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Welcome back to Tenacious Genealogy. Originally, I was going to post last week some basics on GEDMatch. But then life happened and I decided a post on genealogical activities to do with family (or by yourself) would be more appropriate. For those who celebrate Easter, it is coming up on April 1. Passover begins two days before on March 30. Both holidays (as well as a host of other spring holidays) are a great time to relax and spend time with family.
Because these occasions are times that we usually spend with family and friends, they are also great times to work on family history and connect with those we love. Another reason to connect with family members and loved ones is the fact that none of us know exactly how much time we have left with those individuals. So having chats, writing down memories, creating memories (and the like) are all important.
5 Genealogical Activities to Try This Spring
With this in mind, I have 5 genealogical activities that anyone can try this spring, whether to do as part of the celebration of one holiday or another or just because.
1) Record family conversations
This is a simple genealogical activity that can be done in a variety of ways. If you are celebrating a holiday (such as Easter or Passover), see if you can find time to talk to your relatives and ask them questions about themselves. It could be as simple as their favorite food, color, or memory. See if they can recall the first time they celebrated said holiday. How did they feel? What do they remember about the experience?
As for recording these memories, there are a variety of ways. If you have a smartphone, download the StoryCorps app and use that to record stories. There are also tons of audio recorder apps for smartphones that you can download and use. You could use an actual audio recorder (digital or otherwise). You could also write down people’s answers on a computer or a pad of paper. The options are endless.
One tip I’ve found useful (and have seen recommended by people who do a lot of oral histories) is to find a quiet place to do these recordings or interviews. Otherwise, it may be difficult to hear or understand the person you are talking to.
2) Start a journal/Write in your journal
For those of you who won’t be seeing family this spring, but still want to work on genealogical activities, start/continue writing in a journal. If you aren’t a fan of journalling (it’s hard for me too), try reframing this activity as writing your memoir. What do you want people to know about you? In the uber-popular musical Hamilton, Washington sings ‘You have no control:/ Who lives/ Who dies/ Who tells your story?’ Which is why journalling and memoir writing is important. When you die, what stories will your family and friends tell about you? What stories do you want people to know about you?
Something that I hope to take up one day is a habit my father has had for years. He has handwritten/recorded his memoirs since I was a child, recalling stories, drawing pictures, putting in names/dates/anything that he wants people to know about his life growing up. As time has passed, he has continued this habit and will call me up every so often, asking for details for a story that he’s getting around to writing. Marriage dates, birth dates and times. All precious information for future generations. Growing up, I loved reading these books and it is something that I would love to pass on to my posterity.
While your journal or memoir doesn’t have to be as detailed as this, putting in names, dates, stories, memories and the like, are important. Best of all, this is something that can be done in a quiet moment or privately. The only person required to be there is you!
3) Take a family photo
Another genealogical activity that you can do this spring, especially if you are spending time with friends or family – is to take a family photo. This can be relatively simple or complex – one big picture of everyone or smaller shots of different family members together. Either way, it is a great way to capture memories for future generations. It also allows you to add information and context to your family history, whether through writing down people’s names on the photo, arranging the photos in an album, or making a digital photo album with metadata about what and who is in the picture.
While this activity is usually done with more than one person, if you have family members who are not human (like pets) or if you are on your own, these are also great ‘family’ photos to take.
4) Organize family recipes
Is your family big into cooking? Do they have any holiday favorites that you know will be at any get-together? (With my in-laws, I can think of a few like Oreo balls, homemade fudge, and cottage cheese dip, that are at every party.) If so, take a moment to write down those recipes (or have the chef/recipe creator write down the recipes) and organize them for future generations to enjoy. If you have a bunch, you could even create a family cookbook with time-honored and well-loved recipes.
Even if your family doesn’t have a ton of recipes, do you have favorite recipes? Even if they are as simple as the cookies you love to bake and eat, or nachos for a rainy day, be sure to write those down so that future generations can share in your favorite foods.
Last but not least, one of my favorite genealogical activities that I love to do as either a group or by myself – indexing old records. Many places that deal with historical records are beginning to open their records to crowdsourced indexing. That is – allowing the public to index (do data entry) for old records in order to make them easier for researchers to find. One of the biggest group of record collections that you can index can be found on FamilySearch. I plan on writing up a post on how to index with FamilySearch soon, but the basics are:
1) you don’t have to be LDS to index, anyone with a FamilySearch account (which is free) can index
2) whether you can read handwriting or typewritten documents, you can index
3) there are big collections and small collections, so you can do as many or as few as you want
But the most wonderful thing about indexing (in my opinion) is that you are helping others to connect with their families (and on the rare occasion, you might find a record for your own ancestor). As I mentioned earlier, this is an activity that can be done as a group or by yourself and it is a great way to learn more about the types of records you might find while you are doing your own genealogical research.
Questions or comments about any of the ideas above? Have other suggestions for genealogical activities that you can do in the spring (or year around)? Let me know in the comments! And if you like what you’ve been seeing here on Tenacious Genealogy – please subscribe to our email list. Not only will you stay up to date with the latest blog posts, but you’ll also get access to freebies such as ’10 Tips for Starting Your Genealogy’ and other fun ‘subscriber only’ items!