Saturday, March 16, 2019

Decision Made - New Blog Platform

OK. I’ve made the difficult decision to switch from Blogger to WordPress. I know there will be glitches - like dead links. But it was pretty easy to create my most recent post on my phone using the new platform.

So... if you want to keep up with me, and you haven’t yet viewed the WordPress site, here’s the link:

Once you get there it should be pretty easy to find the “follow” button. Click that you and should be good to go! You might be asked to set up a WordPress account.  If it asks you to do that and you don’t want to, I’m pretty sure there’s another place to subscribe. Let me know if you have any trouble!!! I wouldn’t want you to miss any of my rambling thoughts!

Saturday, March 9, 2019

RootsTech Report #4 - Cool Family Tree Treasures for Your Home!

I've mostly recuperated from my whirlwind week at RootsTech 2019. Since I'm procrastinating working on my dollhouse book, doing "real" work, and haven't decided what to write for this week's 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks challenge, it seems a great time to share some of the cool stuff I found in the Expo Hall.

I love the Expo Hall! There were more than 150 vendors ranging from the "Big 4" genealogy companies, genealogy apps, clothing, gifts, and games, to representatives of genealogy societies, and so much more.

I actually "stole" this from the RootsTech website but I don't think they will mind. (

The Expo Hall opened Wednesday night at 6 p.m. for just two hours. It was also open Thursday and Friday from 9 a.m. - 6 p.m and on Saturday from 9 a.m. - 2 p.m. That may seem like plenty of time, but when you are also trying to fit in lectures, the Family History Library, and consultations, (Oh - and maybe eating and sleeping!), you quickly realize there's no much time to see it all.

In this post, I'll share with you some of the fun people we met and the cool things they are creating. I've done the "craft show" circuits for a long, long time and always seem to see the same (or variations) thing over and over. I was pleasantly surprised to find some new and creative things!

The tree on the lower right is vinyl on a steel sheet, so the picture frames hang on there too!
This style is a bit cheaper!!
These gorgeous steel trees are created by Forever Family Trees, LLC. They aren't cheap, but they are beautiful!!! (A 3x3 foot tree costs $1750 including tags and shipping.) Each tree comes with the little picture frames. If you don't have a picture for a person, you can use just the little square frame for name and info.

I found several companies that created family trees. The most affordable was made by Vector Innovations. It was only $25 but I honestly had no more room in my suitcase!!! I think I might order it online though. Too bad it's now $35!!! Still a good deal though.
Laser cut tree by Vector Innovation

My absolute fav item of all was the laser-cut wood plaques create by Echo Ink. These folks take any handwritten item, such as signatures or a quote and create wooden plaques. They also will make plaques from handwritten documents. Can you imagine having a permanent reminder of your Mom's favorite recipe hanging in your kitchen? So cool!!

The items created by these ladies at Echo Ink were my favorite!!

The ladies at The Family Art Shop create some of the nicest charts I've seen. I don't want the typical descendancy/ancestry type chart. I'm really looking for more of a decorative item, so the designs here are perfect. everything they do is customizable - colors, number of names, etc.

I forgot to take a picture of their display, so this example
s from The Family Art Shop Etsy shop site.
There were so many more great items but these are the ones that attracted me. Not only are these people super creative, they're also really nice. I hope they all had a great RootsTech experience. I'm doing my part by spreading the word!!

Monday, March 4, 2019

RootsTech Report #3 - Word press vs Blogger

Note: As you may surmise from this post, I am trying out a different blogger platform called WordPress. Hopefully all will go well, in which case I will  cease to use this site and will migrate everything to the other site. I’ll keep you “posted!!” Pun intended, of course!!
If you want to check out the new site the URL is:

Another note: This post may look really screwy. If it does just ignore it!

Yet Another Note: This post is more “techie” than genealogy-based, so feel free to stop reading if the topic doesn’t interest you. I wont be offended. (Because I won’t even know!!)
One of my goals for this past week was learn about the WordPress blogging platform. I registered for a WordPress account FIVE years ago when I realized that it was kind of tough to use Blogger on my phone. But I really couldn't get my head around and did nothing about it. I've used Blogger since 2013 and have been pretty satisfied.
But, a couple years ago I couldn't blog at all during our trip to Iceland!! I realized later that was because Blogger couldn't be used on an IPad.
Lately I have become more and frustrated when attempting to manipulate graphics on Blogger. So, I decided to give WordPress another shot.
On Tuesday, I spent quite a bit of time with the folks at the WordPress booth.
Wednesday, I attended the WordPress presentation given by Dennis Snell.
That was something you don’t see/hear everyday- a software developer who was actually easy to understand! He also has a great sense of humor!!
Dennis and his associates helped me set up my new WordPress site and import all my posts from Blogger. Since I’ve been a good girl and really worked hard the past year to post frequently. (Thanks to the inspirational Amy Johnson Crow), that was a lot of posts- going back to August 2013!!
The import went super smoothly but it was a little tricky to import my header. They performed some CSS (custom style sheet) magic and got it to go - sort of.
I figured I’d continue to work on it when I got home. I chose a WordPress plan with chat support. According to the folks at the WordPress booth, live support is available 24/7 from Monday through Friday, with email support over the weekend. I’m sure I’ll be taking advantage of that!!
But... we decided to stay in Salt Lake City an extra day to avoid driving home in the heavy, wet snow expected to hit Hartford, CT a few hours before our arrival.
Back in my hotel room later that I finessed the header and chose the layout and colors I wanted. Cheryl was my style editor, helping me choose the best color combos.
Oh! I forgot to mention that I helped Cheryl create her first blog before working on mine. For now, she’s keeping it private until she gets more comfortable with the process.
So, what do you think? I started to create this post using the WordPress app on my phone. After writing a few paragraphs I chose “save as draft” but since I’m currently thousands of miles high somewhere between SLC and Chicago, I got an error message about being unable to save.
I’m playing it safe and copied the draft to the Notes app on my phone so I could keep writing.
I’ll finish up while we hang out at Midway in Chicago.
I almost forgot to share the best part! This story is your reward if you decided to keep reading...
Last year, at RootsTech 2018, Cheryl discovered there were blogger beads. (Bloggers wear these to tell other people that they blog. It's also a way to find other bloggers that you can chat with.) She made it her quest to try to get me some, but it was futile! This year she was determined to be successful, but again it didn't look like it was going to happen!
I don't consider myself in the same leagues as those big-name bloggers so I was fine to let it go. But not Cheryl! She kept her eyes open. But we really didn't see any action on the blogger beads scene this year.
While I was working with Dennis and three of his colleagues at the WordPress booth, the nationally-known genealogy blogger, DearMyrtle, came up on her scooter. She needed to talk to somebody about her blog. I introduced myself as a "newbie blogger" and happily offered her my spot since I had a lot of time. But lovely woman that she is, she insisted I stay where I was and she went on her merry way, saying she'd come back later.
Within a few minutes, a woman came up to me, said, "DearMyrt wants you to have these" and handed me this year's blogger beads!!! Thanks, DearMrytle! You made Cheryl's (and my) day!!
You can see the purple and gold blogger beads in this goofy photo!
Well, that's the story. I'm now sitting at a table in Chicago-Midway finishing this post.
Here is my perspective:
Really easy to type post using Phone
Even easier to voice dictate!
Really easy to insert pictures from my phone. To be fair to Blogger I haven't tried to do any layout stuff, such as move pics around on my phone yet.
Super easy to hyperlink text
I like the shorter, custom domain name I now have through WordPress
What do you think? If you are reading this on myWordPress site I'd like to know. For now I'm leaving my Blogger site open and will post to both.

If you like the WordPress style you can "voice" your approval by following or subscribing!!!

Friday, March 1, 2019

RootsTech Report #2 - Wednesday

After a leisurely breakfast at J.B.s Restaurant ($7.95 All You Can Eat Senior Citizen Breakfast Buffet!), we headed across the street for our first official day at RootsTech 2019. I steeled myself for the mass of humanity we had experienced last year. Again, congrats to the organizers! Gone were the lengthy lines. No more badge scanning to get into a class. WooHoo!!

My first class was "Discovering Immigration Stories from Both Sides of the Pond" with Lisa Alzo. I always enjoy listening to Lisa present. Of course, I might be a bit biased. I have taken two online writing classes with her (Write Stuff 1 and 2) and am currently taking Write Stuff 3: Selling the Story. My book, "Opulent in Aliases" would never have been finished without the skills I learned and the support I received from Lisa.

My next class was "Untangling the Knots in Your Family Tree" with Olivia Jewell. This presentation was chock full of great tips. Olivia prompted some laughter from the audience when, after very quickly demonstrating a specific strategy, she said, "Simple, right?" After asking why we were all laughing, she reviewed the same steps more slowly!

Another change this year was the free box lunch provided for every attendee. last year, the crowds for the concession stands were ridiculous. If you chose to get food from one, you most likely missed the session you wanted to attend. From what I understand the decision to provide the box lunches was based partly on that problem as well as the fact that is would have been logistically impossible to set up the food vendors in time this year. So, another win-win! Not only were we able to get a great lunch, which we ate while attending  Blaine Bettinger and Angie Bush's session, "Everyone Has a Story, Even You!," we picked up another box later in the day for our dinner!! So frugal!!

My last session of the day was "A Step-by-Step Guide to MyHeritage DNA" with Ran Snir. Ran - you did a great job, but I still am having trouble grasping the whole autosomal, chromosome matching thing!! I'll get there. One thing was made clear to me at this presentation, though. My Heritage really does have some excellent tools. I am making it a goal to learn more about how to effectively use the website.

We skipped the Keynote with Steve Rockwood, CEO of Family Search in order to eat dinner. The Expo Hall opened at 6 and we didn't want to miss a minute exploring all the great vendors there.

While walking around, we discovered an Ancestry booth where you could take a picture (and potentially end up in an Ancestry ad!) That was fun!

My first stop in the Expo Hall was to meet Jenny Hawran, (Blog: Like Herding Cats) I was this year's winner of Jenny's Ambassador Pass, which meant a free ticket to RootsTech! We had a great chat - she's from Windsor, CT by the way! I learned a bit about the Federation of Genealogical Societies (FGS) and the services they offer to support local societies. Sounds like something that might be helpful to JGSCT (Jewish Genealogical Society of Connecticut) of which I am a board member. My photo op there paid off - I won a $10 gift card to PF Changs!

We went back to our room around 8:30 and spent the next two hours reviewing all we learned during the day (Well, Cheryl did. I actually wrote a blog post for Week 9 of  Amy Johnson Crow's 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks blog challenge!!)

Tomorrow would be another full day!!

RootsTech Report #1- Arrival Day - Tuesday Feb. 26

Well - I finally have a few moments to report on this year's RootsTech escapade with my "partner in crime," Cheryl.

What a different experience we are having compared to last year. Not that last year was bad. But we spent most of RootsTech 2018 either in a fog due to brain overload or nearly passed out as a result of the crush of people. And the lines. Those lines! 

I must congratulate the organizers of RootsTech 2019. You listened. Picking up our badges and checking in was a breeze. Less than 5 minutes. The only mistake we made was entering through one door and exiting another which resulted in a nice looooong walk around an entire city block to return to our hotel.

Our hotel pick was a shot in the dark. The Salt Lake Plaza is not so ritzy but I highly recommend it. You can't beat the location - across the street from the Salt Palace Convention Center where the conference is being held.  There's a restaurant next door with an inside entrance so you don't even have to go outside. The Family History Library is just steps away! Our room has a coffee maker, microwave, and a refrigerator!!! Awesome! We've saved a ton of money on meals because we are able to store leftovers for later! Our only complaint was that we thought the bathroom door was dirty. It looked like someone had splattered some mess all over it. Turns out that's partly true. It was a bleach spill not dirt. And, finally ... THERE IS A WORKING HOT TUB! (I kind of blew it with the airport hotel in Hartford, so it's nice we can actually use the suits we dragged along.) 

Maybe the smartest thing we did this year was to arrive early on Sunday. We arrived at the hotel around 1:00 p.m. then went across the street to check in to RootsTech. In. Out.

We decided to walk to the mall to grab some dinner. Then we visited the Joseph Smith Memorial Building. I had been there in 2014 and thought Scheryl would enjoy seeing the beautiful building. That turned out to be a great idea - we were treated to a grand tour of the whole building!

We stayed to watch a pretty informative movie about the 40 year-long ordeal of getting the Salt Lake City Temple built. 

By then it was well after 8 and time to head back to the hotel. We had been up since 4 a.m. and our bodies were reminding us that it was like 10 p.m. to us. Time to rest up for our first full day of RootsTech 2019!!!

Thursday, February 28, 2019

My Parents' Divorce Decree

I remember going to the lawyer’s office with my mother. It must have been sometime in 1963. The lawyer offered me a purple lollipop. It tasted like soap! Put me off grape pops to this day! I’m not sure of the purpose of the visit but my guess is my mother was filing the papers necessary to divorce my father. I have NO idea why she brought me along!

I like to say we were the first family in the neighborhood to be divorced. It was the early 60s and although our neighborhood could have been taken for that of Beaver Cleaver's, it was actually more like Peyton Place. I wasn’t ashamed that my father didn’t live with us. In fact, I felt it made us quite unique! 

Of course, as a 7-year-old I had no real understanding of the impact divorce has on a young mother who was valiantly trying to raise four daughters between the ages of 1 and 7. So, it was eye-opening to read the terms of the divorce settlement. I decided to locate the document once I saw the prompt for this week’s 52 Ancestors blog challenge. I figured it would be in Mom’s “strongbox” and I was right! 

Mom kept this box in her closet for years.
This mysterious box was always on a shelf at the bottom of her closet. I remember a day years ago when she shared the contents with me so I’d be ready when “her time came.” Mom passed away on Dec. 2, 2011, and ownership of the box and its contents reverted to me.  

The information in the court document revealed few surprises.   My mother was the plaintiff, my father the defendant. The cause of action was “intolerable cruelty to plaintiff." My father failed to plead. He did appear at court but offered no evidence. Intolerable cruelty?? I figured maybe this was the “legalese” of the time for having extramarital affairs. That was no surprise. Knew that. 

The divorce was granted and Mom retained full custody of her four daughters. Dad was to pay $41 a week alimony and $15 a week for each child – for a grand total of $101 weekly - $404 a month. That is equal to $3280.38 in today’s dollars. Not an insignificant amount! But certainly not a great deal of money when one considers it had to cover the care and support of four children in addition to all the house expenses.

The settlement specified that my father would relinquish all rights and title to his car and the family home and its contents. Mom would be responsible for all the bills with the exception of health and life insurance. A very specific stipulation described concern for our education, “The defendant husband agrees with the plaintiff that the education of the minor children of the parties is of paramount importance and he agrees that he will do everything possible to facilitate and financially support the education of the children and make available to them any benefits accruing to him for the education of his minor children by virtue of the position which he may hold in his employment in the academic field at the time said minor children are ready to attend college.”

I’m sure he was quite sincere at the time and really intended to assist us with our future educational expenses. But, as it turned, the only one of the four us who received any “benefits accruing to him … by virtue of the position which he may hold in his employment in the academic field” was my sister, Jeanne. And that was only because she agreed to go to a Canadian university.

The divorce decree is only one of many items in the strongbox. I’ll be sharing more of the “goodies” in future posts. In the meantime, the box resides comfortably in MY closet. Writing this, I realize I placed it in approximately the same location as my mother – the bottom of the closet on the left-hand side! The subconscious is an interesting thing!

This is the 9th post for Amy Johnson Crow’s 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks Challenge. This year, I am focusing on telling the story of “Our Stuff.”

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

They Watch Over Us – Family Photos

Two family pictures have been hanging in our dining room for years.

Rosa Weiss Oppenheim

The first one is a portrait of my great-aunt Rosa Weiss Oppenheim. Rosa was born in Austria in 1868 and died at the very young age of 32, leaving two young children to be raised by their father Max. The sign of a good portrait is that the eyes will follow you. Rosa’s eyes certainly do! Every so often our daughter Caitlin would complain that she was freaking her out as Rosa “stared” at her during meal times!

The Spiegel Family Collage

All the photos in the frame are those of my grandmother Rose’s family – her sister, Claire Theresa, her brother Emile Garrett, and her mother,
Sophie Weiss Spiegel. Her father, Herman Spiegel who died in 1991, is noticeably absent!
Whenever I look at this framed collage (which is pretty much every day!) an image of my grandmother’s apartment flashes through my brain. In 1938, my grandmother, Rose Spiegel Lichtenthal and her daughter, Doris (my mother) arrived in America from Vienna, Austria. They moved to the apartment at 30 Eastchester Road in New Rochelle, New York after spending some time at her Aunt Irene’s house. (Irene is the daughter of Max and Rosa.) My grandfather, Paul joined them after his release from a concentration camp in 1939. My grandmother lived in that apartment until her death in 1972. It is a place that holds many special memories for me. (I must mention here that my other set of grandparents, my father’s parents lived across the hall in the same building!!)

Row 1 - Left to Right

The Spiegel children
Rose, Claire, and Emile
March 25, 1915 - Vienna, Austria
Rose Spiegel and her sister, Claire
Approx. 1908 - Semarang, Java

Rose and Claire
Approx. 1904-1905
Semarang, Java

Emile Spiegel - 1915 - Vienna, Austria
Emile later changed his last name to SPEEGER

Sophie Spiegel (seated) with daughters Claire and Rose
The woman standing in the back may be a family friend (or a servant?)
Java - approx. 1904

Row 2 - Left to Right

I recognize my Aunt Claire (standing behind Emile), Uncle Emile (in chair),
and my grandmother Rose in this undated photo from Java. (Approx. 1908)
But who are the others?

Claire and Rose
Claire and Rose

Emile, Rose, and Claire
Vienna, Austria

Row 3 - Left to Right

Rose Spiegel
Approx. 1905 - Semarang, Java
Claire Spiegel
Approx. 1903 - Semarang, Java

Sophie Weiss Spiegel with her three children - Claire, Emile, and Rose
Approx. 1907-1908  - Semarang, Java
Claire Spiegel
Approx. 1903 - Sematang, Java
Claire Spiegel
Approx. 1908 - Semarang, Java

Why does the collection of photos evoke such a strong image for me? The picture, as framed, hung above my grandfather’s desk in the tiny little hallway of the apartment. Originally, the fabric was a purple/blue satin. The years had ravaged the fabric so I redid the frame using blue cotton. I was careful to put the pictures back in the exact same position. I do worry about whatever may in the fabric leaching into the photographs. I know I shouldn’t hang originals but the frame does not have direct sunlight on it. The oldest picture in the frame is probably 115 years old, so I say, “It lasted this long as it is, so I’m going to take my chances!” Don’t worry, I made high-resolution scans of all the photos!!

The Floorplan

I just couldn’t help myself… here is a “not to scale” floorplan of my grandmother’s apartment. The “Renter’s Bedroom” was originally the room shared by my mother and her grandmother, Sophie Spiegel. After my grandfather, Paul Lichtenthal’s death in 1959, my grandmother took in renters to help her cover the bills.

Floorplan (not to scale) of my grandmother's apartment.

Considering I am writing about “Our Stuff” this year, it might be an interesting project to “place” the items we still possess in their original locations around the apartment. Uh oh! Do I see another book in my future??

This is the 8th post for Amy Johnson Crow’s 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks Challenge. This year, I am focusing on telling the story of “Our Stuff.”