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Finding more than dates

August 3, 2018

These past few months I've been working with family story searches. For one person I searched for local information that would corroborate details and give more visual context to his genealogy search. For another person I searched for a marriage and a birth certificate to support her application for a historical organization. In my case, I was caught into each person's past. Helping these people tell their stories in more complex ways than listing dates speaks to my heart. 


In my house we have a particularly wonderful book my mother-in-law put together about my husband’s family. It is a large binder with a beautiful cloth cover that isn’t just a chart of dates and relationships, although it contains those. It is a collection of pictures,

 

newspaper stories, obituaries and birth announcements, and life stories that she knows or heard. I don’t know if she’d consider herself a storyteller as much as a genealogist, but this book captures both. 


When we visit my 91-year-old mother-in-law, she brings out more pages and items like certificates and records while we talk. Her book is a work in progress, as are her family’s life stories. Her work with this book, though, means lives are going to become more than dates, and her descendants will know their stories in a special context of history. 


These are the reasons people reach out for more information about their pasts. Including maps and historic photographs of family and cities, or finding photocopies of actual documents bring a genealogy to life. Some of these items can be found on various genealogy websites such as Ancestry and Family Search, especially photocopies of the actual census pages. Copies of the actual

 

items can be found in historical societies or through city departments, and these items need some referencing where they were found. The collected dates, documents, photographs, and stories then need some organization, and books can be assembled like my mother-in-law’s, or they can be scanned to an online printing service and bound. They even can be formatted and published through small publishing companies, particularly when a family or person wants 20 or more copies. Ultimately these books will capture a heritage in meaningful ways that will preserve for posterity her family's roots.

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