Wednesday, June 24, 2015

How much can you fit in a month?

I was gone 22 out of 33 days recently, and my oldest son graduated from High School in the 10 days I was home. (You can see why I haven't gotten much blogging done.)  Too much fun.  Here's the update:
First I got to go to the National Genealogical Association Conference in St. Charles Missouri.  It was a great venue and of course lots of good people to talk to.  We did our Outside the Box sessions in the vendors hall and I got to talk to lots of people about charts they wanted to create for their family reunions this summer.  It was a quick trip but very productive.

 Then I was home to mark some major passages in our current family.  My oldest graduating from High School and my youngest graduation from Jr. High.  I can't believe how fast a family grows up.  Time marches on.  Even though I'm a genealogist, I try not to think about that too much.  :)
And then we took off on an actual family vacation of our own.  Thanks to these wonderful ladies we were actually able to really get away.  Erin, Christine and Wendy took wonderful care of our clients while we were gone.  That takes alot of trust.  I'm so thankful for these ladies.  We are so blessed to have them. 
And where did we go?  Family History sites of course.  We started at Niagara Falls and worked our way around the great lakes region, down into Illinois and up to Wisconsin where Kim grew up. 
We got to see several sites where my ancestors lived and worked in New York and Ohio. 
This is me in front of a house one of my ancestors built in 1843.  There was actually a store in the part of the home on the left side of the picture.  My mother's ancestor who built the home was in business with one of my father's ancestors here.  How cool is that?
I actually caught a good smile in a selfie with another ancestor's home. The teenagers had fun, but they did there best to make sure I didn't capture any proof of it.  Here I outwitted him :)
And then we took the kids to see where my husband Kim grew up in Wisconsin.  None of them had been there since they were babies, so they had no memories of it.  It was so, so cool to teach my kids (and remind myself) about where my husband came from and the forces that formed his early life.  I gained a much greater appreciation of who he is, and how far he has come and I think the kids did too. 
We taught the kids about their grandmother who died shortly before my daughter was born.  We are so grateful now that we took the time to record her 40 page oral history shortly before her death.  While we were reading that history on the trip, my kids were excited to find out that she ate chocolate and coke for breakfast while she was in High School.  They learned alot of other things too of course, like her love for antiques.  We took the kids to a store where she had sold antiques and immediately they became antique hounds too.  It is funny how apples fall so close to the tree, even when they hadn't been exposed to that much before. 
A really special time on the trip was when we got to go visit Kim's mother's grave.  My kids had never been to their grandmother's gravesite.  Kim got to clean the gravestone and we talked and had some moments of reflection there.  It was really sweet to say a prayer at that site sacred to our family.  Such a family bonding moment for all of us. 
The property that Kim's grandparents owned and where he lived for a time is now a motel and RV park so we actually stayed on the same property while we were there.  So cool!  It is a beautiful area and I can see why Kim misses the beautiful lake he grew up on. I think Kim enjoyed showing us around and I don't think it will be so long before we go back again next time. 
Then, 24 hours after we got home, my son Matthew and I took off for the Southern California Genealogical Society conference in Burbank, CA.  One of my favorite conferences (more on that in the next post) I have taken one child with me every year for the past several years.  This year was Matthew's turn and it was even better since they had asked him to speak.  We had a good time, just the two of us.  We checked out the Aquarium in Long Beach before the conference, were able to hit a few DNA sessions and then set up for the conference. 
Matthew was a great help at the booth.  It was nice to know things were taken care of while I gave my lectures and talked to some of our partners.  I really appreciate how everyone is so welcoming to him when he helps us out at conferences. 
And of course he nailed his "Get to Know Your Geezers" lecture.  It was livestreamed and in it he mentioned that you could use Elizabeth Shown Mills' book Evidence Explained to cite numerous sources--even a can of soda or the Declaration of Independence--and it has a "great plot".  Someone told her about that on facebook and she got a good laugh from that.  I'm just stinking proud of him no matter what sources he's citing.

It was a whirlwind but oh so fun.  I came back home to family reunion season in full swing so it has been busy busy busy.  But I love it.  This is what I've chosen and my life is awesomely full.  I am so blessed to get to work with and work for genealogists.  We've been creating some amazing charts for people already this summer.  Let me know when we can create one for your family. 

Saturday, June 6, 2015

5 More New Ways to Use Technology at Family Reunion Activities
This weekend my son Matthew and I are speaking at the SCGS Jamboree. One of our sessions includes sharing lots of great ideas about incorporating technology into your family reunions this summer.  When your family spends time learning about their family history together, it creates strong bonds in a way no other activity can. And guess what? Genealogy can be entertaining and interesting, especially when you get technology involved.

I'll be speaking on "Family History Adhesive: Science and Simple Tech for Binding Families" and "Family Links:Easy Interactive Online Activities to Share Your Family History".  And Matthew will be giving his "Get to Know Your Geezers" lecture.   If you are at Jamboree, we'd love to see you there.  If you're not, two of our lectures are being streamed live.  You can catch them on Sunday morning and Sunday afternoon at 

I'll be talking about some of the new ideas we've put in our Family Reunion E-books.  Here is a sampling of a few of the new ways to use technology at your family reunion from the books:
  1.  Family YouTube Channel. Be sure you are creating new family history for the next generation to enjoy by preserving the audio and video of these family history presentations. Record the talent show, the family lip sync and the family history skits and share them with family members or upload them to your family YouTube channel. 
  2. Interview a Generation. Set up a couple of comfortable chairs in a location with good lighting
    and a video camera on a tripod. Let family members interview each other and tell stories and
    sing songs together. You could provide sample question prompts or a specific topic to talk
    about or just let family members come up with their own. Post the videos on the family website
    or your family YouTube channel. These videos are great to share online after the reunion or watch together at the next reunion.
  3.  Health Survey. Create a family health survey to find out more about health trends in your
    family. Family members could answer the survey on paper, or electronically through or a Google Doc survey. If you have a health worker in the family they
    may be able to collect the surveys before the reunion and prepare a presentation about the findings or you might hire a professional outside the family to analyze the information. Discuss
    what the family can do to be healthier.
  4.  Family History Prezi Presentation. Collect family photos, videos and stories into a
    presentation. (Ask a younger family member to help assemble the presentation if necessary.)
    Tell about the immigration of an ancestor, or a particularly hard challenge that a family member overcame. Or focus on the timeline of one ancestor and experiences they had in their lifetime. Deliver the presentation to your family with an LCD projector and make the presentation public and share it over your family’s social media so they can view it again later.
  5.  Google Earth Presentation. Place your family history into a geographical context with a tour
    of where your family came from. Include photos, videos and map overlays to describe what
    your family’s past was like. Present your production to the family in a special show with an
    LCD projector.
If you are unfamiliar with some of these online resources, choose your favorites and delegate them to those who welcome technology.  It's a great way to get the techies in your life involved with other family members and showing off their skills.

These ideas along with many others are included in my newest book, "My Ancestor Family Reunion Version".  Over 100 pages of meaningful family reunion ideas and activities will involve all ages both in the family reunion planning and at the event itself.  Choose from 8 versions of "My Ancestor Family Reunion" that teach more about British, German, Jewish, Swedish, Mormon, Danish, Civil War, and Pioneer heritage.  Click here to purchase this e-book now for immediate download.  You will instantly have ideas to implement at your upcoming family reunion.  Happy planning!

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Family Reunion E-book Versions of our "My Ancestor" books

As summer approaches, family reunions abound! Make your upcoming family reunion a huge success with unique and intentional activities to bring the generations, families, and individuals together with our newly released "My Ancestor: Family Reunion" e-book version. This multi-page resource includes 3 sections:
  • 50 pages of culturally specific activities from one Children's Activity Workbook with rights to copy and use for the duration of the family reunion (choose Pioneer, British, German, Danish, Jewish, Civil War, Swedish, or Mormon)
  • 20 pages of FUN family heritage family reunion ideas
  • 35 page children's workbook with interactive pages that are perfect for completing at the family reunion
Compile any genealogy information you have into a working chart printed by Family ChartMasters and let attendees grab a pencil to update the chart directly with family updates of new births, marriages, and deaths.  This is a great ice breaker or time filler before the real festivities begin!

Our new "My Ancestor: Family Reunion" e-book includes carefully selected activities to bridge the gaps between generations, families, and individuals.  These are not generic group activities, but rather purposeful games and experiences which teach and educate family members about their present and past roots.  With over nearly 70 suggestions to choose from, your attendees will have fun, enjoy a little competition, and even put their technology skills to good use with social media, blogs, and other online resources. 

Print the activity workbook pages and distribute as desired during your family reunion to explore your family history with fun and games!  This e-book, available as an immediate download, has over 80 activity pages specifically written to engage children with their parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and siblings at the family reunion.  As they strengthen modern family bonds, they will strengthening their link to the past.

Click here to order now to use at your upcoming family reunion and we'll get it send right out to you.  This an e-book and will be sent electronically as a PDF, so it's perfect for last minute planning! 

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Outside the Box Sessions for NGS 2015

The National Genealogical Society 2015 Family History Conference is just a week away in St. Charles, Missouri. I'm excited to be presenting these four sessions as part of our Outside the Box lecture series:
  • Wednesday 10:00-10:30 Family Reunion Ideas: If you have a reunion coming up, this is the class for you.  Come gather many fun ideas to encourage multi-generational conversations and interactions including storytelling, games, crafts, and contests that all incorporate your family's history. You'll also get a sneak peek at our new family reunion activity e-book available this summer!
  • Wednesday 1:30-2:00 Pedigree Challenge: Come take a break and have some fun as we play Family History Jeopardy, enjoy a storytelling contest, and challenge your pedigree chart skills.  Prizes for the winners!
  • Wednesday 3:30-4:00 10 Ideas to Zap the Grandma Gap: Family history doesn't have to be boring for your children and grandchildren--make it fun! I'll be sharing my top ideas to help bring generations closer together through activities that engage children in learning about their past.
  • Thursday 10:30-11:00 Beautiful Family History Charts: Now that you have the information, show it off with a custom family history chart.  This visual display not only shows off your research, but is also a great conversation starter for family and friends alike.  Get the details on how to submit your information, multiple design ideas, and printing options.  
I'd love to chat and visit with you all so hurry on over to the booth on Wed and Thursday.  I'll be taking off Thursday afternoon to return home for my oldest son's high school graduation. I wouldn't want to miss this important milestone in our family's history.  I'll be sure to have my camera ready to document this special occasion for future generations. Can't wait to show my grandchildren how handsome their dad was on his graduation day!

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Fan Chart for Star Wars Fans

We did the most awesome chart recently for Virginia Kysh.  Her grown kids suggested the design and she said we could share it with you. Our in-house artist created a background sketch of the Death Star, the space station from "Star Wars", that is capable of complete destruction of an entire planet with a single shot of its superlaser. Though the space station is still a work-in-progress, what a great way to catch the eye of the younger generation.  My boys think this is the coolest chart ever.

As the chart experts, Family ChartMasters can make any chart to fit your needs and this is a perfect example. This Death Star chart was a special request and we were happy to accommodate Virginia's need.  The key to getting others, especially the younger ones, involved in family history is to bring it to them on their level, instead of trying to fit them into the traditional family history mold. I love that the background sketch is the unfinished Death Star because the circle chart is unfinished and needs more research too.  Isn't that great?  Though Family ChartMasters has many existing designs for your chart, we are always open to new ideas.  

So in honor of this new chart design (which we could do for you of course too) I'm going to post one of my son's favorite Studio C videos. Studio C is a family friendly comedy sketch television show whose members have headlined the closing events at RootsTech for the past two years.  They are popular in this area and because of their fun entertainment value at RootsTech, many of my genealogy friends enjoy them now too.  Enjoy this Studio C video parody on a acquiring a new Death Star!

If you are interested in the Death Star fan chart, go ahead and send your info to us via our free consultation.  Be sure to mention "Death Star" in the box for details and we will get happily get back with you on pricing and shipping.

We are happy to develop custom artwork specific to your needs.  Give us a call! 

Monday, April 27, 2015

Changes and Additions to the Family ChartMasters Team

Janet and Michelle at RootsTech (Courtesy Randy Seaver)
You've probably noticed I've been a bit quieter online lately.  We recently had to say goodbye to Michelle, our wonderful social networking specialist.  She brought such enthusiasm to her position and was very vested in connecting FamilyChartMasters among our online followers.  She kicked off a bright spot in our company of adding new team members who have brought an infusion of new excitement and fresh ideas.  She was a great help in finishing up the most recent Zap the Grandma Gap Activity Workbooks and also with working our booths at RootsTech.

I'm missing her help so much that I can't go forward without someone else to step right into her spot.  Christine, a current special projects assistant, is going to be jumping in to assist with social networking and also as a contributing editor to the blog.

Wendy Johnson
And then, we'd like to welcome our most recent addition to the Family ChartMasters team, Wendy Johnson.
She is taking on multiple roles as chart designer, printer, and special projects assistant.  Wendy was born and raised in Oregon and has a great love of the outdoors. She is the mother of 8 and enjoys getting together with family. Her love of family history began with her grandma, who was an amazing storyteller and sparked her interest in the past. Wendy adores a good book, a fun adventure or a vigorous bike ride. She delights in all things healthy, especially developing yummy eats.  Her favorite spots are the Oregon coast, Zions National Park and the Louvre. She is very energetic and loves a challenge.

We're so happy that Christine will be helping more and that Wendy has joined us.  These ladies are delightful to work with and we know you will love them too.  With all of us, they are ready and willing to help you create the perfect representation of your family tree.  Let us know what we can do to help you at or

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

NERGC and Maureen Taylor--the most gracious hostess.

So I won the lottery at the recent New England Regional Genealogy Conference in Providence Rhode Island.  Not only was Providence a beautiful site for the conference, not only was the conference great with lots of people excited about what I had to say, but I got to stay with my dear friend Maureen Taylor who lives there.

Maureen was a most gracious hostess and took such wonderful care of me.  She lives in a beautiful turn of the century home which was built with servants quarters in the attic and two sets of stairs, one for the family and one for the servants.  So fun.  We built our home, and most of my local family members and neighbors have built their homes, so it was really awesome to stay in a historical home like that.  And it was in such a beautiful neighborhood too.  Maureen and I stopped at the local private library- the Providence Athenaeum where she has is a member.  A librarian's dream. I wish this library was closer to me--I could spend days and days there very happily.

The best part was getting to know Maureen better and learning more about her life.  I understand now how she keeps so young and healthy and how historically minded she is and so smart.  She lives close to the University and walks everywhere.  I wish my life had more walking in it.  And best of all I got to meet her wonderful husband Dexter and her two adorable Maltese dogs Tucker and Bella. I don't know if Dexter was up for the whole social networking thing but he let me snap this picture of them with his beeeeaaaaautiful antique Ford Mustang. 
Maureen let me do a little studying on her side desk in her office.  It was nice to have this gorgeous painting of her Great Grandfather watching over me.  I didn't get a picture of her beautiful desk and the fireplace and bay window.   She has an amazing personal library about the history of  hair and costume and all things genealogy.  I could have stayed here and read and read too. It isn't hard to see how much Maureen has studied to gain all her expertise.  She really is marvelous when it comes to photo identification.  And now I could see why.  She is called the Photo Detective, but I call her the Photo Whisperer.  If you need a photo identified she does brilliant consultations and she can tell you all sorts of things about your photo to help you identify who and what and where and when.

As always, it was fun to hang out with all our genealogy friends at this conference. It was so nice to see social networking friends that we don't often see out west like Marian Pierre Louis and Midge Frazel.  The Outside the Box sessions were really well attended as usual and we had some great discussions over dinner with Dexter, Lisa Louise Cooke and her husband Bill and with Biff Barnes.  I think we almost have the whole genealogy world figured out. And good food too.  Who knew all the good food was in Rhode Island?
Before I left, Maureen even took me out to the coast and we got to spend the day in Newport.  What a fun place with the Ten Mile Drive, Tennis Hall of Fame, and the best clam chowder ever, ever, ever--and great company of course.  The summer mansions along Ten Mile Drive were gorgeous--so fun for a historian. 

It was great to get to know Maureen better and see more of what her life was like.  Her nice husband, her home, the historical neighborhood she lives in, her offices and her dogs all suit her perfectly.  I was really spoiled to get to spend some time with such a great lady.