September 21, 2017

Family History Reunion Ideas (or Weddings or BBQs…)

love_magnet_400_wht_12552Do 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.

My Board: Incorporating Family History into Your Wedding

My Board: 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!

How to Organize Old Letters

letter_open_plain_pc_400_wht_1299Do you have old family letters that really should be shared with loved ones, but you’re not sure how to go about doing it? You’re not alone. Jane wrote in recently with that very question. She came across my blog post 6 Tips: How to Organize Your Family History while searching the web for ways to solve her own family history problem:

“Now that the grandchildren of my parents (long since deceased) are raising children of their own, I would like to share at least some of the 75 or so letters that my mother wrote to my dad in their first year of marriage, 1947.  Her letters are filled with many of the same concerns that still plague new moms.”

Jane goes on to mention three options she’s considered:

  • “Scanning them, and then printing out the sheets into a spiral binder has some possibilities, but the chances of busy moms with young children sitting down to read such a tome seem minimal.
  • Taking just a few of the letters, and adding a photo (I have very few from that time period!) to make a little book (through Shutterfly or Picaboo or such) would be another idea. Although that doesn’t really do justice to the whole year of letters.
  • Emailing a transcription of one letter a week (for a year?) has also occurred to me, but I’m really not sure I know how to proceed.”

She concluded by asking me to direct her to anyplace on my website where I’ve addressed a question like this. Here’s what I told her:

“If you are comfortable with the letters being public, I would recommend starting a blog and featuring a letter in each post. Our kids and grandkids are much more comfortable online and they can easily subscribe to your blog which can automatically email the posts to them. An added benefit of blogging is that other folks who might be related can find your family history content through Google search, perhaps helping you connect. I talk a lot about this on my free Genealogy Gems Podcast (at my site and in iTunes).  I have a series of free videos at my Genealogy Gems YouTube channel that show you how to start a blog for free.

GG Premium MembershipAs for publishing small books through a service like Shutterfly or Lulu, I’ve also covered that on my website. Genealogy Gems Premium Members have access to three Premium episodes on the subject that include instructional videos:

  • Premium Episode 54: Publish Your Family History on Demand Part 3
  • Premium Episode 53: Publish Your Family History on Demand Part 2
  • Premium Episode 52: Publish Your Family History on Demand Part 1

I also cover these books including an example of one I created in my book Genealogy Gems: Ultimate Research Strategies (Chapter 13).”

Hopefully these resources can help you with your challenge, Jane, as well as any others who want to know how to organize old letters (or other precious family memorabilia) and share them.

Genealogy Gift Ideas: Genealogy Entertainment

The last post in this year’s series of genealogy gift ideas is all about FUN. Laugh and cry with these great entertainment options:

Family Tree Season 1

Family Tree: The Complete First Season (DVD)
This series is brilliantly funny! I loved it! It pokes a bit of fun at genealogists (so get ready to smile at yourself) while capturing what’s in the family historian’s heart. Anyone who loves family history (or has a quirky family or just likes good comedy) will really enjoy this series.

This genealogy-themed TV show isn’t a research-the-celebrity format. In fact, the fiction of it makes it even more fun. Here’s a plot summary:”Written and created by Christopher Guest, Family Tree is a documentary-style comedy series conceived and produced in the manner of Guest’s feature films. The story revolves around the journey of the 30-year-old Tom Chadwick (Chris O’Dowd), an Englishman in his 30s who has few roots, little family, and a somewhat unsure sense of his purpose in life. Having recently lost his job and girlfriend, Tom inherits a mysterious box of belongings from a great-aunt he never met, triggering a passion to investigate his family lineage. As Tom’s interest in genealogy grows, his life expands and evolves in unexpected directions, as he uncovers a world of unusual stories and characters in the U.K. and the U.S., as well a growing sense of who he is and who his real family are.”

 

Sweet Land

Sweet Land: A Love Story (DVD)
This film has a great story of love and immigration in the early 20th century. I had the director on the podcast previously (Episode 30).

Here’s the plot summary: “Inge (Elizabeth Reaser) is a feisty German mail-order bride who has come to Minnesota to marry Olaf (Tim Guinee), a young Norwegian immigrant farmer of few words. But in a post-WWI, anti-German climate, the local minister (John Heard) openly forbids the marriage. Inge and Olaf fall in love despite the town’s disapproval. But when the town banker (Ned Beatty) attempts to foreclose on the farm of his friend Frandsen (Alan Cumming), Olaf takes a stand…and the community unites around the young couple, finally accepting Inge as one of their own.”

 

 

 

Family Name

Family Name (DVD)
A listener tells me this is a must-watch, and I have ordered my copy. This Sundance Film Festival award-winning documentary captures the worlds of genealogy, race relations in the Southern U.S. and a man’s search for his family identity.

Here’s the summary: “What does a name signify, exactly? Growing up in Durham, North Carolina, white filmmaker Macky Alston never questioned why all of the other Alstons at his elementary school were black. Twenty-five years later, Alston decides to unravel this perplexity in the award-winning documentary FAMILY NAME.

Alston’s quest to solve his genealogical mystery takes him from New York to Alabama and then back to North Carolina. He seeks clues at family reunions, graveyards, church services, and, eventually, the original Alston plantations. The people he meets vary markedly in race, age, class and perspective, but they all have two things in common: the family name and a compelling story to tell. The biggest question of this investigation, perhaps, is whether it will provide the Alstons with catharsis or create an even greater sense of division. As the revelations mount, FAMILY NAME unfolds an unforgettable emotional journey that transforms our conceptions of the past.”

venice

 

Family Tree by Venice (mp3 Song)
(from Spin Art by Venice (CD)) is a gorgeous musical tribute to family. Some people sing or play it at family reunions, funerals and other family gatherings that are about remembering and celebrating. The musicians are part of the extended Lennon family – not John Lennon but the celebrated Lennon Sisters. There’s a lovely acoustic version of the song The Family Tree you can download, too. The group were guests on the podcast (Episode 39).

 

 

WDYTYA Season 1Who Do You Think You Are?: Season One
and Who Do You Think You Are: Season 2
Relive (or catch what you missed of) the unforgettable first two seasons of WDYTYA? from 2010 and 2011.

Celebs discover dramas in their family histories in front of the camera, adding their own discovery process to the story. Their family stories trace larger themes in American history and culture and lead them to reflect on the events and people that made them who they are.

The Season One lineup features Lisa Kudrow (one of the show’s producers), Sarah Jessica Parker, Matthew Broderick, Brooke Shields, Susan Sarandon, Spike Lee and Emmitt Smith.

In Season 2, you’ll meet Vanessa Williams, Tim McGraw, Rosie O’Donnell, Kim Cattrall, Lionel Richie, Steve Buscemi, Gwyneth Paltrow and Ashley Judd.

 

 

WDYTYA kids book

Who Do You Think You Are? Be a Family Tree Detective
by Dan Waddell offers some genealogy sleuthing fun for kids. Inspired by the show, the book helps kids tools, tips, ideas and activities “to investigate, discover, and preserve family secrets and treasures.”

It’s got kid-friendly language and plenty of colorful illustrations make this a great companion for junior genealogists.

 

Trace Your Native American Ancestors with BIA Genealogy Guide

Native American Dancer. Image by Paco Lyptic, some rights reserved. Wikimedia Commons.

Native American Dancer. Image by Paco Lyptic, some rights reserved. Wikimedia Commons.

Many North American families have a tradition that someone in their family tree was a Native American. In fact, I have sometimes heard people say that they originally got interested in genealogy because they wanted to learn whether they really did have a Native American connection.

However, it’s not always easy to track down and verify American Indian ancestry. That’s why I was pleased to get a tip from podcast listener Kate Vaughan. She says that a Choctaw friend of hers recommends Guide to Tracing Your American Indian Ancestry by the Bureau of Indian Affairs, an e-book to which you can click directly.

Once you’ve done the research and confirmed your native roots, you can actually contact tribal leaders and see if you’re eligible to enroll in the tribe (each tribe has its own requirements). You can also apply for a certificate degree of Indian Blood from the Bureau of Indian Affairs that shows your blood quantum and tribal affiliation.