Create ancestor profiles

Flesh out the story

The first order of business is to begin. Start somewhere and take the plunge. Hard as that may seem, simply thinking about a specific item or person will help.

How about profiling grandpa? You recall his hammer, saw, and paint brushes. You watched him work when you visited. He didn’t say much; nonetheless, you stood by him, for hours. You can picture him leaning over his work bench, calculating the final measurements for the siding on a box, a cigarette hanging loosely from his mouth. His worn, short-sleeved T-shirt was sprinkled with sawdust. If you close your eyes, you can almost smell the freshly cut wood, paint, or varnish.

The tools he used now sit in your garage. Perfect! Begin by jotting down anything you can remember, perhaps stories or jokes. Did he make furniture? Who has the furniture now? When you think about grandpa’s tools and what he made, you may be reminded of conversation and behaviors unique to him you hadn’t thought of in a long time.

The teaching part, the writing process used here to teach your kids, involves a few steps.

Profiling an heirloom.

Grab a notebook, your camera, a pencil, and begin.

  1. Take several pictures
  2. Write down what you know; use what you have
  3. If your knowledge about the item is limited, ask family members
  4. Research the item for a general history
  5. Think about including fun facts
  6. Ask yourself “How is this unique?”
  7. Start writing
  8. Enter the “story” in a journal, blog post, or GOOGLE DOC.

Profiling a person

Spread out your collection

  1. Gather what you have: a birth certificate, a marriage license, a divorce record, photos, the deed of a house, letters, census records, wills, and anything that documents this person’s life.
  2. Place your documents in chronological order.
  3. Write down interesting facts and your thoughts about each document which creates a story about this person.
  4. Remember: In many cases, the story or profile may be brief. It may seem like nothing more than a collection of notes. This is perfectly OK, and better than leaving behind nothing.
  5. Enter your notes/story in a journal, blog post, or GOOGLE DOC.
  6. To see how I created a simple slideshow of Hazel in minutes, click HERE. I created another using a simple theme of recipes for her sister Bertha: GRAND AUNT BERTHA-IN SLIDESHOW.

Create a timeline

Profiling without photos

In the case of my great grandma Bertha, there is ample documentation but no photos. I suspect she’s the woman in a particular photo, but I cannot be certain. I have also hit a brick wall in the case of Bertha’s husband, Joseph Geier. We do not know when, where, or how he died. We also don’t know if he and Bertha divorced, or if the end of their marriage was due to his death.

I created a timeline for Bertha a few months ago in hopes of learning more about her life. (A slideshow can be created using timeline facts; see the link in number six above). This document has proven to be an extremely helpful reference guide.

To see my timeline, click on the link here: TIMELINE FOR BERTHA SERVATIUS.

Recording and interviewing

Use what you have. Time marches.

Some of you have elderly family members who may be willing to share their stories and memories. If not, what about an elderly neighbor who may remember stories about your family when you were growing up? Think about all available resources.

  1. They can be interviewed and recorded
  2. You can write for them long hand during an interview
  3. They can write down their own memories as they are recalled
  4. You can provide a list of topics, events, or items to leave with them and they can enter content as it is remembered
  5. Sites like Shutterfly offer “photo story apps” where photos, audio, and text may be added to create a short story book

Congratulations! You have just begun the joyous process of teaching your children a part of their family history. I have included a few ways here to flesh out a story and create a profile. Use your imagination. Be creative.

Click HERE to see another example of profiling using our antique high chair.

Now, choose another person/item and keep going!

Happy profiling!

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