Preserving and Writing Family History and Genealogy

Family History

Family History – “If you don’t recount your family history, it will be lost. Honor your own stories and tell them, too. The tales may not seem very important, but they are what binds families and makes each of us who we are.” Madeleine L’Engle

Preserving family history can seem like a huge undertaking and it is!  Getting started is the scariest part for me – not knowing how to begin. There are the facts that I have gathered so far, but a family history is more than just the names, dates and places.

So Far…..

I have researched family genealogies for over 10 years and have been able to gather thousands of names and dates.  I have been able to verify more names and locations as I continued my searching and improved my search skills.

I have met new cousins and heard family stories that helped to verify details that I had already found.  Hearing the family tales have brought to life those names – those people that were our grandmothers, grandfathers, aunts, uncles and cousins.

We have connected through family reunions and gatherings, encouraged and asked for any old pictures of the family.  Even if we did not know who each person was, we brought them along to the reunions and asked other family members if they recognized them.  We have been able to put faces with the names and added photos to our large family tree.  When they were identified, the stories started and family members would tell what they remembered or family “lore” they had heard about these people.  This made those grandparents and cousins more real to the younger ones.

Now what?

This helped us to think of what their lives were like.  The timelines of when they lived can help us understand their occupations, their way of life, and their losses in times of great illness.  History was never a huge interest of mine, but now I look for historical perspective to learn more about what my ancestors may have lived through.

For most genealogists and family history buffs, our attention and interest does not peak until we are older and our kids and jobs are not as demanding.  As we get older, maybe our realization kicks in that half of our life is behind us!  Maybe we have lived enough life that we understand better what our parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents must have had to endure in their journeys.  As tough as we think we have had to live, they may have had to fight many more battles to survive and raise a family.

So the first step is jut to get started!  Break it down into smaller steps!

Starting the family history……

1)     Journaling doesn’t have to be complex or scary.  Just make a few notes when you think of a topic you want to remember or write about.

2)     Make a list of those family stories you have heard over and over from your parents and grandparents.

3)     Think of and list the timeline of important times in your parents lives – their childhood, where they grew up, their schools, their churches, their maternal and paternal families, how they met, their courtship and wedding.  Then list their children, homes, jobs, grandchildren, pets, etc.

4)     Do the same for your grandparents and any other living relatives you may be blessed enough to share stories with.

5)     Ask the oldest living relatives to share their journeys, their stories, with you.  Use video on a camera, laptop, camcorder, or even write it down on paper if they are not comfortable with being on camera.  My first filmed video was with my mother, and I set up a laptop and a camcorder to make sure I didn’t miss anything.  If one method works better or has a better sound or viewing angle, then you can choose which to use when putting a family video together.

6)     Keep attention focused on your relative during the interview, suggesting topics, letting them do most of the talking, and make notes later of new questions you have or stories that came up that you want more detail about.  Break the interviews into a few sessions, so neither of you have to sit for too long or get too tired.

7)     Parents and grandparents tend to tell stories on each other, usually funny stories, sometimes touching ones.  Siblings are great at sharing stories about each other!

       My father’s “story” was of the time he made his daddy jump into a creek because he hollered “Snake!”.  He laughs now, but my grandpa wasn’t happy to be tricked!  He ended up with scratched up legs from hitting the rocks in the creek!     

        My “story” is about being pregnant with our  second child. We had mostly boys in our family and we had a four-year-old son.  He said our baby was going to be a girl.  We explained that we would love a boy or a girl, we just prayed for a healthy baby, a little brother or a sister.  He replied that he had already told God he wanted a sister – the faith of a child!  He got his little baby sister!

So, whether the stories are about how the old-timers grew up, how eccentric or special their cousins or uncle was, or how siblings got along, they are all stories that bring life to the family history.

One day, when we are gone, fifty years from now, when our grandson is 50, I hope he will be able to read about – hear on audio – or see on a video – the stories and journeys that we lived, our parents and grandparents lived, and know that he comes from a long line of love and blessings.

No Sewing – Iron-on Tigger Onesie

My husband said, “Our grandson will not go hungry or naked!”  Yep, as long as he has grandparents and aunts and uncles and cousins, his parents won’t have to worry about clothes or food!

Like books, we can’t stop finding cute little clothes that he could use, and like books, there are a lot of ways to find them!  I found free iron-on designs available online, and found a cute Disney Tigger design I thought would be great for our grandson, since he loves to bounce!

Tigger Onesie

Tigger Onesie

I found the design online for free, and then found great transfer printer paper that goes right into your paper tray and prints out the design.  I followed the steps given on the paper I bought and created a great little shirt.  This process was easier than I thought it would be!

Steps for Iron-on Tigger Onesie

Step 1 – Search online for sites with free (really free) designs for iron-on.  You could use a regular design, but remember that when it prints out, the design ironed on will show up reversed.  For example, if you use written words, then would have to be reversed or the writing will iron on backwards. I found this Tigger design (for our bouncer!) on a Disney website search for free iron-on.

Disney website - free Tigger and Mickey ears iron-on design

Disney website – free Tigger and Mickey ears iron-on design

2 – I bought a pack of iron-on transfer paper made especially for regular printers. Follow the directions for how to load the paper so the design prints on the right side. The directions are included in the package and some are printed on the backing paper of each sheet.

Iron-on Transfer Paper

Iron-on Transfer Paper

Following directions, trimming the edges from the actual Tigger design

Following directions, trimming the edges from the actual Tigger design

Step 3 – I followed the directions in my iron-on transfer paper package, and trimmed all the white outer edges from the actual Tigger design.

Tigger trimmed and ready!

Tigger trimmed and ready!

Step 4 – The directions said to set the iron temperature to hot/cotton setting, and to be safe, I set it a little lower to make sure my hot iron did not burn or melt anything!  I made sure the iron had time to heat, and directions said to pre-iron the shirt so it would already be hot and ready to accept the design. I turned the design upside down to place it in the middle of the shirt.

Design face down on the onesie

Design face down on the onesie

Step 5 – Follow directions on the package for how long to iron and press down the design. Most directions will suggest several seconds of pressing the iron down on each part of the design, making sure not to wiggle too quickly so the design will not move.

Iron and hold on each edge of the design according to directions

Iron and hold on each edge of the design according to directions

Step 6 – Iron for recommended time, then let design and shirt cool for recommended time.  My directions suggested letting the shirt alone for a few minutes, then moving it to a cooler spot away from the ironing cool even quicker.

Cooling for suggested time

Cooling for suggested time

Step 7 – After design and shirt have completely cooled, start to carefully peel the backing off, making sure that the design is staying on the shirt. There are suggestions for re-ironing if the design did not fully transfer.  I had no problem with my Tigger design, but I’m sure it happens. I was super-cautious and peeled very slowly to make sure!

Peeled backing and Tigger is ready for bouncing!

Peeled backing and Tigger is ready for bouncing!

Final tips:  My directions suggested washing, and if washing, I would suggest you turn the shirt wrong side out, to protect the design.  I would follow directions for washing the first time, which might suggest to let air dry and then iron lightly (still turned wrong side out or with a cotton ironing cloth to protect the design). I used a clean pillowcase to lay on Tigger, and ironed at a medium heat to continue “setting the design adhesive”.

So easy and so cute!  This design was free and transfer paper was on sale, and I found a plain onesie at the craft store (or at Walmart!).  Happy Ironing!  And Happy New Year!