Celebrating a Wedding Anniversary

1235160_647766325236352_992224140_nI love being married. As one of my favorite quotes reads, “Being married means you’ve found someone who you can annoy for a lifetime.”

While I assume that happily married couples don’t make it their mission in life to annoy each other, I do think that there’s some wisdom in this humor.

Perhaps it reflects the freedom to be who you are. Or it reflects the understanding that it’s not always going to be an easy relationship. Or maybe it’s just an good excuse to laugh.

Come August 26th, we will celebrate our 37th anniversary.

Normally, we don’t make a big deal out of it.  We usually celebrate by just going out to dinner.  But this year, we’re traveling down to the Smoky Mountains for a few days of mountain air and Appalachian music. 

We’re going on this mini adventure for several reasons.

One, because we can.  We’re no longer constricted with school schedules. With that in mind, we’re happily anticipating that most of the summer crowds will have gone home. 

Two: we’ve picked a place that won’t bankrupt us.  We’re renting a cabin where we can cook our own meals (at least most of the time).

Three: because it’s time.  It’s time to slow down and mark this point in our lives. It’s also time to celebrate the fact that we still enjoy each other’s company and quirks.

We’ll post some pictures of our trip on Saving Memories Forever Facebook

Come along for the ride. 


Jane Baker is the Co-Owner of Saving Memories Forever. She likes to write, garden, explore, read, meet with friends, and pat her cats. Not known for big spending, she and her husband, Harvey, like to take advantage of the free activities around St. Louis.  




‘Tis the Season…for Moving

moving feet and boxesWhen I was growing up in Connecticut, I just assumed that I would always live in the Northeast. I’ve now moved 16 times with my latest move being just two weeks ago.

Among our friends, we have moved the most often—and by a large margin. In fact, many of our friends still live in the same house where they raised their children. None of them are talking about moving. At least not yet. I think that will change in the next 10-15 years when maybe a 1-level house simply makes more sense.

Of course, there’s an abundance of reasons for moving. Over the years we’ve moved for many reasons, the most common one being a job relocation. But there have also been moves to neighborhoods that better matched our family size and lifestyle. We made this last move for a cluster of reasons: the appeal of downsizing, the power of economics and the desire to live in a more urban environment and still have a small backyard.

Are you considering a move?

Moving Facts

If you’re considering a move (or even if you aren’t), here are some of interesting facts.

• You are not alone. About 40 million Americans move every year. That’s more people than the entire population of California! The average American moves about 12 times in a lifetime. That’s every six years for the average American.

• 50% all US relocations occur during one-third of the year – between the beginning of May and Labor Day (the first Monday of September). That’s no surprise.

• Around 40% of all moves in US are job-related; 42% are personal moves; 18% are military or government relocations.

• Moving is the third most stressful event in life, following death of a loved one and divorce. You won’t have any problem convincing me that this is correct.

• One of the stunning moving facts is that about 62 percent of the people in US currently live in the very state they were born. Growing up in the Northeast, this is something that I assumed for myself. Boy, was I wrong.


Major Stress Factor

moving men lifting chair into truckWe’ve now lived in six different states. Indeed, one of our family stories is that each of our three kids was born in a different state. All things considered, I’m glad we’ve made those moves. We’ve had a good opportunity to experience the pace of life and character of several regions around the United States, including the Northeast, Southeast, Southwest, and Midwest.

But even with all these pluses, moving is not an endeavor to be undertaken lightly. Because it is never a ride in the park. Each move has its own quirks, excitement, and frustration. With an emphasis on frustration.

Perhaps the most aggravating experience this last time around has been with the local bureaucracy. Permits are required for the moving truck (even smallish moving trucks). It turns out that getting a permit requires two stops: first at the Street Department, then the Police Department. Sounds easy enough. However, the Street Department is not easy to find (how silly of me to think that the website would have the correct address) and how incredibly naïve I was to think that I could pick up the required paperwork from Police Headquarters.

Hearing about my moving woes, a friend pointed out that my searching for permits reminded him of a Jerry Seinfeld episode where the car rental company claimed that they had his reservation; they just didn’t have a car for him. Seinfeld jokingly focused on the overall concept: that the car rental company should have both the reservation AND the car. It now makes an amusing story. Similarly, it would be clever to have all of the moving permits handled in one easy-to-find location.

Moving Tips

Have I learned anything in all of our moves? Yes, I think so. Here are some tips.

• Go into “moving mode”. View every item as a potential throwaway. Keep in mind that this no-nonsense approach probably doesn’t include photos. There will come a day when you want to tackle the photo project–even if it’s just going through the box and talking about the stories behind the photos. Use the Saving Memories Forever app and website when you’re going through that box and accomplish sorting and sharing the photos and recording the stories at the same time!

• Get quotes from several movers. This last time (even though we only moved all of ½ mile) we got three quotes. We selected potential movers from Angie’s List and found this read-the-multiple reviews approach quite helpful.

• Pick the moving strategy that works best for your age and level of endurance. With some minor help from us, our 25-year daughter packed and unpacked her stuff and enlisted a bunch of friends to help with her move. Our 26-year old son and daughter-in-law pretty much moved themselves with one important proviso: they hired movers through the truck rental company to load and unload the rented truck. Brilliant idea. In contrast, we packed and unpacked our stuff and hired a mover to lug and place the boxes and furniture.


SMF-Jane2Jane Baker is the Co-Owner of Saving Memories Forever. She likes to write, garden, explore, read, meet with friends, and pat her cats. Not known for big spending, she and her husband, Harvey, like to take advantage of the free activities around St. Louis. She volunteers with several local organizations with her favorite one being STL Village. 





A Girl Scout in the Family

girl scouts at the white house

On March 12, 1912, the first Girl Scout meeting was held in Savannah, Georgia when Juliette Gordon Low brought 18 young women together to form a troop. Low’s focus was to provide opportunities to young women and ensure their physical, mental and spiritual development.

The vision that Low had, starting with that first meeting, was an organization that was “girl-centered.” What started with just 18 girls has grown to an organization with over 3.2 million girls and adults. According to the Girl Scouts of America, there are over 59 million women in the United States today who can be claimed as Girls Scouts alumnae.

The Girl Scouts of America was patterned after the popular Girl Guides organization in Britain, but by 1920 had developed its own distinct uniform, handbook and organizational structure. By then, there were 70,000 girl scouts across the country.

During the Great Depression, many troops focused on community service including food drives and providing meals to those in need. Also in the 1930s, with a focus on age appropriate activities, Girl Scouts were split into divisions including the Brownies. And did you know that ithe first Girl Scout cookies were commercially baked in the 1930s?

With the arrival of World War II, community service included scrap metal drives, learning how to grow Victory Gardens as well as how to handle blackouts and air raid drills.

The 1950s and 1960s is when the organization saw its largest growth, thanks to the post-war Baby Boom. As the Girl Scouts continued to grow towards the end of the 20th century, activities included computers and developing technology skills for young women. And now in the 21st century, new badges such as Global Awareness and Environmental Health reflect the challenges women, and all of us, will face in the coming decades.

Did the Girl Scouts Play a Role in Your Family?

For many families, the Girl Scouts were a big part of “growing up” in the United States. More and more family historians are discovering that memories of being a Girl Scout and participating in activities make for great family stories.

Here are some interview questions, writing/journaling prompts and project ideas:

  • Which of your ancestors were members of the Girl Scouts? What is the earliest instance you can find of a family member participating in Girl Scouts?
  • Do you have a current family member who was or is involved in the Girl Scouts? Consider interviewing your older relatives (using Saving Memories Forever, of course) and ask them what it was like to be a Girl Scout as they grew up. Discuss the skills they developed.
  • Have you inherited a box of Girl Scout items such as sashes, uniforms, handbooks and more? Contact your local troop and ask if they would be interested in the items for their archives. If not, create a video or slide show describing the items and who in your family owned them.
  • Were you a Girl Scout? Record your own memories in a variety of formats including audio, digital images and in writing.

© 2014, copyright Thomas MacEntee

Thomas MacEntee

Thomas MacEntee is a genealogy professional specializing in the use of technology and social media to improve genealogical research and as a means of interacting with others in the family history community. He is a frequent guest blogger for SavingMemoriesForever.com. For more information visit http://hidefgen.com.

Blogging: Another Way to Tell Your Family Stories

Ree Drummond

Two well known mommy bloggers (Ree Drummond and Stephanie Nielson) were Keynote Speakers at the recent RootsTech 2014 Conference. Their speeches adeptly  reinforced the general theme of the conference: connecting families–past, present, and future. Also, by being there, they serve as examples of how many people today are just stumbling into genealogy, each looking for an approach that resonates with their personality. For them, blogging fit the bill. Blogging on consistent basis has brought them both joy, satisfaction and a deep sense of fulfillment.

Ree Drummond

Ree Drummond (pictured above) is a down-to-earth woman who lives on a working cattle ranch in rural Oklahoma with her husband and four children. When she was first married, her mother-in-law gave her the Drummond family history book which she poured over for hours. Perhaps that family history book triggered a small spark.  Years later, on a whim, Ree began to blog about her family’s everyday country life, including the mountain-size loads of grass-stained laundry, the beauty of orange sunsets, the adventures of the animals on the ranch and –always– her kids.

Over the years, she got good at it, both the writing and the photography that went along with it. Today, she is an award-winning blogger and #1 New York Times bestselling author.  Her website, The Pioneer Woman, showcases her cooking and photography. The food looks good enough to make you drool.

“I love the fact that I’ve documented my family’s life,” she comments. “I’m so glad I’ve got the stories down. I didn’t start out to do this; it just happened. Writing just sorta ignited something in me. I like to look at the day in the life of our family and record it.”

Writing, she realizes, is not for everyone. Still, she contends, blogging is easy to do and you don’t have to be good at it, especially when you’re first getting started. She backs up that claim with an example of an early food photo where the fried onions in a sandwich looked more like worms than tasty onions.

Her takeaway message? “Start now. Don’t wait until you’re really good at whatever medium you choose. Just start now to document your life and the lives of those you love.”

Stephanie Nielson                                          Stephanie Nielson

Stephanie Nielson is the author of the popular NieNie Dialogues blog. In 2008, Stephanie and her husband were in a serious plane crash. Over 80 percent of her body was burned. Her story of survival and recovery are documented on her blog and have been recounted in interviews with Oprah Winfrey and on the TODAY show. She is a strong woman with a deep and abiding faith.

She actually started to blog when she moved far away from her relatives. While she was living her “dream job” of being a mother, writing her blogs gave her distant relatives and friends a good sense of what was going on in her life. Writing gave her simple pleasure. Back home, her relatives enjoyed reading about the neighbor’s cement duck that got new outfits for each holiday. Writing was simply Stephanie’s way of keeping in touch.

Blogging took on a whole new meaning after her horrific plane accident: it became part of her recovery. Just writing her first entries was difficult. A line was all she could manage. Today, she writes daily and with vigor. Today, she is grateful for the stories that her family has given her; she is grateful too that she has dedicated time each day through the thick and the thin, and the joy and pain to write down her life stories.  “Document your life,” she stresses. “No matter how you do it.”

The folks at Saving Memories Forever applaud the choice of these two women bloggers as keynote speakers. We join both Ree and Stephanie in their enthusiasm for recording everyday stories. Whether you record your life stories through writing or by recording your  stories through voice, we urge you to tell your stories no matter what they are and what form they’re in. Time flies.

This blog was written by Jane Baker at Saving Memories Forever. Saving Memories Forever is the Grand Prize Winner of the Developer’s Challenge Award at this year’s RootsTech Conference hosted by FamilySearch and sponsored by ancestry.com, Find My Past, and My Heritage.   RootsTech Developer Challenge Winner emblem orange box


Christmas Memories

milk-cookiesWhen I think of Christmas memories in my family, so many stories flood back to me. Each year, my grandparents sent a case of grapefruit from their California vacation home. Each year and only on Christmas Eve, we got to sip hot cocoa from Mom’s special Santa Claus mugs. Then there were the matching pajamas for my sisters and me, the hand-embroidered stockings, and the long involved process of making and sending fruit cake to distant relatives.

On Christmas morning, it was essential to sneak downstairs to peek before waking our parents. Then, it was a lesson in patience as we waited – mostly for Dad – to get himself together so that we could all gather under the tree. Even the tree was unique. Still alive, carefully tended with the roots intact, we would plant it in the front yard on the 26th.

Today, I recall all of this and more with a small tug at my heart. I am enjoying new traditions, built with my own family, while carrying on some of what my husband and I knew as children. One of my favorites, though, is the Christmas letter.

The Dreaded Holiday Letter? I LOVE Them!

As a genealogist, and certainly as our family’s keeper of memories, the Christmas letter has become an essential part of my holiday tradition. I start crafting our version in October, filtering through my files for just the right photograph, just the right way to tell a story. A summary of an entire year in two typed pages (or less!) is not necessarily an easy thing for a family historian; and so, my effort takes time.

We send them off to loved ones two ways now: electronically and printed, and we receive them in the same fashion. Sent by branches of the family from all over the globe, the farthest letter comes from a cousin in Taiwan. Each one is carefully tended, preserved in a collection that started to accumulate over 15 years ago.

One of the most exciting elements to me is that this family tradition continues to grow. There are the “regulars,” the folks you can count on year after year to write a letter. Then there are the new additions! Cousins get older and start their own families. They, too, begin to write. Most do not even realize they are documenting their personal history. They only see their actions as a brief moment in time. I know better, though.

Something Old, Something New

The letters vary each year in content and tone. Some are written as simply stated fact, while others are humorous. There are years when “reporting in” is more difficult. Then there are the years when we report joyfully and happily re-live the shared experiences. The folks at Saving Memories Forever point out that it’s important to share it all: the funny and the sad.  It’s part of being a family.

Reading a select few, I am reminded of my first genealogy related travel experience, to Alberta, Canada for a second cousin’s 90th birthday party with my aunt. When combined, another group of letters is a remarkable examination of the family’s memories of Grandma’s last year with us, and how we all chose to remember her. For a decent stretch, every year brought new family members to my generation and the next; new spouses, new babies! All of these are letters to be shared and cherished.

Ho Ho Ho

In our family, there’s a second set of letters. These are the letters addressed and mailed to Santa at the North Pole. That tradition starts this year. Written in a child’s shaky handwriting, Santa will receive my daughter’s first letter. You can bet this Mom will be scanning the letter before it’s stuffed and stamped!

The holidays often bring families together, and this year is no exception. As I look forward to a week surrounded by those I love, I think I may just bring my collection with me. The journey down memory road is usually more fun with those with whom I traveled it in the first place.

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.

Easy Resolutions to Preserve Family Memories in 2013

2013 Family Memories Resolutions

[Editor’s note: Saving Memories Forever blogger Thomas MacEntee shares some tips and tricks on setting family history resolutions for 2013 and sticking to them! ]

Besides trying to stick to the usual New Year’s resolutions (losing weight, getting organized . . . I’m sure there are others!), have you pondered the state of your family’s stories and memories?

The start of a new year is a great way to make plans for preserving your family’s history through photos, documents and most importantly, the oral history and stories that get passed down from generation to generation.

Resolution #1: Get Organized and Make a Family History Plan

That’s right Stan, a plan.  All projects big and small require some planning and some efforts at organization.  If you want to start a photo scanning project, start by sorting the photos into groups. Prepare your materials. Set up folders on your computer for storing the digital images.

The same works for saving family stories.  Make a list of the stories that are most important to you. Then list all the family members and friends who might have more information about the story or their own perspective to add.  Finally, list the format you want to use to preserve the story (handwritten, typed on the computer, or recorded using an app like Saving Memories Forever).

Resolution #2: Preserve Photos the Fun and Easy Way

The Flip-Pal mobile scanner is an easy-to-use tool for scanning photos and documents of almost any size. Check out our recent review of the Flip-Pal here and you’ll realize one added bonus: scanning photos with family members will get them talking about family stories!

One trick that successful “family photo scanners” use: place a large box of photos along with your Flip-Pal next to your favorite spot near the television. Each evening, resolve to scan 10, 20 or even 100 photos while watching your favorite programs. In no time, you’ll be ready to move on to the next box of family photos!

Resolution #3: Home Movies and Slides Matter Too

Are you still sitting on a box or two of 8mm home movies? What about video tapes? You need to act quickly to preserve these materials and ideally, convert them to a digital format.  The reason: many materials degrade over time and most of us haven’t taken the time to store these items using archival materials and practices.

The easiest way to convert home movies and slides is to take them to a superstore like Walmart or Costco or a drugstore such as CVS or Walgreens. Drop them off and in a matter of days you’ll have a CD or DVD of the movies and images to be added to your family history projects.

Resolution #4: Don’t Forget The Family Stories

Unfortunately, many of us neglect the family stories when it comes to preserving family history. Perhaps because oral history is not tactile, you can’t reach out and touch it or hold it. This doesn’t lessen its importance; in fact, family stories are often the starting point for genealogy or researching family history.

Rather than trying to remember these stories, which becomes difficult as the years go by, commit to making sure they are kept in a format that can be passed on to future generations. Don’t just write down the story, take it one step further: record the story in your own voice. Or better yet, interview family and friends who were involved in the story!

While digital recording tools abound, Saving Memories Forever is not only easy to use, but you can also add your photos and images to help round out the story.

Resolution #5: Create a “How Am I Doing?” Check In System

Most of us are all gung-ho about resolutions in January, but what about May or November? Set up a reminder system using a wall calendar or a digital calendar (or even a program like Evernote) that forces you to take inventory of you progress.

Like hopping on a scale, try to be honest when checking in. Have you accomplished 10% or 25% of the goal on a family history project? Do you need help, and if so, who in the family can help?

Periodic touchstones help make the journey not only quicker, but they also make sure we are on course to our destination.

So What Are You Waiting For?

It’s all up to you right now. Start today. Don’t wait. Preserve those precious family memories and make sure they get passed on down to the future generations.

A Flip-Pal mobile scanner Success Story

flip-pal stitched photo

[Editor’s Note: Saving Memories Forever co-founder Harvey Baker shares his experience with using the Flip-Pal® mobile scanner during a holiday activity with family members.]

It was the day after Thanksgiving and most of the family was sitting in our downstairs media room. It had been a pleasant after-Thanksgiving meal with more turkey and leftovers of everything else. We had been working on clearing out one of our rooms where we had a pile of books that we wanted to give to the library as well as boxes and boxes of old photographs.

What To Do With Boxes of Family Photos

We had taken a lot of photos years before there were digital cameras and they were stored in processing envelopes straight from the drug store, photo albums and as single pictures. As we went through pictures, there seemed to be a story that went with each photo. We had a great time trying to figure out which child was which, we were amazed at how the children all looked the same up to a certain age, and we discussed where one picture or another was taken. My daughter would point to one and say, “I would like a copy of this one.” There were no negatives for some of the photos and even if there were, it would have been a chore to pick out which negative went with which photo and mark it somehow to create prints later.

The Flip-Pal – An Easy Sharing Solution

Thankfully we didn’t have to do this. We had been given a Flip-Pal mobile scanner a couple of weeks earlier and now was the ideal time to use it. We followed the quick start instructions and in no time we were ready to scan. It was simple to do.

The scanning was the easy part; the difficult part was moderating the debate as to which picture should be scanned! The pictures were passed around and any picture that someone wanted copied came my way to be scanned. As each selected picture was passed over, I put it on the Flip-Pal scanner bed, closed the cover and pressed the scan button. In seconds, the picture was scanned. I also did a quick check of the LED color display to make sure I hadn’t placed the photograph askew on the scanner. Then, on to the next photo!

There were five of us looking at each picture and we each wanted specific photos to be saved. What could have been a complicated process of writing down “who wanted what picture” was made easy by scanning them with the Flip-Pal. The scans were quick and the resulting pictures looked good.

There were several pictures that were too large to fit on the bed of the Flip-Pal, but following the instructions and scanning large images in segments, we knew we would be able to reconstruct the pictures using the EasyStitch program included for free with the Flip-Pal Toolbox software.

We spent a pleasant hour or so going through about half of the pictures and making copies while sitting around on a sofa while the Flip Pal sat on my lap. I scanned just over 200 pictures in the two hours during which we sat and talked.

Photos Preserved and Shared in a Snap

Once finished, downloading the pictures to the computer was a snap. After taking out the SD card and inserting it into the computer card reader, the image files were easily transferred to the computer. Next, I used the Flip Pal EasyStitch software to stitch together the scanned segments. Once all the pictures were reconstructed, I imported them to Picasa and cropped them and rotated them as required. I then exported them to a folder on my desktop. In the coming weeks, I will use Dropbox to store the pictures and share the files with the family so they will have them and be able to make the copies they want.

The Flip Pal was a great tool to get photographs that were sitting around and collecting dust into the computers and hands of the people who wanted to keep them.

When my father died he had thousands of slides. We had no idea of where they were taken or why. We disposed of all the slides that we could not recognize and kept only those that had people in them. I wish we had a day or set of days where we went through his pictures and got the stories that were behind them.

The Flip Pal was quick easy and fun to use. Now to put all the stories we talked about during the scanning process on Saving Memories Forever!