Sifting through the Past—A Stunning Legacy Book Provides Guide for Generations to Come

September 18, 2017 / no comments

Elaine Clements Gardner’s 20-year family history journey came to an end last month when she slit open a plain brown packing box, cleared away the packing material, and lifted out a gorgeous gold-embossed, blue-leather legacy book. “I held it close to my heart for a moment,” she recalls. “It was still wrapped in cellophane; it wasn’t even opened yet. I’m not a crier, but my eyes filled up with tears. Then I opened the plastic and looked at it. It was exactly what I would have dreamed of if I had dreamed that big.”

When Elaine started researching her family history two decades ago, she wasn’t initially thinking about creating a legacy book. “I was really just trying to track down your stereotypical genealogy information,” she explains. “I was looking for names, dates of birth and death, who married who and who their kids were. That was my aim.”

However, as she sifted through the past, Elaine found out that behind the names and dates were personal stories—stories that she wanted to preserve for others. “About 10 years ago, my goal changed,” she recalls. “I didn’t have all the information I needed yet, but what I was getting was so fascinating to me that I knew it would be interesting to others as well. I wanted my children and my sisters and their children and our cousins to know these stories too. So I decided to do a book.”

Elaine took another decade to complete her research, focusing on her father’s line and documenting every piece of information she could. She traveled to Maryland, Kentucky, Tennessee, Alabama, and Georgia, sorting through census records, state and national archives, land documents, will and estate records, and much more. She studied the time periods and places in which her ancestors had lived. And she captured it all, writing down everything she could about the stories behind the facts.

Last year Elaine decided it was time to take the final step and complete the book. “I put everything together,” she says, “and it looked like a thesis.” (As an aside, her husband told her she had put so much time and energy into the project that she should at least call it a dissertation.) “I had worked so hard on it that I wanted it to look beautiful, so I decided to find someone who could help me.”

Elaine went online and found several potential partners—everything from self-publishing to complete publishing houses. “But they just didn’t provide what I wanted,” she explains.

Until she found Legacy Books.

“I read their philosophy, I read their blogs, I read everything on their website, and I finally took the plunge and called John (Legacy Books owner),” she recalls. “And from the very beginning, my experience was wonderful. They listened to me and respected what I had to say. I had certain things I wanted, and they honored that vision. They preserved my voice. They listened to my ideas. However, along the way they also made several suggestions, and their expertise made the book even better.”

The layout and design of the book is crucial, Elaine points out, because once you get past the elegant cover and marbled end sheets, people had to be drawn into the book so they would read the stories. “Every visual, every photo and newspaper clipping and deed and record draws them further into the book,” Elaine observes, “and makes them want to read more.”

Among the things that Elaine wanted included in the book were footnotes, an index, detailed sources, and a section of transcribed letters. “Without those, this was just a storybook,” she says. “I wanted to make sure people understood this was real history and real people—these things really happened.”

Elaine wasn’t the only one ecstatic with the final result. She received the books just in time for her husband’s 80th birthday party, and she distributed them to family members during that milestone event. “The could hardly keep their noses out of the books,” she observes. “They were so busy reading, they almost forgot to celebrate the birthday boy!”

One of the first suggestions Legacy Books made, Elaine recalls, is using a compass as a reoccurring motif throughout the book. “That single image captured so perfectly what this history book was about for me,” she reflects. “This is the story of my family’s journey, and just as the compass provided direction for them hundreds of years ago, their lives provide direction and meaning for us today. To be able to capture that all in one book is a dream come true.”

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Preserving Pieces of History

August 10, 2017 / no comments

In September, Legacy Book founder and president John Catron will be presenting at Family Roots Expo in St. George, Utah. His topic: Resources for Designing and Publishing Your Family Histories.

“Books are a time-tested method for preserving your important lineage and histories,” says John. “It’s the perfect medium for gathering photos, memorabilia, stories, and facts together into one easily accessible resource.”

Family history is made up of all sorts of elements. Initially, there are the statistics—the birth and death dates, the marriage dates, the locations, the pedigree charts and family group sheets. That information is invaluable in establishing who we are and where we come from.

But what makes family history truly interesting are the additional pieces of information that create context and add insight. The stories, the newspaper articles, the certificates and awards, the ticket stubs and programs. The pieces of history that meant so much to our family members that they held on to them for decades.

And finally, the photos. These are what make our ancestors come alive. Through photos, we can put faces to names. As we read about people we may have never met, we feel a connection with them because we know what they looked like, what they wore, what they did, and where they lived.

Books are the best place to gather all these pieces together so that everyone can access them. A book can be opened in an instant and shared with everyone. Through family history books, challenges and triumphs can be remembered, details can be recalled, and stories can be told over and over again.

Doing family history work can be a significant investment of time and resources. It’s a labor of love undertaken for our ancestors as well as our progenitors. And not taking the final step of preserving the history you’ve gathered into a family keepsake that will be treasured for generations to come is heartbreaking.

If you’re in St. George, drop in on John and see what he has to say about how easy—and important—it is to create a legacy book containing your family history. And if you can’t make it to Roots Expo, check out our website!

 

 

 

 

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.”