Pinball Genealogy

pinball machineWalking into a Video Arcade you come across an old pinball machine. You decide to take a closer look so you move in and to your surprise the machine is a Genealogy Pinball Machine! On the backglass you can see what appears to be a Family Tree with a list of unlit research documents on it. You get a little closer and look down at the playfield and you see the names of various documents and lots of blinking lights. This is going to be fun! You insert a couple of quarters and the balls roll out into the plunger. The first ball goes flying onto the playfield. Rolling down towards the bottom you hit the flippers and it makes contact with the ball. It shoots back up the field and hits “Death Certificate”, lighting it up and scoring 100 points. It then bounces over to “Wills” also lighting it up and scoring 50 point. You continue playing until you run out of balls. When the game is finished you look at the backglass to see your score, an impressive 10,000 points. But wait, not all of the documents names have been lit up. You missed some during the game. Now what? You pop in more quarters and try again. The outcome is the same so you decide to give up.

This is how it can be in our own research time. You decide which Ancestor you want to work on and you begin your search.Hazel Clara Hughes Vickery DC You find a Death Certificate for Great-Grandma Iva. How exciting as you have searched several times before with no luck. So you continue to search and you find her Obituary. More excitement as the clipping includes her parents’ names and her childrens name. You immediately do a search for Great-Great Grandpa Chuck finding his Marriage Certificate to Mary. You discover that Mary has a very unusual last name so the hunt begins for any documents for her. Eureka! You found her in the 1840 Census along with her parents and siblings. The search continues looking for each new Ancestor that you stumble upon.

Elsie May Willard obitWhen you are finished you realize that the only documents you found for Great-Grandma Iva was her Death Certificate and Obituary. You got side tracked adding all the new information you found on the other Ancestors. It is like a pinball machine. You hit one target and it immediately bounces off, taking you in a totally different direction. You continue this way until the game is over and you find there are still a lot of missed documents and information. What can you do to avoid this pinball trap?

When you sit down to do research, do it with a purpose. Take the time to really look at what information you already have on the chosen Ancestor and make a list of what else you need to fill in the blanks. Stick to the list until you have run out of places to search. While you are examining the documents, if you find new information on another Ancestor, make a note of it so you can go back to it. They have Research Logs available for free at a lot of sites; you can use one of those or create your own. Each person does research in a different way so do what works for you.

Remember our main goal in creating our Family Tree is to make it as complete and accurate as possible. This is done with documents and other vital information. Keeping on track will help you fill in those blanks and make our trees bloom!

Click here to get various research log forms


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.







Filed under Ancestry, Family History, Family Search, Genealogy, History, How-to

9 Ways to Discover Your Religious Heritage and Passing Yours on to the Next Generation.

Park Ave Chirstian Church - Drive in Church

Park Ave Christian Church – Drive-in Church

Growing up I went to Church every Sunday morning. My family attended Park Avenue Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Tucson AZ, the one my parents joined shortly after moving to Arizona when I was 11 months old. It wasn’t until I started school that I learned that there were other churches and religions in the world and that there were even some people who didn’t believe in God at all. It was also the time I discovered that our Church was a little unique. We had one of the two Drive-in Churches in the entire United States. In 1956 our pastor made a trip to Florida and saw a Church that had built one the previous year and he decided that he wanted one. So my Dad, along with a couple of other members built the small enclosed red brick building where the pastor would deliver his sermons each Sunday. They installed the poles and speakers and it was “open for business”. My parents loved going to the Drive-in Church because they didn’t have to get dressed up and they could smoke in the car during the service. My sister and I liked it because we could wear our pajamas and read or play in the back seat. I thought this was normal.

Now as an adult I attend a totally different denominational Church. I began to wonder how our family became the religion that we were. What religion or denomination did my Ancestors choose and why? I wondered if any of them had been Atheists. Did any of them flee to America so they could practice their faith, free from persecution?  I wanted to search for this information but I wasn’t certain of where to begin. I started looking through the documents I had acquired for my Ancestors and as a result I was able to piece together a pretty good description of what religions my family had practiced.

Here are 9 of the places and document types where I found my “Religious Heritage”.


  1. Church records. This is one of those “duh” moments. Where else would you look? A lot of the older churches kept very precise records. Not of just who attended their church but of many different events. These records can have a person’s date of birth, the date they were baptized, their marriage and death date and place of burial. They also can list family names, their participation in church activities, and a confession of their “sins” and in some cases their testimony as to why they became Christians. If an Ancestor was a minister it would also include a list of the previous churches he had pastored and the places where he had preached. These records can be a treasure trove of information.


  1. Wills. You may find which religion a person was by reading through their Will. In some cases an Ancestor will leave a possession, money or land to a church. You can then conclude that this church was associated with their religion. Most Will’s begin with a Statement of Faith and by reading this you could possibly determine what they believed.



  1. Marriage Records. Listed on the marriage certificate is the name of the person who conducted the ceremony. If it was
    Marriage Record stating name of Church and the Ministers name.

    Marriage Record stating name of Church and the Ministers name.

    a priest or pastor you can do a search of that name to find out which religion they were associated with. In some cases, especially in the 1800’s they even listed the name of the church on the certificate. You can also check your Ancestors childrens marriage certificates as they may have this information on them, especially if you can’t find a marriage certificate for the parents.


  1. Death Certificates. In newer Death Certificates there is a place where you can state which religion a person is. This information is given by an informant and may not be correct but it is at least a place to start your search.



Obituary stating name of Church Rosa attended.

Obituary stating name of Church Rosa attended.

  1. Obituaries. Obituaries are an excellent place to look. Sometimes they even list the name of the church they were a member of or the name of the minister and I have found a few that give a short testimony of when a person decided to attend this church or convert to this religion.


65th Wedding Anniversary clipping states Church.

  1. Newspapers. Newspaper clippings celebrating special events in a persons’ life can give you additional information. In an article covering one of my cousins 65th Wedding Anniversary it states the name of the Church they attended. I was able to contact the Church and found records of other Ancestors who also attended this Church



  1. Cemetery. This one sounds strange but you can sometimes determine religion by their place of burial. A non-Catholic would not be buried in a Catholic Cemetery. The same goes for the Jewish faith. Also a lot of cemeteries are attached to Churches and you can assume that if your Ancestor was buried there then they may have been members. At least it would be a place to start further research.


John Page Church Plaque

John Page Church Plaque

  1. Histories. If your Ancestor was a pioneer in an area they could be included in the History of that place. I have found several relatives who were founders of town or counties so a lot is written about them, including which church they attended. You can also find the names of Churches in the area that your Ancestor lived and then do a search of Church Records in those specific Churches for their names. You never know what you may find!



  1. Family Bibles. If you are lucky enough to have in your possession an old family Bible then it may shed some light on what your Ancestor believed and what religion they were. Hopefully it also includes a list of family members, births, marriages, deaths, baptisms etc. This indeed would be a treasure.


This is not an exhaustive list of places to look but it is a start. Unfortunately, unless your Ancestor was famous you may never know why they chose the Religion or beliefs that they held.  It has been interesting to see the progression of my “Religious Heritage” beginning with my Ancestors being Catholic, to becoming Quakers, to converting to Presbyterian, then to Methodists, Baptist and ending with my parents being Disciples of Christ.

This is actually a 2 part endeavor. The first part is finding what religion if any, that your Ancestors practiced. The second part would be passing on your beliefs to the next generations. We have an opportunity to explain to our Great-Great Grandchildren what religion we are and why we chose this certain path. If you do not believe in God, this is the chance you have to let them know your reasoning for that. You can include your traditions, activities, favorite scripture or quote, give a testimony, or whatever you feel is the most important things you would want them to know.

How I wish my Ancestors would have left something in writing explaining to me the how’s and why’s of their choices when it came to religion.  So I will write the story of how I came to believe as I believe so my future family will not have to guess at it.


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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Filed under Ancestry, Arizona, Church, Family History, Family Search, Genealogy, History, How-to, Missouri, Religion

There Is One Thing Wrong With “Who Do You Think You Are?”

family tree, who do you think you areI really enjoy the program “Who Do You Think You Are?”  I have even gotten my non-genealogy enthusiast husband to watch it with me each week. I know there is some controversy about the program only highlighting “famous” persons and how these people can handle all these wonderful old documents, with white gloves on of course. They fly to the places their Ancestors came from and visit the places they lived and where they were buried. All in all it is a good show. The bonus is it is bringing more of the younger generations into the Genealogy fold.

So why am I writing this blog? Because, no matter how good the program is, there are some drawbacks to it. Let me explain. My husband comes from a very large family. They are spread out across the country from Alaska, to New York to Florida and even down into Mexico. I have been working on his family’s genealogy for over 5 years. I put together a private family page on Facebook and have posted my findings. I even put together a beautiful book for my in-laws which included photos, documents and stories.  Several of my husband’s siblings have asked for copies and the word that I am a Genealogist has gotten out.

One of my husband’s cousins, who I only met once at her Grandmother’s funeral, recently contacted me. She had heard about the Facebook page and asked if I could let her have accessEurope to it. Then she asked if I could maybe find some information about her father’s side of the family. After a couple of days she asked me if I could also find anything on her maternal Grandfathers side. She gave me what little information she had about them so I faced the challenge and felt pretty good about what I discovered. Then a week later she asked if I could also research her husband’s family. Again she only had limited information about them. I was amazed at how diverse their families were. Her father’s Ancestors came over from Ireland in 1865. Her maternal Grandfathers side came from Mexico, Poland and Germany! Her husband’s family emigrated here in 1967 from Italy.

So where is the problem? After giving me the sparse information that she had about both her family and her husband’s family, she contacts me 3 days later and is upset that I hadn’t found more data. I had traced her husband’s family back to the mid 1800’s in Italy; her father’s Ancestors back to 1834 in Ireland and her mother’s paternal side back to 1845 Germany. I told her it could take years to find and document these lines; it can’t be done in a week. Her response? “Well, on ‘Who Do You Think You Are?’ they can find it faster than that.”

watchingTV1After I quit laughing, dried the tears from my eyes and counted to 10, I let her in on a little secret. It is a television program! We have no idea how long it actually took to find the information they have. They also have a large staff and researchers working on the tree. We also don’t know if they screen the “famous” people to make sure their Ancestors are the easier ones to find. I also told her, that as much as I would love to, I really couldn’t afford to fly to Ireland, Germany, Poland or Mexico to do research.  I explained that I could throw a tree together for her if she really didn’t care about having proof that these people belonged to her. Thankfully, she understood what I was saying and told me to take my time and do it right.

So, from where I am sitting I can see some of the problems this wonderful television show can cause for us. We already live in an instant gratification world. Everything should be quick, easy and available on the internet. By showing how a person can find not only their Ancestors, but documentation, stories and photos in a one hour program, people are lead to believe that this is how it is. Maybe there should be a “disclaimer” included in either the opening or closing of the program that explains that in real life it takes longer than one hour to create your family tree. In the meantime, I will just hope that future clients will be open to the fact that genealogy does take time and is a lot of work.

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.






Filed under Ancestry, Europe, Family History, Family Search, Genealogy, Mexico, Who Do You Think You Are

HELP!! Who is Pleasant Smith?

There is always at least one Ancestor who has hidden themselves so well that it seems impossible to find them. This is the case of my Great Grandfather, Pleasant Smith.

Lafayette County, MissouriWhat I do know about him is he was born February 14, 1853. This information came from my baby book. All the other names and dates in the book are correct so I believe this one is too. In the book it says he was born in Hazel Hill, Missouri. However in all the US Census’ my Grandfather participated in it states that his father was born in Texas. I know his name is Pleasant as he named one of his sons Pleasant and the other John Pleasant. Also this is the name listed on my Grandfathers Social Security Application. The spelling on this application is different. It is spelled Plesent.

I know he lived in and around Dover, Lafayette County, Missouri. He married my Great Grandmother, Sarah Jane Page on April 13, 1882 in Lafayette County, Missouri. The marriage license says he was living in Mayview, Lafayette, Missouri. They had one son, my Grandfather John Pleasant Smith.

I know he was married once before Sarah but I don’t know who it was. They had one son (that I Marriage Licenseknow of) named Pleasant Smith.

Sarah got remarried in 1894. This leads me to believe that Pleasant must have died sometime before this.

Growing up, my Mother told us this story about Pleasant. “He was a Creek Indian Chief who deserted his tribe. Someone murdered him and chopped him into pieces leaving the pieces on the railroad tracks. Whoever it was figured a train would come along and everyone would think he got hit by the train. Before the train came someone found his body and reported it to the police. His murderer was never found. A few months after his death a letter came to Sarah’s home addressed to Chief (Unknown). Since she didn’t recognize the name it was returned to sender unopened.” Considering this tale came from my Mother who had a mental breakdown when I was 12 I have a lot of doubts about it. She never gave a place or a time frame for this incidence. I have searched newspapers in the area that he lived for any train accidents from 1882 to 1894 with no luck.

I hope someday to find that one crucial piece of this puzzle that will complete the story. After 20 years this happened with Sarah and it was an exciting day. Does anyone have any suggestions on where else I should search for Pleasant?

I appreciate any hints, tips or suggestions!

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.



Filed under Ancestry, Family History, Family Search, Genealogy, Missouri

Zane Grey:  Baseball Player, Dentist, Writer…..Genealogist?


Superstition Mount ianMesa Arizona is only 1,126 feet above sea level. As a result our summers can sometimes be unbearable. It has been known to reach temperatures of up to 122 degrees with it reaching 115+ for weeks at a time. Although we are having a “mild” summer this year, heat is heat and the urge to escape can be overwhelming.

My husband and I decided to make the hour trip north to Payson, elevation 5000 feet. Here their daytime highs are our night time lows. We just wanted to get away and explore a city that we didn’t know much about. We did know that the famous author of Western Novels, Zane Grey (1872-1939), had a cabin just outside the city where he would spend 3 months a year hunting and writing. His original cabin burned down in a forest fire in 1990, but the Rim Country Museum raised the money to build an exact replica on their property. So the decision was made to make a quick stop to see the cabin.

Payson is a small, quaint town. It is situated in the Tonto National Forest and has everything an Payson Arizonaoutdoors person would love. I fell in love with the beauty of the place. Pine trees, willow trees, green grass and flowers were everywhere. Remember, I live in the Desert with cactus, mesquite trees, and dirt so this was a treat. We easily found the Rim Country Museum and the cabin. We paid our admission and were lead by a very nice woman up to the cabin door. Once inside she told us the history of how Zane had come to Arizona back in 1905 and what happened during the years that he continued to come back. She spoke about the books he had written of the old west and the Rim Country. During his lifetime he had written over 90 books! Then she showed us a copy of the very first book he ever wrote. It was titled “Betty Zane” and it wasn’t about the Wild West or his adventures or about fishing. It was a historical account of his family, lead by Colonel Ebenezer Zane, his Great Grandfather and them being the first to pioneer a town in 1769 high above the Ohio River at a point near Wheeling Creek. I was immediately hooked.

Payson 034Growing up, only boys read Zane Grey books. I never really liked reading Westerns and I suppose it was because I was raised in the area most of these types of books are written about. I was surprised to find that Zane’s first attempt at writing was of his own family’s history. In it he gives detailed accounts of their travels, their struggles, their loves, and their triumphs. He draws you into their involvement in the Revolutionary War and enthralls you with the story of his Great Grand Aunt Betty Zane who, as a young girl, witnessed the death of her father during a Revolutionary War battle against the Indians who sided with the British at Fort Henry. In spite of her grief and fears she made her way through the enemies forces and retrieved some much needed black gunpowder and brought it safely back to the Fort.

Although it is said that most of what he wrote concerning his family was taken from oral traditions Elizabeth_Zanepassed down through the family, it has since been proven that almost ever account is indeed true.  What I want to take from this book and his style of writing is how he doesn’t just “tell the story”. He describes the scenery and the smells to such an extent that you feel you are there. It is so much more than dates and facts; it is the incredible story of their lives.

I am now more determined than ever to not just remember my Ancestors, but to find their stories and write them in a way that will transport future generations back to the time of those who have gone before.

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.


Filed under Ancestry, Arizona, Family History, Family Search, Genealogy, History, Revolutionary War, Zane Grey

Richard Fountain “Fount” Page

SONY DSCRichard Fountain “Fount” Page was born in Warren County, Kentucky in 1815. He came with his father and siblings to Lafayette County, Missouri in1827. They traveled the whole distance in wagons, which contained all their worldly possessions. Once they arrived in Long Grove Settlement they lived in their wagons until they succeeded in erecting some cabins sufficient for their protection. Long Grove was an area south of current day Page City. Here they lived the life of pioneers to the fullest sense of the word. Richards’ mother, Sarah “Sallie” Ennis was the first death to occur in the Settlement in 1831. She was buried in the Page Family burial ground which eventually became the Page City Cemetery.

Game was plentiful and they hunted bears, panthers, catamount and elk. There was also “wolves by the acre”. The weapon used at the time was an old-fashioned flint-lock rifle. It was customary that on the 4th of July the men of the Settlement would organize a grand hunt. Afterwards they would use the meat and have a big barbeque which included the entire town.

On April 5, 1834, Richard married Margaret Richey at the Lafayette Courthouse, the ceremony was performed by Duke Young. mo-lafayette-county-1904-mapThe young newlyweds moved into a newly built home in Washington Township, Johnson County, Missouri. Within a year they welcomed the first of the 9 children they eventually had. From 1837 to 1843 Richard bought 330 acres of land in Johnson County. There he grew corn, hemp, and a variety of vegetables. It is not known if he sold his property here but in 1845 he moved his family to Lafayette County to where the town of Page City is now situated and he bought 170 acres there. By 1850 they had built a very respectable farm. In the census it states that their entire belongings totaled $10,000, quite a large sum for this time.

Richard died on May 14, 1852 at the age of 37 years, 3 months and 2 days. He is buried near his mother in the Page City Cemetery.

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.


Filed under Ancestry, Family History, Family Search, Genealogy, History, Missouri

Isidro Torres – “The Man With The Hole In His Hat”


Isidro Torres and his wife Juana Isidro Torres was born May 15, 1862 in Sonora Mexico. His Mother was a Yaqui Indian and his Father was from Spain.  Isidros’ Mother died in childbirth. His Father, not knowing what to do, gave his son to the Godmother and he returned to Spain.

Growing up Isidro was reminded daily that he had been abandoned and that he was lucky to be living with his Godmother. He was the last to be fed, the first to have to rise in the morning and the only child who had to work all day. He had no formal education and could not read nor write. He did however learn to farm and to shoot. He was very good with a gun and he hardly ever missed. When he was a teenager he would go off into the woods and hunt animals. He was very good at tracking them and he always came home with meat for the table.  Isidro was a proud man.  He never worked for anyone else once he left home, he worked only for himself.

In the 1880’s the Mexican Government decided that they wanted to take control of the Yaqui landSonora Mexico in the Northern State of Sonora because it was very fertile and any crop could be grown in it. The Yaquis’ rose up in rebellion against the Government and a war ensued. Having been raised with no connection to his Yaqui heritage, Isidro began to do scouting for the Government.  It was a dangerous job and during one scouting mission he was fired upon by a band of Yaquis. He was able to escape but was surprised when he removed his hat and found a bullet hole through the crown of it. From that day on Isidro wore that hat proudly.

In 1885 the Governor of Sonora, Luis Torres, along with 1400 federal troops organized an expedition with the intention of meeting the Yaquis in battle. During 1886, the Yaquis continued to fortify more of their positions. During this time Governor Torres asked his men to gather up some scouts. When Isidro came into the camp he was immediately recognized because he was considered the best scout in Northern Mexico. Governor Torres knew that he and Isidro shared the same last name but he refused to call him by that name. The Governor told one of his men to go and get the scout with the hole in his hat and tell him we need his help. When the soldier told Isidro what the Governor had said he was insulted that he was so rude to ask for him in this manner. He then told the soldier to go tell the Governor that “He was not available”. He then got back on his horse and left.

In 1904 Isidro met and married a young Yaqui girl Juana Garcia. He was 45 and she was 15. Over the next 20 years they had 10 children, two who died at birth. Isidro moved his family into the Territory of Arizona in 1910, 2 years before it became a state. He began to farm. Seven of his children were born in the US.

On May 15, 1927, on his 65th birthday Isidro was out in the field planting cotton. His wife brought him and some other workers their lunch and some ice water. Isidro was very thirsty so he drank 2 cups of the cold water very quickly. One of the women who were there scolded him, telling him it could cause him to have a heart attack to drink ice water when you are hot and sweating. Isidro laughed and continued to drink. Later that evening Isidro did have a heart attack and died.

Isidro Torres GraveHe was buried in the Goodyear Cemetery in Chandler AZ next to his two Goodyear-Ocotillo Cemeteryinfant children. Juana took her surviving children and went back to Mexico.

Isidro Torres is my husbands’ Great Grandfather.



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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Filed under Ancestry, Family History, Family Search, Genealogy, History, Mexican Ancestry, Mexico