Friday, May 11, 2007

Inventive Things To Do With Your Research

If you're like me, after you've researched the family for twenty years and you have amassed a great deal of documents, photocopies, old photographs and information . . . you're not sure what to actually do with it. It's been my experience that unless a person is a fellow researcher, or just particularly interested in the family tree, most people can't make heads or tails out of the charts and their eyes start to glaze over after a few minutes of looking at all of your hard work. And they're only back to great, great grandpa! Considering part of the reason I worked so hard to get all of this information down was to pass on to the next generation, this was a matter of great concern. So, I got creative.
Here's three ways to present the information on your family tree to somebody who might care, but isn't a genealogist himself. And besides, we all know that what makes the ancestor so interesting is the stories behind him or her, not just their names and dates.
1.) Family history scrapbook! My favorite. I've made several for each one of my children (with the same information and photographs, triplicated. Since I have three kids.) I've found I have way too much info to put in one scrapbook, so I had to make two or three for each kid. So, this can be a daunting task. So, if you want to condense yours and put two generations on one scrapbook page that works, too. Basically, I start page one with whichever child the book is for. On that page I put his or her vital statistics with lots of pictures from their childhood. Sometimes I do a couple of pages each of the first three generations. Next page(s) I do that child's parents etc. Then grandparents. You get the picture. What I've done is try to do "sides of the family." So, even though my husband will be included on the "parents" page, when it comes to the grandparents page, I only follow my side of the family or his side of the family, depending on which book I'm working on. And then I just fill the book with all of the info I've gathered on my family tree, only instead of boring charts, I use photographs of the ancestor (if I have them) I make copies of old documents and shrink them down to fit on the page, I use lots of dye cuts and stickers and what have you to represent a particular time period. Like, for my revolutionary war ancestor, I found stickers of Washington crossing the Delaware and I used those on a page of red, white and blue stars. It's very important to write a little something about the ancestor in question aside from names and dates. You could even write about the difficulty you had finding this ancestor. What nationality you think he might be. Details of military service, or court records. (I had an ancestor sue his wife for not performing her "wifely duties.") On one of my husband's lines, I knew very little about the person, other than they lived in a particular place in Germany. So, I did some research on Germany during that time period and discovered that Beethoven had made a visit to that area during that time. So, I wrote about that, to try and put some sort of face to this ancestor. It's difficult when you only know a name and a date. So, that's my favorite way to put my information down, because I've yet to meet anybody who's looked at a family history scrapbook that was bored. My kids love them and although they may never be researchers themselves, they've got the family history preserved. (Don't forget to save a page for aunts, uncles and cousins.)
2) a genealogical quilt. I made one of these, too. Actually, I've made three. One, I did in an Indian Hatchet design, which gives a large area of white to write on. With washable fabric ink (or even embroidery) I wrote the names of my grandparents, their children, their grandchildren and the beginnings of the great grandchildren, on individual squares. I tried to match up fabric with my impression of the person. Like my grandmother's square is in feedsack cloth, my grandpa's is an old shirt of his. My square is in Christmas fabric, since my birthday is in December. I did the same thing for the otherside of the family only I used the old friendship block. Lastly, I got a bit more adventureous and did one with all of my known ancestors names, dates and place of birth written on the blocks. There's no way to tell who is the parents of whom unless you do the math and substract, but that's okay. Just the fact that all of their names are on one quilt makes me happy and is a priceless heirloom.
3) Family recipe scrapbook. This is not quite as big of an undertaking as the other two projects. What I did was gather recipes from as many people in the family as I could, found recipes that my grandparent's used, I even have a recipe for my great, great Aunt Minnie's divinity. My aunt graciously gave me an old canning book that belonged to my grandmother, where Grandma had written in the margins the changes to the recipes. Not only did I put that little booklet in the scrapbook, but I wrote out two of the recipes. On each recipe page, I put a photograph of the person and a paragraph of how they're related to me, and their "history." Now, this won't go back nearly as far as a quilt or a family history scrapbook, but it's a nice preservation of recipes of the family. Don't forget to include a recipe or two from yourself.
That's all for now!
Rett MacPherson

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