Archive for the ‘Family History Fun’ Category

Lester in the Land of the Lost

Lester in the Land of the Lost

This is my older brother, L.A. (now a professor at Iowa State) in about 1958.  Any ideas about where this was taken?

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Missouri Summer ~1995

Missouri Summer ~ Gracie & Livy

It’s National Watermelon Day!!

How will you celebrate?

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Jump into Summer

Family History Today - Four of my daughters and one of my favorite nieces jump into summer at the Astoria Column on the Oregon Coast!

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Last night, while my friend Cheryl and I were sitting in my driveway watching the kids blow up things, we got to talking.

“I once had a friend who said that one of the guys in KISS was her cousin,” Cheryl told me.

“Yeah,” I said, “I had a friend who said she was related to Jesse James.” (Aren’t we all?)

Cheryl went on, “The same girl told me that she had a cousin in Bachman Turner Overdrive when they went through town. In fact, I think she may have had a cousin in every band that played in the 70’s.”

We both laughed. Everyone knows someone who has a “cousin.”

Family history is full of legends and lies. And there are plenty of articles with great advice on how to slog through them in pursuit of your family facts – Cyndi’s List has a whole section dedicated to collecting oral history.  But today is about taking the road less traveled.   Today is about embracing the legends and loving the lies.*

Lucy & Wayne Hancock

Lucy & Wayne Hancock (note the Bible Wayne is holding)

Take my Grandfather Hancock.  (This is, by the way, the first time in my life that I have ever referred to him as my Grandfather.  Anywho…)  He left my grandma, thirty-one and pregnant, high and dry with seven children at the height of the Depression. That’s a fact. My dad, the youngest, never met his biological father. That’s a fact too. But it is at the line where fact meets legend that Grandpa Hancock gets interesting. Wayne Hancock, so the story goes, was a traveling preacher, and would be gone from his family for months at a time. When I was thirteen, I overheard my Dad and a few of his siblings speculating at a family reunion that their father probably had another family “up river” somewhere. Maybe even two! Scandalous – yes. Intriguing – absolutely!

Then there’s his genealogy. Family reports suggest that Wayne was anywhere from eight to fifty percent Blackfoot, but exhaustive research has yet to unearth even one Native American in his line. Oh, and that claimed relation to Declaration signer John? Also unsubstantiated as of today. (Though I admit that I’m still holding out hope on that one.) And finally, even his name is still up for debate: half the family will put their hand on the Bible and swear his middle name was Tecumseh, named for the 19th century Shawnee leader. Cool, huh? But no record supports this, and census records indicate that his middle name began with an “F” and not a “T.” Those who cling to the myth simply dismiss the disparity, blaming Spencerian scrawl.

My point is, yes, I recognize that 98% this is richly embellished family folklore.  But somewhere, under most family stories is a kernel of truth; it just takes the time and dedication to peel away the outer layers of malarkey.  And if even no truth is found when you get to the center, the story still bears recording somewhere (albeit far from the Fact File).  Because whether they are about royalty or riches, rock stars or rogues, these stories are little threads woven into our family fabric.  These stories, and what we think about them, say something not only about their subjects, but about who we really are.  They tell a truth of a different kind.

*Note:  Unfortunately, some family stories are simply hurtful.  Stop them.  This post isn’t in any way about perpetuating painful gossip.

15-Minutes Family History: Consider one family legend.  What are the details of the story?  Do you remember where you first heard it?  Does the family disagree on the “facts”?  What do you think?  Record these things in a journal or other appropriate place; just be sure to note the nature of the entry!

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Both as the host of the Genealogy Gems Podcast and in real life, Lisa Louise Cooke is warm, inviting, and full of interesting conversation.  An expert genealogist herself, Lisa is always well-informed and genuinely interested in what her listeners want or need to know.

Lisa’s offers family historians a multitude of great (intangible) Freebies through her podcasts:

  • Family History:  Genealogy Made Easy – The BEST deal around, as far as I’m concerned!  Lisa walks fledgling family historians step-by-step through the in-and-outs of family history research.  By the end of the series, you’ll feel as though you have wings to fly to the top of your family tree and beyond.
  • Genealogy Gems Podcasts – Regular free podcasts are published about twice a month, and included updates from the world of genealogy, answers to listener email, and interviews with movers and shakers in the genealogy community.
  • Family Tree Magazine’s monthly radio show/podcast – Each episode features interviews with genealogy experts and Family Tree Magazine (FTM) editors.  The current show, for example, carries a Census theme, and includes interviews with FTM editor Allison Stacy on “Secrets of the Census,” and researcher/writer David Fryxell about his article, “Everybody Counts” which highlights the evolution of the census.

Watch Lisa’s interview with Photoloom President Scott Huskey.

But Free Stuff Friday isn’t about Intangibles, is it?  (The correct answer here is “No, Renee, it is not.  It is about free Stuff.”)  Which brings me to this week’s…

Freebie o’ the Week: Genealogy Gems Toolbar

What it is/does: This toolbar links to the best of Genealogy Gems and delivers the freshest content directly to your browser – including the Genealogy Gems website, Facebook, Twitter, blog and videos, as well as links to Lisa’s top choices for the best free genealogy websites, a webpage highlighter feature, and a search box.  Once installed, you can customize it with any of thousands of free apps from the App Marketplace.

How to get it: Just go to http://thegenealogygemspodcast.ourtoolbar.com/ and click the download button. Installing was amazingly simple, and took me less than a minute. 

Downside? The toolbar takes up about a third of an inch of screen real estate, but other than that I can’t see a downside.

Why it’s cool: Are you kidding?  Look at it – slim, sleek, and busting out with focused family history information at the click of a mouse.  I like that it doesn’t invade my screen, but instead sits there politely, just waiting until I need it.

In the spirit of full disclosure, I must tell you that when I was at the St. George Expo, Lisa gifted me with one of her beautiful Genealogy Gems pins so I could sport some bling.  (Most people recognize that I am somewhat Bling Challenged.)  However, that in no way influenced my opinion of her or her podcast, because I already thought they were both great!

Family Photoloom is always FREE. Click here and join today!

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Freebie o’ the Week:  Family ChARTist

Our second Free Stuff Friday Freebie, another FREE chart option, is a brand spanking new offering from Generation Maps called Family ChARTist.  Janet Hovorka (development director for Generation Maps), was showcasing this super-cool new web application at the Family History Expo in St. George last month.  She says that Family ChARTist will make creating and designing beautiful genealogy charts easier and faster than ever before.  Family ChARTist launched this Monday, so I just had to go and try it out.

Here’s what I made:

Renee's Family ChARTist Bow-tie Chart

Freebie: Any 8.5 X 11 chart free of charge, as a .jgp download.  (Larger charts are available for ordering, at a price.)

What it is/does: Offers virtually infinite possibilities for creating a variety of Genealogy charts.

How to get it: Go to Family ChArtist and create your chart.  To get the .jpg for your Free Chart, press “Order” at the bottom-right of your screen and download it to your computer.


  • It took much longer than I expected to create my chart, but that was in part because I got pulled into the process and played around with it a lot.
  • I couldn’t figure out how to get pictures onto my charts at all.  (Hopefully, you’ll hear more from me about that in coming posts.)
  • The process isn’t nearly as intuitive as I had hoped, but it is graphically intriguing.

Why it’s cool: Family ChARTist gives you an amazing number of options for making your chart:

  • Data entry – you can use everything from manual data entry to GEDCOM and New FamilySearch imports to get your data entered.  You can also include “extra” family members (Yeah, Janet!  A big Thank you from adoptees everywhere!).
  • Backgrounds – Tons, including a whole cache of LDS temple backgrounds, for those so inclined.
  • Titles, Borders & Embellishments – Fun little swills and swishes to add panache.

Final Thoughts: Last week, I highlighted another chart company, Tree Seek, and I still think that is a great option, especially if you’re looking to create a quick chart for family records, or an awesome 9-Generation Fan Chart. However, Family ChARTist is a good option for creating more artsy, Hang-on-the-Wall or Give-to-Grandma-for-Mother’s-Day type charts, especially if you have the time to really play around with it.


I am a huge Hibernophile (St. Patrick’s Day is my second favorite holiday!) so for all those out there who have a bit of Irish ancestry (and those who wish ye did!), you can get free St. Patrick’s Day clip-art at Vintage Holiday Crafts.

Every year on St. Patrick’s Day, before I let the family eat our traditional meal of corned beef, cabbage, and the most amazing mashed potatoes ever, I make my kids listen to retell the story of St. Patrick – who the man was, and what he did.  (Note eye-rolling and groaning all ’round the dinner table.  Nevertheless…) it is an amazing story.

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With last week’s St. George Family History Expo still buzzing in my head, I started writing a post about all the amazing family history resources that had been represented there, but my list got way too long.  Then I decided to narrow my focus and just highlight the cool FREE stuff that I found, but my list was still too long.  SO, in an effort to bring you the whole cannoli, for the next few weeks I’ll be posting a little series called… (♫ da-da-ta-dah ♪♫) FREE STUFF FRIDAY!

(If you’re paying attention, you know that this was posted on a Saturday, but “Free Stuff Saturday” doesn’t have the same ring, and since I thought of the idea on a Friday, I’m going with it, so just play along.)

Freebie ‘o the Week:  Tree Seek
Tree Seek is an up-and-coming chart company that allows you to create charts and print them for free!  You just create a chart online, download the PDF, and print it wherever you want (Generations Maps will print the big ones for you for a very reasonable price).  That includes a huge high-resolution 9-generation fan chart!  And here’s the kicker – currently, everything on Tree Seek is FREE.  Don’t wait, because I am very sure this “everything’s free” model isn’t going to last forever.

What you get:

  • 9-Generation Fan Charts – SO cool!  Display up to 511 ancestor names in a unique and attractive fan design. The eight closest paternal lines are color coded for reference and convenience in identifying your progress. Vector graphics allow you to print any size: it’s native dimensions are 22.5″ x 33.5″.
  • Pedigree Charts
  • Picture Charts – I’ll admit, this one is a little self-promotional, because Tree Seek gets their pictures from your Family Photoloom images on New FamilySearch. If that sounds complicated, don’t worry – from your perspective the process couldn’t be easier.
  • Name Clouds – these are fun, and kids love them!  Names that appear often appear larger; less often, smaller.

What it is/does: Gives you a great visual representation of your family lines for the cost of some printer ink.

How to get it:
Go to TreeSeek.com and “authenticate” with New FamilySearch.  You will be led through the process.  It is very easy to do.

Downside? Yes – you must have a New FamilySearch account.

Why it’s cool: I wish this one had been around when my kids were little, because they were always coming up and telling me they needed a 4-generation chart for school or church or Girl Scouts or something.  How cool is it to just print one out, pictures and all, in a couple of minutes?

Next Week: Here’s a hint – What can you get for Free next Friday that you can’t get at all today?  Stay tuned to find out.

Family Photoloom is FREE!  Sign up today.

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