Tackle Your Family History Project: The Time is Now!
As part of VigR (R), Friends Life Care is bringing members and friends another great educational opportunity.
In this presentation by Clémence Scouten, you can learn how to tackle your family history projects without being completely overwhelmed by all the different threads you need to keep track of and all the ideas you have. Read on for a sneak peak. And join the webinar for a more comprehensive understanding of the themes that will be covered.
4 Main Family History Projects
- The process of organizing all the documents, photographs and memorabilia you have been lucky enough to collect.
- Storing these objects and artifacts as an archive so that they last as long as possible into the future.
- Genealogy projects to help you nail down that family tree and present it accurately and professionally.
- Publishing the book you have always dreamed of, be it your memoirs, stories about your family, recipes, family traditions and all the things that make your family special.
Why a Family History Project Is So Difficult to Tackle
Every family is different so there is no right or wrong answer for where you should start or what events or lives you should get attention. A family history can be as simple as a photo-book with notes or more complex like a detailed history going back two hundred years. There are endless variations on what can be done.
The most difficult–and exciting!–part of recording your family history is that it’s up to you. The trick is believing you can do it. If you have family recipes from your grandmother that you want to ensure survive into the future, I can tell you right now, that is something you are capable of doing. It feels overwhelming and you don’t necessarily know where to start, but once you know the steps, it’s a lot easier than you think.
Each family has its own unique stories to tell, and your project will also be unique. For some families, books will focus on their immigration story, others will choose dominant themes like travel or sports. Once you know how to parse the project, it doesn’t matter what the subject is, the process is the same—and within your reach.
Why Put the Time into a Family History Project
Where we come from is just as important as where we are going. All too often, we don’t think our own lives are exciting so we fail to record our lives or the lives of those who came before us. Your life is more interesting than you think. Launching a family history project is an incredible gift to give to future generations. It is a meaningful way to look back on our own history and stay connected through the strongest bond we have: family.
We Are (and must be) Custodians of Our Heritage
If we don’t make an effort to document what we know, it will be gone forever. I know many people who made no permanent record of what their mom told them, or what their grandfather said, and regretted it. There’s no way to get that intimate family knowledge back. When they’re gone, they’re gone. There’s no second chance. There is no history book you can turn to and read about your grandfather’s life, or your mom’s childhood.
Further, no one can tell your story better than you. Imagine your son or daughter having to write fifty pages about you, or even more challenging, about your parents. Could they do it? What would they get wrong? Would it contain the elements you think are most important?
Most of Us Have Our Family History Handy, But it’s Hard to Access
The amount of stuff a family accumulates can be overwhelming and stressful. No one knows what to do with it! Will you pass this on to your kids without having sorted through it? If you do want to sort through it, what is the best way to do that? And how do you care for the items you want to preserve?
Most of our mementoes, like photos, documents, and small objects, are not made to last. It’s important to organize and sort all the pictures and documents to keep them safe. Pictures and writing fade. Objects get lost and broken. If you’re keeping these items because you think future generations will want them, then take care of them accordingly. If not, then why hold on to it all?
Discover How to Organize your Family History
Organizing and archiving is not difficult, but it is daunting, especially if you don’t know where to start. The good news is there are tips and tricks that will make you wonder how you ever fretted about all this stuff (and I’ll go over them during the presentation). Done right, you will have a special collection of something—stories, objects, photos, etc.—that can be enjoyed by your descendants. You will also have permanent digital copies that can be shared.
Don’t Worry – Your Family History Can Live On
Another major concern many people have is where their family history will live on. Fortunately, when you organize your materials and put your family history project in a format that’s easy to handle, you stack the odds in its favor. Cloud storage is a good home for family history projects and will add years to its life.
Not everyone in a family cares about the past, but it is rare that no one will. Younger people tend to dismiss it—until they have children of their own. Then it all clicks and they can’t get enough.
Many people have one family historian in their family who is the keeper of all records. In the modern age, these records can be shared digitally and allow more family members to learn in their own way, in their own time. We can’t force interest, but we can give people the opportunity to express interest.
Your Family’s Story is Worth Telling
No – It’s not self-indulgence that motivates people to get it on paper, it’s a wish to share and make sure that people or stories aren’t forgotten. Every family has a story that’s worth telling. You don’t need a famous family. Finding out about ordinary people from the past is extremely difficult since it’s the rich and powerful who get much of the attention in print and online. You can make sure that the meaningful stories of your family are saved, whether or not it gets shared outside your family.
You’re Not the First. You Are Not Alone!
Start at the beginning and go on to the end. That’s good advice, but not the only way! It all depends on the story you have to tell and the way you want to tell it. Figuring out what your project is and where to start it is something that will help you immeasurably.
You’re not trying to reinvent the wheel. Many other people have gone down this trail before, and their experiences can illuminate the way. There are strategies and tactics that will help you get it done. I will review several of these strategies during the presentation.
Don’t forget this is supposed to be fun! If the task becomes too hard, or if you just can’t find enough time to do the work the way you think it should be done, help is available. There are professionals out there you can hire who will do what you ask and do it well.
Ghost-writers, genealogists, photo organizers, and archivists are all specialists who can help if you get stuck or side-tracked. Even Rembrandt didn’t paint every brushstroke himself!
Time Is Now
COVID-19 has forced us to contemplate many things we did not necessarily want to. On the plus side, we’ve all been reminded of the importance of family. Family history projects are great indoor projects that can be organized to fit your schedule.
We all have activities to fill our days but family history projects are rewarding in a way that is more meaningful than many of the activities we’ve dreamed up to feel like we’re staying busy. There are only so many Zoom meetings a person can take!
There’s no better feeling than knowing you’ve protected your history
The road to a completed family history project can be time consuming and at times difficult. Focus on the end result. Many people not only feel a deep sense of accomplishment but also an intense sense of relief knowing they were the one to cement the family’s legacy. The best way to ensure your family legacy lives on is to push on to the end—it is absolutely worth it!
Your completed family history project will hold a special place in the hearts of everyone in your family. A great way to celebrate your project and share it with others is to hold a special party to distribute the end product. We may have to wait for Covid to be over, but focusing on that party is another way to stay motivated.
Share, share, share
Different generations respond to different media. In addition to a printed book, you can create an e-book. If you’re worried your archives aren’t getting enough attention, the materials can be scanned and shared with whomever you like. Modern online, on-demand printing has changed how we publish books, and cloud technology is where younger generations live. Modern technologies help engage younger generations and preserve materials more securely than ever before.
The presentation is taking place on September 22, 2020 at 11:00 am. All you have to do is register here. Learn about how you can tackle any family history project you have in mind!
Written by: Clémence Scouten
Join Clémence Scouten, founder of Memoirs & More, to learn how to finally tackle family history projects. From archiving to genealogy to storytelling, Clémence is knowledgeable about the different kinds of family history projects there are and has taught many people how to DIY their own projects.
After graduating from University of Pennsylvania with a B.A. in English, and then receiving an M.A. in English from the Sorbonne in Paris, Clémence worked in corporate settings for fifteen years. But something was missing…She started her business to help people curate and preserve their family history materials. Whether the end product is a memoir, family history book, or an archived collection, she helps families identify what is most important to them and delivers full service solutions.
Misc. old photos/images from https://www.pikist.com/free-photo-vnngs
family tree photo: https://www.publicdomainpictures.net/en/view-image.php?image=76350&picture=family-tree-photo-holder
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