Did you know that writing–and then re-writing–our personal stories can be good for our health? And even better for our future,
Courtesy Houston County, TN. Archives.especially if we are struggling to define that future optimistically.
So says a recent New York Times blog post. “We all have a personal narrative that shapes our view of the world and ourselves,” writes Tara Parker-Pope.
“But sometimes our inner voice doesn’t get it completely right. Some researchers believe that by writing and then editing our own stories, we can change our perceptions of ourselves and identify obstacles that stand in the way of better health.”
She’s not talking about writing childhood memories or ancestral anecdotes. In several studies, people who were struggling in an area were asked to write about it. Then they were presented with optimistic scenarios about how others had overcome difficulties. Those who rewrote their narratives were able to grab onto some of that optimism. They actually changed the way they thought of their “problem,” whatever it was. And long-term results in some studies showed that these people DID in fact improve.
We often see celebrities on Who Do You Think You Are? talk about how their ancestors’ lives inspire them or teach them new ways of understanding their own lives. Many who write their own family histories say the same thing. As we wrestle with memories or facts and how to present them in writing, we also interpret the past in new ways and, often, this new insight brings hope for a better future.
Listen as Lisa and I discuss different styles for writing about your family history in the FREE Genealogy Gems podcast episode 176. Or get inspired by the family history-themed books we love and share on our Genealogy Gems Book Club page. Click here for great suggestions on what to read!
It’s always a joy for me to get to get out and about and meet readers and listeners in person. In July 2014 there’s a wonderful opportunity for us to get together in person, talk genealogy and experience the joy of travel: the Unlock the Past Cruises for their 2014 British Isles Cruise!
You’ll have around 40 topics to choose from, held mostly in the evening so there will be loads of time to explore the breathtaking landscape.
- day 1 – depart Tilbury, London – 6pm (boarding from 12.30pm)
- day 2 – at sea
- day 3 – Invergordon, Scotland – 7.30am-10pm
- day 4 – Kirkwall, Orkney Islands – 7am-6pm
- day 5 – Stornoway, Outer Hebrides – 7.30am-10pm (transfer to shore by tender)
- day 6 – Tobermory, Isle of Mull – 7.30am-4pm (transfer to shore by tender)
- day 7 – Dublin, Ireland – 8am-5.45pm
- day 8 – St Mary’s, Isles of Scilly – 9am-6pm (transfer to shore by tender)
- day 9 – St Peter Port, Guernsey – 7.30am-6pm (transfer to shore by tender)
- day 10 – Honfleur, France – 9am-5pm
- day 11 – arrive Tilbury, London – 9am
My understanding is that this cruise is filling up very quickly so if you’re interested be sure and click here for more details.
Do you have a family reunion, wedding or another special family gathering coming up soon? I’ve been busy helping plan my youngest daughter’s wedding, and we are looking for ways to capture memories from our loved ones while they are all together.
Hannah and I aren’t the only ones looking to make the most of this exciting event. Genealogy Gems podcast listener Kirsty recently asked me how she could incorporate family history gathering at her upcoming wedding (Congratulations, Kirsty!) and here’s what I told her:
1. Search family reunion websites and other websites for ideas you can convert to a wedding reception. For example, Reunions Magazine has a page devoted to family history activity ideas for family reunions. A search of Google and Pinterest should help you find more ideas. Check out my Pinterest board called Incorporating Family History Into Your Wedding.
2. If you have your guests seated at tables, that’s a great opportunity to provide an icebreaker that can double as a family history gathering opportunity. You could have a form at each place setting for them to fill out. If you are having a videographer, you could have a short list of questions at each table, and when he comes to their table he records them answering the questions. (What’s your earliest childhood memory? Who’s the earliest ancestor you have a photograph of? What are three things you remember about great-grandmother? etc) Can you imagine how this Martha Stewart placecard on Pinterest (which I found by searching “family reunion history” at Pinterest) might be adapted this way?
3. If you they won’t be at tables, you could have a family history table (next to another table they are likely to visit such as guest book table) and have your activity there. Let them know that this is their gift to you. You could even have some sort of treat or little sticker they can wear that says “I shared the family history, have you?” (In the U.S. when you vote they often give you a little lapel sticker that says “I voted.”) Or you could create the “Sweet Memories Candy Bars” that feature family history that I write about in my book Genealogy Gems: Ultimate Research Strategies.
I hope these ideas help inspire Kirsty and anyone who wants to gather their loved ones’ memories at their next family event!
Recently I heard from David with this question:
“Because of your consistent message of starting a family blog [and] anecdotal success from listeners, I started a family history website. A blog just seemed too small…. The ultimate goal is to display the family information for my known relatives as well as create a site that will pop up on Google search results and hopefully put me in contact with new relatives.
My question is about displaying the family tree on the website. I want to have a page that shows my family tree. I did not know how to accomplish that, so I decided to include links to my ancestry and myheritage family trees. The problem with this method is that ancestry requires you to have an account to view the tree, and MyHeritage only shows you some of the family tree and requires an account to view the rest. This is not a great method to share the family tree with relatives because not everyone has, or wants, an account with these sites. Is there a website where I can upload my family tree’s GEDCOM file and then link to it on my website where it will display all the members of my tree?”
It’s always great to hear that Genealogy Gems is helping out. Congrats on the website David! I recommend blogs to my readers because they are quicker and easier to set up, but in reality I would rather recommend they create a family history website like you are doing. It’s better suited for the long haul of getting your word out and connecting with others.
You pose a great question, and so I did what I just coached everyone in my latest episode #171 to do: just Google it! What you are describing is a ‘website plugin’ so I Googled: family tree website plugin and…Ta-da! There are some out there.
I found one for Word Press (which is where I build my site) so I may have to give that one a try. However, since you are using Weebly I went back and added “weebly” to the search and there are definitely some hits there, though I’m not sure if they specifically include a visual tree plug in. Try the searches and see if you find something you like.
My friend Caroline Pointer has a YouTube video called “Build a Family History Website & Blog on Weebly.” Around the 5:50 mark she shows how she embedded family tree charts into Weebly. Looks like she used Scribd.
Keep up the great work on your family history site!