If you’re reading this in hopes of getting great clues on finding your brick walls, do not get too excited. I do have a few for you, though.
Today I searched more of my dead ends using some techniques given to me on my Twitter page where I follow fellow family historians and professional genealogists. They provide some great tips and websites for research.
One such tip is getting the best out of Google™ searches called “Boolean Operators.” Here are some examples.
Some others are:
Acts as a wildcard and will match any word or phrase.
Group multiple terms or search operators to control how the search is executed.
Example: (christmas OR trees) decorations
Search for prices. Also works for Euro (€), but not GBP (£) 🙁
Example: Samsung $329
A dictionary built into Google.
Returns the most recent cached version of a web page (old version of a web page) (providing the page is indexed, of course).
Limit results to those from a specific website.
Find sites linked to a given domain.
Find pages with a specific word (or words) in the title. In our example, any results containing the word “samsung” in the title tag will be returned.
Similar to “intitle,” but only results containing all of the specified words in the title tag will be returned.
Example: allintitle:samsung android
Another excellent search tool in my research has been Google Books.
Go to Google search
Type a surname or subject and hit enter
Click on the “More” menu
Click on “Books”
You can leave the search as is or click on “Any Books”
Then click on “Google EBooks” to search for books online.
Again, you can use the above Boolean Operators here.
I used these techniques today, searching for brick walls of mine and some of my clients, family, and friends. I was able to find some information that may help, but I have many names which have me stumped at the moment. Here is just a sample of my particular toughies:
Abigail Soper (cannot find proof of last name)
Daniel Logan’s marriage record to the above Abigail
Margaret Johnson Carr
Letitia Porterfield and John Rowan
John McMahan and Margaret Hargrove
Horace Case (could be John Horace Case)
Himan Chapman and his wife, Ann
Kezia(h) who married Isaac Burns
Williams Morrison and Christina Spiker
Charles William Davis and Eliza Wake’s parents
Franz Sierotzki’s family
Jesse Decatur Simmons (researching for my uncle) 😉
There are many more, but these are more of my frustrating names at this point. I hope those searching these same names will find this blog, and we can collaborate.
I have many, many emails to different historical societies, churches, and county clerks trying to gather information or possible avenues for me to search.
For instance, go to that website and type in the search engine, “Wood County, Ohio.” You get 1,147 results! Once you click a book or similar, you can then search inside the book itself.
And, always, always work sideways! Research the siblings, the aunts, the uncles, and cousins. You will be amazed at what you can find. You can even find others who are researching the same family.
So, do not give up, keep trying and dig, dig, dig. I have broken many brick walls, it has taken years sometimes, but it happened.
To all those that are reading, have a very Merry Christmas, Festivus, Kwanzaa, Hanukkah, Boxing Day, Ōmisoka, or other holiday you celebrate, or not. Make beautiful memories together and while you’re at it, write them down for your descendants!
Lately, I have been helping several people with their family history. One thing that they have all in common is the same issue I ran into when I first started. They did not take full advantage of the document hint that was given to them when they were researching.
For instance, a man and I had both located a census on his relative. He took it at face value, only looking at the page that, in this instance, Ancestry® had provided. It showed the page of his ancestor and their children. However, when I looked at the same document, I was able to find the wife’s family in the same census record. How? By using the back and forward arrows to look at the other pages in the census.
Most families tended to stay in the same neighborhood if not living together. In this case, they were neighbors. I’ve found where both sides of the family were neighbors up and down the street. Of course, with the inventions of cars, airplanes, and other transports, this won’t be the case for our generations and those that come after us; we move around more often.
Another common mistake is to look at the index only for information rather than looking at the whole record. For instance, take this death record of my great grandmother, Caroline Stitt Logan. The index shows her relevant details, such as her date of birth, date of death, etc.
But, if you click on the document, it shows her cause of death, the informant for the certificate (my great grandfather signed it), where they lived, where her parents were from, and where her burial was.
Another example is of this obituary that came up under Caroline’s name. If you only go by this index, then you would think that it is the obituary for Caroline, but it is not. It is for her father, William.
Click on the obit and look at all the information we have. It lists William’s father’s name and William’s children, with their married names.
The most fascinating records to do this with are passenger lists and immigration paperwork. Not only can the passenger list tell you where your ancestor is going, but it can tell you where they are from and whom they are visiting. Some immigration paperwork will list family names, birth dates, etc. You may even get a picture of the immigrant, depending on the time frame.
Dissect every document you can get your hands on. You never know what you may discover.
But, what if there is no image to click on when you find an index? Look at the film number or the “source information” at the bottom of the index. For instance, here is the index for Elizabeth Hennig.
There is no document to click on and dissect. But, there is “Source Information.”
The source information tells me that the original data can be found in FamilySearch. After pulling up FamilySearch.org, click on “Search” and then “Records.” Then “Restrict Records By” “Film Number.” Enter the film number found on the Ancestry index. In this case, it is film number 527772. Once there, you click on the link it provides and then the film number from the index.
Click on the magnifying glass next to the record your researching, in this case, the 527772.
It would help if you remembered that humans indexed and scanned these records. Sometimes there is no rhyme or reason as to how they scanned in the images. If you are lucky, they are by date, but sometimes they are scanned in randomly. It would serve you well if you were patient.
Then go back, as have been doing, and look at older records that you may have placed an index hint to and see if you can get more information out of that source. You may be surprised!
UPDATED 3/2021: There is speculation about how our Beckwith line connects with the Yorkshire Beckwiths. More research is needed. Beware of “The Beckwiths”, Paul Edmond Beckwith, Albany, 1891. This genealogy, which contains a totally fabricated English lineage, is filled with errors, has a son Benjamin2, who never existed, and was thoroughly debunked in “The American Genealogist” articles by Simeon Fox. This genealogy is not recommended by Society of the Descendants of the Founders of Hartford.
Sir Hugh de Malebisse (Malbisse, Malebysse, Malbis), one of the Norman knights who accompanied the Conqueror to England and served in the Battle of Hastings, is my 25th great grandfather. That’s right, 25th!
“Sir Hugh de Malbisse, held lands (in Yorkshire), time of William the Conqueror” is all that the Domesday Book says about him. (The Domesday Book or “Book of Winchester” is a manuscript record of the “Great Survey” of much of England and parts of Wales completed in 1086 by order of King William the Conqueror.) Since he was a Norman, he must have had a fair complexion and a tall height to him. When he fought in Hastings, he wore “a leather coat of tough bull hide.” According to the book “The Beckwiths” by Paul Beckwith, the leather coat would have had metal rings sown upon it, just touching each other. The coat and breeches would have been one piece with a casque of metal at the breast gilded and painted. He would have had gloves of leather and sheepskin covering his legs. He must have been a formidable figure in 1066 A.D.
He married Emma de Percy, daughter of Henry de Percy of Acaster. (There is a lot of confusing information found in different books on who this Emma married. Some say she married Hugh’s son, Richard. Others say she married a William.) I am more inclined to believe the original writers of history such as the Madox, Hist. of Exchequer, i. 316, which states that the first Hugh was married to the daughter of Henry de Percy.
Madox was a legal antiquary and historian, known for his publication and discussion of medieval records and charters; and in particular, for his History of the Exchequer, tracing the administration and records of that branch of the state from the Norman Conquest to the time of Edward II. It became a standard work for the study of English medieval history. He held the office of historiographer royal from 1708 until his death.
Hugh had three sons. Richard, Hugh (2), and Galfred. This Hugh (2) is our direct line. He married first, Emma de Bray. I am not finding much on this Hugh. His brother, Richard, seems to take up a lot of the glory, or in this case, scandal. More on him later. Hugh’s (2) will was proven in the third year of the reign of King Stephen, 1138. Galfred gave all his land over to God and became the first Prior at the monastery of Newbo of Lincolnshire in 1142.
By the way, Richard, whom I mentioned before, was an interesting, cruel fellow. He was a justiciar, he held Acaster in 1176, and was forester for Yorkshire (Madox, i. 316). But, then things changed for dear ‘ole Richard.
He was one of the leaders in the savage attack on and massacre of the Jews at York in 1190 (Will. Newburgh, i. 321, Rolls Ser.) As a punishment for his share in this outrage his lands were seized by the king. Malebysse appears to have been a supporter of Earl John, and in consequence he was one of those who were excommunicated by William de Longchamp in December 1191 (Hoveden, iii. 153). In 1193 he paid a fine of twenty marks for the recovery of his lands till the king’s return, and eventually paid six hundred marks for full restoration (Madox, Hist. of Exchequer, i. 473, 483).Richard Malebysse
Evidently he owed many debts to “the Jews” and was known as “the Evil Beast’. On hearing the news of the southern outbreaks, he and various members of the Percy, Faulconbridge, and Darrel families determined to seize the opportunity to wipe out their indebtedness. One hundred and fifty Jews were killed. The entire Jewish community was wiped out! More can be read in the Jewsih Encyclopedia.
However, after about ten years, Richard is back.
After the accession of John, Malebysse comes into some prominence. In June 1199 he, or it may be his brother Hugh, was sent as an envoy to Scotland to William the Lion to demand homage. In July 1200 he had license to fortify Wheldrake Castle, but the permission was withdrawn at the request of the citizens of York. In May 1201 he was sent on a mission to the king of Scots to ask him to defer his answer as to Northumberland till Michaelmas (Hoveden, iv. 91, 117, 163–4). Malebysse was a justice itinerant for Yorkshire in 1201, and next year sat to acknowledge fines at Westminster. In 1204 he was employed in enforcing the payment of aids. He was keeper of the forests of Galtres, Derwent, and Wernedale. He died in 1209.
Obviously, we must take the bad with the good in our family history.
Back to my direct line. Hugh (2) and Emma had Simon. He was lord of Cowton in Craven, England, and married a daughter of John, Lord of Methley. I do not know much about Simon either. More research needs to be done.
Simon had Hercules de Malebysse. Hercules married Lady Beckwith Bruce, daughter of Sir William Bruce, of Uglebarnby, and heiress of an estate named Beckwith. He retained the Malbisse escutcheon (his coat of arms), and assumed as a surname, during the period when surnames were being adopted in England, the name of his wife’s estate, Beckwith. And, so the Beckwith surname was passed down. At this time they still use “de Beckwith”. Lady Beckwith and Hercules had Nicolas de Beckwith born in 1260. He married a woman by the last name of Chaworth, but nothing more is known.
Nicolas and his wife had Hamon in 1294. Hamon married a daughter of Sir Philip Sydney. He was the first of the family to drop the use of the particle “de” in the surname. Hamon and Anne had William in 1316. William and “unknown” Usfleet had Thomas. Thomas and “unknown” Sawley had Adam. He married (second) Elizabeth Malebisse, widow of John Heringe. His children were all by his first wife, name unknown. His first wife and he had William. William married a daughter of Sir John Baskerville, a descendant of English and French ancestry, who traced his lineage to the Emperor Charlemagne (don’t we all).
I’ll run through our line in this paragraph as I know the names, I just haven’t done a lot of research on them. William and his wife had Thomas who died in 1495. Thomas had Robert who had John who had Robert who had Robert. This Robert made his will, October 6, 1536, and died before March following. Robert had Marmaduke Beckwith in 1567.
In 1597 he sold Clint and purchased Fetherstone and Aikton (or Acton). Among his numerous children were: William Beckwith, was the founder of the Virginia line of Beckwiths, who landed in America in 1607. He sailed from England in the ship “Phoenix,” and arrived in company with Captain John Smith, at Jamestown, Va. (I’ll be doing more research on this little gem!)
This immigrant ancestor and progenitor of the Beckwith’s of New England and those branches of the family which are offshoots of the New England lines was born in England about the year 1610. The history of his life to the time of his coming to America is somewhat obscure.
He is found early at Hartford, Conn. Here he bought the homestead of William Pratt, one of the original proprietors of Hartford, in 1645. About 1652 he was at New London, and Lyme, in the same colony, his land lying in both towns. It is judged from the size of his real estate holdings that he was a man of considerable wealth.
He was able to give land to his sons liberally, and it is recorded that in 1675 thirty acres of additional land were granted to him, all of which he gave to his son, Joseph Beckwith.
UPDATE March 2021: There is a question that the connection between Matthew 1 (b. 1610 or maybe 1612) and the Beckwiths of Yorkshire seems inaccurate/undocumented.
Matthew Beckwith occupied a prominent place in the community and was one of its most prominent citizens. He was killed on October 21, 1680, “by a fall in a dark night down a ledge of rocks.”
There are many books about the Malebisse family. You can research yourself at Google Books.
(WordPress will not let me cite them properly without upgrading to the Business Plan!)
Fromhttps://www.foundersofhartford.org/the-founders/matthew-beckwith/Genealogy not recommended: “The Beckwiths”, Paul Edmond Beckwith, Albany, 1891. This genealogy, which contains a totally fabricated English lineage, is filled with errors, has a son Benjamin2, who never existed, and was thoroughly debunked in “The American Genealogist” articles by Simeon Fox.
There are several pamphlets entitled “Beckwith Notes”, intended to correct some of the “The Beckwiths” errors, but these only marginally help.
Thanksgiving is a time to be with family, and it is also a great way to reconnect with family as well. Yesterday I took my mother to her sister’s house for Thanksgiving. All her siblings were there too. Mom is seventy-six, but has been sick for the last couple of years and hasn’t visited face to face with them.
It was a pleasant visit. My two aunts and my uncle were there. My son, mom, and I. My cousin, his wife, and children came. We Facetimed with his brother, wife, and cousin who are out of the country. And, we also spoke with another cousin on the phone who is out of state. Isn’t technology grand?
My uncle has been researching his own family history for decades. He has run into the proverbial brick wall with his great grandfather. I asked him to send me the name, and I would see what I could find out if anything. My uncle also spoke to me about passing on his research to either his children or his grandchildren. He is 80 and is having some medical issues and, therefore, would like to make sure his research lives on.
He thinks one of his grandaughters is interested, but like me at her age, they are not just into family history just yet. I am hoping that she does find the bug and at least makes sure his ancestry is preserved for generations to come.
That is why I keep telling my son specific stories I find that I think will pique his interest. I want him to preserve my ancestry research too.
Everyone should have at least one family historian in their family. It is a vital way to keep our history alive!
To get the most out of your family history takes time. You need to research and verify facts and sources. Sometimes you need to order documents. But, what you get out of it is so much more than the time and money you spend. It helps you to understand your family members a little bit more, and it may just help you to understand yourself a bit too.
And, don’t underestimate your children. As I explained in my Family History for Children blog, children are very curious and avid learners of their history. A good age, in my opinion, is about 4th grade.
There are many online programs out there to help you find records but do not ignore the many other outlets that can help you. I have reached out to many other researchers and genealogists in the past to help guide me in the right direction. Some I have hired to look up documents for me in a place I was not able to go to myself. Also, see my post on using Facebook to help you in your research.
Maybe you are not curious enough about your family roots to spend hours digging through historical databases. That is where Family History Researchers like myself can help.
At www.loganalogy.com, there are many ways in which I can assist you in your family history research. I not only blog about my ancestors and family research in general, but I also offer other services.
An online genealogy basics class, I provide one-on-one tutoring as well as group tutoring in the Clay County, FL area, online consultations, and I offer my Family History Research Specialist service.
When I was laying in bed last night, I was thinking about my ancestors. I know, weird, right? It is just amazing to me that 23andMe shows my DNA make up is 99.9% European. Europe is such a diverse continent with so many countries within it as it covers the whole Northern Hemisphere and a lot of the Eastern Hemisphere. It has over double the number of countries than North America. But, believe it or not, Europe has the least amount of various languages spoken with 286 languages in 2015 compared to 1,064 in North and South America.
29.7% is German and French, with most of my German being in Bavaria, Hamburg, Hesse, and Rhineland-Palatine. The French connection is in Switzerland mainly in Canton of Bern and Grisons, although I haven’t found these connections yet.
23.9% is British and Irish with the United Kingdom of Greater London, Glasgow City, Greater Manchester, Lancashire, West Midlands, South Yorkshire, West Yorkshire, Merseyside, Belfast, and Kent. In Ireland, we have County Dublin, County Cork, County Cavan, County Galway, County Mayo, County Leitrim, County Kilkenny, County Wicklow, County Longford, and County Louth.
2.2% of my British and Irish are Scandinavian and Northwestern European. 13.9& is Eastern European. 1.8% is Southern European, which consists of Italy and the Mediterranean. 9.1% is “Broadley European,” explained by 23andMe as Neolithic farmers from western Asia joined Paleolithic hunter-gatherers to settle Europe. And, .1% of the European DNA is Ashkenazi Jewish.
So, what is the .1%? It is southern South Asia. This area consists of these countries: Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka. Interesting. I doubt I’ll find that .1%.
The diversity it amazing to me. I have come so far in my research in the last 25 years, but looking at these regions, I have so much more to go. It is an exciting challenge to find these places in my research as I did with my Slovenian and Croatian connections in Eastern Europe. And, my Scottish links in Northern Europe.
I am proud of my European ancestry. Maybe that’s why I am addicted to all the European shows on Britbox and Acorn! 😉
I have always wondered and had a feeling that my Rowan family had some connection to Rowan, North Carolina. I was right! My 6th great uncle, Matthew Rowan, is the connection. He started as a bit of a scoundrel but ended up as Governor of North Carolina for a time.
Julie Lane was studying stories for her roots in Maine. She found in archives and museums that Captain Matthew Rowan wasn’t always a good guy. The Irish ship, Martha & Eliza, sailed from Londonderry, Northern Ireland, on July 28, 1741, bound for Newcastle, Pennsylvania, on the Delaware River. According to the article at Working Waterfront Archives,
The ship was known as a snow (a square rigged vessel), a 90-foot, two-misted bark, commonly used to transport passengers and goods from Ireland to the colonies. The boat must have been severely overloaded with some 200 paying passengers. The captain was Matthew Rowen.
After about four weeks, the ship was caught up in a hurricane and drifted around the north Atlantic for several weeks during which time the captain lost his bearings. Fever swept through those on board, as well as starvation, and many passengers died. At one point, a passing vessel, also in distress from the storm and low supplies, provided the ship with biscuits and water. On Oct. 28the crippled ship, her human cargo severely debilitated, finally drifted ashore among the islands around Grand Manan, fabled in ship’s lore as the site of more than 250 shipwrecks, according to Eric Allaby, an island historian.
After evacuating the passengers from the disabled ship and dispersing them in groups on three small islands, with no provisions, Captain Rowan and his crew reportedly sailed in the ship’s longboat to Fort Frederick at Pemaquid, where they “tarried.” As for the passengers, they were left to fend for themselves, creating rude shelters from parts of the derelict ship and eating shellfish and seaweed.
Many of them died, but thanks to the discovery of their plight by Passamaquoddy Indians, a small group of passengers eventually arrived in Midcoast Maine, where a few of them remained and married local people.
Passamaquoddy tribal members took letters from the abandoned survivors of the island shipwreck to St.George, Maine, paddling 100 miles on behalf of the stranded Irish emigrants. The letter they delivered finally brought about the rescue of the remaining stranded passengers, including Isabel Galloway and her infant. The child’s father had died, and Isabel soon married Warren farmer Archibald Gamble, with whom she had more children. The surviving infant, Isabel’s son Robert Galloway, grew to boyhood but was lost at sea at age 17. Lane said there may be Gamble descendants in the area today, as well as descendants of other survivors. Isabel is said to have given tribal members a warm welcome in Warren, unlike neighbors who considered them threatening savages. Read more here Read also Fisherman’s Voice
Despite his reputed smuggling activities, Rowan became a respectable member of society in North Carolina. He was never convicted or sought after for any crimes against humanity. It is recorded that he was a “Church Warden” in Bath in 1726. In 1727, after moving to the Cape Fear region, Matthew became a member of the Colonial Assembly, 1731 was on the executive council, and in 1735 was part of the team that surveyed the boundary line between North and South Carolina and was appointed surveyor-general of the colony. Four years later was named to the Governor’s Council as Acting Governor. Thirty different letters and minutes are mentioning Matthew from 1731 to 1754. You can peruse them at Documenting the American South, Colonial and State Records of North Carolina.
Matthew had an illegitimate son with Jane Stubbs but married his brother John’s widow, Elizabeth. They did not have any children together, but she did have four daughters with John, whom Matthew provided for at least one in his will as well as his son, John.
Matthew Rowan was born in about 1703 to Reverand John Rowan and Margaret Stewart in County Antrim, Ireland. Sometime around 1726, he immigrated to America as a shipbuilder and merchant. In the book,
History of North Carolina: From 1584 to 1783
By Samuel A’Court Ashe
It states that Matthew Rowan came from Ireland to North Carolina around 1724-26 to build a ship or two for people in Dublin. The building of ships was an established industry in the colony at the time.
Rowan County was named after Matthew in 1753. Initially, Rowan included the entire northwestern sector of North Carolina, with no clear western boundary, but its size was reduced as a number of counties were split off.
Matthew died on his plantation, Rowan Plantation (known as Roan) in April of 1760. It is said he owned 26 slaves and over 9,000 acres at the time of his death.
A complicated, weathly man he was. Shipbuilder, merchant, scoundrel, politician, and governor.
When you just attach a record to your ancestor on one of these sites, it stays attached to that ancestor only as long as you are paying for the service. It also may sync to your database program, such as Family Tree Maker, Legacy 9, Roots Majic, but as soon as you no longer have your paid subscription to the online part, the record will not be available to you.
Many think that when they transfer their genealogical data through a GEDCOM file (an acronym for Genealogical Data Communication), it transfers everything, but it only transfers the data, not images, text files, or documents. This is why you should download the document to your hard drive or flash drive. I have a folder for each ancestor and download the records I want to those folders. I also back them up through Google Drive. You can do the same with any cloud storage.
You want to attach the record like you normally would because the programs will create the citation for you.
You can also link them. Here’s how.
Download the genealogy record you need
Upload the record to the cloud location of your choice
Create and get the link for that record (right-click and select “get a shareable link)
Add the link to your source citation (find the source citation, click on “edit citation” and type something like, “This record can be accessed at http://drive.google…..”)
Now when you transfer your tree you, and everyone you decide to share it with will have access to your records.
You do not want to put it in the website field as that is for where the record is stored originally, such as an archive.
My point is, do not rely solely on your online program. You need to save important finds to your computer and/or (I suggest and) to your cloud storage.
A historical fiction book I am reading is about a man and his wife who inherited his father’s house. As they were cleaning the house, they found a secret door in a closet that led them to an attic. Inside the attic were trunks and trunks of letters, documents, photos, etc. from Germany and Sudetenland. They even found references to the Nazis.
The couple met as psychology majors in college. The wife had mentioned a connection to psychology and the study of family history when the husband wanted to shut down the investigation of all they had found. Since I know that gardening is very beneficial to mental health, I wanted to see how my other passion, genealogy, was helpful as well.
From Psychology Today, it states,
Why is Emotional Genealogy Important?
Every living thing has origins and ancestors. We are all part of a chain of life. We owe our existence to those who came before us. Simply put, if they hadn’t lived, we would have no life. And yet, most people ignore their antecedents and have no knowledge of what and who preceded them. A tree cannot ignore its roots, or it will get no nourishment. The same is true for us. We can be nurtured by our roots, even if they weren’t healthy. They may have been toxic, but they also endowed us with intelligence, talents, and positive attributes. We can honor those who came before us, and what they endured so we could have life. It is possible to make sense of the dysfunction in our families by understanding where they originated and how they were handed down. And by understanding, we can decide not to pass the dysfunction on, and to change our family behavior patterns. And we can get relief from the rootlessness, so many of us feel. Finding out where we come from can give roots, solidity, and meaning to our lives. It can also help us to solve the mystery of who we really are.
This one sentence stands out for me, “And by understanding, we can decide not to pass the dysfunction on, and to change our family behavior patterns.”
That is how I choose to live. Understand, change the pattern, help yourself.
Think about it, when we think of a memory, or we see something that triggers a memory, it gives us emotions, good or bad. Our stories are meant to be shared and remembered. They are who we are, how we are, where we are today.
So, don’t hold back. Research your family history in all it’s glory or ugly past. Knowledge is power, and yours is to be treasured so you can break the pattern.
Halloween is this week. You know what that means, right? The holidays are right around the corner! In all the preparing, traveling, and shopping, remember to socialize with those you love. What a great time to interview your relatives for family history time!
You do not need to do a formal interview, just casually stick in some questions now and then. Bring old photos you’ve been wondering about and find out the story behind them. Just seeing a photo will bring back memories to those you hold dear. But, most importantly, write down the dates and the names of the people in the photos. You may know who they are now, but twenty years from now, will you remember, will your children?
Ask something personal, like what their nickname was and why. Did they grow up in a house, an apartment, a city or a suburb? What are the different jobs your parents or grandparents held? Did they meet their grandparents and great grandparents? Where did they grow up?
How did couples you know meet? What led them to where they are now?
At the end of each of my Family History Detectives class, I gave my students a Family History Mystery to solve. They had to find out what their family tradition was, why and who started it? Another one was to find out about a recipe that has been passed down and why it is so special.
My Aunt recently gave me a bunch of photos that had been passed down. Most had no information on them. I created a family Facebook page and scanned the photos so my cousins and aunts and uncles could weigh in about them. It helped me tremendously and got everyone interacting and discussing the “good ‘ole days”.
You don’t need to take over a family gathering with questions, dates, and records, but you can make it an enjoyable experience. Make it a game. Use the record feature on your smartphone. Pass it around to each member and ask them to state an event they want to share or a treasured memory about a family member.
You could also do a similar thing with index cards. Pass them around and ask a question that everyone has to answer on the card. Then pass them around again for others to read. There is no one size fits all. Have fun with it and at the same time gather intel.
Ask family members for the recipes of the foods they made for the occasion. Make your own recipe box from these recipes. Write notes on them as to where the recipe originated and what changed as the recipe was passed down. Be sure to write down the date it was given and who you received it from.
With a little creativity, you can enjoy your holiday gathering while building on your family history.