Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Start Today

Family history starts now.  One hundred years from now a descendent is going to want  information about family.  They may not even know your name.  What better gift to give than a few words about your history.  If they were to read it one hundred years from now it would be new again.  Would you like to read a story by your great great grandmother from one hundred years ago?  I would!  The stories are easy to write.

Twenty nine years ago today, I was in the hospital.  The doctor said “Try walking around for a while”.  The next doctor said “Try drinking some cold water”.  What kind of hospital is this?  So I get a glass of ice water, walk to the window, and see a great view from the seventh story window, but my wife still will not go into labor.  Doctors knew what they were talking about because we went from not being able to feel labor pains one minute to a ten on the richter scale the next.  “Hey can we get something for the pain?”.  “NOW?”  Fifty one minutes later she is born and our lives changed forever.  As the tears stream down and roll off my chin I held the most beautiful bundle of little girl for the first time.  Today, as I celebrate her mothers awesome work, I am in awe of what she has become.  Not because of her mother or father, not because of the country that has given her every opportunity, but because of the woman that she is inside.  Happy birthday my little girl!

Family history starts every day.  Keep it alive.  Ask your family members to tell you stories of the old days.  To develop a family tree is a great gift to pass on, the stories are priceless.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

What Happened To Our Family History?

Family life has changed in the last seventy five years. What has changed?  Communication has changed everything.  We can find out what is happening around the world in the last five minutes but we can’t remember what happened yesterday.

Seventy five years ago you got news days or weeks behind.  But the family communicated.  They didn’t have much to talk about except, family history.  They would sit around and tell stories.  The parents were the window to the world.  Mom and Dad were told stories by there parents the same way.  They passed down, with embellishments, where they came from.  They heard about life in the old country, life on the farm, how hard life was.  They learned about family members and they learned where there grand dad grew up.

Fifty years ago we started watching television.  The family would get together on Sunday night and watch Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of Color on NBC.  You guessed it, we didn’t talk much about what grandma used to do when she was little.  We spent every daylight minute outside playing with whatever we could find.  Do you remember the NBC Peacock?  Refresh your memory. (  To learn more about what we watched in the good old days, follow this link.  (

Thirty years ago we started playing games on computers.  Each kid got a TV in there room and it was pretty quiet around the kitchen table.  Coming in from school kids would blast through the door and yell, “Mom’s what’s for dinner.”, through there coat and lunch box on the floor on the way to watch TV in there rooms.

Twenty years ago kids started learning more from television and computers then parents.  Time was spent doing homework, watching television, and talking on the phone.  Playing outside was getting dangerous.  If you were lucky enough to live on a court you could play outside if you stayed close.  Everyone eating dinner together meant we all jump in the car and go to McDonald’s together.

Ten years ago televisions were on all day, a TV in every room and a computer next to the TV.  Home theaters were the rage.  Kids were actually spending time in front of the big screen with Mom and Dad watching American Idol.  Even the teenagers were coming back.  Sadly only for one or two programs.  Then back to there room where they had all the creature comforts.  If you could just install a toilet and a fridge, they would never have a reason to come out.

Today, if you can get in a word or two with your child you are competing with a text that just came in or there phone rings.  Mom I have to get Jimmy has notes from my English class.

So the last generation did not get the family history passed down to them and if they new anything they couldn’t tell you anyway because you have that damn communication device in your ear.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Free Access To UK Census

If you don't know by know, is a huge resource for information.  The service is free however the research tools are by subscription.  That's fair.  There are two levels of subscription.  The first (Deluxe) provides research tools for the United States.  You can upgrade to the next level (World Deluxe) which gives you research tools outside the US.  If you subscribe to the Deluxe level of (like myself) they are offering a special benefit.  From 8pm (EST) Saturday March 25th through 8pm (EST) Sunday March 26th they are opening up there United Kingdom census records at no charge.  Thank you

How Can I Start A Family Tree?

There are so many options.  When I decided to start finding out more about our family I started to write down what I could remember.  I drew a picture of a tree, and put names on the branches.  The names I could remember that is.  After two hours of scratching I looked down and what did I have.  A confused mess of chicken scratches.  I knew I had to find a way to write it down so that I could recall the information later.  Thank God I only had a few family members.

Note: Take five minutes and think back about the names in your family.  How far back can you remember?  Most of us can remember our grand parents names.  Can you remember your great grandparents names?  I can’t remember anyone ever mentioning one of my great grand parents.  After spending two years on the family history I realized most of us can’t remember anything farther back than three generations.

After investing half a day, I was already overwhelmed.  So I got on the Internet and Googled “family history”.  Over a million hits.  (A million places to go) I looked over the first page, looked at the second page, and by the third page I was overwhelmed again. So I Googled “organizing your family history”.  Only half a million hits this time.  On the first page I found a link to a program called Family Tree Maker.  That sounded like exactly what I needed.  Something the drew the tree for me and kept track of my branches.  Great option but being financially challenged stopped me in my tracks.  I was getting discouraged.  I suppose you are reading this blog to get words of wisdom from an experienced genealogist.  I guess you could call me experienced because I made a lot of mistakes, but genealogist I had to look up in the dictionary.  You want me to tell you what to do?  If I were to start over I would do the following.

1.  Make a list of all the family names you can remember.
2.  Organize from the start.
3.  If you find out something, write it down.
4.  Interview every family member you can.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Should You Start A Family Tree?

I didn't even know I wanted to have a family tree.  I knew what a family tree was.  My Mom had an old bible that had a picture of a tree and places to write names along the branches of the tree.  She never filled out any of the names, so it wouldn't help.  (Where did that bible go anyway?)  It all started when my niece asked a question about our family history.  I had no idea what the answer was.  I didn't have anyone to ask.  Our family history was lost in time.  There could be thirty, maybe forty family members that were still alive.  Where to start?

The challenge was that we moved west fifty years ago.  Family three thousand miles away.  Names?  Why didn't I write some of those things down?  In those fifty years Mom told us stories.  Hard to remember what to get at the store much less remember a story from fifty years ago.

Alright let's get serious.  Twenty years ago I had the opportunity to visit my Aunt in Texas.  In the four hours at there house three were spent on there hobby.  Aunt Marion and Uncle Henry were very excited about researching our family tree.  (Not the bible)  (Keep up)  They had binders, books, file cabinets, a computer, and passion.  They spent vacations traveling around the country trying to locate records.  I'll just give them a call.  I wonder what there phone number is?  Who got Mom and Dad's old phone book that had all those notes in it?  Let your fingers do the walking. (You may have to be over forty years old to understand that.)  No phone book for Texas, okay then dial the area code and a 555-1212.  (You may have to be over 30 to get that one)  Okay 411, State? City? Name? "We got nothing".  Now what do I do?

I'm tired of typing and I still don't know if I need a family tree.  What I realized was that if I start a family tree today, the family that follows me will have at least have a place to start.  Your welcome!