Genealogy jewelry

familytreenecklaceWhen I was at the Genealogy Society of Southern Illinois conference in August, one of the vendors was Fun Stuff for Genealogists, which was selling some genealogy-related jewelry. None of their wares really grabbed me, but perhaps I had them in the back of my mind when I came across the family tree necklace from Lisa Leonard Designs. Lisa Leonard specializes in personalized, hand-stamped jewelry.

The family tree necklace seems to be intended to be customized with the names of the wearer’s children. But when I saw it, I thought how great it would be to personalize it with my grandparents’ surnames. That’s my pendant in the picture. (I bought the pewter version.) It has the names adams ⋅rasco ⋅ jeffries⋅ brown stamped into it.  I wanted to be able to wear it on a longer chain, so I purchased a 30″ antique copper ball chain, along with the silver link chain that came with the necklace.

It feels like a wonderful way to honor them, as well as a great conversation starter. Just think how many genealogy buffs I’ll discover when I wear it!

Hint: If you decide you’d like one, you can sign up to receive Lisa Leonard’s newsletter and get a 15 percent off discount code.

Have you registered for RootsTech?

RootsTech 2015 registration is openAbout ten days ago, I registered for RootsTech 2015, which will be held February 11 to 15 in Salt Lake City. I attended last year and really enjoyed it. I jumped at the chance to register again for only $139, the early registration fee. (I’m accustomed to organizers’ conferences that cost about $500 to register.)

When they announced last year that RootsTech 2015 would be held in conjunction with the Federation of Genealogical Societies’ (FGS) annual conference, my first thought was, 10,000 people isn’t enough? Here’s the thing: RootsTech 2014 was so well organized (and, believe me, I don’t say that lightly) that I have no worries that combining the conference with FGS will have a negative impact on the conference experience. In fact, I’m pretty sure it will have a positive impact.

The two conferences are being held concurrently. There will be shared general sessions and a shared Expo. Those who register for one conference will have the option of going to the other conference’s breakout sessions (that option is available for a small additional registration fee). I didn’t know whether I would want to attend any FGS sessions, but for an additional $39, I figured it was worth it to keep that option open.

So I have my plane ticket, my hotel reservation, and my conference registration. It’s on my calendar and I am really looking forward to it.

Are you going? If so, please let me know! Last year, I met up with OYFH reader Lori Krause and we’ve had a great time staying in touch ever since! (Hope you’re going again, Lori!)

There’s no perfect way to organize

There's no one right way to organizeIf there’s one thing that I’ve learned in nine years helping people get organized in their homes, it’s that there’s no one right way to organize. Organizing systems that work beautifully for me (or another client) may be seriously flawed for you. That’s why professional organizers can’t take a cookie-cutter approach to organizing…we have to  customize everything for the client.

This is true in organizing a home. And it’s also true in organizing your genealogy research. There are many ways to  organize your family history–just take a look at the many and varied answers for any particular question in the popular The Organized Genealogist group on Facebook.

So that’s why I bristled a little as I read a document called Organize Your Files on the Family Search wiki about how to organize your genealogy research. I actually use the recommended one-family-per-folder system for my paper records. (I learned about it more than a decade ago on FamilySearch.org.) But the absolutes in the article, the my-way-or-the-highway tone made it less useful to me.

For example:

Computer note keeping. Computers are great for genealogists—but they are not the final storage medium. Keep your research notes on computer if you like, but make a paper copy at the end of the day. Your descendants may not know how to boot your computer, but they will be able to read your paper printouts.

Make paper copies of electronic sources such as Internet sites, email, fax, or telephone interviews.

I don’t agree with making paper copies of everything. For some people, it will feel worth the effort. For others, not. And that’s okay.

Th Family Search wiki has loads of good information. But this article served as a good reminder to me that gently guiding, rather than ordering people around,  can be more effective.

I think some people thrive on structure and probably really appreciate being told exactly what to do.  But for others, strict instructions can feel intimidating or overwhelming. Me, I prefer gentler language with options built in. I like to tell you what works for me, but I don’t pretend that it will necessarily work for you. After all, tweaking is a good thing.

Reading hard-to-read gravestones

My family reunion was last weekend and I had a great time. Family members were so warm and welcoming to my husband and me despite the fact that my branch of the family had not been represented at that reunion in a couple of generations. I was given family pictures (some of which I’ll probably scan and share here) and well as a painting that my grandmother had painted. It was a great weekend.

On Saturday, my husband and I paid a visit to the cemetery where my grandmother’s ancestors were buried. (This was a reunion of people from my grandfather’s side of the family, so it was an adjunct activity.) I had visited that cemetery, Meyer Cemetery, last year when I traveled to western Missouri.  Three generations of Jeffries are buried in that cemetery:  my great grandfather, James Earl Jeffries;  his parents, John D. Jeffries and Susan Price Jeffries; his in-laws, John Price and Mary Puffenbarger Price; and his grandparents, Richard Anderson Jeffries and Harriet McKinley Jeffries. I wanted to capture some more photos of the gravestones, as well as find the graves of the Prices, which I hadn’t seen on my first visit.

Fortunately for me, I’d learned just the prior week about using aluminum foil to make reading hard-to-read gravestones much easier. I’d seen a link to a blog post called safe solutions for hard to read tombstones on the fabulous Organized Genealogist Facebook page. That post described how you can cover a gravestone with foil and rub it to make the hidden words on a gravestone almost magically appear. The post linked above suggested using a clean makeup brush. I didn’t have one so I dug around a bit more on the web and found this post on Save a Grave that suggested using a damp sponge.

So I went to the dollar store and bought some cheap aluminum foil. I grabbed a sponge from under the sink and was ready headed to the cemetery the next day. The method really felt like magic.

This is the stone of the Mary Ann Price, my great great great grandmother.

Foil can make hard-to-read gravestones legible

Cover it in foil and rub and voila, the writing emerges.

Foil can make hard-to-read gravestones legible

There’s a gravestone  right next to my great grandfather’s grave. The top of that same stone was so worn and dirty you couldn’t really tell that there was a name on it. But when I covered it in foil and rubbed it with a damp sponge, the name “Harriett” appeared. Amazing!

aluminum foil can make hard-to-read gravestones legible againI love this method! The downside is that, unlike gravestone rubbings–which I learned are harmful to the gravestone–it’s not easy to keep and store foil rubbings. I consider them temporary and my digital photo of the rubbed stone to be my permanent record. I can’t quite get myself to throw away the foil (it’s driving around in the back of my SUV), but soon I expect I’ll put it in the recycling bin.