Quick Disney Break – AWESOME Genealogy Day – Miracle Update


A few weeks ago my hubby was checking Disneyland prices and noticed a big price drop for last week.  We decided to move up our tentatively planned February Disney trip to last week.  It was fantastic!  I’m so glad we fit it in this year.  Our youngest is at the perfect age – he can ride everything and he LOVES the magic of Disneyland.

Hastily moving a trip to the same week as the big Family History Fair in my town meant I had to go into serious prep mode for both the trip and the Fair.  It all worked out wonderfully.  The Fair was this past Saturday (we got home late Thursday).

I had been a little bit nervous to be teaching four different classes all on the same day but it went great!  We had a fabulous turnout, especially considering the major snowstorm the night before.  I learned I can teach four different classes on the same day without losing my voice, mind, or ability to make sense.  Phew!

But the BEST part of the Fair was having a minute to talk to my sweet friend and catch up on her recent discoveries.  She is my elderly friend whose own father was her brick wall.  She had only one picture of him.  ONE!  And did not know for sure who his parents were.  Using her DNA results, we were able to identify those grandparents and come up with a hypothesis for which of their children is her father – he changed his name.  It turns out we were correct!  It also turns out that her father was married before he married her mother.  My friend has FOUR previously unknown half-siblings.  They are much older and have all passed away.  But there are two living children of those half-siblings.  They have connected and will meet for the first time THIS WEEK!  Photos have been shared and relationships have begun.

Using DNA with your research = MIRACLES.

Give it a try!



I have lots of catching up to do but had to share the fantastic news.  xoxo



Spreading Genealogy JOY! one Brick Wall at a Time




I am literally bursting with joy as I type.

Several years ago I met a sweet, elderly, cheerful woman who also volunteers at my local Family History Center.  I was shocked when she told me that her father is her brick wall.

I don’t know why I was shocked.  It’s a story I hear a lot.  I suppose it might be because she is an elderly Mormon lady and we Mormons tend to know a lot about our family trees…?

We talked for a bit and honestly, she didn’t say anything that gave me ideas on how to figure it all out.

Time passed.

I hadn’t seen her.

A few months ago I prepared a class on DNA Basics to teach at my local FHC and I started thinking about my friend.  Had she solved it yet?  If not, had she DNA tested yet?

It wasn’t long after that she happened to walk into the center during my shift to talk to someone else.  I asked – had she solved it, had she tested?

The answers were no and yes.  But the DNA results hadn’t helped her.

My inner genealogist/detective/puzzle-solver started doing this:


And it was all I could do to calmly ask if she would be willing to let me take a peek at her DNA results.

I was ANYTHING but calm on the inside.  I was full on Hermione raising my hand as high as possible wanting to shout, “Let me try!  Let me try!!!”

She told me about a granddaughter who has been working on it and some theories she has and she told me about some new discoveries they have made that they are hoping will help.

Like, as in one document.

(But I suppose when you have literally been searching for 50 years, even one new document that leads you nowhere feels like an accomplishment).

There I sat, with a kind smile, understanding eyes, gentle head nods all masking my internal jumping up and down yelling, “Pick me, pick me!  I reeeeeeeeeally want to try to help you!!!!!”

She agreed to give me access to her Ancestry DNA.  But it was totally in a, “Do you know how many people have tried to help me over the years?” kind of way.

One thing led to another, and a few weeks later I was sitting on my cozy couch with my laptop going through her DNA matches.

I could see notes made by her granddaughter.  I found her tree.  I found a blog her granddaughter put together outlining every bit of detail they had.  Which was almost nothing.

I started sorting.  I took every scrap of a lead in each record and dug deeper than they had ever considered going.  I created a tree for the person her father listed as someone who would always know how to find him.

I compared that tree to her DNA matches trees.  I started grouping her matches into clusters.  Those clusters started lumping together into two groups.  Even her matches without trees were matching other matches in just two groups.

The woman who was listed as the person who would always know where her father was?  That woman’s parents had the same first and middle names that my friend had been told might be her father’s parents’ names.  Those potential parents had a son born at the right time in the right place to be my friend’s father.  He just had a different name.  That son, the firstborn son, completely disappears at about the time my friend believes her father became estranged from his parents.

Oh boy.

The stars were aligning.

Did I just begin the end of a 50-year journey for my friend?

(Insert clapping, dancing, shouting for joy – all loud enough for our entire small town to hear!)

And then I reined it in.  There was more work to do.

But my hypothesis was looking pretty fantastic, so I emailed my friend and told her I had found some interesting things and would she have time to come see me so that I could show her what I had discovered?  In fact, I suggested that she could come to my DNA Basics class in a few days and I could show her after or we could meet the following Thursday.

Sure enough, she came to my class.

After class, I pulled out my laptop and began the slow build.

I showed her the US Consular record that she already had.  I showed her that woman who her father listed as someone who would always know where he was.  I showed her that woman’s family, including her siblings and the parents whose first and middle names matched what she believed her grandparent’s first and middle names might be.

She stopped and said, “But their last name is Key, not Campbell.”

Yes, yes it is.

I gently suggested that when a young man becomes estranged from his family – so estranged that he never goes home again – it is not uncommon for that young man to change his name.

I explained that while I wouldn’t call my hypothesis solid yet, so far, there was not another possible set of parents emerging from her DNA matches or from any documents.

I offered a research plan that we could follow to work through the process of trying to prove or disprove my theory.

It really didn’t take her long to go from, “But their last name is Key, not Campbell.” to “My whole life I thought I was a Campbell, but I’m really a Key!”

I gently refocused her and suggested that while it was looking like that was true, we better spend some more time to be certain.

My sweet, elderly, cheerful friend was headed out of town for several weeks.  She would be back to work on everything some more.

And last Thursday was the day she showed back up at the center.

She was literally bursting with joy – just like me – as she told me that this is all she can talk about with every person she comes across.  She wanted to keep working.

So work we did.

I showed her my spreadsheet of her matches.  I showed her how I was working through some of the nitty-gritty.  We dug in and started researching and connecting more of her matches to this family.  We dug and read and compared and analyzed and updated and attached and discarded and worked and worked and worked.

We only found more connections and further proof that my theory was correct.

I wouldn’t say we are done.

But I also can’t offer you any other hypothesis.  So far, every match is easily connected to her mother’s side, or it’s connected to the possible grandparents I discovered.  Parents of a father whose life was cut short.  A father who was only around for her first six years of life.  A man for whom my friend has only one picture.

There is no third cluster to consider.

We have two clusters.

We have ONLY two clusters.

I think we are nearly there.

And that, my friends, is filling my entire heart and soul with joy.



Happy Monday, do you have a brick wall?  Have you tried using DNA to smash it?  I highly recommend that you do.




Save the Date!


I work one shift each week at my local Family History Center.  Every year, that center puts together a fantastic – and FREE – Family History Fair during the winter months.  We always draw a large crowd of people from our small town and the surrounding cities.  In fact, the last few years, we have filled the church almost to capacity.  This year I am teaching four classes.  It will be a busy day!

I know that most of my readers live far away from me and can’t possibly attend, but some of you live close by, so please, feel free to join us.  All are welcome.  The entire day is free and lunch is served.  It’s usually pizza, fresh veggies, cookies, and water.  Nothing too fancy, but it means you can stay all day without starving.  😉


The classes I am teaching are the following:

DNA Basics – Have you wondered about using DNA in your research?  Come and learn about the different types of DNA tests, the different companies you can test with, what genealogy problems can be addressed with DNA, and a few examples of what DNA can do to knock down those brick walls.

Finding Hidden Records on FamilySearch – Did you know that FamilySearch has several different types of record collections? Come and learn how to find them all as we explore indexed collections with images, indexed collections with no images attached (but they might still be on FamilySearch), partially indexed collections with additional browse images, browse only collections, digitized microfilm found in the catalog that can be accessed from home, and digitized microfilm that can only be viewed at a Family History Center.

Making the Most of – Come and learn how to supercharge your research on by understanding the website and collections better and learning some fantastic smart search strategies that will help you find the records you are looking for more quickly.

Making the Most of Trees – Why have a tree on  Is public or private better?  Learn how to create and use Trees from scratch, by uploading a gedcom file, or by importing from FamilySearch.  Give your research a boost by adding the power of an Ancestry Tree.

I have been teaching the two Ancestry classes for a few years now, but they are a hit and draw a large crowd so I will just keep on teaching them as long as I am asked to do so.  😉  The DNA Basics class and the Finding Hidden Records on FamilySearch class are both new classes that I created this fall.  I LOVED teaching them and look forward to teaching them again.

Please feel free to join us and invite your friends!


Happy Tuesday, I hope you make a fantastic genealogy discovery today!




ps – We have had an unseasonably warm fall.  I think it was 60 degrees on Saturday.  FINALLY, it snowed on Sunday night.  My little fella has had his snow gear all gathered and ready for weeks now.  Well, not really his gear, a collection of items from the coat closet that he decided were the coolest.  😉  He was sooooo delighted to put it all on for school today.


pps – Su, in September I mentioned that we had snow on the mountains and everything was still in full bloom.  Here you go – three pictures taken on the same day, at about the same time, from about the same spot.  The mountain as seen from the front of my neighborhood, the flowers on my porch.  Utah weather is crazy!



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!




Words of Wisdom from a Stranger

Everywhere you go

One morning at RootsTech I found myself sitting, waiting for the general session to start.  I was early.  Like waiting before the doors were open early.  It gave me plenty of time to get exactly the right seat, review the classes I wanted to attend that day, and people watch a bit.  And, well, totally eavesdrop.

A few feet from me were two women who were talking about their plan for the day.  Several things were clear from their conversation – they weren’t genealogy rookies, they knew what they were hoping to learn, and they knew each other well.  One of the women mentioned a class she was planning to attend.  The other woman was surprised.  The first woman explained her choice.

She was planning to attend a class that was quite basic.  She said that she knows she has probably missed basic things over the years and is willing to attend a basic class to pick up any of those “missing” skills.

I was impressed with her humility and wisdom.

In fact, I’ve been thinking about her ever since that moment.

This is what I’ve come up with.

NONE of us can know everything about genealogy – every place and time offers different experiences and collections.  Let’s be humble enough to recognize we can learn from any class, any teacher, any fellow genealogist now matter how experienced we are.  Everywhere you go, learn everything you can.



Funny Surprise


The main desk in the Family History Library in the Harold B Lee Library at BYU.

A week or so ago I went to my local research hangout – the Family History Library at BYU.  I spent some quality time with the microfilm and tried to remember to watch the clock so I wouldn’t be late to pick up my sweet little preschooler.

The entire time I was researching there was this continual cacophony of coughing, sneezing, clearing of throats etc.  Basically I was sitting in a germ-fest.  I’m not a germaphobe by nature but this is the first winter in years that I haven’t had a cold.  (Thank you horribly brutal sinus surgery!)  I really didn’t want to leave my favorite research place and get sick.

So I stopped at the main desk on my way out and used a little hand sanitizer.  The bottle squirted out WAY too much so I was standing there rubbing my hands together for a very long time.  During all the sanitizing I looked at the various papers advertising things.

What do you know?!  I saw my own name on their counter.  I was so surprised.  I’m just glad I didn’t make some sort of loud noise.  🙂

That green flyer there is advertising a local family history fair held in my little town.  I am teaching two classes.  Such a fun surprise to see the flyer at BYU.  We do host an awfully good fair.

If you are a local (to me that is), please join us this Saturday, February 27th at 9 am.  You won’t be sorry.  All the FamilySearch bigwig engineers live in my town and they teach classes.  You get to find out all this cool stuff that is coming soon.  It’s pretty awesome.  I hope you’ll join us.


Shout Out!

Alice Elizabeth Grant Cheney Funeral Home Record, California, San Francisco Area Funeral Home Records, 1895-1985, accessed at

Alice Elizabeth Grant Cheney Funeral Home Record, California, San Francisco Area Funeral Home Records, 1895-1985, accessed at

Happy Monday!  I have a happy genealogy story for you.  A shout out for a new-to-me record collection, and for kind strangers.

Thursday I was preparing a class on Family History Basics.  Part of the class was a demo portion within Family Tree on FamilySearch.  I clicked around in my own tree and found an area that was missing sources, facts and some people.  The person related to me was James W. Cheney.  In the tree he had a wife name Alice G. Tinsley.  Alice wasn’t jiving with the other records I was finding.  I was pretty sure Alice didn’t belong with my James.  But I was also sure that someone named Alice Grant did belong with James.

I did some checking in findagrave and there was an Alice Elizabeth Grant Cheney.  She seemed like a pretty good potential match for the Alice belonging to my James.  I did some basic searching and couldn’t find an obit.  I was hoping an obit would tie up some loose ends.

This is when I thought I would try something out.  I posted a help request in Random Acts of Genealogical Kindness on Facebook.  I asked for help locating an obituary to match the Alice Elizabeth Grant Cheney on findagrave.

Within a few minutes a kind stranger had found the funeral home record above.  This fabulous record was step one in proving that my James was not married to Alice G. Tinsley but was married to Alice Elizabeth Grant.  Isn’t that record amazingly detailed?  I love that the obit is at the bottom of the page!  I was however a bit embarrassed that I hadn’t found this myself.  Somehow I missed it.  (Insert sheepish head shake here.)  But a story with a happy ending nonetheless.

So – two big shot outs.

One – Hooray for the new-to-me collection, “California, San Francisco Area Funeral Home Records, 1895-1985“!

Two – Hooray for kind strangers willing to help at Random Acts of Genealogical Kindness!

But also, hooray for being able to clear up the Alice confusion.  I love a good puzzle.  I love it even more when I solve it.