Blog Archives

Star Wars versus the Revolutionary War-Engaging the Next Generation

Throughout the month of May people are posting Blogs entitled “Military Memories” to honor their Ancestors who fought in the various Wars. I have been so moved by all the accounts of bravery, courage and sacrifice of so many of them. I have always loved History so reading these is enjoyable for me. I guess you could say that I have a hard time believing that some people just do not find History to be interesting or exciting.

Last week my youngest Grandson Banon, who is 7 years old and in the first grade, asked me why I was crying while looking at my computer. I told him I was reading a Blog about a young man who was killed in a War and that it was sad.  He responded “Grandma, I don’t like History, it’s so boring!” I was mortified! How could a Grandson of mine feel this way? I asked him why he thought it was boring and he said “Because all those people are dead!” Oh my…where did I go wrong?


As the day wore on I started thinking about what he had said about History being boring.  Then it hit me. I need to make it personal for him! So I pulled out the binders I had made for my older Grandkids a few years ago and called him over to me. Now he is a diehard Star Wars fan. He knows every character, every weapon, and every mode of transportation by name. This gave me the idea to make a correlation between Star Wars and the Revolutionary War. Before you think that I have totally lost it, please hear me out. I asked him what it was about the fighting in Star Wars that he liked. He then rattled off his reasons. I then asked him if he would like to hear about a real war where, just like Anakin, people fought to make their families free from a Ruler. He took the bait.

After explaining “briefly” about why America went to war with Britain, I started telling him about the different weapons that were used and how they had used horses and wagons for transportation. I then told him about the way they dressed.…the Red Coats vs. the Blue Coats. Then I finally took one of the binders and showed it to him. I saw a spark appear in his eyes! You see, 5 years ago when my oldest Grand Daughter started High School she told me that EBAY and Binders 001they were going to learn about the Revolutionary War in History Class. I told her we had Ancestors who fought in the War and she got excited. So I put together 3 binders with all the information I could find about the Soldiers, the company they fought with, who they fought under and named the Battles they participated in. I used maps and pictures of the Historic places. I also included a linage from that Ancestor to me. She loved them and took them to school. She got an A+ when she did her presentation on the War. I had made it personal to her and she was inspired to do her own research. Over the last few years 2 more Grandchildren have used the binders and since then I have made several more. So I made it personal for Banon and he was enthralled. He asked so many questions he actually wore me out. His teacher even told my daughter that all he talked about since then was those binders and we had to take them to school for the teacher and his class to see.

EBAY and Binders 030I have also put together binders for Ancestors who fought in the Civil War, the War of 1812, WWI and WWII. I even have a few binders about our First Ancestors that came to America. I intend to show these to Banon and his brother over the summer.

Sometimes we have to just go that extra mile to engage the younger generation in learning about History and their Genealogy. If we can start them young then they will hopefully develop an interest and excitement in finding their Ancestors and where they came from. Hopefully igniting that spark of curiosity in him will eventually burn with the same kind of passion for Genealogy and History that I have. After all, isn’t one of our goals as a Family Historian to be able to pass on what we have discovered to the generations that come after us?


I am a professional genealogist, writer, photographer, crafter, reader, wife, mother, and grandma. I have two books available on Your Family History: Doing It Right the First Time and Planning Your Genealogy Research Trip. You can also connect with me via Facebook or Twitter.



May 18, 2014 · 2:57 pm

4 Lesser Known Genealogical Resources

When doing research in Genealogy we sometimes fall into a rut. We continually search the same resources over and over again and we become frustrated that we hardly ever find anything “new” as a result. While there is nothing wrong with any of these sources, sometimes we need to branch out in order to find new information or documentation. Here are 4 greatly overlooked or lesser known resources.
Searching for old Drivers Licenses

This is copy of Karl Benz' Drivers license issued in 1888.

It has been over 100 years since the first Drivers license was issued. In 1888 Karl Benz received the first license to drive. This came about because residents of his town complained about the noise and smell of his Motorwagen. Since then a license has been issued to everyone who wanted to drive. In 1916 Driver's Licenserecent years some States have been releasing photos of older licenses. Although the information found on these may not “break down your brick wall” it can help you to verified age, address and other vital information. It can also provide you with a photo of your Ancestor that you never saw before. Do a search for old drivers’ licenses by State and the name of your relative and see what you can find.

 WPA American State Guides

The American Guide Series of books was produced by the Federal Writers Project between 1935 and 1943. The Federal Writers Project was one of the many programs under the Works Progress Administration (WPA), a Depression-era government program that assisted the millions of unemployed.These wonderful travel guwpaMO320ides cover the 48 states (Alaska and Hawaii were not yet states) and the District of Columbia and each volume covers a state’s history, geography, culture, and includes photographs, maps, and drawings. These guides provide a look at the daily life of many of these States pioneers. Check these out to see if your Ancestor is named. These would also be a great way to find more detailed information about where your Ancestor lived.

 Brand Registers

 Brand registers contain a record of marks (tattoos or cuts on the ear) and brands (burn scars on the hide) used by livestock owners to identify their stock. Owners were required to apply for the brand or mark with the county clerk. Each brand was then registered with the State Recorder of Marks and Brands, which later became the Livestock Board. The records of these brands were recorded beginning in the early 1800’s.

brand   Marks and brands are recorded separately within each register. Entries record applicant        and place of residence, illustration of brand or description of where symbol appeared on        the animal, date of registration, and line number. Again this type of record can help verify vital information about when and where your Ancestor lived and even what types of animals they owned.

 Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps

 The Sanborn Maps were originally created for assessing fire insurance liability in the urban areas of the United States. These maps include detailed information regarding town and building information in approximately 12,000 US towns and cities from 1867 to 2007. They are a highly useful resource for historical research, planning, Charleston SC 1884preservation, genealogical research, sociological studies and research of urban geography.

Today, Sanborn maps are found primarily in the archives and special collections of town halls and public and university libraries. Although people in all fields find these maps useful, Genealogists can use the maps to locate the residences and workplaces of their Ancestors. Historic Sanborn maps may be accessed in a variety of ways. Many are available through public or university libraries, or most comprehensively through the Library of Congress.

Sometimes it pays to look “outside the box” so to speak. Even if these records do not show proof that Aunt Mary married Uncle John, they can be of great value. Adding the information that you find in these resources to your trees will help to give it a more personalized touch and can add a glimpse into your Ancestors daily lives. Remember, we don’t necessarily want to just tell the facts about our families; we want to tell the “story” of our families.

I am a professional genealogist, writer, photographer, crafter, reader, wife, mother, and grandma. I have two books available on Your Family History: Doing It Right the First Time and Planning Your Genealogy Research Trip. You can also connect with me via Facebook or Twitter.





May 14, 2014 · 4:02 pm

Why I Dislike Mothers Day

Mom & Brother 1941 2

This time of year is always rough on me. Everywhere I turn, every Blog I read, every show I watch, every Facebook post I see there is some kind of accolade to Mom. To be honest, I am jealous of those who can post how much their Mom meant to them and how they miss them so much. They can write about the wonderful memories of time spent with their Mom and can be thankful for all of the life lessons that she taught them. Pictures of happy family time are posted and memories are shared.  Oh how I dislike Mothers Day.

You see I didn’t have a great Mom, not even a good one, okay not even a mediocre one. Yes, she lived with us, she showered my sister with great love and affection, I think it was just me she didn’t like. Maybe that’s not the whole truth, she also did not like my Dad, or my Brother, or any of her relatives, or any of my Dads relatives. You get the point. Throughout the years I have tried to remember just one happy moment that I shared with her but I can’t. My sister was her world and I was an afterthought.

According to my Mom’s brother she had always had mental problems. I can look back on my early childhood now and see so many signs of this. When I was 12 years old she underwent a complete hysterectomy. She absolutely refused to take any hormone replacements so as a result her moods were out of control. After we moved to Missouri shortly after the surgery she had a complete mental breakdown. I won’t go into all the things that transpired but I will say that my Dad must have been some kind of saint because he refused to have her institutionalized, opting instead to take care of her himself. At least he tried to. The next two years were almost unbearable.

Forced by my Mom’s hatred of all the family we packed up and moved to California. My Mom literally spent the whole trip from Independence Missouri to Santa Monica California in the back seat of the car; on her knees facing backwards to make sure no one followed us. We arrived in California after 4 days of traveling and her knees were bruised and bloody. We lived in the L.A. area for the next 5 years and she never left the house except when we moved from one home to another. After my Dad passed away we move back to Arizona.

In 1986, when I married my current husband she was outraged. She really hated him. About 3 years later she disowned me because I would not divorce him. I did not see nor speak to her for the last 10 years of her life.

I am not writing this story so people will feel sorry for me, I write it because I want people to know why I cannot post a glowing affirmation of love to the woman who gave birth to me. I do love her, she was my Mom, I just have nothing good I can honestly write about.

So, if you have or had a wonderful, kind and loving Mother, thank God for her everyday and if possible give her an extra hug on Mothers’ day. As you scroll through the posts online this Sunday and you notice there is not one from me, you now know why.


I am a professional genealogist, writer, photographer, crafter, reader, wife, mother, and grandma. I have two books available on Your Family History: Doing It Right the First Time and Planning Your Genealogy Research Trip. You can also connect with me via Facebook or Twitter.



May 10, 2014 · 2:57 pm

“My Aunt, One of the Rosie the Riveters”

ImageOn a cold winter morning on the 14th of November, 1919, Margaret Ruth Hughes was born in Sweetwater Missouri. She was the youngest of 11 siblings. Being raised on a farm in rural Missouri she spent most of her childhood working on the family farm and tending to her Fathers prize-winning horses and mules. She learned how to cook and sew, which seemed to come naturally to her.

By 1930, soon after the start of the Great Depression, her family moved to a new farm outside of Lexington Missouri.  The Hughes’ were skilled farmers and they were able to grow enough vegetables not only to feed their own large family but also those of their neighbors. They also raised cows and pigs so there was always plenty of meat to eat.  Margaret learned how to be generous and giving from the examples of her parents.

In 1940 she was living in the town of Lexington sharing an apartment with her widowed brother (my Dad) and her widowed sister. She was working at a Laundry as an ironer. She used her skills as a seamstress and she soon began a sewing career, one that she worked at until her retirement in 1980. She was so talented that she developed her own unique type of Western Shirt that was well sought after in the Kansas City area.


Aunt Margaret and a friend, 1940 Lexington MO.

Then came World War II. At the age of 24, she moved by herself across the country to the San Francisco area to become one of the thousands of “Rosie the Riveters”. She worked at the Naval Shipyard on Mare Island. This shipyard built more than 400 vessels during the course of the War. As a matter of fact, Mare Island set a record for building a Navy Destroyer in just 17 ½ days. To this day this record has never been broken. She really enjoyed her job as a riveter and she learned a lot from the experience. She would sew shirts for the sailors as gifts and gave them to the men when they shipped out.  Margaret met and married a sailor in 1944 and he was soon sent overseas. It wasn’t long after he left that she discovered that she was pregnant. In the spring of 1945, Margaret returned home to Missouri to have her son there. Her husband never returned from the War so she raised him by herself for 4 years until she married my Uncle.

This experience made Margaret a very strong and determined woman. She loved her family deeply and worked very hard. She approached every obstacle in life with a zeal I have never found in anyone else. She passed away in 1988. A month Aunt Margaret for blog olderbefore she died Margaret was told she had cancer throughout her entire body. The doctor was shocked that she could even walk let alone continue to care for her family. No one knew that for years she had lived in terrible pain. This is the woman that I try to fashion my life after. I want to be as loving, giving, kind and strong as she was. At least that is my goal.



I am a professional genealogist, writer, photographer, crafter, reader, wife, mother, andcropped-blog-pic1.jpg grandma. I have two books available on Your Family History: Doing It Right the First Time and Planning Your Genealogy Research Trip. You can also connect with me via Facebook or Twitter.


May 8, 2014 · 10:21 pm

Creating a Genealogy Research Trip (GRT) Bible

You have the location of your trip picked out, you know the route you will take and if you will make any stops on your way there or back, you know where you will be staying and you have a list of the documents that you want to search for. What now?

The next step would be to make your GRT Bible. This is what my husband called covermy master binder that I put together for my first trip. In it will be your itinerary and other much needed information. It will save you time and keep you on track.   It is also an easy reference that you can look at anytime you need to.
Let me just say this here. I know some of you will say, oh I can do all this on my iPad or laptop and I have GPS in my car or phone so I really don’t think I need to   make a hard copy of my trip details. This is exactly what a friend of mine said to me. I told her to do whatever she was comfortable with as it really is just a suggestion. She drove from Phoenix to Nashville and settled in. She went out the next day to a local repository and did some research and came back to the hotel thrilled with some of the finds she made. The next day she ventured out into the countryside to find a cemetery. While she was walking through the graveyard looking for a particular headstone she tripped over the edge of one of them and was sent flying. Her bag went off her arm and flew directly into a large above ground headstone. It hit hard! When she was finally able to get up she hobbled over to her bag and started pulling out the contents and to her dismay her iPad was broken. All of her information was on it and now she didn’t know what to do. After finding the headstone she was looking for, she took the picture and left. She went back to the hotel and got her out her laptop and found the file with all the Women trippingpertinent information in it. She then had to make a trip to the front desk to see if they could print out the file. There were a lot of pages so they actually charged her for the copies. While they were being printed the hotel received a couple of faxes that printed out on the same printer. So the clerk had to sort through the stack of papers to retrieve his copies. In doing so the papers were put back together out of order. She then had to find a store so she could go and buy a binder and sheet protectors. They didn’t have a large enough binder so she had to buy two. Then she had to go back to the hotel, sort through the papers and put them in order, insert them into the sheet protectors and place them in the binders. She called me later that evening to tell me what happened and she said the only thing she kept thinking about throughout her totally wasted day was what I told her when she didn’t want to make a GRT Bible. I had said “It is better to be safe than sorry”.  Not big words of wisdom but they do ring true.

GPS can fail or give wrong directions. Cell phones and ipads can run out of battery life at the worse time and in some areas there is no internet connection or you may be out of the service area. Also, like in the case of my friend, accidents do happen. So even if you do not want to solely use the binder it is always a good idea to have a backup available.

Another reason to have a GRT Bible is that some repositories do not allow electronic devises to be used in their building. No cell phones, ipads, laptops or even cameras. But they will allow binders, paper and pens.
The bottom line is: if you go prepared you will save time and avoid potential headaches while you are there. It would be a shame to do all that planning and make the trip only to not be able to get the information you came for.

I am a professional genealogist, writer, photographer, crafter, reader, wife, mother, and grandma. I have two books available on Your Family History: Doing It Right the First Time and Planning Your Genealogy Research Trip. You can also connect with me via Facebook or Twitter.


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May 6, 2014 · 1:53 pm

Confessions of a Genealogy Hoarder

Image   We have all seen or at least heard of the reality TV series “Hoarder”. It is about people who have an obsession to keep everything they have ever owned and then they continue to add to it. They do this for various reasons but the results are the same:  a home filled to overflowing with stuff. This is how I feel sometimes with all the documents, notes, photos and books pertaining to Genealogy that I have accumulated over the years. I do try desperately to stay organized but sometimes it gets away from me. I have limited space and the piles seem to keep growing. When I have time, I try to go through all of it, but that isn’t as often as I would like. The question I keep asking myself is, “What do I really need to keep and what should I throw away?”

Case in point: While I was organizing my Death Certificates’ I found I had 5 copies of my Great Grandmothers DeathMartha Ann Ogan Hughes dc Certificate. I think my thought process was, “What if I happen to lose one? If I make several copies then I will be able to find it when I need it.” However once it was scanned into a folder in the computer and uploaded into my tree I then had a permanent copy I could find anytime. Also, if I have the original filed in a binder that is properly marked I would have easy access to that one too. Plus if I cite my source of where I obtained my information I could find it again if I needed to.  So why, oh why, do I feel compelled to save all 5 of the hard copies?

I do the same thing with most of my documents and ALL of my photos. Did I mention I love photos? Is it really an obsession or is it that just I don’t want to lose any of it? After all, some of the documents took years to find. Would this be considered trying to justify the hoarding?

making a vowI will make this declaration here: I, Valerie Hughes, will begin today (well maybe tomorrow or better yet next week, oh I meant to say next month) to sort through all of my duplicate notes, files and photos and discard them (or find a new place to stack them, or possibly put them in a file box and store them in the shed) and I will refrain from any more Hoarding.

Okay, I will, from this day forward just start calling it Antique Paper and Photo Collecting!



I am a professional genealogist, writer, photographer, crafter, reader, wife, mother, and grandma. I have two books available on Your Family History: Doing It Right the First Time and Planning Your Genealogy Research Trip. You can also connect with me via Facebook or Twitter.


May 2, 2014 · 1:27 pm