Stirring the Family’s Genealogical Interest, by George G. Morgan

Our Name in History.jpgOne of the things I enjoy about genealogical research is sharing my findings with others. That includes people on mailing lists, on the message boards, and with members of my family. That doesn’t mean that I normally tie my relatives to straight-back chairs nailed to the floor, gag them, and make the listen to the entire family story. While I might enjoy sharing all that information, I realize that a more subtle approach is needed.

This past Thanksgiving, we hosted my brother and his third ex-wife, and three first cousins and two spouses for the holiday week. One cousin and his wife couldn’t make it but they were with us in spirit, I know. My brother and I, and these cousins are all descended from my mother’s parents, Walton Carey Weatherly and Elizabeth Holder. Throughout their visit, they examined photographs on my “ancestor wall” in the living room; they looked at the genealogy binders at the documentary evidence I’ve compiled; and we talked about our families’ backgrounds on all sides. We raised a number of toasts to our ancestors and relatives, we ate well, and we reinforced our family ties, and we became closer still.

Just before Christmas, I found what I knew would be the perfect gift for everyone. The Ancestry Store at sells customized books about anyone’s surname. Our Name in History contains a great deal of information taken from census records, immigration records, maps, military service and pension records, and more. The book presents the points of origin of immigrants by that surname, the geographical distribution of persons by that surname, numbers who fought in the Union and Confederate armies, and so much more. These surname-specific articles are interspersed with articles about tracing one’s ancestry, following migrations, examining different types of records, and how to get started. Inside the back cover is a copy of Family Tree Maker software. Best of all, each book can be personalized from you to another person, making it a wonderful gift. Since this batch of cousins don’t exchange gifts, I knew that this would make the perfect “after New Year’s Day” gift. I ordered six copies of Our Name in History for the surname HOLDER. The books arrived in about three weeks and they are stunning.

Next, my cousin, Penny, who hosted the Thanksgiving 2005 cousin get-together this year, had brought me a number of her family documents to scan and copy. Among them was one especially beautiful hand-tinted photograph of my grandmother (Elizabeth Holder). I scanned the photograph at high resolution and enlarged it from 3” x 4” to 6” x 8” and printed it on 8”x10” photographic paper. It is perfect for a matted 8”x10” or 9”x11” frame! The photograph was beautiful! I then decided that my brother and the cousins should each have a copy and so I printed five other copies. Each went into a protective envelope.

Finally, I went into my genealogy database and printed a narrative report about the HOLDER family, beginning as far back as I have been able to go and continuing to the current generation in all the descending lines. The report, with index, was fifty-six pages long, and I printed five copies, one for my brother and one for each of the the four cousins.

Last week, I packaged the personalized copy of Our Name in History for the HOLDER surname, the narrative report, and the photograph copy in a strong padded envelope addressed. I mailed them USPS Priority Mail and they began arriving on Friday and Saturday. All of a sudden, my cousins are enthralled with a real printed book about our grandmother’s surname. They are slowly reading the fifty-six-page report and are remembering more information and making notes. Two cousins framed their copies of Elizabeth’s photograph and hung them in their living rooms within hours of opening their packages.

It is amazing that the interest in one line of our family could be stirred to such frenzy in this way. All I did was turn on my scanner and printer, and order copies of the Our Name in History book. It was my way of spreading the family history and legacy outward, but I can already tell that I will get lots of new information from my cousins and my brother. In fact, I’ve already gotten two e-mails with corrections to dates and places, as well as details about other family members. Not only is the family hungry for more information, but the straight-back chairs are undamaged!

Happy Hunting!

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Visit George’s website at for information about his company, speaking engagements, and presentation topics. You can also listen to George and Drew Smith’s “Genealogy Guys” podcast

2 thoughts on “Stirring the Family’s Genealogical Interest, by George G. Morgan

  1. George:

    I read your article with much interest when I read the name Holder. By any change was the name ever Holdereid? My ggrandmother was Theresa Holderied from Niedersonthofen, Waltenhofen, Allgau, Bavaria. She married Jacob Finkel from Einharz.


  2. I found your article extremely interesting. I recently received a huge selection of family photos, some are in boxes, and some are digital scans of the original photos. It’s extremely interesting to find information on the people in the photos, I have used quite a few sites to pick up tidbits of information on our family, and found a family tree on one side of the family, with names of family members as far back as the 1750’s. I has been quite a jorney, but and and lots of Googling has helped the search for records so much easier. It’s really fun to put a little history with the faces in the picture. My family was not trying to be secretive by not telling our history, just “closed off” and never really mentioned too much. Now I can at least read about our family history!

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