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# Friday, 06 January 2017
Writing Your Life Story: How to Bring Back "Lost" Memories
Posted by Diane


Library of Congress

"Recording your own stories" is one of Family Tree Magazine’s list of 17 genealogy habits for success in 2017 (part of our hot-off-the-presses January/February issue). 

How many of us spend months or years tracking down every possible record of an ancestor’s life, the whole time wishing he or she had left a journal revealing personality, opinions, interests, hopes and pet peeves?
 
But then we neglect to record all those things about ourselves—whether for our own children or for children from other lines who may one day wish to really know us.

FamilySearch has launched the #52Stories Project encouraging you to write one brief story about your life each week. Find motivation, weekly writing prompts and links to others’ stories on the #52Stories home page.

Sunny Jane Morton's book Story of My Life has in-depth guidance on writing your life story, as well as fill-in forms and questions that help you organize and tell your stories. Her helpful tips and exercises for remembering the details of your life events, which will make your stories more meaningful to you and to others, include: 
  • Free associate. Start with a blank page and write a person, place or event at the top. Then begin with "I remember" and write anything that comes to mind, even if it’s not a complete thought. For example, if my page was titled “Grandma,” I'd might write “sewing” (she was a skilled seamstress), “potbelly bear” (she gave me one for Christmas when I was 6), “purple” (her favorite color) and “Wellesley” (the street where she lived). Keep going until you run out of memories.

  • Immerse yourself. Go to a place related to a time in your life you want to recall. Visit your childhood neighborhood, walk around your high school, have a drink at the dive bar where your friends gathered when you were young singles. Listen to the music and eat the food you liked.

  • Read about the places and times you want to remember. Books, contemporary news articles and photos detailing events and eras like the assassination of President Kennedy, Summer of Love and the turn of the millennium will bring back mental images and memory snippets of what you were doing at the time.

  • Reach out. Ask folks who knew you when what they remember about the junior high class trip to Washington, DC, or the day of your father’s funeral. Their memories might fill in where yours gets fuzzy.
Here's where to view all 17 habits for genealogy success in 2017, here's where to pick up the January/February issue, and here's where to get the book Story of My Life.
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Genealogy books | Research Tips | saving and sharing family history | Writing about your family history
Friday, 06 January 2017 08:41:46 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [1]
# Sunday, 01 January 2017
Exercise Your Genealogy in 2017
Posted by Diane

Need some motivation to jump-start your research in 2017? Online Community Editor and Family Tree University Dean Vanessa Wieland shares her journey from hapkido newbie to black-belt expert:

A few years ago, I joined my sister and several other people in our first class to study hapkido—a form of martial arts. We’d been taking my nephew for years and watched as he developed into a confident, successful leader in his classes. But for my sister and me, the first class was rough. Never much of an athlete or physical person, I usually exercised by lifting stacks of books and walking around libraries. So even during warmups in this first class, I felt like I was in over my head, given that I couldn’t do a single pushup on my own.

Like other forms of martial arts, hapkido has a series of belts that chart your progress: 11 in total, from white (the first) to black (the last). Six weeks after I started classes, I tested for my first belt. In those six weeks, I’d learned how to fall without breaking my arm or hitting my head, how to break someone’s hold on my wrist, and, yes, even do some situps and pushups.

It takes a lot of work to get to the black-belt level, and only two people of the 10 who I started with earned their black belts. I tested for and earned mine in February 2015. By then, not only could I do push ups, but I could also break any kind of hold an attacker would attempt, immobilize and flip my opponents around, and break boards with a swift kick, punch, or jab of my elbow.

I also learned a lot about myself: that I can face my own fears, that I’m not that fragile or clumsy, that I’m strong, and that I'm capable of pushing myself further than I ever thought possible without breaking. Most importantly, I learned that I can accomplish just about anything when I put my mind to it, and take it one step at a time.

That’s the key to achieving any goal or resolution, whether it’s starting a new fitness program, organizing your genealogy or learning a new skill.

We’re starting off 2017 with the Family History Fitness Challenge. Each day in January, we'll provide a new task that will help you whip your genealogy into shape! If your New Year’s resolution is about researching and organizing your family history, this challenge will start you off on the right foot and set the tone for the whole year. You can find each day's prompts on our homepage or on the Genealogy Monthly Challenge landing page, so follow along with us there or on Facebook and Twitter.

And while you're setting genealogy goals for the year ahead, we'll be here to help you accomplish them. Check out the Family Tree University calendar of classes and workshops to determine which opportunities you want to take advantage of. We'll be offering plenty of new resources and techniques for researching your family history.

Here are three educational events I’m particularly excited about:

  • Research Logs Made Easy, January 16: In this class, you'll learn the benefits to using research logs to guide and organize your genealogy research, the elements of a good research log, and the various types of research logs you can use.
  • Analyze Your DNA Results Workshop, February 20: This workshop will put you well on your way to learning just what your DNA test results can tell you.
  • 2017 Winter Virtual Conference, March 3–5: This weekend-long conference contains a plethora of new tools, techniques, and strategies for researching your family history.

So get working! There's no black belt in genealogy, but you can still become a master of your family history.

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organizing your research
Sunday, 01 January 2017 14:19:46 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [2]
# Thursday, 29 December 2016
Let's Celebrate Our Genealogy Research Accomplishments in 2016!
Posted by Diane


Library of Congress

Farewell 2016, hello 2017! It's been a busy year for my family, but I still can pat myself on the back for accomplishing few things, genealogy-wise:
What about you? Make a list of your genealogy accomplishments, however small.

Then, let's raise a toast to our genealogy feats in 2016, and look forward to even more fabulous ancestor finds in 2017.

Happy New Year from Family Tree Magazine!


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Research Tips | saving and sharing family history
Thursday, 29 December 2016 12:44:38 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [4]
# Monday, 19 December 2016
31 Days of Family Holiday Recipes: Mom's Easy Pecan Pie
Posted by Diane

Christmas afternoons when I was little were spent at Grandma's house. After dinner, the grownups would talk in the kitchen upstairs and the kids would play downstairs, eagerly listening for some aunt or uncle to yell "Kids—DESSERT!" 

The spread always included two of mom's pecan pies.  I remembered this recently, when I found her "easy" recipe written in the margin of her 1983 cookbook, next to Betty Crocker's less-easy one.

Pecans are native to the Southeast United States, and recipes for using them in pie first appeared in Texas cookbooks in the 1870s. Pecan pie's popularity picked up in the 1920s, when Karo provided a recipe for it on cans of corn syrup (Mom's recipe uses two kinds of corn syrup, dark and light).

It's still a Southern dish by reputation (half of my maternal family tree is in Kentucky), but people from all over love it. See more pecan pie history here.

I'd "help" Mom make the pies. She had a pastry mat marked with concentric circles for rolling out pie crust, but I think she usually turned to Pillsbury. As for the filling, it couldn't be easier: Just measure everything and stir it together. Chop the pecans if you like them chopped, leave them whole if you don't. Then pour it into the crust and bake.



Mmmm, rich and sweet. See the pecan pie recipe (along with other desserts) here.

One nostalgic dish can bring back a lot of memories. What recipes do you recall enjoying with your family during the holiday season?

From egg nog to Scripture Cake, we at Family Tree Magazine are sharing those we remember—one every day in December—on our website.

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saving and sharing family history
Monday, 19 December 2016 12:21:49 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [1]
# Wednesday, 14 December 2016
RootsMagic Explains Why the Ancestry Sync Won't Happen This Year
Posted by Diane



Ever since RootsMagic announced back in February 2016 that it was collaborating with Ancestry on the sync, inquiring genealogy minds have wanted to know, "how much longer?"

An answer of sorts came yesterday in an open letter from RootsMagic head honcho Bruce Buzbee. Although initially, "by the end of the year" seemed like a safe deadline, he writes that more time is needed to complete and properly test the new syncing feature.

Bruce includes a good explanation of the behind-the-scenes technical challenges: The API, the "system that lets Ancestry and RootsMagic talk with each other," is brand new and needed lots of testing as well as additional functionality, which took time. His team also has needed to remove and replace code to improve how the software performs certain tasks.

So the bottom line is, RootsMagic won't sync with Ancestry by Dec. 31. But "it is close, and it looks amazing," Bruce writes.

See the full letter on the RootsMagic blog. If you're interested in being a beta tester for RootsMagic's Ancestry sync features, click the link to the application at the end of the letter.

New to RootsMagic? Been using it awhile but know there's more to it? Check out Family Tree Magazine's Mastering RootsMagic independent study class download, in ShopFamilyTree.com

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Ancestry.com | Genealogy Software
Wednesday, 14 December 2016 12:05:32 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [1]
# Friday, 09 December 2016
Evolution of a Holiday Tradition
Posted by Diane

This is a guest post from Online editor, Vanessa Wieland.

While most of America (or, at least, most of the Americans I know) think of Thanksgiving as their favorite meal of the year, in our family, it’s Christmas day brunch. It used to be Thanksgiving, where we’d get together with all my dad’s siblings and their families for a massive meal. Once the 13 cousins started having children of their own and started scattering to various parts of the country, it got too big and unwieldy to fit inside any one of our houses, so new traditions have evolved.



That is my dad and I, many years ago.  

It’s interesting, how family changes over time - and with them, the traditional celebrations. While we don’t celebrate Thanksgiving with my dad’s side of the family anymore, we’re still a close-knit group. However, the nucleus has changed. While it used to be my dad and his siblings providing the center around which we revolved, now we celebrate Christmas with my sister and her husband’s family.

My definition of family has expanded to include my sister’s in-laws. We have words for our relatives by blood - mother, father, sister, brother, son, daughter, aunt uncle, cousin, niece, nephew. We have the in-laws - brother-in-law, father-in-law, sister-in-law, mother-in-law- but there are no easy or common ways to reference my relationship to my sister’s nephews or niece, at least not in English. How do you describe your nephew’s aunt on the other side, or your niece’s cousins on their other side? In their marriage, my brother-in-law and sister combined two families into one, but that means the relationships can get a little more difficult to define.

Both holidays involve sitting down together to eat a large meal that we’ve all contributed to, but food-wise, I prefer breakfast. Maybe it’s a throwback to all the Sunday mornings my dad - disgustingly cheerful morning-person that he was - would make breakfast for us. He’d drag us out of bed with the scents of coffee and bacon. Our dog, Princess, got her share of eggs as well, since my father took his breakfast preparation rather seriously. Things had to be just right. If an omelet wasn’t perfectly shaped, into her bowl it’d go. Luckily for her, my dad always had one “oops” that went into her bowl.



You can see Princess here, waiting patiently for her omelet.

It could also be that from the time I was a toddler, I’d head over to our next door neighbor’s house for “second” breakfast. See “Mawmaw” Marge’s Coffee Cake recipe in the 30-day cooking challenge, which is my mom’s contribution to Christmas brunch.

Unlike my father, I’m definitely not a morning person, so brunch is far more of an appropriate time of day to eat breakfast foods. And Christmas brunch is the best brunch of all. Everyone contributes, which means there are far more types of foods than any one person can eat in one sitting. Pancakes, waffles and coffee cake indulge those with a sweet tooth; there is also usually toast, potato breakfast casserole, and biscuits and gravy. There are also sausages and bacon, and fruit, but the best part are the omelets. My brothers-in-law make omelets to order. Omelets can have everything from ham and green peppers to mushrooms, onions, tomatoes, and cheese. It’s the job of one of the older kids to go around and take everyone’s order for their omelets.

And of course, with the food there must be beverages. There’s coffee, tea, orange juice and my favorite contribution - mimosas. I’m fine with leaving the cooking to those suited to it. After all, there are plenty of debates and schools of thought about crafting the perfect cup of coffee or tea, and creating a sparkly, tasty mimosa is an art form that allows me to exercise my creativity far from the stove. I can stay out of the way and still be part of the activity.

You can see two of my mimosa recipes on the drinks page; one alcoholic and one friendly to kids, new moms and people wishing not to imbibe.



Family Recipes
Friday, 09 December 2016 11:30:53 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [1]
# Tuesday, 06 December 2016
31 Days of Family Holiday Recipes: Easy Birthday Cupcakes
Posted by Diane

We at Family Tree Magazine are sharing 31 Days of Family Holiday Recipes in December to honor the folks in our family histories who prepare mountains of cookies, pies, fancy entrees, beverages, coffee cakes (my mom-in-law has about 40 stashed in friends' freezers all over town) and other special dishes.

For those of us who enjoy the fruits of our baking relatives' labor, the holidays just wouldn't be the same without their culinary creations.

Of course, all this cooking and baking takes time, which you might find in short supply at this point of the year (and all the other points, too), so the recipe I'm sharing today is easy.



My sister, arguably my family's best chef, taught me the secret of starting with boxed mix and making it better with a few adjustments.

My husband is a big fan of homemade frosting so I make my own (though I do keep a backup tub of store-bought in the pantry just in case).

I just made these cupcakes for our publisher Allison Dolan's milestone birthday (I'll keep you guessing which one), and they're pretty good if I must say. 

You will need:
  • Your favorite cake mix
  • Cocoa powder if using chocolate cake mix
  • Butter
  • Milk
  • Your favorite frosting (Mine is cream cheese from my mom's recipe: Beat together 1/2 cup softened butter and 8 oz. softened cream cheese, then beat in a splash of vanilla and 4 cups powdered sugar, plus a tablespoon or two of milk.) 
  • Sprinkles, mini chocolate chips or other decoration
What to do:
Prepare your favorite boxed cake mix, but use melted butter instead of oil (the same amount) and milk instead of water (also the same amount). If using a chocolate mix (which I do 99% of the time), sprinkle a tablespoon or so of cocoa powder into the dry mix for more chocolately-ness. Beat the batter with an electric mixer (instead of by hand) for about 2 minutes.

Fill cupcake liners and bake according to the instructions on the box. Let cool and frost, Be sure to add sprinkles or other decorations before the frosting sets.

Follow us on Facebook, visit us on Pinterest and stop by FamilyTreeMagazine.com to see all 31 Days of Family Holiday Recipes!

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saving and sharing family history
Tuesday, 06 December 2016 15:33:47 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [1]
# Monday, 05 December 2016
Free Access to Fold3 In Honor of Pearl Harbor's 75th Anniversary
Posted by Diane

Madge Maril, associate editor of Family Tree Magazine, here with news from Fold3. This Wednesday will mark 75 years since the attack on Pearl Harbor. For many, it is difficult to believe that much time has elapsed since the tragedy unfolded in 1941.


Photo from the Library of Congress

During December, Fold3 is also allowing free access to over 113 million WWII records—including 35 million WWII draft registration cards. “Fold3 hopes these resources can help each user discover their own military ancestors and the brave lives they led,” Fold3 announced.

To honor the fallen and respect those who bravely fought, Fold3 is featuring the stories of twelve Pearl Harbor survivors, highlighting their genealogy, military service and personal histories. Four of the men are USS Arizona veterans.

Explore the Fold3 USS Arizona interactive virtual memorial as well for free on Fold3. Simply enter the name of the serviceman you are searching for, and the image viewer scans a photo of the Hawaiian memorial for the name, allowing you to find the name of a loved one on the memorial online.

The bottom of the website also offers a 10$ off coupon for an AncestryDNA test, for those looking to expand their genealogy research through DNA testing.

Monday, 05 December 2016 13:17:23 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [4]
# Thursday, 01 December 2016
Are You Missing the Best Genealogy Websites for Finding U.S. Ancestors?
Posted by Diane


David Rumsey Historical Maps

We published our annual list of 75 top US state genealogy websites in the December 2016 Family Tree Magazine (you can see the list right here).

These state-focused genealogy websites stand out for their digitized historical records, searchable indexes to vital and other records, and how-to advice.

But our list is just a starting point. There are many more state-focused genealogy websites to mine as you research American ancestors. Nonprofit and government sites don't have a lot of money to market themselves, so it's easy for them to slip under a genealogist's radar. Here are five types of state-focused genealogy websites you should look for in every state where your ancestors lived:

State Archive
Google a state and "state archive" to find the website for the state archive, which usually manages records created by the state (such as state censuses and adjutant general records), may archive old county records, and often collects newspapers, city directories, federal censuses and other records that cover citizens of the state.

On the website, look for:
  • an overview of genealogy-related holdings
  • links to digital collections
  • tips on research topics of interest to you, such as vital records or burned counties
  • a catalog of holdings you can search for your ancestor's town and county, as well as other terms, for a list of records that might cover your clan
  • locations, hours and visitor information
  • a "research services" or similar link to see if you can borrow items through interlibrary loan or pay for an archivist's research time
  • links to genealogy resources for more websites to check or guides to consult
State Historical Society
Search for the name of a state and "historical society." Some historical societies are affiliated with the state government (in Ohio, the state archive is part of the state historical society, called Ohio History Connection), and some are independent membership organizations. Look for the same features as on a state archives website.

State Library
Search for the name of the state and "state library." The state library may or may not be part of the archive (as for the Texas State Library and Archive), and it may or may not hold genealogical materials. Indiana's State Library has a description of its genealogy holdings here. Look for the same features as on a state archives website.

Digital Library or Memory Project
Search for the name of the state and memory or "digital library." Many states have online memory collections with old photos, maps, yearbooks and other digitized records contributed by organizations and individuals around the state. Check out Florida Memory here.

Digitized Newspapers Site
Search for the name of the state and historical (or historic) newspapers. Some state libraries, archives or historical societies run websites where you can search and view digitized newspapers. The Colorado Historic Newspapers Collection is here; Utah Digital Newspapers is here.

Stop in ShopFamilyTree.com for research guides, webinars and video classes for doing genealogy and discovering your ancestry in every state in the USA.

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Genealogy Web Sites | Libraries and Archives | Research Tips
Thursday, 01 December 2016 15:13:01 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [1]
# Friday, 25 November 2016
What Gift Would You Buy Your Ancestor On Black Friday?
Posted by Diane

Today's prompt for Family Tree Magazine's 30-Day Family History Writing Challenge is:
In honor of Black Friday, review resources like the Sears Catalog and “buy” three Christmas presents for an ancestor. Why did you choose them?
I'm going to cheat and skip the Sears Wish Book and choose one gift, because it's allowed and because I know EXACTLY what I want to buy an ancestor—my grandfather—for Christmas.

A pig.


Library of Congress

To be more specific, a sow.

If you want to know why, you have to promise not to tell my dad what he's getting for Christmas.

Thank you.

Snooping in Dad's papers while putting together a book about his dad, I found an essay my grandfather wrote about going to high school at a Texas children's home.

In Grandpa's sophomore year, the animal husbandry students had to acquire and raise a farm animal.

My grandfather spent $75 on a registered sow. He didn't say whether the school provided funds. That would be quite a sum for a high school student today, let alone for a boy in 1919 with no family support.

Unfortunately, the pig fell victim to hog cholera, also called classic swine fever. This virus (now eradicated in the United States) is usually fatal within 15 days. Grandpa's sow died not long after he bought her.

"In the short space of time," wrote my grandfather, "I had grown to like my sow so much that when she died, I cried as if she were my sister."


Library of Congress

I never met my grandfather. What I know of his personality comes from my research, relatives, and my dad. The same dad, a mechanical engineer, who taught me to sweep the kitchen floor in straight lines, following the pattern in the linoleum to ensure thorough coverage. Other than getting worked up at the occasional soccer game, he's pretty stoic.

I get the feeling Dad comes by it honestly. Another of his dad's essays, titled "Studying," includes the recommendations "Each lesson in every course should be allotted a certain time and studied a certain day," and "In going over your lesson, study each sentence, and do not leave a difficult one until you are convinced you must have help to understand it."

My grandfather eventually became a civil engineer, one you'd be comfortable having build the bridges and large river dams you rely on to not fall over.

The orphanage he entered at age 11 wasn't the stereotypical miserable kind of place in Little Orphan Annie. Newspaper accounts describe a pleasant home, efficiently run, with children engaged in activities. My grandfather had friends and adults who cared about him. His brother and sister lived there for a time. So I could be wrong, but I can't help imagining him as a boy, putting on a brave face despite missing his mother terribly.

Great, now I'm going to cry.

Grandpa wrote that his junior year was when he decided to pursue engineering instead of agriculture. Maybe losing his pet played a role.

I have no idea how to buy someone a pig, but if I could go back a century to East Texas, I would make it happen.
 
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saving and sharing family history | Social History
Friday, 25 November 2016 16:51:21 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00)  #  Comments [0]