Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Wisdom Wednesday: 5 Things to Do Before I Become an Ancestor (Update)

Last year I wrote about the 5 genealogy things I have to do before I (gulp) become an ancestor. Now it's time to update the list with a slightly different take on the 5 "must do" genealogy tasks:
  1. Document the most important things (and don't count on technology). The genealogist(s) of the next generation may not be able to figure out who's who and what's what, even with the Census photocopies and other notes in my files. Whoever comes after me may not know (or care) how to use my genealogy software and they sure won't be able to access my Mozy backups. That's why I'm creating and printing pedigree charts and family info NOW, this week. Each major family has a file folder in my cabinet and some major figures in each family have their own folders within folders. But if there are no pedigree charts, a system that makes sense to me may not make sense to the next genealogist. So I'm putting the basics into print and sending a copy to interested family members, with extra copies in my files.
  2. Keep putting labels on photos. I've made a good start. Nearly all my photos are in archival plastic sleeves. But I feel strongly about telling the stories that go with the photos (see #3 below) and that's slowing me down. I've been scanning each photo and writing up a couple of paragraphs about it. After all, that's the only way that the little girl who was 18 months old in a family photo will know that we were gathered for a certain holiday, that her dress was hand-made by her mother, that great-uncle Joe had just died, and her grandmother was too ill to be present. Small details, I know, but they bring family history alive and they put the basic facts into a context. And, because others may not know how to use my Picasa photo software, where I've carefully named each scanned photo, I need to print out the photo with the story and file it where it can be found.
  3. Tell the stories. What did my ancestors value? What did they aspire to? What made them cry or laugh? Why did they leave their hometowns and move across the state or around the world? What else was happening around them that affected their lives? I know some (not all) of the answers...and I'm compelled to tell the stories. Maybe my nieces have a vague understanding of WWII, but they don't know much about what their grandpa did in the war and why he was busted to private more than once. The stories show what kind of guy grandpa was! And when I tell a story to a family member, it's possible that that relative may know another part of the story or have a different take on the situation. So keep telling the stories.
  4. Reopen the search for key ancestors. Three years ago, I conducted an intensive search to determine whether William Madison McClure and his father Benjamin McClure are definitely my husband's ancestors. With the help of a genealogy angel who had some key local history books, I concluded that they were "very probably" family members. It's time to reopen the search, write away for more info if necessary and available, and either put them on the pedigree charts or find out who belongs there. The McClures are high on my "to do" list for 2011. And I have other holes in the family tree to plug, of course.
  5. Stay in touch. It was on my previous list and it's still on my list this time around. Last fall, my 2d cousin Lois found me through this blog and we've met and corresponded. Plus she introduced me to our 2d cousin Lil! The joy of genealogy is in meeting cousins and widening the family circle, IMHO. Blogging is wonderful cousin bait--and I mean that in the best way possible. If a cousin I haven't found does an online search for our family name and lands on my blog, I'll be thrilled, and I'll stay in touch.

8 comments:

Mary Nunn Maki said...

Bravo! Marian. Your goals are right on! I, too, am a believer in hard copy and try to run off things as I do them. What a wonderful gift to give your family.

Marian Burk Wood said...

Thanks so much, Mary! My filing system is, of course, based on the system you began with. This year I hope to move to your newer system by putting hard copy into binders.

Dianne Reuby said...

Paper is certainly the way to go as far as making sure future generations can read our records. If only I had more space and a large fire-proof vault. :) You have some great goals. I've found recently that the only family photos with any written notes on them are people I recognize - all those that I don't know don't have any info.

Marian Burk Wood said...

Dianne, I'm with you - never enough space! I really appreciate your comments.

Bettyann Schmidt said...

Great blog! I've just been "wandering" this Wednesday around the web for my favorite topics, and kind of just fell onto your site. Glad I did. Good tips. I'm in the process of writing my Family Memoir, and I wonder if I'll get it finished before I do become an ancestor myself. Enjoyed reading here.

Marian Burk Wood said...

Hi Bettyann! I wish I were ready to write the family memoir--I'm still researching (after all these years)! Thanks for reading and commenting.

Monica said...

I love the goal for labeling your pictures. I am just curious... are you like me and have boxes and boxes of photos to go through?? It is a pretty overwhelming project. I am in the process of printing out my 2010 photos (digital camera) and it will end up taking 4 photo albums to fit them in. And that's just one year!! How do you decide which go in archival sleeves, etc.?

Marian Burk Wood said...

Hi Monica, I have only a few boxes of photos, and most have no identification. I've put all big photos in a single sleeve and bunched a few little photos into one sleeve according to occasion or person in the picture. Once I have them all scanned (admitted a long-term goal) I'll print out each one along with the story and put them in 3-ring binders by family. I hope! Thanks for reading and commenting.