World War II: What is Your Family’s Story?

World War II ended 70 years ago. Over the past year, we have celebrated the 70th anniversary of many final milestones of World War II. We know it shaped our parents’ or grandparents’ generations. The challenges they faced  and the hardships they endured made the survivors into what we now call, “The Greatest Generation”.  And, of course, many of them did not survive the war.

How did their wartime experiences transform our families?

This week the world marked International Holocaust Remembrance Day. On January 27, 1945 the Soviet Army liberated the infamous Nazi concentration camp at Auschwitz in present day Poland. The families of Holocaust survivors are keenly aware of how the war shaped and decimated their families. But World War II also reshaped the destiny of countless other families around the world. Have you considered how World War II affected your family?

Living Relatives Memories

If you are lucky enough to have relatives who lived during the war, make time to talk to them about their wartime experiences. How did the war affect them and their family? Many of them saw the war through a child’s eyes. Their memories of the world and of their parents’ dilemmas and choices can help make sense of how and where your family emerged from the war.

Your Family’s World War II Story

Each of our families has its own World War II stories. World War II redrew the borders of Europe and Asia. It changed governments and the international balance of power. Some families both at home and abroad lost their homes, possessions, and livelihoods. Others emerged from the war with new confidence and experience that inspired them to rebuild, move to a new city or country, or become the first in their family to attend college. Some lost families, and others brought home war brides. Some  rebuilt their homelands, and others emigrated to the western hemisphere or to Israel.

For most, the results of the war included a messy combination of grief, friendship, family, and confidence building.

Many were optimistic, planning to rebuild the post-war world. Across the world, WWII sparked civil rights changes. In colonial nations it began or strengthened independence movements that would transform nations over the next fifty years.

But some were less optimistic. Some wartime experiences crushed the spirit and drove families apart. Fears of another Hitler or another Axis Powers led us into the Cold War, the McCarthy era, and conflicts in Cuba, Korea, Vietnam and central America throughout the 20th century.

Some of our ancestors’ stories are inspiring. Some are tragic. And others are more subtle. You probably already know the big stories for your family. But take time to explore some of the more subtle experiences that shaped people’s attitudes, trust, and dreams.

These include the stories of how witnessing and participating in wartime events and activities change a person. Consider how a family chooses in a moment whether to stay together, send children to safety, or  flee. Consider what they kept and what they left behind. Ask who they trusted, and who they feared. Try to understand how they dealt with their wartime experiences. These stories can hold the keys to understanding post war family relationships and even personal habits or quirks.

Consider the stories of men and women who volunteered, or were drafted or detained. Learn the stories of where and how those men and women trained, fought, and were captured, killed, or finally survived. Your family’s stories include stories about family, their community, their friends, and their enemies.

Learn the stories of how families on the “home front” coped with absent fathers and wartime shortages. Mothers went to work in factories and dock facilities. Children practiced bomb drills in school and collected metal for the war effort. Most people grew victory gardens and to supplement the food limited by ration coupons. Grandparents served as blackout and air raid wardens. Everyone did without.

Ask Questions – And Listen Closely to Answers

As our wartime survivors age. They may finally be willing to tell some of the stories that they didn’t tell us before. They didn’t share them before, because they were too messy or painful, because we were too young, or they thought we couldn’t understand. And some of them discount their own experience, comparing it to the grave suffering of others and finding it not worthy of being told.

If you think your wartime survivors are ready to tell some of those stories. Then take this opportunity to listen. Let them know that you want to hear their stories. Let them know that you are listening. Now.

For Additional Information . . .

For help documenting WWII service, immigration, or wartime events in the US, Canada, England, Europe, or the Pacific, contact me using the form below.

Text Copyright: © Anna Hopkins-Arnold 2016 – CC-BY-SA-4.0 – share alike with attribution
Photo Credit: Public Domain photo by Hudson, F A (Lt), Royal Navy official photographerphotograph A 12661 from the collections of the Imperial War Museums.


Celebrating Wikipedia and Martin Luther King

Wikipedia and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  both changed the world. Today we celebrate the shared birthday of both a great historical figure and a fifteen year old information source. Both of them revolutionized our world.

Dr. Martin Luther King

Today we honor the story of civil rights leader, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and celebrate the changes he brought to our national attitudes toward race, civil rights, and freedom. Most of us know his story, but if you needed to brush up on the details, it’s likely that you’d check Wikipedia first.


Remember the days before Yahoo, Google and Wikipedia changed how we looked up information?  Google used their successful search engine and apps to become a world business and advertising leader. But, Wikipedia (also a top ten internet property) is still run by a non-profit foundation, the Wikimedia Foundation, Inc.
Founded on this day fifteen years ago, Wikipedia has grown into the worlds largest community edited encyclopedia. Named “wiki” after the Hawaiian word for “quick”, Wikipedia pioneered a way to allow many people to work on the same document at the same time.
Back then, before it’s astounding success, there were plenty of skeptics. They thought that a community edited encyclopedia would be riddled with errors, and indeed it is an ongoing “work in progress”, but the many, many knowledgeable and generous people worldwide who have stepped up to give information and edit articles have made it an amazing source of information on a dizzying array of topics.
Those who tried to use Wikipedia to promote disinformation or narrow, biased views have learned that the human and bot editors at Wikipedia flag suspect content, to alert the public when an article seems biased or has no sources. And others can step in to balance such content with alternative points of view. No printed encyclopedia has such an internationally and culturally diverse group of editors.
Genealogists often use Wikipedia for preliminary research on historical people, places, and events. And the footnotes for the Wikipedia article lead to both internet and document sources that give specific details. Watch for more posts on how to use Wikipedia to help learn about the lives of your ancestors.
Genealogists also used the “wiki” concept to create WikiTree, a free universal family tree. WikiTree encourages genealogists to collaborate using traditional genealogy sources and DNA. Like Wikipedia, WikiTree encourages many editors who all record the SOURCE of their information. And that helps genealogists work together to find and solve problems.
Please join me in wishing Happy Fifteenth Birthday to both Martin Luther King, Jr. and to Wikipedia and giving thanks to everyone who has contributed to the success of both.
Please comment below, if you participated in the Civil Rights Movement, or if you participate in Wikipedia or another Wiki, and if you are collaborating with others on an online tree, like WikiTree or Family Search Family Tree.
If you haven’t done so, please consider making this the year that you collaborate with others to share your knowledge.
And contact me for help finding information that can help you understand more about your ancestors, whether they were famous, or not.

Text Copyright: © Anna Hopkins-Arnold 2016 – CC-BY-SA-4.0 – share alike with attribution
Photo Credit: © Anna Hopkins-Arnold 2016 – CC-BY-SA-4.0 – share alike with attribution

Superstar Genealogists: Nice People DO Finish First !

Each year, genealogists from the US, UK, Canada, Ireland, and Australia / New Zealand nominate candidates and vote for the  Rock Star Genealogist awards hosted by Canadian genealogist, John D. Reid. There is a category for country or region, for Genetic Genealogy, and an International category. In each category voters from that region or field choose the top ten as Rock Star Genealogists. And the top three are designated Superstars (gold, silver, and bronze).
These “rock star” genealogists earn the respect of their peers and students by presenting the most “MUST SEE” presentations about research their country or field. They teach their way to success. Congratulations to every Genealogist nominated for this honor. Special congratulations to those who placed in the top ten  “Rock Star” list. setting the bar for others in their country or region.
Among the top three for each region (the Superstars), there is stiff competition. All are tops in their field. But because I know two of them, have used the website created by a third and was able see comments and info about the other two, I was struck by the fact that all the winners are not just top genealogists, but also genuinely nice people. In genealogy, nice people DO finish first!
Yesterday, competition host John D. Reid announced the gold Superstar Genealogists, who got the most votes for each of the categories: International; Australia & New Zealand; Canada; England, Scotland & Wales; Ireland; Genetic Genealogy; and the USA. Votes for each region’s winners were limited to people living in that region.Votes for the Genetic Genealogist were counted from voters identifying as genetic genealogists.
One of the winners, Genetic Genealogy expert CeCe Moore, won in three of the Superstar categories: Genetic Genealogy (of course), USA (Congrats), and International (WOW!!). Her blog, Your Genetic Genealogist, one of the go-to resources for genetic genealogy. And as both a popular speaker and southern California meeting coordinator for the International Society of Genetic Genealogy she has earned her stellar reputation.
I was excited to see that, in this select international group of talented genealogists, I had actually met and spoken to one, and have emailed over a shared research topic with another. So, while I congratulate them all on a job well done, I send special congratulations to both CeCe Moore, and Kirsty Gray.
I met CeCe Moore at the 2015 Forensic Genealogy Institute. And I share a research interest with my friend and fellow Cornwall genealogy enthusiast, UK Superstar Kirsty Gray.  Both write top notch blogs for their field and through blogs, webinars and live classes have helped guide many genealogists toward finding their ancestors.
UK Superstar Professional Genealogist, Kirsty Gray is celebrating her second win as UK Superstar, having won the title in 2013 and taken silver in 2014. From her tweets and posts she is both excited and gratified to have earned the title once again, but humble enough to be responding with genuine surprise.
Having taken a webinar from Kirsty, followed her blog, and communicated over a shared research interest, I think she well deserves the award. She is also celebrating her two year blogiversary with her prolific and informative blog Family Wise. She has posted a mind blowing 730 posts over the past two years. Well done and happy 2nd blogiversary, Kirsty!
And the laurels just keep on coming, as today Kirsty Gray was also included as #8 on the list of top ten Canadian Genealogists.  And like our other gold superstars, her response is overwhelming gratitude and joy.
You can tell by Australian Superstar Jill Ball‘s comment on the awards page, and by the awards Canadian Superstar Dave Obee has received that they both are not just talented genealogists, but also genuinely nice and generous people. And having used Irish Superstar Claire Santry‘s website, I send my sincere thanks for creating such a thoroughly useful guide.
My hearty Congratulations to each of the gold Superstars. It’s wonderful to know that in Genealogy, nice people DO finish first !

Did you find this article useful? Do you have feedback or questions?

Text Copyright: © Anna Hopkins-Arnold 2015 – CC-BY-SA-4.0 – share alike with attribution
Photo Credit: © Anna Hopkins-Arnold 2015 – CC-BY-SA-4.0 – share alike with attribution

Animas Museum’s New Database Accesses Info about Four Corners History Collection

Animas Museum volunteer, Susan Jones, described the museum’s new public access database to members of the Southwest Colorado Genealogical Society at their September meeting. Jones volunteers in the Animas Museum collections department and also gives tours in the costume of local pioneer, Ann Eliza Pinkerton, for both the museum and on the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad‘s Historic Narration San Juan Coach. She wore a dress patterned after one worn by her great grandmother in about 1889.

Jones described the collections that were included in the public access database and gave tips for finding photographs and information about artifacts related to a particular person or family. This new tool can help local genealogists and historians researching ancestors from Durango, La Plata County, or the Four Corners region. Four Corners genealogy often relies on locating information from smaller archives like the Animas Museum. The workstation is located at the Animas Museum and will not be available online.

But as the museum continues to photograph their collection of 3-D artifacts and digitize documents and photos more and more of the museum’s collection will be made accessible to the public.  Local historian Jill Seyfarth also participated in the database project.

The Animas Museum directed by historian, Carolyn Bowra, is located in the 1904 Animas City School at 3065 W 2nd Ave in historic Durango, Colorado is the home of the La Plata County Historical Society. It  houses  exhibits on local history, hosts traveling exhibits, and has on the grounds a historic log cabin (the Joy Cabin) and an early twentieth century home. The museum exhibits, the historic buildings, research library, and the books and art for sale in the museum gift shop,  all provide insight into pioneer life in southwest Colorado and the Four Corners Region.

Now the behind-the-scenes stored document and artifact collection can also be accessed by local researchers (appointments recommended).

Rootfinders Genealogy Research thanks Susan Jones for her informative presentation and congratulates the Animas Museum on their new public access database and looks forward to using the workstation for genealogy research on historic families in the Four Corners Region.

Did you find this article useful? Do you have feedback or questions?

Text Copyright: © Anna Hopkins-Arnold 2015 – CC-BY-SA-4.0 – share alike with attribution
Photo Credit: © Anna Hopkins-Arnold 2015 – CC-BY-SA-4.0 – share alike with attribution

Customize “Family Tree Maker 2012”: Transgender Family Member

This is the third in a series of blog posts by Anna Hopkins-Arnold, genealogist for Rootfinders Genealogy Research, in Durango, Colorado reviewing the ability of Family Tree Maker 2012 to accurately represent real families with complex relationships. This series was inspired by a challenge issued in a blog post (regrettably no longer available on the web) by George Geder of Geder Genealogy in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

In his original blog post, George showed that Family Tree Maker 2012 could show a couple with the same gender.

Represent Transgender Family Member in Family Tree Maker 2012

Then, George mentioned trying to represent a transgender family  member. This is a challenge since Family Tree Maker does not allow us to associate a date with either the “Name” or  “Gender” facts. I have often found people using different names at different times in their lives, It would be very handy to have a date associated with the “name” fact for all kinds of individuals.

Since both “name” and “gender” facts change for a transgender person, I would represent the person with two different profiles: one for the birth name and gender and another for the transgendered name and new gender.  Both individuals would have the same birth date, birth place, and parents. On their parents family group sheet this one person would look like two people: boy and girl twins, but the birth identity would contain only the facts documented for the birth identity, so that timeline would end when the person began using the transgendered identity. After that, documents will show the new identity and facts would be recorded under the new identity, so when the timeline for the birth identity ended, the  timeline for the transgender identity would begin.

Review: Family Tree Maker could document separate timelines for the two different profiles of a Transgendered  Individual, but not a single unified timeline

I was able to document timelines for the two different name and gender profiles to represent a transgendered individual, but that representation made the person appear to be twin siblings. Additional text will be needed to clarify the situation. Because Family Tree Maker 2012 does not allow users to change the properties of the name and gender facts, I could not use just a single profile and have the name and gender change with time. It worked, but it was clunky.

This is just one of many instances when I have wished I could add a date property to the name fact. Many people throughout history have used different names at different periods in their lives. Allowing users to add a date to the name fact would make it much easier to see name use patterns.

Allowing users to add date properties to both name and gender will allow them the flexibility to represent every one in their family tree. So I’d like to see Family Tree Maker add these two options to future versions:

  1. Allow users to  modify the properties of the name fact to include a date.
  2. Allow users to  modify the properties of the gender fact to include a date.

Customize “Family Tree Maker 2012”: Showing Complex Relationships

This is the second in a series of blog posts by Anna Hopkins-Arnold, genealogist for Rootfinders Genealogy Research, in Durango, Colorado reviewing the ability of Family Tree Maker 2012 to accurately represent real families with complex relationships. This series was inspired by a challenge issued in a blog post (regrettably no longer available on the web) by George Geder of Geder Genealogy in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Showing Complex Relationships in Family Tree Maker 2012

Next, I checked whether the relationship options available in Family Tree Maker 2012 covered all the parent-child type and spouse-partner type of relationships I could imagine.  Indeed, when we add a parent or spouse and then go to the relationship page a dizzying array of options are available. To get to the “Relationship” page, select “People” from the top menu, then click the “Person” tab and finally click the “Relationship” button (upper right). From the list of relationships, highlight the one you want to change, and the details will be displayed in the right pane.

Showing Parent-Child Type Relationships

The parent-child relationship defaults to “biological”, but the drop down menu gives options to change it to: adopted, step, foster, related, guardian, sealed, private or unknown. Since we can attach new parents to the child or attach the child to new sets of parents (or parent-like people), we can imagine a child with two biological parents, some step-parents, a guardian, some foster families, and a set of adoptive parents. One of my ancestors had two biological parents and a five step-parents. The only relationship that I could not easily represent was god-parents, baptism sponsors, or other ceremonial “parent”-type figures.

Showing Spouse-Partner type Relationships

The same screen allows us to modify both the level of relationship and the current status of a spouse-partner relationship. The default level is “spouse” and the default status is “ongoing”, but these can both be changed to reflect a diversity of relationship levels and statuses. Relationship levels include:spouse, partner, friend, single, private, and unknown. In George’s original blog post, he showed that Family Tree Maker 2012 did allow him to represent a couple where both partners had the same gender.  Relationship status options include: ongoing, annulled, deceased, divorced, none, private, separated, or unknown. And we can attach as many of these relationships as we need to describe the situation.  In my own tree I have a man who had five wives and (as his first wife put it) “numerous sweethearts”.

The only marriage-partnership situation that I had trouble describing was when one spouse abandoned the other.  I have worked around this by adding a shared relationship fact “abandoned” in my file, and I put that fact/event with an approximate date, and left the relationship status at separated or  divorced. However, for the people in my file, there is no indication that the couples actually filed papers for legal separation, so it would have been useful to have a status of either “abandoned” or the less judgemental “disappeared” to explain the situation.

Review: Family Tree Maker Met Complex Relationship Challenges

Thanks, Family Tree Maker! I was very happy with the variety of complex relationships that I was able to model using Family Tree Maker 2012. I think it successfully met George’s complex relationship challenge and I found the options for customizing relationships and adding additional facts to meet almost all my needs. The two things I would like to see changed in future versions to better describe complex relationships are:

  1. Add an option for “godparent”-“godchild” or “religious sponsor”-“religious sponsee” (awkward)  in the options for parent-child type relationships.
  2. Add “abandoned” or “disappeared”  to the spouse-partner type relationship status.

Customize “Family Tree Maker 2012”: Add a Custom Fact

This is the first in a series of blog posts by Anna Hopkins-Arnold, genealogist for Rootfinders Genealogy Research, in Durango, Colorado reviewing the ability of Family Tree Maker 2012 to accurately represent real families with complex relationships. This series was inspired by a challenge issued in a recent blog post (regrettably no longer available on the web) by George Geder of Geder Genealogy in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

George challenged genealogy software developers to ensure that their products could represent all the diverse types of families that we have in the modern world. He mentioned alternatives including adoptive families, foster families, blended-families, and families with bi-racial children, and gay or transgendered family members.  He showed an example using Family Tree Maker 2012 to represent a gay couple and wondered whether race could be shown on the pedigree tree.  He asked if others had been able to customize Family Tree Maker 2012.

As a long-time user of Family Tree Maker, I’ve used several versions and had occasion to use it to represent some pretty unusual family relationships.  I’ve found that our ancestors’ relationships could be as complex as those of the modern world.  But since I’ve just recently installed the latest version (Family Tree Maker 2012) at Rootfinders Genealogy Research, I decided to see if this newest version could meet George’s challenge.

Displaying Race (or any custom fact) in Family Tree Maker 2012

I started with the easiest part, adding a “Race” fact.  I discovered that my oldest Family Tree Maker file, one that’s been imported through all the versions of Family Tree Maker since 1999, already had a fact for “Race”, probably a relict of an older version of FTM.  If your file has been imported through several versions check to see if the fact you want (or something similar) already exists. However, new files created in Family Tree Maker 2012 do not include race in the default fact list.

To add race (or any new fact), first go to the fact screen. To get there, click “People” on the top menu, Click the “Person” tab, Click the button for “Facts” (usually the default display on that tab). Next, click the “+” button to add a fact and when the list of facts appears, check to see if your fact is there and if not, click the “new” button to add a new type of fact. You can now add “shared” facts which appear on the fact list for both members of a marriage/partnership.

I have not found a way to display the race fact on the pedigree charts that you post to, but you can certainly select that fact to be printed in the box on pedigree charts generated from the Family Tree Maker program.


I thought Family Tree Maker met the challenge of displaying Race (or any custom fact) on the pedigree tree. What do you think?

In my next blog entry, I’ll show how to customize relationship descriptions to accurately describe real modern and historic relationships situations.


Flip-Pal Mobile Scanner Review

Review of the Flip-Pal Mobile Scanner – I am very happy with mine and continue to find new uses for it. I learned that Flip-Pal is currently offering free standard shipping for orders over $50 through June 16 (after items are in your cart enter Promotion Code: 2father12). That could include a scanner or a set of accessories. So I decided to share with you my experience using my scanner for genealogy research and family photos.

Several months ago, I finally purchased a flip-pal mobile scanner. I had had my eye on them for a while. The idea of taking a portable, high-quality scanner to libraries, archives, and the homes of other family members seemed almost too good to be true.

I had spent so much time and effort trying to photograph documents or paintings to get good light without getting a glare spot from the flash. I had spent time copying books and documents on flat copy machines that stressed the bindings of old books or made copies that cut off some critical part of the article. And then I had to spend time and effort to scan those paper copies to make digital copies to attach to my genealogy database.

I was delighted with the idea of being able to turn the flip-pal over and look through the back to line up exactly the text or picture I wanted to scan. And I was equally thrillled that the included software would stitch together images so that I could copy texts, pictures and maps that are larger than the portable size scanner, even images that would have been too large for regular flat bed scanners. Quilters can even use flip-pal to scan whole quilts.

I was delighted to learn that the flip-pal comes complete and ready to use right out of the box, including the 4 AA batteries needed to run it, a 2GB SD card to store your scans that also contains the software your computer needs to stitch multiple photos into one big photo, and a USB adaptor to allow any computer to read the SD card. They really thought of everything!

After I got my scanner I took it on a trip to the Family History Library in Salt Lake City and was delighted to find that it more than fulfilled my expectations. I was able to scan book sources instead of making paper copies. I felt better about scanning from an antique leather bound volume because I could carefully lay the scanner on top and avoid stressing the binding. I was able to make color copies and choose between 300dpi or 600dpi resolution. And all my copies were together in one place without the possiblity of losing a single sheet.

There are accessories for the flip pal that can come in handy: a custom padded carrying case, a transparent protector sheet for the back window, or a sketch kit that allows you to make arrows and labels for your scans.


Too Many Daves: Methods to Tell Your Ancestor from Others of the Same Name – Program for the Southwest Colorado Genealogical Society

Genealogist, Anna Hopkins-Arnold of Rootfinders Genealogy Research spoke to the Southwest Colorado Genealogical Society at their meeting on May 12, 2013.

The program was entitled “Too Many Daves: Methods for Telling Your Ancestor from Others of the Same Name”.   It taught society members how to “differentiate” between several candidates for a particular ancestor. For more info on this class, click here.

“Too Many Daves” was very well received by the members of the Southwest Colorado Genealogical Society and will be repeated at the Colorado Family History Expo, June 1-2, in Colorado Springs.  Anna is a member of the Southwest Colorado Genealogical Society and the coordinator for the Society’s participation in the nationwide “1940 Census Community Indexing Project”. The Society website posted the following comments about this program, other classes that Anna has offered through the Durango Public Library, and her work on the 1940 census indexing project.

The Society would like to sincerely thank Anna Hopkins-Arnold for her contributions to the the genealogical community through her very informative trainings. From “Too Many Daves” to the Family Search Indexing training, Anna has shared from the wealth of her knowledge and experience and has helped many of us learn new methods of research and encouraged us to give back and pay forward through being a part of the Indexing project.” – Southwest Colorado Genealogical Society website (  May 25, 2012)

Genealogy Classes – Albuquerque Family History Expo

I really enjoyed the Albuquerque Family History Expo last weekend (April 13th and 14th) at the Crown Plaza Hotel.  About 200 participants attended  the two day event. It offered an impressive variety of interesting and informative genealogy classes.  There was an exhibit area with representatives from several genealogical societies, a variety of family history search companies, and a company that prints large genealogy charts from your family history.  A book seller offered with an impressive collection of genealogy instructional and reference books.

Genealogist Anna Hopkins-Arnold of Rootfinders Genealogy Research taught four classes at this expo: Ancestry for Experienced Users, Evernote for Genealogy, Family Search, and Finding Your Ancestors in the 1940 Census. For more information on other genealogy classes offered by Rootfinders Genealogy Research, click here.

This was the first time that Family History Expos have come to Albuquerque and I hope they will be making it a regular stop in the future.