By Carolyn L Barkley
As it’s only 35º outside my window this morning, it’s hard to believe that Mother’s Day is a little more than three weeks away. It will be here before we know it, however, and it has made me think about how to make it a special day for the women in our families - the mothers, grandmothers, and perhaps great-grandmothers – who we celebrate on that day. These women connect us to earlier generations in the family and can share with us factual, but more importantly, anecdotal information to support our genealogical research. Here are a few activities you can do with them, and for them, to further your understanding of the people and history of your family.
1. Does your mother or grandmother live close by? (If they live at some distance away, plan to meet for a special occasion - like Mother’s Day.) Pick a day to get together to look at family pictures and other documents. Perhaps make it an afternoon tea and invite others to attend - aunts, children, grandchildren, etc. Select someone to make labels for each picture or document listing names, dates and locations. Have someone else take notes or record the conversation and stories that are told. If the owner of the pictures or documents agrees, consider scanning them not only to preserve them, but also to make the copies available to more people in the family.
2. Reread Joe Brickey’s article in this blog (“Putting Walls Around Memories,” March 21, 2008). Consider using this approach in a Mother’s Day discussion to prompt recollections and stories.
3. Purchase a notebook and give it as a Mother’s Day gift. Ask your relative to keep it close at hand throughout the year and to write down family stories as they come to mind, perhaps placing pictures or documents that relate to the story with the pertinent pages. I gave one to my mother several years ago thinking that she would do just that. Instead, she was far more formal about it, noting specific individuals in the family and writing about them extensively before moving on to another person. I read stories that I had never heard before and in the process greatly enriched the story of my family. Had I not made this gift, these stories would have gone untold.
4. Use the information from these family get-togethers and your own research to complete a family tree to give as a gift. While genealogical software programs will generate a tree, you may want a more decorative version. Several websites offer family tree chart services, including generationmaps.com, Master Genealogist’s chart printing service, ancestryprinting.com, and in the UK, familytreeprinter. You may also want to look at books of decorative family tree charts such as Tony Matthews’ Paper Trees - Genealogical Clip-Art or, Treets: A Feast of Family Trees.
5. Are you a scrapbooker? You may want to design and compile a scrapbook for your family using scanned photos and documents, as well as journaling the stories that are told at family get-togethers like the one described above. Ancestry.com sells a scrapbook kit. In addition, Creative Memories (http://www.creativememories.com/), your local hobby store, and genealogy conference vendors supply scrapbooking supplies and often provide training programs to help you create your book. Tony Matthews’ Memory Trees - Family Trees for the Scrapbooker, and Creativitree: Design Ideas for Family Trees provide ideas for using family trees in scrapbook projects. This latter title is temporarily out of print, but you can select the “Notify Me” button on its page on genealogical.com and be notified by e-mail when it returns to print. In the meantime, you can look at Bev Kirschner Braun’s Crafting Your Own Heritage Album (Betterway Books, 2000), among other titles available on the topic.
I hope that you will take the opportunity to plan a fun and interesting family get-together to look at the historical items in your family; identify the people, dates and locations within them; and to hear the stories behind them. Preserve, organize, create a lasting record, and share it with others. Make this a special Mother’s Day and tell us here at Genealogyandfamilyhistory.com of your success.