Having previously gathered records about Lura and her family members, this process was relatively painless. The resources will be shared at a later date. For now, I wanted to focus on the process of writing

Far too often the writing process is explained in complex terms. As such, few individuals will begin crafting a family narrative because the process seems too difficult. When I broke down the writing process into simple, achievable steps, I found myself looking forward to the process with each successive ancestor. The best part was that writer's block was rarely a challenge for me.

Go ahead. Start writing the stories of your family members. Write a paragraph about when your ancestor was born. Don't worry that it's not a gripping story with rich details of the weather, setting, and so on. That can come later, if you so choose. It would be far better to write something like the last paragraph when Lura was born than to not write anything at all.

To learn more about the process of writing your family's stories, you can catch the workshop I'll be teaching at the Family History Conference on April 25, 2015 in Houston, Texas. 

For more tips and suggests on recording and sharing your family stories, order my book 21st Century Family Historian

09 March 2015

Why Should I Prove It?

In "The Step Before We Search For Cousins," I mentioned that before we tell people to look for cousins  they need to be told "Prove It." Now, I don't mean to be critical of anyone's campaign to involve more folks into family history and genealogy. I also think there is truth to the desire for some 'old guard' genealogist to keep shoddy work to a minimum. 

Why do sources matter in genealogy
Do the folks on your family tree have a big, fat zero next to the word "Sources"?

I attempted to point out that without sources, your family tree is fiction and should simply have the name of your favorite fictional character as a relative. I want to stress the "Why" of the emphasis on proof a little more. 

Establish the accuracy of the tree.

For LDS family historians

In my efforts to help people individually, many of them are LDS. As such, they are looking for relatives who haven't had their temple work done. There is great pressure to find names to take to the temple. As such, many don't want to spend their precious time working with individuals who have their temple work done. However, I have to put forth a few caveats.

Don't assume that if a name has their temple work complete that their work is accurate. I have run into temple work that was done for a relative but the work was done for the person as a female rather than a male. Had I not found the sources to back up my claim that the gender was incorrect, I would have simply added the feminine version of the relative to my tree and say, "the work is done." I'm pretty sure that relative is glad someone took the time to reexamine the tree and discover he was a he and not a she. 

Additionally, I have found tangled relatives. I'll also admit to mangling relationships myself a time or two. Temple work had been done for folks who were married to completely different people. Parents were sealed to their children, as their child's parent. Sometimes the temple work was 'done' on behalf of a relative before that person had died because a death date was never sought out. Don't assume everything on your tree is accurate because you have a temple icon that says no ordinances are needed. It's worth the effort to determine the accuracy of those names attached to you.

For any historian, regardless of faith

For those who are not LDS, accuracy is paramount. Too often trees become tangled because the sources are not consulted. Once sources are consulted and evaluated, the tree branches can be correctly sorted. Granted, when many are working on their own versions of a tree, the branches many not remain sorted as the inaccurate trees are likely to be perpetuated just as regularly as the accurate trees. However, the cause comes back to the lack of sources on the inaccurate tree.

Accuracy increases as more sources are attached to names on a family tree. As the quality of family trees increase, the battles over relatives and their relationships should decrease. Ron Tanner revealed in his workshop "FamilySearch Family Tree 2014 and Beyond" that in some cases as people wrote discussions and added sources to an individual's profiles, the number of changes to a person stopped and some relatives, with many prior changes, had gone untouched for a year. The fighting amongst researchers can be reduced when sources are attached.

Learn more about your closely related ancestors.

As individuals attach sources to their tree, they will learn something about their ancestors beyond chart information. These people become real, rather than fictional characters. 

The record that tells me that my Great Grandfather owned an auto repair shop but later drove ice delivery trucks tells me of the entrepreneurial spirit of Sherman Brown but the loss of a dream. I have no records to tell me the full details behind the change in employment but I can imagine how defeating it must be to go back to being essentially a day laborer after being your own boss.

That's just one example of the details I have found as I have attached records to the names that were on my tree while I was growing up. At first glance, the work had all been done. Once I dug into the records and made similar discoveries, my relatives often say, “I didn't know that.” The work really wasn't all done, because we didn't know our story.

Family history shouldn't only be about collecting names and establishing relationships. It should be about turning hearts to our fathers by knowing something about the folks on the charts.

Have you really found all of your relatives?
Have you forgotten someone? Do they matter enough?

Find relatives that have been over looked

Boldly I declare, “If it's not sourced, it's fiction.” I recently trained a feisty gentleman on using He is the type of guy that accepts challenges and wants to find their flaw. 

First time out of the box, he adds a source to his family tree. Wouldn't you know it? There was a child listed on a census for a man he was researching that was not on his tree.

Silence and shock. He sat there with a jaw dropped looking at the computer. 

Here was a relative who might have been over looked had he not looked as the sources.

From this moment on, he has become a true believer that sourcing relatives is critically important.

Now, it's possible that this child on the census record has not been overlooked. More research on this individual needs to be done to establish birth, death, and parentage (was the person actually adopted, a servant with different parents, etc). One record does not an overlooked relative make. However, the person on that record needs to be explained. The gentleman might have made a discovery when he could have said, “My work has been done.” (Actually, he did say this prior his training.)

Before You Do Descendancy Research

Please don't buy into the line of thinking that says you'll quickly find cousins if you just do descendancy research. It's possible that you'll find many who have been overlooked, but it's equally possible that you won't.

Instead, start with attaching sources to the trees you are using. If you're on Ancestry, attach the records to your tree, rather than leaving them unsourced. Anywhere you have a tree online, attach the records. 

If you have binders and binders of family research, make sure that a total stranger can look at your pedigree charts and group sheets and know where you found each piece of information on those charts. 

If you have a web page with a family tree program for relatives to crawl, list the sources that provided the information on that tree

As you're attaching sources, please don't only say someone else' tree! Why? Folks have cited my old trees as their only source and those trees were SO INACCURATE! Had anyone spent time adding sources (besides my tree) to their family, they would discover, as I did, that I was wrong. Someone's tree can be one of many sources, but not the only source.

Then You Can Research Descendants

After you have climbed your family tree to their terminal points (the dead ends, the brick walls, the last one on the ancestral line, or the lines there are no records for) attaching sources along the way, then you can start looking for cousins

Descedancy Research
There is a time for descendancy research

Look at the children of your ancestors and see if they are connected to spouses and children. Review the spouses of your uncles and aunts and see if their family (parents or siblings) are linked. If they are linked, do they have sources proving their relationships?

You'll be surprised at the names you'll find to add to a tree as you add sources along the way. And if you're LDS, you'll find the names to take to the temple.  

04 March 2015

Heritage Scrapbooking: Compared To The Past

Oh the personality that comes to light when a child turns 18 months old! In my case, my energetic personality was shining brightly, as evident by the photos in this two page layout.

Vintage Photos Scrapbooked
Me at 18 Months (left page): The Birds and Bees kit by Just Saskia

See my big, open mouth smile? You can see another version of it, along with my second daughter doing the same thing in my post "Things I Learned About Myself While Scanning."

Use historical writings on your scrapbook page
Me at 18 Months (left page): The Birds and Bees kit by Just Saskia

I have a variety of photos from that 1970 time period when colored photos were in infancy. The colors are hard to correct and vary from photo to photo, even in the same time period. I paired a soft green background paper with some soft yellow embellishments. With the size of the photos, I can't help but look at my two favorite photos (the one of me in the curtain and the other on the 'ugly red couch').

The right page has a series of photos in mom's rocker. This rocker went with us through all of our moves in Ohio and throughout Texas. I think when my mother moved in with my brother in the around 2010, the rocker finally found a new home. As a child, I really loved Mom's rocker. As I grew older, I loved the couches that replaced the ugly red one.

Scrapbooking with old baby album writings
I included mom's memories of me at a young age. I love how she wrote in 'my voice'.
I did the same thing for my children's scrapbooks!
I wanted to share some times when it comes to writing journaling. First, let someone else do the writing. I've stated that before, but on this page, I did something a little different. "Modern me" reflected on the stories my mother wrote about "Younger me."  I added my own commentary that referenced the stories she shared.
... I love the table dancing story my mother shared. Too funny. I've liked to be on top of the world, but not too high because I’m afraid of heights! I've also been a visual person. See, how mom says I grabbed everything necessary to go... coat, purse, stroller. If I can't express myself, I will show you want I mean! 
If you have stories that someone else recorded about a younger version of yourself or your ancestor, you could do something similar. Write about how those early impressions of the individual stayed consistent throughout their life, or changed. 

This layout falls into the category of family history but was created while I was getting caught up with my personal scrapbooks. I wrote two eBooks on scrapbooking, both have tips to help you scrapbook your history, whether it's ancestral or personal.

02 March 2015

The Step Before We Search For Cousins

For many, family history isn't worth doing because 'it's all be done'. In recent years, a counter to that argument has been, “then search for your cousins” or “you're work isn't done until you can tell me how we're related.”

Helen Zumstein Family Tree
Looking at this 'tree', it looks 'all done.'

These are great retorts but they often do not get to the meat of the problem. The root of the problem is that many folks are looking beyond the mark. If someone opens up a genealogy program or looks at a printed family tree and sees a chart full of names going back many generations, they can rightly assert, "well, it's all been done." If they log into a "how we're related" type program and it tells them how they're related to someone they go to church with, a celebrity or royalty, they'll say, “it's all been done.” They are most likely wrong, but they have valid points.

To tell such folks to look for cousins often misses a step that shouldn't be over looked. Just because someone has linked people together into a tree doesn't mean it's true. Just because a chart has names, dates, and places on it doesn't mean your family history has been done.

Prove It in Genealogy

My brother in his teenage years was a bit feisty when someone put forth their beliefs on a variety of subjects. The snarky adolescent of the 80s would say, "Prove It!" in a way only a tall, rugged teenager could do. Despite the potentially rebellious underpinnings to this statement, I often find myself saying this phrase to the family history resistant. 

How many family trees are undocumented? It doesn't matter if the tree is on Ancestry, FamilySearch, in a book at the family history library, or someone's copied Book of Remembrance. How many names are undocumented yet copied again and again creating this huge database of names that might as well be full of fictional characters like Clark Kent, Harry Potter, or Mickey Mouse.

In the past, I copied many group sheets and pedigree charts without knowing that the sources were important (and rarely seeing any sources to copy). I finally learned that family history without proof is fiction because someone told me to prove it.

Recently I started playing around with a small version of my family tree on The matches flood my portal page but what value are they to me? Often there are no sources to support the relationships on the tree. To make matters worse, won person has 10 trees with the same people on that tree! It's like she'll never leave my potential match stream. How many versions of the ancestor do you need? Stop creating more trees and start attaching records to the people you have found.

To everyone, I say this. Can you prove it?

If a tree is unsourced, it is fiction. I don't care if you entered the name of your parents personally into tree. If you haven't created a source that say, "these are my parents and they're listed on my birth record," it's fiction. (It would be best if you attached the birth record, but if you're living that might be a security issue, so I get it.)

I don't care if your Aunt Betty did all the family research and "she knows." If Aunt Betty's records do not identify where she obtained her information, it's fiction. If Aunt Betty did identify her sources but an unsourced version of her work is online, you might want to grab her sources and get them online. I'd also advise that you double check her work along the way. (There is a good chance Aunt Betty made a few mistakes.)

The harsh reality is this. If a name is on a chart and there are no sources for the 'facts', then you have fiction. You might as well type Poseidon as a relative. (Don't laugh! One can find Thor and Odin in many online family trees. These guys are Norse gods or fictional, depending upon your view).

Family History Is Not All Done Without Sources
Show Me Your Sources, I'll Show You Mine

So, before I ever tell folks to look for cousins, I tell them to prove what's on their tree. Attach sources to the individuals that are presented as their ancestors and relatives.

Note: By the way, Robert Comfort is many several generations back and I didn't add him to the tree. I'm not ready to tackle New England Revolutionary American history just yet. Still working on folks in Ohio, USA and Ontario, Canada in the 1850 - present time.

01 March 2015

Youth Teach Leaders, Who Teaches Youth?

I watched the Leader and Consultant Training session of Family Discovery Day held in conjunction with RootsTech. The session provided a lot of encouragement on how LDS church leaders can focus their energies on incorporating more family history work with their ministerial efforts.

This session was LDS focused, but the positive feelings and the messages could apply to any family or church group who wants to strengthen ties and help individuals overcome challenges they face. There is something powerful that happens as we work on family history, that isn't reserved for members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints as they combine family history work with temple attendance.

If you're still reading, I thank you. There is something I wish to point out that wasn't addressed, and hasn't been addressed, in many presentations by LDS leaders or genealogy leaders.

Regularly, leaders in genealogical circles champion that the youth will teach the older generation how to do family history work. Why? Because they know how to use technology. The reasoning goes something like this:

  • They can index, because they can use computers.
  • They can find cousins, because they can use smart phones.
  • They can do this or that, because they can use iPads.

Knowing how to use a tool does not a expert make

Just because I know how to use a weed eater doesn't make me a lawn care expert. Knowing how to use a power drill, does not make someone a carpenter or architect.  Knowing how to use a tool for entertainment does not translate into knowing how to use that same tool for academic pursuits.

Youth need teachers to learn family history
My daughter is research family history under the watchful care of my husband

Just because my son knows how to find his way around the neighbor's xBox system doesn't mean he knows how to Index. He knows his way around the neighbor's xBox because we showed him the way around our xBox. Coincidentally, he knows how to index because I walked him through the process of indexing. Once he has experience doing something (because he had a teacher), he can then do similar experiences in other settings.

Interestingly, when he indexes, he only looks for typed records. He doesn't know cursive and most of the cursive is hard even for me (who knows cursive) to read. If the typed records dry up, will he still be able to index? Maybe. But he didn't necessarily know how to index because he knew how to use a computer. He had a teacher and training.

Knowing how to use record suggestions the recommendations

Hinting and green temple icons are nice features on The shaky leaf on have made finding records easier. Other websites have source recommendation features that are helping folks find sources to support their family tree conclusions. The programs have done much to make initial research so much easier. I am so appreciative, lest anyone think I am not.

The Green Temple Icons doesn't equate to a name that hasn't been taken to the temple. It's an opportunity to investigate further. The research suggestions (blue) and record hints (brown) also should be examined.
What are we doing to teach folks, including youth, how to use these tools rather than assume they are truths?

Just because a youth can navigate their way around a Smart Phone, doesn't mean that once they're presented with hints and temples that they'll know what to do with them. Young people aren't better researchers because they know their way around an electronic device. Don't kid yourself. Unless they have a teacher or mentor, they'll make the same rookie mistakes and older research would make who hasn't been taught how to evaluate records that they find.

Pushing a button is easy, making a recording takes talent.
Taking Selfies start at an early age, but can they really make good recordings or conduct decent interviews?

Knowing how to record doesn't mean knowing how to interview

Many youth know how to record themselves once they've had a little experience with a recording device. Once my children discovered how to record videos on my camera, they have made some interesting 'movies'. They are cute but I certainly wouldn't distribute them widely. Why? Just because you can press record doesn't mean you know how to make an entertaining video. There are skills to learn and these skills are often taught by a mentor of some kind. 

My children learned this as they attempted to make a stop-action video using Legos to tell a familiar scripture story. They knew how to press a button, but they needed someone to teach them about lighting, movement, story boarding, voice recording, editing, and so on.

Just because a youth knows how to record themselves with their iPad doesn't mean they know how to record family stories worth putting on's memories page. First, someone needs to teach them that the possibility is there. Second, someone needs to mentor them in what questions to ask or stories to record. Teenagers don't know anymore than adults what stories matter. Then need help getting the ball rolling, just like their older counterparts. Finally, there is an art to interviewing someone and getting the stories that matter most out of them. Who is there to train them? Unless they have a father or mother who work as interviewers in their professional life?

Youth have power, but they need teachers

I'm not doubting the capabilities of young people to do amazing things. Once they are exposed to possibilities and inspired to participate in family history, they have the power to do amazing things. The hope of this post is to point out that youth need teachers and mentors if they are to succeed. Don't say, "Let's have the youth teach us how to use" and then wait for them to figure it out to teach you. There must be an action plan to help youth, young adults, middle adults, and seniors learn how to do family history so they can teach others.

If we want youth to rise to the occasion, they need someone to help guide them at first and and then support them along the way.