Every genealogist I know is always looking for a better way to organize family information, photos, documents and stories, and for easy ways to use them to create genealogy presentations.
Today we’re at the National Genealogical Society Conference in Raleigh, North Carolina, where Philipp Mayer of Group National Publishing is launching a new cloud-based product, ProStamm, which does just that.
There are a lot of template based publishing sites on the net that offer one-stop shopping where you can lay out your book’s interior, create a cover, and print your book. Should you use one?
A chance discovery of a piece of family ephemera accidentally hidden in a piece of furniture for almost 70 years opens up a series of insights into my grandmothers' life and times. The experience provides a good reminder to family historians that family stories aren't always where you might be looking for them. Think about what you might find among your own family's unexamined ephemera.
If you want to write a family history that people will want to read, it’s a good idea to think about those potential readers before you begin. What interests and inspires them?
Most genealogical researchers see their task as the pursuit of facts about their ancestors – births, deaths, marriages, children, death, occupations, and home places. Lists of facts seldom engage people. Think about history class in high school. What does engage people, even inspire them, is the drama of real people’s lives. Whether it’s portrayed in a Pulitzer Prize winning piece of historical biography like those written by David McCullough, in the avalanche of memoirs filling the New York Times Best Seller List, or less lofty prose like People Magazine or supermarket tabloids, real life drama fascinates readers.
How can you capture the drama in your own family history and share it with your readers?
If you set out to create compelling biographical sketches of your ancestors you’ll be sure to have the drama one doesn’t find in the facts of an ancestor’s pedigree chart.
I never met my Uncle Cecil. He died June 17, 1944, just over two and a half years before I was born. But I thought a lot about him as we took a few days off over Memorial Day Weekend. That was appropriate because Uncle Cecil, known to everyone in the family as Squeak, along with so many other American soldiers, was killed in Normandy, near the town of Sainte Mere Eglise, eleven days after D-day.
We are working on a second edition of Squeak’s War: Letters from the Front Lines of World War II...As we edit Squeak’s letters, and prepare pictures and documents for the book, I can’t help but think that there is no better way to honor someone who has served in our military than to remember that person’s stories so that generations that never had the opportunity to meet the veterans in their families will have a chance to know them and what they gave to defend their country.
As we move into Memorial Day weekend it is a time for all us to remember and honor those who served their country, and to reflect on how that service impacts their lives, and ours.
Are you are a veteran? We urge you to tell your story. If you know a veteran, we urge you to encourage and assist them in making sure that their story is preserved. At Stories To Tell, we are always happy to help you preserve your veteran’s story.
There’s no better way to learn than to listen to a master. Last night Nancy and I had the opportunity to hear two-time Pulitzer Prize winner David McCullough talk about his new book The Wright Brothers.
Today we’re in St. Charles, Missouri for the National Genealogical Society Conference which opens tomorrow. We’ll spend four days talking with people who are working on family history books about how to tell their stories. The best advice I might offer is three insights contained in McCullough’s talk last night in Washington D. C..
Sarah Hoggatt discusses how research in a genealogy museum in High Point, North Carolina helped her discover a treasure trove of information showing her connections to a “huge” family and in a database of cousins kept by the museum.
More and more genealogists are looking to DNA testing to open new avenues of research into their family histories. Stories To Tell's Sarah Hoggatt recently decided to take the plunge. She outlines what she learned about DNA testing providers and how she ultimately chose the provider she would use.
I searched for my grandfather’s name on a whim. While designing books about other people’s family history, I had started to wonder about my own. Growing up, I was told little to nothing about my family heritage. Only as an adult did I learn about my great-grandparents. My grandma’s dad ran a carnival in a mall for a time and her mom immigrated to the United States from England; she is the one I’m named after. Their pictures now sit a on a bookshelf in my home along with a card she wrote shortly after my birth. My grandpa’s dad was an evangelistic preacher and pastor and his mother was an immigrant from England as well. Knowing I am also in ministry, a cousin mailed me one of my great-grandfather’s ministerial certificates – a gift I treasure. But this is all I knew of my dad’s side of the family and I wanted to know more.
For many genealogists it’s all about the tree. Creating a factual record of generations of ancestors is the focus of years of research. Filling in lines on your tree and adding names to your pedigree chart is a worthy goal, but it’s only a part of creating a family history. There is a story behind those entries on the tree. Capturing that narrative is what will interest readers.
Begin with an old idea which appeared first in Greek concepts of drama: unity of time, place, and action. Each of your ancestors was born, lived and died in a specific place at a specific time. Part of their story is entwined with the historical context of their time and place. Here are some questions that will help you discover the relationship between your ancestors and their time and place.
Veterans Day is the day Americans officially honor the service of our military veterans. What better way is there to honor them than to preserve the stories of their service?
That preservation can take a variety of forms. The Library of Congress Veterans History Project at the American Folklife Center is preserving oral history interviews with veterans. The project website provides specifics on how you can participate and offers guides to the interview process. A quick web search of veterans history” will provide listings for many state and local veterans history projects which support the work being done at the Library of Congress.
Books make a great preservation tool.
You plan to write a family history book. You have been diligently researching for some time and amassed a good deal of knowledge about your ancestors, but there’s a lot more you would like to find out.
You are not alone. We spoke at the Genealogy Event in New York City last weekend where a number of our conversations with family historians included the words, “I just need to research a few more things, then I’ll begin writing my book.”
Before you follow the inclination to put off starting to write while you try to gather a bit more research, you might want to consider an observation by two time Pulitzer Prize-winning historian David McCullough. In a 2003 Interview with National Endowment for the Humanities Chairman Bruce Cole, McCullough said, “There’s an awful temptation to just keep on researching. There comes a point where you just have to stop, and start writing. When I began, I thought that the way one should work was to do all the research and then write the book. In time I began to understand that it’s when you start writing that you really find out what you don’t know and need to know.”
If you are looking for ways to share your ancestor stories and family history, there are a growing number of online sites offering easy ways to do it. They provide templates with which you can upload everything from a single anecdote to a full book. These service providers also promise to store your stories either on-site or with a cloud-based system.
We always encourage people to share their stories, but advise caution when embracing a net-based solution. The latest object lesson is Ancestry.com’s decision to shut down its My Canvas publishing program.
We are getting ready to head to Salt Lake City for the annual conference of the International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies which begins July 27th.
It’s always fun to talk with enthusiastic people about genealogy and their family history. But what we are especially interested in about this conference is one of the activities for participants.
The Conference Blog explains:
One hundred years ago, the second day of our conference, marks the outbreak of World War One. The anniversary of the “War to End all Wars” will be a major focus of our conference, with sessions exploring how the War impacted the lives of our ancestors.
Consider submitting your World War I Story to be included in our collection. Your story need not be about the war or someone who was in the military, but it can tell the story of what your relatives did during the war.
There’s no better way to memorialize our ancestors than to tell their stories.
We are looking forward to reading and talking about the stories participants submit which will be posted online at the conference.
Thinking about writing a family history book someday? Most genealogists and family historians do.
Over the years, we have offered lots of advice on how to research your ancestors in ways that will help you write an interesting family narrative that will engage your readers. Today we will focus on a much more nuts and bolts topic: documentation.
Must your family history have a bibliography and source notes? No. There are no rules about what your book will or won’t contain. You are the author. You get to decide. However, if you want to create a record of your ancestors that other genealogists (maybe the next generation in your own family) can build on, you’ll need to document your sources.
As Family Search advises, “The best way to judge the quality of a family group record is by its source footnotes.”
So, if you do want document the story your book tells, here are two pieces advice that will save you time and frustration as you do.
What are you doing for Preservation Week? It’s an important question for genealogists and family historians, whose mission is to preserve their family’s heritage. Here’s a chance to take action!
The American Library Association launched Preservation Week in 2010 out of a concern that “our cultural and information heritage…continues to be at risk.” The goal of this week, April 27-May 3, is “preserving and collecting personal, family, or community heritage.” You can see it on the ALA website Preservation Week: Pass It On!
The ALA’s efforts focus on our tangible heritage – documents, photos, artifacts, and digital collections of records. That’s good! But what about your family’s intangibles, the family stories and lore? Here are some things you should be doing right now.
Your family has lived through a variety of historical turning points. But if you’re like many genealogists who want to turn their research into a family history, you don’t think about your ancestors in relation to those pivotal moments in history.
Here's why you might want to.
Genealogy is not a topic that often hits the pages of the New York Times, except when the business pages report on companies like Ancestry or My Heritage. Today’s op-ed piece Your Ancestors, Your Fate by is one that should generate wide interest, especially among those interested in genealogy and family history. According to the author, researcher Gregory Clark, “To a striking extent your overall life chances can be predicted not just from your parents’ status but also from your great-great-great-grandparents.”
University of California, Davis economics professor Gregory Clark is the author of The Son Also Rises: Surnames and the History of Social Mobility. He and fellow researchers began with a simple question: what is the reason for a person’s upward social mobility, or lack of it?
Clark reported that,” …my colleagues and I estimate that 50 to 60 percent of variation in overall status is determined by your lineage. The fortunes of high-status families inexorably fall, and those of low-status families rise, toward the average — what social scientists call “regression to the mean” — but the process can take 10 to 15 generations (300 to 450 years), much longer than most social scientists have estimated in the past.”
When your family gathers this holiday season it’s only a matter of time before one of the children says, “Tell me a story.”
There is some strong evidence that the child will be fortunate if the story you choose to tell is one drawn from your family’s history.
“The single most important thing you can do for your family,” said Bruce Filer in a recent New York Times article The Stories That Bind Us, “may be the simplest of all: develop a strong family narrative.”
In The Atlantic this month, Elaine Reese, Professor of Psychology at the University of Otago in New Zealand explores why that is true in an article titled, What Kids Learn From Hearing Family Stories.