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Seven Reasons To Share Your Family History

Posted by Crista Cowan on June 21, 2012 in MyCanvas, Social Media

In the Barefoot Genealogist broadcast this morning, I shared a few ideas for publishing your family history. The two most important things I shared had nothing at all to do with the actual process of creating the chart or book.

Don’t wait until you are finished!

If you wait until you are “finished” with your genealogy, you will never have anything to share. Your genealogy will never be “done.” I inherited a lot of my family history and have been actively working on it for at least a couple of decades. After all that time, I’ve only identified 328 of the 1022 people responsible for my existence in the last 9 generations. (Here’s how that math works.)

My advice to you?  Pick one grandparent or great-grandparent and focus on learning everything you can about them and two or three generations of their ancestors. Then share what you’ve learned with the rest of your family. The sooner, the better!

Less is best!

When you do share, do so in “bite-sized pieces.” Don’t overwhelm non-genealogists with too many charts and forms. Take the time to write a story or two about each ancestor based on what you’ve learned about their lives. Add pictures. Keep it to just four or five generations.

In the live chat afterwards and in my email box this afternoon there were lots of really great ideas shared about WHY you might want to create a family history chart or book. (And we all know that if we have a reason and a deadline we are more likely to get it done.) Here are just a few of those great reasons:

  • Create a giant wall chart for a family reunion so everyone knows where they fit into the family.
  • One book about a grandparents ancestors makes an easy Christmas gift for all the siblings and cousins.
  • When there is a new baby born into the family create a chart to show their lineage.
  • A chart showing three or four generations of the new couple makes a great wedding present.
  • A military focused book honoring all those in the family who have served would make a great memorial.
  • Having a goal to create a book is going to force me to focus on making one section of my family tree as complete and as well documented as possible.
  • We should share more and more often. You never know when you are going to create another genealogist in the family.

What’s your reason?

Until next time – Have fun climbing your family tree!

About Crista Cowan
Crista has been doing genealogy since she was a child. She has been employed at Ancestry.com since 2004. Around here she's known as The Barefoot Genealogist.Google Twitter

20 comments

Comments
1 Barbara Collingwood PruittJune 21, 2012 at 8:43 pm

Miss Barefoot,
I have been working on my family history for close to 3 years and I wish I had read your hint the first day I even thought of starting on this wonderful experience.
Thinking that while I was at it I may as well do it “right”–I was WRONG because I started out doing four trees–one for each of my grandparents. It was entirely tooooo much to handle and remain happy.
Six weeks ago, I decided to concentrate on one grandparent–and when I got it ALL DONE –HOHO-I am much happier. I had never before heard that I will never finish. If only I had known that.
When I read your blog, I knew that I had made the right decision.
I am going to take your advice and start now to edit one book.
I now have a new outlook on what I am doing–and I can hardly wait to hold a book in my hands and see the result of all of this hard work.
THANK YOU, THANK YOU,
Sincerely,
Barbara

2 Pat SecordJune 22, 2012 at 4:07 am

I’ve made up my own pedigree charts and had them blown up for use at family reunions, birthday parties, anniversary parties, etc. It’s always a hit and always stikes up a conversation. I also have loose-leaf binders where I keep copies of census reports, pictures, cemetery information and other documents, which I will also bring along with me for people to look through. Using binders like this also allow me to add things whenever I run across new info. And I agree, you are NEVER done – what a great hobby!!!

3 RebekahJune 22, 2012 at 6:26 am

Great stuff Christa! I’ve done several books using MyCanvas and they have turned out beautifully and been well received by the relatives. After a book has been “shared” with others and printed I copy the book in MyCanvas, adding “revised” to the title. Then I can add new information for a second printing at a later time. I make note of the revision date on a Table of Contents page and sometimes on the page with the new info or pictures. Since a 150+ page book is a little pricey in MyCanvas for a lot of people I also did the same book (well, almost the same – no pictures) in Family Tree Maker and took the file to Office Depot and had them make copies and spiral bind. That way those that can’t afford the pretty book can have all the information and more.

4 KerstinJune 22, 2012 at 9:25 am

Thanks Crista for this! I may rethink how I publish the narrative I’ve been working on. Just as you said, the documents we work with have to be “translated” to make them accessible for everyone else, and the other aspect is not to overwhelm people. Here is my approach: I have created a word document with a fully linked table of contents and citations. The main chapters are the generations, and the sub-chapters are the various narratives in short paragraphs of family lore, document analysis, historical context etc. This approach offers me maximum flexibility when adding new information, revising, or correcting without having to rewrite lengthy narratives. The downside is, that a word document alone is boring. So I have been looking for a way to make the information more appealing. I may just explore what FTM and Ancestry has to offer :)

5 DebraJune 23, 2012 at 11:05 am

Hey Pls put on subtitle or captions, It is not fair for me. I can’t hear what you say. That is not kewl. I am deaf. Pls fix it. I want you to put on subtitle or captions, I really appericate that. Thank you

6 CarolynJune 23, 2012 at 5:09 pm

Good ideas. I’d only suggest that before sharing family history (with family or online), try to verify as much as possible. There are many errors on the family trees published on ancestry.com (and elsewhere). Pat’s use of binders is a good one, because it makes it easy to add pages, photos, etc. and to edit when new information is found. Plastic 3-hole punched sheet protectors prevent documents from being damaged by coffee spills (always a hazard at my desk!), tears, etc.

7 Crista CowanJune 25, 2012 at 12:23 pm

Debra – If you click through to view any of our videos on YouTube, they provide an option to turn on closed caption.

8 Debra KollerJune 27, 2012 at 2:27 pm

Thank you for this great presentation! It gave me some new ideas and reminded me why I have many of my trees as private. I don’t want anyone to duplicate my errors! At this time I am working on a history photo album and your suggestions were very helpful.

9 Gale TorregrossaJune 29, 2012 at 4:07 pm

Hi,

I have copies of my great grandmother’s death certificate, Polly Ann Brewington Jackson, Sampson County, NC, but no death certificate for my great grandfather Ben (Bennett)Jackson of Sampson County, NC Both were born between 1854-1858. Also, I can’t find documents on my great-great grandparents Nancy Jane Manuel Brewington and Johnston Brewington the parents of Polly.

10 Gale TorregrossaJune 29, 2012 at 4:08 pm

Hi,

I have copies of my great grandmother’s death certificate, Polly Ann Brewington Jackson, Sampson County, NC, but no death certificate for my great grandfather Ben (Bennett)Jackson of Sampson County, NC Both were born between 1854-1858. Also, I can’t find documents on my great-great grandparents Nancy Jane Manuel Brewington and Johnson Brewington the parents of Polly.

11 Gary HamJuly 5, 2012 at 1:10 pm

Crista,
I was scrolling through A.com out of boredom and clicked on the blog section and viewed your commentary on publishing. I had no idea that function was even there. Your suggestions really make a lot of sense and will inspire me to do more clicking on subjects on the site and explore what is there. I have been telling family members that as soon as my search is complete I will share with them. Your comments will inspire me to begin sharing much sooner than orginally planned.Thanks!

12 Randi MeentzenJuly 6, 2012 at 1:05 pm

I have been researching my family history for 15 years. I recently began a video blog telling family stories in what I hope is an enjoyable format
http://randisgenealogyadventures.blogspot.com/2007/02/backensto-family-history-from.html
Thank you

13 Liz AllenJuly 11, 2012 at 6:41 pm

These are some great tips. My dad has been begging me to put together a book but I’m nervous about it. 1. I know I’m never done so I’d always want to add this or that. 2. Sometimes there are mistakes made by even the best of us – I don’t want to put something in print that would be glaring at me later. It’d be like a bad tattoo!

14 LizJuly 11, 2012 at 7:02 pm

These are some great tips. My dad has been begging me to put together a book but I’m nervous about it.

1. I know I’m never done so I’d always want to add this or that.
2. Sometimes there are mistakes made by even the best of us – I don’t want to put something in print that would be glaring at me later. It’d be like a bad tattoo!

15 Tracy BriggsJuly 22, 2012 at 8:33 am

You’re fabulous! Thanks for the advice. I’m off now to create a Christmas gift for my sister, brother and dad!

16 Kathy SchwabAugust 12, 2012 at 2:24 am

Hi, Im very close to printing off one book…So I can view it in hardcover, to see where I am. Question. I live in Canada….How can I print my book thru Family Tree Tree Maker. I purchased in Canada….Having a Hard time to actually ordering it . The company wants a US Mailing address….Im lucky to have a Brother that lives there…but is there a simpler way for Canadians to get their books printed…Glad we can even in a round about way. Thanks Kathy

17 Charles R. MurraySeptember 2, 2012 at 9:18 pm

I really enjoyed looking and reading all the comments by various people. I have resurrected my geneaolgy quests recently. Between me and my brother Greg we have gone back as far as 4 generations on the Murray limb of our family tree. We have done research on about 8 to 10 limbs on our tree. It is like being a detective, you look for clues and evidence with every piece of the puzzle. When you can genuinely certified the piece of information, you get an real high. You want do more and more work. When I first started my genealogy journey in 1982, I didn’t have all the on-line sources to check out. I made several trips out of town to do research. Now that same information is available on-line, as you find others working on the same limb of you tree. Can hardly wait until I get my DNA results. I hope it my open some doors I couldn’t enter until now.

18 Carolyn Jordan DanielsSeptember 7, 2012 at 1:52 pm

I really enjoyed the article and I started separate family trees for my father’s side of the family and my mother’s side of the family. I am now going to combine them! I am going to print out a poster for our Thanksgiving gathering! Thanks for the great tips.

19 Genealogy Goals: 3rd Quarter ReportSeptember 7, 2012 at 5:04 pm

[...] June I did a Barefoot Genealogist episode and wrote a blog post about sharing your family history.  I have two specific projects (with deadlines) in the works.  [...]

20 Dorothy BecknellNovember 14, 2012 at 2:37 pm

Crista, I attended a conference in August in Oklahoma City, OK. Since then, I have been trying to find a way to get in touch with you. They say this is the best way to try.
During the conference, you used several slides I would like to “borrow” for using in presentations to the Tulsa Genealogical Society of which I am a member. I am also the website webmaster (http://www.tulsagenealogy.org) and presently am on the Board of Directors for the society.
The slides in which I am interested are the explanation of DNA using fruits and vegetables. I loved that way of showing how dna works. Also you had a sllide of a “frustrated family genealogist” – a cartoon looking lady with different phrases around her. If there is a location I can retrieve these for myself, please let me know. Thank you for your expertise and willingness to share with those who are learning this wonderful experience of family tree climbing.
Dorothy

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