Meet My Grandfather

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There are a few things that bring me pure happiness, and one of them is when I can use my creative talents and artistic ability to share my love of family history. It makes me so happy. A seriously deep joy that brings me so much satisfaction. I wish I could do it all day long, every day.

I have wanted my children to learn about their ancestors. Their stories, their heart aches, joys, trials and their personalities. I think it’s extremely important to know your heritage, to learn from their lessons, to find your own identity and to catch a glimpse of who you are.

But too often when we want to learn about them, we are given a very long type written, single space ‘life story’ to read.  It hardly makes you want to sit down and read it. (Unless you might be a bit crazy like me.) But most people would rather not. Especially kids. So over the last year or so, I have been coming up with ways to help my kids learn about these amazing people in a more visually appealing way. I want them to KNOW their family stories so that when life gets hard or difficult they will have the stories of their ancestors to fall back on.  To remember a story about their great grandfather, who went through a similar trial and how he persevered. I want them to know the faith that helped them do hard things, and I want them to emulate these great people in their own lives, and learn from the stories and experiences that might not have turned out so well.

I first decided I wanted to create a wall in my home of ancestor portraits. One that wasn’t just a picture of the person but would have other objects, memorabilia, or pictures that represented their life and their stories. I decided to start with my own grandfather on my mother’s side. So I created the image above.

But somehow I wanted my kids to know what all the images meant in the picture which then led to me putting together around a 20 page booklet of the stories behind the pictures. I also wanted it to be interactive for little kids, so I used the idea of ‘eye spy’ by having the kids find the object on the cover before reading the story.

book  This has been so rewarding for me. I have had really neat experiences choosing the stories, learning about the people and feeling a closeness to them.  When finishing up this booklet my mom decided she would like to share it with all his descendants and so we made copies for everyone. But as I was finishing the booklet up,  I felt my grandfather near. I felt really strongly that he wanted them to know that despite his many weakness, he wanted them to know that he did the very best he could with the lot he had been given in life. I felt deep in my heart that he was a very good man. I have always known this as I knew my grandfather growing up. But it was different this time.  I felt it in my entire being. He was a good man, and did the best that he could, and that he loved his family.  I felt that I should also include a poem in the back that he had written years ago on his mission that he had specifically written for his posterity and family.  It has been such a rewarding experience doing these little books. Even more rewarding when my kids see it and ask if they can find the pictures, or open it up explaining “this is my favorite story,” and reading it to their younger sibling.

Here are a few other examples of ones I have finished or are working on.  What are the stories of yours?

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Beach combing

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I had the chance to go on a vacation with my parents, siblings and their families for a week to the Oregon Coast. It was just what I needed.  Quality time with family, some down time, the wonderful ocean, and a chance to pull out the pencils and paint. Nothing beat the early morning walks along the beach. I could get up and exercise in the wee early hours every day if I just have an ocean to walk along.  Continue reading

Thursday Thriller

Let me introduce you to Richard Ballantyne, my 5th great grandfather.  He was a Scotsman who joined the church and came to America to join with the Saints.  Little did he know what kinds of trials and adventures awaited him.  During the time of great persecutions of the Mormons, he was kidnapped by the mob and held hostage for over two weeks. Being an avid journal writer, he left many amazing stories for his posterity to enjoy.  Here is the story of his adventure being a hostage to the mob…. Continue reading

Workday Wednesday

Elmo Astle with New Garbage Truck

This is my grandfather Elmo Carling Astle. He died when I was just a few years old and so I never really knew him growing up.  My father took over his garbage hauling business when he passed away and so I grew up riding in this same truck, and helping my dad haul garbage.  I loved these journal entries we came across though as we were scanning his journal in to digitize it.  I think my father could express similar feelings of those that his father wrote. “Same old grind of hauling trash all day in Afton and Alpine, Freedom and Thayne….” Continue reading

8 Minutes a Day

Last year I took an amazing family history class. One week was focused solely on journal writing and recording your daily life as it happened. She gave some great examples, tips, and suggestions on how to do this for the year and gave us a goal to spend only 8 minutes every day writing in our journal.  8 minutes is not very long. You can fold a batch of laundry in 8 minutes, we often waste at least 8 minutes on social media, often we’re waiting in lines or for kids or something for 8 minutes. Continue reading

Family History Mysteries

One of the resources I love to use for home school is the Friend Magazine that is put out by our church.  It works great for short devotionals before we start school and the kids love it. This year they are doing a Family History Mystery every month.  It is a mystery challenge for kids to do about something within their family history. I thought this would be a great project to work on throughout the year together. They loved doing this and I had no complaints about having to do some writing. Continue reading

Finally Some Snow!

It was beginning to look as if we would not have a white Christmas as the weather has been warm and beautiful. Weather that was warm enough for flip-flops and jackets.  We were excited to have a snow storm blow in Christmas eve, leaving us a beautiful white Christmas. It’s been freezing ever since, and the snow seems to be sticking around for a bit. Continue reading

Having Dinner With My 2nd Great Grandmother

The other night my family and I were able to have dinner with my 2nd great-grandmother Helene Maria Anderson Soelberg.  She was not here in person as she has been gone for 66 years. I never knew her, and yet yesterday she was here in spirit, smell and taste.  We caught a small glimpse of her for a moment.  The grandma who stopped the Indians from stealing her baby became even a little more real in my children’s eyes. With the smell of nutmeg in the air and a hint of in it the dumplings, we enjoyed the new taste of dumplings for dinner with our chicken soup and experienced a small taste of her Danish heritage.  For a few moments she was alive with us again. Continue reading