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13 March 2020

Now's Your Chance

CGS member Chris Pattillo writes:

For all our CGS members now is your chance to focus on that brick wall or organizing project that you’ve been putting off. What else are you going to do now that all the fun things you’ve planned are being canceled or postponed because of the coronavirus?

No more excuses that you don’t have time. Suddenly, time has been freed up. This may be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. As you cross out plans on your calendar because they’ve been canceled replace those notes with "Work on My Family History," or "Tackle That Brick Wall," or "Start Writing Now!"

Maybe you’ve been putting off a big organization project or avoiding facing a massive pile of filing. What about scanning all those photos? Well, now you have chucks of free time–the perfect time to tackle one of those boulders.


Above is a photo of my paternal grandmother Anna from the time when she lived with her older sister Kate in Rhyolite, Nevada. This is one of three photos that I described in detail on my family history blog for her biography.

Do you really want to start writing your family’s story but just don’t know how to start? Well, here is an idea–one that I’d planned to introduce during my blogging class that was scheduled for March 28 at the CGS Library but has now been postponed indefinitely. If you don’t think you can write, try this and see what happens: Find or buy some kind of audio recorder–I use an Olympus Digital Voice Recorder but a smart phone that takes voice messages will work. Even an old-fashioned reel-to-reel or a cassette recorder will work. Next find some old photos that show the person, family or event that you want to write about. Then pretend you are talking to someone from a future generation who will be thrilled to find what you wrote when they find it fifty years in the future. Turn on the recording device and simply describe what is in the photo. Tell a story about that person and some of the little things that you remember about them, or your parents or grandparents told you about them.

Here is another photo from the same time period. I used these to write about the individuals, and the setting-what the landscape looked like. I described the house in detail and even estimated its dimensions to explain how small the house was. I also pointed out the pet dog that appears in both photos.
Lots of people say they can’t write but I’ve never met anyone who said they can’t talk. So just talk normally and describe the person or event. Then play the recording back and type it up. That’s it, you’ve started writing your family history. Keep going–why not, what else have you got to do with all your free time? Oh, and forget about cleaning the garage.


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