Family Gatherings

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Family Gatherings, by Anna Fechter

I am a pretty vocal advocate for indexing records and participating in the World Archives Project. I love indexing for many reasons – the knowledge I gain, interacting with the community and others who share a similar passion, and the opportunity to get more records online that will help someone who is researching their family. In my excitement for indexing I end up not mentioning my own research as often but I love it and find that I can lose myself researching and end up spending hours and hours hunting records. Based on stories I have heard from many of you I know I am not alone.

With the holiday season upon us it is a time when we think about and spend time with our families. If you are fortunate enough to be visiting with family take some time to think about your research and what you can add to your tree. Have you documented all of the events that have occurred this year, births, marriages, deaths? Is there information you are seeking about your ancestors that your family can help you with? Regardless of the state of your research if you are going visiting I wouldn’t leave home without having one or more of the following items.

1. Camera
2. Digital recorder or video recorder
3. Pen, paper, smart phone, iPad
4. Laptop or research binder

And why?

1. If you have a camera on hand not only can you take pictures of your family, you can also take pictures of their pictures, family belongings, gravestones, and other locations. On my last trip to Southern Alberta I took photos of my grandparents and great grandparents’ gravestones as well as the homes they and my mother lived in – I have now added these photos and accompanying stories to my tree.
2. Having a digital or video recorder will allow you to record family stories and if the opportunity arises you can also conduct an interview with a family member. A few years ago we interviewed my husband's grandfather months before he passed away. Having the interview where he tells stories, sings songs and just talks about the past is priceless! Take the time now to visit with your relatives and record their knowledge and stories.
3. It never fails that I wish I had a pen and notebook, or my phone, to take down addresses, family history information, or to jot a quick note about a story or research question that comes to mind. (During family events I have been accused of playing games on my phone when I was really typing notes.) On my phone I also have the Ancestry app which acts as a research log and allows me to bring up my tree and check or add information as we talk. It is fun to have that information available at a moment’s notice.
4. Your research binder and/or your laptop can provide more details about the research you have completed and also serves as a repository for documents. Having one of these items with you allows you to share your research with your family and to gather more documents. I have shared photos, and had them shared with me via CDs and thumb drives – although they may not be as excited as I am to share they indulge me.

So as you plan your next trip to visit relatives, or to be invaded by your relatives, I encourage you to be prepared with all the tools you will need to advance your research.

Happy Holidays!