10 July 2017

Golden Wedding Anniversary


My grandparents, MJ and Hazel Christensen, at their 50th.
I remember my grandmother's golden wedding anniversary very well. My mother made her a cake. We all dressed up and went to the party. I was awed by the fact that my grandparents had been married 50 long years. A desire was born in me to reach that milestone too.

In June this year it happened. We have now been married for 50 short years. On July 4th we celebrated with a family party. We had lots of family type fun. My granddaughter made me a cake. My daughter and son-in-law produced an awesome Kahoot! trivia game. We stayed up late and talked. I played volleyball with my volleyball playing daughter. We modeled our silly hats to celebrate the silly looking wedding veil I wore 50 years before.

We played ping-pong and my river-running sons took everyone who wanted an adventure white water rafting. Finally, I tossed my dried bouquet to the singles in our group and my 14 year old granddaughter caught it.

Around the fire that night we shared our love and commitment with each other. Each member of the family read a paper plate full of positive comments that the others had written about them. Then Jim and I talked about how much we love each other and our children and grandchildren.

And the day passed. And the celebration is now over. I don't really feel any older. It's kind of the same feeling I had when I turned 70 at the beginning of June. It seemed bigger in the looking forward than in the looking backward. I still haven't arrived. And our marriage hasn't "arrived" either.

How to hold onto some of the magic? Be aware, write, record and share. Today one of my favorite ways to do that is to produce a video. For this occasion, one wouldn't do. I made two:

Jim and Joy Wedding Video
Fifty Years of Family
Here we are last year at our grandson's wedding

Here we are 50 years ago.


13 May 2017

My Mother Line

My sister Jill once asked me, "Do you know your mother line?" She quickly recited several generations of daughter to mother. I hadn't thought about that before. I did know that my mitochondrial DNA was German. And so is my mother line.

I have pictures for six generations of mothers back. I love them all. As I celebrate Mother's Day this year, I'm thinking of those mothers. I know what it's like to be a mother. Our lives are all different, yet in this we are the same—mothers with daughters and granddaughters.

I made a video to celebrate my mother line. It's posted on YouTube here.

Do you know your mother line?

24 February 2017

A Photo Valentine Gift for Me This Year

A treasured photo taken in
Lyndon, Kansas, Feb 13, 1885 as a
Valentine. Alas, I don't know who
it could be.
We sat, entertained, as we watched a slideshow featuring family members of various eras engaged in similar activities. But the surprise ending caused a universal groan. "The problem is we don't know who any of these family members or friends are," the presenter explained.

I have many unidentified photos myself, some old, some new. Precious antiques or unidentified babies, they have lost their value when they are not labeled. As I scanned photos, I carefully scanned both front and back, but even then sometimes the two get separated and often the back of the photo still doesn't tell the whole story. I have tried to painstakingly add borders in Photoshop to write on, but there are other drawbacks to that. Some photos from my dad and my grandma had identification written across the front. That was a mixed blessing.

I had heard of metadata, the information about the photo that is actually saved within the electronic image, but how to enter that metadata escaped me.


That mystery was solved when I attended a Pictures and Stories class by Alison Taylor. (Recording available here.) I could enter data very easily in the Properties/Details space in Windows or I could use my Adobe Bridge program (free download) to even add metadata to a lot of photos at once. Alison's blog gives further details on Bridge which I found easy to understand and duplicate. I just followed along with her. It does take a little time, but for the first time ever, I feel that I am efficiently organizing my many images of photos and documents. Thanks so much Alison!


19 February 2017

Writing and Publishing Resources

Buffalo Story (Barajas Family)

15 December 2016

Floating Island Pudding: Just like family stories, versions of this family recipe abound

[Uncle Don Christensen's description:]
When I was a boy my mother, Hazel, sometimes took me with her when she went to Idaho to see her parents. We would ride on the street car in Salt Lake City and then get on the Inter-urban train for the ride to Grace, Idaho. We were picked up at the railroad station by one of mother’s relatives. We stayed in Preston at mothers’ parents’ home at 77 North First West.

Grandma Harriet Johnson with some of her grandchildren
The first thing I would do was ask my grandmother to make a floating island pudding. This was a favorite with me and all of my cousins. It was similar in taste to a deep dish apple pie, but Grandma made it in a dish pan. She would roll out the dough on the table to make the crust; this was about 10 to 12 inches wide and about 20 inches long. She then filled it with sliced apples and spices and
folded it up into a tube. This was placed in the dish pan like a big doughnut. Then in the middle she added more spices and a lot of butter. This was then baked in the oven until nice and brown. We all enjoyed eating it with cream or ice cream....

[My mother Anne Christensen Whitney's version:] 
Harriet Emaline Lamb Johnson
Elizabeth Zimmerman Lamb

Here is something that was handed down from your 2nd great grandmother that you can hand down to your great-grandchildren. It is from Elizabeth Zimmerman Lamb to Harriet Emaline Lamb Johnson to Hazel Johnson Christensen to Anna Christensen Whitney etc. One thing this floating island pudding has meant to me has been love and caring and a warm house with a good smell on a cold day. It has been a favorite in each generation.
Anna Christensen Whitney holding Joy
Harriet Johnson's daughters: Edna, Hazel and Hattie
Grandma (Harriet) said to make the crust—make a light biscuit dough a little shorter than usual but not quite as short as pie dough. (increase shortening) Roll the dough out to a rectangle and put the sliced apples on the dough. Bring the crust up over the apples (that you have sprinkled with cinnamon and sugar) and form a ring. Put in a deep pan—cover with boiling water, sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar again. Dot with a big piece of butter. Bake about an hour at medium temperature (375 degrees). 

Anne gives us a clue about the country of origin of the recipe when she references our second great-grandmother, Elizabeth Zimmerman of German descent. This must be a German dish.
Hazel Johnson Christensen's children:
back - Vern, Don; front - Carl, Anna, Paul

[Last but not least, my sister Marilyn Prestwich gives us this updated version.]
Here's the recipe written for today’s cooks by Marilyn Prestwich, Anna’s daughter:
Combine 1 3/4 C. flour, 2 1/2 t. baking powder, 3/4 t. salt. Cut a little more than 1/2 C. shortening into the flour mixture with a pastry mixer or two knives. Add 3/4 C. milk a little at a time until dough is pliable, but not sticky. Roll dough out into a long rectangle, wide enough to fold over the apples, and long enough to form into a circle.

Slice and peel about 5 apples. Place apples in the middle of the rectangle. Sprinkle liberally with sugar and cinnamon. Fold dough over the apples, pinching together at the top. This is the dumpling.
Place a large kettle next to the dough and place dumpling in the bottom of the pan in a circle.
Add enough boiling water until the dumpling is barely covered. Sprinkle with more sugar and
cinnamon. Slice 1/4 C. butter or margarine thinly and place them on top of the dumpling circle.
Bake about an hour at 375 degrees.
From Hazel Johnson Christensen: Her Ancestors, compiled by The Bert N Whitney and Anna Christensen Whitney Family History Committee (Provo, Utah: 2011)

12 December 2016

Floating Island Pudding

Adapted from a heritage recipe from Harriet Emaline Lamb Johnson
By Adele Matthews, her great-granddaughter

6 medium apples (cored, peeled and sliced)
1/2 cup sugar
2 tsp cinnamon

Mix together in bowl. Set aside.

Biscuit dough:

2 cups flour
1 Tbs baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup oil (I use olive oil instead of shortening like the original recipe said)
3/4 cup milk (or 2 Tbs dry milk and 3/4 cup water)

Mix dry ingredients. Add oil and milk: stir with fork just until dough is mixed. Too much handling makes the dough tough.

Put half of the dough into the bottom of a large casserole dish and spread with fingers. Add apple mixture on top. Put the rest of the dough on top of the apples.

Dough on the bottom

Add apples

Dough on the top
Sprinkle with 1/4 cup sugar and 1/2 tsp cinnamon. Cut 1/2 Tbs butter into little pieces and place on top of dough. Pour 2 cups hot water (just from the tap) over the whole thing. Bake for 45 minutes at 375 degrees.

Note: If you like a little more "pudding" you can put it in a deep oven proof dish and add 3 cups hot water.
Some of my family likes more, some like less.
This is good served hot with ice cream or whipped cream on top.

22 February 2015

RootsTech – Saving the World

This is the fifth year I have attended RootsTech, a family history spectacular held in Salt Lake City, Utah and sponsored by FamilySearch and others. This year, like every other, was amazing. There is something so affirming in being with several thousand other people who are as interested and engaged in family history as I am. The opportunities for learning seem boundless. This year the Federation of Genealogical Societies held their convention in conjunction with RootsTech. Though I knew I could never assimilate everything that was offered during that wonderful week, I could not resist signing up for both events simultaneously.
Me, Sister Beth and Cousin Elizabeth. I love sharing
RootsTech with people I care about.

But when a friend asked me what I learned this year at RootsTech, I was at a loss to tell her anything specific. I’ve been pondering her question. For me, such a conference is more than information about a fascinating hobby. It’s of earth-shattering or rather earth-saving importance. To see why I feel that way, we have to back up from the specifics to a wider perspective. But specifics are important too. I’ll try to start there. The first day for me (Genealogical Society day) was about nurturing those of us who make genealogy our vocation, whether we are paid with money or with service blessings. I was impressed that it is important to build unity and camaraderie among the staff at a family history center or the members of a genealogical society. We do this by listening with respect to one another, by having fun together, and by keeping in mind the mission of our facility or society.

Also on Wednesday were some classes about how to reach out to others who may be interested in joining our ranks—those who take their family history seriously. The tools for doing so are numerous. I feel overwhelmed with the complexity and the numbers of internet helps that are available to us. On Wednesday and throughout the conference, several classes just demonstrated one or many of these helps. I am hoping that when a certain need arises, I can remember something I learned that may meet that need. Just cataloging the syllabi of good ideas and instructions in my computer files or harder still, in my mind, seems daunting to me. (RootsTech syllabus here.)

Me with cousin Abe on his birthday
A memorable class considered the principles of ethical genealogy. These were more firmly embedded in my personal philosophy as I listened to Judy Russell. I think I have a better idea of what ethical genealogy means and a stronger resolve to live those principles. That was the first day.

On Thursday, the pace quickened and the opportunities multiplied, and that was the pattern for Friday and then Saturday too. Much has been written about each day. I am still gathering information and impressions from the written accounts of those of us who ponder our world on “paper.” Here is one good summary of a few of these accounts by Randy Seaver. Whole presentations and also pieces of them are available on the internet here and here and here and just keep looking. The conference is over but it has not ended.

Each day began with a large general session and some of these are also available online. I always love the keynote addresses and this year was no exception. The feelings those general sessions inspire in me are what makes me love to be a family historian and a genealogist.  The most powerful insight strengthened for me this year is the importance of each person’s life and how all of our lives are interwoven. Tan Le demonstrated that importance as she talked about her grandmother and her mother. Donny Osmond got choked up about his dad.

A.J. Jacobs showed us that we are all connected, cousins, if you will. I had four of the more traditional type of cousins and a sister at RootsTech with me, which really intensified my interconnected experience.

Cousin Joan and Beth; All photos
courtesy of Beth Breinholt.
I also met up with members of the staff of the Family History Center where I work. There were specific sessions for us directed at how to help our patrons. I received inspiration to work harder to increase the numbers of those who come to the center and to help them have a good experience with us.
Cousins Elizabeth, Don, Nadine, me and sister Beth


A good experience is exactly what was available for those who came to RootsTech 2015. But I believe that experience has profoundly influenced the world we live in and will continue to do so. Janet Hovorka wrote in her little book, Zap the Grandma Gap, that “family history can save the world.” She goes on to explain that when people are grounded in their past, they are empowered with the perspective to go forward with faith and compassion. The decisions of the past have shaped our lives and we have the capacity to shape the future of this world in a like manner. The type of knowledge, perspective, and inspiration we gain at a conference like the huge and spectacular RootsTech is likewise a huge and spectacular step forward in saving our world and the people who live here.