Exploring Family Trees Website, Including Average DNA Percent Inheritance by Ancestor

Sometimes you just have to do something just because it’s fun.

That’s the website learnforeverlearn at this link, a free tool created by B. F. Lyon visualizations that allows you to view your family tree or pedigree chart in very novel ways.

Here’s what greets you.

learnforever splash

The “About This” link at the very top of the page shows the following:

learnforever about

In case you’re wondering, your Gedcom file never leaves your PC, so you don’t need to worry about security.

Getting Started

First, you’ll be prompted to upload a Gedcom file, a file generated by either your genealogy software like RootsMagic or a site like Ancestry. If you have a tree at Ancestry, you can download it into a Gedcom file format and save on your computer.

My own personal Gedcom file from my PC software was too large, so I downloaded a smaller file that I use on Ancestry. I’ve entered all of my ancestors at Ancestry through 12 generations, if known, and some of their children. I use my Ancestry file to focus on direct line ancestors and DNA matches, not as my primary tree.

The first thing you see after uploading your Gedcom file is that your pedigree chart is displayed in one tree. If you want to see examples before uploading your own, click here, or view mine below. You can click to see a larger image.

learnforever ancestors

What fun! If you’ve experienced pedigree collapse where you are descended from the same ancestral line multiple times, you’ll see that in this large pedigree map. I don’t have pedigree collapse, but you take a look at fun examples under “Sample Trees.”

If you want to see more detail, just scroll your mouse wheel for larger or smaller. If you get yourself lost, simply reset pan/zoom or reset to the root person.

You can’t “hurt” this application because you reload your file every time you want to use it, so you can always just start over.

Your options are at the top, but by mousing over anything on the page, you can generally learn a lot more. Every time I use this tool, I notice something I didn’t see previously.

learnforever toolbar

Let’s take a look at what you can do.

Who’s Who

I currently have 793 individuals in my tree. By clicking on the “Current Tree Details” at the top of the page, you can see the list of who is included.

learnforever tree detail

This is an easy way to see if you have any issues in your file. I quickly discovered that I have two people with typos in their birth dates because the years have 3 digits. How did that happen?

Validation Check

You can also run a data validation check.

learnforever data validation

What a valuable tool!

Hmmm, looks like I need to do some cleanup. Ahem!!

The X Chromosome

At the top right, you can click on “Highlight X DNA Contributions” which creates a view of the people who contributed or are candidates to contribute segments of their X chromosome to the home person. Remember that you can change the home (root) person to someone else in your tree, like maybe one of your parents, for example.

The X is important because it has unique inheritance properties that can be very helpful that I wrote about here.

learnforever x contributions

I moused over the various people and discovered that when you “land” on someone, you can view their information. In this case, my great-grandmother who, on average, contributed 12.5% of her DNA to me and 25% of her X chromosome.

learnforever ancestor contribution

I can then view Evaline’s ancestor or descendant tree, or a straight path to the root, which is me, by clicking the blue buttons.

learnforever ancestor tree

Years

learnforever years

By scrolling your mouse up and down between people, you can see a horizontal black “line” that shows you a year. By following the line, you can see who in your tree was living during that year.

learnforever living years

Gosh this is fun!

History

By mousing over the green year bar at far right, you can see what was going on historically at that time, as well as in your own family.

learnforever history

I love this tool!

Locations

Under the options tab, at upper left, by toggling the flag icon, you can then view your tree by birth location.

learnforever options

I love this view.

learnforever flags

You can view the migration progression by just looking at your tree.

Scroll on down the options tab for more display possibilities.

Possible Immigrants

learnforever possible immigrants

Ancestor Information

learnforever statistics

In my case, the “number of children” information isn’t accurate because I have not fleshed out the families at Ancestry. I was only working primarily with my direct ancestors.

Unique Birthplaces

learnforever birthplaces

I’ve combined unique birthplaces with potential immigrants.

Ancestor Cone

learnforever ancestor cone

By mousing, you can see how many ancestors you had at a particular time and the total world population.

learnforever ancestors vs world population

Wow. In 1615, I had 16,384 ancestors? I need to get busy! I am never going to be finished!

Just when you think you can’t have any more fun…

You can read more about this tool and ways to use it in an article written by the author here.

Thank You

I don’t know B. F. Lyon who created this cool free website, but under the options tab, I found this:

Want more options/features? Let me know at bradflyon@gmail.com

Please drop Brad a note to say thank you or offer suggestions!

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Disclosure

I receive a small contribution when you click on some (but not all) of the links to vendors in my articles. This does NOT increase the price you pay but helps me to keep the lights on and this informational blog free for everyone. Please click on the links in the articles or to the vendors below if you are purchasing products or DNA testing.

Thank you so much.

DNA Purchases and Free Transfers

Genealogy Services

Genealogy Research

Journey to RootsTech 2019 – The Family History Library and Meeting Myrt

Every genealogist knows about the legendary Family History Library in Salt Lake City. It’s genealogy Mecca.

You know, the place with the “key.”

2019 key

What key, you ask? That key – the one that means this:

2019 images

How to break a genealogist’s heart.

Create the Plan

Thankfully, my friend Jen told me how to make a research plan for the Family History Library (FHL) by using the Search Catalog feature.

2019 catalog

By selecting the desired location, you can then view all of the library holdings. I divide my list into books and online work, because to view those films, you simply so and sign on to a computer in the FHL or an affiliate library near you. Unfortunately, I have no affiliate library near me.

I went prepared with a list of locations, book numbers and films.

2019-FHL-selfie.jpg

Here’s the obligatory “arrival selfie.”

Bright Shiny Beads

I was behaving, truly I was when someone noticed me sitting at a table researching. After introductions, I discovered that the group of ill-behaved people clustered around a glass room was a bunch of bloggers.

Of course, I knew immediately I had found my peeps, so I immediately went over and introduced myself to the rest of the group.

My friend, Daniel Horowitz from MyHeritage arrived about the same time and about this time, Mr. Myrt asked us if we’d like to be interviewed on Mondays with Myrt.

Of COURSE we would.

Except, I was wearing a grey t-shirt. Never fear though, because I had my ever-present DNA-bling.

2019 Myrt production

Monday’s With Myrt was being produced inside the room with those mountains in the distance again, and the waiting room was effectively outside where excited bloggers had to be reminded more than once to hush. I don’t want to say the best part was waiting, but it was amazing to meet these wonderful people in person after seeing their online presence for, in some cases, years.

Sprinkled in were new bloggers too, so everyone was helping everyone else and it was kind of a blogger love-in.

The Ribbons

I suddenly realized that this was the PERFECT opportunity to break out my new ribbons.

Last year, I had no idea about conference ribbons, but at RootsTech, and I understand at other conferences as well, attended collect ribbons on their badges. Ribbons are a hot item. When I discovered that I was presenting, I wanted to have something for the attendees.

I discovered that you can indeed order and receive ribbons in 7 days.

So…..drum roll….the unveiling of my new DNAexplain ribbons!

2019 DNAexplain ribbon

I proceeded to give a ribbon to everyone in close proximity that couldn’t escape, and Daniel Horowitz took a selfie to commemorate the event.  Thanks so much Daniel for posting on Twitter and giving me permission to use!

2019 blogger photo

Daniel Tweeted: Some of my #geneafriends @RobertaJEstes giving her first ribbons to @CarolPetranek @histfamilles @ancestorfinder1  #genealogy #Rootstech

That’s the amazing Mr. Myrt in the black hat.

Mondays With Myrt

A few minutes later, I was seated with Myrt.

2019 me with Myrt

Now, I have a confession to make, but don’t tell Myrt, OK?

I’m not a “conference person,” nor do I follow a lot of genealogy blogs. (It’s OK to hiss at me.)

I knew about Mondays with Myrt, and I knew the person online named Pat-Richley Erickson, but not well. I knew she was a genealogist and a quilter, but I did not know she was Myrt. Her name isn’t Myrt, or Myrtle, so I never connected the dots. I’m sure there’s a good story in here someplace, but Myrt, or Pat, will have to tell you herself. Actually, she tells you a bit about herself here on her YouTube Channel.

So, imagine my surprise when I looked inside the production booth to see Pat. Where was Myrt. I figured Pat must be being interviewed too.

2019 Myrt production 2

Myrt livestreams her Monday interview sessions through her blog.  You can view them here. She has an amazing following. One follower, Tierra Cotton-Kellow even managed to tune in on a plane on her way to Salt Lake.

If you can’t watch the entire video, I’m at 2:15 in Monday’s session. Here’s the session on YouTube.

Lunch

When you receive a lunch invitation to join a group of bloggers, you quickly abandon your research plans and head out to eat at the LDS Office Building a couple blocks away.

The most direct path is through Temple Square, so I was excited to see the sights.

2019-temple.jpg

The blogger group ate at the cafeteria in the LDS business building.

2019 blogger lunch

Photo by Cheryl Hudson Passey

Lunch with with Pat Richley-Erickson, Laura Wilkinson Hedgecock, Gordon Erickson, Graham A. Walter, Audrey Collins, John Boeren, Roberta Estes, Christine Woodcock,Jenny Hawen, Jan Brandt Roger Moffat and Lisa Moffat.

To include Cheryl, Roger took a picture of Cheryl taking a picture.

2019 Cheryl

Note Cheryl’s GeneaBlogger beads given by Myrt. I’m now a proud bead-wearing member of the tribe too.

While sitting at lunch, Lisa Moffit (white sweater at right) and I discovered that she and I are actually cousins through our Acadian lines. How much fun is that!!!

I was so grateful to be included in the impromptu blogger lunch.

2019-Temple-fountain.jpg

On the way back, I snagged a few more photos.

2019 Temple road

Not that the Mormon Church here is influential, but the road goes UNDER Temple square.

2019 Temple walk

I did manage to go back to the library and research for most of the afternoon, but it was digging in a dry well.

No matter where I looked, no ancestors. I know a whole lot of records that they aren’t in, and I suppose that’s negative evidence. However, I know the Lentz family, and probably the Reuhl (Ruhle) family were in the Shippenberg area of Cumberland County, PA which borders on Franklin County. I perused all records for both counties today, in the hopes of discovering who they were indentured to, or anything about their missing 14 years or so.

I’m presuming that the by-then-elderly Ruhle couple, Fredericka Ruhle Lentz’s parents died either in route or in Pennsylvania. There is no sign of them in Ohio in the 1830s. Unfortunately, there’s also no sign of them in Pennsylvania either.

Frustrated with them, I moved to another brick wall line with no luck there either.

Fortunately, I had made dinner arrangements with another genetic genealogist and his wife and enjoyed spending the evening with them immensely.

Tuesday Has to Be Better

Tuesday was a great people day, but an awful research day.

I had a difficult time getting motivated to research on Tuesday, so instead I decided to walk over to the conference center and pick up my badge.

2019 Rootstech sign

Early badge pickup is available today and now the Salt Shaker says RootsTech.

Conference Coming to Life

The conference theme, just guessing now, is “Connect Belong.”

2019 conference entrance

This interesting display greeted me.

2019 Carol

Another genealogist, Carol Whitaker from Oregon, also picking up a badge was stringing yard between the pegs, so of course I had to ask her what she was doing.

Attendees will be connected their traits and locations and of course, belonging. What a great idea. I’ll take another photo or two of the board later in the week.

2019 me connect

Of course, you know that I immediately noticed all of the genetic traits.

Does anyone know what’s on the dress I’m wearing?

I was very pleased to meet Danielle too. Those with the Ultimate Passes are assigned to a hostess who has already proven to be a Godsend.

2019 Danielle

Danielle is amazing, but I don’t know what she did to deserve being saddled with me😊

2019-empty-hall.jpg

The RootsTech halls are empty now, but they won’t be for long.

She took me to see the room where I’m speaking and let’s just say it’s cavernous! I hope I have enough ribbons!

2019 carpet art

This amazing piece of art made from carpet scraps adorns the conference center just inside the door. Looks like a quilt to me, of course.

By this time, I had managed to usurp most of the morning, and ran into someone who invited me for lunch again. You’re going to think the only thing I did was eat!

That’s not at all true – I also drank coffee at Starbucks and admired the beautiful art that graces many open spaces in Salt Lake City.

Art

2019 helix art

Yes, DNA is everyplace, including free standing art that is reminiscent of a room divider.

2019 petrified wood

Slices of petrified wood.

2019 Amethyst flowers

Amethyst flowers.

2019 Amethyst bush

Good thing these aren’t for sale.

2019 birds

Seagull statue outside of Nordstroms.

2019 Chocolate Factory

The Chocolate Factory. What, you think the Chocolate Factory isn’t art?

Pshaw. You obviously haven’t gone inside yet!

2019 Chocolate Factory inside

More Research

When it became evident that I absolutely could NOT kill anymore time, I went back to the FHL with the intention of reviewing at least most of the images records that I can’t access without being in the library.

However, I immediately say Tierra Cotton-Kellow who writes at Pressing My Way and is also a professional photographer. Why knew? The great news – she’s my photographer for this event and still has some slots open for a few fortunate others.

2019 Tierra Cotton-Kellow

Right after I found Tierra, Nathan Murphy found me.

Nathan did me a huge, huge favor some years ago and discovered one of my ancestors in England. Bless his heart, Nathan shared! I could never have found this record otherwise, because Nathan stumbled across it.

Never mind that he was a convict being deported😊

No, no, not Nathan, my ancestor!

I did eventually return to research, but apparently this is not the trip for me to make any headway whatsoever. It’s a good thing that I enjoyed meeting new friends and reuniting with old, because the research was entirely nonproductive.

There’s so much to look forward to for the rest of the week, starting tomorrow.

Wednesday is the DNAexplain Blog Meetup

I’m excited to greet everyone in the FamilyTreeDNA booth for the DNAexplain meetup tomorrow after the opening keynote. The vendor expo hall opens at 6 PM and stays open until 8. The first free mini-session begins in the booth at 6:15.

  • Wednesday, February 27 – 6:15 – Family Tree DNA booth #1107 – Family Finder Search Tips – Quick tips for how to perform surname and ancestral searches successfully!
  • Wednesday, February 27 – 6:45 – Family Tree DNA giveaway drawing
  • Wednesday, February 27 – 6:45 – DNAexplain Blog meetup in the Family Tree DNA booth presentation center
  • Wednesday, February 27 – 7:15 – Family Tree DNA booth – Family Finder Bucketing – Connecting your matches to your tree so that Family Tree DNA can assign your matches to your maternal or paternal side – even without having your parents tested!
  • Wednesday, February 27 – 7:45 – Family Tree DNA giveaway drawing

Come see me, say hello, get a brand spanking new DNAexplain ribbon and enjoy the free sessions! Gotta run! See you there!

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Disclosure

I receive a small contribution when you click on some (but not all) of the links to vendors in my articles. This does NOT increase the price you pay but helps me to keep the lights on and this informational blog free for everyone. Please click on the links in the articles or to the vendors below if you are purchasing products or DNA testing.

Thank you so much.

DNA Purchases and Free Transfers

Genealogy Services

Genealogy Research

Journey to RootsTech 2019 – US Heartland From the Air

The week before RootsTech was a series of unplanned disasters. But then again, who plans a disaster.

The good news is that I got through them. I now have a new car, because the old one decided to go belly up at the most inopportune time. My laptop decided to boot after all and the rest of the issues got taken care of too.

I didn’t have the full-fledged meltdown, but I was close.

A last minute presentation combined with last minutes changes and of course, a winter storm.

Hey, it’s Michigan – of COURSE we had a storm.

Now that’s all just a memory to smile about. All I can say is thank goodness for my husband who does in fact know how to do laundry as well as work on computers!

Why RootsTech?

For all the years I didn’t go to RootsTech, I always looked at the venue, Salt Lake City, and wondered why anyone in their right mind would go there in February – unless you were a ski buff.

The answer is three-fold:

  • You’re going to be inside most of the time, so who cares what’s going on outside. (Assuming you can actually get to SLC.)
  • The Family History Library (FHL) which is open until 11 PM the Monday and Tuesday before RootsTech. If I come next year (do not laugh at me), I’m coming a week early to research. Right now, the library is packed and I’m a bit overwhelmed. However, I’ve never been in a friendlier, more helpful library anyplace!
  • The energy. I can’t even begin to explain this – but it’s a real phenomenon. Meeting people you know online and distantly. Things like discovering a new cousin sitting across the table from you at lunch. Excitement’s in the air and it’s palpable!

Everyone here treats you like family. You’re included at tables and in conversations. Yesterday, someone noticed me sitting at a table in the FHL library and asked me if I’d like to join the blogger group for Mondays With Mert. Needless to say, I wasn’t dressed for the occasion, but sometimes you just have to go with the flow!

I’ll share those photos tomorrow!

The Heartland from the Air

You’re coming along with me this week, so let’s start with the flight.

2019 chocolate carrots

Well, actually, the gift shop before the flight. Here’s to chocolate carrots! I knew someday, someone would convince me to like carrots!

Seeing America from the air is amazing. This time, there were varying amounts of snow cover, which I found both interesting and beautiful. These photos are east to west, Detroit to Salt Lake.

2019 sky

We had light snow cover in Michigan. Some places had less, and some more. This was right after takeoff.

2019 sky 2

The clouds look like puffs of cotton. Most of the Midwest seemed to have about the same amount of snow cover. I wonder what river I’m looking at. It’s not small, that’s for sure. Could be the Mississippi.

2019 sky circles

These irrigation circles remind me of mud pies. Hmmm, can I work these into my presentation “Beyond Pie Charts?”

2019 sky terrain

By now, we’re certainly west of the Mississippi. The snow highlights the terrain features when you can see some earth beneath.

2019 sky begin mountains

The beginning of the mountainous area and lots more snow.

2019 sky tectonic

You can see the tectonic plate uplift here. Flat on one side, then the mountains raise up majestically.

2019 sky river

Lots of snow in the mountains. I wonder how much snow is actually on the ground here. Of course, I don’t know where “here” actually is.

2019 sky houses

The tiny dots are houses and that river has many twists and turns.

2019 sky lake

Not far from Salt Lake City now. Beautiful lake reflecting the blue sky.

2019 sky mountain

Just popped out beneath the clouds, beginning landing approach.

2019 mountains on approach

Wow, approaching Utah and Salt Lake City was just stunning!

2019 mountains sun salt

The salt flats are under about an inch and a half of water right now, which made for an incredible view.

2019 salt flats

I had a terrible time selecting photos for this article. So much beauty. You can see the salt flats better in this and the next photo.

2019 final approach

Final approach.

2019 SLC

There’s the city.

2019 landed

At the airport, obviously.

2019 SLC distance

In Salt Lake City, there are mountains everyplace you look. That’s Salt Lake City in the distance on the left. You can see it if you squint. The size of those buildings contrasted to the mountains reminds us of the insignificance of humans.

After I checked into my hotel, I decided to take a walk. It’s chilly, but not cold by Michigan standards.

2019 Salt Palace

RootsTech will be at the Salt Palace Convention Center in just another day. The locals call this structure “the salt shaker.” Seems appropriate. I doubt the designers had that in mind.

Downtown is deserted right now, but it will be bustling soon.

2019 Temple Square

On Monday, I walked to the Family History Library. I’m not Mormon, but I find the beauty of churches inspiring. Temple Square is behind the walls. The Mormon Office building (with a nice cafeteria) is the white tall structure in the distance.

2019 Angel Moroni

Another beautiful view of the Temple. Can you spot the gold Angel Moroni statue?

2019 Temple Square entrance

The entrance to Temple Square across from the Family History Library. Free tours are offered.

2019 cabin

I flew from Michigan to Utah in three and a half hours. Even with the time getting to and from the airports, the trip was still less than a day. This same journey took our ancestors months traveling in covered wagons and they had to build housing once they arrived. This small, typical log cabin is preserved outside the Family History Library to remind everyone of their ancestor’s humble beginnings.

As luck would have it, a man arrived to open the building just as I was taking photos outside. I stood just inside the door with enough space to turn around to take these pictures.

2019 cabin quilt

Apparently, I’m not the only one who loves quilts.

2019-cabin-bed.jpg

Every inch of space was utilized. Just think of the parents and all the children living in this very small one room cabin. You can see half of the dresser between the two beds – so the entire cabin is the width of those two beds and the dresser.  The length of the cabin is about 2 beds, roughly,

2019 spinning wheel

Spinning was an important part of making clothes. Of course, those pioneers had to make everything from scratch.

2019 stove

Later cabins had stoves for warmth and cooking. Earlier ones had simple fireplaces.

2019 barrels

Somehow my ghostly appearance is fitting, peering into the lives of our ancestors from another time and place, so far away.

I’m going to go inside the Family History Library now and search for those ancestors, so join me in a day or so for the next step in our Journey to RootsTech 2019.

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Disclosure

I receive a small contribution when you click on some (but not all) of the links to vendors in my articles. This does NOT increase the price you pay but helps me to keep the lights on and this informational blog free for everyone. Please click on the links in the articles or to the vendors below if you are purchasing products or DNA testing.

Thank you so much.

DNA Purchases and Free Transfers

Genealogy Services

Genealogy Research

Childhood Christmas Memories

This is the time of year, of course, that families gather.

But families change, sometimes slowly, and sometimes abruptly.

Slowly as babies are added, one by one and children grow.

And abruptly when people depart this earth, leaving behind that empty chair and its accompanying empty cavern in our hearts, having carved great gashes with the roughhewn saw of grief.

For some of us, when the here and now become a bit overwhelming, there is a happier place to visit in that space of our childhood. Those first Christmas memories when we dreamed all starry-eyed of what Santa would bring. No matter what was wrong, everything would be alright – because after all – Santa was coming and we had been (relatively) good.

Your Earliest Memories?

What are your earliest memories of Christmas?

Roberta second Christmas

I was too young to remember anything in this photo, but this is me in the first recorded Christmas photo at my grandmother’s house. This would have been my second Christmas and I was probably full of energy; bound and determined to get into that attractive distraction called a Christmas tree.

That’s my ornery brother, John on the right side of the photo, and my cousin, Mike on the left. Mike’s sister, Nancy is holding me. I wonder what was going on, because both boys are eyeing me askance. I do believe that’s called the “stink eye” and brothers excel at that!

Christmas Tree Special Delivery

At our house, Santa Claus also visited a week or two before Christmas and put up the Christmas tree. I waited daily, for days and days and DAYS until that fateful morning when Santa would have arrived secretly during the night. As I cracked the door open, the Christmas tree stood silently waiting with its lights twinkling and its tinsel gently swaying with the air currents in the living room.

I KNEW when Santa arrived one year, because I HEARD him. Not in the living room, mind you, but on the roof. I was just positive and sure enough, I discovered the next morning that he had in fact been there. If I ever doubted, I was convinced.

Roberta Christmas age 4

I do remember the Christmas in this picture when I was age 4. See that tiny piano against the wall – I LOVED that piano. I think I loved it so much that it disappeared or maybe I loved it to death!

My father was present that year, because I was holding his little dog, Timmy. Dad’s arrival, with Timmy, would have been the best present EVER. Kids are so exuberant.

My Dad bought that rocking chair for me and I still have it, although I clearly haven’t sat in it in decades. But my children did and bears with quilts do now too.

Roberta rocking chair

I also recall my absolutely favorite gift that year.

A drum.

Yes, that’s right, a tin marching drum. Somewhere I know there was a photo at one time, but that photo apparently disappeared.

I’m sure my mother wished she could have made that drum disappear too. I’m positive that my much-beloved father brought me said drum, because I’m equally as positive that my mother would NEVER have bought me that noisy thing. NEVER!

I distinctly remember proudly parading around the house in my new too-big brown bathrobe gleefully beating with all my strength on that drum, much to my mother’s chagrin.

Grandmother’s House

Over the river and through the woods, to grandmother’s house we go.

Our version was a tad bit different, but we did indeed go “home” to grandmother’s house every Christmas. For mom, Christmas wouldn’t have been Christmas otherwise.

As you can see, my brother was by that time a teenager and had begun to drive. He didn’t have much use for his pesky little sister.

Roberta Christmas age 4 grandmother's house

I don’t recall this particular day, or Christmas at my grandparents. Christmas, the holiday, was overshadowed by what followed.

My grandmother suffered a heart attack, collapsed on the floor and died just a few days later, on January 4th.

Roberta Christmas grandparents

This photo of my grandmother and grandfather, with Nancy’s son, Bruce was taken that Christmas. I notice that the photo was printed in July, and it must have pained my mother greatly to open that packet of photos when she picked them up at the drugstore.

My grandmother loved Christmas and the fact that her grandchildren, and then great-grandchildren were all gathered together at home. My mother inherited that from her as well.

I’m in the corner of a second very poor photo taken at this same time. I remember the throw on the back of the couch. I could put my fingers in the little inverted popcorn-like shapes. The couch was brown and made from scratchy rough fabric. It’s amazing the memories these photos trigger.

While I don’t specifically remember this Christmas, or any Christmas at my grandmother’s house, I do have very fond memories of my grandmother herself. In particular, she always ran to hug me.

I also have very vivid memories of the heart attack, her laying on the kitchen floor, and the aftermath. For a young child, it was a frightening time. Not only was something wrong with my beloved grandmother, but my mother and everyone else was a wreck too, and I didn’t understand why. My understanding of “sick” was that you threw up, and I kept looking at the floor for evidence of her being sick.

Sick meant something else altogether. Sick meant our life was about to change forever.

I’m glad we had that final Christmas together.

Suffice it to say, my mother was never really “alright” with Christmas again, although she made every effort to hide that fact from me.

Over time, as her grandchildren began to gather in her home as well, enough Christmases had been put between her and that devastating year that she could smile and sing again.

But that didn’t happen for a very long time.

Change Cometh

Christmas and our family traditions changed dramatically at that point in our lives.

I have only vague recollections of the next several Christmases. My grandfather was still living in December of 1960, but would have been ill in December of 1961. I remember that he asked for peanuts for snacks and I was so pleased to give him a can of peanuts. The kind with Mr. Peanut on the side.

My grandfather passed away in June of 1962 and by that December, the house my mother had grown up in had been sold. Mom took her portion of the inheritance and purchased a house. We moved in, you guessed it, on December 23rd.

I was in first or second grade that year, and I was quite worried that Santa wouldn’t be able to find us at our new house.

Would he know to come on the night of the 23rd to put the tree up?

Yes, mother asserted me, Santa was magical.

Would we have to do without a tree that year?

“No, of course not,” mother assured me.

I wasn’t very reassured.

Not only that, but I couldn’t sleep very well in my new bed in a strange new house and I heard a strange “rustling” in the living room, right beside my bedroom.

Sure enough, the next morning, Santa had somehow managed to find us and put up that tree among the boxes of our still-packed household.

What a sight, boxes and boxes and a fully decorated Christmas tree.

All was well in my young world again. My mother, however, was incredibly sleep-deprived for some reason. Apparently, she had been up waiting for Santa too!

Three Years Later

The next Christmas photo I have was taken three years later in 1965 sitting on the floor in front of the fireplace and the Christmas tree. In fact, there’s my rocking chair again.

I’m hugging my mom, who is dressed up for Christmas Eve, and my sister-in-law is to our right. My brother is partially visible behind her. They didn’t have children yet at this point, so it would have only been our small family gathered. My father had passed away the year before. I think my Mom’s boyfriend must have taken the photo.

Mom always decorated the fireplace mantle with the Christmas cards we received after faithfully writing any changed addresses on the Christmas card list.

Roberta Christmas age 9

At the time, I didn’t realize of course that my grandmother’s tree had merged with our own, but looking at our Christmas tree now, I realize that’s exactly what happened. Of course, today my tree and Mom’s have merged too.

The Ubiquitous Camera

In that day and age, photos were rarely taken and then only on very special occasions. It wasn’t unusual to go for years with no family photos and one roll of film often lasted several years. So long that you had no idea what photos were actually going to be printed.

The next Christmas photo was taken in 1970 when my mother just happened to have the flu on Christmas Day. She opened her packages laying on the couch. She’ll haunt me if I publish that one.

Roberta Christmas age 15

Grandchildren’s pictures are on the table, of course, with the ever-present Christmas candle choir in front. God help you if you decided to light one of those candles.

By this time, our tree was artificial but still dripping with tinsel. Artificial trees were so much easier. In fact, I think that tree itself was a gift one year.

I have several of these ornaments on my tree today.

This was the first year that Christmas photos were in color.

Roberta Christmas Snowball

What memories – the “record player,” our old television, the stuffed Santa that I still own and our rescued cat, Snowball. Um, now that I think about it, I might still own that record album too.

These photos sure bring back memories of what life was like then.

Roberta Christmas age 15 gifts.jpg

In case you’re wondering what the heck was in that huge package, I had saved my money for weeks to purchase Mom this “painting” at Woolworths. Did she want this? I have no idea, but it hung in her house for the next 25 years. I surely hope she liked it!

The small framed item was a print I had purchased in Paris as an exchange student. Mom had the set of prints framed for me. I still have those as well.

Of course today, we’re used to taking digital pictures with our cell phones and photos are just a daily fact of life. Instant gratification, no printing costs and delete them if they don’t turn out well.

Of course, finding them in another few years, or decades – well, that might be quite another matter because today’s photos aren’t printed and in most cases, aren’t archived either.

Poof, the phone or computer is gone and so are your photos.

What About Your Family Memories?

I bet by now you’re thinking about your own childhood Christmas photos.

  • Where were they taken?
  • Who was there?
  • What year was it?
  • What gifts did you give or receive?
  • Do items in the background jog any forgotten memories?
  • How did life change in the following years?
  • Was that photo of a first or last something?

The best thing you can do with your photos is to get them out of the box and share them with your family this Christmas, as you gather.

If you have siblings or older family members, ask them to share their memories with you.

As they tell their stories, write them down.

If you ARE that older family member now, share your memories with others. They might not appreciate them today, but they will be polite and humor you. (If they don’t, just cast that stink-eye in their direction – just like my brother did.)

Then, do them a favor – write down your memories. Include the photos.

Some day they will wish desperately that they had paid attention, and you can leave them the best gift of all!

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