Saturday, February 23, 2013

Ancestry Research

I consider myself a curious person. Curious people want to know answers to questions, especially ones that they get asked all the time.

One of those questions that I get asked all the time is if I'm Irish. Why? My red hair. For most of my life I honestly had no idea. My family (parents) did not really know our family history much beyond their parents. You can't really blame them, those generations had so many siblings that they had enough to keep track of.

Now that so many records are becoming public and digitized though, this kind of thing is much easier to keep track of--and to find! I have been working on and off for a few years on researching our family tree. It is obviously a long-term project since families go back in time and more and more records are always added to the great invention of the internet. In fact, you can even volunteer to help 'read' these records and transcribe them. It is called the World Archives Project and if you are good at reading handwriting and have some time to waste, I highly suggest you contribute to this project.

I worked on setting up everything my family 'knew' over the past couple of years and even digitized some old photos my father's parents sent my sister when she was doing a genealogy project for school. I have happily added these to my family tree.

This weekend I am planning on doing some more research on our family history. Here are tips I have for anybody who is getting involved in this:

  • is an AMAZING tool. I highly suggest checking it out, even if it is just for a 14-day trial. Warning: it is very addictive and you might not get much sleep while you investigate and build your family tree.
  • Not all 'hints' are correct, the number one tip I have to give to make sure you are adding accurate items to your tree is to click on the suggested document and view it yourself! Do NOT just assume the information was transcribed and interpreted perfectly. Often the document does contain information about the person you are looking for, but many times it is in a different way than has interpreted it. I often end up manually inputting this kind of information in and then citing that suggested document on the tree. I'd say only about 1/3 of the time is the information accurate and complete for it to just be added in the 'review hint' section. 
  • Avoid adding from other members' family trees. They will be suggested to you, and often you will see your relatives working on similar trees. Or even a distant cousin (I've found a few of these--people researching siblings of the people I am researching, etc). These trees are great suggestions because they cite documents that are useful to you--so use those documents instead of the tree itself. 
  • If you are getting frustrated: stop. This is incredibly time-consuming project, with more added all the time. It is also a neverending project unless you were dropped off by aliens or something. Take a break. Do not get angry. Or switch to another person in the tree if you hit a dead end for now. When you do hit a dead end, call a relative! Sometimes they have some hints to pass along. 
  • Do not do a six-month subscription unless you are really dedicated. I usually pay for one month at a time right when I plan on working on it for a while, then make sure to cancel my subscription before I get charged again. These subscriptions are NOT a ripoff. You get access to SO many documents: social security indexes, census sheets, newspapers, military enlistment papers, etc. Wait to pay though until after you build your tree as much as you can on your own. Pay when you need to do real research. 
  • Convince a relative to help you. Two sets of eyes and brains are better than one! 
  • Don't keep it to yourself! Share with all your family and friends all the interesting stuff you learn. It's pretty darn neat!
  • It is very easy to spread the tree 'wide' with siblings, but if you want to concentrate on your genealogy click on 'pedigree' instead. This puts it in a streamlined form of parents only. 

I bet you've been waiting for my answer. I obviously have been spending quite a bit of time trying to figure out the answers to "Are you Irish?" and "Where'd you get your red hair?" 

The answer is: I don't think I am Irish, I have Scottish ancestry instead.  

Obviously, I haven't been able to get very far back on my tree. The good news is I do think I know where I got my red hair from. The bad news is, I don't know if that is the only place I got it. 

I have been spending a great deal of time researching my mom's side of the family. I have managed to trace back a few members of my family past the U.S. borders and found some neat stuff:

  • My mother's father's mother's father's father (my great great great grandfather?) came to the U.S. from Scotland to become a logger. He married a gal from Canada.
  • My mother's mother's mother's mother's father's mother's father (my great great great great grandfather?) came to the U.S. from Scotland as well. 
  • My mother's father's father's mother's parents (my great great great grandparents?) went from England to Canada and their daughter came to the U.S. 
  • In the U.S., most of these relatives have been concentrated in the Michigan area and has history in New York and a few other states in the Northeast/near the Canada border.
So far, those are the only blood relatives I have found past the U.S. Many of my friends have always known their lineage or had more 'recent' ancestors come to the U.S., always making me wonder about my own family's history.

I am always researching more and have yet to figure out where my father's side came from. His last name sure pops up a lot here in the South, more than anywhere I've ever lived before. I'll make sure to share any more awesome discoveries I make about my ancestry and genetics with you. If you have ANY questions about the World Archives project or, just let me know! I've been using for quite a few years now and have quite the handle on it. 

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

A Finished Crafting Project - Raider's Scrapbook

Background on the Project
I have finally "finished" a scrapbook I have been working on for a while. I started it a couple years ago, and it took me a while to get to finishing it since I wasn't quite ready until now. It is a scrapbook of the best dog in the world: Raider. We got him when I was twelve years old and he passed away last summer. He was my best friend, and followed me everywhere. He was my 'consistent' friend, since we moved a lot while we had him. We actually adopted him when he was three months old in Dayton, Ohio at SICSA (the Society for the Improvement of Conditions for Stray Animals). He was a lab/dalmatian mix with the loyalty and cuddliness of a lab and the playfulness of a Dalmatian. As my uncle would say: the best of both worlds.

I did put together small photo albums for my parents and sisters of Raider for Christmas, but I wanted something with a bit more sentiment added. Those albums had more photos of him in them, but this scrapbook has more of me in it.

I did each page separately, and at different times. This is why the scrapbook does not have a running theme. The only thing that connects the pages is Raider himself. I wanted it this way so that if one of my parents or siblings liked one page in particular they could possibly frame it. Otherwise, they can be printed off and put in a book.

Digital Scrapbooking (if you want to skip this part, just scroll down to see my scrapbook pages!)
Yes, I did say printed! I am a digital scrapbooker. Although I do love 'real' paper crafts, I feel that I am better at the digital scrapbooks. I enjoy making cards by hand along with painting, etc. The digital scrapbooking allows me to have a TON of options and keeps them all organized and much less messy. The items also take up a lot less space. BUT, my absolute favorite part of digital scrapbooking is that I can give more than one person the pages, so if I make it for somebody I can also keep a copy for myself! I know, it is kind of cheating ;)

I created this scrapbook using Serif's CraftArtist program. It is a very extensive program and I highly recommend it for those with some digital art experience already. It almost gives too many options sometimes for editing, etc. So, if you want to get the full extent of the program I would recommend making sure you are ready for it! It does have 'autofill' layouts, etc. for beginners too. This makes it so you could also 'learn as you go' with additional features.

I recently bought the Stampin' Up digital program: My Digital Studio or "MDS." I haven't gotten to test it out with any projects yet but it does seem simpler. I also am still working on figuring out how to use the 'objects' I have for one program with the other. They both have their own folders and organizers for the materials, so I'll have to figure out how to access the other from each program. I'll let you know when I finish a project using the new program and tell you what I like about each!

The Raider Scrapbook
(Click on each page to view it larger)
I plan on printing one copy for myself initially and then making any 'tweaks' that I feel it needs before printing copies for the rest of my family. They can view the initial project version here, though!


Thursday, February 7, 2013

My Garden

I finished the 'first stage', pulling up all the weeds/previous plants in my front garden today. I had to pick up all the bricks to do it. My arms are probably going to be even more sore in the morning. I then put in some grub killer and planted a few plants to get the garden started.
This is what I had to work with. What a disaster...the problem with the south is it is February and all these weeds are already growing!
Tada! All those weeds are gone! I even was ambitious and pulled them out of the sidewalk. 
Here is the beginning of my garden, off to the right are some snapdragons.

I picked up some seed packets and will be planting seeds in the front and side garden closer to the end of February/early March. Gotta love living in the south, I get to garden earlier and longer! 

This is my 'side garden', the mulch is old and in pretty beat up shape. This is after I pulled the weeds, they weren't nearly as bad as the front garden. There were no heavy bricks to move either! 
I haven't decided what I am going to do with the side garden yet. It is partial to full shade, so I am pretty limited. It's also very narrow. I might plant some coleus plants and try some seeds in it. I'll probably hold off on doing anything but keeping the weeds down in it until about March.

I've never lived in this climate zone before, so if you have any plant suggestions for my gardens, please post them in the comments! My staples are usually snapdragons and moss roses, but I have more options now! 

I also want to put a couple plants on my back patio, it gets direct sun. They will need to be in pots though, so I'm also still thinking on that. 

Adventures in Furnishing & Decorating

We've had a successful week this week!

We were out Goodwill hopping,. we try to do this every Wednesday since they give 20% off to military members on Wednesdays. We unfortunately did not make it to the Airman's Attic at all this week. They are only open 4 hours each on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

While we were out Goodwill-ing, we came across a rug store that was having a HUGE going out of business sale. We got a lovely rug for our living room that is 5x8 feet for only $150. It matches our furniture perfectly with grays, browns, and blues. Here's a pic of it in our living room:

Ignore the huge mess on the table...we've actually already cleaned it up since I took this photo :) Moving in is a mess!

We also bought this little rug (2x3 feet) for TJ. He was not enjoying the cold tile when he got out of bed in the morning. I already had a little rug on my side of the bed. His is actually wool and very plush. It was on sale for around $50. I love all the colors:

We also found some 'nightstands,' which we were in need of for our alarm clocks. Mine is the 'real' nightstand but it is EXTREMELY beat up.This will probably be my first refinishing and painting project when I have the time. It has so much potential though! For only $8, too! TJ is temporarily using a TV tray table for his nightstand. We snatched it up for $3 at Goodwill, knowing we'll use it for it's actual purpose at some point. Once we get him a "real" nightstand.

We have been hunting for dining room chairs for a while now, and they are much harder to find than you would think. Most come in sets or are in horrible shape. We already have a table, so we are just looking for a few chairs and a bench. We are temporarily using my pink patio chairs as dining chairs. Pink obviously does not fit the decor. I found this lovely chair for $20 at Goodwill. It is VERY sturdy/well built. It is going to be my chair, since it did not have any friends. It matches our office decor better than the living room, but the colors aren't obnoxious like the pink polka dot chairs at least. By obnoxious, I obviously mean awesome.

Speaking of matching our office decor better, I got the office "mostly" done! Since it is not really a main room, not everything matches. It is our gaming room/office/library/cat's room, so how would that all match anyways? Since I already owned a TON of Palm Tree/Jungle/Egyptian Oasis decor, that is the main theme of the room. I've put up some of my wildlife photos in the corner, hung up curtains, and decorated the walls. The wall above the little TV will have some autographed prints (we still need to pick up a couple frames). The tapestries are TJ's and all the stuffed animals are mine. Here are some pics:

In addition to all the thrift store finds, we got our new TV! Best Buy was having a one day deal earlier this week that we could not beat. We were originally looking for a 40", but this 46" was on sale for less than the sale price of the 40". We snatched that up. I'm glad I kept checking sales for TVs, or I would've beat myself up for missing that sale. It is Best Buy's Insignia brand, which we have bought before and haven't had any issues with. Also got the extended warranty. I believe Insignia is Best Buy's name for LG? Something along those lines.

We also got a very much needed vacuum cleaner! We bought a little one that has a 'no-brush' setting for tile floors (it actually works even better than I expected it to, with all the pet hair). It works GREAT. Since it had been three weeks since we moved in, I had only been sweeping and that doesn't do much for pet hair. I had to empty the vacuum's canister three times while vacuuming. I guess that's about one canister per week? Totally gross. I guess my allergies should be getting better now though...

Today I worked on my garden out front. I'll post a separate blog to show what I have so far with the garden!