Archive | Family History

This blog is about family history / genealogy. From the beginning of time, people have sensed a need to belong – to be connected with others. Genealogy is a unique and personalized form of history, transferring photos, documents, medals, personal letters, and oral history from one generation to the next.
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An Heirloom Quilt – Preserving a Family Story with Every Stitch

[Editor’s note: Diane Miller shows how she has incorporated the story of an heirloom quilt into her family history.]

An Heirloom Quilt Preserves Family Memories by Flip-Pal

A Piece of My Family’s History through an Heirloom Quilt

Recently I registered our family’s 128-year-old heirloom quilt using The Heirloom Registry™, which is a new product from Houstory®. This online registry allows users to not only track their family heirlooms, but also helps to preserve and share the stories behind these precious items.

Every Heirloom Quilt Has a Backstory

When my sister became a snowbird, flying between Arizona and Washington State, she put a beautiful heirloom quilt (shown above) into my safekeeping with instructions to secure it in a fabric, not plastic, covering. It continues to reside with me as an honored ancestral artifact until it is ready to be passed along to other descendants of its fine seamstress.

I remember seeing this quilt around my family home while I was growing up. It was folded neatly and placed in the cedar chest with other woolen and fabric family treasures. As a little girl I would take it out of its secure hiding spot and stroke the soft brocades and rich velvets that made up the quilt. I would imagine what it would be like to have this colorful quilt on my bed to keep me warm in the cold Montana winters. But it wasn’t to be!

It was quite a few years later when it was placed in the safekeeping of my older sister, the quilter of the family. At that point I finally asked my mother where it came from and who made it.

Why Did Grandpa Have the Quilt?

My mother told me this story: “Your grandfather’s mother, my grandmother, sewed that quilt while she was carrying your grandfather.” (That would have been around 1885 in Chicago.) I asked, “Where did they get such beautiful velvets and brocades?”

She continued, “It is made from scrap pieces of upholstery fabric. I was probably named after her since her name was Agnes – Agnes (McComb) Caley. They moved from the Chicago area where they had a butcher shop to start a homestead in Montana around 1904. I guess she gave it to your grandfather as she aged. Then, as we consolidated your grandfather’s possessions when he moved to the nursing home, he gave it to me.”

Genealogy Sleuth: Researching a Family Heirloom Quilt

With that information I had a better understanding as to who made the quilt and the approximate time period of its creation. Through my research I was able to find two McComb women in the Chicago directories for 1880 and 1885. They were listed as working with “notions” and “worsteds” and I suspect that they were related—however, I have not been able to verify this information.

One important clue: the quilt is machine sewn, which I was surprised to discover since it was created during the early days of sewing machines. It would have been sewn on a vintage treadle machine, perhaps one similar to the 1885 model pictured here.

Heirloom Quilt - Is it machine sewn? That's a clue! by Flip-Pal

A historical Singer sewing machine. Photo by Thomas Gozdziewicz, 2004.

The quilt was not created using a set pattern; instead it is made from odd rectangles of vivid upholstery velvets and brocades. While it is starting to show its age, it only gets softer and more beautiful with time. Yes, a few pieces are frayed, but it wears that badge of age with pride.

Documenting the Quilt’s Story

Heirloom Quilt - how to find out about your family history through fabric

For a Christmas project  in October 2012, I created a cotton label describing the quilt’s history following these easy steps:

  1. Purchase inkjet fabric (backed so it will go through the printer) at a fabric or hobby store.
  2. Select a photo to scan for a label. I chose one of the quilter and her husband (shown above). Lucky for me the photo even had fancy designs on the edges!
  3. Use photo editing software such as Photoshop Elements to add text about the history of the quilt.
  4. Print the label on the treated cotton using an ink jet printer.
  5. Process the label according to the directions on the package to ensure that it remains age-safe and colorfast.
  6. Blind-stitch the label to the quilt for future generations of family members to enjoy.

Adding Heirloom Registry Labels to the Mix

When I received a selection of Heirloom Registry labels, I was not sure how to attach them to the quilt so they would in fact stay secure to the quilt. So I used a label suggested for furniture: a metal label with two holes that would normally be attached via small nails or screws to a piece of furniture. Instead, I used a button stitch to attach the Heirloom Registry label to the quilt label.

Heirloom Quilt Memories are preserved through the Flip-Pal mobile scanner

With the Heirloom Registry web page, I can continue to include the most recent history of the quilt. I can also document its many stories as well as how it has been put to use. The quilt has served as a backdrop for many photos on the Flip-Pal website, it has been included in a recent webinar and it even did duty in a Money magazine photo shoot!

The heirloom quilt makes a rich background for photos and now its history adds to that richness—a history that I’m very proud to share.



An Heirloom Quilt is a large piece of fabric that oftentimes does not leave the possession of the responsible family member entrusted with its’ preservation. Our Flip-Pal mobile scanner is the perfect tool to help you scan this precious item and preserve it in digital form for many members of the family to enjoy. See our videos for step by step information on scanning large format objects and using our special stitching software to put the pieces together seamlessly. It is a wonderful way to honor your family memories.

Did you enjoy this post? Please share with other family members!


Using Newspapers in Genealogy Research

newspapersArticle by

Newspapers have been around for centuries and are a wonderful tool for genealogy research. The very first newspaper ever printed in America was edited and published by none other than Benjamin Franklin’s older brother James. Before that, European nations printed weekly or monthly gazettes and other publically distributed publications, each with their own unique terms and wording. Newspapers have always helped to document everything from birth announcements and deaths to weddings, local gossip, legal notices, and transfers of real estate. We might even be able to find some long lost photos of family relatives hidden within their pages.

Obituaries and Deaths

Although death notices are usually published rather quickly in today’s newspapers, this was not always the case. In newspapers of centuries past, it is not uncommon to find an obituary printed in a local paper several weeks after the funeral has actually occurred. Be patient and keep looking because obituaries can provide a massive amount of historical information, including names of siblings, sons, daughters, and parents as well as the date and location of birth, any records of military service, the relative’s occupation, the location of the burial site, and even the church in which the funeral was held.

Birth Announcements

Birth announcements and christenings did not begin to appear in newspapers until the 20th century, but one of the more important pieces of information that we can find might include the legal or “real” names of the person who we are researching.   There are times when one of our relatives might have been known to members of the family by their middle name or a nickname that is completely different from the name on their birth certificate. If you are having trouble finding historical information on a particular member of your family tree, locating the birth announcement may prove that you have actually been unknowingly researching for the wrong name all along.

Society News, Weddings, and Local Gossip

Many local newspapers printed prior to the 1850’s might not include a designated section for wedding announcements like we have today. Instead, some of this information might be hidden within the local society news stories. Silver and golden wedding anniversaries might also be posted as well as brief mentions of relatives applying for marriage licenses. Prior to the Civil War, there may be stories of runaway slaves, forced land sales, and people moving to another town. There can even be stories of school activities that can provide some value information or photos of our relatives as young children, or we might find news stories of military heroes returning from war.

Odd Definitions of Relationship Terms

When our genealogy research begins taking us back to the late 17th or early 18th centuries, we might begin to notice some rather odd terminology used in the newspaper articles.

  • Bans or Banns: This is an old term used to define a marriage. A Banns Proclamation was a type of matrimonial announcement that would typically run in the newspaper for three weeks, every Sunday, prior to the actual wedding ceremony. It is still used today in some countries.
  • Consort or Relict: These are other antiquated terms for the husband or wife left behind after the death of a spouse. You might also find the words “spinster” or “bachelor”, referring to an unmarried woman or man, respectively.
  • Instant: This is a term used to define an event that was taking place in the current month of the newspaper’s publication. For example, the story might read, “Margaret Smith died on the 8th instant from tuberculosis.”
  • Proximo: This is a term used to define an event that was taking place a month in the future or next month. An example might be, “The wedding of Ted and Mary will take place on the 10th
  • Ultimo: This is a term used to define an event that was took place a month before the newspaper was published. An example might be, “Jones Mercantile opened its doors for business on the 26th

Managing the Newspaper Articles

Locating these newspaper articles and clippings is going to be difficult enough, but what do we do with them once we find them? After all, we probably don’t want to take a pair of scissors to these old documents, many of which will be found in libraries and county clerks’ offices. We could make photocopies, if we can actually find a Xerox machine nearby, that is.


Click image to watch video of scanning a newspaper article with stitching

The Flip-Pal mobile scanner is ideal for gently scanning those fragile news articles, death and birth certificates, marriage licenses, deeds of ownership, tax records, and old personal photos. The high-resolution scans will have perfect detail. And, any size original can be scanned in sections and then reassembled with the EasyStitch software. Watch this video to learn more.

Enjoy sifting through the wealth of information for genealogy research in newspaper articles!



With over 90 Million family records in the United States alone, is a leading provider of free genealogy information and free online collaboration tool for families to document their family history – create family trees, digitally preserve family photos, documents and oral traditions.

Policies for Handling Your Family Memories

Handling your family memories is important for preservation by Flip-PalBy Mary V. Danielsen of Documented Legacy

Now that you’ve spent months working to preserve your family’s memories, decide how you want the family archive to be handled by others. To ensure your family collection is available for future generations, we have developed some policies that you can share with family and friends when handling your family memories and others want access to your work. It’s compiled in the form of a letter. We suggest that you print out this letter and attach it to the boxes or binders where your family artifacts are stored. Feel free to revise them based on your own family’s needs. Every family is different.

Dear family,

I’ve greatly enjoyed being the custodian of family history and memories. There is an energy that’s shared when we talk about old times, the people in our lives, things that made us laugh, transitions, moments to remember, collected things and, even, changing technologies. Like genealogy, this is a fluid project. I’m thrilled you are interested to learn more.

Every good collection held by a museum or library has policies and rules that govern the entire collection. It should be no different with the work we compile protecting our personal histories. What we have compiled here are artifacts, really. Without care, we could easily lose a big piece of our personal history forever, without the possibility of duplication. Time and money has been spent compiling, organizing and keeping this collection safe.

Here are some policies for handling your family memories:

  1. Make an appointment.
  2. Plan ahead. If you’re working on a school project give yourself enough time to read, digest, copy, write and produce your final project. As the archive custodian I will assist you. College professors love to assign one week to acquire everything I spent years compiling.
  3. Come prepared. Bring your own equivalent of a preservation kit, but also grab the gadgets you use that will make this easier, like your camera, digital recorder, tablet, chargers, notebooks, and memory cards. Have both pencils and pens. Don’t forget to bring disposable gloves. They’re inexpensive and you can get an entire box at the grocery or drug store. Of course, pack your Flip-Pal© mobile scanner.
  4. Be patient. I have to explain details about how the collection is set up and organized.
  5. Put gloves on. Fingerprints and our body’s natural oils easily transfer to old documents and photos. Wash your hands first and then put on disposable gloves.
  6. No food or water in the area where you will be working. We’re all careful, but sometimes accidents happen. Make a practice of taking small breaks to get a drink in another room.
  7. Regarding loaners. It’s best if you come prepared to duplicate whatever items you need. We’d prefer that this family collection stay together.
  8. A place for everything and everything in place. In these policies for handling your family memories, if you take anything out of a file or box to view, photograph or copy, then put it back in the same place. (Leave yourself little notes about where you got it.) If you see any cracks, bugs, wear and tear or mold anywhere then alert me. If you know of a connection to anything in the extended family let me know. I’m always searching for new information.
  9. Help is always appreciated. If there is work that still needs to be done or a trip I’ve been meaning to take to get more information, I’d love your help. Let’s plan some time to get it done.
  10. Don’t toss it. If you see something that may look like garbage don’t throw it out because it might be important. Even a bookmark may have an important purpose in its location. Also, try to not cut anything out or tearing out pages – we are preserving things. Under no circumstances is any portion of this collection to be thrown out upon my death. I have left instructions in my legacy plan to help you in handling your family memories.

Feedback needed: Now that you’ve spent time looking through the family memories, let me know how it’s helped you, what you enjoyed and what you learned. What should we do next with this?

Tip: Remember to use the Family History box label – horizontal or Family History box label – vertical