Every year for Christmas I try to give my parents and siblings a meaningful family history gift. Sometimes it’s simple, sometimes it’s not. What it always is, is a work of the heart.
This past Christmas, the gift was fairly simple, but definitely meaningful. And because it was created based on a family treasure found in my grandmother’s archives, I gave this particular gift to my children, my parents and siblings, my uncles and cousins, and my grandmother’s only living sibling.
So what was this special token of our shared heritage?
A slim, 23 page book.
The first 15 pages were a carefully scanned copy of a handwritten personal history recorded by my 2nd great grandmother Susan Kaziah Davis.
Susan is my Grandma’s Grandma. Susan was born in 1850 in Bath, Somerset, England to Edward George Davis and Sarah Esther Mudd. Edward and Sarah had joined The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in 1849. They continued to live in England for several years. After Edward’s death in 1863, Sarah and the children worked hard to earn enough money for passage to America and the journey to Utah. They arrived in the Salt Lake Valley on the 3rd of September, 1868, having travelled by wagon train. This makes Sarah, Susan, and the other children Mormon Pioneers.
At the age of 65, Susan wrote a 15 page personal history. Later, Susan and her son Claude, my great grandfather, used this handwritten history to write a more complete history of Susan’s life.
The original 15 pages are handwritten by Susan in her beautiful penmanship. I have that original handwritten history and wanted my whole family to be able to enjoy it.
I used a local printshop that I trust to create the scan. They scanned it in black and white and printed it on a creamy colored cardstock that was similar to the color of the original paper. I created 8 additional pages that were added after the history. The print shop printed them up and bound them with a small spiral binding at the top. Here is one of the books.
I tried to keep it almost as simple as I found it. I added my extra pages after Susan’s own writing. I wanted my family to be able to discover her life from her own writing, just like I had, when I found this treasure.
In the 8 additional pages, I included a letter from me, a few photos of Susan (reprints of scans), a photo of Susan’s mother Sarah, a lovely family group sheet for Susan, her husband and children, and one for Sarah, Edward and their children. I also created a relationship chart so that each recipient would know how they are related to Susan. Here are the 8 pages, in the order found in the book, with names of living people edited out except for mine.
I was very happy with this small gift I was able to share with my family.
The next step for me was a more permanent preservation effort for the handwritten history.
I instantly thought of the free FamilySearch book scanning service at RootsTech. I had used this service at RootsTech in 2016 and was very happy with the quality of the scan. The item I scanned that year was a Family Record book kept by Susan’s husband Frederick William Ellis. Here are two sample pages from that scan:
The book can be found in the FamilySearch Catalog here. The actual images of the book can be found here.
The scans turned out great! I was very pleased and thought this was a great way to preserve something for my extended family with little work on my part. The book is 86 pages long and while I certainly could have scanned them, this saved me lots of time.
Because of my previous experience with the FamilySearch Book Scanning service at RootsTech, I decided Susan’s handwritten history would be one of two books I had scanned at RootsTech 2017.
When I picked up my precious manuscript from the book scanning booth I very nearly walked over to a different booth that accepts donations of family items about early Mormon Pioneers. I almost donated this small history so it could be preserved and available for all of Susan’s descendants to view in person at the Church History Library. I had already recreated a physical copy for my family. I had already had a nice scan created by FamilySearch. Donating it would ensure it’s preservation. But some nagging feeling caused me to keep on walking.
After I returned home from RootsTech, I checked for my book to show up in the catalog several times. Eventually I quit checking and forgot about it until last week when I checked again. I was very puzzled when I couldn’t find it. I tried a bunch of tricks and I just wasn’t tracking it down. So I got extra creative and finally – there it was. The catalog name isn’t the best – A Brief sketch of the Life & Happenings of Susean (Susan) K. Ellis. The catalog entry can be found here. And the images of the scans can be found here.
Here is the first page from that scan:
I was sooooo disappointed in this scan! They scanned it in black and white. And at a low resolution.
Can I just say how glad I am that I did not donate Susan’s precious manuscript?!
After discovering this huge disappointment, I decided to scan the small treasure myself last week. I used a flatbed scanner and scanned each page at a very high resolution and saved them as a .tiff file.
Here is the first page at about one fourth the size of my scan and saved as a .jpeg. It looks so much better than the FS scan!
So what is the lesson?
I don’t know why I experienced such drastic quality differences with the FamilySearch Book Scanning service, but I did. In the future, I will not waste my time having them scan something so small. And I will definitely NEVER assume their scan has me covered and donate an item before making sure the scan is the quality I expect.
FamilySearch has earned my trust time and again. I almost let that well deserved trust cause me to donate an item before it had been properly scanned. I would have been heartbroken at my unnecessary loss.
I still trust FamilySearch and love their generous, inclusive, and vast efforts to help all people learn about their family’s history.
But I have now learned that my trust has a very important limit. Everything I consider donating will be properly scanned and saved to various locations before I even talk about making that donation.
Have you ever used the FamilySearch Book Scanning service? If so, what was your experience like?
Do you like to give family history gifts to your family? If so, what types of gifts have you given?
Happy Monday, I hope you are able to properly preserve and share a family treasure very soon!
ps – I will post my scans and a transcription of Susan’s history in an upcoming post for my extended family to find and enjoy.
25 thoughts on “A Special Christmas Gift & the Lesson FamilySearch Taught Me”
What a beautiful gift! May I ask how you created that family group sheet? I really like the formatting! It reminds me of old published family histories.
Thank you Katie! I created the family group sheets from scratch with Adobe Illustrator. I’m glad you like them. 🙂
What an amazing treasure—I am so glad you had not given it away. I am not sure I could ever part with something like that. I would probably provide for it in my will so that some thoughtless descendant didn’t just throw it away, but I’d want to hold on to it for as long as I could.
And what a wonderful gift you made! I hope your family loved it.
Thank you Amy! They did love it. The only reason I considered donating this particular item is that I have about 18 large boxes full of photos, documents, and artifacts and this one could be preserved and available for all of her descendants to view at the Church History Library in Salt Lake City (which is only about 50 minutes away from me). However, my near miss has changed my mind. For now. I’m with you though, it is a worry that someone might throw things like this out. I’m already mentally fussing over how I am going to preserve & pass on my huge collection. I don’t want to wait to make those decisions until I’m too old because you really never know when your time is up.
How very true—and I really should do more than think about it myself. I should at least let my husband and children know my wishes.
Me too. But first I need to figure out what they are.
Yeah…other than, “DON’T THROW ANYTHING AWAY!”
EXACTLY!! Maybe we both need to make signs to that effect to put on all sides of our boxes of treasures. 😉
I made shutterfly books for my family on both sides showing the photos and note I had discovered then explaining some family history. I made one copy for each of my first cousins and siblings. I need to make updated copies with the new documentation I found.
What a wonderful gift! I hope they treasure your thoughtful, and hard work. 🙂
They all loved them. Thank you. Sharing what we learn makes it so much better.
Such a beautiful, thoughtful gift Amberly. I’m with Amy though, I don’t think I could part with any of the small number of family photos or records I have, even if I had scans done first. I’m not sure what will happen to my little family archive when I’m gone, but I guess I should think about it 🙁
Thank you Su! This is what I said to Amy:
“The only reason I considered donating this particular item is that I have about 18 large boxes full of photos, documents, and artifacts and this one could be preserved and available for all of her descendants to view at the Church History Library in Salt Lake City (which is only about 50 minutes away from me). However, my near miss has changed my mind. For now. I’m with you though, it is a worry that someone might throw things like this out. I’m already mentally fussing over how I am going to preserve & pass on my huge collection. I don’t want to wait to make those decisions until I’m too old because you really never know when your time is up.”
It is something we need to think about and plan for, but it feels strange don’t you think?
It is! I can’t imagine anyone in my family wanting to take over the role as historian / archivist.
I feel the same way. Hopefully we are both wrong. 😉
Thanks for sharing the important lesson you learned (so we can learn from it too)! And what a lucky family you have, to get awesome family history gifts each year!
Thank you Lenore! I hope they appreciate it, they seem to. 🙂 It’s good to hear from you, you’ve been quiet for a while. I hope all is well with you and yours.
Your family must have loved that gift. Thanks for inspiring us to make similar gifts. This is the time of year to begin gifts like that. Each year I give my brothers, their children & my children Family Calendars. The calendars are filled with photos, both recent & old. It also includes birthdays & anniversaries from current family members and those I have have uncovered in my research. I work on it all year long & I’m happy to say it is a gift everyone looks forward to receiving.
They did, thank you Colleen! It is the right time to be planning right now. I’ve been trying to decide what my gift for this year will be. I have a few ideas brewing… 😉 Your calendars sound like an amazing treasure. Your family is very lucky!
What a wonderful gift. Years ago I made notebooks (pre-digital age) with everything I had on my parents and their lines. I gave one to my brother and each of his three children. I had secretly hoped that someone would catch the genealogy bug and help me out. Oh, well, maybe someday someone will. I’m the only member in my family of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
What a great gift! I hope they appreciated it. I didn’t know you were the only member in your family. I hope someday you have someone to share your stories with. <3
Alone, except for many deceased relatives! As far as I’ve been able to determine, I’m the only member who joined while living! 😉 😀 <3
Wow! You must be such a treasure to those who have passed on. I bet your collection of guardian angels is large! <3