Friday, July 8, 2011

Timelines: We Don't Remember Days. We Remember Moments

Cut into 3 timelines. You add the dates. I placed the birth, midlife, and death markers.

(This is my temporary file-sharing site since Mediafire is down for now! Please leave me a message if it doesn't work. Thanks for your patience.)

Every day starts the same way. Scripture reading, some discussion, and then family prayer. The inevitable question always follows. " What do you want to do today?" I'm getting better at asking questions that get real answers. So, this time I made it about our family history because I know how much fun just the field trips can be!
"So, family history. If you could choose to explore the life of one of Daddy's ancestors who lived here in Hudson or work on finding someone new which would you choose?" Only my 9-yr.-old answered. Her little brothers weren't even listening. She said, "Someone new!"

We talked as we walked to the library. I suggested that we try to figure out where their great great grandmother was born and who her parent's and siblings were. I knew I could make a phone call and get some help and we'd be well on our way to success.

It was so hot and muggy and it was a while before I could make that call. But I found the crumpled piece of notepaper with her number on it, sat myself outside where I could watch the kids play, and I dialed.

I thought I was prepared for the call. I wasn't. I thought I remembered everything I'd learned about my great grandmother from the documents that were filed away in my family history box. I couldn't. My friend asked a lot of questions and gave me some homework before we met again on Friday at the library.

I went inside when I got a chance and pulled out Olga's file. There were census records, a death certificate, and some ship's records, as well as military records for two of her sons. I'd seen them a million times.

But something my friend said changed everything for me. She told me to make a timeline.

I'm a visual thinker. Up to this point I'd been shuffling documents in my head, turning pages of information, reviewing facts one page at a time. I thought that was working for me. I really believed that I knew how, where, and when Olga lived her life. But when I mapped it out I had new questions. I looked at those documents in a new way. I asked myself, "When did she become a Canadian and then a US citizen? Seems like a simple question. But I wasn't looking for that answer on any of those documents.

The timeline that I scratched out on a piece of scrap paper showed me where I needed to look to clear up the assumptions I had in my head about her life. I'd look for documents to answer specific questions that the glaring, blank spaces in the timeline brought to light.

I was so excited to have found another tool to help me that I sat down and created a new printable chart for you to cut into three timelines. Just staple one into one of your ancestors' files, and fold it in half to tuck away neatly when you're done adding new information as you find new documents. The chart has a timeline across the top and a list of suggested documents down the left-hand side to get you started. It's really hard to see on the file image! But it's one of the most important tools I've come across in a long time! Enjoy. I know it's simple. That's why I made it for you. Let me know how it changes your research.

I know that there is plenty of software that provides people with the ability to make a timeline automatically while making your family tree. Believe me I have plenty of them! There's just something different about putting pencil to paper for me. Handling a document, scribbling notes in it's margins (the copy, of course!), and compiling the information in a simplified format really changes my experience with the person I'm researching.

In conclusion I've added this poem because I've loved its message. Enjoy!

The Dash

rip.gif (1737 bytes)
The following is a poem by Linda Ellis © 1998.  Consider the implications for your own life's choices

I read of a man who stood to speak at the funeral of a friend
He referred to the dates on her tombstone from the beginning to the end.He noted that first came the date of her birth and spoke of the following date with tears,
But he said what mattered most of all was the dash between those years.
For that dash represents all the time that she spent alive on earth...
And now only those who loved her know what that little line is worth.
For it matters not, how much we own; the cars .... the house... the cash.
What matters is how we live and love and how we spend our dash.
So think about this long and hard ... are there things you'd like to change?
For you never know how much time is left. (You could be at "dash mid-range")
If we could just slow down enough to consider what's true and real,
And always try to understand the way other people feel.
And be less quick to anger, and show appreciation more,
And love the people in our lives like we've never loved before.
If we treat each other with respect and more often wear a smile...
Remembering that this special dash might only last a little while.
So, when your eulogy's being read with your life's actions to rehash...
Would you be proud of the things they say about how you spend your dash??