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

Monday, November 6, 2017

The Case Against Paperless Genealogy

Sorry, paperless genealogy is NOT for me. Some avid genealogists advocate digitizing everything, not downloading any paper copies, and/or not printing images/documents found during research. Not me. I print everything. I file everything. Under more than one surname, if applicable.

Why print in the digital age?

Walter Isaacson--the author of the best-selling bio of Steve Jobs and, now, the best-selling book about Leonardo da Vinci--sums up my main reason in one sentence. Let me quote him (you can read the entire interview here):
Paper turns out to be a superb information-storage technology, still readable after 500 years, which our own tweets likely (and fortunately) won't be.
Isaacson was privileged to read more than 7,000 pages of da Vinci's own notebooks. And he found more than just words: the man's personality shines through in the scribbles and sketches that adorn the pages. So not only can paper survive, it also can reveal clues to ancestors' inner thoughts and feelings. 

Technology comes and goes, as anyone who's ever had to unlearn WordPerfect and learn MS Word can attest. Anyone who began storing data on those big floppy discs and migrated to mini-discs and migrated to CDs and migrated to flash drives. And to the cloud, then to whatever overtakes the cloud.

Meanwhile, paper lives on and on. My goal is to ensure that the next generation inherits family history. Will they learn my technology? No. Will they open my files and archival boxes and leaf through photos and certificates and memorabilia? Yes!

At top, the back of a 1930s business card from hubby's grandpa, Brice Larimer McClure. Sometime before his death in 1970, he took cards and scraps of paper and recorded facts about his ancestors and the ancestors of his wife, Floyda Mabel Steiner McClure.

This card shows the birth years of Floyda and her siblings, including the infant who died young (I eventually found proof to confirm Brice's recollection).

Being able to pick out this card from Brice's effects gave us a headstart on piecing together the entire generation of Steiners. And some grandkids think it's a bit amazing to hold in their hands a business card that's now more than 80 years old, while they hear stories of how the family made ends meet during the Depression.

All in all, I plan to keep up the paper chase and leave a paper trail for future generations. AND I'm also digitizing everything, by the way, and doing daily/hourly backups to keep the data safe, filed by family and surname on my hard drives, flash drives, and cloud backups. But paper is my secret strategy for passing what I've learned to the younger generation. It worked for older generations--and it will work for mine.

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For ideas about storing documents and paper in archival boxes, please check out my concise genealogy book, Planning a Future for Your Family's Past, available from Amazon (paperback and Kindle versions).

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Sepia Saturday: Use Photos to Sharpen Family Memories



My husband remembers that his father (Edgar James Wood) would take all the children out for a drive on Sunday afternoons while his mother (Marian Jane McClure Wood) cooked a special dinner.

They lived in Cleveland Heights, and his father would drive around to various spots, entertaining three kids under 8 for a couple of hours every week.

As the self-appointed family historian, my question was, of course: Where did he take you?

Well, there are some rather general family stories about these drives. But when my sister-in-law recently rediscovered a cache of old family photos taken by their father, more specific memories flooded back.

Here is a very atmospheric photo that my late father-in-law took of his two oldest children staring at a steam locomotive. Hubby immediately remembered going to Collinwood Yards. Actually, his memory was Collingwood, but a quick online search confirmed Collinwood was a thriving railroad center in East Cleveland, serving the New York Central RR.

We found photos and maps and other details about Collinwood Yards online. Such as the Cleveland Memory Project and the Rails & Trails maps, to name just two.

Old photos really help to sharpen family memories! I'm writing everything down, captions to go along with photos, for the sake of the next generation and beyond.

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For ideas about storing family photos and captioning them safely via labels on the outside of archival sleeves, please check out my concise genealogy book, Planning a Future for Your Family's Past, available from Amazon (paperback and Kindle versions).


Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Confessions of a Downsizing Genealogist


As a downsizing genealogist, I have to confess: I've decided there's no reason for me to have to keep every photo or artifact that once belonged to my ancestors. In fact, because I no longer have as much storage room as I once did, I've been actively giving things away for the past few years. Finding good homes for every item, I might add. Of course, before anything leaves my possession, I photograph it and document it for my files, a way to preserve my family's past for the future even after an artifact passes to someone else.

How to decide what to keep and what to part with? I sort items into three categories and consult with my family before making final decisions.
  • Category 1: Items of personal and family significance that should remain in my immediate family (me, my siblings, or our direct descendants)
  • Category 2: Items that should remain in the family, more generally (hand off to cousins if possible)
  • Category 3: Items that have no particular family history importance but have some significance outside the family (donate if possible)
In category 1, I put items like my parents' wedding album, their original mahogany bedroom set, and needlepoint done by my mother. These I'm keeping and bequeathing to the next generation, along with the stories of who, what, when, where, and why. In a future post, I'll talk about how to handle situations where there's one original but multiple heirs.

In category 2, I put items like photos from family gatherings--especially if I have duplicates. My first cousins now have original photos of their parents and photos of our families taken for special occasions, for example. And I have digital copies, annotated, of everything, for my research records. Whenever possible, I give away originals not in my direct line, so these will be inherited by the next generation.

In category 3, I put items like air-raid posters, bank ledgers from non-relatives, and the 30 years of Playbills shown in the picture at top (collected by going to Broadway or off-Broadway shows). The family isn't really attached to these, and they don't add to research about ancestors. Still, they are worthy of being saved somewhere for their historical or cultural meaning. So I asked a cousin in college whether her theater teacher might be interested, and the answer was yes!

With permission, I donated hundreds of Playbills to the university's theater library, knowing that they will serve as valuable source material when students research a play or an actor. As the teacher pointed out, seeing ads of the time and reading interviews with the stars provides important context for each play. My family and I felt good that these items are not only in a new home, but have a new purpose.

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For more tips like this, please take a look at my 98-page genealogy book, Planning a Future for Your Family's Past, available from Amazon (paperback and Kindle versions). And if you already have my book, please would you take a moment and write a review on Amazon? Thank you so much!

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Family History Month: Ancestor Landing Pages as Cousin Bait

Yes, ancestor landing pages really work as cousin bait--attracting people (often real relatives!) whose online search for a particular surname brings them to my blog pages.

To see what I mean, you can click on one or two of the landing pages across the top of this blog page, the tabs with titles like "Wm Tyler Bentley's story" and "Abraham & Annie Berk's story." 

I first put up ancestor landing pages in January, 2013, after reading about the idea on Caroline Pointer's blog.

I use these to summarize what I know about each surname or family in the various family trees that I'm researching. I include not only photos and sometimes documents, but also links to specific blog posts about that person or family.

Six months after first setting up these landing pages, I had views but no cousin connections. In the nearly five years since I first posted these pages, I've gotten thousands of views and have actually connected with a number of cousins as well!

So if you have a blog or are thinking about creating one, consider landing pages or a similar mechanism. As you can see from the current statistics in the table at top, people keep clicking on my pages. Most aren't related to my ancestors or my husband's ancestors, but the few who are related (or researching a particular name) know how to get in touch via my blog now.

By the way, the McClure family from Donegal is by far my most popular landing page. Second-most popular is the page I created with free sample forms and templates from my genealogy book, Planning a Future for Your Family's Past.

Friday, October 20, 2017

Family History Month: Noting My Cousin Connections

Among the sample templates and forms on my blog is a simple table for keeping track of all my cousins. As shown above, I record the names of my cousins, contact info, and notes.

Until last year, I felt I didn't really need a formal listing. Then I nearly forgot to tell one new-found Farkas cousin about a mutual cousin I had located months before. (With the permission of both cousins, I shared their contact info and they have since met in person.)

A reader just asked whether I note all my cousins or only cousins who are interested in our family's genealogy. My answer: I note all my cousins. The notes section indicates when I last spoke with each and whether I requested or received family history info, but that's not as important as compiling a complete listing of who's who among my cousin connections. In the distant future, after I join my ancestors, I want relatives to be aware of the many cousins we have and how to connect with them, should they wish.*

Of course, as my DNA research continues, I hope to be adding more names to my ever-growing list of cousin connections. And by noting names of cousins, it helps the genealogists of the future to understand exactly who's who in my family tree.

*This is one of the many tips in my book, Planning a Future for Your Family's Past, so that the next generation doesn't lose touch with their cousins.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Family History Month: A Pony on the Sidewalk in the Bronx?

Telling the story behind old family photos will help the next generation understand not only who but where, when, and why. That's my goal during Family History Month. The story doesn't have to be elaborate or even formal. Here, for example, I put the photo into an acid-free archival sleeve, wrote a quick caption on an adhesive label, and stuck it to the outside of the sleeve. Story told!

Someone had written "Fred" in faint handwriting on the frame, identifying the child as my uncle Fred Schwartz, older brother of my Mom. Once I researched my uncle Fred's birth date, I was able to estimate when the photo was taken--a winter in the very early 1920s. Now I knew who and when, but not where or why.

Then I began asking my older cousins about the photo. One cousin explained that ponies were used as photo opps, something she remembered from her childhood:
Entrepreneurs would bring ponies around to residential neighborhoods in New York City and offer to photograph children in the saddle, for a small fee. 
Next, using street-view images on Google, I compared the brick background of the apartment building behind the pony with the brick on the building where the Schwartz family was listed in the 1920 Census. That building still stands, visible online. And it turns out my uncle Fred was photographed right outside his tenement on Fox Street in the South Bronx. Mystery solved, story recorded for future generations.

By the way, doing a search for images showing "children posed on ponies in New York City 1920" returns a handful of similar photos. And when I show this photo to New York-area audiences and ask about the pony, usually a couple of people remember seeing similar photos in their family's possession!

Friday, October 6, 2017

Family History Month: Will You Bequeath a Mess or a Collection?

During Family History Month, I'm continuing to organize my genealogy materials for two main reasons: (1) so I can put my hands on exactly the records or photos I want when needed, and (2) so my heirs will receive a well-preserved genealogy collection, not a mess.

Above left, a photo of part of the mess I inherited. My parents left cardboard boxes of papers jumbled together with photos and movies and other stuff. On the right, what I'm bequeathing to my genealogy heirs: Photos and original documents organized by surname and family, in archival boxes for safekeeping.

I especially wanted to protect certain artifacts in archival boxes, including:
  • The college scrapbook of my late father-in-law, Edgar James Wood (1903-1986), which is 90 years old but still in good shape;
  • The 1946 wedding album of my parents, Daisy Schwartz (1919-1981) and Harold Burk (1909-1978), which was deteriorating;
  • The 1916 wedding portrait from my great uncle Alex Farkas (1885-1948) and Jennie Katz (1886-1974), which includes my maternal grandparents among the family members pictured.
Not only does organizing make my research easier, it also jogs my memory to put the pieces of the puzzle together as I categorize items and look at them more carefully. In the process, I'm getting my collection into good order for the sake of future generations (as explained in my book, Planning a Future for Your Family's Past). I don't want to leave a genealogical mess for future generations to untangle and decode!

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Family History Month: Write It Down!


So many ancestors, so much to say . . . it's time to write it down for future generations to remember!

During Family History Month, I'm choosing specific family photos and writing a few paragraphs about the background. Above, an excerpt from my page about hubby's grandmother, Floyda Mabel Steiner McClure (1878-1948). [NOTE: Her name and dates are shown at top of page, not visible in this excerpt.]

My write-up explained that Floyda was the youngest of nine Steiner children, listed in birth order at left of the photo. I wrote about how Floyda got her unusual name, and about the photo itself, a staged studio photo taken around the turn of the 20th century. Although the photo isn't dated, I guesstimated by the fashions and hairstyles, as well as the presence of the oldest sister, who died in 1913.

To bring these ladies to life, I asked hubby and his siblings what they remembered about these sisters, and included their memories in the write-up. They told me that the sisters shown here really were as close as the photo suggests, a key detail for descendants to know! That's why I'm taking the time to write it down.  A write-up doesn't have to be fancy, elaborate, or lengthy. It just has to tell the story for the sake of future generations.



Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Family History Month: Bequeath the Story with the Heirloom


During Family History Month, I'm continuing to write down the stories of the family heirlooms that will pass to the next generation.

This is an excerpt from two pages I wrote about my late mother-in-law's artistic ceramic sculptures. Hubby and I have three animal sculptures to bequeath. We want to be sure  descendants know more about Marian McClure Wood (1909-1983) and how she developed her interest and skill in creating these sculptures.

Between checking with family members and researching the teacher's name, I learned a lot about Marian and her artistry. On more than one occasion, she entered her sculptures in the prestigious juried May Show at the Cleveland Museum of Art--and her works were accepted for display several times! It only took a few clicks to find the records buried in the museum's digital archives.

Now Marian's grandchildren will not only have these sculptures, they'll know about Marian's artistic talent and take pride in her accomplishments. We're doing the same with other heirlooms so the stories get bequeathed along with the heirlooms for future generations to appreciate, including photos on the write-ups to be sure everyone knows which heirloom is which.

If you're writing down the story of an heirloom, start with what you were told or what you observed. Include details about the heirloom (what, when, where, why) and talk about the person who created it or treasured it. Explain why it's something for the family to keep. Even just a paragraph or two will give the next generation a better understanding of the history of that heirloom and the family.

This is part of the PASS process discussed in my genealogy book, Planning a Future for Your Family's Past.

Monday, October 2, 2017

Family History Month: Color Me Blonde and Rouge My Cheeks


During Family History Month, I'm continuing to organize my genealogy collection and store items safely for future generations to enjoy (taking my own advice!).

Above, one of my baby photos from a 10 x 12 montage. I removed it from its frame and stored it in an archival box for safekeeping.

When I turned this portrait over, I found instructions to the person who was going to hand-tint the black-and-white print.

Not only did the tinter give me pink cheeks, ruby lips, and eyeliner, I also acquired a unique golden hair color, with an extra sweep of blonde waving over my head.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Junk or Joy? Think of Future Generations!

Lots of wisdom in a recent Washington Post article titled: "Just because an item doesn't spark joy, doesn't mean you should toss it."

So many people are following the fad for saving only possessions that spark "joy" (based on best-selling author Marie Kondo's The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up). But this doesn't mean throwing out family history along with the family china that none of the kids or grandkids wants right now. UPDATE: Today's New York Times has a similar article, focusing on how many downsizers are coping with younger relatives' disinterest in having the family china, furniture, etc.

The author of the Washington Post article says that "passing down at least some of those possessions creates an important connection between generations and has a vital part in a family’s history." Her advice: save a few select things rather than everything. "Choose things that have special meaning — a serving dish that you used every Thanksgiving, old family photos . . . "

That's why the "chickie pitcher" shown at top is still in the family, while the magazine shown at right is not.

This pitcher, passed down in the Wood family, was part of holiday meals for as my hubby can remember (and that's a long way back). His mother, Marian McClure Wood, would put it out along with coffee and dessert on Thanksgiving and other occasions. We've continued the tradition in our family!

The Workbasket magazine, however, is a different kind of keepsake. My mother, Daisy Schwartz Burk, was an avid needleworker and subscribed to this magazine for at least a decade. But as part of my Genealogy Go-Over and in the pantheon of heirlooms, the four issues held by the family for 50 years have a very low priority.

Rather than relegate these good condition magazines to the flea market or recycle bin, I found them a new home: the Missouri History Museum, which collects magazines issued by Missouri-based publishers. The museum lacked the particular issues I was offering, and was especially pleased that the address labels were still attached.

I signed a deed of gift (similar to the one shown here) and donated all four issues, along with a brief paragraph describing my mother and her love of needlework. It gives me joy to know that Mom's name will forever be attached to magazines preserved and held in the museum archives. (May I suggest: For more ideas about how to sort your genealogical collection and the possibilities of donating artifacts, please see my book Planning a Future for Your Family's Past.)

Friday, August 11, 2017

Friday's Faces from the Past: Did Uncle Benji Smile?

It's up to us, before we join our ancestors, to keep the stories, photos, and memories of past generations alive for the benefit of future generations.

Here are just a few methods I've tried.
  • Tell ancestor stories with dramatic flair. Our ancestors really did lead lives that were courageous (pioneers), happy (family or success), sad (early death), challenging (bankruptcy), or something in between. Find the drama and accentuate it to bring these ancestors to life. My maternal grandma threw a suitor's engagement ring out the window when she refused an arranged marriage. Isn't that dramatic? Hubby's grandpa was a master mechanic who worked on an early automobile model, making his mark on history in a small but significant way. Telling dramatic stories over and over does, I'm happy to say, make an impression.
  • Put an ancestor's face on a T-shirt. I think Benjamin McClure looks ancestral (and characteristically resolute) on this T-shirt worn by his great-great-grandson. Did "Uncle Benji" ever smile? I can ask every younger relative who sees this shirt. In private, I bet he did. But this was his public face, as a civic leader. 
  • Make copies of ancestor photos and give them to siblings, cousins, grandkids. Include a note explaining who's who. Pick a special date--for instance, St. Paddy's Day, for Irish ancestors--and make inexpensive photos to send inside a greeting card. The more relatives who come to recognize ancestors by face and name, the better. Okay, I'm still the only person who can identify most older ancestors in photos, but I'm hoping that someday relatives will be able to pick out at least one or two individuals they didn't know before. Plus I'm glad to know that these photo copies are widely dispersed within the family, not simply stuck inside my files.
  • Tell stories about what ancestors didn't talk about. My immigrant grandparents and great-grandparents never spoke of the trip from their home towns in Hungary, Latvia, and Lithuania to New York City. But knowing the name of the ships, the time of year, and length of the voyages, and the distance between the home towns and the ports of departure, I can weave together a pretty decent narrative for each one. No, they didn't come "cabin class." So this kind of story illustrates determination and perseverance (occasionally desperation).  
  • Remind young relatives who and what ancestors left behind. None of my immigrant grandparents or great-grandparents ever returned to their home towns after arriving in New York. Younger relatives are taken aback when reminded that these ancestors often left home at an early age (Grandpa Teddy Schwartz was 14), knowing that the journey would be one-way only. Imagine. 
I've seen examples of even more creative ideas, including ancestor playing cards, that are future possibilities. What ideas have you tried for getting the younger generation interested in the lives of their ancestors?

Monday, July 24, 2017

IAJGS Day 2: Research Tricks and Preservation Tips

Day 2 of the Intl Jewish Genealogy Conference has been as busy and productive as Day 1. Bright and early, Mindie Kaplan spoke about researching common surnames...like Kaplan (or Kaplin or Caplan--you get the idea). Alternative spellings can help us find the right person in the haystack.

One top take-away: Find one ancestor in a city directory then use that address to search for who else lives there! Great idea.
Next was Christine Crawford-Oppenheimer, "For Future Generations," a nuts-and-bolts session about preserving photos and documents for the future. She had some fabulous suggestions, including making sure that all media is readable. Who has a projector to view 35 mm slides any more?

So move media to the most recent technology and keep upgrading to avoid being unable to see something just a few years in the future. And do keep trying to view technology, just to be sure it's there.

Then I wedged myself into the audience of Marion Werle's "You Found the Records, Now What?" No wonder it was so crowded. Records analysis is a hot topic and Marion showed us, step by step, how to pick a record apart and figure out what type of source, how reliable the content might be, and how to reconcile conflicting info. Of course, look at the original record whenever possible.

Another take-away: Formulate a specific research question you want to answer, to guide and focus your efforts.

My session, "Planning a Future for Your Family's Past," drew well and included some good questions and comments from the audience. One question that came up: What if none of the descendants wants to continue to research the family's history? My answer: As long as a descendant is interested enough to agree to be custodian of the genealogy collection that you've put together over the years, that's a start. Even if that descendant isn't passionate about genealogy now, he or she may become more intrigued later (a decade or more from now). We want our research and photos and artifacts to survive for future generations, no matter whether the research goes on after we join our ancestors.

More posts soon!

Friday, July 21, 2017

Sorting Saturday: Benjamin's Woodcut Portrait Lives On

Always looking for ways to keep ancestors alive for future generations, I consulted with my sis-in-law, a savvy sewer. We wanted to put the 1890s woodcut portrait of her 2d great-grandpa, Benjamin McClure (1812-1896), onto a T-shirt for the youngest relatives.

Her solution was to use iron-on fabric transfer paper. The process is fairly easy, and you'll find many types of iron-on transfer papers in craft stores.

At right, two types of transfers I've used (among many other good brands). Some transfers are actually fabric with a paper backing to go through the printer, be cut to size, and then be stitched onto a T-shirt or other fabric item. Others are paper with special coating that adheres to fabric when ironed on.

Before you buy, read the package to decide which transfer paper is right for the fabric or T-shirt you'll be using. Check whether the transfer requires a laser copier/printer or inkjet printer. And find out whether the final product can be washed.

The directions vary slightly from brand to brand. Some transfers require you to create a mirror image of your image (via software, printer, or copier) if text is involved or you want the fabric version to look exactly as the original. This is important! Unless you begin with a mirror image, any text on the image will be reversed and unreadable (see photo above for "mirror image" version of Benjamin McClure and his name/dates, before he was ironed onto the T-shirt shown at top).

I'm sorting other portraits to see which we want to put on T-shirts, aprons, or other fabric items as holiday gifts for the family--keeping the memory of our ancestors alive into the next generation and beyond.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Sympathy Saturday: Linking Farkas Siblings on Find a Grave

It's taken a bit of clicking to link my maternal grandma (Hermina "Minnie" Farkas Schwartz) to her family on Find a Grave, because she had so many brothers and sisters.

Now, thanks to the other contributors who accepted my edits, Grandma Minnie shows up with her parents, spouse, children, and siblings.

So many people use Find a Grave for genealogy research that I wanted to be sure my Farkas family was not only completely represented on this free site, but also linked to each other.

It's one way I honor my ancestors and share a bit about them with future generations.

For more ideas about sharing family history, please see my book, Planning a Future for Your Family's Past.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Sentimental Sunday: Pages from the Story of Wood and Slatter

The Story of James Edgar Wood and Mary Slatter Wood is written, photos and maps are in place, and I'm going to bring the .pdf to be color-laser-printed in the local copy shop. In all, I needed 21 pages to tell the story of hubby's paternal grandparents James, Mary, their family backgrounds, along with a brief overview of what happened to their four sons (including my late father-in-law, who took these photos of the 1917 Ford).

Just in time for the June Genealogy Blog Party, here are two pages from this newest family memory booklet, and a few lessons learned along the way toward preserving this family history:
  • Maps help readers follow along as ancestors migrate or take a trip (as in the page at top, a 1917 trip from Cleveland to Chicago).
  • Photos personalize the story and bring readers face to face with faces and places from the family's past. I included lots of photos!
  • Include quotes from ancestors to keep their voices alive for descendants who never met them. I had quotes from interviews, letters, a diary.
  • Include a timeline to give descendants a better sense of what happened, where, and when. I constructed this last, after I pieced together the entire story.
  • Include sources for that rare reader who asks: "How do we know that?" The actual booklet has a few document excerpts but full documents are sitting in my files.
  • Caption all photos. I have 2 pages of captions at the end of the booklet, with lots of details, including a reminder of the relationships between people in the photo and the readers ("Mary Slatter's older sister" is an example, plus an explanation that Mary Slatter was my husband's paternal grandmother). 
Don't forget to include a family tree! I included one in the back of the booklet, showing this branch and how it extends back three generations on James's side and on Mary's side.

This is only one way I'm sharing my family's history with the next generation. More ideas are in my genealogy book, Planning a Future for Your Family's Past.

Monday, May 29, 2017

Motivation Monday: Telling the Story of Wood and Slatter

Sample page from my Wood/Slatter family memory booklet
Hubby's family has a reunion planned for this summer. That's motivated me to prepare a new family memory booklet, telling the story of his paternal grandparents, Mary Slatter Wood and James Edgar Wood.

It's quite a story, with the Wood family's generations-old tradition of working in wood and their Mayflower connection, plus the Slatter family's Whitechapel roots and their illustrious bandmaster relatives. The family knew very little of this background when I began researching more than a decade ago.

Now, thanks to century-old photo albums, field trips side-by-side with my husband cranking microfilm readers and pulling courthouse documents, and a Genealogy Go-Over to double-check data and records, we know a lot about these ancestors. There's still a lot we won't ever know (exactly how and when Mary and James met, for example). But it's time to begin the writing process, and include plenty of photos to bring these ancestors alive for the generations to come.

The table of contents for THE STORY OF JAMES EDGAR WOOD AND MARY SLATTER WOOD currently reads:
  1. James Edgar Wood's Family Background
  2. Mary Slatter's Family Background
  3. What Was the World Like When James & Mary Were Born (circa 1870)? (To give younger relatives a sense of daily life before the automobile, electricity, etc.)
  4. James & Mary's Life in Cleveland
  5. James as Carpenter and Home Builder (see sample page, above)
  6. Driving the 1917 Ford to Chicago (documented in a family photo album)
  7. At Home with the Wood Family (with photos and quotes from descendants)
  8. How the Woods and Slatters Stayed in Touch (postcards to/from cousins, border crossings showing visits)
  9. What Happened to Mary and James (moving, later life, remarriage, burial)
  10. What Happened to the Wood Brothers (brief overview of their adult lives)
  11. Where, When, and Sources (timeline and sources used to confirm details)
  12. Photo Captions (names/dates/places or as much is known)

Rather than spend a fortune printing a bound book, I'll have the 20-odd pages of this booklet printed on good paper using the laser color printer at my local office supply store. Then I'll insert them into a clear report cover for presentation. If we want to add or change something later on, it's easy to remove the spine and switch out one or more pages.

As suggested by my good friend Mary, I'm including my sources. But instead of putting them in the main narrative, I'm relegating them to a section in the back of the booklet, to avoid slowing the flow (and to keep younger readers engaged).

My goal is to bring the story of Wood and Slatter alive for future generations with a colorful booklet combining facts and photos into a narrative that flows. It's part of my promise to "share with heirs," as I explain in my book, Planning a Future for Your Family's Past.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Genealogy, Free or Fee: Checklist for Ancestor Resources

It turns out that some of the most valuable resources for researching family history are already in our possession or in the hands of family! For which I'm thankful.

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.

Here's a checklist to use as a starting point for thinking creatively about resources you or your family may have on hand. 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 identify detail-rich sources that might help our research.

Not all of these sources are available in every family. Not all will have valuable clues 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.

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.

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Looking for an affordable genealogy gift idea? My book, Planning a Future for Your Family's Past, is available from Amazon ($8.99 paperback, $4.49 Kindle, free for Kindle Unlimited readers). If you already have my book, please would you write a brief review on Amazon? Thank you so much!

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!