The Widows of 2nd Street

I found this story on the Arcadia Historical Society’s website and it included the first picture I’ve ever seen of my 4x great grandmother, Alzina Higbee Stockman. My guess is she’s around 84/85 in this photo, likely 1940…does the boy look to be around age 7?

Ray with "Grandma Stockman"

Alzina Higbee Stockman with Raymond Knudsen ca. 1940

To see the full article click here.

Thanks for stopping by and Happy Hunting.


Categories: 1940 Census, Stockman | 2 Comments

What’s written on the ‘back’ of your digital photos?

What is metadata?

Simply put, metadata is the writing on the back of the photograph. Usually this details who is in the photo, when and where it was taken. In the digital age, this information is kept in the file but not visible. You can right click and see the “properties” of a file – the description or title is one piece of metadata while the ‘tags’ or ‘keywords’ are another.

Why do I need this?

In the current technological age, a digital image or photograph could get ‘disconnected’ from any database or shared family tree. Essentially, we cannot guarantee that the person who finds the photo online is able to see any more information than the image itself. With family history images, this can be a problem. Who is the 3rd person from the left? I want to name all individuals, and include the place and time if possible. For that, we need metadata.

How do I do this?

Most image programs are able to save ‘metadata’. Be sure to search on google for your favorite image manipulation program that allows metadata. Personally, I use Picasa by google. Picasa uses the caption as the description in the metadata and “tags” in picasa are “keywords” in the “properties”

Betty Jean and Jeff_meta

This image is of me around 6-8 months old with my grandmother, Betty Jean (Polson/Wollenhaupt/Marsh/Curtis – but that’s another story).

This is your test – perhaps your photos already have metadata.

–Tell me the exact address where this photo was taken.

–Tell me who is in the photo.

–Tell me the approx. date the photo was taken.


This is a step-by-step guide that should work for most people.

1. Right click on the image and ‘save image’ – save to a place you’ll be able to find – the desktop is usually good

2. Find the image and “right click” – then scroll down and click on “properties”

CaptureIn Windows 7 you see this image.

So far we just see the file name and type.

Navigate to the “Details” tab.

You will then see “tags” with whatever tags you entered as keywords.











You will then see the “title” which in Picasa is the “caption” and you’ll see the ‘tags’.

From this information you would know all the answers to the questions I asked earlier.


Isn’t metadata grand?

Categories: Cheap, Research, Tech, webtrees | Leave a comment

webtrees Vytux suite of add-ons – replacing kiwitrees simpl add-ons

For webtrees users there’s often the question of whether to customize or not. Anybody that has used webtrees for longer than a year may side on NOT customizing simply because of the hassle of updating and making sure any add-on’s are compatible with new versions of webtrees.

Prior to the new 1.5 webtrees series we had kiwi and his suite of add-on’s called “simple add-on’s”. And they were indeed quite simple. I found quite a few of them very useful. Particularly the ‘simpl menu’ and ‘simpl gallery’ although there were many others.

Unfortunately Kiwi has split from the project and no longer updates his add-on’s to support webtrees 1.5 and up. They are still available if you have an older version of webtrees.

But do not fret, another volunteer programmer has stepped in to help us out. The vytux suite of add-on’s are basically what kiwi had done except that are compatible with the 1.5 and up versions of webtrees. His site is here. I’ve been a slacker and haven’t looked at my site for awhile but when I did I realized that there was no link to this blog! I have a link from the blog to my database but not the other way around – it was a one-way street. I simply downloaded the vytux menu2, uploaded to my server and checked the right boxes. It was that easy.

There are many other customizations, themes, etc. However, unless you’re computer savvy or quite experienced with webtrees I highly recommend starting out with the basics and just learning the multitude of what webtrees has to offer. Once you get comfortable with the basic layout, you can start to experiment with add-ons.

My current favorite add-on is the facebook login module. And although there are many discussions on reports and graphical outputs I’d like to see that improved. Afterall, if we’re going to have the best web-based family history software online then why not have it contain the best of everything? Customized color-coded pedigrees, fan charts etc.

What add-on’s have you used and enjoyed? What add-on’s would you like to see added to webtrees?

Happy Hunting!

Categories: Cheap, Tech, webtrees | Leave a comment

A webtrees add-on to login via Facebook

Yes, you read correctly. The webtrees open source program has a very dedicated group of developers constantly upgrading the code. I was a bit lazy and did not upgrade properly a few months ago. They now added a feature for automatic upgrades and when mine was automatically upgraded I had some issues (due to not following instructions months ago). Long story short, I reset my site and worked on it a bit.


When browsing the webtrees forums I noticed a login via facebook module. This was developed by

Matt N. a.k.a.  mnoorenberghe at Github. You can find the information on the facebook add-on here. I followed instructions, automatically pre-approved all family members I could think of connect as my facebook friends, and

within hours had 3 family members logged into my website.

Now, some of you may laugh at a measly 3 family members logged into my site. However, those of you who’ve seen the rolling eyes, the avoiding family members or a subtle change in topic when talking to family know how difficult it is to engage others in the family history. A barrier to that was the somewhat complicated and non-instantaneous login structure on webtrees. With the Login-via-Facebook module you’re simply already logged into facebook and connect via webtrees software. If the admin pre-approved you there’s no waiting, you’re set to browse and edit family history information to add to your legacy!

If you’re using webtrees simply follow the instructions in the above link. Be sure when you develop the app on facebook that you only have your URL domain – for example – my site is at is intended for my private counseling practice. However, in the Facebook settings I had to put as the URL. The very next step makes it specific with

Once it was set up I realized some minor settings had to be changed, namely the default blocks on new user pages. I set it up how I like it although users can change it if they please.

Ultimately I thank Matt N. for his time and effort in this module as it makes family members more likely to login to the site without hassles of requesting a username/password, waiting for approval etc. Great work sir!

Categories: Cheap, Tech, webtrees | 2 Comments

Who will carry on your research?

I came across this while browsing pinterest. Ann McClean pinned it to her “I love genealogy” board.


What a great addition to the living will and  testament. With all the time and money spent on this hobby this little paper may make the difference for whether our research is preserved or not.
Do you have your research in your will?

Categories: Research | Leave a comment

Resolutions – before you tackle those brick walls

As I was thinking about resolutions I compiled a list of all my ancestors for whom I don’t know their parents. A list of my brick walls. The idea was to break through a certain percentage or number of brick walls. Sounds like a popular resolution for family historians right?

Well, the more I thought about it the more I realized that many of these family lines have not been sourced properly. I could be doing a lot of work on breaking a brick wall that may not even be my ancestor! I know the thrill of breaking a brick wall is highly rewarding and sourcing is not so rewarding. However, if you properly source and go through your family lines then the reward may come easier and be more rewarding.

Make sure your information is accurate so you’re not breaking walls of an ancestor that is not related!

Categories: Brick Wall, Research | Leave a comment

Flexible Storytelling – Family History for Young People


Everybody’s heard of the primary demographic for genealogists. From what I’ve read, the majority of the population is retired, females over the age of 50 or so. Which makes a lot of sense. If you’re retired, you have more time to do research and later stages of life tend to provoke interest in our roots and lastly, women are naturally inclined to focus more on relationships than men.

However, it seems there’s a large interest in getting young folks interested in genealogy. Perhaps I’m bias because I am a young genealogist and therefore am connected to and more aware of communities and projects for young family historians, like young and saavy genealogists or zap the grandma gap site. However, I do have some evidence to support my hypothesis. My statistic counter on this blog shows a huge preference for one particular post titled, “the young genealogist“. So, you asked for it. :)

*note – young people seem to have a negative reaction to the word genealogy so I’ll be using the words family history

So, what’s available to get young people interested in Family History?

Firstly, thanks to Lisa Louise Cooke’s recent podcast which featured Janet Hovorka of Zap the Grandma Gap! Janet has put together activity books for children to get them interested in Family History. In the podcast she talks about an age ‘sweet spot’ – an age level for kids to truly participate and appreciate the activity books.

Lorine McGinnis Schulze from Olive Tree Genealogy has lots of great ideas to get kids involved in family history. Many of these ideas are also crafty – nice projects to pour your creativity into and share with the family.

Of course for slightly older youth – say pre-teens to young adults and older – there is technology. It can be as simple as putting a black & white image of an ancestor onto an ipad coloring app. Or perhaps develop a kind of ‘whodunit’ mystery game involving records & dates.

The key is knowing your audience & being creative.

Know your audience: Not just their age and developmental ability, but also their interests & attention span.

If the 7 year-old in your family is often energetic or more interested in video games, you need to adapt some activity to meet that. If that child is feeling ‘forced’ into a project that feels like homework they are not likely to stay interested for very long. Use their energy by playfully creating a ‘battlefield’ game – like ‘tag’ or ‘capture the flag’ except with the union side and the confederate side. Incorporate ancestors as characters if you can – and let them know they are related to that person! Use their interest in video games by getting those ancestors onto screens. Generally I’m not a big fan of too much screen-time but if they encounter their ancestors on a daily basis they may just develop some curiosity about who they’re looking at.

Be creative: find ways to engage the audience utilizing their natural interests. They don’t need to know everything about their ancestor, just sprinkle a little on the top of a game or throughout their day. Before trick-or-treating you can remind them that census takers would go house-to-house to collect information, which included their grandparents!

Is there an appropriate age for a child to begin interest in Family History?

Nope! There is none! 0-120! The general guideline is that the activity must fit the child’s developmental level. For example, you can learn and develop the wonderful art of storytelling and begin telling your child their family story while they’re in the womb!

Storytelling is most definitely an art and another area of family history that is gaining interest and popularity. The Rootstech conference coming up in February in Salt Lake City boasts 48 sessions with the keyword “story”. Many are geared towards developing the story and storytelling techniques to engage audiences.

In short, match the family history activity to the child’s interests.

Are they showing interest now? Challenge them with a project related to family history. Can they write a story from an ancestor’s perspective? Put together a slideshow to honor a grandparent? Complete a family tree puzzle? Be sure to reward them with lots of praise and interest. Fill them up with confidence and love!

What activities have you had success with? Have ideas but not sure how to implement them? Let me know by commenting below!

Categories: Craft, Fun, Psychology, Tech, Youth | Leave a comment

Another thinglink image ca. 1915

Thinglink is a fun free tool that can be useful for family historians in the digital age. You can see my first one here.

Basically you can add links, icons, videos and more to any image. It’s similar to a fancy Google Earth project but without the geography and a lot simpler. Once you choose an image you like, think about all the information it may contain. Not just personal family information but location and some historical context as well.

I hope you like it. This was inspired by my previous post about my Marsh line.

Try out thinglink for yourself and tell me what you think!

Categories: Cheap, Fun, Marsh, Surname, Tech | Leave a comment

Surname Saturday – Marsh



The surname Marsh is the most popular surname in my database – according to webtrees’ built-in statistics engine. Here’s a little information on the Marsh line from my tree.

Pop Surnames

*My father’s mother was born Betty Jean Marsh. She came from Rose Anna who’s family lived in Scio, Washtenaw, Michigan for a few generations. You can see much of the family in this old photo. (Thanks to my great-aunt for getting into family history briefly to preserve these pictures!). Rose Anna’s father, Joseph Daniel, is driving.


Marsh_John Elisha and Ellen

Joseph Daniel’s father was John Elisha Marsh – a Civil War veteran. I’m really grateful to have a picture of him and his Irish wife, Ellen Cunningham, as well.

A quick story on John Elisha’s brother, Ezra. From History of Washtenaw County, Michigan : and Biographies of Representative Citizens. History of Michigan (Google eBook).


When I visited the Library of Michigan I was able to find these records and it described one of his hands as being deformed. Interesting!

Now, as you can see from the relationship chart on the left, this Marsh line goes back to Pennsylvania & Massachusetts as early as the 1600’s. And 3 generations further back to England.

According to the Dictionary of American Family Names ©2013, Oxford University Press the surname Marsh is a  name for someone who lived by or in a marsh or fen. Some statistics from on the surname can be found here.

I’m glad to have discovered this family having been in the nation so long and thus an integral part of it’s history. Do you have any Marsh’s in your tree? Any of the ancestors listed on the left match your ancestor? Was your ancestor Martin Breitenbach? Please let me know & let’s collaborate!

*Technically Betty Jean's birth record reports her name as Betty Jean Curtis.
Categories: Brick Wall, Marsh, Research, Surname | Leave a comment

Rootstech 2014 – A very frugal accommodation option.


I’m sure everyone’s heard of the technology/family history conference called rootstech. I’ve been watching the online speakers and presentations for the past 2 years and am very excited to announce that I’ll be attending this February.

Dick Eastman wrote about the upcoming event and labeled it as one of his “do not miss” events. He also had some advice for more frugal accommodations.

Well, being quite frugal myself and also quite young and savvy, I’ve got a very frugal and often rewarding option for any adventurous and  financially limited (or  financially minded) attendees. And perhaps the cost of accommodations is what is preventing you from signing up

Well, if you haven’t heard there’s a network of open minded people who enjoy travel without high costs of a hotel stay. The entire project is called couch surfing. This isn’t the couch surfing where you find a friend who’s willing to let you sleep on their couch… just that basic concept with the support of technology.

The site is at and is like a social network for those looking for couches to sleep on our those willing to meet weary travelers and offer their couch. Everyone has a profile complete with reviews. Granted there is some risk but you can choose only verified hosts. There’s no money involved but generally surfers get a small gift for the host.

I’ve surfed half a dozen times and hosted several times. I’ve met great people and some just offered their couch without much socializing.

Since most of my time in Salt Lake will be at the conference, the library or sight seeing I struggle to justify paying $80+ to sleep.

I recognize that this option is not for everyone. However, if you’re even slightly curious I recommend getting out of your comfort zone and trying it out. You may just meet great people and save a lot of money, not just on this trip but on future trips as well

Categories: Research | Leave a comment