Saturday, October 8, 2016

Fall 2016 "Ask Granny"© Newsletter

"Ask Granny"© Newsletter    Fall 2016

The "Ask Granny"© 2016 Certificate of Appreciation and Chapter Recognition 

The African-American Historic and Genealogical Society of Prince George's County, Maryland

Congratulations to Nathania A Branch-Miles and the African-American Historic and Genealogical Society of Prince George's County, Maryland, the 2016 "Ask Granny"© Chapter of Year!

Thank you to the Chapter for all that you have done over the past year!

Below are some interesting thoughts on the program from responses to questions I sent to Nathania.  You will see that she and her group have been creative in their outreach, in getting publicity in local media, and in finding ways to finance more sessions.

Julia Porter, Guy Charity, and Nathania Branch-Miles
 at Spauldin'gs Library, Prince George's County, Maryland
Granny: What is your exact department within Howard?  Nathania Branch-Miles: I am still a full-time employee at the Howard University working in the department of Student Affairs in their University Counseling Service. As a member of the Prince George’s County Maryland Chapter of the Afro American Historical and Genealogical Society, Inc., I am an officer and program coordinator for special programs.

How did you hear of us? Learned about it on the internet – read an article in Reunions Magazine – I followed it up with an email to to express my interest and to get more information.  I submitted a proposal to my chapter that we incorporate the "Ask Granny"© program into our community outreach.  It has been a huge success.  Other chapters are interested in following suit. It has been written up in our quarterly newsletter.

Use the materials or re-create them for your particular needs? Yes, the Afro American Historical and Genealogical Society, Inc. – Prince George’s Maryland Chapter, we incorporated our logo on most of the printed materials to show a joint project. We have been repeatedly asked to do more as the participants feel that one hour is not enough time.

Spaulding's Library, Prince George's County, Maryland
How many granny sessions and students have you had? Three (3) sessions which were co-sponsored the Prince George’s County Memorial Library System  (PGCMLS).

Oxon Hill Branch -  50 people registered - 38 people showed up
Spaulding’s  Branch - 30 people registered - 25 people showed up
Fairmount Heights Branch - 15 people registered – 11showed up

There are 18 library branches in the county.  Mr. Guy D. Charity is the Outreach Services Specialist
Senior and Homebound Services for the PGMLS.  The Oxon Hill Library Branch is one of the largest libraries in the county and Fairmount Heights is one of the smallest.  We are scheduled to do a presentation with the Accokeek Library Branch in October and the North Brentwood Historical Society in November.  We have also been put on the Calendar in December and January with Maryland National Capital Park & Planning Commission’s (M-NCPPC) Senior Citizen programs.
Maryland "Grannies" and "Grandpas"

How did you handle the costs...what is your estimate, over the course of your project, of costs per student?  For the first presentation, the chapter incurred the cost of printing, purchase of pencils, labels, cards, folders and other needed items.  Because we were in the middle of the summer, staples, Office Depot and other merchants had not yet started their school sales, including the cost of printing out the directions, charts, and evaluation sheets it came to $3.49 per person.  Now that the library is printing, the cost has been lowered considerably.  The library has given us in kind support by now printing out all of the handouts and providing pencils and folders.  Maryland Park and Planning will give us a stipend so we will use that money to purchase whatever materials are needed

How did the local media hear about you and what type of interviews did you have? Initially I submitted a proposal to the Library, Senior Citizen groups and Park & Planning.  The first group to accept our proposal was the Library.

Each time we prepared for a presentation, the library did an email blast to all of its patrons at the individual libraries, AAHGS-PGCM sent out notices to the calendar of the local Gazette and Washington Post newspapers as well as the local cable TV channel.  After the first program, mostly word of mouth.  We have been seen on the local cable channel.  We have been asked by local senior citizen groups and other historical societies to do a session for their groups.

Nathania Branch-Miles and Judy Russell, 22 September 2016

New Association with the Georgia Genealogical Society

Your "Ask Granny"©  co-founder, Judy Russell, and husband Tom made a big move in May. After 55 years in and near Athens, GA, we moved to Brookhaven (formerly a part of Atlanta), GA, to enjoy some fun times with kids and grandkids. We brought boxes and boxes of GRANNY material with us, as well as all of our computer materials. Finally do have things up and running with a new computer, built to emulate the old one.

We hated to leave Athens and co-author Greg Crane.  But Tom has been the new GRANNY assistant, accompanying me and being the IT guy at speaking engagements. Our first speaking date was at the Summer Festival of the Georgia Genealogical Society at the Georgia Archives building in Morrow, GA.  We had a large session with lots of folks interested in using "Ask Granny"© materials at family reunions and other events. Two women also had an idea to use with the Hospice patients where they work, which is another very workable idea.

At that June Meeting, President Susan Sloan announced the new committment of the Georgia Genealogical Society to assist "Ask Granny"© both locally as well as nationally and internationally.  The first big step is in place now: an "Ask Granny"© tab on the Georgia Genealogical Society homepage,, with some brief information about the program and, most importantly, our contact details. This will be a new step in visibility for our program and will make it easier for folks to find us. Future plans include training of volunteers for outreach and for local sessions in Georgia communities.

Judy and Greg send our thanks to the Georgia Genealogical Society for their interest in and committment to "Ask Granny"© and for helping us find new ways to foster the outreach. We look forward to many new and interesting GRANNY activities in joint effort with the Society.

A word about Finances

We often get questions about how to finance GRANNY projects in light of our stipulation that no one is ever charge for attending an "Ask Granny"© session. It has always been our contention that since we freely share all of the GRANNY materials with those who ask for them, those people in turn should also freely share.

So, who pays? When Greg and I started out, we kept some very detailed notes about costs and averaged out over a year.  All told, it turned out that each session cost about $20, about $1.00 per student. Since we were doing about one session a month, we shared the expenses and counted this as a hobby expenditure ....much less than, say, a round of golf or a lunch for both of us after the session.  So when people ask us about finances, we always recommend just starting small and paying for the first couple of sessions yourself.  If you want to continue, then you can look at some cost saving measures.

As you read in Nathania Branch-Miles's interview, you will see that she also considered finances very closely and was persistant in finding ways to pay for, especially, the printing and folders.

But we really recommend that you don't worry about finances at first. Take our challenge of picking up the phone and calling the nearest senior citizen residence or county day group. Ask to speak to the activities director, tell him/her briefly about the simple one-hour program of capturing memories using pencil and paper and emphasize that is is FREE. Offer to follow up by email with some sample materials.  I can honestly say that I’ve never been turned down using this approach.

Next, do a session or two and see if you don't feel, as Greg and I did, that the experience and fun that the presenters get out of their GRANNY involvement is worth much more than the personal expense. Where else in the world would I personally have met two Granny-sisters whose father was born into slavery in Greene County, Georgia, or a woman whose great-grandmother was Louisa May Alcott? Each session is truly an enrichment for the presenters as well as the attendees!

After your first few sessions, if  you decide to committ to doing several sessions, then look for sales of basic materials and/or buy online at such places as, our best source for binders with brads and pockets. The goal is to leave people with a substantial gift folder that won't get easily lost, but at a miminal cost to the providers.

If you are having trouble with getting started or with expenses, please feel free to send questions or comments at any time. We will help you take those first few steps.

Keep us Posted!

Always remember, too, to send us reports of your GRANNY activities and photos.  Our rough estimate is that over 2000 senior citizens have created their "Genealogical Gift to My Family" in sponsored events and family reunions. Our goal is to reach 5000 in the next year!  

Best wishes to all!

Judy Russell and Greg Crane

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

ASK GRANNY Newsletter: January 2015

Greetings to all of our ASK GRANNY friends around the world and best wishes for a Happy New Year!  GRANNY's 2014 was a great one, and we are hoping yours was, too.  

The highlight of our year was receiving the July 2014 Seton Shields National Award and Grant from Megan Smolenyak's "Honoring our Ancestors Foundation."  It was truly a great honor to be recognized and to receive a grant that will help finance our 2015 events.  Thank you for all the good wishes we got from you on this occasion!

We also were very pleased to be invited to speak in September at the 3rd Annual Southern Studies Showcase in Edgefield, South Carolina. It was great fun to be able to meet lots of the folks that we have corresponded with over the years and also to talk about GRANNY ideas with a group of very interested participants.

We've had a year of continued expansion in the USA and internationally and have emailed our free set of files to 52 individuals or groups. Many of our recipients are genealogical librarians who, as part of their work activities, conduct workshops on basic interviewing skills and other "getting started in genealogy" topics. But we've fufilled requests individuals, reunion groups, and Genealogical Socities in the USA and from New Zealand, Australia, and the UK as well.   

This summer we also introduced ASK GRANNY LITE, a set of instructions for using one or two of the GRANNY files in one-on-one settings. We've had many questions about using the materials for interviewing family members and we hope that this instruction sheet will help in those situations:

Lastly:  For those of you who are thinking of doing a 2015 presentation in your local's encouragement to do the hardest part....pick up the phone and talk to the Activities Director at a retirement facility.  These folks are usually planning their yearly calendars about this time and they are, in our experience, very receptive to our GRANNY program idea, especially when we emphasize that everything is FREE.  

Please let us know if there is any way we can help with your outreach efforts.  Also, please continue to send your reports of activities and other ideas to

Thank you for everything you do to make sure that the vital family memories of senior citizens are not lost, but are recorded and preserved for future researchers!

Very best wishes,   Judy and Greg, aka ASK GRANNY
Judy Russell and Greg Crane


2014 reports from individuals and groups

Wilmington NC: 
I included your Ask Granny series in a presentation, “Innovative Genealogy Programs for the Public” at the North Carolina Library Association Conference October 2013. I told them a little bit about your program and how they could contact you, along with giving them your website. They seemed very receptive and I hope it helped to spread the word about your program.

Burlington WI GS:

I conducted a modified Ask Granny program for a luncheon for retired employees at Wheaton Franciscan Medical Center in Racine, Wisconsin in Dec 2012.  I gave them the basics and had a question session afterward.  There were aprox  90 people in attendance.  I had a sign up sheet with our Burlington Genealogical Society information and when we were going to be holding small group sessions.  We had about 25 sign up for those which we held during the year.
 In July 2013 we held the Ask Granny program for a group of patrons of the Waterford Wisconsin public Library.  It was met with much sucess including helping one adopted attendee find information about her birth parents and their family tree.
We have gotten several call backs from those that came to our programs for help with their trees and were able to walk them through over the telephone and using the sheets we handed out  from the Ask Granny material.
In 2014, we plan on continuing with the program.

West Georgia Genealogical Society:

I gave the exercise on "Ask Granny" that we put together in January yesterday for our local chapter in West Central Georgia yesterday.

 I think it went very well, and the booklets that you put together for us were extremely helpful, along with all your tips and other thoughts that make this so much easier for others. 

I did indicate to the participants, that they could call you if they had other questions, or wanted to present it at a church group, or family reunion etc. Your e-mail address for "Ask Granny" as well as your phone number was in the material. 

One of my suprises, was how little so many knew of their family history. Many indicated they planned to look up the material, or ask other family members of their knowledge so it would be accurate. I had made several copies of the "Ask Granny" chart, and most of them were gone when I left, so some at least planned to do more. 

Thanks again for all of your assistance, in putting things together in a way that anyone can figure out a way to get started, and for sharing so much work and effort on what you have done.

Livermore-Ardmore CA GS:
Thank you for initiating and sharing the “Ask Granny”© program resources.
 Last evening, January 23, 2014, genealogy docents from the Livermore – Amador Genealogical Society and the leadership of the Livermore – Pleasanton – Dublin Branch of the American Association of University Women in conjunction with the staff of the Pleasanton Public Library presented a very well-received “Ask Granny”© work shop to 27 AAUW members, and their guests.

Most participants said that they would soon seek further research assistance from L-AGS genealogy docents who are available in the Pleasanton Public Library every Wednesday between the hours of 10 am and 1 pm to assist family history investigators. 

Washington State, Lower Columbia Gen Society:
... is using Granny materials in conjunction with a "Write your life" program.  
We had discussed the idea of giving people the most cost effective gift Granny could think of....10 cent spiral bound notebook from Big Lots!  Thank you for the idea of having the notebooks for people.  We had about 25 show up to listen to the stories (had 5 people read theirs).  The activities director at the retirement facility is encouraging them to write and even has a team of volunteers who will help -- one on one.  

Carlsbad CA Library:

...thank you so much for sending me your materials. Wow, you have a full-featured program there!

Roswell, GA, PL

...I'm the young adult librarian at my branch library in Roswell, GA.  I also do some adult programming.

I presented 3 "Ask Granny" type  classes in September, October and November 2013.  I used the Ask Granny materials in the classes.  One I called  Basic Genealogy for adults was attended by 3 people.  The other called Oral History and genealogy.  Only one person came, but she was very appreciative as she was a complete "newbie."
 I also did a series of 5 classes for homeschooled teens with their parents.  I use a lot of the "Ask Granny" materials to get them started.  I think the parents were more excited than the teens, but I had one girl who really threw herself into her research.
Thanks for providing the materials as it made my job of developing class materials much easier.
Here are some quotes from our Participants:o "So many helpful ideas were presented to help search for family ancestors.  Handouts will be so helpful.  I will be watching for other classes in newsletter."
o "My family and I will be working on that."

Columbia South Carolina,Richland PL:
Our Ask Granny presentation is set for August 12 and 19 at the Oak Read High Rise. Last year I did something similar for a one day event but without the Ask Granny material.... Personally, it was an powerful experience.  This year I am expanding it to two days and using the Ask Granny materials.  This is all part of a larger program to engage the older residents of our poorer neighborhoods

Garland TX:
For your information, I held the first session last Thursday, July 7. This was held at Chambrel at Club Hill Senior Living Center in Garland, Texas.
 We had 10 people there but three of them were experienced, 7 newcomers. The one thing I learned from the newcomers was that the 6 generation sheet still had too small print. I am changing that for the next session.
 I am going to create a work sheet of two generations, I think, for the next session...
 Other than that, the program went well. I think I talked too much. We were pressed for time. I did not realize how much beginners have to learn and how much they do NOT know about their family.

Henderson County KY Public Library:

We had our workshop and it was a big success.  We had 6 children and parents for them. We divided the adults and went over some basic genealogy since some of them were new.  
The children talked about journaling, received some handouts to fill out as they gather information about their relatives (including your ancestral chart), and ironed family tree patterns on tee shirts they had brought with them.  All of the kids with their parent's help were able to fill out most of their leaves. 

Thanks for letting us use your chart...


Monday, October 13, 2014

Announcing: "Ask Granny"© LITE

Ask Granny© Lite

Using the materials for individual interviews

Over the years, we've fulfilled many requests from individuals who wanted to use our Ask Granny© materials in a simple setting with one of their own family members. We've been delighted to send the files and to think of the materials being used in this way.

We can imagine that many of our Ask Granny© contacts and file recipients might have an opportunity, especially during the holiday season, to talk to family members about their memories of family names, dates, and places. What a chance for a genealogical treasure to be created! Just think ahead a bit .. if the gathering is not at your house, it would be best to check with your hostess/host about the timing of your interviews. Also let the grannies and grandpas a little in advance that you would like to ask them a few questions about family names and places.

We know from personal experience how hard it is to scribble down names as someone reminisces. So using the Ask Granny© chart (File 1: A Genealogical Gift to My Family) would be extremely helpful to record information during your conversations about family memories.

And an interview is the easiest way possible to capture the memories. YOU will do the writing -- your granny/grandpa won’t have to understand how the chart works or how to write things in good genealogical format--you will do it for them! And all you need is a basic understanding of how to record info on the ancestral chart...starting with the ME on the chart (your interviewee) and working backward through time.

How to

The Granny Ancestral Chart (file 1: A Genealogical Gift to my Family), a manilla folder, an extra sheet of paper, and a pencil are all you will need. We recommend that you have the ancestral chart enlarged to 11 by 17 inches and that, after the interview, you staple it inside a colorful manilla folder. This is simply so that the material will be noticed and not thrown away. You could even label the folder something like “Granny Brown’s Family History.”

(The easiest way to get the Ancestral Chart printed is to simply forward the email with Granny File© 1 attached directly to your local copy shop with directions to enlarge it to 11 by 17 inches and print it in black and white. The cost is usually about $.20 per page. The manilla folders come in small packets at the Dollar Stores, office supply stores, or other retail outlets. Email if you need a replacement of File 1.)

Now you are ready to proceed. If you need a quick refresher course, read over Ask Granny© File 7 “Instructor’s Talking Points.” To help future researchers understand the chart, all you need to remember are Granny’s Four Common Sense Rules:

1.  Always print
2.  Woman always are identified by their MAIDEN names
3.  Dates are written out completely:  23 May 1923
4.  Places are written with as complete info as you can as regards to city, county, state.

Individual interviews could be wonderful holiday experiences for all generations of the family. You’ll see from my photos that the interview technique is simple and fun to set up and accomplish. Children can easily participate, as I learned from my grandson’s 8 year old classmates. You probably won’t be able to complete each chart, but you will have a good beginning and you can follow up later in person or by phone.

We have included, below, an additional page to help you record some bonus material about your interviewee. You can print this out to staple it, also, in the folder. If time and energy permit, you might ask the interviewee about their extended families:

1. Your brothers and sisters
2. Your father's brothers and sisters
3. Your mother's brothers and sisters

We hope you will consider the “Ask Granny Lite” individual interview possibility during Holiday Season or at a more quiet time of the year! You’ll be helping to create a lasting genealogical gift for the whole family.

As always we welcome your questions and comments.

Judy Russell and Greg Crane  
13 October 2014

Family Interview using "Granny LITE"

Granny LITE folder

Judith F. Russell, Ph.D. and
Gregory L. Crane, Captain, USCG, Retired
"Ask Granny"©
Free Genealogical Materials for Senior Citizens      




Georgia Genealogical Society's Award:  2011 Outstanding Contribution to

July 2014 "Honoring our Ancestors" Seton Shields National Genealogy Grant


Additional Information

Date ______________________________
Name _____________________________

My brothers and sisters (name and birth date)

My father’s brothers and sisters (name and birth date)

My mother’s brothers and sisters (name and birth date)

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Report on Horn's Creek Church Preservation Project, September 2014

The project to preserve and protect the Historic Horn's Creek Baptist Church in Edgefield SC is well underway as of these photos of 19 Sept 2014.  To contribute to this ongoing project:

Make Check to Edgefield Historical Society with note line "Horn's Creek"

Mail to:
Miss Clarice Wise
1150  Augusta Road
Trenton, SC 29847

 The new caretaker's cottage is well underway and the burial ground is in very good shape.

 Church building is stablized with a roof in good repair.  The interior and exterior renovations will began after the caretaker's cottage project is complete.

View from the side of the Church toward the Cottage

Six foot tall chain link fence now protects the property
 Many of the monuments have been repaired and re-set.

Several other monuments, which had been toppled by vandals have now been set upright again.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

September 2014 Photos from the Bush River Quaker Cemetery, Newberry, SC

 New Burial:  Jean Worthington Herbert Smith

 Cemetery is in excellent condition

 Lydia Barrett Stone


Marker Sign

Thursday, August 21, 2014

New Granny file 31 about disclosure for Red Folder

“Ask Granny”©
“Who will see my information?”

“Ask Granny”© presenters are often asked “who will see the information that I am recording today?” The answer is:   No one but your family! Any records created during an “Ask Granny”© presentation are the sole property of the person who created them. Copies are never kept by the presenters of the program.

In addition, “Granny” presenters have been asked by many organizations, particularly libraries, if the Family Group Record sheets or copies of them can be turned over to an organization to be archived or made available to other researchers. The answer here is the same. ...the records are created solely for the family of the attendees and are never shared.

It has always been the intent of the “Ask Granny”© creators that the materials created by the individuals participating will remain in their personal files for use by their heirs. We also include a letter in the Red Folder entitled “Part of my legacy to my family,” to make family members aware that this record was created for the sole use of the family and that it should be passed along only to family members for their use in maintaining a family history, not necessarily as a Genealogical document with source citations.

Remember, also, that no attempt has been made to verify the information on the Genealogical Ancestral chart. Each detail is merely a recorded memory of a name, date, or place. It is hoped that future family members with an interest in their ancestry will be able to use the information as a guide as they seek documentary evidence to confirm the details on the family chart. If that is the case, then our “Grannies and Grandpas” have done their work well!

©2014  G. Crane and J. Russell
File 31    21 August 2014

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

"Granny" receives "Honoring our Ancestors" Grant from Megan Smolenyak

Here's some really exciting news about "Ask Granny!"  Our program has
received the July 2014 Seton Shields Genealogy Grant given by Megan
Smolenyak as part of her nationally acclaimed "Honoring our Ancestors"

Each month Megan recognizes a grassroots genealogical endeavor with a
description in her newsletter and with a grant to foster further activities.
You can read about the other 2014 recipients here:     Our grant will be discussed in the
upcoming September edition of the newsletter.

We are so honored by this recognition of our local "Ask Granny" activities
and of the national and international activities of our "Granny"  file
recipients. We are glad to be able to share the news with all of you who
have been involved with the program, either for your family reunion or for
the outreach activities of your senior citizen group or genealogical

To all of our "Granny" partners in the USA and around the world...thank you
for being a part of our program.  We hope that this national recognition and
honor will inspire you in your planning of future activities as it has us.

Regards from Judy and Greg, aka "Ask Granny"

Judith F. Russell, Ph.D. and Gregory L. Crane, Captain, USCG, Retired

"Ask Granny"©     Free Genealogical Materials for Senior Citizens       email:

Georgia Genealogical Society's Award:  2011 Outstanding Contribution to

July 2014 "Honoring our Ancestors" Seton Shields National Genealogy Grant