My To-Do List for 2008, by Juliana Smith

pen and journal.bmpWith the dawn of the New Year, possibilities sparkle like the fresh snow and all seems possible with the first of the year. What, are we already sick of the white stuff? I guess some of us have already had our fill. OK, scrap that simile and let’s move on.

At the start of the New Year, I envision myself taking the steps I need to improve in all areas of my life. When it comes to family history, I am eager to get started. Many of us have made our annual resolutions, but I don’t like that term. Maybe it’s become too cliché or maybe I’ve just had too many years where resolutions ended up paving that infamous road. I prefer a “to-do list” where I can check off items as they are accomplished. Are you game? Here are some items you might want to include on your list:

Organize Files
My mom often employs her older grandchildren to transcribe notes she’s taken on research trips and snippets of information from the index cards she’s been creating since the 1970s.

Many of us collaborate with family members via e-mail sharing information on the families we are researching. In my case, things keep getting lost in my e-mail inbox, so I started folders for each surname I’m researching so that if I don’t have a chance to investigate and process these notes or records as they come into my e-mail, I’ll be able to easily find them when I get time.

Who sees the problem with this “solution?” If you guessed that the e-mails would sit in e-mail purgatory for too long, go to the head of the class. Eventually the e-mails get archived, emptying that folder and now doubling the places I’d have to look for it. Plus, I have my electronic computer files set up with the same filing system, and I have to look there too. (We won’t even talk about the stuff that hasn’t made it into electronic form.) It’s just as easy to take that item as it comes in and save it as a document, text or HTML file and put it in the proper place. Then I only have one folder to go to when it comes time to work on a family line. And I’m going through those folders and as I empty them, I’m deleting them, thus also helping to unclutter my inbox and keep Outlook from bogging everything down.

While I’m at it, I need to dust off my scanner and get some of the paper records I have into electronic format too. Continue reading

Holiday Ornaments and Other Traditions, by George G. Morgan

I have been collecting Christmas ornaments and decorations since I can remember. I helped decorate my parents’ Christmas tree and was responsible for decorating my father, mother, and sister’s tree in the early 1960s. As a result, I have listened repeatedly to the stories that were told each year about each item. The decorations have become an inherent part of our family’s holiday tradition, as have the stories about those special dishes, glasses serving plates, candlesticks, silver pieces, and other tableware and table linens that are only used once a year.

Your family has all of these important family stories and traditions in their head as part of the family lore. These are perhaps the most vivid—and possibly accurate—memories they have. Continue reading

Tips from the Pros: He Said, She Said, from D.G. Fulford

Each person’s story is distinctly her own. There is the collective experience, and then there is your experience–same scene, different takes. A husband and wife working on a family history project may find themselves, for the first time in years, not speaking in the “we.”
Our mother wrote her history, our father spoke his. Their individual stories converge, then dip in and out of one another’s the way dolphins swim.
A brother’s stories may not be the same as his sister’s. You may not remember things precisely the same way someone else does, even if they were there at the time. Don’t bother arguing about who is right and who is “righter.” Every single person has his own reaction to time and circumstance, his own telescope through the distance. Your vantage point has less to do with where you’re standing than where you’re coming from.

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Your Quick Tips, 07 January 2008

Make Note of Info on Holiday Greetings
It’s that time of year again when we put away Christmas decor for another year. However, take another look at those Christmas letters and notes on cards before you discard or file them. We’ve found them to be full of great bits of information to add to the “notes’ section in our family files. Births, deaths, weddings, graduations, college, even the new automobile, plus other events from the past year will help make the family come to life for the next generation.
Louise Hawley Continue reading

The Year Was 1852

The Oregon Trail in South Pass, 1852The year was 1852 and it marked the beginning of the Second French Empire, with Napoleon Bonaparte’s nephew, Louis-Napoleon (Napoleon III) ruling as Emperor. The Second Empire would last until, following the Franco-Prussian War, there was an uprising in Paris and the government of Napoleon III was overthrown.

One of the new empire’s creations of 1852 was the infamous prison in French Guiana known as “Devil’s Island.” French Guiana was brutal territory and some of the previous attempts at settlement proved disastrous in the hostile environment. In 1852, Napoleon began deporting political prisoners to the newly formed penal colony and between 1852 and 1946 when the penal camp was closed, more than 56,000 prisoners were sent there. Prisoners were forced into hard labor in horrific conditions in timber camps, so brutal that many attempted dangerous escapes. Most of the penal camps were actually on the mainland, but other than a dangerous sea escape, the only escape routes through the mainland were fraught with peril. A popular route to Dutch Guiana meant crossing the piranha-infested Moroni River and then through a dense jungle through which there was one road. Devil’s Island is perhaps best known now through the movie “Papillon,” which was based on the book by Henri Charriere, who managed to escape the prison after several attempts.

In the United States, movement was decidedly westward. According to “Oregon Trail Statistics,” by William E. Hill, immigration hit an all-time high on the Oregon Trail with around 10,000 people making the overland trip.

With people still flocking to California in search of gold, every available means of transportation was employed and many chose to make the trip by sea, rather than face the long trek across the United States. But the voyage by sea had its perils as well. The sea voyage could mean a trip around Cape Horn, where ships were tossed in turbulent, windy waters, and iceberg inhabited waters, often being blown near Antarctica.

Skilled captains might be able to shorten the trip by traveling the Straits of Magellan, a sea passage around the tip of South America, but this too was considered a dangerous trip, because the narrowness of the passage at certain points made it difficult to navigate. The trip could take up to eight months and onboard conditions were horrid. Food spoiled quickly with the heat of the equator, and worms and rodents got into whatever supplies they had.

A shorter trip took passengers to Panama where they embarked on canoes to navigate the Chagres River. From there things were more difficult as the remainder of the passage to the Pacific meant a fifty-mile hike through the Panamanian jungle where some fell prey to cholera, malaria, and yellow fever. Those who survived this leg of the journey often arrived in Panama City to find a shortage of ships, which meant that they would have to wait for sometimes weeks to obtain passage on a northbound ship to California.

There was also an influx of immigrants into California from China at this time. The Chinese population of California was three (two men and a woman), but by 1852 an article in the Daily Alta California estimated the Chinese population to be at around 12,000. The Chinese weren’t welcomed in a land where the gold fields weren’t producing the riches expected and where the industrious Chinese were seen as a threat.

For more on the journey westward, there are many great websites, some with narratives by those who made the trek. Here are a few I found:

1852 also marked the publication of Harriet Beecher Stowe’s famous book, Uncle Tom’s Cabin. The book was an anti-slavery statement which she later revealed was largely based on the memoirs of Rev. Josiah Henson. Originally produced in serial format, Uncle Tom’s Cabin was a sensation and by 1857 had sold half a million copies in the United States–breaking book sales records for that time and stirring anti-slavery sentiment.

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Image: The Oregon Trail in South Pass, 1852. From the Library of Congress Photo Collection at Ancestry. Click on the image to enlarge it.

Photo Corner

Clifton Henrie May, Jackson, Wyoming, ca. 1923Contributed by Vern May
Here is a picture of my father, Clifton Henrie May, about the time he was married in 1923. He is standing in front of his father’s frame home–the first one built in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. It was ordered from Sears and Roebuck catalog and constructed by my great-grandfather, James Ira May, first bishop of the Jackson Ward.

Click on an image to enlarge it.

Audrey Stanbridge, born 1924Contributed by Brian and Chris Graham
This is a picture of Audrey Stanbridge who is my Mother. She was born in 1924 in the UK and this was taken in 1928. Audrey is now eighty-three-years-young, lives in a retirement village, and goes to activities such as keep fit to music, dancing lessons, and so on. She has visited the South of France and Slovakia in the last eighteen months.

New Learning Center at Ancestry

Learn tab 2008.bmpAncestry has launched a new Learning Center with many new robust features to help users of varying experience levels to find answers and ideas that will jump-start their research in 2008. The site is still in its early stages and will be evolving as we go along in response to your needs, but already includes video tutorials, interesting facts, links and helpful information on various tools available on, and of course the archive of family history articles that you find in our newsletters and in Ancestry magazine.

You can visit the new Learning Center by clicking on the Learning Center tab on the main navigation bar at, or by clicking here.

Click on Keep Learning or Recent Articles (see the red arrows on the image for locations-click on the image to enlarge it) to access the archives of the Ancestry Weekly Journal. If you’re not already a subscriber to our email publication, you can sign up by entering your email in the bottom right corner of that same page.

Let us know what you think in the comments section below. The Learning Center is still in its early development stages and we’d love to hear your comments on how to make it better!

4th Annual Family History EXPO in St. George, Utah, 08-09 February 2008

Now is the time to mark your calendar for a great genealogy conference to be held in Southern Utah, the first week of February. Hundreds of genealogists, perhaps more than three thousand, will assemble in the “snowbird” town of St. George, Utah, for the 4th Annual Family History Expo (formerly known as the Genealogy and Family Heritage Jamboree).

The theme for this year’s event is Pirates of the Pedigree and will be held at the Dixie Convention Center on February 8 and 9 (Friday and Saturday). has teamed up with My Ancestors Found as one of the Major Sponsors for this event.

With as one of the major sponsors this event will be beneficial to experienced genealogists as well as those seeking to begin their family history research. will have professionals presenting some classes to help users learn about the new collections and features available through their website. This information will be valuable for attendees, these tools will help all researchers increase their ability to connect with other researchers, access online sources, and so much more.

This two-day event will draw speakers and vendors from all over the U.S. It will feature 101 classes plus more than 60 vendors and exhibitors displaying all the latest genealogy products, services, and technology. The intent is to teach individuals to find their family treasures without letting the pirates rob them of knowing the real stories and facts of their personal pedigree.

When looking at the list of speakers, you may notice many names mentioned frequently in family history circles: Megan Smolenyak Smolenyak, Arlene H Eakle, Stephen Valentine, Kip Sperry, DearMYRTLE, Kimberly Savage, Paola Manfredi, Janene S. Morgan, Geoff Rassmussen, Bruce Buzbee, Leland K Meitzler, Gaylon Findlay, Paul Nauta, Dennis Meldrum and many others. You can read a complete list of all the speakers and their 101 topics at Continue reading

Photo Corner: WWII Blood Donor Ad

Rellie James Hearn, II USMC I received this image last week and since it was a little too large to put in the newsletter, I thought I’d post it here. Thanks to Jennifer for sharing this really neat piece of her family history–and of U.S. history! Click on the image to enlarge it.

Rellie James Hearn, II USMC in WWII was wounded on Viru Island in the Solomon Islands in June 1943. Subsequently, he needed transfusions. As you can see from the ad, (at the time) fifteen! (What they didn’t say was that he needed fifteen because originally they gave him the wrong blood-type–LOL.) However, I think this is a great piece of memorabilia of WWII, and it’s time of need for blood drives, AND, of course, my grandfather – the HERO!

Jennifer Johnson, Lake Forest, California

Online Family Trees (OFT) at Ancestry Transitioning

Ancestry____logo2.bmpI’ve been out of the office for a bit so we have some catching up to do this week. A couple weeks ago, Ancestry announced that the Online Family Tree program that has been in use since 1999 is being phased out. But if you have data in OFT, it isn’t going away just yet. You’ll have until March 2008 to migrate your tree(s) over to the newer Ancestry Member Tree platform that was launched in August 2006.

Kenny Freestone has posted more information on the Ancestry blog, and since the original post has added answers to some common questions and concerns posted by users.

1/10/08 — Apologies for the incomplete sentence. In my haste to catch up, I must have neglected to proofread this post. I’d also like to apologize to Gary Collins, whose comments triggered the blog’s spam filter. We learned today that back to back links, without text between them will trigger the filter. I added some text between them and his post can now be read below. If you have concerns or questions about the upcoming change, I suggest you check out the Ancestry blog at the links below, and in Gary’s comment below.