Wednesday, November 11, 2020

Connecting Over the Distance this Holiday Season

Kim and I were going through some boxes last weekend and found some treasures.  We found some old cassette tapes we had made when we were in college to send home to the family.  He has sent tapes home from Pennsylvania to Wisconsin and I had sent tapes home from study abroad in the Middle East to Utah.  We didn't know each other then so it was fun to listen to our younger selves.  They were treasures that our families kept with our letters and then returned to us when we got home.  We knew they were there but I'd forgotten about them.  What fun to discover them now.  We need to bring them into the digital age and store them with our other family history items.  

Likewise, my family had sent an old VHS tape to me while I was abroad.  I found this tape a few years back and took it to our Thanksgiving celebration.  My little sisters were so cute at that age and we got to see them and show the video to their current husbands.  We ought to dig it out this year and show their kids.  I remember when I received the tape I was so homesick I cried and cried while I watched it.  And I put it away and never watched it again because it made me so sad.  But what a joy to find now.  Pieces of family history that captured the every day and time capsuled it into the future.  

So I have a proposal for you if you are missing the regular holiday get togethers this year.  Make a recording, video or audio, and send it to your family.  Perhaps different parts of the family who are apart can share videos with each other.  Don't just let zoom conferences fade into the past.  Capture something and store it with your other family history items.  It might not seem very important now, but trust me, later it will feel like a cache of riches.  

Perhaps you can use costumes or props.  But it doesn't have to be a special production.  Tour your house.  Show them the projects you've been working on.  Take them through a day in the life.  Talk about past family gatherings.  Talk about what you want to do in the future.  Teach them a new (or old) recipe.  Talk about your family from the past.  Talk about your family now.  Talk about the craziness of 2020.  Someday we'll be on the other side of this strange year and we will have forgotten all the details.  It will be interesting to see what future generations think when they find out what we've been through.  

So put zoom away for a little bit.  Connect over the geographical distance this year, and see if you connect over the years too.  And let me know how it goes.

Monday, September 21, 2020

Holiday 2020 Deadlines

Due to Covid 19, shipping has changed drastically (for everyone). There aren't as many planes flying, and that backs things up. Shipping companies are doing their best to get mail and packages out, but it is taking longer to get our packages to you. We cannot guarantee shipping times like we used to. Last minute gifts will be hard this year.

Which means...

We are announcing our Holiday Deadlines!

We want to have as much time as possible to work with you to create a perfect chart for you and your family. Please submit any holiday orders as soon as possible! The deadline for custom decorative charts is November 15th. If ordered after that, we can only send a preview to share with your family for the holidays.

We wish we could guarantee shipping, but if we have an early holiday deadline, that means we can give you enough time to create the perfect holiday gift for you and yours. So send us your files now!

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

It's Holiday Time! (Or rather, time for a SALE!)

 It's time for the Holidays (in September)!  I think most of us would agree that 2020 has been a doozy! So we, here at Family ChartMasters, have decided to try to bring some happiness to you in the form of our biggest sale of the year!

Normally, we do this sale in October every year. But we are ready to finish this year and move on (anybody with me?). So join us in bringing some family-chart-cheer this year!


When: September 15 - October 15, 2020

What: Buy One Custom Decorative Chart, Get One Copy Free!

How: Send your order to and use the code HOLIDAY2020 when you check out!

Buy one for yourself and send one to your family! Even if you won't be able to be with your family this year, you can stay close to your family and send them the gift of family in a chart!

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Resilience in Economic Reversals #ResilientRoots

My Great Great Grandfather started over again and again in his lifetime.  He had unexpected things happen that changed his financial situation many times but every time he picked himself up and started over.  He is a great example of economic resilience that we can look to now in times of economic uncertainty.  In fact, I find some comfort in the fact that he survived much, much more than anything I will have to now.  Family ChartMasters is doing very well considering the challenges the world is having and we are feeling very blessed for that. All of our employees have easily transitioned to working from home and we are keeping in touch with the tech tools my Great Great Grandfather never could have imagined.  It is amazing to imagine what he would have thought of our company today, and I'm hopeful that I have his grit and strength for whatever comes.

When Gaskell Romney was married in 1895, he and his wife Anna Amelia Pratt lived in Northern Mexico, descendants of pioneers who had survived many challenges to eek out a living in the desert.  After they were married, they built a beautiful farm and became very prosperous with good livestock and a thriving door factory and lumber yard.  They had a two story brick home with lovely landscaping, bountiful fruit trees and Gaskell was a leader in the community.  All this came to an end when the family had to flee with little more than the clothes on their backs from the Mexican revolution led by Pancho Villa. 

Gaskell took his building skills to Los Angeles for a while, but after two years of work with little to show for it, he longed to raise his family in a more rural setting.  So he and his brother moved their families to Idaho and bought a small potato farm in 1913.  The families worked hard to maintain the farm but with the economic effects of WWI, they were unable to make a go of it.  After two years of hard work, they decided to move their family south to Salt Lake City.

Arriving in Salt Lake bankrupt and in debt, Gaskell again started over building houses.  He worked hard and it took him twelve years to pay off all of the Idaho debts.  They returned to Rexburg, Idaho for a few years and prospered building homes until everything changed again in 1921 when the price of farm goods collapsed and the housing market followed. Gaskell found himself bankrupt for the fourth time. 

The summer of 1921 saw the family move back to Salt Lake City. Once again Gaskell put his architectural and building skills to work with the help of his sons.  Within 7 years he would lose Anna and two of his sons to tragic, unexpected deaths. 

Gaskell's son George Romney wrote: Even though Father was driven out of Mexico penniless, with a large family to support, went broke in  Oakley, Idaho, and later Rexburg, Idaho, and then again in Salt Lake during the great Depression he never became bitter. Furthermore, he didn't make me feel poor. He never took out bankruptcy, which he could have done several times. He and his son, Maurice, eventually paid off all his creditors.

His daughter Meryl likewise said she “never felt we were hard up. Our breakfast table in the tiny kitchen was a card table. Our two other homes had had attractive breakfast rooms. Mealtime was always a happy time for there was given love and spiritual uplift for meeting the day's encounters. We never felt poor or deprived. Daddy's great love, humor and concern were in abundance."

According to all accounts, he maintained a calm and gentle personality throughout his life.  He lived with a great inner peace that he attributed to his daily conversations with God.  His great courage,  common sense and integrity are a great lesson of resilience in the face of economic reversals.

Post written by Janet Hovorka, Owner, Family Chartmasters LLC

Monday, May 11, 2020

Viola Schwendiman Romney Talbot Thomas #ResilientRoots

Viola Schwendiman Romney Talbot Thomas (or Nama as we called her) is larger than life in my family history.  I've written about her here before.  Perhaps it is because she is straight up my matriarchal line, or perhaps it is because she had such a dramatic life, perhaps it is because she is the great-grandparent I knew the best or perhaps it is because she had many similar life experiences to mine, I feel very connected to her.  I've felt even more connected to her lately.  I've added the following photos to my desk last week, to help me feel her strength in this challenging pandemic time.  

Nama and her mother Ethel Schwendiman on the left, later in life.  The last pictures we have of Douglas with baby Doug and Eila on the two outside photos in the triptych. The only photos we have of Viola and Douglas together in the center of the triptych.  

I've been reading the history my mother wrote about Nama again with adult eyes.  Eyes who have been through alot more of life's messiness than the last time I approached her story.  I remember my mother interviewing Nama for this history on her porch when I was probably about 8 years old.  I was mesmerized with Nama's story telling and the amazing life she had.  But I never saw the depth of what she went through until recently. 

Last week, my mother and I took a little trip to see the houses where this part of my family history played out.  This house in particular was so moving to me. 

I don't know who lives there now, so I'm not going to record the address here, but it is in our family records.  It was here that Nama lived with two young children, Eila and baby Doug, when her husband Douglas left for a business trip to Colorado.  On that business trip, Douglas died of a burst appendix.  Nama was able to get to him in Colorado and say goodbye, but when she returned to this house, she was a widow at the young age of 26.  That event forever changed the course of our family.  Douglas was the great love of Nama's life, a faithful father and industrious community member.  He had saved $10,000 in a little canister in this house, and left Nama all of the information on his insurance and accounts when he died in the spring of 1928.  They had paid off the house and a car.  One would think this young widow was set, but Nama didn't know how to make it through the pain. 

Whittier Church, site of one of Douglas' funerals
Douglas had two funerals and the whole community mourned for a life cut short, a young widow and her two children who were not old enough to remember their father. 

Yale Church, site of one of Douglas' funerals
What I never noticed in her history, before now, was that when she came home, both her father and her father-in-law promptly borrowed $2000 each from this young widow to help with their own dire straits and never paid her back. She was unable to go back home and have her parent's help and her mother was a week away by letter. Her Mother-in-Law whom she had adored had died shortly before and Nama didn't get along with her new Step-Mother-in-Law. No one wanted her to go to work because mothers just didn't do that in those days.  And she had no support when she decided to go to business school.  She had a friend who helped with babysitting. But for the most part she was on her own as she navigated how to move on with life and especially the grief she had for her fatherless children.

When Gifford Talbot, her second husband came along, it seemed that he could help her get out of all the problems she was dealing with. Beyond all the other issues she faced, she also had the husband of one of her friends trying to marry her.  She said in her history that "I would have never married him in this world or the next, I don't think." But she married him after only knowing him for three weeks.  Her step mother-in-law fainted when she told her, and she only told her parents afterward.  He was good to her and her children and my grandmother adored her step-father.

Apartment building where Nama again heard the devastating
news that her second husband had unexpectedly died.
Gifford and Nama were planning to move to Phoenix in 1946.  Gifford went ahead and moved for work and bought a house in preparation for Nama to follow.  This time, the president and vice president of the company showed up on her doorstep to inform Nama that Gifford had unexpectedly passed away.  At age 44 she was instantly a widow again. 

My mother said that she remembers Nama always saying that she "needed a Miltown." Nama was always anxious that something else hard was coming her way and I really understand why.  When you go through something so shattering, out of your control and unexpected at a young age, it gives you an unsettling fear about what is coming around the corner.  I have a similar fear from similar circumstances but I'm working to deal with that in more constructive ways.  I also am thankful for more of a support system than Nama had.  She went on to have a happy life and worked through everything to be wildly successful in business.  I'm working on creating that strength too.

Wednesday, May 6, 2020

Adapting in Trying Times

This is my paternal great - grandfather and great - grandmother. Their names are Benjamin Butler Wallace and Rosa Olive Owen. They met and married in 1916. They had seven children, six boys and one girl. They had a family farm, and a daily milk route. They did not have much by worldly standards as they raised their kids. Despite not having much, Benjamin always thought with his heart and made sure to do everything in his power to make sure that his children were given everything they needed and that his wife was treated like a queen. These two individuals showed their children that with hard work, love and faith you can not only survive, but you can be the difference in other people’s lives. 

During the Great Depression, their dairy operations continued, but not all of their customers were able to pay. My great-grandfather knew that even though some of the folks on his route couldn’t pay (and they couldn’t necessarily afford for people not to), the milk that he was delivering was a necessary part of their diets. So he continued to deliver and told them not to worry about paying until they could afford it. He also allowed for the trade of goods or services and payment during these hard times. 

My great - grandmother, Rosa, had a motto, “Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without.” This is a motto that was definitely lived by. My great-aunt, their daughter, Dorothy, recounted in her memories a great example of this. “When I was four years old, Mom made me a dress out of her old one on her treadle sewing machine. (She mentioned this in her diary.) If something could be used again, or for something else, it was accomplished. Mom even ironed the Christmas wrapping paper that had been used so it could be used the next Christmas. During the War, flour bags were made of material printed with attractive designs. I remember how excited I was when Mother made me a dress from one!”

Learning more about my ancestors, constantly gives me a greater appreciation for the sacrifices they made and for the life that I have.

Post written by Amberley Wallace, Designer, Family Chartmasters LLC

Saturday, April 11, 2020

Resilience During War

This is my paternal grandfather, Owen Wallace, he was nothing short of amazing and resilient in every way. Born the second out of seven children, he grew up working hard every day on the family farm. When WWII broke out, he was drafted into the Army. He was a part of the invasion of Normandy on Omaha Beach and earned the bronze star for his valiant service. He also received the Golden Glove award for amateur boxing in the Army. 

When the war was over and he returned home, he sent word to a beautiful woman he met during his time in Europe. He married that woman, who became his first wife, his “war bride,” Berta. He had two sons with Berta and they ended up getting a divorce not many years later. He continued to farm and raise their two boys, until he met my grandmother, Angeline. Angeline already had six children of her own, but they fell in love and he ended up adopting my dad as his own son. Owen and Angeline had two more children together. A real life “Yours, Mine and Ours” story. And this man worked hard, delivering milk along his milk route, right up until he died at age 82. Everyone who knew him remarks on how hard of a worker and loving of a man he was.  

I will forever be grateful that he kept a detailed journal of his life and his experiences during the war. This man epitomizes enduring hard times and coming out on top and moving forward.

Post written by Stacy Wightman, Designer, Family Chartmasters LLC

Tuesday, April 7, 2020

Hard work through challenges: Anders Ferdinand Gregersen #ResilientRoots

Andreas Ferdinand Gregersen's father died in the war between Denmark and Germany when he was only a year old.  His life in Denmark changed from that point on.  He and his widowed mother were very close, and his mother wanted the best for him.  When he was age thirteen she sent him with her friends the Madsens to Immigrate to America and she planned to follow the next year.  They would never see each other.  Andreas missed his mother for the rest of his life.  

Perhaps the letters from his mother were the motivation for his joining the pony express when he was 18 years old.  He worked all of his young years in heavy work, taking care of the "town herd" of cows, clearning and planting hundreds of acres.  He lived with several families that took care of the young boy and taught him English, writing and math in the evenings.  Eventually he found work cutting timber for the railroad and with the wages he made, be bought a strong wagon and some horses.  He witnessed the driving of the golden spike when the railroads from the east and west came together.  After his work in the railroad, he turned to the Nevada silver mines and began hauling food, wood, and bullion over long dangerous rocky trails to the mining communities.  After six years of hauling goods, he had saved considerable money and decided to visit the families who had helped him in his youth.  He returned to visit the Sylvesters whose daughter Althea had quite grown up.  Andrew left to add to his means so that he could take care of a wife and then soon returned to be married.  Eventually they moved to Silver Reef , Utah where they had a very comfortable life.  They had servants, dressed lavishly and celebrated holidays in great style.  Althea always dressed up in the afternoon for Andreas' return from work.

Eventually they purchased a ranch from a renowned agriculturist with many well developed fruit trees, grapes and beautiful gardens.  They had apples, plums pears and almonds and worked to preserve and bottle all the fruit.  Their home was situated at the crossroads of between two well established settlements so they had many visitors and lots of people came to trade and buy fruit.  Andreas continued to work the mines.  They had ten children and educated them well with the many books and musical instruments they had at the ranch.  Eventually the children all left for colleges graduating as teachers, business people, dentists, and lawyers.  In his later years, he took exquisite care of his mother in law and continued to urge his mother to come to America until the dreadful day he received the black edged letter that announced the death of his mother.  He sobbed and sobbed and no one could comfort him.  Andrew was kind and compassionate because of his loneliness as a young man.  He was healthy and loved to play jokes on people.  His children all came to say their last goodbyes as he passed on July 26th, 1922.  

Andreas was my great great grandfather.  I hope I have those good hard working genes in me.  I do like to play jokes on people and I love my mother, but I'm glad that I've never had to be separated from her as Andreas was.  He was a hard working participant in the amazing settlement of the Western United States.  

Taken in part from "The Life of Andrew Ferdinand Gregerson" written by his daughter Althea G Hafen.  
Post written by Janet Hovorka, Manager, Family Chartmasters LLC

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

George Welton Ward and the Ward Family Legacy

George Welton Ward has the distinction of establishing the Ward family legacy in America. Throughout his life, his name was synonymous with a positive example and industrious work ethic – honorable characteristics that would shape the family’s solid reputation for generations.

Here is a journal entry from George's treacherous voyage across the plains:
"While traveling one Sunday afternoon, a violent hailstorm came up, and before we could all get our teams unhitched, the storm was on us in such fury that many of the teams ran away and jumped into the Platte river. Hailstones as large as hen’s eggs fell, and people were obliged to cover up their heads with quilts and blankets for protection against the frightful pelting. Some took refuge under the wagons until the storm passed. Some of the wagons were overturned and many persons were hurt. The singular part of it was that half a mile up the road there was not enough rain to lay the dust. The storm was local, and did not extend more than half or three-quarters of a mile in every direction. In more recent years these local storms have been known as ‘cloud-bursts.’

When we arrived at the Black Hills we were all worn out. Our cattle were footsore, and the horses having no grain, were weak and tired. Our provisions began to run low, and things looked decidedly squally. It was getting late in the season, and father was fearful we might get caught in a snowstorm in the mountains, when allmight perish with cold and hunger."

Despite all the adversity he was faced with, George left a legacy of hard work. George Welton prided himself in doing his farm work carefully and systematically. He trained his family of boys to be thorough in their work, as well. Because of his training, the work of George Welton Ward’s family drew attention among their neighbors. Edwin Cordon remarked, “There wasn’t a man that could stack grain to shed water like George Welton Ward."

I'm grateful to George Welton Ward for establishing the legacy of my family in the United States. #ResilientRoots

Post written by Katherine Ward, Marketing Director, Family Chartmasters LLC

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Hortense Carpenter: Stepping up to a challenge #ResilientRoots

I've talked about my Paternal Grandmother on the blog before, and I've spoken far and wide about the resilience she blessed me with through a quilt she made for me.  But I've never written much about the resilience she showed in her own life.   She was a strong lady who instilled lots of fortitude in me that is coming in handy right now.

Hortense Snow was born April 25th in 1911.  She was the daughter of  Erastus Beaman Snow Jr. and Rosina Christina Gregerson.  Her mother grew up on a ranch with lots of books, was college educated and taught school before she married.  She loved literature and taught all of her children about the importance of an education.  She loved to travel, entertain and use the good china--all qualities she instilled in Hortense.  

Rosina ran a dress shop in their town and Hortense was always impeccably dressed.  She learned to sew, play the piano and the clarinet, traveled and served a mission for her church.  After graduating from school and returning from the mission, one morning her mother came downstairs and said, ""Hortense, I've not slept all night. I have been worried about you. I don't think you should go to San Diego. You have said several times you might like to go to BYU. Get yourself ready and go on to college. I don't think you will find San Diego the same place now that your mission is over. I would like to keep you here to run the dress shop for me. I have considered selling you the business. I know you could manage the shop and do a good job, but I won't make an old maid, out of you." So Hortense packed up and left for college the next morning.   

Hortense was nervous about going to school but she enjoyed her home economics classes and decided to major in that.  She was president of her sorority and had lots of friends and boyfriends.  When she was about to graduate in the sprint of 1934 her mother took ill and died in April.  Rosina insisted that she graduate and not come home to care for her or she might not graduate.  Hortense did graduate with her teaching credentials and accepted a job at a high school for a year before returning to take care of her father and the dress shop.  

That fall, one of her teachers came to the shop to visit and encouraged her to go on with more school about consumer education and bookeeping to be better at managing the shop.  So Hortense left again after Christmas to continue her education.  There she met my Grandfather G. Alvin Carpenter.  After two years of writing letters, they married June 10th, 1938.  Hortense worked for the State Extension Staff as a clothing specialist until they married and moved to Reno Nevada. 

After stints with Alvin's job in Reno and Berkeley, CA, and getting his PhD at Cornell in New York, they settled in Logan, Utah and began to raise a family.  Hortense put her homemaking skills into her three children, Paul, Don and Colleen.   She was a wonderful mother and taught the children to be hard workers with a couple of acres of fruit trees, gardens. chickens and a horse.  Hortense canned and froze all of the vegetables and fruit that they raised.  She made sure the children all had piano, speech and art lessons.  During this time she finished her work on her MS degree except for the thesis.  She also renewed her teaching certificate.  Little did she know how valuable that would be soon in her life.  

After 16 years in Logan, Alvin moved the family to work for the University of California at Berkeley in 1956.  Shortly after, Alvin was diagnosed with diabetes and Hortense became worried.  To quote her son Don, "She wanted to make sure she could support the family if necessary.  So she began as a substitute teacher and then accepted a full time position teaching home economics at Alhambra High School in Martinez California.  This proved to be a great blessing in her life.  Not only did the extra income help during the children's expensive college years, but it gave Hortense the added peace and assurance, increased self-confidence and new opportunities to serve others in ways that were rewarding and satisfying.  Having raised her own children, she felt more competent, and qualified to teach foods and nutrition, clothing, family finance, and family life than she ever felt as a young college graduate teaching home economics."

After 12 years of teaching, Hortense retired at the same time Alvin retired from UC Berkeley.  They moved to Provo, Utah to be closer to their grandchildren and Alvin worked for 10 more years as a part time faculty at BYU.  It was then that I got to spend most of my time with Grandma.  Each grandchild got to visit by themselves for a week and Grandma taught us how to sew, needlepoint, cook and we went for long walks in the mountains where she taught me the names of all the wildflowers. She organized summer sewing and home economics classes for the children in the neighborhood with her many sewing machines and the room she kept full of fabric. She made her granddaughters beautiful clothes and we had huge family dinners on Sundays and holidays. She loved to hear the piano recitals her grandchildren would perform and she used her many sets of china and dishes for entertaining.   She taught me that I was going to college, it was just a matter of which school I picked.  She knew that it was best for a woman to be prepared to have a career, even at a time when many women didn't.  

I'm thankful for a grandmother who taught me so much about kindness, faith, and courage.  When she passed, 6 years after Alvin did on July 6, 1991, she left a great legacy of determination and drive that I draw on today.  

Post written by Janet Hovorka, Owner, Family Chartmasters LLC

Monday, March 30, 2020

William James Reynolds #ResilientRoots

My grandfather, William James Reynolds, was born on 1 April 1919 in Sandpoint, Idaho.  As a child he contracted rheumatic fever, and it ruined his heart.  Despite this permanent health challenge, he proved to be quite resourceful in providing for his family.  Right out of high school, he started working for American Airlines.  After a time he needed heart surgery, and the airlines laid him off rather than giving him sick leave.  Obviously he needed to do something different for employment, so he bought a mattress company for $2000.  He didn't know much about the business but learned very quickly on the job.  Several years into his "career," a man approached him and asked, "Do you do upholstery too?"  My grandfather replied, "Yes"--despite knowing nothing about it.  He figured out how to do it as he went along and eventually did upholstering regularly.  He taught his wife and 3 children how to do many tasks in making mattresses and upholstering, so it was something of a family affair.  Through it all, he worked very hard and was often exhausted--but he refused to stay home.  The day came when he was too tired to go in to work, and he was never able to go back.  He died at age 47 of complications caused by a medication he had taken to strengthen his heart (Digitalis).  He was a great example of tenacity, tremendous work ethic, flexibility, and determination.

Post written by Stacy Wightman, Designer, Family Chartmasters LLC

Friday, March 27, 2020

Resilience in a Health Challenge #ResilientRoots

 I've written before about my maternal Grandmother Eila Mae Romney Dana.  She was a beautiful lady and a wonderful grandmother to me.  She was always generous and I never doubted for a moment that I was the favorite.  She grew up in challenging circumstances.  Her father died of an appendicitis attack while on a business trip.  That left her mother, Viola, as a single mother in 1928.  Eila and her younger brother Douglas were only 7 years and 2 years old.  Her mother went back to business school and then to work at the local department store while Eila and Doug were shuttled back and forth with family and friends.  Shortly thereafter, Viola married Gifford Talbot and Eila had a step father.  They moved several times while Eila went to school so she got good at making new friends.
I've written here about how Eila married my grandfather Darrell Dana in the middle of World War II and he shipped out the day after they were married.  Truly they were part of the greatest generation.  They made alot of sacrifices when they were first married, but they ended up in Southern California and raised three beautiful children.  My grandfather worked for United Airlines as a mechanic and then always had a second job as well to support the family.  Eila served in her church and took care of the children.  They enjoyed a few vacations when Darrell could get away and went to Disneyland as often as they could.

In 1967, just months after her oldest daughter (my mother) was married, Eila was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis.  She started dragging her feet and couldn't do anything about it.  It quickly got progressively worse.  She was in the hospital when she received a note that my parents had called to tell her they were expecting me.  They released her in a wheelchair to go home for Christmas.  She was able to get up and around some over the next little while, but essentially when I started walking, she stopped walking.  Our trips to Disneyland included a stroller and a wheelchair.  

We visited my grandparents often to try to help as much as we could, so I got to spend a lot of time with my Grandma Dana.  She was a gentle soul and a great example to me of faith and peace amid crisis.  I don't remember her before the disease so I don't know if it made her more peaceful and ok with whatever comes.  But when I knew her, nothing rattled her.  I went to visit them by myself for about a week when I was about 8 years old.  I remember going out into the kitchen and trying to cook something--I'm sure I was making a mess. Grandpa was at work and it took great effort for Grandma to come down the hall and see what I was doing.  So she'd call to me and ask what was going on.  She was so patient.  And I have very fond memories of that trip and many other moments with her. When VCRs were invented, we watched many many hours of Disney videos together.  We loved Pooh Bear the most.

I never heard her complain although I knew she was frustrated with MS.  I heard her moan and grumble in pain when Grandpa had to lift her, but I never heard her speak a frustrated word about her situation.  Grandma and Grandpa looked for cures and help to get her walking again all through my childhood.  There was always some new hope that would help.  But nothing ever did.  Thankfully, medicine and help for MS would come, but by then, the disease had done too much damage.

One of the great ironies of their later lives were the chances for travel they had because of Darrell's career at United.  They had free tickets anywhere they wanted to go but it was so hard to travel with the wheelchair.  They bought a camper so they could visit their family members, and they did get to take a grand trip to Europe with their son Ken along to help.  Luckily they were able to move closer to the family in 1991 and they were able to stay close to their siblings, their kids and of course their grandchildren.

I remember lying next to Grandma in their adjustable bed watching TV one day when a program about Christopher Reid came on.  He had been paralyzed and was in a wheelchair.  She  shook her head and said, "I just don't know how he does it."  I don't remember if I turned to her and said, "Grandma, you're in the same situation." but I certainly thought it.  It didn't even occur to her that she was dealing with the same challenge.  It just was and she just dealt with it.
Alot of credit needs to go to Darrell too.  My Grandfather took exquisite care of her their entire life.  He rigged up a system in their bathroom so that she could use it without help and could be self sufficient while he was at work. At a time when men didn't take care of households, he took care of everything.  He was so good to her.   

Eila died in 2000, 33 years after her initial diagnosis.  She was the epitome of grace during a challenge.  The day she died, my mother sat with Darrell and thanked him for all of the years he took such good care of Grandma.  He said to her, "When you have something so precious, you take good care of it."  That is what both of my grandparents were to me--precious.  The 32 years I had with them were such an example to me, of true love, of perseverance, and of resilience.  I'm so thankful that I carry their DNA.

Post written by Janet Hovorka, Owner, Family Chartmasters LLC

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Resilience After Losing a Child

This is Mary Jane, my great, great grandmother. I came across this picture in my family tree and wanted to learn more about her. Upon doing some research, I found out that she witnessed her son's death by gunshot in their living room. What a tragedy this must have been for her and her family, but Mary Jane made it through because she knew they would be reunited again. During this time of uncertainty, I find comfort knowing that my great, great grandmother was able to make it through such a tragedy with such optimism.

Below is the memory recorded by one of Mary Jane's grandchildren.


Post written by Kathryn Ward, Marketing Director, Family Chartmasters LLC

Family History for Right Now

Several years ago, there was much ado about Bruce Feiler's article in the New York Times entitled "The Stories that Bind Us."  In it he talked about how family history stories give kids resilience.  His assertions were based on some studies done in the Psychology Department of Emory University.  There, in the Emory Center for Myth and Ritual in American Life, Marshall Duke, Robyn Fivush, Jennifer Bohanek, noticed that children who knew more about their family history did better in therapy.  They created the "Do You Know" test with 20 questions about family history.  They found that the children who scored the highest on on the test also scored higher in tests of feeling like they have a sense of control in their world, lower levels of anxiety and more resilience.  

A sense of control in the world, lower levels of anxiety and more resilience!! Exactly what we all need--no matter what age you are--in these surprising, challenging, crazy pandemic times.  

Now is the perfect moment for each of us to look to our ancestors for strength and inspiration.  Now is the perfect time to instill those stories in our family members to lower anxiety and produce more resilience.  When you tell a family story, in person, over social media or over video conferencing, you are creating more peace in the midst of the storm.

SO, we've decided to look to our ancestors with you, over social media, our newsletter and etc. with the hashtag #ResilientRoots.  We hope you will join us and share your ancestor's stories of faith, resilience, patience, perseverance, flexibility, optimism, kindness, grace and connection.  We're excited to share ours with you.  I think we can all find the hope we need already inside us.  It is in the very DNA they gave us.  

Watch over the next couple of weeks:
Here on the blog

To read more: 
My previous writings about the science behind family history:

Bruce Feiler's RootsTech Keynote:

Fivush, Robyn. Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia; Bohanek, Jennifer G. University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, North Carolina; Duke, Marshall.  Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia.  “The Intergenerational Self: Subjective Perspective and Family History.” in F. Sani (Ed.) Individual and Collective Self-Continuity.  Mahwah, NH: Erlbaum, 2007. Available at

Fivush, Robyn. Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia; Bohanek, Jennifer G. University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, North Carolina; Zayman, Widaad. Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia.  “Personal and intergenerational narratives in relation to adolescents’ well-being.” In T. Habermas (ed.). The development of autobiographical reasoning in adolescence and beyond. New Directions for Child and Adolescent Development, 131. 45-57. 

Friday, February 21, 2020

New front page for our website

Congratulations to Alex, our super programmer for another accomplishment that the rest of us think is magical.  Often his magic is spread behind the scenes, but this time it is out front where you can enjoy it too.  We have a beautiful new front page.  Check it out:

Go to to check out the full effect.  I think it shares our message better.  Let us know what you think in the comments below, and be sure to send in your family information for a free consultation so that we can get started on a chart for you!

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Creating a Digital Will.

Next week I'm presenting a new lecture entitled "Creating a Digital Will" at RootsTech.  The topic comes from a need I found last year.  As I presented another lecture entitled "Heirloom, Documentation and Junk: What to Keep and What to Toss" across the country, I had dozens of people come up to me after every lecture asking about more information on digital wills.  Clearly, genealogists had been digitizing their family history but had not thought enough about how to preserve their digital past.

So I proposed this lecture to RootsTech and it was accepted.  It is something we all need to be talking about so that our digitized information is safe for future generations. If we don't preserve our digital life, our great grandchildren may know more about our great grandparents who wrote regular letters than they do about us and all of our emails.  To avoid a digital dark age in this generation, we must ensure that our records are accessible in the future with attention and a plan. Our digital footprint is subject to constant change and items are easily lost or destroyed when a subscription runs out, a bill is not paid, there is too much information to digest or even just a computer crash.

Of course I'm not a lawyer so this lecture is a general survey.  Participants are encouraged to consult a lawyer in their local area to ensure that they are working within any laws that effect where they live.  A digital will should never be included in a Last Will and Testament because once the testator dies, the will becomes a public document.  Likewise, digital assets change so quickly, a digital will needs to be updated without having to formally change a will.  A digital will can be referenced in a will but should be a separate document.

The lecture discusses what needs to be included in a digital will, and the survivorship policies of the popular websites for genealogists.  But the actionable part of the lecture is the six steps you can do to secure your digital legacy.  
They are:

  1. Collect a list of all your digital assets.  
  2. Once you have a complete list of digital assets, fill out the list with logins and passwords.  Add answers to security questions, pin numbers, account numbers, and security codes for all web assets and hardware
  3. Leave instructions for your wishes and designate an heir for each asset.  List which assets should be archived and saved, which should be deleted or erased and which should be distributed to family, friends or business colleagues.   
  4. Secure your list of assets, logins and passwords.  Because digital assets are subject to constant change, a digital plan must be easy to maintain so that it is kept up to date.  In some cases a good old fashioned piece of paper and locked case may be more secure.
  5.  Appoint a Digital Executor.  A digital executor will work with the executor of your Last Will and Testament to distribute your digital assets.  
  6. Whenever possible, digital information concerning family history can and should be disseminated among family members now for additional preservation whenever possible.
There is a lot to talk about concerning how we protect our digital history.  I hope you'll join us next Wednesday at 9:30 for the full discussion.  When you have a plan and get organized, you can make sure your family history assets and current history are preserved for future generations.  

Thursday, February 6, 2020

Annual Favorites 2020: Special Occasions

We love helping you celebrate your family's special occasions.  Anniversaries, birthdays, engagements, weddings, or any family milestone can be commemorated with a family history chart.  These charts tell the origin story of your family and how you all came to this place.  And charts make a wonderful unique gift.  Your family history is something you share with the recipient that no one else outside the family shares with them; it is unique to your bond.  

Be sure to click on any of the charts to see a larger version with all of the details.  And join us at any conference this year to see the actual prints.

A birthday present for the researcher's brother showing the brother and sister and the brother's son with all the family's photos.
A baby gift from Grandma showing a little girl's maternal line.

A beautiful birthday present for Mom showing off her Eastern European heritage.

This chart could be a beautiful present for Mom and Dad from their daughter.  With color coding for each of the family branches and the gorgeous water color tree in the background it is a family history to be proud of.

Let us help you celebrate your family bonds with one of our amazing custom family history charts.  It is simple to send in your information for a free consultation with no obligation to purchase until it looks perfect.  Just send the information to  One of our designers will help you come up with the perfect chart to mark your special occasion.