Custom-Designed Family History Charts: FAQs

Last year I wrote a couple of blog articles about pricing for my custom-designed family history charts:

The purpose of this article is to point out a few things about how the process works and how you don’t have to wait until you’ve found all your ancestors back to Adam (just kidding!).

What is the chart size?

The charts I create are more often than not 36 x 24 for which I can fit up to 8 (or 9) generations.  Usually that means 6 generations in the “boxed” area of the chart which, if beginning with yourself, includes through third great-grandparents.  The additional generations (children, grandchildren, perhaps great-grandchildren) are included at the bottom the chart, outside the boxed area).

Are there other sizes?

I have also done smaller charts (20×30 or 16×24), depending on how many generations are included in the boxed area.  Each project is unique and the final size will reflect the number of generations and the items you want to include on the chart.

Ancestors of Note

Clients often want to highlight their ancestors of note.  For instance, I have clients whose ancestor signed the Declaration of Independence or was a passenger on the Mayflower.  Those ancestors are distant great-grandparents.  However, there’s plenty of room to highlight those family history facts around the perimeter of the boxed area.

What other items can I include?

There is plenty of room in the boxed area for a picture of your ancestor.  If you don’t have one, an image called a “flag map” is inserted to represent the state (or nation) where they were born.  This makes for a colorful chart!  Included for each ancestor in the boxed area is their birth and death dates, as well as signatures.The items placed around the box perimeter might include news clippings, short patriot bios (Revolutionary War, War of 1812, Civil War, World War I and II, etc.).  When I can locate them, I like to lift county names off old maps to show where my client’s ancestors owned land.

Cattle brands, if they can be found, make great items to display.

The purpose of selecting these types of historical items is to make each one conversation-worthy — a way to get your family interested in their history.  What a client selects for their chart is obviously unique to their own family’s history.

Depiction of an ancestor’s land is a great conversation starter.  For instance this client’s ancestor (Francis Fulcher) was an early Texan.  What kind of challenges must he and his family have faced in the early days of Texas?


What about brick walls?

For genealogists “brick walls” are a fact of life.  Many of us have searched diligently for years on end to fill as many gaps in our tree as possible.  However, there are some ancestors who left little in the way of a paper trail.  Most charts that I have created have blank boxes, and I might add that most clients, even after having their chart designed, are still actively researching their family history.

What if you eventually find that elusive ancestor, or want to add something else to your chart?  I currently use Walgreens Photo for printing charts up to 36 x 24.  They run specials every week, sometimes up to 50% off which means the larger charts cost less than $20 to print, so reprinting is not cost-prohibitive.

I’m on a tight budget

As are we all!  I offer a number of ways to pay for all my services, charts included.  If you only have so much to spend per month, then a recurring payment can be set up.  For instance, $25 purchases one hour of chart work.

For Digging History Magazine subscribers, the rate drops to $20 per hour (20% off all services for subscribers).  If you want to package a certain number of hours per month that can be customized to fit your budget.  I’m very flexible!

These are just a few questions you might have.  If you have more questions or you’re ready to get started with a custom-designed family history chart, don’t hesitate to contact me at   Other chart samples here:




Digging History Magazine – Volume 2022: Issue 4 is Out!

The fourth issue of 2022 was inspired by a recent book I read: The Divorce Colony: How Women Revolutionized Marriage and Found Freedom on the American Frontier. In this issue you will find the following feature articles:

● Courtship, Marriage and Divorce: Early American Style. This lead article covers early American customs and laws (seventeenth and eighteenth century) regarding courtship, marriage and divorce, including those of the Puritan, Anglican and Quaker faiths.

● Ye Olde Runaway Marriage: Tying the Knot at a “Gretna Green”. Have you ever experienced difficulty locating a marriage record for an ancestor? Do you sometimes wonder if they ever married? Might they have married somewhere unexpected, away from their hometown, a place sometimes referred to as a “Gretna Green”? It’s a fascinating history.

● Mining Genealogical Gold: It pays to PERSI(st) – uncovering buried treasure in newsletters, magazines and journals. If you’ve never used this special genealogical resource, you’re in for a treat. Numerous examples of using this valuable resource to potentially uncover stories about your ancestors.

● (Oh, Dear!) The Pitfalls of Genealogical Research (gold mine or land mine?). If you’ve been researching family history for awhile, it’s possible you have come across unexpected – or perhaps even shocking – information about one or more of your ancestors. How should we respond? Do we freely share the information or hide it away? Of course, our response may depend on what we uncovered.

● The Dash: Virgil Edwin Earp (1879-1959). A detailed look at the famous (or infamous) Earp family. Subtitled: “The $64,000 Question: Did Virgil Earp (Wyatt’s Nephew) Get the Answers Ahead of time and Was He Really Born in Tombstone?”

Enjoy the issue! I am looking forward to the next issue, featuring a topic I’ve wanted to cover for some time – “Ways to Go in Days of Old”. 2022 will wrap up with an issue featuring the Korean War and finding records of our ancestors who served.

This issue is on sale in the magazine store: or available when you purchase a subscription (three options):

Subscribers received 20% off all services at Digging History, including custom-designed family history charts:  For more information, contact me:

Sharon Hall, Publisher and Editor

Navigating the Digging History Magazine Store

The Digging History web site is designed to provide information about our services and to post occasional blog articles.  However, the primary focus is selling subscriptions to Digging History Magazine or purchasing single issues and other digital products.  Most importantly:  You MUST create an account (see details below) in order to access your purchase.  Here are some tips for making a purchase in the magazine store:

When you add a subscription or any other product (magazine issue, individual article, etc.) you will be able to go to the cart and see its contents, how much you will be charged (including sales tax if applicable).  Click “Checkout” and you will be asked to provide some information to create an account.  Why do you need to provide this information?

  • Because we sell subscriptions and digital downloads (e.g., single magazine issues, special editions and individual articles) our cart software requires that you MUST create an account when making a purchase.
  • Your address is required because Digging History is located in Texas and Texas residents are required to pay sales tax (all other states = no sales tax).  Your address will tell the payment processor whether to charge sales tax (Click the image below to enlarge).

  • Provide all required information, including creation of a password (and re-typing it).  Press “Continue to Payment” and then you will have the option to pay either by PayPal or Credit Card (Click image below to enlarge).

  • Select your preferred payment method.  If selecting PayPal you will be re-directed to log into your PayPal account where you will select your payment method.  If paying via credit card, provide the requested information (number, expiration date, etc.).
  • Review your cart one more time and if satisfactory, press “Submit Order”.

Check your email and momentarily you will receive a receipt for your purchase.  Your purchase should be attached to the receipt,  If not, please contact me at with information as to what you purchased and I’ll be happy to forward you a copy as soon as possible.  If you have any questions about making a purchase or require assistance, don’t hesitate to contact me at the email address above.

The $64,000 Question: Did Virgil Earp (Wyatt’s Nephew) Get the Answers Ahead of Time and Was He Really Born in Tombstone?

This may seem like an odd topic, but I couldn’t help but wonder after a YouTube video popped up in my feed, entitled “Wyatt Earp’s Nephew, Virgil Earp (Born in 1879), Talks About the Wild West“.  There are two reasons why this is of interest to me.  I just finished a two-part magazine series on the 1950s (in honor of the 1950 census release in April of this year).  In the last issue I wrote extensively about one particular aspect of that far-reaching (and “fabulous”) decade:  “Prime Time & Misdemeanors: The Rise and Fall of Television’s First Golden Age”.

The late 1940s through the late 1950s have been referred to as the first “Golden Age of Television”, a time when the airwaves were awash in a sea of game and quiz shows which aired morning, noon and night. Unlike radio, which had long provided audio entertainment to the masses, television was an audiovisual format – a way to not only hear, but see live events. Some shows, like College Bowl, Who Said That, Truth of Consequences and Queen for a Day, had been radio shows which later moved to television (or for a time aired on both formats).

The height of quiz show-mania occurred between 1955 and 1958, dominating the airwaves with shows like The $64,000 Question, The $64,000 Challenge, Dotto and Twenty-One, all of which offered the chance to win hundreds of dollars by answering “general knowledge” questions. However, the main purpose of these “get-rich-quick” shows was to enrich the network and show sponsors like Geritol, Colgate-Palmolive and Revlon.  Revlon made a boat-load sponsoring The $64,000 Question — to the tune of a $64 million increase in sales — by the time the show (and others with similar formats) were cancelled by late 1958.

However, in early 1958 Virgil Edwin Earp, the son of Newton Jasper Earp (Wyatt’s half-brother), appeared on The $64,000 Question and his category was (surprise, surprise!) the Wild West.  The episode which popped up on YouTube was the chance to double his previous winnings of $16,000 (to $32,000).  Virgil was asked three multi-part questions related to the “Wild West” and he answered every one correctly and scheduled to appear again the following week where he would have the chance to win $64,000.  It appears, however, that Virgil Earp, a self-proclaimed gambler, decided not to proceed to the next level, ending his streak at $32,000 in winnings.

In 1958 Virgil Earp was 79 years old and the last Earp of any fame.  His father Newton and all his half-siblings (James, Virgil, Wyatt, Morgan, Warren and Adelia) had all passed on.  It just so happens this particular Earp is related to me through my maternal grandmother (Okle Emma (Erp) Young).  Even though my grandmother’s family (and a generation or two before her) changed the spelling of their name to “Erp” vs. “Earp”, we are related.  According to Marc McDermott’s “Cousin Calculator” I (and all my first cousins on the Young side of the family) are related to Wyatt and his siblings, including Newton, as fourth cousins, three times removed.  That would make Virgil Edwin Earp a fifth cousin, twice removed, and the ancestor we all share is Joshua Joseph Earp (1706-1771).

Not only did Virgil win $32,000, but he made a name for himself by regaling viewers and the studio audience with tales from the Old West.  Mind you, the Earp family was still making headlines in the 1950s. Newspapers around the nation would, from time to time, feature articles about their legendary (factual and fictitious) escapades as lawmen and gunslingers.  Before exploring answers to the two questions – did Virgil get the answers ahead of the show and was he really born in Tombstone – some Earp history is in order. . . .

The rest of what will be an extensive article on the Earps and the answer to these two questions will appear in the next issue of Digging History Magazine in “The Dash” column.  Some of the stories will be familiar, but at least one incident involving Wyatt Earp is one which very few biographers mention.  If you’d like to read the article (and the entire issue — see what’s brewing here), email me and I’ll send you a special link to purchase the upcoming issue for $3.99 ($2 off regular price) —

Currently Brewing: Digging History Magazine (Volume 2022: Issue 4)

Having spent two or three weeks working on genealogical research projects and a special chart project, I’m back to researching/writing/editing the next issue of Digging History Magazine.  The issue will be out in early September and will feature a number of topics which I’ve had on the back burner for awhile:

  • Courtship, Marriage and Divorce: Early American Style – a look at courtship, marriage and divorce in early America — customs, laws, finding records and more.
  • Ye Olde Runaway Marriages:  Tying the Knot at a “Gretna Green” – Have you ever found it difficult to locate an ancestor’s marriage record?  Perhaps they didn’t wed in the county where they lived.  Maybe the couple, like my own great grandparents, traveled to a distant county where the marriage laws were a bit more lax, or where no one knew them (my great grandfather was 19 and my great grandmother was only 13).  A fascinating history and lots of stories!
  • Mining Genealogical Gold:  It Pays to PERSI(st):  uncovering buried treasure in newsletters, magazines and journals – A look at one of the research tools many family history researchers may never have heard of.  The Periodical Source Index (PERSI) is maintained by the staff of the Genealogy Center of the Allen County Public Library (Ohio).  According to their web site PERSI is the premier subject index for genealogy and local history periodicals, consisting of more than 3 million citations to readily-available periodical sources.  The article will feature techniques, tips and examples of stories to be uncovered.
  • Oh, Dear!  The Pitfalls of Genealogical Research (gold mine or land mine)?  This particular article covers the “Oh, Dear!” moments most genealogists have come across in their research.  These days many people are uncovering devastating family secrets through DNA testing, but in early America you might find references to ancestors accused of witchcraft or even incest.  When we come across these shocking facts, how should we respond?
  • The Dash:  Virgil Edwin Earp (1879-1959) – The premise of this article was formed when a YouTube video appeared in my feed.  Wyatt Earp’s nephew was appearing on the wildly popular 1950s quiz show, The $64,000 Question.  He was also regaling viewers with tales from the Old West (his category was the “Wild West”).  Had he really killed a man at the age of 18?  Was he really born in storied Tombstone?  Given the scandals surrounding the show (and others), did Virgil get the answers ahead of time (he won $32,000).  It will be a fascinating article about not only Virgil’s life and quiz show appearance, but a great deal of Earp family history (I am related to this family through my maternal grandmother who was an Erp/Earp).

It will be a great issue, filled with stories, tips, book reviews and more!  Look for it in the magazine store in early September.  Or consider a subscription and never miss an issue!

It’s Been Awhile (Time Flies)

It’s been a busy year which means I have found myself “behind schedule” a LOT, blog posts included.  So, here’s a synopsis of what I’ve been up to, especially writing-wise.  Given my busy schedule, my new motto is “Better Late Than Half-Baked”.

I started off 2021 with what I thought would begin perhaps a two-issue series entitled, “From Whence We Came:  Appalachia”.  Little did I know what was in store.  It was an ambitious project and, as it turns out, couldn’t be accomplished in two issues.  I just finished the FOURTH (and final!) issue of this interesting and informative series.  Here’s a synopsis of each issue’s highlights and a link to purchase or subscribe:

  • Part 1:  This issue featured a cover depicting Daniel Boone leading settlers over the Cumberland Gap into Kentucky.  This issue featured a “Mining Genealogical Gold” column which highlighted the history and resources for finding ancestors who settled in the Appalachian regions of Kentucky, Tennessee, North and South Carolina.  “Hurrah for the Ladies:  The Confederate Women of East Tennessee” was a fascinating article to research and write.  East Tennessee was a unique place to be during the Civil War — more voted against secession than voting for it, and after the Union Army took over early in the war, it made for an interesting way of life for “the other side”, in particular the Confederate-sympathizing women.  The issue included book reviews and a fascinating “Family History Toolbox”.  The issue wrapped up with a genealogical mystery — just how old was John Shell.  Everyone knew when he died, but when exactly was he born?  January-February 2021 issue available here.
  • Part 2:  This issue featured a “Mining Genealogical Gold” column which highlighted the history and resources for finding ancestors who settled in the Appalachian region of Virginia and West Virginia (which lies entirely in Appalachia).  Also included were a couple of articles which featured a bit of Kentucky history — one from the early twentieth century (“Moonlight School:  Teaching ABC’s to Mountain Moonshiners”) and another from the Depression area (“Book Lady, we’ve been waiting for you!”).  I have been wanting to write an article on the so-called Melungeons for some time and I finally got around to it — “Melungeons: a very strange people (who made moonshine whiskey)”.  A great story about a much maligned and misunderstood people.  March-April 2021 issue available here.
  • Part 3:  This issue featured a “Mining Genealogical Gold” column which highlighted the history and resources for finding ancestors who settled in the Appalachian region of Georgia and Alabama.  This one was of particular interest to me since I have ancestors who settled in this part of Alabama.  This issue also featured yet another article I’ve been meaning to write for some time.  This one, set in the Depression era, is entitled “Moving Mattie”.  It’s the story of one woman’s defiance when Franklin Roosevelt and one of his many “alphabet soup” agencies decided to flood the land she and and family lived on.  After coming across the records documenting her scrap with the government some time ago, I knew I had to write about Mattie Randolph’s plight.  May-June 2021 issue available here.
  • Part 4 (The End!):  This issue was a wrap-up of the series and featured three extensive articles which I wasn’t able to squeeze in earlier.  Another “Appalachian Way” article features everything from folk medicine, folk magic and granny witches to snake handlers and child brides.  A second article — “Appalachian Feuds (between people not named Hatfield or McCoy)” — features two long and bloody Kentucky feuds.  An article entitled “Oh, The Stories I Find!” features what I call a “December-May” marriage which began making headlines in 1946.  What a character was Mattie Lyons Large Sprouse!  July-August 2021 issue available here.

I have a special offer with these four extensive Appalachian issues.  Subscribe before the next issue comes out (October 31) and you’ll get all four issues.  Subscription options are available to fit any budget:  Need help subscribing?  Contact me for assistance:

Looking Ahead

The next two issues are shaping up.  The September-October issue will be another “Un-Shelved” issue, similar to a couple of 2020 issues when I featured a number of articles that were previously “shelved” because I couldn’t squeeze them in (or I was too far behind schedule!).  Plans are to include an article from last year’s two-issue New Mexico series, entitled “Tales From the Bootheel and Beyond:  The Ghost Towns and Storied History of Southwestern New Mexico”.  An “OK, I Give Up… what is it?” column will feature some obsolete terminology I’ve come across in researching family history.  Should be a fascinating article!

The last issue of 2021 will be an ambitious one covering what became known as “Manifest Destiny”, a phrase coined by John O’Sullivan and executed by President James K. Polk (and beyond).  Some historians view it as a way for 1840s-era Democrats to justify the Mexican-American War.  That war was in fact central to the whole concept of Manifest Destiny and this issue will also feature an article about finding resources for Mexican-American War ancestors.

All of which means I will be busy from now until the end of the year with not only writing but genealogical research for clients.  Say a prayer for me!

Sharon Hall, Publisher & Editor, Digging History Magazine

About those courthouse fires . . .

The bane (one of many, I might add) of genealogists everywhere is the brick wall known as the “courthouse fire destroyed my ancestor’s (whatever) record”.  While many of these fires occurred during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, I was reminded again after seeing a headline this morning about a fire at a historic court house in Mason County, Texas.  While today the county’s records are stored “off-site”, it is a reminder that sometimes we have to find other ways to find the records we need.  No doubt, many fires were nefariously set by arsonists in days gone by.

Last year the first issue of 2020 (2020 being a census year) highlighted the census.  It was a massive issue filled with not only what you’ll find in census records dating back to 1790, but the stories behind them.  Here’s the Jan-Feb 2020 Table of Contents.  As you can see it contains other stories of interest to both lovers of history and genealogy.  Besides the articles related to the census, my favorite one of this issue was “OK, I give up . . . what is it?  Did My Ancestors Ever Violate Intercourse(!) Laws?”.  Purchase the January-February 2020 issue in the magazine store or better yet become a subscriber!

FYI, there is a great promotion currently running for subscriptions and a chance to win you very own custom-designed family history chart (worth up to $350).  Magazine samples are available for free if you’d like to review first.  The current promotion ends on Valentine’s Day, February 14, so the clock is ticking!

Have a great day . . , someday it will be history!

Family History: How Much is it Worth to Preserve it?

I wear many hats — publishing (writing, editing and graphic design) Digging History Magazine, researching family history for clients (and myself!) and helping clients preserve their research by creating custom-designed family history charts.

When I display my charts at conferences (or share this link:, people are awed at how stunning they look.  Then, they want to know how much it costs to have their very own chart designed.  They really want it, but like most anything related to dedicated genealogical research, it costs something.

I always have a hard time answering that question.  I don’t mean to waffle — it’s just that the cost is dependent on how much history is being documented (I charge by the hour).  Another factor — I always start with the same blank “canvas”, but each chart is unique by design because each client’s family history is different.  I absolutely LOVE doing these charts!  I learn a lot of history, sometimes picking up stories I might tell in the pages of Digging History Magazine someday.  I wish I could do them for free, but a girl’s gotta eat and pay bills!

That being said, prices normally range anywhere from $300 to $350, with some going a bit over due to content and/or extra research required to ensure dates, names, etc. are accurate.  Most charts depict at least 6 or 7 generations, while in some cases I can depict as many as 9 generations (includes children, grandchildren and maybe grandchildren).  Just so you know — not everyone fills up each and every box on their chart.  It still makes a stunning chart, and if you later discover who your third great grandmother was, we can update and reprint.

Like I said, I wish I could do them for free, but that’s neither wise nor feasible.   If you really, really want a chart, however, we can always budget it out with an automatic monthly payment until the project is complete.  You choose the amount and time table.


You can check out this special promotion which ends on February 14 — a chance to win your very own custom-designed family history chart:

I hope you’ll check out the Special Promotion (hurry  …. it won’t be long until it expires!).  If you have questions, please feel free to contact me at

Sharon Hall, Publisher & Editor, Digging History Magazine


Digging History Magazine – September-October 2020 Issue

The latest issue of Digging History Magazine features Part II of a series of articles on one of my favorite places:  New Mexico, the Land of Enchantment.  Although I originally planned one big issue, time got away from me, and thus the two-part series.

This issue includes extensively-researched articles, including an update of one of the first “Tombstone Tuesday” blog articles:

When conducting genealogical research it’s beneficial to know just where our ancestors settled, but why. In the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, many came for their health.

It was a dreadful, wasting disease – afflicting young and old, rich and poor. Sometimes called “the great white plague”, it was more commonly referred to as “consumption” or by its scientific name, “tuberculosis”, coined in 1834 by Johann Schonlein. During the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries New Mexico would become the place where consumptives, or “lungers” as they were colloquially called, came to “chase the cure” for this then-incurable disease.

One of the best aspects of publishing entire issues which focus on a single state is finding the stories, pictures and records which tell the real story. Last year I learned so much about the great states of Colorado and Kansas by digging around for some unique records, like the Colorado State Hospital records which told the stories of hundreds of people through newspaper snippets, or the Kansas Registration Affidavits of Alien Enemies obtained at the height of World War I.

As genealogists it’s important to find records, but don’t forget the stories you might uncover! I hope the resources highlighted in this article will inspire you to explore New Mexico, the Land of Enchantment. I’ll start with the most common records genealogists tend to begin their search.

You might have noticed that I like to choose alliterative titles for my articles. The premise of this article began late last year when I received an email regarding a blog article I published in May 2014. It is one of the most commented-on articles at the blog – some visitors thanking me for the article and a few who wanted to “put in their two cents worth”. Family feuds are like that. Everyone has their own opinion about which side was right and which was wrong.

In this case it was known as the Spikes-Gholson feud. While the feud started years before in East Texas, it was later carried forward to West Texas and then into what would one day be Quay County, New Mexico. The email’s author, Kate, had come across the article and was intrigued because it mentioned an ancestor – a missing one. Henry Hawkins was the ringleader of a gang of bandits known as the “Mesa Hawks” and he was likely acquainted with the Spikes family.

Not only is this article an overview of the early days of Quay County, New Mexico, it’s what I like to call (genealogically speaking) an “adventure in research”.

This updated article was first published on November 5, 2013 as one of the early “Tombstone Tuesday” posts at the Digging History blog. The column would become my favorite each week to research and write. However, since then I’ve honed my research skills considerably and have access to newspaper archives unavailable to me at the time. It was an article left dangling with no information as to how Adolphus E. Sipe had died since there was only a 1909 date. In addition, some of the information provided at Find-A-Grave has since been removed. An update, with additional research and local history, is definitely in order – I actually missed quite a bit of this family’s history (gave up?). Text highlighted in blue indicates mistaken assumptions from the original article, followed by the result of new research.

Plus, “Essential Tools for the Successful Family History Researcher” and “May I Recommend” (book reviews). This issue is on sale here:

A subscription is always the best deal with three budget-minded options:

Upcoming Issue:  The last issue of 2020 will feature the Spanish-American War — stories, book reviews, tips for finding records, and more!


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