Peek-A-Boo, I See You: get a life

I heard a quote that within 50 years after a person dies, there is no more record of them.  I have thought about that a lot.  What will my great-grandkids know about me, if anything?  What will my grandkids remember about me?  What do I wish I knew about my great-grandmothers?  If everyone had left a record of their life, I wouldn’t have so many unanswered questions, right?

So assuming most of you are commoners like me, I am going to do some posts related to things we can do so we will be remembered, starting with journals.

Modern journals can be purchased for as little as $3

Modern journals can be purchased for as little as $3

When he was called to be President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in 1973, Spencer W. Kimball had 33 black binders on a shelf that contained his journals.  He promised that if we kept journals and records, they would be “a source of great inspiration to your families, to your children, your grandchildren, and others, on through the generations.”

I took his advice to heart and in 1976 started writing in a journal.  My journals have contained different things at different times in my life.  Sometimes they are a way for me to work out problems.  At other times they are spiritual records.  And sometimes they are just normal or unusual events of my everyday life.

I write my journal on the computer, then put the pages in binders

I write my journal on the computer, then put the pages in binders

I have had occasion to refer back to them to give someone inspiration, to settle an argument, or to recall a tender moment.  President Kimball said your journal is your biography.  “What could you do better for your children and your children’s children than to record the story of your life, your triumphs over adversity, your recovery after a fall, your progress when all seemed black, your rejoicing when you had finally achieved?”

And what do you write in your journal?  According to President Kimball, you should record “your goings and your comings, your deeper thoughts, your achievements, and your failures, your associations and your triumphs, your impressions and your testimonies.”

I keep my journals in binders of course!

I keep my journals in binders of course!

Can you even imagine if you had the journals of your grandfather who was born in 1757 in England, came here to fight in the Revolutionary War, and lived until 1839?  Or what if you could read the journal of your grandmother who lost her husband in 1883 and raised her eight children alone in the western wilderness?  Yes, some of those amazing stories do remain, but most are long lost, or have been retold so often that most of the facts are twisted.

Some old journals that I have inherited.

Some old journals that I have inherited.

So, genealogists especially should know better than to leave this earth without leaving a record.  And if you haven’t done it yet, it is never too late to start!  Now that you have had your pep talk, the next post will give you some ideas of what might go inside a journal.


Diggin’ Up Roots: grandkids can dig too

I am always looking for ways to get my grandkids excited about my genealogy hobby.  I shove it down their throats whenever possible!  My granddaughter, Phebe, wrote a book about a grandmother named Phebe for a school project.  She did a great job and I was proud of her effort to be involved in the family history.

My granddaughter, Phebe, standing by the headstone of the grandma Phebe Zundel Ward

My granddaughter, Phebe, standing by the headstone of the grandma Phebe Zundel Ward

I did hear of a few new ways to involve the grandkids at RootsTech.

  • One of the ideas was said jokingly, but I actually thought it was a good idea:  make placemats of the family tree!  It would certainly start a great conversation at Sunday dinner, don’t you think?  I even found some examples at
  • Another idea came from a talk that referenced a study at Emory University involving the “Do You Know” test.  I googled it and am going to use it in the near future, again a Sunday dinner gem.
  • Someone mentioned having the family do a life map activity.  Each person would write down on a piece of paper as many “I remember” statements as possible within about 2-3 minutes.  Then they could draw a life map using those statements.  I want to do this and record the whole activity.
  • Also check out this cute Time Machine book at zap the

There are lots of ideas for involving those grandkids.  I will post more as I find them.  Am I alone in fearing that when I die no one will be interesting in furthering our family history?

Knick Knack Paddy Whack: give the girl a room


STEP THREE:  I really wanted to display photos and saw a great idea for doing this in the archive room.  My husband made some wood frames for sheet metal so I could attach photos with magnets.  We distressed the frames and painted them a flat brown.  I was able to change out the photos frequently and give all the ancestors their moment on the wall of fame

connie ward girl with a past genealogy blog photos sheet metal frames magnets

The finishing touch was the family tree I designed.  It not only displayed my ancestors, but also my husband’s.

connie ward girl with a past genealogy blog family tree apples basket swing leaves

The three baskets were for each of our three daughters and their families.  The swings indicated which side was for my ancestors and which side was my husband’s. I asked my daughter, Brenda, to paint the tree on the wall, but she had a better idea – torn paper!

connie ward girl with a past genealogy blog family tree apples leaves basket swing

I eventually transferred the tree to a piece of heavy, clear vinyl and held it on the wall with thumb tacks.

I loved this little archive room and my grandchildren spent lots of time there.  But some items were missing — the trunk, my mother-in-law’s table, some vintage lamps, the tools, and other larger items.  And I kept finding more heirlooms that I had forgotten about.  What to do?  My family knows I love change, in fact I thrive on it, so watch for my next post, the final (maybe) installment of Knick Knack Paddy Whack.


Knick Knack Paddy Whack: give the girl a room


STEP TWO:  So much stuff and so little space!  Luckily the small room I had earmarked for the “archive room” already had a bookcase covering one wall, so I started there.

connie ward girl with a past blog genealogy heirloom vintage memorabilia knick knack


I began with a whole shelf dedicated to each person, but quickly ran out of room and had to double up.  But I liked the effect.  Now each ancestor’s memorabilia was on display, much of which had previously been in storage.

It seemed right for the scrapbooks and the genealogy to be in this room too, so the scrapbooks went on the bottom shelves under the heirlooms.  The grandkids immediately began spending time in the room looking at scrapbooks on the floor, so my handy-dandy carpenter husband installed a long shelf on the adjoining wall and I covered it in white padded vinyl.  The grandkids could put the large scrapbooks on the shelf and have plenty of room to maneuver them.  We already had a wooden bench that fit perfectly under the shelf.

connie ward girl with a past genealogy blog scrapbooks organization


My 1966 Magnavox stereo console, which still worked like a charm, had been in my mom’s living room since the 70’s, so I reclaimed it and put it in the “archive room” with some vinyls from the 60’s.  The grandkids promptly asked, “What are these???”  It was fun showing them how a phonograph worked!  There was also room for my mom’s 1940’s rocking chair and the rocking chair I received for Christmas when I was two.

connie ward girl with a past genealogy blog 1940 vintage rocking chair heirloom


My husband had made a bookcase for another room, but it was perfect for the genealogy binders (you will recognize them from a previous post).  An unfinished lace tablecloth started by my great-grandmother topped the bookcase with a wooden candle box and a lamp inherited from my mother-in-law’s fireplace mantel.

connie ward girl with a past genealogy blog genealogy research binders organization heirloom


Watch for the THIRD INSTALLMENT of Knick Knack Paddy Whack to see my favorite finishing touches in the “archive room.”



Knick Knack Paddy Whack: give the girl a room

Every time I was asked to give a presentation on genealogy, I would go through my house and box up tons of items for display.  I realized I really did have a lot of heirlooms and memorabilia and knick knacks from ancestors.  But none of it was readily available or displayed for the family to see.  I decided to do something about that. Although my home is quite small by today’s standards, I managed to turn the smallest room into an “archive room” or as my granddaughters called it, “the museum.” In order to do that, I had to kick the grandkids out of their cute playroom.  I know, cruel Grandma, but it was time for them to move downstairs anyway where they would have more room for cartwheels and “Just Dance.”

"Go away, Grandma.  You can't have our playroom."

“Go away, Grandma. You can’t have our playroom.”

STEP ONE:  Gather up everything that belonged to an ancestor.  By my definition, this was anyone older than my generation, dead or alive! connie ward girlwithapast blog genealogy heirloom memorabilia knick knack vintage collectibles My collection ended up being everything from books to knick-knacks to collectibles to linens to tools to furniture.  These were not things of great monetary value, but were items of irreplaceable family value.  Each knick knack told a story.  And I was amazed at how much stuff I had!  I wasn’t sure that little room would hold it all, but I was determined.

connie ward girl with a past blog genealogy heirloom 1940 vintage memorabilia

My mom’s first typewriter, eggbeater from the 40’s, patterns she used to make my clothes in the 40’s, the set of books she kept for my grandfather’s business, plaques that hung on our kitchen wall in the 50’s, Belgian lace she made later in her life.

connie ward girl with a past genealogy blog heirloom memorabilia trophy

My grandfather’s glasses, hat, rodeo shirt, Shetland pony trophies, buggy whip, business documents.

connie ward girl with a past genealogy blog 1940 vintage lamp heirloom crochet recipe

Precious items from my two grandmothers – crocheted pot holders, hats, bags, lemon juicer, recipe file, kerosene lamp, button box, bottle opener,  bank book, ledger, book of fairy tales.

connie ward girl with a past genealogy blog 1940 vintage rocking chair trunk heirloom

Mom’s first rocking chair and end table, great-grandfather’s trunk, my little red rocking chair (I’m not my own ancestor, but I couldn’t resist having it recovered for display).

connie ward girl with a past genealogy blog cootie bingo vintage heirloom memorabilia toy sewing machine iron

Original Bingo and Cootie games, child’s sewing machine and iron, vintage electric line insulators.

Everything from soup to nuts!  I think you would be surprised at what you could find in your house that was handed down from grandparents. The next step was organizing all of the memorabilia and displaying it in my teeny tiny room.  Watch for Installment 2 to see if I was able to do it!!!

Let It All Hang Out: find the courage to write that book

Spring, 2014 – Connie’s Current Project (the reason I can’t cook, clean, or communicate):  Writing a family history book geared more toward elementary age children and older.  
I had always wanted to write the history of my Wilcox family in Omaha, Nebraska, from the mid-1800’s to mid-1900’s, but each time I started, I lost my courage.  I questioned my abilities, my information, my research.  I couldn’t even get past the first sentence in the book.  When I attended RootsTech 2014 with Elizabeth, my awesome, newly-found friend who happens to be a screenwriter and a new genealogist, I was inspired to finally tackle the writing project, but in a completely new way. I wanted to end up with a book about the Newell Reuben Wilcox family that my grandchildren would want to read.  But to do that would require a lot of pictures (which I didn’t have), a writing style geared more to their age, and the previously lacking courage.  The answer?  Why not digitally scrapbook the history and include pictures relevant to the time and place!  
Thanks to I found the inspiration and the digital scrapbooking tools. Thanks to I found awesome classes for PhotoShop Elements 11 that gave me confidence, and thanks to Elizabeth I had the courage to write.  
Instead of a large book on the whole family, it will be a set of six 10 x 10 books, one for the parents and one for each son.  I thought each book might be 20 pages, but I have not quite finished the first book and am at page 45 already!  Of course, there will be some editing until the book is a manageable length for the grandchildren without missing any of the important information.  I had no idea how fun this project would be!  For a person like me who loves working on the computer, digital scrapbooking was the ideal platform.  Here is a teaser – one of my favorite pages from the book:
Including historical events will give the kids a history lesson along with helping them to understand the trials their ancestors went through.

Including historical events will give the kids a history lesson as well as help them understand the trials their ancestors went through.