It’s time (maybe past time!) to write your family history. Should you write a book or throw everything into a digital archive?
Recently Joyce attended a genealogy conference I taught that was sponsored by the Central Arkansas Library System. She wrote to us that she went home with a newly-resolved plan for how to write her family history:
“I thoroughly enjoyed hearing you speak. I learned a lot also. There was a question asked at the conference that I had also thought a lot about: how to leave your legacy to your family. With technology changing every day, I have decided that the old-fashioned way is probably the best. Technology will not change the fact that we can sit down to a paper book. So I will keep my CDs, DVDs, and flash drives; however, I will print out books for my family to have, whether they have access to the computer or not.”
A Combination Approach
I certainly agree that paper and books are certainly a solution for genealogical information being accessible for generations to come. I like a combination approach. Since paper can deteriorate and become damaged like anything else, having a cloud back up service (I use Backblaze) and digital items like flash drives is also a good plan.
Part of leaving a legacy also involves finding ways to share that help the next generations (particularly those not interested in research) understand the value of the family tree. That’s where a Google Earth “family history tour” or other innovative sharing comes into play. If you can click click, copy, and paste, you can create an exciting multi-media story that looks like a video game that will captivate the next generation! (Learn how to create a Google Earth family history tour in my 2-volume Google Earth for Genealogy CD). The combination of sharing the info in fascinating ways and preserving the info in reliable multiple formats is a comprehensive strategy for the future!
Ready to make your own plan to write your family history and preserve it digitally? Share your resolve–along with this post–with someone else! Use the handy icons at the top of the page to share on Facebook, Pinterest or your favorite social media site, or email the link to this article to a friend. Thanks!
In Lisa Louise Cooke’s new video interview with Amy Crow, Amy shares 4 of her favorite free local history apps and websites for genealogists.
At RootsTech 2016, Lisa Louise Cooke chatted with Amy Johnson Crow about Amy’s class, “Best Websites and Apps for Finding Local History.” In the video below, Amy shares four of her favorite (and FREE) local history apps and websites, along with tips for using them. Click the video player below to watch, and then below the video, see a summary with links to those sites.
When searching the following FREE local history apps and sites, Amy recommends searching for a place rather than an ancestor’s name.
History Pin. This website is like Pinterest for history, says Amy. It’s especially strong for local history in England, Ireland, Scotland, but also wonderful for the U.S. A lot of organizations have added photos and curated them into collections, like Pinterest boards.
Instagram. It’s not just for the kids and pictures of your food! Follow libraries, archives and historical societies that are in towns where your ancestors lived. They may post historic photos from their collections. Instagram now has a feature where you can share photos with those you follow on Instagram. Use it to share a cool old picture that relates to your family history with a young relative.
The Clio. This website and local history app (available buy malaria medication online through Google Play and on iTunes for iPhone/iPad) shows you historic sites around you when you turn on your location services. The resources, descriptions and bibliographic entries on this site are great to follow up with for your research.
What Was There.At this site (or with the iPhone app) you can view historic photos plotted on a map near your current location. Use it to look around and ask the question, “What happened here?” if you’re on a walk or visiting somewhere. The site is integrated with Google Street View. You can also upload your own old photos if you know where they were taken and do an overlay in Google Maps, in much the same way Lisa teaches about doing in Google Earth.
“We focus so much on the people, and we search for names. I really believe that if we have any hope of understanding the ancestors, we have to understand where they lived…what was impacting their lives.” -Amy Johnson Crow
Looking for more mobile genealogy tips? Turn to Lisa Louise Cooke’s brand new book, Mobile Genealogy: How to Use Your Tablet and Smartphone for Family History Research. In addition to apps specifically for genealogy, you’ll also find recommendations for free and inexpensive apps for all those related tasks: note-taking, recording interviews, taking pictures, reading, collaborating, traveling, learning and sharing genealogy with loved ones.
Time-lapse videos first intrigued me as a child when I watched a little seed grow into a beautiful flower in a matter of seconds. Now, illuminating time-lapse videos and tools are helping genealogists visualize our changing world.
Last month, animator Max Galka published a time-lapse map of the history of urbanization over nearly 6,000 years in just three minutes.
Mr. Galka mentions on his blog that tracking urbanization occuring before the mid-20th century was a difficult task – until recently. A team of Yale researchers published a collection of urban population data dating back to ancient times which helped Galka create his video. Their collection was quoted to be a “clean, accessible dataset of cities, their locations, and their populations over time.”
I was surprised how quickly things changed and found it amazing still how many places in the world are yet to be “urbanized.”
Time-lapse Video Covering Immigration to the U.S. Since 1820
Again, Max Galka presented an amazing animation of immigration to the United States. This creation shows the countries that sent the most people to the U.S. since 1820.
The U.S. is a nation of immigrants, says Galka. As each dot flies across the page, it represents 10,000 people who immigrated to the U.S. In the bottom left corner, Mr. Galka lists the three top countries where immigrants are coming from at any given time. I was stunned as the map lit up in Russia and Africa only fairly recently. It is clearly shown that the U.S. is indeed a nation of immigrants in this colorful time-lapse video.
Time-lapse Tools for Genealogy
As a genealogist, I am constantly in search of county records. So many times, county lines or boundaries changed. I even have one family that lived on the same farm, but technically resided in three different counties over a period of about 50 years. We can’t possibly know when each county of any given state was formed or created, until now that is.
One of my favorite tools for discovering county changes over time is the Map of US.org website. You can find a map of each of the 50 states and run the interactive formation sequence. For example, I can find the Ohio map.
The Ohio map begins in 1788. It indicates the one county in the Northwest Territory (today’s Ohio) at that time. Washington County was formed as the original county of the Northwest Territory and was created from part of Illinois County, Virginia. That’s another reason I love these interactive maps. With the creation of each county, the map indicates from which parent county or counties it was formed. This is a great help for genealogy research. When I can’t find my targeted ancestor in the county I thought they should be in, I can determine when the county was formed and from what parent county or counties it was formed from. Then, I can quickly determine the other locations that may have records I need.
In addition to the interactive time-lapse maps, each state has a list of other helpful maps that may be of interest to you. For example, the map links for Oregon include the Historical Maps of Oregon, a set of beautiful old maps that can be viewed or downloaded.
Maps can give us a bigger picture of our county, our state, our country, and even the world. These tools help us picture our ever-changing world. What impacted you the most while watching these videos? We would love to hear from you in the comments below!
If you feel inspired to learn more about map visualization, you will enjoy Lisa’s Google Earth video. Lisa was an early pioneer of genealogical data visualization and has been teaching genealogists how to use the free software for the last several years. You can watch the free Google Earth for Genealogy video here or check out her revised and updated e-book, The Genealogist’s Google Toolbox 2nd Editionto learn even more tips and tricks for Google genealogy research.
Why not share the gift of family history story in this year’s Christmas letter or holiday cards?
Genealogy Gems podcast listener Catherine just sent in this fantastic idea about including family history in her annual Christmas letter. I thought I’d share it while it can inspire those whose holiday cards or letters are still on their “to-do” list. (Already done? Think about it for next year!) Here’s what she wrote:
“I’ve always been intimidated by the idea of writing [family history]: where to begin, what to write about, what to include, how to say it. When it was time to sit down and write the family Christmas letter and not having much to report, it struck me. Why not write a family history letter to the cousins about our common maternal Grandfather?
It may not be an original idea but it was new to me, so, deep breath, I took the plunge and the result was a letter that I truly enjoyed writing. I included some fun facts from immigration records and census information, family pictures, a couple of stories and even Google Earth pictures from my Gramp’s birthplace in ‘the Old Country.’ I sourced the letter and added webpage links in case I hooked someone into wanting to know more.”
Thank you Lisa for speaking about Google Earth Pro and my new best friend, Evernote for Genealogy! I can’t wait to see what the family reaction will be. I’m planning some follow up letters and may even go for the big one (gulp)–a blog! I was so inspired I even made two of your wreaths, one for my mother-in-law and one for my best friend, also a genealogy junkie.”
Wow, I love to see how Catherine has taken what I’ve been teaching–from keeping track of sources in Evernote to making wreaths–and RUNNING with it! She says, “Thanks for the great ideas, inspiration and support,” but I want to thank HER for writing in with her enthusiasm and clever ideas. I LOVE the idea of adding the gift of family history–complete with crowd-pleasing Google Earth pictures and proper citations–to your annual Christmas letter. That’s on MY list for next year!
Take These Ideas and Run with Them Yourself with These Helpful How-Tos:
We are celebrating our 1000th Genealogy Gems blog post with a list of our Top 10 Posts. Share this post on Facebook and you could win an inspiring family history writing video!
I can hardly believe it. This month, the Genealogy Gems website will reach a milestone 1000 blog posts! Thank YOU for your emails, phone calls and comments at conferences. I often share your success stories and use your feedback to bring you more great content.
Below is a list of our most-read posts so far. Did you miss any? Keep reading to learn how to win a a great family history writing prize by sharing this post on Facebook!
Our Top 10 Blog Posts
1. Ancestry Up for Sale? By far the most-read post in 2015! We weren’t just talking about the sale rumor, but sharing advice on saving your Ancestry trees, sources and DNA, which everyone should do.
4. Free Google Earth for Genealogy Class. The conference lectures I give on Google Earth for genealogy are so popular that I created a free video that everyone can watch from home. Click on the post, and you can watch the video, too.
Will you please share this post on your Facebook timeline to help me spread the word about the “gems” you can find on the Genealogy Gems blog?
Here’s a little extra incentive: Use the hashtag #genealogygems and SHARE THIS POST ON YOUR FACEBOOK PAGE BY FRIDAY (November 20, 2015), and you’ll be entered in a contest to win the Pain Free Family History Writing Project video course download. It’s presented by Gems Contributing Editor Sunny Morton and donated by our friends at Family Tree University. Of course you’re welcome to add any comments on your “shared” post, like which Genealogy Gems blog post has most inspired you or helped your research. That feedback helps us bring you more posts you’ll love.
Ready, set, SHARE! And thank YOU for helping me celebrate our 1000th blog post here at Genealogy Gems.