FAMILY HISTORY BASICS #2 – Family Documents (We need them!)
Last month, we began the process of pulling our own records together. Of course, the stories that make up our own LifeStory might take more than one month to pull together. Mine is a work-in-process. Whether you love to write in a journal by hand, enter into a computer or use your phone, there is never a better time than now to start! (I recently started using Prixm on my iPhone to do my daily journaling.)
Setting our sites
The next step in our journey is to tap into our own living relatives for stories. Just think… if you have a living grandparent, they will have stories about their grandparents and those are your gg-grandparents! I’ve learned the hard way that we can’t put off contacting those important resources – our family, when life is so fragile and we are never guaranteed “wait time”.
And if you have elder family members, then it is a win-win to take the time to visit with them and listen to their stories. And don’t forget to ask them to see photos! Those are the best story-starters but you will want to have something handy to take notes (audio, video or handwritten!) Can I just say that the I always get an instant up-tick in my own feelings when I have made the effort to go see my elder family members, either in person or by phone call. I’m betting that your elder relatives will get a similar reaction as well.
On to Generation II and III
This month, as we go back to basics with our family histories, it’s all about the next two generations, or as we better know them, our parents and grandparents. I know that sometimes families, for better or worse, can get a bit difficult or make us uncomfortable, but they are who they are, which is our family, so let’s get their information written down and pulled together so that we can continue on to see where our journey takes us! We are who we are because of where we came from or even in spite of it, right?
Need a handy sheet to help track the documents? I’ve got you covered. This PDF is a fillable form so you can save it, open and type in all your information, or just go ahead and print it out to take along with you to get help in filling it out! (It’s for your personal use. Enjoy!)
Where to find birth, marriage and death documents? Do a quick Google search to see where your state or region’s vital records can be found. For me, here in Indiana, I can find, birth, death and marriage records right on Ancestry.com and yes, that would be the copies of the original documents! If you don’t have a subscription, don’t forget to look to your public library to see if they have a library edition or consider taking a free trial. They also have month-to-month subscriptions if you want to take it for a test drive! Not all states have their vital records online so you will need to get copies directly from your parents and grandparents or check to see if any family members have copies. And if you can’t locate them personally, then check in with the County or State where they were born, got married or passed away to get “genealogy” copies. (You probably don’t need certified copies so make sure to ask!)
Who doesn’t love Goals?
So, our goals for this next month? Contacts, contacts, and more contacts. Get creative if you like but take this as a gentle nudge to take that step. I’d love to hear some of your stories! After my mom passed away back in 2000, I made a point to go visit and/or call three remaining elderly relatives of mine who were all in their late 80’s and early 90’s. Not to be a Debbie-downer, but now, some eighteen years later and they are all gone as well as my own father and brother. I will always count our talks and visits with these precious women as some of the most special times I had after losing my mother.
The documents are an important part of the puzzle because they give us directions as to our next step in our family history journeys. More important than stories? Mmmmm…. that would be a tough one for me so let’s call them equally important and something to try and work on together!