The First Step—Getting Started

July 11, 2017 / no comments

Writing your personal history—or your family history—is one of the most valuable things you can do for your loved ones. Knowing where they come from and connecting with you and other family members through shared stories and experiences provides a sense of belonging and stability that is impossible to create any other way.

However, because writing family history creates such an important connection between generations, many people feel overwhelmed at the prospect. They don’t know where to start, or they worry that they’ll leave something out. And heaven forbid if there’s a typo or a grammatical error.

“Writing your history is a labor of love,” says John Catron, Legacy Book founder and director of client relations. “But too many people think their histories have to be perfect, so they end up never finishing—and sometimes never even starting. They put so much pressure on themselves. And an unfinished family history doesn’t do anybody any good.”

John has a few tips to break down the task of writing a family history into smaller, more manageable steps.

  1. Don’t try to capture it all. “Maybe start with the three most important messages you’d like to leave your kids,” he suggests. “Or pick the five highlights from your first year of marriage.” Once you start putting down a few thoughts on paper, the rest will follow more easily.
  2. Set short-term goals. We’re all familiar with the idea of eating an elephant one bite at a time. Writing your history is same thing. Set aside 30 minutes every day to write something, or maybe spend an hour every Sunday working on it. Keep your goals specific, and establish a timeline so you can see progress being made.
  3. Be flexible. You might start out thinking you’re going to tell your history chronologically, but as you get further down the road, it makes more sense to tell the family history by family member, or maybe even subject matter.
  4. Lower your expectations. Your history doesn’t have to be perfectly organized, perfectly written, and perfectly packaged—although it can certainly be a beautiful and treasured book. Focus on the value of what you’re creating for your family instead of whether you included every story or photo.
  5. Take that first step. Over and over again, our clients say that the only regret they have about writing their family history is that they didn’t start sooner.

“At Legacy Books, we want to give people hope,” John says. “Writing your personal or family history is attainable; in fact, it can be easy and even fun. I talk to so many people who are worried and stressed because they know how important these histories can be, and they’ve set some pretty high expectations. Just remember, what matters is that you simply get it done. And the first step toward getting it done is getting it started.”

 

Finish What You’ve Started

June 6, 2017 / no comments

Teresa Olsen has spent much of her adult life researching her family history. She grew up several states away from most of her relatives, and her parents rarely talked about their past. But Teresa wanted to know everything she could about her family, so for the past 25 years, she’s written letters; interviewed relatives; found birth, marriage, and death dates; and gathered memorabilia.=

The journey has been fun and rewarding. Reconnecting with living family members and finding out as much as possible about where she came from has provided a sense of belonging and connection that Teresa wants to pass on to her children. Along the way, however, Teresa discovered what many family history enthusiasts come to realize: she enjoyed the challenge of the research and the thrill of discovery. But her end goal was sharing what she found in a book—and that was more daunting. 

Teresa’s not alone. In today’s Internet world, where dates, locations, and even legal documents can be found with the click of a mouse, research is easier than it’s ever been. But ultimately, sharing that information is what it’s all about. Inspiring stories, heartwarming pictures, informative documentation—none of that does any good when it’s tucked away in a box or saved in the cloud. That incredible feeling of belonging comes when we turn pages, read words, laugh at memories.

Don’t let the magnitude of organizing and sharing your family history stop you from finishing what you’ve started. Here are four quick tips to help you turn all your invaluable family history research and information into something that your loved ones can read and treasure for generations to come.

1—Identify Your Pedigree

Start with our pedigree charts. You can fill it in by yourself, or use online family history sites to help you get started. MyHeritage.com, Ancestry.com, and FamilySearch.com are just a few of the options available that can make this first step easy and fun. Some people choose to hire a pro to help them research their family tree and ensure accuracy. If you’re interested in this option, we recommend Legacy Tree Researchers.

2—Identify Your Resources

Figure out what you’ve gathered. Using your pedigree chart as your guide, identify who you have important dates and information for. Have you found stories and supplemental information to add to the facts? What about photos and documents? Putting a face with a name makes our ancestors come alive and reinforces that sense of belonging that is one of the most important reasons for doing family research.

3—Identify What’s Missing

Once you’ve identified what you have, you can also identify what you don’t have. Holes in your pedigree chart make it easy to see missing dates and locations. But you might have other missing pieces of information as well. Are your stories written down or recorded in some way, are have they simply been passed down from generation to generation? Are your photos and documents organized and digitized?

4—Don’t Wait until You’re Finished

Once you start your family history, you’ll quickly realize that you’ll never be done. If you wait to preserve your history in a book until you have all the pieces, you’ll never have that book.

Three years ago, Teresa realized she could wait no longer—it was time. Initially she tried to do it on her own, but ultimately the task proved daunting enough that she turned to Legacy Books for help. Teresa’s book is now on its way to the printer, and soon her family will have a gorgeous family history volume that they will treasure for a lifetime.

Preserving family history is a labor of love. Whether you do it alone—or with the help of professionals who can guide and assist you along the way—you’re creating a precious family resource that will bind your loved ones together for generations to come.

A Vital Truth—Your Company’s Past Can Shape Its Future

May 15, 2017 / no comments

Looking back might sound counterproductive to a corporate executive. After all, the mark of a good leader is to lead an organization into the future, right? Actually, it turns out that a company’s past can be as important to its future in creating a sense of belonging and unity, as well as instilling purpose in its organization. And we’re not just saying that because we’re advocates of preserving your corporate history. The experts agree.

“Leaders with no patience for history are missing a vital truth,” states an article in Harvard Business Review. “A sophisticated understanding of the past is one of the most powerful tools we have for shaping the future.”

In fact, the article points out, “as a leader strives to get people working together productively, communicating the history of the enterprise can instill a sense of identity and purpose and suggest the goals that will resonate. In its most familiar form, as a narrative about the past, history is a rich explanatory tool with which executives can make a case for change and motivate people to overcome challenges. Taken to a higher level, it also serves as a potent problem-solving tool, one that offers pragmatic insights, valid generalizations, and meaningful perspectives—a way through management fads and the noise of the moment to what really matters.”

It makes sense. As one of the most popular hobbies in the United States[1], family history has captured our attention because of the sense of belonging we feel as we learn about the generations of family who have gone before. We dig deep to discover when and where our ancestors lived and died, as well as all the fascinating things that happened to them in between those two major life events. The more we learn, the more connected and inspired we feel, often looking back at their life experiences as we forge ahead on our own life’s journey.

That same sense of belonging takes place on a corporate level. When an organization captures its history—whether that history spans a couple of decades or a century or more—its employees feel connected to something bigger than themselves. They catch the vision of the company’s mission, they are inspired by stories and people from the past, and they develop a deeper sense of dedication to what they are doing.

A shared history unites us together into a community, reinforces a sense of identity, and creates a framework for growth and success moving forward. Pulitzer Prize-winning writer and Harvard Business School professor Alfred D. Chander Jr. often asked his students a single questions: “How can you know where you’re going if you don’t know where you’ve been?”

Creating your organization’s history is the perfect answer to that question.