Everybody has a story

Genealogy has been a keen interest of mine since elementary school. Most of us who participate in this hobby were introduced to the fascinating pastime of discovering stories about your forebearers by a relative; in my case it was a spinster schoolteacher who was one of my maternal great-great aunts. May is Personal History Awareness month, and a prime time to consider preserving your family heritage. Everybody has a story: juicy, mundane, illegal, shocking. Even if the thought of writing your family history makes you gulp, you can begin gathering facts for others to enlarge on. Or, check with your cousins to see if any of them are working on this never-ending project and how you can help.

Step one is to decide whether you are more comfortable writing and preserving items in print or digitally. Then gather preliminary tools – if you are working in print, you will need pencils, an eraser, a three-ring binder, and at least five loose-leaf dividers. If you are working digitally, set up at least five folders. Label the dividers or folders, one with your last name and the other four with the last name of each of your grandparents. As you come across information, immediately put it in the correct section.

Step two is to see what you already know (which is probably more than you think). Those of us who are part of the Bellevue University community have free access to the database Ancestry Library Edition, found on the library homepage. In order to print the Ancestral Chart, follow this path: home page-databases-A-Ancestry Library Edition-Charts and Forms-Ancestral Chart-Download form. If you have difficulty accessing Ancestry Library Edition, please contact the reference librarians at library@bellevue.edu or 402-557-7313 and they will help you locate it.

Step three is to begin filling in the Ancestral Chart; start with yourself on the line on the left. Using a pencil, fill in the relevant lines that apply to you: your full legal name, birthdate, birthplace, marriage date, marriage place, and full legal name of your spouse. If you have your birth certificate or marriage certificate, make a legible copy and file it in the correct folder or behind the correct divider. Decide whether you are going to have the fathers or the mothers on the top lines, and fill in your parents’ information, including death dates if that is relevant. Again, if you have birth, marriage, or death certificates of your parents, make legible copies and file them in your digital folder or three-ring binder.

Step four is to ask questions of your parents about their parents, or talk to your grandparents directly if they are still part of the family. These interviews are also the time to record some family stories that you may have heard parts of before, but need to get the entire story in context.

These four steps will get you started. If you find that your interest is snatched and want to continue on, Ancestry Library Edition will be of tremendous help to you as you march back generation to generation. Find out how engrossing your family’s story is during this, Personal History Awareness month.

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