Does the daunting thought of writing your life story overwhelm your desire to record it? Take a deep breath. The project is entirely doable if you start with a few simple steps.
When we think of family history, we often think of the past, long gone kinfolk but it is also preserving today. Photos, videos and stories that happen today will be tomorrow's treasured memories. Your family in the future will be glad you took the time to write about your life. With all the modern technologies available to help, it would be a shame for your life to only known as a birth and death date and a few censuses.
Whether you’ve kept regular diaries or not, you may find yourself wanting to write your life story but overwhelmed by the prospect. There are so many reasons to write: to share life lessons, relive cherished memories, introduce ourselves to future generations, or acknowledge the hand of the Lord in our lives. But life isn’t just one story. It’s a series of stories about events, people, circumstances, struggles, and growth. Some of these stories unfold simultaneously and some aren’t over yet. Some are painful; some are half-forgotten. We’re not even sure what some of them mean. So where do we start? Start with What’s Interesting
Some people think they should begin their story-telling with the story of their births. But you don’t remember your own birth, and it’s likely not your most interesting story, anyway. Don’t bore yourself at the outset. Instead, begin with a memory that is:
· interesting or meaningful to you right now;
· clear and vivid; or
· on your mind lately.
The point is to get something on paper without getting stalled by hazy memories, raw emotions, or boredom.
Write a few of these interesting, vivid memories before attempting a full life history. You’ll get your memories flowing and find your story-telling voice. You’ll be drawn into your own story, which will give you the motivation to tell more. Fill in the Blanks
Don’t forget to give your stories some substance. Do you describe your “characters” (including you)? Do you provide meaningful details: how something smelled or looked, or what you thought of Uncle Joe’s toupee? Who changes in the story, and how and why? (That’s the meaning of the story, which you may not even discover until you write it.)
After you’ve got a few stories under your belt, consider putting them into a logical, readable order. What do you see emerging? A narrative that follows you through every step of life? Several episodes about the most important events? Stories about family relationships or friendships? There’s no rule that says you need to chronicle every part of your life. You might not even want to.
At some point, you may want to fill in some blanks between the tales you’ve told. You may want to create a timeline to organize and prioritize your writing. Consider using a life-story journal like my new book, My Life & Times: A Guided Journal for Collecting Your Stories, which gives you story-telling tips and prompts, and an overall structure for organizing your memories. Consider Others
A story about your childhood—or teenage or mid-life years—will include the people who shaped it. Do you have the right to share their private pains and joys? Should you describe sibling rivalries, parents’ character flaws, or a spouse’s temper?
Each writer will solve these dilemmas differently. It may be possible to write around someone’s secret that really isn’t ours to share, or doesn’t bear directly on our lives. When someone’s personal life directly affected our lives, we can still consider what we say with compassion for those who might in turn be affected by what we say. Don’t Forget the Happy Stories
Every life has times worth celebrating. Moments when testimony and character are built, when love and loyalty and faith are rewarded, people show their best selves, or a hard-won goal has been achieved. Moments when we feel the Lord’s grace, or the mercy or kindness of others. These are all worth recording—both for our own sake and the sake of those who might read our stories.
Are happy stories boring? Not if you write them well. Use the same techniques mentioned above: meaningful details, characters with strengths and weaknesses, and honest portrayal of how and why people changed. Include details that build suspense or really show what you were up against. Don’t forget the funny parts. Tell how you felt at the turning point of the story—grateful, humbled, speechless, changed, surprised, moved, confused, angry, blindsided—and why. Just Do It
Remember, nobody can tell your story like you can. You were there. You know what you felt. Even if you have had the same lifestyle or career pattern as most of the people you know, your experience of these will be unique. Your conversations, moments of clarity, humor, triumphs and trials all have their own special flavor. The way you reacted to a chain of events is always your own story. So get started. Write something down. Then write something else. One story is better than none; two stories are even better, and so forth. You don’t have to tell your whole life in one sitting. Tell it the same way you lived it—one story at a time.
The family history center is closed so the consultants can enjoy the Thanksgiving week. We pray that everyone will have a blessed and happy Thanksgiving. Be sure to take the opportunity to ask your older kinfolk to tell you some family stories.
Death certificates can take us back many years and provide us a small gold mine of information.
The information found on Amelia's death certificate takes us back into her family history in the late 1700th century. Sometime you find a family member who lives to be 90 plus. What a gift of information we have found. Whenever possible look for the brother or sister of your direct ancestor who lived to exceed 90 years old.
Name Amelia Thornburgh Gooch
Birth date 4 Aug 1824, Jefferson County, Tennessee
Death date 6 Nov 1918, Granger County, Tennessee
Cemetery Rutledge Cemetery
Father's Name Ai Thornburgh of Tennessee
Mother's Name Mary Lansdown of Tennessee
Look at all the information. It also establishes the fact the Thornburgh Family was in Jefferson County, Tennessee in time for the 1830 census which may provide additional clues in trying to put the Thornburgh Family together.
Keep digging it is out there. Buy-the-way, this death certificate was found on FamilySearch.org. I did a surname only search on all Tennessee death certificares on line and to my surprise Amelia's showed up among all the other Thornburghs. Although Amelia married name is Gooch, Family Search has multible indexes set up to search records many different ways. The search picked up on Amelia's maiden name of Thornburgh. Wow, what a search engine we have at our finger tips.
Now with this information we can focus our search in and around Rutledge, Tennessee for additional family members who might be buried in local cemeteries.
You can get a wealth of information from a World War 1 registration card. An example is the card of Sam Hamilton Allen. This information has several great clues:
Name he went by - Sam Hamilton Allen
Address - Boyds Creek, Tennessee
Birthdate - 8 May 1882
Occupation - Farmer
Wife name - Sara Allen
Eyes were - Blue - just a point of interest
Hair color - Brown
Board office - Sevierville, Tennessee
Now with this information you should be able to:
Locate Sam on the 1900 census record, maybe in Sevier County, Tenneess and find out his parents' names
You have Sam's name and his birth month and year to match it up to the census record
Maybe locate a marriage license is Sevier County, Tennessee - you know both the brides' first name and the grooms complete name
Maybe even find Sam and his wife, Sara on "Find A Grave" in Sevier County, Tennessee which would even open more door with additional clues to possable family members buried near them along with a complete death date
Keep researching it is out there just waiting for you to find it.
The Athens Family History Center can provide you with free access to the 3 Fold subscription (military database). Visit soon and see what else they can offer to help you in your search.
In advancing your genealogy research on the Internet, don't ignore two vital resources:message boards -- or discussion websites, which include bulletin boards and forums; andelectronic mailing lists, also known as email discussion groups (or Listservs).
Mailing lists are free to subscribe to and you participate in specific genealogical or historical discussions via e-mail.
There are specific mailing lists for a variety of genealogical and historical topics ...
To participate in a mailing list you send e-mail commands to a computer software program ... in order to be automatically subscribed to the list. You send e-mail messages to a different address for that mailing list in order to communicate with the other subscribers.
Before you join a mailing list or post to a message board, there are a few things to keep in mind. For one thing, you should be sure to read the guidelines for technical instructions and etiquette tips. It's also critical to realize that in general, what goes onto the Internet stays on the Internet.
hough there are private message boards, most message boards are public. So, when you post a message to the Internet, it's going to be published for anyone and everyone to read … before you push "submit," you'll want to make sure that the message you post to the Internet only contains information that you are ready to share with everyone. It is also worth mentioning that messages posted to a message board are generally permanent.
Though in some instances editing can be done, once you push the "submit" button in a message board, you'll usually not be able to go back and change or edit your message. So, make sure there are no typos in your message, and that it says what you truly want it to say.
Genealogical mailing lists, ideal for contacting fellow researchers, are categorized by surname, geographical location, ethnicity and thousands of other genealogy-related topics. They are also an excellent method of contacting descendants of slave owners and exchanging information.
Consider registering at the mega genealogy website Rootsweb.com (which also has message boards). Once you've done so, search the site's mailing lists for surnames, locations (such as county, state) and other topics (such as genealogy methods, "people of color," freedmen or slaves) that you're interested in.
You can choose which lists to join and post a genealogy query to a message board. When you write your query, mention that you are willing to trade information, if you have it, and reveal your willingness to share; it will attract more responses.
Cottrill lists other basic requirements for an effective query:
The greater the details you can provide about when and where your subjects lived, the greater your chance of linking up with people seeking the same individuals. Some items that will help others identify common family members include these: Full name, including any middle names or initials; birth, marriage, and death dates; places where (these) events occurred; residence and migration; names of their children and/or parents.
Archives News: Come join Kristi AuBuchon, owner ofTennessee Valley Genealogical Services, and Limestone County Archivist Rebekah Davis at theAthens-Limestone County Public Libraryon Thursday, November 17, at 5:30 pm for a FREE Genealogy Workshop. We'll cover the basics of genealogy research and researching at the Archives, as well as secrets to successful "tree climbing." Plus, you'll have the chance to pick our brains and ask questions. Come on out! We'd love to see you!
Funeral Home Records are a valuable tool in your research. Some states require that funeral homes keep a 3 x 5 card on each of the people they have at their home. Some local funeral homes may keep records over and beyond that which is required by law. Yes, a possible "Gold Mine" of information. Remember, you are a prospective customer so if you show up in person and they are not busy, you might get the royal treatment but if they are busy make an appointment to come back later. Small town funeral homes are more likely to keep additional information because it is their community and their friends.
Another clue is the local funeral homes know where all the local cemeteries are and how to get to them.
If you mail a letter to the funeral home always include a self-addressed stamped envelope and maybe $5.00 for their time and effort in your request. Always remember they do not have to give you the information you request but most of the time they will work with you.
Your link to finding a funeral home close to your home or your area research: www.funeral-dir.com
Funeral home records can usually be found in the public or genealogical library in the county where the funeral home is located. This is often overlooked but is a very valuable source in your research. The 3 x 5 card often kept by the funeral home is just full of clues, such as the date of your ancestor’s death or their parent’s names taht often appear along with a maiden name. A window to the past has just been opened. It should include a possible spouse, children and a place of burial too. The funeral home might even provide a map to the cemetery too. Some funeral homes keep a copy of the obituary paper clipped to the funeral card along with a death certificate. Please do not expect that all funeral homes go the extra mile but you never really know if you do not ask.
Here is a "just because I asked" story. I was searching in Knoxville, TN for ancestors and stopped at a local funeral home. Well, one of the funeral home employees had a very interesting hobby. He took pictures of unique tombstones as he was at work after funeral services. Below is one he took of my Great-great-great-great Grandparents! Yes, that is my fourth Great Grandparents’ tombstone found on private property in a very old cemetery called Kidd Cemetery in Knox County, Tennessee. What are the odds, about a million to one if not more and that is on a very good day!
Remember – Rome was not built in a day but it was started in a day.
With funeral home records, death certificates and tombstones you should have a very good toe hold on your research.
This document provides information as reference for you to see what you can hope to find on each census record. Census records are a very good sourse for not only locating you ancestors but also putting their families together. Yes, clues every where but remember census takes are human and do make mistakes.
Remember - Census records are our friends
A Story just for Fun about the possible life of a census taker's job: By Dean Crosby.
The census taker is about to have another bad day. His name is John Doe. It is Monday morning 5 AM. John's day started out bad when his wife told him there were no more eggs or bacon. He would have to settle for what was left of the baked beans from the night before. During breakfast he thought about the deadline he had for taking the census in his district. He was way behind, partially his fault, and partially because people were either out in the fields working, or they were more worried where there next meal was coming from than talking to some snoopy census taker.
After breakfast, he went out to get his mule. It was raining cats and dogs, His mule had broke the wooden fence out, and who knows where he had gone. John had to get going so he decided to go on foot. Attempting to keep the census paper dry he walked several miles in rain to the first house on his list. John did the proper introduction as to the reason for his visit. The lady on the porch looked on him with pity and offered John a cup of coffee. The first glimmer of his day getting better! The good news was it was hot. The bad, it tasted more like the water that she used to clean her husband's socks. John pulled out his census log, only to find the pages so moist that he could not write on it. John asked the women if she had some paper. Her reply was "we us-ings doesn't use paper, we use corn cobs." John struggled fo find a dry page in the middle of his book and began there to write.
Being in a very rural area of Madison County TN, the homes were very scattered, so by the time he made his second stop he was soaked. It was an old farmer that had compassion, and asked John to come in and dry out next to the fire he had made. They talked about different things, as the time got away. John dried out and the rain had all but stopped. John asked the old man who his neighbor was, a half mile down the dirt road. He replied "don't know much about um, but his name is Timothy Muns."
It was afternoon now and John had only made two stops. He came to the third house, the Muns. There were a few dogs on the porch barking as he approached. A young lad came out the front of the home, as there was no door. John asked to see his father, and the lad replied proudly, "ma and pa went to town since it was rainon, and I am taken care of things". John was surprised the lad was left alone, as he looked to be 5-6 years old. John asked the lad his name and how old he was. The lad replied proudly, " I'm Joseph and I'm ah ah ah ------ 8 !", In John's mind he thought about how far he was behind, and he did not want to come back, so he continued to get information from the boy. He obviously knew his family's names, but struggled with their ages. John thought, "some information is better than none at all, lets go with it!".
John really hustled the rest of the day till almost dark. There was one more house at the end of the road, another mile and half. John thought, "It's no big deal if I just miss one today.", so he headed home. As he was walking in the dark he pondered many things; where did the mule go, what was for dinner, etc. John became somewhat encouraged, thinking, "today started out bad, but I did get a lot accomplished. If I can just do this well the rest of the week."
As John approached his house he noticed no lantern light inside. How late was it? Did his wife go to bed? He quietly entered, thinking he did not want to awaken his wife and children. He lit a lantern. No food on the stove tonight? John thought, "Sure will be glad when that census pay gets here." He noticed a piece of paper on the table and thought, "boy I sure could have used that today". Oh, it was a note!
We have no food, no livestock, no crops, and no money. I found the mule, and decided to take him and the kids back to Henderson County and stay with ma, so the kids could have a meal. Will be back friday when you get paid.
So this is the life of a census taker in 1860. 150 years later we wonder why the information wasn't more accurate.
On the home page of https://www.familysearch.org/ click on "What's New". One article is: "Make Sure You've Searched All the Records" -- "Most people using FamilySearch don't get the full benefit of their search. FamilySearch has 2.34 billion indexed names thast can be searched using the search fields on the home page. If they don't find their ancestor using the search fields they assume they are not in FamilySearch. However, users need to remember that in addition there are 312.4 million names that have not been indexed and cannot be searched using the usual search fields. These collections are referred to as browse only image collections. FamilySearch uses a technique called Waypointing to make these collections available for searching." Another article is "Understanding Unexpected Search Results" - "Have you ever wondered why particular records show up on your search results when the places don't match? There are a number of reasons for this."
This is a great time of year to visit your ancestors' final resting places. If you can’t go in person, an online graveyard can be a great alternative for both researching and remembering your ancestors' lives.
What is an online graveyard?
We use the term 'online graveyard' to refer to websites that put information from a cemetery on the Internet. Some of our favorites are http://www.findagrave.com for gravesite and cemetery photos, www.interment.net for lists of cemetery transcriptions, and www.namesinstone.com for cemetery records and maps. In addition, individual cemeteries may have their own websites, with photos, records, and maps.
Why are online graveyards valuable?
Online graveyards provide the opportunity to view cemetery records or gravestone information previously only available by visiting the cemetery in person. Online graveyards are great for those who are unable to travel, or for those who are planning to visit and want to get to know the cemetery and gravesite before they go. In addition, online resources can be very helpful if you don't know where your ancestor is buried, because you can conveniently explore multiple cemeteries in the area where your ancestor died or lived most of his/her life.
How can I find out if my ancestors are part of an online graveyard?
The simplest way to start is to go to an online graveyard website and search for your ancestor by name. If a name search doesn't work, try browsing cemeteries by location. Location searches are also useful for viewing others who are buried in the same cemetery as your ancestor. When you find your ancestors, many sites give you the option to upload photos to enhance the record or leave a virtual flower on the grave webpage.
How can I contribute?
Most online graveyards are fairly new, and many are incomplete. Thus, these websites are asking for volunteers to help by contributing information that ranges from a photo of a single grave to a transcription of an entire cemetery. Be sure to check each of the websites above to see how you can help. Also, check with your local Genealogy Society to find out if they are doing a cemetery project for an online graveyard.
How can I make the most of my cemetery research?
Whether you are walking through a cemetery literally or virtually, many of the same tips apply. Make sure you look at the graves around your ancestor's, because they might belong to other family members. Also, be sure to print out and/or bookmark the website for future reference, just as you would take pictures and make notes in a cemetery you were visiting in person.
Have a Civil War ancestor? FamilySearch announced last month of its release of hundreds of millions of online records. The collections include service records for both the Confederate and Union armies, pension records, and more. Some of these records have been available for some time but have been added to the web site.
FamilySearch Adds Millions of U.S. Civil War Records
Records Also Added to Canada, England, Mexico, and South Africa Collections
7 September 2011
FamilySearch.org added millions of new records this week of both Confederate and Union soldiers who served in the American Civil War. Also now available for viewing are newly added notarial records from Canada, church records and civil registrations from Mexico, and miscellaneous records from England. Begin searching now at FamilySearch.org.
China, Hungary, Mexico and U.S. Collections Each Add Over a Million Records
U.S. Records Include Illinois, Maryland, New York and Washington
14 September 2011
FamilySearch.org added millions of records this week including 11 new records collections. More than six million Hungary Catholic Church records were added, as well as four million Mexico civil registration records. Looking for records from China? Over a million new Chinese genealogies from 1500–1900 are now available for viewing. Begin searching for free at FamilySearch.org.
FamilySearch Adds 16 Million New Records
New Collections for Brazil, Canada, Cote d'Ivoire, Czech Republic, Ecuador, and U.S.
21 September 2011
Among the 16 million records added to FamilySearch.org this week, over six million are from the United States, including new collections from California, Louisiana, Maine, Mississippi, New York, Oregon, and Vermont. Additionally, five million new Civil Registration and Catholic Church records from Mexico are now available for free viewing at FamilySearch.org. Begin searching now!
California, Minnesota, Utah and 7 Other States' Historic Records Added
New Collections also for Australia, Estonia, and Mexico
28 September 2011
New records collections from Australia, Estonia, Mexico and the United States can now be searched for free at FamilySearch.org. In addition, new records were added to Austria, Canada, Chile, Czech Republic, Honduras, Poland, South Africa, and Spain collections. Find your ancestors now at FamilySearch.org.
England and Mexico Collections See the Lion’s Share of the New Additions
The recent collection updates at FamilySearch.org are too diverse to summarize—seigniorial and notarial records, bishop’s transcripts and parish registers, citizen lists, court case files---well, okay, you get the picture. The largest collection updates this week are from England and Mexico—eight million records and images between the two countries’ collections. Another 4 million records and images were added for Austria, Belgium, Canada, Germany, Italy, South Africa, Sweden, USA, and Wales. Search the records online now at FamilySearch.org.
Do you have Canadian ancestors? Here are some key steps and sources for beginning research in Canada or its provinces.
If all you know is that your ancestor came from Canada, search the Canadian censuses. The indexed censuses are available for the years 1851-1916 on FamilySearch.org in the “Historical Records” section, and on Ancestry.com. Earlier census years will be available in the future.
If you believe your ancestor came from another country to Canada, there are two places to search. First, search the Canadian Passenger List, indexed 1865-1935, at Ancestry.com. Second, search the Canadian Naturalization, 1915-1951 (non-British ancestors only, up to 1947) at theLibrary of Canada website.
If all you know is that your ancestor came from a certain province in Canada, here are your first steps:
Search the Canadian censuses, as described above.
Search www.familysearch.org, Historical Records section (records from seven provinces currently are included in this collection). Recheck this site regularly, because new records are being added to the website all the time.
Search GENWEB Canada for your province of interest. In your search engine (Google, Firefox, etc.) search for “genweb Canada” You will see each of the provinces listed on the left column on the web page. Or, you can search for “genweb (name of province)”
— What was it like to live in Athens during the Civil War? How was life for soldiers inside a Confederate encampment? An event scheduled later this month is designed to help answer those questions.
What is being called a free, family-friendly, educational Living History Festival will be held from 9 a.m. until 3 p.m. Saturday, July 23, in Athens' Big Spring Memorial Park.
It is presented by the Athens-Limestone County War for Southern Independence Sesquicentennial Committee, Athens-Limestone County Tourism Council and the Sons of Confederate Veterans Hobbs Camp No. 768.
The event features a working Confederate encampment by the SCV; demonstrations of period activities on the home front including blacksmithing, chair caning, and basket weaving; and food from carnival fair to down home "vittles."
There will also be long-rifle demonstrations and fun activities for kids, including sack races.
Limestone County Archivists will be on hand to provide guidance at genealogy stations to help families trace their roots through soldiers and sailors.
Four different signed and numbered prints — "Battle of Sulfur Creek Trestle," "Hobbs' Farewell," "Battle of Athens," and "Fort Henderson" — by artist Lyn Stone will be for sale, featuring historic events in Athens-Limestone County.
Community attractions and historic buildings will be open and available for tours the day of the festival including the Alabama Veterans Museum and Archives, Donnell House, former Alabama Governor George S. Houston home, now the Houston Library and Museum, and Athens State University.
For more information, visit the Athens Visitors Center at 100 N. Beaty Street or call 256-232-5411 or 256-867-1438. Visit their website at www.visitathensal.com.