Win a RootsTech Pass as We Celebrate Our YouTube Anniversary

Last year, I told my husband that I wanted to expand my dream of inspiring and educating others about genealogy and family history by cre...

21 October 2017

Three Gift Giving Ideas for Families - Family History for Children October Blog Link Up

Family History Gifts for Children – Blog Link Up

It's beginning to look a lot like _____________. (Nooooo!!!!) Don't say it. Don't sing it. Don't think it. It's not close to Christmas time. Yes, it's the middle of October, but seriously, no one wants to plan ahead for Christmas or any gift giving holiday at the end of the year. We want to procrastinate and wait until the toy manufacturers tell us what are the hottest gifts for the younger folks on our list this year.

Wait! Seriously? Umm, that's not how I would prefer to do things. I like planning ahead. No, I'm not going to start playing any holiday jingles or movies, unless there are some featuring American Thanksgiving, but I digress.

Gifts for Pre-School and Elementary Aged Kids

1. Addi's Nest

Attention all grandparents, or amazing aunties and uncles. This season, consider doing something a little bit different for your children this year. Give them the gift of family bonding through subscribing to Addi's Nest.
You can purchase a monthly subscription and receive a craft, a book, and additional family history centered activities for your chidlren to open and enjoy. The box is mailed to them in their name, which increases the excitement of opening the gifts.
My younger children received a box and reviewed it here.  
This gift subscription is ideal for a grandparent, godparent, or aunt/uncle who wants to spoil little ones in their brood. They'll think of you often as they learn about their family connections. Check out Addi's Nest.  (I did receive a discount on the box in order to review this product). 

2. Little Family Tree
Little ones love their mommas and daddy's phones. I can't tell you the number of young ones who abscond with their parent's tech tools making the childbearers wondering if they should purchase a device for the half-pints. 
 Why not install an app that can teach your little ones about their heritage and have them coloring over or matching photos of their parents, grandparents, or great-great grandparents? That's where Little Family Tree comes to the resuce. This 10 game app draws its content from your FamilySearch account. If you haven't set up your free FamilySearch account, get on it. Then get this app for your family!!!

Gifts for the Whole Family

3. Roots & Branches

After meeting Doug at RootsTech, I fell in love with this game. I even bought Roots & Branches myself and have played it on our days of rest. I love how we draw cards to answer about ourslves,w hich helps my children, husband, and I connect. Then, we answer questions or learn about our ancestors. Extending the connections in our family. 
You're littlest ones will love eating the M&M treats along the way (or any other candy you place randomly on the board for someone to eat while playing). Your older ones will learn a few more things about mom and dad then they thought were possible. And parents can deepen their understanding of what makes their kiddos tick. Roots & Branches is a game that really does bring families together. 

There you have it. Something to arrive in the mail, something for the smartphones, and something that's a little bit 'old school' to play on Sunday afternoons (remember those?)

Family History Gifts for Children – Blog Link Up

This is part of the #FHforChildren blog link up for October, “Family History Gifts for Kids.” Two other stops in this link up include:

Photo Family Tree Activity
5 Family History Gift Ideas for Children 

Family is Everything Tweets Olympian Scott Hamilton who will keynote at #RootsTech

Scoot Hamitlon #RootsTech 2018

As a little girl, I was glued to the television as I watched the performance of a male figure skater wearing a royal blue near unitard with long sleeves embellished with a red v-stripe around his neck and extending along his upper sleeves. He began his long-program with his right arm raised and his left arm bent and parallel to the ice in front of him. The question on everyone's mind was would Scott Hamilton deliver a solid performance in the men's long-program to capture the gold medal in 1984 while in Sarajevo, Yugoslavia?

Gold Medalist Scott Hamilton in 1984

He turned in a wonderful performance, at least according to this elementary school-aged little girl, and earned 5.8s-5.9s on the artistic portion of his scores. He wasn't pleased with his performance, but he did take home gold. And since that day Scott Hamilton has been an iconic figure in my life.

18 October 2017

Be Careful Where You Walk - "An Outlander" Themed Genealogy Blog Party

#genealogy blog party

While walking down Broad Street in Elizabeth, New Jersey, I stumbled and fell. The pain in my head and the drops of blood down my eye told me I had fallen and blacked out for just a moment. However, when I woke up, things were very different. The cars were gone. The cell phones had disappeared. Horses and their droppings replaced the smell of gasoline engine exhaust. 
What had happened?  
A newspaper revealed that the year as 1817 and I was in a small town where the most significant technological advancement of the day was the improvement of a road (or the Morris Turnpike) between Elizabeth and Morristown, New Jersey. I was missing my new Dodge Grand Caravan.  

16 October 2017

3 Tips to Start Writing About You

Tips for Writing About Your Life Story

Family History is not only about dead people. Your story matters as well. Are you recording it?

Far too often personal history takes a back seat or is left on the side of the road when people engage in genealogical research. It seems we forget that today we're alive and tomorrow we'll be someone's dead ancestor. Let me give you three principles of how why you should be working to record your story:

3 Tips to Write About You
Click Image to Tweet.

Keeping these three points in mind, you are ready to start writing a memoir, life story, or autobiography. But I bet you can’t start because you can't locate the starting line. Let’s tackle that right now!


It's often a good idea to begin with the end in mind so you know where you're headed. However, when writing about yourself, that end is not the details and mechanics of finalizing a manuscript or formatting for printing. The end is that you've written about yourself.

When you start to write about yourself, ignore all the end details and focus on the experiences and commentary you want to take out of your mind and put on a computer screen or writing pad.

  • Don’t worry about your target audience
  • Don’t worry about character development
  • Don't worry about developing a strong opening sentence
  • Don't worry about setting or story arcs
  • Don’t worry about grammatical mechanics 

In short, don't worry about the structure of your story and just start capturing the memories you have. All of these details will put obstacles in your way. It will be easy to not write because you can't answer the requestions related to these topics. There is a time and place to address these issues, but not at the beginning. Not when you're just starting on your journey.

After you have compiled many of the memories into text, you can reorganize the details to craft a better story. You can develop and explain your characters and settings. You can see where the natural highs and lows of the story take place. The trick is to capture your raw material without passing them through a filter until the time is right.


Instead of focusing on the what of writing, hone in on the why. Why did you think personal history was a good idea? Why do you want to tell your relatives about your career choices, your struggles, your triumphs? Why will feel better when you've written your story?

There are many reasons why people attempt to write about themselves, and it rarely has anything to do with reading a blog post that says, "You Need to Write About Yourself.' Many of the stronger reasons include:

  • Celebrating an accomplishment
  • Detailing a challenging life experience
  • Sharing your life with your extended family
  • Passing on heritage and legacy
  • Documenting a journey of healing
  • Providing answers to a relatives questions
  • Completing assignments for school or professionally

Focus on why you're writing about yourself and that will guide you through the process. Even if your 'why' is a royal pain (i.e. having to write for a school assignment), the 'why' will direct your path. 


Many writing tips say to outline, storyboard, or flowchart your projects. This is all well and good, but often the memories and experiences that are fighting for your attention need to be placated before you can tackle any other pre-writing activity. Additionally, you don't always have to start your story at the beginning. You can start at the end or somewhere in the middle. Start writing where your restless mind wants you to begin.  Then fill in the gaps between memories.

Here are a few examples: 

    • If you're writing your life story or a biography, are you feeling nostalgic for your childhood home or the early days of marriage? Start with your favorite childhood memories.
    • If you're writing about a healing journey, what experiences do you not want to forget? Record those first, no matter if they relate to the pain, the recovery, the miracles, or the mistakes that caused the problem. Start with the memories that will pain you more to forget.
    • If you're writing about a specific life event (such as your military years, college years, a mission trip, sports team participation, or a career change, among others), what memories and experiences pop into your mind first when you reflect on those life events? What is training, friendships, big events, words of wisdom, or leaders and mentors? Write about those things first.

Getting started is the hardest part of writing. The next challenge is to edit what you've recorded. For now, just capture your memories. 

When you get stuck, review this video on Pre-Writing Your Personal and Family History. You should find some clues on how to continue writing about yourself.

09 October 2017

Spare 15-minutes to Digitize Your Family Treasures

Quick Digitization Tasks

What enables easy sharing of your genealogical research, ensures backup of your discoveries, prepares for an emergency, and simplifies inheritance?  If you guessed digitization, give yourself a pat on the back.

In 2008, a massive flood that drowned parts of Cedar Rapids, Iowa impacted my friend. Before the waters submerged her neighborhood, she had time to save many things, but she didn’t think the flood would fill her basement. When she returned home, she realized that her high school treasures were water logged when the basement had taken in so much water, it came within one foot of reaching the ceiling. Salvaging these soggy, smelly treasures was impossible. Had she digitized her photos and photographed her memorabilia, she would have retained some of those treasures even though the physical items were unrecoverable.

Don't let this happen to you! Preserve, preserve, preserve. Recognize that disasters range from natural disasters such as flood, fire, hurricane, and tornado but can also include divorce, or misguided family members who are ‘trying to help’ clean your house.

03 October 2017

Dig into the Cemeteries - Boot Camp on October 14th!

Cemetery Boot Camp with Devon Noel Lee

The day after Friday the Thirteenth, we'll recover from the superstition and start digging into cemetery photography and a mystery of why two unrelated men were buried in the same plot.

Cemeteries are beautiful places to document our ancestor's lives. However, people often take less than stellar photos from when visiting graveyards. We'll talk about how to go from this:

Tidy Up the Gravestones

to this:

Better Gravestone Photography

Then, we'll use the principles of genealogy FAN charts (or cluster genealogy) to determine how two men buried in East Lawn Cemetery were buried in a plot in a family neither are obviously a part of.

Join me, alongside host Thomas MacEntee or Hack Genealogy, on:
Saturday, October 14th
from 11 am (CST) to 2:30 pm.

This three-hour education event normally costs $29.99, but if you want to take advantage of an early bird discount, you have until October 9th. Visit the registration page found here:

And then type in TOMBSTONE as your promotion code at checkout! You'll receive $10 the registration.

When you register, you'll receive access to the live boot camp, where you can ask questions along the way during the live chat. You'll also receive a cemetery photography tips handout and access to the recorded version for your replaying enjoyment. 

Let's have fun this Family History Month and talk cemeteries and burial.

02 October 2017

Win a RootsTech Pass as We Celebrate Our YouTube Anniversary

Family History Fanatics Anniversary

Last year, I told my husband that I wanted to expand my dream of inspiring and educating others about genealogy and family history by creating a YouTube channel. My darling husband helped me come up with a name that would allow for expansion (from myself to him, to our son, and someday to others). That's how I transitioned from A Patient Genealogist to being a part of Family History Fanatics.

Andy helped me film my first video, correcting me when I said something wrong and frustrating me to no end. Once the video was editing and uploaded to YouTube, I shared the video with friends and family. As with the launch of my first book Power Scrapbooking in 2009, I hoped the right people would stumble upon this crazy idea of mine.

When starting a genealogy channel on YouTube, what should the inaugural video discuss? I chose to explain "What Is Family History?" as my starting point.

(Click on any videos below to watch them! from this window.)

I followed this video up with a few more beginning genealogy videos, a book review, and then a series on how to select a photobook company (click these links to visit those videos).

In October, my oldest son Caleb expressed an interest in making videos. I figured, why not? This is a family channel and I'd love to have a youth perspective. So, Caleb joined the on-screen team with this first video:

Click the video and leave a comment for Caleb!

At the end of the month, I began to think beyond broadening my vision. What if I also promoted conferences and genealogy vendors? That would benefit the goal of educating others on genealogy. WHile at the  2017 Texas State Genealogy Conference, I put the plan to action. Mind you, I didn't prepare in advance so I'm super thankful that Randy Whited, the TxSGS President said, have at it! MyHeritage representatives were the first to agree to be interviewed for my channel. Andy and I conducted several interviews from the vendors at the TxSGS Conference.

Tragedy struck during the conference and I lost numerous interviews before I could share them online. Now I know the importance of keeping an eye on your gear and saving videos remotely when at a live event.

With Andy an onscreen part of Family History Fanatics,  we really are Family History Fanatics, proving that family history is a team sport!

In February, Andy and I were presenters for RootsTech 2017. Since feedback was so positive from the TxSGS Conference for our interviews, we decided to go crazy capturing interviews.  We captured and created 13 videos for RootsTech (you can binge watch by clicking this playlist link). The most popular video was my interview with Crista Cowan of She's such a gem, so that's no surprise.

A close second was my pre-RootsTech video, which will certainly come in handy as you prepare for RootsTech 2018

(BTW, when you click on the RootsTech links in this post, you let them know I'm doing a great job promoting the conference as an Ambassador. So, click the link.)

After RootsTech, we were approaching 100 subscribers. To anyone who was an early subscriber to my channel. THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU. Thanks for taking a chance on my dream and helping us grow as a team.

In the middle of posting RootsTech videos, Andy posted his first video about DNA. This video has gone 'viral' of sorts. It's our most popular video by a factor of 10.

In May, our YouTube channel started to grow rapidly and it has yet to stop. At our one-year anniversary mark, we had 700 subscribers, 74,000+ views, and an active community in the comments section (well, at least on the DNA videos).

We're super excited about how my crazy idea last year has turned into reality.  In the next year, we're going to post DNA related videos every Tuesday and genealogy/scrapbooking videos every Thursday.

We're also looking to partner with other genealogists around the world to create a third video a week offering from Extended Fanatics. If you're interested in teaching a genealogy principle while promoting yourself, use the contact form on our website.

In 2018, Andy and I will once again attend RootsTech. We're going to start scheduling interviews while we're in Salt Lake City. If you'd like to make the list, let me know. (Use that contact form.)

We'd like to attend additional conferences but unless we can also teach at those, the economics doesn't quite work out. So,  if you'd like to see us at a location near you, check out our speaking schedule or submit a request for us to present.

We're also venturing into managing eConferences for local and state genealogical societies. We take the hassle out of fundraising for society board members. If your society is interested in having us produce an eConference, follow this link to our contact page.


Enough about us! What about you? Anniversaries are about gift giving and we have one for you.

To celebrate our anniversary, we are giving away one 4-Day Pass to RootsTech 2018 held February 28–March 3, 2018, in Salt Lake City.  As an ambassador for RootsTech, I receive a complimentary pass to give to one of my readers/viewers. This includes:
  • Entrance for to the RootsTech track classes from Wednesday - Saturday 
  • Access to more than 300 classes, keynotes, and general sessions
  • Admission to the Expo Hall (starting Wednesday evening and running through Saturday)
  • Evening events on Thursday and Saturday.
  • (This giveaway does not include luncheon events, paid workshops, printed syllabus, travel, or hotel.)
RootsTech is genealogy conference on steroids. My daughter, our behind the scenes queen, says it's like a Comic Con. I have to agree. You'll learn so much and feel the intense energy! As a thank you for reading, watching, and supporting the Family History Fanatics, we want you to attend the craziness as our guest.

RootsTech 2018 Awaits
RootsTech 2018 Awaits You! 


To be eligible for our giveaway, do each of the following things to be entered into the drawing.

  1. Subscribe to the Family History Fanatics YouTube Channel (Click here and press the red subscribe button)
  2. Leave a comment on any video on the Family History Fanatics YouTube Channel
  3. Subscribe to our newsletter. (Click here)
  4. Send us a "RootsTech Contest Entry Complete" message using our the contact form on our website.
The contest runs from October 2nd to October 31st. Don't procrastinate!

We'll draw one winner on November 1st and announce their name in a future post.

No purchase necessary to enter. Void where prohibited by law.

Are You Overwhelmed Digitizing Your Family History?

Stress Free Genealogy Preservation

Do you have trunks in attics full of document papers videos and audio cassette that you haven't preserved into ditto format yet? Then now is the time to get the job done! But what if you don't know how to do the digitization or the thought of a DIY project sends you screaming and headed for the hills? Well that's when you can decide to outsource the digitization of your project. Here are four resources that are genealogically focused and can help you get the job done. Bye-Bye Overwhelm!


Larsen digital will digitize slides  In terms of the DPI that you want 2000 DPI will cost about $0.50 an image and 4000 DPI cost a little bit more. Negatives scanned at 2,000 GPI cost about $0.40 per image at 2000dpi and a gun a little bit more for 4000dpi. Reel-to-reel fans will cost in terms of per end so about $0.25 per inch for standard-definition video or $0.35 per inch for high definition video output. So if you have 50 feet of film which could be about 3 to 4 minute video it might cost you about $15. 4 videos that are on TV. 4 VHS tapes converted to a digital DVD it will be about $15 if you want to convert that to an mp4 it's about an extra five bucks so about $20 will give you both format that DVD and a MP4 that you can play with your family movies.

Larsen digital 4 office scan your photos convert your audio clips cassette tapes and various other digitization that you need be sure to give them a call at  800-776-8357 Email:


If you are if ExtremeGenes radio podcast, and then you will know about Tom Perry at TMC, The MultiMedia Center in Utah. Visit their website at to get contacts and details about what they do. They're very similar to Larsen digital in the services they provide in an a la carte pricing strategy. It doesn't matter if your material is moldy or damage, TMC can help you out, but be warned there will be a higher price for such items. If you have no where else to turn, turn to Tom and his staff.

What's also great about Tom, is that if he can help you find a local service provider that meets his standard of quality, then he will refer you locally if you don't happen to live in Salt Lake City, Utah. That's great advantage, so give them a call at 801-483-1716 .


Legacy Republic has a digitization system that different than individual pricing they give you a box and you feel it with the items that you need scanned and when the box is full that is what you get and so for $100 you can put in four items. A VHS counts as one item. A mini DVD is one item. A reel-to-reel film may count as  one or two items depending on the size.  50 slides counts together as one item, as do 50 photos or 50 negatives. So you mix and match to create a combination of 4 of those items to but into your packaging mailer. For about $100 you can get all of that digitized.

With Legacy Republic a local service provider will help you package your boxes to ensure that they are shipped safely and correctly. So if you're worried about how to package your items that is a nice advantage.

When your box is filled, your local rep ship it off to the company. The company will then send you back a DVD as well as access to an online cloud storage system and then you can order additional products and services if you so desire.  contact Legacy Republic using their website   


Legacybox is very similar to like a Supra public and not you fill a box with the items you want to the tide send it off to a company and then they send you back your digitized items. You get back and archival DVD or an optional thumb job drive for your storage items.  Legacybox offers a variety of different types of boxes that you can create for vet using a combination of item. What 1 tape is considered an item one film reel is considered an item apparently no matter the size. And 25 pictures is considered one item. you can also digitize audio tapes, slides, and negatives  as well.  A three item starter box starts around $75. Visit their website at

If you want to give a fantastic birthday, anniversary, or Christmas present to somebody, then consider paying for the digitization of your family's archive. If you want to know where to spend your time, money, and effort in your family history efforts, PRESERVE, PRESERVE, PRESERVE.

Just so you know, I don't get a kick back from any of these services, but I certainly wouldn't mind if I did. I just think they're great and want you to preserve your perishable family history.

26 September 2017

5 Tips for Recording the Stories of Your Heirlooms

Record Heirloom History

Do you have walls and shelves filled with family knick-knacks and keepsakes? Do you have attics and closets with heirlooms preserved with bubble wrap and specialty boxes? It’s time you spend a little time thinking and recording the meaning behind each family treasure before they become clutter and junk.

Heirlooms have the power to bind families together across time. But when the details regarding the objects are forgotten the family treasure often head into the trash pile. Prevent legacy loss by recording the unique stories behind the household items in your collection.

In my video, Where is Family History Hiding, I mentioned the four places where your genealogical clues are hiding. Warning: they’re usually not online! If you missed that video, check it out here:

Once you have collected, discovered, and corralled your family treasures, you'll want to record the stories, memories, and information so that it won't be forgotten. However, many people, perhaps you, experience writer's block. What should you record?

Let me demonstrate what you should record with two examples:


If you have a Boy Scout of America membership card that mentions your father or grandfather and it was dated in the 1930s, what information should you record?

First, extract the information from the card and then expand upon that information. Include any stories you've heard or were told about your Boy Scout's experiences. Do a quick Google Search to what the requirements, ranks, and advancement requirements were for a Boy Scout from that time period. See if you can track down information about the council or the troop your ancestor was a member of.  See if the council listed on the membership card has a current office that might have chapter histories. So, record what you know but expand upon it.

Then write a blog post, create a scrapbook page, write a photo journal entry, or record a video about the discoveries.


Perhaps you inherited jewelry from a mother or grandmother and discovered an Eastern Star ring. What should you record? If the owner of the ring is still alive, ask them about their participation in the group, why they joined, what offices they held, what events they enjoyed attending, and who their friends were from the group, If the ring's original owner is deceased, learn  what events the Eastern Star chapter hosted during the years your grandmother was a member. You may not know for certain if she attended the events, but you should record what was available.

I have five quick tips that will help you record the stories behind your family heirlooms: 

  1. Be Obvious: Who did the item belong to? What is the object?
  2. Identify the Significance: Why do we still have it? What does it tell us about the original owner?
  3. Trace the Inheritance: Who were the curators of these items throughout time?
  4. Explain the Traditions: What traditions were the items involved in? What is the tradition of who owns the item?
  5. Detail the Unknown History: Record if the item was saved from destruction or the funny stories relate to this particular item.

The best way to ensure that your family treasures are honored and cared for in the future is to record the stories behind the pieces. Then use the stories about the keepsake and photos of the items in family history projects such as written histories, scrapbooks, or video documentaries. You increase the value of your treasures by showcasing and preserving their stories.

If you have discovered an interesting story pertaining to your family heirlooms, share that item below.

Further Reading:

To learn more about how to uncover the stories behind your heirlooms, read

23 September 2017

Help Me Return These Hurricane Harvey Photo Survivors - Lost & Found

Lost Photos of Gary George Ladue Grandparents

As many of you know, I live in Houston (and actually grew up here). Hurricane Harvey beat us to a pulp when he visited the Gulf Coast, but we shall rise again. However, I have need of your help. I have found two photos that I'd like to return to their descendants but I have little to go off of.

While mucking out home, Andy discovered two photos in mint condition. The fact they survived flood damage is a miracle. However, we know very little about the photos besides this:
  • Photos of Gary Labdue or LaDue'
  • Gary George Labdue or LaDue died March 2017 probably in Houston

That's it. That's all we know. Not much to go on. However, miracles happen and we'd love your help tracing the possible grandparents.

20 September 2017

Register for Desperately Seeking Female Ancestors Webinar - Flood Relief Conference

Finding Elusive Female Ancestors Webinar

Women in the past not only took on their husband's surnames in Western Civilizations, the seemed to have hidden in plain sight in records under names such as Mrs. Robert Comfort or wife of John Moote.

How do we find documents pertaining to our female lines when we don't have much to go on? Amy Johnson Crow has some search strategies that will help you track down your women and their stories.

Register to participate in the Back 2 Research eConference on 23 September 2017,


The eConfernece will start at 8:30 am CST and end at 4:00 PM and will feature Amy, along with 3 other presenters. The best part of this conference is the live chat feature during Amy's presentation and during a 5th-hour live panel discussion with conference participants.

For complete conference schedule and class details, visit

Other topics include:


Learn more below

Cost: $15
Date: 23 September 2017 (live)
24 September - 23 October 2017 (replay)

If you can not attend live on 23rd September, you can watch the replay for up to 30 days and still have access to handouts. You must register before the event starts.

To register visit, and click on the REGISTER NOW buttons. You'll pay with PayPal first and then complete the final Webinar Jam registration page.

Genealogy eConference for Hurricane Harvey Flood Relief


Members of The Humble Area Genealogical Society had the flood waters from Hurricane Harvey damage or destroy their homes. Our conference was originally going to use proceeds from this conference to help our chapter's preservation efforts. However, our board feels the funds donated will best serve our community best by helping the impacted society members recover.

As such, this eConference will give 50% of each registration to the relief of these members. Register today and provide aid.

Amy Johnson CrowAbout Amy Johnson Crow:

Amy is a Certified Genealogist and holds a Masters degree in Library and Information Science. She regularly speaks at genealogy's top events throughout the year, as well as state and regional events. Amy blogs regularly at her site

19 September 2017

Why Should You Add Historical Context To Your Writing?

Add historical events to your family history project

Your relatives lead boring lives, right? Do your dead ancestors have nothing worth writing about?
If you answered yes to the first question and no to the second, I have two words for you.


You ancestor's life sketch or biography instantly becomes more fascinating when you add a little historical context to the mundane facts for their existence.

In my book A Recipe for Writing Family History, Step 6 focuses on adding Fun Facts to the documented details of an ancestor's life. Historical context, such as weather, local and world events, pop culture references, and economic averages add flavor to an otherwise bland retelling of the genealogical details.

Good stories have a clearly defined setting, but if you can't describe the physical view of a location, what's the next best thing?

Many of us cannot describe the landscape, sounds, and seasons pertaining to our ancestors. We can't visualize what they saw, heard, smelled, or tasted. We certainly can’t imagine what worried them or excited the local town chatterboxes. But if you add the historic events from their lives to your writing, your stories magically transform.

Imagine if your ancestor was living in England when Napolean escaped from Elba. Do you remember what year that was? Did you know it’s the same time period of General Andrew Jackson and the campaign against the American Indians? Oh, and it’s the continuation of the War of 1812 between America and Britain. It’s also about the time that Jane Austen published “Emma”. Suddenly, your ancestor's wedding or the birth of their child in America, France, or England has new depth and dimension?

Our ancestors lived on Earth at a time and a place. That time and place impacted the decisions that our ancestors made and the lifestyle that they lived. 

Don't believe this to be true. Let's use an example.

Who was Elvis Presley? 

If you said "The King of Rock and Roll," either you grew up listening to him or hearing your parents talk about him. If you said, a famous singer, then you're a little too young to remember who he was BUT Google and YouTube have you covered in learning more.

Once you can picture Elvis's music, hairstyles, and clothing, you have a reference point. You can now connect movies and fashion trends to that time and place. Granted, you need to define whether you're talking about Jailhouse Rock Elvis (the younger years) or Moody Blue (his last album) but once you know the time and place, you can then picture the other controversies surrounding his days.

In his early years, he appeared on black and white television attempting to shake his hips. Part of his body is cut off during the broadcast because hip shaking was so frowned upon by older members of society.  Those two facts tell us a lot about the society that our ancestors lived in at the time of Elvis. Would your ancestor likely be a hip-shaker or a parent who said the youth of the country are losing their souls (or some such thing?)

The Moody Blue Elvis wore disco, skin tight white jumpsuits with sparkles. He seemed depressed, and so did the country as it was finishing its engagement in Vietnam, and the drug culture was on the rise (as it took his life).  Would your ancestor be involved in this cultural fads or be impacted by it?
See, one piece of historical context and you can help someone know the time and place and the current events in the minds of your ancestors? See how knowing the past events might help you understand why a migrated to another country?

Historic events also help you picture the technology of the day and how that technology impacted your ancestor’s lives. Imagine how the cotton gin began to transform the southern states of America. Imagine how the railroad changed the landscape of England or continental Europe. Imagine how the invention and use of rifles and pistols changed military campaigns throughout the world. But the invention of the washing machine, microwave, or the radio also had dramatic impacts on your ancestor’s lives as well.

Why add historical context to your family history writing?

Adding historical events adds multiple senses to your ancestor’s lives just by naming what happened, who the leaders were, and what technology was spreading throughout the land.  These factors add drama to your family histories. Don't forget to add local, national and global context.

YOUR TURN: What historical context do you like to add to your stories? What resources do you have for finding the context? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

(By clicking the links for this book, you're clicking an affiliate link.)

18 September 2017

Get Your Genealogy Organized In Short Bursts

10 Quick Genealogy Organization Tips

Are you tired of being disorganized when it comes to family files and genealogical records? There are a number of tasks that you can do to become more organized any time of the year, instead of always waiting for “spring cleaning.” The best tip is to be clutter. There is no point in organizing outdated, wrong, or duplicate information it just takes up more space than necessary so declutter, Declutter, DECLUTTER!

16 September 2017

Expanding Family History Fanatics With a Booth - BYU Conference Recap (Part 4)

Family History Fanatics Booth 2017

Andy, Caleb, and I are constantly trying to expand our reach as the Family History Fanatics. We’ve decided to invest in having booths at the conferences we attend. Though I have a degree in marketing and worked conference booths before, it’s something entirely different when you participate as an entrepreneur.

14 September 2017

Will In-Person Genealogy Conferences Die? - BYU Conference Recap (Part 3)

Are genealogy conferences dying?

Are in-person genealogy conferences dying? That's a question Amy Johnson Crow posted in 2016. After a recent round of complaints following the FGS conference in early September, I reviewed my own thoughts on the topic in light of the BYU Conference on Family History and Genealogy I attended in July 2017.

My answer is brief: I hope not.

13 September 2017

Meeting Genealogy Buddies in Provo - BYU Conference Recap (Part 2)

Meeting Up With Genealogy Friends

Warning: This post might bore you, the reader, as I get a little 'fan girl' or 'groupie.' I can't write about my experience at the BYU Conference on Family History and Genealogy and not mention the speakers that I met. The next post in this series focuses on the attendees!

My first people highlight was catching up Melissa Finlay and Nicole Dyer. These are my Family History for Children Blog Link Up buddies. (To learn more about #FHforChildren, click here.)

Bankruptcy to Equity: Using Federal Court Records Webinar

Webinar: Researching Ancestors in Federal Court Records

In genealogy, intermediate and advanced researchers understand that they should conduct a reasonably exhaustive search of available documents pertaining to our ancestors. Did you know that the US Federal Court Records may have information about your ancestor?

Micahel L Strauss will be presenting during the Back2Research Conference on 23 September 2017 about records that you may have never known existed. US Federal Court records include collections created by district courts, circuit courts, courts of appeal, and the Supreme Court. These courts produced case files for the following categories: civil, admiralty, equity, law, criminal, and bankruptcy cases.  Michael will focus on the equity and bankruptcy record sets - how to access them and what gems you are overlooking.

Stop Stealing Photos on Ancestry

Best Practices on

Are you ever frustrated when there are multiple copies of your relatives on, but they're variations of what you put online?

Frequently on Ancestry, you'll find a hint which you initially want to be excited about. Many people love photos, so a photo hint is especially exciting, that is until you see what it is.You discover the clue is a photo of your relative, perhaps your father, grandfather, or aunt, but it's an exact copy of what you already posted to your Ancestry tree. What is going on?

12 September 2017

Genealogy Santa Granted My Wish - BYU Conference Recap (Part 1)

BYU Family History Conference Bucket List

In July, I ventured to Provo, Utah to participate as a speaker for the 49th Annual Conference on Family History & Genealogy at Brigham Young University. Last December I had asked the Genealogy Santa to grant that wish for me, and it was granted. The first thing I needed to do was fly to Salt Lake from Houston, Texas and then migrate to the BYU Campus.

11 September 2017

What Tools Can Help Me Transcribe Audio Files?

Transcription Tools for Genealogists

Does your family have audio interviews? Ask anyone who doesn't have a sound recording of their departed relative and they'll tell you that such recordings are priceless. However, an audio recording can be lost in a heartbeat and are often not as useful as they could be without a transcription.

With a transcription, you can sort different story segments apart to recombine the information in other projects. Additionally, a transcription of an audio file, also helps listeners quickly scan where certain topics will be found in the file.

06 September 2017

Can You Keep Your Same Named Relatives Straight?

Separating Same Named Individuals Genealogy Webinar

Some individuals with similar names have been combined, crossed and muddled over time. Who do you know which Charles is which?

 Are you bound to be hopelessly bogged down trying to decide if it's Charles Smith the dentist or Charles Smith the plumber? What if your two Charles relatives have wives with the same names and children of similar ages and monikers? Will it be pointless to untangle the mess?

Melissa Finlay will help you learn how to differentiate between same-named people using a composite of time, place, family members, occupation and other unique identifiers. Melissa will present her class during the Back 2 Research eConference on 23 September 2017.


The eConfernece will start at 8:30 am CST and end at 4:00 PM and will feature Melissa, along with 3 other presenters. The best part of this conference is the live chat feature during Melissa's presentation and during a 5th-hour live panel discussion with conference participants.

For complete conference schedule and class details, visit

Other topics include:


Learn more below

Cost: $15
Date: 23 September 2017 (live)
24 September - 23 October 2017 (replay)

If you can not attend live on 23rd September, you can watch the replay for up to 30 days and still have access to handouts. You must register before the event starts.

To register visit, and click on the REGISTER NOW buttons. You'll pay with PayPal first and then complete the final Webinar Jam registration page.

Genealogy eConference for Hurricane Harvey Flood Relief


Members of The Humble Area Genealogical Society had the flood waters from Hurricane Harvey damage or destroy their homes. Our conference was originally going to use proceeds from this conference to help our chapter's preservation efforts. However, our board feels the funds donated will best serve our community best by helping the impacted society members recover.

As such, this eConference will give 50% of each registration to the relief of these members. Register today and provide aid.

Melissa Finlay

About Melissa Finlay:

Melissa is a genealogist, entrepreneur, mama to 7 fantastic children, and wife to the love of her happily-ever-after.  She received a BA degree in Family History-Genealogy from BYU. She has been researching her own family lines for over 26 years, and teaching others for nearly 20 years.

Melissa has presented at the BYU Family History Conference, Family Roots Expo, and other local family history society meetings. She maintains two blogs: and

05 September 2017

LAST CHANCE to Register for Power Scrapbooking Boot Camp

For years, I was drowning in photos and slacking on preserving the memories of my children. The history of my parents and grandparents were also fast fading. I needed to find some way to preserve my family memories quickly or they'd be gone forever.

After many trials of different systems, I finally developed my Power Scrapbooking method. I used it in my paper scrapbooking days. I have used it when I made the switch to digital scrapbooking. I'm amazed how many scrapbooks I can create in a year, and how many memories I can preserve.

Join me on Saturday, Sept 9th for my POWER SCRAPBOOKING BOOT CAMP for three hours of live instruction and Q&A for the low price of $29,99!

ADDITIONALLY, you’ll also access to the recorded versions of each webinar and the 10-pages of handouts!

Space is limited, and if you register but can’t attend, you’ll still receive the handouts, the freebies, and access to the recordings!

04 September 2017

Have You Updated Your Contacts?

Update Your Family Contact Lists

Are you a Christmas card sender? I know I am. Shhhh, don’t tell anyone who’ll have a panic attack, but Christmas will be here before you know it. So it’s time to update your mailing list.

If you’re not a card sender during holiday, today is a great day to updating your family contact list. As you update that list, you’ll be doing family history! Woot-woot.

Christmas card sending often involves the older generation. I got! It it fading tradition that out most people don't like. They don’t want to deal with the hassle of taking a photo or select a card, addressing all the envelopes, or dare I say, write the annual family update letter. However, the holiday card mailing tradition is a great way to update your family contacts.

Many of the people you send Christmas cards to are your extended family members. Some of your extended family members are not on social media. Ahh! Eek! Shocker, I know.

One way you can check the address is to contact your friends and family through social media. But, if your contact is not online, then check out the White Pages. You’ll probably have to pay a fee to get the actual address but it will help you update your records

When you update your address lists to determine where your extended family members are living, you may discover that someone has passed away, become divorced, or had another child. Whatever you discover, you can quickly add these tidbits to your genealogical record collection. If a relative has passed, you can request a copy of their obituary and death records to add to your filing system, since you are THE family historian.

This post is intentionally short becuase it's Labor Day in the USA and I'm partying with the kiddos! Also, if you're not reading a lengthy blog, you can go update your family contact list, regardless of whether you’ll be mailing cards out in December!