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.

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