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.

 

Family Reunion Bingo Games

 


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Piles and Piles of Letters – JOY!

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Just a small portion of the letters.

In early December I was given all of the boxes of photos, journals, albums, letters, and memorabilia that had been kept by my Grandmother.  It was a joyous day and the joy has just kept spreading itself all over my genealogy loving heart these many months.

I was given the boxes, in part, because I was looking for a handful of specific photos to complete my family Christmas gift.  I was in a hurry and quickly went through every single box gathering what I needed.  It was almost painful to be in such a hurry.  There were soooooooo many unbelievable treasures in those boxes and I wasn’t able to soak much in.  I had a deadline.  As I was digging I found a shoe-box of letters.  I gave them a cursory look and thought, “Awesome, Grandma and Grandpa’s letters from WWII and their missions.  I can’t wait to go through these later.”

Well, in early Spring I pulled that box out and was devastated when I realized that it contained letters from my Grandpa’s friends and extended family.  Don’t get me wrong.  I knew they were special too.  But I know that my Grandparents wrote to each other for 5 years and that my Grandma kept all of those letters.  Where were they?

I was stressed.  I wondered if a box had gotten lost or if someone had pulled out the letters thinking they would do something with them.  I asked my uncles.  No one knew anything.  I decided before I completely panicked I needed to comb through all of the boxes again.  Much more carefully.  Just in case.

So last week I started going through the boxes again.  I found and rediscovered so many cool things.  Several boxes in, I found a binder filled with letters.  But they were from the 1960s while my Grandpa was getting his doctorate.  A cool find to be sure, and something I was hoping hadn’t been lost, but still not the letters I was searching for.

As I worked my way through every box, I got down near the end and pulled a box onto my bed and was completely baffled about the fact that it was taped shut.  What on earth?!  Somehow I had totally missed one box.  My heart started to pound.  I noticed a note on the side that said letters.  Could it be?

I opened the box and started shouting for joy!  Total and complete joy.  I was staring at 4 shoe-boxes FILLED with letters.  Plus several bundles that weren’t in shoe-boxes.  There are hundreds and hundreds of letters.

Sweet relief!

I am a bit embarrassed that the letters had been in my bedroom for a few months and all that time I had been worrying about them being lost forever.  Oh boy.

Once they were discovered, I started organizing.  It wasn’t hard because my Grandma had already bundled them by months.  I just had to get the months in order.

Next I started filing the letters in my new Hollinger boxes and folders.  I filed away until I ran out of paper folder inserts.  I need to order more.  Lots more.  It’s going to get expensive.  I wonder if my family members would want to chip in…?  I’m going to need so many before I am finished.  But I digress.

The letters cover a 5 year time period beginning when my Grandpa went off to basic training for the Marine Corps.  They follow his service in the Marine Corps and then cover the time while he was serving an LDS mission in New Zealand.  During his mission my Grandma also served a mission in California.  There is also an entire shoe-box of letters from my great-grandmother Naomi to my Grandpa.  I was so surprised and delighted by that discovery.  She left no journal, no personal history, and she died very young.  I feel like I’ve been given such a gift.

I plan to digitize the letters and share them with my family.  I may post them here, I need to ask my uncles how they feel about that.  Once everything is digitized, I will publish a book for my family members.  Well, maybe more than one.  It’s A LOT of letters and may need to be broken up.

Here are my questions:

1 – Should I include all of the letters in one collection chronologically?  Or, should I separate them and have one collection of letters between my grandparents, one collection of letters from my great-grandparents and one collection from extended family and friends?

2 – If I separate the collections for the purposes of the books I will compile, should I still share the letters online in one collection?

3 – Do you have any tips for dealing with a collection of letters this large?

 

I can’t wait to get started!  Happy Monday.

 

 


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Tell Me a Story – “So this is Margaret, so this is Margaret”

Tell Me a Story

Tell Me a Story Challenge :

Choose a person.  Then do any or all of the following:

  • Make a list of the top ten stories about this person, a word or phrase will do.
  • Choose one story and tell a compelling, short version that will interest your family members in one minute or less.
  • Tell a more detailed version of that story including photos if you have them.

Note:  You can read about my inspiration behind this challenge here.  I’ve decided to reverse the order in my post.  If you are reading this, you like stories so I’ll start with the full story, then the bite-sized story to hook my family members, then the list of ten stories.

 

Mary Margaret Ellis Peterson, looking left

My Grandma, Mary Margaret Ellis

My grandparents met and started dating in High School.  My Grandpa graduated at the height of WWII.  He knew he would be drafted so he enlisted in the Marine Corps right after graduation.  My Grandma wrote to him and waited for him.  She finished high school and went on to graduate from college (I think Weber College) with a degree in science.  My Grandpa served two years in the Marine Corps and then the war ended.  He was home for a time before he left for New Zealand on an LDS mission.

Grandma had been waiting for a long time.  She had enjoyed her high school and college days but she had more time to wait before Grandpa would be home.  She was 19 years old and she decided she wanted to serve an LDS mission.  She met with her local church leader and together they filled out mission paperwork and sent it into Salt Lake.

Her request was denied.  It’s totally understandable though.  At that time a woman had to be 23 to serve an LDS mission.  Well, she didn’t take no for an answer and sent in papers again, once again requesting to serve a mission.  And once again her request was denied.

She had just turned 20 years old when my Grandpa’s brother Darrell died.  She attended the funeral with her future in-laws.  She was invited to ride in the family car to the cemetery.  She was in the car when President David O. McKay walked up to it.  He greeted my great grandparents who introduced President McKay to my Grandma.  He took her hand in both of his and as they shook hands he said, “So this is Margaret… so this is Margaret.”

The very next week my Grandma received a mission call in the mail.  She was called to serve an LDS mission with one stipulation – she had to return home early.  She had to return home one month before my Grandpa so she could plan their wedding.  She was able to serve for about 14 months in the California mission.  In the many boxes she kept are photos from her mission and a few other items she saved including a letter from her mission president praising her hard work and love for the people in her mission.

My spunky Grandma was a missionary at a time when few women were serving missions and she did it 3 years younger than was allowed.  The more I learn about my Grandma the more in awe I am of her many talents and her great strength.

 

One Minute Story

My Grandma sent in mission papers twice when she was 19.  She was told she had to wait until she was 23 – the current minimum age for sister missionaries.  She met President David O. McKay just after her 20th birthday and got a mission call in the mail the next week.

 

Top Ten Stories List for Grandma

  • Cabbage Patch Dolls, Pound Puppies, can stools, quillos, and more!
  • The movie file
  • Identical feet
  • “You missed a B♭.”
  • Road map brain – travel map trip
  • Our last lunch
  • The Last Christmas Party
  • “I really need to write these things down…”
  • Pouring over her scrapbooks
  • Grandpa’s bracelet, grandma’s curls
  • “So this is Margaret, so this is Margaret.”
  • Two VCRs

 

Note:  My grandparents told me this and a few other stories about their interactions with President McKay several times.  I loved hearing them tell me stories.  This one has been on my mind because my oldest boy is currently waiting for a mission call.  The system says he has been assigned so we are just waiting for that big white envelope to arrive in the mail any day.  Don’t worry – he meets all of the criteria so he will not be kindly told to wait until he is older like my Grandma was.  😉


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Tell Me a Story – First Refrigerator

Tell Me a Story

Tell Me a Story Challenge :

Choose a person.  Then do any or all of the following:

  • Make a list of the top ten stories about this person, a word or phrase will do.
  • Choose one story and tell a compelling, short version that will interest your family members in one minute or less.
  • Tell a more detailed version of that story including photos if you have them.

Note:  You can read about my inspiration behind this challenge here.  I’ve decided to reverse the order in my post.  If you are reading this, you like stories so I’ll start with the full story, then the bite-sized story to hook my family members, then the list of ten stories.

Jane Zina Petrina Folkman

Jane Zina Petrina Folkman

Jane Zina Petrina Folkman is my 2nd great grandmother.  She is my great grandmother Naomi Skeen’s mother.  She died long before I was born so I have no memories of my own to share of her, but I interviewed her granddaughter years ago and she shared a story about Grandma Skeen that I love!  Here is that story in the words of my great Aunt Marilyn:

“Grandma Skeen raised chickens.  She gathered the eggs, cleaned them, candled them for blood spots and sold them to a grocery store in Ogden.  She bought her first refrigerator with her egg money.  When they delivered it Grandpa told them to take it back but Grandma said, “Now Joe they are going to bring it right in here.”  She was a feisty little (5 foot) lady.”

Because this fun story is so short I don’t need a shorter version to tell my family.  I did not make a story list for Grandma Skeen since I am not working from memory trying to list stories I don’t want to forget.

I think this sweet little story does serve as a great reminder that we need to interview our oldest living relatives before we can’t.  We need to interview them and preserve that interview on paper, or as a video or audio recording.  I treasure the family gems like this one that are in the interview with my great Aunt Marilyn.


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Tell Me a Story – The Day You Were Born

Tell Me a Story

Tell Me a Story Challenge :

Choose a person.  Then do any or all of the following:

  • Make a list of the top ten stories about this person, a word or phrase will do.
  • Choose one story and tell a compelling, short version that will interest your family members in one minute or less.
  • Tell a more detailed version of that story including photos if you have them.

Note:  You can read about my inspiration behind this challenge here.  I’ve decided to reverse the order in my post.  If you are reading this, you like stories so I’ll start with the full story, then the bite-sized story to hook my family members, then the list of ten stories.

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My oldest boy who is just days away from turning 18.

My first baby was born 11 weeks early after 6 weeks of bed rest – 3 at home and 3 in the hospital.  He was so small, just 2 lbs. 8 1/2 ounces.  The day he was born was something I will never forget.

It really started the night before.  I was exactly 29 weeks pregnant.  I was feeling sorry for myself and having a rough day.  Things were winding down and I realized that I hadn’t felt the baby move for a while.  I had a popsicle to see if the little one would wake up and give me a kick.  Nothing.  I ate another popsicle and finally there was one little kick.

I had an appointment scheduled for the next morning so I went to bed and hoped everything would be normal when I woke up.  During breakfast I felt one tiny kick.  The doctor listened to the heart beat and said everything sounded fine but he sent me over to the hospital for a non-stress test just to make sure.

The non-stress test was not great.  Baby’s heart rate stayed the same during the entire test.  They gave me snacks and buzzed my tummy with no change.  After 30 minutes of this my doctor ordered an ultrasound with a kick count.  It was my first ultrasound with this doctor.  We found out we were having a boy.  We had been so sure that we were having a girl and we were going to name her Anna.  We didn’t have any boy names picked out.

Well, baby boy passed the kick count and I was sent back to OB.  The nurse looked at me and told me I could go but she would stay until everything felt normal.  I started to cry because my doctor had told me that if I was admitted for anything I would stay in the hospital until my due date – 11 weeks away!  But I stayed and within a half an hour the baby’s heart rate was dropping from 160 to 60 over and over.  The nurses were faxing the strips to my doctor and to the specialists in Spokane.  It was very quickly decided that I needed an emergency c-section to save baby.

The life flight team was called and I was prepped.  As soon as the team landed on the roof my doctor started my c-section.  Our first baby boy was born at 29 weeks and 1 day weighing 2 lbs. 8 ½ ounces and measuring 15 inches.  I was taken into recovery and a few minutes later they wheeled baby into my room.  A kind nurse had taken a few polaroids of baby and then took a few of me reaching out and touching his hand.  And then baby and hubby were off on the helicopter to Spokane and I was all alone.

That night in the hospital was one of the longest of my life.  I couldn’t sleep, I was so worried.  I just alternated being staring at those polaroids and praying.

It wasn’t the entrance I was expecting for baby #1.  But he turned out to be a fighter.  He made it out of the NICU in just 7 weeks and 2 days.  He never had a surgery, antibiotics, or a setback of any kind.  We brought him home at 5 lbs. 3 oz. and he fattened right up.  He had a perfectly healthy, normal childhood and now that little tiny baby of mine is about to turn 18, graduate from high school, and leave on a mission for our church.

He always was in a hurry.  I guess it makes sense that he’s ready to leave the nest.  I could not be more proud of my tough little guy!

One Minute Story

My first baby was born 11 weeks early.  He only weighed 2 1/2 lbs!

Top Ten Stories List about Me:

  • The Saint Bernard
  • How I finished college
  • Miracle Baby #1 (or The Day You Were Born)
  • How I got my name – sub-stories: meeting another Amberly, pulling up my schedule
  • Miracle Baby #3
  • English for Families
  • Working mom, heart surgery
  • Spiderman Shoes
  • My scrapbooking groupie
  • Finding out I was pregnant in August (don’t get too excited, this was a few years ago)


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My Happy Audio Digitizing Experience

17864-audio-cassettes-pv

Tapes (Pascal Terjan) / CC BY-SA 2.0

Once upon a time in about the late 1970s, early 1980s, my mom interviewed her Grandpa and recorded that interview on two audio cassettes.  Fast forward to the early 2000s when my mom had a friend digitize those tapes.  She gave each of us kiddos three CDs of audio gold.  I loved listening to my Great Grandpa’s stories!

Fast forward to about 3 years ago and those CDs won’t work on my computer.  They’ll play for about 20-30 minutes and then they give up.  They play longer in my car but they still can’t make it to the end.  The sound quality is not awesome either.

I wanted to do something about that.

On a recent visit with my mom she gave me the original audio cassettes, plus two more that she said were recordings of my Grandpa Peterson reading children’s books.  Sweet!

Fast forward again to RootsTech.  I stopped by the booth for Larsen Digital and asked them a bunch of questions about their audio digitizing service.  I grilled them actually.  They were really nice and I loved their answers.  I’ve heard their name over and over so I felt pretty confident that they must have good customer service.  They were offering a RootsTech special that lasted a month or so after the conference was over.  I got home, got back into my everyday life and forgot about it.  The week the special was ending they sent an email reminder and so I decided to try them out.

I packed up my four precious audio cassettes and took them to the closest drop off location with instructions to have the digitizer call me.  He did.  We chatted.  I told him that I was worried about sound quality because the original digitization required quite a bit of sound editing and it still sounded bad.  He told me they would do their best and if they needed to do anything more than their normal service he would call me so we could discuss it.

A few weeks later I got an email with an invitation to the audio files.  I downloaded them and they sound amazing!  So much better than the CDs my mom made a few years ago.  Sound editing has come a long way.

Happy, happy day!!

Yesterday I picked up my cassettes plus CDs of each item.  If you have ever used a digitization service for audio or video you may know that some services put a file in the CD or DVD that makes it so you can’t import the audio or video and make a copy.  Larsen Digital doesn’t do anything like that.  In fact they gave me digital downloads and CDs.  I’ve already shared some of the files with my family.  So awesome!

So if you are in Utah, try Larsen Digital for your audio digitizing needs.  If you are not in Utah but can’t find a good place near you, well, call Larsen Digital.  I’m sure they would let you ship in your project if you are brave enough.

 

ps – I am not an affiliate of Larsen Digital.  I’m not benefiting from this post in anyway.  I’m just a very happy customer who felt like sharing a great genealogy consumer experience.

 


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Uncle Darrell – Part XII, Final Thoughts

PETERSON, Darrell Skeen, chin in hand

My great uncle, Darrell Skeen Peterson

I never knew Darrell, or Naomi, and I have very few memories of Rulon.  I can’t add any facts, memories or insights into Darrell’s life or the circumstances surrounding his death.  I do, however, want to end his story with a few of my thoughts and what I plan to do next.

I lost a child once too.  Under very different, horribly traumatic, take-your-breath-away painful circumstances.  A baby that was not mine by birth but that lived with us from the time he was 10 months old until he was 20 months old.  A baby that we were told we could adopt.  Until the shocking day when he was taken away, moved to another home, and adopted by someone else.

In the horrible aftermath of the storm, when I was the saddest I have ever been, I remember thinking often about my great grandmother Naomi.  I knew a little bit about her loss.  I knew the bare bones version of the story of Darrell’s death.  I had the funeral transcript, Rulon’s personal history, and the histories written by her daughters.  I had read them.  I knew that she had been heartbroken and that her health never recovered.

What I really wanted were her words.  I wanted to hear her own complete heartbreak and know that I wasn’t going crazy.  I wanted to know that it was possible to be in the depths of sorrow and still have hope, still know that God loved me.  And I wanted to know that not from myself but from seeing it in my great grandmother’s own writing.  I wanted to feel her sense of life moving forward and joy coming in the morning – whenever my morning would be.

I didn’t know that there were any records that existed that were written by her.  I didn’t know if she kept a journal or had written letters.  But in that time of sorrow so deep, loss so overwhelming, when the love and support of my family and friends could barely register let alone reach my aching soul in a meaningful way, it was my great grandmother’s comfort I wanted.  And I didn’t get it.  Not for a very long time and not until well past the need had subsided to a dull ache.

I hope that this collection about Darrell – his life, his tragic death, his family member’s reactions to it all – will someday help one of Naomi’s other descendants.  Because child loss is not new, and unfortunately it happens with cruel regularity.

I hope her honest reactions will be a comfort to someone in their darkest hour.  A lifeline from the past reminding them that they will get through it no matter how painful the way.  An example of enduring faith, hope, and love for God and his promises.  And sadly, an acknowledgement that weathering the storm changes the boat.

I am so thankful for Naomi.  I’m thankful that I have been able to collect so many pieces of her story and Darrell’s. She is one of my heroes.  I want to make sure her story – particularly this part of it – is available to all of her posterity.

Which brings me to what I plan to do next.

First, I have been adding each item to both FamilySearch and my Ancestry Tree.  I am also compiling all of the information, photos, newspaper articles, excerpts from other works, etc into a book.  Once I have a rough draft I will share a copy with Darrell’s three living siblings so they can review it, add any thoughts or insights, photos etc.

I’m going to take a class in May on Publishing Family Histories.  I know the teacher well and know that he shares several different publishing options in the class.  I know he has identified several publishers that allow you to create a nice hardbound book that is printed one at a time for a reasonable price.  This way family members can order what they want without me dealing with collecting money, writing a big check, shipping books and all of that.  When I make my decision on who I will use to publish, I will share it here.

I also need to go through my Grandma’s boxes again to see if there is anything else in them that belongs in this collection.  I know there are letters from my Grandpa’s mission in there.  I need to organize them and see if any letters mention this part of his story.  I hope to be finished and ready to publish before our Rulon and Naomi Peterson family reunion in early August.

And last, thank you to my readers for your kind, thoughtful comments as I’ve shared Darrell’s story.  I know I don’t usually devote extended periods of time to a specific family member, but his was a story I wanted to tell.  Your support made the journey even richer.  Thank you.