Let It All Hang Out: find the courage to write that book

Spring, 2014 – Connie’s Current Project (the reason I can’t cook, clean, or communicate):  Writing a family history book geared more toward elementary age children and older.  
I had always wanted to write the history of my Wilcox family in Omaha, Nebraska, from the mid-1800’s to mid-1900’s, but each time I started, I lost my courage.  I questioned my abilities, my information, my research.  I couldn’t even get past the first sentence in the book.  When I attended RootsTech 2014 with Elizabeth, my awesome, newly-found friend who happens to be a screenwriter and a new genealogist, I was inspired to finally tackle the writing project, but in a completely new way. I wanted to end up with a book about the Newell Reuben Wilcox family that my grandchildren would want to read.  But to do that would require a lot of pictures (which I didn’t have), a writing style geared more to their age, and the previously lacking courage.  The answer?  Why not digitally scrapbook the history and include pictures relevant to the time and place!  
Thanks to barbwiredigi.com I found the inspiration and the digital scrapbooking tools. Thanks to naods.com I found awesome classes for PhotoShop Elements 11 that gave me confidence, and thanks to Elizabeth I had the courage to write.  
Instead of a large book on the whole family, it will be a set of six 10 x 10 books, one for the parents and one for each son.  I thought each book might be 20 pages, but I have not quite finished the first book and am at page 45 already!  Of course, there will be some editing until the book is a manageable length for the grandchildren without missing any of the important information.  I had no idea how fun this project would be!  For a person like me who loves working on the computer, digital scrapbooking was the ideal platform.  Here is a teaser – one of my favorite pages from the book:
Including historical events will give the kids a history lesson along with helping them to understand the trials their ancestors went through.

Including historical events will give the kids a history lesson as well as help them understand the trials their ancestors went through.

  

Try My Tricks: taking advantage of cousins and classes

The first “Genealogy Miracle” I posted contained some great genealogy lessons.  They are tricks I have learned through the years and use frequently.

  • Genealogy research trips are fabulous adventures and should be undertaken as often as possible, both for research and for nostalgic value.  I have some great stories about research trips and new cousins that I will post in the future.
My daughter, Kimi, and I on  a Michigan research adventure trip.

My daughter, Kimi, and I on a Michigan research adventure trip.

  • Notice if a particular family seems to show up wherever your family lives.  This is a good indication that they are more than friends!
  • If the family moves to a nearby county, it may indicate that other relatives live there.  It is a good place to look for the wife’s family.
  • Another great trick is to stop and research a family that appears to have no connection, but keeps showing up on your family’s records.
  • Take advantage of webinars and online classes.  We can’t remember everything forever, so it is good to be nudged once in a while by a good class.  There are fabulous webinars out there.  Some of my favorites are those offered by Legacy Family Tree.  And classes taught at seminars such as RootsTech are always good.
  • Newspapers hold a wealth of information.  I located an entire family in Omaha, Nebraska and found out everything I needed (and more) because the complete Omaha World-Herald is available at genealogybank.com.  I have found dozens of events and dates in newspapers that I could find nowhere else and have been able to put whole families together just from newspaper clippings.
You never know what information will show up in the newspaper.

You never know what information will show up in the newspaper.

  • Descendancy research is the gem!  This is one of the best tricks of research.  Not only do I meet wonderful cousins that I didn’t know existed, but they are usually able to fill in the gaps and give me important information.  And as years pass, the older existing descendants get fewer and fewer, so don’t hesitate!  Phone calls are great, but meeting these cousins is an extra bonus.  Sitting with them in their living room jogs their memories and brings out the old photos and stories.
This is a sampling of the cousins I have found in Michigan and New York.

This is a sampling of cousins I have met across the United States while researching.

  • Be persistent, patient, and thorough.  Someone once said that if a document survives, you can find it.  Go with your gut feeling.
  • It’s good to have research helpers – someone to take photos, someone to help sort through papers, and someone to bounce your ideas off and to give you encouragement.