Friday, January 6, 2012

Getting Started & Organized

Okay, so I wanted to start researching my family history. But, where do I begin?? Living in Florida, with no family in close proximity, I needed some advice from hopefully a seasoned pro. Thankfully, I found some very friendly staff members at the local library in their research room. The year was 2001, and all I had to start with was some family names, and places of birth. I knew that I wanted to begin with my paternal side because my Pipe`, (grandfather in english), had immigrated here from France. I had his name, Andre` (Andrew) C. Guerin; and was always told growing up that he came to the US to escape the war. Not much to go on! With some help, before my first visit to the library was up, I had located him in the 1930 US census, and found his WWI draft record!  Needless to say, right then and there, I had been infected with the genealogy bug!
From that point on, I knew that I could not rest until I found more information, more records. I became insatiable! The more I learned, meant the more I wanted to know. Then, there is all the printing of records. Before you know it, you have an armful of paper that needs to be organized in some fashion. Which method to use?? Oh, there are literally hundreds of options available to store & organize all your findings. What you choose is determined by your personal preference. There is no right or wrong way. Even the experts state that. You can even take a class on organizing your records. Since I had previously been employed for years in an office environment, I chose what was comfortable for me; binders and files. I soon learned, that if I wanted those paper documents to hold up for any length of time, I had better use good quality sheet protectors.
It is now 2011, ten years later, and my family history has taken over my half of the office. No surprise. So now, I have made a decision that the next time  we move, I will need my own office!

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Who's in your photos?

One thing that I have learned throughout the whole process of my family research is how extremely important it is to preserve and protect all those family photos that are lying dormant in a dark closet, either in shoeboxes or in those very ancient photo albums. How terrible would you feel if God forbid, one day there was an unexpected disaster and they are all destroyed? Once lost, they can never be recaptured! Yes, it is an overwhelming process to sort them all out, scan them in, organize them in files & save in a digital format. Plus, as we get older, how well are we going to remember everything about those pictures? I will always be eternally greatful to my Grandma Martin for diligently taking the time to write notes on the backs of most of her pictures. If you have some like that, don't forget to scan in the backsides too. Secondly, I will address the proper method to store those photos and one of the best methods for attaching notes. I am not an expert by no means, but in the past several years, I have learned a thing or two. I also make a point to subscribe to a few online newsletters written by experts in the field.
No, before you ask, it is not a major investment that will break your piggy bank. The following list of items can be purchased for the most part even at your local Wally World. Here is what you will need.

  1. Acid free or Archival quality photo albums or boxes
  2. A stack of 3X5 note cards
  3. Acid free ink pens
  4. Photo safe scotch tape
See, that wasn't too bad. When you are ready to put short notes to go with your pics, first write the info. on the note card using the special pen. (These pens contain archival quality ink that will stand the test of time, even up to 50 years!) Then, it is your choice whether to tape the notecard to the back of your photos, or place them beneath the photos in the album, facing out on each page. 
Would you like to know what happens to our treasured family photos after we are dead and gone? With no clue as to who the people are in our pictures, they end up either in the trash, or donated to antique stores or thrift stores. It won't be your children who do it, but your grandchildren or their children. There are many people who have come to understand the importance of the family connection and their ancestral pictures. They rescue the pictures, scan them in and post them to websites in hopes that someone, somewhere will be searching, and will recognize them.
By the way, the photo I posted at the top of this page, was taken at the 2-family house that my parents shared with my Aunt Alice & Uncle Victor (from my dad's family). It was the summer of 1957. From L-R, Aunt Alice Guerin, my mom-Joan Guerin, and me about 18 months old.

Monday, January 2, 2012

What was your life"s dream?

When you were young and growing up, what did you dream about for a lifetime goal? Did you give up on those dreams as you entered adulthood; or did you position yourself in life to fulfill and realize your dreams? When I was a young child, and my parents would bring us to visit our grandparents, I would hear the adults begin speaking in a foreign language. This would be a language that would not be shared with us kids. As I grew up, I would ask myself WHY at least a million times. Were there deeply held secrets to be kept from the next generation?
I started to ask questions of the adults, but was not taken seriously. Shame on them. So, I waited, stopped asking questions, grew up. Then one day, after I did my tour of duty with the husbands and kids, I decided it was time to take matters into my own hands and revisit my destiny. Thus began my journey into the past, to seek the answers to all my questions.