Read Part One

Read Part Two

“OK. Everybody ready?  Jim, you’re in charge of the design.  Mary, you make the walls.  John Niels can build the roof.  Thomas and Kimmie are over the trees and shrubbery.  Willie, you can handle the snow.  If we all work together we’ll have Grandmother’s House ready in no time.”  “Now, what’s that, Alexandra?  What’s your question?”  “You want to know… When are we going to EAT Grandmother’s House?!”   

In Part One of our three part series of “To Grandmother’s House We Go!” we talked about the emotional and spiritual impact of going to our ancestral Grandmother’s House in any generation of time; and in Part Two we dealt with ways on how to find Grandmother’s House.  Not just over the river and through the woods, but the importance of locating Grandmother’s House on maps, and in records, and how to use this information to enlarge our genealogy and family history research and knowledge.  With this spiritual and educational understanding in place, now we need to have some fun for everyone in the family… for going to Grandmother’s House must be FUN!  As that wonderful professor of family fun Alma Heaton said, “Having positive, enjoyable experiences together cements family relationships.  Having fun together is a powerful and effective way to draw a family together. 

For our trip to Grandmother’s House here are four ways with family history and genealogy to have fun and make this a family activity.  First, we’re going on a Virtual Vacation.  Then, we’ll take a Walk Down Memory Lane. Third, we’re going to have the sweet experience of re-building Grandmother’s House.  And finally, we’re going to create a Family Picture Wall. 

Going on a Virtual Vacation

1.  Going on a Virtual Vacation to Grandmother’s House – We touched on this activity in To Grandmother’s House We Go! Part Two: Tips to Help You Find It! of this Meridian Magazine family/genealogy series, but now we need to enlarge on the concept.  This is an adventure brought to you by Google Earth.  We have shared how to find your ancestor’s home using this wonderful and free Internet program, but there is so much more that can be done with it in our family history experience.  Perfect for a great family activity!

On Google Earth  we begin by downloading the program onto our computer, which also automatically places an icon of the program on your desktop.  The general program is free (a more advanced program for professionals in the real estate, community management, vacation or other businesses, and the serious family historian, can be downloaded for a fee).  When you open the program, a photographic image of the planet Earth appears on your computer screen. 

There are two options for locating a place: First type in the name of the street or location in the upper left hand corner search box, which will then direct the program to that place.  Or to better understand the geographical setting of the ancestral home, on the starting Earth image, pinpoint the continent location you are looking for with your cursor arrow, the place you want to visit to find Grandmother’s House, and then double click your mouse button.  The image telescopes down to a spot on the Earth’s surface.  It takes a few double clicks to get right down to where you begin to see details like on a map. 

As you get closer to the surface of the world, political and geographical features appear on the screen, such as names of states/countries, counties, cities, lakes, and rivers to name a few.  When you are close enough to identify the location of the city, town, farm, home, or property of the place you want to visit, two more double clicks will bring the image right up to street level.  It will take a few moments, but the flat panoramic view will coalesce into the actual photographic image of the homes and countryside that you would see as if you were actually standing there.  (Note: This description applies to many places in America and other countries, but not to all places on Earth.  Google Earth is still a developing program and photographs of all areas of the world have not yet been added. Improvements are being made all the time so check back often to find your Grandmother’s House.)  

Dingle Cottage on Google Earth

To better illustrate what we are talking about, we will use the example of our ancestor’s home, the nineteenth century house of Samuel Eames of Garway Hill, Herefordshire, England.  Samuel, who has been mentioned before in previous Meridian articles, was a stone mason and building contractor and member of the LDS Church who converted in the early 1840’s.  In his West Hereford countryside communities of Garway, Orcup, and Michaelschurch Eskley, he built his own homes that he shared with our Grandmother, Nancy Castree Eames, as well as many other buildings, a number of which are still standing to this day.  The home at Garway Hill was the first of his homes.  Known as “Dingle Cottage”, this Grandmother’s House stands today. 

To find the Eames home on Google Earth, we first had to spin the Earth image on our computer screen until we located the outline of England in Europe.  Knowing that Hereford was in southwestern England, we began to double click with our cursor on the map of Great Britain looking for this location. However, to make things easier, we went to the search line at the top of the computer screen, and typed in “Garway Hill, England.”  The computer program then telescoped the image and focused right in on the specific town. 

Using a map description which we found in our genealogy research  we were able to find the image of the roads, or streets, and pinpoint Dingle Cottage on Google Earth.  Then bringing the image down to “street view”, we were able to see Grandmother’s House as if we were standing right in front of it. 

By panning around the area, we were also able to look over the countryside, approximately the same view our Eames ancestors saw each day when they walked out of their home.  Across the road was a long green field surrounded by hedgerows, the typical English border for farm lands.  A “walk” down the road in either direction was like a stroll in the countryside.  We could see the farms and homes, with the sprawling landscaped background. 

To the south we visited the parish town of Garway, where Samuel went to town to conduct business and Nancy went shopping.  We saw St. Michael’s, the old church where the Eames family attended prior to their conversion to Mormonism.  We see on Google Earth it is a tall, square, stoic building surrounded by moss-covered tombstones.  (Forget Googling Genealogy!  Let’s get a plane ticket and go there! Now!)

Further North and East we visited the parish of Orcup, where Samuel Eames’ wife, Nancy Castree Eames was buried; and east of there we followed the road, over the mountain to Michaelschurch Eskley in the Golden Valley, where Samuel lived in later life with his son John Eames, just prior to migrating to America in 1868.  Each location provided us with beautiful views, and a taste of old England where our ancestors lived.


And Even More!

A Virtual Family History Vacation needn’t apply only to the homes of ancestors.  You can make a journey to your family’s mission fields.  We’ve taken our family to my mission and located the apartments where I lived while serving in Florida. And we have seen where our sons served in East Berlin, the Philippines and Canada.  Now we understand so much more about what they experienced and their “Best Two Years”. 

We’ve also visited the home of my childhood and wandered through the neighborhood, identifying the homes of the people I loved and remembered from my past.  Or you can visit the historical sites and homes of prominent men and women who your family may have brushed history with during their lifetime.   It is amazing the memories and personal history that come back when we can see the homes and surroundings of an earlier time. It is a great way to share who you are and your ancestry with your family. 

A Walk Down Memory Lane

2.  A Walk Down Memory Lane in Grandmother’s House.  Visiting grandmother’s house is a wonderful opportunity to not only enter grandma’s home, but also her memory.  Whether you visit her en masse or just for a sleep over, or even a holiday setting where family gets together to share and laugh, and enjoy food and fun, anytime is a perfect time to ask questions of Grandma and Grandpa about their past.  What a wonderful place Grandmother’s House can be when it is filled with the sound of family stories and remembered. 

When planning such an experience it is worthwhile to have a list of questions you want to ask. For such a list go to our HEIRLINES website homepage  for a free download of our Family History questionnaire “Book of Memories”.  Click-on “Click to Download a Free “Book of Memories” Starter Document.”  This is a free Word document with hundreds of questions you can ask yourself, family members and others about life experiences and their place in history to help you write your personal history and the life story of your loved ones.  It is especially nice if you can record their answers with a tape recorder or a camcorder or even just a cell phone, and make preparations to transfer the responses to CD or your desired medium when the opportunity presents itself.  Pick what works best for you.  

In reviewing Grandmother’s memories, travel with your family through each room of  her home to learn  family stories – the ones the walls would tell if they could speak..  If Grandma doesn’t live anymore in the home where she raised her children, you can all sit around and draw or imagine the floor plan of the family home, and visit the rooms one by one in memory.  It is surprising how even the nooks and crannies carry special meaning for different family members as their thoughts wend back through time. 

I remember the home I grew up in on the west side of Provo, just across the street from the power plant.  It was built in the late 1940’s, and we moved in about 1955.  At the time it was built, the heating system was still running on coal, and a lid in the narrow one-car garage opened up to a coal chute that allowed fuel to be shoveled down directly into the furnace room.  However, by the time we moved in, the furnace had been converted to gas supply, and coal was never used, that I remember.  But we kids knew that if the house was ever locked up, we could get in through the chute, into the basement where our bedrooms were.  It was several years before that coal furnace storage was converted into a household storage and pantry, and the coal chute was covered up.  Ah, such memories for this grandpa of Grandmother’s House!

Saving Grandma from Memory Loss

Grandma and Grandpa’s stories need to be recorded now.  Life has a way of getting in the way of the best laid plans for “I’ll get around to it”, “After all, tomorrow is another day and “I’ll live forever.”  

My wife, Mary E. Petty, took the time a number of years ago to visit my mother on a regular weekly basis over the space of two or three years.  During that time they visited, and Mary took notes about Mom’s stories and memories in her very own words.  She shared her thoughts and love and dreams for each one of her posterity.  Later on, we typed those memories onto our computer and produced a notebook of Mom’s personal history and stories that we gave my brother and sisters as a gift this past Christmas.  We took turns reading about Mom’s memories of her youth and our youth as well.  We laughed and had a wonderful time.  This was a real treasure.  My mother is still living, but is now just a shell of who she used to be.  She suffers from Alzheimer’s, and no longer has memories she can share.  But we still have her memories, and because we took the time to save them, “G”Ma Petty” and her stories will live on!

Gingerbread Making Grandmother’s House

3. Re-building Grandmother’s House in Gingerbread – This is a wonderful family activity.  Making gingerbread houses doesn’t require bricks or mortar or electricity; just a good imagination, gingerbread mixture, candies, frosting, willing builders, and a picture of Grandmother’s House.  In theory, a good builder can construct a whole community of ancestral homes and structures representing the past of our ancestors, but instead of skilled workers, we usually have children (from #1 Son to grandkids and nieces and nephews and beyond) to build it their way.  We rebuilt Grandmother’s House in Gingerbread with our grandchildren as one of our 2010 Christmas activities, but it can be done any time of the year when Grandpa and Grandma need something to do with the kiddies. We used a pattern that I made of the Samuel Eames home, “Dingle Cottage”, drawn from the photos on GoogleEarth. In its first stage of existence the house was little more than a four-walled rectangle with a door, window and chimney.  Easy enough for beginning gingerbread house builders… or so we thought.

Forms were made on graph paper using the photos of Dingle Cottage from Google Earth.  Walls of Gingerbread were baked, and then the fun really began with all of the little fingers in the mix.  Royal Icing was used to cement the walls and the roof; but not everything fit the way it was supposed to.  Candy rocks and beams of licorice were placed on the gingerbread, but along with the frosting most of the construction materials ended up in stomachs of the willing builders rather than in the building.  The roof caved in and a cinnamon Santa was placed on top of the chimney like an angel on a steeple, and the cottage quickly changed into a church.  It may not have looked exactly “Dingle”, but some of the children will not soon forget the idea of Dingle Cottage, and the fun that was had by all at Grandmother’s House. At the close of this article find a copy of the recipe we used to rebuild Grandmother’s House in Gingerbread.


Wall of Legacy and Love

4.  The Family Picture Wall at Grandmother’s House – Remembering Grandmother’s House means remembering those people who filled Grandmother’s House.  Whether using living grandparents or those long past or both, this activity draws families together, and provides an opportunity for Eternal Relationships. It is truly a wall of legacy and love, a family memorial.  

Frame a picture of Grandmother’s House using either a favorite family photo, or even a picture off of Google Earth.  Above the top of the picture of the house, place a photograph of Grandma and Grandpa; after all, this was their home.  Then, surrounding them and the house, place pictures of each of their children, and their families.  Label each person with a name and a birth date.  As the families grow, add new loved ones’ pictures and new information. 

This is extremely important.  As our families grow, and extend, we often drift apart from one another, and it is difficult remembering all of the names and faces, or what our connection is to them.  A picture wall linking us and our loved ones to the old family home provides a visual reminder that can be seen every day.  Eventually every face, name, and birth date will become imprinted on family memories.  When family get-together’s happen… instead of a room full of strange relatives, or relative strangers, faces and names will be remembered, and lifelong friendships will be renewed, and Eternal families will grow, all because of Grandmother’s House. 

Join with us in making this year, and years to come, an opportunity to discover the magic of…

“Over the River and through the Woods, To Grandmother’s House we go…”

James W. Petty, AG, CG is the Board-Certified and Accredited Professional Genealogist, “Climbing the Family Tree Professionally Since 1969”.  He is President of HEIRLINES Family History & Genealogy, Inc. (, the “Salt Lake City, Utah BBB Accredited Business” trusted professional genealogy research services firm, providing genealogical and historical research for a world-wide clientele.


For Heirlines-Quality professional genealogy services, resources, and products including free genealogy, LDS Family History advice and expert answers to commonly asked ancestry questions, visit Jim’s website for free consultations and ordering custom family tree research services, and his genealogy blog  



Here is PettyPride Recipe for Gingerbread:

RECIPE Grandmother’s House in Gingerbread à la Dingle Cottage

With the “Dingle Cottage” pattern made from Google Earth by Papa (James W. Petty), G’Me (Mary E. Petty) used this recipe to make absolutely delicious gingerbread cookies and a delightful Grandmother’s Gingerbread House of Grandma Nancy Castree Eames’ home all on one snowy Christmas Holiday afternoon in 2010 with 4 PettyPride grandchildren: Megan, Luke, Alex and Sammie. The original Grandmother’s House was built over 150 years ago in Herefordshire England by her husband, Grandpa Samuel Eames.  He would be proud of these 8th Generation Builders of Zion!

We learned that the gingerbread dough should be prepared and chilled in advance to making Grandmother’s House.  Then it can be rolled and cut out, baked and cooled. Importantly, the walls must be securely put together and mortar long dry before you attach the roof and decorate.  And be sure to plan making the house in several sessions, so it does not collapse under the weight of the candy decorations when you have all those little hands in construction mode. Enjoy!!!

1. Whisk these dry ingredients together in a large bowl, then sift together with the 9 cups of flour; set aside this flour mixture.

  • 2 Tablespoons baking soda
  • 4 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon ground cloves or allspice
  • 9 cups all purpose flour

2. Using electric mixer, whip the cream and vanilla until mixture holds soft peaks; set aside.

  • 1 ½ cups whipping cream
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

3. Using electric mixer and big bread bowl, whip together egg yolks and brown sugar; then beat in molasses and whipped cream mixture until well combined. Add in 3-5 cups of flour mixture and blend until smooth.  Then use the bread dough hook and knead in remaining cups of flour until everything is well blended.  If dough is too soft, add more flour. 

  • 1 ¹/³ cup dark molasses
  • 2 1/2  cups firmly packed brown sugar
  • 2 large egg yolks

4. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and put it in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours, preferably

Overnight.  Be sure to let dough sit out for 10 minutes before rolling out on parchment or wax paper.  Roll out on parchment paper; cut out the pieces and bake at 350 degrees.  Prepare Royal Icing when house pieces are cooled and ready to assemble. We appreciated the pictures and instructions found on Simply Recipies® How to Make a Gingerbread House when we were ready to roll out, cut, bake and make Grandmother’s Gingerbread House, and the Royal Icing. 



ROYAL ICING for Mortar and Decorating Grandmother’s House

Use Royal Icing to cement gingerbread pieces together to build and decorate Grandmother’s House.

1.  Beat the egg whites, cream of tarter and water till frothy with electric mixer. Blend in the sugar on high speed until stiff peaks, 5 – 10 minutes. Keep bowl covered with a damp cloth till used.   Apply mortar using a pastry bag with writing tip. Thin as needed to decorate and ice.

  • 2 large egg whites (or substitute 4 teaspoons packaged egg whites and ¼ cup water if you want to eat your gingerbread house).
  • 1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 2 teaspoons water
  • 1 pound (3 ¾ cups) sifted powdered sugar