A Connection with Generations Past

October 18, 2017 / no comments

When John and Barbara Catron began restoring an old schoolhouse and church building in Riverton, Utah, they had no idea where the project would take them. For Barbara, the restoration was a labor of love—her father’s first wife, Donna Rae Coy, had grown up in the building, exploring the surrounding farmland and enjoying an idyllic childhood. Donna died unexpectedly, only a few months after marrying David, Barbara’s father.

“My father married again,” Barbara explains, “and raised a wonderful family with my mother, Karen. But we grew up honoring and respecting Donna Rae’s legacy as well.  She was always part of our family.”

Along with the restoration of the building, the Catrons also created a history book; as owner of Legacy Books, John thought it would be an appropriate addition to the restoration project. The book featured the Coy family’s contribution to the history of the schoolhouse, as well as several other families who had settled in the area. “It took nearly a year of work to put the book together,” John recalls. “We gathered research, compiled pictures, did interviews, checked facts—you name it, we did it.

The end result—an iconic, restored country schoolhouse and a priceless book titled Riverton Legacy Home—turned out to be a new beginning for John. As the project neared completion, he discovered quite by accident that Abraham Hunsaker, one of the other settlers featured in the book, was his fourth-great grandfather.

“Originally, I’d been tagging along as an in-law,” he says. “Now all of a sudden, what we were doing became very personal. Abraham was the first landowner in the area; he once owned land that I own today. Now this project wasn’t just my wife’s, it was mine too.”

And that wasn’t all. John realized that he never would have made that connection if people four generations ago hadn’t kept a written record. “The experience was providential,” John continues. “Now everything made sense. This business we’d been involved with for years took on a much deeper meaning. We knew that we wanted to do something that would provide the same type of miracles—that connection to generations past—that we had experienced ourselves.”

Preserving legacies is an art—and we wrote the book is the tagline for Legacy Books, a company that is committed to helping communities, companies, organizations, and individuals create a legacy that will be valued for generations. Whether a legacy book preserves the history of a single structure or family or an entire community or business, the books become a cherished resource for everyone who reads them.

Once Riverton City saw Legacy Books’ history book about the city’s schoolhouse, city officials commissioned the company to create a book commemorating the city’s 150th anniversary. That book—Riverton City, Utah—Looking Back 150 Years—has become a community treasure.

And the process is simple and easy. Legacy Books’ professional team of writers, editors, and designers partners with clients to offer expertise in every area of compiling history. “It was a privilege to work with you and your staff on this rewarding historical project,” said Bill Applegarth, Riverton City mayor. “You provided great insight during the design, editing, and publishing phases of this venture. The guidance and professional assistance we received from Legacy Books is reflected in the magnificent final product.”

Legacy Books is the perfect legacy partner, John explains. “We can help our clients—whether individuals and families or businesses and organizations—figure out what resources they already have in place, then help them fill in the holes. We provide scanning, interviewing, writing, design and layout, production and publishing. We’re really a one-stop shop legacy preservation company.”

Click here to view Riverton Legacy Home.

Click here to view Riverton City, Utah—Looking Back 150 Years.

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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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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.”