Thursday, March 31, 2011

Thoughts on Researching Family Histories from the Harford Airport

I am writing this from my gate at the Hartford airport as I wait to get on my plane to Columbus, Ohio. (Or actually to Philadelphia – even though the flight isn’t that far, I still have a layover.) This weekend is the Ohio Genealogical Conference. It should be an intense, fun weekend.

The official conference starts tomorrow, but this afternoon and evening, a series of two-hour workshops are offered in addition to the conference for (generally) a $15 fee. I will be presenting one of these workshops entitled “Researching and Writing Your Ancestors’ Stories” at 4:30 p.m. I hope my flight isn’t late!! Saturday morning I will give a presentation called “Crossing the Ocean with the Internet” about immigration research, before hopping on my plane to come back home. I have glanced at the rest of the schedule and it is packed full of interesting

I love talking about doing the research to write full and interesting family histories. I often have people express to me that this is what they love about family history – not just discovering names and dates, but coming to understand their family – what their lives were like, etc. I talk about three mains ways to do this:

1) Dig Deeper in the Records. Often, the “basic” records have more clues than we realize – if we take the time to thoroughly study them.

2) Rely on the Personal Accounts of Others. Even if our ancestors didn’t write anything about their lives, we can still glean those insides glimpses by reading first-hand accounts written by their family members or friends – or complete strangers that experienced similar events and circumstances in their lives.

3) Create the Historical Context. We understand a lot about our ancestors simply by understanding the time and place in which they lived. What kinds of homes did people live in? How did they dress? What did they eat? How were family role expectations different?

In fact, even just typing this now makes me feel a flutter of impatience. I love talking about doing the research to write something – but I love actually doing the research and writing even more! And I have an exciting project underway that I haven’t had time to work on for a while. I am looking forward to life slowing down a bit so I can get back to work on it.

Actually, I think I may end my post and go do that right now…(or maybe I should glance at my lecture notes again….)

1 comment:

  1. Hi Leslie, I just wanted to let you know that I nominated your blog the Ancestors Approved Award for its insight into all things genealogy and family history related. I've really been inspired by your stories and encouragement to do more with the records and histories I've collected throughout the years. Thanks so much! You can pick up your award here