ITS A LIFE STORY_FAMILY BASICS_ARE YOU A SEARCHER OR A BROWSER

Family History Basics #11 – Are You a Searcher or a Browser?

Do you search through your digital files or are you a browser? When it comes to scrapbooking, I’m definitely a browser. In Family History Basics #10, I showed you how I use OneNote to keep a visual display of my digital supplies and templates. I love to see all my things laid out in front of me – paper or digital – so I can pick and choose exactly what I want to add to my layout. Well… I like to be able to see what is available to me when it comes to my family research as well.

As promised, this month we are going to take a look at one way to organize your family history documents and photos. If you are at the beginning of your journey to discover your family’s history, then I’d like to get you started on the right foot on storing all the “goodness” you have located.

Lesson learned the hard way

The goal is always to make the process as simple and easy as possible, but to get to that luxurious place where you can just type in a few words and voilà, your pics or documents will pop up, there is just no way around putting in a little bit of extra work on the front-end. I’m the kind of person that loves to have a system in place when I’m working on a project that requires repetition. And when it comes to family history research, there is a LOT of repetition as we SAVE the documents and then try to RETRIEVE them back when we need them.  SO… let me explain one tried-and-true way that will endure time and will get you set for years to come.

Lessons Learned

Let me explain one crucial problem that I have experienced with naming systems and family history research. Of course I would be the first to acknowledge that I might be overthinking the process, but stick with me because there are some flaws to the more popular methods of naming and storing records and photos. When it comes to heritage photos or records that might include three generations of family members in it, how can I name a file to include all three family members? If I have folders for everyone, should I put it in the file for the oldest generation or duplicate it for all three people’s folders? Do I add everyone’s name that is in the photo or record into the filename? How will I find them if I don’t? I’ve tried all of those, believe me. And then you add in the fact that I’m not just dealing with photos, but PDF’s and Word documents as well, so this makes using a photo library organizer just not that helpful.

Let’s get Searching

I think that I might have stumbled upon the answer to my organization quandary that you might be able to use yourself. It’s working so well, that I just feel like it needs to be shared — so here we are! With just a bit of tweaking to the File Explorer/Search tools, I’m getting to that browsing experience I crave and you might find that it can help you as well in all sorts of ways!

 

Meta-who?

It all goes back to that Metadata that I’m guessing you have heard mentioned before, but stick with me, because once you get this done, I promise it will bring some true peace into your life. I’m not even overstating this because it feels amazing to finally have a solution that can work for all my needs.

Here’s the Basics

Once you are in File Explorer (on the PC), you can right-click on any file name and see the Properties option available in the pop-up menu. Once you have clicked Properties and you click on the Details tab you are now in the “golden” area of everything Metadata.

These “golden” areas include fields that are editable like the title, subject, tags, categories, comments and author’s fields as well as the date. Yes, I know it sounds a bit tedious, but it takes browsing to a whole new level. You can pretty much add as many tags as you would like so if you would like to search on a particular county or person or even event, it would take just a few keystrokes to bring up all the possible files that match your search terms.

Tags are Our Friends

You’ll just need a quick brainstorming session to decide on the types of tags that might be helpful down the road. Here’s a list of some general tag naming categories that I will think about for my own family:

 

  • First names (of everyone in the photo)
  • Surnames
  • City
  • State
  • Year
  • Event or Activity
  • Special Item that brings a memory such as cars, toys, and animals (pets with or without their names)
  • Period in life such as Child, Adult, Military, Family, Work, Retired, Organization
  • Addresses

Not convinced that this will help? At first I was unsure as well, until I started to do some tagging and searching of my own. What it did was nothing short of amazing. First of all, I had to bring my File Explorer up. The left side of the screen is a tree view of how our computers are set up. Try clicking on a folder and then look at the Search box in the top right-hand side of the File Explorer window. It will tell you in gray that it is going to “Search My Pictures” or whatever folder you clicked on.

This means that you can pick where to do your Search in as broad or as narrow of terms as you would like. So, if I want to Search for a particular photo of my dad when he was a child, I would click on “My Genealogy” library so that it will only Search this folder and then enter, “Max child” into the Search box and up comes photos that I have tagged with “Max” and “child.” If I had just entered, “Max” into the Search box, then literally every photo with his name tagged in it would show up.

As I started to really get into my Tagging project, I ran into a tiny problem — literally. Some of the people in the photos were a bit too small to see very easily, even when I had changed my View to “Extra Large Icons.” So, how could I make the picture larger so I could see all the people that needed to be tagged?

That was fixed by looking at the options for my Panes, which I found at the top left section of the File Explorer window and choosing the Preview Pane.  This really helps because when you are tagging people in a photo, it’s really nice to get everyone’s name entered.

Does the preview picture still seem small?

Now Maximize that Preview

One more step — and it gets really good at this point. Hover your cursor over the Scrolling ribbon that sits between the folder contents and your preview until you see a double-headed arrow. Click and drag your Preview Pane over to the left and wow… isn’t it really fantastic to be able to see that photo up close? Who knew you could adjust the size of the Preview Pane?

Now, you can right-click on your photo and dive into entering those tags onto your photos.  With the Preview Pane nice and big, you can even take the size of the View Icons down to Medium or Large so that you can see more of your folder full of photos.

I received a gift of photos taken of my grandmother when she was young by a distant cousin and it would have made it so much easier to reciprocate with pictures of my grandmother’s sister back to her if I would have had my photos tagged.  That way I could have simply searched on her name instead of having to poke around in all my folders to find what pictures I had of her to send off.

Group Tagging? Yes, Please…

Oh, I hear some of you groaning that this all has to be done individually, but guess what! I have one more surprise that makes this project even more enjoyable. You can tag photos in groups as well – yes, right within File Explorer. Who knew?  Simply CTRL-click and highlight all the photos that will contain the same tag and you can then right-click, go to the Details tab in Properties and enter that group-wide tag. You’re welcome!

PDF tagging?

Mmmm… if you right-click on the PDF file and try to go to the Properties, you won’t see the golden Metadata area available, but there is a way to make it happen in there as well.

Mac Users have a handy-dandy tagging feature built into their file structure so you can simply right-click on a file name and locate the TAGS option where you can assign tags to all your files.

Window users have a bit more hoops to jump through, but it can be done AND is still worth the little bit of extra work on the front-end. If you have Adobe Acrobat Reader (It’s free and shown above), you can go into existing documents and add tags by clicking on FILE / PROPERTIES / and then adding keywords separated by commas or semi-colons into the KEYWORDS box (inside the Description Tab).

If you are in WORD (above picture) and want to save a document as a PDF with tags, then just do a SAVE AS and when the box pops up to add the file name, and look just below the naming area for the TAGS option. You can click inside the box and add the tags right there!

Will the tags disappear?

I added that heading because I have not-so-fond memories of tagging things inside of Picasa (anyone remember that photo-management software?) I would put hours into tagging and then discover that when the photo would get moved or sent to someone else, the tags did not stay with the photo. I LOVED the software but never added the tags again after making that discovery.

When you add tags into the Metadata, they will STICK! The tags will stay with that file, whether it is a photo or PDF.

Simplification at its best

Now I can simplify my folders down to just a few, one for my family and one for my husband’s family for photos. How much simpler can it get? I’ve gone from 27 folders to just a few.  So now, when I am getting ready to work on my grandparent’s generation, I can do my searches depending on an ancestor that I’m working on. What fun it will be to simply enter a few search terms and see everything pop up that is available for a particular generation.

Browsing is the New Searching

Now I can enter my search terms and with everything right at the top of the list, I can pick and choose what I need or even see where I have holes in my research. And the beauty is that if I find that I need another tag added later, I don’t have to start over, I can just simply go back into the Properties and add it. It’s kind of like paper scrapbooking… I can see everything all at my fingertips to pick and choose which photos or story to add to my layouts. Oh, that gives me that serene “take me away Calgon” feeling that makes me no longer dread the organization process!

(Just a note: PNG’s cannot be tagged so adding the tag info into the filename would be helpful.)

And that my friends is a double-yay in my book.

Taking my time and really diving into a subject is a luxury I have given myself this time around as work on my grandparents’ generation. Instead of just looking for the documents that confirm the birth, marriage and death, I am actually researching the new terms that I am finding in newspaper articles and that is leading me to wonderful stories that really help to bring this time in my grandparents’ life to “life” for me.

Who knew that a dray was actually a type of hauler and that it started with the wagons that horses would draw and carried over to motorized vehicles. And a hack? Well, it has nothing to do with the term that we know today. It is a term used with the early school buses. They weren’t called buses at first, but were known as school hacks. Guess what kind of newspaper articles you would find if you searched for school buses in the 1920-30 time period? Almost nothing at all. But, plug in the word “Hack” and up pops all sorts of articles.

As a side note… The articles written about school buses back in the 1930’s seems eerily similar to today where the auto and truck drivers were not watching their speeds as they came upon school buses. The school bus drivers were worried that their children were going to be hit by speeding drivers. Hmmm…

And once again, I am still sticking with papers and elements from Anna Aspnes Designs. It is simple but looks so artistic and is filled with colors that help with the black and white images that I am using in the older photos!

As we are getting ready for the holidays, remember to bring out those old photos (especially the heritage photos) and be prepared to hear some great stories!

Note:  I have been posting monthly heritage articles for Scrapaneers since December 2016 and this article originally appeared November 23rd, 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 - Following the Family History Trail

FAMILY HISTORY BASICS #9 – Following the Family History Trail

 

A person’s own family is without doubt, the greatest wealth we will ever possess

Back in July, I mentioned in the “Finding the Calm in Big Projects” article that I am using Microsoft OneNote to pull my LifeStory book together on my paternal grandparents. I am purposely slowing down my research process and focusing on the small details that I find.

So, on the subject of details, I have to laugh because I just completed a 2-page layout covering a 1938 baseball game that my grandfather apparently attended – all coming from a one line note that I found in the local news section of my grandfather’s local newspaper. It mentioned that he saw a “most exciting game between the Chicago Cubs and Pittsburg Pirates” and also gave me some idea of when he had attended.

This is where, living in this particular time with availability to Google Searches, I was able to look up the 1938 Chicago Cubs’ schedule and yes, and I did find that they indeed played the Pittsburg Pirates for a 3-game stretch during that time. I love to see searching for one thing lead to another and then another. That’s the permission I gave myself this time around and it has been such a good thing.

Homer in the Gloamin

That little game that my grandpa attended? It ended with a homer by the Cubs in almost complete darkness, because Wrigley Field didn’t have lighting until 1988, and it became known as the “Homer in the Gloamin.” According to Wikipedia, it is “one of the most famous home runs in baseball folklore” and the name was given because of a popular song with the same title. This song was, “written and recorded [in 1911] by Harry Lauder. “Gloaming” is a regional dialect term of Scots origin denoting “twilight.” Writers tied the twilight timing of the homer together with this song and “Homer in the Gloamin” stuck.

Now folks, where can you make up this kind of a great story? Would I even know about such a story unless I had gone looking? Definitely not. My knowledge of baseball is pretty limited. Very limited. But here I am with a fascinating story of an event that my grandpa attended. Initially, I was going to just mention it in passing in one of my other articles because my grandfather does get back to Chicago later in life in a different capacity, but now it has its own layout and story behind that tiny little newspaper clipping.

Newspapers are Treasure-troves

I know I’ve been hitting the newspaper end of my research hard over the past couple of articles, but I just can’t tell you how much fun it is to find these little tidbits and then see what kind of story I can locate around them. Here, all these years, I’ve been feeling a bit forlorned because my family just doesn’t have massive amounts of heirloom items that have been passed down through the generations. I’ve been to many historical, reconstructed homes for important people, including some Presidents, on tours and just always left feeling wistful and wishing that my family had been a little bit more collective of their furniture, jewelry or what-nots.

But here’s what I’ve discovered from this recent project: I have had priceless bits of history and stories handed down to me. I just didn’t realize it. I had to do some work on my own to discover it all, which in my book, almost makes it more special to me. How many times have you heard that we take things for granted when we are given so much, but when we work hard for what we receive, we treasure it sometimes even more? (If you are a recipient of lots of wonderful heirloom items, I’m not saying you don’t appreciate it, I’m just saying that if you appreciate it already, imagine if you were to look for even more background information. Oh, the stories you might still have waiting to be found!)

Background information. Don’t we all love background papers? They set the stage for our layouts and determine the direction of tone. Well, those little bits of background that we search for with our family history is really the nugget of gold in my article this month. Take time. Slow down and enjoy the process!

Fine-tuning my own workflow

That July article that I mentioned at the beginning, is the same one that I shared a part of my writing workflow using Microsoft’s OneNote, but as I continue to work through this project, I’ve realized that I do a few other certain things that have allowed me to keep progressing forward. Since I can finally see the end of this project for my paternal grandparents, I think it is a good time to share some strategies that have been working well for me and maybe they can be helpful to you as well.

Over the next several months I’m going to share how I use file folders and OneNote together as a system to keep that calm going, even through the layout process. Diving into our family’s history can get overwhelming and I encourage you to keep breaking it down into small sections.

With that in mind, we can also become overwhelmed due to how we are organizing our documentation and our scrapbooking digital stash. (I use the term “stash” lovingly, but I think we all could agree that it can get even more out of control than the paper stashes that we (me in particular) can and do (or did) accumulate. So, I hope you come along with me as we continue on this journey of mine and I’d love to hear how you are all doing on your own LifeStory projects.

ItsALifeStory.com _ FAMILY HISTORY BASICS - Following the Family History Trail

 

My layout?

Since I literally only have photos of my grandfather that date to around 1927-ish when my father was born or later around 1945-ish, I had to use what I had and selected a strategic section of my grandpa’s photo to use in my layout. I think that adding a photo, even if it isn’t the correct date, helps to tie my grandfather to the story. As I pulled together the items to use in my layout, I knew I wanted to use a background with some blue, some green and a little bit of orange. Thankfully, Anna Aspnes’ Heath Palette fit the bill and gave me the green for the baseball field and blue for sky. Perfect! My orange-y items would be the dash of extra color from my added items along with some colored brushes to help the layout flow from one side to the other. And what good fortune to find a leaf from the mini palette Eutaxy, with a little hue tweaking, gave me a little element and a splash of orange. Oh, my gosh… Listen to me. I sound like it was so well thought out, but it was really playing around until I found the right fit.

Blending is the secret sauce to Anna’s layout recipe and it has been such great timing to have the Champions course recently devoted to blending. If you haven’t ever tried to use blending or brushes, it has been the magic for my LifeStory project.

Note:  I have been posting monthly heritage articles for Scrapaneers since December 2016 and this article originally appeared September 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 - Exploring Family History is Therapy for the Soul

FAMILY HISTORY BASICS #8 – Exploring Family History is Therapy for the Soul

 

“Exploring Family History is Therapy for the Soul” – Michele Kerr 2019

Last month I shared with you that I had come to terms with knowing that my family’s LifeStory books were being done very selfishly for myself. What I didn’t really comprehend at the time was that this whole slowing-down-the-process was leading me to a deeper understanding of who I am right now. To be more exact, it helped me to better understand my own dad and in turn, it also helped me to see something in myself which I think will help me to be a better person, and more importantly, a better mom and wife.  That’s the golden nugget you receive when you look into your family’s history — it helps you to really cement your own foundation and then move forward with confidence.

Exploration anyone?

A couple of weeks ago, I took a weekend to explore once again into online newspapers in the two hometowns of my paternal grandparents. I didn’t actually intend to make it an entire weekend, but it was a bit like picking at some wallpaper and then you know that the entire wall needs to come down!

I have to call it an adventure because it was quite a wild ride for me. That weekend was all about my grandparents but as I continued to find new articles containing new revelations, I was also coming to terms with things that I didn’t even realize had been bothering me since my childhood.

A Little Background…

I don’t want to paint a sob-story to get anyone’s sympathy, because honestly, I didn’t realize anything should have been different as a young girl. But growing up having my own family and gaining knowledge on how other families worked, I began to realize there had been a void in my life that hurt me more than I ever realized.

I knew that my dad loved me fiercely and would do anything in the world for me, but he just never had time to be involved at all. Nothing outside of the home for sure and I accepted it at the time because I didn’t know any different. It wasn’t until my mom passed away and a couple of years later he finally shut down his 50+ year-old business, that he really began to carve out time to be with us and enjoy his grandchildren. That was huge and I loved every minute of it.

Understanding is the First Step

How does this all tie into my grandpa’s newsy articles that I found that weekend? It feels like I understand my dad one-thousand-percent more now. His passion for his work was in his DNA, his genes. He literally couldn’t help himself. It wasn’t that he wasn’t interested in spending time with his family, but I now feel like it was that drive to continue-until-the-job-was-done and then start-all-over-again spirit that he had.

To my surprise, that’s what his own dad had done… over and over again. I always thought that he had been very lucky to have gotten through the Great Depression in the 1930’s and that it had to do with him being a farmer. Well, now I know the rest of the story and a great story it was. The newspaper articles showed me one after another how he had kept evolving to keep his family secure in a time when family financial security was fragile at best.

Things Start to Come Together

My great-aunt Mable had told me that my dad’s intense drive to work came from his dad and his dad’s dad (her father) and now it completely makes sense. I saw that same drive in my brother, Randy, as he worked so hard for so many years. And his need to add equipment? Well, that seems like a stretch to say it was in his genes as well, but really? Paul, my grandpa, did the same thing. My dad, Max, did the same thing and it would drive my mom nuts to always be in debt. I have no idea if Paul was always in the same type of debt or if his father was, but they surely all had that same drive to keep mixing things up and seem to be always on the lookout for the next thing — all in hopes of keeping their family secure.

Making Sense of it All

And that brings it full circle to me because I can look in at myself and see remnants of that drive to finish a project. My projects might be on a computer, but I do get that ever-present need to get my work finished so I can move on to the next thing. And there is always a next thing. I didn’t go into this weekend-long newspaper research binge thinking that I would come out knowing my grandpa, my dad, and even myself better, but it has filled in some of those gaps and given me a renewed love and appreciation for my parents, grandparents and generations beyond.

My quote that I made at the top? If you doubt me, then maybe you should try it for yourself and then let’s chat!

ItsALifeStory.com _ FAMILY HISTORY BASICS - Paul and Blanche Marriage

The Layout

The beauty of pulling the photos, documents and stories all together into one layout is that I get to give the future reader lots of things to linger over when they look through the book. I’m hoping that whenever someone picks the book up for their 2nd time, they find something new that they hadn’t noticed before.

I used the Mini-palette Momentos from Anna Aspnes Designs for this layout and some filler paper items behind the marriage license from one of her multimedia document files. Since I do not have any wedding photos of my grandparents, I blended two separate photos of each of them holding a new baby (grandpa holding my dad and grandma holding my aunt) and thought that it would represent them as close to their marriage year as I would get.

When I finished the spread and stepped back to look at it, I had to just smile with enjoyment because pairing the early photos next to their 50th wedding anniversary newspaper photo seemed perfect. I wish I could take credit for thinking of that beforehand, but that is what I like to call scrapbooking magic!

A Research Tip for Working in Online Newspapers?

Look for new avenues. Don’t stop at researching just the terms that you are familiar with. In my research that weekend, I was looking for “dump trucks” when it turns out that most likely there were called “drays” in the early 1920’s. My grandfather drove a school bus from 1921-1922 but they were called “school hacks” at that time. The magic came from finding those new terms and then starting to research in the newspapers using those terms. Lots of new articles showed up and they all helped to paint a better picture! And also, play around with spellings because if you only search for “Paul Julian”, you will miss “P. Julian” or “Mr. and Mrs. Julian.”

Good hunting!

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.
ItsALifeStory.com - FAMILY HISTORY BASICS _ The Good Stuff - Stories and Details

FAMILY HISTORY BASICS #3: The Good Stuff – Stories and Details

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.

 

ItsALifeStory.com _ FAMILY HISTORY BASICS - Family Documents - We Need Them

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?

Checklist? Yes.

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!)

Next Step

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!

Note:  I have been posting monthly heritage articles for Scrapaneers since December 2016 and this article originally appeared February 22, 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 - Starting With What We DO Know

FAMILY HISTORY BASICS #1 – Starting With What We DO Know

Stories are powerful and telling your family story can have a great impact on your life. Reaching back into our family’s history helps us to build our own story and to make sure that our descendants will be telling them into the future. Your family history does matter.

Where to start?

Each month, I’ll add a different project to work on that will help to guide you in your own journey. This is meant to be fun, so I’m going make it as easy and non-stressful as I can. If you have never done family history research, you are in the right place, so jump in wherever you are in your own research and join me! (If this isn’t your first rodeo working on your family history, please feel free to share your own tips and inspirational stories!)

We’ve all seen family trees before so let’s think of this journey in the shape of those family trees:  starting down at the bottom with ourselves! It is a safe bet that you have most of your own documentation available or know where you can get your hands on it. What other pieces of information do you know for sure? Let’s get them written down and start to round up our own documents and call this month a Win.

Let’s begin

Family pedigree charts and group sheets are really simple place to start tracking, but really… we just need a notebook. On the first page, start with yourself and then add your immediate family:

  • Names (first, middle, maiden/last names)
  • Dates and places of birth, marriage and death
    • If you have documents for all of these pull them into a folder or binder
  • Where have you lived (add addresses if you have them!)
  • Your immediate family?
  • Occupation(s) and dates (these don’t have to be exact but best guesses are helpful)
  • Military service (dates if available)
  • Interesting stories
  • Timeline:
    • Let’s start at the very beginning… You were born, so add that date at the top. If you take a few moments, you can quickly figure out the years that you were in kindergarten and continue through college. Go ahead and add those as well. If you are married, then there is another date to add and so on.
    • Why a timeline? It is great to have those dates to be able to easily find so we can plug in our own stories as we think of them. Just trust me on this – you will be happy you did.

If you don’t like paper, then start a spreadsheet where you can keep adding and moving around the information. Do whatever sparks joy! (Yes, I’m a Marie Kondo fan and working on applying her techniques to my own family’s important sentimental documents and photos.)

That’s it!

Yep, you read that right. That’s all we are going to work on this month  —  it’s all about us! I like to slow way down and just enjoy the process. When I did this, I got out my own photo album and started to plug in dates and brief reminders of stories and events. Actually, this was my favorite part – reminiscing and scanning over the photos.

Do you find that you feel better after looking over your childhood photos? I read an article in the Wall Street Journal about reminiscing and how it can actually help to motivate us.  We “tend to look back longingly to the stability and comfort of the past as a way to regulate … anxiety about the future.” I could have written the article myself because I know how happy it makes me feel when I look over old photos – and I’m guessing that this doesn’t happen to just me, right?

So, think of this month’s homework as a self-help tool!

See you next month!

We’ll take the next step in our family history journey…

Note:  I have been posting monthly heritage articles for Scrapaneers since December 2016 and this article originally appeared January 25, 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.