I Don't Have Great Stories


How often have you or someone else said, 'I Don't Have Great Stories." Truth be told. You're absolutely wrong.

The story behind the photo above is this: My now husband proposed to me under Albriton Tower on Texas A&M University Campus. It was the summer of notorious triple digit heat for days on end. I was working at the Dallas / Fort Worth Airport and had a weekend off. My plans were to leave work, pick up my boyfriend in College Station and then continue driving to introduce him to my parents in Houston. The trouble is that I only had two door air conditioning for the 4+ hour trek. Meaning, the actual a/c was out in my red Chevy S-10 extended cab pickup truck. The only way to say 'cool' was to leave the windows rolled down and a put a lead foot on the pedal.

My hubby had planned out a lovely proposal and had expected me to look hot, having just come straight from work. He hadn't planned on me stopping somewhere to change my clothes in order to endure the 100+ degree heat. I did look hot, but not the right 'hot.' Yet, his plans were in motion and I would just have to look like trash when he popped the question.

Now, I could go on and on about the intimate details and minute planning that went into the proposal. The short version is I did say yes and we were married. We have celebrated many happy years together. This is one of our family's 'great' stories that is often over looked. But, when I see this photo and look at my wedding ring, I remember the great story.

You may think you don't have great stories, but you're absolutely wrong. In fact, I dare say you're trying to hard to find your great stories. Read more about how wrong you are over at Americas Footprint. Then go capture some great memories when you're around family this weekend.

Writing Better "I Know" Reason Statements

Writing Reason Statements on FamilySearch
The feedback to my post "Fill in the Box! Please" has been tremendous. Many experienced genealogists fully agree about the importance of the FamilySearch "Reason to Attach Source" box. Budding family historians say, "Sure, but will you teach me how to write a good reason statement?"

Yes, I will do my best.

5 Truly Essential Tools for Family History

essential tools for family history

Regularly and with exasperated sighs, someone will exclaim, "I just don't know where to begin," when it comes to family history. My quick answer is, "You begin with your heart."

That's a great initial brief response but it doesn't have enough practicality. As I have pondered the question and my quip, my mind explored other ideas. Eventually, these thoughts clustered into the 5 truly essential tools for family history.

1. Memories
Researching your family history is challenging. It can have a steep learning curve and takes time. Yet, your mind is full of memories. Memories of your life, the life of your living family members, and the lives of your family members who have passed away. Each of these memories is a little page in the book of someone's life. However, many pages in our loved ones lives are blank, not because their lives were not worth recording. They're blank because no one recorded a memory.  
Before you embark on researching your family, revisit the memories of your family. Sometimes, these memories are very painful. Sometimes they are clouded because of other bad events. However, many memories are so incredibly sweet and beautiful.  
Start with your memories because they provide so much depth and are also so perishable.

2. Audience
Audience?!? What does that have to do with anything? Well, everything actually. Knowing who we want to share our memories with, helps as we dig deep into our memory bank and pull out the treasures we've kept for so long. Knowing what your audience is able to handle and most interested in, helps you be engaging with your stories.  
For instance, if I was going to tell the story of my 8th birthday party to an adult neighbor, I would probably be as brief as possible. Neighbors would be moderately interested in the story if it served a purpose in our conversation.
If I was sharing the story with a child of mine, or a grandchild someday, I would want to tell them every detail that I can remember. What I wore. What games we played. Who came. What was the best part of the event. What were my presents. 
The amount of detail is only limited to my memory bank, but I would tell the child every little detail. Many children LOVE birthday parties and will start planning the next birthday party even before they've finished celebrating the one they're celebrating today. 
 Now, if I were sharing a memory with a son who was trying to make a difficult college decision, then I would not only include my experience but perhaps some 'hindsight' perspective about how that choice played out. Perhaps some additional insight of what I may have done differently.  
As you can see, knowing my audience determines the focus and amount of detail I want to share. It would also determine what information I would want to seek after in my research. 

3. Purpose
Why do YOU want to do family history? Are you curious? Do you feel compelled? Are you trying to find relatives because you are adopted and do not feel you have a sense of history? Are you struggling with personal challenged and you're seeking to learn what are the root causes of those challenges? Do you want to share wisdom with the rising generation or not forgot those you have loved and lost?  
What is your purpose?  
My purpose is partly a religious belief but also a journey of self-discovery. The more I learn about my ancestors, the more I learn about myself. The more I learn about the ancestors in a chain of relationships, I understand my parents and grandparents and the impact they have on my life. I have found a lot of healing, gratitude, and appreciation. I have learned so many lessons that I want to pass these along to my children. In that way, I will leave a better path than the one that was before me.  My purpose drives me to continue to discover and then share what I learn with them.  
Again, what is your purpose? 

4. Format
Finally, an 'actual' tool!?!?!  
You have your memories. You know who you want to share these memories with and your purpose for it all. You'll need a format. Perhaps you'll use a family tree or pedigree chart. Perhaps you'll use a longhand letter and ink pen. Perhaps you'll type an email or write blog posts. Perhaps you'll video record yourself or someone else. Perhaps you'll sing with loved ones the songs your grandmother used to sing.  
The format possibilities are endless. Go to a large genealogy conference and the convention floor is overwhelming with so many options your head will spin. There are a plethora of options online as well. But how are you going to know which one is right for you? That all depends upon the memories you have to share, the person (or persons) you are sharing these memories with and the overall purpose you have for your efforts. (Ah... there is a method to this madness).  
If I wanted to share my family history with a young child, I would want to create something that is visual with lots of photos and simple words. A scrapbook of me as a young child, photobook with stories, a video with photos and spoken words about a memorable event, a MP3 of night times stories chapter book, or a craft of their ancestors, and so on. All of these formats are engaging for children, but which one you choose depends upon the first three truly essential tools for family history. 

5. Dedication
Investigating and compiling our memories takes time and effort. We need to be committed to completing the goals we set for ourselves. Thankfully, our memories and who we want to share them with helps provide the fuel for our dedication fire. And as we stay dedicated to our purpose, the memories come more readily. Thus, the end result for the people we want to share with in a format that is best suited for our needs becomes a treasure. 

The 5 truly essential tools for family history are the building blocks for everything else involved in building trees, finding records, and discovering new cousins. In my book, 21st Century Family Historian, the introductory chapters focuses on reorienting our view of family history. Strong emphasis is on realizing that "family history" is about your family and their stories. Thus, the truly essential tools for family history relate to recalling and capturing those stories. In so doing, our hearts turn toward the people that have gone before.

 If every beginner used these tools, they will develop a strong passion for family history.

Am I missing a truly essential tool for family history? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.

Newspapers Exposing Smith Family Mystery

If birth, marriage, and death records are the skeleton of family history, then newspapers are the flesh and muscles? I have been skeptical of newspaper research, as being something I could pursue right now given the lack of search capabilities. Additionally, I have yet to see the Columbus Dispatch and German newspapers from Columbus, Ohio in abundance online. With a vast number of ancestors in Columbus, few newspapers would be of help for me outside of Franklin County, Ohio.  I'll admit to being slightly wrong in this line of thinking.

Putting that aside, I was playing around on NewspaperArchive.com primarily because it's available free to use in a Family History Center. My family names are very common on my mother's line: Smith, Brown, Long, Young. Oh, yeah. Thank you so much!

Anyway, I decided to play around with this service and I was in for a bit of a shock. I have often heard my family speak of Newark, Ohio which is about 40 miles east of downtown Columbus. Looking in the Newark Advocate turned up this notice.

Newark Advocate, September 28, 1929, 6th column

Sale Lacks Bidders
The sheriff's sale of the Loumar hotel, formerly known as the Jackson hotel, in Scheidler street, and opposite the B. and O. depot, failed for want of bidders when Deputy Sheriff A.A. Bollinger offered it at public auction in the court house today. The appraised value is $12,000, and the first offer of $8,001, or two-thirds of the amount was not taken. The sale is the result of a suit filed by Andrew N. Smith against Lura S. Long and others. 
Andrew Smith and Lura Long are my relatives and I have featured them on this site before in scrapbook pages in my Grannie's heritage album. I've also used Lura as the example in my narrative writing tips. So, here's the line:

Me > Mom > Louise Eleanor Long > Lura Maud Smith > Andrew Nelson Smith.

So, my 2nd great-grandfather Andrew Nelson Smith filed a law suit against my great-grandmother Lura S[mith] Long over a hotel? Andrew was supposedly a barber, not a hotel owner. My great-grandmother was a homemaker, not involved in property. Her husband Harry Howard Long was a stenographer. So, how on earth did this court case come to be? Was it amicable? Was it an inheritance? And, how could a court case filed in September 1929, which could develop ill feelings, leave room for Andrew to be recorded in the 1930 US Census in the home of his daughter Lura Long and her husband Harry?

You have to love genealogy when a new discover leads to more questions than answers.

One Name Place Study: F Townsend of Marion Ohio

Townsend Family Research
Previously I wrote about the success of finding a relative by using the One Name Place Study method.  Let's continue investigating the remaining Townsends in the 1880 US Census for Franklin County, Ohio. There are five left.

As you'll remember, I am in the process of investigating the Townsends of Franklin County, Ohio in an effort to find relatives of William James Townsend who was born around 1842 in Franklin County, Ohio.

The second of the final four is F Townsend born about 1835 in England, with parents originally from England. F is working as a Paper Box Maker.

Going Festive at Texas State Conference

In the vendor hall at the Texas State Genealogy
Conference. Found a fellow Halloween celebratee!
On a rainy Friday, I left Houston and drove three hours to Austin, Texas. No, this Aggie wasn't going apostate in Longhorn country. She was headed to the Texas State Genealogical Society 2015 Family History Conference, which was held under the safe shelter of the Crowne Plaza.

During the drive I listened to a number of my favorite podcasts: Probloggers, Genealogy Gems, and Extreme Genes. These charming voices were a sense of comfort as the rains intensified and I drove through my first flash flood. I had seen trucks manage to get through the high water and I pushed ahead in my reliable van. After that hair raising experience, two thoughts flashed through my mind. First, I was so glad I wasn't driving my husband's little white VW Cabrio. Second, I don't ever want to do that again.


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