The 29th Annual Salt Lake Christmas Tour is in full swing!

For the 29th year in a row, we are now in the midst of the Salt Lake Christmas Tour. It’s cold outside, but the attendees are having great success. Our ratio of professional researchers working with the attendees is at an all time high this year, with one pro for every five attendees.

Donna Potter Phillips modeling her "Big Momma Undies," a gift from Thomas MacEntee.
Donna Potter Phillips modeling her “Big Momma Undies,” a gift from Thomas MacEntee.

Monday night, Crista Cowan, the barefoot genealogist from, joined us for dinner and spoke on using DNA to advance our research. She kept me either laughing or crying for her entire dinner lecture. Then last night Anna Swayne (again from Ancestry) came by and entertained us with an in-depth lecture on DNA use. She answered all kinds of questions for the group. She’s coming by early Thursday morning to do the AncestryDNA tests for our group at the special holiday price of $89.95… That’s an amazing deal – and a wonderful thing for our Canadian attendees, who have a problem getting the test kits through the mail.

Every morning we have breakfast together, share the days news, and pass out gifts. It’s kinda’ become a tradition that at least one gag gift gets given to either Bill Balter, myself (Leland), or Donna Phillips (mother hen). Last year someone gave Donna a bikini. Bill made the presentation, but we were never sure who actually purchased the thing. I got Superman briefs one year. Bill didn’t make it this year, but he was certainly here in spirit when Thomas MacEntee presented Donna with her own pair of Big Momma Undies. Then she modeled them for us (over her clothes of course.) The photo tells it all.

Want to join in the fun? Plan on coming with us next year – to the 30th Annual Salt Lake Christmas Tour. You might want to sign up early (the new registration materials will be on the site before this Christmas), as we are limited to only 60 rooms in the hotel next year (due to a convention in town that’s taken up most rooms). See

Salt Lake Christmas Tour……………… Week’s Peek




Just a couple of weeks to go until our annual December rendezvous……. are you getting ready and/or excited?  For you first-timers joining us this year, the Christmas lights on Temple Square are always a highlight of the trip. It’s a COLD walk out to see them, but well worth the red nose and chilly fingers.

When you arrive on Sunday, look for the Santa hats……… Dale Meitzler will meet you in one terminal and Maureen MacDonald will greet you in the other one. If you arrive before Sunday, bummer, but call for the hotel shuttle.

And do remember that the Plaza Hotel is not listed on that board-of-hotels-with-free-telephones.  You must call 801-521-0130 yourself to request the shuttle. Not on Sunday, however.

What to do on Sunday if you arrive early in the day, or if you arrive before Sunday? Not too much. If you’re here by 8:30am on Sunday, you can attend the free broadcast of Music and the Spoken Word, the weekly live radio broadcast from Temple Square. That Sunday it will be in the Conference Center, not the Tabernacle.

The Church History Museum will be open and usually they have a terrific display of nativity sets made from different media and from different countries in the world. That’s free too.

Then there is shopping, either three blocks west to the Gateway Mall or right across the street to the new City Creek Mall. (Things there are not free 🙂

You are always invited to hangout in the tour welcome or hospitality room. We’ll have snacks and drinks. We’ll be handing out the tour shirts, name tags and your syllabus. Joy Price plans to be there all afternoon for any one-on-one consultations to help you dive right into your research.

Cannot, cannot wait to share big hugs with all my alternate family!

Donna, aka Mother Hen

Salt Lake Christmas Tour………………… Week’s Peek

Wanting to read some advice about another good reason to join the Salt Lake Christmas Tour group is the opportunity to visit the Family History Library at a time (early December) when it is relatively empty and to use the subscription website available there and only there………. without having to fight for a computer!

Click to this link:

And then read for yourself the August 2013 article titled:

Family History Library Computer Resources:

Subscription Websites at the Family History Library

One further bit of advice from the FamilySearch website:  Personal laptops are welcome at the Family History Library. Electrical outlets are located at each microfilm reader and at many patron tables. Wireless Internet is available.  All of the Subscription Websites (see below) are accessible through this wireless network as though you are on one of the patron machines, as long as you are in the Library of course.

Take a looksee at the list on the Wiki article and see which of these subscription websites you just might want to take time to use while you’re there in December.

Donna, aka Mother Hen, until next peek.

Salt Lake Christmas Tour…………….. Week’s Peek

John Smith


With a big bunch of us going shortly to Salt Lake to spend a wonderful research week in the Family History Library, I thought it might be a good time to bring up a point: THERE IS A LOT OF FOOLISHNESS TO BE FOUND…… as well as lots of “good stuff.’  

I copied the above from a tree on Ancestry……….. there is even a source citation! Only problem is that Pocahontas did NOT NOT NOT marry John Smith, she married John Rolfe. (The citation looks funny because I deleted out all the extras, and the poster’s name, from the tree.)

And the really bad news is that there are multiple trees including the John Smith-Pocahontas marriage! (Don’t these people stop to think??)

As we ready our notes for some serious research, please commit yourself to have documentation for every fact you find, no matter where you find it. Especially on Ancestry’s Trees or FamilySeach’s Trees.

Suggest you review the advice given in Proverbs 14:24: “the foolishess of fools is folly.” And Proverbs 15:2:  “the mouth of fools poureth our foolishness.”  Plan not to be among the foolish making incorrect additions to your family tree.

Donna, aka Mother Hen, until next peek.

Salt Lake Christmas Tour………………… Week’s Peek





How many days until our December Salt Lake rendezvous? I’m eager to go visit my favorite places and see my favorite sights……….. like the zillions of Christmas lights and displays on Temple Square.  Only five weeks by my count!!

Been working on the class schedule. We will have 30 classes, or presentations, by Thomas MacEntee, Lisa Alzo, Joy Price, Mark Olsen (from MyHeritage), Bill Dollarhide, Dwight Radford, Arlene Eakle, and Linda Brinkerhoff. Something new this year, we’re taking advantage of some of our in-house talent and offering to you classes from Cecily Kelly and Maureen MacDonald. There is gonna be something for everybody, I promise!

But it’s only a couple of days until Halloween and I just had to share this pix with you. It’s not my Tika but certainly could be; it’s a card my cousin sent to me. (Did you know my little Tika has a blog? )

Tika Halloween


See you all in five short, will-zoom-by-fast, weeks!  Hugs from Donna, aka Mother Hen.

Space Still Available for the 2013 Salt Lake Christmas Tour – Preregistation Ends November 7, 2013.

Temple Square
It’s getting near the end of the pre-registration period for the Salt Lake Christmas Tour. However, we still have space available for anyone who would like to join us. The preregistration cut-off was initially October 15, but we’ve extended it though Midnight EST (Not MST) November 7.

The Salt Lake Christmas Tour is now celebrating its 29th consecutive year at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City. This is the 27th year that the tour has headquartered out of the Salt Lake Plaza Hotel next to the library.

Every year, anywhere from 60 to 100 genealogists gather for a full week just prior to Christmas to partake in assisted research, genealogy classes, breakfasts, gifts, and fellowship in Salt Lake City. The Tour is always held the first full week of December, following a week’s sabbatical after the Thanksgiving Day weekend. We don’t have our attendees fly on Thanksgiving weekend, which is notorious as the most expensive and harried flight weekend of the year. This year the tour is being held from December 8 through 14, with attendees flying in on December 8 (Sunday) and flying out on December 15 (the following Sunday).

The Salt Lake Christmas Tour is known for having the highest ratio of assisting professional genealogists to attendees of any tour to the Family History Library. This year we again have about a dozen professionals who will work side-by-side with the attendees, so there’s always personalized help, especially when you need it most.

Got brick-walls? Bring then to the Salt Lake Christmas Tour, and make the breakthroughs that you’ve longed for for years. The Tour has professionals working on the staff that can help anyone, from the raw beginner to the most advanced genealogist.

As in the past two years, genealogy tech guru, Thomas MacEntee, will be spending the week with us, teaching 10 of the classes. Another highlight will be Monday night’s dinner, featuring the barefoot genealogist, Christa Cowan, from, speaking on using DNA in the genealogical search.

If you have questions, just call me (Leland) at 801-949-7259. That’s my cell number and gets me whenever I’m not asleep!

For detailed information on the Salt Lake Christmas Tour, see the website,

Salt Lake Christmas Tour………… Week’s Peek

Church HX Lib


This is the LDS Church History Library which is located just across (to the northeast) of Temple Square in downtown Salt Lake City.  It is a public library with a unique focus and it does have lots of  potentially “good stuff” for you.


his lib


Quoting from the Church History Library’s Research Guide:  “If your family has been associated with the Church, either in the United States or in other countries, the Church History library may have historical sources that can help bring your family’s story to life. The library houses diaries, memoirs, personal papers, correspondence, photographs, oral histories, local unit records and annual histories, and records from Church departments. Other materials offer historical context for your ancestors’ lives through the recorded perspectives of fellow countrymen, townsfolk, local religious leaders, neighbors, emigrants and travelers, and others with similar occupations and social experiences.”

Notice the words in bold:  “If your family has been associated with the Church…”  If there is an ancestor of yours who was a member of the Church, especially and even if it was “way back when,” there is likely some biographical information on him available to you. Even if they were not actual members of the Church but perhaps lived in the same towns or areas, or traveled the same westward migration trails, there might be some mention of them in the records of the Church.

When you’re in Salt Lake for the Christmas Tour in December you might want to go visit this library and see what they can find for you on your elusive “went west” ancestor. Can’t hurt, right? (And the library is right across the street when we’re on our way back from the cafeteria lunch.)

Counting down the days…………. just heard today that two of our favorites (CoraAnn and Ernie) are returning. Yay!

Donna, aka Mother Hen, until next peek.


Salt Lake Christmas Tour………….. Week’s Peek

P1040169 (640x480)


Dwight Radford has been helping the Salt Lake Christmas Tour attendees since practically the very first tour. His specialty is Irish research and after nearly 30 years of looking and documenting Irish ancestors, Dwight is a pro at finding these folks. Here he is helping Dorothy Reed back in 2012….. and he stands ready to help YOU with YOUR Irish research problems during the 2013 tour……….. hope you’re signed up to come.


Back on April 10, 2012, Leland blogged about “our” Dwight and alerted one and all to his new blog:

Dwight Radford’s New “The Journey Home Genealogy” Blog Filed in Internet Genealogical Research, Ireland, Scotland on Apr.10, 2012 Listen to this article. Powered by My friend, and professional genealogist, Dwight Radford, recently started a terrific blog dealing Irish research. Dwight is adept at finding Irish ancestors – so much so that he’s been making a living at it for the last 25 years. Dwight works with us on the annual Salt Lake Christmas Tour, consulting with those folks who may be doing Irish and Scots research. Not surprizingly, Dwight doesn’t get many breaks during the Christmas Tour week.

Here is the link to Dwight’s blog:  He’s also on Facebook under the same name. 

Donna, aka Mother Hen, until next peek.

Salt Lake Christmas Tour…………….. Week’s Peek

P1040223 (640x480) (640x480)

According to the tour website (  there are only 62 days left until the 2013 tour begins! Those of us already signed up are counting the days. If you are thinking about joining the tour, “think” no longer and just do it……….. quoting that swarmy guy on TV, “I guarantee you’ll like it……….. you’ll be glad you came.”

One reason why the Christmas Tour is such a success is that we have fun. Lots and lots of fun interspersed with genealogical researching. One fun thing is that we all wear name tags to identify us as attendees of the Christmas tour and each tag has a number. Every morning numbers are drawn (Bingo circles from a bag) and the lucky winners come front to claim their prizes. The prizes from from the tour members; each attendee is asked to bring an inexpensive genealogy-related gift for this morning gift exchange. (Most bring six for we do this for six days.)

Why do we do this? Just because it is fun! Look at the pink walrus…… don’t think he was genealogy-related but he surely was fun. Please do come join us this December for the best genealogy fun you’ll ever have.

Donna, aka Mother Hen, until next peek.

Salt Lake Christmas Tour…………….. Week’s Peek

Don’t know about most of you, but I must confess: I bring too much stuff on trips. Any trip. And especially winter trips…. like the Salt Lake Christmas Tour trip.

I have seen a couple of you come with only a smallish carry-on and I’ve seen others of you come with two huge rolling tanks……….. why such a difference?  While I’m sure there are a variety of good and logical reasons why those “big case” folks have the need to bring so much stuff on a trip it most likely boils down to too many clothes. Am I right?

Loni Gardner (one of our most wonderful helpers on the Christmas tour) shared a YouTube video link with me. It shows how to pack 14 days worth of everything you’ll need in one smallish carry-on bag. Viewing the video, I kinda take exception to his empty, flat, cosmetics bag but over all he had good, and do-able, ideas. Here’s the link to that video:

I did a Google search for the term “packing for a 14 day trip” and this advice from Rick Steves was the first hit:

Packing Smart and Traveling Light

Too much luggage marks you as a typical tourist. It slams the Back Door shut.
By Rick Steves

The importance of packing light cannot be overemphasized, but, for your own good, I’ll try. You’ll never meet a traveler who, after five trips, brags: “Every year I pack heavier.” The measure of a good traveler is how light he or she travels. You can’t travel heavy, happy, and cheap. Pick two.

One Bag, That’s It

My self-imposed limit is 20 pounds in a 9″ × 22″ × 14″ carry-on-size bag (it’ll fit in your airplane’s overhead bin). At my company, we’ve taken tens of thousands of people of all ages and styles on tours through Europe. We allow only one carry-on bag. For many, this is a radical concept: 9″ × 22″ × 14″? That’s my cosmetics kit! But they manage, and they’re glad they did. After you enjoy that sweet mobility and freedom, you’ll never go any other way.

You’ll walk with your luggage more than you think you will. Before flying to Europe, give yourself a test. Pack up completely, go into your hometown, and practice being a tourist for an hour. Fully loaded, you should enjoy window-shopping. If you can’t, stagger home and thin things out.

When you carry your own luggage, it’s less likely to get lost, broken, or stolen. Quick, last-minute changes in flight plans become simpler. A small bag sits on your lap or under your seat on the bus, taxi, and airplane. You don’t have to worry about it, and, when you arrive, you can hit the ground running. It’s a good feeling. When I land in London, I’m on my way downtown while everyone else stares anxiously at the luggage carousel. When I fly home, I’m the first guy the dog sniffs.

These days, you can also save money by carrying your own bag. While it’s still free to check one bag on most overseas trips, you’d likely pay a fee to check two. If you’re taking a separate flight within Europe, expect to be charged to check even just one bag.

Remember, packing light isn’t just about saving time or money — it’s about your traveling lifestyle. Too much luggage marks you as a typical tourist. It slams the Back Door shut. Serendipity suffers. Changing locations becomes a major operation. Con artists figure you’re helpless. Porters are a problem only to those who need them. With only one bag, you’re mobile and in control. Take this advice seriously.

Packing 101

How do you fit a whole trip’s worth of luggage into a small backpack or suitcase? The answer is simple: Bring very little.

Spread out everything you think you might need on the living-room floor. Pick up each item one at a time and scrutinize it. Ask yourself, “Will I really use this snorkel and these fins enough to justify carrying them around all summer?” Not “Will I use them?” but “Will I use them enough to feel good about hauling them over the Swiss Alps?” Frugal as I may be, I’d buy them in Greece and give them away before I’d carry that extra weight over the Alps.

Don’t pack for the worst-case scenario. Pack for the best-case scenario and simply buy yourself out of any jams. Bring layers rather than take a heavy coat. Think in terms of what you can do without — not what will be handy on your trip. When in doubt, leave it out. I’ve seen people pack a whole summer’s supply of deodorant or razors, thinking they can’t get them there. The world is getting really small: You can buy Dial soap, Colgate toothpaste, Nivea cream, and Gillette razors in Sicily and Slovakia. Tourist shops in major international hotels are a sure bet whenever you have difficulty finding a personal item. If you can’t find one of your essentials, ask yourself how half a billion Europeans can live without it. Rather than carry a whole trip’s supply of toiletries, take enough to get started and look forward to running out of toothpaste in Bulgaria. Then you have the perfect excuse to go into a Bulgarian department store, shop around, and pick up something you think might be toothpaste.

Whether you’re traveling for three weeks or three months, pack exactly the same. To keep your clothes tightly packed and well organized, zip them up in packing cubesairless baggies, or a clothes compressor. I like specially designed folding boards (such as Eagle Creek’s Pack-It Folder) to fold and carry clothes with minimal wrinkling. For smaller items, use packing cubes or mesh bags (one for underwear and socks, another for miscellaneous stuff such as a first-aid kit, earplugs, clotheslinesewing kit, and gadgets).

Go casual, simple, and very light. Remember, in your travels you’ll meet two kinds of tourists — those who pack light and those who wish they had. Say it out loud: “PACK LIGHT PACK LIGHT PACK LIGHT.”

Thank you, Rick, for your words of advice and counsel. We will try to heed them.

Donna, aka Mother Hen, until next peek.

Salt Lake Christmas Tour……………. Week’s Peek

P1060019 (480x640)



In my classes and conversations, I am often asked, “Which is really better, Ancestry or FamilySearch?”

I usually answer back with a question, “Which is yummier, a hot baked potato or a ripe juicy orange?”

“Well, those are different!” comes the answer. “Not really,” I reply. “They are both food, nourishment for your body. And they are both good food, each good for you but each with different nutrients.”

That’s how I explain the difference between Ancestry and FamilySearch. They are both sources of documentation; they are both good to use in pursuing your family history; they each have differences. They are both good.

My favorite way to teach about Ancestry and FamilySearch is to show this photo of a Ponderosa Pine tree. It grew as one trunk and then divided itself into two trunks or branches. One trunk, two parts, make one whole tree.

Both FamilySearch and Ancestry are equal parts in the opportunities you have for finding documentation and answers about your ancestors.

One family history (one trunk with roots going deep), nourished (revealed) by two branches or sources of information.

To me, Ancestry and FamilySearch offer equal opportunity to find information about the ancestors I am seeking. I find lots of “maybe” information in both places and much “for-sure” documentation in both places. I teach that you really should use both sources equally.

Does that make sense to you all?? Do you agree?

Donna, aka Mother Hen, until next peek.


Salt Lake Christmas Tour……………….. Week’s Peek

P1060157 (640x480)


SOMEBODY has to be first………………. some leaf has to be the first to turn, as with this Vine Maple in North Bend, Washington. Are you like this leaf?

Are you the first to sign up? To take advantage of an opportunity? To recognize that opportunity? To be willing to make the change? To recognize the inevitable? To do what you know you should? To do what you want to do?

This principle could be applied to so very many things in our lives today. But I’m thinking of the Salt Lake Christmas Tour………… while you cannot be the first to sign up (a bunch already have!) but you can be the first in your circle to make the decision and commitment to come to Salt Lake this December. Hope you do.

Donna, aka Mother Hen, until next peek.



Salt Lake Christmas Tour………………….. Week’s Peek

How many have already made their reservations for the Salt Lake Christmas Tour which is coming up zooming fast upon us?  Almost more importantly, how many have been picking out the problems on their family tree that cry to be solved this December?

I’ve talked to a couple of folks on these subjects and have even suggested that they might could send me their group sheets and problem outline ahead of time to give to one of our research experts. Idea?

Here is a link to the “Tips for Coming to the Library:”

Most of you probably know what to do to be prepared for a great research week but a review never hurts.

The biggest thing I notice about your immediate needs when you come is this: You immediately tromp off to the nearest grocery store (several blocks away) to purchase food supplies for the week. No problem with that. But why not fill the extra spaces in your suitcase with such stuff? Lots of snacks fit into the crevices and sides of your luggage. And do keep in mind that we furnish a free breakfast to you, we all enjoy trooping over to the cafeteria for lunch and many who do bring back a box for dinner. Why would you want to hibernate in your room when there is such family food fun to be had???

Next thing I’ve noticed is that you bring an over-stuffed notebook to Salt Lake and proceed to page through it looking for whatever it is that you want to work on during the week. Wrong approach, in my humble opinion. So that letting-your-fingers-walk-through-the-pages before you come and bring only the pages and papers necessary to that week’s work. Makes much better sense.

Here are some photos shared to pump up your enthusiasm:


Glorias TSquare 2 Glorias TSquare 3 Glorias TSquare 4 Glorias TSquare

Donna, aka Mother Hen, until next peek.

Salt Lake Christmas Tour……………….. Week’s Peek

Since our annual December Salt Lake rendezvous is only weeks away, I thought you’d enjoy reading this post if you hadn’t already….. we knew about Family Tree last December but by this December the dust will be more settled with this new feature…. and we plan to offer you an in-library class on the Family Tree feature on the tour.


CEO Corner: Finding Ancestor Records

Directly from Family Tree

August 20, 2013 By 
Dennis Brimhall--Formal Portrait

In my 18 months at the helm, I’ve been excited about all the new features we have been releasing here at FamilySearch. However, we have a new search function that is one of the most effective new tools that FamilySearch has ever created: search records within an ancestor page in FamilySearch Family Tree.

I have yet to see anyone who tries this amazing feature who doesn’t find huge research success. Searching for records from within an ancestor page in FamilySearch Family Tree is a great new way to find historical records you may not have found in your previous searching.

Login to, and go to Family Tree.

  1. Click the name of a deceased person in the tree, and click Person to go to his or her Person page.
  2. Click the new Search Records link. FamilySearch searches our historical records using the person’s name and first vital date.
  3. The search results open in another browser window and show records that match for the person. Click a record to see the details of the record or to see a copy of the original record.
  4. The full record will be displayed. To add the record to the person on Family Tree, click Attach to Family Tree. You can also click Add to My Source Box to add the record to your source box.
  5. If you click Attach to Family Tree, a box will appear with the name of the person to whom you want to attach the record. If the box does not appear, click History List to show the list of people you recently viewed in Family Tree, or clickSearch Family Tree to begin a search for the person to whom you want to attach the record.
  6. When you click History List, you will see a list of people you viewed in Family Tree or people you set as a root. The History List remembers the last 50 people you put at the root of the tree or whose personal details page you looked at. When you find the person you want to attach the record to, click Select.
  7. Verify that this is the correct person. Fill in the reason the record is valid for this person. Then click Attach.

Keep in mind that this search feature may not find all the records that are in the FamilySearch database. The records that are found are based on the ancestor information used for your search. That information consists of the person’s name and the earliest vital date (birth, christening, death, or burial) on the person’s record. The automatic search will find a lot of the records in the database, but it may not find everything.

If you think more records may be available, try other search strategies to find all available records. For example, if the record contains a woman’s maiden name, you won’t find records about her that show her married name only (such as census or death records).

The new Search Records feature on ancestor pages in FamilySearch Family Tree searches for vital dates with a range of plus or minus two years. Previously, it only used an exact year date. This date range is useful for finding records such as census records in which birth dates may have been calculated and may be slightly off.

I am sure you will be delighted with how this great new feature makes it easier to find records you may have missed that are specific to an ancestor or records that have recently been added to the FamilySearch online collections.

Salt Lake Christmas Tour……….. Week’s Peek

Do you enjoy doing what I call Cold Genealogy? Helping somebody else with their genealogy, or digging out the story that goes with an old weathered tombstone in the cemetery? Or perhaps learning about somebody mentioned in the paper?



An old yellowed undated newspaper clipping, probably from our Spokane newspaper, reads:

“Theft of Hosiery Brings $10 Fine…… Convicted of stealing seven pairs of men’s hose from Kemp & Herbert’s yesterday, Chester Ridout was fined $10 and costs in police court today.”

Right off the bat, Chester committed his crime yesterday and was sentenced today?? I like that idea of swift justice.

I did some looking on our Washington State Digital Archives website ( and found a birth record for a Chester Gerald Ridout, born 18 Nov 1906 in Spokane,  son of Chester G. Ridout and Myrtle A. Reynolds. Is this the Sock Snitcher? I would guess (based upon the book wherein I found the clipping) that this Chester would have been about age 25 when he became the Sock Snitcher. Certainly old enough to know better!

If you found this story was about YOUR ancestor, how would you feel? Would you just laugh or be ashamed??

This is precisely and exactly the sorts of stories that our Salt Lake Christmas Tour family comes looking for when they come to the Family History Library in December.  And many, many, MANY times we find those stories!! Come join us and find some stories for yourself.

Donna, aka Mother Hen, until next peek.