Tuesday, November 22, 2016

What to do with your genealogy files: update: Our Fascinating Family!

If you take a look at the past post right there, below, you'll see that I'm busy writing my Christmas present to my siblings. Shh, don't tell them, but it's a report from our family tree!

After the chart and report had been generated in Family Tree Maker and printed, it looked, well, seriously boring! There was not one little trace of the excitement I felt when working on my tree! How could anyone be expected to get thrilled about our fascinating family looking at this document?

I wanted a document that equaled my own excitement at the discoveries that had hooked me from the start, and had kept Mom's attention starting in the 1970s and going hard at it until just a couple of years ago. But, how was that going to happen? Tell you what! I think I just stumbled into a way to get closer to what we all want: a document that your descendants will pick up, read, and get to know more about their family's heritage. I never thought I could write an easy 45 pages about just one family line, but once I started it was easy, relatively speaking. I simply stumbled into the answer about how to get this done and here's the story.

I started with the Workman line because I've been spending time on a project documenting who owned which lots in Western Maryland just before 1800 so that line seemed like the natural place to begin.  I had a lot of charts identifying who was where and owned what, and when. But I knew from experience that the only person it was going to excite was me... and definitely not even the husband;)

Started by opening a document and save it, of course. Took a moment to write down on the first page a couple of distinctive things about the ancestors in this line. Our Workman ancestors came from Holland to New Amsterdam in the 1600s so I began there. The immigrant ancestor owned the Brooklyn Ferry and much land in the area. His son Peter was one of the first settlers in New Jersey so I had to mention that. Then his son Isaac had a son Cornelius and they both ventured into the vast wilderness trapping furs. Others followed and that's how we come to those lots I mentioned up top, owned by the Workmen family. With that outlined, I began compiling the long story of the immigrant from Holland, his English father, and what happened after they landed in Manhattan and then moved to Brooklyn, some over 350 years ago.

Then I pulled in all of the interesting documents and photos resting in my files placing them in order. I was careful to cite sources in short form as I went along.

Next I opened my Ancestry tree and had both the document and the tree visible on the screen. In that way I was able to easily copy names, dates and locations for all individuals in each generation. And before moving on I checked each of the offspring (those not in our direct line) for fascinating facts or interesting documents, maps or photos. The generations practically built themselves.

Last I added anything I could remember from my childhood or told to me by Grandma. The icing on the cake was all of the photos Mom has been saving all of these years.

At this point I had a decent but very rough draft and after a fresh cup of coffee, I started editing it and building in smooth transitions from generation to generation. As a treat to myself I added a little speculation and personal conclusions with explanations by saying things like, "it might be concluded," or "perhaps."

Before I knew it, all 45 pages were finished. The very last page listed all of the things that still might be researched plus questions or doubts I had concerning this ancestral line. I wanted to leave clues for any family member who comes after.

Oh sure, there are other better more scholarly ways to approach this type of project. I could have made notes for years, use a fancy program to put the notes in order or whatever. But that's not what happened. What did happen is a Christmas present.

I had been feeling, especially after my last milestone birthday, that I better get going and start preparing all of the collected research and family biographies in such a way so as to tempt a future generation to jump in again. And we all know that I'll be long gone when that happens! All along I've been keeping things organized and tidy as well as backed up. Made sure the appropriate people have certain passwords and account info. Have scanned a lot and there are still some of Mom's binders that could be scanned too, but that's filler work for a rainy day. Now I feel that these family histories are just the thing I've wanted so that I can be sure the work is carried on.

These are the families.

I know the story about when Grandpa Kelly went to Florida and came back and announced to grandma that he was selling the house and moving to Florida. That's when she told him that the house was in her name! Too good not to pass on!

I know the story.

I know the story.

I know the story.
And now, so will they.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

What to do with your genealogy files and research?

So, what do we do? Leave it to a library or archive? Find a family member who wants to carry on? All of those have their benefits and flaws. Ugh.

Recently I was thinking about how to share Mom and my genealogy research with my brother. He's curious but not an avid user. And my sister too. She's interested but hasn't the time to delve in. So of course as a first step I synced my Ancestry member tree with my Family Tree Maker and the printed out some reports. Was going to have that bound but it looked boring, even to me and I love this stuff. So, how could I make it look spiffy and interesting? If it looked sexy then there was a chance that my sibs or some family member might pick it up and give a look, maybe read some of it and get further interested.

One of the things I did here on the blog a while back was the Surname Saturday blogging prompt. Did it for the major surnames on the tree back about four generations. Click here to see one about the Workman family. I posted them dutifully for a while them other things caught my attention. You know how it goes. But those Surname Saturday posts were the closest thing I had to a write-up on the various lines, so I started there and drug one out to see if it would work as a base for something interesting.

Workman was the first up. I had a lot of info on that line and jumped right in editing the Surname Saturday post. It went pretty well and moved along seemingly under it's own steam. Added some old photos, then stories from childhood about relatives on this line, especially those about Grandma Kelly whose line this is. Added wills, land deeds and court documents because brother and sister are both lawyers. I grabbed up anything that explored the story of the Workmans going back as far as I knew and had researched and that takes us back to about 1600.

Of course, there was special attention paid to calling out family stories and conjecture versus facts and documents. I am still conflicted about footnotes and if they should be included. Seems too counterproductive to keeping up interest in the document if the pages look bogged down with sources. But I do want to include them. End of chapter? End of book? Feeling like there's no 'right' answer.

The approach here is for it to read like a personal conversation with my sibs, having a chat about the ancestors, telling what was exciting about them. Sharing the mysteries still to be uncovered, the evidence that's not enough to draw a conclusion, yet. And pictures and old documents, maps. Visual salt and pepper.

Even though the Surname Saturday posts gave me a start, this has become so much more! I started with just three pages and I'm up to 35 and no where near finished. I'm excited because this isn't just a lineage chart, it's the saga of one American family that's emblematic of so many others. As I go, I come to understand much more about the long arc of our family's story in America. It helps me see the elements that makes us, us.

Not yet finished but I have until the holidays. What I can say is that it's coming along better than I envisioned and at this point, it practically writing itself.