Showing posts with label Planning a Future for Your Family's Past. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Planning a Future for Your Family's Past. Show all posts

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Genealogy, Free or Fee: Checklist for Ancestor Resources

What do you or your family have in your hands that will further your genealogical research? During my nine years of blogging, I've told stories of using all sorts of everyday records and artifacts to identify ancestors, understand relationships, locate cousins, and fill out my family tree with more than just names and dates.

This checklist is a starting point for thinking creatively about resources you or your family may have that will help you further your genealogical research. Especially if you're participating in the Genealogy Do-Over (or, like me, a Gen Go-Over), I hope this checklist will spark some ideas.

It's not for BINGO. When I was a beginner, I thought the goal was to check off as many items as possible. Nope. The real goal is to think creatively about detail-rich sources that make sense for our research.

Not all of these sources are available in every family. Not all will have valuable details that can add to our knowledge of ancestors. But you may get lucky! And if the items are already in your family's possession, they're free. Can't beat that price.

Here are only a few examples of using some of the everyday resources on this checklist to advance genealogy research. I wish you luck in your research!
  • "Address books" -- within the past week, I used Mom's address book to tear down the brick wall that has long surrounded my paternal grandfather's siblings.
  • "Baby books" -- my husband's baby book enabled me to fine-tune death dates of some older relatives and learn more about relationships by seeing who gave what baby gift and when.
  • "Diaries" -- my late dad-in-law's diaries are sometimes more accurate in pinpointing birth and death dates than gravestones. His entries also helped me identify elusive cousins.
  • "Letters and postcards" -- hubby's family's postcards showed where and when his grandparents and father lived during the early 1900s, and the signatures told me who was in touch with which relatives (and when). Also, letters written to/from my paternal aunt helped me crack the case on my grandfather Isaac's sister.
Note: Other Genealogy, Free or Fee posts are available here.

Friday, April 28, 2017

NERGC 2017 - Thursday


My Day 1 of #NERGC2017 began by meeting some blogging buddies (in person!) and then Mary Tedesco's inspirational opening talk. Genealogy is more popular than ever and we have so many more tools than when I began 19 years ago.

Mary pointed out that microfilm technology revolutionized genealogy by unlocking documents that were once only available in person.

Now DNA is revolutionizing our way of thinking about building family trees as well as expanding our knowledge of ancestors. The conference was buzzing about DNA!

I attended Carol McCoy's excellent talk on finding elusive ancestors who seem to be missing from the census. She showed that some ancestors are really there, simply misindexed or not on the correct page. Top tip: Compare the census images and indexes from multiple sources (Family Search and Ancestry and Heritage Quest, for example).

My wonderful friends Mary and Ray helped me set up the projector in room 3 for my talk Planning a Future for Your Family's Past. Lots of good questions from the audience about protecting photos, in particular, and how to resolve potential fights over family artifacts when more than one person wants them. My top tip: Start now to caption your photos so the next generation will know who's who!

Next, I attended Kathryn Smith Black's presentation, "Lawyer or Sawyer? Using the British Census." Good techniques for finding my hubby's UK ancestors. Especially liked audience participation guessing what the handwriting says on these old census forms!

Then my conference day ended with the blogging SIG, led by Heather Rojo. Great fun to visit with bloggers from around New England and swap stories, tips, plans. And the conference is in full swing...more posts to come as the sessions continue.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Motivation Monday: Preparing for NERGC 2017


In just a couple of weeks, NERGC 2017 will take place--April 26-29 in Springfield, MA.

To prepare, I have two sets of genealogy calling cards, as shown above. The top one lists my family tree research and the bottom one lists my husband's family tree research. On the reverse side of each is contact info.

I can exchange cards with other conference attendees and post on bulletin boards, etc, hoping to connect with researchers who are chasing the same ancestors (if I'm lucky).

My feeling is that listing specific places when known (such as "Botpalad" for my Hungarian ancestors and "Elkhart/Wabash, Indiana" for hubby's Larimer family) helps other researchers quickly narrow down potential matches.

There are so many interesting sessions and tracks at this year's conference! I can't miss Mary Tedesco's opening keynote, "What Can Our Ancestors Teach Us About Genealogy?" on Thursday at 10 am.

My talk is part of the Thursday afternoon track, Genealogy Heirlooms in the Attic, which kicks off at 1:30 pm with Pam Stone Eagleson, "Using Bibles in Genealogical Research" (session T-106).

My session, "Planning a Future for Your Family's Past," follows at 3 pm (session T-114), with info about how to organize and store genealogy materials, decide what to keep and what to give away, write a genealogical "will," and share family history with heirs.

Next is Edwin W. Strickland's presentation, "Saving the Past for the Future: Preserving Family Objects" (session T-121), starting at 4:30 pm.

See you there? Please say hello!

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Captioning Friday's Faces from the Past

Getting to work on my 2017 resolutions, I found nice, large adhesive labels at my local office supply store to write captions for "faces from the past." Since nearly all of my photos are in archival-quality sleeves, the next step is to write captions and stick the labels to the back of the sleeves.

Above, my hand-printed captions for the two small photos that share one sleeve (shown at right). The subject is my father, Harold Burk (1909-1978), years before he met my mother. The lower photo shows him with my grandma, Henrietta Mahler Burk (1888-1954). 

Someday (in the far future) I hope to replace my hand-written labels with typed labels. For now, the main point is to caption these faces with as much as I know, for the sake of future generations.

In the past, I used the usual small, address-sized labels for captioning, sticking two or three on a sleeve if I had to a lot to say about a photo. But I was happy to find a larger size label in the store, as shown below.

Six to a sheet, plenty of room to write a few sentences or list a number of names. And these are heavy-duty labels, not likely to peel off the sleeves. So go ahead and snow! I'm ready to caption.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Genealogy Resolutions and Results, 2016-2017

Looking back on 2016, I accomplished a lot. At right is a snapshot from my Find A Grave contributor tools page, in which I more than doubled my statistics from this time last year. Every trip I take to a cemetery, I take a hundred or more photos of surrounding graves and add them to the memorials, helping others find their ancestors' final resting places.

Of course, these numbers don't reflect the dozens and dozens of edits I've made or requested to link and correct ancestors' memorials from my tree and my husband's tree. This was my #1 resolution from last year and I feel good about my progress (even if it much of the work was crammed into the past week).

My favorite accomplishment of this year (and every year) has been meeting cousins in person after finding them through genealogical research. In fact, it was quite a year for cousin connections. In January, after I met a Farkas cousin of mine in NYC, Sis and I took a fun field trip to meet more Farkas cousins and reunite with our Burk/Mahler first cousins. Later in the year, I met several more Farkas cousins (including one across the pond). And I spent five days with a handful of Chazan cousins in Manchester, England. More cousin connections are in the works for 2017.

In 2016, I wanted to submit testimony to Yad Vashem about my great aunt, Etel Schwartz (a sister to my maternal grandfather, Tivador Schwartz). She's one of the two ladies in the big-brimmed hats in the photos above, along the banner of my blog. My cousins and I are having trouble determining who's who in the few photos we have of the Schwartz siblings, and we don't know Etel's married name. But I will submit what I know in 2017, even without a photo, to keep Etel's memory alive for future generations.

An ongoing resolution is to "tell the stories" and I'm continuing to do that, formally and informally, during meetings with cousins and at other opportunities. At top is a photo of me all dressed up in a bow tie and shirt with the stern face of Benjamin McClure, my husband's 2d great-granddaddy (he's also my FB genealogy persona).

I wore this shirt on Halloween when making genealogy presentations, and my family got a kick out of it. It's a different way to spread the word about an ancestor's life and times. Also I told some stories and featured ancestor photos in my genealogy book, Planning a Future for Your Family's Past. More stories and T-shirts are in the works for 2017, maybe even a new book.

Carried over from 2016, I'm still trying to pierce brick walls about my father's Birk and Mitav ancestors in Lithuania and continue looking for the origins of my husband's Larimer-Short-Work families, originally from somewhere in Ireland (north, most likely). So 2017 will be another busy and productive and exciting year!

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Save the Dates for NERGC, April 26-29

Save the dates for the New England Regional Genealogical Conference, April 26-29, in Springfield, Massachusetts. 

The theme is "Using the Tools of Today & Tomorrow to Understand the Past." As always, the program is packed with informative sessions and workshops.

I can't wait to see the featured speakers in person, especially Thomas MacEntee, Kenyatta Berry, and Warren Bittner.

My session, "Planning a Future for Your Family's Past," is part of the new "Genealogy Heirlooms in the Attic" track on the afternoon of Thursday, April 27th.

I'm delighted to have been chosen as an official blogger, which means I'll be posting about the conference before, during, and after. 

Early-bird pricing for registration is available now. Just click here to sign up! See you in April.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Thankful Thursday: Passing My Parents' 70-Year-Old Wedding Album to Heirs

Saving my parents' wedding album by making a photo book for their 3 grandchildren
On November 24, 1946, the Sunday of Thanksgiving weekend, my parents, Harry Burk (1909-1978) and Daisy Schwartz (1919-1981) were married at the Hotel McAlpin in New York City. Today would have been their 70th wedding anniversary!

After so many decades, their wedding album was pretty beat up-looking (see below). So I decided to preserve it and share it with Harry & Daisy's three grandchildren now, along with the story of their courtship and marriage. This is also an easy way to be sure that a single heirloom album can be enjoyed by multiple heirs for many years to come.

Here are the steps I took, little by little, to make a pretty and romantic photobook from the wedding album:

1. Remove each 8 x 10 inch photo from its sleeve in the binder and scan it at high resolution. (I could have scanned without removing the photos, if the album was too deteriorated, but not necessary in this case.)

2. Clean up the images electronically and upload them to a photo book website (I like Shutterfly but others are also excellent).

3. Arrange the photos in sequence, adding the story of courtship and wedding as captions. Also, identify everyone in the photos by full name and relationship (so these details aren't forgotten by future generations--keeping family history alive!).

4. Add a touch of color to each page for visual interest (younger folks may find an all black-and-white book a bit boring).

5. Press the "order" button to buy multiple copies for multiple heirs.

6. The original wedding album will be passed to an heir in the next generation, as designated in my "genealogical will."

On Thanksgiving, I'm feeling thankful for my parents' wedding 70 years ago.

Monday, November 7, 2016

Speaking at the New England Regional Genealogical Consortium - April 2017

The program for the next NERGC conference has just been released...and I'm excited to be speaking on Thursday, April 27th, from 3-4 pm.

My presentation, Planning a Future for Your Family's Past, is part of the "Genealogy Heirlooms in the Attic" track.

Featured speakers at the conference include Thomas MacEntee, Warren Bittner, and Kenyatta Berry.

Click here to see the conference program in .pdf format. And I'm looking forward to seeing you in April!

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Tuesday's Tip: Put a Sleeve on It!

Before I become an ancestor, I want to caption all the old family photos in my collection. I'm on my way, but it's going to be a process not to be finished in a day.

First, I bought archival boxes to lay photos flat, organized by family, rather than having them filed vertically in a folder. Next, I put every single photo into a clear, acid-free, protective sleeve or resealable envelope for long-term storage and protection. (Vendors who offer boxes and sleeves are mentioned on a number of sites, including on Cyndi's List.)

The recommendation to "put a sleeve on it" comes from multiple expert sources, such as:
Now when I have a few minutes, I choose one of the sleeved photos, write a caption on a separate adhesive label, and stick it to the front or back of the protective sleeve. Later, I'll type the captions, print them, and put them into the boxes with the photos (not inside the sleeves or touching any original photos).

The caption on this photo explains not only who the boy on the pony is, but why a pony is standing on the sidewalk in front of a Bronx apartment building, circa 1919. Future generations may not know that entrepreneurs brought ponies to street corners, offering "photo opps" for kids of city dwellers at a low price.

I really want my heirs to know! And for now, a scribbled caption is better than no caption at all, right?

PS: Don't forget to inventory the photos. See "sample templates" on the tab above right.

Want more detail on "how to" sort photos, preserve them, and decide what to keep/what to give away? Please check out my new book, Planning a Future for Your Family's Past.




Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Tuesday's Tip: New Page of Sample Templates

Before I become an ancestor, I want to have all my genealogy materials organized and analyzed, ready to pass to the next generation.

Getting organized means figuring out exactly what I have, who's mentioned in which materials, and the significance of those mentions. With Thomas MacEntee's Genealogy Do-Over in mind, I've been inventorying, indexing, and analyzing diaries, letters, and other materials for my side and my husband's side of the family.

Now I've added a "tab" at the top of this blog to show the various sample templates I've been using. (Please feel free to borrow my templates and adapt them to your own needs!)

Not only do these templates help me keep track of what I have and remember where everything is, they also summarize what I've learned. My goal is to help keep the family's past alive for future generations--so my genealogy heirs won't have to reinvent the wheel.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Gen Do-Over: Do You Have a Genealogical "Will"?

Farkas-Marks wedding, 1930s, New York City
The whole point of this year's Genealogical Do-Over is to be sure we have accurate, complete, detailed, and proven family tree information. But what happens to all this marvelous data in the future?

Please think about writing your Genealogical "Will" to be sure all your hard work and carefully-researched materials are preserved for future generations. This may well be the most important step in the entire process, to avoid family historians having to start from scratch or reinvent the wheel when you already have so much to share with your family.

I'm lucky: I have a volunteer from my side of the family and another from hubby's side of the family to take custody of all the archived records, files, photos, and family tree data, both hard copies and electronically. I'm also leaving each of these genealogy heirs a sum of money to help them preserve all my genealogical data so it gets passed down for many years.

So start by identifying your genealogical heirs. Then, with a written document, be sure your genealogical heirs know the location and disposition of:
  • Photographs (all captioned, right?!) Above, a treasured framed photo in my possession of a Farkas family wedding, showing my grandma (seated second from right) at her sister Jeanne's wedding) and grandpa (third from right, standing). I've willed this to my genealogical heir so it will always be in the family.
  • Family histories in bound or printed form
  • Diaries and notebooks from ancestors and relatives
  • Online family trees 
  • Correspondence about genealogy with relatives, historical societies, etc.
  • Original documentation (marriage/death/birth certs for instance)
  • Computer files with family tree data
  • Audio files (I have microcassettes) containing oral histories
  • DVDs, flash drives, and other electronic media containing digitized versions of genealogy data
Please emphasize to your heirs that nothing is to be thrown away. There are ways to distribute things that the family doesn't want to retain. Over the past two years, I've been culling my collection and returning photos of distant relatives and family friends to their families so they can be passed down in those lines.

In addition, I've gifted items (like a WWII war bonds wallet and an 1800s handwritten notebook of debits and credits) to historical societies and museums to be archived and maintained for the future.

To help plan your genealogical "will," check out the following links I found through a quick online search (not an endorsement, just a suggestion for more reading and follow-up). Also consider getting professional advice about your own personal situation!
  • Thomas MacEntee's compact book about how to arrange for your genealogy research to be preserved "after you're gone" (see his YouTube video here).
  • A template for a genealogical "will," from Devon Family History Society.
  • A template from the Northern Neck of Virginia Law Page for a genealogical "will."
  • Guest post on Geneabloggers by Paul Brooks about this topic.
  • Genealogical will file posted to Gen Do-Over's Facebook page by Carol Corbett Ellis-Jones.
UPDATE: Read about how and why to make a genealogical "will" in my book, Planning a Future for Your Family's Past.