There are no doubt ancestors about whom you know little. I posted recently about my great grandma, Bertha Servatius. I hoped someone would see it and offer something, anything, to help. I’m still searching, but a question came to mind when putting together this section of the blog.
How does one go about giving an ancestor their due place when we know so little?
I THINK this is Bertha but I cannot be certain, so where do I go from here? Not only did I never meet Bertha, my father didn’t either; similarly, while dad knew Carl, I didn’t have the opportunity to meet my grandpa. Meaning, there are no personal memories or stories of Bertha.
Although we have no known photos, we do have other documentation. An excellent way to showcase Bertha, or anyone, is to create a timeline of her life.
While I’d dearly love to see her, to have a photo, this does give me a sense of her life. It tells me what she did and when, where she lived, when she married, and about her children’s lives. It essentially tells a story.
Note the numbers in parentheses above in the far right column. Bertha’s age was all over the map so I began to track it to look for patterns and a most commonly given age. The jury is still out, but this document is most helpful when I have a quick question.
A timeline is also useful when trying to piece together information–maybe you’re simply curious–about someone who isn’t directly related. An example of this is the timeline I created for an individual who married into our family a few generations back. He frequently changed his name and age, making him difficult to track. His lifestyle also hinted at suspicious behavior. With the known–what I knew of him in his final years–I began to piece together his life with what I guessed were his beginnings. I worked from both ends and was able to track him from birth to death–I found two children and three previous wives, people he never discussed with us–minus about a ten year period.
Another way to create a profile is to write a simple story about their life. It could be from one memory, or several memories or stories shared from others. I’ve drawn from my father’s memoir where he included stories from his childhood. I dearly loved my “second grandma” Hazel who was one of my grandma’s younger sisters. I wrote THIS STORY about Hazel a while back. If she was alive today, she’d be 116.
Timelines and stories created from personal memories are two great ways to profile an ancestor, even without photos or an abundance of documentation.
Cousins: If you’d like a story profiled here, please use the contact form HERE.