Easy Project to Write Your Family History: Publish a Q&A

This 3-step project will help you capture a relative’s life story in plenty of time for the holidays!

Reconstructing the life stories of our ancestors can sometimes feel like squeezing water from a stone. By comparison, gathering the life stories of the living can be like turning on a tap. All you have to do is direct and catch the flow.

Turn your family history interviews into a beautiful book–just in time for holiday sharing–with this three-step project. Simplify it or doll it up, depending on your time, talents and what you have to work with. Just do it! Write your family history! Here’s the basic outline:

1. Record an interview. Invite a relative to chat with you about his or her life stories. Decide together what the relative WANTS to talk about: childhood memories? Stories about a certain loved one or a particular time period? A little of everything? Consider using a list of life story questions or memory prompts like those you can find in my book, My Life & Times: A Guided Journal for Collecting Your Stories.

Before you begin, be clear that your goal is to write these stories up for the family. Meet in person, over the phone or by Skype (click here to learn how to record a Skype conversation). With permission, record the conversation. Ask plenty of follow-up questions, but otherwise keep your own comments to a minimum. For more interviewing tips, listen to this free Family History Made Easy podcast episode.

2. Transcribe the interview. After you’ve finished your chat, go back and type up the interview. Give yourself plenty of time: this takes longer than you think. Consider asking a fast-typing relative to help or hire a transcription service (here’s one option). Type things just as you hear them, incomplete sentences and all. Don’t include anything your loved one wants to keep “off the record.”

3. Print the transcript. Save an unedited copy of the typescript in your permanent files. Edit it a little to make it “reader-friendly” if you want to. Print it out. Add any extras, like family tree charts or copies of photos. Bind it however you prefer. (Genealogy Gems Premium website members can check out Lisa’s 3-part Premium podcast series on self-publishing: episodes 52-54). Share copies with loved ones: they make great holiday gifts.

Here’s a page from a sample project I did. It’s a simple stapled book, printed in landscape (sideways) format on regular-sized paper. I left the narrative in the format of a simple Q&A, just like it was spoken. I did edit slightly for clarity and flow. My questions are in italics and the speakers are identified (I was interviewing a husband and wife together). I added a few photos.

I shared copies of this book with every family member as holiday gifts a few years ago. Now everyone has a special legacy gift featuring this couple: their children, their grandchildren and even their great-grandchildren.

Now is the time for you to write a portion of your family history, and I’m here to help and support you. I will be conducting a fun and productive one-week workshop called the Genealogist’s Essential Writing Workshop at Family Tree University starting October 19. You can do this and I’m here to help!

Additional Family History Writing Resources from Genealogy Gems

Disclosure: This article contains affiliate links and Genealogy Gems will be compensated if you make a purchase after clicking on these links (at no additional cost to you). Thank you for supporting Genealogy Gems!

Genealogy Gems Podcast Episode 184 Is Ready for YOU

GGP 184The FREE Genealogy Gems Podcast episode 184 has been published and is ready for your listening pleasure! 

In this episode of the free Genealogy Gems podcast, you’ll hear about lots of fabulous and FREE online resources–including a way to harness the power of Ancestry.com for free.

You’ll also hear advice from two listeners, one on saving your genealogy from theft and another with a tip on digital preservation for photos. I share a genealogist’s poem that made me laugh. Resident DNA expert Diahan Southard joins us to respond to a common lament: when DNA doesn’t seem to be panning out for you.

In this episode we also announce our next Genealogy Gems Book Club, the last featured title of 2015. It’s a meaty new novel by a New York Times best-selling author who has also penned an Oprah Book Club Pick. Come check it out (or click here to read more about it)! Listen in iTunes, through our app (for iPhone/iPad or Android users), on our website and TuneIn (now available for Amazon Echo users).

The Genealogy Gems podcast is proud to continue its tradition as a FREE, listener-friendly show for all levels of family history researchers (beginners and beyond!). Thanks for sharing this post with your friends and genie buddies. You’re a GEM!Genealogy Gems Newsletter Sign Up

Here It Is! #1 of Top 10 Posts On Our Genealogy Blog

THIS IS IT! Our #1 blog post of 2015. Not surprisingly, it’s about how to secure your data on Ancestry.com: your trees, photos, sources and even DNA! 

Earlier this year, rumors circulated that Ancestry was up for sale. Our post about that rumor included tips about how to back up everything you’ve put on Ancestry–trees, source citations, images and even DNA results. That post from our genealogy blog circulated among thousands and thousands of Facebook friends! It was definitely our most-read post of 2015, thanks to those of you who helped share its tips with your friends.

Here’s the bottom line from that post: if you don’t already have up-to-date copies of everything you’ve put on Ancestry, download it now. From here on out, keep your master family tree not on Ancestry (or any other site) but on your own computer. If you do keep building your tree on Ancestry, download updated GEDCOM files regularly. That way, if Ancestry gets hacked, goes out of business or even dumps your data (it’s happened before), you’ve still got your tree.

In that same spirit, back up your own computer systems. Many of you have taken our advice to hire Backblaze to do this for you. Backblaze runs in the background of all Genealogy Gems computers, instantly backing up to the cloud every new or revised file we create, 24/7.  Including our master family trees, digital photos and genealogy document images! Lisa loves that their online backup security is second to none and costs just $5 a month. (Click here to learn more about Backblaze.)

Click here to see all Top 10 Genealogy Gems blog posts for 2015–and enter to win a great prize! The contest ends TODAY, so click now to enter!

 

 

 

 

Ancestry Up for Sale? How to Download and Backup Your Ancestry Data

Ancestry for saleReuters recently reported that Ancestry “is exploring a sale that could value it at between $2.5 billion and $3 billion, including debt.” According to unnamed sources, Permira (a buyout firm that owns most of Ancestry) “has hired investment banks to run an auction for the company.”

It’s far too soon to say what this might mean for paying customers, users of Ancestry Library Edition and corporate and community partners. The sale of a company can mean possible changes in direction and organization. Ancestry currently boasts delivery of 15 billion genealogy records to 2.1 million subscribers, and has stated its intent to acquire additional records at an aggressive pace. In an ever changing corporate and technological environment we believe it’s important to retain ownership and responsibility of our own data.

Our best advice to those whose master family trees are on Ancestry? Download and backup your data! We’re not being alarmist. This announcement is just a good opportunity to do something we routinely recommend anyway.

First, download your current tree(s) to GEDCOM files onto your computer. Under the Trees tab, choose Create and Manage Trees. For each tree you have there, choose Manage Tree, then Export Tree.

Next, check your sources! The Ancestry help section states, “Any pictures, charts, books, views, or similar items found in the original file will not be included in the [downloaded] GEDCOM. Vital information, notes, and sources are usually retained after conversion.” Check your GEDCOM to see whether your source notes are intact. Then make sure you have copies of documents, videos, photos and other items you may have attached to your tree. You don’t want them to disappear, should there be a hiccup (or worse) in service.

Finally, if you have used AncestryDNA, download a copy of your raw DNA data. We especially recommend this step! These tests are expensive. Tests for loved ones who are now deceased can’t be re-rerun. And Ancestry has disposed of DNA samples in the past when the company has switched directions. (Again, not trying to be alarmist, just cautious.)

how to start a genealogy blogIf you have relied on Ancestry or any other cloud-based service to host your only or master family tree, we recommend you do your homework and consider your options. Please click here to read a blog post about keeping your master tree on your own computer at home, and which software may be best for you.

Click here to Start Your Free Family Tree at Ancestry 

 

Disclosure: This article contains affiliate links and Genealogy Gems will be compensated if you make a purchase after clicking on these links (at no additional cost to you). Thank you for supporting Genealogy Gems!

Humidity and Your Family Archive: Why It Matters

book gets dampArchivists tell us to store precious documents and photos in conditions with stable temperature and humidity. This time-lapse video shows why!

Many of us save old books, documents and photos, especially those with sentimental or family history value. But we don’t always store them carefully enough. When storage is at a premium, we may put old books and papers in attics and basements. Here they sweat out the summers, freeze in the winters and swell or shrink as humidity changes.

What kind of effect do these conditions have on our old books and papers A YouTube video posted online from the Image Permanence Institute shows what happened to a 300-year old book when it was subjected to humidity fluctuations. It actually looks like a breeze is blowing the cover off. But really, a change in humidity is plumping up those pages. That can’t be good!

To keep old pages in your family archive from curling up, swelling or mildewing, store them at a lower (and consistent) humidity. Books and papers like living in the same conditions we do, so try to make room for them in your regular living space. Tuck them away in an archival box, then under a bed, on a shelf, in a closet, in a trunk–get creative!

Learn more about this process in our interview with Denise Levenick, author of How to Archive Family Keepsakes: Learn How to Preserve Family Photos, Memorabilia and Genealogy Records, on the free Genealogy Gems Podcast episode 144.

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Disclosure: This article contains affiliate links and Genealogy Gems will be compensated if you make a purchase after clicking on these links (at no additional cost to you). Thank you for supporting Genealogy Gems!

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