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: dig those stories

One of the most interesting events for me and my sister was to attend the Innovator Summit Challenge at RootsTech where four entrepreneurs presented their ideas for genealogy technology.  It was done kind of like “Shark Tank,” but in a more gentle manner!  All four of the ideas were so good that it was hard to vote for just one, but the audience was asked to do just that.  The panel also voted.  Each of the four participants was awarded a cash prize, but the grand prize winner was StoryWorth, a company based in San Francisco.  The premise of their website is simple – “Each week, we email your loved ones a question about their life.  All they have to do is reply with a story, by email or by phone.  We save their stories on your private site and email them to your family.”  It is a great way to get your family to write their stories and the first month is free.  After that the pricing depends on the length of the service and the number of storytellers involved.

If you don’t want to use their service, it is still a great idea that you might be able to handle on a smaller scale with your immediate family.  It would be more time consuming, but it could be done.  Or just let StoryWorth do it for you!

There is a great story behind this picture, but only two people in the picture are still alive to tell it.

There is a great story behind this picture, but only two people in the picture are still alive to tell it.

There are so many great stories buried in our families, and probably many of them will stay buried unless we make a goal to do something about it.  StoryWorth is a great way to get started.

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.

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 barbwiredigi.com I found the inspiration and the digital scrapbooking tools. Thanks to naods.com 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 genealogybank.com.  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.