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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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.

Hidden Treasures: Scanning, Sharing, and Archiving

January 13, 2017 / no comments

Recently, while cleaning out a closet in my parents’ basement, my sisters and I discovered a treasure trove of family history. Stuffed into folders and boxes were photos and documents and mementos that told the story of my family over the past 75 years. From amazing drawings my dad made as a boy, to letters sent by the federal government to my grandparents stating their intention to build an interstate through the best acres of the family farm, to my dad’s draft papers, to the program from a 1983 Seahawks–49ers game that my sisters danced at as part of the halftime show . . . all of these events—recorded in souvenirs and certificates and scraps of torn and yellowing paper, tell the story of where we came from, who we were, and how we became who we are today.

As we looked through those boxes, marveling at each new find, one thought continually resurfaced in my mind: “I need to get this to the Legacy Books office and have everything scanned so that it’s preserved.” I realized that scanning those items would preserve them for future generations, and also make it possible to share them with members of the family who don’t live nearby. My sister in Texas could see my father’s artwork in full detail, and cousins in California and New York could read a speech our grandmother gave to the Daughters of Utah Pioneers in 1980 and see pictures of our fathers as boys with our great-great-grandfather. We had discovered the type of treasure that increases in value as the wealth is shared, and I couldn’t wait to pass it along.

This is why I’m so glad to be a part of the Legacy Books team: I help our clients discover, preserve, and share the pieces of their own histories—both large and small—that mean so much to them. It is a joy to make those heirlooms and mementos accessible to everyone in these families; to assist them in telling the story of who they are through the ephemera and photos that have been maintained and passed down, generation to generation; and to ensure that those items are recorded and archived with the highest professional standards so that future generations can continue to enjoy them. 

We recently finished such a project for the McCullough family in Tennessee, turning their loose collection of photos and memorabilia into a beautiful book that they shared with family for the holidays. Their comments illustrate why Legacy Books finds great happiness in the work that we do: “Words cannot express the gratitude of my family for your diligence and expertise in helping us put our ancestry heritage into a book that will be treasured for generations. Legacy Books was so easy to work with that you felt like family. It was so sweet to see my 90-year-old mother with dementia touch a picture and say: ‘That is mama and papa’ and smile. My brother and sisters were grateful and said they would enjoy it over and over again. There were many pictures they had never seen before. Time passes so quickly and Legacy Books has helped us remember how fortunate we are to enjoy the blessings of today because of those who have gone before us. Our memories are worth more than money can buy. Legacy Books helped us preserve those memories. It has been a joy to work with you and I will always be grateful.”

No matter how large, small, organized, or disorganized your archive of family history is we would love to help you preserve it and tell your story—the story of your family. We know that each family is unique, and that each memory is an integral part of the whole. With our services that range from simply scanning and archiving, to interviewing and writing, to designing a book that will remain in your family for generations, we specialize in going from “boxes to books,” and it is our mission to help you preserve your legacy, and share it into the future.

–Dax Bambrough