My stuff is stored in the basement and the family room and the office and the garage. There are folders and files and papers and books and pictures and maps and binders and notes that are kept inside envelopes and file cabinets and banker boxes and plastic totes and stackable trays.
My stuff tells the story of us, of our family, of our ancestors and their lives.
Who could refuse such a treasure trove of genealogical information? Who wouldn’t want to weed through 30 years of illegible scribbles and poor photocopies and blurred images and pictures of people that no one knows?
When I put it like that, my stuff doesn’t sound very appealing – even to me.
What if I put it like this instead?
Someday I won’t write a book because the size and scale of such a project intimidates me. Instead, I’ve been working on Faux Family History Books (FFHB). Scrapbooking a page or two at a time isn’t intimidating at all. In fact, it’s really kind of fun. Here’s what I’ve learned so far:
- Creativity is not really my forte. I decided to tell my grandparents’ stories in chronological order by first arranging all the documents (i.e. their life’s events) by year. It didn’t take long to realize that to make sense, my paternal grandmother’s story would have to fast-forward to the middle and then backtrack. Easy peasy; I simply rearranged the pages.
- Source citations matter to me, but they probably aren’t all that important to the family members who (hopefully) will read my FFHB. Microsoft Word allows me to add endnotes as I work so the citations exist for future genealogists but are not distracting to casual readers.
- Missing pieces become evident. As I arranged the first few pages, I realized I had never searched for Ernest’s original birth certificate or evidence of Carl’s adoptive family. Deciding to share the whole story rather than one interesting document at a time made all the difference. I read the story as if it was new to me and in so doing, I found I had questions. Those questions made me look for answers.
- Connecting the dots is crucial. I critique every line from the perspective of a new reader. When I mentioned Gustav for the first time, I realized a new reader would have no idea who he was. Identifying Gustav as Ernest’s father gave him an identity and secured his place in the story.
- Scrapbook sleeves create pockets. I don’t have to display the entire page of the 1910 census; I cut out the part I wanted and tucked a copy of the page inside the sleeve. I might not be there to show the whole census page to my great-great granddaughter, but there’s a good chance she’ll find it. Maybe reading the story of her ancestors will inspire her to look for it.
I know our family stories would be lost if they remained hidden in all that stuff. I may have found a simple way to share them with the family who should hear them.