Monday, August 30, 2010

When an old man dies, a library burns to the ground.

Mary Ellen Chappell- 1956 ?
Ruth Chappell and George Miller
2002, Roosevelt, Utah
I have been searching for ancestors of my Father, George Theodore William Miller, who was adopted at age 14 in El Reno, Oklahoma in 1930.  His biological sister, Ruth Margaret Miller (originally HILKMANN) passed away eight years ago.  We just found her obituary, listing her immediate family....two daughters (my aunts) that I knew as a child, Betty Ann and Mary Ellen Chapell, now had new last names (Hembree and Sherwin).  I could find them and find my ancestors.  I did some quick searching this evening and found a phone number.  I called and Aunt Ruth's grandson (Mary Ellen's son) answered the phone.  His voice broke when I asked if I could speak to his mother.  I was excited; but he held back tears as he told me his mother passed away three years ago. 

I paused for a moment, then offered my apologies and told him of my interest in his family.  He seemed pleased that I knew his mother and had pictures and information about his family genealogy. He told me that he even had some Rose Bowl tickets from 1958, that his mother, aunt and I had attended in California. 

Ruth  Betty Ann, Virgil
and Mary Ellen Chappell
El Reno, Ok 1956?
I felt so badly.  Maybe my Link to my ancestor was gone.  I was too late.

It is said that "when an old man dies, a library burns to the ground." I hope that I have not lost too much.

I sent the young man some emails with family tree information and some photos of his mother and grandmother and great grandparents. 

Don't put off contacting your family.     George  

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Your Family History In Records

Herbert C. Legg, George's Grandfather
What kind of information can you learn about your ancestors by reading public records and documents?
We have pieced together a story of George's grandfather, Herbert C. Legg, from his birth in LeRoy, New York to his death in Palm Springs, California, using information from census records, draft cards, news articles, obituaries and personal histories. 

Come on a quest with us and see what you can learn:

World War I Draft Card for Herbert C Legg.
We have uploaded a few of these public records on flickrClick here to view them as a slide show.  Please note, these are images of text documents, many of which are handwritten.  Zoom in with your web browser to get a closer look. Then click the right arrow at the top of the flickr page to go to the next image.

Can you find:
Public Service
Special Note: Can you find a census record that indicates a maid living in his residence? What might that indicate about the Legg family's status?
What do personal histories add to an ancestor's story?

Good Luck!  Post your findings in the comment section below. 

Click here to begin your quest...

Getting Started with your Family History

Getting Started:

Family history can seem a bit daunting. We hear people say all the time that they want to do family history work but they haven't because...well it sounds like work. It can seem overwhelming and the most often heard phrase is "I don't know where to start!" Well don't worry. We've broken it down into 3 easy steps that you can do to get the wheel rolling.

Miller/Swain "Family Box"
When LaRee and I started with our family history, we found all sorts of papers, documents, photo's and the like scattered in various places. Picture albums, family bibles, boxes of papers handed down from grandparents and parents, etc. Here are few things you can do to get you started on your own family journey:

Miller/Swain Important Papers
1- The Family Box: Put everything you can find into a cardboard box. Start collecting anything and everything and put it your "Family Box." Keep it in a conspicuous place so everyone will see it and add their "stuff" to it.

2- Embrace technology: Computer technology will make the sorting, storing, finding, analyzing, and enjoying your family history materials much easier. Software (both free and fee) are available to help you. One of the best, and free is PAF 5.2 (Personal Ancestral File). You can simply download it on your computer and your family tree is ready for you to enter information.

Example of a Pedigree Chart
3- Fill out a 4 generation group sheet: Start with the basics. Write down everything you can about the biographical information of your ancestors. (Names, Dates, Places, Births, Marriages, Deaths, etc.) This information is essential for future searching to make up your pedigree. Click here to find a form and download a pdf.

Start there and you'll start to see holes that you want to fill in, or you'll see an interesting name or date and you'll want to investigate to find out more about that person. Is someone's death date around 1863? Did they fight in the civil war? Was someone born in England or Denmark and die in New York? Can you find out what ship they came over on or find them listed at Ellis Island? Do a dogpile, google or wiki search to see what you can find out. We recommed visiting and typing in the name of your first deceased ancestor, whether that is a parent, grandparent, start with the one closest to you. Put on your sleuthing hats and away you go!

PS if you have the means, a subscription to is well worth it, but you can certainly get started by utilizing he free search engines listed above.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Insight #1--Your Genealogy Activities

As you begin your Family History journey, keeping track of your discoveries in an organized way will help.  Write down notes about a particular ancestor before doing any research.  Before begining your search, think about what you want to find and write it down to help you remember what you are looking for. A research log is a great way to do this. 

1. Start with the full name of your ancestor.  Most search engines (Yahoo, Google,, FamilySearch

2.  Be consistent with dates and places.  A common method for a date is Day/Month/year: 2 Feb 1945.
A common method for notating a location is City/County/State/Country: Midvale, Salt Lake, Utah, United States

3.  Scan through  results of searches quickly.  Most searches will result with 5,000 to 500,000 results.  Many search sites will use a scale of stars (*) to indicate relevance.  The more stars the better.

Alma Anderson and Family, LaRee's Great Grandfather
4.  Involve your family when possible.  They may remember something about your ancestor that you didn't know. 

5.  Check out the Family History Library Favorites.... a great resource that is organized by geographic regional websites regarding national and internation genealogy searches.

6. Be sure to use a software program like PAF (free),, RootsMagic, or or more to store your records.

7.  Keep track of your results.  Use your research log to mark down your findings so that you can reference them later.

George 25 Aug 2010

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Coming Together Over Family History

Helen Nordquist and her father Axel.
Today two generations of the Nordquist family (George's maternal line) came together and met for the first time.  George's 3rd cousin Michele, lives just a few hours from our home in Park City, yet we have never met until today. In fact, we didn't even know we had any surviving realtives from the Nordquist line still living in the area. 

A few weeks back we received an email from Michele, who had been on and saw an entry we made to a relative on the Nordquist family line.  Wondering who was working on her family's history, she sent a us an email through the site's messaging system inquiring of our connection to the Nordquist line.  Come to find out her great-great parents Axel and Ida Nordquist are George's great grandparents! (Picutred above are Axel Nordquist - George's great grandfather -- and Helen Nordquist, George's grandmother).

We met today at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City where we were able to compare notes, family stories and discover commonalities between our family and hers.  What a fun example of how we can be connected to living family members as we search out those from generations past!

...til we meet again.

Monday, August 23, 2010

LaRee has some "Offshoots" of her own.

Carolyn LaRee Swain Miller  (LaRee) has quite a pioneer heritage in her family line.  Visit
Orville Hatch Swain Family Tree 2010

LaRee's genealogical interest started several years ago.  While helping her husband (George) recover from Liver Transplant surgery, they brought home a 50 pound box of genealogical papers from her brother's (Orvin) home.  It was loaded with pioneer stories, family group records, and lots of pictures of her ancestors.  They have spent the last two years putting it all together.  The stories and genealogy discovered have been a treasure beyond belief that has enlightened and benefitted their family. 

When you can, read the story of Orville and Ora Swain  They and their families were true pioneers whose legacy we all can marvel at!  See:  Orville Hatch Swain's Story.
Please stop by and visit George's "Offshoots" to the Miller/Swain Family Tree and see where he came from.
Miller Swain Family History Record 6122010

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George Miller

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Lilac Branches and Family Trees

The small, old branch shown here is taken from a giant lilac bush in the Francis Cemetery, about 20 miles East from Park City, Utah.  We, George and LaRee, went to this cemetery a while back searching for any ancestors who might be buried here.  Imagine our surprise when we found not one but 14 relatives!

Willet Shave Harder 7 June 1822 - 13 May 1902
The picture of the tombstone is that of Willet Shave Harder, LaRee's great-great maternal grandfather.  He joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints while he lived in England and soon met his companion, Sarah Spicer. 

As written by Ora May Anderson, LaRee's mother and Willet and Sarah's great-granddaughter: "Willet S Harder was a traveling Elder for over 10 years in England before he saild for Utah in 1861.  He was bishop of a ward that was organized on the ship of the immigrants there.  He was overseer of the company as the traveled to Florence and was gaurd all the way across the plains.  He came in the Ira Eldredge Company and reached Coallville on September 11, 1861.  Sarah Spicer sailed 4th of June, 1863.  When they reached New York, the Civil War was on in the States and they had to go up through Canada then to Omaha.  From there she travelled with the Rosel Hydes Company to Utah, reaching Coalvill October 12, 1863.  She married Willet Harder on November 21, 1863."   

Anderson Family Plot, Francis Cemetery, Francis, UT
Other ancestors of our immigrated to Salt Lake City throughh the church to the same area.  William Ove Anderson and his wife Dorothe came from Denmark. One of the Harder's daughters, Pamillia Ann, met one of Ove Anderson's many sons (he had 4 wives), Alma Gilbert.  Alam and Pamillia married in1885.  One of their children was Gilbert Willet Anderson, who fathered Ora May Anderson, LaRee's mother.  The picture of the grounds of the cemetery grounds shows the Anderson family plot in Francis, Utah.  The cemetry is abandoned today.  But you can still see the overgrown lilac bush that was planted when Alma and Pamilla's three daughters were buried here next to their grandpa, William Ove, and their grandma, Dorothe, more than 100 years ago. The lilac bush had an old, dead and withered branch that we cut and displayed in a vase in our home.  It is literally our "Family Tree."

Willet Shave Harder's headstone reads:
"We miss thee from our homeland,
We miss thee from thy place.
Our home is dark without thee,
We miss the sunshine of thy face."

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Welcome to our new blog on Family History!

George and LaRee Miller of Park City, UT welcome you to our Family History Blog. 

Here's how we got started, George's story:
A few years ago I was getting quite ill and was lucky enough to have life-saving liver transplant.  Unfortunately, I had to retire from my job at the State Office of Education.  As I began the recovery process I found myself searching for something to do.  LaRee, my wife, remembered a old box of family papers and photos stored under her brother's stairs in his basement. 

What a surprise was waiting for us!  Over 2,000 names of ancestors were laying a thick layer of dust.  Photos, group records, histories, and handwritten stories were lying waiting for someone to bring them to life.  What a treasure!

LaRee and I began the journey of piecing together our family tree.  Today, we find ourselves serving a mission at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, UT.  We spend 16 hours a week helping others find their past as we find ours.  We have been blessed by this journey and find a personal connection to our generations past.  We have learned that our family's history, is America's history.  These names on a paper have become real people, who overcame unimaginable trials to provide their children...and us...with a better life.

We will share stories that we have found as well as our process in finding them.  We look forward to more discoveries to come and invite to join us along the way.

George and LaRee Miller