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.
One more GREAT reason to write your life story and family history, don’t you think? Thanks to my brother Chris McClellan for sharing this blog post with me.
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!
Beginning today, try FindMyPast for FREE –all weekend long!
Over 2 billion historical records will be available to search beginning Friday, March 6 and ending Monday, March 9 (start and finish at midday London time (GMT)). Local subscribers will have World access during this time and World subscribers get an extra three days tacked onto their subscriptions.
What kinds of records are we talking about? According to FindMyPast:
- “Over 900 million census records from across the UK, USA and Ireland;
- Passenger lists for ships sailing to and from Europe, Australia, New Zealand, and the USA;
- Birth, marriage and death records dating back to the 18th century, and the largest online collection of UK parish records;
- The most comprehensive collection of UK military records anywhere online;
- The largest collection of Irish family history records available online;
- Historical newspapers from across the world, including more than 10 million British newspaper pages from as long ago as 1710;
- An easy to use online family tree builder which allows you to import and export your tree if you’ve built it elsewhere;
- Our automatic Hints feature, which automatically searches our records for you and suggests potential matches to the people you add to your family tree.”
You may also find these resources helpful:
Webinar on Finding Female Ancestors. To celebrate International Women’s Day, at 7am EST on Sunday 8th March, Findmypast will host a webinar on searching for women in historical records. Women are usually tougher to find than men in old records because a) they were mentioned much less frequently and b) their names changed with their marital status.
Getting Started Video. Findmypast has created a new Getting Started video which will be available to view beginning this weekend.
Find out more at Findmypast’s dedicated Free Weekend page.
On August 15 I posted a compelling video and article on my Facebook page about the importance of hard word and making your own luck, values I am fortunate that my ancestors passed on to me. The speech came from an unlikely source: a young Hollywood actor. In the video, Ashton Kutcher stands in front of a bunch of teenagers at the Teen Choice Awards talking about the importance of hard work:
“When I was 13, I had my first job with my dad carrying shingles up to the roof, and then I got a job washing dishes at a restaurant, and then I got a job in a grocery store deli, and then I got a job at a factory sweeping Cheerio dust off the ground,” Kutcher said. “And I’ve never had a job in my life that I was better than. I was always just lucky to have a job. And every job I had was a stepping stone to my next job, and I never quit my job until I had my next job. And so opportunities look a lot like work.”
The video went wildly viral (which is how I came across it) and it got me to thinking about my own work ethic. The credit for it sits squarely on my dad’s shoulders, and also my grandparents shoulders, and their grandparents shoulders.
My dad was the first in his family to get a college degree. He went to school and studied all day and worked in the local hospital morgue at night! (image left: Dad and my proud Grandpa at Dad’s Graduation) I remember endless nights as a kid creeping up behind him as he sat in at the makeshift office in my parent’s master bedroom, puffing on a pipe and studying for his CPA. We didn’t have much in common to talk about, but it was what I saw in action that was communicating to me. Dad went on to become a successful businessman in a large company, and later created several vibrant businesses.
I guess it was that non-verbal communication between father and daughter that inspired me as a kid to pull weeds, babysit and yes even shingle the side of the garage to make a few bucks. And I vividly remember taking a temporary job caring for a 100 old year woman for a few weeks one summer. She was testy at first as she felt generally ignored, but warmed up to her inquisitive caregiver until she was soon sharing stories of traveling as a little girl in a covered wagon. She’d found her audience and I was entranced.
At 15 I lied about my age so I could get a job at pizza buy expired medication place washing dishes. Within two days they promoted me to cook, a position a girl had never held in that restaurant.
Later I went on to my teenage dream job – sales clerk at the Mall record store. (Sheer persistence helped me beat out all the other teens for that one!) And then, on to a job at Radio Shack (this time the first female to be hired in the entire state!) as the TRS-80 hit the shelves.
I started my professional career working for free at a travel agency to get a little resume cred as I finished travel agent school, and was the first to land a job a week before graduation. I went on to working in corporate America where I received invaluable career development.
But like my dad, I’m an entrepreneur at heart. I’ve created a couple of businesses and positions for myself over the years, and find myself now with Genealogy Gems living my dream and drawing from all of my past experiences.
There have been many challenges along the way – no one ever said work was easy. And in fact, my mom’s favorite saying that was drilled in to us as kids was “life isn’t fair – get over it!” She was absolutely right, and she removed the obstacle of fretting over fairness from my life, so I could just get on with working hard and creating my own dreams. I was one lucky kid!
Now whenever a challenge arises, my instinct is to say to myself: I can’t wait to find out what future opportunity this dilemma is training me for!” Almost without exception, I can look back over my past work experiences and see how they are helping me today. Some of the very worst have turned out to be blessings.
So what “lucky” opportunities have you had and created? On this Labor Day I hope you’ll join me in the comments and also share what you learned from your previous generations.
The good news: Even if the most recent generations that came before let you down, family history offers you centuries to pull new and positive values from. Your ancestors were survivors and yep, that’s why you’re here! You may have parents or grandparents who went astray, but you have countless ancestors to find, and learn from. And best of all, you get to pick which values you wish to embrace, and which will fall by the wayside.
Let us pass on what our ancestors taught us so our kids and grandkids can enjoy the opportunities, growth, reward and freedom that comes from good old hard work.
Happy Labor Day!
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!
I’ll be joining eight other incredible genealogists to bring cruisers an exciting assortment of family history classes aboard the beautiful Marco Polo ship (right). Check out the Presenters page
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.