Jackpot! 4 Easy Tips To Reach Your Family History Treasure

Two of my favorite things are newly discovered cousins and old photographs.

The name dusty roots and forgotten treasures is a subtle shout out to that. Most of my roots were dusty and forgotten until I set out to dig them up.

Every day I dig, and I am constantly rewarded with the discovery of amazing historic treasures. Not monetary treasures, I will never die rich, but I have a wealth that is incomparable to a stack of cash.

Recently I hit the lotto when it comes to the family history jackpot.

Patrick Lee Fulkerson

I connected with some cousins that I had never met before and not only has it been wonderful to connect with this newly reconnected branch on the family tree, I was also rewarded with being able to get copies of many priceless photographs.

Photographs I had never seen before. Photographs of people who have some of the same features that I do. Enough photographs to help fill in the gaps of photographs on one family line to the point that I now have a photographic timeline of NINE generations!

Amazing!

Loree Ashley

I’m always excited to connect with relatives because it gives me the opportunity to share the family history gold I find. On those instances where I find myself on the receiving end of such wonderful bounty it feels like karma is rewarding my genealogical good deeds. I get smiled on by the karma gods of genealogy a lot.

I have really been blessed.

To accomplish this great feat of 9 photograph generations it took a lot of people to share their treasures with me. I have had distant cousins mail me packages of photocopies from the opposite side of the country. I get emails from cousins filling my inbox full of priceless photographs decades old. I get text messages from relatives as they make road trips and can visit long forgotten family cemeteries that I may never get the opportunity to visit for myself.

L to R Wilma Ashley, Albertina Adams, Sarah Eckler, Emma Post, Nila Ashley

Often in various genealogical groups I see people that are upset that people are not sharing with them on sites such as ancestry. I have not run into that a lot. Most people are very generous with me.

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These are my 4 tried and true tips for breaking the ice with cousins and opening the door to sharing of information and photographs.

  • Approach newly discovered cousins with a gift of your genealogical treasure. Do you know some information that might not be common knowledge? Do you have an old photograph that you can share a copy? Can you share information about how you and the cousin are connected? Generosity often begets generosity. It is a great way to break the ice.
  • Be willing to let information simmer. If you send a message off to a cousin and get no response just let it go. There is no way to know what another individual has experienced. For some people family history can be a traumatic experience or information that you reveal might be shocking or confusing. Stalking an individual with repeated follow up messages will probably not make a new friend.
  • Show gratitude. If contact with a cousin results in nothing of use to you personally at least thank them for their time. They may not have any information for you currently but if you make a positive impression, they are more likely to recall you in the future if or when they encounter information or someone that has information.
  • Family photographs used to be rare and hard to copy. Today with great cell phone cameras in most pockets and handheld scanners available at affordable prices there is no reason to suggest ever taking possession of someone’s treasured original photograph. You want to irk Great Aunt Betty? Take her priceless heirloom photograph out of her site. Quietly get a copy if you can and thank her profusely for the privilege and then for goodness sake put it back exactly where and how you found it!

Do you have any tips and tricks for getting people to share their genealogical treasures?

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Animals in Family History

We often think of and treat our pets as members of the family

Growing up part of my enjoyment in going to visit my grandparents was not just in seeing my grandparents but enjoying the chance to spend time with the giant collie dog, Tramp, they had the entire time I was growing up

He was a magnificent beast and I’m sure that when news finally went through the family grape vine that he had crossed over that rainbow bridge there were more than a few of us who shed a quiet tear over his loss.

He was not a pet he was family

As an adult I am animal lover. I have a house full of critters. My senior mini dachshund has traveled more than a lot of humans I know.

He’s 13, half blind and has trouble getting around but if he sees me packing a travel bag, he’s the first one at the car ready to go.

He has been a part of the family longer than my youngest child.

He is in countless family photos over the years showing how he’s aged as children grew.

Long after he is gone Oscar will still be a topic of family conversations and memories because he’s more than a pet. He’s family and has earned his place in the pages of family history.

My mother and her siblings and cousins will reminisce about their childhood and while I’m not sure anyone has agreed what type of dog “Tippy” was, I know each of those kids enjoyed that dog.

For the record while I consider Oscar my fur kid I will not be adding him to the family tree.

What do family pets have to do with family history?

Pets make a great topic starter.

If a family group had a beloved childhood pet, it’s a good place to break the conversation ice to get people strolling down memory lane for interviews.

Another way that family pets can be very useful in family history is when it comes to dating photographs.

Pets have shorter life spans so if you have a photo with a certain pet pictured then it can be a useful tool for narrowing down a date range.

Have any animals played an important part in your family history?

Celebrate Family History

In 2001 Congress named October National Family History Month

With the holiday season approaching this is the perfect time to start considering family history projects.

This time of year presents opportunities for both recording today’s moment’s for future generations and for discovering information from days long past.

With many families gathering for holiday celebrations over the next few months one of the best ways to document your own family history is to take photos. Even if it is only ONE photograph of your holiday celebration and your Aunt Mildred loudly complains the entire time because she HATES having her photo taken. Get that photograph. Someday someone will be delighted that you took a moment to record that moment in time.

While you are there get Aunt Mildred to tell some stories of when she was younger. Was she at Woodstock in the summer of ’69? The holiday season provides countless opportunities to learn about the history of your relatives and discover things that you never knew. That interest will probably put a certain spark in old Aunt Mildred’s eye because someone took the time to ask. Or….she may smack you with a shoe for digging up the past. There is only one way to find out. Either case will make a great story for generations to come.

Another thing to consider this time of year is the popularity of genealogy in the United States today. It is one of the most popular hobbies today.

Family history themed gifts can be an excellent choice for the hard to shop for person and there are options that fit every budget.

Some great gift giving ideas could be buying a DNA test through one of the testing companies, a framed hand drawn family tree or family portrait from a younger family member to a grandparent, a photo book of family photos, etc. Just be mindful that gifts along this theme can be tear jerkers so get the family photo before you give it!

Have you ever given a family history themed gift?

Happy National Family History Month!