Showing posts with label family history. Show all posts
Showing posts with label family history. Show all posts

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Tuesday's Tip: What's Your Genealogy Elevator Pitch?

Do you have a genealogy elevator pitch? You know, a few quick sentences summarizing your family's background, adapted to the situation at hand. Entrepreneurs use elevator pitches to get investors interested in their businesses; we use elevator pitches to connect with relatives and possible relatives in several situations.

With genealogy elevator pitches, the goal is to share information very concisely, spark interest in your family or your research, and--hopefully--motivate action. Especially valuable during Genealogy Go-Overs or Do-Overs!

Here are three situations where I use my genealogy elevator pitches:
  • Following up on a DNA match or a family-tree hint. The right elevator pitch, polite and concise with an upbeat tone, makes a big difference. Mention exactly what the match or hint is, then list family names/places to get the ball rolling on trying to confirm the match. Some people manage more than one DNA kit and are active on more than one DNA site or family-tree site, so I give particulars to save them time. My elevator pitch: "My name is ___, my kit # is ___, and I'm writing about a match with FamilyTreeDNA kit #___, which is listed under the name of ____.  I suspect the connection might be through my Farkas family from Botpalad (Hungary) or my Kunstler family from Nagy Bereg (Hungary). Please let me know if any of these names or places are familiar. Thanks very much, and I'm looking forward to hearing from you." By adding the phrase looking forward to hearing from you, I'm requesting a response, positive or negative. Much of the time, it works.
  • Younger relatives ask a question or appear interested in an old photo. Be ready with a minute or two of explanation--vividly bring that person to life in that moment. Above, a photo my grandsons found interesting. My elevator pitch: "That's your great-great-grandpa James Edgar Wood and his construction crew, building a house in Cleveland Heights more than 100 years ago. Did you know he built so many homes in Cleveland that Wood Road is named for him? And most of those homes are still standing today!" Depending on the reaction, I either dig out more house photos or tell another story about the Wood family--keeping it brief.
  • At a family gathering or on the phone with a relative who asks, "what's new?" Oooh, so glad you asked. My latest elevator pitch: "Hubby and his first cousins took DNA tests, and surprisingly, the results show that the Wood family has some roots outside the British Isles. Would you consider taking a DNA test so we can learn more? [Insert name of DNA testing firm] has a big sale coming up!" The element of surprise in DNA results can be highly intriguing, and the mention of a sale also grabs attention. Three cousins were kind enough to take a DNA test during a sale this summer. My pitch was successful! So many cMs, so little time.
So polish your genealogy elevator pitch. And if you're going to a genealogy conference, polish the "surnames research" part of your pitch and/or have calling cards printed (above, mine and my husband's cards) to exchange with other researchers.

    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.)

    Tuesday, March 21, 2017

    Tuesday's Tip: Genealogy, Free or Fee, Part 5: Ask the Historian

    A lot of genealogical treasures are not online. But local historians may be able to help you solve a mystery or two, at little or no cost (often, just the cost of copies and postage).

    Case in point: My husband's Bentley ancestors lived in upstate NY. I need to connect his 3d great-grandfather, William Tyler Bentley (1795-1873), with a specific town and then trace further back.

    I believe I have him in the 1830 census in Sandy Creek, Oswego county, NY. But is this the right guy? I searched for Sandy Creek and the website above popped up. Take a look at what the wonderful local historian, Charlene Cole, has at her fingertips:
    I called her, she checked her records, and then she emailed me some documents from her surname files, contributed by a long-time researcher who was also tracking down the same Bentley family. By getting in touch with this other Bentley researcher, we were able to put more pieces of the puzzle together.

    So Tuesday's Tip is: Try a web search for the town or county where an ancestor lived, and you may be lucky enough to locate the local historian who knows where the treasures are buried. Even if you don't locate the actual information you need, you will likely get a clue on how to proceed or the name of others who are in search of the same surname.

    For more "Genealogy, Free or Fee" posts, please click here.

    Sunday, April 10, 2016

    Mystery Monday: Indexing Your Family's Records to Solve Mysteries

    You finished indexing your grandfather's diary, your mother's letters, your grandmother's baby book. Now what?

    In my previous post, I outlined how to index letters or other documents or books from your family's past. Before you file your index (a copy with the document you indexed and copies inside the files of the main surnames mentioned), mine it for clues to family mysteries. You’re not indexing simply for the sake of getting organized—the process is important for making progress on your genealogical research.

    Here are five ways you can use an index to deepen your knowledge of family history and to solve family mysteries:
    • Check dates against what you know. Does the index help you narrow down possible birth, marriage, death dates? Does it fill in the blanks on where ancestors were during key periods? Who is missing on key dates? During indexing, I noticed that a great-grandfather was suddenly absent from the documents after being mentioned year after year. That was a clue to his approximate death date, which I’d been unable to pinpoint.
    •  Look at relationships. Does the index shed light on whether family members were estranged or close? Does it confirm relationships that you suspected? Who is present at family gatherings, and how often do they show up? One set of family meeting minutes I indexed showed how warmly a widowed in-law was welcomed, along with her second family. The same index reflected the rare attendance of an uncle whose marriage outside the faith was frowned upon.
    • Look at occasions. Who’s visiting on holidays? Which holidays are celebrated? Are weddings, birthdays, funerals mentioned? Who’s giving gifts, who’s receiving gifts, where and when? One baby book I indexed gave me a clue that someone was more than a “family friend” because she gave a surprisingly valuable gift. Sure enough, she turned out to be the ex-spouse of a close relative.  
    • Cross-reference the index against other items. Do you have photos of the people mentioned in the index during the period covered by the documents? See whether the index can help you identify mystery people in your photos or give you more context for when, where, and why the photos were taken.
    • Verify details. If a diary mentions someone’s birth, marriage, or death, compare the dates with official documents. A century ago, official records weren’t always filed on time, so a birth date on the vital records form might be a day or a few days later than the actual birth. Maybe the index will point you to the actual date, or explain why the date differs from the official record. Also, names on Census forms weren’t always accurate, so check your index against what you see on the Census. Use the index to match nicknames with full given names on your tree. You might find a variation via the index that you can use to when you research that person.

    Solving a mystery: My sister-in-law remembered a cousin Edith, quite a tall lady, attending her wedding. Now, years later, no one remembered Edith's last name or how she was related. When I indexed my late father-in-law's diaries, I found repeated mentions of Edith in the 1960s and 1970s. This led to a hunch about Edith's parents. 

    Putting together clues from Census data, Cleveland directories, and my husband's and sister-in-law's memories, we solved the mystery and figured out where Edith fits on the family tree. Using the dates and approximate ages, we also identified her and her sister in the above photo with my father-in-law. Without the index, this mystery would have taken much longer to solve.