Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Findagrave.com - It's not just about finding graves

... but you knew that, right?

On Findagrave's home page, on the left side of the page under the heading "Find Famous Graves," the link "Search by date" appears. Under this link, you will find the options of searching people who were either born or died on today's date. I hadn't used this feature before today, but I'm glad I tried it.

Born on this date was Hans Scholl, a man who lived but a short time, but who did his best with his lot in life. Click here to read his brief, inspiring life history.

Monday, August 10, 2009

More Ideas

Sharman Tullis Gill, “Family Story Ideas,” Ensign, Apr. 2008, 75

Does it seem like an overwhelming task to record your personal and family histories? Actually, it may be more doable and enjoyable than you think. I’ve discovered some fun ways to broaden how we might preserve our precious history.

• Ancestral safari. Organize an outing where family members retell old stories at the sites where they occurred. This is a great opportunity for grandchildren to learn about their ancestors. Don’t forget an audio tape recorder and camera to preserve everyone’s recollections. Perhaps make it an annual tradition.

• Family recipe book. Collect favorite family recipes and any memories or stories associated with them. You will probably find that reminiscing about the aromas, textures, and tastes of favorite foods will bring back a flood of memories. You can work solo on the project or make it a cooperative effort.

• Memory books. Compile a book of recollections focusing on a particular person, such as a child. You might include handwriting samples, news clippings, schoolwork, and photos. Be sure to include your own memories or journal entries about the person.

• Heirloom stories. Any heirloom becomes more meaningful if it’s presented with a simple written history about its original owner. You could include how the individual acquired it, how it was used, original cost (if known), and any family stories associated with it.

• Quilts. Create a stitched family history using such materials as favorite pieces of clothing, blankets, or curtains. Perhaps the quilt could be put together over the years as a child grows up. When it is finished, include an heirloom story, sharing the memories associated with the various fabric pieces.

Monday, August 03, 2009

Family History Now

Yet more wisdom from the Ensign.

Roxanne Freeman, “Family History Now,” Ensign, Jan. 2008, 75

What do taking photographs, scrapbooking, and writing in your journal have in common? They are all relatively simple ways to gather and record your family history. Even during your busiest seasons of life, you can still gather valuable information about immediate and extended family.

1. Take photographs. Develop all your still images and organize them in an album or scrapbook, writing down details as you go. Even if your photos end up in a storage box, at least record pertinent information on the back of each—person’s name, location, and date, if not automatically printed. You can also store this information with your video and digital recordings. Looking back at my 50-year-old photos, I can seldom distinguish my boys from one another in their baby pictures—and neither can anyone else. So make it easy on yourself and record the details as you go. Also, ask family members for copies of old family photos, along with all the information they may have.

2. Scrapbook. Since scrapbooking is a great way to preserve your family’s history, you may want to include full-page descriptions of family events. Short captions are good too, but the more information you can provide, the better. At Mom’s birthday party, for instance, you could list who came and how they are related, where the party was held, what food was served, what gifts she received, and what activities everyone did.

3. Keep a journal. Not only can you express your innermost thoughts in your journal, but you can also keep track of family events. Document births, deaths, marriages, birthdays, graduations, and other important events, including as many details as possible. In writing about Uncle John’s funeral, for instance, tell where it was held, who attended, and their relationship to the deceased. If you don’t already know all the details, tag the journal page so you can verify historical information later.

If you are not able to devote much time to family history work, at least do what you can. Remember that today will soon become yesterday—and eventually history. Don’t let it slip away.

Monday, July 27, 2009

What I'm Currently Working On

Another fun, family-friendly family history idea from the Ensign.

Kelly Toth, “Our Family Picture Book,” Ensign, July 2009, p. 67

Scrapbooks shouldn’t just sit on a shelf collecting dust. You can use them to stay connected with extended family or learn about your ancestors.

Since the albums are going to be handled a lot, I recommend using a convenient size, such as 6 inches by 8 inches. They should have clear, archival page protectors that are easy to insert and remove as needed. I begin with a table of contents, followed by a pedigree chart that starts with my parents and goes back two generations. Next is a page that explains the meanings and origins of our family names. Then I designate a page for each paternal and maternal great-grandparent, ending with current family members, and I update the pages when new photos are available. I also tuck in a few blank pages for future spouses and children, knowing that I can always insert more as needed.

Each person’s page contains a photo, vital statistics, favorite scripture, and favorite dessert. Before each married child’s picture, I place a pedigree chart of the child’s immediate family. I also share the meanings of maiden names or husbands’ last names.

I enjoy scrapbooking and preserving our family’s heritage. It’s a great way for my children to remember family members who live far away. Though this project may seem daunting at first, you can do it a page or two at a time. Then use it and share it, but don’t shelve it.

I recently finished my first set of pages for my great-grandfather, Maurice Warfield Smith. Finding old pictures and using the autobiography my grandfather wrote have been fun, and have fleshed out details about Maurice that I didn't know before.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Keeping Your Family's History

Here's a fun idea from the Ensign magazine, published by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Don't you wish your deceased family members had kept some sort of journal? I know I do.

Connie Pope, “Family Stories,” Ensign, Apr. 2009, p. 71

When our children were at home, we made history every week — our own family’s history. It was a tradition my parents started when I was young. We simply set aside 10 minutes together to write on an assigned topic. When finished, we shared what we had written down. Some of the entries included telling about a Fourth of July (or a Christmas, Halloween, or Easter) we remembered, describing a grandparent, telling about an accident or illness, or recalling a vacation or fun birthday tradition.

When we were done, each of us had a binder to store our growing collection of journal entries. We enjoyed sharing each other’s experiences in this way and are grateful that we preserved special memories.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Yeah, Right

Click to enlarge.

I hear people say they've traced their family tree back to Adam and Eve...

Sorry, I'm still a skeptic.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Prison Inmates Volunteer For Indexing

A good friend who knows I love genealogy sent me the link to this article. I found it inspiring. When I'm doing anything genealogical, I know how much that spirit of genealogy rewards and fulfills me, and I'm not doing time in jail. Imagine how these men are touched by their service. What an outstanding idea.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Famous Cousins

Dr. William Williams Keen was United States' first brain surgeon, who once participated in a procedure removing a cancerous tumor from the jawbone of President Grover Cleveland.

His grandson, Dr. Walter Freeman, was famous for his practice of transorbital lobotomies. Thousands of mentally ill Americans, and some not mentally ill, underwent these operations at his hands, not too many decades ago.

Drs. Keen and Freeman are descendants of my Keen ancestors from Pennsylvania.

I'm... not sure how to feel about this. :)

Friday, February 06, 2009

Fun With Death Certificates

Call me morbid, but I love reading death certificates - probably for the same reason I love my grandmother's huge "Modern Medical Counselor" book from the 1940's. Diseases and causes of death are horrible, but fascinating.

ANYWAY... Ancestry.com has an impressive collection of death certificate images, with the LDS Church hot on its heels as more volunteers index records and collections of records are made available on Familysearch's pilot site.

Lately my favorite genealogical amusement is to narrow down people in my PAF file who died in the state in question and within a certain year range, and start looking people up. For example, the Kentucky collection on Ancestry ranges between the years 1852-1953, so after I've set up my list of people who died in Kentucky between those years, I'll search out those people.

By doing this, I've found women's maiden names I didn't have before, parents' names, children who died young whose existence I was unaware of, places of burial including cemetery names, and quite a few new family members I didn't have in my collection. A death certificate is also a great way to verify old information, so even if you think you know everything about Grandma Gert, it's still worth your time to check out her death certificate.

If you're an Ancestry.com subscriber, the easiest way to find a state's death record collection is to head to the home page, then scroll down to the list and map of the United States, then click on that state to see what it offers.

If you're like me and "free" is your favorite price, you can take your chances at the Familysearch pilot site. As fast as those indexers can type, they're indexing and digitizing thousands and thousands of records. They recently passed their 25,000 indexed record milestone and have reason to be proud. I've had some success with Washington state's death records on that website.

Before too long, you too can be living it up with death certificates. Good luck!

Saturday, January 03, 2009

Still Here.

My genealogy took a major back seat to other things a few months ago, but now that I've combined my PAF records (I created two almost identical files, then added some new names to one, new information to the other... what a mess), I'm back to work and finding new people and information.

If you use Personal Ancestral File to organize your records, you might be happy to know that if you ever make a boneheaded mistake like the one I made - making two different files, then having to combine them back into one again - the Match/Merge feature works well and will even combine exact matches automatically. I didn't know this until after I'd matched and merged about half my people (roughly 7,000) one at a time, and sometimes with the help of PAF Insight while at my local Family History Center. It pays to know what your computer program does, but what a fun surprise, after all that work, to find that I was off the hook for the rest.