Getting Creative with Family History

My grandmother, Merle Louise Parkman Etter

My Grandmother, Merle Louise Parkman Etter

Sometime in your life you will become interested in your family history. It happened to me when I was in my thirties. I did not know much about my father’s family, so I started doing research.

I found a lot of information through the Clayton Genealogical Library in Houston, talking to family members, going to county courthouses, local libraries, etc.  There is so much information now on the internet. You probably can find most of what you need right on your computer. So, if you are interested, there are many places to get genealogy information.

But what do you do with the information once you have it? That is a big issue for people that have boxes of files filled with information. Most people would not be able to understand the information you have collected if you are not there to explain. Arranging the information in a creative way for your family would leave a wonderful legacy for your descendents.

I have an incredible amount of genealogical information. This information fills several file cabinets. I know my children would not be able to understand what I have collected. I started brainstorming how I could put this information together in a better format my family could actually enjoy.  Here are a few ideas, some are creative, some not so much:

  1. Make a scrapbook for each of your children with copies of labeled family photos, copies of documents, and a chart of family ancestry. There is nothing more annoying than having family photos that are not labeled. You know they are a family member, but who are they?
  2. Input family data into genealogical computer software. Give family members a disc or printout of the information.
  3. Write a book about your family or about the side of the family that you have the most information. Include photographs. Discuss what was going on in the world, what your family member did as their occupation. Be sure to include facts. In your writing you may want to get creative and think out loud about what you imagine the ancestors’ life was like, etc. If you are embellishing make sure the reader knows. You might want to put your own thoughts in italics or a different font or ink color. Most genealogists would prefer you give only the facts with documentation.
  4. Copy all family information you have collected to the computer. You can scan documents as images, pdfs, tifs, etc. Use movie maker or other video software to create a movie of all the family information. Narrate the video with family stories or explaining where a picture was taken, the occasion, etc.
  5. Write a short story or children’s story of one funny or interesting family happening. Have young children in the family illustrate. Make copies for family members.
  6. Video tape yourself talking about the family history and what you have discovered. This might be easier if you write a script or have someone asking you questions.
  7. Video tape all the older family members reminiscing about the family. Put the videos together using video software.
  8. Write a story of your life. As you write act as if you are talking directly to your children. Include photos of yourself as a child. Talk about where you were born, your parents, where you lived, or anything tramatic or exciting that happened to you. You might want to explain how you felt when your children were born, or when you got married. If you were close to a grandparent, you might want to share a special story.
  9. Create a genealogy journal. This could be an expansion of #8. You could write about what you remember but also include stories from other family members. With the internet and email you might ask family members to send you their favorite family story, adventure, vacation, etc. Include these in your journal. Meander in time from the present to the past and back again. Include favorite family quotes and a list of family surnames you know are in your family line.

These are just a few ideas you might find helpful. I have not decided the avenue I will follow in putting together my family information. I know it will be quite an undertaking. I am leaning towards putting everything in a movie format. I have video clips of my grandmother talking and I would love to include that.

I feel it is very important to share the family information with all family members. Even if someone does not seem interested now they may be later. Interest may skip a generation also. Getting creative with your family history can be beneficial for generations to come.

For those of you that are interested I thought I would make a list of some of my family surnames. The names are: Waldrop, Williams, Etter, Parkman, Alford, Beck, Stewart. Sinclair, Bates, and Halliburton. Any relatives out there?

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