[mee-rah-bil-i-ah; English mir-uh–bil-ee-uh]
plural noun, Latin.
1. marvels; miracles. 1)

Every once in a while in your genealogy research, you run across something that surprises you, or almost astonishes you. It doesn’t happen very often, but when it does, it makes you sit up and take notice.

What I’m talking about is when you find something, and you didn’t really have much to do with finding that something. For example, a few months ago I visited a cemetery to take a photo of a tombstone. The baby was born and died the same day. I had researched it on Find-A-Grave, but what I didn’t check was the size of the cemetery. She was buried in that cemetery according to her death certificate, but she wasn’t listed on Find-A-Grave.

When I arrived it was much bigger than I thought it would be, even tho it was way out in the middle of nowhere. The weather wasn’t very suitable for tromping around in a cemetery for a couple hours trying to find her. There was heavy rain and I had no umbrella. So without even thinking about it, these whispered words came out of my mouth as I turned into the cemetery, “Marie, if you want me to find your burial spot, you’re going to have to help me.”

I turned into the first drive (there was more than one), and slowly drove along as I studied the tombstones for their age. She died almost 20 years ago, so I knew it had to be in a newer section of the cemetery. Where I turned in appeared quite old, so I headed towards the back. I kept going until I came to the end of that drive, and choose to turn left (I could have turned right as well, or turned at any of the other drives I passed). Now I’m driving slowly, looking left and right, trying to read names, but not being able to focus on them very well due to all the rain on the car windows.

Suddenly, out of the corner of my eye, I spotted a stone on the right, and somehow, even tho it was it flat on the ground and 4 rows away, I thought I saw a Precious Moments baby angel on the memorial. I stopped the car, jumped out and ran over to check. Sure enough. It was her! I was ecstatic to think in less than a minute I had found her.

After I had taken a few pictures of the tombstone, I realized no one had decorated her grave. I had thought about this possibility a few days beforehand, but in my rush to get there, I’d forgotten to get some flowers. The fact that this little baby girl had no decorations on her grave saddened me. It almost seemed like that fact meant her life didn’t matter. And her life DID matter.

I glanced around, trying to think what I could do. I noticed a ways back, there were little purple flowers blooming under a fence by a corn field. I ran over to see how easy it would be to dig one up and place it in front of her grave. It really was just a wild flower, which I was sure would continue to grow if it was mowed down. Many of the other tombstones had them blooming around them. I checked in my car, and sure enough, I still had the little shovel I had used on my g-grandfather’s grave a few days previous. So I grabbed the mini-shovel, dug up a plant, and planted it in front of her grave. I was sure with all the rain we were getting, the little plant wouldn’t have any trouble growing. Then I grabbed a quick pic of her tombstone with the flowering plant in front of it.

baby-tombstone 2)

My feet were drenched, my shirt was soaked, and I squished when I sat down in my car! But my small accomplishment gave me such happiness to know that there was something by her grave to let her know that someone was there, and cared about her brief life.

Call it serendipitous, a miracle, or an accident, things like this happen every once in a while. What confirmed it for me was the next day, the word mirabilia, appeared in my word of the day app.

Coincidental? Perhaps not!

1)mirabilia. Dictionary.com. Dictionary.com Unabridged. Random House, Inc. http://www.dictionary.com/browse/mirabilia (accessed: October 19, 2016).

2) info blurred to protect her living family members

Family Search Family Tree

The summer and early fall has been busy for our family. But in between all the busy-ness, I’ve attempted to build our family tree at Family Search. It’s a little different than Ancestry, which I used until I cancelled my account last fall.

howtousefamilysearchLate this summer I noticed Legacy Family Tree had a webinar called: “How to Use FamilySearch.org for Beginners by Devin Ashby, a project manager at FamilySearch. He’s been working for them for nearly a decade. It’s nice he works for the organization he’s explaining, gives him more credibility in my mind! Although I was unable to view the webinar during it’s live broadcast, it’s in the “free” gallery for anyone to watch anytime.

At the beginning of the webinar he briefly goes over the history of Family Search. Did you know they originally started out as The Genealogical Society of Utah? That was clear back in 1894! The number of records, the number of people participating, as well as the number of people in their tree has increased over the years. At the time of the broadcast (September 21, 2016) there were 5.4 Billion searchable records.

In 2015 they had 1.1 billion people in trees and nearly one and a half million contributors. That’s a LOT of family history from a LOT of people!

This next statement by Devin caught my attention:

We believe free is best. Free access is something Family Search works very, very hard for. However, there are instances where we go out and do deals with archives or governments or companies and in the agreement that’s drawn up, sometimes access is limited to certain audiences…or there is an embargo for records that might take a couple years….but when we can, when it’s possible and when it’s doable, we always try to make the records and the tools we provide free for everyone.

After an introduction about how Family Search works, he does brief demos on using Family Tree, Memories, Search, and Indexing. I just love it when webinar presenters go out live and “show” how to do things instead of just explaining it.

One of the cute things he mentioned while showing how to view your family tree in fan chart mode were the families who say, “Oh yeah, we all have printed fan charts. We use them as place mats so our family can eat with their ancestors!”

Devin also adds, “We’ve printed off some of these family fan charts so our daughters can see their family members, and we put it next to their bed so they can remember who they come from.”

I love these ideas. This excites me! Getting children interested in genealogy early ensures our family line/history will be carried on by the next generation. I didn’t get interested in family history until much later in life, even though my family had reunions religiously every year. It wasn’t presented in a format that was at all interesting to my brain as a child. I remember whining, “Please, Mom, do I have to go this year? Again?”

Family Search not only believes in preserving records and making them available in your tree, they also believe in preserving who YOU are. He says it’s like a museum of ‘me’ or ‘we’. Don’t wait until your obituary comes out to tell your story. Do it now, and save it in Memories in Family Search.

If you don’t watch the webinar for any other reason than to see the memories his kids have added and preserved in their own Family Search accounts, go view the webinar. Absolutely darling! I am positive their kids and grandchildren will love what they thought needed to be preserved in their younger days.

He also explains and shows examples of the apps available: Family Search Tree, and Family Search Memories. I can speak from experience about these, because I have both on my phone. And tablet! They are great ways to find ancestors on the go. Or show living family members their ancestors. They also work great if you’re out researching in a library or cemetery, and you need info about a specific ancestor.

But the best part is you can catch stuff when it happens, either by photo or audio. Once that moment is gone, it’s gone forever as far as capturing it. Yes, you can write about it, but seeing or hearing it in the moment is so much better. Quickly capture family history with the Family Search Memories App and immediately upload it to your tree on Family Search. How easy is that?

Legacy Family Tree WebinarsAlthough the Family Tree webinar says it’s 1 hr and 56 minutes long, don’t let that scare you away from all this helpful, useful info! The actual webinar is less than one hour. There’s the intro, then the full webinar. After the webinar, there’s a wrap-up, prizes, questions and answers.

At the end the host, Geoff Rasmussen, does what he calls an “After Webinar Party” where he explains how Legacy Family Tree’s genealogy software can be used with what you’ve learned in the webinar. That’s about a half hour. If you can sit through the four minutes of welcome and intro, I promise the Family Search for Beginners webinar will be worth your hour investment of time.

If you’re not familiar with FamilySearch.org, this webinar is a great intro to it’s dynamic features. If you’ve been using Family Search for a while, you might even find some features you haven’t used.

How has Family Search Tree worked for you, or have you ever used it?

Quote: A Mother’s Prayer



Did one of your maternal ancestors pray for you? I’m sure my life is better because my grandmother prayed for all her grandchildren.

If it hasn’t occurred to you, pray for your children, and their children…and all your progeny: Make a difference in your descendants’ lives.

Latest Book Read: The Treasure of Hidden Valley


Usually I choose a Gutenberg book based on ancestors I’m researching, or perhaps the area they lived or came from. This book just kinda fell into my lap, or rather my reader. I didn’t have a particular subject in mind, or era, or geographic area, when I went looking. Page after page of books scrolled by and nothing in particular caught my eye until I saw this title: The Treasure of Hidden Valley, published by Chicago: Forbes & Company in 1915. It sounded mysterious, intriguing, maybe even a little dangerous. So I downloaded it. The book didn’t disappoint. It did contain mystery, intrigue, danger, and even some romance.

TreasureHiddenValley-coverSet in the early 1900’s, it’s about a young man who left his Uncle after they disagreed about his destiny. His Uncle had his life all planned out, right down to his job and who he should marry. The young man, Roderick, didn’t agree, so after a heated discussion they parted ways.

A letter from his deceased father, riding cross county on a train to Wyoming, meeting new people, learning a new profession out West, and eventually encountering a young woman rancher, take up most of the book. I’ll leave the treasure part alone and focus on what struck me about the book.

Roderick eventually ends up in San Francisco in mid April of 1906. Does that date ring a bell with you? It didn’t with me, until I read the following about him sitting on an iron bench in a little park very early in the morning:

THE contrast between the scenes in this gay city and the quiet hill life away up among the crags, the deep canyons and snow-clad peaks of southern Wyoming was indeed remarkable.

It was the morning of April eighteen, 1906, and the night had almost ended. There was a suggestion of purple on the eastern horizon—the forerunner of coming day. The crescent moon was hanging high above Mt. Tamalpais.

The town clock tolled the hour of five and still Roderick waited. Presently he was filled with a strange foreboding, a sense of oppression, that he was unable to analyze. He wondered if it presaged refusal of the great love surging in his heart for Gail Holden, the fair rider of the ranges, the sweet singer of the hills. An indescribable agitation seized him.

The minutes went slowly by. His impatience increased. He looked again at his watch and it was only a quarter after five. The city was wrapped in slumber.

Then suddenly and without warning Roderick was roughly thrown from his seat and sent sprawling onto the grass among the shrubbery. He heard an angry growling like the roar from some rudely awakened Goliath of destruction deep down in earth’s inner chambers of mystery—a roar of wrath and madness and resistless power. The ground was trembling, reeling, upheaving, shaking and splitting open into yawning fissures, while hideous noises were all around. Buildings about the park were being rent asunder and were falling into shapeless heaps of ruin.

That time period in San Francisco could only be The Great Earthquake. The author did a good job interweaving Roderick’s story amongst the devastation and destruction surrounding him. I knew it was bad, but after following Rockerick around through the city, and seeing it through his eyes, I had a new understanding of just how horrific it was.

The author ended the book with an Afterword, more details about the earthquake, in case “my readers will care to peruse a more detailed description of that tragic happening.” A small excerpt:

IT was on April 18, 1906, that San Francisco was shaken by a terrible earthquake which in its final effects resulted in the city being cremated into cinders and gray ashes…

…The trembling, gyrating, shaking and swaying vibrations, the swiftly following outbursts of fire, the cries of those pinned beneath fallen débris and of the thousands who were seeking to escape by fleeing into the parks and toward the open country, produced the wildest pandemonium.

It was the dawn of a new day abounding in hideous noises—detonations of falling masonry, the crash of crumbling, crushing walls, the shrieks of maimed and helpless victims—and all the people stupefied with a terrible fear, women weeping in hysterical fright and everyone expectant of they knew not what, unable to think coherently or reason, yet their voices filling the stricken city with cries and moans of heart-rending terror and lamentation. And all the while there came up from somewhere an unearthly threatening roar that awed the multitude into unnatural submissive bewilderment.

There is a description of what was in the newspapers of the day, “You have read in the newspapers that the cosmic disturbances of the San Francisco earthquake extended entirely across the continent. Indeed the shocks were felt distinctly in New York, Philadelphia, Boston, and other Atlantic points.” Clear across the continent – the aftershocks were felt clear across the the whole United States? My high school history class didn’t supply details about the vastness of the earthquake, nor the destruction and devilish fire that consumed so much of the city. Or perhaps I was just too young to comprehend.


At any rate, my mind was stretched thinking about relatives in the middle of the US, or especially on the East coast who had relatives in San Francisco. How long did it take for them to make contact? Some must have never had contact from their loved ones. And the anxious days and weeks of waiting. How sad to never know for sure what happened to them.

What I learned from reading the book and living with the characters is our ancestors faced trials and tribulations that we might not think about unless we look in the newspapers and history books of the places they lived. And I’m not talking about Ancestry’s life story feature which throws in a couple historical sentences, like my 5 yr old g-grandmother watching stocks in the newspaper.

Use Gutenberg books, the Internet Archive, Google books or newspapers, newspapers.com, or local historical societies to learn about the time and place your ancestors lived. It may give you a new perspective on their lives and the challenges they faced, or what they endured.

Family Search Indexing Event




Ever found a record at Family Search?

There are some parts of my tree that wouldn’t be there, were it not for that one record I discovered at FamilySearch to help fill in a gap in my family history.

In the past I have done indexing for Family Search. But life got busy, I was using other resources to find records for my tree, and indexing fell by the wayside.

This year’s indexing event takes place July 15–17. I’ve made room on my calendar to do some indexing. Promises were not made to myself about a certain number, only that I will give back to the genealogical community in this small way.

WWIE-2016-participant-badgeI may index a record that makes a huge difference in someone else’s family tree. And hopefully someone else will index a special record that helps me with another branch of my tree…that someone could be you.

If you have a few spare minutes this week-end, why not index a batch or two of records. Then you can put this badge up on your blog!

For more info, and to sign up, click either of the graphics in this blog post.





Ice Cream Sundaes!

Who would think ice cream sundaes might have something to do with genealogy?!

It’s more along the lines of history. While researching some ancestors in Wisconsin, I ran across this interesting (and yummy) tidbit:

On This Day: July 8

On this date in 1881 druggist and soda fountain owner Ed Berners of Two Rivers, Wisconsin, was asked by a customer to top a dish of ice cream with chocolate sauce, an ingredient previously used only in ice cream sodas.

The new tasty treat became very popular, though it was only served on Sundays. According to H.L. Mencken, the sundae got its official name after a little girl demanded a dish of ice cream ‘with that stuff on top’ on a different day.

Numerous other locations claim to have created the first ice cream sundae, and it is unclear which community deserves the title to having invented this great American treat.

~source Wisconsin Historical Society’s “On This Day in History”

Not knowing where Two Rivers was, I checked Google:


Nearly straight east of Oshkosh, and southeast of Green Bay, it’s located where the West Twin River and the East Twin River meet just before draining into Lake Michigan…about 200 miles away from where my ancestors settled. Not likely they were around there in 1881, but they might have been some of the first to experience this tasty treat, considering they lived in the State where it was invented. Or so they claim!

If you have ancestors from Wisconsin, you might enjoy checking out The Wisconsin Historical Society’s website. There’s a special section called Research Your Family History, as well as special collections, photos and numerous other topics.

Or just peruse their On This Day in History section. Fun facts and interesting things about the Badger State.

Map courtesy Google Maps

Free Access to Findmypast


Starting today, June 29th until July 6th, all UK, US and Irish records will be completely free to search and explore on Findmypast. It’s a special Fourth of July extravaganza!

According to their press release:

  • This includes all 118 million “Immigration & Travel” records, 116 million US marriages, and all UK, Irish and US censuses
  • Over 7 million new US Naturalisation records and over 1.7 million US Passport Applications have also been released, marking the first phase of two brand new collections


If you don’t already have an account at Findmypast, you’ll have to open one to get free access to search all their records.

What a small price to pay!!

I’ve been a subscriber to Findmypast since I cancelled my Ancestry subscription last fall. I must admit I had a little trouble for the first couple of months, until I got used to their search engine. It’s a little different than Ancestry. And I gave up too soon. Had I continued to use it daily (instead of every other week!), it wouldn’t have taken me weeks to learn it!

Now I love it. I’ve found dozens and dozens of ancestors in England, as well as immigration records. Over the week-end I found a British passport application for a great-grand Uncle. And just like TheGenealogyGirl who discovered a record in their United States Marriages Collection that had been eluding her for years, yesterday I found a marriage record from Virginia that wasn’t to be found anywhere else.

Today I discovered a distant cousin who’s occupation was listed as “Biscuit Factory General Labourer It Worker” in The 1939 Register Transcription. Findmypast has been touting their 1939 Register as “41 million lives recorded in one day at the outbreak of World War II.” But all my ancestors had immigrated decades and decades before that. I figured it wasn’t worth looking into. But I forgot there were siblings and parents left behind, who produced more offspring. Now I’m curious to see if it’s possible to pursue these different descendant lines. Wouldn’t it be cool to make a connection with a 4th or 5th cousin over there?!?

If you have some spare time in the next seven days, after all it IS a long holiday week-end (in the States anyhow), take some time getting to know your ancestors.

It’s 7 days of free access to over 1 BILLION RECORDS.

What have you got to lose?

P.S. Leave a comment if you make an exciting discovery!