52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks

Week 1: A Fresh Start

I’m a little late in starting but I’ve decided I’m going to partake in Amy Johnson Crow’s family history writing exercise “52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks”.  Seeing as writing about my ancestors always seems so daunting, I hope that doing it weekly on a different member of my family that maybe, just maybe, I’ll feel more comfortable.

Week 1’s topic is “A Fresh Start”.  I’m going to be super generic and talk about myself – I’m going through a fresh start in my genealogical journey as I am going through all my people and making sure they belong and that I have the documents I need for them, and that I have the full information for each ancestor.

For example on New Year’s Eve, I discovered in my Legacy software all the people who I have just a year down for their birth date or death date – all their reminders came up on December 31.  And it wasn’t just a few I had, it was for 134 dates!

In some ways I stand by the dates, something is better than nothing, so when I see a child who shows up on a Census or two and all I have is that random year of birth that’s given, I use it with a hope of someday finding additional information such as a month or an actual day to go with it.

I also ran a potential problem report and was fortunate it was only a page in length.  I’ve fixed most of these mistakes as one person had a death date before their birth date (I typed 1930 for their birth instead of 1830 – an easily fixed typographical error, but an error nonetheless).

Going more in-depth and trying to find out what I don’t know is going to make me a better family historian.  We all deserve a fresh start every now and then – and mine has begun, even with this challenge, as it will allow me to get to know my ancestors even better.

If you are interested in doing your own writing journey, 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks is where you can sign up and see the listing of all the prompts for this year’s challenge.

Good luck!

Genealogy

Mind Mapping

I’m presently taking a class on genealogy and one of the things they briefly went over in last week’s portion is mind mapping.  I’ll be honest, I never really knew what mind mapping was, now I could sum it up to it being brainstorming on a piece of paper.  But I decided to take a little more in-depth examination of mind mapping and how it can help you with your family history research.

What is Mind Mapping

Using the Wikipedia definition, a “mind map is a diagram used to visually organize information”. It’s hierarchal and shows relationships among the pieces of the whole. According to MindMapping.com, it’s a “highly effective way of getting information in and out of your brain” as it’s both creative and logical at the same time.  Mind maps are illustrations of what you are thinking.

Which goes back to my original statement of it being like brainstorming on a piece of paper.

Characteristics of Mind Mapping

There are certain characteristics that each mind map must possess.

Main Idea

Each mind map has a main idea.  It’s the theme of what your mind map is about.

Branches

These are the main ideas that branch off of your main idea that create connections.

Keywords

These words or ideas that support or describe your main idea are summarized into keywords, no sentences allowed.

Twigs

Lastly, you have less important ideas that aid in describing the keywords, and these branch off onto smaller lines, or twigs.

Creating Mind Maps

There are different ways to create mind maps.  You can draw from hand (I apologize for my bad photo – somehow my paper got folded but something told me trying to re-write it wouldn’t work as I’d probably just mess it up and get totally frustrated).

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Mind maps can also be made with computer software.  Some of the software that you can use are the following: Coggle, Mindly, Draw.io, iMindMap, MindMup, MindMeister, Scapple, and SmartDraw to name just a few.

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Photo found at MindMeister.com

Using Your Mind Map

Mind mapping is a tool that helps make you a better thinker. When you come across a problem, even something that really has you stumped like a brick wall, write it down, all of it, you may just get pointed in the right direction on where to look next.

The one I did above is one of my brick walls, which actually leads to a bigger brick wall.  George Washington Blair is the 4th child of my great-great-great-grandparents.  I only have 1 death certificate listing my 3x-great-grandmothers name and I strongly feel that if I can find George Washington Blair’s death certificate, that maybe it will give me some insight on my 3x-great-grandparents.

A mind map isn’t going to solve your problems, but it will allow you to see your information in a logical flow and give you the opportunity to see what you still need to find, and then you can best decide where to go to seek your answers.

Good luck!

Genealogy

Writing Your Family History

I constantly read how I should be writing my family history down but the question is HOW?  I obviously want it to be entertaining and not cause people to be snoring within minutes, but do you just plop down the statistics?  Do you try to give it personality?  These are the things this inquiring mind wants to know.

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How You Will Share Your Writing

What form of media will you use to share your family history?  This is a very important decision.  Will you write a book? A newsletter?  A blog?

The format of your writing determines how formal your writing needs to be.  If you choose a blog (I obviously write about my own family discoveries along with tips of how to do your family history) you need to be a little more entertaining to keep your reader’s attention (hopefully I succeed in this).  This would probably be similar advice if you thought of doing a newsletter.

If you are going to write a book you obviously want people to enjoy what they are reading but you can also make sure you throw in statistics you have gathered about your relatives/ancestors if that is the only information you have.

Photographs

If you have photographs of the people you are writing about, make sure you include them. This is probably a no-brainer but it’s worth stating.  I know whenever I come across a photo of a relative I get so excited to see how they looked at whatever stage in their life.  I am hoping to one day find a photograph of my great-grandfather, Charles Morgart, as he is the infant/toddler in my blog’s header.  I have yet to see an adult photo of him but so wish I had one.

Photographs also make people real.  Face it, you can tell people that this is when they were born and this is when they died – but it’s when you give the details of how they lived and what they looked like that makes a person become alive.

Add Some History

You may be thinking,  “of course I am going to write history, I’m writing my family’s history”, but sometimes it’s nice to give your writing a little bit of historical context.  Relate to your reader what is going on in the world to give a better sense of the time period when your ancestor lived.

For example, I am presently reading “National Geographic’s Atlas of the Civil War” as my great-great-great-grandfather, George Henry Fesler, fought in the Civil War.  I have obtained his military file and it details all the battles that he fought in and where he was stationed.  George fought in many battles but I will confess they tend to be a lot of the smaller battles, not Antietam, Vicksburg or Gettysburg, the battles that the average person has heard of, so I’m reading this in-depth book about all the battles so I can include better details in reference to him.

There are different ways you can highlight historical events, you can just do a sidebar of big events that happened during the time period or you could have a timeline listing similar details.

Setting Your Book Up

When writing a book you can always highlight a different ancestor in a chapter.  For example, you can have a chapter on your mother, then a chapter on her mom and a chapter on her dad and within the chapters referring to her parents you can detail her siblings.

You may not have any intimate details about some of your relative’s lives but when you come across those initially you can just put the vital statistic information that you have on these individuals.  Sometimes you may just have very limited information, but if you have gathered any city directories about your ancestor, often they list where they worked, which helps give a little more insight into them.  Censuses will often list a general occupation as well which is still helpful in painting a picture of your relative’s life.

Make a Video

I know on my mom’s side of the family, my aunt and uncle were occasionally asking me how I was progressing on my research.  Not having anything written down, but having found photos of various members of my mom’s side of my family, I made a minute-long video that briefly highlighted my grandmother, great-grandmother, great-great-grandmother and lastly my great-great-great-grandmother and my great-great-great-grandparents (the photo of my 4th great grandmother happened to be a photo with her husband). I used the online video maker Adobe Spark which is free to use and even can be made with background music (the default was surprisingly fitting for my video). I shared the video with my aunt, uncle and many cousins and they loved it!  It was long enough to be interesting and short enough to keep their attention.

Your Program May Write the Book for You

I use Legacy Family Tree to store all my family’s information and there is a way to print a book using all the information I have entered into the program.  It fills in written accounts listed in the notes on each individual as well listing all the sources that you have attached for all the records included. This is a nice, no-brainer way of writing a book with the click of a button.

Brings Your Research Together

Writing about your family is a great way to make your research more interesting to the average person.  Family Historians often find such neat information about our ancestors through vital statistics, newspapers, and family lore, compiling them all together for future generations just makes sense.

No matter what form of media you choose to use – book, newsletter, or blog, anyway that interests you in writing down your information is how you should publish your work.

You don’t have to stop all of your research to begin writing a book, but it may be something to focus on one day a week in order to get ideas together on what you may want to do. I know I have been thinking about how I want to do mine for a while and I like about taking it an ancestor at a time.  It may provide you with who you want to focus on for a bit as well, and if you have all your writing on a computer you can always continue to add the further along you go with your tree.

No matter how you opt to write your genealogical findings, I wish you great success in your journey.  Sharing your research with the world is one of the greatest honors we as family historians have.

Good luck!

 

 

 

Genealogy

Scrapbooking

“Scrapbooking is a method of preserving, presenting, and arranging personal and family history in the form of a book, box or card” – Wikipedia.

 

For a few years, I was really into scrapbooking. My aunt introduced me to it one weekend when she set up a bunch of tables in her attic and had several friends and family over for a “crop”.

Never having done this before I grabbed the set my mom had ordered me off QVC and headed over with some photos (not really sure why we had these on hand, I am guessing it was something that had crossed our minds – and my mom could not resist a “Today’s Special Value”  to save her soul).

I was hooked after one time. I got up the next morning and went to the store to purchase key tools that I would need and convinced my husband it was going to be a good investment (I still have and use these items). The photos I chose were my honeymoon pictures. I figured a week’s worth of memories from Busch Gardens (Williamsburg), Myrtle Beach, and Savannah would be enough to keep me occupied for an evening,.

I had so much fun creating the pages, bringing those moments to life in a fun, whimsical way – including journaling – that allows my kids to know what was happening the first week of June in 2003 with their crazy parents.

On the next crop, I convinced my mom to go and she did the same as I did, she chose photos from a specific event (I think it was the 30th-anniversary party I threw for her and my dad) and used her set to begin her own creative journey.

My mom ended up taking her scrapbooking to a much higher level than me. She learned new techniques by taking classes from a variety of experts in the field that she discovered online. She also tried her hand at digi-scrapping which is when everything is done on the computer. She loved all sorts of concepts and took different challenges about herself, the past, everything (though her favorite topics were my kids, her only grandchildren).

My mother completed a number of layouts that pertained to genealogy/family history.  A few are posted below but more of her work can be seen on her website at Gramma’s Happy Place (she passed in late May 2018 so I have no idea how long it will stay up).

Scrapbooks have been around for a long time, not so much as their modern renditions,  but often included with photos were mementos that went along with an event – ticket stubs, hair, flowers, booklets, brochures, coins – all sorts of ephemera. These keepsakes are wonderful ways for us to learn more about our ancestors, assuming we are lucky enough to find such treasures.

My goal as I go along on my genealogical journey is to begin scrapbooking again (I’ve been blessed with all my mom’s supplies, I technically shouldn’t have to purchase anything other than glue/adhesive for years).

Do you scrapbook? Share some of your favorite pages below, it’s always a treat to see what people at their creative best.