thegenealogygirl


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Happy Birthday America

This is my favorite commercial ever created in the genealogy industry.  I love the concept and the execution.  In less than a minute, Ancestry.com managed to remind us of the importance of unity and freedom.

This great experiment that is America, survives and thrives by our willingness to be united in supporting the freedom and rights of every human being.  I hope our experiment continues for generations to come.  I hope this lovely commercial can serve as a reminder that there is always more that unites us than divides us.  We are stronger when we are one.

Happy Birthday America.

 

Thank you Ancestry.com for reminding us what we celebrate on this day.

 


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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.

14774109640_a783c1edfa_o

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.

 

Family Reunion Bingo Games

 


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Photograph Showcase: A Cowboy in the Making

PETERSON, Ronald on horse - smaller for FT

That cute little fella is my Grandpa, Ronald Skeen Peterson.  His dad was a cattle rancher.  Grandpa worked on the ranch for many years.  Great Grandpa got him started out riding horses at a young age.  How old would you guess he is here?

 

 


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My Ethnicity Fractions – Based on My Tree

Scanned Image 101240003

Years ago my younger brother Derek asked me, “What are we?

He was curious about our ethnic makeup as so many people are.  All those years ago I did a quick calculation based on the research I had done and drew up this little map for him.  Over time I have learned more about my heritage and can now update that set of data to reflect my most current understanding of our tree.

ethnicity percentages

Based on this new chart, our ethnicity percentages – from our tree – are:

  • 34.4% – English
  • 12.5% – Mixed British Isles
  • 12.5 % – French Canadian
  • 12.5% – Scottish
  • 9.4% – Danish
  • 6.3% – Italian Jewish (I don’t think this is really a thing, but I’m not sure yet what to call this portion of my tree…see here.)
  • 6.3% – Spanish
  • 3.1% – French
  • 3.1% – Welsh

I know that totals 100.1% – I rounded.

Based on how Ancestry DNA lumps things together, these percentages should look like this on my Ancestry DNA ethnicity estimates:

  • 62.5% – Great Britain (English, Mixed British Isles, Scottish, Welsh)
  • 15.6% – Europe West (French Canadian, French)
  • 9.4% – Scandinavian
  • 6.3% – Some mixture of European Jewish & Italy, Greece
  • 6.3% – Iberian Peninsula (Spanish)

But here’s the thing about DNA.  We don’t inherit exactly half of what our parents inherited.  We inherit a unique combination of half of what they inherited.  So while the percentages based on my tree look one way, the actual DNA I inherited is an entirely different matter.  I have four siblings.  Each of us inherited different combinations of our parent’s DNA – half from each parent, but a unique and random half.

My DNA results are in.  I will share them tomorrow.  They are fascinating.  The portion I am most curious about happens to be the potion that is brand new to me – the Jewish ancestry of John Costello.  What combination of DNA did he pass on to me?  12.5% of me comes from him.  Based on what I know, he could have given me DNA from these three regions – Iberian Peninsula, European Jewish, and Italy, Greece.  Because the Jewish portion is a brand new – weeks old – discovery, I wonder if I inherited any of it?  If so, how much?

Care to take a guess?

Tune in for my DNA reveal tomorrow.

 


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My 7-second, $450 Miracle

Scanned Image 101200097

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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Family History for Little Ones

family history for little ones-01

Why do you think it’s important to share family history with children?  Why do you do it?

 

There are so many ways I can answer these two questions but the bottom line for me can be summed up pretty well in this short video of my little one:

 

 

When he was somewhere in his second year of life, he developed his first little mole on his arm.  It was really bothering him and he kept asking about it.  He was finally okay with that little mole when I told him it was an angel kiss.  From that moment on, every freckle and mole on any of us was an angel kiss.

A while later he started asking who the angel was that was kissing us.  I don’t recall our exact conversation, but the end result was that he believed that my Grandma – Margaret – was the angel that was giving us all kisses.

Whenever I can, I tell him special little things about her and my Grandpa and other family members.  I keep it very simple.  Slowly he is learning little things.  But of all those little tid-bits, the one thing that I really want him to know is that he is loved.  That he has a place in the fabric of our family.  That he is connected to those who came before and to those who will come after.

That is the part he understands completely.

In fact, he regularly says little things about the Grandma who loves him.  The one who gives him all of the angel kisses.

Those moments happen at random times.  Like when he is watching Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood and Daniel’s little sister Margaret is mentioned.  Suddenly I hear him say, “Ooooh, she has the same name as the angel Grandma!  She loves me, doesn’t she mom.”  This sweet declaration is usually followed by a hug from my darling little boy.

Preparing my children for the things they will face throughout their lives in a daunting task.  Giving them a strong foundation when they are young makes all the difference.  I believe that one of the key ingredients for that strong foundation is knowing where they come from and who came before them.  Family History has the power to strengthen the foundation we lay for our children’s lives.

As Bruce Feiler said, “The more children knew about their family’s history, the stronger their sense of control over their lives, the higher their self-esteem and the more successfully they believed their families functioned. The “Do You Know?” scale turned out to be the best single predictor of children’s emotional health and happiness.”

I choose to share our Family’s history with my children, my nieces and nephews, and my cousin’s children whenever I can.  I do it because I know it makes them stronger and more resilient.  I do it because I want them to feel loved, not just by those they can see, but by the countless other family members who are no longer living.  I do it because it matters.

Family History is not just for old people.  Family History is for everyone – especially for children.

 

This post was written for the blog link-up Why Share Family History with Children hosted by Nicole over at The Family Locket Blog.  Thank you Nicole!

Why Share Family History with children blog link up posts

 

 

 


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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.