A Family History Quilt

February 4, 2010

A Fun Idea For Your Next Family Reunion

Reunions are about family – remembering past and celebrating the present.  A successful reunion helps us renew family associations and introduces our kids to their cousins, older relatives and ancestors.  

Each year we struggle with the same challenge – finding new ways to associate a name a face and history. A few years ago we solved this problem with a quilt. Yes, you read correctly, I said a QUILT.  Not just any old quilt – a family history quilt.  

Baadsgaard Family Reunion Quilt

Baadsgaard Family Reunion Quilt


A few months prior to the reunion, material was purchased, a pattern and color scheme decided, and quilt blocks were cut out.  

I volunteered to find and enhance the photos. Next I took each photo into Photoshop to add curved text of the names, birth, and death date of each relative. I used my color inkjet printer to create t-shirt transfers. Not for t-shirts but for quilt blocks.  

I had stressful visions of scorching and ironing wrinkles onto the quilt blocks. I was most relieved when my wife volunteered to iron the transfers onto the large white quilt blocks. She was careful to select a smooth cloth (broadcloth) so the transfers would be clear and easy to read. She experimented on the first one and then turned each t-shirt transfer into a mini history masterpiece.  

Each block was delivered to another relative to be sewn into the quilt.  

It was gratifying to see the tremendous interest generated by the Baadsgaard Family History Quilt. The quilt was drapped over a quilt stand strategically positioned next to the podium where the program was delivered.  

The final event is always a raffle to acquire funds to cover the expenses and gifts for the next reunion. Several relatives purchased multiple tickets to improve their odds of winning which greatly enlarged the family reunion fund.  

Now’s the time to talk and plan with your family reunion organization about making a family history quilt.  

Try it – you will like it!


Is Your GPS Tracking You?

December 29, 2009

The Value of a Trip Log 

I was recently studying and getting acquainted with many of the awesome capabilities of the new Garmin GPS I received for Christmas. In my reading I discovered a previously unknown feature of the newer Garmin GPS units. I was alarmed to learn my new GPS was already keeping a “second by second” log of everywhere I travel. At first I didn’t like the idea and felt it was a bit too intrusive into my personal life. Next I wondered if my new GPS had logged a few of my embarrassing side trips such as getting lost trying to find one of the metro train stations to retrieve a relative for the holidays.

My GPS didn’t let me down. I soon discovered the GPS “Trip Log” and displayed it on Google Earth. There was my travel route detailing the exact circle we had taken when we got lost trying to find the station. More embarrassment awaited. I zoomed down on the route in Google Earth which clearly outlined, in great detail, the complicated and elongated route I took trying to find my way out of the train station parking lot! My wife now has indisputable proof to justify and merit her backseat driving recommendations!

Start Making Travel Journeys

The embarrassment gradually disappeared and rational thought soon returned. I started to get a little excited about this new GPS “snooping” capability. I intend to start creating photo collections called “Journeys.” My purpose is to log and document interesting discoveries we happen onto when traveling. Later we can share these locations with our children so they can discover and visit these same undocumented treasures. I want to enrich my family history journeys with information, narrative, photos, GPS coordinates, and maps.

I hope my journey collections will entice my children and grandchildren to take mini travel safaris to specific geographic locations of their ancestors. Such journeys will present tangible evidence and historical narrative in a geographic context. I’m including one of the many journeys of my grandfather to demonstrate how traveling to a location helps us experience and become a part of his history.

My grandpa T. E. Olsen homesteaded a “dry farm” in the arid and dusty hills east of Idaho Falls, Idaho. Grandpa was a grand fisherman and took every opportunity to “wet his fishin’ line” whenever a stream was near. In the summer grandpa would escape the heat with a short two mile hike to fish down in Willow Creek. Grandpa was convinced you could avoid heart disease by going to stream to soak your feet in its medicinal waters. I’m assuming grandpa was also holding a fishing pole as he soaked his feet to achieve the greatest medical benefit.

A few years ago my 80 year old cousin, my wife and oldest son retraced grandpa’s journey from the dry farm to Willow Creek. What a treat! You have to go there to experience the cooling temperature and take in the smell of willow trees outlining the pristine little stream. The creek still has crystal clear water and probably looks the same as it did 100 years ago when grandpa fished there. Someday I hope to travel back there again with my two sons and grandchildren to fish and recreate the magic of this secret ancestral place. Yes, I have recorded the GPS coordinates to make such a journey both easy and possible. (GPS of Willow Creek photo: 43 27.1890 N 111 48.0930 W).

Making a GPS Map

Back to reality. You will be able to create a map of your journeys to be included with photos and printed information in a journey collection. Here’s how to access the trip log your Garmin is already faithfully keeping and to display the journey(log) in Google Earth.

  1. Plug the USB cable into your Garmin and computer.
  2. Go to “My Computer.” You should see an icon for your Garmin GPS.
  3. Double click on the Garmin icon. You will see several folders.
  4. Open the GPS folder.
  5. Start Google Earth and zoom down.
  6. Drag the “Currrent.gpx” file onto Google Earth.
  7. A GPS Data Import box will appear. Click OK.
  8. A blue line will appear on Google Earth that represents where you have traveled.
  9. Zoom down to see more detail unless you have recently been lost in a parking lot.

Teenagers – Take care! Your dad’s Garmin is watching everywhere you go in his car!

My next blog will show you how to geotag photos using the coordinates automatically saved by your Garmin using a freeware program you can downland.

Missing A Program Icon?

December 23, 2009

Adding a Program Icon to Your Desktop

Occasionally a program icon disappears from my desktop. I have not changed any settings or let my system hide unused icons. It’s like some little troll sneaks into my computer and removes the icon when I’m not looking. There’s a simple way to add or replace a program icon on the desktop.  Here’s how:

  1. Click the Start button (lower left of your display).
  2. Select “Display All Programs.”
  3. Locate the program.
  4. Select (left click) on the program and hold down the left mouse button.
  5. Drag the program onto your desktop and release the mouse button.

Caution: Resist the temptation to drag several icons onto your desktop. In a short time you will have a cluttered desktop making it difficult to find a program. Only place program icons on the desktop you frequently use. It also takes computer memory to display many icons and will slow your system.

Windows 7. Where’s the E-mail?

December 19, 2009

You will need a new e-mail program for a new computer or if you upgrade from Vista to Windows 7. 

Microsoft removed e-mail from Windows 7. It’s gone and you will have to use something else. I searched the internet for recommendations and reviews for another e-mail option. The more I searched and read, the more confused and frustrated I became. I finally gave up and installed Windows Live. I decided it might work better with Windows 7 since it comes from Microsoft.

My Verdict After Two Days of Use

  • I like the Live Mail interface better than Gmail.
  • It can run in the background and check for new e-mails like Outlook.
  • You can attach and send large image files. It places a little thumbnail of each file attachment The recipient clicks on a thumbnail to view it full screen. Double clicking on a thumbnail downloads the image so you can view it full screen and save the image.
  • The recipient does not need a fast internet connection to receive a Live Mail e-mail because images are not attached to the e-mail, just small thumbnails.
  • You can drag the image into the e-mail to attach the file. That easy and I like this a lot!
  • I was relived it had a spellchecker that highlights each misspelling word so you can correct as you type instead of running a spellchecker later.
  • It has some fun little Emoticons some of you will enjoy using to eliminate misunderstandings when you are trying to say something funny.
  • My first e-mail message was easy to compose and write. 

 Be sure to check the Outbox to make sure it sent your first mail. I had to do a little more initial setup before it sent the first message    


 Double click on a thumbnail in Windows 7 Live Mail to view it full screen or to download and save it.  

 Biggest Frustration

WHERE’S THE SEND / RECEIVE BUTTON? Yes, I’m yelling and using red ink. What good is an e-mail program if you can’t check for e-mail when you want to? It took me 30 minutes searching the internet to discover they renamed “Send / Receive” to “SYNC!” I like “SINK” better since I’ve had more experience with that word. (I’m always cleaning up something). 


I think I will eventually get the hang of Windows Live e-mail. However, it may have to season in the closet for a few weeks like any new pair of shoes or shirts I get before I will attempt to use them.

Skype Your Kids For Christmas

December 9, 2009

How To Communicate Anywhere in the World

Talk and send live video anywhere in the world for free using Skype, an inexpensive web camera, and the internet.

 Sharing Family History

Christmas, holidays, birthday parties and other special occasions are when family history is made and shared with the next generation. This can be a challenge in today’s world when family is scattered all over the globe. Cards and letters make occasions special. However, nothing beats being there in person to sing songs, tell stories and see each other.

As an old Star Trek fan, I’d love to have Scotty beam me and Santa to each child’s home for special occasions and Christmas. Thankfully we can use new computer technology to transmit our images and voices anywhere on the world in real time.

Earlier this year we were happily sharing birthdays, Halloween, the 4th of July and other special events with our kids and grandkids. Unfortunately, everything changed a few months ago. Two of our daughters moved out of state; one to find employment in Arizona and one to attend medical school in New York state. Suddenly all the fun with eleven grandkids shrunk down to two. Empty nest? It feels like no nest at all!

We all have the same cell phone network so 24/7 long distance calling is not a limitation or expense. However, our two young grandsons do not relate well speaking to Grandma and Grandpa on a cell phone. We really miss seeing their little smiling faces. You can’t see your grandkids all dressed for Halloween on a cell phone! They change so fast you need to see them often.

Skype, a Web Cam and the Internet to the Rescue!

We’ve discovered using a web cam is almost like being there. In the past few months we’ve seen the grandchildren in their Halloween costumes, had front row seats as they delivered their school speeches and little church talks to us. Our two grandsons think Grandma and Grandpa live in the computer monitor! My wife beams when they smile big and point to the monitor (web cam) and say GRANDMA!

Our tradition of sharing a special Christmas story will still happen this year. We’ve selected “The Christmas Pickle.” Thanks to the internet we have one of the two last signed books arriving in time for Christmas. Visualize this scenario. My wife and I will seat ourselves comfortably in front of our web cam. We will click the Video Call button. Next, we will take turns reading selected parts of the story to all the grandkids. In advance we will prepare some photos to flash up on the screen as we share the story. We will be able to hear and see their response to the story and our questions. Life is good again!

What You Need

You still have time to be ready for Christmas if you act this week.

  1. Web Cam. Get two web cams. They are not expensive. Check out Staples or Amazon. If you purchase on-line have one delivered to your children to save time and expense. Get a web cam with a built-in microphone to cut down on all the wires and USB connections. Tip: It will be easier if you both have the same kind of cameras so you can help each other if you have problems.
  2. Skype. This FREE software program allows you to connect to a family or friend’s computer anywhere in the world. (You both need the software installed). We will be video conferencing with our friends in Australia for free. Skype will indicate when you are both on-line making it easier to connect. To initiate a call, you click the “Call” button and they will hear a ringing sound on their computer speakers. The connection is also FREE. There is no time limit so talk as long as you like. Note: You do not need a web cam. You can use microphones to communicate. Tip: Turn off your web cams if your internet connection breaks up. Skype is easy to use and well documented. Get more information and download it here. SKYPE.
  3. Fast Internet Connection. Sending video requires a DSL, cable or other relatively fast internet connection.


Solving Computer Problems !!

December 7, 2009

Do You Have a Personal Confuser?

I once heard a personal computer (PC) referred to as a “Personal Confuser.” I’d have to agree with this definition since I feel confused most of the time. I often tell people I solve computer problems by accident and perseverance and not by skill. “Plug & Play” is supposed to mean plug in the new device and the computer automatically sets it up for you. Usually that doesn’t happen for me.  “Plug & Play” really means “Plug & Play Around” for a long time until you get lucky and it works!

The internet has taught me two very important lessons:

  1. There are thousands of people in the world who have the same computer problems I have.
  2. Most computer users are sympathetic and willing to help each other solve problems.

Use This Google Trick

There’s a relatively easy way to solve a computer problem and it’s free. Do the following:

  1. Copy the error message for reference later.
  2. Don’t worry about understanding what the error message means. It would take a brainiac to understand the message.
  3. Go to the internet and load up Google.
  4. Type the error message into the Google search box and press enter.
  5. Viola! You just magically discovered a million people who are saying, “I feel your pain,” let me help, or I have the same problem!”
  6. If you get too many responses, put “quote marks” around the error message and search it again.

You’ll be surprised how many people have the same problem and posted the same question or error message on the internet. Go to a web page and see the answer and discussion of the success or failure of the person applying the solution. If the solution is too complicated, hit the back button and go to the next site. You may have to surf through many sites before you find the correct or easiest answer. I have used this trick and it saved me from disaster many times.

Use Google For Other Solutions

Sometimes I have a hard time trying to formulate my question for a Google search. Keep trying. Remember you are searching the whole world and chances are good someone else out there in cyberspace may be searching for the same dumb thing.

I’m a terrible speller. I used to say I had two vocabularies – one for speaking and a dumbed down vocab for writing. You will probably get some laughs (free of charge) reading my blogs.  Just remember I’m human and trying to help you even with my spelling disability! (Is there a pill I could take to cure my spelling disease and make me feel wonderful at the same time? Something that rhymes with Valium – like Spellium).

Tip:  Google is also my spelling tutor and it doesn’t laugh at me. I make my best spelling attempt by typing it into the Google search box. I love it when Google comes back and says, “Did you mean . . .?” Sometimes after a long search for a word like “Viola” I talk  back to my computer and say YES! This is so much better than using a dictionary. In grade school my teachers used to scold me for such bad spelling and say, “Don’t you know what the dictionary is for?” I wanted to reply with, “Yes, it’s for reading the whole dictionary until I get lucky and happen onto the word I can’t spell. Dictionaries are for people who can spell!” Computer spellcheckers and Google are for people like me who still can’t spell. I use several spellcheckers. Beware – sometimes a spellchecker can really embrace (embarrass) you! Read the suggested spellings carefully.

Writing a History? Use OpenOffice.org – IT’S FREE!

December 5, 2009

Over the years I’ve helped several people prepare, compile, format and print family histories. You can avoid many problems if you start simple and right. There are many things you need to know about. However, let’s not start by overwhelming you or “dumping the whole load.” We will try and do this one step at a time with several blog articles. We’ll eat this family history elephant one spoonful at a time.

Major Goal – Start by using the right software and saving money.

All word processing programs are not created equal! I can promise that most of them are going to give you a migraine headache before you finish your project. Unfortunately, the pain is not going to strike until later after you’ve invested much time and effort. We could easily refer to this as a real “Attack of the Heart!” 

 Here’s one of my “Marlo’s Minefield Warnings.” You will not be able to lock or anchor your photos on the pages in your book no matter how hard you try. You will not discover this problem until you create the PDFs from which your book will be created by a printing company.  Two expensive solutions are to purchase a costly desktop publishing software (several hundred dollars) or to have a professional format and prepare your book for printing (a loan from the bank) .

Solution #1 – Get and learn to use OpenOffice.org (OOO)

Six months ago I downloaded and started playing around with OpenOffice.org.  I didn’t feel I had time to learn to use another word processor but since the program / download was free I couldn’t resist messing around with another program. I hoped to find an inexpensive alternative to help my friends and our users publish a family history. I’ve not been impressed with the “automatic” types of programs that sort of combine names, dates and locations into a pseudo family history. Very boring, not motivational and very impersonal – not my idea of a history or something to impose on my children and grandchildren. I want my grandchildren to love me and not have to resist reading grandpa’s old boring stuff.

WOW! OOO  really impressed me! Not only was it free but it offered so many additional options perfect for formatting a family history. I have a solution at the end of the blog you will like. Please don’t let the following list snow you under:

  1. Comes with a built-in PDF creator
  2. Free add-on PDF module that allows you to edit PDFs
  3. One, two (or more) columns formats
  4. Page numbering 
  5. Mirror margins
  6. Text flowing around photos
  7. Headers and footers
  8. Hyperlinks
  9. Automated table of contents
  10. Index (if you want to do one) 
  11. Much more

Solution #2 Saving Money

OpenOffice.org is FREE! You read correctly. All you skeptics (I’m one) are thinking what’s the catch? It must be full of spyware –NO. It must be a cut down or a crippled version to entice you to buy the expensive “Real” version – NO.  You can read more about OOOs growth and development here.

Some of you will be getting a new computer during the holidays, or because of all the great deals, or maybe your one-eyed monster (computer) needs to be retired.  You will be faced with the decision of purchasing a new word processing system since the computer will probably come with a trial period word processor.

 I challenge you to download OpenOffice.org. You will save a bunch of money (so you can add more RAM to your computer) and you will feel right at home using OpenOffice.org (OOO). It will also read and write other word processing files so you don’t have to worry about all the documents you already have created with those two other word processors. You will also be able to easily create PDFs.

Download OpenOffice.org

The Good News!

I’ve started to create a family history book template for use with OOO. I hope to release the templates at the Mesa, Arizona Family History Expo, January 22 – 23. My goal is to do all the hard stuff (formatting, page numbers, margins, table of contents, etc) so you can concentrate your efforts on compiling and writing your history instead of fighting with the software.

I will also write another blog explaining how Heritage Collector will help you organize and find the photos you want to use in your book. This was the initial reason we created Heritage Collector (Previously called Photo Collector). We discovered one of the more difficult struggles was finding the scanned photos to be used in a history. I will also show you how easy Heritage Collector can help you create a self-running CD/DVD to go in the cover of your history containing a narrated sideshow, all the photos used in the book and a searchable PDF of the history. This is really fun stuff and helps get the younger geeks (today’s computer wizards) interested in learning and reading your family history.

Consult Chapter 7, Creating a Bound History, in the Digital Family History Guidebook for more information about preparing and printing a family history.

FINAL TIP: Start writing some fun and interesting stories. Let your creative juices flow by NOT worrying about finding photos, formatting or organizing the content. Just get the fun and important stories  into your computer on paper using a pen or pencil as your input device. It will be worth it and you will be amazed how interested your family will become. So keep your project a secret and don’t let them read any of it until you are ready but drop hints to increase the intrigue!

Please refer to the Easier Scanning blog before you start scanning photos for your book.

Scanning – Do it right the first time!

December 5, 2009

I’ve taught many scanning classes and  I’ve answered many questions. I will offer more scanning suggestions and tips as this blog grows – just a spoonful at a time.

Here’s a scanning tip I consider the most important.

Scan all images using the following settings:

Image Size = 8 x 10 inches or 10 x 8 inches depending on the shape of the photo.

TIP – When scanning only enter one half of the image size number (8 or 10) and then click in the other image size box. The scanning software will automatically compute the other number keeping your image proportional. This will avoid creating distorted photos of tall / skinny or short / fat relatives! Be nice – this is not the way to get even with uncle Herman.

Resolution / DPI = 150 -350 DPI depending on the quality of the photo.

TIP: Avoid using a high DPI on poor quality images. All you will get is a very large image file with no improvement in image quality.

TIP: You are using your scanner as an enlarger. You will need to use the advanced settings option in your scanner in order to change the output or image target size as recommended above.

WHY? I know you all think I’m nuts!  In my classes I always get raised eyebrows or eyes rolled up toward the ceiling (like my kids used to do) until the attendees (too old to be students) hear the following reasons.

Most of us have no idea how we will be using our scanned images in the future. Don’t make the typical mistake of thinking your computer is magic and will allow you to stretch or enlarge photos later.

TIP: Stretching photos is a great trick for making scary Halloween photos with the pointed teeth, funny looking eyes with a little pixelization thrown for a spooky appearance – be nice to uncle Herman.

Someday you may decide to create a beautiful hardbound book, print out a calendar or engage in another project requiring large photos. Photos are never larger than 8 x 10 inches in a family history book so your scans will enhance interest and help create a professional looking book. You will be able to “shrink” your large scans to the desired size with a minimal amount of image quality loss for use on other pages in the book or calendar.

Don’t worry about filling up your hard drive with large image files. Move your scans to an external drive or to CD/DVDs for storage later use.

You may only have one change to scan some old photos so please do it right the first time!!

Need more scanning help? Purchase my Easier Scanning Tutorials or consult chapter two, “Easier Scanning,” in the Digital Family Guidebook that also comes in PDF with Heritage Collector.

Windows 7 Upgrade / Things you need to know

December 5, 2009

Which upgrade option?

One of the problems with Vista was it would not work with older hardware (scanners / printers) and software. Yes, that frustrated me big time! Good News! Windows 7 is more compatible with older software and hardware than Vista. However you may need to purchase the more expensive Windows 7 Professional version  to have a better chance of working with your older hardware and software.   

Recently I helped one of our local users upgrade her Vista Home Premium computer to Windows 7.  I went to the Windows 7 system requirements site http://windows.microsoft.com/systemrequirements to check the requirements. Her newer computer easily passed. Just to be absolutely sure I went the extra mile and downloaded the Upgrade Advisor from http://windows.microsoft.com/en-us/windows/downloads/upgrade-advisor

We ran the test and the computer passed with no problems. I was relieved and thought we were good to go and we’d be done in 45 minutes.  We marched off to Best Buy to get the upgrade. I’m thinking this will be simple until I was confronted with several upgrade options and prices. We decided on the more expensive Windows 7 Professional because it indicated it would work with older hardware and software. 

We then proceeded to run the upgrade. SURPRIZE!  We see the message, “You can NOT upgrade Vista Home Premium to Windows 7 Professional.” Suddenly I’m not happy because this means many programs will need to be reinstalled.  One positive is Windows 7 does create a backup of all your files. However, this could be a problem if you do not have enough free hard drive space and I’m not willing to trust any backup except one I make myself.

Just to be safe, we created a complete backup of all her files to an external hard drive. We also used Heritage Collector’s backup system to safeguard all her collections.

Unfortunately my friend had to reinstall many programs including Heritage Collector. We then used Heritage Collector’s  “Restore from HD” to copy all the groups and collections back into the new Windows 7 system.

 Please refer to my free newsletter, “Windows 7 – an Evaluation,” for a complete summary of my experiences using Windows 7.  http://www.heritagecollector.com/Newsletter/Newslist.htm

One final note. Heritage Collector works with Windows 7.

Hello Heritage Collector Users!

December 2, 2009

Welcome to our web blog.

Scroll down to view the latest information about your Heritage Collector software, tips and suggestions, software updates and much more. Please check back often.

Click on this link to return to our main page. heritagecollector.com

Best Wishes from LifeStory Productions, the creator of Heritage Collector software and services.