Category Archives: Reviews ❤ Tips ❤ Resources

I appreciate receiving advise on products, DIY projects, and resources. I thought in turn, I would create a section on my website for “Reviews, Tips, and Resources” that I think may be beneficial to my readers. I will likely post tidbits here that assist me in my work or in my hobbies. If you have something that you would like me to consider adding, please contact me to propose what you’d like me to include.

Find A Grave…An Essential Resource for Genealogy Research!

One of the essentials in conducting genealogy research for your family or clients is using the Find A Grave website: I encourage you to create a free account. There are MILLIONS of graves that are documented from over 200 countries. It is through Find A Grave that I found some of my Patterson and Jackson lineage that I had not found previously. In fact, I contacted the person who photographed the gravestones in that particular cemetery in Warren County, Ohio. He sent me the photo files for ALL of the gravestones from that particular cemetery since the graves were all ancestors of mine! As a result, I now belong to the Warren County Genealogical Society.

Today I spent a couple of hours updating the memorial pages for my parents, infant brother, grandparents, great-grandparents, and great-great grandparents. One of the keys is to tie the various relationships together. The image below is related to my maternal grandfather, John W. Vale, Jr. Notice that their are Family Links to his spouse (my grandmother) and children (my Mom). Today I requested an edit through Find A Grave to also include links to his parents (my great-grandparents). It sure makes it much easier to follow from one generation to another. Not shown in this image is the Memorial #. This # is unique to the specific person. For John W. Vale, Jr. his Memorial # is 72006264. I can just conduct a new search using that number. To make it even easier, I keep a record of my deceased members’ Find A Grave Memorial #s. It makes it easier when I want to return to each person’s unique memorial page. Plus, I can return to the most distant generation and continue creating Family Links.

Find a Grave Sample

The other nice feature for each Memorial page is that media can be added. I try to add photos of the individuals and perhaps something about them. There are Find A Grave volunteers who also take photos of gravestones. Thus, if you don’t have a photo of the gravestone, you may find that a volunteer has already added it.

I hope you find this resource helpful. Please let me know how you like it!

Air Mail Delivery!

Who doesn’t like to receive mail? In 2016 most of our communication consists of text messages, Facebook posts, Instagram photos, Twitter tweets, and email. (These will likely become a “thing of the past” within no time, replaced by other types of communication.) Receiving a letter nowadays seems like a dying custom. I still relish sending my photo greeting cards to family and friends, and typically with some type of note.

As I preserve family history, my parents’ correspondence that they sent to each other in the years leading up to their 1954 marriage, is kept in an archival-quality box. Included in this collection are letters that they exchanged while Dad was in Korea and before he was discharged. They are a beautiful record of the past. Many of these letters were sent via Air Mail and clearly marked as such.

My parents began as pen-pals…she writing to a young man who was soon-to-be deployed while serving in the Korean War. Once he was deployed, Dad would write of the conditions, including the brutally cold winter that he and his fellow servicemen encountered. Mom would write of her work as a secretary and life in Anaheim, California. They were reflecting on two very different experiences, but for Dad it likely provided a reprieve from loneliness and underlying concerns for his safety and that of his unit. Mom, the “eternal optimist,” would send him letters that certainly brought him cheer. Plus, for each of them, the anticipation of the next letter probably brought a flutter to their hearts and a smile to their faces when the letters arrived.

When we go through the exercise of downsizing our households or that of our parents, I encourage us to look for correspondence. It is a valuable historical record. Not only does it give you a snapshot into the past, it can also prove invaluable as a record of local history for your parents’ community. Approach this type of collection with sensitivity. If it seems appropriate, consider donating the collection or parts of it to your local historical society. Otherwise, write a story based on the letters and share it with your family. Need help? I would be happy to do so via Heartfelt Legacies.

A Welcomed Letter!

Snapfish Review

Have you heard of Snapfish? I thought it was time to review one of my favorite products that I have been using since 2006. Using Picasa as my primary photo editor, I can easily download photos into my Snapfish account to organize albums, order prints, create a range of photo-inspired items, and share photo book drafts to be previewed by clients prior to placing their order.  Using Snapfish, I’ve created 15 photo books to date. As I am not a scrapbook hobbyist, Snapfish is a wonderful option.

I also have made several gift books featuring some of my favorite photos.  The most recent gift book is pictured below and entitled, My Book of Colors. I gave this to expectant parents last week, knowing that they were hoping for books for their little one. As an amateur photographer, I have an extensive digital photo collection from which I selected photos of objects, animals, flowers, food, and scenery. I introduced the concept of colors with a photo of a rainbow followed by a page each for yellow, orange, red, green, blue, purple, white, gray, brown, and black. There were additional pages with several colors represented, encouraging the young reader to find the colors and name their favorites. It is my hope that as the child grows and experiences his or her surroundings, they will be more apt to look for colors in the world around them.

My Book of Colors © 2013 Diane Felt

My Book of Colors
© 2013 Diane Felt


My Book of Colors © 2013 Diane Felt

My Book of Colors
© 2013 Diane Felt

I’ve made travel books such as, Scotland: 2010, a 120-page book of our two-week trip to Scotland pictured below. Because it was a heritage tour of my Scottish roots, I also included excerpts of my great-grandfather’s journal as well as scanned photos of past generations. One of my sister’s ordered a copy as well, thanks to the option of keeping a saved copy under my Snapfish account.


Scotland 2010 © 2010 Diane Felt Travel Book Cover, Book is 120 pages of photos, heritage tour notes, Great-Grandfather's journal entries

Scotland: 2010
© 2010 Diane Felt
Book is 120 pages of photos, heritage tour notes, and Great-Grandfather’s journal entries

Scotland 2010 © 2010 Diane Felt Added a scanned photo of Great-Grandfather playing his fiddle. Included an entry from his hand-written journal that I transcribed.

Scotland: 2010
© 2010 Diane Felt
I added a scanned photo of Great-Grandfather playing his fiddle and transcribed an entry from his hand-written journal to add richness to our Scottish heritage tour photo book.

Scotland 2010 © 2010 Diane Felt Sample page of travel book from my Scottish Heritage tour that I arranged for my husband and me. We used Great-Grandfather's journal entries to build our itinerary and visit key Highland locations where the MacLennan and MacKay families once lived and worked.

Scotland: 2010
© 2010 Diane Felt
Sample page of travel book from my Scottish Heritage tour that I arranged for my husband and me. We used Great-Grandfather’s journal entries to build our itinerary and visit key Highland locations where the MacLennan and MacKay families once lived and worked.

For a trip to Maine with friends, I made a travel book for them and us as a souvenir. Surprising people out of the blue gives me great enjoyment, such as the 50th birthday book for my sister! When an aunt passed away, I designed an “In Memorium” book for the family, which also featured old family photos that I scanned. In the back of the book, I included photos from the memorial folder, the service, and the gathering afterwards.

Snapfish is my go-to for invitations, Christmas cards, and souvenir calendars. I use it to order prints and enlargements, requesting the option to use my local Walgreen’s for processing. While I am very pleased with Snapfish, I’d be up for giving another company a try to explore the possibilities. In the meantime, you may want to check out the features of Snapfish at

What type of print-on-demand, on-line service do you use for creating photo books? I’d appreciate any suggestions that you might have.



A Book Review: Across the Savage Sea

Across the Savage Sea

Across the Savage Sea

Always looking for an inspirational story, I couldn’t help but purchase Across the Savage Sea by Maude Fontenoy, copyright 2004, from a local library’s used bookstore. For the price of $1, I eagerly paid for this book and added it to the autobiographical section of my bookcase.

Maude Fontenoy is a French woman who at the age of 25 set a personal goal to be the first woman to successfully row a boat across the Atlantic Ocean. She managed this as a solo voyager, unsupported except for weather and navigation reports via phone contact. What makes her feat even more intriguing is that she opted not to take the route considered easier, the southern route, but rather to cross the Atlantic along the daunting northern route, notorious for its brutal storms. Even more unconventional, she decided to row from west to east.

Maude took a leave from her Paris real estate agency business, gained some financial support through sponsors to supplement her personal funds, and traveled to Newfoundland, joining her boat that was shipped in a freight crate. Maude’s boat had been christened back in France as, Pilot, for one of her sponsors was the Pilot pen company. Once the Pilot was meticulously assembled to its 24-foot length and her four-months of provisions carefully stowed, Maude’s final preparations revolved around tracking favorable weather conditions, earmarking the day to begin her journey, and savoring the last hot meal, comfy night’s slumber, and warm shower that she’d dearly miss for an extended time.

On June 13, 2003, Maude shoved off the coast of Newfoundland, Canada, from Saint-Pierre and Miquelon, not to set foot on terra firma again for nearly four months. In her book she shares captivating details about the insurmountable strength, both physically and mentally, that were absolute necessities to remain focused and ultimately succeed. Amazingly, just in one storm of the many that she encountered, she and her boat withstood 17 capsizings!  Finally, 117 days after leaving Newfoundland, she stepped foot onto land at La Coruna, Spain, on October 9, 2003 to be welcomed by her family, friends, and supporters.

While Across the Savage Sea is a quick read of 149 pages, I found it thrilling. What I appreciate the most was learning of Maude’s tenacity, courage, and very determined will. In some fashion I can relate to her story. My husband, Steve, rode his bicycle across the United States in 2005 over a 79-day journey. While riding a bicycle with two wheels in contact with the land beneath him was extremely different than rowing across an ocean, I still witnessed his tenacity, courage, and very determined will to accomplish his personal goal, electing to enjoy his journey mainly solo and unsupported.

What I am reminded in reading this book, is that we are all on a journey! Perhaps not rowing across the Atlantic, but we each have our own unique journey through life and our very own story!

I’d love to hear about your favorite autobiography or even better about your own personal journey. Go to the “Contact Diane” tab on this website and send me a note.

How to Write a Brief Narrative

From the memoir and travel writing classes that I’ve taken at Lighthouse Writers Workshop  in Denver and University College at University of Denver, I discovered new ways to approach my ongoing memoir writing. One’s memoir does not have to be a birth through life journey, but instead could be a building collection of snippets and stories.

Suggestions for writing snippets and stories:

First, I may just stop to consider a scene from my life. For instance, maybe it is a favorite memory from my childhood or from my children’s childhood. Putting pen to paper (I really prefer Moleskin pads and a pen with a comfortable grip) or fingers to keyboard, I write about the scene for about 10-15 minutes. This serves as a written snapshot of what occurred.

Second, I may have a photo in front of me, which brings a rush of memories. Again, I write for a brief period of time without stopping, capturing who, what, where, when, and how.

Third, I thrive on using my five senses as part of experiences whether they be travels, activities such as hiking, snowshoeing, or while framing a section of exquisite landscape for taking a photograph. Sensory memories can also provide wonderful writing opportunities.

Please check out  my Reflections posts in the category section of the website. There I I will occasionally add some of my memoir writing that I’ve done and will continue to do. I hope this inspires you to capture your stories. Understandably, not everyone has the time or desire to sit and write one’s personal story. Another wonderful approach is to contact me and permit me to guide you through a series of interviews to capture your memoir.

In the meantime, I hope you enjoy my journey!


Review |

Lulu is a website dedicated to print-on-demand and self-publishing. The booklet that I created using arrived this week. Here is my review. I give Lulu a 4-star rating out of a possible 4. It was a very quick turnaround of one week. I placed the order on 12/10 and it arrived on our doorstep on 12/17. This was fantastic, considering that we’re in a very busy holiday season.

Sample Booklet from Lulu
8.5 X 11, coil-bound
62 pages, double-sided

What I did was take a 62-page project that I created for our family last summer, reconfigured it to Lulu’s specifications, and ordered an 8″ X11.5″ coil-bound booklet with a laminated cover. I especially wanted to see how the color photos would look. I am happy to report that they are crisp and clear, a notable improvement over FedEx Office’s copying quality, which we originally used for last summer’s final product. The paper quality is excellent.

Exemplary Color Quality

Some specifics about this project: The 62 pages are 31 double-sized pages. It cost around $25, including shipping costs. Fed Ex ran around $21 each with a lower quality. Probably the biggest challenge was reformatting to Lulu’s specifications: font style was key. They give a list of fonts from which to select. Then what threw me too was my plan to have the page numbers begin after my title page and an introduction page. Gratefully, I was assisted by a friend to create the appropriate section breaks to address the page number starting point. Also, if you have even one color photo or illustration, then the entire project is printed at the color rate. So, if you have either no images or black-white images (I believe there is a recommended gray-scale specification), then the price would be lower per booklet. For people desiring to order enough booklets for their children, grandchildren, and others, Lulu offers a discount for larger quantities. The other great feature is that through Lulu, I could share a link to this project with other family members if they would like to order the booklet directly from Lulu. Or, I simply delete the project from Lulu to make it a one-time publishing endeavor.

This newest printed format of family history for a portion of my husband’s heritage can now be easily shared with our children. My next goal using Lulu will be taking another project that I wrote and submitted for my hometown’s Sesquicentennial last summer and create a perfect-bound book. Perfect-bound essentially means paperback. To check out Lulu, go to: