Family History: Public Records Search

Family History By September 6, 2019 Tags: , , , , , No Comments

Doing genealogy can be an exciting mystery to solve. However, knowing how to start and where to look for leads is sometimes overwhelming. There’s a lot of information and databases available. Some are free. Some cost money. Of course, there is always Google. But Google’s expansive database requires you to know exactly what you’re searching for to get the desired results. Naturally we highly encourage using family history websites such as Beyond genealogy websites, there are some other fantastic sources to search through. Public Records, specifically, hold tons of information.

We’ve compiled a list of some great public records worth examining.

The National Archives

Every ten years the US government conducts their census. In those census records you can go back as far as the 1790 Census, and as recent as the 1940 Census. Within the records a plethora of demographic information is contained. It is important to note that a Census record must be so old before the information is accessible to the public due to privacy concerns. The census’ currently available are found at The National Archive website. Along with access to some military records and other historical documents and data.

Military records are an awesome way to find enlistment and discharge dates of specific family members. There are plenty of other resources to search for military records outside of the National Archives, but if you’re already there you might as well scan their records. Not all information is available to preview online, but you can request copies from the National Archives.

Immigration Records

Immigration records are a fantastic way to search a specific family members name and find out exactly what year, their age, and what country they arrived from. If a name change ever happened down the line Immigration records will also often show those. You can make a free online account at the Ellis Island website, which will give you access to immigration records, pictures, and ship information. Many genealogy sites include immigration records as well.

Criminal and Court Records

Besides immigration records, court and criminal records can be a great help in learning more about your ancestors. This doesn’t necessarily mean your relative killed someone if they have records showing up in court cases. Minor infractions such as speeding tickets will also show up on their records. Some court records will also hold birth and death certificates that can be beneficial to your search.

Cemetery Databases

The next database we recommend searching is cemetery archives. This is especially helpful if you’re looking for someone from a small town. Cemetery databases will often have birth and death dates, images of headstones, and where they’re buried. You no longer have to go to graveyards to find this information, however, if you decide you are on the adventurous side and want to physically visit gravestones here are some tips for when you go.

Public records only scratch the surface for all the information out there, but they are fantastic starting points. For more great genealogy resources and guides check out The Ultimate Beginners Guide to Genealogy.

Now that you know where to start looking, wondering what to do with all your newly found information. We have a suggestion!


Selecting a Color Scheme

MyCanvas Products By August 2, 2019 Tags: , , , , , , , No Comments

Have you ever decided you were going to paint the walls of a room, and then when you arrive at the home improvement store to pick out paint, get overwhelmed by the sheer amount of paint chips? Or tried to pick out a color scheme for a wedding or formal event? Similarly, choosing a theme and colors for the photo book you’re making can be and endeavor. You want it to look good and match your theme. But when it comes to color, the wide spectrum of color makes for endless possibilities. So how do you decide on a color scheme?

For a little design inspiration let’s start by going over the basics of color theory.

A Splash of Color

First off, the color wheel. The primary colors are Red, Yellow, and Blue. These three colors mixed together make every other color in the color spectrum. For example, secondary colors are made by mixing two of the primary colors. Red + Yellow = Orange. Yellow + Blue = Green. Blue + Red = Violet. All three of them together create brown.

Next let’s break down common terms: Hue, Saturation, Tint, Shade, and Tone.

Hue is the easy one; it’s just another name for color. Whereas saturation is how much pigment of the hue is being utilized. If it’s highly saturated it’s going to be a very bright pure color. Low saturation, on the other hand, is going to make it dull and soften the color. Completely desaturating color takes all the pigment out leaving a grey tone behind. Tint is lightening a hue by mixing in white. It softens colors and gives you pastels. The more white that’s added the whiter the color gets. Shade, on the other hand, is adding black to a hue. Darkening the color. The darker it gets the closer to black it gets. Lastly, there is tone. It’s when Grey is mixed with the hue; the more grey there is the duller the color gets.

Fortunately, technology makes it easy to find all the colors you need. No need to hand mix colors.

Color Schemes

There are many different types of color combinations and schemes, also known as harmonies. We will only be covering the more basic ones here.

color harmonies


Let’s begin with the Complementary color scheme. Looking at the color wheel, colors directly across from each other are considered complementary. Possibly one of the most famous complementary color schemes belongs to Christmas: red and green. Many sports teams also utilize opposite colors, think navy blue and orange. Sometimes putting together complementary colors can feel jarring. When using this combination, it’s a good idea to choose one of the colors as the dominant one and the other as an accent.


Another common combo is called Analogous. It involves using colors that are next to each other on the color wheel. Depending on how technical you want to get it can mean red, red-violet, and violet. Or it can be used as blue, green, and yellow. Either way the colors are considered next to each other on the wheel. For example, you see these types of combinations frequently in patterns and retro eras like the ’70’s.


Then there is the triad. Three colors evenly spaced apart from the color wheel. A perfect example: the primary colors. It gives good color variety and touches all sides of the color wheel.


This brings us to our next color harmony: Monochromatic. It’s one hue in various shades and tints. This may sound overly simple, but it can lend itself to creativity and unity in design.

Black & White

And last but not least there is always black and white. It’s a classic. If you want to add a little more variety, choose an accent color or two. This combination looks very clean, and elegant. It’s a great color scheme for wedding or formal event photo books.

Color schemes can be used in everything from photography to interior design, or a garden. These harmonies are helpful when considering what colors to use, but don’t be afraid to play around and experiment with any color combinations that you like.

hand holding a camera. Tips for photos.

Photography Tips: Capturing Photos Indoor & Outdoor

Photography By June 28, 2019 Tags: , , , , , , , , No Comments

outdoor photograph of girl playing in mudYour kids are outside playing, and you see the perfect opportunity to snap a picture of your children covered in mud. The image is vivid and colorful with their squinting, freckle-faced smiles. Then they go inside. Mud gets everywhere. The dog is rolling in it; your kids are making a bigger disaster trying to help clean it all up.  The moment might be stressful now, but in a few months, you will be laughing over the whole situation. So, you decide to take another picture for memory’s sake. Once everyone and everything is *mostly* clean, you go back to look at the photos you took. You notice the indoor picture’s coloring is different than the outdoor picture. It might even seem dark in comparison even though you can see the image just fine.

Lighting and location are a huge part of photography and can completely change how a photograph is captured. Both Indoor and outdoor shoots give you options for creativity; they just require different techniques to capture the image you want.

Capturing Inside Photos

First things first, make sure you have plenty of light. Artificial light can be difficult to take photographs in if there isn’t enough. Utilize windows, open doors, or bring in additional lighting. Second, find walls or backdrops in more neutral colors and tones. While bright colors are fun, they cast color onto your subject. That could be the effect you are going for, but if it’s not, walls with whiter tones help reflect light making your image brighter. If you can take the picture without the flash do it. If you absolutely need the flash, use an off camera one. Point it at the ceiling or a wall to make the light bounce onto your subject. Avoid aiming the flash directly at your intended target; it flattens the image, creates awkward shadows, and the light from the flash doesn’t reach very far.

Be aware of your camera settings. If your ISO, the camera’s light sensitivity, is too high it can create grainy pictures. Shutter speed generally needs to be lower as well—especially in low light conditions.

Getting Great Outdoor Snapshots

woman posing for picture outside

In contrast with taking photos indoors, capturing photos outside has plenty of awesome natural lighting. There are a few tricks for using that bright light to your advantage. To start, use the ‘golden hours’ also known as the first and last hour of daylight to capture photos with the best lighting. Obviously, that isn’t always feasible, and the elements need to be factored into the equation. Avoid direct sunlight as it can make harsh shadows and/or cause a lot of squinting. Shaded areas are ideal. On top of finding the perfect lighting and time of day, the weather can also be a huge factor on shooting outdoors. If it’s cloudy or stormy, light is naturally diffused. This will affect the settings you will need to use on your camera.

Lighting Tricks

For those who have a lot of experience with photography, you probably know, or even have a reflector. Reflectors are great to help direct and soften lighting in your subject area. If you don’t own one, it’s alright. Utilize a plain white sheet as your very own DIY reflector.

To create softer diffused lighting, you can set it up to shadow your subject so there isn’t any harsh lighting directly on them. Due to lighting, you may have trouble with deep shadows under the eyes or chin? Have your subject sit on the sheet. Because it will bounce the light up under their face to soften the shadows. Another trick is if shooting in the shade is lacking the lighting dynamic you want, place the sheet on ground in the sun on the edge of the shadow. Move your subject to the edge of the shadow close to the sheet. As a result, the light will bounce off the sheet creating more dynamic lighting.

The great thing about photography is everything you learn is a great foundation for you to get comfortable with your camera. Be creative and don’t be afraid to experiment. Sometimes “breaking the rules” can create beautiful photos. Most importantly have fun capturing the moment.

wooden family tree

Why Make a Family History Poster

Family History, MyCanvas Products By May 29, 2019 Tags: , , , , , , , , No Comments

Family history is on the rise with technology simplifying the process for hunting down lost relatives. It has also made it that much easier to put together family trees—whether digitally, in a book, or a poster. Each way to store your genealogy has its own perks. We are specifically covering the benefits of a physically printed family history poster. But no matter what your preference is having access to your family history is amazing!

Bring on the benefits.

It’s Decorative

family history posterLet’s start with the more obvious reason; it’s easy to display. A family history poster adds a beautiful personalized touch to any room decoration. It’s something that is completely unique to you and your family. Not only is it a lovely piece in your home, it can easily become a family heirloom that’s passed down. If you’re worried it won’t match your style, there are a plethora of websites available to create custom posters; making it easy to match your aesthetic perfectly. It’s also a much simpler process than creating an entire book. Of course here at MyCanvas we print high quality family history posters that include customization options.

This leads us to our next reason.

It’s all About the Stories

Growing up did you hear stories about infamous ancestors from your grandparents, parents, aunts or uncles? Imagine having easy access to pictures or your family line showing exactly how you are related—all while listening to another retelling. A family history poster does just that. Being able to visualize as well as hear the orations not only makes it more captivating, it adds a sense of realness; becoming more than just a story.

It’s in the Research

Doing your family history can be captivating. You become a family detective piecing together the puzzle of your ancestors. As you begin to dig you might find changes that need to be made, updated information, or just cool stories to add. Having your family tree online is great for keeping information relevant, however, it can be complicated keeping track of your findings in the process before you are ready to update. Creating a great reason to have a physical copy of your family tree nearby is a great way to track it. Use sticky notes for each time you discover something new about a relative and stick it to the correlating relative. Now you have a visual map of exactly where that ancestor falls in your line, and it simplifies the updating process. It’s similar to a good student who writes out research points before starting their paper.

Our final reason is a personal favorite.

It’s About Bringing Family TogetherPeople Playing Tug-of-War

Last, but not least family history posters are great for family reunions. Because extended families are sometimes overwhelmingly large; keeping track of everyone’s relationships can be difficult. And there isn’t always going to be Wi-Fi access for you to pull up your genealogy and figure it out in the moment. But coming prepared with a family history poster of the whole family makes it significantly easier to find the connection. On top of that as a family you can share findings and make corrections together. It’s a great focal point for any family reunion. You can find even more great ideas for family reunions here.


Making Mother’s Day Special: A Gift Guide For Mom

Family Fun, Family History, MyCanvas Products By April 30, 2019 Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , No Comments

Mother’s Day is right around the corner. With it comes the struggle of finding the perfect gift for the woman who has given us everything. It’s a challenge to find the perfect present for mom, but we compiled a list of thoughtful gift ideas that she will love.

1. Photo book

photo book standing open


To start off we suggest a customized photo book as an awesome option! It’s scrapbooking made easy. Save all of mom’s favorite pictures in one place for her to enjoy. If there are too many pictures to choose from you can always create a theme. For example, a past vacation, family reunion, or her growing up years. It’s a touching gift that’s completely unique to her. What’s not to love?

Create your photo book here.


2. Ancestry DNA Kit

Who doesn’t want to know where they originated from? Get mom a DNA kit from Ancestry to find out exactly where her family originates. You never know what cool surprises you might learn about your mom’s history. And it’s the perfect time to start making your family tree because it not only shows where her family’s from it will connect her to living relatives as well. The kit is $99 and totally worth it.

And speaking of family history…

3. Family History Book or Poster

Stories about your ancestors are an awesome keepsake.  Make a family history book about your family’s heritage. Compile stories you heard around the dinner table growing up or at family reunions. Call your grandparents to get more details about their parents and grandparents. Another option that coincides is to gift mom with her family tree. Map out a few generations and have it printed on a poster she can display for everyone to see. Either one is a wonderful sentimental gift that is sure to be passed down.

If creating a family keepsake sounds perfect, check out our next suggestion.

4. Family Cookbook Recipe Cards

Food is a central part of family traditions, and mom’s cooking will always be number one. Make it easier for her to recreate all your family’s favorites by compiling all her recipes into one family cookbook. No more digging through old index cards and worn out hand written recipes. Preserve great grandma’s cookie recipe forever. The book is sure to be a hit with your whole family. It’s also a great excuse for you to get all your family recipes for yourself. You can easily make a beautiful cookbook through MyCanvas.

Find tips on creating an awesome one of a kind cookbook here.

5. Recreate Childhood Pictures

Kid in Superhero capeOur next idea has been a fun trend on the internet. Gather together your siblings. Find some favorite pictures from your childhood to recreate. Get creative. Try matching the original photos as closely as possible. Find clothes and accessories needed by checking out local thrift stores.  Snap those updated pictures. Put them together in one of the following options: making a calendar with the snapshots of then and now. Print them out and display them in a photo cube. Make a photo collage with them all in one place.

This is a gift that mom will love, and it will make her cry—from laughing too hard.

6. Flowers

This idea is a classic. Pick up mom a stunning flower arrangement. The beautiful bouquet will brighten up her kitchen. Or if you want to go a more non-traditional route, instead of getting her a bouquet, pick her up some flowers she can plant. She will be reminded of you each time she’s out gardening. As a nice bonus the flowers will live longer than a bouquet.

7. Family Photos

If it’s been a while since your family has had family pictures taken it may be time to update mom’s photo wall. This makes for a great gift to coordinate with your siblings, as hiring a photographer may be expensive. It’s something mom will love, especially if she’s not the one having to hassle everyone to get the pictures done.

No matter what you do for your mom, she will love it because you thought of her. Make sure to make mom feel a little extra special this Mother’s Day.