Takin’ It To The Street

I had such a great time the past couple of weeks taking my Mountain Genealogy Retreat to California. I taught two-day seminars in San Clemente and Carlsbad with 15 fantastic people. We laughed, cried, learned and shared and it was so much fun.

connie ward girlwithapast blog genealogy family history retreat class seminar california

San Clemente Seminar with Alicia Anderson, Terri Chapman, Lisa Davis, Pam Stark, Bill Chapman, Elizabeth Puckett, Kimi Encarnacion, Julie Beutler, Cindy Lang

If you would like the Mountain Genealogy Retreat to come to you in the form of a 2-day seminar, here’s what you do:

  1. Coordinate a date with me
  2. Host the event at your home – two 8-hour days
  3. Enroll 7-8 friends at $150 each (no charge for you)
  4. Plan and prepare the meals – brunch and linner each day with snacks
  5. I provide all the materials, my 45 years of genealogy experience, inspiring stories, one-on-one research education and help, and I teach everything you want to know about journals, personal histories, organizing pictures and documents, heirlooms and traditions, and my research process using FamilySearch and Ancestry
  6. At the end of the second day I will spend as much time as needed with you and/or your family answering questions and helping you with research problems

It’s a great deal, right??? And bringing the spirit of family history to your home through friends and inspiring stories is priceless!

Contact me soon for more information!


Mountain Genealogy Retreat

Last year I started something new – a monthly overnight genealogy retreat held at my home through the good weather months.  I love to teach genealogy, so this was so much fun for me.  There were 30 women and teens who joined me in groups of 3 to 12!

Connie Ward girl with a past genealogy retreat Eden Utah journaling life story family history research organization

One of our retreat groups taking a break!

I edited and refined the materials until I was able to present the important basics of everything pertaining to genealogy in a short period of time.  I taught organizing documents and pictures, writing journals and life stories, researching and navigating mega websites, understanding census records, telling and recording stories, and much more.  By the time each event was finished and the last guest had walked out the door, I was exhausted, but sad to see it end.  We shared incredible life lessons through our stories, we laughed and cried together, and we each left with a desire to connect with ancestors and loved ones.  Everyone went home with a binder full of printed information on everything that was taught.

This summer’s retreats are filling up, but I still have a few openings for June 22-23 and I could take two or three more people on August 31-September 1.

I am also willing to set up other weekends if you have a group of friends who want to attend together.  So if you live in decent proximity to Eden, Utah (or even if you don’t – I have had guests from Texas and California), and you would like to jump start or fine tune your genealogy yearnings, please contact me and let’s do it!  The cost for materials,  comfortable beds and good food is $150.  The friendship, laughter, and tears are free!

Since we never purchase anything without reading the reviews, here are a couple:

This is a wonderful opportunity, so glad I was able to attend the last one. Connie’s hospitality and knowledge of the subject are off the chart!! – Marianne

I was lucky enough to attend the first retreat. Wonderful information by an incredible mentor and friend. – Dixie

Peek a Boo, I See You: Inspire Someone

Only minutes ago I settled myself on a comfy chaise lounge on my back deck overlooking the beautiful valley where I live.

Connie Ward girl with a past journal genealogy Nordic Valley Utah Eden sunset

I was excited to begin reading “Strange Fits of Passion” by one of my favorite authors, Anita Shreve.

Anita Shreve Strange Fits of Passion novel

I was only a couple of paragraphs into the story when I was again reminded of how very important the written word is.


I have wanted to do more posts on journal writing and Anita Shreve’s first few pages made me jump right up and come in the house to start constructing a blog post.  This will be short, mainly just an introduction to what will be coming in this series about journal writing.

Why is it important to write in a journal?  Or is it?  I will give a few examples from my life, beginning with my daughter, Kimi, who left home right after high school and moved to Southern California to figure out what she wanted to be when she grew up.  And if you are interested in what she became, just click here and be pleasantly surprised (and no, she is not into genealogy!).

connie ward girl with a past blog genealogy family history Kimi Encarnacion HoneyofCalifornia

But, back to my post.

At one point in Kimi’s journey, she went through a patch of time where not everything was easy or fun and she had questions.  If you are a parent, you are familiar with those times when your kids have to find out for themselves and make their own decisions.  There wasn’t much I could do, being 10 hours and 700+ miles away, but for some reason I decided to remind her of the good/funny/crazy times of her childhood.  I thought it might ground her and put her mind on something light for a change.

Luckily I had kept a pretty regular journal from the time Kimi was about 8 or 9 years old, so I started reading through those journals and pulling tidbits that involved her.  It was actually pretty fun and served to remind me of those fun times when my girls were in elementary school.


I continued to email her these quotes from my journal, and although she remarked on some of them, I didn’t know if they were helping until a few months later when I received an email thanking me and telling me that being reminded of who and what she was at that age really helped her to come to grips with who and what she was as an adult.  Sadly, her reply didn’t find its way into my journal at the time, but I still remember what she said.

So, there ya go – my first reason for writing in a journal – you never know who may need the words you have written!  And now – back to “Strange Fits of Passion!”

connie ward girl with a past blog genealogy family history photo display magazine file organization sheet music ancestor pictures vintage frames


Peek-A-Boo, I See You: 1000 words

Does a picture really paint a thousand words?  For me, a picture paints a thousand memories.  There are many things that I only really remember because I have pictures to document.  I saw some pictures in my daughter’s album Sunday of 10-12 of us seated around her dining table with Mad Hatter hats made from paper bags that we had created and decorated.  I looked at that picture (and I was in it) and realized I had absolutely no recollection of the event!  She was the only one with a picture.  It made me wonder how many other wonderful and crazy events in my life are missing from memory because I was not carrying a camera.

After all, isn’t that why we take pictures?  To remember?  We all have a few pictures of ancestors we never met, and priceless those are to us.  I have two favorites, one of my Grandma Bronson who I knew well, and one of my Great-grandma Wilcox who died before I was born.

Marguerite Wilcox Bronson with baby, Beth

Marguerite Wilcox Bronson with baby, Beth

Not only is this a precious picture of my Grandma Bronson taken in about 1913/14, but it has an interesting story.  We have pieced together the information that was handed down, but only Grandma knows all the facts, and she has been gone for over 40 years.  Bottom line, she was young when she had this baby, and the baby was raised by Grandma’s parents.  My dad didn’t even know of the existence of this older sister until he was almost an adult.

Eliza Snow Lyon on the right and her sisters

Eliza Snow Lyon on the right and her sisters

Grandma Bronson’s mother was 20 years old, living at home with her family in Salt Lake City in the late 1800’s, when a young man from Omaha – Charles Emery Wilcox – came to Utah to work on the new streetcars.  Eliza’s brother had a rooming house and Charles was staying there.  Who wouldn’t be smitten by this beautiful young lady?  And of course the rest is history.

Now with everyone packing a cell phone, we have no excuses for having no pictures – unless you are like me –  the one taking all the pictures.  And I don’t do selfies – short arms, big head, short neck – these all shout “say no to selfies.”  So if I am going to be remembered through pictures, I have to make sure I hand off the phone/camera to someone else occasionally.  I think through the years I’ve managed to capture the real me!

A glimpse into my life through picture - the good, the bad, the dorky!

A glimpse into my life through picture – the good, the bad, the dorky!

But one of my pet peeves is that with all the digital photos, most are on a phone, a computer, or a backup system.  They are often not printed out and put in books anymore – and I think that’s a shame!  I love when my grandkids gather around my photo albums to laugh, chat, and remember.  After all, that’s what photos are for, right?

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 preservingheritage.blogspot.com.
  • 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 grandmagap.com.

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?

Diggin’ Up Roots: the art of note taking

I am an Evernote lover.  If that word is foreign to you, stop reading this post and download Evernote to your computer, your laptop, your tablet, your smart phone now!  I guarantee you will wonder how you ever lived your life without Evernote!

The Evernote elephant remembers everything!

The Evernote elephant remembers everything!

There were several good RootsTech classes on using Evernote, and Lisa Louise Cooke has good webinars for it, as well as DottoTech.

Without giving you a whole Evernote tutorial (you can find lots of them on youtube), I will just say that you can use Evernote for everything from basic note taking to digital genealogy files.  When we “go to town” once a week for groceries, I am completely lost if I don’t have my phone with my list on Evernote.  If I have a brilliant thought, even in the middle of the night, I reach for my phone and click on Evernote to record that thought.  Anything I don’t want to forget becomes a note in Evernote.  When I find and scan an ancestor picture, it goes into Evernote.  When I take notes at RootsTech, they are stored in Evernote.  If a friend tells me how to make her scrumptious blond brownies, the recipe goes in Evernote.  You can save an entire web page with one click.  These are some examples of my genealogy notes/files on Evernote:

Salt Lake City Cemetery Map

Salt Lake City Cemetery Map

Ancestor Obituary from newspaper

Ancestor Obituary from newspaper

Postcard sent to my grandmother

Class notes

Class notes

Cemetery photo

Cemetery photo

And best of all, no matter where I am or what device I have or don’t have with me, I can access my Evernote files.  Your notes are stored in the cloud and you don’t have to worry about them.  You can organize them in any way using notebooks and you can search by word if you lose a note in your filing cabinet.  It’s like carrying my office around with me!  My genealogy is at my fingertips as well as the most mundane items of my life.

Evernote is free unless you use too much space, but even at that I only pay $5.00 per month for all this peace of mind.

Seriously, it would take many long blog posts to outline the benefits, so just give it a free try and I know you will love it for storing your genealogy.

Diggin’ Up Roots: pin-ups

Have yPinterest_logo-3ou ever considered Pinterest as a research tool for your genealogy?  I use Pinterest for projects I’m planning, things I see online that I don’t want to forget about, recipes, and other interests.

And at one point I did add a genealogy board, but then kind of forgot about it.  At RootsTech, my memory was jogged, so I came home and did some pinning.

Some of my Pinterest boards

Some of my Pinterest boards

I was quite surprised at the genealogy information already on Pinterest.  There are some great helps and ideas.  I realized that I should  keep “pinning” some of the images I use in my blog for those who love Pinterest, but have not yet discovered “Girl With a Past.”

If you are a fan of Pinterest, a genealogy board might be just the thing for you!  Take a look at my Pinterest Genealogy Board and hopefully it will give you some ideas.

Diggin’ Up Roots: RootsTech in general

I was so inspired by the RootsTech Conference last week and in the coming weeks I plan to share some of the tips and helps I found there.  Next year’s RootsTech is February 3-6 in Salt Lake City and I highly recommend it.  If you register, make sure you check the box for the “events,” as these were a lot of fun and were free.  RootsTech is sponsored by FamilySearch and their partners.  For beginners, intermediate, or advanced genealogists, it is wonderful!

Some of the highlights for me were former First Lady, Laura Bush and daughter, Jenna; Tan Le; and Donny Osmond.  Besides being so educational, the whole weekend was great fun, mostly because my sister from Wisconsin attended with me.


RootsTech 2015

I’m off to Salt Lake City for RootsTech.  Last year at the conference I learned how to “scrapbook” a family history and that got me started on my ongoing project, a children’s book about one of my great-grandfather’s brothers.  I am excited to see what projects I will be inspired to undertake at this year’s RootsTech.  But first things first – now that the long moving process is over and I am comfortable in my new surroundings, next week when I return home from the conference I will be back to blogging, more organizational tips, and my latest genealogy find which I am anxious to share.