The genealogy conference schedule began very early in February for the 2011 genealogy tour – as I like to call it – at RootsTech, the first technology conference dedicated to genealogy, or perhaps vice versa. Family Search achieved its goal to bring together genealogy users and the technology developers who produce the wonderful tools we all use to trace, save and share our family memories and data.
The event was unique, and also allowed us to see old friends such as DearMyrtle, Thomas MacEntee, Dick Eastman and Lisa Louise Cooke. It was also an opportunity to make new friends, such as Ami, A.C. and Joan Miller - just to mention a few of the bloggers present.
Voices from the past are an integral part of family history. These voices may come through in diaries or letters written by ancestors.
Today, however, there's another way.
To put it another way, every story matters.
Individuals can record interviews with relatives, friends or community members via the non-profit StoryCorps, which has scheduled its third annual National Day of Listening on Friday, November 26, the day after Thanksgiving.
The Day encourages Americans to follow a new holiday tradition which promotes listening and understanding to share their stories on the day following Thanksgiving, which itself is an essentially family-oriented holiday.
Participants use equipment found in many homes, such as a computer, mobile phone, tape recorder or even pen and paper.
To learn more click nationaldayoflistening.org for a free instruction guide with equipment recommendations, suggested questions and ideas for preserving and sharing interviews.
Of course, another great way to preserve your family interviews is on your own MyHeritage.com family site, so all your relatives can them.
Imagine preserving an interview with your grandmother that would be available for future generations to hear.
“In an era of fierce political and cultural divides, we hope that the idea of listening to one another during the holiday season resonates with many Americans,” says StoryCorps Founder and MacArthur “Genius” Dave Isay. “Through our National Day of Listening, StoryCorps hopes to remind Americans of all stripes how much more unites us than divides us.”
Although a US-based day, the idea is certainy appropriate for people in all countries around the world and - as an additional benefit - encourages talking about family history and connecting families, which is exactly what MyHeritage.com is all about.
Although the Day of Listening is celebrated on the day after Thanksgiving, you can record family members, friends or community members on any day of year or in connection with any holiday.
Since 2003, StoryCorps has collected and archived more than 30,000 interviews from more than 60,000 participants. Each is recorded on a free CD to share, and is also preserved at the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress (Washington, DC).
The project is one of the largest oral history projects of its kind.For more information, or to listen to stories online, visit storycorps.org.
Have you recorded interviews with any of your relatives?
If you have a senior relative, remember to record them as soon as possible so that interview will be preserved. This is truly voices from the past!
Who have you recorded? Where and how have you preserved that interview?
Let us know via comments to this blog.
This is the time to start planning for next summer - the most popular season for such events - so here are some tips and resources to help you get together with your far-flung relatives in person.
For even more on family reunions, see another previous MyHeritage Genealogy Blog post which provided more tips, resources and a 12-step "getting organized" outline to plan a family reunion.
Don't forget that your family website at MyHeritage is a great way to stay in touch with prospective family reunion attendees. Share pre-event planning and programs, and then provide - post-reunion - photos and videos of the reunion for the whole family to see. It will encourage those who didn't or couldn't attend the event to show up next time.
Now that I'm back to my normal routine, I'm trying to review the great experiences from this summer.
Great times included four conferences in California, Washington State and Texas; visiting dear friends and family members; and meeting several relatives for the first time as we shared family history.
At all the conferences, I helped explain what we do at MyHeritage.com and how our tools and features make it easy for families to connect and communicate no matter where they live.
My suitcase now includes several new T-shirts from this year's events and some for 2011 events.
Here are some highlights:
Some 50 geneabloggers attended the Southern California Genealogical Society's Jamboree this year.
After reconnecting with someone whom I knew in California and who was now in New Jersey, I realized her husband's family's long connection to a small community, now a suburb of a larger city, in that Eastern state. My own family had a long-ago connection to the same community when it was much, much smaller, and more rural.
My great-grandmother's sister and her husband had settled in that small town soon after they arrived in 1905, although my great-grandmother and her family lived in nearby big-city Newark.
I took a chance and asked if the woman's husband, whose family had lived there from the early 1900s, possibly had known my relatives. It was very exciting to learn that my great-grandmother's sister had been the husband's babysitter!
Traveling to other countries provides an opportunity to reconnect with family.
In February, that's exactly what our genealogy and translation manager Daniel Horowitz experienced. He had traveled to London to represent MyHeritage at the Who Do You Think You Are? LIVE family history fair.
His visit enabled several SINGER branches to meet once again. The family has its roots in Czernovits, which was in Austro-Hungary and is today in Ukraine.
One of the best parts about my current trip was the opportunity to meet new cousins in person.
Genealogists and family history researchers agree that this is one of the most exciting experiences we can ever have.
Have you ever met someone new and felt that you've always known them?
That's exactly the way I felt when I met my Melbourne cousins, Alexander and Jenny Katsnelson, their daughters Nelly (with a journalism degree, married with two beautiful children) and Fleur (an attorney), the grandchildren and Alex's brother Leon.
Alex and Leon's mother was a Talalay from Mogilev, Belarus. Although her branch moved to nearby Bobruisk, she always told them about the Mogilev family. Alex and Jenny left Belarus 30 years ago aiming for a better life for their family and settling in Australia. Leon and their father arrived later.
Below (from left), Leon, Schelly, Alex.
I had located them in Australia, thanks to genealogy friends in Melbourne, and we made contact about seven years ago. Unfortunately, I experienced a computer disaster, losing much data along with contact information for the cousins down under.
My advice for computer users: ALWAYS back up your data. Our family has lost seven years during which we could have been in contact.
When I arrived in Melbourne, we checked the online phone directory and found Leon. On Wednesday, Alex and Jenny came to get me from my friend's home - they live only a few blocks away! - and the whole family spent the day together.
We looked at old photos, Alex and Leon recounted what they knew of their mother's family, and I showed them what I had found on their family from records discovered in the Minsk National Archives.
Jenny is interested in finding more information about her own Heiman family, which moved from Bobruisk to Riga, Latvia. We spent some time online as I showed Nelly and Jenny some of the major genealogy research websites, and demonstrated MyHeritage.com, of course.
We will spend another day together.
This time, we won't lose contact!
Have you found long lost cousins?
Where? When? How?
What was your experience like? Share your family reunion.
Wouldn't it be great to get your farflung family together and meet them in person? E-mail goes only so far.
Some families plan reunions every year or every few years and have been meeting for decades, while others have never organized a formal get-together.
We've been talking about this for our Dardashti family - there are so many relatives that we'll need a football stadium. Several years ago, we had a mini-reunion with descendants of six Talalai branches. It was probably the first time in more than 100 years that that these branches had been together since before most cousins began leaving Belarus and Russia for the US. We were all stunned by the familial and personality resemblance within the group, which included those who had remained in the ancestral towns until very recently.
How do you plan a family reunion? Here are 12 steps to help:
1- Get organized.
Breaking down the responsibilities among a group of people is a good idea, but you'll need a chairperson which may be you as this might be your idea! Some tasks - depending on how big the event is - include committee meetings, making lists of volunteers and jobs, keeping to a calendar, getting people to follow through. Think about committees for food, activities and publicity.
2- What type of event?
Reunions can be informal or formal, planned on a budget-conscious shoestring (important these days) or an anything-goes gala. A picnic may be the easiest and most cost effective. What about a dinner at a restaurant? A camping trip? A theme park? A family cruise? A family ski vacation? There are many possibilities.Distance and cost are important considerations.
3- Choose a date.
Think about the season, holidays. How long will the event be - a day, an evening, a weekend or longer? Try to plan for off-season. A family reunion planned for June will compete with weddings and graduations. Will seasonal weather that might impact activities and participation?
4- Track down relatives.
Will this event be for all descendants of one immigrant ancestor or, for example, just one branch of your grandmother's line? The larger the group, the more planning is necessary. And the more people expected, the more expensive the event may be (larger venue, etc.). How to find lost relatives? If you are a good family history researcher, you may already have many names and addresses available. Use the social networking benefits of Facebook and Twitter, as well as genealogy social networking sites, like MyHeritage.com, to find long lost relatives. Of course, if you've kept a list of relatives' addresses, phone numbers and emails all along, it will be a snap to update. Better late than never should be your motto. Start building your relatives' list now.
5- Reunion location.
Small groups can meet in a someone's backyard, a small resort or a theme park. According to Family-Reunion.com, choices also include camping out, a hotel weekend, bed-and-breakfast, the family's ancestral home or town ( a roots trip), a dude ranch, a family cruise, etc. In the summer, pool access would be welcomed by participants, especially for younger relatives. Remember that the more expensive the event, the fewer the number of attendees.