Tuesday, March 18, 2014

More to come soon

Just a note that I will not be updating for the next couple of weeks as my wife and I are expecting a new baby.  In chaos of bring home the new bundle of joy I will not be able to publish as frequently as usual. 

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Do not forget about the living...especally the elderly and the interesting

Older relatives (relatively speaking) provide tremendous insight into the past.  This is a source of information that is commonly overlooked as we are searching the library for dates from centuries ago.  This website is all about getting the story of relatives and going “beyond the date” and conversation with the living is an excellent way to do that.   

It not just “the elderly” but also about “the interesting”, both have their purpose in your genealogy.  The goal is about documenting the story for your interest but also for future generations when they decide to take an interest (and that could be a while).  

The Elderly
First the elderly are a window into the past and their stories will not be here forever, if you don’t get the stories now they may take them with them when they go.  Anyone who has been doing family research has regrets about stories they would have liked to have heard about or questions they would have liked to asked to older relatives.  Even simple questions like “Did you have any aunts or uncles” could have answered many questions had they been asked.  But some relatives take extremely useful(from a research perspective) answers with them or simply forget over time.  So getting to them as soon as possible it necessary.  

Depending on your age you may be the oldest living relative if that is the case thats ok, write down your childhood memories.  Did you remember your parents? your grandparents? what were they like what memories to do you have of them.  Family stories about the great- great grandfather who was in the Civil War would never wear a grey suit.  Or the Great uncle that never wore shoes.  These kind of stories need to be written down or they won’t get passed down.  

If you are not the oldest who is, what do they remember?  Everyone is different, some people have sharp vivid memories while others forget information shortly after hearing it.  Everyone is important and you might need to ask many people to get the full stories.  One might have a general idea and another might have a fuller picture but there is also the chance that a third person will say that the first two were wrong.    

Make time and use technology (modern and old fashioned) Its all well and good to want to get these stories but the holder of the stories could live many hours or states(or countries)  away.  These stories are still valuable and still obtainable.   

The Interesting
The interesting, its not all about the elderly that have stories to tell.  Most people have fairly typical current stories to tell they were married in a certain year they have 2.5 children and have worked in a particular field for so many years.  These stories are important and need to be documented, but the interesting stories a the atypical ones that should be documented more in depth.  This category is the one that falls out of the norm.  Is there a half-uncle in Alaska?  How did he end up there and why did he stay?  Is there an uncle that was a cook on cargo ships for 20 years?  What memories does he have of that experience?  Some of these stories can be turn out to be sad but sometimes they turn out to defining experience in the lives of the people you are talking to.

The elderly in the interesting have stories to tell we just need to get to them and get them documented before they forget them or take them with them.

My next post i will offer 10 tips for interviewing the living for genealogy purposes.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Cemetery hopping with kids

Respectful,  Educational and Engaging

Photo by Oregon Department of Transportation found on commons.wikimedia.org

When tracking relative it will eventually lead you to the to graveyard.  Most genealogist want to get their dates from the source that is etched in stone.  Death certificates are great but they are not etched in stone. Although there can be discrepancies with grave markers too, they are nice to have in your collection of evidence of a person.  

One of my earliest genealogy memories is going cemetery hunting with my grandparents.  I don’t remember who we saw but I remember reading the stones and posing for pictures with distance relatives.

Morbid for some, memories for me.

Some of you may think that you may never get to that point because of kids.

You: “Cemetery hopping would be great but I can’t I’ve got small kids.”  
Me: “Totally understandable but why not take them along.”
You: “You don’t know my kids”  

Taking kids cemetery can be a family affair if it’s done correctly by making it a fun event that engages and educates. The following tips can be helpful for a successful trip to the grave yard

Make it an event and plan it out

- Plan this out in advance with a plan that involves everyone.  This is not something we are going to fit in before the grocery store on our list of errands.  

- Map out where you are going.  Try to not make it too far away or incorporate some other event with it (local restaurant maybe)

- Who is going to be there.  Explain who is buried there and how the children are related to them.  Do you have a story about the person to make it personal.  It’s funny when a child can relate to the stone of the person “It this the woman that made ugly sweaters?” “Is this the uncle that never wore shoes?” The funnier the story the better.  “Is this the great uncle that was buried in daddy’s suit because PopPop pulled the wrong one out of the closet to give the funeral home?”      

When you arrive

- Enlist the kids to help find the marker.  “We are looking for Smith not Jones because it is moms side of the family?”

- Take your data with you.  It is not unusual  to find someone not in your direct line but related in the area.  If you have your data with you.  “Lets see who that is, that is Great Great Uncle Tom, he died before he got married.”

- Be respectful.  Make sure the kids understand respect for the dead, you are there to learn about relatives not play. Grave markers are not jungle gyms.  This is especially true if there is a funeral going on.

- Explore a little, are all the relatives in one section or are they spread out? If there are any particular markers or statues that are unique you might want to get a closer look at them.  

-  Plan not to take too much time mourning.  If your parents or a close relative is buried there it might be nice to bring some flowers but don’t expect too much alone time with kids around.

- Do an activity besides flowers, rubbing are good to have.  Take a pencil and and sheet of computer paper, place the paper on the stone and rub the letters onto the paper.  Bring plenty of paper and pencils as this takes practice

- Get some pictures.  Some kids might not like the idea but many will pose right up to the stone and get in a picture.

-  Don’t forget why you are there.  You get so caught up that you forget you are there to verify dates with the info you already have.  Take picture(with your smartphone) of the stones and reference where in the cemetery they are.  

Lastly don’t over do it.  Doing this activity with kids is not something to be done too often.  Doing this more than a couple time a year is plenty or it will lose the fun of it.

On a side note in some traditions it is acceptable to have picnics at the cemetery.  This is too Adam’s family for my taste but if you want to take a blanket and basket and have lunch with the dead be my guest.