Tonight ‘Finding Your Roots’ Season 3


‘Ever since the miniseries “Roots” was shown on ABC in 1977, Americans have demonstrated a keen interest in finding out more about where they came from and the names and circumstances of their ancestors.

Harvard University professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. is fulfilling that longing in the latest installment of the PBS series “Finding Your Roots.” Next to “Downton Abbey,” which is again drawing large audiences in its sixth and final season, Mr. Gates’ program (premiering Jan. 5) is the best and most compelling television you will ever see.’ (Cal Thomas, Washington Times, 01.05.16)

Family history, a perishable commodity

I wish

Something to consider as you contemplate personal goals for 2016 —

Having completed three major, personal family history projects this past year — I can say that, without exception — a common theme throughout the process was wishing I had asked more questions of my now deceased grandparents and great-grandparents.  The good news is that Dad and Mom, ages 90 and 88, were able to share memories from their childhoods and early adult lives. It was fun to see how much they enjoyed the experience and also seeing the end products — one video and two books. Three cousins as well as six aunts and uncles are gone. It was a powerful reminder that n-o-w is the time to start preserving family history.

Family is everything


In the words of Michael J. Fox, ” family is not an important thing, it is everything.” Why not resolve to start preserving your family history in 2016?

A Christmas gift that keeps on giving


Last spring 20 of my 26-living Kerby cousins emailed me, with a bit of encouragement, their recollections of our grandparents Pearl Nolan and Charlie Kerby — born in the late 1800’s.  I combined them, inserting family photos from 1896 forward, to create a book of memories — also incorporating photocopies of letters written by Charlie and Pearl along with one written by his mother Etta in 1945. It detailed her four grandson’s WWII activity in different parts of the world.  Two surviving wives of Mom’s brothers, now in their 80’s, made  contributions as well.  Aunt Dorothy’s short story about a ‘serious’ 1939 childhood paint-fight with her sisters was a perfect fit, along with Mom’s memories of growing up in rural Idaho during the Depression.  Mom is one of two living siblings from a family of eight. Oh, how I wish I’d done this 20-30 years ago.

The 50+ page document went out by email to all of the families on Christmas Eve —

It is not too late for the perfect gift


Looking for a special last-minute gift for a loved one?  Why not write a story? You could describe a trip or other special time you spent together, a memorable incident from the past or even the story of your life. Not only will it be an extraordinary gift, experts say that developing and passing on a strong, unifying family narrative can increase the odds that your family will thrive for many generations to come.  (from ‘The Stories That Bind Us’, NY Times, March 15, 2013)

New mother-in-law


Chelsea and Joe are engaged! Long-time friends since their days at Lewis Clark State College, they are busy making plans for a June wedding. One of the first things Chelsea did was commission Family Matters  to create a family tree – Christmas gift,  for Pam, her soon-to-be mother-in law. Already great friends, they are shown here in the bridal shop just after Chelsea chose her wedding dress and presented the tree to Pam.

Preserve vintage baby clothes

BabyDressDesignersGuild DadBabyConnie

Designer’s Guild (UK) posted the nursery photo today on Instagram. The framed baby dress, on the left, reminded me of the pinafore I’m wearing in the snapshot taken with Dad 65+ years ago. Pinterest has several creative examples of baby clothes displays. My plan is to use an archival shadowbox for framing the pinafore. Over generations an item like this becomes a priceless heirloom. What a wonderful shower gift for a daughter or niece — your framed dress — or even hers.

Cyber Monday Special! — free DNA test recommendation

Whether it is a special gift for a loved one or to satisfy your own curiosity, DNA testing is hot. The first three requests to Family Matters for help selecting the best test will receive a free ‘consultation’.

The majority of DNA testing, for genealogy purposes, is done by three companies: Family Tree DNA, 23&Me and Ancestry. Though ethnic composition results, as well as the cost (about $99) are similar for each — the companies vary in their primary goals and the other services they offer, along with the test. Those differences should be factored into the selection of which company to use.

Ellis Island


Between 1892-1954, Ellis Island was the first stop in the US for more than 12 million immigrants. It is now home to a wonderful museum and Family History Center. Niece Chelsea claims that visiting Ellis Island was the highlight of our 2005 long weekend in NYC, celebrating her high-school graduation.

The Ellis Island Foundation supports an online searchable database of over 51 million records at Imagine the thrill of seeing your ancestors name on the actual passenger list of their immigrant ship.

The American Immigrant Wall of Honor is a permanent exhibit of immigrant names. It is the only place in the US where an individual can honor his or her family heritage at a National Monument.  The names of individuals and families inscribed on the Wall of Honor represent all ethnicities, all years of arrival, all points of entry, and all modes of travel. They are inscribed for posterity as gifts of remembrance through donations made to restore and maintain Ellis Island. To learn more, visit

Family history celebration

IMG_2092The Christopher family arrived in America, on the SS North American, late in the summer of 1865. Recognizing that historic event was the perfect excuse for a party — to share the story with my extended family. Dallas Roberts at Advantage Advertising, brother Chuck’s firm, created the video from information I’ve been collecting over the past 20-years.  Dad and his twin, Melvin, who celebrated their 90th birthdays in June, were the guests of honor. The weather was Palouse Country fall-gorgeous, the food tasty and the mood merry.