Exciting Rootstech Updates!

Have you signed up for Rootstech yet? If yes, awesome! It will be an exciting time!

If no, there is still time! If you register by January 25, you get the promotional price of $209! For more information: click here. Rootstech will be held in Salt Lake City February 27-March 2, 2019 (three months away!).

Rootstech is more than the world’s largest genealogy conference and informational sessions. Guest speakers and musical performances also mark the event. Already announced: Steven Rockwood, the president and CEO of FamilySearch; Saroo Brierley, subject of the award-winning film Lion; and ukulele artist Jake Shimabukuro, with more announcements to come!

Plus, the full list of sessions is now available! I have been going through each description with a fine-tooth comb. The session I am most looking forward to? The Magic of German Church Records by Katherine Schober. I have a ton of German ancestors, and I am always up to learning new tips and tricks to hunt them down!

Please let me know if you want any further information! And with the holidays fast approaching, a ticket to the conference would be the perfect thing to gift the budding family historian of the family!




52 Ancestors: Thankful

One thing this project has taught me is how lucky I am to exist. Writing down stories of ancestors who survived wars, unfortunate accidents, and of ancestors who came from all over the globe, it truly is a miracle that I was born.

I am constantly amazed that my parents even met. My dad’s family has been in the United States for hundreds of years, traveling the Oregon Trail and settling in the middle of Oregon. My mom’s family, on the other hand, traveled to the United States at the turn of the century, from Germany and Canada. Part of her family settled in the Midwest, while others traveled across Canada and settled in Washington.


My parents on their wedding day.


My maternal grandparents met in San Diego, where my grandfather would dock while in the Merchant Marines. It was only after the war when he could not find a job in Seattle when he moved his family to Oregon. My parents met at college.


On their honeymoon.


It really is a miracle that everything fell into place. Thousands of ancestors had to be in the right place at the right time. One death, one movement to a different place, and things would have been totally different.


Their first Halloween, 1978.



So today I am thankful for each of my ancestors. For the ones who left home and came to a new country and the ones who stayed close to home. Every one of my ancestors was right where they were supposed to be.

Until next time,




52 Ancestors: Random Fact

I have written quite a bit about my great-grandfather Chester Crowe, but the most surprised I have been in my research was learning where he died.

Chester and Myrtle Crowe, 1967.

Chester and Myrtle were big outdoors people and would go camping at all times of the year, something that is unusual for Oregon. And it was during one of these camping trips where on December 2, 1972, Chester died of a heart attack. They were camping in the Santiam Wilderness, in the Cascade Mountains.

Even more surprising, the box for hour of death on his death certificate is marked with a question mark. Myrtle woke up and found that Chester had died in his sleep. He was pronounced dead at 10 AM.

Death certificate
Chester Crowe’s death certificate.

And they weren’t camping in an RV; they were in a tent. My mom assumes they were in a campground, as Myrtle didn’t drive, but there is nothing nearby now.


Myrtle and Chester Crowe, Carol and Vickie Comstock
Myrtle and Chester Crowe with their granddaughters Carol and Vickie Comstock, c. 1972.

Oregon camping is usually limited to the summer, so seeing this on his death certificate was rather a shock.

For more about Chester, I wrote about my favorite photo, his time in the US Army, and his wedding.


Until next time,







52 Ancestors: Bearded

I had a hard time finding an ancestor with facial hair, as I seem to come from a long line of clean-shaven individuals. The few I found, I had already written posts about.

I did find one mustache worth noting, that of my 2nd great uncle Neil McCallum.


Neil McCallum portrait
Neil McCallum


Neil was born 12 October 1869 in Grey, Ontario, Canada, three years before his brother (and my great-grandfather) William. Neil was the sixth child of Thomas and Margaret.

Neil lost his mother at the age of 7 and his father at 16. He spent some time living in the United States around the turn of the century, even marrying his wife Margaret Stoughton in Eden Prarie, Minnesota on 12 January 1899.

Maggie Stoughton portrait lo res
Margaret “Maggie” Stoughton


Soon after they married Neil and Maggie settled in Vancouver, Canada, where they had three girls: Maud (born 14 June 1900), Bessie (born 12 November 1901), and Mabel (born 19 September 1903).


McCallum Family portrait
Neil and Maggie McCallum with Mabel, Maud, and Bessie.


My grandpa was close with his cousins Maud and Bessie, visiting them often, even later in life. My mom recalls many visits to Vancouver throughout her childhood. I wonder if my grandpa even named my mom after his aunt Margaret.

This is a short but sweet post, mainly to show off Neil’s great mustache.

Until next time,



Pumpkin Cookies

If Halloween had a taste, it would be these pumpkin cookies. I remember coming home from school in October to these freshly baked cookies spread out on the counter.

My mom got this recipe off a can of Libby’s canned pumpkin, and it has been our families go-to fall cookie recipe ever since.

Libby’s Great Pumpkin Cookies:


4 c. flour

2 c. quick or old-fashioned oats

1 1/2 c. butter, softened

2 c. firmly packed brown suger

1 (15 oz) can Libby’s pumpkin

1 c. semi-sweet chocolate chips

1 c. granulated sugar

2 tsp. cinnamon

2 tsp. baking soda

1 egg

1 tsp. salt

1 tsp. vanilla extract


Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Combine flour, oats, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt.

In another bowl (or mixer), cream butter. Gradually add sugars, beating until light and fluffy. Add egg and vanilla and mix well.

Alternate adding dry ingredients and pumpkin to butter and sugar mixture. Still in chocolate chips.

For each cookie, spoon 1/4 cup of dough onto a cookie sheet. (I used a large cookie scoop.) They spread a little, so leave room.

Bake 20-25 minutes, until firm to the touch and lightly brown. I baked mine for 20 minutes.

My mom used to add wheat germ to these as well, “to make them extra healthy,” she says.

These are an almost muffin-like cookie and oh-so-good!

pumpkin cookies close up

52 Ancestors: Cause of Death

Today I would like to share the story of my 2nd great uncle, the brother of my great-grandma Myrtle, Lester Erwin Sanford.

Lester was born 5 September 1896 in Woodburn, Oregon, the oldest of the eleven Sanford children. The family moved around a lot when Lester was growing up: as far north as Yakima, Washington, and south as San Jose, California, and even for a time along the Oregon Coast at Bandon.

Lester Sanford
Lester Sanford.

Lester served in World War I, leaving Hoboken, New Jersey on 24 January 1918 bound for Le Harve, France. On 5 February the ship he was traveling on, the Tuscania, was hit by a German torpedo. The Tuscania took over four hours to sink, at 10 PM. 230 were lost, 201 American troops and the rest crew. It was the first ship carrying American crews to be sunk. It wasn’t until 11 February that Lester’s mother Mabel was informed her son survived.

The entry from Lester’s diary, 5 February 1918:

Everyone ordered on deck with life belts on, as we were nearing the grave yard. had dinner, went back on deck, were told any one seeing a submarine, would be given $25.00 by the Captain of the boat. Had a boxing & wrestling match as the sea was smoother, was 5:00 p.m. so went down to my bunk to get my towel & soap & washed, was just combing my hair, when I heard an awful explosion, the lights all went out. we all scrambled on deck “saying take your time.” then I realized we were hit, we were in the Irish Sea between Ireland & Scotland it was 5:50 p.m. when we were hit and was pitch dark now so we fell in our places and the boats were lowered. my boat come down and before I could get in, it was full of other fellows that didn’t belong there. boats samashed to peices on the side of the boat and ropes broke. it idn’t look good to me so I stayed on board. men were jumping over board and were never seen again, men were floting around drowned. it was sure a terrible sight. so in about 2 hrs & 15 minuets three torpedoe boat distroyers came along side of us and we slide down ropes on them. I went down the Star Board Side on to a boat called H.M. Pigeon and we left for Port. we lost most of our clothes. we arrived at a place called Brunclanie, nearly frose from being wet, we marched to an Irish camp in Ireland 4:00 a.m. in a hurry.

Survivors from Tuscania Shipwreck.jpg
Oregon survivors from the sinking of the Tuscania.

Among the survivors with Lester was Harry Randall Truman, who died on Mt. St. Helens during the eruption on 1980 (Harry is in all the footage prior to the eruption, and quite a character here in the PNW).

The rest of his diary entries are pretty mundane. Lester spent some time in Dublin and London before being sent to France, where he dug trenches and cut logs during his time. It does not appear that he saw any combat.

Lester returned to Oregon and on 8 February 1920 married Myra Lena Roberts. They had one daughter, Mildred.

Myra, Lester, and Mildred Sanford.

Lester went to work for Southern Pacific Railroad as an Engineer. He was at work in Klamath Falls, Oregon on 19 September 1941 when there was an accident. The account of what happened was published the next day in The Klamath News:

According to railroad officials, the heavy freight, pulled by a huge Mallet mountain engine with the cab in front, hit the end boxcar, loaded with box shook, of a string of six standing in front of the express office building at 12:50 a.m. The impact shattered the cab and burst locomotive steam pipes which sprayed live steam on the three men, all of whom were in the Mallet control room. There was no one aboard the boxcar.

Picture of Train after accident
A picture of the train.

Lester was taken to the hospital but died a few hours later. He was survived by his wife, daughter, and both his parents. He was 45.

Lester Erwin Sanford
Lester Sanford.

And thank you to everyone who shared information about Lester on Ancestry! As I have written before, my grandma never mentioned many family stories, and this was one of them.

Until next time,






52 Ancestors: Conflict

The thing about coming from a large family is if there is something special about your family, something that isn’t a photograph or something that can be duplicated, only one person can have it. It’s just a fact.

My great-grandma Ida Borchert Gall was the oldest of six kids. Before my grandma Pauline Gall McCallum died, her aunt Katherine (Ida’s youngest sister) gifted her the family bible, which my mom then inherited. I do not know why Katherine didn’t pass it down to her direct descendants.


Pauline McCallum and Katherine Howell
I found this picture with corresponding information (in my mom’s handwriting) tucked inside the Bible.


However, this has created a conflict within the family. Others are upset that they were not given the Bible, while my mom has no problem sharing the content, but does not want to give it up.


Borchert family bible.



The Bible is stamped from Cincinnati, where the last four children were born and the family lived between 1887 and 1897. The pages are coming loose, and there are some momentos (mostly written in German) tucked inside.


Bible from German Methodist Deaconess Home in Cincinnati, Ohio.
The spine and pages are coming loose.
A memento stuck in the pages of the Borchert family bible, from Lincoln Glee Club.


The Bible is nothing special: it is written in German and is starting to fall apart. It does list the names and birth dates of all the children, including Katherine’s descendants.


The pages from the family bible. I am unsure what the last entry is (if anyone can help out!).
The children of Hermann and Dora Borchert.
The descendants of Katherine Borchert Howell.

I love this heirloom and being able to see my great-grandma’s handwriting. We don’t have much from her side of the family, so this is really special.

Thanks for reading! With my new menu, on the homepage, you can click on blog and it will dropdown 52ancestors, so all the back postings are easy to find!

Until next time,