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?"
Do you have ancestors or relatives who served in the military?
As we peer into our past, we often find family members who served on land or sea in many countries and in many capacities. Some were on-the-ground forces, while others filled support roles such as tailors, doctors, nurses, cooks or musicians.
London's Imperial War Museum has organized a Family History Day on Saturday, November 6, sponsored by MyHeritage.com. The event will assist participants - from beginners to experienced family historians - to learn how the Blitz affected families, the roles relatives played to help win the war, the aftermath of this history in today's families, and what records are accessible for more information.
The Imperial War Museum is the museum of everyone’s story: the history of modern conflict told through the stories of those who were there. It is an educational and historical institution responsible for archives, collections and sites of outstanding national importance. You can view the Museum’s main website here.
Women as well as men have served in diverse capacities in all US military branches - Army, Air Force, Navy, Marines and the Coast Guard. For information on women veterans from Colonial to contemporary times, view stories here (scroll down to see other relevant pages on that site), and a time line here. For a collection of photos and artifacts documenting women's service, click here.
One Civil War surgeon - Dr Mary Edwards Walker (photo left) - was the first woman to receive the Medal of Honor.
Accessible records include regiment lists, files for widows' pensions, death and burial records, medals, hospital lists for the wounded, transport lists and many other records, each supplying another piece of the family history puzzle.
Where can you find more information on those who served?
Journals and diaries are excellent resources for family history research.
Don't you wish your ancestors had recorded their daily lives and thoughts in a format that has come down to you as a treasured keepsake through the centuries?
I know someone whose ancestor left a journal written several hundred years ago. The writer describes the family's everyday life in difficult new surroundings, how they celebrated holidays, the writer's wishes for her descendants far in the future and much more. It is as if the writer knew it would be treasured and passed down through the generations, as it has been. It is a priceless heirloom.
Put yourself in the shoes of a great-grandchild who finds your journal. What do you think will interest him or her? What is happening in your life now that you want future generations to know about? Do you want to include advice for future generations?
As a young girl visiting my grandmother in upstate New York during the summers, we would often go to see her friend Fanny who lived not far away.
I remember the old country farm house set in large surrounding fields. While Grandma and Fanny were talking downstairs, I was given permission to go up to the attic and scrounge around.
Fanny and her family had bought the place from people who had long been living there, and the attic was full of what people generally hide away. I found ancient letters, old newspapers covering historical events, all sorts of documents, books, photographs, as well as odd pieces of furniture, art work and old-fashioned clothing. At that young age, I didn't recognize the importance of these finds.
Now that I am so involved in family history and artifacts, I often wish I had an opportunity to revisit that treasure trove. Unfortunately, the house is long gone, and a housing development fills those fields.