Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Writing your family history - What's holding you back? How are you future-proofing your research?

I have started writing my family history, again.  I have had many false starts, but never got very far. The difference this time is that I have a plan in place. I have already started the outline, and I have joined a writing group that will keep me on task (Book Babies be Born!). What was holding me back?  I believe two things hold us back, fear and inertia.  FEAR, which is often quoted as False Evidence Appearing Real by an unknown author, is the thing that holds most of us back: Fear of , doing it wrong, Fear that we have bad research, Fear of being wrong, Fear that no one will appreciate us, Fear that we haven't finished, Fear that we need to do more research, and the list goes on.  Inertia is the force required to change your state to moving, changing speed, or stopping.  You've been researching and now you have to stop to write, WHAT!!  I can't stop.

Actually, you can stop, and you don't have to be finished with your research to write your family history.  Just do it!  The fear is just that fear.  You can ask for help, gather in a group to start and support each other, join supportive groups (e.g. The Infinite Receivers Club, a FaceBook group) to gain general support.  There are many options.  How shall I do it?  Paper, computer, tablet, typewriter, stone carvings, it doesn't matter which medium you use.  Some will be easier to work with than others.  Stone carvings may be a little hard to edit, but the medium doesn't matter, what does, is that you are comfortable with what you are working with.  What if you've made a mistake or you're research is wrong?  Well, unless your using those stone carvings, it's very easy today to put out errata.  That's what that word means when you see it in non-fiction books and magazines.  Then when the next printing happens, you correct the mistake.  Oh no, my cousin pointed out my error with all the documentation to prove it.  That's okay, thank them, and post the errata, and fix it in the next printing.  Of course, do make sure that their research is ready to publish, and ask their permission.  This is a family history after all.  So why shouldn't the family help out.  Maybe before you publish, you can ask everyone to send you a family story, photos etc.  They are contributing to their story too.
Look for books or eBooks to help with the writing.  I am currently using,  Guide to Genealogical Writing: How to Write and Publish Your Family History by Penelope L Stratton and Henry B Hoff C.G., FASG.  I have learned much from this and many other forums about how to write my book.  Now, I have the tools, the support, and the gumption to write my family history.  If you need help, ask for help, from me or someone else.  The faster you get going, the faster you will finish.

How are you future-proofing your research?  One way is to publish your family history.  Some other ways are to give explicit instructions in your will as to what you wish to be done with your research.  Using a lawyer may be helpful to make sure all of your instructions are followed.  You also want to approve someone to access your websites, should you pass or are incapacitated.  Take care of your family's history.

Monday, January 1, 2018

Take the Plunge

First post of the New Year

Today is Polar Bear Plunge Day.  Did you know I was a polar bear swimmer back in my Girl Scout days?  At Girl Scout Camp Sandy Brook in Huntington, Massachusetts, I would get up before the other campers and go swimming in the lake.  Brrrr, it was cold, but it was also fun.  Today, Polar Bear swimmers take the plunge for charities.  It takes courage to plunge into very cold waters.  Just like it takes courage to plunge into your family history.  Today, I only have my memories of that wonderful camp.  I was told the Girl Scouts sold the land, and more's the pity.  Many of our loved ones have also passed into memory this past year.  It's time to break out and do those interviews and start that family history.  If you've been doing your family research for years, it's time to start writing a book and preserving that history, and checking your will to be sure there are instructions of what to do with your research, and who has access to your websites.  Don't assume your heirs will take care of it with the same love you have for it.  It's a New Year!   Take the Plunge.

Friday, December 22, 2017

I have been having a bit of an epiphany these last weeks.  I discovered that I am a multipotentialite.  Watch this TED talk for an in depth description. https://www.ted.com/talks/emilie_wapnick_why_some_of_us_don_t_have_one_true_calling.
I also joined The Infinite Receivers group on FaceBook.  Since then, I have been receiving all kinds of inspiration, energy, funds, and clients.

I also have been open to more connections between genealogy and my other passions.  I am working with a client with Scandanavian ancestry, and in comes a wonderful magazine I get Piecework.  Its a neddlecraft magazine that covers antique pieces like socks, and includes how to knit, embroider, or crochet them today.  The most recent edition is about socks.  It gave examples of hand-knitted socks from various centuries and countries, including Ludders.  These are "snow socks" from Norway.   They were used throughout most of Norway, except where the temperatures fluctuate more and allow for wetter snow.  Ludders are knitted socks with a sewn in sole and upper part of the shoe.  These are a traditional element that was most likely brought here to the US by his Norwegian ancestors.  I am hoping to make a pair for him along with his genealogy package.  This is what I love about my vocation.  I can bring a bit of my different disciplines into a family history and expand their understanding of their family or remind them of long-lost warm memories of home and family. 
Please look at a variety of different disciplines when researching your family.  Check with fiber people (knitters, crocheters, embroiderers, etc), blacksmiths, carpenters, farmers etc. to learn more about how things may have been done in your ancestor's times.  Visit historical sites that are contemporary with your ancestors and feel free to ask the docents or recreators if the skills or items they are using or displaying are widespread or something that is local.  Ask questions as if you were a child.  Children aren't afraid to ask questions.  They are curious and don't have the inhibitions we do.  The answers you get will allow your understanding of your ancestors to grow and be more complete.

Friday, April 29, 2016

Research Logs

What are research logs and why would I want to use one?  Research logs are simply a way to know what you looked at, where to find it again, what was found and sometimes more importantly what you did not find in that source.  How many times have you looked at a book or film, only to re-order it or go back to it to look for the same information?  If we are honest, most of us have done exactly that sometime in our research career.  This is where a log comes in handy.

Let me demonstrate what a simple log from AmericanAncestors.com looks like. The first piece of information is the repository, the location of where you got the source (a library, the Family History Library, or Ancestry.com). The second piece of information is the date you found this information. A chart follows which asks for simple information – Source Information (title, author, publisher, published date, etc.), Call Number (file #, URL, etc.), Objective (what were you looking for), and Results (what you did and/or did NOT find). Many times, we forget to write down or note somewhere what we did NOT find, and this can be very helpful in solving brick walls. If information cannot be located in sources where we expected to find it, this can tell us that our ancestor may have been located elsewhere, used a very different name, or that we are asking the wrong question, etc. Here is a link to the AmericanAncestors.com version - American Ancestor's Research Log

You should not have to log in or be a member to access this and many more of their learning resources.

Copyright © 2015 Ann Royal

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

A Western Massachusetts Genealogical Conference

Well, things are coming together for the "first" Western Massachusetts Genealogical Conference.  Keep the date, September 9-10, 2016;  I will have more details very soon.

This conference will be themed around the history and genealogy of Western Massachusetts (the four counties - Berkshire, Franklin, Hampshire and Hampden).

Do you have roots in Western Massachusetts?  Keep watching as more details start pouring in.

The Demise of Family Tree Maker

We knew it was coming, but we all hoped it wouldn't be for a long time yet.  Ancestry has made the announcement. "Ancestry to Retire Family Tree Maker Software".  Support is supposed to continue through January 2017, but we'll have to see what happens.

My biggest concern is that the online version just won't be as robust as the desktop version.  I certainly hope that Ancestry will be adding even more features to its online version.  I use FTM2014 on a daily basis, and I had hoped if they were going to nix it, they would have a premium online version for those of us who consider ourselves "Power Users".  The current online version is okay, but doesn't have all the tools available that a "seasoned" genealogist would be looking for in a program.

The advantages to this is that the database and all its inherent maintenance problems will no longer need to be administered by the individual, but maintained by cloud servers.  This will keep it safe from fire, theft, and other issues.  Compatibility will also become less of an issue, no longer Mac vs PC vs Linux, etc. 

For a wonderful discussion about this and other advantages of Cloudware, see Dick Eastman's article, "Are you Using the Cloud?"

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Cemeteries - The Restoration of Hillside Cemetery in North Adams, MA

Why do we flock to cemeteries?  Why do we act like the dogs in the movie UP when the word cemetery is mentioned?

This is our last earthly connection to our ancestors, and the further back in time we go, sometimes the only earthly connection we have.  We go to cemeteries to find that connection to our ancestors, our great grandmothers and great grandfathers.  Whole families can be buried together in a private cemetery or together in several abutting lots in a public cemetery.

We tell ourselves that it is just good methodology, doing a reasonably thorough search of all the sources of information, but it's the connection we crave.  So why do cemeteries fall into disrepair?  Is it that we have lost interest?  Do we no longer care about cemeteries and the graves of our families?

No, I don't think that's true.  I think we get busy being busy in our lives.  We don't want to take the time to learn how to properly take care of the stones, because we are busy doing something else.  We don't want to take pictures of old stones, because our kids won't appreciate it anyway.  They're too busy texting.  But this isn't everyone, let me tell you about some extraordinary students from MCLA (Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts, formerly North Adams State College)

Students at MCLA spend time in the Hillside Cemetery of North Adams, Massachusetts helping to preserve these precious pieces of our history.  They choose to help Roger Eurbin of the North Adams Cemetery Commission preserve our precious past.  The college encourages all of their students to do something to give back to the city that hosts their college.  These students could choose a great many other venues to give back to their community, but they choose the hot sun and the extremely hilly cemetery as their place of choice to pay it forward.

Hillside Cemetery of North Adams is a marvelous cemetery and is listed as a National Historic Preservation site.  It spans both sides of Route 2, the older section being on the Brown Street side of the street, and the "newer" section being on the other.  Hillside is a closed cemetery, but those who own lots and wish to be buried there may still do so. Military graves of Revolutionary War heroes through possibly the Vietnam Era await remembrance in Hillside.  Roger and friends have slowly been trying to straighten memorial stones and footstones that are threatening to fall over or worse, fall down one of the steep hills in the cemetery.  Embankments have crumbled making traversing this beautiful cemetery more difficult, and some stones have disintegrated to the point of either being unreadable or have lost their bases and now lie on the ground or both. They are constantly cutting back the brush that threatens to swallow some of the graves and are working hard to make sure that those graves that are to have perpetual care actually get that care.  Roger, especially, tries to personally look after the veteran graves of Hillside.  He feels a duty to those who served our country from its very beginnings to now.

I first met Roger when I was looking for my 2nd Great Grandfather, John H Adams, and his wife Julia F Loomis, and Anna, who I thought at the time would be his mother.  It turns out that Anna was their daughter, who hadn't lived long.  He was able to lead me directly to their resting places.  What a thrill it was to see where they were!  No longer were they just names on a page, they were real.  While traversing up and down the greater and lesser hills and knolls of Hillside, I found Buckleys, other Loomis's, Briggs and other possible collateral lines.  It's going to be fun searching for these long-lost people and see if they're relatives of my direct lines.

As a newer member of the +Western Massachusetts Genealogy Society (WMGS), I volunteered to help out Roger and Hillside.  I am the Chairperson of the Restore Hillside Cemetery Project, and I am organizing a day of working on Hillside - righting stones with Cemetery Personnel Supervision, taking photos of stones before their faces are destroyed, and transcribing the cemetery stones.  This will not only preserve the cemetery and its remaining memorials, but will allow Roger and myself to create a searchable index, so the Cemetery personnel can more easily assist researchers in finding their lost family members.

I will be publishing a date for this restoration project as soon as the membership of WMGS vote on a day.  It will be in early fall of 2014, so keep your date books open, and spread the word.  The more the merrier.  Please feel free to contact me directly.