Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Jumpstart Tip #23 - Research Places, not just People

There is a tendency when working on our family trees (yes, me too) to be driven by the Pedigree Chart. We see those empty boxes and are compelled to fill in a name and a few dates and then, up come two more empty boxes because that person had a father and mother too.

Don't forget the importances of doing PLACE NAME RESEARCH from time to time as well. If your ancestors lived somewhere for any appreciable amount of time, it would serve you well to understand a little bit about that place.

Here are just a few of the questions you should consider:
> Where is the place located?
> Was it known by any other name?
> Is the place part of a larger area (region, province, county, parish, state, etc.)?
> What drives the local economy and how has it changed over the years?
> What ethnic groups are most common in the area
> What newspapers served or serve the area?
> Is there a local history or genealogy society?
> What is the name of the local library?
> What are the names of the local cemeteries and houses of worship?

All these things will prove helpful, because it is very likely that your ancestors left some sort of 'paper trail' with clues along the way.

You can start by using Google Maps to get more precise information about the place name or possibly conduct a general Google search for other information about the place.

By understanding the PLACES of our family, we'll have a much better understanding of what may have served as motivation for decisions they made. Decisions to move, who they married, family friends, and more.

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Jumpstart Tip #22 - Holiday Cards for Family History

So, Happy New Year! If you live in the United States, you've likely had about five consecutive weeks of holiday and family. Starting with Thanksgiving and into December with Christmas and Hanukkah, there were certainly many times for family gatherings, traditions, food, and more.

As you get your house 'back to normal' (whatever that means), you may be tempted to take down the holidays cards and toss them in the trash. Well, think again . . . and think ahead for next year and the year after. Certain family cards AND THEIR ENVELOPES contain valuable clues for future family historians. Names, images, descriptions, sentiments, addresses and return addresses, stamps and postmarks.

Think of it this way - if you could have a collection of holiday cards sent to your grandparents from the 1950s or 1960 or even the 1970s, wouldn't that be a special collection for you?

Family history is made each and every day. Don't dismiss the things we have now. A photo or document doesn't have to be 100 years old to be family history.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Who or What Inspired You to Pursue Family History?

I've been asked this question more times that I can remember . . . and can't say there was one 'single' spark, but there were certainly a few very important events that contributed significantly to my own family history pursuits. The first one that comes to mind was the airing of Roots on American television in January 1977. At the time, I was just 14 years old and a Freshman in high school. My parents, four siblings, and grandmother all watched the series each night. It raised many questions for me about the history of our country, slavery, but also about the arrival of my own ancestors from Ireland and Italy. Hard to believe that was nearly 34 years ago - seems like yesterday in some ways. At that time, there was just one television in the home and even then we had basically 3 channels - ABC, NBC, and CBS. If you wanted to change the channel, you actually had to get up out of your seat and turn the analog dial (or have one of your kids do it for you, ha).

I wonder if I had video games, the Internet, a cell phone with texting or any of the other 'wonders' of modern technology, I wonder if I would have even watched Roots at all? Probably not. It turns out to be a good thing that it aired how it did, when it did. Today, programming barely stands a chance. One or two episodes, a peek at the ratings, and it's thumbs up or thumbs down.

Two other things that come to mind that sparked my initial interest were the American Bi-Centennial in 1976 and, for me, two years earlier in 1974 was the Tri-Centennial celebration in my home town, the city of Waterbury, Connecticut. Both those events were surrounded with non-stop nostalgia and looking back, so it was perhaps only natural that these three things combined led me down the path of addition toward genealogy.

Share your story - I'd love to read who inspired you and/or what events helped jumpstart your family tree.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Anniversary of the Attack on Pearl Harbor

Today is sixty-nine years since the surprise attack on the United States at Pearl Harbor by the Japanese. I sat with a friend this evening - he's 86 years old - and he shared his very clear recollections of that day. He was sitting in his family room on the East side of Bridgeport, Connecticut, listening to the family radio (an old wooden Philco radio that he also described in detail). He heard the announcer share the news and said his first reaction was, "What's a Pearl Harbor?"

Today, the words Pearl Harbor immediately call to mind the shocking events of that Sunday morning years earlier. That beautiful and peaceful place will forever be remembered by the events that shaped American history 69 years ago today.