thegenealogygirl


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Family Reunion Bingo Games!

Reunion at Lagoon 1926

Isn’t this photo awesome?!  This Family Reunion photo was taken at Lagoon* in 1926.  The family gathered are the descendants of my 2nd great grandparents Frederick William Ellis and Susan Kaziah Davis.

My family still holds three different reunions today.  They look a little something like this.

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Great Grandchildren of Ronald & Margaret

I really love family reunions but one of the main challenges is getting everyone talking to each other.  It’s easy for the siblings and first cousins, but second cousins and cousins from different generations?  Not so easy.  Everyone experiences the same silly obstacle – they feel dumb asking people’s names.  We always have name-tags available but hardly anyone puts one on.

Well, last summer I was in charge of the Rulon and Naomi Peterson Family Reunion.  Rulon and Naomi are my great grandparents.  This reunion is held every summer in late July or early August and includes 4 generations of my family.  I love to see and visit with my Grandpa’s younger siblings.  His brothers remind me so much of my Grandpa that it takes my breath away for just a minute, in a good way.

But all those younger cousins, understandably, gravitate to their grandparents, parents, and first cousins.  I wanted to shake that up and get people interacting more and remembering our family members who are no longer with us.

So, I made two bingo games that required asking people questions.  I had good prizes too.  There were lots of little party favor type prizes for Bingos like stretchy frogs, bouncy balls, suckers, lip balm, packs of gum, etc.  Then I had a few big prizes for the first 5 or so people who earned a blackout – a cool water gun, two $10 gift cards for lunch, and a few other items I’ve forgotten.  In all I spent about $90 from the budget.  And every penny was worth it.

This was the easy Bingo game:

RulonNaomiPetersonFamilyBingo

As soon as I explained the game to the first children to arrive, they instantly starting running around asking everyone the answers.  The adults who were trying to remember things, had to talk to each other about it too.  Lots of good family conversations were going on.  After several kiddos exhausted this Bingo board, they moved on to the harder game.  This one was about our deeper family history.  This entire side of my family are LDS, so you will notice that reflected in both games.

PetersonSkeenFamilyHistoryBingowoutanswers

I really loved the conversations that both Bingo games generated.  We heard some family stories and facts that I had never heard before – and that is saying something!  There was an awesome feeling during this whole reunion as we had dinner and talked, and filled in our Bingo cards.  Our focus was on our family members and we all felt their love and presence with us that night.

After dinner I wrapped things up by sharing that I had recently come into possession of a large collection of family letters including a box of letters written by Naomi.  This is a special treasure for all of us because she died very young, with one child still at home, and left no journals or personal history.  But those five years of letters she wrote to my Grandpa include so much of her heart and life.  I read this little story from one of her letters:

From a letter dated Friday, October 13, 1944, written by Naomi Peterson to Ronald Peterson:

“I must tell you about Janice and Marilyn.  We went in to Lienhardt’s to get the candy last night and when we came home Marilyn’s new robe was over the back of the chair by the telephone.  It looked wet and on further examination I found a pool of water under the chair.  This morning Janice stated to laugh saying she had never seem anything so funny in her life.  Marilyn had filled the bath tub for her bath.  She and Janice were standing by the mirror.  Marilyn says things just to make Janice angry – rather smart you remember.  Janice gave her a disgusted push and sat Marilyn in the tub robe and all.  Her feet were hanging out and her head against the soap dish.  Janice said she went in very gracefully.  Marilyn says there is going to be a big splash one of these times.”

What a treasure.  It was a joy to see everyone’s eyes light up as I told them about the letters and shared this story.  It was a great reunion with a very simple set of activities.

 

If you have a family reunion coming up, I wholeheartedly suggest you consider making your own version of Family Bingo.  Everyone loved it and they were used again at a smaller reunion for one of my Great Uncles and his family.  I also emailed copies to everyone who couldn’t attend including answers for the second Bingo card.

 

If you would like to use my docs as a starting point to make your own, here they are:

PetersonSkeenFamilyHistoryBingowoutanswers

RulonNaomiPetersonFamilyBingo

And if you are related to me and are curious about the answers, here is the copy with answers:

PetersonSkeenFamilyHistoryBingo

 

I will just add one more tip – I did not put a limit on the number of prizes.  I also didn’t worry a lot about the prizes.  The kids knew I had created the game, they would come to me and show me their card and I would send them over to choose their prize.  Some kids made a serious haul, but it kept the conversations going all night.  Plenty of adults and teenagers played too – and took prizes.  I made sure I had a Costco sized bag of High-Chews as backup in case we ran low on prizes, we did use the High-Chews and got very close to running out of everything.

 

Have you ever been in charge of a Family Reunion?  What activities have you enjoyed at Family Reunions?

 

 

*Lagoon is an amusement park here in Utah that started out as a place for bowling, dancing, and eating.  The first thrill ride was added in 1899.

 


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My 7-second, $450 Miracle

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John Costello, front and center, looking away and pointing.

John Costello is my great grandfather.

 

My Mom knew him.

He died when she was about 11.

But more importantly, his three children that survived infancy were all still alive until November of 2015 when Uncle Dan died.

I have been grilling them for years.  (Nicely)

But…

John Costello is my brick wall.

 

My most recent, most tantalizing, most consuming, most stubborn, solid brick wall.

My collection of tid-bits about him is so small.  And so precious.  Every little bit I add to my John Costello treasury is cause for celebration.  I have exactly 5 pictures of him.  That one up there, plus another shot from this same sitting.  And these:

 

Young and Costello males

L-R: Andrew Young, George Vickers Young, ?, James Young, Alexander “Sandy” Young, John Costello, the two little boys are Vince and Dan.

Young and Costellos

L-R: John Costello, Mary Brown Young, Andrew Young, Catherine Brown, James Young, Alexander “Sandy” Young, George Vickers Young, front: Virginia, Dan, and Vince Costello.

Mary and John Costello

from the back of the photo: Mary and John Costello, Mistrey Castle Phoenix, Arizona, Jan 1965

 

Over Christmas my Mom was in a “I-want-to-get-stuff-outta-my-house” mood.  Among other things, she sent me home with this super-cool-clear-vinyl-60s-mod-flowers-decorated bag filled with old film reels.  She said, “I think it’s mostly dive videos of my Mom, but there may be some other stuff from when I was a kid.”  Intriguing.

(My Grandma was a rescue diver, hence the “dive stuff” comment.)

 

What hidden gems might there be in this magical bag from the 60s?

 

At RootsTech I entered the Larsen Digital drawing and picked up one of their coupons.  After RootsTech I got an email from Larsen Digital to let me know I had won $50 toward their services.  A few weeks later, two days before my RootsTech coupon was set to expire, I was headed in the direction of the closest Larsen Digital drop-off location.  I hadn’t yet figured anything out about the film reels – which had dive stuff and which had childhood stuff – so I just took a deep breath and dropped it all off so that I could take advantage of my coupon and my $50.

The next day I got a call to confirm my order – my nearly $600 order.

Gulp.

 

The one consolation was that they hadn’t yet applied my coupon or my $50 prize.

So, $450 and one month later, I picked up my film reels.

But I was packing to go spend some time with my Dad, so I just threw the thumb-drive in my backpack without watching anything and off I went to good old Kennewick, Washington.

I forgot all about that thumb-drive until my Mom arrived back home from a little trip she had taken.  We had one day together before I headed back home.  During that one day we were both taking care of a few things – she was unpacking, I was packing, laundry, etc.

Sometime in the early afternoon, I passed my backpack and remembered the thumb-drive.  I pulled it out and said, “Mom, let’s see what was on those old film reels.”  We sat at the kitchen table and started watching together.

About 13 minutes, and two video files in, we came across something that absolutely took my breath away.

There was John Costello.

 

Alive, in color, and showing me a 7-second glimpse into his personality.

As soon as his face appeared on screen, both my Mom and I said, “Oh.  {in gentle wonder}  There’s Grandpa Costello.”  After his precious 7-seconds, his wife Mary appears and then my sweet, infant Mom is passed to her Grandma Mary by someone off camera.

That 22-second family moment, immortalized on an old film reel, felt like the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, a priceless gift, a miracle.

A good friend taught me how to cut that little clip out of the longer video.

I think I have watched this 22-second video 100 times since last Thursday.  Especially the first 7 seconds.

How is it that those 7 precious seconds have told me more about John Costello the man, than the last 19 years of searching, pouring over records, and asking questions of his children and grandchildren?

I can’t explain it.

But those 7 incredible seconds were worth every single penny of the $450 I spent.

Every.  Single.  Penny.

 

And so my dear readers, I present to you, John & Mary Costello, in all of their color-filled glory.

 

 

My cup runneth over.

 

 

ps – There were 14 film reels in all.  The movies are positively filled with other treasures.  What a joy to have, and what a joy to share with my family.

 


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FamilySearch Recipes

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During RootsTech, FamilySearch announced FamilySearch Recipes.  A portion of their website dedicated to preserving favorite family recipes.  What a fabulous idea!

Most of us have special recipes in our families, even if they are from the current generation.  In my family, I have a few favorite recipes that come from my Grandma.  There aren’t many, but the few I have are treasures.  I have several of my own recipes that my family LOVES.  I can’t get back the family recipes that have been lost to time, but I can be sure to preserve my own recipes for my children and the generations that will follow.

My oldest son is currently serving as a Missionary for our church.  His 19th birthday is coming up.  Missionaries don’t really need much.  They move very frequently and live out of 2 large suitcases and 1 one carry-on suitcase.  He doesn’t need more “stuff” for his birthday.  But he could probably use a little dose of home.

So, for his birthday I created him this very detailed recipe of his favorite pasta:

lemon pasta, one file-01

And because I know he will most likely lose track of his laminated recipe cards at some point in his life, I also uploaded it to FamilySearch Recipes.

I included the background of this recipe:

In 2007 I had a cardiac ablation. Afterwards I developed a blood clot in my neck. It was very painful and I lost mobility in my neck and shoulders. I was stuck resting for a few weeks. During that time our next door neighbors were doing some remodeling in their kitchen. My sweet neighbor, and very good friend – Brooke, cooked dinner in our kitchen for both of our families for many days. One day she tried a new pasta recipe. I LOVED it. I kept meaning to ask her for the recipe. I never remembered to ask. We moved away and I still thought about that yummy pasta on occasion. I decided to try to recreate it. After many revisions, this was the end result. It has become a family favorite. It is fast and easy to make, light and delicious. My oldest son especially loves this pasta dish. For his 19th birthday – his first birthday as a missionary – I created this detailed recipe for him to follow.

Not only do I love this pasta because it is delicious, but I love it because it reminds me of my very dear friend and her loving service to me and my family. As a bonus, Brooke’s husband is my husband’s 3rd cousin. A fact we discovered several months after we became neighbors.  🙂

 

I look forward to preserving additional recipes on FamilySearch Recipes.  Especially the few that come from my Grandma.  She made the best orange rolls!  That one needs to be preserved for sure.

 

Do you have any family recipes you want to preserve?

 

 


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FamilySearch Book Scanning Service

Title Page - FWE Book

Title Page for a Family Record Book kept by my 2nd great grandfather Frederick William Ellis.

Among the many cool things in the boxes that belonged to my grandmother was a Family Record Book that her grandfather had kept.  It has a bunch of information that I already knew but it was handwritten by my 2nd great grandfather.  Such a treasure!  And while I say that it is information that I already knew, I think the important thing here is that he actually knew many of these people personally so his record will contain hidden gems that may help answer questions.

Like most of my genealogy adventures, I try to digitize and share what I find in a way that is useful for my family members.  Only one person can physically possess this book at a time but I certainly don’t want it’s existence to only benefit me.

That’s where FamilySearch comes in to help me out.  They offer a free book scanning service during RootsTech.  So I took my book along to RootsTech and had it scanned for free.  That book is now digitized and available on FamilySearch under the “Search” tab in the “Books” collection.  You can find it here.

If you have a book that is not under copyright, or a book that you own the copyright to, or a book that is under copyright but you get signed permission from the copyright holder, you can take that book to RootsTech and have it scanned.  A very cool service.

Additionally, FamilySearch will accept donations of items like journals, family Bibles, compiled histories and so on.  You can stipulate in your donation that they must scan the item and make it publicly available and they will!  The item will then be stored appropriately and can be viewed in person by family members at the Church Archives building.  This is a great option if you have an old item that is in danger of deterioration or if you have special family items and no one to care for them after you pass.  They have different storage methods including very cold storage that they use to help preserve really old items.  In fact, if your item is stored in one of these cold storage areas you have to make an appointment to view your item well in advance so they can slowly bring it to room temperature for your viewing.

I am so grateful for the many free services FamilySearch offers that help me to make my genealogy work available to my family members in a free and easily searchable way.  This book is a treasure and now it can be treasured in every household that descends from Frederick William Ellis and not just in my home.

Here is one last image from the book.  It’s the family group sheet for Frederick and his wife Susan, written in his own hand.

FWE & SKD family group sheet

 

Happy Wednesday.  I hope you make an amazing genealogy discovery today!

 

Note:  I could only find the information for donating items that are relevant to LDS church history.  I know that FamilySearch accepts donations of other items and stores them properly and digitizes them, I just couldn’t find the appropriate link in the time I have…  I’m off to pick up a preschooler.  If you are interested in this info let me know and I will track it down.


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Using Scotlands People

This is the at home version of my Scotlands People class broken up into four parts.  I really need to clean up my computer…  Here is the handout:

Scotlands People Class Handout

The handout covers a few things I don’t mention but it follows essentially the same outline so would serve as a good note-taking guide as you watch.

A few things – I am WAY more entertaining when I have a live class in front of me.  Sorry.  😉  This took quite a bit of time so please, share it.  The more people that can benefit from it the better.

If you have questions as you watch, jot them down and ask, I will happily answer.

And last, remember to get your free Scotlands People credits before the offer expires on April 30th.

Happy Scottish researching!

 

 


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Family History Magic & Involving Your Family!

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My youngest, my husband, my computer, my leg, & The Tooth Book.

Saturday night story time for my little one consisted of listening to MY Grandpa reading The Tooth Book.  This awesome moment was many years and the efforts of several people in the making.  Here’s what it took to make the magic happen:

  1. My Grandpa visited my family years ago – in the 80s maybe?  While visiting he pulled out his tape recorder, two blank tapes, and a big stack of our picture books.  He read for 2 hours.  He must have done it while we were sleeping because I don’t hear any kid noises in the background.
  2. My mom stored those tapes all this time in her closet.  When I asked about tapes of HER Grandpa’s interview she threw in the tapes of MY Grandpa reading stories.  This was sometime last year.
  3. I went to RootsTech this year, connected with Larsen Digital, they emailed me to remind me of their RootsTech special and I took my tapes to them to be digitized.
  4. When the files got back I really wanted to break those big long audio tracks into individual tracks by story so they would be more user friendly.  I asked my cousin Matt to tackle that and he did!  On the very day I asked him to help!!
  5. A few days after we got the tracks back from Matt, my husband dug around in our children’s books to find the only book we currently own that my Grandpa read all those years ago.  He sat our little guy down next to me on the couch with book in hand and finally – Family History MAGIC for my preschooler.

I am so grateful that everything worked together to culminate in this cool moment.  We have listened over and over to my Grandpa already and I hope we will continue to do so.  All of this leads me to a few very specific points I want to make.

First, asking my cousin Matt was a big leap for me.  Not because I thought he would say no or anything, just that I, like many of you, bear the responsibility of being the Family Genealogist without complaint or much hope of ever really sharing the load.  But is that fair?

When I help new genealogists who are just starting to work on their family history they often express concern that they will “mess something up” and so-and-so in their family will be upset.  Because of that they have never gotten involved before and are hesitant now.

This repeated experience has taught me that I probably have family members who would be happy to pitch in if they felt comfortable doing it and knew where to start and what to do.  When those audio files showed up in my email from Larsen Digital and I was facing an unknown task that would take me a lot of time to master, I remembered all of this and thought of my cousin Matt.

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My cousin Matt

Here he is.  He looks friendly right?  He totally is.  Plus, he has expressed interest in our family history repeatedly over the years.  AND, he happens to have an MBA in something to do with the music industry – I should totally remember what exactly but I don’t.  He lives in Tennessee and works in the music industry.  I took a stab that he would know how to split apart those tracks or would have access to someone who could teach him.

My thought process went a little something like this – “I will probably spend about two weeks trying to figure this out, get really frustrated, learn a lot of new things, and finally get this done.  OR, I could ask Matt.  I bet he knows how to do this.  If he doesn’t he can ask one of his friends.  He could probably do it MUCH faster then me.  Plus it gives him a chance to get involved in our Family History and he has wanted that in the past.”  Deep breath.  “Okay, I’ll ask Matt to help.  And be sure to give him an easy way out if he doesn’t want to do it.”

I asked.  He accepted.  And he did it lickity split, that very day.

Awesome!!

Second.  All of that hard work and effort by multiple people needs to be preserved and protected in such a way that generations of my family can have access to my Grandpa reading children’s books.  So step one was emailing my family to let them know.  Step two was inviting them to my dropbox folder with the recordings so they can download and listen to them.  And last, step three was more complicated and the most important.  I uploaded the audio files to archive.org so that there is a place online where those files will be stored indefinitely.  I shared the link on our family Facebook page, in a story on my Grandpa’s page on FamilySearch, and on his page in my private Ancestry tree that my family has all been invited too.  This way if they choose not to download the files now or lose track of them, there is a way they can find them.

Third.  This experience has caused me to reflect on how we can get our family members more involved in our Family History efforts.  I’m certainly not an expert on this but my experience with Matt and with other family members in the past has caused me to consider a few points that help lead to a moment like the one Matt and I shared.

As the family genealogist, we should create broad family interest in our history through regular, gentle, bite-sized sharing of stories, photos, artifacts, and facts about our family.  Then we need to pay attention to who is interested in what we share.  What special skills do they have and how can those skills help our family history efforts?  What is their schedule like?  How much time could they share?

This simple equation has been successful for me in the past in small ways and once again with my cousin Matt and these audio tracks.

 

Have you been able to get your family members involved in your Family History work?  If so, how?  If not, what have you tried that didn’t work?

 


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Putting Family Stories in Young Hands

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This is my 3 year old jumping for joy the first time he visited the ocean.  January 2016.

I have a lot of little people in my family.  My children, nieces, nephews, and the children of my cousins.  I love these little people.  I also love family history.  Finding ways to put my family history into the hands of the little people in my family is important to me.  But how?

Over the years I have done several different things that have been awesome.  You can find two examples here and here.

Last week Jana Last included my Chatbooks post in her Fab Finds post.  While perusing her list I noticed a post that really spoke to my heart.

Nicole Dyer of Family Locket shared a post entitled “Make Your Family History Book Kid-Friendly“.  It’s a great post with a fabulous idea for making kid-friendly family history books.  I was so excited as I read because it took an idea I have been working on and simplified it.

Now I just have to decide if I want to make individual books about specific ancestors or families OR if I want to do a book that includes whole branches of my tree.  I can’t wait to put this idea to work.  Can you imagine the cool things I could create using her idea and incorporating some of the good stuff from my Grandma’s boxes?

Oh boy, the ideas are just going crazy in my head right now.  I hope Nicole’s fabulous post inspires you too!