To forget one’s ancestors is to be a brook without a source, a tree without a root. – Chinese Proverb
Yes, I just put that quote out there, but not to make you feel bad if you haven’t even thought of looking at your family’s history, but as inspiration to take a few minutes out of your busy day to slow down and take a look at where you came from.
For the last two months, I’ve been encouraging you to get started with your family history by first getting your own generation’s documentation pulled together in one place and then branching out to get the documentation for the next couple of generations. That is a great base, but what is next?
The Good Stuff
Now it is time to get to the good stuff… Make contact with our family members and tap into their memories to gather stories that can be captured and written down for generations to come. Don’t put this off. Life is fragile and we are never guaranteed “wait time” to make those contacts.
For me, it is always a Win-Win to take the time to visit with my elders and listen to their stories and look at their photos (and take a pic!) Without fail, I get an instant uptick in my own feelings and can always count the visits as a positive to relatives as well. Can’t get there in person? I know for a fact that even a phone call will be much appreciated.
It’s OK to Ask
If you do contact them by phone, don’t hesitate to ask if they have any old family photos that you might be able to snap on your phone. If you don’t live close, then figure out who are some younger cousins that live close enough to go over and get those phone pics for you! (Make sure they get the backs of the photos as well as any writing that is around the photo.)
And for those of you that are really not comfortable with all this? Well, I could say “suck it up buttercup” and just go “do it” as Nike says, but I do have some suggestions that might help to get you started!
Not Feeling Chatty?
Have you heard of Chatbooks or any number of services that offer those cute 4×4 printed books? If you have access to some of your family’s heritage photos, grab the Supermatic app and add each photo into a frame such that there is space at the bottom of the photo. Add any names or information that you can detect from the photo into the frame area.
Upload those photos into a Chatbook and leave the opposite pages blank so that when you are finished, you have a picture on one page and enough space left on the opposite page for notes to be added about the photo. Get an idea of where I’m heading with this?
You can send these finished Chatbooks to relatives and ask them to look through the pictures and fill in any stories and details they can remember about the photos. Don’t forget to add your name, phone number and address into the front of the book. (If, for some reason, you don’t get it back, then hopefully someone will see your name and send it along to you!)
And when you have pulled together all your findings? Don’t forget to send them a copy of whatever you end up with!
Note: I have been posting monthly heritage articles for Scrapaneers since December 2016 and this article originally appeared March 29, 2019, on The Scrapaneers’ Society website in a series titled “Family History Basics.” My articles are meant to encourage us all to get our own LifeStories written down and I’ve been given permission to repost them here on my own website. If you are interested in learning more about digital scrapbooking, The Scrapaneers’ Society has wonderful classes available from beginner to advanced.