Image courtesy of mack2happy / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Getting started in family history or genealogy research isn't terribly difficult, it just requires a little bit of information. It's often best to interview relatives that you know about ancestors that they can remember. Start by making a list of your grandparents and their pertinent information, including birth, death, and marriage dates, etc. Hopefully you can find out the names of their parents too and you'll have a great start.
After you have a base of info, find a family tree software package or site of your choice and enter that information. I like to use family tree maker and ancestry.com, but there are a multitude of other great options out there. The advantage of using software like family tree maker, is that it is linked to ancestry.com and will help you make discoveries automatically.
I was at a workshop last week about preserving 20th Century visual materials and was shaken by a little nugget that was mentioned. VHS tapes may have as little as a 15 year lifespan if not stored in good conditions. Yikes! Now, that's not to say that all tapes are going to be junk and there's nothing we can do about it, but it is a wake up call to start thinking about migrating them to a new medium. I still have a vcr, so I haven't worried about the vhs tapes at all...I can still play them so, what do I have to worry about? Well, it may be that I can't play them...I haven't tried to play them in some time and I really don't know where they all are. Also, have I been keeping my vcr clean? Do I have a vcr head cleaner? All of these questions are relevant and can effect how our tapes play, if they play at all. So, I'm not going to panic, but I will be taking immediate action to move things I have on video soon. It looks like there are some ways to digitize video without spending an arm and a leg. Stay tuned and as I start to work on this process, I'll update here.
Thinking and about work on this Wednesday. This is Willard N. Brink II, my grandfather, posing with his Brink's Hatchery truck. I remember him as a retired Postman, but before he carried the mail, he was raising chickens. His wife, my grandmother Leona, was a librarian in her later years. I also have a great grandfather on my Mom's side of the family who raised chickens for awhile. I may have missed my calling.
My Gr-Grandmother with her siblings and her parents in front of their sod home near Mason City, Nebraska. 1880's. This was the initial dwelling on what would become a successful ranch. Happy Earth Day!
Memorial Day was one of the bigger Holidays for my Mom growing up. When I was young, I was fortunate to travel "up the line" with my Mom and Uncle to visit the graves of their grandparents, etc. "Up the Line", meant driving up the highway from where my Mom was raised to all the little towns along the way where our family had put down roots. These were people I didn't know, but had a kinship with. On these trips I was fortunate to hear many stories that went along with the cemeteries. My great grandfather was the undertaker, his wife would sing at the funerals, my uncle helped plant and water the trees along the entry road to the cemetery (literally hauling buckets by hand). My grandfather's twin siblings who died in infancy are buried in unmarked graves under a tree near the family plot. These stories are endangered. I have decided to preserve them. Here are some of the ways I will do that...
1. Preserve media. I have a video I shot on one of these trips. I just took it to a firm that is going to digitize it. I'm hopeful that it contains most of the landmarks I'm trying to preserve. I'm excited to see it...again.
2. Create a website. This will probably be the portal to where these memories will live. I'll tell the stories, show the photos and videos, play the audio, all of the things that we've held on to, will have a digital home here.
3. Make and collect new content. I have been planning an oral history project for some time now. Time to stop talking about it and actually do it. I'm also going to continue to put my research up in an accessible way using this site.
These are just a few of my thoughts over lunch, anyone else doing something similar?
One challenge we all face is what to do with all the data that we collect about our ancestors. For years I have been trying to gather all the copies, photos, digital files that I have and put them together in one place. Simple files on my computer weren't really working for me, so I decided to start building websites.
Why a website?
The power of a website is that you can put all your materials together in one place and make the links and connections between people and families that are so important to represent. I also enjoy being able to share the materials I have collected and discoveries I have made. Another great thing about a website is that you can continue to expand and grow. As we continue our research we gather more and more materials and these can be simply added to the website whenever we're ready. I also have several other ideas for future projects and story-telling, so I can add context to the data that I've collected. These stories will help my family understand their ancestors in their own worlds. Once I start creating these stories, I can just simply create another page for the website and voila! there it is.
I have also discovered many new things and come across old things I've forgotten, simply by organizing and posting materials to the website. Being able to compare, contrast, and link documents allows for a whole new perspective. I have also been able to connect with many other researchers out in the world through my blog and website. We are truly living in a global society and the internet is our passport.
Is it hard to build a blog or website?
The quick answer is....NO! I have not programming or coding background and when I decided to do the site, I was searching for an easy and free website building program. That is how I came across Weebly. Weebly, like I said, is a free and easy website builder. Just pick a theme, drag and drop, and start creating! I have built several sites using Weebly and can genuinely say it has been quite easy and fun.
If you're looking for a way to organize your digital files and tell your family's story. I encourage you to start experimenting with building a website. You'll not only discover, how simple it can be, but perhaps you'll make some discoveries in your family history along the way.
I transcribed a letter the other day (scroll to bottom of the page), a moving letter from a soon-to-be Father-in-law (John Beynon) to a soon-to-be Son-in-law (Benjamin Nicholas), giving his blessing to the marriage and their decision to move away from the family. This is a father, doing the right thing, but expressing a bit of regret that his daughter (Margaret Beynon) will no longer be close to him. Benjamin and Margaret ended up in America, so I'll have to check census records and maybe some other resources to see if they settled somewhere else first. This very interesting letter adds so much personality to the historical figures that we only know by birth and death dates, census records, and headstones.
p.s. Any Welsh speakers or readers want to help me with the address?
I've been experimenting with making videos that incorporate my family history and genealogy materials and information. I put one together on some of my Peterson ancestors and it was a fun learning experience. I used iMovie and Youtube and felt like I was able to figure it out pretty easily. I'm looking forward to making more and better videos in the future. Anyone else out there doing this?
Here are a few historic couples from my family. :) Happy Valentine's Day!