31    Dec 20101 comment

New Year: Family history plans for 2011

Some studies indicate that January is the most popular month for family history research.

Perhaps it's because people have just spent time with their families and those social gatherings may have triggered a quest, an emotional response to the universal idea of finding out who we really are, who our ancestors were and everything about them.

You may be in that category of newcomers to this passion of ours, or you might be among those who have spent decades researching your family.

In any case, the new year brings opportunities to follow up on clues, become a bit more organized and take on (or complete) tasks that you know must be done.

Many of us have these to-do lists posted by our computers - even if we don't get to them in a timely fashion - but to help readers who may not have such a list, here are some suggestions:

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24    Dec 20100 comments

Holidays: Family traditions

Santa may look very different in other countries!

Did your ancestors receive treats of whale blubber as a Christmas delicacy?

If they did, they must have come from Greenland.

Learn more about holidaycustoms around the world - which may be quite different from your experiences. It may help you understand your ancestors' traditions.

Santa Claus - who has many names - doesn't always wear his traditional red suit, fly around in a sleigh pulled by reindeer, or pop down a chimney.

In Hawaii, he wears a red Hawaiian shirt, and arrives in an outrigger canoe, with elves in aloha shirts.

In some countries where the main religion is not Christianity, there are also interesting traditions.

When we lived in Teheran, I was surprised to see that one could buy Christmas trees, and many stores sold all types of brightly colored lights and decorations. There was a  large Armenian community (both Protestants and Catholics) along with Iranian Nestorian Christians.

In India - in the former Portuguese colony of Goa - there are nine days of fireworks and parties to celebrate the Wise Men's arrival. Christians and Hindus celebrate together on January 6, the Feast of the Three Kings. Young boys from prominent families are chosen to play the kings, wear bright costumes and ride in on white horses.

Some other traditions:

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22    Dec 20100 comments

New Year: Learn something new

Do you make New Year's resolutions?

If so, do you keep them? For how long?

While many people resolve to break bad habits or improve physical qualities, those don't seem to last very long.

For a better outcome, try to learn some new skills to further your family history research. One way is to access free online classes. Some may be short tutorials, others are much longer and provide useful and practical data, including step-by-step videos.

What skills, tips or advice are you looking for? Do you need help in managing paperwork or photos? Would learning how to take better photos add to your MyHeritage.com family website?

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20    Dec 20102 comments

Sources: Where did I find that?

Source & CiteHow good is your memory?

Years ago, when I was very new at the genealogy game, I believed that I could accurately remember where I had discovered every bit of family data.

And - for awhile - I actually could do that. However, as the years went by, and the numbers of people on my trees increased - and my brain cells seemed to decrease - it became impossible.

Sometimes, I would write the information on a scrap of paper. We all know what happens to a scrap of paper stuck in a bag or pocket.

At one point, I had to stop all new research and back track, almost to the beginning of my quest, to fill in all those blanks.

Fortunately, I had even saved some of those scraps of paper on which I had scribbled information while visiting archives and libraries. To preserve them, I had taped them onto regular sheets of white paper. Eventually, I transfered that data to the family tree software I used, but the scraps didn't cover all my research.

It wasn't easy to admit that I had neglected this important  documentation. And it required a very long time to retrace my steps.

Since those days, I clearly - and loudly - advise beginners to document every bit of data they find.

Some have replied innocently that they'll remember - they only have a few people on their tree. Others have even asked why it's important: "The names are what we need, right?"

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