So What’s Next?

Let’s take a hypothetical situation…let’s say that you have the perfect genealogical situation and everything you have done has led you to the discovery of a full, ten generation family tree. That would be an amazing situation to be in, wouldn’t it? What do you do from here? What is your goal once you have a beautiful, well researched, fully authenticated family tree? Are you one who will publish a book? I suspect not.

Of the millions who hit the computer each week to research their family histories, I suspect most have no desire to write and publish a book. The fact is those books don’t really sell well. The sphere of interest in family history books is, in truth, small as is financial gain from those books. Therefore, the question arises in my mind, then, what is our ultimate goal once we reach our end point, whatever point that may be. Will you simply make copies of your tree and research for your family? Will you keep it for yourself?

Please share with with me what your ultimate goal for your research.

Have a great week.


Your Mix Tape

In my last blog post, I wrote about how to share the significant world events which happen during our lifetimes. Today as I sit listening to my favorite tunes in my car waiting for my daughter to get out and go into school, I recall the days of the mixtape. Our children and grandchildren cannot relate to this because everything they have musically now IS mixed. No longer do you have to purchase an entire “album” when you only want 1, maybe 2 songs.

Remember how you felt when that special someone gave you a mixed tape? I sure do. Now that most music is digital and on electronic devices with anti-piracy laws making sharing next to impossible, kids miss out on this part of friendship.

Sharing the old way of passing notes and creating mixed tapes is special, I think. Sort of like our hearing about how our grandparents had to sit in a room with their parents to chaperoned their dates.  We have to look into the future and remember that how we did things growing up isn’t the way our grandchildren will do them. Hearing those giggles about the absurdity of the “olden times” is what makes it special.

Although my children have never openly criticized my choices in music (I know they want to), I realize that I have a very eclectic taste in music.  My father was born in 1929 and got me to love Ella Fitzgerald, Lena Horne, and big band music.  While I only have one or two of those on my iPhone, I do have more modern choices which ring true to that sound.  Post Modern Jukebox, Squirrel Nut Zippers, and Big Bad Voodoo Daddies are right on track.

I am, for the most part, though, a child of the 70s and 80s.  I love Southern Rock, Classic Rock, 70s top 40, and 80s alternative.  On the opposite side, however, I can spend a day listening to 90s country or Contemporary Christian music.  It makes me a smile to think of my grandchild seeing me in bell bottoms, rocking some headphones and holding a transistor radio, while standing by my bike ready to take on the neighborhood.  That is cool!

What will be on your mixed tape?  Think about it.  Did you grin just then?  I bet you did.

Have a great week!

How will you share…

It occurred to me yesterday that most of what we do in genealogy is looking backward. We search incessantly for those pioneers and patriots in our past to whom we seek familiarity, something that will tell us who we are or why we are who we are. But, I believe, too, that we have to remember to look forward at our coming descendants and what they will want to know about us and how we lived. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want them to have to search as hard as we have had to.

As much as our descendants will want to know about “US”, they will also want to know about the world we are living in RIGHT NOW. Our right now is their history. With the horrific fire at Notre Dame this week, I wondered about the significant national and world events that have happened during my lifetime…Gulf Wars, Twin Towers, Oklahoma City, Patty Hurst, Governor Wallace, Watergate, the Cold War, the Challenger; not-to-mention the changes in technology during my lifetime. How will I pass on information about these events and their significance in my life? These events also make us who were are, as much as our DNA does.

For me, the Olympic bombing in Atlanta, Oklahoma City, Khobar Towers, and the USS Cole bombings are significant because two happened prior to my becoming a counterintelligence agent and the other two happened after. Oklahoma City happening while I was in Intelligence School. Because of my training and my positions in the Army, I was privy to more information on these events than the general public. While I don’t remember specifics, the general nature of them affected me and how I approached my job and how I handle security within my household now.

We have such a wealth of technology to help us preserve these events and our perceptions of them. It is as crucial to our work in genealogy as it is to find our past. Making a commitment to save a video, photographs, and to journal our thoughts are no less important than what we do in looking back. We don’t know what our descendants will have or not have in the future to look back on these events. We cannot leave them wondering about how their family was affected by them. That point of view is priceless.

I hope that you will make time to preserve your life’s stories. I know I am.

Have a great week!

Why does this even matter?

I recently visited with my biological grandfather who is 91-years old. I have only visited with him in person a few times, but at his age I knew I needed to go spend some time with him. Our relationship is one of mutual acceptance, but he understands that my adopted parents and family are my family. I took this opportunity to ask him about his life and his family. He did not really want to talk about his family. He said, “I know you and your Aunt Judy are on this kick. I don’t get it. What do you get out of it? Why does knowing any of this matter? I said to him, “because everyone who came before you is a part of who you are, whether you accept that or not. You could go back two generations and find an uncle or a grandparent who looks like you and who had the same interests as you. I happen to find that fascinating.” His response was a huff. He is the last of his line and we are trying to get him to take a DNA test so that we can find answers to a line we are completely unable to trace. I think in the end he will do it if 1) we pay for it, and 2) just to get us to shut up.

But why does all of this matter? Why do we care about these ancestors so long ago? I don’t really put too much weight in my research beyond 5 to 6 six generations just because there is so much room for error, but I do it any way. Even if I don’t have the exact right family, I can surmise that my family of the same name could have come from a same or close by area. Getting it hit dead on isn’t as important to me when you get back to the 9th or 10th generation. That being said, all of those people are a part of who we are now. What I have learned being an adopted child and researching this biological background is that there is far more to the nature argument than I ever gave it credit for. I am the mirror image of my mother, except that physically she was taller than I. Just this week, I reconnected with a family member from this grandfather’s family, a cousin through his father, and she sent me a photo of herself. I was amazed at how much my Aunt Judy looks like her. We know very little about this side of the family and we have absolutely no photographs of this line. This is what thrills me and keeps me going.

I came across the following story which I wanted to share. It is so important that we, the family historians, understand our purpose and to pass this forward. It comes from a blog called Everyday Strong. You can find the story here:

The story provides background on a study done by Emory University wherein they asked children about their knowledge of their family history. “The questions proved to be a good predictor of children’s emotional health and happiness. The questions also showed that children who were informed of their family history were more resilient and handled stress better than those who were not informed. Lastly, children who were able to answer more questions showed greater family unity, less anxiety and less behavioral problems.”

It shows that, when people feel apart of a greater group, there is more feelings of security. It also helps to teach compassion and empathy when children learn of struggles their ancestors overcame. We all know from our own research how amazing some of their struggles were and how they knowing how they overcame them is a gift. For those of us who spent years of our childhood without family, we know what is like to be without this history. It created in me feelings of low self-worth, anxiety, and depression. That is now all gone thanks to our abilities to do this research through the internet and elsewhere.

Consider sitting down and sharing your stories with your family soon. You’ll be glad you did, and…eventually…so will they!

God bless. Have a great weekend.

What are we doing this for?

I know, I know, I said I wasn’t going to take long between posts anymore, but I have to tell you that right after my last post I saw a post on my Facebook stream that made me go insane and it has taken me this long to get my head together to address my thoughts on the issue.

I tried to read what others are doing in their genealogy businesses and what issues they confront…yada, yada, yada. It seems that lately I have seen more and more people complaining about people “stealing” photos from and using them on their trees. This really got me going. Stealing? Really? I can certainly understand if you are talking about photos of your immediate family. You or your spouse or someone in your immediate family probably took those photos; therefore, you have actual ownership of them. When we start talking about photographs of folks three and four generations back, I would beg to differ with you on who has actual ownership of that photo. Here is my argument and you can weigh in on your opinion.

1. YOU DIDN’T TAKE THE PHOTO. YOU WERE NOT THERE. HOW MANY DESCENDANTS ARE THERE FROM THAT PERSON WHO COULD ALSO HAVE A COPY OF THAT EXACT SAME PHOTO? Prime example, my grandmother was the youngest of 13, the oldest being born in 1878. From that family, there were 31 grandchildren, there are untold numbers of great-grandchildren and so on. I posted the following photo to a long time ago.

I was given this photo by my grandmother, but it is a photocopy of the original. She gave all of her family copies. No one knows where the original is or if it even still exists. It is my opinion that every descendant of every person in this photograph has a right to it.

2. ONCE A PHOTO IS UPLOADED, IT BECOMES A HINT FOR OTHERS RESEARCHING THAT PERSON/THOSE PEOPLE. I have seen my photos show up as hints. Do I care? Am I angry? No!!! I want people to see them and to be able to have them. Print it. Frame it. I do not care. If you don’t like it, then either stop uploading your photos or take it up with Ancestry, Find A Grave, or whomever.

3. READ THE TERMS OF SERVICE FOR THE WEBSITES, TOO! For example, Find A Grave…”Submitting a photo to Find A Grave grants Find A Grave a license to host the photo and facilitate the sharing of that photo across the Ancestry Community so that Find A Grave users can post that photo to other Ancestry Community websites. However, submitting a photo to Find A Grave does not permit other Find A Grave users to post or republish the photo anywhere else (e.g., posting the photo on non-Ancestry sites or publishing it in a book, etc.). If you want to use another user’s photo other than for personal use, you should contact the user who posted the photo and ask for permission.” This latter part, in my opinion, is simply ridiculous. Of course, they are going to say this because they cannot legally give authorization for photos uploaded to their sites to be used on other sites that they do not own, BUT, once someone has uploaded a photo to a site, it puts that photo into the public domain whether you like it or not.

BOTTOM LINE: If you want to get down to it. The real key is money. If I were going to write a book and I wanted to use a photo that I didn’t have in my collection originally, it was something I just picked up on Ancestry, I probably wouldn’t use it in a vehicle by which I am going to make money because of the simple fact that there is no way to know who owns the photo. Some of the photos I have seen on Ancestry have been scanned from books and magazines. This isn’t really kosher either, but I don’t hear people yelling about plagiarism or copyright infringement on these social media sites, including Ancestry themselves. As in my previous example with my the photograph of my grandmother’s family, there are way too many potential owners of this photograph. It would take far too long to contact each and everyone to make sure they would be okay with it. It’s just not worth it. I could find something else to use much more cheaply to buy online if the people in the photo didn’t matter–it was just about the time period or something.

But this isn’t what the majority of genealogy researchers are on Ancestry and these other sites to do. Most are just average, everyday folks who are interested in where they came from; and, many are like me, adoptees wanting to fill in the holes in their hearts, not their wallets. So, what is it that we are doing here anyway? Why are folks so darned territorial over something as trivial as historical photographs?

I really have no idea how many hours I have spent or dollars either on my genealogy research, but I do know this… I have spent ZERO dollars on my ancestral photographs. They were all given/shared with me either by photocopy, hard copy, or digital copy, and I will continue to do the same with my cousins however distant they may be.

Happy Tuesday! Let me know your thoughts.

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