Losing our Family Stories in 3 Generations

 

I hear stories all the time that people are amazed at how deeply they have been affected once they learn about their family’s history. It never surprises me. In fact I’ve said quite a few times that researching your own genealogy is,

“Better than any reality show out there.”

More than a feeling

Since I began my own journey discovering my family’s past, I could never understand where a certain feeling of intense well being came from until I listened to an opening session at the Midwestern Roots Conference recently held here in Indianapolis.

This feeling, which is hard to describe, stays with me all the time; it was and is a sense of very intense love and appreciation for not only my ancestors but also for my state and country. I’ve always loved history, and as the genealogist for The Society of Indiana Pioneers, I have the wonderful opportunity to steep myself in the rich stories and history of the state where I was born and grew up — Indiana.

Little did I know how all my knowledge was affecting me and I think that you might be a bit surprised yourself when you read the rest of the post!

That “aha!” moment

Curt Witcher never fails to catch my attention, whether or not he is talking about the Allen County Public Library Genealogy section or the topic that he chose for the Midwestern Roots Conference. He is and will forever be associated, in my mind, with the ACPL because of the tremendous job that he (and a lot of others, I’m sure) has done to transform it into the United State’s largest public genealogy library.

This year, Curt had the privilege of opening the conference and his title for this session was, “Your Story, Our History: The Power and Value of Story.” Well, let’s just say that there was never any question that this would be one session that I would for sure be attending and he didn’t let me down.

It gets Real

Of course there were lots of stories that Curt so eloquently told us but the part that truly caught my attention was his quote that

“If we don’t tell our [family’s] stories, they could be lost in just three generations.”

He went on to explain in more detail about the article where research claimed that children were more resilient if they had a firm knowledge of their family’s history.  Whoa… This validated me and instantly tugged at my heart; I knew this statement to be oh, so painfully true.

Here is another quote Curt zoomed in on:

“Children that know about their family history deal with tragedy better, and are more accepting of diversity.”

To sum it up, they are more emotionally stable and can handle the up’s and down’s of life much better. Wow… just wow… I felt so immensely warm and fuzzy when he stated that there was actually research out there confirming what I had felt for so long and still feel very strongly about. But to hear that there was proof, a real study that had been completed, confirming that family history does indeed give you a foundation to live your life to its best, well, that was priceless. I could have left after that and been quite content knowing that my belief did indeed have proof to back it up.

Ready for another quote?

“We hold our children’s histories in our hands.”

Oh, Curt really summed it up in those words, didn’t he? Now it is up to all of us to share this knowledge, our knowledge of our families and their stories, so that our children and grand-children will also know their stories and have a foundation to build their own lives upon.

Here’s the proof

The article, “The Stories That Bind Us”, written by Bruce Feiler, March 15, 2013 for The New York Times, gives a more in-depth explanation of the study and the epiphany that Bruce, the author, had within his own family. It is inspiring and if it doesn’t convince you to start writing down your own memories, I’m not sure that anyone or anything could.

In the article, the question is asked, “What would you want your great-grandchildren to know about you?” If you don’t start to write and narrate your own story and the stories of your parents and grandparents, then they will soon be lost. Remember,

“If we don’t tell our stories, they could be lost in just three generations.”

Oh, it just gets better, believe me! Let me leave you with another quote from the article, The Stories that Bind Us:

“Decades of research have shown that most happy families communicate effectively. But talking doesn’t mean simply “talking through problems,” as important as that is. Talking also means telling a positive story about yourselves. When faced with a challenge, happy families, like happy people, just add a new chapter to their life story that shows them overcoming the hardship. This skill is particularly important for children, whose identity tends to get locked in during adolescence.

The bottom line: if you want a happier family, create, refine and retell the story of your family’s positive moments and your ability to bounce back from the difficult ones. That act alone may increase the odds that your family will thrive for many generations to come.”

I’m in — let’s get started

So, what to do with this information? I think that we simply need to use it as a kick-starter to push this to the fore-front of our to-do lists. After all, what would you give to have stories that your great-grandparents had written themselves, all pulled together into one place, for you to read and enjoy and pass on to your own family.

Here are a few concrete things that you can start right now:

  1. Begin with yourself. Start a notebook of your own stories – in no certain order. Just simply let the stories come as they may. Look at photo albums and think about what is going on in the background of a photo – the story behind it. Think about places, people, emotions. It’s ok to start with the basics and then branch out. Don’t be afraid to talk about current events as well. Even tough times that you have gone through, is certainly worth getting down in a written form. You can even post photos into an app like Day One where you can talk about the picture and it will save by date. There is no time like the present.
  2. Start to add your parents’ and grandparents’ information, or if they are still alive, think about getting them on video or audio explaining about their childhood, marriage, work, and family. Photos are great conversation starters. None of these things need to take more than just a few moments, but it is important to keep adding more and more so that one day, you will find yourself with a rich history that can be shared for generations.
  3. Get the old photos out and start to write down whatever information that you might remember. These are great starters for your parents and grand-parents.
  4. And last, but not least, we need to start to share all this information in ways that our kids and grandchildren will be able to remember and take with them.

Here’s where the no-guilt, no-pain part comes in

So, I know this all really sounds like a huge commitment and that’s where I plan to come in and try to take some of the overwhelming-ness (can I use that as a word?) out of the project. As you follow along, my plan is to offer memory prompts to get you started with your own stories and ideas on how to get bashful parents and grandparents to start to open up and share their wealth of stories.

It is all a process, but it doesn’t have to be painful! (That’s where I plan on helping.) If you know someone that has children or grandchildren, please share this post. We tend to focus on making millions of memories with our children and grandchildren, but it’s equally as important that they know the generations that made them who they are and will become.

Help me spread a message that is part of what keeps our country and society functioning – our knowledge of our past so that we can make a strong future! (And no, I’m not running for President – even though my husband keeps on writing my name into the ballot when he is frustrated with the candidates [not even kidding there!])

Too many times we feel like we can’t do anything to make “things” better and here is one fairly easy way to leave your mark – by leaving your story.

Feel free to Share!

For anyone on Instagram, follow me on @_ItsaLifeStory where I show you how I am documenting my own family momentos for my children to see. How will they know what anything is if I don’t tell them! It’s just one way that I’m working through this myself in order to pass on my own memories.

For those of you on Facebook, I have a page for my website as well. You just need to search for “It’s a Life Story” or @itsalifestory. When you find it, click on the LIKE button so that you receive my updates. I have a lot going on between the FB page, Instagram, this newsletter and my website but I think that each one has their place!

 

Here’s a tip: I use the Day One app in the evening when I take a few moments to do some decompressing from the day! I can use a pic from the day or take a quick one of a photo or momento to use as my own memory booster. For anyone that also does scrapbooking, this is an excellent way to write your journaling to be used with a group of photos in a layout when you are ready to work on them!

Remember to SHARE this with anyone and everyone that has children and grandchildren! Let’s show them exactly how much we love them by giving them that all-important piece of ourselves! Suggest that they sign up for my email list to receive newsletters in the future so they can find the inspiration and ideas of how to get started as well as how to pull all their research and hard work together into one format that can be shared across generations.

Together, we can make sure that we will not be forgotten in three generations!

The Great Thanksgiving Day Listen — Let’s Do This!

The GreatThanksgiving DayListen graphic

Make Family History With An App From StoryCorps.

Can I just say that this headline from today’s Personal Journal section of the WSJ had my attention at first glance? It’s this article that has drawn me to sit down and try to reach as many as I can about the potential this simple, yet powerful App could be for all of our family histories. You can read the article written by Geoffrey A. Fowler HERE. Today, as I have barely finished my first cup of coffee, I am bursting at the seams to pass it on.

Time for Listening

Can I add my own challenge for the upcoming Holidays? This app is free. Let’s all download it and make a point to interview one or more family members.  Don’t let it wait for another holiday or think that you will see Grandma so-and-so at Christmas or at least next year. Let’s all take a few minutes out of our busy lives and sit in a quiet room with a family member, look in their eyes, and ask a few questions.

 

Be ready to listen – really listen. You might find that you have given them the biggest gift ever – the gift of your time. You might also find that you have given yourself the best gift ever.

Legacy

Anyone that knows me well, will tell you that I am all about family history. I love the research, whether in a library amongst all the wonderful books, or online while at home still in my workout clothes. I love the family photos that just beg to have their own stories told so that precious snippets in time will live forever. And, I love to uncover family stories that pull all my research and photos together into a powerful legacy.

StoryCorps

This app, from StoryCorps, might take your upcoming holidays from typical family get-togethers to something that just might live on forever. Thanksgiving is traditionally a time to bring families together and this is the Year of #TheGreatThanksgivingDayListen. You can read the story behind it HERE.

Options

Why am I so excited about this particular app? I’m always looking for ways to make the storytelling process as easy as possible and I have downloaded several very promising apps hoping to find one that allows me to either publicize it to the world or most importantly, keep it for my own archive. Most apps upload to one central online archive and are only available in a public format. This app has my attention because I can choose whether I want it to be public or stay private. This one has “options” and as my husband always says, “It’s nice to have options!”

Library of Congress

StoryCorps has been recording family stories since 2003 and they are all “recorded and preserved at the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress.” This app is a spin-off designed to allow even more people to add to this rich archive of personal/family stories and now we can all join in the fun!

Sharing

The main point of this app is to upload our family stories to be kept within the Library of Congress, but I must say that the biggest turn-off of using some of the other apps was the fact that I didn’t have a choice to keep it private or share it publicly. I know that the idea behind this is to eventually share our family stories for others to listen to, but the feeling of losing control of my story or my family member’s story was enough to delete the other apps off my phone and never use them. Most likely, I will end up sharing all the family stories that I am able to record but it will be at my choosing – and I like that.

#TheGreatThanksgivingDayListen

Let’s all participate in this exciting event!  Then please share with me your thoughts. I would love to hear them and together we can discover more and more about the power of what this app from StoryCorps can do to help our own LifeStories live on.

Want some more inspiration? Try “Reality hits — Talking with your older generations just can’t wait!

 

Beautify Your Family History Research Binders – Dividers reimagined

Putting It All Together

This project is very near and dear to me. I have actually applied these changes to my parents’ binder and I will be changing all my binders over to this format one by one. The side benefit to working on this project is that I have pulled all my documentation into one place (the binder) and it has become a far better Life Story Book.  You be the judge. Here is my research binder after its transformation.

(This was made for my own personal use, but if you see some digital scrapbook paper that catches your eye, I will post a list of my digital papers that I used at the bottom of this article. Some of them are rather old, but I will try to give credits where I can find the information!)

Project_final-touches

Tutorial Alert!

I am so excited to bring you this third tutorial that looks at the finishing touches that can be added to your Research Binders that will give the tabs a much needed update. Gone are the old tabs with the names typed so tiny that you can hardly read them. This tab system is simple, beautiful and very effective. (And I love how much nicer the whole book looks and feels!)

If you love the look of the dividers, they are an Avery product (Avery® Durable Write-On™ Plastic Dividers With Erasable Tabs, 8 1/2″ x 11″, Multicolor, 8 Tabs) and widely available at office supply stores. My favorite page protectors to use are the heavy weight non-glare sheet protectors. They are easy on the eyes and give added protection to the document.

 

Like the Beautiful Borders?

Binder w borders

If you see some borders on pages, I haven’t left them out of the tutorials on purpose; I promise! They are Welcome gifts that I send out to anyone that signs up to be a part of my Life Story Community. I am commited to transforming all our rich family documentation into amazing presentations that will captivate our family’s attention. That’s the goal, right?

Results

This has been a project that has made a profound difference in my own Research Binders. As we digitize everthing in our lives, there is still a place for hard copies — they can be viewed any place and any time — even if we don’t have wi-fi! I will be re-working all my albums in addition to any digital Life Story Books that I prepare.

I’d love to see some of your own updates – please post them to my FaceBook page, “It’s a Life Story”, email me[Michele at Lifestory dot com], or tweet me a picture[ at MicheleKerr on Twitter].

Better Yet

I would love to hear any stories of family members’ reactions to the binders!

 

As promised

Here is a list of some of the digital scrapbook papers that I used in my own personal family history research binder: 

Title pages & Parents Marriage Photo Page & Childhood Photo Page = Becky Higgins’ Heritage Edition  – designed by Celeste Knight:  http://www.digitalprojectlife.com/products/heritage-edition-full-collection

Work Photo Pages = Julie Mead’s Family Yearbook paper – http://www.scrappersguide.com/vol1_yearbook.html (This was a 2007 kit, so I’m not sure if this is still available.)

Beautify Your Family History Binders – Photos Are Up Next

Step Two_Photo Splendor title_Canva

Welcome to the second of three tutorials where we look at making a few changes to our Research Binders in order to make them a bit more reader-friendly. 

I’ve got a some information following the tutorial in case you find that you have any questions. Hopefully, I’ve addressed them all but feel free to send other related questions my way! If you haven’t seen the first tutorial in this series, you might want to read through that as well since I address a lot of basic information that you might not see in this second tutorial like background papers and using Picasa tools.

As I have explained in the first video, I am showing you the changes that I have made to my own personal family history research binder. I love the digital scrapbook papers that I have used. If you see some that catch your eye, you can find out where I got them at the bottom of this tutorial!

Video #2 – Beautify Your Family History Research Binders – Photos are Up Next Using Picasa

 

While working with clients for almost ten years, I have given back many a research binder filled with lots of wonderful documents detailing the lives of their ancestors. When I hand over those binders, one of the first things that I usually suggest is that they add family photos to the album to bring it to life. Today, I’m suggesting that we can take a couple more steps that might result in the binders actually being looked at by family.

Disclaimer alert!

The idea that your research binders won’t be enjoyed without sprucing them up doesn’t apply to everyone. This is just a trend that I have seen over quite a few years and a large majority of clients! They either do all the work themselves or have hired it done only to find out that no one in their family seems to care. To their family member’s credit, I also know that family history is something that we all have to be in the right place and time to want to become involved.  — I’m suggesting that we can nudge things along if we try a few things within our binders.

In my first tutorial I ended with the thought that we would all “love to lure our younger family members into looking at their family history and taking an interest.” Well, if you have ever watched the younger family members scanning their phone “feeds” of Instagram or FaceBook or whatever app they are fond of, you will quickly see that what gets their attention has to have something that draws them into the story or picture.

I’m not suggesting that we need to change our book solely for the younger family members, but that we can reach more generations if we combine those valuable documents with photos and stories – kind of tying it all together into an easy-to-digest format.

Stories – Got them?

Of course, there is always a little ground work to do before heading into any project and this one is no different. We need to have stories before we can incorporate them into our research binders. As you are pulling together the photos that you want to add to your binder, I suggest that you take copies of those pictures and make a few visits to family members that either knew the people in the photos or were actually in the photos themselves. Then I would prepare to make some notes as they reminisce about the event that was happening or something in particular that sparked a memory. It is these little bits of stories that make such an impact when adding it to your family history binder.

While I have your attention, I’d also suggest that you take this opportunity to get a video or audio record of your interview. Then I would save those clips to be enjoyed at a later time and possibly even added to a digital version of your binder.  (Just thinking ahead!) It also helps to be able to listen again and catch everything that was mentioned without having to stop the flow of the story as it is being told. Lastly, I suggest that you go ahead and leave the copies of the pictures you have been looking at with the family member as a thank-you. Of course, if you send them a copy of your finished page that includes their story, that would be even better!

No Pics? No Problem  — but Time is Wasting.

If this is where you are lacking, then again, I would make a point to contact all the family members you can get to and see when you might visit them.  Take along your smart phone and an app like “Heirloom” to scan the pictures. If you don’t have to take the photos out of their sight, it is more likely they will relax and then you can proceed with listening to their stories. Don’t be surprised if you don’t leave them with a real good feeling – talking with your family about their past makes them feel important as well as loved. A win-win situation in my mind!

I’ve said it before, but most of the older family members that I interviewed several years ago have all passed. If I hadn’t taken the time, I would have missed out on all their stories. Lesson learned the hard way.

Organization strategy – Who Needs It?

That title is laughable, I know. Once you start to collect any family documentation, stories, and or pictures, you quickly find out that you will need some type of organization. It can get crazy real quick.

 

To keep things simple, I would have a main folder on your computer titled with the Project name such as “Julian Family” or “Genealogy of John and Susie.” Then within that main folder, I would add the Surnames that you are starting with. Within each Surname folder, I would add the names of both the husband and wife that heads up each generation in a Last Name, First Name order such as “Julian Nathan.” And then, within each of those folders, I would add folders that have titles such as:

  1. Childhood through High School Years
  2. Marriage
  3. Military
  4. Organizations
  5. Family
  6. Death
  7. Land records (if you have enough that warrant a separate folder)
  8. Work / Business

Here’s an example of what my folder looks like:

Contained within Childhood folder_cropped

These are all simply suggestions and obviously they are based on a more recent generation – in fact these are the same titles that I used with my father’s folder. Just take a few minutes to jot down some ideas of what you think might work and then look through your binder to verify that it all makes sense. There is nothing worse than starting to organize things and quickly realizing that it just doesn’t work!

Once you are set with the format, then you can begin to scan the documents you have already located or download them directly into the folder that they belong. There are a lot of organizational plans for family research, but if you are going to try and tie them together for a presentation, this works well for me. I can have a visual idea of everything that I want to include in the binder and it is easy to pick and choose what I need!

Picasa – Love for Photos but Definitely Not a Word Processor. Did I mention it’s FREE?

As long as we all go into this project with the idea that we are going to keep costs to a minimum – FREE, then we can come to terms with the limitations that we will encounter. Picasa is a very user-friendly photo editor and photo management software. I’ve been using it for years even though I also have Lightroom and PhotoShop. It’s quick and easy to move around in and you don’t have to take a refresher course everytime you want to use it! By the way, I also have PhotoShop Elements and it is an excellent bridge product between Picasa and the full-blown Photoshop, but my focus with this tutorial was on FREE and EASY.

So, when you are preparing to tie the photos together with stories and documentation, you will want to have an idea of exactly what you want to get across with each page. In the page that I’m demonstrating with this tutorial, I am enlarging a section of a 1940 census so that I can see what was entered for my family. In my description of the census, I will explain the column entries and if I have any background information, I  will add that in as well. All the stories for that one page can be kept in one document for easy retrieval and then saved in the appropriate folder as well. As I’m working in Picasa, I can then simply copy and paste (Control-V) into Picasa.

This might take a bit of trial and error but it is really worth it and you will quickly get an idea of how much you can add to get the desired effect. You might need to adjust the size of type if you want to add more to a line.

Important Point for Adding Text

The important point here is that you will want to manually add RETURNS into your text so that it will pick up on the returns when it gets pasted into Picasa. Otherwise, it will become one long line of text and you will need to place the returns manually within Picasa. I think you will agree that doing it ahead of time is a good thing! You can always adjust the end of a line by deleting the <return> and adding it back at a different spot, but experiment first.

One other thought: When you paste your text in Picasa, it will be huge and you will need to shrink it down. That works for me, but it might take some getting used to when you are starting out!

Final Thoughts

I never know if anything I ever post will help anyone. But I can sincerely see the difference it has made in my own family history research binders and I am hoping that it might prove helpful to someone else. You might choose a different path to change up your binder, and I’m OK with that. I’d love to hear about the changes you have made and what has worked. And if you have taken it to a family get-together and have some reviews on how well the change-ups worked, I’d love to hear about that as well!

Digital Papers

Here is a list of some of the digital scrapbook papers that I used in my own personal family history research binder: 

Title pages & Parents Marriage Photo Page & Childhood Photo Page = Becky Higgins’ Heritage Edition  – designed by Celeste Knight:  http://www.digitalprojectlife.com/products/heritage-edition-full-collection

Work Photo Pages = Julie Mead’s Family Yearbook paper – http://www.scrappersguide.com/vol1_yearbook.html (This was a 2007 kit, so I’m not sure if this is still available.)

 

Our Family Research Binders need to be brought out of their closets! Let’s get them to the point that they see lots of light and are enjoyed by even more family members.

Beautify Your Family History Research Binders – First Up, Title Pages

Title Page graphic_canva

Make-over Alert!

Let’s face it – most of our family history binders need a little bit of help when it comes to eye-appeal. But who has time for that, right? Our research binders are a result of months, if not years’ worth of hard work and now I want you to think about how they look?

Well, let’s look at it from the opposite angle; we have to do something in order to draw the elusive family member into our stories. Plunking our tomes of family history research into their laps and expecting our loved-ones to want to read them might be asking a bit too much. Or haven’t you experienced the eye-roll when you have tried to do just that?

Maybe I’m over-exaggerating a bit much — but then again, maybe not… What draws you into reading a magazine? The cover most certainly.  And once you have started to look at a magazine, it had better have some pictures as well to break up the stories, am I right? You know I am.

Let’s make just a few easy changes and see if you don’t love your binder even more! I am suggesting that we change up the title page, add some pictures in a beautiful way and make-over those ugly tabs that we are so used to seeing! It’s not that hard and I, for one, am more than willing to try something so easy if one or more of my family members might be tempted to open up their own family history.

Three Simple Changes

It’s really pretty easy. Over the next couple of weeks, I’ll be breaking this down into those three DIY parts: 1) title page make-over, 2) adding photo pages with stories or at least captions and some comments, and 3) a major tab re-do that will instantly change the feel of your binder. And to help with the Title Page Make-over, I have decided that a video might work best. Before you check it out, you will need to install Picasa, a free photo editor/management program. We are going to use it kind of like design software.

Picasa is easy to set up and you can get it Here. This easy to use software can scan your computer to add all your photos and you can also use the folder manager (in Tools) to decide which folders to continuously monitor. I have been using Picasa for years and it is my go-to photo archive manager as well as a quick editor. For my purposes this time, I’m using it as a design program on a very simple level. Of course, you could purchase Photoshop Elements or even Photoshop, but for my purposes with these changes, Picasa fits the bill.

Video Alert!

This week we are making changes just with the title pages.


If you are interested in purchasing the same digital papers that I am showing, here is the link to Becky Higgins Project Life Heritage Kit.

[Please note that if you are not feeling comfortable enough to purchase Becky Higgins whole Heritage kit designed by Celeste Knight ($21.99) then you can easily just start with the title cards, journaling cards or filler cards. Individually, they are $3.99 each. There is a lot available online for free as well; just google “free digital scrapbook kits.” One of my favorite sites is ScrapGirls.  I would suggest that you watch the video and then decide. Also remember that you purchase once and use many times!]

If you do purchase a digital kit, you will need to download the kit and unzip the files. No problem! Here are the directions for that as well.  In order for Picasa to show your new papers like photos, you need to make one quick change once you have Picasa up and running:

Go to Tools and choose Options. Then click on File Types and click on all the formats available. Click on OK and you should be good to go! If you don’t do this little step, you might not see all the beautiful papers that you just downloaded .

Now that you have the house-keeping all done, give it a try!  I would love to see what you come up with for a title page.

One more reminder: You aren’t making this only to please yourself; remember the goal. Wouldn’t we all love to lure our younger family members into looking at their family history and taking an interest? For inspiration, you might look around at Pinterest or Instagram to see what is catching their eyes!

Over the next two weeks, I will be posting new videos and/or tutorials on how you can spruce up your own family history research binder. I hope you give the ideas a try and please let me know about your success stories!

Simple Steps to Posting in Instagram

Instagram Canva w screenshot

I know that a LOT of people know how to post in Instagram – this tutorial is not for you!

If you have Instagram but don’t know what to do next, let’s break it down. Follow along as I take you through a posting step-by-step!

 

  1. First step is to download and open up Instagram where you will be asked to sign up for an account. While you are doing that, I would suggest that you go ahead and upload a head shot of yourself to be used in your profile. (I keep the same headshot on my phone so that I have one whenever I want to set up a profile.) Remember, that when you are making a post anywhere, it is a lot more fun to be in a conversation with at least a photo of the person you are contacting! Leaving the photo blank just seems a bit creepy to me – so make sure to add one!

 

You can find lots of direction on what to add as your written profile, but at the very least, I would suggest that add you a few of your interests. As it relates to genealogy, I would add the surnames that you are working on as well. Of course, if you have a website and/or blog, you would want to put that URL in your profile as well! Once you start to look for other people to follow, you will start to see how valuable it is to be able to read a short blip on them and see if they line up with some of the same interests!

 

Once you have the account set up and you are ready to post, follow along with me as I show I posted a photo to my own Instagram account.

IMG_7038

  1. Your Instagram account is still open, right? Now look at the middle part of the bottom menu on your screen and you will see a square icon with a circle inside. That’s the button that you will want to tap in order to go to your camera roll or the camera itself and locate your photo to be used in the post.

 

So, this is Instagram and I’m just going to remind you that Instagram is all about the photo. You can add a message in the comments but really, it is still all about the photo. So when you are getting ready to post a photo, have some fun with it and try different angles as well as a few shots to decide which one you like best. If you love your photo, then that’s really all that matters at the end of the day. I wouldn’t suggest that you try to be just like everyone else.

 

I like to take photos of the little heirlooms that I have accumulated over the years so that I can share the stories that go with them. I will take the photo of the object or upload the picture that I want to use so that it is in my camera roll in my phone before making a post. This just makes things go smoothly and the picture can be edited in any app such as PhotoShop Express or simply using the filters within Instagram.

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  1. Once you have clicked on the photo that you would like to make your post about, then click on NEXT up at the top right of your screen. Here is what I think is the bread and butter of Instagram: the built-in filters! The little boxes at the bottom of the screen with the alphabet letters in them are the filters. Feel free to click on them all to see which one makes you happy when you look at it! If you click on the little sun icon just on top of the filter boxes, you can adjust just how much of the filter that you would like to use. Simply touch and drag the small blue circle to the right or left until you are satisfied with the look. Then either tap the “X” or “Y” button depending on whether or not you want to keep your changes.

 

If you look real close to the filter boxes, you can see a very blurred image of your photo and you will have a general idea of what the overall coloring will be with each filter – it just makes it a bit easier to not have to go through them all. Warmer filters catch my attention so I might only click on the ones that have some color that is pleasing.

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If you click on the odd little disc (tool?) icon at the right, just above the filter boxes, it will take you to even more tools such as straightening, brightness, contrast, warmth, etc . I would just open them up and start to play with them until you get a feeling for what each one does. You always have the option to cancel the changes by tapping the “X” button or to accept the changes by tapping the “Y” button.

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My favorite button to play with is the vignette and the tilt shift button. I actually used the tilt shift on this photo in order to give it a bit of depth. Play around!  Have some fun and always know that you can simply start over if you end up with something you aren’t happy with! Simply tap the back button!

 

Once you are done with your editing magic, tap the NEXT button on the top right hand side of the screen.

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  1. Your photo is done and now you are down to just adding your caption! Go ahead and tap within the box where the words, “Write a caption” are found and your keyboard will come up. Here’s where I love to add my little story (ok… sometimes it is a not-so-little story… but it is really for me and my kids so I’m writing about the object or the photo until I am happy with the story.) I have figured out that the posting looks easier to read if I don’t add any hashtags to clutter it up. Those can wait and be added as a comment after I have made my post. (I’ll quickly discuss hashtags at the bottom of this tutorial.)

 

Finished writing? Then simply tap the OK link at the top right-hand side of the screen and it will take you to the final staging area.

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  1. Aha! You have now made it to the point that you can tap the SHARE button at the bottom of the screen and it will post. Yay! To me, they all feel like little presents that I am sending off in the mail. And once you have shared the post, it will show up in your NewsFeed (the little home icon). You have the ability to add hashtags now as a comment.

 

As hard as I try to be perfect, I always find a typo in my caption, so I have become very comfortable in using the Edit function! In order to edit the caption, tap on the ME icon (the head and shoulders) and you can now see all your own posts. Tap on the posting that you would like to edit and there will be three little horizontal lines at the bottom of the screen. Tap those lines and in the little pop-up menu, you will see the edit tool. Click on that and you can then make changes to your caption. It always feels good to know you have options, right?

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  1. Now that you have your posting, let’s talk a bit about hashtags. They are everywhere but once you think of them as little tags or search tools, it will start to make perfect sense! With my postings, I want to add the person’s name that I am posting about. After I have made several using my mother’s name as a hashtag (full name,) then I can pull all the postings up at one time to look at everything posted about my mother.

 

Here is where is gets really powerful! If you are in contact with relatives and they begin to post their own photos or memorabilia to Instagram and you use the same hashtags, you can now pull up their postings and yours to look at the whole collection!

 

You can search on more general hashtags such as “#recipes” or “#family” to locate a world-wide conversation going on. And if you see something that interests you, I would click on that photo and look at the person’s profile to decide if you would like have them added to your news stream.

 

It is definitely a learning process to get comfortable with everything, but once you get to that point, then it is quite a bit of fun to look and see what others are posting!

  1. One more thing… Once you have 60 postings, you can choose to have your Instagram printed off by a company called Chatbooks. It costs $6.00 per book and as you get 60 pages accumulated, they will print off each book. I am looking forward to getting to that number. My hope is that I can print off the captions as well as the photos and then have a book about our families that I can pass down to the children!

 

The bonus to all of this is that my children seem to really enjoy looking at the my Instagram postings and reading the captions when they have a few minutes. (They range from ages 12 to 26.) I’m not above doing whatever it takes to attempt to make them interested in their own family history!

 

Yes, this all takes a bit of work, but at the end, I have done it for myself and my children and descendants down the road. They’ll have these treasures and the stories behind them to last forever!

Are you on Instagram? What are you favorite things to post and what do you enjoy looking at? I’d love to hear!

Day One Journaling Tutorial: It’s your own Life Story

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I know that we all like to think that every event will be saved in our memories forever – how could we ever forget? – but trust me, they will fade and suddenly you are left with only a general memory and not all the little details that made it so special. 

Day One App — explained in detail.

As promised, here is the step-by-step tutorial for the Day One app that I mentioned in my recent post titled “Its a Life Story Challenge.” (you can re-read it here!) Whether you are a parent, scrapbooker, and/or family historian, the Day One app is well worth the cost ($4.99 for iPhone and iPad.) Again, for some of you, this will be way too detailed, but I know that there are some that might find my tutorial very helpful so here we go…

Step One:  After loading the Day One app onto your phone, you will first get a black and white screen.  Always intimidating but absolutely no problem!

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To get started, just click on the little camera icon to be whisked away to your camera photos or photo stream! The fun part is deciding which photo you are going to choose to represent your post. This app doesn’t have any editing features so I would suggest doing any fix-ups or cropping before you load it up.

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Once you have selected your photo, it will come up with a little message box that asks, “Would you like to change the entry date / time to the Photo’s time?”  I like to revert back to the photo’s date and time so that it keeps a record of the exact day and time that I took the photo(its metadata.) If you are using a scanned photo, it won’t have the correct date so you can then enter it in or at least type in your best guess. Don’t worry too much because you can easily change it later! With this date feature, I can easily miss a couple of days and then enter them at a more convenient time (sooner than later!) and it will appear with the correct day and time.

 

Step Two: Journaling! Don’t let this intimidate you. Think of this as your own little place to write where you don’t have to worry about who might be looking and judging you. This is a safe place to write down some of the little details that occurred when this picture was taken. Sometimes, I only add one picture for an entire day and that’s ok as well. I am capturing my life and this doesn’t have to be perfect.

 

Some people like to have journaling prompts and others like to just write freely. I would just suggest that you include people’s names and the places where the picture or story are taking place. Maybe it would make the process easier if you think about your writing as if you were telling a friend of yours the story (Maybe a friend that doesn’t know anything or anyone in your life or circle of friends.) If you do this, I think that you will find that you put a little more detail in your writing naturally!

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Once you have finished your journaling for this picture, you will hit DONE at the top right of the screen. Voila! You have written your first post. Believe me, they get easier with each one. In fact, I find that I am really looking forward to taking a few quiet moments to do this every day or every other day. What I am not doing is putting any more pressure on myself to have to do it every day.

 

I want this to be a present to myself and a gift to my children down the road.

So, what if you want to add two or three pictures or even more? That’s alright as well. It’s your journal and you can do whatever you want, right? There are days that I have been pretty busy, especially on a recent vacation, and I wanted to capture several small stories of the day and the people with me. It is very easy to just add another picture and I’m off telling another snippet of a story.

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Step Three:  Once you have made your first post, you will see the photo and the journaling directly below the picture. If it is longer than will fit in that little tiny space, then you can simply scroll down and the rest of your story will unfold. Excited? I was thrilled on my first post and actually, I get a little happy after each one!

 

Let’s take a look at the bottom of the screen at the black menu bar. The first flag icon on the left is a link that takes you to the Day One website where you can post your entry online. For me, I am keeping my journal on my phone and backing up to my Dropbox.

 

[Note: You can set up the Dropbox feature back at the main screen by hitting <-Timeline <-Menu and then Settings and Sync. You will need to have Dropbox set up before you do this so you can enter your Dropbox information. If you are not familiar with Dropbox, it is a cloud storage that gives you access to your files from any of your devices: computer, mobile phone, or tablet. And the best part is that the basic storage plan is free!]

 

Back to the black menu bar. You will see an up arrow and a down arrow that will allow you to easily scroll through your entries. On a touch screen device, you can also swipe your finger up and down on the screen and it will move through the entries.

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The (+)Plus sign brings up a choice to enter another picture or simply enter text. (Some times there just are not any pictures taken during an event, but it is still wonderful to journal about it!)

 

Step four:  We have made entries but what if we want to print them out? This is where it gets fun again. Let’s look at the little black menu bar at the bottom again. You will see a row of three dots (***) and upon tapping that feature, you now have options! Lots of them.

 

The best part of this whole app is that it can make my entries into a single PDF that I can save or print out and keep. Now I have something that I can hand down to my children. I can pick and choose which pages to keep as well. [Remember that with a PDF, you can delete pages and also choose which pages to print.]

 

There are other options that you might like to explore as well, including uploading directly to your Twitter account. I like the idea of this being a separate part of me and keeping it under wraps until I am ready to share it with my four children. I might even think about having it printed and bound into books for each year. Who knows, but the good news is that I am doing it. It is easy and combines both of my passions for photos and family stories.

 

Step Five:  Remember that black and white screen that you got when you first opened up the app?

 

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You can always go back there by selecting  <–Timeline <-Menu. You can access the timeline directly from here as well as a calendar and photos and even any tags that you might want to add.

 

[Note: Tags are a great thing to think about adding up front or as you enter a picture. If you ever would like to see all your “Beach” photos or entries, you could simply go to this area and select the “Beach” tag and all your beach entries would show up in date order. Yes, this is a very good thing as Martha Stewart would say! You don’t even have to go hunting for a picture in your archive of when you went to a particular beach, you can simply select the tag. So, of course, you have to tag your photos when you are making your entries or go back and tag them later for this feature to work. That is why it is a good thing to think about it before you begin your journaling experience. You might even write up a basic list of tag names that you might think you would like to search on at a later point depending on your own needs! Names, places, activities, etc. Just look for the tag icon when you are entering your journal entry. It will prompt you at the top of the screen to enter a tag.]

 

As a scrapbooker for over twenty-some years, I have a passion not only for the pictures but the stories behind the photos. And, try as I may, there are times when I don’t get all the pictures into albums… Ok, maybe even years… but if I find a group of pictures within my photo archive (which is massive,) I could then go back to my journal and find that day. Guess what? All the details are now written down!  (Or I can use my tags as well as long as I keep using them.)

 

And if you don’t scrapbook, how does this apply? Ok, well, your children or grandchildren or great-grandchildren would be ecstatic to be able to poke around your journal and get an idea of all the things that you did on a daily basis. As a family history researcher, I would LOVE to be able to read my ancestors’ thoughts as they went about their daily lives. I can find the documents and possibly photos, but it takes a lot to be able to put yourself into their shoes and imagine what all they endured.

 

It’s those stories that give me strength and a foundation to live my own life. A bit melodramatic, yes, but I think that I am pretty spot-on when it comes to that desire to understand my ancestors better. I want my children to have a sense of what I was thinking as I went through part of my life. I’m fifty-three, ok, fifty-four, and I WISH that I had kept better journals during the time that I was raising my children. Now, as we are down to the last one at home, I can only hope that they will enjoy this small look into my life!

 

I’ve talked about it before… my mother passed away in 2000… and I still find myself looking for little tidbits of her writing or old letters that remind me about a particular time. If I don’t get anything else done in my own life, I am determined to leave a part of myself to my own children!

 

Please share this with your circle of friends as a gentle nudge to get started with our own Life Stories! It’s never too late — until it is too late!

Reality hits – Talking with your older generations just can’t wait

Interviews_CanvaCan I ever say it enough that we all need to talk to our older family members? I’m always telling others this, but it wasn’t until I wrote out a simple Tweet yesterday that it hit like a bullet just how important it is to interview our older family members.

 

I started out casually browsing through my Twitter feed and came across a tweet that took me to an article posted on Crestleaf.com’s Blog titled, “Breaking Genealogical Stereotypes: Interview with D. Joshua Taylor.” You can find the entire interview here.

 

I have listened to quite a few talks by Mr. Taylor and of course have been watching him on Genealogy Roadshow so it caught my attention. In the article, Crestleaf asks what is important when interviewing relatives.

D. Joshua Taylor responds that you ask the person:

  1. Who was the oldest relative you knew,

  2. Ask them about their childhood, and

  3. Ask them to give you a memory about yourself.

 

These are three wonderful interview questions and ones that we all need to jump on sooner than later. While I am still a newbie at Twitter, even though I have had an account since it started, I responded back with this:

 

“Thanks goodness I took the opportunity to interview as many of my elderly relatives early on. They’re all gone.”

Now, staying away from judging my tweet for its brilliance or lack of, this short couple of statements stopped me for a moment after I hit “send.” You see, I had make the attempt to talk to all my elders and my husband’s older family members several years ago – within the past fourteen years. Why specifically “fourteen?” That’s easy. My mother passed away from non-hodgkins lymphoma in 2000.

 

Suddenly, she was gone. Way before that we had even had discussions on what she might do if she outlived my father. And now my mom was the one that was gone. Always planning on having her around until she was past her eighties, she was gone at age 70. With her went all the stories of her past that I vaguely knew about but never had asked specifics.

 

I’m terribly sorry to be such a downer in this writing, but sometimes it takes a shocker like loosing a parent to jolt you into action. Lots of good came from this loss of my mother  because in a way, I might not have thought too much about trying to interview all my relatives. What’s funny is that I probably wouldn’t be in the position that I am today with my family history research if she had lived a long life. I wouldn’t have felt the need to get those interviews.

 

What would I have missed? My great-aunt on my father’s side described both of her grandfathers and gave me quite a few details about her own father, my great-grandfather. I would have never had these details by simply searching through records and books. They wouldn’t have told me that all four generations of Julian men, including my father, were very focused on work. They worked long hours to the point that family time was cut short, but they all felt a great need to push themselves to finish what was at hand. They needed to get the job done.

 

Of course I knew this about my father, but after talking with her, it all suddenly made sense. And it made even more sense when I looked at myself and my brother with this knowledge. What I had held as a slight grudge against my father for always working, became something that was bigger than him – it was “in his DNA” as you might say.

 

Lots of other priceless stories came from these interviews, too many to tell all at once. But the striking thing about this is that they are all GONE. Every last one of them has passed away. Can we take the chance to not get the family stories written down somewhere for the future?

 

Finding out about your family’s history and their stories, gives you a foundation to live on.

So, my advice this time is to not fret about getting all the questions answered at once from your older family members. As Nike says, “Just Do It!”