You’ve finally realized how much you don’t know about your family stories, and you want to learn them. But you’re no genealogist. How can you start capturing your heritage today in a fun and interesting way?
1) Learn at home from:
Your own memories. There’s probably more stored in your memory banks than you think. Start a notebook or computer file in which you record any family stories that come to mind. Fill out as much as you can on a pedigree chart, which shows you several sets of parents at a glance, or on family group sheets, which each show one set of parents and their children. Pray for sharper recall of these stories and facts or opportunities to rediscover them.
Your loved ones’ memories. Ask a relative to help you fill in the blanks on your charts. Contact anyone in the family who has done some genealogy or who has all the clan documents or photos. Gather favorite stories from loved ones. (The next segment of this series will give you detailed tips on how to interview family members.)
Family paperwork. Look for birth, marriage, and death certificates; baby books; family Bibles; funeral and burial paperwork; school and church records; news clippings; old medical or insurance paperwork; legal documents; letters and diaries; books of remembrance or family histories; and photographs. Watch for names, dates, and places but also descriptions of people and their stories.
Six simple tips for getting your home organized, from professional organizer (and mother) Linda Isom.
Professional organizer Linda Isom has organized her own home and was a featured organizer on this week’s episode of A&E’s Hoarders, called "Eileen/Judy." (Read more about it by clicking here.) “In a nutshell, an organized house is an enormous time saver,” said Isom. “The general structure to the home influences children’s behavior, has a positive effect on your psyche, and makes it much easier to get things accomplished.” Having loads of clutter experience Isom has a few tried and true tips to share with us.
1. Make a "go-backs" basket
One of our favorite ideas from Isom is the go-backs basket. Often movie rentals or rebate coupons sit in the house for weeks, and sometimes they make it to the car where they sit . . . for weeks. Isom utilizes a regular basket or bin to keep near the door. Place items that need to go to the recycling, rental store, or post office right in the bin. On your way out the door in the morning, carry the box to your car. As you drive to work, carpool, or run errands, you will have everything with you to deposit. At the end of the day, sweep your car of anything that does not belong: kids’ toys, magazines, those really pretty but really uncomfortable new shoes you tried to wear all day at work, and drop those in the bin to bring back inside.
This is the first of a four-part series on family history, so keep checking back each week for more great advice!
Some people think they can’t write an interesting family history. “My ancestors were boring,” they say. There’s nothing to tell.” Others find too much drama in the past, and find it painful or embarrassing to record. Still others haven’t taken interest in writing their family stories at all.
The truth is that all family histories are fascinating, and all of us can write them well. It just takes careful research, imagination, and a willingness to add your own voice. Use these five strategies to write a captivating narrative of anyone’s life story.
1. Find stories in the facts. Study names, dates, and places to see what stories they tell you. Was your great-grandmother’s youngest child born five months after his father died? Did your aunt move 600 miles away from home as a teenaged bride?
Study larger facts about your ancestor’s culture, history, religion, occupation, etc. What was life like for that Southern sharecropper or poor Russian immigrant? Get more tips on this kind of research from Bringing Your Family History to Life through Social History by Katherine Scott Sturdevant.
2. Gather living memories. If your family history project covers recent generations, interview your relatives. Ask what were the most important relationships and events in someone’s life and why. Ask for sensory details (What did he look like? How did it smell at the machine shop?). Ask for that person’s opinions or feelings about the way things happened.
A horribly embarrassing trip to the grocery store in PJs turned into a funny experience and then a life-changing lesson.
Several years ago we spent the Christmas holidays skiing at a cabin. That was a really good idea for the first two days, but by the end of the third day I could no longer walk, so I ended up lounging in my (very cute) pajamas. Later that evening I agreed to go to the store because my kids decided they didn’t want what had been prepared for dinner, but I really didn’t want to change. My sisters-in-law were sitting at the kitchen table and I asked them, “Do you think it would be a big deal if I wore my pajamas to the grocery store?” Their reply? “No, you will be there for five minutes; no one will even notice what you are wearing.”
So I went to the store. I answered a phone call as I walked in and also noticed there was no one in line at the Redbox machine. (As I am sure you are aware, that never happens.) So I decided to return the three DVDs we had rented the day before. I don’t know if you know this, but the Redbox is the slowest machine invented. Before too long a line had formed behind me. Since I was now happened to be first in line, I decided to rent another movie for the night. As I waited for the movie to vend, a lady from the back of the line came up to me and asked, “Are you on the phone?” I looked at her and smiled and waved. Of course I was on my phone; she could see me talking into it. She continued, “Because you can’t use this machine while you are talking on the phone.” Now, in my defense, I thought she was telling me that you don’t have to be a rocket scientist to use the Redbox machine, so I giggled and winked and waved again, and she got back in line.
In addition to the many traditional ways of providing service within the church, through callings, service projects, or setting up tables and putting them away, the Church now offers several opportunities to serve that can easily be managed in a short time frame and from the comfort of your home.
You can take five minutes from your day to visit Helping in the Vineyard (vineyard.lds.org) to apply your skills and talents to a greater cause. This official Church website for online service provides opportunities we can accomplish from our homes or offices for five minutes or however long we have to devote.
And with a variety of opportunities that are constantly updated, you can find something that perfectly suits your interests and abilities. Here are some of the ways you can serve right now:
1. Translation. One of the projects the website features is translating English documents into 31 different languages. Whether you’ve studied languages, gone on a foreign-speaking mission, or English is your second language, you will find several opportunities to use these skills to help the Church provide magazines, manuals, and other works to countries that would otherwise have to wait a much longer time to get the information translated in their language. If you know another language but do not feel comfortable translating, you can still help by voting on the translations. Volunteers right now are working on the Teachings of the Living Prophets institute manual that will encourage more people worldwide to listen and follow the words of the living prophets.
2. Document comparison. Don’t speak another language? Don’t worry about it. There are still many more activities to choose from. You can assist by comparing text from an original document to the online version, identifying page breaks, and paragraph matching. Each of these activities has an easy-to-follow how-to video that explains the steps you take. By making sure the information is correct and double checking the articles, publication of these works is able to continue at an increased speed. This feature will be available soon, and in the meantime, there are still plenty of other options to participate in.