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.