Tell Me a Story – First Refrigerator

Tell Me a Story

Tell Me a Story Challenge :

Choose a person.  Then do any or all of the following:

  • Make a list of the top ten stories about this person, a word or phrase will do.
  • Choose one story and tell a compelling, short version that will interest your family members in one minute or less.
  • Tell a more detailed version of that story including photos if you have them.

Note:  You can read about my inspiration behind this challenge here.  I’ve decided to reverse the order in my post.  If you are reading this, you like stories so I’ll start with the full story, then the bite-sized story to hook my family members, then the list of ten stories.

Jane Zina Petrina Folkman

Jane Zina Petrina Folkman

Jane Zina Petrina Folkman is my 2nd great grandmother.  She is my great grandmother Naomi Skeen’s mother.  She died long before I was born so I have no memories of my own to share of her, but I interviewed her granddaughter years ago and she shared a story about Grandma Skeen that I love!  Here is that story in the words of my great Aunt Marilyn:

“Grandma Skeen raised chickens.  She gathered the eggs, cleaned them, candled them for blood spots and sold them to a grocery store in Ogden.  She bought her first refrigerator with her egg money.  When they delivered it Grandpa told them to take it back but Grandma said, “Now Joe they are going to bring it right in here.”  She was a feisty little (5 foot) lady.”

Because this fun story is so short I don’t need a shorter version to tell my family.  I did not make a story list for Grandma Skeen since I am not working from memory trying to list stories I don’t want to forget.

I think this sweet little story does serve as a great reminder that we need to interview our oldest living relatives before we can’t.  We need to interview them and preserve that interview on paper, or as a video or audio recording.  I treasure the family gems like this one that are in the interview with my great Aunt Marilyn.


How to Preserve Family Photos


My Grandma’s boxes that I received late last year.   I also have boxes from my other grandparents.  So many boxes and so many wonderful photos.

Over the past few months I have been gathering bits and pieces of information about proper methods of archiving photos.  I have literally thousands and thousands of old family photos sitting in these and many other boxes.  There are so many of them that my efforts to digitize them have stalled a bit.  I want to be very organized about the entire process from start to finish for each photograph.  Because I haven’t quite settled on a plan for the end – the storage and organization methods – I have really slowed my digitizing.

I just watched something that may help me get my groove back.

Amy Johnson Crow shared an interview on her blog this week.  She interviewed Denise Levenick about the very thing I have been so concerned about – How to Preserve Family Photos.  Ironically, I have been trying to decide which of two books to order written by Denise about this topic.  Amy’s blog post helped me settle on which book I think will help me make my plan and gave me several great tips to start wrapping my mind around now.

If properly organizing, storing, and archiving family photos has been on your mind too, you may want to check out Amy’s blog post and get a little inspiration.


Happy Wednesday – I hope you make an amazing family discovery today!


Emilie Brouillette signature

Signature of my 4th great grandmother from her widow’s pension application.

I have several Civil War pension files that I have been wanting to order for a long time.  But they cost a pretty penny so I have been putting off.  Sometime last year I noticed some recommendations for using the website for this service as an alternative to ordering directly from NARA.  I filed that away in my mind and moved on to other things.

While I was at RootsTech I stopped by the genlighten booth and asked some questions.  I got a recommendation from the owner for a specific genlighten provider to use for Civil War Pension files.  In March I placed an order and on Friday I got my pension file.

So here’s the scoop.  I used the researcher dchristina.  She charges a flat fee of $35 (the website adds a $1.75 processing fee) but does add a per page charge for files over 65 pages.  Here is the link to her Civil War Pension file service.  She took a month to fulfill the request.  The file was scanned well and was exactly what I wanted.

The website is pretty cool.  You set up a free account.  You can browse providers to find someone who will do something you need, then you can either message them or submit a research request through their submission form.  They accept the request.  Then you submit payment which is held by genlighten until the research is completed.  The researcher does their work and then submits their files to you through the website.  You download and review the files, write a review of their work, they get paid, then they can write a review of you as a customer.  Great system.

The bottom line?  I would recommend genlighten and dchristina if you have a Civil War Pension file you would like to order.  Just know she is slower than she says she’ll be but her work was worth the wait for me.


Have you ever hired a researcher?  What was your experience like?



Understanding Family Tree on FamilySearch – An Introduction

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After my post on Friday about RootsMapper I can see that many of my readers are not completely familiar with Family Tree on FamilySearch.  So here’s the scoop… is a website that includes several parts:

  • Family Tree
  • Memories (which are integrated into Family Tree)
  • Search – this is where you search records
  • Indexing
  • FamilySearch Wiki which includes all sorts of help topics

Why is it important to understand the different parts?

Well, the search feature is sometimes confused with the find feature.

What now?

Yes, it’s confusing.  The search feature allows you to search for records about your family members.  The find feature allows you to search Family Tree to find your family members who exist within the tree.

Does that sound the same?  It’s really not I promise.

This is the point at which it’s important to understand the purpose of Family Tree – which is only ONE part of  Family Tree was created with the intent to be ONE tree representing all of mankind.  The goal is to get us to work together to create the most accurate and complete family tree with every person reflected in that tree only ONE time.  So that means I don’t “have a tree on FamilySearch”, I choose to participate in THE tree on FamilySearch.  That tree is named Family Tree.

It’s at this point that you may be questioning what this experience is like.  Because who wants to constantly collaborate right?  We order loving genealogists like to research something, document our findings, source someone and have it stay just as we left it, right?  Well, if you choose to participate in Family Tree you really need a more community minded perspective.  Successfully participating requires understanding the various types of experiences that occur in the collaboration process so you can preempt some of the problems and it requires patience.

You may be wondering what the benefits are to this type of community effort with the constant changes, mistakes, and disagreements.  Well, let me tell you what I’ve learned.

First, there is a place for everyone in genealogy from beginner to highly specialized expert.  When a beginner jumps in and participates in Family Tree they are bound to make mistakes.  How we approach those beginners can have a huge impact on their future efforts and how we feel about those mistakes.  Everyone brings something to the table and when we have an open mind we can be pleasantly surprised with the outcome.

Second, two minds are better than one, and three minds are better than two, and on and on it goes.  When we really collaborate, we can create a much more accurate tree.  Really collaborating doesn’t mean that we are just tolerating other users, it means that we are communicating and working together to gather information, review the data and draw conclusions.  It requires writing good reason statements and leaving detailed notes so that our family members understand our reasoning.  When we take those steps our extended family members are much less likely to change our hard work.

Third, we are related to so many more people than we have met or heard of before.  By participating in Family Tree we can meet new cousins.  These connections are so good.  Guess what?  Physical items like pictures, family bibles, and journals can only be inherited by ONE person.  Connecting on Family Tree can often lead to a happy digital reunion with family heirlooms we didn’t know existed and those heirlooms can lead to more discoveries.  When we put all of our collective pieces together, the story becomes richer and more detailed.

Fourth, learning to have patience with such a massive project and all of the participants leads to personal growth AND cool genealogy discoveries.  Allow me to illustrate with a short version of a cool story.  A while back I got an email from FamilySearch notifying me that a change had been made to someone I was “watching” on Family Tree.  When I looked at it I was completely dismayed to see that “MY” James Young was a total mess.  It took some work to clean everything up and restore order in this part of the tree.  As I worked, I revisited my information about James Young.  He was my current end of line individual.  I hadn’t been able to find his death record.  All of this time cleaning him up led me to finally find that death record and then the death records of his parents.  That beginner making a mess of James Young helped me take my tree back two generations!  A mistake that brought awesome rewards.

If you have ever considered having a tree on FamilySearch I hope you will adjust your thinking and consider PARTICIPATING in Family Tree on FamilySearch.  The more the merrier!  The more experience, the more accurate the tree will be.  Family Tree can use you and your expertise on your family members.  Participating in Family Tree has been a great experience for me.  If you choose to participate I hope it will be a great experience for you too!


If you have questions about FamilySearch or Family Tree, please ask.  I am very familiar with utilizing both the tree and the other resources on FamilySearch and I want to share that knowledge.  I would love to use your questions to guide my posts on this topic.

Happy Monday!




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This is my 6 generation map.

A while back I was introduced to RootsMapper.  It’s a free website that accesses your FamilySearch account and generates a map with ancestor birth locations.  You can decide how many generations to show on your map by selecting 1 generation up to 10 generations.  On the map you will see colored bubbles with numbers.  The numbers represent which generation that person falls into in your tree with you being number one.  The pink are for female ancestors and the blue for male ancestors.  The bubbles are then linked to their child so you can follow the arcs from person to person if you wish.  You can hover over each number to see who that number represents.  It will show a small pop-up box with their name and a life span range.  See below:

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Map with one pop-up box showing.

There are several options to change things up.  The option I think is especially cool is that you can choose a different start person.  So I can switch from me to say my great grandmother and see a map that represents her ancestry.

This information all comes from FamilySearch so of course the map is only as accurate as the tree.  If you haven’t put yourself in the tree, linked yourself correctly and checked each of those generations you can’t know for sure that your map is accurate.

My 10 generation map has a lot going on.  Here is the full map:

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A zoom of the US/Canada:

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And a zoom of Europe:

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For FamilySearch users, this is another cool way to view your ancestors by birthplace.

Happy Friday!  I hope you have an awesome genealogy discovery today.



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