Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Tip # 31...Establish new family traditions for Family History Month every October

First things first. HAPPY HALLOWEEN! We made it through all 31 tips in 31 days of October. Plenty of the ideas from this blog will help you maintain momentum to share your heritage through the entire year.

This last tip needs a family vote to determine how to implement it. I recommend you hold a family meeting to ensure you have every one's input.

First, review the 31 tips on how to celebrate family history month. If you have sampled any of the ideas, you may already have some favorite ways to celebrate.

Second, discuss the 31 ways with family members. What were their likes, dislikes, etc. The discussion should focus on building a win-win solution if there are differences in opinion.

Third, choose one idea, maybe from these 31 tips or something your family uniquely creates, that you can build as your own family tradition. Each family member casts one vote.

Fourth, implement the tradition every October for Family History Month. And, be sure to let me know what fabulous traditions your family will create!

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Tip # 30...Set up a schedule to spend time with the boxes you have in storage

It is the day before Halloween and the last thing you want to do is go through storage boxes. I understand. But part of our celebration of Family History Month, especially as it draws to a close, is to set plans to keep family history a part of our everyday lives.

So, today's tip is an easy one. Spend five minutes building a plan to spend time with those boxes. You know the ones that were tossed in the back of the closet, left on the shelves in the garage, or stored in rental space. Decide today whether you will spend an hour a week, two hours a month or one Saturday every quarter going on a treasure hunt in your own house. Just like you plan to mop the kitchen and cut the grass, create the time and the reminders you need to do it. And, include the whole family. Everyone can help and relive memories or learn about the family's life before they were born.

You may discover precious heirlooms which require better archival storage. Or, you may find since you have lived without the item for a few months, years, or decades, it may be time to donate to a worthy cause.

Plan it, record it and do it. Sometimes the best family history research happens in your own home.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Tip # 29...Record your own family stories

As a family historian, I always question:

1) What prompted my ancestors to make their decisions,?
2) What were their daily lives like?
3) How did they view the world around them?

Only three simple questions but there are a multitude of answers, none of which I can prove in this lifetime. Chances are good, our descendants will ask the same questions. So, our tip for today is to try to provide them with some answers. Why not celebrate Family History Month by recording your own daily stories?

Duane Roen, a professor of English at ASU, presents workshops throughout Arizona on "Writing Family History.” He offers insight into how he can make cold genealogical facts come alive and how to pass those facts on to the next generation.

Duane recommends writing a daily journal detailing events for your children. Duane follows his own advice and has written memories for his children’s lifetime. Details which could quickly be forgotten will be given to his children as precious keepsakes when they are adults.

I attended two of Duane's workshops and his approach is easy to follow even if you haven't approached a keyboard or picked up a pencil in decades. Through a simple fill-in the answers worksheet, Duane helps you to remember important family events. His workshop is a great way to ignite the desire to record your family stories. For more details, please visit his Web Sites at:

Keeping a journal is an ideal way to keep the memories close at hand. A paragraph, a sentence or a word or two daily or a few times a week is a fabulous start. It's living history in the making to give your children or grandchildren the insight you may not always be able to share with them.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Tip # 28...Learn your ancestor's language

Sprechen Sie Deutsch? Ich kann nur ein bischen Deutsch sprechen.

Hola! Hablas Espanol? Si Si.

Whatever your ancestry, your native language may not be English. With Family History Research, your journey may take you back generations to your ancestors country of origin. You may encounter records in languages other than English.

How can one best prepare? Here are a few ideas which can help you.

  • Your local library has hundreds of audio language tapes or Cd's from beginner to advanced levels. Check out a copy and listen to it during your commute.
  • When you visit your local library and check out if Rosetta Stone is offered online by your library. Rosetta Stone combines reading, listening and speaking to ease the process of learning another language. My local library offers Rosetta Stone at no charge. It is a great way to learn the basics or refresh your knowledge of what you knew in high school or college. You use the lessons at your own pace and gain a sense of accomplishment when you complete each session.
  • If you prefer to learn with a group, Community Colleges offer a wide range of foreign language classes. It may be easier to adapt to a new language by hearing it in person and sharing it with a group.
However you prefer to learn, celebrating Family History Month with your ancestor's native language is also a perfect way to help children and teenagers with their language skills. And, it may just be the impetus for some well deserved travel to new and exciting countries.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Tip # 27...Share our true feeling with relatives and friends before it is too late

Relationships come and go. People move into and out of your life, and sometimes we do not have the time to reflect on the reasons why. It happens, often without consent or a conscious choice. Friends move away, anger or jealousy inteferes with a long standing connection. Perhaps some of the people who are very close to us don't know how much we care.

Yet, these people have been a part of our lives, and part of our history. Some friends become extended family members. Some relatives are bound to us with more than blood lines. Have we expressed our true feelings to the people for whom we care? It's not as easy as it sounds, is it?

Letter writing expert Lilia Fallgatter can help. Through her workshops and her book, Lilia has assisted people of all ages and talents to put their feelings into words. If you need inspiration to write letters to family members or loved ones, visit Lilia endured the sorrow of losing a loved one before she could communicate her feelings. Her goal is to prevent it from happening to others. Family History Month is an excellent time to get started.

Letters are a historian’s treasure and provide a window to the past unmatched by today’s emails. Friends and family members helped us and have always been a part of our lives. Isn’t it time to thank them for all of their efforts? If you are like me, you could probably compose a list of individuals to receive your letters. In that case, make the list and set a goal to write one letter per month. Twelve letters in a year is an awesome accomplishment.

If you are not convinced that spending a few minutes of your time recording your feelings is important, consider how you would feel if you were the recipient of one of these letters. I know that answers the question for me.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Tip # 26...How many of your ancestors served in wars?

Today was catch up day for me on numerous household chores and obligations. It sounds boring and mundane, but it was cleansing. I need to file, balance accounts, and organize my life a little bit every day rather than waiting until these chores overtake the household. I renewed subscriptions and uncluttered files. Clean up a bit here, there and do not relapse. Do not allow clutter to overtake the entire house.

I am fairly reasonable about certain areas of the house in temporary clutter, as long as temporary has flexible meanings. Temporary, of course, is my clutter. Someone else' s clutter can never be considered temporary. I give someone else's clutter maybe 24 - 48 hours maximum.

I have not yet turned into a neat freak, but I aspire to be one. I am so much more at ease with my life when things are organized, it is somewhat euphoric for me. So, although I did not clean up everything, I made some major dents in a lot of work. I also organized photos (tip # 13).

Which brings me to my tip #26. For years I have been meaning to track the military records of two family members. I checked web sites and hunted around. I never had the right information or time to complete the request. But, I knew it was serious time for JUST DOING IT when I read Genealogy Insider at,guid,50d13a1b-5ffa-4ada-a5df-b35d1e66b41a.aspx which details just opened records from World War II. Since both of my family members served in WWII, I knew today was the day to do it.

And, I did. Both requests will be mailed tomorrow. I also discovered two wonderful sites honoring the Marine Corps 4th Division and their mission in Saipan.

Although I had searched for information about Saipan in the past, today was the day for my search of military records.

World War I, World War II, Korean War, Vietnam War, and Gulf War played a role in shaping family lives. Research your ancestor’s or family member’s role in the military. Many service records before are available online. You may even be able to track back to the Civil War or Revolutionary War. While I never believe war is the answer to any conflicts, as a family historian I want to be sure I understand how it impacted my family.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Tip # 25...Gather the gang for movie night

I've had so much fun sharing ideas for Family History Month celebrations this October. As we approach another weekend, we need to think entertainment for Tip #25.

Unlike our home movie night, this movie night relies on the professional moviemakers for our viewing pleasure. And, the family gets to choose a historical favorite film that works for everyone. Plan for plenty of popcorn, ice cream, soda, chips, salsa, pita bread, hummus or whatever refreshments draw crowds in your household.

Movie ideas include, but are not limited to:

· Fiddler on the Roof
· 1776 (The musical which features a very young William Daniels aka Mr. Fenney from Boy Meets World)
Dr. Zhivago
Gone with the Wind
· Roots

· The Diary of Anne Frank
· The Jazz Singer (the song Coming to America makes the entire movie worthwhile).
The Russian Ark
· Russia: Land of the Tsars
· Catherine the Great
· Anastasia
(great animated adventure to enjoy with the youngsters)
· Nicholas and Alexandra

These are a few of my favorites, and with the vast selection of historical films, I am sure you can select at least 3 or 4 movies from an historical era which impacted your family.

So, sit back, relax and enjoy the movie!

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Tip # 24...If you had to evacuate your home today, what would you take with you? Prepare now

Each of us has seen the fires raging in California this week. Over a quarter of a million people had to evacuate their homes quickly. Many houses were completely destroyed. We send everyone there our sympathy and prayers and hope their lives will return to some sense of normalcy as soon as possible. From a family history perspective, their challenge raises important questions for us. What would you take if you were told you had to leave your home right now?

My first thoughts are to grab my children, computers, purse and run. With more consideration, I also want to take more things such as the family Bible, the photographs, maybe some clothes, water, etc. At this point I realize I am not at all prepared for evacuation.

Floods, fires, hurricanes and other calamities have forced this decision on many people. While survival is the goal, if you do have a chance to save items, preparation is the key. We need to
be ready with:
  • Easy to locate, preplanned items
  • Food, water and clothing
  • Cash (will ATMs work during the crisis?)
  • Family history back up materials

I know I am not ready to evacuate my house. I do not have the right things stored in the right places. I do not have the backups in place I need. I also know the regret I would feel to lose these items. And, I am an amateur at evacuation.

Yet, this step is critical for us if any of our historical research is to survive. So, I investigated a few sites for information and have listed the links below.

These sites are just starters. Everyone has unique belongings and what may be important to me may not be as important to you. Yet, it behooves us to plan ahead so we can live with satisfaction that we did the very best we could.

And, let me know your thoughts on what you would take. It may be something I would want to take along, too.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Tip # 23...Visit your family cemetery

No, I didn't plan for this tip to come so quickly after my Halloween suggestion. It just happened.

As a little girl, I was fortunate to accompany my parents whenever they went to cemeteries. There was never a debate about whether it was "OK" for me to visit. It was part of life. I have always experienced a sense of awe during my time there. I realize not everyone shares my perspective; however cemeteries provide documented history and life lessons for all family members. Cemeteries provide an incredible amount of information and offer a respectful link to your family.

If it has been a long time since your last visit, verify family plot locations with the groundskeeper. Be sure to bring a camera to photograph headstones not only for the valuable information, but also to maintain a record of the location. Some people also will bring paper and pencil to rub the image of the stone.

Many organizations are also recording cemetery information and making it available online. One of my good friends, Scott Lewandoske, is researching the Lutheran Cemetery in Sheboygan, Wisconsin. He photographs and records all of the information on the headstone and then locates the corresponding death notice in The Sheboygan Press. It is a slow process, but extremely valuable for the family historian.

If you have relocated and live too far away from your family's cemetery, consider a trip there in the near future. Or, visit some of these Web sites. You may uncover plenty of information before you actually need to travel.

Now, perhaps I am a bit odd, but there are three memorable cemeteries I visited which I can never forget.
  • The Ferndale Cemetery in Ferndale, California is on quite a steep hill. The movie, "The Majestic" was filmed there. The cemetery rules posted at the front gate merit attention.
  • In Greenbush, Wisconsin, there is a cemetery at the top of the hill. By accident, my family drove up the hill and found ourselves in the spookiest cemetery we'd ever seen. And, it was in the middle of the afternoon. My father had to put the car in reverse and back down the hill in order to leave.
  • And, last but not least, the McGavock Cemetery at Carnton Plantation in Franklin, Tennessee. For more details, read Richard Hicks The Widow of the South or visit the web site at

Monday, October 22, 2007

Tip # 22...Visit the Ellis Island Web Site

Ancestry research is not at the top of the list of Monday night activities for the most ardent family historian. Many of my friends want to kick back with their friends and watch Monday Night Football. So, tip # 22 is as easy to complete as checking your email and you can even watch football while you do it. All you need to do is visit The Ellis Island Foundation has created an excellent, simple to use site you can search quickly.

If your ancestors came to the United States through Ellis Island, you can search for them on the passenger lists. Through the Ellis Island site I was able to locate all of my grandparents passenger lists. Three out of four of my grandparents entered the United States through Ellis Island. My maternal grandfather entered through Philadelphia.

Using the site is straightforward, however the names of your ancestors may not be. When I searched for my paternal grandfather's name, I did not find a match. When I searched for my grandmother's name, I found it listed next to my grandfather. His first name was listed as Iwan instead of Johannes or John. The soundex way of spelling the name helped me in my search. I guarantee if you try a few names, you will be hooked on trying to find them all. Once I discovered the misspelling of his name, I could add a note to the site for any future researcher to find.

I love to discover the names of my family on the lists especially since every line also contains information such as the amount of money they had, where they came from, and sometimes a physical description. The handwriting of the recorder is equally fascinating. Passenger lists help us better relate to the circumstances of our ancestors' arrival.

Once you have found the passengers you seek, be sure to review the entire list of passengers. Neighbors from their same hometown, or future neighbors at their destination may have been on the same ship. Many times, families came in larger numbers than we realize, and you may find relatives you did not know existed.

The Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation, Inc. also seeks stories of your family’s immigration. It is a great way to share your ancestor’s story in 300 words or less. Details such as why your family came to America and what challenges they faced upon arrival can be preserved when you submit stories to this site.

So, do a little Internet surfing tonight and I bet you will visit the site again and again. Especially when you need the distraction if your football team struggles on Monday Night Football.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Tip # 21...Host a family oriented Halloween Party

I know Halloween is over a week away. Halloween gatherings, trick or treat events are in the planning phases now. Most of us know that Halloween was originally All Hallows Eve. Have you ever wondered why those who established Family History Month selected October? So I did a bit of investigation which led me to the History Channel Web site.

Celts believed that on the night before the new year, the boundary between the worlds of the living and the dead became blurred. On the night of October 31, they celebrated Samhain, when it was believed that the ghosts of the dead returned to earth. Retrieved from

I doubt any of my ancestors would want to return to earth, but it is an interesting coincidence that family history month coincides with Halloween. And, if you may have plans to celebrate Halloween, why not add a Family History twist to this month's pumpkin, candy and haunting festivals? Whether you send invitations for a party, or gather the group for trick or treating, specify that costumes must commemorate one of the following two options:
· A current or past family member
· A historical character who made an impact on your family’s history

Both options offer flexibility and guarantee you’ll have a family friendly Happy Halloween!

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Tip # 20...Join a local historical society

I love Saturdays, as you may have noticed from my previous joyful posts about weekends. If you remember Tip # 11, I also advocated attendance at an annual Oktoberfest. Today was my Oktoberfest day. Today was my wonderful Saturday.

So, how does that tie into joining a local historical society? Well, the main connection is my favorite local historical society, the Arizona Sun Chapter of Germans from Russia, who celebrated Oktoberfest at Leisure World.

The scent of sauerkraut and brats permeated the air. The supporting cast of beans, noodle dishes, pickles, and an entire table of desserts rounded out the buffet. Herb and Esther Babitzke worked for weeks to prepare for this event. Herb and his cousin, Ed Babitzke, cooked the brats with precision timing. Ed and Doris Bischoff supported every effort. Larry and Eleanor Haas advised and helped in so many ways. And everyone participated by their presence. German Russians always assist each other to ensure all tasks are streamlined and completed efficiently from set-up to take down.

Besides outstanding food, the guest speaker, Cindy Hoff, charmed everyone in the audience. Cindy is a magnificent soprano who is married to German Russian Wade Hoff. Her presentation combining song and slides moved us to tears. She shared photographs of her 16 day trip to the Ukraine. Cindy inspired me to start my plan today to return to the homeland of my grandparents.

That is why joining a local historical society is so important no matter where you are in your genealogical journey. My historical society friends encourage and motivate me in ways I hadn't considered possible.

If you are not lucky enough to be a German from Russia, don't fret. There are many societies who welcome new members every day. With a bit of research, you can find a group which matches your interest. In Arizona, check out the following organizations:

Friday, October 19, 2007

Tip # 19...Preserve your story online

It's early Friday morning and I have one question: What happened to the Cleveland Indians? I am a baseball fan but do not have a particular allegiance to either the Red Sox or the Indians. However, I believed Manny Rodriguez's comment would spur on the Indians to clobber the Red Sox. Lucky for me, I am not a gambler.

Ah, the history of the game is created every time someone steps to the plate. Every swing, every bunt, every strike and ball are recorded in the annals of baseball history. Fans pour over and memorize these trivia facts their entire lives. You know what I mean. The guys who say "Well, Mickey Mantle's average in 1962 was .314 but it was downhill from there."

Family history is created every day, too. And, unless we preserve it, it slips away. Yesterday's tip offered a way to preserve your history with life books. Today we explore some other options. As media changes, the way we preserve must expand and adapt. The best scenario is to use a variety of methods to tell our story thus ensuring longevity and survival.

Books are family heirloom treasures and I cherish the life books my parents created. But the Internet continually invents new options for preserving your story. Family Tree Genealogy insider (from August 8, 2007) suggests you can "Immortalize your self online," with The site by Eravita offers members the means to preserve their story for future generations. You control the story, the photos, all of the content. guarantees survival of your page and is a great alternative to the book format.

Another option for those over 50 years old is Eons offers a site to create your own story. In addition, you can plan uture goals and connect with others in the Eons community. Eons is like a for the seasoned Internet user.

Here are more choices to review. Select carefully as Internet sites can be fleeting, here today, gone tomorrow. Be sure to have a backup, just in case.

I realize that sometimes living your life is hectic enough without the thought of recording it. I also realize that when I relax, reflect and write I uncover more knowledge of my life than I can in the daily race to tomorrow. Manny Rodriguez may not realize the importance each victory until he truly has a chance to reflect upon it. So, I turn to Socrates, who so wisely wrote, "The unexamined life is not worth living." I choose to believe my life is worth living, worth examination and worth recording.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Tip # 18...Buy a life book for yourself, your partner, parent or grandparent

Life changes. Did you notice? Things firmly in place 3 months ago have faded away. As one phase ends, another begins. For years, I dreamed of taking my children to New York City. We talked about it all of the time. What we would do. Where we would stay. Many, many details in our daydreams.

Life changes. This week my daughter is on her first trip to New York City. She is there as part of a college radio conference. She is on the adventure she and I imagined for over 17 years. In one week, a dream turned to reality. Next week, she will be back in Arizona.

Today's tip is part of keeping track of all those life changes. A life book makes chronicling the details of your life easy. Its pages are covered with questions to help you reflect on your life. As a gift, the book is a viable way to learn about another life's without an interview. Or, it can be the impetus for a follow-up interview with that person.

A life book prompts you to recall events to describe your life to your children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Fill out a page per day and before Christmas, you will have finished the book. You can give it as a gift to a budding genealogist in your family or save it for adding information every October.

Here are a couple examples of books you can use:

Is there a better way to share your life experience? Stay tuned for tomorrow's tip.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Tip # 17...Encourage children to record their thoughts and activities during Family History Month

We are more than halfway through Family History month and our countdown on our second half of tips for our celebration has arrived. Today's tip focuses on the next generation of family historians.

The best way to encourage the next generation is to provide them with a way to make family history meaningful to them. They can learn many techniques and build memories by recording their experiences as their family implements some of these tips. By recording their reactions and their memories of Family History Month, they create a special keepsake for themselves and their children.

Paper and pencil work wonders, however there are some new ways to harness their energy in the direction of writing family. Here are a few options:

  • Give them an It’s My Life Scrapbook (available at
  • Find a perfect journal to match their taste at a book store or other retail outlet
  • Purchase a regular school notebook that they can decorate as they desire
  • Create a special document on the computer where all of the next generation can write their experience
  • Offer them a scrapbook and related accessories so they can write, show photos, artwork, or ?

Whatever writing tools you choose, this idea will help them to remember first hand what they experienced with their family during this month and year. Yes, this is a bit of an underhanded tip, I admit. But, is it wrong to encourage children to write for fun? You may have to live with the responsibility of creating a life-long writer. I can accept those consequences. I hope you can, too.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Tip # 16...After viewing your home movies, convert the film to DVD format

Today's tip follows on the heels of yesterday but it does not mean you have to implement the two tips on consecutive days. It's just logical to keep plans for home movies together especially when you have gathered all of your home movies into one spot for Family History Month. As mentioned yesterday, your home movies may be on 8mm film, super8 film 16mm films, camcorder tapes. In addition, you may have photographs which are 35mm negatives or 35mm slides.

Everyone understands how Cd's and DVDs can easily store movies, music, pictures and information. And, these two formats can help preserve your memories. There are a number of options for saving memories in new formats and here are a couple of ideas:
  • Local stores like iMemories or camera shops can convert the film for you.
  • You can do it yourself if you opt to purchase the best equipment and are willing to learn the details of the process. For books and information, see the list at the end of today's tip.

Remember, some tape has audio, some video and some have both. Consider your options wisely when you transition film.

When I converted an old reel to reel audio tape to CD, the experts at Lampchops Studios in Phoenix, Arizona recommended that I save the original tape but enjoy the ease of the new format storage. DVD’s and CD’s have not existed as long as film so preservation of the original is imperative. Consider the new format as an easy back up for the original. Keep the original stored in the recommended climate controlled environment to enhance its lifetime.

When you invest in one copy, you can usually receive discounts on additional copies. Are there family or friends who would enjoy their own copies of these movies? I may be getting ahead of myself, but I see Christmas presents on the horizon.

Additional information:

Monday, October 15, 2007

Tip # 15...Spend an evening watching old home movies

The latest help wanted ad in the Arizona Republic states "Quarterback Needed: Prior experience a plus, apply immediately at Cardinals Stadium." Yes, how sad for us Cardinal fans. Double sadness for us Diamondback fans. The only other team I love to root for is the Pack and thank goodness they were victorious.

So, the Monday morning let down needs a quick pick-me-up. Our tip today is perfect for a Monday. The idea planted today can come to fruition by the next weekend.

If you are like me, you have old movies on VHS, 16mm or 8mm hidden in the bottomless caverns of your storage areas. I know I have these movies, but I need a few days to wrap my arms around the exact location. Is it in the box in the garage, or near the old projector in the front hall closet?

During the week when you walk through the garage or open the doors to closets, you can survey your surroundings and lock in on the precise spot. Then, by next weekend, you will be ready to retrieve and watch your movies.

Set aside a few hours to watch all of your movies. Create a bit of suspense and design ticket stub invitations with time and place for family members to join you but let the movie title remain a secret. Let the aroma of the hot, buttered popcorn permeate your house and attract the stragglers. Play music until the entire family arrives and turn the volume down low as showtime begins. Get ready to unwind and relax in the privacy of your own home theater as you watch the best movies in the world...your family history.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Tip # 14...Set aside time to talk with family members

If you are anything like me, you like to tell stories. I love to tell my children about my own experiences. At first, I simply enjoyed reliving my past with a fresh audience. They never heard these real life stories. How exciting! Then, I started to repeat myself, did I say repeat myself, and re-tell the story again because I liked hearing it.

I liked to start each story with "Did I tell you about the time...?" When my kids started to roll their eyes and say, "Yes, Mom, only about 1400 times," I knew they could tell the story by themselves without any assistance from me. They said, "Yes, we know you saw Gene Hackman, Glenn Close and Richard Dreyfus on Broadway, and Gene Hackman has such a presence he took command of the entire stage," and "Yes, we know you saw Alec Baldwin as Stanley Kowalski," etc. I thought my work was done.

Until yesterday. I said these simple words, "Well, you know my Paul Newman story." And my youngest child said, "I don't remember a Paul Newman story." I was aghast. Where had I gone wrong? I looked at my daughter as if she were some alien creature.

I immediately got on the phone to my other daughter and asked, "Do you remember the Paul Newman story? The one where I threw a Frisbee to a gorgeous blue-eyed gray haired man and didn't know it was him until I heard his voice the next day when your father and I were at the Falcon Inn? And, then the next day I found a $50 bill on the sidewalk near his room?" She said, "Yes, of course I know it."

"Thank God," I said. "Your sister said she never heard it."

So, part of my universe was still intact. This simple anecdote illustrates the incredible importance of sharing your own personal history with family members. At least once, and as advertising experts have proved, repeated stories increase the retention. What is the example marketing people use? The first time someone sees a commercial, they have no idea what it is. The third time they see a commercial they know something was said about a product. And, the fifth time they see a commercial, they say "Did you know that there's a new TV show called Frank TV?"

Repetition is key even if children roll their eyes and can recite my stories by heart. But, I am not the only one with stories. Every family member has their own version of their life. We have unlimited untapped resources available to us. Every one has fabulous stories to tell. They may not think they do because they have lived it and it seems so normal, but to family historians, their lives are a gold mine.

My oldest daughter was given the school assignment to interview someone who lived during the Depression. My mother was the ideal candidate since she was visiting us at the time. My mother does not see herself as a story teller and was a bit hesitant at first. Once the questions started flowing, my mother shared stories I had never heard because I had not thought to ask the questions.

Hence, our tip #14 for today...set aside time to talk with family members. I challenge you to discover a better way to celebrate Family History Month. Start with the oldest family member. Interviewing a family member can feel awkward at first for both parties so keep the conversation as informal as possible. Here are some ideas for questions to break the ice.

  • What was your life like as a child? What games did you play? Who were your friends?

  • What schools did you attend? Who was your favorite teacher? Who was your least favorite teacher?

  • Did you play sports or participate in after school activities?

  • How did you celebrate the holidays? Your birthday? What career would you have pursued if you had not been a ..............?

  • What did your parents do for a living? What was a typical day like for you as a child?

  • Where did you live when you were growing up? When did you move out of your parent's house?

  • What were you doing on: a) Dec. 7, 1941 Pearl Harbor Day; b) November 22, 1963 when JFK was shot; c) Dec. 8, 1980 when John Lennon was shot; d) fill in an appropriate historical event.

Once the conversation is underway, ask permission to write and/or tape parts of the interview. If the interviewee is not comfortable with recording the process, write notes as soon as you can after the conversation. Be sure to ask for permission to talk again since you may uncover good follow-up questions after you leave.

After the oldest family member, contact the second oldest, third oldest, etc. on a time frame which works for your schedule or establish a goal to talk to someone in your family once a month for the next year. The time invested will be phenomenal for your relationships and priceless for your role as family historian.

And, you may even hear about the time I met Michael Douglas on the Twentieth Century Fox studio lot.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Tip # 13...Organize the loose photos hidden in drawers, closets and cabinets

We made it to Saturday and tip # 13 for our celebration of Family History Month. However, this # 13 is not unlucky in any way. If anything, our Diamondbacks' luck ran out last night, and I am not sure I am able to discuss it at this point. Two losses at home in the NLCS is too much for me to bear. I glimpsed the possibility of having the World Series and the Super Bowl in my town within a couple of months of each other, but it appears to be slipping away.

And, for that reason I debated whether I should use tip #13 on a Saturday. Organization and loose photos sound like chores and I know we have enough of those to do on a Saturday. And, I have so many loose photos hidden in drawers, closets and cabinets, I tend to feel guilty by making the suggestion to others to organize it. But my debate ended when I read this morning's Genealogy Insider. Check it out for yourself at

It would be too much of a coincidence to believe that Maureen Taylor's featured article in The Wall Street Journal is not a sign that today is the today to organize photos, to locate some buried treasure and try to interpret or seek guidance on these gems. I have read her books and love the depth of knowledge she lends to every search. The article in The Wall Street Journal at has inspired me again to bravely tackle my piles and organize my little messes.

One of my little messes is the above photograph. I believe at least one of the four men is a brother to my grandmother Clementine Herrmann Dalhaimer Bauer. Maybe all four of them are. I see a family resemblance but since I am not an authority, who knows? I assume the photograph was taken in the Volga River Region of Russia. The back of the photograph is a postcard and I can tell it was mailed. The handwriting on the card is barely visible. To my inexpert eye, it looks like it was intentionally erased. What does that mean? Why was the photograph card ripped in half and taped back together? How can I investigate? I may need to send it directly to Maureen.

There are many steps to take to preserve these precious photographs like the photograph of my paternal grandparents on the right. Unfortunately I can't cover options for all photographs here, but Maureen's books are an excellent resource. For further information, visit her web site at: . Her blog also well worth the site at

I also have a collection of many modern photographs that are either duplicates (why order one set when you can have two?) or pictures which never made it in the photo album. My goal is simply to organize these photographs somewhat chronologically. For these pictures, make a commitment to buy an archival safe photo album or scrapbook and assemble it. Archival safe albums are available at most retail stores, you simply have to be diligent and read the labels carefully. I bought one album a few weeks ago and today is the day to fill it. All I need to remember is it doesn't have to be perfect. Just the organizational value will suffice for today. And, you don't have to do it alone. Have your family help you organize by timeline, subject or whatever works best for your collection.

If your family is anything like mine, the day will fly past as you share and bond over the memories in the photos. A picture is worth well over a thousand words and is a lot more accessible than buried treasure.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Tip # 12...Enjoy the ambience of an ethnic restaurant

Friday at last! Thank goodness for the weekend. I am definitely ready for some rest and relaxation. Hence tip # 12 involves food and the pleasure of an indulgent meal. What fun! This tip puts celebration in the heart of Family History Month.

There are so many choices here, you need to follow your heart. Perhaps a restaurant tied to your heritage? Maybe a choice to explore a cuisine you've never eaten? Consider the following options of some of my favorite restaurants in the Phoenix area.

You can easily adapt these ideas to restaurants wherever you live. You and your family deserve to pamper yourselves in the spirit of family history. Enjoy and let me know your restaurant selections.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Tip # 11...Attend an Oktoberfest celebration

October is a fabulous time of year for festivals. And, since we are already close to the second weekend of the month, we would be remiss not to include an Oktoberfest celebration as one of the tips for Family History Month.

The Oktoberfest tradition started in Germany circa 1810. However, German heritage is not a prerequisite for a good time at an Oktoberfest celebration. How many people who wear green on St. Patrick's Day are truly Irish?

It can be great fun to appreciate cultural diversity. And chances are excellent you can trace an ancestor to one of the German states. According to Wikpedia, citizens of the United States citing German ancestry make up the largest ancestry group in the country, approximately 17% of the population. For further information, visit

There are Oktoberfest celebrations in every city across the United States. Of course, there are a number of events from which to choose in Arizona:

  • Arizona Center for Germans Cultures celebrates on Saturday October 13th at Margaret T. Hance Park. For details, visit
  • American Historical Society of Germans from Russia celebrates at Leisure World Rec. II Promenade in Mesa on October 20, 2007 from 11:00 am until 4:00 pm. For more information, send an email to
  • Verde Canyon Railroad excursions offer Oktoberfest celebrations every weekend in October. For information, check out

So, enjoy some time rolling out the barrel, dancing to a polka, or just kicking back with bratwurst and sauerkraut. I know those are my plans for the next two weekends. Stay tuned for updates on my Oktoberfest adventures.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Tip # 10...Invite the relatives for a potluck celebration

Nothing beats one on one time with the family. And, there is still plenty of time in the month to incorporate this special meal into your plans to celebrate Family History Month.

A potluck celebration is a guaranteed hit with everyone’s appetite since guests bring their favorite family dish without the pressure or stress of traditional holidays. Should the meal celebration be breakfast, lunch or dinner? You choose the best time based on your family's schedule.

Besides a dish to share, ask your guests to bring two extra items.
  1. Ask your guests to write the recipe of their potluck dish on an index card.
  2. Request each member to prepare to share a family memory. Designate one of the guests to write down the memories as each person shares their story. There is no doubt you will uncover stories you never knew.

After the celebration, assemble the stories, recipes and photos of the dinner in a single Word or PowerPoint document. Send attendees copies via email or mail after the event. It will be a great way to commemorate a family event.

If you don’t live close enough to relatives, invite your neighbors or friends. Potluck works anytime and it can be a fantastic way to learn about other families' histories. You may have more in common than you imagine.

Need a recipe to share? See Tip # 6.

P.S. After sharing my broda recipe and contacting Carl Honore, he wrote back to me:

Thanks for your kind email - and for citing me so flatteringly on your blog. Loved reading your thoughts. I'm very tempted to make that Broda recipe.
Good luck with Family History Month!
Slow wishes,

And, thank you, Carl, you made my day!

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Tip # 9...Listen to a book about history, culture or families

One of my favorite places to visit, besides the hardware store, is my local library. I believe both places give me a sense of organization and order which uplifts my spirit. Obviously, I love bookstores, too, however for today's tip, I recommend you start at your library.

Libraries offer an efficient means of locating information. I know, the internet, can also provide information. However, the library provides a detailed, reliable catalog, access to information databases (which normally cost a fee) and provide human contact if needed when at a dead end.

I recommend the library because you have paid for its existence. Yes, I love to buy books, but I also love to read extensively. At the library, I can test out books in the comfort of my home, beach, or patio before I purchase. I can explore unfamiliar authors and find gems without the obligation of ownership. From my home, I can review the entire library catalog by topic or author. I can also request books be set aside for pickup at my convenience. If I choose, I can browse in the library to my heart's content. The other great blessing is the library has a vast collection of audio books.

I love audio books. I learn more listening to audio books in my car than I can possibly learn from reading an actual book during my leisure time. There is a word of caution.

Audio books reduce the stress of your daily commute.

This one idea may change the way you view your travel time forever.

Here are a few historical books ideal for the month of October.
  • A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hossein
  • Any historical fiction book such as John Adams or The Great Bridge by David McCullough
  • Roots by Alex Haley
  • Founding Mothers: The women who raise our nation by Cokie Roberts
  • Any book by John Jakes

Next time you drive past your local library, stop in and check it out. You will be amazed at the resouces available to you. Enter historical topics of interest to you and your family in the online card catalog. The library may simply become a weekly habit. you can't live without.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Tip # 8...Visit one of the many museums devoted to history

Ok, so the Cardinals win and my beloved Packers lose. Such is fate. My money should have been on the Cardinals.

But, enough regrets over yesterday. Our Family History celebration tip for today is simple, sweet and satisfying. And, like the other tips, can be tailored to your timetable. It is a marvelous springboard to discuss your family history during each era. The fireside chat exhibit in the attached photo inspires discussion, where were your parents, grandparents on Dec. 7, 1941?

There are so many incredible museums available to us. The displays and artistry attract young and old to interact and discuss each exhibit. It's a marvelous way to see history come alive.

Museums permeate large and small cities and villages. The Arizona Historical Society has four museums across the state. Locations include Flagstaff, Yuma, Tucson and Tempe. For detailed information, visit their web site at

When my family visited the Tempe location last week, we enjoyed all exhibits and were impressed to find a special exhibit commemorating the Wallace and Ladmo show.

Here is just a small sampling of Arizona museums and their corresponding Web sites.
· Pioneer Living History Museum,
· Casa Grande Valley Historical Society & Museum,
· Jerome Historical Museum,
· Mesa Historical Museum,
· Apache County Historical Museum
· Wickenburg
Desert Caballeros Western Museum,
· Gilbert Historical Museum,

I am certain you can uncover many more in Arizona or anywhere you may live. This list could go on and on, however, I could never cover all of the wonderful museums I have experienced. A brief list follows of some of my favorite museums across the country. Test drive one yourself. No matter which museum you choose, memories and family history will become a part of it.

Wisconsin Favorites
Milwaukee Public Museum,
Green Bay Packer Football Museum and Hall of Fame, (especially helpful after a loss to the Bears)

Tennessee Favorites
Carnton Plantation,

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Tip # 7...Commit to learn how to conduct family history research

Sunday morning and all is well in Arizona. The Diamondbacks ruled over the Cubs. ASU won. The Diamondbacks made up for UA loss. But, UA should be proud. Their offensive tackle , Eben Britton, is a creative writing major and writes an online season diary for Obviously, he is a winner. And last but not least, the Cardinals haven't played yet, so all is well. Maybe with a bit of money is on the Diamondbacks.

So what does that have to do with family history? Baseball and sports have permeated my family history as participants and spectators. During highlights, I know who I watched the games with and all of our reactions. It is a bonding experience like no other. More on that thought during October and November month.

One of the biggest concerns I hear from new family history fans is "What should I do?" Another is "What is the best way?" There are a lot of answers available and each one is valuable. There is no right or wrong way to get started. But we need to seek the calm of a wonderful Sunday morning to find our way. As seen in the photo from the shores of Lake Michigan at Sheboygan , there is a ray of light upon us leading our path. We just need to follow it calmly like the ducks near the lighthouse. Therefore, today's tip is to make the commitment to learn.

My recommendation is always to start locally, especially if your family has lived in the same area for some time. The second option is online. And, of course, the third option is to travel. Some may require a budget, but much is available at no charge.

In my state, the Family History Society of Arizona offers a workshop this month by Betty Lou Malesky, editor of the Green Valley Genealogical Society's Past Tracks and First Vice President of the International Society of Family Writers and Editors (ISFHWE). "Expanding Your Horizons" will be held October 20 at Creighton United Methodist Church, 4900 E. Thomas Rd. Phoenix, AZ. For more details, visit their Web site at

Another huge local option is your library. My library has extensive online capabilities plus experienced individuals who are ready and willing to help you find books, books to exchange and databasesOnline options are so varied, it would be repetitive for me to list every link here. Again, I recommend checking a few Web sites for options. Read about five of the options and commit to the one which sounds best to you based on your time and budget.

When I attended the Milwaukee Genealogical Society workshop last April, I won a free online class because I traveled the farthest to the event. My commitment is to complete this course before the end of the year. For options from this source, visit

As you can see, the options are incredible. Do not let it overwhelm you. Check locally, check online, choose an option, and let it simmer for a bit. Watch baseball, watch football, relax and savor your Sunday and know you are ready to learn as your schedule permits. Just follow the ray of light and watch where it leads you.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Tip # 6...Resurrect traditional family recipes from scratch

Ah, the weekend. I love the thought of it. After I finish my chores, I will STOP WORK and bask in a fun evening with my family. Maybe a bottle of wine, too?
Today tip's is a perfect fit for Saturday. One of my favorite ways to enjoy family is to center the time around a great meal.

When was the last time your family witnessed a meal made from scratch? With a bit of pre-planning, everyone can contribute to the meal. Invite everyone into the kitchen to cook. Assign tasks by age and ability. Leave the wine to the adults.

This is also an excellent time to reminisce about when and how your grandparents or great-grandparents cooked the meal. If the family recipe is not as health conscious as you like, try to adapt with new nutritious ingredients.
Need more encouragement to cook from scratch? Check out the book, In Praise of Slowness, how a worldwide movement is challenging the cult of speed by Carl Honoré. You gain nutritional benefits and reduce stress all in one easy step. Food made with love is healthier. I realize this sounds simplistic, and it truly is. Often we make life more difficult than it is. Honore recognizes it and offers real life solutions. His Web site,, counters the allure the speed.
If your family did not pass along recipes from scratch, consider one of my favorite German Russian recipes or check out the Web sites below and build a new tradition.

6 pork chops Vegetable, safflower or canola oil
4 quarts of water 2 tablespoons Pickling spice
Bay Leaf 1 medium onion
3 tablespoons butter Salt

Wash pork chops and place in 8 qt. pot with 4 quarts of water and a bay leaf. Heat to boiling and boil for 15 minutes. While boiling, peel whole potatoes and cut the potatoes in half lengthwise. Place the potatoes round side up on one half of 13x9x2 inch pan.

Melt 3 tablespoons of butter in small pan on stove or microwavable dish in microwave. Mix butter with 3 tablespoons oil and pour over potatoes. Remove pork chops and bay leaf from pot. Place pork chops on the other half of the pan. Distribute the two tablespoons of pickling spice evenly between the two corners of the meat side of the pan. Quarter the onion. Place one quarter of the onion in each of the four corners of the pan.

Add broth from pot to pan to fill approximately up to 5/8 of the height of the pan. Save remaining broth.

Cover only the meat side of the pan with aluminum foil. Bake at 450° F. for one hour. For browner potatoes, adjust the heat to broil for the last 5 minutes. Add extra broth to pan as needed during or after baking.

Modern, healthy alternatives for Broda:
· Use Smart Balance instead of butter and use extra virgin olive oil in place of regular oil
· Use sea salt, seasoning salt, or onion salt in place of regular salt

· Make the meal ahead of time and refrigerate up to eight hours and then bake. For vegetarians, make a separate pan of potatoes with the same seasoning. Use a 14 oz. can of vegetable broth instead of broth from the pork chops.

Beverage Recommendation:
Anything goes. However, I would choose a favorite wine followed by a shot of schnapps after the meal.

For additional German Russian recipes, check out my book Value Meals on the Volga.

For other traditional family recipes, visit these Web sites.

Friday, October 05, 2007

Tip # 5...Get involved with the Veteran History Project

It's Friday and the weekend beckons us to relax and reflect. If you haven't had a chance to implement any of these family history tips, do not fret. There are many days left in the month and, as I mentioned at the beginning, it is virtually impossible to cover all of these points during Family History Month. These tips are meant to plant seeds for our family research. Pick the tips which work for you and your family, then celebrate your ancestry as it fits your schedule.

That said, how about all of the discussion and media coverage of Ken Burns' The War? The last episode aired this week. Everyone who has seen the show has been overwhelmingly moved by these families' stories.

So, I have fast forwarded my original Tip #23 up to Tip #5. The military and its affect on family history needs no explanation. For those who watched Ken Burns series, you are painfully aware. For those of us who lost family members or talked with family members who served (my uncle and my father respectively), there is a memory which can never be erased. War triggers change for many families. In particular, the Seven Years War in Europe (1754 and 1756-1763) prompted my family to move from Alsace and Germanic states to the Volga River basin of Russia. Further conflicts, including the Russian Revolution, forced immigration to the United States.

Today's tip, get involved with the Veteran's History Project, goes well beyond World War II. The project's mission is to collect and preserve stories of wartime service. The focus is on first-hand accounts of U.S. veterans from the following wars:
  • World War I
  • World War II
  • Korean War
  • Vietnam War
  • Persian Gulf War
  • Afghanistan and Iraq conflicts

For further information on how you can be involved, visit their Web Site at For more information on the Ken Burns series, visit

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Tip # 4...Set up a family coloring night

Think you are too old to color? Think again. Consider these endorsements from Brent Belchamber who says:

"[Coloring is} non-competitive, multicultural, share-oriented and it works in every language… it’s also wholesome fun, but for those of us who have a lot of responsibilities, professional or otherwise, … coloring can also be time away from stress and the nagging demands of our own inner dialogue. "

Coloring builds creativity and is much cheaper than therapy. Grab the crayons or markers and you can engage every age in this fun activity. Imagination is contagious when children focus on a set of crayons and a blank page. Coloring cures video game-itis.

For ideas on coloring books, check your local arts and crafts stores, historical society or museum gift shops. Or, visit these Web sites for more ideas.


Check this blog later in the month as a new coloring book devoted to family history debuts. Whatever your heritage or interest in history, you can find coloring pages for everyone’s taste. Remember, there are no mistakes in art. Inside or outside the lines works

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Tip # 3...Take a tour of with family members

October has definitely arrived! As I sat on my patio, sipped a cup of Black Silk java, and watched the sun brighten behind the clouds, I was immersed in the pleasure of October. It was the perfect preparation for our entry for the 3rd day of Family History Month.

Tip # 3...Take a tour of with family members

Cyndi Howells created a family web page in the early 1990's. At the invitation of her local historical society, she presented a workshop on how to use the Internet to conduct family research. Cyndi, a genealogical Internet pioneer, compiled a list of 10-15 Web sites she used frequently. Her list was a hit and attendees requested extra copies and more links.

Since her workshop, her list has grown to over 264,000 links to her home page. With so many connections, a beginner or sophisticated genealogist can explore for hours. Gather the family and explore the site together. Set a timer for an hour. Start with the tour of the site, it is an outstanding introduction. Be sure to visit the links for "Are You New to Genealogy?" and "Cyndis Blog." I know you will be surprised how quickly the timer rings.

And, in the process, you may just inspire future family genealogists.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Tip # 2...Create a family blog

Let technology help you keep in touch with family around the globe.

Blogs help individuals and corporations share their opinions and talk conveniently on line. Why not use a blog as a communication device for families?

A family blog can help relatives discuss events and publish comments at their convenience when hectic schedules prohibit visits and telephone conversations.
Follow these easy steps:

1) Use, or your favorite blog site. Most sites make it easy to set up a blog and publish comments quickly. View the demos and you will be quite impressed with the capabilities you can utilize.

2) Send email invitations via or to relatives around the world. Include extended family members as appropriate. You control who participates in the blog...just your family or the entire world.

3) Start the discussion with a simple question or a poll. This is a great chance to talk about issues of the day, past events, or favorite memories. Set up a new topic periodically and discover family history straight from the source.

4) Read, enjoy and learn! Tell me about your successes or make recommendations on how you made it work with your family.

Monday, October 01, 2007

31 Days...31 Ways to make your family history live forever

Rabbit, rabbit, rabbit. Ok, I had to say that first thing. It has been a crazy day as Cox internet service has rarely worked at my house. So, I sit here at Java Spot, thoroughly enjoying my Caramel Blended Iced drink as I begin my celebration of Family History Month.
Yes, it's finally here and I am ready to celebrate!

Need inspiration to celebrate Family History Month this October?

This blog will highlight quick and spunky tidbits to bring family history to life for all ages and all cultures. Use one idea or all 31 for fun and celebration of your family's history. Whether you can track your ancestors to the Mayflower or you are ready to embark on your first genealogical search, get ready to celebrate!
Share your successes with me as I publish one tip per day on my blog during October. I welcome your feedback and look forward to hearing your comments.

TIP # 1) Discover Family History Month

The purpose of Family History month is “to bring your family together to remember and honor your ancestors,” according to Many groups across the country, including the Family History Society of Arizona, initiated momentum to have October designated as Family History month in 2003. You can uncover more detailed information on this special month at the following Web sites.

So, check out the rest of the 30 ideas to celebrate and honor your ancestors. Use one a day or pick and choose the ones which work best for you to bring your family together.