ItsALifeStory.com _ FAMILY HISTORY BASICS - Finding the Calm in Big Projects

FAMILY HISTORY BASICS #7 – Finding the Calm in Big Projects

 

We all find it so important to document our family’s life (especially with kids and our pets), but do you ever feel the overwhelm of it when it comes to getting your own story told?

Feeling stuck?

The reason I bring this up is that I recently had a conversation with a woman about her pioneer ancestors and before I knew it, we got to the topic that really seemed to be a hot button for her — getting her own story told. The overwhelming-ness of it all had her stuck.

This journey I have been on for the past three years has felt like a struggle as well, so I could instantly relate to her. The good news is that my struggle has left me with positive shifts in my thoughts. You would laugh if you could see how many starts and stops I have taken with my own attempts to bring my LifeStory book to “life.”

Goals are a good thing

It all seems so simple. I mean, how hard could it be to make a book that showcases my ancestors’ lives with photos, stories, and documents that I have obtained over the past twenty years? And, add to that, the fact that I wanted the books to be read by my children and treasured for many generations. My vision seemed fairly simple: I wanted the pages to be beautiful to the eyes and entice the reader to not only read each page but kind of rest on it and get to know their ancestor through my eyes.

I bring all this up because my ultimate goal is to not only document my children’s lives, my family’s ancestors, but to also get to the point of getting my own LifeStory told the way that I would like it to be done…in my own voice.

Originally, I started out with my parents and I have quite a bit of documents, stories and of course, photos for their generation, but, really? Trying to get all the different stages in their life down into a format that I loved and felt would do them justice has been a challenge. I get a page done and then see another type of style to try and quickly flitter between so many styles that it hurts to think about. Not very calming.

Shift in thinking

How did I handle that problem? I decided that starting with my parents might not be the best idea. They were too close to me and the need to get it right was too strong and my indecisiveness was drowning me. The lightbulb came on at what was exactly the right moment and I knew as soon as I realized that I needed to move on to the next generation, my grandparents. It is kind of like the Three Bears story, isn’t it? My parents were too hard; my great, great, great grandparents were too far away and my grandparents were “just right.”

But let’s stop for a second…because while they are much easier to work with, the real lightbulb moment to this is the fact that all the starts and stops that I took have helped me to get to this point. When I saw the style that I am now working with, it all clicked and the pages are coming together effortlessly AND I am enjoying the process. If I had started with my grandparents three years ago, I might still be in a style rut and still trying to find my path. The real gem in all of this is that I allowed myself the time to play around with different styles, continue to locate new documents that have come online over the past three years and now, it is finally all coming together and making sense.

Enter calm

I allowed myself the time to organize my photos and add bits and pieces to the stories that I knew that I wanted to add, or better yet, remember. And the cherry to top everything off? I have taken one more paradigm shift: I am no longer writing for my children’s benefit or anyone else’s. It is all for me. (There… I said it, and I’m OK with it!)  My LifeStory books are my way to remember my grandparents and eventually my own parents.

I’m not vain enough to think that everyone suffers from the same type of overwhelm that I have felt, but if you do, cut yourself a break and keep on going. If you are having a hard time working on the entire project, then start with one photo and describe your memories or what it means to you to see that photo.

More than one way

I’ve been using Microsoft OneNote for several years with my work, but using the table feature is where I feel like I have made the most progress in pulling my stories together visually. Lots of different ways to do this and everyone has to experiment a bit to find their own workflow, but this has really taken the “overwhelming” word out of the mix. You might find something like Trello helpful as well where you can add a card for each picture or subject.

The lady I was talking with? I suggested that she begin to write a blog post about each photo or subject and the lightbulb went on for her. It made the project seem easy to do. One post at a time and she could share it with whoever she wanted to and it could become a family project. When she finally was ready to make that LifeStory book, she would have all the posts to pull together into one book. Easy-peasy.

My own workflow example

As I said, there are quite a few options out there and I have tried a majority of them and landed on OneNote. Here’s a snippet of what a section of my grandmother’s notebook looks like. There are no bells and whistles but it has given me calmness in my process and that is priceless in my book!

 

The Layout Process is Coming Together

Again, as far as my layout, I am still working with products from Anna Aspnes Designs. This particular layout is so near and dear to me that I felt like a little girl all over again — visiting my grandmother’s home. I ended up using mostly pieces from the ArtsyTransfers Rougir, the Multimedia Roses No. 1, and the ArtPlay Palette Rougir. The colors made me think of my grandmother and the girly-girl things that I enjoyed playing with as that little girl with a big imagination. I haven’t totally mastered Anna’s artsy style but I love each layout and by the time I get both sides of my grandparents done, I think I will be at the right place to take on my parent’s book.

ItsALifeStory.com _ FAMILY HISTORY BASICS #6 - Finding the Calm in Big Projects

Setting myself up for success

I’m working on this side of my grandparents’ generation, but guess what else I’m also doing? I’m setting up Notebooks for each couple that I will be working on including myself so that as I see a picture or think of a funny story that I don’t want to forget, the framework is set up for me to add it into OneNote. You see where I’m going with this, don’t you? By the time I am ready to tackle my parents and myself, I will have already done a lot of the hard work — culling the photos and the stories that I really want to tell. And as I read and re-read through it from time to time, I can be working on the text in the story so that it sounds the way I want it to.

Any other ways?

Like I said earlier, it is not about my way in particular. I’m just sharing to get the conversation started. Please feel free to chime in and share what works best for you when you are contemplating a big project like your family’s heritage LifeStory!

 

Note:  I have been posting monthly heritage articles for Scrapaneers since December 2016 and this article originally appeared July 27th, 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.

ItsALifeStory.com _ FAMILY HISTORY BASICS - Books are My Jam

FAMILY HISTORY BASICS #6 – Books are my Jam!

As each layer of your research starts to come together, I hope that you find yourself actually looking forward to “the hunt.” I’ve always said that family history research is the best reality show that there ever could be. It’s our own show exclusively about us! This month, as we continue to add layers into our research toolkit, it’s time to look at books. That could look like an actual trip to a library where your ancestors lived or it could be from your home early in the wee hours. Let’s tap into the massive scanned book collections of Google Books, Internet Archive, FamilySearch.org and Ancestry.com.

 

“For in every adult there dwells the child that was, and in every child there lies the adult that will be.” — John Connolly

Inspiration

I’m a grandmother to two under-two-year-old grandchildren and one eight-year-old grand-daughter so I’m in that point of my life where I am watching my children’s children take the form of the future adults they will grow up to become and can I just say that it is uh-mazing! As I have worked on my next layout for my paternal grandparents’ booklet, it has actually helped me to understand exactly why I always knew that I would have my own grandma’s stash of toys. Isn’t that what scrapbooking does for us? It allows us to process our thoughts as we “paint” our layouts with photos, colors and stories?  Looking into our own family history works on a similar line when it allows us to pull old thoughts together and run them through a new filter – the filter of new stories that give us “the rest of the story” as a famous radio personality used to say.

Who doesn’t love a good book?

Anyhoo… let’s get back to this month’s tool – books. At the risk of sounding like I grew up in the really old days, I could tell you that I originally had to do all my family history research by going to a library and actually pulling books, copying pages on a copier and bringing them home to make sense of what all I had uncovered. Well… I certainly did that and maybe that is why I have a serious appreciation for the ability to perform online searches through books that have been OCR’d!

Power of the Search

Indexes in books are incredibly important, but having the ability to Search a book on any word that we want is powerful. If you have never tried looking for your ancestor’s name in an online book, you should definitely try it right now. There is the chance that you will hear crickets from the responses, but there is also the chance that you could find your family’s story (or at least a portion of it!)

There are techniques that help, especially with Google’s Search, like placing your ancestor’s name in quotes and then adding the place name of where they lived. Once you get the millions of results, look at the top of the search box area for the “MORE” dropdown menu and click on it. You will see “BOOKS” as an option and you will want to click on that as well.

This brings us to a whole different area of Google and it is a good thing, believe me! If you find a book that looks promising, click on it and you will either have a snippet view or have the entire book to peruse. If you get the latter, then you can click through the pages that match your search criteria at the top of the page or you can perform a new search within the book by typing your new search terms in the box on the left-hand side of the page. If you find yourself with the snippet view, then you can click on the option to Find in a Library and you can then try and locate the book in a nearby library. (Don’t be put off by this if you don’t live anywhere near the library where it is held because here in the United States, our interlibrary loan system is a fantastic resource to add to your toolkit. Librarians are always our best friends!)

Why do most of the searchable books look older? It is because they are outside of the copyright time period or have been given the rights to upload the book. One more tip for Google Books is that you can add the book to your own “library” so that you can locate it in the future and they have even more filtering options, so just click away and see what you come up with.

Don’t forget to Save

My tip for you would be to Snip a picture of the pages that you need along with the title page and then make them into a PDF so you can save them all together in one document.

I’ve touched on Google Books in this article, but the other powerhouse in the book area is Internet Archive (Archive.org). “Internet Archive is a non-profit library of millions of free books, movies, software, music, websites, and more.” If you have never come across it, you might want to set aside some time and just start clicking away. You can just search their books, but as you see, they have way more than just books.

When I perform a search on Google and one of the results shows a book from the Internet Archive, I click on the book and then always perform a Search in the box up at the top. (Just make sure that you type your search term into the box that says, “Search inside” in the box. Otherwise, you will be doing a search through the entire archive.)

FamilySearch.org also has a massive amount of scanned books so give them a try as well. You will need to click on the Search option at their Home screen and then choose Books. You will need a username but the site is free. There are some books that are only viewable at their FamilyHistory sites. If it looks promising, the physical FamilyHistory sites are well worth the trip and they are open to the public.

I would be remiss if I didn’t also mention Ancestry.com and their ever-growing book supply. As always, if you don’t have a subscription, remember to check with your local library!

“You’re off to Great Places! Today is your day! Your mountain is waiting, So… get on your way!” – Dr. Seuss

I’d love to hear if you have any luck in locating new information in an online book resource.

ItsALifeStory.com _ FAMILY HISTORY BASICS - Books Are My Jam

Just a note on my layout on the cover page… As I said last month, I have quickly become a fan of Anna Aspnes’ Artsy world, especially as I pull together my heritage booklet for my grandparents. When I remembered my grandmother, part of what would always pop up in my thoughts was her great old toys that she kept in a closet in her bedroom. I was fascinated with them because they were nothing like any toy I had ever seen and they gave me a lot of enjoyment on visits to my grandparents’ home. I knew that I needed to include them into my booklet, but how to do that without actual pictures? I googled the ones I remembered vividly and saved small pics of them, hoping to be able to use them somehow. Well, adding them to a layout just ended up looking messy but when I enlarged them (by a LOT) and then blended them into Anna Aspnes’ Artsy paper (ArtPlayMiniPaletteEutaxy_ArtsyPaper3), suddenly things started to take on their own life and my smile as well as enjoyment grew exponentially. This type of scrapbooking has literally given me back my sense of artistic fun!

Note:  I have been posting monthly heritage articles for Scrapaneers since December 2016 and this article originally appeared June 28th, 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.

ItsALifeStory.com _ Newspapers - Our Grandparents Facebook

FAMILY HISTORY BASICS #5: Newspapers – Our Grandparents’ FaceBook

 

“The past is a chatty companion, I can tell you.”  -Ari Berk

Hunting anyone?

Working on your family’s history is a bit like going on an adult Easter-egg hunt and I’m not kidding at all…  This month I’d love to share with you my love of newspapers — the online newspaper sites in particular.   Add up all the little stories that your ancestors might have been mentioned in so many years ago along with the searching capabilities now available and you come up with the possibility of lots of little tidbits to help bring your ancestors to life.

I’ve started a re-boot with my own research that spans some 18 years and I decided to pick it up with my paternal grandparents since I’ve done so many layouts featuring them. This time around, I’m really slowing down and taking a magnifying glass look at each document — really pulling every bit of information I can get out of it into my tree.

What do I mean? Well, around 1927, my grandfather moved close to 90 miles away from his home town to Auburn, Indiana for his work with Sinclair Oil Company right before the Great Depression here in the United States.

Chatty is good

The newspapers from the early 1920’s – 1950’s here in Indiana had columns devoted to surrounding areas and let’s just say that they were very chatty. It is the kind of chatter that you would think of with two people meeting up in town and kind of catching up on all the “goings-on” that they had missed out on. Luckily for me, his hometown newspaper is online at NewspaperArchive and I can access it at home through my local library’s subscription! When I searched on his name, I could literally get a birds-eye view of important trips and events that had happened to him. What caught me off-guard is just how many times he traveled back to his hometown to visit his parents and especially his grandparents.

I found out he had “lost” a horse. (I’m not sure what that really meant, but I’m sure he was greatly upset.) I found out that he had become the manager of a brand-new gas station that had been built with fancy “new” lighting that allowed the area to look like it was daylight during the night time. I found out that he would bring family members back to Auburn with him to stay for the week and then tote them back the next weekend only to bring another relative and family back with him for another stay! I found out that his sister had indeed traveled up to Auburn, Indiana because she would ride back to their hometown together for family events.

I could go on and tell you even more, but I know that it isn’t nearly as interesting to non-family members as it is to me, but my point in telling you what I had found is that each little bit of information I found either added to his “story” of how he came to live up near Auburn in the first place, how much his family truly meant to him and how he eventually became the man/grandfather that I knew and loved so much. It all made so much more sense… HE made so much more sense!

As I have added it to his profile information, it starts to really fill in his time line which helps when I start to look for land records for him. I won’t need to be looking in years where I found him still at home, right?

Tip anyone?

Here’s a huge tip for anyone starting their research:  Make note of where you found anything that you use as a document for your family history. If it is a book, then get a picture of the title page as well as the actual page with the information. You can never have too much information on where it is all found! Even make a note where you found the document. Was it online or in a book? Where did you find the book?

Should you accept it…

Your mission this month is to check your local library to see if they have a subscription to either NewspaperArchive.com or Newspapers.com and then just start searching for each one of your grandparents. If your library doesn’t carry a subscription, think about doing a trial period with either one or both of the newspapers I mention. Before you do, I would recommend that you look around to make sure that they hold copies of the newspapers that would have been around where your family lived.

My paternal grandparents can be found in both online services, but my maternal side is really only available right now on Newspapers.com. If you do locate them, I recommend that you start a Genealogy Folder with a folder inside titled Locations. (My newspaper clippings of my grandpa are found in C:My Genealogy/United States/Indiana/Fulton County.) Then I title them so they follow along these lines [Bennett, Stella Walters – 1950 19 Dec – Logansport Pharos Tribune – pg6 Col 6] which gives me the name of the ancestor, the date of the newspaper, the name of the newspaper and the page and column information. That way if I ever want to go back to it or share the information with a relative, I have it already contained in the title. (And yes, this sounds obsessive, but take it from experience, more is better!)

You can save a clipping in PDF format or just crop it your own way and save in JPG or PNG, but I would also recommend saving the entire page so you have access to peruse the entire page at some point and possibly snag some of the advertisements for use in your layouts! I’m just saying… Usually any publications prior to 1923 are safe as far as copyrights and there are some great illustrations that would make fantastic brushes to layer in the background of your layouts!

I’ve shared some of the interesting things I’ve found, so please share if you find something that you can use to fill in your family’s story!

ItsALifeStory.com _ NewsPapers - Our Grandparents Facebook _ NEW STARTS layout

Layout Goodness

And my layout? Well, through a distant cousin that has made contact with me, I learned of the heritage book that Anna Aspnes has been working on with her mother and it has been like the sky opened up and the sun shone down on me. I have been trying to put together a sense of what I wanted to see on my pages and bring them to life, but they have all been falling short to some extent and I have found myself frozen with not much getting finished except for the genealogy research.

I have always envisioned a book that is beautiful and full of color that makes the reader want to spend some time just looking around at not only the pictures but the little visual cues and stories that I want to add. I can’t say that my style is Artsy but I might be changing my tune as I continue to pull together my own booklet on my grandparents.

So, I am happy to say that I have the first page of a 2-pg spread done in my new Artsy style and I’m showing you, with giddyness in the article photo. I am using the ArtPlay Palette Bravura from www.annaaspnesdesigns.com for my layout.  (Her designs can be found at O’Scraps or DesignCuts.) I’ve been replaying the Scrapaneers Champions Course: Module 7 / Page Strategy 11 as well to “brush up” on my brushwork. It’s a start and I can’t wait to see how my layouts progress as I learn this new style and complete my grandparents’ book!

Note:  I have been posting monthly heritage articles for Scrapaneers since December 2016 and this article originally appeared May 24th, 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.
ItsALifeStory.com _ FAMILY HISTORY BASICS - Planting Your Family Tree Online

FAMILY HISTORY BASICS #4 – Planting Your Family Tree Online

Four things You Can’t Recover

The Stone after the throw

The Word after it’s said

The Occasion after it’s missed

The Time after it’s gone.

Author unknown

Poking around the Manu Design Studios after seeing several recommendations in our group for Heritage Designers, I ran across a layout with this quote and it stopped me in my tracks. I had to take a picture of it for the quote as much as the layout (which was beautiful as well.) I mean… the “time” sentence hit me in the gut because I run into frustrating “If I had only’s”  in a lot of my research. If I had started to look at my family history even in my 30’s, I could have possibly gotten so many now unanswered questions checked off.

But, alas… I didn’t… so I take up the “Pass it Forward” banner and encourage others to begin their own journey into their family history (hopefully just a tad earlier!)

Next Steps

This is the fourth month in my Family History Basics’ articles and I hope that a few readers might have actually taken the baby steps outlined in my articles and are now and forever hooked on your own family history research! The first month we talked about “Us” and retrieving our own documents into one place and starting a timeline. The second month I encouraged you to branch out to the next two generations — our parents and grandparents, hopefully obtaining their documents as well. Last month I discussed my second favorite part of family history research, the stories, and suggested that you broaden your circle to talk with any living relatives that might know any of the older generations and their stories. (What is my first favorite part? We’ll hit on it a bit this month! Hands down, it is pictures — they draw me in – hook, line and sinker!)

Since I just gave away part of this month’s topic, let’s go ahead and get started…

Cousin Bait?

In the genealogy world there is a funny term called “cousin bait” and let me just tell you that it is the most positive and rewarding part of the whole family history research process. Just a couple of days ago, I got a message from a DNA-linked 2nd cousin of mine and my heart expanded as she talked about the annual family reunion on our shared side of the family that has been taking place for well over 50 years. (I even have pictures that I found recently on a cousin’s Ancestry tree from some of the very same reunions!) Would I like to get more information about it? You would have laughed at how quickly I turned around and answered her message! And then guess what she did… She sent me five pictures that included my grandfather in each of them. She had gotten them from another cousin who recently passed away from cancer. (Refer to the “Time” sentence in the quote above!)

And this isn’t the first time that I’ve come in contact with cousins. Oh, my gosh…I’ve received booklets on family histories, photos that have never been seen before and enjoyed several phone calls with new cousins with new family stories that are priceless.

And how does this all happen? In this age of social media, you could pick FaceBook, Instagram, Pinterest, or Twitter and start with either one or all of them.  You could start your own blog and write about your own journey and all the information, photos and stories that you uncover. You could also begin to add your own family tree to sites and see what your cousins, known and unknown, might have in the way of information, photos and stories! Let’s focus on the online family tree this month!

Online family trees — yay!

The rewards of putting your tree online in multiple places is definitely worth the few minutes that it will take to set up your tree(s). Remember the Cousin Bait aspect of getting your family’s information out there. Just a note on privacy concerns: It is valid and I would recommend looking into the privacy settings in each site. All the sites will keep living people’s information blocked out so that it doesn’t show unless you specifically share the tree with a family member and give them rights. You could also just enter “Living Person” in the generations that are actually living! Just don’t “not” upload your tree because of the privacy factor. (Sorry for the double negative!)  The benefits are real. As I am writing this article, I have a photo of my grandmother in a little frame nearby from when she was a teenager. I wouldn’t have that photo or any idea of what she looked like, prior to the woman I always knew in later years, if I hadn’t put my family tree online.

So, where to begin?

Since I’m trying to slow down and stay on an easy pace with these monthly lessons, it makes sense to cut the choices down to just a few!  There are actually quite a few places that you could pick to add your family tree but I’ll throw out just two to get us started:

  1. Ancestry.com
  2. FamilySearch.org

Ancestry.com

Ancestry.com is a subscription based website and they literally have millions of records with more being added every day. Here are a couple of paths to consider:

  • If you are simply looking to gain access to a really nice family tree program that gets searched by a LOT of people daily (remember cousin bait!), this is a great place to start. And they do have some databases that are FREE such as the 1880 U.S. Federal Census, just as an example. If you are unsure and really just want to test the waters, you can even go to your local public library and check to see if they have Ancestry Library Edition to use while you do some initial searching. (Remember that you can always email a “find” at the library to your home email and then save that document to your computer. It’s a bit cumbersome, but it is an option that allows you to kind of test the waters. Beware though… when you find your first treasure of a document, there is no going back! You might find yourself hooked — which is a good thing.)
    • Here is the link that will take you to the listing of FREE worldwide databases available on Ancestry.com. https://www.ancestry.com/search/categories/freeindexacom/ Note: This is the same link where you can also get to the FREE Ancestry.com User Account Sign-up in order to start your own family tree.  (There is no credit card required if you set up your tree from this path. If you decide to subscribe, then you can add it at that time.)
    • After clicking on the link above, you will click on “Sign In” on the top right of the page.
    • This takes you to a “Sign in to Ancestry” screen and look for “Not a member yet?”
    • Click on the “Sign up today” link.
    • This takes you to a place to set up your User Name & Password (without having to enter a credit card.) *** Remember to write down your information!
    • Just a note: We all know that subscription dollars that Ancestry receives are what keeps it growing and continuing to add databases and bring extra value to their site. This is a good thing, but if you really would simply like to setup a tree, click on the link above and start your adventure! Just keep that “tree-only” mindset until you are ready to expand to actual research from home.
  • Of course, if you would really just love to get in there and add your tree and then start searching, there is a free trial that you can use in order to gain access to the entire U.S. database. This is a great way to determine just how far you would like to take your research in the comfort of your favorite chair. A credit card number will be needed at this point in order to gain access to the Free Trial. (There is also a World-wide membership as well.)

FamilySearch.org

  • FamilySearch.org is a Free site that never requires a subscription. They are, in fact, a repository for one of the largest collections of microfilmed resources in the world. (Don’t hold me to that, but I’m pretty sure that having a mountain in Salt Lake City, Utah dedicated to holding all the microfilm they have accumulated over the years would put them in a league all their own.)
  • FamilySearch will require you to set up a UserName and password but that is really the only requirement to use their resources. You need to know before you start to enter your family tree information that they are attempting to build one large family tree and at some point, you will most likely tie into someone’s line. You have to think of this as contributing to a larger project, but in the mean time, you can add your tree and possibly take advantage of what others have found so far that could really take you hundreds of years back in time.

One quick reminder for any online family tree site: You can tell how valid someone’s information is by looking at their sources. Don’t get caught up in the moment and just blindly add generations on because someone else has it on their tree.

The next several months will be all about the researching part of this, which is another favorite part for me personally! Alright, I love all aspects of family history! I admit it…

Let me know what your favorite part is and if you have any questions, don’t hesitate to ask!

Note:  I have been posting monthly heritage articles for Scrapaneers since December 2016 and this article originally appeared April 26, 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.