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I Enjoy a Completed Task.

Finished! In our home office, the new carpet lies on the floor, the new baseboards hug the walls. My husband had a two-week vacation scheduled in May due to the coronavirus, so we took on a home improvement project. But the minor remodeling was not all we did.

Our office was cluttered, really cluttered. Because we had to move all the furniture out anyway to install a new floor, we took the opportunity to clear out some of the things we were storing in there. Some items we moved elsewhere, and others we discarded:

  • We cleaned off the worktable. Because what good is a worktable if you cannot use its surface for work?
  • We emptied file drawers. I discarded or consolidated files pertaining to former jobs and deceased family members.
  • We removed a shelving unit we no longer need. This freed up some floor space, making the office seem roomier.
  • We weeded a couple of bookshelves. I do not need two thesauruses or two road atlases at my fingertips.

Today I can begin working in my newly refreshed office. It feels like time and money well spent.

 

Thanksgivings Past and Present

Yesterday we gathered with our children and grandchildren for yet another wonderful Thanksgiving meal. We hosted it at our house.

We were lazy this year and did not make everything from scratch. Instead, we ordered some of our food from local vendors.

We were not alone in this. We found a semi-truck full of pies parked beside our local Village Inn when we arrived there. A queue of people waited to pick up their orders. A similar line greeted us at our butcher shop when we pulled up to claim our pre-roasted turkey, dressing, and gravy.

Thanksgiving meal preparation was not always so easy. Unless we could get an invitation to spend the holiday elsewhere, we used to cook all day. Our traditional meal included turkey (would it thaw in time for the big day?!), stuffing, cranberry sauce, two kinds of potatoes, rolls, green bean casserole, deviled eggs, pickles, and olives. We pulled out our silver, crystal, and best china.

Our mothers before us also dutifully bought and prepared similar Thanksgiving meals, year after year. The women worked in the kitchen all day while the males lounged in front of the television. How I resented that!

For how long have people spent hours making elaborate meals on this day? Did my grandmothers do all this cooking on Thanksgiving Day back in the 30’s and 40’s?

I am pretty sure my dad’s mom did not. The family had little money, and besides, Grandma was no cook. She once told me that after her boys left home, she just ate a can of chicken noodle soup on Thanksgiving.

My mom’s family made more effort to prepare a Thanksgiving meal. Mom reminisced about sitting through Thanksgiving dinners with all the trimmings, meals she disliked. She lived next door to her grandparents from Finland, so those Thanksgiving dinners had a Finnish twist. Mom did not want to eat the mashed rutabagas that appeared on the table every year. If she could get away with it, she would eat only the bread and pickles.

Still, when she had a household of her own, she regularly prepared a traditional dinner. When I grew up, I found myself doing the same. I never liked Thanksgiving much because it required so much work.

This year was different. Preparing just a couple of dishes and leaving most of the cooking to others allowed me plenty of time to enjoy the day. Normally, I like to follow traditional ways of celebrating holidays, but I liked our take-out Thanksgiving dinner this year.

Perhaps we have a new tradition.

Ethnic Holiday Celebrations

The Christmas season approaches, and it provides me with an opportunity to get in touch with the holiday traditions of my ancestors. We have three fun events coming up in December:

  1. Pikkujoulu. The Finns hold this “little party” in anticipation of Christmas. Holiday foods, including glögi or mulled wine, make their seasonal debut here. The Finlandia Foundation of Colorado will hold this event at the Sons of Norway lodge in Lakewood, CO on the traditional first Saturday of December. The evening will include socializing, shopping for Christmas gifts at the Sons of Norway boutique, and a potluck supper. Joulupukki, the Finnish Santa, will appear to distribute gifts to the children. In a tradition I recall from my own childhood, Joulupukki does not enter homes through the chimney after everyone is asleep. Instead, he politely rings the doorbell while everyone is still awake and then asks if there are any well-behaved children in the home before distributing his gifts. Unfortunately, I will miss Pikkujoulu this year because it conflicts with my husband/tech advisor’s office party.
  2. Bach Christmas Oratorio. The great German Lutheran composer’s works include the multi-part Weihnachts-Oratorium, BWV 248. He created it in 1734 for performance in church during the Christmas season. My Bethany Lutheran Church choir performed Part I (the birth of Jesus) last year, and this year on December 9 we will do Part II (the annunciation to the shepherds). We have been practicing for weeks and will sing it in German.
  3. Lutefisk dinner. Our Sons of Norway lodge will host this annual Norwegian dinner in mid-December. The menu includes lutefisk, Scandinavian meatballs, pickled beets, lefse, and riskrem. Lutefisk, of course, is the much-reviled codfish soaked in lye. Lefse resembles a tortilla, but it is made from mashed potatoes and served with butter, cinnamon, and sugar. Riskrem, or rice cream topped with raspberry or strawberry sauce, is a Christmas dessert. If the lefse and riskrem do not provide enough sweets for the guests, we also will serve baskets of assorted homemade cookies. I am on the hook to provide four dozen of these. Although this is a Norwegian event, I plan to sneak in some made from a Finnish recipe for Hannatädinkakut (aunt Hannah’s cookies) made from potato starch. Let the Christmas baking begin!

To Join or Not to Join Facebook

Facebook has appeared in the news quite a bit lately. The social media giant has suffered bad press for allowing scraping of users’ data for nefarious purposes. According to reports, some people have decided to abandon Facebook in response to these allegations.

No need for me to do that. I have never joined it. My reasons for avoiding Facebook included the very issues that now plague the company. This morning’s Wall Street Journal summarized them nicely:

  1. Lost privacy,
  2. Political manipulation, and
  3. Social media addiction.

While all around me, our relatives, friends, and neighbors spend hours on Facebook swapping photos and stories of the minutia of their days, I have remained blissfully free of what I view as a monumental waste of time. Now, with the new revelations about Facebook and how the company handles personal data entrusted to it, I need not worry if they have compromised my personal information. They do not have it.

Will Facebook disappear because of this controversy? I do not think so. It offers some valuable features that many people want. For example, genealogists really like it.

This week the speaker at my local Highlands Ranch Genealogical Society, Dave Barton, delivered a program titled Using Social Media for Genealogy Research. He spent a great deal of his time discussing the value of Facebook for this. He pointed out that genealogists can find many Facebook groups that cater to them:

  1. General genealogy groups,
  2. Location specific groups,
  3. Surname specific groups,
  4. Genetic genealogy groups,
  5. Organization/society groups.

These groups tempt me. Dave pointed out that they stepped into the void when the genealogy message boards ended. These groups offer a forum for connecting with distant cousins and learning more about specialized topics. Dave also mentioned that some societies and organizations use Facebook pages in lieu of maintaining websites.

Should I join to take advantage of these groups? I keep thinking about it. If I knew I could keep an account focused solely on genealogy, I might do it.

I did try that once before, setting up a business page for this blog. I found it useless. Facebook users could visit my page, but I could not use the account to visit other pages. I quickly abandoned it and have not attempted to log in for several years. The Genealogy Jottings Facebook page is likely defunct.

I would have to create a personal account to get on Facebook and begin visiting groups that interest me. Perhaps I will, after the Facebook hoopla dies down and we see what protections the company provides to its users. A bright light shines on Facebook’s bad acts, and their leader must appear before Congress to answer for them. Something will change, and then I will make my decision.

A House History

Earlier this month I needed to search through some old family photographs. I must confess that my photos lack organization. In fact, they are a mess. To find the ones I needed, I had to search through albums (mine and my mom’s) as well as piles and sacks of pictures I have collected over the years but have never taken time to store properly.

One rubber-banded group of snapshots caught my attention. I had forgotten that when we purchased our house, we received a stack of work-in-progress pictures taken when the home was built in 1992. I had tucked the pictures in a cupboard after we bought the place in 2011.

Now the question arises: Should I keep these?

They might prove useful for their X-ray views of the innards of my house. That is probably why the original owners passed them along.

Or I could hang on to them for historical reasons. My home is 25 years old this year. This anniversary would offer a good opportunity for documenting the building of my house, the changes to it over the years, and the people who have lived here. Perhaps I should create a house history using the pictures I found.

Entire websites dedicated to searching and recording a house history exist these days. People like to know the story of their homes. The search process takes time when one lives in an old house.

For my not-so-old house, the work would not take long. Starting with the photos I inherited, I could create a history of the property so far and then document any changes we make in the future. When we leave here someday, we would have a good history of the place to give the new owners.

This small project could mark a start on cleaning up my photo mess. Tackling all prints I have seems overwhelming. Pulling out one group and organizing it properly seems much more doable. A house history sounds like a good winter project.

Great American Eclipse

Did you join millions of your fellow Americans to watch the solar eclipse this week? I did.

Months ago we learned that our Casper, Wyoming hometown would sit in the path of totality for this event. What better excuse to have a family reunion?

We invited everyone we could think of to attend a viewing party at the home place, and many people accepted the invitation. We offered free places to stay with relatives while motel rooms were going for $2500 per night. Family members came in from Colorado, New Mexico, and New York for our eclipse party.

They say the population of Wyoming nearly doubled that day as people flooded in. For a time, Wyoming (normally the least-populated state) had more people than other small states such as Alaska, the Dakotas, Delaware, Montana, Rhode Island, and Vermont. The little Natrona County airport handled private planes loaded with eclipse watchers landing every two minutes. We heard rumors that a Saudi prince came in to watch the eclipse from the tarmac.

We prepared for our viewing by collecting eclipse glasses and discarding any that were not properly certified. My granddaughter and I also made a projector box out of an old shoebox, a skill I had learned as a Cub Scout den leader when Colorado experienced a partial eclipse in the 90’s.

The fun began about 9:00 a.m. on Monday morning. People grabbed their special eclipse glasses and scanned the sun, trying out the glasses and waiting for the show to begin. It was not long before we could see a corner of the sun disappear.

When it was time for a snack, we served Moon Cake. My mother-in-law has served this at family gatherings for many years, so there was no question that we would eat it on this day. My sister-in-law baked three of them to make sure we had enough. You can find a recipe for it on allrecipes.com. http://allrecipes.com/recipe/19895/moon-cake/

As the eclipse progressed, we gathered everyone to take group photos, some with glasses, some without. We wanted to remember this day.

When the precious minutes of totality drew near, everyone quieted down as we all gazed at the sky. The air grew noticeably cooler. Finally, twilight descended, and the sun disappeared. Only a brilliant corona remained, and we experienced what appeared as a 365-degree sunset. We could see Venus in the sky above. Exuberant town residents celebrated by setting off fireworks.

I will never forget that moment. We all felt a little sad when the sun slowly began to reappear, and the unworldly vision ended.

My son and his family stayed for a picnic lunch and then prepared to head back home to Denver. Little did they know of the massive traffic tie-up they faced. Thousands left Casper and the surrounding area at the same time. Most needed to travel south on one of two thoroughfares—Interstate 25 or Wyoming Highway 487, a two-lane road. The usual 4-5 hour drive took my son 11 hours to get home. Traffic was backed up for hundreds of miles. Both Wyoming and Colorado urged people not to stop at the border to take selfies.

Luckily, I had the luxury of staying in Wyoming for one more day. My husband/tech advisor and I did some housecleaning at the old home place before we left. On the road home to the Denver area the next day, we encountered heavier traffic than usual but nothing like what had gone down those roads the day before.

We came home with great memories of a great American eclipse and family reunion.

 

Mourning Samson

Yesterday we lost a beloved canine member of our family, my son’s dog Samson. He had been part of our clan for ten years.

Can it have been that long since I received the telephone call about Samson from the animal shelter in San Antonio, Texas? I learned that my son, a newly-minted second lieutenant in the Army, wanted to adopt a rescue dog, a malnourished Great Pyrenees named Samson. Problem was that the Lieutenant had no permanent home address yet because he was on a short assignment at the time. The shelter wanted someone to agree to take Samson in the event the Lieutenant could not care for him. Would I do that? What?

“May I speak to the Lieutenant, please?” I asked.

Of course, he talked me into committing to giving Samson a home if he could not. He told me young Samson had suffered abuse and was severely underweight. With a thick, white fur coat, he suffered mightily in the Texas heat. My son promised to nurse him back to health and take him to his permanent base at Fort Drum later in the year. Fort Drum, where the Army does winter training. A much better location for a dog like Samson.

The Lieutenant was as good as his word, and I never had to take Samson in to my home. With proper care, he regained his health.

The big dog thrived in cold upstate New York, and he romped happily in the huge backyard my son provided for him. Over the next years, Samson oversaw the growth of a family—first a wife, and then three children. He adapted to new surroundings when the family moved to Colorado. All the while, he offered wonderful companionship to his family and served as a faithful watchdog.

Then his hips began to fail. Samson could no longer make mud wallows in the yard or frisk about in the snow. The day came when he could not walk outside to relieve himself on his own. We knew the time was coming to say good-bye to our fluffy friend.

Now he has joined all the other gone-but-not-forgotten doggy members of our family—Timmy, Daisy, Eric, Sam, Thor, Skye, Sunny, Mac, and Bailey. We miss them all.

In Memory of Mary Ann

For the fifth time this year, we have lost a family member. It has been a bad year.

Mary Ann was my daughter-in-law’s beloved grandmother, 83 years old. She lived miles away in Oklahoma, but she stayed closely in touch with her grandchildren. They spoke on the phone often, and the younger generation regularly received care packages from their grandma. They visited back and forth, too.

Mary Ann was one of the friendliest and most generous people I have known. She paid for preschool for her great-grandchildren as long as they attended a church-affiliated one.

A week ago, she missed her usual Sunday morning church service. Her fellow parishioners became concerned and sent someone to check. Of course they soon found that she would not be attending church with them anymore.

Today I will attend a memorial service for her here in Colorado, her long-time home before she retired in Oklahoma. It’s too bad she cannot be there in person to greet all of us. She would have loved a large family gathering. She and Charlie probably will watch from above.

Mary Ann, fondly remembered, sadly missed.

Our Genealogy Christmas Gifts

For the past several years, my husband/tech advisor and I have prepared genealogy-related Christmas gifts for our extended families. This gives us the incentive to digest our findings for the year and distribute the information. Here is what we will send out this year:

  • For the Hjelmstad and Walz descendants, a map detailing the European points of family origin in Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands, and Norway. The map also shows emigrants’ ports of departure in Europe and ports of arrival in the United States.
  • For the Bentsen descendants, family group sheets and biographical sketches for the members of the Norwegian immigrant generation and a copy of the only photo I possess of one of the couples, Karen and Nick Bentsen.
  • For my husband’s Norwegian family, this year’s rosemåling Christmas ornament from the Sons of Norway. http://www.sofn.com/‎

Last night we put the finishing touches on our maps and documents. Everything will be ready to mail out soon!

The Good, the Bad, and the Very Ugly Facts on Moving to the New Family Tree

Last week I wrote about my wish to enable a smooth transfer of data from the genealogical software I use, The Master Genealogist, to the cloud site offered by Family Search. Here is a guest post from someone who knows a whole lot more about this complex issue than I do, my husband/tech advisor:

Many of us are looking for a place to save our research in case none of our relatives wants it. Most of us use a Genealogy program of some sort but many have already “taken the plunge” and gone to online programs.

 

Those of us who haven’t gone to an online program, and even some of those that have, face the issue of what’s going to happen to our hard work when we can’t do it anymore. If we don’t migrate ourselves, our research is subject to the vagaries of a family member taking it over or performing the migration plan we might have left behind. Web sites we’ve built with our research will go away when the contract is up, causing the data to be lost.

 

The only solutions:

 

· to plan on a transfer to a repository and hope the heirs will do it and will be able to do it,

 

· to have a family member who will take it over,

 

· to identify a repository and synchronize to it,

 

· to identify a repository and switch to using their on-line software.

 

I can hope that a family member will continue the work – but unlikely at this point – or that enough peripheral people are working in my areas to take my work and run with it, but the reality is that it most likely will fade away as the paid web site expires or the software it’s based on becomes unusable unless I start ensuring continuity now.

 

Because I don’t like making other people pay someone else to see my hard-won research, I’ve chosen the LDS New Family Tree (NFT) as my repository and would like to synchronize to it. I currently use The Master Genealogist (TMG) version 8. Oops, based on both past experience and asking questions, I don’t think synchronization is coming soon.

 

Basically, I’d love to stay with TMG as I like the program and know how to use it. But if there aren’t plans to start doing what all the other major Genealogy programs are doing – synchronizing to NFT. Rather than enter more data into a dead end program, I’ll have to move to a program that is keeping up with the Joneses. And I have about 300 Norwegian and Danish relatives and over 500 sources to enter – a very productive summer.

 

Two programs are “certified” for synchronization with NFT – RootsMagic (RM) and Ancestral Quest (AQ). However, there are different levels of certification. You can also upload GEDCOMs to NFT regularly to synchronize – but I’m giving away the plot. I guess I’ll consider moving to RM or AQ.

 

There are several good web blogs about the pain and anguish and advantages of moving from TMG to each. The bottom line is that both do a decent job of importing from TMG via GEDCOM. But, from what the blogs say, RM, AQ, and – it turns out – NFT do not “nicely move sources from TMG. NFT requires sources and if no sources are attached to a person, that person is not considered to be a “good” record. When a GEDCOM from TMG is uploaded to NFT, the TMG sources are treated as notes rather than sources. When other major Genealogy programs use their “direct” link, sources remain attached – but according to bloggers, I can expect problems here.

 

I’ve done some investigation into what Synchronization really means. Say I have grandpa, and so does NFT. NFT doesn’t have grandma or grandpa’s parents. For grandpa, I have 4 sources and NFT has 2.

 

 

· If I use TMG and GEDCOM – each record is added to FamilySearch and none are put in my NFT Tree. When I add a person to my Tree, the sources come as details. The details can’t be converted to sources. No siblings, parents, spouses, or children come along – even if they are there in the Person Record – I have to manually find and attach each one – just because they are on the Person Record doesn’t mean I can attach them from there. Basically entirely manual after a painful process to upload the GEDCOM – requires matching checking and verification and adding the record to FamilySearch one by one.

 

· While on GEDCOM to NFT – most FAM tags seem to be ignored after the first generation.

 

· If I move from TMG to RM or AQ and do a Synchronize – the only difference is that once I have the person in my Tree, source and details placed in RM or AQ will then be placed into the Person Record which is available to NFT. New siblings, parents, spouses, or children are not attached – I must Find them and attach them.

 

Basically, to use NFT requires me to start over and completely re-enter my tree and all my sources.

 

Of course when asked about this, they tell me that should only take an hour or so. [Insert here Words that can’t be printed.] I’m looking at a minimum of ½ hour for every source. 95% of my sources are not in FamilySearch. My grandfather born in 1877 in Norway and who came to the US at 14 months has two census records that FamilySearch has. I have 26 sources, of which 6 are “governmental”. There’s 12 hours of data entry. An afternoon, my left foot.

 

One good reason not to use Family Tree directly is that they don’t really support PDFs, and they don’t like “active” PDFs. All of my Norwegian documents from Arkivverket are active PDFs – if you click anywhere on the PDF, it takes you to the real original image location. A nice touch and one that TMG handles very nicely. Too bad Arkivverket doesn’t advertise it so other archives will start doing this..

 

Basically, since I’ve spent the summer getting all these source documents, I have to make a choice – hope that there will be a way to get them in Family Tree, give up on TMG and use a program that will put them in Family Tree, or just use Family Tree directly.

 

But I’d rather stay on TMG.

 

 

TONY HJELMSTAD