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.”




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.


Try My Tricks: taking advantage of cousins and classes

The first “Genealogy Miracle” I posted contained some great genealogy lessons.  They are tricks I have learned through the years and use frequently.

  • Genealogy research trips are fabulous adventures and should be undertaken as often as possible, both for research and for nostalgic value.  I have some great stories about research trips and new cousins that I will post in the future.
My daughter, Kimi, and I on  a Michigan research adventure trip.

My daughter, Kimi, and I on a Michigan research adventure trip.

  • Notice if a particular family seems to show up wherever your family lives.  This is a good indication that they are more than friends!
  • If the family moves to a nearby county, it may indicate that other relatives live there.  It is a good place to look for the wife’s family.
  • Another great trick is to stop and research a family that appears to have no connection, but keeps showing up on your family’s records.
  • Take advantage of webinars and online classes.  We can’t remember everything forever, so it is good to be nudged once in a while by a good class.  There are fabulous webinars out there.  Some of my favorites are those offered by Legacy Family Tree.  And classes taught at seminars such as RootsTech are always good.
  • Newspapers hold a wealth of information.  I located an entire family in Omaha, Nebraska and found out everything I needed (and more) because the complete Omaha World-Herald is available at  I have found dozens of events and dates in newspapers that I could find nowhere else and have been able to put whole families together just from newspaper clippings.
You never know what information will show up in the newspaper.

You never know what information will show up in the newspaper.

  • Descendancy research is the gem!  This is one of the best tricks of research.  Not only do I meet wonderful cousins that I didn’t know existed, but they are usually able to fill in the gaps and give me important information.  And as years pass, the older existing descendants get fewer and fewer, so don’t hesitate!  Phone calls are great, but meeting these cousins is an extra bonus.  Sitting with them in their living room jogs their memories and brings out the old photos and stories.
This is a sampling of the cousins I have found in Michigan and New York.

This is a sampling of cousins I have met across the United States while researching.

  • Be persistent, patient, and thorough.  Someone once said that if a document survives, you can find it.  Go with your gut feeling.
  • It’s good to have research helpers – someone to take photos, someone to help sort through papers, and someone to bounce your ideas off and to give you encouragement.

Looking for Lucy: a bible full of genealogy

My 3rd great grandfather, Amos Betts Andrews, came west with the Mormon pioneers in 1848.  He had left his home in New York and met up with the body of the church in Ohio, then on to Nauvoo, Illinois, then to Salt Lake City, Utah.

connie ward girl with a past genealogy blog Mormon pioneer

He left four brothers, five sisters, and both parents in Pompey, Onondaga, New York, and as far as we know did not see them again.  The only documentation we had of his family was his father’s will dated two years before Amos reached the Salt Lake Valley, which named all of the brothers and all of the sisters by their married names.

connie ward girl with a past genealogy blog Andrews will research

After I had many years of research under my belt, I saw that no one had identified the families of these siblings, and I decided to take on the project.  After many hours of looking through records at the Family History Library and a few trips to New York and Michigan, I ended up with 3” binders full of documentation for each sibling of Amos Betts Andrews.



The last sibling to be documented was the youngest brother, Lewis Andrews, who stayed on the family farm until both parents had died.  I knew from census records that his wife was Lucy, but could find no mention of her maiden name.  But living with Lewis Andrews and his wife Lucy in 1855 was Benjamin Grover, his wife Phebe, and their son.  I wondered if Benjamin was Lucy’s brother or if Phebe was Lucy’s sister.  After the death of Lewis’s mother, Betsey Andrews, Lewis and Lucy moved to South Otselic, Chenango, New York.  I was not aware of any other members of the Andrews family living in this county, so wondered if this was where Lucy had grown up.  Then I found that Benjamin Grover’s family had moved to South Otselic also.  I researched Benjamin and Phebe and found that she was the daughter of Tyler and Chloe Potter.

A short time later I saw a webinar by Thomas MacEntee where he mentioned the website “Old Fulton Postcards,” a genealogy research gem I had forgotten about.  I did some looking there and found a newspaper article stating that some relatives of Lucy Andrews had visited her.  One of them was a Potter.

connie ward girl with a past genealogy blog Potter newspaper

I started researching the descendants of Lewis Andrews and Lucy and made phone contact with three of them.  One told me that her cousin, Kenneth Baldwin, living near Boise, Idaho, had a family bible.  Kenneth was Lewis and Lucy’s great-grandson through their daughter, Emma Marie Andrews Baldwin, and he was 89 years old.  I called Kenneth and asked if he did have an Andrews family bible and his answer was “yes.”  I then asked if he could look in it to see if Lucy’s maiden name was recorded.  He said, “No.”  And then he followed with, “But you can.”

Over a year went by until we had the opportunity to spend Thanksgiving with friends who lived about 15 miles from Kenneth’s home.  The morning after we arrived in Idaho, our friends, George and Brenda Foster, drove my husband and myself to Kenneth’s home.  Spread out on a big round kitchen table were so many documents and newspaper clippings that my head was spinning.  And in a prominent position in the middle of the table sat two huge bibles.  I had the feeling that those documents had been sitting on the table for over a year, since the first time I called!  Kenneth said his vision wasn’t very good, but I was welcome to look at everything.  Luckily my husband (we refer to him as “the talker”) was with me and he engaged Kenneth in man talk while I got to work.   Brenda sorted through loose papers on the table while I went through the bibles bulging with newspaper clippings and scraps of paper.  George took pictures of anything pertaining to Lewis’s descendants.  We ended up with a lot of genealogy on Kenneth’s grandparents, but nothing about Lewis and Lucy, and especially nothing stating Lucy’s maiden name.  Finally I announced that I was going to go through the Andrews bible again, one page at a time, because I was just sure Lucy’s name was in there someplace!  I felt like we should get comfy and order take-out – we were going to be a while!  I picked up the bible and put it in front of me on the table, sat down to get comfortable for the duration, and then I did something I rarely do – I started at the back!  I opened the old, cracked, leather cover, turned back the end leaf, and there at the top of the last page was this:

POTTER Lucy (Andrews) (1818) Bible heading on back page

“Mammas Mothers name was Lucy Potter before she married Lewis Andrews she was born in Lincklaen County Sept 7, 1818 she died 90. Lewis Andrews was 78 at his diath”

George took about a dozen pictures because he couldn’t believe it!  I turned to Kenneth and announced that his great-grandmother was Lucy Potter.  He wasn’t too concerned about that – he was just grateful for the visit!  This little miracle note in the bible is still the only place where Lucy’s name is given as Potter, but other records do point to Lucy being a daughter of Tyler and Chloe Potter and a sister of Phebe.


Binders Glorified: genealogy research and organization magic

I love 3-ring binders!  They are magic!  I have banker’s boxes full of empty binders in my garage.  I have a hall closet full of binders waiting to be filled.  I have shelves of binders currently holding very important information.  Whoever invented the 3-ring binder deserves a gold star! Why do I need so many binders?  OK, so I’m an organization junkie!

Organization does not need to be a boring subject!

Organization does not need to be a boring subject!

Here are just some of the items you will find in binders at my house:

  • recipes from myself and 3 daughters
  • almost 40 years of journals
  • newspaper clippings of the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City
  • trips we have taken complete with photos, trip journals, maps, etc.
  • the crazy family stories my husband and I tell our grandkids
  • photos that don’t have a home yet
  • greeting cards (I can’t throw them away)
  • important papers and documents
  • computer CD’s (in those cool plastic thingies that hold 4 CD’s on a page)
  • music CD’s (in those same plastic thingies)
  • DVD’s (yep, more thingies)
  • book lists (you’ll soon find out how much I love books and book lists)
  • crochet patterns
  • family journals (documentation of family activities)
  • OK – I think you get the picture – I couldn’t live without my 3-ring binders

However, the biggest and best reason for binders is to organize my genealogy research. And I have the magic recipe for what’s inside the binder, but that’s for another post.

It's what's inside the binder that counts!

It’s what’s inside the binder that counts!

In the meantime, here are my binder tips:

  • White binders look nice on the shelf.
  • “View” binders can be customized with cute scrapbooking paper and titles printed on the spines.
  • I use scrapbooking paper in four colors (one color for each of my four main families) so they can easily be found on the shelf.
  • Older plain binders can be covered with cloth or contact paper, etc.
  • Stock up on 2″, 2.5″, and a few 3″ for genealogy.
  • Binders come in a variety of grades, prices, and ring mechanisms, but check out or for some good prices.
  • And don’t forget sheet protectors – LOTS of sheet protectors.  Buy them by the box at or Costco.

What about being paperless?  Are you kidding me?  Connie doesn’t do paperless when it comes to genealogy research.  I need my hard copies in front of me where I can think, sort, analyze, scribble, attach sticky notes, and caress my newly-found documents. Besides, when my husband sees all those binders full of research, he keeps helping with the housework and cooking the meals!

So, buy a few binders, fancy them up a bit, and get ready for research magic (or just use them to organize your life)!

connie ward girl with a past genealogy blog binder notebook 3 ring spine label