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We don't want you to miss this special preview of Season 2 of
The Generations Project.
Watch Monday, January 3rd at 7:00pm Mountain Standard Time on BYUtv.

If you don't have the channel you can stream it live by clicking HERE.

Xander & Carrie, whose twin boys were saved from a genetic disease by an anonymous bone-marrow donor, set out to test the relationship between genetic and genealogical ancestry while searching for the disease in their own family histories. While genealogists and geneticists compare their heritage and DNA with the donor's, their search for child mortalities in their family trees takes them as far away from their Seattle home as 19th century Denmark.

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Mystery Location


The Generations Project is visiting cities and countries all over the world filming episodes for Season 2.
Can you guess where we are filming in this picture?

Whoever can guess closest will win a free DVD of an episode from Season 1

Submit your guess under "comments".
If you are the winner you will be contacted to receive your DVD.
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Here's What's in Store for Season 2

The second season of The Generations Project takes you from Germany to Holland to New York’s “Little Pakistan” and everywhere in between, following eleven journeys into the past: the Denkes explore the origins of their children’s life-threatening genetic disease. Kerry hopes his ancestors will help him find his estranged son, and Ty delves into his complicated heritage as a son of Nazi Germany. They along with eight other guests engage with the past to understand the present.

A sneak peek at Season 2 airs January 3rd at 7:00pm MST on BYUtv.
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U.S. Census Sites

Searching the US Census on the web

There are many websites with digitized and indexed US Censuses. Some you have to pay for, some not. Here are a few, with the pro’s and con’s of each (this information is current as of Oct 2010):

FamilySearch Record Search
Pro’s: free access. Allows you to search* for people in the 1850 to 1920 U.S. censuses. Sometimes, you can also see a scanned image of the actual census page with all the information collected on that person.
Con’s: you can only see an image of the census page for the years 1850 to 1870 and 1900. If there isn’t a scanned image of the page your ancestor’s on, you won’t be able to see all the information that was recorded about him or her. Also, does not include the censuses after 1920.

Pro’s: the most comprehensive online database. Allows you to search* the 1870 - 1930 censuses and view the original image of every page.
Con’s: Requires a paid yearly subscription (but if your local library or archive has a subscription, you can access it there).

Pro’s: you can search* the complete 1870 - 1920 censuses. You can also search part of the 1930 census.
Con’s: does not offer personal subscriptions—only available at some libraries. Does not include the entire 1930 census.

Pro’s: allows you to search* and see images of the 1860 census and ninety percent of the 1930 census.
Con’s: does not include other census year. Tequires a paid subscription (but you may be able to access it for free at your local library or archive).

Pro’s: allows you to search* the 1860 and 1930 censuses.
Con’s: does not include other censuses. Requires a paid subscription (but again, you may be able to access it for free at libraries and archives).

* Keep in mind that each site’s search page works a little differently. So, if possible, it’s worthwhile to try each one and see which serves your tastes.

And here are some other places where you can read about online U.S. census collections:

Genealogy Links
Census Online

Cindi’s List
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An article about The Generations Project

While filming an episode from Season 2 in Duxbury, Massachusetts, a local news source wrote an article about The Generations Project.

Click HERE to read the article
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Coming Soon on The Generations Project

Here is another sneak peek at an episode that will air as part of Season 2 of The Generations Project. Tune in to BYUtv on Monday, January 3rd for the Season Premiere.

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And the winner is ...

The correct location is Winthrop Square in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Congratulations to Carrie Rorabaugh Balas for guessing Boston, Massachusetts on our Facebook Page. Carrie will be sent a FREE DVD of The Generations Project.

This specific episode is about Emily, an artist and musician who feels very in tuned with her ancestors and spiritual intuitions about their personalities. Emily wants to see if the historical facts back up what she has felt. What she finds leads her on a journey to bring to light the inaccuracies that fault her grandfather's reputation. Emily's episode will air as part of Season 2, coming January 2011.

Another opportunity to win will be coming up soon.

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Another Mystery Location

The Generations Project is visiting cities and countries all over the world filming episodes for Season 2.
Can you guess where we are filming in this picture?

Whoever can guess closest will win a free DVD of an episode from Season 1

Submit your guess under "comments".
If you are the winner you will be contacted to receive your DVD.
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Another Mystery Location

The Generations Project is visiting cities and countries all over the world filming episodes for Season 2.
Can you guess where we are filming in this picture?

Whoever can guess closest will win a free DVD of an episode from Season 1

Submit your guess under "comments".
If you are the winner you will be contacted to receive your DVD.

Posted September 30, 2010
* The correct location is the Pocahontas Exhibition Coal Mine in West Virginia. Sam Reed from Georgia, is learning what working in a coal mine would have been like for his African American ancestors. Sam's episode will air as part of Season 2 of The Generations Project, coming January 2011.
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The House My Ancestors Bought at Sears

By: Nephi Henry

As I imagine a lot of people do, I used to think of genealogy as one of the blandest, most tedious things a person could do. The endless list of names and dates to be memorized, the stale pedigree charts, the distant places with names I couldn't pronounce—genealogy was too much for my busy 21st-century brain to keep track of, the kind of thing I'd have to store away in spreadsheets and could never really find a way to sink my teeth into.

Then, one day, that very same 21st-century brain gave me my breakthrough into how personal and real genealogy can be. I called my dad, who lives on the other side of the country, and due to my habitual multitasking I was also browsing the Web on my laptop. Dad started talking about his grandparents, my great-grandparents, whom I don't remember ever meeting or even seeing pictures of. They lived in a little white farmhouse near Canton, Illinois, and Dad reminisced at length about the idyllic summers he spent there as a boy, walking the fields and drinking fresh milk straight from the dairy cows. He tried to describe the house for me, but his memories were vague and sparse.

Dad then mentioned casually that his grandparents had bought their house—or rather, the kit for their house—from the Sears, Roebuck and Co. catalog. Frankly, I was astonished: I knew Sears had essentially revolutionized American consumerism with its mail-order catalog, but I had no idea that the company had ever dealt in anything as big as houses. So on a hunch, I opened a Web browser and searched for "Sears houses."

Lo and behold, there were entire websites dedicated to these houses, complete with scans of original catalog pages featuring the kits, their exteriors, and their floor plans. It turns out that like my great-grandparents' old farmhouse, many of these decades-old kit homes are still standing today. As landmarks of an American sociocultural phenomenon, they create quite a niche community online.

Soon Dad booted up his home computer and we were looking together through page after page of the houses. Within a few short minutes we found the very one my great-grandparents had built on the Illinois plains—the Starlight. And as we looked at the floor plan and the pictures, it was as though a dam broke. Memory after memory came back to him; he hardly had time to share one with me before the next came rushing into his mind.

About a week later, I got an email from Dad and found that he'd attached a dozen photographs of faces I'd never seen, but I could tell almost at once they were relatives: the great-grandparents I'd never known, along with my grandmother and her siblings. And there behind them was the house Dad had struggled to recreate in his mind. I'm not sure where he found the pictures, but I'm pretty certain he went looking because we'd found that old farmhouse using some very 21st-century technology.

How have you mixed the old and the new in genealogy? Has technology unexpectedly opened doors to your own family history?
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Billy the Kid Wasn’t Left-Handed, and Other Family History Truths

By: Rob Burt

Have you ever heard the expression, “A picture is worth a thousand words”? That is definitely true for family history work. You can learn lots of valuable information from family and historical photographs . . . as long as you interpret them correctly.

Take the following picture as an example. It is a well-known photograph of Henry McCarty, alias Henry Antrim and William H. Bonney—better known as Billy the Kid.

For years, historians, writers, and aficionados of the West used this image to argue that the infamous Western outlaw was a minority in the gunfighter community—a left-hander. This idea was so common that a film titled The Left-Handed Gun on the life of Billy the Kid and starring Paul Newman was released in 1958, and many history books note that he was a southpaw.

In this picture, the rifle Billy is holding is a Winchester Model 1873. If you look closely at the gun, the loading gate (where bullets are put into the rifle) appears on the left-hand side of the gun. (See highlighted area below.)

However, an observant historian eventually noted a problem with the picture: the 1873 Winchester didn’t have a loading gate on the left side—only on the right side. The picture was reversed! In the early days of photography, most negatives were produced backwards as a result of the technical process used in the first cameras. If the technicians were not careful when developing the film, they would produce a mirror image of the actual scene. This is what happened to the famous photo of Billy the Kid.

The correct image, depicting Billy as a right-hander, is shown below.

This example illustrates how important family photographs can be. Not only do they give us an image of our ancestors, but important clues about the past can be found in the details surrounding them. Clothing, hairstyles, pins, military awards, automobiles, even rocks and plants can all help tell our ancestors' stories, even if they have not left a lot of written information for us. Some of these details are easily identified; others are more difficult and may need a specialist’s eye in order to be fully understood. Regardless, a picture may be worth a thousand words of an ancestor’s life story, so don’t delay! Pull out those old pictures and see what they may tell you about the lives of your loved ones.

Have you found interesting facts from old photos? Tell us about it, leave a comment.

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Coming Soon on The Generations Project

Here's a sneak peek at what's coming January 2011. Don't miss Season 2 of The Generations Project.

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Best Movies About Family?

Perhaps no art form can capture the complexity of family dynamics more than film.

This was the first thought that occurred to me after I watched the 1991 remake of Father of the Bride. It's a great example of the hilarity and insanity that runs wild within the family unit. It's also a very touching film at its core. (Rated PG)

It also got me thinking about other movies I've enjoyed that explore these odd little units we call families.

A quick google search pulls up many movies classified as "family relationship" movies.

The Parent Trap
The Incredibles
The Godfather
My Big Fat Greek Wedding
Finding Nemo

and so on.

Why do you suppose there are so many movies about family? What makes them resonate with us? Why do we love so many of them?

Here are some I love:

In America
The Sound of Music
The Incredibles
Kramer vs Kramer
The Lion King

What are your favorite family-centric films?

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This Week's Mystery Location

The Generations Project is visiting cities and countries all over the world filming episodes for Season 2.
Can you guess where we are filming in this picture?

Whoever can guess closest will win a free DVD of an episode from Season 1

Submit your guess under "comments".
If you are the winner you will be contacted to receive your DVD.

Only guesses submitted on this blog post will qualify.
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My New Favorite Website

By: Bess Hayes

Berlin is probably my favorite city on the whole planet, so I was delighted when research for an upcoming episode of The Generations Project took me (well, digitally) to 19th-century Berlin.

Researching 19th-century Berlin might seem like a difficult task, but thanks to my new favorite website http://www.berlin.ucla.edu/hypermedia/2003.php, it was easy and fun. Simply put, I heart it. A lot.

It was created for a class at UCLA, and luckily the blessed dears have left it up for our perusal and enjoyment. This website combines dozens of maps to create a cartographic history of Berlin, mapping its last 800 years. I love tracing the development of this city on the Spree. And as a cartophile, I love following the stylistic evolution of maps depicting it.

Even if your family history doesn't take you back to Berlin, I hope you enjoy these cartographic snapshots of this beautiful city. Oh, and let us know if you've found any similar exciting websites while doing research.

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This Week's Mystery Location (it's a tricky one)

The Generations Project is visiting cities and countries all over the world filming episodes for Season 2.
Can you guess where we are filming in this picture?

Whoever can guess closest will win a free DVD of an episode from Season 1

Submit your guess under "comments".
If you are the winner you will be contacted to receive your DVD.

Only guesses submitted on this blog post will qualify.

August 20

This picture shows The Generations Project filming at
Restaurant Les Filles du Roy in Montreal, Canada.
Jody, please send your mailing address to
moreinfo@thegenerationsproject.com to receive your free DVD.
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"My car gets 40 rods to the hogshead, and that's just the way I like it!"

By: Rob Burt

Anyone who has seen Grandpa Ed talk about the good ol' days realizes that going into the past is like visiting a foreign country: they both speak totally different languages!

Just as today, language in the past had its own slang, meanings, and expressions that can mean something totally different than what we understand a word to mean today. For example, take the word villain. Today we understand that word to mean an evil individual. However, its original meaning from the middle ages meant a poor individual who worked on a farm.

When reading journals, or doing family history research, it is a good idea to locate a dictionary from the time period in order to understand the language our ancestors were speaking. Another good option is the Oxford English Dictionary, which records how words and their meanings have changed over time.

So don't get in a hurly-burly if you can't understand your ancestors' language. Everything will be roses, just find the nearest period lexicon and peruse away!

Tell us, what are some of the documents you've had to decipher or translate. Have you found any strange words that meant something different than you expected?
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And the winner is...

The correct answer is San Francisco, Ca. (Richmond to be exact). The photo was taken on the SS Red Oak Victory.

Congratulations to Jean-Francois de Buren from California, he was the first one to guess San Francisco. We are also awarding Bryan from Ohio, for his specificity. Both will receive a DVD from Season 1. Be sure to look out for next week's Mystery Location, you'll have another chance to win.

To receive your free DVD please email your address to moreinfo@thegenerationsproject.com

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The (Family) Tree of Knowledge

When I was a few months into my pregnancy and feeling alone, I came across this quote by Harriet Lerner:

“We are never the first in our family to wrestle with a problem, although it may feel that way. . . . Learning how other family members have handled their problems similar to our own down through the generations, is one of the most effective routes to lowering reactivity and heightening self-clarity.”

I thought, “Yeah, right. Who does this happen to? No one else in my family has been abandoned three months into a planned pregnancy.”

I kept reading:

“If we do not know about our own family history, we are more likely to repeat past patterns or mindlessly rebel against them, without much clarity about who we really are, how we are similar to and different from other family members, and how we might best proceed in our own life.” [1]

Since I was already passionate about genealogy and family history (I am president of a personal history company), I decided to test out this idea. I re-examined my family tree to see if I had overlooked any single mothers and to find out what, if anything, I could learn from them.

To my great surprise, there were more than a few, and the details of their stories left me in awe. For the purpose of brevity, I will share only two here:

The first was my great-grandmother, Ellen. She lived for a time in the Mormon Mexican Colonies (which explains my affinity for Mexico). She had four daughters with her husband, but after the fourth was born, he accused Ellen of cheating on him. He said that Violet was not his child. With this announcement, he left her and moved back to the United States.

Things in Mexico at this time (early 1900s) were tense. Pancho Villa, the revolutionary general in Chihuahua, was suspicious of the white Mormon settlers. According to the colony’s history, he threatened to kill the white people if they did not leave. So Ellen and her four daughters, and the rest of their colony, fled Mexico on foot after only a few days’ notice. Ellen returned to her parents' home in Cedar City, Utah, and lived with her family. Sometime later, she was reunited with her childhood sweetheart, married him, and had four sons—one of which is my grandfather.

The next story is from my father’s side. My father was adopted by his stepfather (meaning my grandmother was a single mom for a while, too), and I had been trying to track his biological father’s line for some time. A few years before, I had already discovered the big surprise—I (with naturally blonde hair and freckles) am of slave ancestry (which explains my love for African American heritage). I found Maria Johns, my third-great-grandmother, in an 1860 census that listed her as a single black woman living with her young mulatto daughter in a small town in western Pennsylvania. Maria's occupation was “washer woman,” and she was listed as owning property.

If your hair isn’t already blown back, here are a few more details. Maria was born in Virginia, so she was almost certainly born into slavery. Her child was mulatto, and she was never married, so I can only speculate about what master may have impregnated her and whether she was willing. I can only speculate about how she escaped or earned her freedom. But I do know that 1860 was pre–Emancipation Proclamation, and it was a time when even white women rarely owned property.

What this tells me about Maria Johns is that she was awesome.

I found a few clues and rumors that indicate that Maria was a Quaker, which I believe; Quakers lived in her area of Pennsylvania and were the only group that would be accepting enough to embrace a black woman in their community and let her own property.

After learning these stories about my ancestors, I felt much less alone. I felt connected to and inspired by these powerful women. I looked to what Ellen and Maria (and others I found) did in their times of trial, and I saw that those who turned to their family and their faith were the most successful. I knew I would be wise to do the same.

By meditating on these and other strong women in my life stream, I felt them draw nearer to me. They helped me and lifted me up. When my daughter was born, I felt them all surrounding me—my mother, my grandmother, Ellen, Maria, and many more I didn’t even know, but who knew me and knew my daughter.

This was the first time I had really applied what my ancestors' stories taught me.Since then, during each major struggle in my life, I consult my family history to see what I can learn. The results continue to amaze and humble me.

Felice Austin is (among other things) a freelance writer and president of Memoirs, Ink, a company who shares The Generations Project's ambtion to rediscover, share, and preserve meaningful family legacies.

[1] Harriet Lerner, The Dance of Anger (Harper Paperbacks, 2005), 117–18.

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Be a good tipper

We have a new feature we're adding to our growing blog - the family history tip!

Every time you see this symbol, it means we've found something useful we'd like to share to help those who are new to family history. While in production on The Generations Project, we learn many great new tips from the professional genealogists that we consult with. We also hope you'll contribute your favorite tips and tricks.

The whole mission of our TV series (and this blog) is to bring a fresh perspective to genealogy, and hopefully to be a point of entry for amateurs.

We want to show the world (especially young adults) how cool family history can be.

We want to focus on the stories behind all the online researching, microfiche, and treasure-hunting. We want to emphasize the emotional impact of family history. And we need your help to do that.

So we come to you, wise genealogist friends, to help us get this section started. Be a mentor to a younger researcher. If we post your family history tip, we'll credit you on our blog.

What tips do you have for people who are just becoming interested in family history?

Send your tips to moreinfo@thegenerationsproject.com
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18 Points for Creativity

I thought this was a pretty fun and unorthodox way to display your family tree.

(scrabble family board found here)

Perhaps it was a family of writers. I wonder if they argued over whose name was worth the most points.

But what do you do if you're a family of, say, whalers? How would you show off your ancestors? Or a family of haberdashers? You know, all those many, many families of haberdashers out there. . . .

What has your family done to display its roots?
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What goes around comes around

It seems like every young mother I run into these days is toting along a new baby girl with an old name. I can't believe how many Graces, Charlottes, Victorias, Ellas, and Sophias I've been meeting.

The top 5 female baby names of last year:


Is this odd to anyone else? Where do all these antique names come from? Are they family names? Are we aiming for some sort of connection to the past, to times we consider (however naively) to be simpler?

Also, if what's old is new again, what about naming your daughter some of the forgotten names of yore:

Bessie, Hattie, Pearl, Cora, Blanche, and perhaps my favorite unfortunate old-time name, Dorcas.

What names do you predict will rule the 2010s?
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Why 14-year-old-girls everywhere are begging for genealogy lessons

Just in time for the release of yet another Twilight movie, Ancestry.com announced an exciting discovery about heartthrob and leading star Robert Pattinson.

Apparently America’s most tweeted vampire is distantly related to Vlad the Impaler, yes, the infamous Romanian Prince who inspired Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Meaning Pattison has more than just natural talent for acting sulky, sultry and undead. He does in fact have bloodsucking in his, well, bloodline.

But other than the obvious publicity this announcement gives to the Twilight saga, perhaps it will also act as a catalyst for tweens everywhere to get more involved in genealogy. Along with this revelation came the announcement that the Pattinson-Dracula connection extends to the British royal family as well. Dracula, Prince William and Prince Harry? Be still my heart!

Perhaps it was fate that Pattison accepted a role that runs in the family, or maybe it was just a really lucky break. But either way, we’re hoping this creates even more awareness in a younger generation about the “cool” factor of genealogy.

So what about you? Have you found any startling discoveries in your past that explain some of the life choices you’ve made? Do you think it’s just a coincidence, or do you think it runs in your [enter Dracula cackle] blood?
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Geography Lessons

Want to learn your family history? Get a degree in geography.

Many beginning researchers believe that the most important documents they can find on their family are birth certificates, marriage licenses, and burial records. While all of these are vital, don't overlook another crucial family history document—the hard-to-fold but indispensable map.

When doing family history research, it's important to put your ancestors not only in their place in time, but also in their place in geography. Our ancestors, just like us, were going actual places. If you have never been to those places yourself, looking at a map gives you a better understanding of how your ancestors lived their lives.

If family legend relates the story of Great-Grandpa going to visit Great-Grandma every Friday before they were married, one learns a lot more about their dedication to each other if the two towns are thirty miles apart.

This is the tiny island where my paternal line comes from. Can any of you aspiring cartographers identify it? I'll send a few The Generations Project Season One episodes on DVD to the first person to correctly answer.

In the meantime, start looking around and asking relatives about ancestral locations. You never know what you might learn from looking at a map. Just don't ask me how to get it folded back up correctly when you're done.

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It's a Small World

Have you ever wondered what the degree of separation is between you and the person next to you in line at the grocery store?

Years ago a new family moved in next door to my family. After getting acquainted we made a fun discovery: the father was my mother's fourth cousin (or something like that). We even found his picture in a family history book belonging to my mother. Small world.

And then I remembered an old ancestor of mine—John Lathrop (or Lothrop, or Lothropp, etc.). A member of the English Anglican clergy, he was exiled to America in 1634 because of his independent thinking regarding the doctrine and practices of the Anglican church. After he arrived in the States, he had 5 more children, adding up to a grand total of 13. If you do any research about him, you'll find that he is EVERYBODY's something-great-grandfather. By that logic, I think I'm distantly related to several presidents of the United States, and probably several of you reading this. Hi cousins!

Speaking of being related—last month I ran into a woman at a genealogy conference who had a database that connected people to each other. Her goal was to show people how they were related in order to promote a greater sense of community, commonality, and cooperation.

Would that change your perception of others—knowing that you might be related? For me it kind of brings home the idea of a "human family." If everyone could see how intertwined our common ancestry is, would it really change human interaction? What do you think?
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I Am Green Acres

The saying goes, you never really know a person until you’ve walked a mile in their shoes. My grandfather and other ancestors wore work boots and did most of their walking on a dairy farm.

Ah yes, the old farm, where every day was filled with chores, fresh air, and E-I-E-I-O. Or so I thought. A few years back, I traveled to Wheeler Historic Farm in Murray, Utah to get a “grip” on the “udderly” demanding job of my ancestors—a dairy farmer.

The first myth I busted when I walked onto the farm was that of “fresh air.” “Ripe” would be a more accurate descriptor. And just when you got used to the smell, the wind would change direction and bring a whole new array of scents. I learned from my father that this smell was commonly referred to as “the smell of money” on the old farm.

The second thing I noticed was the noise. My old See ‘n Say toy told me that farm animals made noises. What it didn’t warn me about was how startlingly loud and frightening these animal noises could be.

I took a tour of the old farmhouse, barn, and chicken coup, where I learned about the daily life of the farmer, early mornings, backbreaking labor, and the overall lack of hygiene.

Finally, my tour group was led into a warm brick shack with a cement floor. The floor had a trench about 8-inches deep that ran right through the middle of it.

Suddenly, two large sliding doors opened, letting in the natural light. Silhouetted in the light was a man in a grungy baseball cap. Behind him, being led by a leash, was a lumbering black and white spotted cow. Ripples shook through its plump body with each step that it took.

The man in the cap led the cow to a trough, plopped a tin bucket under the udders, positioned a short stool next to the beast, pointed at me and said, “you first.” I nervously sat onto the stool and was soon face-to-gut with what looked like a fat horse. I started to contemplate about my grandfather and wondered how many times he had taken in a similar view.

After some brief instruction, I reached under the cow and began to milk it. After a few tries I heard a long “ting” sound echo from the tin bucket. I immediately felt a sense of family pride and accomplishment. My pride was validated when the man in the ball cap told me that I was “a natural.” I then heard a gurgling sound coming from one of the cow’s four stomachs, shocking me out of my genealogical moment. The cow lifted its tail and I realized what the trench in the floor was for.

So, in the end, I got to connect with my family history in a physical and emotional way, and although I understand the appeal of life on the farm, I prefer the city life.

On an upcoming episode of The Generations Project, college professor, Andrea, retraces her ancestry back to her Irish homeland. While in Ireland, Andrea visits a period-style potato farm to experience, firsthand, what life would have been like for Andrea’s strong-willed great grandmother.

How well do you think you could perform the labors of your ancestors? Did you take over the family business or did you make your own way in the world? Leave us a comment and let us know.

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Make your Photo Family Tree

Have you made your Photo Family Tree yet?

Make yours here.

You can customize it depending on the photos you have available or the family members you'd like to include. I made mine with my parents and grandparents, but you can include your kids, siblings, or even friends if you'd like. Even if you don't have any pictures, you can still make one and include your family names.

This is a great way to get your friends or family who haven't shown much interest in family history, well, interested in family history. I had a great time tracking down my grandparent's photos and designing my Photo Family Tree on The Generations Project website.

Once you've visited The Generations Project and made yours, upload it to your blog or Facebook page and help us get the word out: family history isn't just digging through dusty stacks and microfiche!

And leave a link to your Photo Family Tree in the comments section of this post!

Now get to work, er, play!
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Oral History 101

By: Josh Wheatley

( Picture take from Season 2 Episode: Tara)

For those of you with ancestors who lived in countries where little record keeping occurred or the records have been destroyed, continuing your family history may seem like an impossible task. Not so.

Often, oral tradition is strongest in the places where records have been lost or were never kept in the first place. People become much more important resources than documents; the trick is to find the living archive who has a good memory of what has been passed down.

Call relatives, ask them what they know and if they know anyone else who might know more. Keep contacting cousins, even if they are distant, until you track down the living source you need.

As a researcher for The Generations Project, I've been trying to find the Pakistani ancestors of someone who knew very little at the beginning of their search. Armed only with the phone numbers of an uncle and an aunt, I've developed a contact pool that now numbers in the dozens. Various contacts have told me several family stories that are fascinating in their own right, but, even better, these stories have helped me know where to look to find the few documents that do exist. I've discovered information about this family that I never would have come across had I not been guided by oral family stories.

What oral stories does your family have?
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"Why didn't I hear about this show before?"

Ever been to the National Genealogy Society annual conference in Salt Lake City? It's pretty interesting.

I was just there a few weeks ago to help spread the word about The Generations Project. We had a really cool booth set up which stood out pretty well among the rest. Maybe because it looked like we had ripped out a section of Ikea.

I went to the conference with three main goals in mind.
1. Increase awareness of the show
2. Find genealogists who specialize in niche areas and are interested in doing research for our show
3. Find cool stories for upcoming episodes

The four-day event really was fun and I loved talking to people from all over the world, even if some of them just stopped by to take a free truffle. (We were told several times we had the best chocolates at the whole conference. It really wasn't hard competing against the generic miniature candy bars. But thank you.)

"Why didn't I hear about this show before?"
Was the question I heard again and again from the hundreds of people we talked to.

Many were already fans of NBC's new show, Who Do You Think You Are but never knew there was a show that takes your average everyday person on a genealogical journey. They would say, "It's fun seeing celebrities, but we want to see people like you and me." Everyone was excited to hear they could even apply to be on the show. (Here's how - http://www.byutv.org/thegenerationsproject/yourstory/). I got to hear several cool stories and often found myself saying, "that's a great story, you need to fill out an application."

Overall it was a great experience and we informed a lot of people about the show. However, we still need to get the word out about this great new TV series. What do you think we can do to better spread the word?
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It's Good to Be the King

Sometimes when people research their family history they discover that they are descendants of royalty. It makes sense. I mean, if one bloodline were to be preserved over the ages, it would likely be a kingly one. Which raises the question, what would you do if you found out that you had royal ancestry?

First things first—get a crown. Nothing says “king” like a big jewel-encrusted crown made of solid gold. Of course, wearing a crown around town would make me look ridiculous—which is why I’d need a floor-length red cape with white-fur trim to go with it. A scepter would be cool, but I have no idea what I’d use it for other than pointing it at people that I’m addressing:

“You! Fetch me a goblet of root beer.” (As king, I would drink everything from a goblet.)

Finally, I’d commission a sculpture to capture my kingliness in immortal marble.

In all seriousness, what a discovery that would be! To learn that you have ancestors who bore a demanding mantle and who could have shaped the course of a people, a country, or even history. I imagine it would bolster one’s confidence to know that bearing responsibility is in one’s (royal) blood.

In an upcoming episode of The Generations Project, Hawaiian native Boyd tries to find truth in the family myth of his royal lineage. See what he discovers and what it means for him and his family.

What would it mean to you if you discovered you were the descendant of kings, chiefs, etc.? Leave your comments below.

And then bring me a root beer.
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Family Food Traditions

What are your favorite family food traditions?

Making your own root-beer? Green-eggs and ham on Saint Patty's? Making Sour Cream and Onion Potato Latkes for all the neighbors during Chanukah?

Visiting the same bric-a-brac diner to celebrate all family birthdays?

You may think that something as simple as, let's say, visiting the same diner time and again with your family, isn't all too important in the long run. But remember, these traditions are as much a part of you as are those blueberry pancakes in your stomach. These traditions become a vehicle for transmitting your culture. Sometimes even your family identity.

This week's episode of The Generations Project features some awesome Italian Food. Deanna, star of this week's episode tries to find a connection with her great-grandparents who were killed in a fire decades before she was born. She honors their legacy by preserving the beloved family recipe - pasta con sarde. (Watch her make it.)

What food traditions did your parents institute? Which will you continue with your family? Which have you stopped carrying on? And how has having family food traditions made you feel like you were connecting with your culture or family?

Lastly, how much do you love authentic Italian pasta?

Pasta Con Sarde

1) Finely chop two medium sized onions.
2) Mince 2 cloves of garlic.
3) Sauté the onion and garlic in olive oil in a sauce pan over medium heat until translucent.
4) Add in one head of fennel, chopped medium.
5) Sauté fennel until translucent.
6) Add one flat tin of sardines.
7) Stir into paste.
8) Separately, boil pasta until al dente (be sure to salt the
water with a big pinch of salt).
9) Chop 1/2 cup of fresh parsley
10) Combine the sautéed paste with the pasta in a bowl.
11) Throw in chopped parsley, toss all together until it is
fully combined.
12) Serve and enjoy

13) And tell us what you thought of it.
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What’s Your Name? (Who’s your Daddy?)

Almost immediately after something is created or discovered it is given a designation, a title—a name. The only exception to this would be the brooding artist who doesn’t want to name their artwork. (Ironically, their piece ends up being titled “Untitled,” so the joke is on them.)

But nowhere are names more important then when they are assigned to people. Some parents name their children after relatives as a way to honor or continue a legacy. Others choose names based on what has a nice “ring” to it. Then there are those who are named because their number is up. I fall into this third category.

My parents named me Dallas. That’s right, Dallas, as in ‘Texas,” “The Cowboys,” and the popular, prime-time soap from the 1980s. I got my name a few hours after I was born. Up until that time, my parents couldn’t decide on a name. They threw around “Adam” for a while but they weren’t sold on it. While still in the hospital, my mother, in frustration decided to go for a walk. Before she left, she threatened my father to “find a name for this boy or so help me!” My father frantically went through the book of baby names but found nothing. His anxiety grew as he heard footsteps coming down the hall and a shadow creep under the doorway. He knew that behind that door was a tired and hormonal woman ready to pounce. In desperation, he plopped the book down and let the pages fall open. He drew his finger and blindly pointed at the page. “Dallas” is where it landed (It could be worse, he could have landed on “Jeeves.” If so, I would have an entirely different career path).

Despite all the quips that come with a geographical name, I am happy that I have it. It is unique, and having a unique name has its benefits. For one, I have top pick of usernames when I create an email address. Best of all, the pressure is off. I have no namesake to live up to! On the contrary, I have the opportunity to create a namesake and legacy for my descendants. I have a responsibility to live in such a way that my descendants will be forced to consider “Dallas” as a possible option to name their kids (and I get to laugh from the sidelines as my progeny’s classmates learn that “Dallas” spelled backwards is “salad” with an extra “L”).

On an upcoming episode of The Generations Project, middle-school teacher John Searcy embarks on a journey into his family history to discover his namesake and legacy. Watch his episode to see what interesting things he finds out about the power of a name.

And speaking of the power of a name, how does your name influence your life? Or do you subscribe to Juliet’s observation that, "That which we call a rose / By any other name would smell as sweet"?
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Family Fact or Family Fiction?

All families have their stories. And as time passes these stories often morph from a run-of-the-mill account into a Paul Bunyanesque tall tale. Especially in a family full of hams like mine. The trick then becomes distinguishing fact from fiction in our family history.

One of my favorite family legends is about old Aunt Maud, my mother’s great aunt. As the story goes, an 80-year-old Aunt Maud loaded her frail body into her Caddy one dry Las Vegas night for a joy ride. And as she peeled through the sagebrush and open desert at bank-robber-like speeds, she flew by a police officer.

Compelled by the law, the police officer attempted to pull Maud’s Cadillac over. But flashing lights and sirens did little to deter old Maud, and she led the officer on a chase through the desert. When she finally pulled over the officer demanded Maud get out of the car. We can all only imagine his surprise when a tiny woman, old enough to be his grandmother, exited the car in her nightgown. We also can only imagine his even greater surprise when he approached the old woman, and she crumpled up her papery fist and popped him one in the nose.

Now, this is how I learned the story when I was a little girl. And I’ve always loved Maud’s moxie. But now that I’m a little older, if not a little wiser, I realize that Aunt Maud probably had dementia. And this tale of guts and glory is probably more accurately interpreted as a warning to my waning mind. But does that make the story any less valuable?

In an upcoming episode of The Generations Project adventurer Vicki Biss decides to follow a family story to its roots to determine once and for all what is fact, and what is fiction. See what unravels as she explores.

How important is it to you that your decedents have accurate information about your life? Or is it more important to you that they have a good story?

Be sure to tune in for Vicki’s story to see what she uncovers, and don’t forget to weigh in on your opinion of family fact vs. family fiction.
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Enjoying a Family Reunion

Yes, it’s possible. Trust me. Even if you don’t really know your relatives. Or even if you do know them. Or even if your parents signed you up for the Family Reunion “talent” show without telling you and you had to wing it by dancing to TLC’s “Waterfalls.” (I know. It was terrible.)

What kinds of feelings run through your mind when you hear the words, "Family Reunion?” Maybe you feel a little anxiety and begin thinking of excuses valid enough to explain your inability to attend. Maybe it's not that you don't care about your extended family, but you don't want to sit through hours of awkward activities with people you don't really know, or haven't seen in ages. Maybe you also hate talent shows.

Or maybe you've seen this episode of The Generations Project so you know that a family reunion can actually be pretty great.

It's got everything you'd want out of a family reunion, right? Great food, great weather, line dancing, grandfathers with cool hats. . . I could go on.

(FYI - this clip is from Durrell's episode. It's a great one where he learns about his entrepreneurial roots.)

In any event, Durrell's successful family reunion has inspired us to compile a list of ways to make family reunions enjoyable. Ready?

1. Have each family compile family stories ahead of time. Bring multiple copies to be shared with others.

2. Have everyone bring 5 old photographs of the extended family. Bring a laptop and a scanner to save the files. Send out a link to a web album a week or two after the reunion. (Flickr is a good place to start).

3. Invite everyone to bring family recipes to share. Compile them into a book.

4. Bring a video camera. Make sure to interview the oldest members of the family. Ask them as many questions as you can about their life.

5. Have story time for the kids. Choose animated members of the family who can share fun family stories.

Any more ideas? What has made your family reunions not just tolerable, but fun?