Find My Ancestor Blog

Skeletons in Your Genealogical Closet – M. Bridget Cook

As mentioned in my earlier post about the St. George Family History Expo, which can be found here St. George FHExpo 2011 - Day 1 I mentioned briefly about the Friday evening event with author and speaker M. Bridget Cook. In this post I would like to go in a little further about this amazing night and some of the things Bridget talked about.

Handling and Healing the Skeletons in Your Genealogical Closet

During Bridget's speech she talked about her recent book she co-authored, Shattered Silence, the Untold Story of a Serial Killer’s Daughter as well as her other co-authored book, Skinhead Confessions: From Hate to Hope. Each of these books talk about real-life individuals that have had life changing effects because of the power of forgiveness, love and hope.

One of the main points from Bridget's speech is the point that we all have skeletons in our genealogical closet. We all have at least one ancestor that when we are researching we find a document or find an event that made our ancestor a criminal, infamous or something else that our first instincts wants to hide. She explains how these ancestors and the events in their lives are important for us to learn and are chances for growth and learning. As we learn and grow, hopefully our descendants will learn and grow too.

Do you keep a journal? Are you honest when writing in your journal? Do you only write about the good days you have and the fun events in your life? Bridget emphasized the importance of writing about all aspects of your life. The ups and downs make your life interesting. If you were to read a journal of an ancestor and all it contained were their accomplishments, good days and happy times, it might seem like they were "perfect" or it might seem to you like you could never "live the life they did".

By including the trials and heartache in your own history, along with how you were able to overcome them will give hope to your descendants. Maybe one of your descendants will suffer from the same physical, mental or emotional challenges you have to overcome everyday. Your words and testimony can be a great benefit for thousands of people. Write what you know, what you don't know, how you feel, your accomplishments, your shortfalls and everything in between.

Friday night was such an amazing experience to be able to hear from Bridget and how she herself has overcome challenges and trials in her life. She gave much hope and encouragement for us to do the same. I highly recommend reading more about Bridget and her books. The stories told in these books are very motivating and personal. You can learn more about Bridget by visiting her website

M. Bridget Cook is an author, speaker, and life coach who has been writing stories of transformation since she was young. Always curious and awed by the extremes of human behavior, she co-authored Shattered Silence, the Untold Story of a Serial Killer’s Daughter(Sweetwater Books, Cedar Fort 2009) with Melissa G. Moore, daughter of the infamous Happy Face serial murderer. She also co-authored Skinhead Confessions: From Hate to Hope(Sweetwater Books, Cedar Fort 2009) with former high-ranking white power leader TJ Leyden. In her writing, Bridget loves to inspire and be inspired by people from all walks of life.


Mobile Monday – MaxJournal

Disclaimer: The following reviews may have personal opinions in them. At the bottom of each review there is a link to purchase and download the app reviewed. By clicking on the links below you are helping support this free blog and Find My Ancestor. Thank You!

The following post continues the Mobile Monday Series reviewing various apps for mobile devices that help doing genealogy while you are on the go. If you haven't been following this series be sure to check previous posts:

Mobile Monday - Taking Your Genealogy Mobile
Mobile Monday - Articles
Mobile Monday - On This Day...
Mobile Monday - Book Bazaar

One of the best documents/artifacts we find while doing our genealogy research is journals and diaries. The great thing about these artifacts is that they were written first hand by our ancestors. They give personal information that census records, birth certificates, and even obituaries can't give.

Just as we want to find those journals and diaries of our ancestors, our descendants are going to one day read our journals and diaries. The following application is a great way to record your daily events and activities for future generations to read and enjoy. I personally do not have an iPad, but after reading this article I found the other day it makes me want to get on even more than before.

The following article was written by Susan Pigott at Macgasm


MaxJournal by Omaxmedia is a journaling app for the iPad($2.99). It offers several useful features in a beautiful, uncluttered interface. More importantly, it is a safe place to store your memories, offering passcode protection, several exporting options, and a backup method usingApple‘s file sharing via iTunes.
When you open MaxJournal, you are presented with a blank page on the current date with small tabs running down the left hand side representing the days in the month. Along the top the months are listed and the year appears at the top center. In portrait mode, that is all you see. In landscape mode you also have a column on the right hand side where photos and tags live. On the upper right (in both views) are buttons for export, search, settings, and help, and a “Today” button so you can always return to the current date. You can easily pick a specific date within the month by touching one of the day tabs on the left or within any year and month by pressing the year button and choosing from the pop up calendar.
Journal entry portrait 375x500 MaxJournal: The Memory Keepers App
Journal entry (Portrait)
To begin typing, simply touch anywhere on the blank journal page and the keyboard will appear. You can choose from a variety of fonts in several sizes, according to your taste. However, some of the fonts may not be readable in other programs if you export your journal.
Journal entry example w tags and pics 300x225 MaxJournal: The Memory Keepers App
In addition to your journal entry, you can add photographs and an endless number of tags. To add photos, tap on the plus button (in landscape mode) or the picture icon (in portrait) to access your photo albums and camera roll. Simply tap on a photo to add it. You are limited, however, to three photos per journal entry. The photos are visible in landscape mode as small thumbnails clipped to your page with a virtual paperclip. You can choose which picture you want on top simply by tapping it. To view larger versions of the photographs (or to delete them), press and hold on any one of them and the lightbox will pop up.  In portrait mode you can’t see the pictures, but the photo icon indicates how many pictures you’ve added to the entry. Press and hold the photo icon to view them.
Adding tags works similarly. Tap on the tag icon and a dialog box will open with a bar on top where you add tags. Type a word or words and press enter and the tag is automatically added to the entry. In addition, if you begin typing a word that has already been used as a tag, it will appear in the box below and you can simply tap it to choose it. This is helpful for tags you use often.
Export dialog 300x225 MaxJournal: The Memory Keepers App
MaxJournal offers several ways for you to export and/or back up your entries. Pressing the little outbox icon on the upper right will give you a pop up dialog with multiple choices. You can export single entries, a range or entries, or your entire journal. You can export them either by emailing them as text or in PDF format and as single files or multiple files. In addition, you can export entries to your desktop via Apple’s file transfer protocol. Since journaling is something both personal and vital for many people, it is also beneficial to back up your entries so they are not lost. MaxJournal allows you to do this too, although it’s a little involved. After pressing the outbox button, choose “Backup/Restore” and “New.”  A file will be created and listed in the box below, but at this point your work isn’t backed up. You must then attach your iPad to your computer, open iTunes, choose the “Apps” tab, and scroll down to “File Sharing” where various apps are listed. Choose MaxJournal and the backup file you want to save, save it to your computer, and now your work is safe (unless of course both your iPad and computer go up in smoke). Restoring a file works similarly, just in reverse.
Font choices 300x225 MaxJournal: The Memory Keepers App
You can search your entries via the search button on the upper right, and you can search text (which I prefer) or by keyword. MaxJournal will pull up all the entries that have the word(s) you typed. If you search via keyword, you have to be careful to type the word just as you did when you added it as a tag (caps and all) or it won’t be found.
The settings button only offers a few options:  font, font size, and password set up. You do have several fonts from which to choose, and, if you desire, you can password protect your journal. MaxJournal offers in app help via the question mark button (again on the upper right), making for easy access to questions you might have about the app.
What’s Macgasmic: I used MaxJournal to keep a record of our recent trip to the Grant Tetons and Yellowstone. I sat down with my iPad and reflected on the events of each day. It’s nice to do this, because after a few days on vacation, it’s hard to remember what you did earlier in the week. My husband was writing his journal using a LiveScribe pen, but he didn’t keep up with it. Halfway through our vacation, he had to borrow my iPad and MaxJournal to help him fill in his journal. This made me feel satisfyingly superior and virtuous. I enjoyed picking out pictures that represented the day’s events, though being limited to three made that task challenging (more on that below). Recording my memories in MaxJournal’s clean, beautiful interface was simple and intuitive. In landscape mode, you have almost the entire screen to type (the righthand side of the screen is taken up with the photo/tags column). In portrait mode, the entire screen is available, but I rarely do my typing in portrait because the keyboard is too small in that orientation. I love the search function because it makes finding particular events so easy—typing the words “grey tank,” for example, immediately brings up the day the grey tank in our RV fell out the bottom. Or, type “water heater,” and you get the riveting account of our RV’s water heater electrical meltdown. Ah, such sweet memories of our RV (which, in case you’re interested, is now for sale).
Journal entry portrait with pics 225x300 MaxJournal: The Memory Keepers App

What’s Not:  As I said above, I like MacJournal’s interface. One suggestion I have, though, is that in landscape mode you should be able to hide the righthand column so that you have more screen space for typing. Another weakness is that currently MaxJournal limits you to three pictures per entry. This, of course, is not enough for people with children or dogs. However, I’ve corresponded with Omaxmedia, and they assured me that in the next update more pictures will be allowed. So, your little angels (be they humanoid or canine) can be immortalized in higher quantities. Another weakness related to the pics is you can’t resize them or arrange them however you wish. They live in the photos column and not in the text itself. I would like to be able to insert pics into the text and play with their layout.
I also found that the method for viewing photographs is simply not very intuitive. I was puzzled by the fact that after I added pictures, I could only view the little thumbnails, and those were stacked on top of one another. If I touched them with my finger, I could rearrange them, but I still couldn’t see them very well. I had to read the instructions to figure out that to view photos you must press and hold the photo (or the photo icon in portrait view) until the lightbox pops up.
Exporting PDF to email progress 300x225 MaxJournal: The Memory Keepers App
Exporting the journal can be buggy, especially by email. The application crashed on me several times when I tried exporting. Apparently, you have to be careful about the size of your export (your email account provider may limit attachment sizes). So, even though you should be able to export your entire journal via email, you probably really can’t if it’s more than a few entries in size. For larger files, the best thing to do is save to your desktop via file sharing. Export via email should be reserved for individual entries or small portions of your journal.
There are a few things I would like to see MaxJournal add in future updates. One of these is integration with social networks along the lines of Momento (which is not yet available for the iPad). It would be wonderful to integrate MaxJournal with Flickr or other photography sites, for example, especially if you’re keeping a travel journal. And, I like how Momento allows you to incorporate Twitter and Facebook, so all your tweets/updates have a permanent home. Finally, I would like more customization options in MaxJournal. Currently, your only real choices to personalize your journal are the font and font size. Different “paper” choices, font colors, and journal templates would allow you to make the journal your own. Fortunately, customization features are being planned for a future update.
Some other exciting features are forthcoming, including support for multiple, password-protected journals. If an iPad is a shared device in a household, this option would allow several users to keep private journals on the same iPad. Or, an individual could create journals for different purposes:  a travel journal, a daily diary, etc. Omaxmedia is also working on an iPhone version of MaxJournal. This will be a universal application, so you only pay for it once. And, the best part is, the journal(s) on your iPhone will sync (via the cloud or bluetooth) with the journal(s) on your iPad."



Posterity Treasures – Keeping a Journal

Frank Gibson, resident of Henderson Nevada, gave a talk in his local church congregation about writing in your journal.

Keeping a journal is a great resource for both you and your descendants. It is great for you to reflect on the things you have accomplished in your life and to review the goals you set, and it is great for your descendants because it gives them a first account history of your life.

Below is a part of Gibson's talk focusing on why we should keep a journal.

 "Everyone should be a student of their own life, and your journal is your workbook. You write it yourself as you go along, page by page."
"I think that if you're going to make progress in any aspect of life, you have to keep track of that progress and you have to keep track of it somewhere," he said. "I think it's a good practice to use a journal as a workbook to keep track of progress. 

"I especially encourage people to write questions to themselves. It's so easy to ask the easy questions; we want to be able to ask the more difficult questions as we go along. 'What kind of person do I want to be? Why do I want to be that kind of person? What do I need to do to get from where I am to where I want to go?' It's a way to hold myself accountable. Without having to talk it over with somebody else, you can talk it over with your journal." - Frank Gibson

He later goes on and gives a 16-point journal "cheat sheet" on your life's journal. Here are the 16 points:
  • Note the date, time and location of each entry. As you review your journal, it will provide the context of where you were and what you were experiencing when you wrote each entry.
  • Keep your journal with you at all times. You can't write in it if you don't have it with you.
  • How often do you write in your journal? As often as you want to. It's your journal.
  • Using a journal is a simple discipline of thinking on paper. If you don't capture your thoughts and plans, they will soon be lost.
  • Use your journal to capture important moments in your life.
  • If you hear a quote, read something that strikes you, or have a question about your own life that you want to explore further at a future time, write it down in your journal.
  • Use your journal to talk to yourself about your life, and your progress towards fulfilling your life potential.
  • Ask and answer questions about your life.
  • Describe how you really feel, and what you really want for yourself.
  • Examine what is standing between you and the life you really want to live.
  • Paint a picture of the limitless paths you could travel in life.
  • Describe your ideal life, write a list of goals you want to achieve, and then write out a detailed plan to take you there.
  • Use your journal to help you express, analyze, ponder, explain, record, consider, and examine your life.
  • Answer the question: What progress am I making with my life?
  • Capture your personal history as you go along.
  • You may want to spend a little money on your journal, for the challenge then becomes to find something equally valuable to write in it.
To read the entire article with more tips and tricks, click here.