ABCs of Family History: F


is for family art. This term includes art pieces (1) collected by an ancestor and (2) created by an ancestor. For example, the following piece was created by my dad during his college years.

Family art is valuable because it can shed some light on your ancestor’s personality. Several studies have shown that certain personalities are drawn to particular art styles. For example, more outgoing, romantic folks tend to gravitate toward modern art. Here’s a handy table that summarizes some of the more common art styles and corresponding personality types.

Art StylePersonality Types
AbstractCreative; extroverted; open-minded
CubismControversial; open-minded; provocative; shocking
ImpressionismAgreeable; avoids conflict; conscientious; mediator
ModernAmiable; open-minded; outgoing; romantic
Pop ArtFall in love easily; fun-loving; optimistic; vibrant
RenaissanceConservative; prefer the simpler things in life
TraditionalConservative; mature; rule-follower; won’t rock the boat

Do any of these ring true with your ancestors and the art they preferred? Tell me about it in the comments below. It could be that your ancestors merely collected pieces that were in vogue during their lifetimes.

Also, if you have family art, why not share it? I guarantee that future generations will come to cherish those pieces and their collectors/creators. Your genealogy “to-do” for this month is to photograph (or scan) any family art pieces you have and upload the images to the “Memories” section of your FamilySearch account (or to whatever genealogy program you use). I promise you won’t regret it.

ABCs of Family History: E


is for enumeration. Enumeration, or the process of counting people, is crucial to genealogical research because it ultimately results in a census. (For more on census records, click here.) In the U.S., enumeration occurs every 10 years, and the next round starts in 2020. (Census Day is officially 4/1/20.)

How does the enumeration process work? It starts with an invitation from the U.S. Census Bureau. 95% of households will receive this invitation in the mail. Almost 5% of households will receive it in person from a census taker. The remaining households (mostly in remote areas) won’t receive an invitation; instead, they will be counted in person by a census taker. Each of these categories is assigned to a Type of Enumeration Area (TEA). To see what category your geographic area is assigned to, check out the TEA Viewer.

Households assigned to the self-response TEA will have the option to provide data online, by mail, or by phone. According to the Census Bureau, information provided by households is kept confidential and is used only to produce statistics. The information is never shared with immigration enforcement agencies, the FBI, or local police. However, census records are released to the general public 72 years after Census Day. So, the next census scheduled to be released (1950) will be available in April 2022.

The enumeration process benefits more than family historians. It also—

  • determines how many representatives each state gets in the U.S. House of Representatives.
  • is used to redraw district boundaries. (Redistricting counts are sent to the states by 3/31/21.)
  • is used by communities to plan for new roads, schools, and emergency services.
  • is used by businesses to plan for new retail areas.
  • is used by federal agencies to distribute federal funds.

Are you dreading next year’s enumeration process? It shouldn’t be too bad. The Census Bureau will be using existing public data to reduce follow-up visits. It also is automating field operations to make the process more efficient. And think of it this way—the information you provide next year will benefit family historians for generations to come.

FamilySearch’s “All About Me” Tool

Over the past few years, genealogy giant FamilySearch has introduced tools to get people interested in family history. Two of these tools—the Ancestor Infographic and Compare-a-Face—are discussed in earlier posts. As the name suggests, the All About Me tool is, well, all about you. It takes your birth year and provides significant events that occurred during that year. (It’s like a digital version of those year books you could buy at the Hallmark store.) Topics covered by the tool include the following:

  • How popular your name is.
  • The meaning of your name.
  • The world’s population in your birth year.
  • Top news stories of the year.
  • Top technology breakthroughs of the year.
  • The cost of gas, a movie ticket, and a stamp in your birth year.
  • The president of the U.S. in your birth year.
  • Championship teams of various sports leagues.

Some of the items are presented in an infographic, and others involve mini trivia games.

All About Me: The Cost of Gas in 1978
All About Me: The Cost of a Movie Ticket in 1978
All About Me: The Cost of a Stamp in 1978

Have you tried All About Me? If so, let me know what you think in the comments below. If you haven’t seen it yet, click here for more information.

FamilySearch’s Ancestor Infographic

Genealogy giant FamilySearch has been experimenting with different ways to make family history more entertaining. Its latest campaign involves the Ancestor Infographic—a fun, visual way to present data in your family tree. I tried it out this morning and enjoyed what I saw.

Ancestor Infographic

The Ancestor Infographic provides a helpful snapshot of the people who came before you. Try it out and let me know what you think in the comments below. You can access the tool by clicking here. (You will have to login with your FamilySearch username and password.)

Old Kentucky School

Here is a wonderful picture of my paternal grandmother’s (Mable Gerie Stafford’s) old school in Kentucky.

Old Kentucky School

School – Betsy Layne, Kentucky

Fortunately, she wrote the following on the back of the photograph:

My old school—1st through 12th grade (no Kindergarten)

Betsy Layne

Yea Bobcats (basketball team)

Your dad was one.

One tip to remember as you document your family history: always scan or take a picture of the back of photographs. Family members often write important notes on the back, and these can easily be forgotten in the hustle and bustle of genealogy work.

FamilySearch Releases “Compare-a-Face”

Genealogy giant FamilySearch has introduced a fun new feature called “Compare-a-Face.” Through facial recognition software, you can discover which ancestor you resemble the most. All you need to do is simply upload a picture of yourself. Then, the program scans the portraits of the ancestors in your family tree and provides a list of matches. (Obviously, the tool won’t work if your tree lacks pictures.) I eagerly tried it out and was pleasantly surprised to be matched to my great-grandfather Harrison Hunley.


FamilySearch’s “Compare-a-Face”

As you can see, it gives you a similarity percentage. It also gives you a list of other ancestors at the top, from highest similarity percentage to lowest. This is a great new feature that adds an element of fun to family history work. It looks like FamilySearch will add other entertaining features in the near future, so stay tuned. Click here to learn more.

Have you tried “Compare-a-Face?” Let me know what you think in the comments below.

ABCs of Family History: D


is for DNA. DNA testing has quickly become a trendy tool for genealogical research. But is it necessary? Some would argue that genetics testing is superfluous, especially if your family tree is well developed. However, there are several key reasons why DNA testing should be considered.

#1—DNA is another genealogical record. Just like a census or birth certificate, DNA is a record. And it’s arguably the most unique record you will find. It connects you to cultures and geographic regions that may be somewhat foreign to you. A few years ago, I took a DNA test through The results came in the form of an “ethnicity estimate,” which summarizes my genetic origins from thousands of years ago.

Ethnicity Estimate

As you can see, the greatest percentage goes to Scandinavia, closely followed by Great Britain. The 12% attributed to Ireland is somewhat puzzling, but it’s very plausible my English ancestors commingled with the Irish.

Earlier this year, introduced “genetic communities,” which show where your ancestors most likely lived in the past few hundred years. My genetic communities include early settlers of Central Appalachia, Mormon pioneers in the Mountain West, and early settlers of Eastern Kentucky and Northeast Tennessee. Of course, these make sense when compared to the results of my own genealogical research.

Genetic Communities

#2—DNA testing can connect you with distant relatives. One advantage of DNA testing is that you’re introduced to DNA matches, which are usually second, third, or fourth cousins. Reaching out to these matches can provide you with new insights, old pictures, and family stories. You may even find a new ancestor! Earlier this year, a second cousin contacted me through We compared notes, and I was able to learn more about her mother’s line. It was a wonderful experience that was made possible by DNA testing.

#3—DNA testing can verify the information in your tree. DNA testing is a way to verify the accuracy of your family tree through scientific means. I had always known that my direct ancestors came from Sweden, Denmark, and England. When my DNA test confirmed this, I felt confident that my genealogical research had been sound. You may experience the opposite, however. You may uncover biological relatives you didn’t know about, which can expand your family tree to other areas of the world.

#4—DNA testing can conquer family tree roadblocks. This happened to me when I was researching the Stafford line. The earliest Stafford I found was John Miles Stafford, my 5th great grandfather. John was born on February 17, 1783 in Walkers Creek, Giles, Virginia. On May 10, 1803, John married Nancy Runyon in Tazewell, Virginia. They had eight children.

For the longest time I was unable to identify John’s parents—the line simply stopped at John. That was until I received a message from someone on who matched my DNA profile. Here is an excerpt from the message:

We have family lore that John Miles Stafford was “raised by the Compton’s” from the memoirs of one of his grandsons and as it turns out, our Y-DNA is a match for the Compton surname. That tells us that John Miles Stafford was born out of wedlock to a COMPTON male and a STAFFORD female, and we are nearly certain of who the couple is, and believe that it is John Compton Jr. and probably Absolem’s daughter Sarah Stafford. Absolem Stafford and John Compton Sr. (father of John Compton Jr.) shared a property line in Tazewell Co, VA and can also be found living in very close proximity during the years of their migration from the east coast.

Jackpot! It turns out that John Miles Stafford is a descendant of the Compton line. After diving deeper into the family history, I began noticing Stafford males with the first name of “Compton.” Compton Stafford (1805-1890), one of John’s sons, was married to Eleanor McCoy (of the famed Hatfield versus McCoy feud). My second great grandfather was also named Compton Stafford (1847-1905). Could it be that “Compton” became a family name out of respect for the Compton family who raised John Miles Stafford?

Are you convinced yet? I hope so. DNA testing can be an extremely valuable tool no matter how developed your tree is. Various DNA tests are available, so do your research to see which one is best for you.

The Obituary of Naomi Roxania LeBaron

Naomi Roxania LeBaron (1816-1881) is my third great grandmother. I recently stumbled upon her obituary, which was published on August 31, 1881 in the Deseret News (a Utah publication).

Editor Deseret News:

Permit me through the columns of your esteemed paper to chronicle the death of one of Israel’s favored ones, Naomi R. Holman, wife of James S. Holman, deceased, who after a brief illness of three days, expired at 7 o’clock p.m., Thursday, at her residence in this ward.

She was born in Leroy, Genesee County, N.Y., Oct. 7, 1816; married J. S. Holman, March 24, 1833, joined the Church in its infancy (date not known); in 1836 received a patriarchal blessing under the hands of Father Joseph Smith, Sen., which has been a guide to her through life, one which has been of much affliction and tribulation, having been expelled, driven and mobbed, from her home many times for the gospel’s sake. She came to Utah, 1848, with six small children, following the footsteps of her husband who came to the valleys the year previous.

She has borne to her husband 12 children; her grandchildren number 52, and great grandchildren 16. Her integrity and faithfulness to the holy Priesthood was firm and unwavering to the last; and she has won the confidence and goodwill of those around her far and near.

The funeral addresses were delivered by Elders B. J. Stringham, Chas. Wood and Bishop David R. Stevens, who spoke very commendable of her life, character and unshaken integrity to the cause of truth up to the last moments. They advised the many present to be true as she had been true, when the remains were taken to the cemetery and quietly laid away.

Remaining as ever,

Yours in the cause of truth,


Naomi Roxania LeBaron

Naomi Roxania LeBaron

The Radiographs of Albert G. Richards

Albert G. Richards (1917-2008) is the great uncle of my wife. He spent more than 40 years as a professor at the University of Michigan School of Dentistry. His curriculum emphasized the use of X-rays to solve various dental ailments. Eventually, Albert’s X-rays took on an artistic flair. He began radiographing unconventional objects, such as bombs, insects, fossils, snow flakes, and flowers. Over the course of many years, Albert created over 3,600 floral radiographs. I’m excited to present a small portion of his collection.

Flower 1


Flower 2


Flower 3

Calla Lily

Flower 4

Dahlia, Cactus

Flower 5

Rose, Top View



ABCs of Family History: C


is for census. Census records are a staple of genealogical research. They provide vital information for each household member, such as name, sex, race, age, marital status, education, and place of birth. Census records also paint vibrant pictures of the family’s everyday life. For example, a census will reveal each individual’s occupation and the value of the family’s home. The 1900 census is particularly helpful because it lists the number of children a woman had and how many of those were living. No matter what you’re looking for, a census record is a great place to start.

According to Article I, Section 2 of the Constitution, the U.S. is required to conduct a census every 10 years. The first census was taken in 1790; the most recent census was performed in 2010. Early censuses (through 1840) listed only the names of the heads of household. Starting in 1850, enumerators recorded specific information for all household members. Unfortunately, most of the 1890 census was destroyed by a fire in January 1921.

In general, census records are subject to the “72-year rule.” This means that records are kept private for 72 years after the census year. Therefore, the latest census we have access to is 1940. Individuals named in the 1950-2010 censuses (or their heirs) can request records for their households only by submitting Form BC-600. Otherwise, you will have to wait until April 1, 2022 to explore the 1950 census. Note that census records from 1790 to 1940 are maintained by the National Archives and Records Administration, not the U.S. Census Bureau.

When you examine a census record, you will notice various symbols and codes. Perhaps the most common code in the 1940 census is the “x” with a circle around it. This indicates who gave the household information to the enumerator. For example, here is the 1940 census listing my great grandfather, Charlie Stafford, and his wife, Draxie. As you can see, Draxie provided the information to the census taker.

Stafford_1940 Census

An “x” with a circle around it appears next to Draxie’s name

There are other codes, too, so it’s important that you become familiar with them before examining the record. Click here for a helpful summary of the questions and codes used in the 1940 census.

Want to view some “famous” census records? Click here.