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

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Our Favorite Family New Year's Tradition

Sometimes, some of your best family traditions can start by accident.  One of our favorite traditions started that way, when I was an guilt-ridden, exhausted mother of young children--looking for a way to celebrate New Year's and get the kids to bed early.

Christmas is a crazy busy time for our company and several years ago, I felt bad that we hadn't been downtown yet to see the Christmas Lights at Temple Square.  The magic of all those tiny lights together were always one of my favorite parts of the holidays.  When New Year's came that year, I knew I had one more night before the lights were turned off and we'd have to wait until next year.  So we headed into town on New Year's Eve to see the lights.

I think I was honestly too tired to walk around and we ended upstairs in the Joseph Smith Memorial Building at the Garden Resturaunt overlooking the block just as the sun was setting and the lights were coming on.  It was beautiful to relax and watch as night fell over the city and the lights came on. The food was good, the kids were good and we discovered fried pickles.  This young mother discovered some peace during the busy holiday season.

So, at the risk creating a long wait at the restaurant, I recommend this tradition to you.  Over the years, we've stayed after dinner to catch some of the Eve traditions, concerts around Temple Square, or a carriage ride around town, but our favorite tradition has remained--dinner overlooking the lights as sun sets on the year.

This tradition is new to our generation, and I don't know that it will be passed down to future generations, but like all traditions, it has become a comfort in our lives--marking the passing of time and making us feel grounded together as a family.

Wishing you a hopeful and prosperous New Year.
Cross posted on the Visit Salt Lake Blog.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Fun podcast interview about involving your family members

I had a great chat the other day with my good friend Lisa Louise Cooke about our shared passion for helping your family understand their past.  You can check it out on her podcast at  Go to PODCASTS > GENEALOGY GEMS PODCAST and click episode 162.

Lisa's a great asset to the genealogy community and shares my passion for passing your heritage down to the next generations.  I'm sure you'll enjoy the episode.  

Friday, November 29, 2013

Free Books and Free Shipping This Weekend Only

Holiday Deals to Save You Money
We've had a number of people ask about quantity discounts, so we've come up with some Thanksgiving weekend sales to help you save money. 
If you order this weekend, on Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, Sunday and Cyber Monday, any order of five books or more will receive free shipping.  Offer good until midnight on December 2nd

And from now until December 9th,
any order of 10 or more books will receive one extra book.  This offer is good for any Zap The Grandma Gap books, including Zap The Grandma Gap:Connect With Your Family by Connecting Them to Their Family History, the Power Up Workbook or any of the My Ancestor Activity Books

We'll be taking the weekend off to be with our families, but we'll be shipping on Monday with plenty of time to get them to you for the holidays.
Order now  to wrap up a meaningful Christmas gift that will strengthen the modern relationships in your family.  No special promotional codes are necessary.  Check out excerpts of the books at

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

My British Ancestor Activity Book

Download the first few pages at

New for You: "My Ancestor" Activity Books for Kids

I've been a little quiet here for a while because I've been furiously busy working on a new project that will help you further engage the youth in your life with their family history.  I'm so excited to finally announce it to the world--and especially show it off here.  Here is the press release...  More detailed posts to follow over the next couple of days.

CONTACT: Janet Hovorka,
New Activity Book Series Brings Youthful Fun To Family History
Cedar Hills, UT – November 6th, 2013 –

Studies have shown that greater knowledge about family history especially strengthens and empowers youth by creating self-esteem, resilience and a greater sense of control over their lives. Learning about the family’s past also strengthens the relationships between living family members by creating a shared experience and core identity that no one else in the world can duplicate.

To help families achieve these great benefits authors Janet Hovorka and Amy Slade have developed a new series of “Zap The Grandma Gap--My Ancestor” activity books. The first four books, My British Ancestor, My Civil War Ancestor, My Swedish Ancestor and My German Ancestor are 52 page activity books designed for 6-14 year olds with puzzles, activities, games and recipes combined with questions and learning opportunities about specific ancestors and the culture that surrounded them. Timelines, paper dolls, coloring pages, maps, fairy tales, music, dot to dots and crossword puzzles combine to give youth the full picture of what their ancestors’ lives were like. When pre-ordered now, the books will arrive in time to prompt questions around the Thanksgiving table. Or they can become the perfect Christmas gift for children and grandchildren that will create stronger bonds in modern families by encouraging the whole family to learn about their ancestors together. Sample pages from the books can be viewed on the website and blog at where they join other online and print resources to help families connect to each other by connecting to their past.

With the My British Ancestor Activity Book youth can:
• Discover online and offline resources for finding more information about their British roots
• Compare British Schools to today’s schools
• Solve puzzles about different British homes
• Complete a crossword puzzle about British words their ancestors used
• Learn about and participate in a British holiday
• Plan a proper British family history tea party
• Play British games their ancestors may have played
• And explore many other activities

With the My German Ancestor Activity Book youth can:

• Record how they are related to their German ancestor
• Try some German recipes
• Read a German Fairy Tale their ancestors might have known.
• Color and cut out German paper dolls to tell the stories of their ancestors
• Collect documents about your German ancestor’s life
• Make a Schultute School Bag like their ancestors may have received for school.
• Explore some of the qualities they share with their German Ancestor
• And explore many other activities

With the My Civil War Ancestor Activity Book youth can: • Discover online and offline resources for finding more information about your Civil War ancestors
• Follow a dot to dot about an important Civil War landmark
• Try some of the food eaten by the Civil War soldiers
• Learn some Civil War songs and bugle calls
• Create a military band with homemade instruments
• Record the battles in which their ancestors were involved
• Write a eulogy for their Civil War ancestor
• And explore many other activities

With the My Swedish Ancestor Activity Book youth can:
• Place their Swedish ancestor in the context of broader Swedish history
• Complete a crossword puzzle about Swedish words their ancestors used
• Learn about and create items for a Swedish holiday
• Color and cut out Swedish paper dolls to tell the stories of their ancestors
• Write a letter to their Swedish ancestor
• Design and color a drawing of a Dala horse such as their ancestor might have played with.
• Involve your whole family in the fun of learning about their Swedish ancestors
• And explore many other activities

The “My Ancestor” activity books are designed to give kids ownership of their own family history. “These books help young kids take the lead in learning about their family history for themselves,” says Hovorka. “As they accomplish the activities together with the help of their parents and grandparents, they strengthen modern family bonds while they are strengthening their identity with the past.” Parents and grandparents who teach children who they are and where they came from give youth a secure identity from which to draw courage as they encounter the challenges in their lives.

The authors, sisters Janet Hovorka and Amy Slade grew up in a family history oriented home, but didn’t realize how much they were learning about their family history until later in life. Throughout Janet’s 12 years as a popular genealogy speaker, co-owner of a family history company, genealogy instructor at SLCC, and as past president of the Utah Genealogical Association, she has witnessed over and over again how family history can heal the relationships in a family. Her books Zap The Grandma Gap: Connect To Your Family By Connecting Them To Their Family History, and Zap The Grandma Gap Power Up Workbook have helped families connect with their roots through the real life examples and step by step instructions drawn from Janet’s own experiences with her teenage children. Over the last 10 years, Amy has traveled studying folklore, dance and food and culture around the world and recently received her Masters Degree in Folklore from George Mason University. Together, they are living proof that exploring your family history helps strengthen relationships with living family members.

My German Ancestor (ISBN 978-09888-548-5-7), My Swedish Ancestor (ISBN 978-09888-548-4-0) My Civil War Ancestor (ISBN 978-09888548-3-3) and My British Ancestor (ISBN 978-09888-548-2-6), (Family ChartMasters Press, $9.95, 52 pages, 8.5x11, paperback) are available for preorder at

Monday, August 26, 2013

Involving my children with family history in my past life

I guess the guest blogger is my previous self today.

Even before I decided to start writing a book on how to connect your family with their family history, I experimented with what would work with my own kids.  I blogged about that frequently on my regular blog at the time.  The Chart Chick Blog.  If you are reading this blog, you might want to check out the links on the left about our adventures as I was applying many of the principles in the book on my own children.  We all learned lots.

Take a look at these subject headings:
Let me know what you think.  As I've launched the new books, The Chart Chick has become more about my own research, and our charting company while my aha moments with my kids have been moved to here.  But I love comments on both blogs.  Let me know how it is working in your family. 

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Book Reviews

We've updated the reviews page on  Check out all the reviews that have come up about the book!  A few reviews have been added to as well but none have been registered at Barnes and  If you have seen any other reviews that I've missed, or if you would like to add one at either of these sites, we'd love to have your input.  Thanks so much!

Monday, August 19, 2013

Heaven bless those shaking leaves.

Here's a quick success in our family that might translate to your family.

Earlier this summer, I uploaded the genealogy computer file my grandmother left me to  I had been hesitant to do that before because it doesn't include sources and I really don't have direct knowledge of the research.  But my son has played with it a little in how it relates to some of the databases out there. 

On Ancestry he has been able to go in and connect my grandmother's research with the documents to back it up.  I seeded it with several pictures so that he could see who he was dealing with.  Ancestry has made it so easy for beginners, they put shaking leaves on each person that lead to documents that Ancestry thinks might relate to that person.  It is so easy to check out the documents and then quickly link the ones that relate to your family.  My son was drawn right in.

Right off the top, he was able to pull up things I didn't know about my own grandparents.  I haven't ever really gone in and looked for records on my own grandparents because I was blessed to be able to know all of them well--my first grandparent to pass away didn't leave us until I was 16.  On Ancestry, he quickly found draft cards and army documents, the census records and several other things that were exciting to see.  And with a simple click of the button, they were added to our online tree.  It was quite addictive. 

I think Ancestry has really created a space where the advanced genealogist can play in the same sandbox as the beginner because it is so focused on the documents.  And that is a great thing for families.  Take a look at  It might work for your family too.  Let me know how it goes. 

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Taking my daughter on a family history trip

There is nothing like travel to engage your family with their family history.  It can be near or far.  A couple of weeks ago I got to take my daughter to the Southern California Genealogy Society Conference. We had a great time on the trip, but we also got to do a little family history.  My mother grew up in Southern California and my Grandparents and Great Grandmother spent most of their lives there.  So we decided to stop by some of the old places.  

We stopped by the beach.
Mom and her sister on the left in the late 40s, Dad and I in the center in the 70s, My daughter on the right

We rode the carousel at the Santa Monica Pier.
Mom and her sister on the left in the 50s, My daughter and I on the right

We stopped by the temple where Mom and Dad were married.
Mom and Dad June 2, 1967, My daughter on the right

And we stopped by the house where my Mom grew up.
Mom and her sister on the left in the 50s, Grandpa and I in the center in the 70s, My daughter on the rightI was glad to see my Grandparent's house was being well taken care of now.   It didn't look so good when it was for sale last year when we stopped by with my son.

Next time we go to California, I'm going to see if I can recreate some of the old photos.  We did this for my parents for Mother's Day and Father's Day.  I've never laughed so hard in my life.  My sister put them together into a video for each of them.  It was a fun project that might work in your family too.  Watch out though.. I've never felt so old in my life either.  Time flies when  you are having fun. 

Friday, August 9, 2013

Another Exciting Magazine Article--Reunions Magazine

Zap The Grandma Gap has been reviewed in another magazine article.  Issue 24 Number 1 of Reunions Magazine has a great article about the book on page 17.  You can access the issue here:
Here is the screen shot:

Thanks to Edith Wagner and her team for helping us get the word out about our resources.  And thanks for letting us use the article here.  You should check out all the great resources they have for creating family reunions at near and dear to the heart of anyone who is trying to engage their family with their family history. 

Thursday, August 8, 2013


I've been recognizing something in my kids that I think is a real key to creating family historians in your own family--especially when there are other family historians in the family.  That is OWNERSHIP. I'm having a hard time putting my kids in control but they need to feel that control so that they aren't always waiting for me to give them permission.  Of course this is something that will grow as they mature, and you need to keep in mind the maturity level of the child, but I'm finding that you can really hold someone back if they don't have their own sense of ownership. 

That can come in many forms.  Maybe digital files, maybe actual artifacts.  And I have yet to figure out the perfect way to share--we are working on avenues through Ancestry, FamilySearch and My Heritage.  I know that it has to be source centric in order for the more advanced researcher to feel comfortable working with the beginner.  But I know from observing my own family that you can really hold someone back by not giving them ownership of their family history.  And you can really spur them on if they do feel they have ownership. 

So here is one of the emails that goes out with our Zap The Grandma Gap emails.  Have you registered for them yet?  When you register they start with week one and send you one idea every Tuesday for 52 weeks.  This one appears about 1/2 way through the year.  You can sign up on the front page at  Lots of great ideas.  Take a look:


I have an idea for you this week that might work in the short term, or might take a little longer to come to fruition in your family. It has worked in my family, and even worked well in my own life.
Have you given your family members a sense of ownership in their family history? Feeling like one doesn't know where to start can be compounded when a person feels like there is a gatekeeper on a project and they don't really feel a part of what is going on. If you have done a lot of family history, you may inadvertently be acting as gatekeeper and stopping them from really getting involved in their family history for themselves. The solution? Give them something of their own.
This has worked particularly well in my family and really is one of the main reasons I became a genealogist myself. When my grandfather published his book about his father, he gave one to each member of the family. Even though I was only eight years old, he entrusted me with my very own copy of the book. While I didn't instantly turn into a genealogist, that book worked on me over the years and has come to be one of my prized possessions. Recently, I've seen much more interest in my children when I've given them their own copies of a genealogy computer file, made a scrapbook just for them, or shared some digitized pictures. As they grow, I'm excited to entrust them with more of our family history artifacts.
Ownership may be as simple as sharing a computer file, or presenting someone with their own copy of a book. Or it may be as huge as passing down an heirloom or entrusting them with original pictures. What can you do this week to encourage a budding family historian in your family with some ownership of their own?
Hopefully you have been able to put to use some of the ideas in these emails. You are always welcome to email me with questions or suggestions. I love to hear from you and celebrate the successes in your family.

Good luck this week.

Monday, July 29, 2013

The Intergenerational Self

If you read the genealogy blogs you may have run across mentions of Bruce Feiler's New York Times article this spring, "The Stories That Bind Us."  This article is based on his book "The Secrets of Happy Families" a book I can highly recommend--we've been using some of the principles in my family and they are working great.  Feiler's purpose in writing the book was to find "revolutionary ideas [that] remain ghettoized in their subcultures, where they are hidden from the people--the families--who need them most." (pg 5).  He wrote the book to popularize some of the most ground breaking research that is going on in what makes a family run well.  But one of the studies really resonated with me--the work of Marshall Duke and Robyn Fivush at the Center for Myth and Ritual in American Life at the Psychology Department of Emory University.

I've been researching out this topic and reading their paper, "The Intergenerational Self: Subjective Perspective and Family History."  Fivush, Duke, and Jennifer Bohanek write about their studies of middle class families.  First they recorded dinnertime conversations and analyzed how parents used stories about the family's past.  Then they gave the pre-adolescent children several well established psychological tests to determine their sense of well being and the "Do You Know Test" they developed with 20 questions about their family history.  They found that the children who scored the highest on the "Do You Know Test" scored higher in tests of self worth, a sense of being able to contribute to the world, and being in a well functioning family, lower levels of anxiety, more resiliance, and fewer behavioral problems.  In fact, as Feiler reported, "The Do You Know? Scale" turned out to be the best single predictor of children's emotional health and happiness." 

As my friend Amy Coffin wrote: "Boom, goes the science."  We knew it was true.  Now we have the science to prove it.

As of yet, it appears they have not been able to determine the causality of family history and the strong resilience it creates in family members.  But whether the strong family narrative creates strong families, or strong families are naturally inclined to talk alot about their family history, the result is the same.  Knowing about your family history is a quality of strong families that produce capable, strong children.

And, as I've been digging around, through MARIAL's work and through the references they refer to in their papers--there is so much more.  There is study after study about the effects of family history and "Intergenerational Transmission" and the way values and standards are passed from generation to generation.  I've got lots of reading to do.  I'll let you know what I find.  Let me know if you start any digging  yourself.  I think we are on to something really powerful here that may prove what genealogists have known for years--that family history is a soul satisfying, self-esteem strengthening, family bonding goldmine for creating healthy people.  

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Taking them with you

In March I had the wonderful opportunity to speak at the North Florida Genealogy Conference in Jackson.  What a great time we had. Our dear friends Alzina and Joel Warner took such great care of us.  I got to bring my daughter with me and we had a great trip together.  It was fun to have some mother daughter time together and it was so nice to get to know the Warners better.  The Warners absolutely spoiled us, taking us to the beach, and to St. Augustine.  It was a great trip.

And it was a wonderful conference.  I gave the keynote about Family Search Family Tree Friday evening and then gave three lectures on Saturday.  Sunday evening I spoke at an LDS fireside for youth.  That was where I think the greatest benefit for me came.  #1 I think my daughter was absolutely astounded that so many youth were actually anxious to listen to her mother.  and #2 My daughter had to sit and listen to me talk about all the benefits of family history and how easy it is to get involved.

The other great thing that came out of the fireside was the flash of inspiration I had.  I told the youth that I wasn't going to tell them how to do research--they already know how to get started.   I just asked them to get a picture of ancestor and put it out where they could see it in their room, and then tell their parents that instead of doing the dishes one night, they wanted to see if they could find more information about their grandparents or great-grandparents.  I think any parent would fall for that.  I certainly would.

I think that taking your youth with you when you teach is a great way to get the youth in your family involved with family history and I've heard other people say it worked for them too.  Just take them with you when you teach someone else how to search for their roots.  Be it the neighbor down the street, or across the country, letting them see other people excited about family history is a great thing. 

Monday, July 22, 2013

NextGen Genealogy Network

Take a moment and look at the facebook page for the NextGen Genealogy Network.  Great new organization to promote family history with the next generation. 

I'm sure the group will be a great place to get news and ideas.  Some of the recent links include: Three Keys to Involving the Younger Generation in Genealogy by Scott Phillips  and Stanford Magazine's History Detected by Theresa Johnston.  Lots to learn.  Together we'll figure out how to reorganize family history so that it is fun and attractive to the next generation. 

Friday, July 19, 2013

Another even easier summer project--Family History Tablecloth

I've been keeping the kids quite busy this summer with family history projects.  They have been trying out activities that might work in your family and some of them have turned out really great.  This one was particularly easy and really useful--our family history tablecloth. 

It has given us lots to talk about when we have dinner together.  You could do all sorts of twists on this.  I have a collection of letters from my grandfather-in-law to my grandmother-in-law that I'm going to swap out in this tablecloth later.  The family dinner table is such a center to the home.  I find myself looking at it all day long.  What would work for a project like this in your home?  Let me know or send me a picture.  I can't wait to see how yours turns out. 

Subscribe to our YouTube channel at and you'll know when we have the next video done.  We're cooking up all sorts of good ideas.  Can't wait to show you.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Magnetic Family Tree Puzzle--An Easy Project To Do Together

My daughter and I have been working on some fun family history projects together.  Hopefully you already saw the 4th of July decorating we did together.  We've been working on some other YouTube videos to give you some activities that you can do with your children too. 

Take a look at how easy it is.  Send me a picture if you try it ok?

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

How To Archive Family Keepsakes--Digital Wills

So I wrote a blog post over on The Chart Chick about my good friend Denise May Levenick's book How To Archive Family Keepsakes.  It is a really great book and I would highly recommend it for anyone who is concerned about protecting their family treasures for future generations.  But I also want to tell you about a particular chapter here that has to do with specifically making sure that your family information is organized and ready for your children and grandchildren, nieces and nephews.  It is chapter 5 "Organize for the Future."

In this chapter she gives you step by step instructions for planning your legacy.  And she has a wonderful form for creating a digital will.  Have you ever wondered what will happen to your online assets should something happen to you?  Who will know the passwords and who will take care of the pictures, blogs, genealogy information etc that you have out on the web?  This form will help you get that all organized. 

I love how Denise has written about standing back and really thinking about the theory behind how you are treating your family treasures.  She is very forward thinking in having you plan out what your goals are and what the future of these items will be.  Check out the book at Denise's website The Family Curator and read about all of the other suggestions she has for making sure your family gets to enjoy all of the treasures of their past. 

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Independence Day decorating with Family History.

So I've found some new activities to do with my daughter.  She enjoys crafts and she was willing to put some 4th of July decorations together for the house with me.  We decided to give them a family history twist, and we both learned more about our past through the process.  I got to find out a little more about my father-in-law's navy service, and my daughter learned more about her ancestors who immigrated to the United States.

She was a good enough sport to help me with making a YouTube video about it. 

I'm obviously not a professional video producer but I have some other YouTube videos planned for this summer.  1) I think sometimes it is easier to show you things through a video, and I think it is easier to digest the information that way.  And 2) my daughter and I had a great time making it. 
You can follow them on my YouTube channel.

Let me know if any of these ideas work in your family.  I love hearing from you about what you have been doing. 

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Great ideas from SCGS--Secrets and Scoundrels

Sometimes the synergy when you get a bunch of genealogists together brings up great new ideas that you hadn't thought of.  That's why I love genealogy conferences so much.  A couple of weeks ago we got to attend the Southern California Genealogical Society Conference where they put on a great event. 

I came across a few brilliant ideas for getting youth involved in family history from some equally brilliant people and they agreed that I could share them with you here. 

First, Elyse Doerflinger told me what got her involved in genealogy.  I love Elyse because she is so passionate about family history.  Her YouTube channel has some great ideas.   You can see her work at Elyse's Genealogy Blog

Elyse said that the best way to get youth involved in family history is to tell them that there is a family secret and that you won't tell them what it is.  Brilliant!  She says that is what happened to her and she had to research her family's past to find out what the secret was.  I know that works with lots of teenagers--tell them they can't do something and that's exactly what they will do. 

Then I had a great conversation with Kim Cotton.  She writes about family history at  She is an important part of the California genealogy scene and serves on the board of directors for the California Genealogical Society. 

We talked again about Kim's idea we discussed at RootsTech.  She has found great traction with her nephews by telling them about the scandals and scoundrels in the family history.  She thinks she may have connected back to Pancho Villa.  She said every time she sees them, they want to hear more about what she has been researching now.  It's all in how you tell the story, and if you know Kim, she can tell a good story. 

Elyse and Michael Melendez were in the back of my lecture on genealogy societies.  As we were answering questions at the end, someone asked about youth and societies.  When I answered the question and asserted that youth today need the connections that family history brings more than ever because they are so "disconnected" on social media all the time, I was happy when they both agreed.  I really think the upcoming generation is reaching for real live connections more than any generation ever has because social networking has so disconnected them from reality.

And finally, there was a lady in my demo about the books who made a great suggestion about antique quilts.  I told the group about my grandmother's quilt that I inherited and how that felt like a bullet proof vest to me.  A lady raised her hand (I'm sorry I didn't catch her name) and suggested that I create a fabric transfer of a picture of my grandmother, and another of the story of the quilt and baste them onto the back of the quilt.  Brilliant again!  That way future generations will understand the importance of the quilt and where it came from.  It is always good to keep an artifact and the story as connected as possible going into the next generations.  This is a great way to make sure the quilt is treasured in generations to come. 

So there you go.  Lots of great ideas.  If you have one, I'd love to hear it and be able to share it here with others who are trying to strengthen their families.  Email me at janet<at>

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Deseret Book and the Deseret News and 30% off

We've gotten alot of recognition here in Utah lately and that can save you some money today and tomorrow.

First, Danica Baird wrote an article for the Deseret News based on the book.  You can see the article here.  It also showed up in the paper:

It was great to have Danica's take on the ideas in the book and we appreciate the Deseret News helping to spread the word about the books. 

Then, last weekend, I took a look and the books have been added to the shelves at the Deseret Book stores.  Yes--I had to take a picture.     If you need more copies of the book, or haven't got one yet, or even if you have the book but haven't gotten the workbook, you need to take a look at  They have a 30% off one item sale going on until tomorrow.  Just enter the code ENDS623 at checkout.  Enjoy!