Photograph Showcase: Grandpa Costello & His Guitar, aka Photo Heaven ❤️

COSTELLO, John playing his guitar, November 1960

John Costello, November 1960. Photo courtesy of Barbara Costello.

In May of this year, I shared my joy at finding 7 seconds of video of my great grandfather, John Costello.  In that post I shared that I have exactly 5 photos of my great grandfather.

Guess what?

That is not the case any longer!!


{Insert major genealogy happy dancing & celebrating right here.}


In July, my sister visited our grandaunt Barbara.  Barbara is the widow of Dan Costello.  Dan is the son of our great grandfather, John Costello.

Aunt Barbara sent my sister home with a lovely chalk drawing created by John’s wife, that I shared last week.  She also sent her home with a small, but very precious, bundle of photographs for me to scan and return.

This photo of Grandpa Costello was among them.  My heart is bursting with joy to see Grandpa Costello in – what I am guessing is his living room? – playing his guitar.  He didn’t like having his picture taken, so each photo is extra special.  Here he is, as a 67 year old man, still playing his guitar.  Be still my heart.



Have you been blessed to have photos shared with you, photos you weren’t expecting to ever see?



ps – Thank you!! for all of the input and advice about my letter collection.  I really appreciate each of your comments, emails, and poll answers.  Between all of you and some conversations with family, I think I have made a tentative plan.  I think.  The part I know for sure is that I will not be sharing the letters here.  My goal is to be ready to begin sharing them with family in January.

As a side note, my sister talked me through every possible way of sharing, all of the issues to consider – both for those who are deceased and those who are living, plus the time required for each avenue.  In all of that discussing, she helped me have an interesting and very valuable a-ha moment.  There are letters missing.  I know this for sure.  There are also letters that have been edited by scissors or permanent marker – by Grandma.  That leads us to believe that she definitely destroyed many letters, leaving no trace, and that the ones that remain that were marked “destroy”, were either too special to her to destroy or she changed her mind about their fate.  We can’t know for certain, but it has impacted our position on how to handle those letters.  One thing all of this has caused me to reflect upon, is what my own wishes are for my personal items like journals and letters.  Hopefully I can make my wishes clear so one day my granddaughter will know exactly what I would have wanted her to do.




The Mess That Just Keeps on Growing

Whiteley - Hyde

Once upon a time, I drew that colorful – {both literally and figuratively} – flowchart.  I wrote about the matrimonial messiness in this part of my tree.  I followed that up with a post about Arthur Hyde who seemed to have left a family in England and then married his widowed sister-in-law while still being married to his wife back home.  That was followed by a post about the incestuous relationship between uncle and niece – Robert & Rosey Hyde.  Then there was the follow-up post reminding readers that we need to always click to the next image because I found even more details about that crazy mess up there on page 50 of a record.

This fascinating series of discoveries was capped off by a post all about Rosey’s Girls.  I had learned so much since I drew that first flowchart that I had to update it.

marrying mess

The crazy, twisty, utterly shocking journey did not end there.

DNA connected me with two of Rosey’s living granddaughters.  My finding-living-people-stalking skills led me to a direct descendant of Rose Elvera Hyde.  And my cousin bait – namely this blog – brought a living descendant of Arthur Hyde to my digital door.



That super colorful flowchart needs another update.  A major update.  So major in fact that I have to start from scratch.  I thought that last post about Rosey’s Girls was hard to write.  Ummm…these next ones are going to be even more complicated if you can believe that.

I just wanted to share a few tid-bit teasers and two BIG, FAT REMINDERS as a PSA to all my fellow genealogists.


Tid-bit Teaser #1

I wrote this about the men in Rosey’s life: “There are details that come from the nuances of the records that lead me to believe that Harry was the great love of her life, that Neil was a loving old age companion, and that Robert, well, Robert seems to be the villain.  I don’t know if that’s fair, but that is who he is becoming in my mind.”

Well.  I got that completely wrong.  It turns out Harry is definitely the villain.  So much so that Robert is starting to seem not so bad.  How’s that for a turn of events?


Tid-bit Teaser #2

A very long time ago I wrote about my Grandma’s adopted first cousin Sherry Hunter.  At the time I wrote about Sherry, I still didn’t know Rosey had any children.  But it turns out that Sherry is a descendant of Rosey, adopted by her biological 1st cousin once removed.  Sherry belongs to that crazy mess up there.  I did not see that coming.


Tid-bit Teaser #3

Muriel Grace Groome nee Hyde - cleaned up

This lovely photo made it’s way to me.  That is Rosey’s daughter Muriel Grace.  Isn’t she beautiful?


Now for the PSAs.


Big Fat Reminder/PSA #1

If you have not DNA tested – PLEASE DO IT!  I cannot believe the wealth of information that has come my way as a result of DNA testing and transferring my results to two additional companies.  Followed up by contacting my matches.  In fact, I’ve gotten so caught up in the deluge, that I have lots of matches I haven’t had time to contact yet.  What other goodies are waiting for me?


Big Fat Reminder/PSA #2

When you have a mystery, brick wall, dead end – write about it.  Leave plenty of cousin bait.  If you are a regular reader you have probably noticed that I mostly write about my questions and unsolved mysteries.  In fact, if you aren’t paying close attention you might think I never solve anything.  😉  I am putting out massive amounts of cousin bait.  And it works.  People email me after finding something I wrote about a family member we have in common and they fill in details that ONLY THEY can share.  Details that exist in photo albums or memories.  Details that answer some of my most unanswerable questions.  Like what the heck happened to Arthur Hyde and his first wife Mary?  Did he really just leave her and the children behind in England and marry Alice?  Why yes, yes he did.

Cousin bait is your friend.  Make sure you are leaving it out to attract the cousins you need to find.  Your beautifully researched, perfectly reasoned, tidy little genealogy stories will attract cousins too, but usually not the cousins who bring more toys to the party.  You solved those ones.  Go ahead and write them up, but don’t let your mysteries languish in a stack of notes.  Those glittery little bits attract the distant cousins who just might answer some of your burning questions.  You may not like the answers – after all, there is a reason you haven’t been able to solve it with traditional research – but they are usually very fascinating answers.


Are you excited for my new flowchart?


I am!  Now, I just have to figure out how to fit all of the crazy connections on one page.


Maybe I need to go buy a posterboard…




Awaiting the DNA results

I have been learning about the various DNA test options for a few years now.  I finally felt confident enough to decide which tests to purchase for specific family members.  The RootsTech pricing was a great opportunity so I purchased 5 kits.

  • Ancestry kit 1 – For my Mom.  I chose this kit for two reasons – the price was $49 (regularly $99), and because her mother and brother have both previously tested with Ancestry.  This will allow me to compare their results and look for differences.
  • Ancestry kit 2 – For me.  I chose this kit for the same two reasons as I chose the kit for my Mom.
  • Ancestry kit 3 – For my friend who watched my 4 year old during the day while I was at RootsTech.  They have a juicy little mystery in their tree and they know just who to test.  🙂
  • FamilyTree DNA Y-DNA kit – For my Uncle.  His Grandpa, my great grandfather, is a brick wall.  I can’t wait for these results!  I have been trying to find a way through this wall for years.
  • FamilyTree DNA autosomal kit – For my Grandma.  She has already tested with Ancestry.  Her great grandfather was born in France and immigrated to America as a child.  He is also a brick wall.  Because more Europeans test with FT DNA, I am hoping to make some connections.  I also chose this company for her because they store the sample for 25 years.  Grandma is in her 80s, if I decide to retest her sample in the future I can (if the sample is still good).

I took my test and mailed it on Thursday of last week.  On Friday afternoon I got an email saying that my sample was received.  Wow, so fast!  Now to wait 6-8 weeks for the results.  Or longer.  They sold a lot of $49 tests at RootsTech, I’m guessing that their lab is a bit behind.

My Uncle’s test was received on March 8th.  We have another month or so to wait.  Won’t we all be surprised if he matches a different surname than we are expecting?  That is a distinct possibility.

I have mailed the other kits to my Mom and Grandma.  More waiting.  Hopefully they test and mail the samples very soon.

While I am waiting, I need to start studying the book I purchased at RootsTech that was recommended by Tom Jones.  He is basically a genius, so I followed his suggestion.


It is so exciting to begin a new genealogy journey!  I can’t wait to see what I can learn.


Happy Monday, I hope you make an awesome genealogy discovery today!



The Power of Facebook

Ah, Facebook.

A blessing?  A curse?

People have strong opinions about Facebook and it’s impact on our daily lives.  But let’s not get into any of that.  How about instead we talk about why I think Facebook can be a powerful tool for genealogy?  I have three reasons.

Reason One – Finding Living Folks

Once upon a time when you were trying to track people down you would use the White Pages.  Nowadays many people choose to have a cell phone and no land line.  No land line generally means no listing in the White Pages.  Here’s the scenario, you track down some living cousins through obits and you want to send off a letter or make a call, you check the White Pages and nothing.  Try Facebook!  I have discovered that most of the time if people (the ones you are relatively certain are alive) aren’t in the White Pages, they are on Facebook.  Nice.

Reason Two – Genealogy Groups on Facebook

There are so many genealogy based groups on Facebook.  They really fall into two categories – for genealogists or for specific families.  Both of those categories are great.

The groups for genealogists come in all shapes and sizes.  There are groups who will translate documents for you.  Others who will help you with research problems.  Some are for specific locations.  I happen to belong to three genealogy based Facebook groups from this category – Random Acts of Genealogical Kindness, Genealogy Translations and Lynn Valley Love.  They are great.

The groups for specific families can be a fabulous communication tool.  I belong to two of these groups and I created a third.  These groups can be a closed group which means everything shared within the group stays there.  Other Facebook users can see that the group exists but they can’t see the group wall.  Cool stuff can be accomplished in this type of group.

Reason Three – Spreading Genealogy Joy

I love hearing from others about their genealogy experiences.  I love to see FamilySearch and Ancestry posts in my news feed.  I love sharing quotes, photos, and stories.  It’s a great way to share my love of genealogy with my family and friends in a nice, low-key way.  A picture, a few words, done.  Genealogy Joy spread right around all over my Facebook wall.


I love any tool that helps me further my genealogy efforts.  Facebook is one of the tools I use.  I have discovered that there is a little power there.  Power to make my genealogy even. more. awesome.

How about you?  Has Facebook helped your genealogy?



On Profile Pics and Bigfoot-sized Footprints

IMG_1417 - sharpen, skin edit - cropped - B&WBeauty + Lovely & Ethereal

That’s me – Amberly.

In the spring I watched Crista Cowan’s presentation at RootsTech.  It was pretty awesome.  She said something that gave me pause.  She said that people are much more likely to send a message to someone on ancestry if they have a profile picture.  Especially if their tree is private, like mine is.


Never thought about that really.  Makes sense though, right?  You see the picture of a smiling, friendly looking person and you trust them more than if you were looking at that generic, beige, default ancestry avatar.

I took her words to heart and later that day I went into my ancestry profile and uploaded a photo.  Well, I tried anyway.  Like three times.  Except the darn thing wouldn’t work.  It was probably some system issue because everyone who listened to Crista that day thought the same thing I did and we bogged down the profile photo portion of the website with our efforts.

Well, fast forward to a few weeks ago.  I remembered that I still didn’t have a profile photo on ancestry so I went in and successfully uploaded the above photo.  On the first try.  🙂  And, guess what happened?

Over the last few weeks I have gotten messages from four cousins I didn’t know before.  Four cousins from various parts of the globe.  They all messaged asking questions but were of course happy to offer information that they had as well.  It’s been a beautiful thing.  Lots of emailing and sharing details, documents, photos, and stories.

I love that!

Sharing really is awesome.

But that’s not all.  Another cousin noticed some work I had done in Family Tree on and sent me an email asking questions.  Again, more emailing, sharing details, documents, photos, and stories.  This cousin is from New Zealand and happens to descend from my Scottish branch.  He knew about a whole bunch of cousins that immigrated to NZ and was able to help me fill in some gaps.

But wait, there’s even more.  I had another cousin from Canada contact me on this here blog after reading a post I wrote about a common aunt several generations back.  She just recently went to Scotland to learn more about this branch of our family.  I can’t wait to hear all about her trip.

I’m so glad I have online trees and this blog.  They are excellent cousin magnets.  I’m doing my best to leave huge, bigfoot-sized digital footprints all over the web so that those cousins can easily get in touch with me.  It seems to be working.

My advice?  Add a profile pic, be sure to have your email address in your profiles, leave those big ol’ Sasquatch prints all over online.  Maybe you’ll get some emails too.

I do hope so.  After all, it’s delightful.


How I Share: Family Card Game Awesomeness

ufgc - for ggEvery year for Christmas I give some sort of Family History gift to my siblings and parents.

Over the years I have come up with some good, some mediocre, and some off-the-charts-amazing gift ideas.  My goal is always to share something about our family in a bite size way.  This past Christmas I outdid myself.

Totally.  Outdid.  Myself.

I created – The Ultimate Family Card Game.

First things first – are you wondering how I count this as a ‘Family History’ gift?  I will admit it is a bit of a stretch.  But, only a bit.  It contains some awesome history of the family I grew up in and our next generation – the adorable grandchildren.  It doesn’t go any farther back than that but I feel like this is a crucial part of Family History Love.  Plus it has my parents’ adorable baby pictures – they’re old enough that those pictures are plenty historical right?  Crickets?  Okay, they aren’t that old but still, my point is valid.

What is this game?  My version has 60 cards, 5 suits, 12 cards per suit.  Each family member is represented by two cards – one has a current picture and one has an early childhood picture.  Each family unit is represented by two family photos.  Every card has a ‘match’.  The cards were printed double-sided, in color, on high quality, thick paper.  It is smooth with a bit of a sheen.  They feel really nice in your hands and shuffle well.  Plus, I put them in a cute tin.  We use it to play: Go Fish {two card match version, much faster}, Memory, War, Slap Jack {possibly the best part of this game is you get to choose who to slap…}, Rummy, Phase 10, B.S., Old Maid, etc.

My favorite part of this game?  All the warm fuzzy family love we feel while playing of course!  Lots of ‘remember whens’ and ‘look how cutes’.  Plus it is great for the generation of young cousins who live far apart and don’t see each other nearly often enough.

My whole family loved this game.  My mom and one of my sisters asked what company I used to create it.  Best. Compliment. Ever.  I created the entire game and had it printed at a local print shop.

I have already planned my gift for next Christmas.  I set the bar pretty high in 2013.  I hope I won’t be disappointing anyone next year.

Do you give Family History gifts?  If so, what have you given?

By request, I created a listing for this game in my etsy shop here.
I am working on creating a listing that is a set of detailed instructions and files so you can create your own game.

Leave a comment

From the Beginning #2: Contact Your Family

write, call your family triptych

When you begin your family history journey you need information.

Much of the information you need exists in the collective body of knowledge within your family.  Some beginners skip the important step of contacting family.  This is a mistake.  You will save yourself time and effort if you contact your family first.

As you work on your family history, you will find yourself in search of information that takes you back to contacting your family.  This is a step you will repeat often as you seek to grow your tree.

When you first begin reaching out to family, remember these important tips:

  • Manage your time.  If you request information from family, be prepared to process that information in a timely manner.  Genealogy conversations have a shelf life.  You make a request, someone responds, you have a follow up question, they respond, and so on.  If you send out too many questions to too many people, you may not be able to keep up with the responses and maximize the information.  Some responders will become bored with the conversation if you allow too much time to pass – they may not answer your follow up questions.
  • Consider the circumstances of the person you are seeking information from.  Do they prefer a visit, phone call, letter or email?  If you send something in print be sure the font is appropriately sized and easy to read based on the age and eyesight of the person you are contacting.  Are they very busy?  Don’t overwhelm them with huge, open ended questions like, ‘I’m working on my family history, can you share what you have with me?’  Instead ask direct questions like, ‘I’m working on my family history, do you have a copy of Grandpa’s Personal History?’  Simple, straightforward questions with direct answers are a great way to begin a dialogue.
  • After you decide what information you are seeking, set yourself up for success.  If, for instance, you want to update a family group sheet for your brother, print out what you currently have and mail it with a SASE {Self Addressed Stamped Envelope} so he can quickly fill in the blanks, slip it in the SASE and mail it back.  Or apply the same principle with an email.  Type up what you currently know so he can check for accuracy, then in list form, ask for the information you are missing.  He can quickly fill in the answers and send the email back.
  • Consider keeping a correspondence log for each person you contact.  You may include columns such as these: date of contact, type of contact, information requested, response, follow up questions.
  • I’m going to whisper this next part, you never know who is listening…  🙂  Some long time genealogists are stingy.  Don’t hold it against them.  Every beginner in the family contacts them and asks big open ended questions wanting them to share, share, share.  Sharing is a lot of work and then most of the people who request the information lose interest and move on to something else after sufficiently messing up the tree online.  Those long time genealogists get worn out by this.  Tread cautiously when you approach a long time genealogist.  Lots of them are very open, but some are understandably stingy.  But most of the stingy ones are really nice and open too – once you earn their trust.  So, approach with care and ONE very simple request at a time until you build a relationship and understand them better.
  • Record, record, record.  Preserve, preserve, preserve.  Whatever you take the time to gather, take the time to preserve in some way.  Be organized and consider how you are going to share what you find with your posterity in the future and also your siblings and cousins now.  When you think about how to share down the road it will help you as you organize now.

So let’s talk about some of the different objectives you can have when making contact with your family:

  1. Basic genealogy feelers.
  2. Help me update the living people.
  3. Photo, story, journal, artifact hunting.
  4. Research questions.
  5. Help me resolve conflicting information.
  6. Collaboration plans.
  7. How do we share all this cool stuff?


1.  Basic genealogy feelers.

The purpose of this type of contact if really two fold.  One, you want your family to know that you are beginning your genealogy journey.  This is important because Aunt Jane may have been waiting for someone to share her hard work with.  Or Uncle John may come across some old family treasure in the garage and because his wife just mentioned your phone call, he sets that treasure aside for you.  Two, you want to know who in your family has ‘the stuff’, knowledge, experience, interest in the very thing you are trying to learn.  As you send out your feelers make sure you remember both parts.

2.  Help me update the living people.

Lots of family members are good at this aspect of genealogy.  Their address book is up to date.  They add every new child born with full name, birth date and place and even a photo.  Updating family group sheets is a lot easier while people are living.  This is a fairly simple exercise but one that has great value.  There are many different blank family group sheets you can use.  Like this one, or this one and it’s second page.  Try sending out a few to family members to update for you.  This is a great way to start a genealogy conversation.

3.  Photo, story, journal, artifact hunting.

Most families have treasures.  The question is, who has them?  As you ask around remember that there are often feelings associated with these items.  There is only one wedding ring and for every daughter or granddaughter that inherits one, there are others who wish they had inherited that very ring.  As you carefully ask about treasures and identify their current steward, make a list for yourself of family heirlooms.  Contact the stewards and request photos or the chance to see and photograph an item yourself.  As you identify family treasures and preserve them in some way, be sure to write a brief history about each item.  My grandmother inherited a beautiful old glider rocking chair that came from England and crossed the plains in a wagon.  It currently lives in my uncle’s living room.  I wish I could remember who the chair originally belonged to.  These are the stories to write up and put with a photo of the item.

4.  Research questions.

As we research family members we often have questions that are about the facts.  We need a document such as a birth, marriage, or death record.  Sometimes we are blessed to be related to family members that know how to research and have a collection of records.  Identify the record you are seeking and be specific when you make contact.

5.  Help me resolve conflicting information.

While researching you are going to find documents that conflict with each other.  If the person you are researching was known to an older living relative, you may choose to contact that relative to ask their assistance in deciding which information is most accurate.  Often they know something that helps you recognize that both pieces of information hold truth, it’s all in how you interpret what you are reading.

6.  Collaboration plans.

Collaboration is important to your success as a researcher.  Other family members may have resources you do not currently have.  As you work together, you will be able to grow your tree and add a richness that can’t be achieved if you go it alone.  Sometimes those plans are as simple as, ‘How about you work on that line, I work on this line and then we share what we have learned.’  Other times an older relative is willing to fund the research efforts of a younger relative who has the skill and time but not the funds.  Some family members have photos but lack the computer skills to scan and upload but they are willing to let you come over and scan.  They will usually spend time telling you who everyone in every photo is and where the photo was taken.  Whatever collaboration looks like for you – make it part of your genealogical plan.

7.  How do we share all this cool stuff?

Work together with your family to find ways to share what you already have and what you gather as you go.  There are many websites that are perfect mechanisms for sharing.  Consider which one works for you and give it a try.  Some items need to be shared other ways.  Use the creativity of your amazing family to find ways to share your treasures.

Make a plan today to contact some family members.  Choose an objective, choose a method and make the approach.  Good luck!