Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Excited About Genealogy - But Your Family Says “So What?"

I’ve run into many situations in either corresponding with family members or meeting up on trips back to New York, where my enthusiasm about the family’s history and genealogy isn’t shared. I know I can’t be the only one who has experienced this. As I tried to think of several reasons why this is so, I realized it is all a matter of perspective and having the right lure.

For example, we have all seen bookworms who can easily navigate through a crowd with their faces absorbed in some tome. But if you were to ask them for a concise summary of the book and why it fascinates them, their words are hardly as clear as the written words. What fascinates you about the family history may not fascinate Aunt Mildred or Uncle Wally. I think it’s important to frame it not only in terms that they can understand, but in terms that reel them in.

I often get emails from relatives who either a) want to know what nationality they really are; b) want me to tell them how far the family tree goes back (and whether it really forks); or c) want me to prepare something about the family for their child’s “show and tell” – tomorrow!

Face it, much of genealogy can be cut and dry and boring: date born, date married, date died, etc. And even when I decide to pursue family history instead of genealogy, adding stories and pictures, it can still not be as interesting to some as it is to me.

So – get some good bait! Your cousins Luke and Bo are into cars – big time. So, why not gather information and photos on what types of automobiles your family owned. Mention the owners, the make, the model, and any interesting stories (such as using hand signals before the advent of blinkers or how much it cost to use a parking meter)!

For your military enthusiasts, gather images of draft cards from WWI and WWII, old photos of those who served, and written stories about being overseas and the adjustments of coming back home. Ancestry Press, on the Ancestry website, allows you to publish a book with pages about military info. This is a great gift idea for the holidays – get working now!

And finally – any financial whizzes in your family? Today is the 78th anniversary of Black Thursday, the Crash of ’29. Gather interviews and photos of family that lived through the Great Depression. Mention how life was before and after October 24, 1929 and how it impacted your family.

Dangling the family history bait takes some effort – and you just need to pick the right lure. And once other family members are “hooked,” you’ll be surprised at what they are able to contribute.

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