Ancestry.com

The 52 Ancestors Challenge

Posted by Amy Johnson Crow on January 10, 2014 in In The Community, Stories

I write about genealogy as part of my job. So what’s something I do in my off hours? Write about genealogy. Last fall, I decided to take a look at how I was doing my personal blogging and launched No Story Too Small. As the name implies, all of the stories that we find about our ancestors are important. Our ancestors didn’t have to be famous (or infamous); they didn’t have to be part of a critical moment in history. My goals with No Story Too Small have been to remind myself that it’s alright to blog about just a portion of someone’s life and to inspire others to do the same on their blogs.

52ancestorsOne of the best ways to keep writing is to have goals or a calendar. (“I’ll write sometime” is usually a doomed strategy.) So to challenge myself and others to write at least once a week, I started the 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks Challenge. The premise: write about one ancestor each week this year. It could be a story, a photograph, a document, a pesky research problem — anything, as long as it involves one ancestor. The next week, write about another ancestor. Doing this will get you to look at those people in your family tree in a different light. What is it you want to say about that person?

To say that 52 Ancestors has taken on a life of its own would be a slight understatement. As of this morning, 157 bloggers have said they are taking the challenge. On January 8, I posted the Week 1 recap, which had links to 123 entries! Four bloggers have already made connections. (Yay, cousin bait!)

The entries in Week 1 were as varied as you might expect. Ancestors ranged from parents to at least one 8th-great grandfather. Some of the posts that stood out to me were:

  • The Meanest Man Who Ever Lived” by Peggy Clemens Lauritzen on her blog “Always Anxiously Engaged.” First, it takes no small amount of courage to describe your great-grandfather as the meanest man who ever lived. Peggy’s description of how she looked at his life in total, using things like timelines and examining the neighborhood and extended family, is a lesson in how to learn more about the person.
  • Catherine Conway Sawyer” by Susan Clark on her blog “Nolichucky Roots.” Susan describes Catherine as “the Nolichuckiest of my Nolichucky Roots.” If that isn’t a great description, I’m not sure what is.
  • Laura Cecile Donald” by our own Ancestry Anne, Anne Gillespie Mitchell, on her blog “Finding Forgotten Stories.” Anne is taking the challenge one step farther and aims to focus solely on the females in her family tree.

Each week, I’ll try to put together some of my favorite 52 Ancestors posts and share them with you here on the Ancestry blog.

If you’d like to join the challenge and be included in the weekly recap, leave a comment below or on my blog and include a link. (When you do blog something for the challenge, please put “52 Ancestors” in the title so I have some hope of finding it.)

It’s not too late to join the challenge; indeed, it’s never too late to start writing about your ancestors!

My paternal grandmother Adah Young Johnson, the subject of my 1st "52 Ancestors."

My paternal grandmother Adah Young Johnson, the subject of my 1st “52 Ancestors.”

 

About Amy Johnson Crow
Amy Johnson Crow is a Community Manager for Ancestry.com. She's a Certified Genealogist and an active lecturer and author. Her roots run deep in the Midwest and Mid-Atlantic states. Amy loves to help people discover the joys of learning about their ancestors and she thinks that there are few things better than a day in a cemetery. You can find her on Facebook, Twitter, and No Story Too Small.

71 comments

Comments
1 AnitaJanuary 10, 2014 at 2:24 pm

I did a similar idea a couple years ago by featuring every ancestor on their birthday, which worked out to about ten posts a month:
http://www.familytreerings.org/p/birthday-party-planner.html
It was a great way to stay on schedule and focus on one at a time!

2 TraceyJanuary 10, 2014 at 6:48 pm

I would love to do this but do not know how or where to start a blog. Please help.
Thank you
Tracey

3 Maeve MitchelllJanuary 10, 2014 at 6:59 pm

What a great idea – I would love to join the challenge but I will have to do two in one week to catch up!

4 Bernita AllenJanuary 10, 2014 at 7:18 pm

I have been following this challenge and I think it’s a great idea. Thank you for the recap.

5 MiChalJanuary 10, 2014 at 7:42 pm

I’ve been on Ancestry for a LONG time. A few years ago I started a blog for the stories on my dad’s side of the family. http://wilsongrayfamilyhistory.wordpress.com/2012/12/27/1000-words/

6 Amy Johnson CrowJanuary 10, 2014 at 7:45 pm

Anita — That is quite the project you took on! Very nice!

Tracey — Two of the most popular places to start a blog are Blogger.com (connected to Google) and WordPress.com. Both are free and both have many how-to tutorials online. Pretty much, if you can type, you can blog.

Maeve — You can catch up or not; it’s completely up to you!

Bernita — Thanks for the kind words!

MiChal — That’s a good bit of writing! Kudos for telling those stories.

7 Michelle RasmussenJanuary 10, 2014 at 10:55 pm

I missed the original announcement! I’m trying to do one per day! Some days there just isn’t much to work with! My blog is: leavesandnuts.blogspot.com.

8 Shannon CarrJanuary 10, 2014 at 11:59 pm

My Fritz. He isn’t just my Fred any longer, it turns out, he is a lot of people’s Fritz! When I started researching Fritz, I did not realize how extensive his (our) family is. Since researching, I have had the pleasure of introducing myself to so many people of the “Simmen” clan! I am the luckiest genealogist I the world! Fritz was one of many early advocates for public physical education! He was a member of the Turnverien organization that is responsible for revolutionizing what is now what the kids call ” gym” clas. He taught gym since 1902 in the Pittsburgh public school system. His son Oscar was also a prominent gym teacher in Monongahela school system in Pa. At an age somewhere over 50 did a giant swing WITHOUT A THUMB!!! I believe he is my favorite ancestor because starting at such a young age, he was always the ancestor that was most talked about and that my grandmother was so proud of her grandfather. I followed in his footsteps and was a gymnast for nearly 10 years. I may not have met this man, but the connection to family is definitely there.

9 CathyJanuary 11, 2014 at 1:38 am

Amy, I accept your challenge. It may be a tall order, but surely I’ll come up with at least 52 great stories in the family tree. Now, it will be a bit harder to find the time to tell them all. Here goes…..

10 Keith DavisJanuary 11, 2014 at 7:28 am

52 Ancestors -
Uncle Carl [Charles A. Schuh] was my inspiration for beginning my family history. He was born in 1892 and lived until 1993 [101] years old. He always had a great story to tell, and was a guest lecturer for the Buffalo, NY Historical Society.

11 Patricia RohnJanuary 11, 2014 at 7:37 am

I love this challenge and have decided to join. Here is my first ever blog post: http://patriciarohn.wordpress.com/

12 AymeeJanuary 11, 2014 at 9:24 am

What a great idea!! This has inspired me to take my research to a new level. Been researching my family for 13+ years and have so many stories that probably should be put down into writing. Going to look into starting my own blog. I’m not a writer, and not sure how to start a blog, so any suggestions would be great!

13 Pat StoughtonJanuary 11, 2014 at 1:18 pm

This is the first I’ve seen this blog. And I get your updates on a regular basis.

However, besides that, this seems doable. As a substitute teacher, I often have downtime (prep period, lunch, etc.) I could actually take a name and do this. I don’t have a lot of stories since everyone died when I was young. There are family tales, however, that have taken a life of their own and have sometimes been proven to be untrue.

So how do I start? Maybe with the time of the picture? Who was in office?

Pat

14 Anna K. BrownJanuary 11, 2014 at 3:50 pm

Is there a place on Ancestry where we can post a blog so that others doing research on the same people might find our posts?

15 Brad WatsonJanuary 11, 2014 at 5:15 pm

OK – Let’s try this again. My previous TWO posts seem to have been snagged by a spam filter for some reason. I’ll leave off the blog URL from this message and hope that does the trick.

16,000 people in my tree – I’m sure I can find 50 stories from that kind of selection!

16 Brad WatsonJanuary 11, 2014 at 5:16 pm

OK, so far so good… my blog is at montanatude.wordpress.com

[...] my postings.  And if I’m honest its more miss than hit.  But this morning while reading the Ancestry.com blog I got kinda excited.  Why?  Because I already started this challenge and didn’t know [...]

18 Peggy SternbergJanuary 11, 2014 at 5:50 pm

This fits right into a class I am taking at our public library. We meet once a month to share our writting assignment for that week and get our assignment for the next class. All of this is leading us to write our family story.

19 Michelle GobertJanuary 11, 2014 at 6:20 pm

What a great idea. I am up for the challenge. I just posted by first week and I’m rather excited. I hope it’s ok I used your 52 week ancestors image in my introduction. Let me know if its not and I’ll change it.

20 AymeeJanuary 11, 2014 at 7:41 pm

OK…I’ve stepped outside my comfort zone and done it! Hopefully I’ll get better at it as I go on. You can see my first blog at http://myancestorsleaves.blogspot.com/, all about my grandmother Tennie Belle Holcomb.

21 FHC LibrarianJanuary 11, 2014 at 7:48 pm

I have been researching my ancestors for 30 years and I have always looked beyond the births, deaths, and marriages. Your family history isn’t complete without these stories. Some are more difficult to find and take time, consequently I only have a few thousand people in each tree, because I do this.

There are many trees on Ancestry which don’t even have source information. Many show a relation to my people and many are incorrect. I don’t have time to contact all these people who have mistakes.

Needless to say I don’t trust anyone’s tree without facts and sources. Having stories that can be checked make them more accurate and interesting.

22 Angela ReedJanuary 11, 2014 at 10:14 pm

What a great idea!!! I have been trying to write about some of my ancestors the past few months of last year so now this gives me more impetus to continue doing so and expand the project even further. I have never started a blog but will be adding information to my Family Tree Maker file and my Ancestry.com tree.

23 AngieJanuary 12, 2014 at 1:44 am

Just yesterday I was looking through my blog noticing it’s lack of recent entries. Perfect timing. And as you say, you can start anytime, and just continue for 52 weeks! I accept! Good luck to all of us!

I’ll be writing about my husband’s side of the family at
whatwastheirstory.blogspot.com

24 Lisa Bullock MingsJanuary 12, 2014 at 3:30 am

I would love to be involved in your challenge. I need to be challenged to get good results. Thanks for this opportunity.

52 Weeks

25 Genie HoltJanuary 12, 2014 at 7:33 am

This is a wonderful idea. I (sadly) think my ancestors must have had something interesting or heroic about their lives before I write! No wonder I don’t get much done on that – mostly we have no idea what their challenges were. I’ll have to catch up and the challenge for me is to keep it simple.

26 Arlene BakerJanuary 12, 2014 at 7:00 pm

I had resolved to start writing about both my husband and my ancestors this year and so deciding to take up you challenge is something I want try. I love history and what can be more personally important than your own family history. I’m starting with my 2nd great grandmother, Sarah Babcock.
Arlene Baker

[...] am doing this as part of the 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks challenge. I did not find this challenge until I saw someone post their week 2 entry. This is a challenge I [...]

28 ObserverJanuary 12, 2014 at 8:13 pm

What a great idea! How are you able to stop researching and start writing? Every time I am ready to catch up on adding newfound ancestors into my family tree maker program, wouldn’t you know it… I discover a gr. gr. grandmother who I thought died dirt poor in a sod house inheriting over a million dollars. In 1880 money no less! And when discovering things like this, I immediately go into research mode to learn more. Thus the stop and take a breath moments never come.

I don’t think I’m alone in this. Do you have any pointers? And by the way, the inheritance story never made it to my father’s generation. So I keep soldiering on trying to learn more to tell a proper story. Leaving so many other worthy stories untold.

I hope this makes sense. Thanks for any tips.

29 Cathy GilesJanuary 12, 2014 at 9:06 pm

What a great incentive to keep the stories up with the research. I hope I can do all 52!

30 Pat TJanuary 13, 2014 at 10:29 am

I have started to write a profile on an ancestor, but do not know anything about blogging. Can you tell me exactly how to participate, as in Step 1, Step 2. Sorry, this is probably easier than I am making it, but it seems a bit confusing and I need it spelled out in elementary steps! lol!
Once I am logged onto a blog site, what is the next step and How do I connect to … NO STORIES TOO SMALL or 52 WEEKS.
Thanks!

31 Amy Johnson CrowJanuary 13, 2014 at 10:54 am

Several have asked about how/where to start blogging. Two easy-to-use, free blogging sites are Blogger.com and WordPress.com. If you don’t want to blog, how about adding a note to that person’s profile on your tree on Ancestry? You could also send an email to a group of family members. The important thing is to write something, no matter where you write it.

32 Judean A. WiseJanuary 13, 2014 at 1:25 pm

Amy, Do we need to notify you every week about our blog entry? I’ve posed two so far this week.

judeanannwise53.wordpress.com

33 Caroline MohrJanuary 14, 2014 at 12:43 pm

Amy, what a great idea. But rather than blogging, I’m going to make a digital storybook with one page for each of the 52 weeks/stories. My mother’s 93-year-old brother passed away last Saturday. That will definitely be the story for that week. Thanks for the idea.

34 Mary HollowellJanuary 14, 2014 at 2:30 pm

Starting late but I hope to catch up!

[...] a challenge to family history bloggers to post about an ancestor a week during 2014. I read about the challenge on the Ancestry blog and thought I would [...]

36 Kay VawterJanuary 15, 2014 at 5:51 pm

findingthetrailstoidaho.blogspot.com
I think this will really be interesting and will also encourage me to continue on with my search for information.
I am pretty new at this blogging, but I am excited to learn.

37 Karen Bridgman AckerJanuary 16, 2014 at 7:30 am

Hi Amy. I’ve started my blog and I thought I posted the information to you last weekend and sent a comment yesterday but I think they went into some abyss somewhere. could you please let me know if you have my blog site and link etc. thanks, Karen

38 SueJanuary 17, 2014 at 8:49 am

How do I follow via my blog don’t want to follow on twitter orvfacebook

39 Laura Cosgrove LorenzanaJanuary 17, 2014 at 12:19 pm

I’m in! Took on a 3fer to catch up, but I’ll be with you each week. Thanks so much for suggesting this Amy!

40 Elise OlsenJanuary 19, 2014 at 11:48 am

I will be blogging on familysearch.org on my familytree. My goal has been to get a story or picture on each ancestor I possibly can. Is it necessary to create a blog or is familytree okay?
Thanks for the inspiration, Elise

41 Genie HoltJanuary 20, 2014 at 4:40 pm

52 Ancestors – my first post for this challenge. I thought I’d do just a short thing on my great grandmother and then started checking some facts, and then finding some more information, and pretty soon I had found her mother’s surname, and another generation back from that! Even if I only did one week, this was a very productive and exciting find! I’ve looked for these people for years and years.

42 Dan LeiteJanuary 20, 2014 at 7:56 pm

As we are into week 3 I have posted 3 Ancestors on my Facebook page. They are Rev. John Lothrop, Henry Adams & Samuel Morse. I welcome all comments, especially if anyone shares these Ancestors.

43 Joan Morrison GillJanuary 22, 2014 at 3:13 pm

I started my first blog, now what? How do I share it with 52 Ancestors…?

44 Joan McHaleJanuary 23, 2014 at 5:14 pm

Here’s my first. I want to play, too.
http://the-lopsided-tree.blogspot.com/

[...] am doing this as part of the 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks challenge. I did not find this challenge until I saw someone post their week 2 entry. This is a challenge I [...]

46 Virginia AllainFebruary 5, 2014 at 8:06 pm

I’m posting my 52 ancestors for the challenge on the Bubblews site. To keep track of them, I’m keeping pinboards on Pinterest for each family line.

Already 3 others on Bubblews have joined in.

47 JoanneFebruary 7, 2014 at 11:59 pm

[...] Johnson Crow at Ancestry.com initiated the 52 Ancestors Challenge. I just started my challenge this week. So far I have posted two ancestor stories on Bubblews.com. [...]

49 Mary HannahFebruary 10, 2014 at 12:03 pm

I am joining this very late, but I think it should be interesting and fun.

50 Terry Murphy MallettFebruary 21, 2014 at 8:31 am

I love the idea and will join the challenge. I have years of research to write up if it is to be shared with others. I don’t have a website. DO I need one? Not sure how to get one and advice will be appreciated.

51 Amy Johnson CrowFebruary 21, 2014 at 8:40 am

Terry – If you’re interested in starting a blog, two free options are blogspot.com (requires a Google account) and wordpress.com. But the goal of the “52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks” Challenge is to write more about your ancestors, no matter where you do that. It could be on a blog, Facebook, emails to a group of relatives, a journal, etc. You can add stories to your ancestors’ profiles in your family tree using Family Tree Maker or your online tree. Recording it is the main thing; where and how you do it is up to you.

52 Kim ChaseMarch 6, 2014 at 3:38 pm

This is a great motivational idea. I might just try this.

53 Xzanthia ZuberMarch 9, 2014 at 10:08 am

[...] For more details on the 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks Challenge, go here. [...]

[...] For more details on the 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks Challenge, go here. [...]

[...] This posting on Mary Sumner Green is part of my participation in Amy Johnson Crow’s 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks Challenge. For more details on her Challenge, go here. [...]

[...] while back, Amy Johnson Crow, a regular contributor on our blog, introduced the 52 Ancestors Challenge. I can’t refuse a good challenge, so I decided to do it, but I’m working on the women [...]

60 pmmMarch 29, 2014 at 10:57 am

Just learned about this challenge and it is a great excuse to make me write! I have been putting small stories on our blog but think I will make these be ‘full life’ stories. Eager to get started at HeritageRamblings.net.

[...] would do. Turns out it was a challenge form Ancestry.com’s Amy Johnson Crow on one of her Ancestry.com blog posts. Of course, I am late to the party, since it is March, not Jan. 1- always seem to be running [...]

62 Jenny ClaxtonApril 2, 2014 at 6:35 am

I’ve never written a blog before either although my website designer kept suggesting it. Do you mind if we join the challenge from the UK? Would love to give it a try :)

63 Donna AllenApril 2, 2014 at 12:53 pm

I’m in! I’ll need to set up a blog, though, but that’s okay :) What a cool idea!

64 Maxine JonesApril 2, 2014 at 1:09 pm

Love this idea. Will have to set up a blog later…

65 SheenaApril 2, 2014 at 1:22 pm

This is a great idea. I’ll try to work out how to set up a blog over the next few days. I have quite a few interesting tales, rumours etc that I could start with.

66 SusanApril 2, 2014 at 1:29 pm

I have been working on a blog for awhile now. It is a combination of both my family genealogy and my love of cemeteries (and a member of findagrave.com, now part of ancestry).

67 LesleyApril 2, 2014 at 3:10 pm

I want to play: starting today
My blog is: http://andrewjpalmergeorgia-salina.blogspot.com/

68 Susan firesApril 2, 2014 at 3:21 pm

I started doing my tree to find out who paternal great grandmother was as she died in childbirth and no one knew her name, I have ended up finding that I have royal ancesters but am wondering if I have just got on a wrong line as it all seems a bit unrealistic to me, and I still haven’t found out who my great gran was after 2 years

69 Sandy RossApril 3, 2014 at 3:49 am

I would like to take pat in the 52 ancestors 52 weeks how do I join?

70 Diane McInnesApril 3, 2014 at 10:48 pm

What a great idea how do I join or do I just set up my own blog?

71 Jenni RaeApril 11, 2014 at 5:23 pm

I know am very late to the party but I’d like to throw my hat into the ring! http://littleknownleaves.wordpress.com/

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