Thanks to our new guest blogger, Lisa A. Alzo, M.F.A., for today's article!
October is National Family History Month,* and a perfect time to discover your roots, or catch up on those family history tasks you’ve been meaning to work on. Although we’re already a couple weeks in, there are still plenty of days left. Here are ten great ways to celebrate.
1. Trace your family tree. Use the month to build, edit, or update your family tree. Legacy Family Tree software makes this task easy to do. If you’re not yet a Legacy Family Tree User, download the free version standard version and give it a try. If you’re already using Legacy, explore its mapping features to track an ancestor’s migration, create any number of beautiful wall charts, or work on your source citations with the new Legacy SourceWriter™ to ensure proper formatting.
2. Try a new tech tool. Technology is always evolving and genealogists are finding new ways to integrate new tools and apps to help with research tasks. Explore a new app for your smartphone, or try out great cloud storage options like Dropbox. Take advantage of all that Google has to offer (Docs/Drive, Books, Translate, and more), contribute to a Wiki such as the one at FamilySearch.org, or build one of your own. To learn more, check out Thomas MacEntee’s Legacy Webinars available on these topics.
3. Make connections. No genealogist is an island, so the more you can connect with family members who may hold the answers to your family history questions the better. Blogs are a great way to reach out. In fact, they are often referred to as “cousin bait.” Find more than 2,800 genealogy/family history blogs at Geneabloggers. And don’t forget social media (Facebook, Google Plus, Twitter, Pinterest) to help you find long lost relatives and connect with other researchers.
4. Tell a story. Don’t be just a name collector, or fact curator. When possible, interview family members and research the historical context of the time period, and then try your hand at writing your family’s story. Don’t know where or how to begin? My Legacy webinars on “Ready, Set, Write: Your Family’s Story” and “Digital Writing Tools for Genealogists” can help get you started.
5. Do the DNA. Hitting a brick wall in your research? Paper trail gone cold? DNA testing is a great way to dig a bit deeper to unlock family relationships, or to prove or disprove conflicting evidence in your research. Learn the basics and the various testing companies and options by watching the free Legacy webinars on “DNA Research for Genealogists: Beyond the Basics,” and “The Power of DNA in Unlocking Family Relationships.”
6. Go to the graveyard. Graveyards are really popular places in October thanks to Halloween. But don’t get spooked. If possible, visit your ancestors’ final resting places and photograph their tombstones. Using apps such as BillionGraves, or Resting Spot make the job much easier. If you are not able to physically travel to a cemetery, try searching the large virtual gravestones available on Find-a-Grave.com, or Interment.net.
7. Start a heritage craft. With the holiday season just around the corner, why not consider giving your loved ones the gift of family history? Starting now will ensure you finish in plenty of time. For example, wall charts are wonderful ways to share your research (watch the free Legacy Webinar on “Further Your Research and Unify Your Family Reunion with Beautiful Genealogy Charts” to see all of the great ways to display your family tree). Other ideas include creating a memory book, heritage quilt, or ornament—the possibilities are endless. For more inspiration, visit Heritage Crafts on Pinterest.
8. Search a different database. If you find yourself going back to the same genealogy databases or websites time and again, shake things up a bit and visit a new one. You can use a site such as TopTenReviews to view and compare a dozen of the most popular services (Note: not all databases are listed so you should explore others on your own or read the blogs of other researchers for more suggestions).
9. Prepare a favorite family dish. Craving some of Auntie Ann’s apple crisp, or grandma’s chicken soup? Family recipes and traditions help us to more deeply understand and connect with our heritage. If you have recipes that were passed down, pick one or two of your favorites and make them during family history month. If the recipes are handwritten on old recipe cards, scan them and use a program like Evernote to save and organize them.
10. Learn something new. Legacy Family Tree is offering several great Webinars during the month of October to help you with your research problems. If you can’t listen live, you can watch the recorded versions for a limited time afterwards, purchase past webinars on CD, and register for future webinars.
It’s wonderful to have an entire month officially dedicated to the pursuit of family history. Use the ten suggestions above as a guide, and then come up with your own innovative ways to “show your roots” during October!
Lisa A. Alzo is a freelance writer, instructor, and lecturer who has been tracking her ancestors for more than 22 years. She is a frequent presenter for the Legacy Family Tree Webinars series and can be contacted via http://www.lisaalzo.com.
[*In 2003 the United States Senate officially recognized October as National Family History Month, a time “to encourage family history research, education, and the sharing of knowledge.” The bill, [S.RES.175] was sponsored by Senator Orrin G. Hatch of Utah. To read more, click here].