18 July 2014

Discovering More Using Databases and Timelines

Evaline Townley Peak of Ohio
Evaline (Townley) Peak of Ohio
In my new book, I mention how if you're not using a modern database program, you're missing out on a powerful tool. I use RootsMagic 6 as my database of choice. In this modern database, the program has a timeline tool. Not only does this timeline show the life events of marriage, birth, death, and residence for my ancestors. RootsMagic also pulls in life events from immediate family members onto the timeline for the specific individual you are reviewing. As such, you can see more events for relatives and learn some important lessons.

My second great-grandmother Evaline Townley was born 22 October 1859. She died 25 November 1939 at the age of 80. She married William Talbot Peak on 1 July 1892 at the age of 32. She was from Cincinnati, Ohio and was married in the same town. She died in Columbus, Ohio. I have found every census record she would have appeared in. All of these facts make a simple timeline on Evaline.

However, RootsMagic's power was shown when it included the birth of her siblings and the death of her mother on the timeline. In 1881, Evaline appears in the Cincinnati City Directory for the second time. The first was in 1875 and she was listed as a student. This time she has no occupation listed, which was the case in the 1880 US Census. With the 1890 US Census destroyed, Evaline doesn't make an appearance in historical records until the age of 32 when she married in 1892. So what was she doing during those 11 years?

Finally a light dawned.

What Evaline is doing can be easily speculated. Her mother Anna Townley died on 24 June 1881 three days after delivering a baby that died of a hemorrhage. The cause of Anna's death is considered to be attributed to the confinement incurred after the death of the unnamed child. At the time of Anna's death, her father Richard was 44 years-old. Evaline was 21. Her brothers William, John, and Harry were 17, 11, and 3. It's safe to reason that Evaline now took on the domestic duties that her mother left.

RootsMagic Timeline
Click to enlarge screenshot from RootsMagic Timeline
The red box highlights the death of her mother and her own marriage

William, at age 17, was already studying in the profession of his father and working as a brick mason. He apparently worked with his father throughout the 1880s. They had their own brick masonry services business called Richard Townley & Son. By 1888, John was working the his father and older brother. The father and sons worked together until at least 1895. With her father and brothers providing the family income, Evaline could focus on caring for the home and tending to the needs of Harry.

Evaline Townley, at age 32, was able to start her own family when she married William Peak on 1 Jul 1892. She became pregnant right away with her daughter Evaline who was born 13 April 1893. Since William and Evaline moved to his hometown of Bellevue, Kentucky, Evaline's father and brothers were left on their own. Her brothers were now 28, 22, and 14.

The youngest brother, Harry, did not seem to take up the brick laying profession. Instead, he was studious and was allowed to focus on his education. He eventually would earn a doctorate's degree and become the US Inspector for the Bureau of Animal Industry at the Cincinnati Union Stock Yards. Evaline was fond of her younger brother whom she helped raise.

Do you notice the history I was able to understand? All of this information was pulled together because I was able to see on Evaline's timeline the some of the key events of her father and siblings lives.

It's safe to say that someone needed to care for Harry. One could speculate that the burden would fall upon Evaline. Further support for this speculation is that Evaline would name one of her children after her younger brother, presumably the one she helped raise. Additionally, other family resources indicate her great fondness for her brother Harry.

Looking at the timelines that included the family life events helped me discover why the strong connection must exist. I could not have easily made this connection without the help of  a modern database. To learn more about why you should be using a genealogy database and other tools of our modern day, check out my newest eBook called 21st Century Genealogist available September 1st at Amazon.


16 July 2014

Heritage Scrapbooking: Magazine Style Timeline

If you are creating a scrapbook featuring your ancestors, you will most certainly have a family tree in the book. You will share photos and stories about the ancestor. If you don't include a timeline in your project, you are missing out on a powerful tool that can cover a lot of topics in the least amount of space.


Timeline Scrapbook Layout
Credits: peach paper, clip - Tea party by No Reimer Reasonstitching - Two Soon by Shabby Princesspink flower - Dinner Party by Shabby Princess ; peach flower - altered Mouse Housegreen flower -  Plentiful by Shabby Princessheart wire - Photogenic

There are a variety of different timeline options you can use to showcase the life of your ancestor. I have shared several before (here, here, and here). The timeline layout above can be termed a magazine style timeline.

The overall concept is to list key events from each decade in your featured person's album. Louise was born in the 1920s and died in 2012. So, each of my sections have to be small to cover the 10 decade groupings. Some decades have more bullet items than others.

On the timeline, I included events from Louise's immediate life and those of close relations, including the additional grandmother who she never spoke of. I used the specific dates wherever possible and years when the specific date was unknown.

Prior to each decade, a photo was selected that highlighted those ten years. A caption was placed underneath the photo because labeling photos is extremely important. Years from now, people will know exactly who was in that 1960s photo, and won't have to guess.

Please notice the black legend at the center bottom of the page. Louise had 6 grandchildren, many great grandchildren and at least one great-great grandchild before she died. Whenever I included "granddaughter Devon born," the line count was too long and the information didn't fit. Instead, I had to replace the relationship name with an abbreviation such as "GD Devon born." Then all the information fit nicely.

Fearing those who read the book might not understand why GGGS was used, I created a key. This way, there is no doubt that this abbreviation stood for great-great-grandson. When you create family history projects, don't ever assume people will be able to figure something out. Create a simple legend if needed.

Be forewarned. This layout is not terribly difficult to create in a digital scrapbooking program such as Photoshop Elements. Essentially it's a few photo boxes and text boxes lined up. The trick comes in trying to get all the text to fit in the space you have. If you're willing to be patient, you can make it work. Just know in advance that this will take time. You won't find  a pre-designed template for something like this. Your layout will have differing amount of decades and content to include than the next person. But, it can be done and look amazing.

Timelines are under utilized genealogical tools. Be sure they are not under utilized in your family history scrapbooks.

09 July 2014

Power Scrapbooking: Have You Noticed the Page Size

In the most recent series of heritage scrapbook posts, some of you noticed that the pages were vertical layouts rather typical square scrapbook page. Very observant. Thank you. I want to address my personal preference and the challenges that come with it.

Heritage Scrapbook Layout
Traditional Square Layout from Mother's Scrapbook
When I first created family history layouts for my mother's scrapbook, I created 12x12 layouts. This is the 'industry' standard as far as paper scrapbooking goes, and a preferred size in digital as well.

Cover for digital scrapbook
I prefer scrapbooking 8.5x11 portrait orientation.
Many digital templates are designed for the 12 x 12 layout. Paper and embellishments are designed for the large format as well. Basically, if you're not scrapbooking 12 x 12, you're an odd ball. Well, I am an odd ball.  I don't scrapbook this size for my personal use, I prefer 8.5 x 11. For this project, I was willing to give the size a try for this small project.

Heritage Scrapbook Layout
Mother's Heritage Scrapbook printed as a 12x12

When my mother's album arrived in the mail, my heart sank. The book was beautiful, don't get me wrong. Yet, the book was too big. It was too awkward for my children to handle easily. The book did not fit on any shelves that I had. It did not fit in any boxes that I could use to ship the book to my mother, the intended recipient.Why has the scrapbook industry persisted with this size?

I have read other folks complain in digital scrapbook forums about the 12 x 12 size for the same reasons. They mentioned creating a 12 x 12 layout but printing the book as an 8 x 8. In designing my father's album, the font size appropriate for a 12 x 12 layout was far too small for an 8 x 8 print. I had to reconfigure things so much to fit the 8 x 8 size that I was beyond frustrated.

Child holding family history
Despite the frustration, an 8 x 8 scrapbook can be held easily.

As you can see, the book is a good size for my daughter to handle. Despite the easier to handle size, the book was actually too small to read all the details I put into the book such as birth records and journaling. The small scale just wasn't worth the frustration to create.

Military Scrapbook Layout
One final 8 x 8 because the scrapbook was free.
It wasn't worth the stress.

My only tip is if you're going to design an 8 x 8 scrapbook, create your pages in a 8 x 8 layout. Do not create a 12 x 12 that you will print as an 8 x 8. The scale is really wrong. By designing in an 8 x 8 layout, you will see just how large to keep documents, photos, and text so they are readable. (Consider the fact that folks with poor eye sight do not want to work hard to enjoy your creations.)

Vintage Scrapbook Layout
The 8.5 x 11 portrait layout is my preference

I like the portrait orientation of an 8.5 x 11 scrapbook. There is more design room than an 8 x 8 and the end result will still be manageable for most people, including my children, to handle. There is a reason most books are printed in a rectangular, vertical orientation. Why fight it?

The biggest draw backs is few scrapbook printers print to this size. Some printers print 8 x 11, 8 x 12, or 8 x 10 or other not quite 8.5 x 11 sizes. I wish more printers would offer the full 8.5 x 11 portrait orientation book.

When I'm trying to find a printer that does what I want, I visit PhotoBook Girl and use her handy wizard that compares printing companies. She also keeps up with the latest deals and coupons for these photobook companies. My current favorite is Mixbook (I don't receive any benefit if you click through).

Honestly, I prefer the 'traditional textbook' size for my scrapbook layouts. But I know that I will have trouble finding a printer. So, if you don't mind hunting for a printer who will print this size, then I recommend the 8.5 x 11 layout. You may have to re-size some of the pre-designed templates. With a little bit of patience, this shouldn't be a problem. Otherwise, you can go with the path of least resistance and print the common square size. I hear the 10 x 10 might be worth a look at as well.

07 July 2014

Remember the time when Mom smashed her face?

Remember the time when Mom
smashed her face
Do you find yourself saying, “remember the time when....” If you do, grab your phone and record the person telling the story. Or grab a laptop and type in the words told. Or go old school and write notes on a piece of paper and enrich the story at a later date. When you do, you are doing family history at it's best level. The story level.

I'm partial to stories perhaps because I've been a story teller and writer for a long time. Perhaps it's my energetic, people person personality as well. Who knows, but I love stories, and especially family history stories.

You see this amazing photo of me. There's a story behind that and it goes something like this.

My husband and I were visiting Texas with our family. We had just taken family photos at a local park. The trip was wrapping up and I mentioned how on this trip no one had gone to the emergency room or the doctor's office.

Now, I'm not one who likes pain so I often avoid risky activities. I don't like most roller coasters any more, and especially ones with straight drops or large circles where you go upside down. I don't like heights, so staying on the 84 floor of a hotel in Taiwan was nerve wracking for me. Let's just say, I tend to avoid things that I know has the potential to cause pain, but not always.

Quatro and Cinco playing on a fun looking teeter-totter. I think I'll try.

On this day, I decided to relax and have fun. Even though I had the thought that I couldn't believe a teeter-totter (see-saw) was still allowed on playgrounds, I decided to play on one. Even though I noticed that my two youngest were fairly high off the ground when they were on the see-saw, I decided to play on one. My husband wanted to have a go with me as well. I initiated a game of "who can keep the other one in the air?" I stayed down rather than pushing back up. It was fun, until someone got hurt. That someone was me.

You see, hubby decided that on the way down, he would put his feet up on the see-saw bar. When he went down, he jolted the teeter-totter. I wasn't prepared for that jolt and I went flying off. The whole time, I thought, “Don't hit the pole. Don't hit the pole.” I didn't think "brace yourself". I just knew that if I hit the metal pole with my head I would probably go to the ER (that I had just mentioned no one had gone to).

In the end, I landed face first in the mulch. My neck hurt. My back hurt, and I was covered in dirt. My mother-in-law with some medical training rushed in. It was quickly determined that I needed to go home and get cleaned up. My mother-in-law did an AWESOME job of cleaning me up and getting me the things I needed for my aches and pains. My hubby corralled the kids to take them back to the house and then came to hold my hand through the pain.

Yep... it looked a whole lot worse in person.


The next day was Sunday and we went to church. I could have stayed home, but I didn't. Instead, I went and endured the chuckles at my expense. My husband was teased that he didn't treat me well. My in-laws were also teased about the same topics. Many people asked if it was a bike accident. Sadly, no. It was stupidity!

During the church service, I shared how I looked terrible but I had spiritually felt terrible nearly 20 years ago. I shared how I found my way to the Savior. There was a story about how a woman who felt like a crumbled, torn, 20-dollar bill and notworth anything. However, she soon learned that the Lord doesn't care if you're a marked up $20 dollar bill that has lost its crispness. He still sees that you're worth the full value of the $20. On that Sunday, I explained that through my walk with Christ, I have learned that He can iron me out, repair my tears, and heal even the scars on my face. I am worth the full value of the $20, with Him as the backing for the printed paper.

The following week, my husband shared my adventure in a spiritual message. He shared about the process of repentance and how when we commit sin, many scars are left behind. Some scars, like the ones on my face, are obvious and can heal quickly with proper help. Some scars are hidden (like the scars of sore muscles) and can also be healed quickly with proper attention. Other scars (like the bruises on my legs) are often unseen and take longer to heal. However, through the Savior, all aches, pains, and scars can be healed through proper repentance.

Why do I share this story? Why is it family history?

Funny stories can tell you a lot about a person. You now know that I don't like pain and try to avoid it. However, sometimes I am stupid and pay the Stupid Tax for it. You know that my mother-in-law has medical training and can guess she has a good bed-side manner. You can also see how these experiences can be used to teach further lessons. In this case, my husband and I both used the lessons to teach other lessons in faith-based settings. I'm sure these stories can be used in other settings.

Some family history stories are fun and should be recorded. The stories should be shared. I'm sharing this story through blogging. I will eventually record this in our annual family journal. Perhaps someday a family member will use this story in a scrapbook, audio, or visual presentation. With the story recorded, the story can be used. How it is used, is up to the person's creativity. In my upcoming book, 21st Century Family Historian, I cover the importance of recording personal and family stories and how to use the stories once their recorded. Check out the book available September 1st at Amazon.com.

02 July 2014

Heritage Scrapbooking: Same Content Different Layouts

If you'll remember, I shared photos from my Grandpa Lew Brown's heritage scrapbook. Lew served in the Army in India during World War II. His wife Louise had their first child before he shipped off. Here are the pages from that scrapbook.

Military Scrapbook Layout
Left Page of Two-page Scrapbook Layout

World War II Scrapbook Layout
Right Page of Two-page Scrapbook Layout
Digital scrapbooking is AWESOME because with a few changes to the previous design, I can change the perspective of the layout. I can switch out the journaling so it features Louise's viewpoint. And viola! New page design, very little effort. 



Credits: background - A Narrative (Scrap Girls); tab, ribbon - Hello, Auntyflowers -  Spa HolidayVFW pin - Devon Lee; button - Mother May I

Now, some people would have simply changed the color scheme to reflect the second family history scrapbook. I wanted to regroup things. I wanted to cluster photos of Lew going off to war, and then things that dealt with motherhood and love on the opposite page. The need to emphasize the different priorities was important to portray Louise's character in her book.

Photograph of VFW Pin
Original Photograph of VFW Pin, before cropped out using PhotoShop Elements

Do you notice that VFW pin? That is not some random element in a scrapbook designer's collection. That was a piece of my grandmother's memorabilia collection. Now do you see why photographing memorabilia is so important? You can use these items in your family history projects.

Back of World War II Bracelet
This photograph can take the place of a picture on a scrapbook layout.


For the "With Love Louise" bracelet, it didn't need to be cropped out of the white background. The white 'stage' gave the image balance with the other photos on the page. With the VFW pin, the background was distracting. I cropped the image out of the background and now it is an all important accent.

A little bit of journaling, to compliment Louise's handwritten note from the back of the photo of her in boots, and this page is done.



26 June 2014

Treasure Chest Thursday: Aggie Baby Clothes

Family history is not soley about the people of the past. Today's memories are tomorrow's history. Such is the case with this item. It belonged to my eldest daughter. She wore these two items over a decade ago.

Photographing in natural lighting
Artifact photography doesn't necessarily need
an elaborate set-up. Natural light & white sheet!
See I told you that 'today's memories are tomorrow's history. I can't believe my amazing daughter is so old now and how long it has been since I picked this outfit out for her. I didn't find out if I was going to have a boy or a girl. So, my baby was going to have the gender neutral coming home outfit that every Aggie Baby (babies born to alums of Texas A&M University) should have. An Aggie onsie!

I have held on to this outfit through many moves thinking someday my daughter will want to pass this one to her own young one. Then I had a horrifying thought. What if she doesn't go to Texas A&M!?! I will have saved this outfit for nothing. So, when a fellow Aggie was pregnant, I asked if she wouldn't mind receiving these used but loved outfits. The friend said yes!

Family History Heirlooms
My first child's coming home outfit
f/8, exp 1/8 sec, ISO 100
Spot Metering

Photographing Childhood Memories
Would have made a great hand-me down for my kids
f/3.5, exp 1/40 sec, ISO 100
Spot Metering

I needed to snap a fast photo so I put a sheet on the couch. The couch was close to but not exactly near my open window. The light was soft, but not necessarily bright. After taking these two photos, I had what I needed to put into my daughter's scrapbook. And I shipped the outfits to a happy Aggie momma.


Photographing Childhood Clothing
Alumi gear for the youngling
f/8, exp 1/3 sec, ISO 100
Center Weighted Average Metering

Personal History
The cold weather outfit
f/8, exp 1/2 sec, ISO 100
Spot Metering

I had saved the outfit my daughter wore on cold days. She looked adorable in these outfits. I had specifically purchased these two outfits for all of my kiddos to wear home from the hospital. This is why the outfits were 'neutral.' However, my sentimentality exceeded my logic and Uno was the only one who wore the items.

I share these photos so you learn a little about me and my silliness as an alumni from my favorite university and as a mother. My family loves this quirky side of me.

As I tell everyone I meet, family history really can be fun. Our ancestors are important, but so are our living relatives. I really can't believe my daughter is more than ten years old. It seems like yesterday I was a new mom wondering how on earth I would care for a child when I barely knew how to cook and clean. Somehow, here I am with five amazing kiddos.

Family history includes personal history. Photograph all the treasures, the old and the new.

25 June 2014

The worst day of my life, The lessons for my posterity

Forest Park Westheimer Funeral Home
Funeral home were the worst day of my life took place.
12 December 2012 was the absolute worst day of my life (thus far). My mother had passed away two days before and I was at the funeral home. Despite how wonderful my parents were, they had a weakness. They were never good with money. The effects of this weakness were now squarely upon my shoulders. The funeral director handed me a bill for a bare bones service package that nearly gave me a heart attack. I left the office to 'think' about it.

I went outside and my best friend Stacey followed me. My husband, my anchor, was back home in Iowa, one thousand miles away, but reachable by phone. I crumbled to the ground in soul wrenching tears. My mother's poor decisions were now affecting me and my family and it hurt. I couldn't focus on the grieving process. Instead, I was bitter, angry, and deeply hurt. My father had passed away 8 years prior and my mother had experienced the pain of not being prepared. She should have known better but she left me in the same situation. All of these emotions racked my soul.

Since I was young, I've tried to be frugal and spend money wisely. I hit a rough spot in my early adult years but I paid off all my debts one month prior to my wedding day. It came at a great personal sacrifice. I gave up going to the beauty salon to get my hair and nails done. I rarely wore make-up anymore because the price was too much. I shopped sales and went without. Through it all, I witnessed many people being wasteful with welfare or donations. Things I could have loved to put to good use but didn't qualify for.  I tried my best not to judge others but keep digging myself out of my self-inflicted whole.  My worst trials resulted from others picking on me for being so frugal. Through it all, I trusted in the Lord and followed the counsel to live within our means and pay an honest tithe.

I had not fully expected this. I felt like I had been hit by a semi-truck while standing on a sidewalk. Please bare with the rest of this tale. I promise I'm not sharing this to air dirty laundry. There is a lesson for my posterity, and for people I do not even know. And, it is tied to family history.

With the help of Aunt Stacey's knowledge of an alternative funeral home who offered a discounted rate,  the funeral arrangements were finally made. My husband and I would figure it out and move on. However, the agony would not abate. Stacey suggested I go to the temple. For those of you who do not know what the temple means to me, think of the holiest place on earth. Or think of the pearly gates where St. Peter stands. Or, think of the exclusive club you want to enter but it's restricted to those who are 'worthy'. That's what the temple is to me.

A Spiritual Place in Houston, Texas
© 2005, George T. Hudson
When Aunt Stacey suggested going there, I said that I wouldn't be let in. I was bitter. I was mad. I was broken. There was no way I could go to such a holy place and be allowed to enter. Stacey knew better and took me anyway. In fact, she said this was the time I needed to go to such a place the most.

When I went to the check-in desk, I was welcomed with the friendliest of smiles by the sweetest of gentlemen. To his right, a beautiful woman smiled a great welcome to me but her face showed that she knew I was in emotional and spiritual pain. Her eyes showed that I was in the right place.

During the worship service, I heard these words in my mind, “Cast your burdens at my feet that they may be light.” Oh, wow! My Savior knew me. He knew my heartache. And He knows my parents and their struggles. He loves us all. Having trusted the Lord in the past I said, 'Here, take it. It's yours. I can't do this alone.' I didn't want to be bitter. I didn't want to be hurt. I wanted to leave it and move on.

When I left the temple, I felt free of the guilt, the bitterness, and the pain. The love I felt for my mother returned. The grieving for her being in a place I can not yet go started. 

In that experience I learned what the parable of the Ten Virgins means from another perspective. Quite often, when this allegory is shared, we're told to prepare for the day of  trials by having enough in reserve. Enough funds. Enough spiritual savings. A strong testimony. Whatever. 


But the part that is overlooked is that all of the young women actually used some of their oil. Yep. They used it and then needed to refill it. Some had enough to refill their lamps, and others did not. But they all had to use part of that oil. On this day, I had to use the oil that was in my lamp. Thankfully, I had some in reserve. So the worst day of my life became a very sweet soul soothing day.

Why did I share this?

If you think I'm trying to smear the good name of my parents, you are wrong. Instead, I shared this experience because the bad times of family history must also be recorded. Look at everything that can be learned when we record our stories, even if they are very painful.
  1. My children can know that their grandparents were good people but had a weakness. Who doesn't, right? They can also know that their decisions can effect others. Hopefully, they can see how I handled the same issue. When they are older and need to manage their own money, they can make their own decisions. Will they be more like their grandparents or their mother? Family history can teach lessons to our children with real stories, not some abstract story in a financial help book.
  2. My children will know that their daddy was my anchor. He wasn't there to help me and walk me through this experience. He was doing what he was supposed to be doing, caring for our five kiddos back home. He kept them away from the wreck mommy was becoming. I did have a phone and I called him. He reminded me that we would get through this and be fine. Although this isn't evident in the summarized version of the story, the full story details it more. In the summary, that one line about him being my anchor and not with me tells volumes. 
  3. My children will have a story about their Aunt Stacey. Notice that the first time I mentioned her, I write that she is my best friend. After that, she is referred to as Aunt Stacey. My kids know that Aunt Stacey is not a blood-related or marriage-related aunt. She's my best friend and practically my sister. We're that close and she was there for me on the worst day of my life. Now they have a crystal clear memory of what a best friend should do and how much I owe Stacey.
  4. My children have a story of my faith. When I was feeling the worst of all human emotions, I needed a place to turn. A good friend reminded me where to look. We went to that place and I felt my Savior's love for me. The scriptures came alive for me in the words I heard and the parable I was reminded of. In this story of faith, I want my children to know where to look for comfort and peace... the scriptures, their Savior, and the temple.
  5. What other nuggets do you see in this story? Feel free to share them in the comments below.
In my upcoming book 21st Century Family History, I open the book talking about the stories, stuff, and people that make up family history. This story does have a date in it. The date of my mother's death, though you have to extract it. Notice that her death date does not tell the whole story. There is so much more that needs to be shared so my family will know.

For this and many other reasons, I wrote the book. I want you to discover your family history in a new way. The way that preserves your legacy. Share the happy memories. Share the funny memories, like the one I'll be sharing soon. But also share the heart wrenching ones. Our family and personal histories need to contain as many sides to our family as we can, so we can learn from them. 

When you and your family members start envisioning family history in this light, you will discover a deeper passion for the work. You may not become a full fledged genealogist who loves archives, cemeteries, and seeking that elusive paper trail. But you will be involved in preserving memories in your own way using your own talent.

Look for the release of my book on September 1st available through Amazon.com. In the meantime, my books Power Scrapbooking - Get Caught Up, No Matter Your Scrapbooking Style and Create a Family History Scrapbook Digitally in 12 Simple Steps are on sale at Amazon.com for $2.99 each. 


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