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RootsTech is coming up quickly, in just a couple of weeks. I am so excited to be participating and to learn more about Family History! What is RootsTech you ask? It’s the largest, yes the LARGEST, family history event in the world! They have an incredible lineup of speakers this year including Barbara Bush and Jenna Bush Hager, Donny Osmond, David Archuleta, Noelle Pikus Pace, Studio C, Alex Boye, and more.
Plus, with over 200 classes, there is something for the beginner family history buff to the more advanced. They even have a family fun day on Saturday that is open to all ages. You can also learn to how write and create your own histories. For a full schedule, visit their website. I’m also giving away a full access ticket to someone. It includes access to everything:
Over 200 classes
Getting started classes
You can enter the giveaway at the end of the post.
I have always loved family history. It’s exciting to find new ancestors. There is a line from a movie, I don’t recall what movie, but it says, “In order to know where you are going, you have to know where you’ve been.” Knowing who your ancestors are, where they came from, and understanding some of their story is so much fun-like being a detective!
I have been thinking about it a lot recently as our Oma, who is 98, does not have much longer with us. She is my husband’s Grandmother and cherished by so many. Each time we see her, we say “goodbye”, because we don’t know if it will be the last time we see her.
I was able to talk with her the other day for about half an hour, one and one. My husband and I had also visited with her recently on one of our weekly dates. Both visits made me start thinking about things I could do to record the stories of her family, including all of the small details that we sometimes forget. It’s information I wish I had thought of or known about for my own grandparents. My grandmother passed away when I was just 10 and my grandfather 12 years later. There are so many things I wish I had asked them, even small things like their favorite candy when they were a child, and pictures I wish I would have taken to capture the little details about their smile or laugh. Details and memories fade over time and there is much about them I wish I could remember.
Here are 5 tips I wish I had known that I have started implementing now!
1. Ask a fun question each time that you see them.
By “fun” question, I mean something that may often get overlooked in story telling. I have found that when sharing stories, people tend to stick to the same ones. Whether it’s because they have forgotten, they have blocked it out, or they just don’t think about it, these are still good things to know about. Wouldn’t it be fun to find out that both you and your grandpa love math? Or that they had a major sweet tooth, just like your daughter? These types of details link generations together-they can relate to each other and find similarities that help shape an identity.
2. Record it.
When I was 12, I had a school assignment to interview a family member. It was to teach us the proper ways to conduct and then write about an interview. At that time, the only way to record an interview was with a voice recorder. That was about 18 years ago! I felt so cool holding my recorder and popping in the tapes. I still have those tapes and it’s a blessing now to go back and hear my Grandpa’s voice, along with my silly 6th grade questions. It’s a part of my family history that is priceless.
We are lucky now that all we have to do is whip out our phones and record things. When we met with Oma a couple of months ago, we started asking her questions and I recorded the video with my phone. We didn’t tell her about it, because she likes to look her best, but we knew it was something priceless that we wanted to have after she was gone.
My grandpa used to drive me to work and I cherished the times I had with him. He always had great stories to share, things that would teach and guide me. I wish with all my heart that I had recorded those conversations. Unfortunately, it was before we had cell phones that did more than make phone calls, and all I could do was write things down later. But it’s just not the same, and those notes have since been lost. Never let an opportunity go to waste!
3. Remember the Small Things
When someone you love passes, it’s the small things that you end up missing. Those are also the details that you end up forgetting later on down the road. Take the opportunity to record the small details about your loved ones, your experiences, the places you’ve lived…even family vacations! Things like someone’s favorite shirt, the way the do their hair, how they always purse their lips when looking in the mirror. Those little things are what make each of us unique and can help future generations get to know us better as people. If you’re recording your own history, included details about your favorite necklace and how you got it, a favorite song or piece of art, a TV show, etc.
4. Take Pictures Often and With Details!
This is something that I have learned better since being a mother. I wanted to document every little thing about my babies-their feet, their hands, their smile, how they spoke, their first dance moves… All of it. It’s easier to remember to do that with your children, but what about other members of your family and yourself? Why not take a picture of your Dad in his favorite (and hideous) Hawaiian shirt? And when you’re getting rid of things that were once important to you, take a picture of them as well.
My husband once decided that the boxes of stuffed animals and dolls I had from childhood might be better off finding new homes. They were just taking up space in our garage and there really was no longer a need for them. But, I was sentimentally attached to them. I didn’t want to say goodbye! They represented my childhood and I somehow felt like we needed to keep them for my children to better understand me. I finally caved, however, and we gave them away to a local charity. But before doing so, I took pictures. I didn’t want to forget them and I needed to have them somehow still a part of my history.
In talking with our Oma recently, she asked if she could wear my ring. It had once belonged to her-it was her first wedding ring. She had given it to my husband to give to whoever he married. Because we had to cut off my wedding ring after I had my second baby, I ended up wearing this one. It was a perfect fit and beautiful! I love that it belonged to her and we had a special moment as she slipped the ring on her finger and began to talk about her husband, who had passed away, and the story behind the ring. It was a memorable moment for us, made even better because I snapped some pictures of her hand, wearing her ring, at 98 years old:
It’s a memory I’ll always have but now I will be able to share the details of it with my children.
5. Find a documenting system you like and stick with it.
This is always a hard one for people. It seems that most pictures, stories, videos, and things get stuck in boxes under our beds or on the computer and external hard drives. The problem with that is that the stories get forgotten, details can be missed, and no one is able to enjoy your personal histories. Have you ever seen your kids when they find old pictures of themselves? They get so excited! And then to see that Mom and Dad had a life before them…and the stories that get shared as you devour the pictures and videos are soaked up by anxious ears.
For me, I love to scrapbook. I’ve never been a “traditional” scrapbooker-it was too overwhelming. But I did dive in to doing things digitally. It was less stressful and easier to share that way. I also have no jumped into using a system called Project Life by Becky Higgins. I love it and I’ll be sharing more about what I’m doing with it.
When I first started documenting things, I kept it simple. I did photobooks. The first album I made was of our wedding. I wanted to remember all those moments and didn’t like our pictures being stuck in a box in the back of my closet. My favorite company to use is Shutterfly. They have are easy to put together and you can customize and play around with their templates easily. Photobooks are really easy to share too. You can create one and then purchase as many as you need for family and friends. I’ve done some for family out of state and they’ve loved them!
Whatever you decided, find a system. It can be as simple as getting a photo album and sticking the pictures in. If you do this, be sure to include some sort of journaling so the stories aren’t lost with the pictures. The albums will become treasures to your family and way for future generations to connect to their past.