Tuesday, May 31, 2016


Make a Personal Family History Book

This is something every single person can do. Keeping a personal family history book is easy and will help your family know the YOU that you really are. What is it that you want your family to remember about you? Include important facts about you as well as things of interest.This is an ongoing project. This is a great Family Home Evening activity and Sunday project.

You can set up your book anyway you like but I will show you how I set mine up and maybe this will help you with some ideas.  (I started this book many years ago but it is never too late to get started - just do it!)

1.  Start with a binder - I like the 2.5 or 3 inch 3 ring binders.   
(I started with one binder but then had to expand to two.)

2. Make a Table of Contents (think about your life and how you would like to divide it into subjects)
 My topics are: In the beginning (I include basic info and some pictures), Little girl days, School years, Places where I've lived, My friends, The family (my marriage and children), Ancestors (went only as far as my grandparents), Descendants (went down to my grandchildren), Court Records (copies of certificates like birth and wedding, etc.), Things I like to do (hobbies, talents, etc.), Poems from the heart (I like to write poems so did a whole section on this), and Bits n' Pieces (anything that doesn't fit anywhere else goes here).  You can label your categories however you like.

3.  First topic should include some important facts about you -
A 4-generation sheet and a fact sheet (basic facts about your life in one-two pages - include dates, places and names. Tell your name, your parent's and siblings, your spouse, and children....just the facts. You can elaborate later. ALWAYS give full names, dates, and places if known.
                        A good source to use when doing your basic info is from an Ensign article One hour life history.

4.  Use some cute dividers (or just plain is okay if that is your style :) I used a simple graphic program like Printmaster - very easy to use and cost was $5.00. Some programs are free so check the Internet.I also used colored cardstock for dividers and plastic inserts for everything included (bought in bulk at a big box store)

5.  I like to write a cover page for each topic. This is where you can go into detail about things in your life or interests.  For school years I told facts but also included fun stories. Be sure to include pictures - identify those in the picture and tell about where it was taken.

6.  Don't forget to add the fun things about your life - hobbies and interests. Describe the items you insert. I like puzzles so I take pictures of them when completed then tell what that puzzle meant to me. If you like to quilt, tell about the quilts and why you made them. If you like photography, show some pictures of your progress - early pictures to your latest ones. If you play an instrument, tell the specifics about your talent and show pictures.

Bottom line, this is your book so put things in it that represent who you are. You can add some family pictures but most family pictures should be put into a Family - family history book. Be sure to tell about things (you can do the journal in a jar and sick the stories behind the topic that it applies to). You might want to write about lessons learned from doing different activities that have been included. Have fun with this book project and don't forget to keep adding to it as your life goes on.

Saturday, April 30, 2016


It is the tendency of many to make some mistakes when they are doing research for their family lines. Please read about these mistakes and try to avoid them with your research.

1.  Don't Assume that what you see on your family tree is true - There are so many places online where you will be able to view your family tree. Don't assume that the info is correct. Best thing to do is to look for documentation and check out those sources.  Don't believe everything you see - even if it is in a book or on the Internet.

2.  Don't Jump to conclusions based on insufficient information - So many just assume that so and so is their ancestor because they lived in the right area at the right time. Use that info as a clue but look for more info to back up your conclusions.

3.  Don't Forget to document your sources - As mentioned in previous lessons, be sure to document where you get your information (and tell what you found exactly as stated on the document used - don't change the spelling or dates to what you think is correct).

4.  Don't accept family legends as factual - Use them as a clue but follow up with proper research. Grandpa said his ancestor came over on the Mayflower when in fact, it was just a story passed down. Check out those stories!

5.  Don't start by following a famous person in hopes that you are related - Do your research starting from you and going back. This is the only way you can be sure that you have the right family lines.

6.  Abbreviations are not always what you might think - NA might mean non applicable, naturalized, Native American or even Navy.

7.  Watch the dates! - It would be extremely unlikely that a woman 82 would deliver a child or that a child of 8 would be a parent.  If you see these kinds of things in your family tree, it should send up a red flag - INVESTIGATE!

8.  Don't get hung up with the spelling of a name - There are probably many different ways to spell a name so be sure to be open minded when researching. One of my family names is is spelled Zaring, Zahrung, Sayring, and many more - each sibling spells it differently.

9.  Don't forget to contact living members to get information - Gather that info before they are no longer able to give it to you.

10.  Places may change - People may cross borders - A town may change it's name or start in one county and then be listed in a different county. Be sure to check all the surrounding areas. Some towns disappear completely. My ancestor was born in a town that no longer exists but by submitting a query on a local genealogy board, someone from that area was able to send me info about the town and even a map to where it used to be. Also, there may be reason for your family to cross into a different town, county, or even state to get married, have children, die, or be buried. Check all of the surrounding areas.

11.  Not all of your information will be available to you online - You may have to actually visit an area to gather info first hand. There are still places (even in the US) that do not have their records recorded in any other place than their files. Don't give up - think out of the box. I have called mortuaries, cemeteries, names in a phone book, etc. and found some extremely valuable info that was not available anywhere on line.

12. Don't be too narrow with your research - Often families will settle in as neighbors. When checking out an area, expand your search to see if there are others with the same name that could possibly be related. If those names keep cropping up, there may be a connection (friends too as some friends move together to new locations). I call this "Walking through the neighborhood".

There are other things to be careful about but these are key points to remember.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016



Okay, so your whole life you have never had an interest in family history. You wanted nothing to do with any of it. That was a great hobby for your mom or uncle but not for you. You say, "Why do church leaders keep telling me that I need to do this? I am so busy and I don't have the time nor do I wish to take the time to learn how to do it." You kind of know the answers to these questions but you just aren't in a place in this time to act upon what you know is something that you are suppose to do. So why do they keep pressuring you?

Simple answer:  If YOU do nothing, then maybe nothing will be done. Your mom, your uncle, can't tell your story like you can tell it. Your family may not be united if you don't set the example. Your descendants may need your experiences to help them through a crisis or emotional support when they are sad, or validation that they have a purpose in life. You may be the one person that through your story or example, might be that ray of hope. Maybe you need that ray of hope from your ancestor. Or just maybe, you might be in the right place at the right time to receive vital information for an ancestor waiting for their eternal work to be done. If you are not receptive, you may miss this opportunity. Who loses? - that ancestor, YOU, and your descendants.

I have a son who recently told me that he has no interest in genealogy. Yes, I am the "family genealogist" and my children have let it be that way all of their lives. What he doesn't realize is that he actually is doing family history. First of all, he does go to the temple. He teaches his family both by example and by encouraging them to do the same. Before he goes to the temple, he asks me if there are any ancestor names that he can do. He once went to a cemetery with his dad to find an ancestor's grave and realized that it was kind of fun. He is a pilot and has layovers in some places where his ancestors are buried so has volunteered to do a little photo taking of family names in different cemeteries. He accepts challenges through his ward and stake to do Indexing (although he doesn't do it on a regular basis, he does participate in challenges). He holds regular family home evenings where his family is taught gospel and family values. He enforces family traditions. He and his family take lots of pictures. His wife makes sure that they are organized and shared with family. He keeps his family closely in touch with their grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins. No, he may not be doing genealogical research, but he is doing FAMILY HISTORY.

We as genealogist can help those who are not into research by encouraging them to do "Family History" - in other words, expand on the things that makes a family important to each other and to those later generations. Those of you that are not into research, encourage your children to be strong family members, to participate in some family history making projects. Try to encourage them to do something - even it doesn't seem like much, every little bit they do might open an opportunity for something bigger. Keep a journal, write your family history, organize photos into a book and tell a story about them, search a cemetery for ancestors, have family home evenings, be strong in traditions, attend the temple, and most of all, set the example.

Family History is about FAMILY. It's not just researching for ancestors even though that is very important. It's not about taking huge blocks of time. It's about helping family feel connected. To share the love that our ancestors had for their family and the love we have of our family with the love we hope our descendants will have for their family. DO SOMETHING!

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Boot Camp - LESSON 9 - Documentation

Documentation - How important is it?

So you have been doing genealogy research since you were 11 and have thousands of names in your data base. Your distant cousin (that you haven't met but found on Facebook and now wants to trade information with you) wants you to tell him where you got your information. You ask why. He said he's trying to prove that a particular line is actually his line. You look at your records and see that you have no documentation. All of those years of research and no proof that any of it is real. You can't tell him anything. OOPS!

How important is documentation?  VERY! I have a family (on Family Trees) where I have hit a brick wall with this line. I have exhausted all known resources so far. I was on FamilySearch the other day and saw that someone had linked my ancestor up with a wife (I had the first name but no last name). She now has a last name, she has parents, and now there are several kids added to this family. I was so surprised, excited, then suspicious.

I saw no documentation for this wife with a new last name. I did some research and did find this lady with the new kids that were added to my family BUT no matter where I looked, there was no mention of MY ancestor. The child I had with a father and a mother with no last name now was with a family that didn't make sense. I wrote to the lady who added this name to Family Tree but have not yet heard back from her. I found on Ancestry this family (the mother with the new last name) - again, my ancestor was not listed but this wife with a husband (the same as my ancestor's name) and three children. were listed.  Where is the proof that this wife was actually the mother of my ancestor? Now I have a situation. They have linked everyone up, done temple work for all new additions and sealed everyone. I will be very excited if this truly is my family but there is no proof. I have seen way too often where someone sees a family in a location that is about the right time frame so they think this is their family. That might not be the case.

Documentation is so important. If you find a family that you think might be your family, DO YOUR RESEARCH! Make sure you make notes of where you got your information (be as complete as possible about your source) and record exactly what is shown on the document (or save the actual document - you can link these up on Family Tree). If you have a feeling but no real documentation, say that. Identify yourself and say that you believe that this family is connected but have no real proof. A statement like this will remind you (as well as tell others) that you need to do more research. (I put these names in my personal files - like my Roots Magic program. I mark them with an * to let me know that I still need to find proof of this person or relationship.)

For more information on sources (documentation) in Family Tree click HERE,
Why sources are valuable - click
Document as you go (Family Search) - click

So what do you do if you have done all of this research and have not documented any of it? Get Started! Go back to the first person and start documenting. You will find some fun things will happen while you do this. You will get to know your ancestors better, you will find mistakes you (or someone) may have made along the way, and you might just break through some of those brick walls as you find your ancestors. You may even come across some really interesting stories along the way.  What a fun family project! My goal is to have good documentation on every single name in my tree.

FYI - Unfortunately, I did not have my documentation linked to this family. I have it in my personal files but neglected to do the follow through and connect it in Family Trees. I am as much to blame as the person that added these other family members to my ancestors. We all have areas that need improving :) 

Friday, January 29, 2016

Boot Camp - Lesson 8 Let's Get Organized (Photos)

Lesson 8 - Let's Get Organized!
It's a new year and time to clean up and organize. We often use this time of year to go through our house and chuck out old and unused items - to clean up and get organized. Today we will discuss organizing photos - mainly digital photos. If you are like me, you have collected thousands of photos and now don't know what to do with them. This method can work for physical pictures also.

If we are very lucky, we have a few pictures of our ancestors. How grateful we are for them. In the days of our ancestors, most did not have a camera and relied on one or two professional pictures of themselves and their family. In today's world, the digital world, we snap pictures of absolutely everything and everyone wherever we go. In a matter of seconds, we can collect hundreds of pictures - some treasures, some silly and worthless, and hundreds of places, animals, and people we don't really care about. The interesting thing about pictures is that we have a very hard time getting rid of even the worst pictures. I also have had the bad habit of "saving" my pictures to all kinds of devices so that I won't lose them (knowing how computers can crash or cameras break) only to now have 20 duplicates of all those meaningless photos. So what do we do? How do we decide what to keep and what to discard? Well, let's get organized! We will be sorting our photos. Just like our house, we will keep the good and chuck out the waste.

Step 1 - Make a file on your computer (or external storage if you need something with a lot of space). Give this file a name like MASTER FILE (under the Pictures section).

Step 2 - Divide the Master file by setting up two files under the master file
     KEEP  - Most pictures that you like and want to keep will go into this file. You will want to make sub folders in this file to help organize your pictures even more.
     TRASH - All pictures that have no meaning to you, duplicates, poor quality, etc. BE STRONG! This may be hard to do but get rid of all of those extra pictures that have little or no meaning to you or to the next generation.

Make sub folders if you wish to sort more thoroughly. For instance, under my Keep file, I have my pictures in years. As I am sorting out pictures in years, I might add more folders for particular events like Family Reunion, trip to Alaska, etc. I will place those sub folders under the year it applies to. (2014 - sub folder Alaska Trip)

Make one of the folders a TREASURE folder. - Limit to "treasure" pictures - ones that you would like to print out and pass down. Think about the photos you treasure of your ancestors to help guide you for this group. For photos in this group, copy from the keep file the ones that you really want as a treasure then paste the copy into the treasure folder.

Step 3 - Go through all of your pictures and make the decision to put each picture into one of these two folders. Be sure to trash all photos that would not look good if printed (blurry, people you don't know, places that mean nothing to you, etc.) Also trash all duplicates. Be strong with yourself. You know what pictures mean nothing to you or that would look bad printed. Remember, you are housecleaning your photos. To do a quick sort, just put all of your pictures in one of the two folders then when you are done, go back and divide the Keep folder into sub folders. This is a double step but it will go faster if you have tons to sort through.

Step 4 - Do a quick look through your trash folder to make sure that these are pictures that you can part with and then DELETE THESE PICTURES. Get rid of them. Don't let them clutter your computer for another minute! (You will be surprised how you won't miss these at all.)

Step 5 - Now go through your Treasure pictures. This is the group you are going to carefully name and organize. Try to identify and date if possible. It would be good to print these pictures and put in a book that can be shared.

Step 6 - Save this Keep folder in more than one place. Copy and paste this Master folder onto an external drive or to the cloud. Be sure to share these pictures with your extended family.

Step 7 - All new pictures will need to be treated immediately. If downloading from a camera or phone, make sure to drop them into a "temporary" folder. Now delete all "trash" related pictures, put your new pictures into the Keep file under the year (and group)or however you have chosen to set up your folders. If you have pictures to add to your Treasure folder, be sure to label them carefully and put them into your Master File Treasure folder. Every so often, update your files that you have kept in other locations by deleting the old file and replacing it with the new. (The reason for deleting the old is that it no longer contains all of the pictures you have collected as you have since added new pictures. Since the old files are not complete, delete them and replace them with this new complete folder)

Share your pictures with your family by printing out picture books or displaying them in a digital picture frame. Pictures help us remember memories of events in our lives. Make sure that your family will remember these events in their lives through the pictures you have organized!

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

BOOT CAMP - Lesson 7 - Traditions

Christmas always seems to be a time for traditions. Most of us have some traditions that we grew up with and have continued as adults with our family. Now would be a great time to write down the traditions of your family as a child and those of your family today. Tell about your traditions on your family tree! If you don't have any traditions, maybe this would be a good year to start some!

What are traditions?
Traditions are behaviors and actions that you engage in again and again - regular rituals that you perform at the same time and/or in the same way. Traditions, when done right, lend a certain magic, spirit, and texture to our everyday lives.

7 Reasons why traditions are important - by Frank Sonnenberg
  • Tradition contributes a sense of comfort and belonging. It brings families together and enables people to reconnect with friends.
  • Tradition reinforces values such as freedom, faith, integrity, a good education, personal responsibility, a strong work ethic, and the value of being selfless.
  • Tradition provides a forum to showcase role models and celebrate the things that really matter in life.
  • Tradition offers a chance to say “thank you” for the contribution that someone has made.
  • Tradition enables us to showcase the principles of our Founding Fathers, celebrate diversity, and unite as a country.
  • Tradition serves as an avenue for creating lasting memories for our families and friends.
  • Tradition offers an excellent context for meaningful pause and reflection.
This Christmas season take some time to gather the family and discuss the importance of your family traditions. (This would be a great Family Home Evening!) Most of all, have a wonderful Christmas.

BOOT CAMP Lesson 6 Thankful for the Memories

While pondering a lesson for November, I was reminded of a Thanksgiving many years ago and  thought it would be a good lesson for this month. The topic for this month's lesson will about recording family memories for future generations.

With the holidays upon us, many of us will be visiting with family - parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, brothers, sisters, and friends too! Now is the perfect time to record some of their history. In order to do this, go well equipped. You will need the correct tools to record these wonderful memories. Let's discuss some of what you will need to prepare yourself.

1 - A Plan - Plan ahead, even if you aren't sure that the opportunity might arise, if you have some items with you and have some simple preparation, you can do an interview on the fly. Attend your gathering with a "thought" and a "plan" to glean information from your family.

2 - Equipment - It is imperative that you have some kind of recording devices to save these memories that you want to acquire. The most basic is to use a cell phone for pictures and or videos. Better yet is a digital camera for live videos and still photos. You may also want to bring along a little digital tape recorder. Make sure everything is in at least digital format (or whatever is the most current mode of recording) so you will be able to easily transfer it to Family Tree or some other keepsake like a video or photo album. If you have a portable scanner, not a bad idea to take it with you but don't forget, your cell phone or camera may also be used to record documents and printed pictures (like those on a wall or in an album).

3 - Outline - Decide ahead of time what you are wanting from those at your gathering. Be prepared so you don't waste time and frustrate those you want to interview. Be organized in how you go about getting what you want.

PHOTOS - Be sure to know your camera before you go to your family gathering. Make sure the batteries are fully charged. Have a card large enough to record all the videos and pictures you would like (you may need an extra battery and extra cards). Take as many pictures as you can because you will wish you had more and the "right time" may never come along again.

INTERVIEW - Definitely have a plan for interviewing. There are a few different ways to glean stories from family. Some people are very nervous about sharing or talking about themselves and their lives. Many think their lives are unimportant and feel there is nothing to talk about. You can take different approaches. You can ask questions - probably starting with their childhood and moving through their life. Another is to record a friendly family gathering with some leading questions to inspire the discussion. Be sure to include the important things in a person's life like names, dates, places, etc. Don't forget to get the stories! Watch this short video to help with some ideas. There are lots of ideas online with questions to ask and how to make others feel comfortable while being interviewed. Be sure to record the questions as well as the response from the person being interviewed as their response may not be clear without the question.