Category Archives: Ancestors

The Life Story Quote of the Week.

supper table

It’s not about dinner but the kind of conversations you have with your family and the stories you tell.

Robyn Fivush ~ Professor of Psychology, Emory University

“The family is the first and most enduring group you belong to,” says Barbara Fiese, a psychology professor at Syracuse University. “It provides a sense of belonging for children, adolescents and adults so the individual doesn’t have to feel isolated.”

We help create this bond by sharing our  family stories from the past and the present. Research conducted by Dr. Robyn Fivush shows that parents who take the time to tell their children about family events, inside jokes, nicknames and family successes and failures  produce adolescents with higher self-esteem and self-confidence.

We owe it to our children not only to make dinner a time for the family to gather but also a time to share the richness of our family stories.

Photo by Kirsten Jennings

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The Life Story Quote of The Week.

tree canopy jpg

If you don’t know your history, then you don’t know anything. You are a leaf that doesn’t know it is part of a tree.

Michael Crichton - (1942 – 2008) American author, producer, director, screenwriter and physician

We live in a world that prizes speed, innovation, newness and youth. We’re constantly looking forward. And in the process we’ve become strangers to our past. We’ve either never heard our family stories or forgotten many of them. We pay a price for this. We feel rootless, unconnected and at our deepest core anxious and unhappy.

Recording  and preserving our stories is not some flight of nostalgia. It is in fact a determined  act to reclaim our history.

Photo by justneal

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Life Story Quote of The Week.


To forget one’s ancestors is to be a brook without a source, a tree without a root.

- Chinese proverb

How many of you can name all of your eight great grandparents? That’s the question posed by Dr. Barry Baines at one of his Ethical Will Workshops. I must admit I can only name one. How about you? Probably very few – right? Think for a moment. If you don’t do something to preserve and record your life story then your children’s grandchildren will not know your name. Pretty sobering isn’t it? What are you doing to ensure that your name isn’t forgotten?

Photo by David Fielke

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What Do You Do With All Your Old Family Photos?

My great uncle George's daughters, Fan & Kit

My great uncle George's daughters, Fan & Kit

My mom is ninety. Her mind is clear but she has congestive heart failure and we both know that her time is limited. With her death goes the knowledgeable custodian of  several boxes of old sepia colored photographs of relatives long passed. With a sense of urgency we’ve embarked on a methodical recording and preserving of these photos. If you’re in a similar situation you might find what we’re doing of some value.

  • Step one: Mom takes a pencil (not a pen) and on the back of each photo she  lightly writes  index numbers  starting with 001, the first photo. In a notebook she  writes down the number. Beside it, as best she can recall, she indicates: (a) the names of the people in the photo and their family connection, (b) where the photo was taken, (c)  the occasion (i.e., birthday, wedding, picnic, travels etc.) and (d) the date. On the next photo she writes 002 and proceeds to write down the details as she did for the first photo. At this point we’re not  worrying about sorting the photos thematically – that can come later.
  • Step two: As Mom completes a set of photos I take them and scan them into my computer and carefully include the index number and description. We are now about half way through her collection. After I’ve scanned the photos I place them in an archival, acid free box. You can obtain these through such companies as Archival Methods, Carr McLean or The Container Store.
  • Step three: We haven’t got to this stage yet. But once I’ve made a digital copy of each photo there are a number of presentation options available – one that I’m considering is a Photo Book. I’ll most likely group the photos thematically and include the  description that my mom’s written for each photo. There are a number of web based publishers like  Blurb that specialize in Photo Books.

I can’t emphasize enough how important it is to get those old family photos out of storage and  begin the work of archiving them. Let me know what you’re doing to preserve your family photos. Love to hear from you!

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Eight Top Sites for Finding Your Irish Roots.

shamrock-by-rebHappy  St. Patrick’s Day to all of you with legitimate or  fanciful connections to the Emerald Isle. I’ve recently been trying to learn more about my Irish grandmother and great grandmother. All I know is that my grandmother was born in 1872 in Ennis, County Clare. My research has led me to some useful Irish genealogical sites that I wanted to pass on to you. All of them offer some preliminary free service but for more detailed reports expect to pay a fee. If you’ve had success with other sites, please pass them on in my comments section. Click on the links below for further information.

  1. The Irish Family History Foundation: The Foundation is the coordinating body for a network of county based genealogical research centers on the island of Ireland. These centers have computerized millions of Irish genealogical records, including church records, census returns and gravestone inscriptions. You will find information here about the Irish Family History Foundation center in each member county. Through them you can have research carried out on your family history from the millions of records which they have gathered over the years.
  2. Irish Family Research: Hundreds of rare and, in most cases, Exclusive Searchable Databases, as well as other essential Irish Genealogy Resources covering every Irish County. And  regular updates of New Online Genealogical Materials, Newsletters, and Message Boards.
  3. Irish Family History Forum: The Forum based on Long Island, New York was founded in 1991 by a small group of dedicated genealogists and family historians. Its membership has since spread across the United States as well as to Canada, Ireland, and England.
  4. The Irish Ancestral Research Association: A nonprofit organization established to develop and promote the growth, study and exchange of ideas among people and organizations interested in Irish genealogical and historical research and education. Monthly meetings educate and entertain our members, as well as foster interaction with other Irish researchers. They do not provide individual genealogical research services.
  5. The National Archives of Ireland: The  Archives holds a wide variety of records, many of which are relevant to Irish genealogy and local history.
  6. Records Ireland: This is a Genealogy and Record Agency service based in Dublin, Ireland. It  provides a comprehensive genealogical service ranging from specific record searching to full family research. A tailored service is also provided for documents required for Irish citizenship/naturalization.
  7. Family Search: The largest genealogy organization in the world operated by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  For over 100 years, FamilySearch has been actively gathering, preserving, and sharing genealogical records worldwide.
  8. Irish Genealogy: The Central Signposting index (C.S.I) contains over 3 million genealogical records which may help you trace that elusive Irish ancestor. If you are not certain of the county of origin of your ancestor this could help you make a start.

Photo by reb

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The Life Story Quote of The Week


The true meaning of life is to plant trees, under whose shade you do not expect to sit.

Nelson Henderson

North American culture is very focused on the present.  We tend to live for the day and our idea of the future can often go no further than plans for our next holiday or retirement. The idea that we might engage in doing something for which we will never see the results seems somewhat foreign. And yet that is what we are asked to do when we consider recording our life story or helping someone with theirs.

Our stories may not  interest this generation as much as those who follow. We have no better example of this than the fascination that old letters and diaries hold for us now – whether it’s the diary of a young Jewish girl, Anne Frank,  hiding with her family from Nazi persecution or the letters home from Civil War  soldiers.  I believe we have an obligation to record and preserve our stories. Remember, someone in the future wants to hear from you.

Photo by Jason H

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The Life Story Quote of The Week


Do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them slip from your heart as long as you live. Teach them to your children and your children’s children.

Deuteronomy 4:9

How easy it is for the things we have seen to be forgotten. In ancient times there was a strong oral tradition. People made a point of passing on knowledge and wisdom. We’ve lost most of that tradition. Unless we keep some kind of record of our lives, our children and our children’s children will know nothing of our heart. That would be a terrible loss.

Photo by James Marvin Phelps

What Will Happen to The Pictures You Take Today?


The following poem, whose author is unknown, speaks to the fate of all of us if we don’t take the time to tell the stories behind our photographs.

Strangers In A Box

Come, look with me inside this drawer,
In this box I’ve often seen,
At the pictures, black and white,
Faces proud, still, and serene.

I wish I knew the people,
These strangers in the box,
Their names and all their memories,
Are lost among my socks.

I wonder what their lives were like,
How did they spend their days?
What about their special times?
I’ll never know their ways.

If only someone had taken time,
To tell, who, what, where, and when,
These faces of my heritage,
Would come to life again.

Could this become the fate,
Of the pictures we take today?
The faces and the memories,
Someday to be passed away?

Take time to save your stories,
Seize the opportunity when it knocks,
Or someday you and yours,
Could be strangers in the box.

How a Prehistoric Cave Painting Came to My Rescue.

A few weeks ago I was preparing a presentation on why life stories matter for a local organization’s AGM . I was struggling with where to begin until quite by accident I saw a picture of a prehistoric hand print on a cave wall. I was transfixed. It was as if this hand was reaching across those thousands of years to touch my heart. This artist, I like to think, was saying, “Look, I existed. I was flesh and blood. I painted these scenes of wild animals. I knew the hunt. I marveled at the night sky. Do not forget me.”

I knew then how to start my presentation. Our life stories matter because they are part of our DNA. We all have a desire to leave behind some record of who we are. It goes right back to our earliest ancestors. By not recording and preserving our life stories or the stories of our loved ones we are in a sense going against our very nature.

Someone in the future wants to hear from you. Don’t disappoint them.

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