The Salt Lake Christmas Tour is Going Strong! #Genealogy

The 30th annual Salt Lake Christmas Tour is now mid-stream, so to speak. Seventy-five enthused genealogists, old-timers as well as beginners, are here at the Salt Lake Plaza Hotel – all knee-deep in chasing down their ancestors. The folks seem to be having a wonderful time. I’ve heard some great success stories, and we’re only 1/2 way through the week.

Besides working with a dozen professional genealogists, hired specifically to work with the attendees, many of the group are attending one of several dozen classes specifically aimed at helping them overcome their research problems. Thomas MacEntee is with us again this year, speaking 10 times on technology-related topics.

I should have the registration-form posted at the site by the weekend. If you want to attend in December 2015, sign up early, as this year we sold out early-on. (Did anyone notice I quit saying anything about the tour?)

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

We are down to less than 100 days until our December rendezvous….. 96 days from today to be precise. With the first wisps of cooler fall air I find my thoughts turning to the upcoming good times we’re going to have…….. and here in Spokane we’ve already had those first few wisps.

One reason why we come to Salt Lake in December is to spend a week researching in the Family History Library. We’re looking not just to document our ancestors but to dig out the stories of their lives. Marquis Calmes (b. 1705 in Colonial Virginia) was my ancestor; “Marquis” was not a title but just his name. One of the first settlers into Fredericksburg, he became a justice of the peace. His duties included overseeing the building of a ducking stool, the common way of punishing women who gossiped too freely. He saw that a pit, “seven feet deep and six feet square in the clear and walled with stone” was built for the pond.

The Ducking Stool was founded upon and made obligatory by an act passed by the Grand Assembly held at James City on 23 December 1662. The reason for having a ducking stool as punishment was spelled out:

“WHEREAS, Many Babbling women Slander and Scandalize their Neighbors, for which their poor Husbands are often involved in chargeable and vexatious Suits, and cast in great Damages; Be it, therefore Enacted by the Authority aforesaid, That in Actions of slander, occasioned by the Wife, after judgment passed for damages, the Woman shall be punished by Ducking; and if the slander be enormous as to be adjudged at greater Damages than Five Hundred pounds of Tobacco, then the Woman to suffer a Ducking for each Five Hundred pounds of Tobacco adjudged against the Husband, if he refuse to pay the Tobacco.” 

Hummm……… would your or my dear husband turn you or me over to the Ducking Stool because of our “babbling and scandalous” tongues?  Not us! But what wonderful stories to learn about our ancestors…… and on the Salt Lake Christmas Tour you will find some of those sorts of stories.

Donna, aka Mother Hen, until next peek.

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

Only 104 days until the December rendezvous of the 30th annual Salt Lake Christmas Tour. Are YOU planning to come? Are YOU registered? Leland reminds us that due to a booking snaffoo (back in 2013) our group can only have 60 rooms this year. So if you are planning to come and are not yet registered, better get onboard asap. Click to the tour website: 

Let’s review some of the reasons why you might want to join the Salt Lake Christmas Tour:

1.  Great way to enter the Christmas season………. coming on the tour “forces” you to get all the Christmas business done before you go so you can relax and enjoy the holiday for the rest of December. (Works that way for me!)

2.  Enjoy all the “Christmas” on Temple Square. From the poinsettias to the Christmas trees to the Christmas music to the millions of Christmas lights………… you are surrounded with the beautiful things of the season.

3.  Enjoy the Family History Library without the lines at the copiers and without having to hunt for a vacant spot to work or a computer to work upon.

4.  Benefit from all the professional help available to you from our team of researchers hired for just that purpose: to help YOU.

5.  Learn from the classes of Thomas MacEntee and Lisa Alzo and others.

6.  Catch up with old friends…………. some have been coming for years and years.

7.  Enjoy a chance to wear those Christmas shirts and sweaters!!!

8.  Eat a great morning breakfast during the tour, spread out by the Cattaneos just for us, and win prizes daily.

9.  Have a full week of research without any strings attached…….no schedules, no family duties, no hassles.

10. Because you get the full attention of the Salt Lake Christmas Tour’s Mother Hen:  ME!

Donna Big Girl Panties This is your Mother Hen wearing the “Big Girl Panties” given to her during a breakfast on the tour by Thomas MacEntee. They fit nicely, don’t you think?  (Oh, yes, we do have a good time!)

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

Hello again! It is only 118 days until our annual Salt Lake Christmas Tour rendezvous in Salt Lake City. We still have some spots left and if you are interested, I urge you to click to  and read and see for yourself how wonderful that week would be for you and for furthering your research.


Can’t you see yourself coming through this door into the world’s largest “Lost & Found” library?


Rich Williams, one of the managers of the Salt Lake Plaza, bends over backwards to ensure that our group has no snaffoos and does have a wonderful time.


A happy group heading out to dinner.  (You see that dress is casual but includes a warm coat.)




Jan and Barbara, two long-time attendees who say they keep coming because they have not finished their research….girls, who has? 🙂


Lisa Alzo will be sharing her expertise with us again this year. One of her classes will be “Ten Ways to Jumpstart Your Eastern European Research.”  Another will be “Online Genealogy for the Absolute Beginner.”

These classes are free, are part of the tour and are given in a nice large wind0wed room in the Plaza hotel.


Thomas MacEntee will also again be with us. Two of his Salt Lake Christmas Tour classes will be:  “7 Habits of Highly Frugal Genealogists,” and “10 Secrets You Should Know to Survive Microsoft Word.”

All of Lisa and Thomas’s classes will have handout materials included in the free syllabus that each tour attendee receives on the check-in day of the tour.

How many more reasons do you need before you realize that this tour is something you really, really want to consider doing??

Donna, aka Mother Hen, until next peek.

Salt Lake Christmas Tour……………. Week’s Peek, Finally!

I’ve done no posting here since early June…… did anybody miss me? My purpose with this contribution to is to explain and promote the annual Salt Lake Christmas Tour and to share via some wonderful photos of the good time awaiting you on this tour. So are you sitting on the fence about deciding whether or not it’s worth the time, money and effort to come??? Well it is! P1020206 Click to the tour website, , and (as they say in the newspapers) read all about it. P1010472   Only in the Family History Library in Salt Lake City can you look at research books until your eyeballs glaze over. P1010460 Only on the Salt Lake Christmas Tour can you have a daily great time with old friends. P1010500 Only in Salt Lake can you walk around Temple Square enjoying the Christmas lights every single evening. Good times, good friends, good food, great classes, great one-on-one help……. jump down from that fence and make your reservation now (if you’ve not already). Need more reasons? Stay tuned………………. Donna, aka Mother Hen, until next peek.

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

Like many of you, I was born in the midst of World War II. I grew up loving to learn about American history but Colonial-era history was my favorite and I never spent much time learning about the 1913 to 1945 era of American history…… that time period of the two greatest world wars in history, World War I and World War II. Where 1,000,000 men died………. and mostly died horrible deaths. 

The History Channel ran, and will run again, a 3-night series about this event and I cannot speak enough good words about what I learned. The actors chosen for the parts of the principle players (Roosevelt, Churchill, Stalin, Tojo, Mussolini, Patton and MacArthur) were superbly cast (both the young man and the older statesman).  In the three 2-hour segments I learned more about the background of those wars than I ever realized as I saw the historic figures right before my eyes and using their own words.

I understand that the series will run again towards the end of June; I most definitely recommend it to all of you. Click to for more information or just stay closely tuned to your viewing guide.

What does this have to do with the Salt Lake Christmas Tour? Nothing much except that our entire Tour Family are history buffs! And many, if not most, of us have ancestors or relatives who participated in those wars. We welcome a fuller understanding of the causes behind the conflicts.

Donna, aka Mother Hen, until next peek.


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

For you several new folks in our Salt Lake Christmas Tour “family,” thought I’d share with you today some photos from our past tours:


We come from “four” corners of the country: Maureen from Washington, Jerry from New York and LindaSue from Arizona.


Our breakfast time gift-prize-drawings get pretty rambunctious sometimes! Here Thomas MacEntee surprises Bill.


Dwight Radford, our Irish expert professional, helps Agnes with her Irish family genealogy problem.

P1010499 (640x480)

Here is the view of Christmas-lighted Temple Square as seen from our hotel, The Plaza.

Need more reasons, more incentive, to join our Salt Lake Christmas Tour family?

Donna, aka Mother Hen, until next peek


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

Four months into the year of 2014. And we all exclaim: Where DID the time go? Time does surely seem to just melt away.

But we all also realize that we each and every one of us has 365 days a year, 24 hours a day, all to use for ourselves. Much of that time is spent in just getting on and keeping on with life. But in your optional hours what do you do?

I’m talking genealogy here. If you are planning to come on the Salt Lake Christmas Tour are you spending some of your optional hours studying what you already know about your ancestors and what you want to learn about them?

I’m working on this problem:  Marquis Calmes of a Huguenot family that came around 1700 to Virginia and married in 1725 to Winnifred Waller. So states every genealogy posting, history, documents, ANYTHING I’ve found on this couple, this family. But apparently Winnifred was from some other planet and beamed down to earth just in time to get married in 1725! She could, might be, possibly be, the daughter of John Waller or William Waller or Thomas Waller……… all of whom left very little tracks through history.

So if I’m wanting to solve this problem (and remember, our Salt Lake Christmas Tour prides itself on offering you nearly-guaranteed brickwall solving), I’ve got to do my part first. I’ve got to spend some of my hours reviewing everything I have and everything I can find (thank you, Grandma Google!) about Winnifred Waller and the colonial Waller families in Virginia. If I come prepared to the Salt Lake Christmas Tour, the experts will know what I’ve done and where I’ve looked and can suggest to me where to go and look next.

Now that’s good use of time.

Donna, aka Mother Hen, until next peek.


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

Even if you’re not from the state of Washington, you’ve surely heard about the terrible mudslide that happened in the Oso and Darlington area north of Seattle. It was truly and totally devastating.

mudslide 2

mudslide 3



Of course, my prayers join with all others for these good folks and for their losses. Some lost family; many lost homes; all were devastated. And it all happened without warning in a couple of minutes!

My only thought here to you is to point out that at some point in the future when these dear folks get their lives back to as normal as possible, they will want back whatever photos, files, documents and databases that were on their lost computers.

This will be possible only if they have back-ups. And in their case, backing up to the hard drive: NOPE. Backing up to a sitting-nearby portable hard drive? NOPE.  Backing up on disks or flash drives somewhere in your office? NOPE.

There are only two ways for these folks to recover any of their computer files that are now covered in mud. First is if they have shared files and photos and documents with other family members. And the second is that if they have backed-up their information to the cloud.

Maybe it’s time for YOU to take a look at your home situation? God forbid any calamity should befall you but it just might. Earthquake? Forest fire? Mudslide? Tornado? Hurricane? Even a “humble” house fire?

It can and might just happen to you for bad things do happen to good people as was proved that March day in the little towns of Oso and Darlington.

Donna, aka Mother Hen, until next peek.

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

The following success story was shared with me from one of our Salt Lake Christmas Tour favorites, Jan from Florida. I thought it was cool enough to share here with you:

In June 2013 my friend Jan, who lives in Florida, sent me an email telling about this really unusual and kinda sad entry she found on a U.S. census.  She had been tracing a sibling of one of her 3-greats grandmother from Maryland to California. “I knew they had a son born in 1849 in Missouri and named after his father,” she explained.  Looking in 1850 in St.Louis, Missouri, she found this:

Oliver Irwin, 1812 in Maryland, brickmaker

Isabella (Moffitt-Jan knows this), b. 1823 in Pennsylvania

Margaret, daughter, 1842 in Missouri

“boy found at front door,” age 11/12, b. prob. Missouri

Most intrigued, Jan looked for the family in the 1860 census and found them in San Rafael, California:

Oliver Irvin, age 48, b. Maryland, stockraiser

Isabelle, age 44, b. Pennsylvania, housewife

O.M. (Oliver Moffit), age 10, b. Missouri

Alice, age 9, born Ohio

I looked for them again and found some of them on the 1880 census of San Rafael:

Oliver Irwin, age 63, b. Maryland, widowed, retired banker

Oliver M. (Moffit)  Irwin, age 31, b. Missouri

                                Sarah Moffatt, sister, age 72, b. Pennsylvania

Jan further explained more about this family:  “Oliver Irvin married Isabelle Moffit;  his sister Sarah Irvin married John Moffit. Sarah and John had a son in 1844 in Missouri whom they named Oliver Irvin Moffitt. Oliver and Isabelle’s adopted/foundling son they named after his parents, Oliver Moffit Irvin.

Can you keep that story straight? And what a truly unbreakable brick wall for the Irvin or Irwin or Moffit or Moffat family. Did that foundling son leave descendants to look for him??

And, dear old Uncle Oliver Irvin surely had an interesting variety of careers.

Thanks, Jan, for sharing this story. Proves doing genealogy is not-never boring!

Donna, aka Mother Hen, until next peek.

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

Leland posted here a short while back explaining that the upcoming 2014 Salt Lake Christmas Tour would be THE year to break down your genealogy brick walls. And why? Because our tour has a 29-year proven track record and because we’re the only tour putting a full dozen professional researchers at your service. Does that not sound wonderful???



I quote Leland and our team:  “Come let us help you have success with your long-standing brickwall problem ancestors!”  “No brickwall problem is too tough for our team of professional research helpers!”  Please come and let our helpers help you break right through your brickwall and let the sunshine in!

broken wall


What is a brickwall problem anyway? An online dictionary defines it as:  (1) a point or level that it is very difficult to go past; or (2) a problem or situation that is very difficult to solve.

Don’t we all have some brickwall situations in our genealogy? Don’t you?

At our Saturday night farewell social (end of the Salt Lake Christmas Tour week), we ask folks to raise their hands if they solved a brickwall problem, if they added new names to their charts, and if they had a great time. All hands waggled upwards in positive response to all three questions.

It is the old, “Try us you’ll like us.”

Donna, aka Mother Hen, until next peek.



Register Now For the 2014 Salt Lake Christmas Tour

Salt Lake Christmas Tour

If you are considering coming on the 2014 Salt Lake Christmas Tour – held December 7-13 this year – it would be a good idea to get registered for the tour ASAP. During the first quarter of 2014, the Tour set a new record for the number of registrations. Sure – December is a long way off yet, but for the first time the number of registrants will be limited.

In 2013, the tour had a total staff of 20 folks, with 12 professional researchers consulting daily with the group of 60 researchers. If you would like personalized consultation while you research at the Family History Library, join up with the Salt Lake Christmas Tour – and always have a pro to help you as you add to your family tree!

The theme for the Salt Lake Christmas Tour is “Breaking Brick Walls.” With the help of 12 pros, as well as the Family History Library professional staff, the chances for genealogists on the tour to break their brick wall problems is has high as can possibly be.

Plan to join the Tour in 2014. It will be held from Sunday, December 7 through Saturday, December 13. Most attendees will fly in on Sunday the 7th and out on Sunday, the 14th. Again – note that for the first time in 30 years, the Salt Lake Christmas Tour is limited in the number of rooms available for the attendees to just 53 rooms in the Salt Lake Plaza Hotel, due to a city-wide convention taking place in town. These rooms are expected to fill quickly, as many folks are already pre-registered.

Preregistration cost is just $50 at registration, with the balance due by Oct. 15. Fees are fully refundable if cancellation is needed and made by October 15.

For more information, see the Salt Lake Christmas Tour website – and register today!

Questions? Call Leland on his cell phone at 801-949-7259, and find out more.

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

Cecily Kelly


Cecily Cone Kelly has become a regular on the annual Salt Lake Christmas Tour. She has a blog that I want to tell you about today and one that might just inspire you to do something similar.

Screenshot 2014-04-07 08.59.47

She has created a Letters To My Grandparents weekly blog and each and every posting is so interesting! (Check it out for yourself: She writes about her ancestral family and her husband’s ancestral family in small bites complete with photos and history bits of their life and times. This week she writes about her father-in-law whom she only met twice because he died so young.  Last week she wrote about accused witch, Sarah Noyes Hale, also a family member.

When you click to view the blog, do click to sign up to receive notifications when she does a new post. You’ll enjoy each and every one, I guarantee! And maybe, just maybe, you’ll be inspired to preserve your family’s stories in a similar fashion.

Donna, aka Mother Hen, until next peek.


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


A few days ago, Leland wrote a review of this book; I do hope you all order a copy. But that being said, do not get a copy if you won’t read and study it!  I’ve written before about how crazy it is to purchase a book with great intentions of reading and studying and using the book and there it sits on the shelf gathering dust. Shame on us!

For instance, for a project I’ve been working on I found the Fitzroy Chapin, son of Paul Fitzroy Chapin, son of Paul Chapin and Mary Fitzroy. It looked good, it seemed good and I grabbed it up. But it was wrong! Fitzroy Chapin was born in 1821 and so could not have been the son of Paul Fitzroy Chapin born in 1824. Pertaining to the same clan most likely, but these two were not father-son. Had I slowed down and taken a second, third or fourth look, and had the advice in this book more firmly in my mind, I would not have made that mistake so quickly and easily.

This book clearly and repeatedly explains the value of keeping the definitions of proof statement and proof summary  and proof argument  more clearly in mind when pondering a possible genealogy connection.  If those terms and concepts are a bit foreign to you (as they were to me at one time) then you need this book! It’s a little book, only 80 pages, so it’s a doable study.

Many of us on the Salt Lake Christmas Tour have been researching for years and years but are now finding that some of the connections we made early on might just not be so. To lose one child-parent link can remove a long interesting pedigree. But it he or she is not “yours,” then you must seek out who is your ancestor. This book will help you hone the skills you’ve been using for decades when you come to the Family History Library in December…. especially if you’ve been working on the same problem for years! Decide now to become a better researcher and results in December will prove the worth of that decision.

Click here to order a copy of Genealogy Standards!

Donna, aka Mother Hen, until next peek.

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

DNA kits 2 DNA kits hall 2


Our Salt Lake Christmas Tour family seems to be quite interested in the topic of DNA. This is especially true after our last December’s tour when Crista Cowan and Anna Swayne both came from to tell us and teach us about DNA and the DNA testing.  (In the above pix: here we are lining up to purchase a kit and there we are in the hall having a “spit party.)

I came across a news bit from a 2006 publication of my local genealogical society where one item of big news back then was proving that the bones and skull found were, indeed, those of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.  Here is a newspaper summary of that story:

An April 2013 story was wild:

How about this medical assessment:

One of my favorite movies of all time was Amadeus, the life story of Mozart. This story is but one news story about which that I would love to read some following-up stories! Mozart did have children; wouldn’t it be wonderfully fun to connect to that line? Or find somebody who does?



Donna, aka Mother Hen, until next peek.