Lighting the World


My oldest son is currently serving as a missionary for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in South Carolina.  He is a happy, friendly kid who loves people.  You can see it in these pictures.

Missionaries spend many hours each week serving others.  They volunteer at libraries, soup kitchens, thrift stores, local churches – of other faiths, nursing homes, and so many other places.  They rake leaves, shovel snow, help people move – mostly for strangers.  They spend two years of their life seeking opportunities to serve.

When I read my son’s weekly emails and hear about the different people he meets, the different acts of service he provides, and the lives he brightens through his love and kindness, the word proud barely begins to describe how I feel.

I have never been a missionary.  But I also seek to serve when I can.  So I love the invitation the LDS Church has issued to the world to Light the World this holiday season by serving others.

This short video introduces the Light the World campaign:



One of my favorite videos from the whole initiative is this one:



People are good.

When given the chance, we like to help others.  And while there are a few vending machines in the world that will allow you to purchase something to help a stranger improve their quality of life, most of the time we have to look for ways to serve and lift.

During this year’s Light the World campaign, there have been two small things that have been particularly meaningful for me.  The first came on Day 2.  I woke up and decided to watch the video for that day while I was still in bed.  Here it is:



One of the suggestions for Day 2 is “Consider donating to a cause that helps provide safe water to individuals or communities.”  From the comfort of my own bed, I searched for an organization that does just that.  I found that my own church has a cool clean water initiative I hadn’t previously known about.  I was able to donate right from my phone before I even got out of bed!

That simple act of service for people I will never meet, brightened my day – all day.

The second experience that has really touched me came last Saturday.  My middle son had a basketball game in the morning.  When we got home, my 5-year-old and I could hear a bird crying.  It took us a while to locate the bird.  It was a very young robin sitting in one of our trees.  Sitting on a branch near it was an adult robin.  We were worried they were hungry.  We used Google to learn what we should feed it and found some appropriate seeds to scatter on our driveway.  We didn’t have a lot, so we headed to the grocery store and found some bird seed in the shape of a bell to hang from the tree.  My little 5-year-old and his dad got some yarn and hung it up right away.

Every time I come and go from my home I can see that bell.  I know it’s such a simple act of service, but it feels especially meaningful to me.  It can be easy to miss suffering around us, but on that day, my little one and I noticed cries for help and found a way to help a small bird.

I am grateful for the Light the World initiative.  It has helped bring greater focus to my month.

And of course, I have found ways to help Light the genealogy World too!

So this is my invitation to you, for the rest of December, find one simple act of service that will help brighten someone’s day – near or far – and help join others in an effort to Light the World!



Here is my sweet missionary and other missionaries he serves with.  They created this video to invite their loved ones to join in and help Light the World:




Tuesday’s Tip: Indexing!



In honor of FamilySearch’s worldwide indexing event this week, I am bringing you a few indexing tips.

This video is geared toward beginning indexers but it also includes a few of my personal indexing tips that would apply to anyone.

If you have never indexed, I promise it is not hard!  Give it a try.  If I haven’t convinced you yet, watch this video.



Be a Genealogy Superhero – index!


gg - indexing superhero - small



ps – I am having a hard time letting go of the old indexing software.  When indexing that way you ‘download’ a batch.  The new web indexing tool is great, you don’t download, but I think I said the phrase ‘download a batch’ a few times.  Sorry!  Old habits and all of that.  😉  Also, if you use the new web indexing, you can access your batches from any device and index anywhere you have internet access.  Pretty cool.



Worldwide Indexing Event – Will You Join Us?


This video gets right to the heart of what Indexers do for Researchers.

Indexers help make genealogy better.  They help make genealogy from home possible.

FamilySearch is holding another Worldwide Indexing Event this week!


FS indexing


Will you join us?


I hope so!

Here is my invitation to you:


First, if you have never indexed, visit this FamilySearch page, scroll down and click on the blue ‘Try it out!’ button on the ‘Try a Guided Tour’ section.  After you complete the tour, index one batch.

Second, if you are an avid genealogist, I invite you to reflect back on 2017.  How many major new discoveries did you make this year?  How many of those discoveries were aided by an indexed record?  I invite you to index one batch for every major discovery you made this year.  Spread your joy to other researchers by indexing!

Third, will you spread the news about the FamilySearch Worldwide Indexing Event?  You can visit this page, add your email address to be ‘counted in’, and then invite your family and friends on Facebook, Twitter, or by email simply by clicking a few links.


Can you imagine what we could accomplish together if we all just indexed one batch this week?


What discoveries have you made because of indexers?


Here’s one last video.  I promise, indexing is easier than you think!



Will you join the ranks of Genealogy Superheroes by indexing?


gg - indexing superhero - small



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)


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.



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.



Random Acts of Genealogical Kindness is back!

RAOGK-logoI’m a big fan of helping others with their genealogy.  I love offering help and I love receiving help.  We are more powerful when we put our heads together, share our knowledge and spread some genealogy love.

I’ve been a member of the Random Acts of Genealogical Kindness Facebook group for a while.  It’s pretty cool.  But it’s a Facebook group so there is minimal ability to organize the help requests and offers.  Sometimes it turns into a free for all genealogy conversation.

Well, the FB group is based on the original website.  The website has been down since late 2011.  Currently, there is a new website being created based on the original website.

You can participate in two ways.  You can volunteer and you can ask for assistance.

  • Volunteers are asked to complete one task per month.  You join, create a profile page that explains what you are able to do.  People who need the help you can provide contact you through the website.  You complete the task and send them the information.  Done.
  • You can ask for assistance by searching for a volunteer in the area you are researching, find one who can do the task you need help with, message them with your request and wait.

A few things to note:

  • You choose your username which does not have to be your full first and last name.
  • Your email address is not visible on the webpage.  I actually created one specifically for this website just in case, still not a bad idea.
  • You can sign up as a volunteer and if you get busy, sick, go on vacation or just need a break, you can switch to temporary status so you no longer receive new requests.  Your profile still exists and you can turn it back on when you are ready.
  • Everything about the website is volunteer driven.
  • Still curious?  You can view my volunteer page to get an idea of what you might consider doing.

I think this website is exactly in keeping with the spirit of spreading genealogy love – something near and dear to my heart.

Check it out.  Maybe it will help you.  Maybe you will find a way to help.

Let’s spread some genealogy love!



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?



The Sweetest Thank You


I have a new friend.  Her name is Lorraine.

I’m pretty terrible at ages so I don’t want to guess her age I just know she is definitely older than my parents and has seven grown children and some grandchildren.  I don’t want to go so far as to say she is old enough to be my grandma because I don’t think she is, but she is so grandmotherly that I just love to be around her.  I met her when she attended a class I taught on Descendancy Research a few weeks ago.  Since my class, I have worked with her twice during my shift at my local FamilySearch Center.  She is the sweetest person I have ever met.

Thursday night I helped her again and as we were logging out of our programs and gathering our things she says to me, “Oh, I meant to ask, do you happen to like apple crisp?”  To which I responded, “Yes!” immediately.  She smiled and said, “Oh good, because I baked one for you today and it’s in my car.  Would you mind going out to my car so I can give that to you?”

I was so surprised and grateful for her kindness.  She went on to express how grateful she was for my help.  She has shared with me that she never thought she would find an area in her tree that needed work.  But of course we found a spot that hasn’t been worked on in Family Tree and she is so excited to be able to contribute to her family’s story.  She is working hard to learn how to search for sources and attach them.  How to draw accurate conclusions and add missing family members to the tree.  I’m grateful that I have gotten to spend time helping her.  Honestly, helping people is so rewarding and I never feel like I need a thank you, but her thank you was so thoughtful that it really made my night, in fact, it made my week.

Now I think I need to pay it forward.