Connect To The Youth In Your Family By Connecting Them To Their Family History

Friday, February 23, 2018

A Gift From My Grandpa

This was really monumental to me, so I decided to post it to both blogs.  From the Chart Chick Blog

George Alvin Carpenter About 1958
My father's father, George Alvin Carpenter was a great scholar.  He was a university professor who spent his career at UC Berkeley and then retired and taught 15 more years at Brigham Young University.  He was an agricultural economist who helped rebuild the economy in Europe after World War II.  He was involved in research and teaching his whole life.

But he was not a genealogist.  His father Joseph Hatten Carpenter was.  Joseph was a prolific genealogist who I've written about before.  I suspect that my Grandfather Alvin spent most of his life feeling that his father had done everything that was necessary with our family's history.  I don't think he was really very interested.

However, I do remember once, when I was about 7 or so, my Grandfather sat all of his grandchildren down on the swing on his back porch and told us about our family history.  I was the oldest, my cousins were probably between 2 and 4 years old.  I remember Grandpa was trying to tell us something important, but it was really boring.  I didn't understand much.  But I remember Grandpa was really proud of his heritage.
About 1973.  I'm on the left with my cousins on the porch swing.  If my memory is right, this is the day my grandfather tried to tell us about our family history.

Being a university professor, I know Grandpa was perfectly capable of real research and he could have been a good genealogist.  However my Grandfather performed only one genealogical act in his life that I know of. He wrote a history of his father, Joseph Hatten Carpenter--the genealogist.  This book is only 145 one sided pages.  But that one small act had a great impact on me.

The book was published when I was 10 years old.  Because I was one of the descendants, I got my very own copy.  It sat on the little white bookshelf in my room and on quiet nights, I would pull it out, and read about Joseph.  Even though I have many ancestors who were actually quite famous, Joseph was the one I knew the most about, and I became quite connected to him.  When the time came that I wanted to learn more about my family history, you can guess who I was connected to, and where I wanted to spend my time first.  I've traveled to the family history sites and archives researching along this line and I've learned alot about my patriarchal family because of this small book my Grandfather wrote.

Grandpa passed the year I turned 16. It is hard to quantify the effect he had on my life.  Certainly my ethic for education came from him and that has been a huge influence in my life.  I could go on and on about other things I've learned from him.  But this small book has been a real treasure.

When I started lecturing at Family History Conferences, my very first lecture was "Where to Start When It Is All Done,"  I talked about the family history my Great-Grandfather Joseph collected and what I've been able to do with it.  In that lecture, I often showed this book of my Grandfather's and talked about what an impact it had on my life and my family history work.  Diving into Family History when alot of work has already been done is challenging--just like it was for my Grandfather Alvin.  I tried to encourage the attendees by showing them his book and describing what an impact it had on me.  I told them that if they only accomplished one thing, it would be worth it in the lives of their descendants.  According to my records, I've given that lecture 34 times from coast to coast and my copy of Alvin's book has come along with me.

But the most amazing thing happened last month.  My son Matthew has been helping my Dad go through his family history boxes.  And they found this:  A copy of the book that my Grandfather had actually signed to me.  It reads in part:
I hope that you will enjoy reading about some of his wonderful accomplishments.  May you learn to appreciate the great heritage you have as his great-grand-daughter.  With love and best wishes, your grandfather, G. Alvin Carpenter.
When they gave it to me I just cried.  It was like a pat on the back from my Grandfather for the work that I have put into this industry, trying to help people with this important work.  I felt like I had been fulfilling my Grandfather's wishes, to learn about our amazing heritage and honor his legacy.  And even though he never saw it in this life, I had learned to appreciate this history that was so important to him.

Had I always had this copy of the book, I don't know that it would have had such an impact on me.  So you never know... you never know where the trail of breadcrumbs will lead your descendants.  How blessed I am for the people who went ahead of me and blazed that trail.

Saturday, February 3, 2018

Have you signed up for our 52 week newsletter?

I've just been going through our newsletter emails to edit and freshen them up.  I've come to the last one this afternoon and I found something I wrote that really moved me.  Who knew?

"You are now someone who is aware of the importance of the family narrative in your own family member's lives. And you are now someone who has studied and pondered the tools at your disposal for transmitting that family history to your family members in a fun and engaging way. You stand at the crossroads between the past and the future of your family. You have the ability to make a real difference in the future generations. Become a transitional person by making your history strong and inviting. Transmit your family's narrative with purpose, with excitement, with quirkiness and with joy in a way that your family members will want to remember and tell future generations about. When you are a force for good in your family you will impact many, many lives."

I really hope that the resources we've put out with our Zap the Grandma Gap series have helped create stronger families. The original book and workbook, the children's workbooks, the games, the blog and the social media, everything is designed to make family history fun and exciting. I truly believe family history can save the world. If we all can be a little more compassionate about where we came from, and where others come from, more understanding of our families we can all be more kind to each other. 

Feel free to get all of the hints we've shared in our newsletter at  

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

The Embrace of Family Traditions

Several years ago, I wrote on the Chart Chick blog about one of my favorite Christmas traditions ( .  In my family, it is traditional to have English Trifle on Christmas Eve. I have British ancestry, and my Grandfather Darrell Dana loved it.  He loved all things custard and tapioca.  I get that from him.  We only have trifle on this one day of the year.  So it is really connected with Christmas to me. 

Christmas 1990 was my first Christmas away from home.  In fact, I was on the other side of the world.  My first marriage was falling apart and in those days you couldn't even call home much from so far away.  I was in the Middle East and the First Gulf War was about to break out.  It was a very stressful time.  I was lonely and it didn't seem like Christmas at all.  Some friends invited us over for Christmas Eve and when they brought out English Trifle for desert, it was like the heavens opened and the light shown down on my holiday.  It was a love note from home, from my ancestors, from the past.  Like a big warm hug.  The embrace of a Family Tradition.

When my Mom made trifle, year after year, she didn't know that she was sending that love note into the future.  But sometimes it is those little things that make those connections.  It can be those traditions and that shared history that ties us together.  Those are the pieces that make a family.  Traditions are part of the team narrative you have together.

This means so much more to me now that I have young adult children.  Next year, my eldest son will be the age I was in 1990.  All three of my kids are just about to leave the nest, and while I have them all home this Christmas, I find myself on the other side of this equation as the mother in the story. What have I done to create those bonds and establish the traditions that will bind my children to our family and fill their hearts with peace and love from us when they need it?  Like most well-intentioned mothers, I've made every mistake in the book.  And I'm trying to hug them enough right now.  But hopefully I've done enough that they will have those hugs from me in the future too.  Hopefully the right pieces will be there when they need it.

What are you doing in your family?  The holidays are a big time for traditions.  What are you doing this month to celebrate your family history and create a sense of heritage in your family?  Sometimes the best traditions are little ones that are practiced all through the year.  What will your family members have to embrace them during hard times?  Hug them now, but be intentional about the hugs you send into the future too.  My mom did, and I'm so thankful for that.

I'm bringing the trifle to our family gathering this Christmas Eve.  Thankfully my Mom and Dad will both be there and I'll get to share it with them and thank them again for this bit of light in my life.  How amazing that a simple thing like a trifle could mean so much. 

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Decorating with Family History for the Holidays.

 My daughter Rachel and I had a great time making a fun family history tree a couple of years ago.  We've enjoyed this tree so much in the years since.  I hope you'll allow me: proud Mom here. She created this video to give you some ideas for your own family history decorating.  Hopefully it will help you inspire your family with their heritage at this time of year.

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Every Grandma Should Take Their Family To See "Coco"

They say that the Disney movie Coco makes you want to visit your grandmother and give her a big hug.  Well my Mom did it just right.  She bought tickets for the whole family to go see Coco together this morning.  And we all came out very grateful for her.

I had high expectations for the movie and I wasn't disappointed.  As I've written about before, I love Dia de Los Muertos.  It is a day for honoring your ancestors and remembering them.  What could be better than that?  And Disney has done a great job of that lately with Moana and now with Coco.

Kim and I were in Disneyland a couple of months ago and we had a great time looking around the Coco displays they had up.  It got me really excited for the movie. I love anything that will help you teach children about the value of family history. Even at Disneyland no less. Here are some photos from our trip:  

While we were there, a band and some dancers came out and sang the song "Remember Me"  And I just melted.  Such beautiful lyrics about our ancestors.  Love it Love it!

They had a tree of life display and everyone was able to add a remembrance of a family member.  I wrote about my Grandparents and the times we had at Disneyland together.  So many wonderful memories.  I can't go there without missing them.  

What a beautiful simple way to help so many people remember their ancestors.  

Some of the things I loved about the movie were 1) that all families have problems.  I love that they didn't gloss over some of the hard things families deal with.  2) that Family History heals the present.  Family History always helps the problems we have in the present.  Always.  3) That we should keep photos up of our family members and remember them.  That's why we love what we do at Family ChartMasters so much.  We're honored to help people keep their ancestors memories alive and in front of them every day.  And 4) I loved the music, the flowers and just the beauty of the movie.  

Highly recommended.  Take some family members.  And then spend some time together honoring your ancestors.  Good stuff!

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Time Capsules

When the family gets together at the holidays, a fun activity can be creating a time capsule.  My kids and I have created time capsules at the end of the year for short term storage and then packed them away with the Christmas decorations.  We include goals for the year and reflections on the year past. It's fun to open them next Thanksgiving weekend when we get the decorations out. 

A time capsule is “a historic cache of goods or information, usually intended as a method of communication with future people” ( They are a great way to capture this moment in time for the future. Creating a time capsule can cause your family to pause now and reflect about what is important to them and what brought them to the point they are now. The creation of a time capsule can spark some good discussions in your family about what is important to you.
You can ask everyone in the family to contribute to a time capsule. They might want to contribute a tangible item, but also encourage them to add something that will really tell about their lives now. A personal note, pictures, or a schedule of what daily life is like could be really interesting down the road. The capsule can be any container as long as it is labeled and kept sealed in a safe place. And it needn’t be sealed for long. One year, five years, or ten years, can give the observer great perspective on life.

If you want a really safe time capsule container that will last a long time, check out:

And for complete instructions on creating long term archival time capsules check out the Smithsonian Institutions ideas at:

Good luck.  I'm sure it will cause lots of reflection for your family and give them a broader perspective on life--one of the best benefits of family history.  

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Wait what? The Wall Street Journal?

I was going through the deep deep recesses of Facebook today and found some notifications from over a year ago.  And look at this...  I found we had been mentioned in the Wall Street Journal.  Who knew?  Aparently the author's sister had bought some of our books.

It is a great article about connecting with Grandchildren.  She is touting the use of family history as a Grandparenting tool.  We say that around here alot don't we?

Now, off to check on my Google Alerts...

And if you don't know what Google Alerts are, it is a great way to keep an eye out for interesting topics, people or geographical areas that are of interest in your family history.  You can set up a Google Alert, and when google finds something new, they send you an email. 

You can learn more about Google Alerts at or watch this video.