How to Begin a Family History
If you want to give your children a gift of family, write a family history. There are documents that include pedigree charts and documentation, but I am concentrating on a more personal kind of history.
Record your personal memories: Research starts with a list of parents and grandparents, cousins and aunts and uncles. If your list is long, break it into family groups or divide it into events like Christmas gatherings or reunions. Start with details to identify the people and the relationships. For instance, Christmas at the home of your grandmother on your mother’s side may include your mother and father, your mother’s brothers and sisters, their wives and husbands, all their children, your grandmother’s sisters or brothers, and possibly a wandering stranger. That’s a lot to dump on your unsuspecting children. You are not trying to give them a pedigree, remember, but to translate a memory. There will be something special about the event that you can highlight. It may be one particular family member you want to focus on, or one tradition you would like to continue. It may also be only a few people that got together for a special meal.
Work on your memory for a few minutes and see if something begins to inspire you. Is there something you would like to share about a former time? I have found that more details and other events are hidden in my memories too. When you begin, it may seem like a short work, but as you work on it, it grows and expands. You may begin to connect other events to it. The day John Kennedy was shot is fixed in my memory, and I would like to record where we were and what we were doing. Do you have a record of your wedding day, or the day your brother came home from Iraq, or the day you child was born? Write them down for your own pleasure and share them as a gift to others.
Include pictures and newspaper stories about your memory. Include the buildings like the house you lived in, the church and school you attended, and your family’s business. Maybe your reunion, or wedding, or birth announcement was noted on the society page. Add copies of pictures and programs and church bulletins.
Another thing you might want to consider is the local historical society. They are always interested in people who played a part in local government, society, school, and public events. They may be glad to get a writer that will share information about these events or receive a copy of your family history project. They may also be able to give you additional details or start your research on a new project or to create the pedigree.