Moments That Change Us


Everyone remembers at least one moment in time that is clear and distinct from all others. As we mark the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington through news stories and events, we reflect on the moments in history we remember. Below we have three interviews on events that are clear and distinct to the people of Saving Memories Forever.  As you read their stories, we encourage you to take the time to preserve and share your “historic moments” with the people you love.

Question:  “What historic event meant the most to you?”

 My Moment by Jen Baldwin               Jen Baldwin

Without doubt, the moment that affected me to my core was September 11, 2001.

9/11 affected me directly and personally.

When it happened, I knew that the United States would punish those who attacked. I knew that meant war, and I already understood something about war from the time my big brother enlisted in the Army Reserves. He was a soldier in the Gulf War. I was only in the sixth grade at the time and knowing that my brother, who I adored, was in danger was incredibly scary for me.

9/11 took me right back to that emotional place. Only this time, I was mostly focused on my sister and her family.  They live on Long Island and my brother-in-law commutes into the city every day for work.  I watched the horrific images on my television, and I was terrified by them. With communication lines overloaded, it took two more days after the attack for my family to hear from my sister. Luckily, they were OK, but my brother-in-law was only two blocks from the Twin Towers that morning.  It was close. Too close.

That’s when I felt it. There was something happening in the country that was more powerful than my family’s worries.  Throughout the country the gap between Republicans and Democrats, old and young, black and  white seemed to disappear. We were all just Americans, defending our land, our people and honoring those that we lost that day.  This adjustment in attitude towards each other is what I remember best. It was the first time that I can recall when we acted as one united nation.

September 11, 2001 is an event that I recall with a heavy heart, but also with hope. We pulled together that day. Our basic beliefs are the same and no matter how passionately we disagreed with one another, we can work together.  That basic level of understanding is what I hope to pass on to my own children, along with the memories and emotions of that day.

SMF-Jane1My Moment by Jane Baker

My “moment” is a series of events– all of which happened in the 1960’s.

It started with John F. Kennedy’s election as President. It was the first time that voters had elected someone outside the norm: young, Catholic, and charismatic. His election signaled a change in the nation.

Two years later I remember the March on Washington.  I watched it on our black and white TV. I was amazed by the ocean of people. Intermingled. Black and white. Locking arms with each other. I was proud of my cousin who was actually there. I saw the crowd, heard the “I have a dream speech”, and recognized the power of people coming together.

Just months later, JFK was assassinated. It seemed impossible. My classmates and I rode the bus home in silence.  Again, I watched the story unravel on TV. I remember watching the riderless horse in the funeral procession.   Five years later, (May 1968) MLK was assassinated. Then –only a month later–came Robert Kennedy’s murder. So many powerful, charismatic people killed. I was confused. Scared. Shaken.

But life went on. Lyndon Johnson assumed the presidency within hours. Andrew Young, Julian Bond, and others assumed  leadership roles in the civil rights movement. Scarcely a beat was missed. It was a seamless process.

The five years between Kennedy’s election and Robert Kennedy’s death taught me something. Humans are capable of great good and great evil. We can promote understanding and we can destroy. The overriding lesson was hopeful: we are a resilient democracy. We learn. We evolve.

4s2013 681My Moment by Rosetta Okohson-Reb

My moment is September 11, 2001. This is my generation’s Pearl Harbor.

I was a freshman in High School, and I can recall exactly where I was when the news came through. I was in Chemistry class.  Despite the fact that school had only started two weeks prior, the initial excitement of being back in school had already worn off.  I was sitting next to Holly Parker as  Mr. Thornhill droned on about the experiments and labs our class would cover.

Just minutes into the class, the principal burst through the door and told us to turn on the television. Our class sat and watched in horror as the first tower went up in flames. How could this happen? In America?

The class bell rang and students rushed into the halls. Girls hugged their friends. The loud speaker came on directing students to their next class and we were placed on a lock down.

I grasped a few things from 9/11. First, I learned that tomorrow is not promised to anyone. Neither is security. We can no longer relax like we could prior to 9/11.  I’m a Saint Louis Cardinals fan. When I attend a game, there is a security line, and that’s OK. But in the back of my mind, I think something might go wrong.

9/11 taught me several lessons: life is precious, and living means changing and growing.  We need to reach out to others.  After 9/11 people in my school, neighborhood and church communities supported each other. I learned it is possible for people to come together as a community, to set aside pettiness,  to build on tragedy and to create a stronger bond.

This is the story I will tell my niece who was born just days ago.

Genealogist Jen Baldwin is the owner of Ancestral Journeys. She writes for a variety of publications, speaks regionally on genealogy-related topics, co-hosts #genchat on Twitter and owns Conference Keeper. She also is the Director of Operations for The In-Depth Genealogist. Jane Baker, co-owner of Saving Memories Forever, likes to blog about little things in everyday life that strike her fancy.Rosetta Okohson-Reb, a Saint Louisan, spends time with her two beautiful dogs and living for Post Season at Busch Stadium. Go Cards!!


Sound the Trumpet


A few days ago (August 18th), women across the United States should have had a big party. It’s unlikely that many did. But they should have… because August 18, 2013 marked the 93rd anniversary of the adoption of the 19th Amendment.

Nineteenth Amendment, you mutter. Yes, that’s the part of the Constitution that gives a woman in the United States the right to vote and hold office. It was a significant milestone in the push for equal rights for women.

The idea that women were equal to men wasn’t an overnight development nor did the issue gain support uniformly across the country.  The seed for the idea was planted in 1840 when Elizabeth Stanton met Lucretia Mott at the World Anti-Slavery Convention in London where they were not seated as delegates because they were women.

Eight years later (1848), the two women held the Seneca Falls Convention, a meeting that is largely regarded as the official start of the women’s rights movement. Two years later Susan Anthony, the famous temperance and labor leader, joined them.

The movement focused on voting rights as a key to getting equality, and it was not just an American issue. Internationally, in the late 19th century, women gained limited voting rights in Sweden and Finland and full voting rights in New Zealand. In most Western countries, women’s suffrage only came after World War I with the notable exception of France (1944) and Switzerland (1971). Things are still happening in the 21st century. Did you know that in 2008 women were given the right to vote in the first national elections in Bhutan?

The change in women’s drive to full equality in the US continues slowly to this day. In the 113th Congress, women hold 20% of the seats in the Senate and 18% of the seats in the U.S. House of Representatives. Given the fact that 50% of the U.S. population is female, this representation is disproportionately low.

Women in Your Family


Consider how much you really know and understand about the women in your own ancestry. How many of them crossed the plains to homestead claims with uncertainty, threats, and the vast wilderness in front of them? Who was the first in your family to fight for her rights? To advocate for her equal partnership? These unrecognized warriors in the women’s movement deserve the acclaim as well.

Today’s Women                               

Today women routinely participate at higher rates in national elections than men in the United States. While progress has been made, I wonder if the women’s suffrage movement has been forgotten by historians, and even more so, by women?  Do our daughters fully appreciate the lesson that women won the vote? They were not given it.

Recently I asked 25 women in my local community; “What do you think of when I say ‘women’s suffrage?’”  I was distressed to find a significant number of women had no idea what I was referring to.  When I explained it, all of these women said they would teach their daughters about the suffrage movement and how it is relevant today.

Would they have taken that road had I never asked the question? I don’t know.

Here’s my call to action for all of you. Do not forget this time. Make a point of teaching this lesson.  Tell the history and the stories of women in your family. They deserve to be remembered for what they did, and the women of our future need to know.

The chart below highlights some of the milestone events that led to the passage of the 19th Amendment.

        Timeline of Women’s Suffrage Movement in the United States

Click here to view our interactive timeline.

Click here to view our interactive timeline. Hit the back button to view the blog post again.

Jen Baldwin

Genealogist Jen Baldwin is the owner of Ancestral Journeys, specializing in the Rocky Mountain Corridor. She writes for a variety of publications, speaks regionally on genealogy related topics, is the creator and co-host of #genchat on Twitter, and owns Conference Keeper. She also is co-creator and Co-Chair of the NextGen Genealogy Network and is the Director of Operations for The In-Depth Genealogist. You can connect with Jen on her website or on social media.

Connecting the World

By Jen Baldwin

reaching handsHere’s a riddle.

What project involved three countries and took 126 years to complete? Need a hint? The countries involved in the project include Spain (in the 1500s), France (in the 1880s) and the United States (in the early 1900s).

Answer: The Panama Canal

Here’s another riddle. What was the focus of research started in the mid-1800s by a monk and today serves as the basis for evidence in criminal court cases around the world?  Hint: Consider Dolly, the sheep, and her claim to fame.

Answer: genetics

This week’s blog began as a focus on the 50-mile Panama Canal. The canal officially opened on August 15, 1914, so this week marks its 99th birthday. However, as I researched the Panama Canal and considered my own life, I saw a larger picture and felt drawn to that as well. In the end, this blog focuses on the idea of connection between people and families.

Building the Canal

steam shovels, panama canalThe idea behind the Panama Canal started when the Spanish colonized the Americas. Spanish monarchs, eager to receive the riches confiscated from Peru and Ecuador, ordered the first survey. Construction plans were drawn up, but put on hold when wars in Europe took priority.

Over a century later, a French engineering company, flush from its success in cutting the sea level Suez Canal, followed suit. Construction began in earnest 1881. It didn’t go well.  An estimated 27,000 workers died, mostly due to diseases such as malaria and yellow fever. Financial mismanagement eventually forced the failure of the company and the project was mothballed.

In 1904, the United States took over the project. A team mostly led by John Frank Stevens, a veteran of the Great Northern Railroad, convinced President Roosevelt that a canal with a large dam and locks through Panama was realistic. It took ten years and 56,000 workers to complete. Without Stevens’ experience with large-scale engineering projects and the lessons learned from the French, it would never have been accomplished.

The impact of the canal cannot be overstated. Travel time between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans was immediately cut in half. When the canal first opened in 1914, about 1, 000 ships passed through the canal each year. Today that number has grown to over 14,000 vessels per year.

Some would argue, however, that the significance of the canal goes beyond the amount of vessels or tons of cargo. They would argue that building the canal was more than creating a shorter path between two oceans. With the canal’s completion the world changed suddenly into a smaller and more accessible space.

Today the impact of the canal seems as slow as the pace of the ships passing through it.  However the completion of the canal created a long-lasting connection and the world is different as a result.

Understanding DNA

DNA manDNA was discovered in the mid-1800s when scientists performed some basic experiments with plants and chemicals and found a new substance found only in chromosomes.

In the 1920s, research on mice made it possible to deduce that DNA was the molecule of inheritance. However, the current picture of DNA as the carrier of genetic information didn’t emerge until 1953 with the breakthrough double helix theory of James Watson and Francis Crick.

DNA research has come a long way. Who would have thought that DNA would be used as evidence in criminal cases around the world? Who would have thought that it would result in the cloning of animals or that DNA holds the real possibility of tracing the common origin of humans on earth?

We are now trying to collect and understand the DNA of the entire human population.  By taking our own DNA test results, and combining them with half a million others, we are writing a human origins story. The Genographic project currently being conducted by National Geographic (here) may prove to be, as their website says, “the greatest journey ever told.”

With 605,000 participants in over 140 countries, the project focuses on our human connection.  Since the start of the project in 2005. “our human genetic roots” are becoming clearer.

Today’s blog is about connections. The Panama Canal connected one ocean to another and changed the way we think about the world. The Genographic project will connect the human race and change the way we think about each other. The Panama Canal connected us as neighbors. The Genographic project will connect us as family. Where will it lead?  What stories will we be able to tell future generations about projects and discoveries during our lifetimes that connected the world?

Jen BaldwinGenealogist Jen Baldwin is the owner of Ancestral Journeys, specializing in the Rocky Mountain Corridor. She writes for a variety of publications, speaks regionally on genealogy related topics, is the creator and co-host of #genchat on Twitter, and owns Conference Keeper. She also is co-creator and Co-Chair of the NextGen Genealogy Network and is the Director of Operations for The In-Depth Genealogist. You can connect with Jen on her website or on social media.

Clowning Around

Clown Smiling

By Jen Baldwin

Do you remember it? The discarded peanut shells beneath your feet; the aroma of animals, popcorn and cotton candy mixed together. The sound of the carni music, the laughter and excited talk as the lights eventually began to fade… the applause, the anticipation as the Ringmaster stepped into the spotlight, magical and ornate in his red suit and top hat. The Circus!

The first week in August is International Clown Week and what a reason to celebrate!  An attraction often used to “kill time” between acts during a live show, clown’s truly date to ancient Greece. Comedians of the culture, they were generally bald-headed and padded to appear larger than normal, performing as “secondary figures.”  Roman’s added a pointed hat, colorful garments and were the target for pranks, gags and abuse. (

Court jesters, harlequins, the classic “white-face” clown, Auguste and the hobo. Common characters in a role played by thousands throughout history, bringing laughter and at times, fear, into the lives of so many.  You can now participate in clown training, therapeutic clown workshops, and learn to be a clown in theatre schools around the world.

The idea of “International Clown Week” first originated in the 1950s, but it was not until the 1960s that the concept really started to gain popularity. The resolution was finally introduced in 1969, and Congress passed the law in October of 1970. Although only officially recognized as such in the United States, it is celebrated by clowns around the world.

Rolling Memories

For so many of us, clowns conjure strong memories of childhood adventure.  The grand tent, and all that lay waiting underneath it, was anticipated in communities across the country.  The young minded lined up to watch the circus train roll into the station.  Those trains, still running today, started as early as the 1830s in the Eastern states, and by the 1890s, Barnum & Bailey had 56 cars traveling the country.  Not to be outdone, Ringling Brothers had nearly 100 cars running the rails by the 1920s. The current Ringling Bros. operation includes two trains traveling simultaneously: Red Unit and Blue Unit; and the animals get the smoothest ride, directly behind the engine.

Today, you do not have to wait for the train to roll into your neighborhood. You can download a customizable “Desktop Train” widget to your computer and have the circus train on your computer every day! []

What does the circus mean in our culture today? Think Cirque du Soleil, Circus Flora, and the Big Apple Circus–all filled with incredible acrobatic performances and visually stunning costumes. They characterize their product with “imaginary world” art forms from around the globe and tell fabulous stories with glimpses of dance, daring, and dexterity. Started in the early 1980s in Quebec, today Cirque du Soleil has developed into an international phenomenon that has redefined the circus experience.

Little Doubt

The affect and effect of clowns in our society has been remarkable through the decades. Far from just being entertainers, Harry Rogers was known as the “Fire Clown” and traveled through many western communities from his home in Chicago, educating school children of the dangers of fire, risks to be aware of, and prevention methods. Before the creation of “Smokey the Bear,” the “Fire Clown” was a valuable resource to the people of the United States. There is truly little doubt that the clown industry holds a special place in the history of our society, and that the jovial characters have influenced many.

Do you still enjoy the sights and sounds of the circus, and the clown, with your family today? Do you carry on this annual tradition? Or has the “Greatest Show on Earth” faded from memory?  Keep the experience alive within your family; tell the stories, pull out the old photos. The Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus is even asking for attendees to share their “Amazing Memories” on their website .

You can find the tour schedule and special offers – and much more! – on the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus website.  You just may find that this is one family adventure worth recapturing, and one that will entertain every generation.

Baldwin, Jen headshot small Genealogist Jen Baldwin is the owner of Ancestral Journeys, specializing in the Rocky Mountain Corridor. She writes for a variety of publications, speaks regionally on genealogy related topics, is the creator and co-host of #genchat on Twitter, and owns Conference Keeper. She also is co-creator and Co-Chair of the NextGen Genealogy Network and is the Director of Operations for The In-Depth Genealogist. You can connect with Jen on her website or on social media.


In the Beginning: A Question of Technology

SMF Census Building engraving

In the world of family history, a key event happened about 200 years ago on August 2, 1790.  It was a big day with enormous, if not shaky, consequences: the day the first census was held in the United States.

The result? On that day, the population of the United States was measured at 3,929,214 people. How long did it take? It took only nine months to complete the census process, especially impressive given the available “technology” of paper, ink, saddles, and candles. Was it accurate? Then Secretary of State, Thomas Jefferson, and President George Washington both expressed concern over the results: had the country been under-counted? Considering the individual refusal to participate, transportation challenges, and general limitations of the tools used to gather the information, it seems likely that the count was inaccurate. Despite its failings, though, family historians today are grateful for the work done then and since.

Other facts, including city populations, popped up from the tally. New York City was the largest city in the nation then. The top ten cities included Boston Town, Philadelphia and the Southwark district of Pennsylvania.

The Census occurred in a time of many “firsts”. George Washington, first President of The United States, had presented the first State of the Union Address just months before in January.  The Supreme Court had gathered for the first time in February.

While the actual census numbers are perhaps debatable, a headcount of almost 4 million people at the time was a big number. But the country was ready for expansion and primed for invention. Indeed the following decades witnessed the development of the U.S. Post Office and the creation of the cotton gin. Can you list a few technological advancements that contributed to westward expansion and the beginning of urban development?

Fast Forward 200 Yearsworld globalization

Two hundred years after the first U.S. Census a software engineer in Switzerland named Tim Berners-Lee made a unique proposal to his superiors at CERN, a particle physics laboratory. When it was finally approved and publicized, his idea became better known as the World Wide Web. By late 1990, the first web page had been “served” and was visible to the world.  From 1790 to 1990, technology had moved from the cotton gin to arguably the most powerful communication medium the world has ever known.

Today, it’s not a surprising fact that most Americans use the internet. Among those using the internet are genealogists.  For many of us, utilizing the internet has become an everyday tool. We use websites for research. These websites contain thousands of documents on personal history.  We also communicate via social media and email. Apps such as Saving Memories Forever help us collect and save oral family stories and expand our numbers because they are so easy to use.  Digital photographs also make documentation of everyday life easy to do. National Geographic predicts that Americans will take 105 billion digital photos in 2015.  The quantity of data is no less than stunning. We are preserving history every day, and faster than ever before.

The Fuss about Technology

Just as technology offers advantages, it also presents disadvantages. There is certainly concern over the loss of research skills. And just as George Washington and his peers were concerned with the limitations of his contemporary technology, should we also be concerned? Is there now too much technology?

As a community, genealogists see new resources added online almost daily. Discussions occur regularly about best practices of digital photography, data storage, and online family trees. New organizations are forming, focusing on using only virtual tools to organize, educate, and build their communities. Genealogy-focused blogging –which includes the words you are currently reading- sees incredible increases in numbers each month.  Dare I ask: where does it end?

The answer to that question may never be found. The United States has always been known as a nation of innovation and creativity, and it does appear that counting heads and accessing information has become irreversibly intertwined with technology. Where do you think we are headed? Where do you see the ideal balance?

You Decide

How much will technology play a role in your family history research? There are so many options; the choices are nearly endless. A few of my favorites provided by the government include the US National Archives YouTube channel, the Bureau of Land Management, and the US National Archives Education Facebook page.

Considering the impact technology has had on the development of our country and our record collection processes, I can only look forward with much anticipation as to what is to come.



Baldwin, Jen headshot small


Genealogist Jen Baldwin is the owner of Ancestral Journeys, specializing in the Rocky Mountain Corridor. She writes for a variety of publications, speaks regionally on genealogy related topics, is the creator and co-host of #genchat on Twitter, and owns Conference Keeper. She also is co-creator and Co-Chair of the NextGen Genealogy Network and is the Director of Operations for The In-Depth Genealogist. You can connect with Jen on her website or on social media.