Friday, December 30, 2011

10 Most Popular Genealogy Blog Posts for 2011

2011 was quite a year, genealogically speaking. The field is growing by leaps and bounds.

I tried my best to stay in the game in the past year. I used this blog to learn, teach, question and comment.

Some posts were more favored than others, based on the number of hits received for each one. Here is a list of the 10 most popular We Tree blog posts of 2011:

10. The Hypothetical Ancestor Trade Off
It looks like others want to table their difficult ancestors as much as I do.

9. Genealogy is Unfair
I had a mini pity party about my own family tree and invited others to the table.

8. Careers in Genealogy: Charting Your Own Course
I do like this post. I still feel this way, and am happy I made my own path.

7. Genealogy Societies: What Keeps You Coming Back for More?
A case where I used my blog to learn from others.

6. Eleanor's Story
A story about my great-grandmother using photos and music.

5. This is Not a Flip-Pal Review
One of the best headlines I ever wrote. It does well in search results.

4. Where Keggers and Social Genealogy Intersect
I think the word "keggers" is what got people to read this one.

3. The Big Genealogy Blog Book
Announcing the arrival of the little book that could.

2. If Genealogists Ran Hollywood
Looks like a lot of people share my sense of humor.

1. Genealogy Blogs: A Comment on Comments
This post is part sounding board, part editorial. Clearly the topic of blog comments is a big one. This post also garnered the most comments for the year (65 and counting).

Thank you to everyone who read and commented on these posts and others in the blog. It's my tree, but your presence makes it bloom.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Recap of My 2011 Genealogy Goals

Last Christmas, I went to lunch with The Family Curator and we got to talking about genealogy goals. In the end, we each came up with three goals for the new year and made a buddy pact to follow through with our plans. I blogged about mine here. Denise blogged about hers here.

We each came up with 1 research goal, 1 writing goal and 1 organizational goal.

Denise already posted her 2011 year-end report.

How did I do? Well...

Research goal: determine the name of my maternal grandmother's maternal grandmother. Everyone has 16 great-great grandparents, and I only knew 15 of mine. This goal was a tad scary because I had to cross the pond and research Austria and Hungary. I am pleased to say that I accomplished this goal. I was also able to tell my own grandmother the name of her grandmother. It was very rewarding.

Writing goal: write an e-book. Result? BOOYAH! Mission accomplished.

Organizational goal: get all the stuff in my notebooks scanned. What is the opposite of finished? Because that's where I ended up with this goal. I had good intentions, but we got a new printer/scanner and it hates me. Also, my professional life really picked up in the last half of the year, and that's when my scanning was penciled in. I decided getting paid to do genealogy was better.

So there you go. 2 out of 3 ain't bad.

To be perfectly honest, the thought of researching Hungarian records was way scarier than writing an e-book. I did both! Woo-hoo!

So what about you? Did you meet your 2011 goals? Are you interested in a new set for 2012?

You know I have a new set of goals for 2012 and they'll be published soon, so why don't you join me?

Monday, December 26, 2011

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas

One year, my family had a Charlie Brown Christmas tree. It had no real shape or appeal. It's branches were strong enough for heavy ornaments, but they went all different directions.

To this day, we still talk about that Charlie Brown tree. It's a good Christmas memory.

Take the time to make some good Christmas memories of your own today. Not the things you're *supposed* to do for the holidays, but the things that your heart tells you to do that make the day special.

Merry Christmas. It's been a pleasure celebrating family history with you.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories: December 24

(This is post 24 in the Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories hosted by

Prompt: December 24 - Christmas Eve
How did you, your family or ancestors spend Christmas Eve?

For close to 30 years now, Christmas Eve has always been at my aunt & uncle's house. It's very casual, with no set dinner table. People mingle as they please. The kids are always bouncing off the walls because it's the night before Christmas. At some point, the dog will steal some food off a plate or the kitchen counter. The more things change, the more they stay the same.

I married into a family that celebrates Christmas Eve in a more official manner. They open presents on the 24th and sit down for a meal. For the last 13 years, this has been how I have spent 3/4 of December 24th.

After said meal, my little family of three heads out to visit family friends. Then we make the hour drive to go to my aunt's house for a brief visit with folks & family we only get to see once a year.

My Christmas Eve has a lot of driving and visiting. We're so busy trying to make sure we see everyone that sometimes the message gets lost.

(Originally published December 24, 2009)

Friday, December 23, 2011

Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories: December 23

(This is post 23 in the Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories hosted by

Prompt: December - Christmas Sweetheart Memories
Do you have a special memory of a first Christmas present from a sweetheart? How did you spend your first Christmas together? Any Christmas engagements or weddings among your ancestors?

My parents got engaged in December 24, 1965.

I got engaged on December 24, 1995.

That's 30 years later for the math-challenged.

My now husband gave me a robe and put the ring in the pocket. I was too stupid to check the pocket. We're perfect for each other.

Post engagement 1995.
I'm not short, I'm vertically challenged.

(Originally published December 23, 2009)

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Chaparral Genealogical Society Christmas Party

Earlier this month, the Chaparral Genealogical Society had its annual Christmas party. Since I am a new member, this was my first time there. My son came with me.

The event was held in the community room of a local park. It was semi-catered. The star of the show was chicken and dumplings. Members also brought side dishes.

The white dish at the bottom of this photo
held blueberry cheesecake. It was SO GOOD!

During the meal, we took turns introducing ourselves, talking about our given names and where we were from. Most everyone was local, but there were a few out-of-staters.  We also played a silly quick game that led to two people winning a little pocket money. The rest of us had a lot of laughs.

Next up was that game where everyone brings a present and you can take presents from others. You know the one...

Gifts for the exchange. Photo credit: my son

Since this was my first society party with this group, I didn't know the drill. Everyone brought Christmas gifts. I brought a genealogy gift. And I forgot to wrap it spectacularly.

My present is the small, flat, green square one. 
Not much to look at among all these big gift bags.

The person that drew my present number didn't look too thrilled when handed the gift. Someone in the crowd correctly identified the shape as a CD, but the recipient wasn't swayed.

Until he opened it, read the front, read the back and realized that good things do come in small packages.

It was a Google for Genealogists webinar led by Thomas MacEntee for Legacy Family Tree Webinars.

Whew! My gift was a hit. Nobody likes to be the one who brought the dud gift.

Speaking of hit gifts, my son got this one and loved it.

A chihuahua that sings ¿Dónde Está Santa Claus?
and dances when you press its paw.

The party wound down after the gift exchange. There were some door prizes. I won one. My son won one. And our tablemate (and sometimes blog reader) Larry won one. I think we were a pretty lucky table!

I had fun at the party and I'm pretty sure my son did, too. 

If you're in the Houston area, consider coming to the next meeting of the Chaparral Genealogical Society on January 28, 2012. Address and other details are here

Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories: December 22

(This is post 22 in the Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories hosted by

Prompt: December 22 - Christmas and Deceased Relatives.
Did your family visit the cemetery at Christmas? How did your family honor deceased family members at Christmas?

We did not visit the cemetery at Christmas, simply for the reason that there was no one to visit. My immediate family is quite small. I didn't lose a relative until I was 19. That person was cremated. Come to think of it, since then they've all chosen cremation. The nearest ancestors in a cemetery are great-grandparents I never knew.

Because of this situation, we really don't honor anyone, either. It's more of a year-round memory thing, since there are no cemetery plots to maintain.

I can't be the only one in this situation, can I?

(Originally published December 22, 2009)

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories: December 21

(This is post 21 in the Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories hosted by

Prompt: December 21 - Christmas Music
What songs did your family listen to during Christmas? Did you ever go caroling? Did you have a favorite song?

Back in the day, my dad had a reel-to-reel player that had Christmas songs. I don't remember the exact songs. My favorite one was probably the entire score for the Charlie Brown Christmas Special.

My parents have a jukebox of 45s at their house now. A large portion of the box is Christmas music. My son loves to pick the songs and we have some happy memories from that.

No caroling in this family. We're vocally challenged, best when seen and not heard.

(Originally published December 21, 2009)

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories: December 20

(This is post 20 in the Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories hosted by

Prompt: December 20 - Religious Services
Did your family attend religious services during the Christmas season? What were the customs and traditions involved?

Remember when I said there are some questions for which I have no answer? This is one of those. We did not attend church, so there weren't any customs or traditions involved. Sorry for the lack of interesting content. My performance on this post = dud.

(Originally published December 24, 2009)

Monday, December 19, 2011

Meet the 2012 RootsTech Official Bloggers

Have you met the official RootsTech bloggers yet? As the date for RootsTech fast approaches, these folks will give you the scoop on the latest developments and news. They will also report during the conference and give you recaps when it's over.

The people behind RootsTech have done a great job selecting bloggers from all backgrounds and perspectives. No two bloggers will cover the conference the same way.

I hope you will take some time to visit the blogs of each official blogger and add them to your regular reading schedule. You won't be disappointed.

[Disclosure: I am an official RootsTech blogger, too, and very thankful to be one.  --A.]

Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories: December 19

(This is post 19 in the Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories hosted by

Prompt: December 19 - Christmas Shopping
How did your family handle Christmas shopping? Did anyone finish early or did anyone start on Christmas Eve?

My mom did the shopping. At one point, she did most of the shopping in one day. Now it's a combo of mall shopping and catalogs.

Since my family once owned a Western Home & Auto, I'm sure some of our toys came from there.

Now given the distance some have to travel, online purchases and gift cards are key.

That's all I have to say on the subject. This won't go down as one of the best posts ever.

(Originally published December 19, 2009)

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories: December 18

(This is post 18 in the Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories hosted by

Prompt: December 18 - Christmas Stockings
Did you have one? Where did you hang it? What did you get in it? Do you have any Christmas stockings used by your ancestors?

My sister and I did have stockings. My mom made them. Mine is green and my sister's is red. They have our names on them. I am speaking about them in the present tense because my mom still hangs them and we still open gifts in them. The presents are always small and simple: cute socks, mints, puzzle books, etc.

My son has a stocking crocheted by my grandmother. It has his name on it.

These are the closest examples I have to heirloom-type Christmas decorations.

(Originally published December 18, 2009)

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories: December 17

(This is post 17 in the Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories hosted by

Prompt: December 17 - Grab Bag
Author's choice. Please post from a topic that helps you remember Christmases past!

Back in the 1970's/early 80's my grandparents handled Christmas dinner. They would go visit their grandkids in the morning, then head home to get the dinner ready. One year, they returned home to find the fire department in the driveway. It seems my grandmother left a pot on the stove.

The only lingering damage was the stink left from the burning pot. I remember seeing the pot in the driveway when we arrived for dinner.

The incident became a family joke. My grandfather must have thought it was funny, because when he wrote a timeline of his life, he included the burning pot event in 1983.

(Originally published December 17, 2009)

Friday, December 16, 2011

Fun with Search Terms

It's time for another round of "Fun with Search Terms!" People type certain words or phrases into search engines. If the combination is right, my blog turns up in the search results. Sometimes the searches are funny. Sometimes I can provide more information to users, if only they'd comment on my blog. Either way, I enjoy the process. Please note that these searches are anonymous so I don't know who is stumbling on my blog. I just comment in the hope that they find it again.

Now on with the show. Actual search phrases are in bold.

genealogy groups in my area
Most genealogy social groups and societies form at the city or county level. You can browse Cyndi's List Societies and Groups page, or the Federation of Genealogical Societies membership page. However, the quickest way to find genealogy groups in your area is to ask your friendly local public librarian who is dialed in on the subject.

RootsTech Professional Management Conference
The Professional Management Conference is actually being hosted by the Association of Professional Genealogists on the day before the RootsTech conference begins. They are two different events. The confusion is understandable though because APG doesn't even have info about the event on the website home page.

humorous blogs in Wisconsin
Two words: Clue Wagon

Clayton genealogy library events
Here is the main page for the Clayton Genealogy Library in Houston. Scroll down the page to see the events, which are updated monthly.

reasons for not attending
Zombie attack, free access day at, not approved as a RootsTech vendor, $2.50 margaritas at Chachi's. Pick one or create your own.

Thibodeaux in Louisiana.
That's like saying Garcia in Mexico. Can you elaborate, please?

Ten ways to make money in genealogy
1. Work hard
2. Work harder.
3. Research.
4. Publish.
5. Take risks.
6. Speak.
7. Diversify.
8. Study business.
9. Work hard.
10. Work harder.

have fun at the conference
Thank you! I plan on it.

Thanks for playing!

Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories: December 16

(This is post 16 in the Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories hosted by

Prompt: December 16 - Christmas at School
What did you or your ancestors do to celebrate Christmas at school? We you ever in a Christmas pageant?

I have no idea what my ancestors did at school. My own school (of the basic suburban public variety) had Christmas programs each year. We were divided by class and grade. We stood on the steps of the stage in the multi-purpose room/cafeteria. We sang standard songs.

There wasn't much special about these programs, which is why they make for weak blog fodder.

My son's elementary school had a program each year for third graders. It's a musical play. Each person has a line and there is lots of singing. The year he did it, there was a western theme with some villains and a plot about saving the holidays. It was fun. This year he is in band and he toured two elementary schools. He also had a Christmas concert.

(Originally published December 16, 2009)

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories: December 15

(This is post 15 in the Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories hosted by

Prompt: December 15 - The Holiday Happenings!
Often times December to mid-January birthdays get overshadowed by the Christmas/Hanukkah/New Year holidays. So we're going to shine a spotlight on those family members and ancestors this time around. Select one or more December to mid-January birthdays and/or anniversaries in your family tree. Write a short tribute to or memory of those birthday guys or gals and write a toast to the anniversary couples.

My mom has a birthday after Christmas. Usually it's celebrated separately and it's pretty low key.

I have a great-grandfather who was born on Christmas Day. Sam Williamson was born on December 25, 1878 in Russellville, Pope County, Arkansas. He also died on the date of my wedding anniversary, but that's a fact for another time.

Great-grandfather Sam was a Christmas baby.

My great-great grandfather with the checkered past was also born on Christmas Day. Noel Thibodeaux was born in St. Landry Parish, Louisiana in 1857. He didn't have too may Christmases, though, because his wandering eye got him shot.

I also had a great-grandmother who died on Christmas Eve. She had surgery for an intestinal blockage and died from complications on December 24, 1935. I did not know this fact until my grandfather (her son) had already passed. Christmas must have been difficult for him, but he never said anything.

Wow, way to bring down the Christmas vibe, Amy.

Happy birthday to those who came to be in the season. That means you too, Thomas (aka Mr.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Worth Your Time: Geneabloggers Radio on December 16

Friday, December 16, Geneabloggers Radio is hosting an episode titled, "Do Books Still Matter in Genealogy?" This subject came to be from the whole RootsTech bookseller brouhaha last week.

Guests include Leland Meitzler, book vendor and publisher extraordinaire of Family Roots Publishing, Curt Witcher, sage librarian and genealogy superhero at the Allen County Public Library and Biff and Nancy Barnes of Stories to Tell. Also included in the show are staff members from the RootsTech 2012 conference.

All Geneabloggers Radio shows are great, but this one is exceptional in my book. It almost has the feel of a summit, and good things will come from it. I am very happy that RootsTech is joining in the conversation.

For all the newbies out there, Geneabloggers Radio starts at 9pm EST. Click the link a little before that time and follow the instructions to listen via your computer. There's also a chat room with crazy enthusiastic genealogists to keep you company.

If you can't listen live, the shows can also be found in iTunes. 

Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories: December 14

(This is post 14 in the Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories hosted by

Prompt: December 14 - Fruitcake, Friend or Foe?
Did you like fruitcake? Did your family receive fruitcakes? Have you ever re-gifted fruitcake? Have you ever devised creative uses for fruitcake?

I've never had fruitcake. Ever. And it's going to stay that way.

My mother was the fruitcake maker in the family. Apparently, according to fruitcake lovers, it's a pretty good recipe.

When I was younger, we had to go to a special store (Arco?) once a year and buy the supplies. This included little colored fruity candy squares and different nuts including walnuts and pecans.

There wasn't much "cake" in a fruitcake. All the fruity bits and nuts were coated in egg, maybe flour and rum. I do remember those things stinking of rum. No wonder everybody liked them. When you cut a slice of my mom's fruitcake, it was pretty much just nuts and fruit carefully stuck together with rum-based edible glue.

These fruitcakes were made in assembly line fashion. Once done, cooled and out of the pan, they were wrapped in foil. I always thought they looked like silver bricks and would make good doorstops.

But you know what? We never had any leftovers, so I guess that recipe was good. I'll never know though, because I don't *do* fruitcake--even if it's coated in rum.

(Originally posted December 14, 2009)

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories: December 13

(This is post 13 in the Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories hosted by

Prompt: December 13 - Holiday Travel
Did you or your ancestors travel anywhere for Christmas? How did you travel and who traveled with you? Do you remember any special trips?

I come from a small family. Even when you add "extended" it's still pretty tiny. Most everyone lived in the same city, so our trips were pretty short.

For almost 30 years, my aunt and uncle have had Christmas Eve. It usually involves ham and cheesy potatoes. I still get an invitation.

Christmas morning was always at our house. My parents did the Christmas breakfast and my grandparents would come over. They always had to make the rounds and visit all the grandkids. After a while they'd leave to prepare for dinner.

Christmas dinner was at my grandparents house. How we all fit in there I'll never know, but we did. Grandma made a good turkey.

Now my parents have taken over Christmas dinner. They are the grandparents and there's new grandchildren running around. We still have turkey. It's still good. I still sit at the kids' table.

(Originally posted December 13, 2009)

Monday, December 12, 2011

Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories: December 12

(This is post 12 in the Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories hosted by

Prompt: December 12 - Charitable / Volunteer Work
Did your family ever volunteer with a charity such as a soup kitchen, homeless or battered women's shelter during the holidays? Or perhaps were your ancestors involved with church groups that assisted others during the holiday?

My short answer is no to the above, but...

My dad was involved in the Lions Club for many years. Each Christmas, they had a breakfast with Santa. When  was young, I got to attend with the other kids. It was swell. We had breakfast, we made crafts, Santa came. One year, the back of me was even in the paper. Story of my life.

When I got older, I got to be a helper at those breakfasts. That was fun, too, because I felt grown up.

Come to think of it, my parents still have some of my Lions Club crafts still hanging on the tree.

(Originally published December 12, 2009)

Sunday, December 11, 2011

RootsTech by the Book

Yesterday, I read this blog post from Leland Meitzler. In it he shared how he was notified that his business no longer fits the vendor parameters for RootsTech 2012. It set off a series of distinct thoughts in my head. Here are those thoughts:

RootsTech can choose whoever they want for their vendor hall. 
Genealogy is a business and this is their product. We as consumers can speak with our voices and wallets. It doesn't matter if I want books in the vendor hall, it's RootsTech's choice to make. However, the manner in which they made the decision was unfortunate.

Dumping certain vendors 8 weeks before the conference is bad form. 
If you read the comments on Leland's post, it sounds like vendors have been waiting for approval from RootsTech / FamilySearch for weeks, yet still moving forth with conference plans (including increasing inventory) in good faith that their applications would be approved just like last year. If RootsTech wants to change directions in terms of vendors, the time to initiate that is the day after RootsTech 2012 ends, in preparation for 2013.

The RootsTech response to this outcry was a total PR disaster.
I held off on commenting yesterday, because I wanted to wait for a RootsTech statement. Hour after hour it never came. Finally, at about midnight Central Time, they released a statement (on Facebook only as far as I can tell) saying they are going to "revisit the issue." 

Genealogy vendors, did you learn anything from this experience?
Behold the power of social media. Genealogy businesses need to actively use social media tools and have full control of their brands. This RootsTech issue grew so quickly because Leland used social media to share his experience. Genealogists reacted immediately via Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and their own blogs. RootsTech did not respond in a timely manner and they learned a tough lesson: business social media is 24/7/365

I will see you in Salt Lake City in February, 2012.
Ironically, it was my status as an official RootsTech blogger that pushed me to comment on these latest developments. It is my job to bring my blog readers (the genealogy consumers) news of RootsTech. Whatever happens after RootsTech "revisits the issue," I will still attend the conference and report my experiences and observations, warts and all. I am very excited to go to RootsTech, see my friends and attend tech-centered sessions.

The genealogy playground is changing before our eyes, and we are so lucky to have front-row seats for the show. Let your voice be heard, but don't forget to stop and listen as well. 

Update: RootsTech had a change of heart for the 2012 event. See Leland's post for details.

Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories: December 11

(This is post 11 in the Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories hosted by

Prompt: December 11 - Other traditions
Did your family or friends also celebrate other traditions during the holidays such as Hanukkah or Kwanzaa? Did your immigrant ancestors have holiday traditions from their native country which they retained or perhaps abandoned?

Back of photo says "Christmas at Grandma/Grandpa Thibodeaux"
These would be my 'Cajun' great-grandparents, living in CA.
Funny that the photo is dated July, 1963.
No hurry in developing holiday photos.

The first time I read these questions, my initial answer was, "I don't know." So...I called my grandparents and asked them.

My grandfather's parents were born to French speakers in Cajun Louisiana. He says they had turkey and mince meat pie. He can't remember anything else, but says he always loved desserts. He was one of many in a large Catholic family but says he always got a present.

My grandmother's parents were German immigrants. My grandmother's mother passed away very young, so my grandmother only knows Christmas memories with her father and her siblings. She says they always had a tree, which is interesting given the extreme poverty in which they lived in 1930's Los Angeles. Her brother would get a tree for fifty cents (or sometimes free) on Christmas Eve, after the price was reduced for quick sale. When she woke on Christmas morning the tree would always be decorated. I suspect much of my grandmother's childhood Christmas memories were created by her older brother who saw to it the holiday was celebrated, while their father worked to keep food on the table. The Christmas meal was a roasted chicken. My grandmother said that when her mother was alive, she liked to bake and would make streudel.

My grandmother told me a funny story. One Christmas Eve, she got out of bed and went into the living room. The presents were under the tree and there was a (used) bicycle for her! The bike had the type of kickstand that would elevate the back wheel so you could pedal in place. My grandma got on the bike and pedaled and pedaled and pedaled, all while her family was asleep--her brother was sleeping on the couch! The next morning, she got up and pretended to be surprised about the bicycle.

It was fun answering this question for the Advent Calendar series, because it resulted in a great phone conversation with my grandparents.

(Originally published December 11, 2009)

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories: December 10

(This is post 10 in the Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories hosted by

Prompt: December 10 - Christmas Gifts
What were your favorite gifts both to receive and to give? Are there specific gift-giving traditions among your family or ancestors?

The only real tradition within my immediate family I can think of is the giving of Christmas pajamas on Christmas Eve. Every year on the 24th, my sister and I would put on our new holiday-themed jammies. Then, my mom would read our awesome pop-up version of The Night Before Christmas.

On Christmas Day, we'd go to our grandparents house. For a few years, we had a pinata. Why, I do not know because this is not of our heritage. Anyway, the grandkids (of which I was one) enjoyed the privilege of blindly swinging a big stick in the vicinity of our relatives. At some point, the candy would fall and so would an envelope. What was it? It was plane tickets for my grandmother to go see her only living brother. And once she realized that, she'd cry. But she's never really cry. She's just tear up and be speechless. It was cute.

One of the best gifts I ever received? My answer is an odd one, but it requires a back story. I did not like my husband when I first met him. I thought he was annoying, but he was in my orbit because we had the same friends. At one point, we split a 5-game package of hockey tickets. With each game he got less annoying, so you could say that the Los Angeles Kings brought us together.

On the way to those games, we'd always pass a store with a sign that said "Honey Bean Pies." I joked that it sounded like a term of endearment. At some point, the name and the joke was shortened to Bean and I haven't been Amy in this house since.

The years rolled on and we moved from an NHL town, to a no hockey town to an AHL town. In Houston, we enjoy the Aeros games where you get twice the fights at half the price. The fans wear great jerseys, too. Once I commented on how cool the Milwaukee Admirals jersey was. It was odd. It was funky. It was me.

So that Christmas, I received that very jersey from my husband:

Customized with my name and the year we were married:

I got an engagement ring one Christmas Eve. I even got a car once. But this jersey is one of my favorite gifts ever. I don't expect anyone to understand why, but the person who gave it to me will.

(This post was originally published December 10, 2010.)

Friday, December 9, 2011

Register for the RootsTech 2012 Developer Challenge

Solve a Family History Challege and Win $5,000!

Have you recently been doing something family or genealogy-related and thought, "There should be an app for that!"? Now is your chance. Solving that problem and entering the RootsTech 2012 Developer Challenge could earn you $5,000.

Tens of millions of people around the world are interested in some facet of family history. These people need software solutions—whether on the desktop, online, or through mobile delivery—that help them engage and succeed in their efforts to discover, preserve, and share their family history.  RootsTech will reward developers who introduce the most innovative new concepts to family history with $10,000 in cash rewards and increased visibility. 
Visit the Developer Challenge page on to find out more about rules, prizes and deadlines.  Developers wishing to enter the challenge must register by January 1, 2012 but actual submissions are not due until January 15.  Spread the word and register today!

[Disclosure: I am an official RootsTech blogger, and therefore bring you the news of this developer contest and other conference events in which you may have an interest. --A]

Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories: December 9

(This is post 9 in the Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories hosted by

Prompt: December 9 - Grab Bag
Author's Choice. Please post from a topic that helps you remember Christmas past!

Technically, my post isn't about the past, because my family is still using this idea started by my mom. A few years back, my mom gathered all the Christmas family photos through the years, as well as all the photo holiday cards that have been sent to their house. The whole stack of pictures now rests in a basket that comes out every Christmas. She sets the basket in a high-traffic area, on the counter between the kitchen and the family room. Guests love to look at those pictures. Heck, I've seen them 1,000 times and I still look at them, too.

So my "grab bag" post is to share my mom's picture basket idea with readers. Does your family share past holiday pictures in a creative way? Do tell!

(Originally posted December 9, 2009)

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories: December 8

(This is post 8 in the Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories hosted by

Prompt: December 8 - Christmas Cookies
Did your family or ancestors make Christmas cookies? How did you help? Did you have a favorite cookie?

Making cookies. Note orange kitchen in the background.
Also, check out my sprinkles collection 
and little silver balls in the lower left.

My mom made sugar cookies every Christmas in our very 1970's orange kitchen. She made the dough, but she let us use the cookie cutters. I remember there was a profile Santa with a bag, a star, a bell, a snowman and a gingerbread-shaped cutter.

When the cookies cooled we got to frost them. My mom would make a big batch of white frosting, then divide it into bowls where she would use food coloring to provide many shades. We also had sprinkles, red & green crystals and those metallic edible silver balls.

All the sugar cookies were my favorites. Though I liked to decorate with those silver balls, I never ate the cookies that had them. What the heck were those things anyway?

(This post was originally published December 8, 2009)

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Josh Coates: RootsTech 2012 Keynote Speaker

Word on the street (and the official web site) is that Josh Coates is a keynote speaker for RootsTech 2012. He's the guy that founded Mozy, and now is CEO of Instructure. (It's ok to look it up. I had to.)

If memory serves, there were three keynotes last year. Perhaps they'll have multiple keynotes this year as well. Hopefully they're available to viewers at home, too.

Registration is still open. A full-conference pass is $149, or $35 for students with valid ID. Both prices are a steal for the amount of learnin' you'll get in return.

Visit the RootsTech site for more details and check back here periodically for more updates.

[Disclosure: I am an official blogger for RootsTech 2012.]

Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories: December 7

(This is post 7 in the Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories hosted by

Prompt: December 7 - Holiday Parties
Did your family throw a holiday party each year? Do you remember attending any holiday parties?

My family didn't throw a holiday party for friends, but they did host one for work. Usually it was at a restaurant.

When I was first married, my husband's employer put on extravagant parties. There was a ton of dysfunction in that place, so I loved taking advantage of the free eats/open bar and watch the drama from the sidelines. But those days are over and the current employer doesn't do holiday events.

I miss those parties.

(This post was originally published December 7, 2009)

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories: December 6

(This is post 6 in the Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories hosted by

Prompt: December 6 - Santa Claus
Did you ever send a letter to Santa? Did you ever visit Santa and "make a list?" Do you still believe in Santa Claus?

I don't think I ever sent a letter to the North Pole. I'm pretty sure I made a list each year and it's possible I even shared it with Santa. However, in my brilliant childhood wisdom, I knew the mall Santas were fakes. How could REAL Santa have time to make all those toys if he was always at the mall? Besides, my city had 2 malls and each Santa wore a different color of gloves. Mall Santas didn't fool me.

Of course I still believe in Santa, but I'm the only one in the family who does.

(This post was originally published December 6, 2009)

Monday, December 5, 2011

Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories: December 5

(This is post 5 in the Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories hosted by

Prompt: December 5 - Outdoor Decorations
Did people in your neighborhood decorate with lights? Did some people really go "all out" when decorating? Any stories involving your ancestors and decorations?

We lived on a hill and had a yard that--to me as a kid--looked like a jungle. That made traditional decorations impossible. We did have strings of those old big, painted glass Christmas light bulbs running along the front and back of our roof line. Do you remember those lights? You could scrape the paint off them and they were hot to the touch.

My dad set up the back Christmas lights so they turned on and off with a light switch. At some point, they lights just stayed up all year and acted as patio lights.

The neighbor at the top of the hill used to line his whole house in white Christmas lights. He even had a big tree made of a pole and strings of lights. Because of the location on the top of the hill, you could see that all-white house from far away. I always liked that.

(This post was originally published December 5, 2009)

Sunday, December 4, 2011 comes to Houston

Today the crew came to the Clayton Genealogy Library in Houston. They offered a free class to share with attendees the importance of preserving and sharing family photos. Included in the event were a quick tour of the 1000memories website and an introduction to their Shoebox app, which turns one's iPhone into a scanner. (I've been told the Android app is coming.)

I was worried that the rain would keep the people away, but they came out in good numbers.

The lady standing in the corner of the above photo is Sue Kaufman. She's Big Chief Librarian at the Clayton. She's also responsible for making this 1000memories event happen and that makes her awesome.

After the intros and explanation of's bells and whistles, the class broke out into small groups to learn how easy the scanning process is and to get their own photos scanned.

Jonathan Good (in blue) using his phone to scan photos.

The crowd seemed really enthusiastic to get their items scanned, and happy for the learning opportunity overall.

Michael Katchen (in blue) showing folks how to use the Shoebox app.

The class was about three hours long and I think it went really well. I had a nice visit with Caroline Pointer (@familystories) and Fran Ellsworth (@FranEllsworth).

I was also fortunate enough to have lunch with Jonathan, Michael and Caroline before the event. I even played airport taxi for the 1000memories crew on the way out of town. Hopefully this is enough to get them back again for several more classes at the Clayton Library. There is a great demand for tools that help people preserve family memories.

So please, genealogy vendors, speakers and researchers, come to Houston. We have the space, the need and the enthusiasm for your genealogical wares. And we'll even drive you to the airport. For reals.

(Disclosure: bought me lunch, but I took them to the airport so that makes us Even Steven.)

Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories: December 4

(This is post 4 in the Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories hosted by

Prompt: December 4 - Christmas Cards
Did your family send cards? Did your family display the ones they received? Do you still send Christmas cards? Do you have any cards from your ancestors?

There will be days in this Advent Calendar series where I don't have very good answers for the questions. This is one of those days.

My parents were not card senders. As far as I can remember, neither were my grandparents.

We did receive cards. They were propped on the book shelves in the living room. Later on, my mom kept cards in a basket. In fact, she still does this.

I inherited my parents' habit of not sending cards. Sometimes people get really upset when you don't send cards, which makes me really not want to send them. Thankfully, my husband has taken on the task. The cards will be mailed soon.

(This post was originally published December 4, 2009)

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories: December 3

(This is post 3 in the Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories hosted by

Prompt: Day 3 - Christmas Tree Ornaments
Did your family have heirloom or cherished ornaments? Did you ever string popcorn and cranberries? Did your family or ancestors make Christmas ornaments?

Early signs of my brilliance

You know those perfect holiday trees with fancy matching ornaments? We didn't have one of those. Our family tree was decorated with a mish mash of ornaments--some made, some bought, each attached with a hook and a memory.

One of *the* best ornaments on our tree was my first pre-school Christmas art creation, circa 1976. It was a piece of white yarn, maybe 24 inches in length, dipped in starchy glue, then covered with glitter and fashioned into abstract art (or maybe just a flat blob). This was the first evidence of my stellar creative expression.

That ornament still exists today and my parents still hang it on the tree. Most of the glitter has fallen off of the yarn, and the tape that says AMY ripped off. Luckily, my mom re-attached it with more tape.

My parents laugh every year that ornament comes out of the box and goes onto the tree. Of course I know their laughing with me and not at me because that's their job.

Now I'm all grown up with my own house, and we've started our own traditions.

(This post was originally published December 3, 2009)