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#100DaysOfGenealogy Update

#100DaysOfGenealogy Update

Following April 2018 LDS General Conference, I set a goal to do 100 Days of Genealogy. I haven't been perfect, but quite frankly I've done WAY more family history work than I have since doing a family history project for one of my Young Women in Excellence projects. What I've allowed to "count" as family history has evolved, but it basically boils down to: searching for ancestors records in FamilySearch and Ancestry, indexing and doing temple work.

To keep track of my progress, I use HeyHabit. It's this awesome app (accessible as a Chrome extension so your calendar and to-do list come up every time you open a new tab in the browser, an iPhone app, or simply by going to that my husband built to help you maintain a healthy lifestyle and focus on creating habits. You can see how I'm doing on my family history goal below. It's been 51 days since I set my goal and I've done some family history work 39 of those days. As you can see from my metrics, I really struggle with Fridays and Saturdays :)

hey habit family history goal

As I've put an additional focus in my life on working on family history, I've felt a much greater love for my ancestors and closeness to them, and on days when I feel I haven't accomplished much else despite my best efforts it's been particularly helpful to me to feel I've done something incredibly worthwhile, even if it only took me 5 minutes to index a batch of names. Want to learn more about the joy of indexing? Check out this blog post. For more details on what I did to get started on my family history this go around (and an easy-to-find, concrete place you can start too), check out this other recent blog post

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The Joy of Indexing: 101

The Joy of Indexing: 101

Indexing is a fantastic way to get involved in family history, especially if family history seems intimidating and you aren't sure where to start. I've found it has become even more meaningful for me as I've engaged in the search for my own ancestors because of the gratitude I've felt for those who have indexed records before me to allow me to find information about my own ancestors lives—for me it feels like a way to pay it forward.

The change to web indexing (it used to be a program you had to download on your computer) makes it fast and easy to get started from anywhere and pick up right where you left off.

Start by going to and then clicking Indexing > Web Indexing.

FamilySearch Indexing

Once you sign into FamilySearch, you'll be dropped onto this Indexing home page. You'll be able to set goals here and track your progress, but to get straight down to business, click the blue Find Batches button.

indexing home page

This will show you all the batches currently available to index. You can choose the difficulty level, language, etc. that you're up for too!

beginning batches indexing

Once you're in your indexing batch here are a couple of my favorite features.

1) Handwriting examples! If you just can't figure out what a letter is, open up this panel and it will give you examples of different ways that letter has been written historically. These have been a lifesaver to me in the past.

indexing handwriting help

2) Special instructions. When I start indexing a new type of record, I like to click through the "?" icon for each field, so that I know what I'm doing—it makes a big difference. For example, did you know when typing a height listed as 6' 1", you should type 6 1 (without the foot and inch symbols)? I'd been doing that wrong for years!

Special instructions

As I index, I can't help but wonder who these people were and what their life story was. I look for connections to my life and family (one person with my birthday so far!) and each time I find one it makes me smile. The greatest joy comes from knowing that as I index, I'm helping make these records searchable so that someone who loves this person and is looking for them can find them. How cool is that?

Ready to start indexing? Try it out at FamilySearch! Want to create your own custom family tree to help remember your own ancestors! Get started here.

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How To Use FamilySearch If You Really Prefer Paper To Electronics

How To Use FamilySearch If You Really Prefer Paper To Electronics

I'm mostly a paper person. I mean, don't get me wrong, the digital age is AMAZING, and the resources we have at our finger tips (specifically in reference to genealogy in this context) are truly amazing. But I have SUCH a hard time keeping everything straight in my head as I click back and forth between different records in FamilySearch (or Ancestry). What's the solution? Use paper too... but be smart about it.

I once tried to print our my entire family tree from FamilySearch in group sheets. I think it works for some people. I mean, I got the idea seeing ladies with gigantic binders of genealogy 4 generations at a time. But it didn't work for me... it wasn't visual enough to give me the full picture.

This time around committing to genealogy, I've done something a little different. First off, we have our custom family tree print hanging on the wall that I use to ground myself in the big picture.

custom family tree print for home

Then I use computer paper, or even better, a large piece of IKEA roll paper to map out the specific family whose genealogy I'm fleshing out, and work on that sheet of paper until it gets too crowded.  I make sure that I have all the information I've found recorded in both Ancestry and FamilySearch, take a picture of it and then stick it with my genealogy stuff. In theory, I'll keep it, but if anything happens to it, no harm, no foul.

For me, the big advantage of this paper system is I know where I'm at, and where I'm going, and I can easily track my progress and be thorough and methodical about it, without getting lost in the weeds. There are a million ways to do genealogy, but here's the paper outlining technique that works best for me:

  1. Decide what area of my genealogy I'd like to work on.
  2. Outline what I know (or think I know) in pencil on a sheet of paper. Normally I start from what's in my FamilySeach tree for this, and write names as well as birth, death and marriage dates. Make sure to leave plenty of room for adding new information!
  3. Start searching for sources using Ancestry and/or FamilySearch! When I source something I make note of it (I've got a color system using marker dots!) on the paper and then try to immediately add it to FamilySearch and link it on Ancestry. When I find new names or spouses, as long as they're sourced, I add them in pen, along with the appropriate marker dots.

Here's my current working sheet, hanging on the inside of our coat closet for safe keeping. I have it taped such that I can pull it off to work on it, and then mount it back up to keep it out of the way in our tiny student apartment!

family history paper outline

And here's a close up of the color system! I'm using purple to represent a marriage record, red to represent a death record and green for if I've entered the information I've found (in Ancestry) into FamilySearch!

close up of family history paper worksheet

What's your favorite system for organizing your genealogy work? I'm always looking to improve mine and would love your suggestions!


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A Recap of What Living Prophets Said About Family History in General Conference April 2018

A Recap of What Living Prophets Said About Family History in General Conference April 2018

Each person who listens to General Conference has the opportunity to listen to the messages prepared and have different messages speak to their hearts. This most recent General Conference, one of the central themes that stuck out to me was the importance of doing family history work, so I wanted to take some time to collect what was said for my personal edification and thought I would share it with you all here as well!

Saturday Afternoon Session 

"Young Women In The Work" by Bonnie L. Oscarson 

Sister Oscarson mentioned family history work as one of many areas that young women can be involved in in contributing to their wards and families. She noted the example of

"several young women in the Las Vegas area who have been called to serve as ward temple and family history consultants. They were glowing with enthusiasm about being able to teach and help members of their ward find their ancestors. They had valuable skills on the computer, had learned how to use FamilySearch, and were excited to share that knowledge with others. It was clear that they had testimonies and an understanding of the importance of seeking out the names of our deceased ancestors so that essential saving ordinances can be performed for them in the temple."

Read the full talk here.

Family History and Temple Work: Sealing and Healing by Elder Dale G. Renlund

Elder Renlund shared an example of the healing power of family history as he told the story of brothers Orson and Parley Pratt--brothers who had had a falling out and were then able to reconcile following the softening of hearts brought about by family history. Elder Renlund shares:

"When God directs us to do one thing, He often has many purposes in mind. Family history and temple work is not only for the dead but blesses the living as well. For Orson and Parley, it turned their hearts to each other. Family history and temple work provided the power to heal that which needed healing."

He continues:

"As Church members, we do have a divinely appointed responsibility to seek out our ancestors and compile family histories. This is far more than an encouraged hobby, because the ordinances of salvation are necessary for all of God’s children."

He then goes on to provide a bulleted list of healing blessings we gain access to by participating in family history and temple work. "

  • Increased understanding of the Savior and His atoning sacrifice;
  • Increased influence of the Holy Ghost7 to feel strength and direction for our own lives;
  • Increased faith, so that conversion to the Savior becomes deep and abiding;
  • Increased ability and motivation to learn and repent8 because of an understanding of who we are, where we come from, and a clearer vision of where we are going;
  • Increased refining, sanctifying, and moderating influences in our hearts;
  • Increased joy through an increased ability to feel the love of the Lord;
  • Increased family blessings, no matter our current, past, or future family situation or how imperfect our family tree may be;
  • Increased love and appreciation for ancestors and living relatives, so we no longer feel alone;
  • Increased power to discern that which needs healing and thus, with the Lord’s help, serve others;
  • Increased protection from temptations and the intensifying influence of the adversary; and
  • Increased assistance to mend troubled, broken, or anxious hearts and make the wounded whole.9"

After sharing the story of a heart transplant recipient, Rod, with his donor family and the blessings experienced there, he reminds us of the words of President Russell M. Nelson. 

"We can be inspired all day long about temple and family history experiences others have had. But we must do something to actually experience the joy ourselves...I invite you to prayerfully consider what kind of sacrifice—preferably a sacrifice of time—you can make [to] do more temple and family history work"

This talk was one of my personal favorites from this conference on family history, and I love the list of blessings he gives, as well as the reminder of the directive from President Nelson! Read the full talk here.

Sunday Morning Session

Revelation for the Church, Revelation for Our Lives by President Russel M. Nelson

Speaking of receiving revelation, President Nelson said:

"Oh, there is so much more that your Father in Heaven wants you to know. As Elder Neal A. Maxwell taught, “To those who have eyes to see and ears to hear, it is clear that the Father and the Son are giving away the secrets of the universe!”13
Nothing opens the heavens quite like the combination of increased purity, exact obedience, earnest seeking, daily feasting on the words of Christ in the Book of Mormon,14and regular time committed to temple and family history work.
To be sure, there may be times when you feel as though the heavens are closed. But I promise that as you continue to be obedient, expressing gratitude for every blessing the Lord gives you, and as you patiently honor the Lord’s timetable, you will be given the knowledge and understanding you seek. Every blessing the Lord has for you—even miracles—will follow. That is what personal revelation will do for you." (Emphasis added)
What an amazing promise from a prophet of God! Read the full talk here.

Sunday Afternoon Session

Prepare to Meet God by Elder Quentin L. Cook

Speaking of the restoration of priesthood keys in the Kirtland temple, Elder Cook reminds us that Elijah restored the

keys of the sealing power in this dispensation, which is family history work and temple ordinances enabling salvation for the living and the dead.12".

He goes on to say:

"Family history work, heaven-blessed by technology, has dramatically increased in the past few years. We would be unwise to become complacent about this divinely appointed responsibility and expect that Aunt Jane or some other committed relative will take care of it. Let me share President Joseph Fielding Smith’s jarring comments: “None is exempt from this great obligation. It is required of the apostle as well as the humblest elder [or sister]. Place, or distinction, or long service in the Church … will not entitle one to disregard the salvation of one’s dead.”16

We now have temples across the world and the resources of the patron assistance fund to help those in need who are far from a temple.

As individuals, we would do well to evaluate our effort in pursuing missionary work, temple and family history work, and preparations to meet God."

Read the full talk here.

Let Us All Press On by President Russell M. Nelson

While not overtly referencing family history as the previous talks have done, I thought that President Nelson's parting words deserved a place here as well. He admonished:

"I exhort you to study the messages of this conference frequently—even repeatedly—during the next six months. Conscientiously look for ways to incorporate these messages in your family home evenings, your gospel teaching, your conversations with family and friends, and even your discussions with those not of our faith. Many good people will respond to the truths taught in this conference when offered in love. And your desire to obey will be enhanced as you remember and reflect upon what you have felt these past two days."

Then later continued:

"Our message to the world is simple and sincere: we invite all of God’s children on both sides of the veil to come unto their Savior, receive the blessings of the holy temple, have enduring joy, and qualify for eternal life.2"

Read the full talk here.

I feel so blessed to have the opportunity to have guidance and direction from living prophets and look forward to studying their messages in the coming months? What were your favorite quotes from General Conference? Share them in the comments below!

Also, if you're a visual person and think that having a visual representation of your family history would help motivate you, come check out our modern family tree charts and preview your personal family history in the template of your choice for free!

*For those of you who aren't familiar with LDS General Conference, it is an opportunity for members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (and anyone else who would like to participate!) world-wide to hear inspiring messages and direction from our living prophets and apostles.You can watch and read sessions of General Conference at

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The Difference Between Genealogy and Family History and Why It Matters

The Difference Between Genealogy and Family History and Why It Matters

Some circles of the interwebs believe that the distinction between using genealogy vs. family history is merely a choice of terminology or semantics. For example, as defined by Merriam - Webster, you might be hard-pressed to eek meaning out of the distinction between genealogy, defined as:

1: an account of the descent of a person, family, or group from an ancestor or from older forms
2: regular descent of a person, family, or group of organisms from a progenitor (see progenitor 1) or older form : pedigree
3: the study of family ancestral lines
4: an account of the origin and historical development of something
and family history, defined as:
1: past occurrences (of a medical or mental health condition) in family members or past incidences (of a type of behavior) by family members 
2: a record of one's ancestors 

But other circles of the interwebs, myself among them, believe that our word choice is important and telling. I, and many others, think of genealogy as the finding of names and ancestral lines and family history as the stories and heritage that surround those names. One analog I've heard several people use in explaining the difference is comparing genealogy to bones and family history as everything else built upon the bones that makes a body.

Genealogy is essential in creating a family tree. But just like genealogy itself, a family tree gains more meaning as you actively engage in family history. The more I've learned about the distinction, the more I realize that I'm intimidated by genealogy... the searching and fear of not finding... but only excited by family history. I'm a story girl who can't wait to learn "what happens next," and that's what family history is all about. That being said, without understanding where these ancestors you learn about fit in the framework of your genealogy, it's not as meaningful, and that's where having a family tree chart hanging on your wall comes in incredibly handy. Ready to get started on that genealogy wall chart? Choose a starting template and let's get cracking! 

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Keeping Family History Alive for Kids: The Manilla Folder

Keeping Family History Alive for Kids: The Manilla Folder

When my younger brother A was born, my Grandma Cutler came to stay with us for a few days to help with my younger sister S (who was 3) and me (who was 7). I don't remember much about her stay, although we have a picture of her coming with me to lunch at school (which I am just pleased as punch about!), but I do remember that she brought a manilla folder with her, full of old photographs of my dad when he was younger, my grandpa (who died when my dad was 15) and other relatives and ancestors. Each night at dinner as we sat up to the stainless steel bar, she would let S and I choose a photograph from the envelope and would tell us the story that went with it. I'm sorry to say that I don't remember what any of the pictures were specifically or the stories that went with them, but I do remember that manilla envelope and am filled with a warm and filling feeling for my Grandma, and my ancestors when I think of that experience learning from her every night. Sure, it would be better if I remembered the specifics, but I believe that it's the love that matters most. Love that binds the generations together and brings us joy in knowing that families are forever.

Thinking about my grandma's manilla folder has had me thinking about how Kesler and I can help create similar experiences for baby F and our future children? How can we instill that love? What ideas have you tried, or do you want to try in your home with your children? Tell us in the comments!

Want to create a family tree chart for your home to help get the conversation started? Choose a starting template here!

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All About the Roots

All About the Roots

Whenever we talk about genealogy or family history, the word "roots" comes up often. We talk about "getting back to our roots," "remembering our roots," and "honoring our roots." We even use "family trees," and we all know that trees have roots. But today, we are going to talk about the word "roots" in a different context: root words; of some commonly used phrases related to genealogy and family history.

The word genealogy comes from the two Greek words genea and logia. Genea means "race" or "family" and logia means "theory" or "study."The closest translation comes out to "to trace ancestry." The word pedigree has Latin roots, coming from the words pes, meaning "foot," and grus, meaning "crane." Kinda weird, right? This is because, in early western European genealogies, a sign resembling a crane's foot was used to indicate lines of descent. As we know, English is a "younger" language, and almost every word is a variation or combination of words from other, more ancient languages. 

Root words help us figure out the origin and meaning of the language we use today. In the same way, knowing our "roots" help us figure out our origins and our purpose. We all come from somewhere, and we all mean something; because of our strong roots, we can become great trees (figuratively). Metaphors are nice, but personally, I like things I can see and hold. At you can create, customize, and download a Family Tree Print that fits your needs, and your style.  So go check it out, and remember, a tree is only as strong as its roots.

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How Knowing Your Family History Can Help You Date Successfully

How Knowing Your Family History Can Help You Date Successfully

We have all dated. It's a lot of work. A lucky few of you have made it through the gauntlet and found someone that is willing to put up with you for the rest of your life, maybe even forever. But, for the rest of us, we are still looking. For many of us when we think about dating, we get anxiety. We get so worried, "Am I good enough?" "Will I ever find someone I like, or that likes me?" "Is it even worth it?" It's tough. But hey, we have a reason to hope! That reason is family history. Wait, what? Hear me out. Two words: confidence and priorities

Confidence. In several studies performed with both men and women, it has been found that confidence is one of the most desirable traits in a potential partner (Disclaimer: confidence does not mean being cocky, it means having good self-esteem). So how do we gain this sometimes-elusive confidence? Learning about our roots. As we learn about those who came before us, we learn how they overcame the trials they faced in their own lives and can draw inspiration from them to overcome our struggles. If they could do it, you can do it. And remember, every single one of your ancestors found someone. If they didn't you wouldn't be here. If they could do it, you can do it.

Priorities. One of the hardest parts of dating is finding the way to present ourselves in the best possible light, without being dishonest. You want your date to know the best you, but also to know the real you (honesty is always the best policy). The way to show the real you and the best you is to make sure that your date understands your priorities. If you mostly talk about work, you show that it is your priority. If you mostly talk about money, you show that it is your priority. If you mostly talk about family, you show that is your priority. Our purpose in this short life is to grow in and eventually create a family. Everything else, however important, is a secondary purpose. As you realize and possibly reevaluate your priorities you will have more success in forming meaningful relationships.

As we make learning about family history a priority in our lives we find confidence and realize our priorities. Confidence is attractive. You are special. You came from somewhere and you were made for something. You have the knowledge and experiences of generations of great men and women behind you. You are great, and there are people just as great out there for you. Never forget that. 

At least in my case, if I don't have something to remind me, I will forget. So I designed my personalized Family Tree Print at and hung it up in my room so that I always remember that I can do it and that one day there will be branches of that tree coming from my name. And if I can do it, you can do it. 

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Please, help Elijah

Please, help Elijah

For those of you with some Christian religious background, you have probably heard of the prophet Elijah. However, if you're like me, you probably don't remember exactly what he did. With upwards of fifty prophets mentioned in the Bible, that's understandable. So, let's review.

While in his mortal ministry, described in chapters fifteen and sixteen of the first book of Kings, he called the wicked people of Ahab to repentance. Ahab's wife Jezebel wasn't too happy about that. She wanted to kill him, so he had to go into hiding. While in hiding he drank from a stream, and God sent birds to bring him food. But when a famine came to the land, he was directed by God to go into the city. While in the city he found a woman, who offered to give him food and water, although she did not have enough for herself and her son. Through the power of God, sustenance was continuously provided for Elijah, the woman, and her son. He performed several more miracles, including raising the son of this humble woman from the dead. Sounds like a job well done to me.

What's even more impressive is the task that God gave him after his mortal ministry had ended. In the fifth and sixth verses of the fourth chapter in the Book of Malachi, the Lord states "Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet...and he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers..." And that's what family history is, turning our minds and hearts to our ancestors. 

In recent years there has been a great increase in interest in genealogy and family history; it's not just for your weird old single aunt anymore. It really is for everyone, and the benefits of knowing and celebrating your family history are immeasurable. So, get involved! Websites like,, and are good places to start.

It is our goal as a company to help change the perception of family history. Read our blog, visit our website, and design your very own Family Tree Print with our family tree maker. With plentiful options of colors and designs, I know the perfect chart is waiting for you.

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Pedigree Charts and Family Stories: A Powerful Combination

Pedigree Charts and Family Stories: A Powerful Combination

My grandpa died when my dad was 15 years old. I never had the opportunity to meet him, or interact with him, but because of stories that have been passed down both orally and through his autobiography, I feel a connection to him. I like to imagine that it is from my Grandpa Cutler that I inherited my love of root beer and peppermint ice cream (separately, of course!) as well as Pride and Prejudice.

My Grandma Cutler died when I was 11. I remember going to her house for a couple days each summer and going into the orchard with her, or playing school in her school house room in the basement. One night in particular I remember that my little sister S and I had a sleepover at grandma's house and she fixed us rice pancakes for dinner, teaching us how to fold batter rather than mix it. Everyone who knew her picked up on her unfailing kindness, many never having heard her say an unkind thing about anyone--I know I never did--and in one goal brainstorm I found from my high school years I found a note that said "Be as kind as Grandma Cutler." It was from others, however, that I learned that her kindness was even more remarkable than I was aware of, because it was born in opposition to her difficulty growing up with a real-life bonafide "evil stepmother" of which she never said anything herself.

I was reminded often of these sterling examples in my own recent family history by the pedigree chart hanging on the wall in our living room growing up, and by my grandparents picture that hung beside it (along with the pictures of my other grandparents and some of my great grandparents).

genealogy wall chart

A 2010 study conducted at Emory University concluded what I have learned for myself anecdotally--that the more kids know about their family history, the better they are able to cope with difficult challenges and the more self esteem they have. They are more emotionally stable. They learn that they are a link in a larger chain rather than an island and they have true stories they can rely on that show the ups and downs of life.

This is one of the biggest reasons that Kesler and I had a desire to have a gorgeous pedigree chart hanging in a prominent location in our home. Not only would it be able to serve as a conversation starter with guests in our home to talk about our belief in eternal families, but also act as a subtle reminder to both us, and our children that we have a rich heritage of those who came before us. We want baby F and his future siblings to be inspired and cautioned by the stories we know about those who came before us and to want to create their own worthy legacy for their posterity. The perfect recipe? A beautifully self-reinforcing chain of stories of our ancestors and a daily visual reminder of their presence.

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