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.

Losing our Family Stories in 3 Generations

 

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

“Better than any reality show out there.”

More than a feeling

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

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

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

That “aha!” moment

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

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

It gets Real

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

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

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

Here is another quote Curt zoomed in on:

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

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

Ready for another quote?

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

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

Here’s the proof

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

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

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

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

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

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

I’m in — let’s get started

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Feel free to Share!

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

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

 

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

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

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

Beautify Your Family History Research Binders – Dividers reimagined

Putting It All Together

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

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

Project_final-touches

Tutorial Alert!

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

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

 

Like the Beautiful Borders?

Binder w borders

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

Results

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

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

Better Yet

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

 

As promised

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

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

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

Beautify Your Family History Binders – Photos Are Up Next

Step Two_Photo Splendor title_Canva

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

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

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

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

 

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

Disclaimer alert!

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

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

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

Stories – Got them?

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

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

No Pics? No Problem  — but Time is Wasting.

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

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

Organization strategy – Who Needs It?

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

 

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

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

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

Contained within Childhood folder_cropped

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

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

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

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

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

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

Important Point for Adding Text

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

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

Final Thoughts

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

Digital Papers

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

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

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

 

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