Put yourself in your ancestor's place. Where did they live? What was their life like? What did they eat? Are there any stories about them? When we learn more about them, we connect with them. Use the dropdown to the right to explore some different aspects of their life.
CREDITS go to Mike Sandberg of FamilySearch for the family history ideas below. (Presented at RootsTech 2018)
Stories that help us relate to the emotions that our ancestors felt can create a strong emotional connection with them. As we read or hear those stories, we can begin to empathize with others that may be going through similar circumstances in their lives.
One letter I have in my possession is the letter written by my great grandfather (on the right) to his wife and oldest daughter, Carol, who were back east visiting. It mentions a heart breaking incident in which his only two boys drowned in the Alameda estuary.
We also have our own heritage, our life challenges and successes that we need to share with our posterity. We should be active in preserving our thoughts, stories, and testimonies for our posterity to remember us by.
Take some time to write some brief memories about your life experiences, and then SHARE them with your posterity. Along with the story, share your testimony, feelings, or life insights with them as well.
I "drove" around Dunseverick, Northern Ireland by using Google Maps and got a better understanding about the the general landscape, housing, farm lands, and even a view of the Giant's Causeway. I saw Dunseverick Castle, which existed in the time of my 3rd Great Grandfather when he lived there. Dunseverick castle is pretty much a pile of rocks now, but I can imagine it to be a place that he and his family visited in the early 1800s.
Go visit places that your ancestors lived in. Get a sense of what the terrain, city, and other landmarks may have been like when they lived there. Can you find the street they lived on, and perhaps the same house they lived in? Explore the neighborhood where they lived.
Using any internet browser you can search for information about your ancestors, such as the places they lived.
Take some time to just see what you may find out there about your family. If you need some help, we have classes or individual help to show you how to do this.
The old photo above was called Gwynn's Bridge, built to span the American Fork River in Placer County, California, that ran past Rattlesnake Bar. This was a mining town in middle 1800s where my 2nd Great Grandfather lived with his family. His little town now is located under water behind Folsom Dam in Auburn/Sacramento, California.
Search for things that may have been everyday sights for your ancestors. The photo to the right is a replica of the Dunbrody "famine ships" that carried many Irish emigrants to the USA or to Canada.
My ancestors came from Northern Ireland on ships just like these. While on a tour of Ireland a few years ago, I was able to actually see the small size and characteristics of what these famine ships looked like. I developed a greater feeling for my ancestors as I pictured in my mind what it would have been like to sail the ocean on a small ship such as this.
The Dunbrody and other ships like them were often known as the ‘Coffin Ships’.
Lasting up to six weeks, the Atlantic crossing was a terrible trial for those brave, or desperate, enough to attempt it. Packed cheek by jowl below decks, the steerage passengers barely saw the light of day. Allowed up on deck for no more than one hour a day, in small groups, they would gather around open stoves to cook. When their time was up, it was back down into the dark, dank hold. During the regular storms the hatches were battened down, and the passengers would subsist on hard-tack biscuits.
Hygiene was notoriously poor aboard most ships. With nothing more than buckets for toilets, and only sea-water to wash with, disease was rampant. Cholera and Typhus accounted for a great many deaths. Those who died were buried at sea. With death rates commonly reaching 20%, and horror stories of 50% dying, these vessels soon became known as ‘Coffin Ships’.
After weeks cooped up in these terrible conditions, Irish emigrants arrived in North America. Many were filthy, penniless, and often illiterate; making their subsequent successes all the more remarkable.
It is a wonderful blessing to be able to hear grandma sing a song in her native language, or to hear an ancestor tell of life experiences.
How many of our families have old tape recordings or cassettes, or stories told on VHS tapes by ancestors? We can help you digitize these stories and upload them to Family Tree. We have the equipment to do so.
If you do not have any recordings, then start to create recordings of your life by using your smartphone. Let your grandkids hear you tell a fun story that teaches them important principles. I would love to have heard the voices and stories of my ancestors. Let your children or grandchildren have the opportunity to hear you voice.
Stories could be about your mission, how you and your spouse met, difficult times in your life, funny events, etc. Stories can be up to about 15 minutes. Since we live in a "sound bite" world, it is best to keep stories short. The Memories App for the smartphone even presents you with a list of questions that you could tell a story about.
Each of our families have traditions regarding foods, such as grandma's scrumptious roast, favorite desserts, breads, etc. These recipes are passed down through generations. Foods bring memories of smells, tastes, favorite times such as Christmas, Thanksgiving, etc.
Some 30 years ago, my wife took some cooking classes while we lived in Washington State and learned how to cook really good Chinese food. Every year since then when the family all comes together, the kitchen becomes a crowded place with some rolling spring rolls, others making fried rice, orange chicken, and other dishes. This has become a tradition for our family.
My grandmother cooked the BEST pot roast, potatoes, and pies. Another scrumptious meal was her filet mignon cooked in this little counter top broiler. I don't think anyone has been able to duplicate her meals, but I will always remember my grandmother for the types of foods that she cooked.
Exploring and cooking favorite foods from an ancestor's homeland is another way to discover and perpetuate traditions down to our posterity.
Every family has "old things" that have been handed down through the years from ancestors. It could be a pair of great grandpa's glasses. Try them on. Touch them. How about a poem written by an ancestor on an old piece of paper, or an old letter? How about grandma's old dress? Or as to the right, touch great grandpa's old medical instruments.
Reading old letters gives us a great idea what their thoughts were about, what life events were of interest to them, feelings for their family and friends, or their feelings that were expressed through letters. There is also the experience at looking at family letters that are old and date into the early 1800s.
Read stories written about your ancestors to your family. Explore the FamilySearch Partner app, "All the Stories, to pull out your ancestral stories found in Family Tree.
Use the NEW FamilySearch Fan Chart view to visually find who has stories in your ancestor lines