Party time! At our house, Family History Month is a time to celebrate (and an excuse for me to stay up way too late messing about in Ancestry.com.) October is a great time to do a little bit of something toward preserving and sharing your family's history. Here are a few ideas:
1. Trace an ancestor's journey on Google Maps.
I have heard my whole life of the journey of my colonial pioneer ancestors, Thomas and Alice Armstrong, and their journey via flatboat from Pennsylvania to settle in the Ohio Territory about 1799. But I didn't have a sense of how far it was, or how long it would take. So I used the Create My Map feature in Google Maps, where you can make custom maps. Imagine how shocked I was when I realized that they would have floated right through downtown Pittsburgh (a thriving metropolis of 1,000 in 1799), where my daughter is living now. Just a year ago I stood on a bridge overlooking that exact spot, at the confluence of the Monongahela and Ohio Rivers, with no idea they had been there over 200 years earlier.
2. Check out what famous people you might be related to.
This post describes a site called Relative Finder. Trust me, it's easy and really really fun.
3. Write this quote on a sticky note and put it on your mirror.
"It is better to write something now, than everything never."
Then go write down a memory.
4. Call a parent/sibling/relative of your choice and ask them to clarify a memory for you.
Is there something you've always wondered about? I have a very early childhood memory of falling into a swimming pool, watching the water close over my head, and feeling a strong hand clutch my arm just as everything started to go black. I recently related that memory to my father, who had no memory whatsoever of my falling into a swimming pool (which we did not have). I told him what the house looked like, and described seeing a flooded forest with tall tree poles sticking out of the water on the drive there. He looked shocked as he realized that I was describing the home of a family friend, with whom they had left us to babysit. Apparently the friend didn't think to mention, upon their return, that their daughter had almost drowned.
If you find out something interesting, write it down!
5. Pick five questions from this list.
Then call a relative and ask them the questions. Better yet, run a recorder.
6. Download a free booklet that will help you organize and preserve your family stuff.
If you are overwhelmed by boxes of photos, documents, letters, VHS home movies...now might be a good time to start thinking about it. Then when the holidays are over and you have your life back, you will be in the perfect frame of mind for a January project.
7. Pick a favorite family recipe and write down a memory or story to go with it.
Make a special recipe card with the story and a photo and send it to your relatives.
8. Start a life timeline: a place to capture memories of your life as they come to you.
9. Visit a cemetery.
If you have loved ones buried in said cemetery, all the better. But even if you don't, you can still feel a quiet reverence for those who have paved the way for you. Think about what you can do to make them proud, and to make your community a better place.
10. Write a mini life history in one hour. And make it count!