Sunday, December 30, 2012

December 2012 Scanfest


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Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Scanfest is Coming!


The December 2012 Scanfest will take place here at AnceStories this coming Sunday, December 30th, from 11 AM to 2 PM, Pacific Standard Time.
 
What is Scanfest? It's a time when geneabloggers, family historians, and family archivists meet online here at this blog to chat while they scan their precious family document and photos. Why? Because, quite honestly, scanning is time-consuming and boring!

Scanfest is a great time to "meet" other genealogists, ask questions about scanning and preservation, and get the kick in the pants we all need on starting those massive scanning projects that just seem too overwhelming to begin.

To get started, you need to know the basics about scanning:

1. Don't use commercial glass cleaners (i.e. Windex) or paper towels to clean your scanner's glass plate. Use a soft, clean cloth, preferably microfiber. If you must use a liquid, use water sprayed directly onto the cloth  and make sure to let the plate dry thoroughly before placing photos or documents on it.

2. Wear cotton gloves (available at many art and/or photography supply shops) when handling photos and old documents.

3. Don't slide the photos around on the glass plate. Place them exactly where you want them. Photos should NEVER be scanned by a scanner that feeds the document through the machine, but ALWAYS on a flat-bed scanner.

4. Set your scanner to scan at no smaller than 300 dpi (dots per inch). Many experts recommend 600 dpi for photographs.

5. Photographs should ALWAYS be scanned and saved as .tif files. Use "Save As" to reformat the .tif file to a .jpg file for restoration and touchups, emailing, or uploading to an online photo album. ALWAYS retain the original scan as a .tif file.

6. Documents can be scanned as .pdf files or .tif files.

7. When you are done scanning your photos, don't put them back in those nasty "magnetic" photo albums. Place them in archival safe albums or boxes found at websites such as Archival Products or Archival Suppliers. Do NOT store any newsprint (articles, obituaries, etc.) with the photos. The acid from the newspaper will eventually destroy the photograph.

Now about the chatting part of Scanfest:

We will be using Blyve, a live blogging platform that you access right here at AnceStories. 
On Sunday at 11 AM, PST, come right here to AnceStories and you'll see the Blyve live blog/forum in the top post. It's not really a "chat room," per se, it's more like a live forum and anyone visiting this site can read and see what is happening in the forum.

You will not need to download any software.

We look forward to having you participate with us!

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Tuesday, December 25, 2012

A Merry Christmas

Postcard to Rena Lerfald (c/o J. A. Weich) in Dickinson, North Dakota from John Lerfald in Woodinville, Wisconsin, postmarked 18 Dec 1912. Westaby-Lerfald Postcard Collection. Privately held by Troy Midkiff, [ADDRESS FOR PRIVATE USE,] Vancouver, Washington. 2012.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories No. 24: Christmas Eve

Christmas Eve

How did you and your family spend Christmas Eve?

When I was a girl, Christmas Eve was spent getting ready for the next day. I don't really remember anything specific about the day or the evening, probably because the big excitement of St. Nicholas coming had already passed, on December 6th. That's not to say I wasn't excited; there were always large boxes full of presents from my grandparents and other relatives in Michigan, waiting to be opened the next morning.

While we had lived in Alaska, my parents had become friendly with the clergy from various denominations in the area, and we usually stayed at the Catholic rectory in Ketchikan whenever we had to stay overnight for business or medical appointments. Several times, my parents hosted ecumenical services with Catholics, Presbyterians, and Pentecostals, and we often attended mass at one of our Catholic friends' homes whenever the priest came over from Ketchikan. Once we moved to Washington, we "adopted" an elderly couple who were neighbors of ours as surrogate grandparents. Their children lived too far away to drive them into town for Midnight Mass, so we would always take "Grandma Anne" with us. I always loved the beautiful ritual of the mass, the carols of the choir in the loft behind us, and the light shining through the stained glass out into the snow. My favorite part was the finale with the Hallelujah Chorus as everyone exited the church, and it always seemed to echo through my head as we drove back home later that night, up the snowy mountain roads.



This post is a part of the "Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories" meme created in 2007 by Thomas and Jasia. You, too, can write your own Christmas memories, either for your personal journal or blog. Visit Geneabloggers to participate and to read others' posts on these topics.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories No. 23: Christmas Sweetheart Memories

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?

This year, I'll be making new memories of Christmas with my schatje ("treasure"). Although we had started dating by Christmas last year, we had only had two dates and we spent Christmas with our respective families. This year, he will be celebrating with my extended family and me at my home. I look forward to many more shared Christmases in the future!


This post is a part of the "Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories" meme created in 2007 by Thomas and Jasia. You, too, can write your own Christmas memories, either for your personal journal or blog. Visit Geneabloggers to participate and to read others' posts on these topics.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories No. 22: Christmas and Deceased Relatives

Christmas and Deceased Relatives

Did your family visit the cemetery at Christmas? How did your family honor deceased family members at Christmas?

We don't have many family buried in this area. My cousins, Chris and Carrie, and a few distant cousins of my husband are buried at the upper level of Greenwood Memorial Terrace. Notice the word "terrace." The road up to the top of the cemetery is narrow, windy, and in the winter, covered with snow and ice. In the warm months, traveling up it still makes me nervous as it's not quite wide enough for two vehicles, and I'm always a little anxious as to who might be flying down the hill. Suffice it to say, we don't visit the cemetery in the winter. I do enjoy going on Memorial Day weekend. I also drive by Holy Cross Cemetery frequently while doing errands, and during the holidays, one can see how beautifully decorated the graves are, especially with wreaths on tripods.

During the holidays, I often think of loved ones who've gone before us; my grandparents and cousins, especially. It's not a melancholy reflection, although I do miss them. Mostly, it's warm memories of times we spent together, or gifts that were sent to us from them across the miles while growing up.



This post is a part of the "Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories" meme created in 2007 by Thomas and Jasia. You, too, can write your own Christmas memories, either for your personal journal or blog. Visit Geneabloggers to participate and to read others' posts on these topics.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories No. 21: Christmas Music

Christmas Music

What songs did your family listen to during Christmas? Did you ever go caroling? Did you have a favorite song?

There was a while there when our family did not have electricity on our little farm in Alaska. But before, when we lived in town, and after, when we did have electricity on the farm and later when we moved to Washington, we often would listen to a set of records that I believe came from Reader's Digest. There were a number of boxed sets of various types of music that my parents had purchased, and one of them was all Christmas music. Between listening to those records, frequent church attendance, and involvement in school music programs (choir and band), I was very familiar with the songs of Christmas.

When I moved to Spokane to attend college, I was very involved with The Salvation Army, and learned to play brass instruments (I had played clarinet in school). As a band, we would go caroling in quartets or quintets to the various kettle stands around town, both outside and inside malls and shopping centers. We would play a few numbers before moving on to the next location. This always helped to bring in more donations, and it was just plain fun!

I can't think of a song that's an absolute favorite. I love all Christmas songs, and many are dear to my heart (I did blog about "White Christmas" here). I do have to say that as a choir and band member for many years in both school and church groups that I always enjoyed singing or playing "The Hallelujah Chorus," even though it technically is not a Christmas carol. It is traditionally played at many Christmas concerts, and has a powerful effect on both the audience and the performers.



This post is a part of the "Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories" meme created in 2007 by Thomas and Jasia. You, too, can write your own Christmas memories, either for your personal journal or blog. Visit Geneabloggers to participate and to read others' posts on these topics.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories No. 20: Religious Services

Christmas Church Services

Did your family attend religious services during the Christmas season? What were the customs and traditions involved?


This is a beautiful nativity set I purchased a few years ago.
I've always wanted a nice one with all the traditional "players,"
and this was just perfect!

Because my parents were ministers for many years, every Christmas of my childhood was connected with church, and I grew up knowing the "reason for the season."

My very earliest Christmas church memory was of when I was not quite three years old, Christmas 1969. My mother wrote to her parents:

The Christmas program was held this morning at the Annette Protestant Chapel [at Annette Coast Guard Base in Southeast Alaska]. Miriam was one of 3 little angels and the smallest one; as she went out after singing her song, her halo and wings fell off! Bryan and I had a hard time to keep from laughing.

We angels had a song to sing and I used to remember what it was, but can't now for the life of me! I want to say it was "Angels We Have Heard On High," but I know that is not right. Too bad Mom didn't write down what it was!

As I got older, I loved to be in Christmas pageants that were held almost every year at The Salvation Army church I grew up in, and liked playing the part of Mary or the Angel.

One of the things we did after my brother was born was to have a birthday cake at home for the Baby Jesus as part of our Christmas celebration. Part of the reason of celebrating St. Nicholas Day was to have the emphasis on gifts be on a different day than the spiritual celebration.

For awhile we attended a Presbyterian church and we always had advent candles lit, another tradition I enjoy.

After we moved to Washington and I was a teen, we often attended Midnight Mass with our neighbor. I've always loved going to church around Christmas!



This post is a part of the "Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories" meme created in 2007 by Thomas and Jasia. You, too, can write your own Christmas memories, either for your personal journal or blog. Visit Geneabloggers to participate and to read others' posts on these topics.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories No. 19: Christmas Shopping

Christmas Shopping

How did your family handle Christmas Shopping? Did anyone finish early or did anyone start on Christmas Eve?

Most of the Christmas shopping done when I was a girl was via Sears, Roebucks & Co., Montgomery Wards, or occasionally, Jafco. We always got catalogs for those companies, and my favorite were the Christmas Wish Books. I loved all the dolls and accessories: clothes and bottles, strollers and carriages, cribs, high chairs, clothes.

I suppose that my dad probably bought Mom her Christmas gifts whenever he had to go out of town on business trips for The Salvation Army.

When we moved to Washington, we still used catalogs a lot. In addition to the others, we also had J.C. Penney. Both Sears and Penney had stores in Colville, although the Sears store was more of a delivery and pickup location for the larger store in Spokane.

I always envied the two girls that appeared on the front of the Jafco Christmas catalogs; they were the granddaughters of the CEO, and it always looked like they got everything they wanted for Christmas!

Today, I'm not a big shopper. I don't like malls and crowded stores. My kids can attest that I get very crabby if I have to shop for long (I don't even like grocery shopping!). I try to do a lot of online shopping, and then get in and out of stores with a pre-made list ahead of time. Still, it seems like every year there's always one or two items we end up having to purchase on Christmas Eve!



This post is a part of the "Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories" meme created in 2007 by Thomas and Jasia. You, too, can write your own Christmas memories, either for your personal journal or blog. Visit Geneabloggers to participate and to read others' posts on these topics.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories No. 18: Christmas Stockings

Christmas Stockings

Did you have one? Where did you hang it? What did you get in it?



While I may have had a stocking when I was very little, I don't remember it. When I was in early elementary school, my parents started having us celebrate the Dutch tradition of putting out our klompen, wooden shoes, on St. Nicholas Eve, December 5th. In the morning, there would be candy and small gifts. I have continued this tradition with my own children. They use my old klompen. St. Nicholas ordered these from the wooden shoe factory in Holland, Michigan, and all of our family got them. We got several pair over the years. Some pair we received were plain, unvarnished ones, and they all have been worn out and discarded, as we would actually use them for walking around in the muddy barnyard. That was the original purpose of wooden shoes; the decorative ones are generally only used for St. Nicholas Day.

One year, St. Nicholas brought my brother and I Raggedy Andy and Ann dolls. He must have been about 18 months old, and I would have been almost 9. I think that a lot of the children's books I have about the Netherlands as well as fiction books by Dutch authors were brought by the good saint, too. When I was a teenager, St. Nicholas brought me a makeup kit, and another time he brought me a favorite aerobic dance album. For years, he brought Mom a delft Christmas plate, always featuring a handpainted Dutch church on it. One year, he brought my family a beautiful chiming wall clock with a delft face and brass hands, complete with weights and pendulum. We always felt so proud of our Dutch heritage on St. Nicholas Day!



This post is a part of the "Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories" meme created in 2007 by Thomas and Jasia. You, too, can write your own Christmas memories, either for your personal journal or blog. Visit Geneabloggers to participate and to read others' posts on these topics.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories No. 17: Christmas Grab Bag

Christmas Grab Bag

Author’s choice. Please post from a topic that helps you remember Christmases past!

On December 15, 1985, I received a phone call from my dad. I was living with my pastor's family in Spokane, attending college and employed at our church's day care. My parents had been discussing going out of town during Christmas and visiting some friends on the west side of the state for several days, and so there was a possibility that I would not be able to go home for Christmas that year, since I could not get the time off of work.

"Miriam, this is your dad," he said. "I have some bad news for you." Oh, great. They are going out of town and I won't be able to go up to Colville after all, I thought.

The words he spoke next I will never forget: "Your cousin Chris died in his sleep this morning in his dorm at Gonzaga University."

I can still see myself in the kitchen with the phone to my ear, my body bent over as if someone had sucker-punched me. I could hear my voice, sounding as if it were very far away, crying out and asking, "How? Why?"

Only earlier that week, Chris had come to visit me at my workplace, located just a few blocks away from his campus. We were the same age--he was three months younger--but had been in different grades because I had started school a year early. He had met my co-workers and we had gone out to lunch. We'd discussed our busy lives as college students. A bright student, he'd gotten a scholarship to GU and was studying engineering. He was excited to be going on a retreat that coming weekend.

Sunday morning after the retreat, one of his roommates had gotten up to use the bathroom. When he returned to the room, he noticed that Chris had passed away. "Did he have sleep apnea?" the coroner asked my aunt, who replied that he had.

Some friends drove me out to my aunt and uncle's place. I hugged my aunt and my cousins Carrie and Chuck. Chuck answered the phone whenever it rang. It was bizarre, hearing him say over and over, "My brother died this morning." Family friends of my aunt and uncle came over to stay with her. My uncle took my cousins and me to his work that evening, cleaning office buildings, and then we went to Denny's and sat without appetites, talking in that weird, other-worldly, disbelieving way that people do when someone close to them has passed away.

That night, Carrie--four years younger--and I slept fitfully on the living room floor in our sleeping bags. We kept waking up all night, and I don't think anyone else slept much, either.

The next few days are all a blur. Our grandparents came from Texas. There was a memorial mass at Gonzaga, the viewing at the funeral home, the funeral where I couldn't stop crying, and then the burial service in the frozen snow atop Greenwood Memorial Terrace.

I don't think I remember Christmas that year. My parents didn't go out of town, and I suppose I went home to be with them.

There are questions that will never be answered to our satisfaction. A month later, after complaining of frequent headaches, Carrie was diagnosed with a brain tumor. Her oncologist ordered Chris's autopsy to see if perhaps he had had one, too. The autopsy report had disappeared. After a courageous 17-month-long battle, Carrie herself passed away, just days before my wedding.

I often wonder how Christmas and other family times would be different if Chris and Carrie had lived, married, and had children. I tell my kids about them, and we visit their graves on Memorial Day. Christmas time can be a sad time of memories, too, as nearly everyone can attest to. But it's also a good time to honor the memories of those who have gone before us.

 
This post is a part of the "Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories" meme created in 2007 by Thomas and Jasia. You, too, can write your own Christmas memories, either for your personal journal or blog. Visit Geneabloggers to participate and to read others' posts on these topics.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories No. 16: Christmas at School

Christmas at School


What did you do to celebrate Christmas at school? Were you ever in a Christmas Pageant?

I've already shared how Santa came to my childhood hometown of Klawock, Alaska on his Cessna from Ketchikan, but before he arrived, we students had been busy decorating our classroom. Every classroom had a tree, which was gaily decorated with lights, ornaments, and red-and-green paper chains (no political correctness and sanitized holidays in those days!). The ornaments were often pictures we had cut out, colored and covered with glitter, hung on the tree with yarn or unbent paper clips. As the school custodian, there was nothing Dad hated more than glitter! Those little metallic bits would have drops of glue on them before accidentally getting brushed to the floor, laid with those rubber-backed carpet tiles. No matter how well he vacuumed during the holidays, the carpet would be littered with glue-encrusted bits of glitter that never really came free as they embedded themselves in the fibers. But we kids never worried our little heads about that! We listened to Mitch Miller and Alvin and the Chipmunks sing Christmas songs on the record player, and I remember our teacher getting out a book of classic Christmas songs and teaching us The Twelve Days of Christmas, as we giggled our way through what seemed to us very silly lyrics.

Every year, there was a Christmas play--or actually a series of plays--usually based on a theme, performed by each classroom. One year, it was old classic tales, with "The Bremen Town Musicians" and "Bartholomew and His 500 hats." I think our class did "Puss in Boots." Another year, each class did a play based on a Christmas song. I was the title character in our Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer skit. Someone was very clever, and took old, clean, dry bleach bottles, cut a large hole in one side, painted them brown, colored the lid end black and somehow added eyes and antlers. This was a "hat" that each of the reindeer actors wore. My "nose" was a red plastic Kool-aid mug, I think, that was taped on to the lid end. I also narrated the Frosty the Snowman play for another class that year. Still another year (I think this was 1973 - second grade) we acted out fairy tales. Our class performed Little Red Riding Hood, and I was the star. I loved acting and being the center of attention, probably not helped any by being an only child for the first seven years of my life! The reason I was given many starring and narrating roles was probably because 1) I was a good reader and could memorize my lines quickly; and 2) I wasn't bashful onstage and didn't mind speaking in front of an audience, which is not the Native way. Most of the students in my classes were naturally shy and soft-spoken.

The plays were first performed in the ANB/ANS hall until the school district built a gymnasium that had a stage at one end. Unfortunately, the only photograph I have is the following, which I believe was Christmas 1971 (Kindergarten). I am the smallest one in the front row dressed in a native Tlinget dress with two salmon on the front, because a group of us had performed a native dance just before our class sang a carol.
We must have been singing "Jingle Bells," because many of us have hand-held sleigh bells. It was either this year or the following year when each class presented a different country in the "Christmas Around the World" theme. The finale of that particular evening was a piƱata that was broken. How we students scrambled to grab the candy that fell! Believe me, it was a free-for-all!





This post is a part of the "Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories" meme created in 2007 by Thomas and Jasia. You, too, can write your own Christmas memories, either for your personal journal or blog. Visit Geneabloggers to participate and to read others' posts on these topics.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories No. 15: The Holiday Happenings!

The Holiday Happenings!

Often times December to mid-January birthdays and anniversaries get over shadowed 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 on your family tree. Write a short tribute to or memory of those birthday guys and gals and write a toast to the anniversary couples.

As a family historian, have you ever noticed any of your ancestors who were born, married, or died on Christmas? I have quite a number of family members who have Christmas day events, in both my children's paternal lines and my own lines, but I picked out only direct ancestors to share with you.

Christmas Day births:

My 4th-great-grandmother: Amanda (WESTBROOK) KIMBALL (1816 - New York State)
My children's father's 2nd-great-grandmother: Senna "Senie" (COLLINS) TOLLIVER (1870 - Grayson Co., Virginia)

Christmas Day marriages:

My 10th-great-grandparents: Nathaniel DICKINSON and Hannah BEARDSLEY (1662 - Hatfield, Hampshire Co., Massachusetts)

My great-grandparents: William Bryan ROBBINS and Marie LEWIS (1919 - Muskegon Heights, Muskegon Co., Michigan)

Christmas Day deaths:

My 7th-great-grandfather: Daniel ENNES (1838 - Oswasco, Cayuga Co., New York)

My children's father's 5th-great-grandmother: Gudlaug Nilsdotter (1831 - Norway)
My children's father's 9th-great-grandfather: Thomas KILBOURN (1640 - England or Massachusetts?)
My children's father's 10th-great-grandfather: Henry SQUIRE (1649 - Charlton Mackrell, England)

Of course, there are all those Christmas Eve events, as well as other major holidays. It's also fun to find out who else in your ancestry shares your birthday. Most genealogical software has search features which can easily find this information.


Because I try to keep my family members' personal information private, I won't name names for this post, but will wish a Happy Birthday and a Happy Anniversary to all those in my family whose special days fall during the months of December and early January!



 

This post is a part of the "Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories" meme created in 2007 by Thomas and Jasia. You, too, can write your own Christmas memories, either for your personal journal or blog. Visit Geneabloggers to participate and to read others' posts on these topics.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories No. 14: Fruitcake - Friend or Foe?

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 love fruitcake! The moist, rich kind is a favorite. I have tasted some that were dry and not so great, and probably most people who dislike fruitcake have had the same misfortune. I've never re-gifted a fruitcake, and in my opinion, there's only one good purpose for it: eating it!


This post is a part of the "Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories" meme created in 2007 by Thomas and Jasia. You, too, can write your own Christmas memories, either for your personal journal or blog. Visit Geneabloggers to participate and to read others' posts on these topics.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories No. 13: Holiday Travel

Holiday Travel

Did you travel anywhere for Christmas? How did you travel and who traveled with you? Do you remember any special trips?

For my very first Christmas when I was nine months old, my parents and I traveled from Fairbanks, Alaska to Grand Rapids, Michigan to celebrate Christmas. It would be the first of only two Christmases spent in Michigan with my extended family. Several years ago, I blogged about the second trip:

When I was 11 years old, we went back to Michigan for a month, to celebrate Christmas with the family. It had been nearly seven years since we had been "home." Both sets of grandparents and an occasional aunt or uncle had come to Alaska to visit us, but none in the past 4 or 5 years since my little brother and sister had been born. To prepare us ahead of time so that we would know who all the family members were, Dad created a poster with the relatives' photos arranged in family groups, and hung it in the living room. We'd go over the names of the aunts and uncles and cousins...how old the kids were, and what cities they lived in. And when we arrived at the Grand Rapids airport that December morning, there was a crowd of 30 or so people waiting to meet us...the ultimate family reunion! For the first time in my memory, I felt connected to a people who, although I did not know them well, seemed to know and love me.


Normally, we spend Christmas either at our home or my sister's home here in the Spokane area, or else up north of Colville at my parents' home. It's difficult to get to my parents' place in the winter, as they live off an old logging road up in the mountains, miles from town, and usually have many inches of snow. You usually need a four-wheel-drive or a front-wheel-drive with chains to get in and out, and it's quite the production, making the trip up there!
I really prefer not to have to travel with the all the busy-ness of the holidays, plus the snowy roads, and the possibility of meeting other drivers who may have been "celebrating" too much before getting into their vehicle. It's much more cozy at home where we can enjoy the beautiful winter weather from the safety and comfort of home!


This post is a part of the "Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories" meme created in 2007 by Thomas and Jasia. You, too, can write your own Christmas memories, either for your personal journal or blog. Visit Geneabloggers to participate and to read others' posts on these topics.

Sunday, December 09, 2012

Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories No. 9: Grab Bag

(Originally written in December 2007)

Christmas Grab Bag


This is an all-time favorite photo of my children, Christmas or no. I believe it was taken in early December 1996, the first Christmas season in our current home. My son was nearly three, and my daughter was six years old. They'd been watching a favorite video when they both fell asleep. My daughter is an adult now, works hard at three jobs, and lives on her own. She is making her own adult Christmas memories now. My son is also is a young adult, gainfully employed, and saving up to afford to live on his own soon. I really miss the days when cuddling them could resolve most of their problems, and I look forward to the days when there will someday be little ones--in the form of grandbabies--in my home at Christmas time once again!

This post is a part of the "Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories" meme created in 2007 by Thomas and Jasia. You, too, can write your own Christmas memories, either for your personal journal or blog. Visit Geneabloggers to participate and to read others' posts on these topics.

Saturday, December 08, 2012

Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories No. 8: Christmas Cookies

(Originally written in December 2007)

Christmas Cookies

Did your family make Christmas Cookies? How did you help? Did you have a favorite cookie?

They were beautiful: large, soft sugar cookies, cut out in Christmas shapes such as bells, snowman, candy canes, and Santas. Well-frosted and covered with colored red or green sprinkles, they begged me to bite into them! Closing my eyes to savor the moment, I sank my teeth into the sweet holiday treat...and nearly gagged. Something was wrong, dreadfully so! The first sense of taste was all I could hope for, but it was overpowered by something...smoky, and sour, and nauseous: cigarette smoke. And not just any kind of cigarette; it must have been the strongest, unfiltered brand out there.

They were gifts, those cookies; Christmas gifts from the neighbors, whose last name, ironically, is an adjective for sugar, honey, and cookies (I'm refraining from writing it here; experience has taught me that the last people you'd expect to read your blog, do!). We rarely visited their home, because the interior always was clouded by a heavy pervasive fog of smoke. The cook of the house surely made those delicious-looking cookies while a cigarette hung from her lips. How disappointed I was!

The following year, the event was repeated. And, I believe for the five years I lived in that neighborhood, it occurred every holiday season. I always took one hopeful bite. "Maybe this year..." I would silently pray, only to be let down once more. While we occasionally made Christmas cookies at home, we usually didn't make sugar cookies, so to be given them was a treat--a terribly dissatisfying tease, in this case. To this day, I can't look at a sugar cookie without thinking of those neighbors! Then I sink my teeth into a sweet, well-frosted cookie, ever so grateful that I'm not tasting nicotine!


This post is a part of the "Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories" meme created in 2007 by Thomas and Jasia. You, too, can write your own Christmas memories, either for your personal journal or blog. Visit Geneabloggers to participate and to read others' posts on these topics.

Friday, December 07, 2012

Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories No. 7: Holiday Parties

(Originally written in December 2007)

Holiday Parties

Did your family throw a holiday party each year? Do you remember attending any holiday parties?


Our family did not have a holiday party every year; Christmas was a mainly a family affair. I believe my classroom always had a party (more on that upcoming in Advent Memories No. 16). Occasionally, my parents would invite someone over to share Christmas dinner, but it was not a "party," per se. We lived too far away from family to have regular holiday gatherings, too; in Advent Memories No. 13, I'll tell about a special Christmas with family in Michigan that we enjoyed one year.

When I moved away from my parents' home in Northeast Washington to the "big city" of Spokane in the fall of 1984 to attend college, work for my church, and live with my pastor's family, I attended several holiday parties each year. Our youth group of high school and college-age kids had a party, and a girlfriend and I somehow ended up as hostesses. We went out shopping and bought matching dresses. The mall we shopped at was a new big thing in town at that time. Originally, it had been a strip mall, and had only recently been enclosed. Now it sports three stories and is nearly surrounded by multi-level parking garages.

At work, we always had a whole-staff party, as well as a department staff party. I worked for The Salvation Army Kindergarten/Pre-school/Day Care, and we ladies would always go out for a nice luncheon. It seems to me we would exchange cards and/or little gifts (maybe we had a name exchange; I don't remember). Then the whole Salvation Army staff would get together as well.

Now that I work for the local school district, there are several holiday parties thrown each year, some department, and often a whole-staff, party. The teacher in my classroom likes to treat us assistants to a pedicure and then drinks and hors d'oeuvres
. Just like in my day care days, we bring little gifts and enjoy our time away from the students. The whole staff is usually invited to the principal's home, but I haven't attended so far.

The name tag is courtesy of Thomas at Destination: Austin Family. This post is a part of the "Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories" meme created in 2007 by Thomas and Jasia. You, too, can write your own Christmas memories, either for your personal journal or blog. Visit Geneabloggers to participate and to read others' posts on these topics.

Thursday, December 06, 2012

Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories No. 6: Santa Claus

(Originally written in December 2007)

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 know if Thomas and Jasia knew this when they picked December 6th to be the day to write about Santa Claus, but today is St. Nicholas Day. The Dutch brought the feast of Sinterklaas (St. Nicholas) to America when they settled New Netherlands (modern-day New York state and New Jersey) in the 1600s. St. Nicholas Day was a day of feasting and gift giving for children and sweethearts, and little ones would put out their klompen (wooden shoes) by the hearth filled with hay for the saint's white horse, with hopes that morning would find them refilled with chocolates and little gifts. Naughty children could be expected to find a switch, instead, with a arning that if they were not good, Zwarte Pieter (Black Peter, the good saint's Moor servant) would whisk them away in his large sack, never to be seen or heard from again! Christmas Day was not celebrated as we know it now, but was a solemn, religious day. Over time, with help from Thomas Nast and whoever really wrote "A Visit of St. Nicholas" (a.k.a. "The Night Before Christmas"), the character of the personality we know as Santa Claus developed and evolved.

I don't ever remember sending a letter to Santa Claus. I do know that Santa never flew a sleigh pulled by eight tiny reindeer and one red-nosed one...I know, because I have seen what he really flies in! Since I don't know my aircraft makes and models real well, I'm going to venture to guess that what I've seen Santa arrive in at the city dock of our Southeast Alaskan village was a six-passenger Cessna 180 Skywagon fitted with floats. And he comes from Ketchikan, not the North Pole! Besides, everyone in Alaska knows North Pole is just a village near Fairbanks, and not near the North Pole at all!

Like I said, Santa would arrive from Ketchikan in the Cessna, and all of us schoolkids would have our noses glued to the windows on the bay-side of the classroom, watching him come up the hill. Then we would line up in our hats and coats and head for the ANB - ANS hall, about the distance of a block or so from the school (there were no blocks, or paved roads, for that matter, in Klawock at that time). The Alaskan Native Brotherhood and Alaskan Native Sisterhood is a fraternal organization. Non-natives could be invited to join, but could not vote. The organization's hall was used as gym for basketball tournaments, a funeral chapel for the three-day wakes, and community center for events such as school plays or Santa's visits.

Class by class, we gathered around Santa as he handed out little toys from his bag and gave us plastic netting stockings filled with nuts and oranges. I remember watching Santa have a little problem with his beard. It seemed to not quite stay in place. Interesting!

I don't know how many years Santa came to visit the schoolchildren of Klawock, but I do know that in the mid-1970s, my parents starting incorporating St. Nicholas Day as our main day of celebration. Dad ordered us klompen from the wooden shoe factory in Holland, Michigan, and we put those out and on the hearth of the woodstove that heated our home. St. Nicholas always enjoyed the sandwich I made for him, and his horse loved the sweet marsh grass that Dad had cut and cured the summer before. We were always well rewarded with chocolates, Dutch cheese, and gifts--often books about the Netherlands, or in my mom's case, a Delft Christmas plate to add to her collection.

I still have the two pair of klompen from my childhood, and my children--even as teenagers--enjoyed placing them under the tree (we don't have a hearth) on the evening of December 5th, waiting to see what St. Nicholas brings.

Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus, or St. Nicholas, or Sinterklaas. Whatever you call him, however you celebrate him, he is the Spirit of Giving that lives in all of us, if ever we let him.


This post is a part of the "Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories" meme created in 2007 by Thomas and Jasia. You, too, can write your own Christmas memories, either for your personal journal or blog. Visit Geneabloggers to participate and to read others' posts on these topics.

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories No. 5: Outdoor Decorations

(Originally written in December 2007)

Outdoor Decorations


Did people in your neighborhood decorate with lights? Did some people really go “all out” when decorating?

Considering that the Southeast Alaskan neighborhood I grew up with did not have public electricity, the answers to those questions are "no"! There was a restaurant and lodge to the north of us that had its own generator. Our neighbors to the south that had a sporting goods rental and gift shop also had a small generator they used during the evening. In 1977, we finally got electricity to the neighborhood, but no one had outdoor Christmas lights.

In 1979, we moved to a log home up in the mountains of Eastern Washington. While we had electricity, our neighbors were "hid" by the ravines and hills around us. Outdoor lights were limited to a string here and there, from what I can remember.

Here in the city, there are quite a few neighborhoods that go "all out," and each year the city transit system has a tour where you can see all the best ones. We have our favorite neighborhoods that we visit during this season, in our family car. Our favorite years are those when there's been just enough snow to cover the lights strung on bushes, so that the colors glow through the snow. In one of these neighborhoods, we often see a covered sleigh pulled by draft horses touring around. One of these times, we'll have to try that!


This post is a part of the "Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories" meme created in 2007 by Thomas and Jasia. You, too, can write your own Christmas memories, either for your personal journal or blog. Visit Geneabloggers to participate and to read others' posts on these topics.

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

RootsMagic 6: A Review


I was very excited to hear my favorite genealogy software RootsMagic announce their latest upgrade, version 6, two weeks ago. It's hard to believe sometimes that this program can get any better, but somehow they manage to come up with new features that are more efficient and user-friendly than ever. Actually, the secret is that the developers of RootsMagic listen to their customers and incorporate requested features whenever feasible.

Whenever I'm asked why I prefer RootsMagic to any other, I tend to outline all my favorite components: how RootsMagic had the Pedigree View before anyone else did way back when it was still known as Family Origins; the ability to color-code names or entire branches of a tree (although, I'm still waiting for the color orange to be available, hint, hint!): RootsMagic-To-Go, your entire working database on a flash drive so you can access all your data at any computer, anywhere (relative's home, work, research library, archival institution); user-friendly intuitive features; and its clutter-free--yet menu-accessible--interface.

Pedigree View, featuring color-coded family lines; notice the clean interface(click on the image to enlarge)

So what is new and improved in RootsMagic 6? I've taken some time to explore and review these, and I think you'll like them as well.

The first item I explored was the editable timeline. While the timeline is not new, I really did not explore it or use it to its full capabilities in earlier versions. Besides seeing an individual's events in chronological order, one can also choose add to any combination of parent, sibling, child, spouse, or shared events, as well as manipulate the order of the place names, show place details, and show the graphic timeline (with the blue and red bars). What is new is the ability to edit any names, dates, and places that appear on the timeline from this view. For instance, if I noticed that Emeline's brother's name was misspelled, I wouldn't have to close this timeline view of Emeline's, search on her brother's name, and then open his edit menu. I can simply click on Emeline's brother's name here on her timeline, correct the spelling, and voila! The edit is complete.

Editable Timeline(click on the image to enlarge)

The second great new feature is called WebTags. This allows you to place a URL to an online image, document, or text that gives evidence for one or more of your people, places, events, sources, or individual items in your research log list. For instance, here is my ancestor, Richard Wilkinson, and his family on the 1861 Canadian Census at Ancestry. You can see that I've highlighted the URL (web address):

(click on the image to enlarge)

I can then create a WebTag of this image and attach it to my sources, to provide a link for myself and others to easily access the original image.

(click on the image to enlarge)

My third favorite component of version 6, although it is not new, is that I can view and edit two database--or even different individuals in the same database--side by side. This comes in really handy when I need to copy information from one individual to another, whether it be simple data, or a source or citation. Below is a screenshot of two of my databases. The first is my own, and the second is the database of my significant other. You will notice that we are distantly related (the exact relationship is fifth cousin, twice removed). I have data in my own database from information I have researched in online records. The data in my honey's database comes from a downloaded GEDCOM shared by a cousin of his who has researched the family tree. By flipping back and forth, I can add add information to each database without having to merge the two to ensure that both have the same data.

(click on the image to enlarge)

Some of the other new features include Find Everywhere, which allows you to search all text--notes, sources, citations, names, places, events--for a word or phrase. CountyCheck Explorer allows you to look up counties and states in the U.S., Canada, United Kingdom, and Australia to view information about them. From this feature, you can also go online to learn more at the FamilySearch Wiki page for counties and states, as well as the interactive state historical county boundaries map at the Newberry Library website. Finally, Publish Online offers a new, dynamic site for your family tree with pedigree, family, and individual views, notes, sources, and media for each person in your database. This replaces the older, HTML "90s look" of the old-style publishing options that were available. While I haven't had a chance to try this out yet, it does look intriguing.

If you're looking for a good genealogy program, or are wondering if it's worth upgrading your current RootsMagic program, I highly recommend RootsMagic 6. At $29.95 for a new purchase, or $19.95 for an upgrade, it's affordable and well worth the investment. It can also be purchased with a user's manual for $39.95 at Amazon.com . Customer support is personal and prompt. You don't have to worry that this version will be replaced every year with a new one, making your older version obsolete simply because the calendar changed. Unlike some other genealogy software companies, RootsMagic doesn't pump out a new product on a regular basis simply to make money. They make sure they are meeting their customers' needs and providing a great product, and only when the demand requires it, do they release a new, improved version. I'm looking forward to continuing to utilize this great resource to enhance my research, stay organized and focused, and easily analyze my results.

If you'd like to see these features in-depth, I recommend viewing the free webinar "What's New in RootsMagic 6" here (under "Past Webinars").


Disclosure: I was given a copy of RootsMagic 6 to review on this genealogy blog. I was not compensated monetarily, or in any way other than stated, for this review. I have long been a RootsMagic user and strong proponent since my first experience with its earliest product, FamilyOrigins. I am an affiliate for Amazon.com, and as such, receive compensation for products advertised on and linked from this blog.

Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories No. 4: Christmas Cards

(Originally written in December 2007)

Christmas Cards

Did your family send them? Did your family display the ones they received? Do you still send Christmas cards?

During the last four weeks, I've been going through the letters my mom wrote her parents in Western Michigan from Alaska during the years 1966 - 1978, and have just started 1977. There are many December letters tucked inside Christmas cards during those years, although I don't specifically remember Mom sitting down with a stack of them to sign and mail off. It may be that she purchased just a few to mail to family and friends, or perhaps she was able to buy them by the box. I do know from what she wrote in those letters that it was hard to buy holiday cards of any kind in Southeast Alaska. My mother's greeting to her parents on Easter or Mother's or Father's Day, for instance, usually consisted of the weekly letter with best wishes for the family member(s) and an explanation that no store on the island sold greeting cards.

Once we moved to Eastern Washington in 1979, I do remember our family sending off greeting cards. Sometimes Dad would get a neighbor to take a nice group photo of our family with his camera and get some Christmas photo cards printed up. We would dress up for these photos, most of the time. Mom would tuck newsy notes or letters in with both the greeting cards and the photo cards.

I think cards were taped along the beams of our house in Alaska, which had a cathedral ceiling, but I'm not sure if I'm remembering that correctly. In our home in Eastern Washington, the cards were always--and still are--taped around the doorway and pass-through between the dining area and kitchen.

After I married, I started sending out Christmas cards to friends and family members, and after our children were born, I added photos and a Christmas letter. I haven't done a Christmas letter every year, but I did most years. They're fun to go back and read, because I always hit the highlights of the past 12 months. The past few years, with postage so expensive and with most people in my e-mail address book having color printers, I've just e-mailed my Christmas letter and scanned photos of our family, while mailing "hard copies" to family and friends without Internet access.



The cards we receive are placed in a green Christmas wooden basket on our coffee table in the living room. After Christmas is over, I go through and save the photos and Christmas letters. Most of the cards, unless unique or extra special, get their covers reused as gift tags for next year's Christmas, or passed on to non-profit organizations that recycle them.


This post is a part of the "Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories" meme created in 2007 by Thomas and Jasia. You, too, can write your own Christmas memories, either for your personal journal or blog. Visit Geneabloggers to participate and to read others' posts on these topics.

Monday, December 03, 2012

Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories No. 3: Christmas Tree Ornaments

Christmas Tree Ornaments

Did your family have heirloom or cherished ornaments? Did you ever string popcorn and cranberries? Did your family make ornaments?

Growing up, I don't remember any particular heirloom or cherished ornaments. I do remember stringing popcorn once or twice, and I know we made paper chains and ornaments for our classroom tree at school.

However, I do have many cherished ornaments on my tree today. Many were made by my dad's older sister, who presented me with a box of them on May 2, 1987, at my wedding shower. Tucked in the box was a note:


Dear Miriam,

These things have a very special meaning. I have been making them through the years and would have given them at a shower like this for Chris' wife-to-be. Please know that love was made into each one. I want to share that special love with you...

Love,
Aunt Louise

Chris was my aunt's oldest child, a cousin just three months younger than me, who died unexpectedly in his sleep in his dorm room at Gonzaga University on December 15, 1985. Naturally, these ornaments are very special, and I always think of Chris when I set up my tree, as well as his younger sister Carrie, who was in the hospital with brain cancer the day of my bridal shower. She passed away shortly afterward on May 14, 1987, just 12 days before my wedding. She was to have been my maid of honor. I had a slide show displaying a few of the beautiful handmade ornaments, but the site no longer works (I'll have to create another one).


My aunt has continued to make ornaments over the years, and they've joined the box of originals to make quite a collection. One of my favorites was the doll see below, made from a napkin and tablecloth set that belong to my great-grandmother, Marie (LEWIS) ROBBINS. Marie had purchased the linens from Lillie's Department Store in Coopersville, Michigan and embroidered the corners and edges herself. Aunt Louise had inherited the set, but it had become damaged while in storage. She salvaged the materials and created these cloth doll ornaments, and gave one of each to me, my sister, and our girl cousins. So it is doubly sentimental to me.



I also have many ornaments that bring me very happy memories; clever crafty ornaments given by my mother's sister-in-law; still others by students and co-workers, more family members and friends. Some of my favorites are the six from when I worked at my children's elementary school. The principal always decorated the tree in the foyer with a fantastic theme rivaling anything you could see in a magazine. One year it was gingerbread men, another a sports theme, still another everything nautical. Each staff member would have a matching ornament with his or her name on it and the year as a keepsake. Our principal always started the new theme with his wife's school's tree (she was also an elementary school principal); then the following year, our school would get the decorations. The next two years, the decorations would go to two other schools; so everything was recycled and enjoyed by many students, staff and families around the district. (Again, I'll need to make a new slideshow of those ornaments).


This post is a part of the "Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories" meme created in 2007 by Thomas and Jasia. You, too, can write your own Christmas memories, either for your personal journal or blog. Visit Geneabloggers to participate and to read others' posts on these topics.

Sunday, December 02, 2012

Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories No. 2: Holiday Foods

Holiday Foods

Did your family have any traditional dishes for the holidays? Was there one dish that you thought was unusual?

A couple of traditional holiday sweets we had while I was growing up were banket (bun-KET) and olie bollen (OH-lee BOH-len), traditional Dutch desserts. Banket is similar to Danish kringle in that it is a rolled pastry log with sweetened almond paste filling, cut into small slices. Every year we would hope my grandfather wasn't too tired from his working his long hours at the post office in Grand Rapids, Michigan, so that he could make banket and send it to us in Southeast Alaska, and later in Northeast Washington. He would wrap it in foil and freeze it, then send it in our packages of Christmas gifts. (See recipe and photos here.)

Olie bollen literally means "oily balls" or "fat balls" and they are what we know as donut holes. I buy these, both plain and with powdered sugar, almost every year for my family at my local supermarket and often bring them to class on St. Nicholas Day, while I tell my students about our Dutch traditions.

For Christmas dinner, Mom would always make a big traditional meal, usually with whatever meat we had raised on our farm. We had a variety of poultry to choose from: chicken, duck, or goose. We also had rabbit, ham, or chevon (goat meat). Along with the main meat dish, there would be mashed potatoes and gravy, home-grown cooked vegetables, cranberry jelly, and pickles and black olives. Dad's favorite dessert was mince-meat pie, and I think one year, we had homemade mince-meat after we had butchered a hog. I also remember homemade apple pie with slices of cheese.

When we have Christmas at my house, I don't usually go all out with a large, sit-down dinner. My kitchen is pretty small, and it's hard to crowd a dozen people around my dining room table, even with all the leaves out, so I'll often have a buffet instead. Depending on the time when we open gifts, sometimes it will be a brunch with crackers, meats, cheeses, and the like. At other times, I'll have plates of sub sandwiches with side dishes. Always, we have several desserts to choose from.

When we go over to my brother-in-law's place, we'll sometimes have a traditional meal, especially if it's Christmas Eve. If we meet between Christmas and New Year's, we often have a comfortable dinner of homemade stew, rolls, and a salad, followed by dessert. My brother-in-law is a pretty good cook, and usually makes the stew.

In the past, New Year's Eve was normally spent at home. All evening, we would graze on any leftover goodies that may have survived Christmas Day. Sparkling cider was bought for the kids when they were young, and my drink of choice to see in the New Year used to be rum and Coke. Lately, I prefer a glass of wine or champagne.


This post is a part of the "Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories" meme created in 2007 by Thomas and Jasia. You, too, can write your own Christmas memories, either for your personal journal or blog. Visit Geneabloggers to participate and to read others' posts on these topics.

Saturday, December 01, 2012

Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories No. 1: The Christmas Tree

The Christmas Tree


Did you have a real tree or was it artificial? How big was the tree? Who decorated the tree?

I lived in the woods of Southeast Alaska and Northeast Washington for most of my childhood... yet we had an artificial tree for most of those years!

We must have had real trees when I was very little, but I never remember decorating them or seeing them set up. I do have vague memories of seeing a tree in our living room in Kake, Alaska and again in our mobile home in Klawock, Alaska; they would have been real. Sometime in the mid-1970s after my parents built their house about a mile outside of Klawock, they got a small artificial tree and decorated it with red and white velveteen-covered doves, roses and ribbons. Since we did not have electricity out on this farm, we did not have lights on the tree. It was a family joke that we lived in one of the largest forests in the nation, yet we had an artificial Christmas tree. It did make sense because most of the trees around our home were very tall, and it was wasteful to cut down small trees for Christmas that could have instead grown up to be good for lumber, firewood, or shade. I think we kids always helped decorate the tree.

The first year I were married (1987), I had a real Charlie Brown Christmas tree. My former husband worked for The Salvation Army Family Services department, and a bunch of Christmas trees had been donated to give to needy families. He brought the last one home on Christmas Eve after the department had closed for the holiday. That tree was so bad, no needy family had even wanted it! It stood about three feet tall, and there was no bad side to place against the wall...every side was the bad side! I only had a handful of decorations, but I did the best I could to fix it up! It had kind of been an impromptu thing, as my former husband really wasn't into celebrating Christmas at that time, and only brought it home after I had protested, "We have to have a tree!"  Over the years, I have had a couple of artificial trees that served their purpose well. This year I am planning to decorate the tree in a different way as a tribute to my ancestors and love of genealogy. Stay tuned!

This post is a part of the "Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories" meme created in 2007 by Thomas and Jasia. You, too, can write your own Christmas memories, either for your personal journal or blog. Visit Geneabloggers to participate and to read others' posts on these topics.