A new goal I have is to make sure y’all know about local/national seminars that are happening. There’s nothing worse than missing out on something great! If you know of something coming up…and would like to be featured send me an email to email@example.com
It’s free advertising! Make sure to include all the details; who’s hosting, location, price, and a short description.
I’ll be posting them under the “Seminars/Conference” tab on the right side of the screen.
I suppose before I jump into what I did on my trip to Ireland, I should give you a little background on how all this came about. The short story is that it was all divine intervention. The (shortened) long story is a little more random.
Like a lot of my best stories, social media played a big role. It all started with an Instagram post. I saw a posting talking about a program called SALT (Serving the Aged Lovingly Today) that was sponsored by the Carmelite Sisters of the Aged and Infirm. Now here is where I should tell you that I’m not Catholic. Yes, I have some interest in the Catholic faith, but I was raised as Baptist as one can be living in the South. Anyways, here was a program that was based around serving the elderly, something that is very near and dear to my heart. I immediately filled out the application, but took pause when it asked me my interests/hobbies. I put the basics down. You know the ones: reading, spending time with my friends/family, etc. The only problem was do I list genealogy. Genealogy is a huge part of my life, but how could I possibly use it to help the elderly? I continued and finished filling out the rest of the application and then right before I hit submit, I went back and added genealogy to list.
Okay…I’m going to skip a large chunk of the story here. One, because this will be a really long post if I don’t and two, it’s just details.
The fact that I added genealogy to my “hobbies” list opened a huge door and an even bigger opportunity. The suggestion was made to use my genealogy knowledge and make “memory books” for the residents at the nursing homes the SALT volunteers would visit. That way, the residents would not only have their stories written in a book, but they would also have something they could pass down to future generations. I thought that this was an amazing idea!
Fast forward a couple of months and I find myself on a plane to Dublin, Ireland…the first stop on the SALT “tour”. I had never been to Ireland. Sure I had heard family folklore stories about Ireland, particularity from my Grandpa who was very proud of his Irish heritage. To say I was excited would have been an understatement.
Myself, along with seven other girls, would be staying at a nursing home located in Dalkey, Ireland. We would “live” there for the week and serve the elderly the best way possible, by just being there for them. We would go to Mass with them daily, play games and have sing-a-longs with them, and most importantly work on their memory books.
The “memory book” project started day one. I found myself explaining to the other girls who were there volunteering what exactly these books needed to be and how to put them together. I had worked on a list of questions to ask the residents for their books just in case any of us got stuck during our one-on-one time with the residents. To say I was a little intimidated would have been an understatement. Sure, I had done other projects like this before, but never in a group setting and never at a nursing home. I just prayed that God would show us the best way to tackle this project.
Oh boy, did God show up! Each of the volunteers were assigned two residents, with the hopes that at least one would be willing to participate. We had some residents that didn’t feel comfortable sharing their life stories. We had others that didn’t think they had done anything worthy of a “memory books”. Then we had the residents where we didn’t even have to ask a single question because they were that eager to share their story.
At the end of the week, we presented our residents with their “memory book”. All of the girls had done an amazing job. Each book was made not only out of the love we developed for our resident, but out of what we discovered they needed most. One book was made as a sensory book for a resident who was losing their sight. One book was made as a remembrance for the family members that a resident had lost. One book was made as a family tree so as not to lose the ancestors who came before. Each book was unique to the experience and each book served as a genealogy treasure, either to remember the past or to not forget the present.
I think as a Genealogist we sometimes forget the human connection. That those living are creating history as we speak. We get so involved in those who have already passed that we forget the importance of recording what is happening now. My week in Ireland reminded me to not only record the stories of my Grandparents (and those older generations), but to also start making notes of my own history. All any of us wants someday is for somebody to listen to the things we have experienced and how those moments made us feel. Yes, the majority of the time spent doing genealogy is research, but we shouldn’t forget the importance of listening. Hidden gems are there just waiting for us to take the time to listen.
There is so much more I could write about this experience. My fellow volunteers, the Sisters, the staff, and of course, the residents, made this a week that I will never forget. I highly suggest that if you have the time to sit down with the elderly and just talk about their lives, you will not regret it. Also, if you looking for more information about the SALT Program or the Carmelite Sisters of the Aged and Infirm, I’ve posted some links below. Lastly, if you have any questions on the “memory book” project, feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
We’ve all heard those crazy family stories. You know the ones I’m talking about. The crazy stores of an ancestor that you know can’t possibly be true. What if I told you that story was true? You would probably think I was crazy too, huh?
Okay, I’ll admit, I don’t know if all your family stories are true or not, but what I do know is that somewhere in that story is some truth. I know you’ve heard the saying, “where there’s smoke, there’s fire”. Well, the same can be said for genealogy and family stories. Somewhere along the way, that story was told. Maybe the facts got twisted along the way, but it is still a real story about your real family.
Maybe I’ve confused you now. Let me give you an example. From an early age my Grandfather would tell me a story about how he pushed an Indian off the Mackinac Bridge in Michigan. Yes, this falls into the category of “crazy family story”. For years, I brushed it off as nothing but pure fiction. (If you know anything about the Mackinac Bridge, you know why). Come to find out, there was a bit of truth in that story. No, my Grandfather did commit a crime by pushing someone off a bridge, but he did work on the Mackinac Bridge. He helped to install the elevators on the bridge back in the late 1950s.
The moral of this story is to not be so quick to dismiss family folklore at just that, a bunch of untruths. If you look close enough, you might just find a nugget of truth to bring your ancestor back to life.
When I tell people that I am a genealogist, I usually get one of two reactions. Some think that is the coolest thing ever, while others can’t seem to understand why I would be interested in other people’s genealogy. I usually ask the doubters if they know where they came from. More often than not, they tell me they have no idea about their ancestors. That’s when my eyes light up and I go into full genealogist mode.
I don’t “sell” the idea of genealogy to the doubters in order to make a dollar. I do it so I can see their idea of family history change when I begin to tell them the stories of their ancestors. I do it so that they can find a little bit of themselves in their 2x Great Grandparents. I do it in order to help them find closure on what was an unbelievable and unconfirmed family story. I could come up with a thousand reasons of why I “do” genealogy and not one of them is more important than the other.
I recently came across an article by a genealogist that criticized the new season of Who Do You Think You Are. They were disappointed that this season is focusing more on the storytelling than the genealogy work. I don’t understand why this is a bad thing. The storytelling is what brought me to genealogy. It wasn’t the countless hours in a library or digging through records in a courthouse. These days, I love spending hours on end doing research, but to a non-genealogist they just want to know the story. I feel like why not use the “new” Who Do You Think You Are to our advantage. When you hear someone talk about the show, let them know that you (or another genealogist) can help them have the same experience. One doesn’t have to know how the cake is baked to know that it’s sweet!
The whole time I was trying to come up with what to write about this topic, I couldn’t help but thinking of an episode of Friends. You know the one where the girls lose the apartment because they don’t know what Chandler’s job is. Anyways, there is a scene in that episode where Phoebe is giving the questions and asks what their favorite thing about trees is. To make a long story short, the answer Phoebe is looking for is “leafy, leafy.”
While this proves my point that everything in life can be related to an episode of Friends, what better way to describe our family trees on Ancestry.com. If you’re not familiar with Ancestry.com or their infamous leaves, let me explain it to you. When you enter information on your family tree, Ancestry begins to pull from their databases any information that could possibly be attributed to that person. Also, any time new information is found for someone in your tree these leaves pop up. This can cause an onslaught of “leaves” appearing on your tree. Just yesterday I had 100+ “leaf notifications” on my tree. Talk about a daunting task!
I’ll admit, I get a little excited when I see these leaves. Maybe, just maybe, that one missing document I have been looking everywhere for to break through a brick wall has finally appeared! More often than not, this isn’t the case. Now don’t get me wrong, I love Ancestry.com, but I can’t be the only one who yells “IT’S NOT THAT EASY” at my TV whenever their commercials come on.
Regardless if you’re a seasoned Ancestry professional, or you’re new to this whole thing and eager to grow your family tree, I have a few tips that may just help you deal with these leafy trees.
Check…and then check again
Don’t get in the bad habit of just glancing at the “hints” and assuming it matches your ancestor. The dates could be off just enough to where this information cannot be your ancestor. The trick is, no matter how daunting it may seem, it to break down each hint. Look at the dates, the way names are spelled, and the locations of where this person was during their life. Is there enough doubt in the information to discredit the hint? This is especially important when dealing with other family trees. The worst thing you can do is to just take someone’s word on what is “fact”.
Pick a Starting Point
You have a death date for an ancestor that you know to be 100% true. Use this information against the information that you find under the leafs. When you have one fact that you know is undeniable, it gives you something to compare to. Don’t have a date, but have a particular location? That’s okay too! Use the location that you have and map out the information in the leafs. For example, if you have an ancestor who was born in England and died in Pennsylvania, what is the likelihood that they had a child in Tennessee? Think about how people traveled back then and see if the travel makes sense. It’s fun to think of all this information as a giant puzzle. The information you have is the boarder and you have to find the pieces that fit in the middle.
Don’t Get Overwhelmed
It’s easy to see all the leafs and get overwhelmed. The key is to not let the leafs feel intimidating. Select one branch of your tree and focus on that. Believe me, I’ve tried to just start at the bottom of the tree and work my way through the leafs. This approach is next to impossible. You’ll find that verifying one leaf’s information will lead to another leaf which will lead to another leaf. Take it one person and one family at a time you’ll have a much more enjoyable time pruning your tree.
…and if all else fails, just channel your inner Phoebe!