26 April 2011

Family History Writing and Religious Traditions

Strengthening our youth is a hot topic among religious leaders today. "Why are we losing them?"  parents and leaders ask. "What can we do for our young people to help them feel connected?" BYU professor David Dollahite and master's student Emily Layton have proposed some answers. In their newly reported study asking young folks from 10-20 open-ended questions about why their faith made a difference in their lives, Dollahite and Layton found that connections with parents, Church leaders and the traditions in their religious practice were an anchor for them, even when the connection didn't seem particularly religious.

In my last post I wrote about the connection I have felt to my family tradition of reunions. I believe that when young people have the opportunity to connect with their past, when they know something of their ancestors and their stories, this also serves to bolster their family's faith traditions. When I know something about my family, I know something about me. When my love for family history is fostered, my love for myself is also nurtured. My name and my heritage gain importance and I am strengthened. I'm hoping the same is true for the young people in my family. I write and I publish for them. The books are generally sold to the older generation, but the heart of my work is bound to the hearts of the youth. It's for you, kids.

24 April 2011

My Love Affair with Family Reunions

I’ve gone to family reunions all my life. As a child and teenager, my family never missed the annual Whitney reunions at Pine Valley. We camped there over Labor Day every year and spent three days visiting, hiking, and playing. The ring of horseshoes hitting the posts brings back the sound of my dad’s laughter as he played horseshoes with his cousins and his brothers. The well-laden table for our Saturday potluck was another highlight. My grandmother hiked with us granddaughters. I played endless games with my cousins and we even staged pinecone fights with another group of kids whose family also camped there over Labor Day. I thought everyone had family reunions to go to each year, but we were the luckiest because we got to camp out for three days.

I loved to camp so much that I was surprised when I went to a Girls Camp one year in Pine Valley and hated every minute of it. Everything was familiar, but the people I loved weren’t there with me. I was miserably homesick and I never went to another Girls Camp.

Part of the reunion fun was the campfire programs and group sings every evening. I learned to sing the songs my grandparents and parents loved and introduced them to new songs. I fell in love with folk music and I never did stray to rock and roll or even the Beatles that were so popular at that time. My heart was tied to family reunion time and the music that accompanied it.

I was the first one to grow up and get married. For a time, my husband and I came back “home” for Christmas and other holidays (including the Whitney reunion). But after awhile our own family began to grow and my “going home” time was our own family reunion with my mother and father and my siblings. Our children played together and they too enjoyed the cousin time that our campout reunions provided.

I loved “living with” my brothers and sisters and nieces and nephews for a few days. The nights were often miserable with cold or midnight outhouse trips, but I dealt with that by staying up as late as possible and rising at first light. I loved being with the night owls around the campfire at night and then talking to the little early birds in the morning. It seemed idyllic to me to be out of reach of the interfering telephone and other distractions and directly in touch with God’s beautiful world and the people I loved most who lived in it for this time out of time. Although the reunions always seemed too short, the days were long and relaxing and there were plenty of occasions to talk together about things that matter.
My sister and various nieces and nephews

Listening to other people’s memories and experiences at these precious times has bonded me to other family members. It has fostered and fueled my love of family stories and genealogy and this has become a life-long interest of mine. I learned to love the cousins and extended family that I associated with each year growing up and also the extended family of my adulthood.  Even now, I love to visit cousins and extended family and learn what they have to share. I got my start at the family reunion.

15 April 2011

Family History Connections

John Nay, Jr taken near his death in 1892
In 2002 a dream came true for me and several of my cousins. We published a hardback book of histories about John Nay Jr and his family. The dream was born when my sister and I met one of our Nay cousins who works in a bookstore. She had information we were looking for and she also had an idea--to form a committee and write a book. The three of us gathered up histories and descendants from every branch of this early Utah pioneer family. After many meetings and much work the book was published.

John Herbert (Bert) Nay
Photo from article in The Nevadan
March 13, 1977 by Georgia Lewis. His
ranch at Tule Springs is now
the Floyd Lamb Park in Las Vegas,
Two years later, we held a Nay family reunion for the extended family. It was John Nay's 200th birthday and we celebrated! I made contacts and friends that I still enjoy today. But yesterday another connection popped up for me in an unexpected place. We are fairly certain that John Nay, Jr's ancestors came from Ireland. His father was born in Dublin, New Hampshire. His great-grandfather was probably the immigrant ancestor, according to our family records, though we haven't found him in the "old country" yet. So for the last few years, I've celebrated my Irish roots a little more than previously.

I was especially excited when my granddaughter began to study Irish dance. She's very good at it and I love to watch her perform. This weekend she is attending a Celtic "feis" (pronounced "fesh") in Las Vegas as part of a large Celtic Society celebration. She and her dad were very interested in the place in which they are performing. It is a park made from an old ranch established by none other than Bert Nay, my great-uncle! It's wonderful to have those Irish roots come full circle back to the Nays again. I'm sure Bert and Becky Nay would be excited to have the Irish feis take place on their old ranch. And I believe Bert's triple great grandpa William McNee and wife Mary Brownley are proud of their little descendant dancing her Irish jigs tomorrow. We all wish you the best, sweet girl.

09 April 2011

Facebook Family History for Free

Crista Cowan, you are a genius! Last year I became enthused about interactive Footnote pages, a place where I could put documents, photos, and stories about a particular ancestor or relative. I worked on a couple of pages, even linked them to my Facebook account. But only two or three people responded (via Facebook). Eventually I became discouraged and decided the time spent wasn't worth the response. I turned to our family website and posted some things there that seemed pretty exciting to me. Again, very little response. I decided to become a family history blogger and established relationships with other family history enthusiasts, but not so much with "normies."

In her class at RootsTech called "Virtual Family Reunions: Using Online Tools to Find More Cousins Than You Know What To Do With." Crista Cowan made a simple suggestion: "Why not reach out to others on social media, where they already are?" Why was I trying desperately to drive traffic to my blog or to our family website to connect with my cousins? How about establishing an ancestor "page" on Facebook? Crista suggests using an immigrant ancestor or one who is about 200 years old, starting small and building. Our relatives are already there, we just need to establish something interesting, build trust and connect with them.

How will those pages become popularly "liked"? (That's Facebook lingo for "looked at.") 

Sunrise over the reservoir--early morning hike
This photo from our last family reunion is one of the ones
I posted on our Facebook family page.
1- I already am linked to numerous cousins and other relatives as friends. They will see the page I establish from my FaceBook account.

2- I can do descendancy research on those ancestors I choose to spotlight and then search for them on Facebook to suggest they may have an interest in our common ancestor.

3- Because of the popularity of Facebook, the page will emerge near the top of an on-line ancestor search.

4- I can continue to post tidbits on the page to keep up the interest.

Eventually we may have an ancestral family reunion, virtual or real-time. We can exchange information and family insights with one another. We can continue to build on the past to forge new connections. So far I've just posted on the page someone started for my dad and mom's family. I've noticed that Crista is right. It takes some regular posting to keep people interested, but it doesn't have to be much. I'm excited to follow her suggestion about establishing a page for my "further back" ancestors.

07 April 2011

Post, post, post

I could be talking to me here--about posting. It's April already and this is my first post of the month. I'm actually still trying to get my computer back together after the second crash in 3 months. At least this time, I was backed up. (Are you?) There are still lots of things I needed to do to get myself together, it seems. But I have had some exciting news.

I've posted on Footnote.comcreating pages for people and garnered some feedback. But this week another seed bore fruit. A few years ago I registered for Family Pursuit and joined their on-line family tree for free. I just received an answer from a woman in Sweden. And lo and behold, there was another message there for me from last year. I must have missed the email forwarding.  (Can you tell I don't check very often?) We also have gotten some inquiries about our family websites. My Swedish friend had first posted there, but when I emailed her, she didn't answer back. The new messages I received from her explained why. She doesn't speak English. It's exciting to hear from Rose-Marie about my step-great-great grandmother in these words:

Map of area from Rose-Marie (Stormhult, hästskjuts ca 1920)

A photo from Rose-Marie: Stormhult, hästskjuts ca 1920
You asked about Anna Beata Andreasdotter and I didn´t answer you about her. 
About her family: Her father was a sailor when he married Christina born in Stormhult, they lived first by her parents, 1844 - 1848 they moved to a farm called Ålgårda (he became a farmer there), about 1½ km from Stormhult, there was Anna Beata & Johan Adolf born. After that they moved to a farm in the village Sundstorp (16 farms), Sundstorp nr 1 and lived there 1849 - 1864. 

I had read in the Swedish records that he was a seaman and then a landholder, but her words help me picture it so much more clearly. I'm looking forward to further correspondence. She says she's writing a book! 

My challenge to all of us is to find a new place to post something about one or more of our ancestors. And then enjoy the connections we can make and the way it fills out the family history. And my challenge to me personally is to write about something I learned at Rootstech, another way to use social networking to get the information out there to find our cousins who are wanting to know more or even who do know more than we do.