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

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

E-Book Sale Ends Today

It's the last day of 2014, can you believe it? I don't know about you, but this year flew by for me.  Time is funny that way. But as it is, I am happy to mark 2014 in my books as an author again. It was a real labor of love to add three new workbooks to my Zap the Grandma Gap collection. And then taking my entire series into the digital, e-book age was an exciting step. I really am pleased to be able to offer more workbooks, covering a wider variety of family heritages, all while trying to do it in a way that suits as many folks' preferences as possible. I really hope it will help families strengthen their relationships with each other and their ties to the past.

That said, as we close the books on 2014, we also close the books on our final sale of the year. If you didn't get a chance to take advantage of our hardcopy/e-book sale for Holiday gifts, I hope you'll do so now as a "year-end personal bonus" for yourself or a family member. The sale was designed with building your "family history and children" toolbox in mind, and is best utilized to "stock the garrison," so to speak. In other words, the more books you buy, the better deal you'll receive.

As a quick reminder the sale is as follows:
  1. Purchase a hard copy of any of my books or workbooks and receive the e-book of that same book for only $1.
  2. Purchase 5 or more e-books and receive 50% off your entire e-book order. 
For complete details on how it works, be sure to check out the original sale post, over on The Chart Chick. But do hurry because the sale ends today, December 31. 2014.

As we head into 2015, I want to wish you and your family the very best of New Years. We, at Family ChartMasters, count ourselves quite lucky to get to work with each of you and are truly grateful for your support. We hope for you and your family to have a wonderful, healthy, and safe new year of family memory making and memory discovering. Happy New Year's, everyone!

Monday, December 8, 2014

Our Family Heritage Christmas Tree

Take a look at this video that my daughter put together of us decorating our Heritage Christmas tree. This is such a wonderful way to remember and honor your ancestors during the holiday season.  Rachel shows you step-by-step how to make the various ornaments and then pull your tree together.  She even finished it off with an heirloom tree skirt.  And best of all--she wanted it in her room this year!  Score.  Hopefully those ancestors are encircling her with all that love and hope that I want for her.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Paper Dolls Now Available

Some fun parts of my Zap the Grandma Gap Workbooks to pull together are always the paper dolls. Maybe it's because it brings back memories of days past when paper dolls were all the rage, or maybe because I just love seeing all of the heritages in costumed display. I love them. And now, you can order the paper dolls for hours of fun story telling and play.

We passed these out at Rootstech last year and they were a huge hit.  People loved having an extra set of dolls ready to go.  The dolls, and their costumes, come to you on a 42" x 9" sheet, ready for coloring and cutting. Each sheet comes with the paper doll family and their personal heritage costumes. I have the paper dolls from each of my Zap the Grandma Gaps Activity Books (British, German, Swedish, Civil War, Jewish, Pioneer, and Mormon) and they are designed to go right along with my free clothing downloads available here. Our free clothing downloads include a set of modern clothes and a set of super clothes.

The dolls and their clothes are $2.50 per page. This is a great deal, especially if you have lots of grandchildren or great-grandchildren to remember this year. To avoid rush shipping, be sure to place your order by December 12, 2014, for both Chanukah and Christmas delivery. If you don't mind higher shipping charges, you have until December 17, 2014 to get your order in to us.

These really do make fabulous gifts that allow for creative play and lots of storytelling opportunities at an extremely reasonable price. As you color and cut out the dolls, you can talk with your children or grandchildren about family stories of ancestors from each culture and particulars about their daily lives. It's a fun and positive way for you to share your family ancestry with the special young ones in your life. Not to mention bringing back memories of your own childhood activities too.

Order today to ensure Chanukah or Christmas delivery in time! It'll be sure to add a special dimension and bonding moment to your family holiday celebrations.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Making Your Holidays More Meaningful

Just before Thanksgiving, over on The Chart Chick, I blogged about some creative, holiday decorating ideas that incorporate family history. I am very proud to say that I followed through on my desire to accomplish one of the ideas for my own Thanksgiving dinner and the results were amazing! Take a look at my pictures. It was really awesome to have our ancestors there at the dinner table with us.  It sparked several conversations about specific ancestors and it made us all feel a lot more thankfulness for everyone who had come before.  I think it was really beautiful too.  So we have a new holiday tradition at our house.

I put the pictures together digitally and then printed the whole thing on vinyl.  It was was really durable--even when we spilled food on it.  While that is a little outside of the norm for us, we can still do one for you, of course, if you like what you see.  Send me an email or give me a call (801-472-1091) and we can talk about the particulars of how to put your table runner together. Another option for you is something Rachel and I pulled together a couple of summers ago. You can check out the original blog post and YouTube tutorial here. Either way, I can't recommend this idea enough. It made a huge impact on our family now to share a meal with our ancestors from the past.

So this idea of decorating for the holidays with your family history got me to thinking about all the ways we could make this holiday season more meaningful. Like you, I've thought thought about what makes for a "Good Christmas Morning" or "Perfect Chanukah Gift." It isn't stuff. I know we all know this, but do we really know it? So I'm issuing a challenge to all of you (and myself) this December. Let's think of ways to really make this holiday season a meaningful one. One that, when our children and grandchildren look back, they won't remember what they got (because let's face it, they won't) but rather what they felt.

So let's talk about some ways to do that. Here's a ready to go list for you, for easy reference and personal application.  You can thank me later. ;)

  • Decorate Your Home With Memories - Take a look at my Thanksgiving Decor blog post. It's jam packed with ideas that will work for your Christmas or Chanukah celebration as well. Not to mention easy-peasy, meaningful gifts. Or better yet, center your decorations around a custom made, decorative chart. You still have time for your domestic orders to make it in time for Christmas and Chanukah! Contact us today!
  • Heartfelt Chanukah In 8 Steps - I love this article from Simple Kids. Robin, the author of this particular article, has got it right on with this! What amazing parenting advice for a meaningful, quiet remembrance of this miraculous holiday. She's even given links to help you plan your own tender moments with your family. She also offers advice on how she helps her children to understand and support their friends who celebrate Christmas, while still giving them the confidence and security of embracing their own holiday and traditions. She also gets to the heart of the whole aspect of teaching your children, through traditions, why certain aspects of Chanukah exist and how that affects them. Her words and perspectives are beautiful. What a great mom!
  • Christmas Advent Activities - So this idea may be just a little late in the game (December came fast this year!), but it's worth jumping on now, while we still can. Maybe you remember those little cardboard Advent calendars from your youth with foil wrapped chocolates, or perhaps your family lit an advent wreath, or maybe you made a paper chain at school and relished in tearing off a link each day. In whatever fashion you know an advent calendar, Thomas over at Geneabloggers has a wealth of family history themed advent ideas. In fact, I have even seen tweets already of people clamoring for his collection of genealogy themed advents. Go ahead and take a look and see what ideas tickle your family's fancy. The children will love the countdown and you will love infusing your personal family narrative into the tradition. That will last longer than any foil wrapped chocolate ever could, I promise!
  • Keep An Old Tradition - Talk to your children and find out what they think your holiday traditions are.  A few years ago, one of my employees and her husband were surprised to discover that their children considered dinner at their family's favorite restaurant in Salt Lake City and new pajama's on Christmas Eve to be "their family tradition." At the time it was something her family had only done once or twice, but the children identified it as what their family did on Christmas Eve. She and her husband didn't question it and decided that from then on, if the children felt it was a tradition, then it was. Over a decade later, they still celebrate Christmas Eve the same way.
  • Storytelling - Dig back into your memory and pull forward everything you've ever heard about how your ancestors celebrated the holidays and share it! It's fascinating to learn how things used to be and I can promise your children will absolutely appreciate their holiday now when they learn about how holidays then used to go. There is a little bit of thankfulness involved there when kids see things as they used to be. Not to mention how curious your children may become once you start talking about how meals were prepared or gifts were made. They may even want to tackle some of those things themselves--which would be a parenting touchdown for you!
  • Service - This time of year, we're all more tender hearted and aware of those who are having a harder time than we are. Opportunities to serve are endless and it seems like charities come out of the woodwork. Decide as a family on a particular charity or service project you identify with and go for it with gusto. It could be a gift tree at your local super store, Toys for Tots, Project Linus, Little Dresses for Africa, or any of your local charities. Children's hospitals are a great place to start, if you are looking for something really hands on to do with your family (meaning: your children actually see the impact of their service). One of my employees still remembers the gratitude she felt for families that came and served dinner at the Ronald McDonald House when her son was hospitalized for a week after an emergency surgery. While the businesses that ordered in pizzas were appreciated, it meant the most to her to say thank you to teenagers who had spent the day making fajitas or lasagnas with their parents. This is the easiest time of year to get your children and grandchildren invested in helping others. Start small and watch them catch fire--because they will. Service is contagious!
Hopefully this will get your gears turning on how you and your family can come together in different ways to create a more memorable and meaningful holiday season.  Televisions and Barbies only hold our attention for so long before they are just another everyday thing. But memories will light our minds for years to come--and they will be passed on for generations in future story telling. So when you get overwhelmed with your holiday to-do list, slow down and think about what really matters and what will really last. Make this holiday season one that will draw your family together and strengthen your relationships for the long haul.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

My Mormon Ancestor Activity Book

We're so excited to show off some more details about our new books.  Today we are going to focus on the "My Mormon Ancestor" Activity Book.

First I have to give another big thank you to my sister Amy Slade for her help with this book.  Also, many more great thanks to Erin Roudabush, Michelle Phillips and Christine Fazulyanov for their assistance in making this book happen.

With the “My Mormon Ancestor Activity Book” you can:
· Plan an Ancestor Family Home Evening
· Learn about Priesthood Line of Authority and how to trace it
· Find the Patriarchal Blessings of your ancestors
· Complete a temple dot-to-dot
· Document the church service and callings of your ancestors
· Gather information on your family’s missionaries
· Record information about the first LDS members of your family
· Make a handkerchief doll for church
Look at some of these pages:

These books make wonderful gifts for the holidays. Take advantage of the pre-release sale, 20% off all books at, till November 30, 2014 and they will arrive in time for Christmas. Other great online and print resources to help families connect to each other by connecting to their past can be found at

Monday, November 24, 2014

My Pioneer Ancestor Activity Book

We're so excited to show off some details about our new books.  Today we are going to focus on the "My Pioneer Ancestor" Activity Book.

First I have to give a big thank you to my sister Amy Slade (who just had a baby!) for her help with this book.  Also great thanks to Erin Roudabush, Michelle Phillips and Christine Fazulyanov for their assistance in making this book happen.

With the “My Pioneer Ancestor Activity Book” you can:
 ·Map out the pioneer route of your ancestors
· Decide what you would pack for a journey across the plains
· Learn how to find direction by the sun
· Compare your day to the day in the life of your ancestor
· Try classic pioneer recipes
· Write a Pony Express letter to a pioneer ancestor
· Play a game about the risks along the trail
· Contrast pioneer schools and modern schools
Look at some of these pages: 

This book will arrive in time for Christmas gift giving if you order now. Take advantage of the pre-release sale, 20% off all books at, until November 30, 2014. Excerpts from all of the books can be viewed on the website at Other great online and print resources can be found at
to help families connect to each other by connecting to their past.

This post crossposted to I don't usually crosspost, but we are so excited about these new books!

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

My Jewish Ancestor

We're so excited to show off some details about our new books.  Today we are going to focus on the "My Jewish Ancestor" Activity Book.

First I have to give a big thank you to Schelly Talalay Dardashti, Daniel Horowitz, and Tammy Hepps for their feedback.  All three were so generous with their time and help and the book is much better because of their contributions.  I am indebted and in awe of their genealogy expertise. 

You can take a look at the entire Table of Contents in our preview on the Zap The Grandma Gap website. 

With the “My Jewish Ancestor Activity Book” you can:
· Learn about Jewish history, traditions and culture
· Make and braid Challah bread with your family
· Solve a Jewish calendar crossword puzzle
· Record your family’s recipe for Charoset
· Find your family’s place in the Diaspora
· Learn the Hebrew alphabet
· Complete a genealogy word search
· Enjoy a Yiddish folktale and Nasrudin stories
· Color, cut out and tell stories with Jewish ancestor paper dolls
· Explore many other activities about your family’s history

Look at some of these pages:

This book will arrive in time for Chanukah gift giving if you order now. Take advantage of the pre-release sale, 20% off all books at, until November 30, 2014. Excerpts from all of the books can be viewed on the website at Other great online and print resources can be found at
to help families connect to each other by connecting to their past.

This post crossposted to

Friday, November 14, 2014

Three New "My Ancestor Activity Books"

Just in time for the holiday season, I've got some new Zap the Grandma Gap Activity Books coming your way! I am so excited to announce three new books for you to share and give to the children in your lives. I have created workbooks for the following heritages:
  • With the “My Jewish Ancestor Activity Book” you can:
    · Learn about Jewish history, traditions and culture
    · Make and braid Challah bread with your family
    · Solve a Jewish calendar crossword puzzle
    · Record your family’s recipe for Charosets
    · Find your family’s place in the Diaspora
    · Learn the Hebrew Alphabet
    · Complete a genealogy word search
    · Enjoy a Yiddish folktale and a Nasrudin stories
    · Color, cut out and tell stories with Jewish Ancestor paper dolls
  • With the “My Mormon Ancestor Activity Book” you can:
    · Plan an Ancestor Family Home Evening
    · Learn about Priesthood Line of Authority and how to trace it
    · Find the Patriarchal Blessings of your ancestors
    · Complete a temple dot-to-dot
    · Document the church service and callings of your ancestors
    · Gather information on your family’s missionaries
    · Record information about the first LDS members of your family
    · Make a handkerchief doll for church
  • With the “My Pioneer Ancestor Activity Book” you can:
    · Map out the pioneer route of your ancestors
    · Decide what you would pack for a journey across the plains
    · Learn how to find direction by the sun
    · Compare your day to the day in the life of your ancestor
    · Try classic pioneer recipes
    · Write a Pony Express letter to a pioneer ancestor
    · Play a game about the risks along the trail
    · Contrast pioneer schools and modern schools
 These workbooks books offer a variety of fun and engaging activities to introduce your children and grandchildren to different aspects of their personal heritage.  We've included activities like mazes, recipes, dot-to-dot, and our always popular paper dolls.  Science has shown us how valuable it is for our children to have a sense of self (academically and emotionally) and these books are a fantastic to way to introduce your children to family history in an easy, interactive, and fun way.
As a bonus for you, we are having a pre-order sale.   
This sale includes all of my previous Zap the Grandma Gap books and workbooks, as well.  The books will be shipping in December--perfect for gift giving.  These books make wonderful gifts for children and adults.  Order by the deadline to take advantage of this fantastic sale.

Watch the blog next week for in-depth previews of each new workbook.  And take a look at my previous books here.  I'd love to help you bring some genealogy into the lives of your young ones this holiday season.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Traditions of Gratitude

It's that time of year.  The chill has finally settled in my part of the country and I think it might actually stay this time.  The vibrant colors of the foliage on the mountains and in the valley has been replaced with a dusting of snow and a crunching of crackly leaves under my feet.  Frost settles each morning over the landscape and my heart warms up just a hitch.  Not because of the cold but because of the season.  November has arrived, and with it, a resolve to not get lost in the glitzy and gaudy displays of commercial Christmas that has already invaded every inch of every store I walk into these past few days.  I love Christmas, don't get me wrong.  But I can't help but feel we're doing ourselves a great disservice if we rush right into it without pausing to embrace Thanksgiving first.  And so, I am making it a sticking point around here for the next few weeks to really focus on thinking and talking about Thanksgiving.  And the first point I'd like to discuss has to do with traditions.

What are your traditions when this time of year comes?  We all have some, even if we don't realize they are traditions.  Sometimes we just think, "Well, that's just what you do this time of year."  But have you paused to ask your family what "traditions" they remember from growing up, or that they look forward to each year, when it comes to Thanksgiving?  It's easy to pin point Christmas or Hanukkah traditions, but what (besides turkey and football) do you and your family do for Thanksgiving?

In doing some preparation for one of my upcoming Rootstech presentations, I have been doing a lot of reading about the science behind family history and family narratives.  There is a great deal of power behind both.  One of the sources I am studying is The Secrets of Happy Families by Bruce Feiler.  It's a really fascinating read but one section really caught my eye recently as I reread a section and it talked about the author's experience with Emory Psychology professor, Marshall Duke.  The author had a chance to gather with Duke's family for a Shabbat dinner, one Friday evening, to discuss the power of family narratives.  Duke discussed the work that he and colleague Robyn Fivush have spent a great portion of their careers in studying children's resilience.  They have pioneered the field and determined that those children, and later adults, who are the most balanced and resilient in their lives are those who have a strong "intergenerational self."  In other words, they know they belong to something bigger than themselves (their families).  They know this because of involvement in family narratives and personal family history.  Narratives are huge and it turns out that Grandma's are key in the passing on of narratives.  Go figure, right?

Back to the Shabbat dinner Feiler spent with Duke's family, though.  Dinner time is key in the Duke home to the sharing of narratives but Duke insisted that traditions and narratives can be shared any time, not just at dinner.  But seeing as how it was a meal time, Feiler decided to ask Duke's children about their favorite traditions and narratives.  The Thanksgiving tradition stuck out the most to Feiler --it's hilarious!  It appears, in the Duke family, that Thanksgiving is a four day extravaganza of obscure and downright odd traditions.  It all kicks off the Tuesday before Thanksgiving when the family eats turkey sandwiches for dinner.  Then on Wednesday, they all eat spaghetti for dinner and paint mustaches on each other.  On Thursday they hide cans of pumpkin sauce, bags of green beans, and a frozen Turkey so the family can all "hunt" for their food like the Pilgrims.  Finally on Friday, they eat their Thanksgiving meal as a family.  And if all of that isn't quirky enough, the family has color coded teams and they compete all weekend long for points.  The winning team claims a plastic duck.  The Dukes have been doing this for over thirty years and no one really had a specific reason for why any of those traditions started or carried through.  They just did it that way one time and it all stuck.  And not just the traditions, as odd as they may seem to some (okay, me), but the memories attached to them.  The traditions just "become part of your family," Duke said.  And it's what the Duke children loved telling Feiler about.  It's what made their family theirs.  

And so it is.  Something silly or obscure happens and it's what sticks.  And before you know it, you don't know why or how, but it is your family's and this time of year just wouldn't be the same without it.  We've all got something right?  Specific recipes that have to be on the Thanksgiving table.  Watching the parade in the morning.  Special china and crystal used for the meal.  In my family it is open faced turkey sandwiches with cheese melted all over them the day after.  Sharing our thoughts of gratitude while gathered around the table or a prayer of thanksgiving while we hold hands.  Or painting on mustaches and competing for a plastic duck.  Each family has something unique that makes their Thanksgiving only theirs.  What can you pin down as something you do each year that makes Thanksgiving yours?  And how do your children and grandchildren play into that?  Do they even know that it is a tradition for your family?  If not, can you find a way this year to instill in them that what you do as a family, you do for a reason?  Can this be the year that you make a point of being the bridge from your family's past to your family's future by sharing, teaching, and encouraging the continuation of traditions?

It's easier than we think because it all starts with a conversation.  A few questions like "Do you know why I make the cranberry sauce from scratch each year?" or "Do you know why we use the china each year for our Thanksgiving meal?"  You may be surprised to know that your children and grandchildren already know.  But you may also find an amazing opportunity to share a story or experience that will have lasting impact.  The more our children and grandchildren know about their family and their history, the stronger they will be and the more likely they will be to pass along the narrative.  If you show that it matters to you, it will matter to your posterity.  So as we approach the weekend of feasting and frenetic sale shopping, I'd like to challenge you to take a moment and think of ways that you can single out and record (in a journal or in pictures) traditions for future recollection.  And I'd also like to challenge you to include the youth in your family in the execution of these traditions.  (If they feel like they own a part of it, they will be more likely to continue it in the future.)  And then sit back and watch them fly.  They may have a twist on a given tradition that you never thought of that actually makes it better.  Share the opportunities in your family and watch something amazing happen--the linking of generations and the strengthening of familial bonds.  You'll be grateful for that much more this year if you do.

Source: The Secrets of Happy Families: Improve Your Mornings, Rethink Family Dinner, Fight Smarter, Go Out and Play, and Much More by Bruce Feiler (pgs 40-43),  HarperCollins copyright 2013

Thursday, October 23, 2014

The Joy of Rediscovering Everyday Memories

Over on The Chart Chick, I have been dissecting The Ancestor Effect research study done in 2010.  It's been a powerful experience to see documented, scientific proof that backs up what we in the genealogy community have always known: Family History Benefits Us and Our Youth.  I'd love for you to look over the articles if you haven't had a chance to yet.

I found an interesting article called "The Unexpected Joy of Rediscovering the Ordinary" back in September, when I was in the depths of studying and deciphering the impact of this study, that I realized inadvertently coincides with the research done on The Ancestor Effect.  Particularly the final portion of the study that looked at whether or not negative familial memories had adverse effects on the test subjects, as opposed to positive familial memories.  Interestingly enough, it turns out that the academic and personal benefit of thinking of our ancestors is the same whether we have good memories/associations or bad memories/associations.  It seems counter-intuitive but the science has spoken.

So the article I mentioned was from the Boston Globe and the story originated from a study published in the Harvard journal Psychological Science (the link in the article is broken, so this is the best reference I can give you... sorry!) about how everyday memories are surprisingly just as powerful as the "big moments" of life, in retrospect.  The study came about when Harvard graduate student Ting Zhang was scrolling through pictures on her phone and realized that most of the things she had captured were birthdays, holidays, big events, and so forth.  Then, occasionally, she'd stumble on an inconspicuous, everyday moment and she realized she felt a sudden rush of joy from being reminded of how she felt in that moment that she had decided to take the picture.  An idea was born and she and her colleagues devised a series of experiments that would allow her to see if her feelings were unique or if others might have the same experiences in the same situation.  (In fact, her dissertation is on the psychology of rediscovery.  How cool is that?)

In one study, the researchers had asked undergraduates to create a "time capsule," to be reviewed after a summer, of seemingly ordinary events that they were asked to write about (i.e. three songs they just listened to, the last party they just attended, the most recent conversation they had, etc.) and then to rate how interested they thought they would be to be reminded of these things later.  Three months later, when the "time capsules" were reviewed, it turns out that the undergraduates were actually more interested and excited to review the responses they had given than they had previously estimated.

In a second study, the researchers decided to compare an everyday memory and its personal effect with a holiday memory and it's effect.  A week before Valentine's Day, the test subjects were asked to write down a recent experience with their romantic partner.  Then, the day after Valentin's Day, the test subjects were asked to write down their Valentine's experience with their romantic partner.  They were asked to rate how they perceived each event.  Upon review later, even though test subjects consistently rated their Valentine's Day as more "extraordinary," it was revealed that reviewing the "ordinary" event brought just as much joy as the originally perceived "special" memory.  Take that overpriced roses and waxy chocolates!

Finally, another experiment was based on giving the test subjects the option of writing down a  few notes about a recent conversation they had had with someone or watching a short, funny video clip.  Most people voted to watch the video clip.  Regardless of what they chose though, the researchers then asked all the test subjects to do both items and then rated how interested they think they would be to remember the events a few months down the road.  Sure enough, nobody thought they'd care all that much about either event, but particularly about rereading what they wrote and, sure enough, the test subjects all discovered that they undervalued their interest greatly.  Pretty interesting, right?

So ultimately, it turns out that the researchers discovered that people ended up valuing their ordinary experiences much more than they originally expected they would.  In fact, as a result, many test subjects then went out and bought journals and reported recording their daily events more often.  Hmmm, I think I have talked about journals before, haven't I?  But in relation to The Ancestor Effect study, I think this has crossover merit there as well.  We, as a population, are intuitively led to believe that to have an interest in our families and their histories, the memories have to be positive or unique and grand.  We seem to believe that to receive a benefit from knowing about past events, the events have to be something amazing or profound.  But it turns out that every day and ordinary is just as powerful to us as big and grand.

The same thing happens when I look at pictures of my childhood with my family.  We all say, "I remember that wallpaper."  Or "That was such a funky clock we had in the kitchen."  rather than focusing on the birthday picture, or whatever else the subject actually was.  I watch that when Kim's family shows their old slides too.  I remember cropping pictures when I first did some scrapbooking years ago and starting to realize that I was losing some fantastic memories by cropping out the background.  Often the little details bring back so much.

Does that change your perspective any on how you approach your own family history and what you are preserving now?  You never know what someone might value in the future.

Does it make you want to take a different track when introducing family history to your children and grandchildren?  I will admit, I really think it's something to give a person pause.

It would seem that the garden doesn't have to be blooming prize roses for us to gain a happy perspective.  In fact, it turns out a few daisies are just as effective.  The crossover of the actual science behind family history and record keeping and how those things effect us, in the short and long term, is so fascinating.  The more studies I come across in my researching the more I realize how everyone is coming to the same conclusion scientifically: Family History Benefits Us and Our Youth.  Knowing small and simple facts about our family, good or bad, and recording small and simple events, good or bad, help us and make us happy down the road.  In the short term and the long term.  How awesome is that?  Very much so, I think!

Monday, October 6, 2014

#MeetMyGrandma and Why It Matters

Recently, FamilySearch launched a campaign titled #MeetMyGrandma.  The goal was for youth to gather stories from or about their grandparents and then enter those stories in their family tree on FamilySearch.  The campaign officially ran from September 20th to September 30th.  Family Search set the goal of gathering 10,000 stories in 10 days.  As of October 5th, the counter on the website states "15,075 Stories and still counting..."  That is impressive.

This was more than just a slick campaign to encourage young people to gather stories and use the FamilySearch website.  FamilySearch launched an app to help with the process and offered up 20 questions to help get the conversation rolling.  Apparently one young person discovered that Grandma loved skydiving.  Say what?!  But how would that ever come up in conversation, if you think about it, without a pointed conversation were a young person specifically asks a grandparent to express his or her interests?  I'm not sure about you but I don't think my grandma would be the type to sit around the dinner table and randomly say, "That reminds me of the time I went skydiving."  Maybe if I had a grandma who was the type to go skydiving she would say that?  Hard to imagine in my family..

The ultimate goal of the campaign was to involve youth in gathering precious family stories and facts "before it's too late," either from their grandparents directly or from someone else with first hand knowledge of their grandparents.  And then, of course, to document those facts and stories.  Besides the fact that we're all family historians here, why does this matter?  Well, as it so happens, I've been sharing research over on The Chart Chick that is scientifically proving how effective ancestor salience (the act of being immersed in an ancestor's life) is in benefitting a person's life.  The study I am discussing right now, The Ancestor Effect, specifically tested the impact of just thinking about an ancestor.  Part III of the series actually looks at how it isn't thinking about people in general (even people you love and care for deeply) that affects a person's sense of personal control and ability, but rather thinking about ancestors specifically that does that.  It turns out that knowing something (anything) about an ancestor, near or far, has a profound effect on personal expectations and intellectual ability.  Please be sure to also look at Part I and Part II of the study in order to see the benefits of focusing on our ancestors.  It makes a profound impact on our youth, intellectually and emotionally.

So, in the end, there are many more positives to the #MeetMyGrandma campaign than simply recording family stories.  It has the power to give our children and grandchildren a better sense of personal control (internal locus of control), self-esteem, and intellectual capabilities.  Knowing and sharing family stories is a way to arm our youth with positive and effective tools that allow them to succeed in their personal, academic, and eventually, professional endeavors.  I keep calling it a "genetic superpower" because there is no better way to think of it.  Sharing family stories and family history with our youth empowers them and strengthens them in a way that insures their personal success.  And now, we have the science to back us up when we tell them how important it is for them to engage with us in our family history! :)

*Original story on the #MeetMyGrandma campaign:

Thursday, September 25, 2014

New Arrival!

Look at this cutie!  My sister Amy, who helped me to write my Zap the Grandma Gap Workbooks, just had her first baby.  Harrison Brent Slade was born this week and we are all smitten.  Congratulations to my sister and her husband!  As a cute side note, my brother-in-law Colin, is a huge Star Wars fan.  So, can anyone guess where my sweet nephew's name originated from?  The proud parents have decided his nickname will most likely be either Han or Indy.  I think that is pretty cool.  And of course, my teenage boys are over the moon.

Amy was my right-hand person on my first set of workbooks.  I'm working on new workbooks this Fall, hoping to have them hot off the presses for the holiday season; but, something tells me Amy is going to be a little preoccupied this go around.  Well, I certainly can't blame her.  Just look at that face!

Welcome to the world, Harrison!  We're so excited to meet you.

Friday, September 19, 2014

What Would 365 Days Say?

Everyone has a "bucket list," right?  Some of us have them written down, some of us have an entire Pinterest board devoted to it, and some of us just carry the ideas or dreams around in our hearts hoping to check them off one day.  It's always interesting to hear the types of things people place on their bucket lists.  Just sticking to family related items, I have heard everything from "I want to travel to Norway and stand amongst the fjords where my ancestors stood" to "I am going to compile a complete Book of Remembrance of my life to pass on to my children" to "I want to find my birth parents someday."  All very different but all very personal and intense.  Those are all things that would probably better someone's life experience a bit more than "I want to go sky-diving."  Not that I am knocking extreme sports or anything.  But in the grand scheme of life, the more permanent stuff just feels worth pursuing, doesn't it?

So, before I wax too philosophical about our life journey to-do lists, I came across a task not too long ago that really got me thinking.  It doesn't hurt the thought process to mention that I feel like the goal in and of itself would match up pretty well with some scientific studies I am currently researching about ancestor connections and the effect that has on our intelligence level (seriously, it's exciting stuff).  The "bucket list item" that has me pondering lately is this one.  Taking one picture everyday for a year.  Look, we live in a digital age.  We think nothing of snapping away with our cameras and phones these days.  We document everything from our shoes, to our post workout hair, to our breakfast, lunch, and dinner, to our children or pets, to our most recent manicure.  The age of the selfie, in every incarnation, is upon us.  So, how hard would this task actually be?  In fact, some of us may be doing it already without even realizing it.  Many of us are probably Tweeting and Instagramming away this challenge as I type this post up.  But then I wondered, if we took on this challenge in terms of detailing one year of our life and our actual, personal experiences... what would you take pictures of?  After 365 days, what could a future ancestor deduce about you?

I suppose I should explain how this connects to the scientific research I am studying right now to make this question carry a little more weight.  A particular study (that I am talking about here) asked young people to think about ancestors before performing in some cognitive testing.  But it wasn't just "Think about an ancestor."  The direction was to really envision the day to day life of an ancestor.  What kind of work did he or she do, were they married, did they have children, where did they live, etc.  So, in my recent musings, I tied that into this seemingly fun challenge.  If you had 365 chances to express who you are to someone who does not exist yet but who has a very vested interest in the outcome of your life, what snapshots would you document for him or her?  What would those screen caps of your life say about you?  Who are you?  And how can you help your future posterity with that specific knowledge?

Do you know what would make this exercise even better, though?  What if you challenged a child or a grandchild to do this with you?  You could even do it with a brother, sister, or a spouse.  The possibilities are endless.  My sister even did this with her husband when he was deployed in Qatar. You could swap pictures daily on various social media platforms like Facebook or Instagram, rather than waiting until the end of a year to swap pictures.  Would that alter the kinds of pictures you would take?  What about your grandchild?  Would that change how you perceive each other or what you learn about one another?  Wouldn't it bring you closer to each other?  In fact, I'd like to challenge you to try this with your own family and see what happens (and tell me about it!) over the course of the year.  What a great way to interact and grow closer to each other and if you utilize the technology your children and grandchildren use I know it will alter your relationship in the most fun and wonderful way.

So, leave it to me to take something like taking pictures and turn it into a moment to possibly change the entire course of a future child, grandchild, or great-great-great-granchild's life, but I believe the idea has huge merit.  I guess the real point is this: every day of our lives is a snapshot.  It's a still frame of who you are and what you are experiencing.  That has the power to change someone else's perspective and life.  So when we're all "in the trenches" and thinking what we wouldn't give for life to give us a brief cease fire from all the stress and chaos and perpetual motion, just remember this--you are shaping someone else's destiny by your everyday acts.  Consider them closely, document them, share them, and rejoice in them.  People will be feeling your ripple in the water for a very long time.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Cast Your Bread Upon The Waters

For you will find it after many days.  Come and listen to my real life experience with this, because it is all kinds of crazy awesome!

First, some back story.  Hovorka is of Czech descent, this much I know.  However, as far as Czech customs, not so much.  I married into that name, Kim's Great Grandparents came to Chicago from Czechoslovakia and Kim's uncle has taken that part of the family to do research on.  Over this last year or so as more Czech records have become available, I've gotten curious but it is still Kim's uncle's domain so I'm a bit rusty on the ins and outs of the deep roots in my husband's Hovorka history.  I really don't know much about the history even though I carry that name.  To quote Dickens, "This must be distinctly understood, or nothing wonderful can come of the story I am going to relate."

I have spent a great deal of time in pulling together my Zap the Grandma Gap Children's Activity Books for  British, German, Swedish, and Civil War ancestry.  I am also working on some for Jewish, Mormon, Pioneer, and Danish ancestry right now that we hope to have ready for Christmas.  But, I know so little about Czech ancestry and knew that was an undertaking I could probably never get to, as much as my heartstrings pulled me in that direction.  So, how should my bread return to me after the work I have set out for others?  The answer comes in the form of Texas.  More specifically the Texas Czech Genealogical Society.  That's right folks, I went to a genealogical conference and found help with my family's genealogy.  Why am I even surprised?

I was walking through the vendor hall at FGS in San Antonio when I saw their booth and stopped to see some books like mine but for Czech ancestry!!  Can you believe it?  I'm telling you, doors open in the most unexpected ways and places when you reach out and help others with their genealogy.  Again, no surprise, right?  Look what I found:
I was so excited!  This is just what I have been doing and to see it for Czech culture was so exciting and crazy and thrilling and it seriously made my day.  Of course I had to purchase these.  The likelihood of me ever being able to make Czech ancestry activity books is pretty minimal at the moment but seeing as how it's already done, I thought I would share it with you.  No point in re-inventing the wheel, after all.  Their website is currently under construction but I wanted to pass along their contact info just in case any of you, like me, are looking for something to incorporate your Czech ancestry into your family or holiday traditions.  You can reach them at 979-848-6517.

The activity books were actually compiled and written by Daniela Mahoney, Catherine Macaro, and Mary Jo Macaro and can be ordered directly from Daniela's website.  She also has lots of great Czech related products and books and I actually just ordered some more things for some Christmas presents (Shhh...Don't tell my kids.  I'm really sure they aren't reading Mom's blog so if one of you squeal, I'm going to know).  I am so excited to see someone doing this for Czech traditions and I have been quite giddy this morning flipping through the books I already have.  I can't wait to get the new ones I just ordered.

So in the end, the wonder of this story is this: keep doing what you are doing, even if you feel like you are making little progress with your own family.  What you send out always returns in the most unexpected of ways.  This experience has been such a reminder of that for me. 

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Now That You Might Have Some Free Time...

That was kind of a joke, actually.  However, with most schools back in session all across the US (if not now, very soon), many of us parents and grandparents tend to sigh a big sigh and think, "Now I can finally get back to my personal projects."  Just me?  I thought there might be a few others out there who are feeling the same as I am these days.  So, naturally, I hit up my trusty Pinterest account for some excellent go-to ideas that some folks might have a moment to tackle.  I am particularly fond of this one, which I happen to think would make a fabulous Christmas gift for a baby or toddler.  If you start now, you could probably have an over-the-top amazing version ready and wrapped before Halloween.  Hallelujah, anyone?

This adorable idea comes from and I have to say, I really love it.  The link will take you to the page where you can purchase the pattern to make yourself, if you choose.  However, a handy-dandy Google Search rendered an amazing amount of similar projects that had my intergenerational-linking-heart going pitter-patter!  You can see some amazing examples here, here, and here.  Or, just do a search for family picture quiet book and go from there.

I actually did something like this for my own children many a moon ago and seeing all of these great versions above got me searching through my own closets.  I had a moment of happy reminiscing as I flipped through these old books that my children toted to church and used so often.  As you can see by the pictures below, the apples on our family tree have long since been lost and the book was well loved.  When it comes time for me to be a grandma, I will be remaking new versions of these books and I will definitely be utilizing some of the fun ideas above, not to mention revisiting the originals shown below.

Well worn and well loved by my children.
We had apples that attached to the tree but I couldn't find them.
Something else that I did when my children were young was to pick up little dollar store flip-book photo albums and I just rotated out family pictures as I printed them.  Such a little thing but such a big impact for my children who loved seeing pictures of themselves, mom and dad, grandparents, aunts, uncles and so on.  It was such an easy thing to update and replicate with three little ones.  Little picture books can be very involved or very simple and the effect is the same--young children love seeing the people who love them.

This idea would make a really lovely gift or a fantastic surprise to tuck away in a diaper bag (sort of an ace in the pocket for a particularly rough moment).  More importantly though, it will show a young child or grandchild that he or she is part of something bigger.  Starting early, the security that comes from knowing that there are many people who love us and are invested in us has the power to set our personal "self-talk" in positive mode from the beginning.  That in an of itself is a pretty potent cure for future bumps in the road of life.  So, if you are looking for a way to plant the Family Tree Seed early in a loved one's life, I can't imagine a better starting point than baby's first family scrapbook.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Family History Benefits For Youth, Part 2

Last week we talked about the academic benefits of including family history research in your child or grandchild's extra-curricular activities or home school curriculum.  Hopefully you were able to see the adaptability of family history for course of studies as well as the short and long range academic benefits it can create for the youth in your life.  Today, I'd like to address the emotional benefits our youth receive from being involved in family history research.  They are far reaching and extremely powerful.  I have seen the benefits in my own family and also witnessed it in the families of countless others.  Family history work really is a Family Adhesive (the title of one of my Rootstech 2015 lectures).  With that as my preface, let's get going.

I discuss a great deal of this in my book and it is something, as I have said, that I have very personal experience with.  When your child or grandchild has an understanding of where he or she came from, it can and will completely change their present self-perception and the trajectory of their future.  I call this perspective in my book.  Learning about an ancestor and living conditions he or she faced helps a child understand where his grandfather's work ethic or her grandmother's tight financial management stems from (not uncommon traits for those who lived through the great depression).  Learning about those ancestors can place a missing puzzle piece in your child's understanding of the family dynamics.  It will bring compassion, sympathy, and even empathy for different traits--positive and negative--of your family dynamics.  As a result of that, your child can (with your help) become a transitional member for your family where negative behaviors may be discovered.  Understanding why certain family members behave certain ways due to their research and discovery of their ancestor's lives can alter your child's perspective for the positive.  You and your child can work together to break the chain of negative habits and thought processes if they exist by learning how they were developed in the first place.  Family history research will also reinforce positive generational traits for your child as well.  The idea of being able to accomplish something because "It's in my DNA" has a profound impact on the mental stability and emotional security for all of us, our children included.

We all, whether we realize or admit it or not, have a personal narrative that constantly runs in our heads.  We tend to fall into patterns and behaviors exhibited to us.  We develop our sense of self-esteem based on these life experiences and this becomes our constant, and very often unconscious, internal dialogue.  By understanding who we are descended from and the conditions those ancestors endured, we are better able to change our personal narrative.  Can you imagine how powerful that is for a child who lives in a world of "Once Upon A Times" and "Happily Ever Afters" to know that they have the power to change their own personal fairytale?  What about for teenagers who feel the constant pressure in today's social media savvy world of creating an appealing narrative for themselves?  Understanding where they came from is the key to our youth unlocking the gates of their personal story and slaying the dragons of their personal trials.  Studies have shown that greater knowledge and understanding of family history can create increased self-esteem and personal resilience.  Our youth gain a sense of being in the driver's seat when they are able to view the map of their history and they are more likely to make better choices for their journey ahead when armed with that knowledge.

In addition to all of this, doing family history work together adheres us to one another.  We feel a love and kinship for ancestors long since passed.  We feel a love and appreciation for each other while we work together to find information and process it together.  Your family history is yours.  No one else shares that with you or your children and grandchildren.  It belongs to you and to them only.  No one can take it from you and you cannot give it to someone else.  The bonding, emotional and physical, that that information and understanding create is profound.  When your children and grandchild go out into the world, knowing that their family understands them and has lived through the exact same experiences as them will bind them to you in ways nothing else can.  In the roughest moments, they will have a sense of belonging and security, knowing that they are part of something bigger than a difficult moment or a bad day.  The world is a tough place these days, but wrapping your children and grandchildren in the security blanket that is family history will not only bring warmth and comfort, it has the power to act as an armor when they face those personal dragons along the way.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Family History Benefits For Youth, Part 1

It's no secret to us that family history binds families together, both past and present.  I have had amazing and very cherished bonding moments with my children through doing family history research, recreating family memories, and watching them take on genealogy work for themselves.  I have to say, it is a rewarding experience to see your child, or grandchild, blossom as a result of family history.  I am currently researching the science behind how family history benefits youth, and as a result, I have been accepted to teach two seminars at Rootstech 2015 next year.  I am quite excited about it.  I also have an article that will be published soon in an upcoming issue of  In it, I discuss the benefits of doing family history work for youth, both academic and emotional.  With school starting up again, I thought now would be a great time to share some of the ideas that I have been studying with all of you in a two part blog series on the topic.  Today we'll talk about the academic benefits of family history and next week we'll discuss the emotional benefits.

Family history can help a student make a personal connection to a multitude of academic topics.  Naturally, studying about an ancestor who participated in an historical event creates a sense of reality for history studies, but genealogy envelops a multitude of academic topics.  Topics such as geography, language, social studies, science, religion, culture, art, music, food, etc, are all touched on in genealogy and by helping your child or grandchild become invested in your family's ancestry and history exposes them to each of these subjects.  You can connect almost any academic study to your family history if you take a moment to "think outside of the box" and consider how something might relate to your family directly.  

In addition, family history research involves logic, detective skills, library and research skills, writing and communication, spelling, typing, technology and computer skills.  Finding out about your family involves organization and the ability to sift and judge information based on its source--basic reasoning skills that our youth are so desperately in need of at this time.  So many youth today are conditioned to instant answers, without thinking past the idea of "googling" information, that is then often taken at face value.  Family history work will teach your child or grandchild to stop, pay attention, and reason out facts and sources.  It certainly has the power to hone their skills for those massive research papers and projects that occur in later grades and college.

Parents and grandparents often sacrifice a great deal in order to allow their children to excel in athletics, music, performing arts, and a variety of other extra-curricular activities, in addition to basic core subject studies.   Adding your family’s history to your child's arsenal of developed talents can be a rich experience that helps a child explore the world around them.  It helps your child to connect with the subjects he or she is already studying in a deeply personal way because it encompasses the events that have transpired to culminate in who that child is today.  It tells them about the people who came together to create the life they have now.  In short, it will add layers to your child's understanding and connection to his or her world.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Have You Seen This Yet?

It's completely official.  FamilyFun Magazine has declared it so.  August 9th is FamilyFun Day.  What does that mean?  Well, it's now "officially" a day for you to go and make some memories with your family.  Not that you needed anyone to make it official or anything, but hey, it's a great excuse to gather the tribe under the banner of "family fun."

So, as a result of the whole shebang, I thought I would give you a couple of quick ideas to get the brain going for an amazing Saturday.  There really will be no excuse now for you to not do something.  First and foremost, FamilyFun is running a contest along with this new holiday, so be sure to check out the details here.  $100 to publish a picture of your family having fun?  I'll sign up for that one!  Secondly, you can check out their Celebrate FamilyFun Day Pinterest Board for a slew of activity/craft ideas.  Or, if you'd like to make it more about extended family and packing a genealogy punch into the planned festivities, please check out my Youth and Genealogy Pinterest Board.  There are lots of great ideas for taking family time one step further and making it really count for the generations, past and present.

If all of that seems to be just too much, how about keeping it simple?  I am all for that.  Your Saturday can be easily spent doing really simple but fun activities that will foster conversation and bonding.  Pull out the board games for starters.  There is nothing like a little friendly competition in the spirit of fun to get the kids to engage with you on a hot Summer afternoon.  Can't get the phones and tablets out of their hands?  Did you know most classic board game apps actually have a feature where you can play against each other over WiFi?  I kid you not.  Check that out if you get a chance.  After some friendly game playing, you may have worked up some appetites.  Of course a cookout will always be a hit.  Even if it is just hotdogs--stuff just tastes better if it's been grilled.  I'm sure there is probably some scientific evidence to back me up here somewhere.  However, any kind of baking or cooking, generally speaking, is a great way to bond.  Let the kids just get in the kitchen with you and mix up a masterpiece.  Especially if it's a favorite family dish or one with family connections tied to it.  The memories will be far sweeter than any treat you actually make.  You could bundle up the freshly made treats and go visit a relative that you haven't seen in a while and interview him or her for personal records.  Or what about giving that old treasure hunt a try?  A bike ride, a walk in the park, a phone call to a distant grandparent (or Skype... even better!), build an indoor fort, make a craft, read a book... anything.  Just take some time to set aside the errands and yard work this Saturday and just be together as a family.  Do something that will make memories and then record those memories for future generations to look over.  Trust me, you'll be so glad you did.

(This is not a sponsored post.  I just thought it was a fun idea to share.)

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Taking the Pain Out of Journaling, Part 3

So, how are we feeling about this whole journaling project? Have you applied any of the tips I gave you last time?  I hope so, but if not, that is just fine.  I have a fresh new list of tips for you below.  Shall we get started?
  • Create a space specifically for recording personal events. If you build it, you will come. Well, something like that. The point is, find a place where you could conceivably set up shop and then make it special. Stock it with specifically chosen journals and pens. Make sure you have appropriate lighting, space, and outlets to plug in digital recording devices. A comfortable chair is critical as well. Consider ordering one of our decorative charts to hang in that space to remind you of why you're doing this: to link your generations together through stories and experiences. Above all, make it yours. (Maybe the youth in the family will take advantage of your special place and do a little journaling too.)
  • Think outside the box. It isn't always about a dictation of events. Sometimes journaling is simply finding and recording connections in any way that works. My Zap the Grandma Gap Ancestor Activity Books are a great way to help your children or grandchildren (and yourself) record personal family details without overthinking the process. I have all sorts of activities to help make discovering and recording personal family history unique and fun. 
  • Experiment with format. Give yourself different challenges for each time you journal. Maybe you'll give yourself a "One Word Sentence" challenge where you can only describe your day One. Word. At. A. Time. Or how about an acrostic poem based off of the adjective that best describes your current mood? Write a "Mad Lib" about your day but then ask your children, grandchildren, nieces or nephews to fill in the blanks. (Talk about a fun family activity right there!) The point is, break out of the idea that every journal entry needs to include grammatically correct sentences. 
  • Try out a "Currently" list. This is something that I've seen on the web in blogs and other social media sites but it's something I've done for years, long before Pinterest made it cool. Simply head your page with the word CURRENTLY in all caps (just like that). Then create a list that could include any number of activities, such as "listening to" or "watching" or "eating" or "loving." You get the general idea. Go back an add a few words or a sentence that describes those verbs. It's the fastest way to bullet point a week while still actually showing your personality. Win-win all the way.
  • Just do it. Sometimes we're going to have to put off washing the cereal bowls for just a few minutes. Maybe we need to skip watching a favorite TV show. Occasionally the phone just doesn't need to be answered. Whatever it is that's eating up your spare change minutes in the day, see if you can do without it a few times a week and commit to creating a consistent habit. It will make a difference in your life. I promise! 
I hope this list has you motivated to take some time to record your life a little more consistently. And if you are great about that habit already, maybe these ideas will help you shake things up in a fun and exciting way. The real point of all of this is just to inspire you to take little steps at improving your family history habits. Someday, someone you've never met will be so thankful for the time you put into your own journaling and personal history. And if they get to know a little bit about your personality along the way, well, all the better!