Search This Blog


Sunday, February 28, 2016

FINALLY Get Organized! 28th Feb-5th Mar Checklist


Don't know about you, but it has been a whirlwind week at Ol' Myrt's house. After visiting with a neighborhood friend this week, I've decided to take a different tack with this week's checklist. Why? Well, let me tell you our neighbor's story.

The gentleman in question is retiring from a professional career and much to the chagrin of his dear wife, he has brought home 12 banker's boxes full of his favorite reports and projects. Why he staked them up neatly in his garage made me worry, but I digress.

This gentleman and Mr. Myrt get along well, since the man is a hobbyist blacksmith who appreciates woodworking, and Mr. Myrt is a woodworker who appreciates blacksmithing. Because the man grew up on a farm, his garage and black smith shop are filled with all sorts of old tools, some hand forged by his grandfather. Our neighbor learned to repair farm equipment with these tools, as he watched his grandfather and his father. Each tool represents family memories of struggling to overcome the hardships after the Depression and on the home front during WWII. There are undoubtedly stories of triumph when a good crop was brought in before the coming storm.


In addition to the 12 banker's boxes, the gentleman has recently inherited half again as many boxes of his aunt's genealogy work.  You know the sort of thing - family group sheets, pedigree charts, letters, diplomas, old greeting cards, telegraphs, photos, documents and such. Just the sort of treasure trove a genealogist would love to get his hands on.

Just image 4-5 foot stacks of plastic containers lining all four walls, overflowing into a middle aisle in his upstairs 14x20 foot home office retreat. These comprise the gentleman's personal collection of family photos, slides and computer equipment reflecting his nearly 70 years of life as a husband, father and grandfather. Now I began to grasp the enormity of this neighbor's challenge.

You think you've got troubles? This man is literally drowning in family history ephemera, and he asked us for help getting organized.

Me thinks anything short of hiring a full-time archivist won't do the trick.

Our neighbor said he wants to get "all this stuff in some sort of order to share" with his children and grandchildren. 

DearMYRTLE's photo and document
digitization set up.
He recognizes that old 3-ring binders and file folders stuffed to the brim with family group sheets and pedigree charts will just be thrown out after he's gone, since none of his children have enough room in their homes for "all this stuff." He recognizes the grandchildren are adept with tablets and smart phone technology and that's perhaps the way to peak their curiosity. 

Clearly the use of a flatbed scanner is simply out because the process would take too long. Even if we encourage our neighbor to use his digital camera and a camera stand like the one Mr. Myrt and I use to speed up the process, it's entirely possible the task will outlive the man's life span.


Ol' Myrt's suggestion is simply to tell 1 family history story per week for the next year.

As we talked further, I realized we were going to have to up his game and ask that he tell 3 family history stories per week. 

No worries about chronological order. No worries beyond the short five minutes it takes to record a single family history anecdote. That way, by the end of this coming year, our neighbor will have happily delved into all his "stuff" and shared 156 family history stories that otherwise would have been buried deep in his piles of banker's boxes, notebooks and plastic storage bins.

FINALLY Get Organized! 28th Feb-5th Mar Checklist

So as we approach this week's organization checklist, let's take a break and actually start sharing.

Let's step away from the overwhelming task of comparing our digital and paper files. Let's quit fussing about where to file things about a woman before or after marriage, or what to do with your ancestor's in-laws info that fell into your lap late last year. Let's go so far as to shelve our worries about what to do with our Family Tree Maker Files during this transition period. Let's SHARE our family history in small, manageable bites at a time, so as to not choke our family members at the very thought of another "genealogy lecture."

  1. Let's take this week to tell 1 family history story per day, just for the fun of it! Rejoice in the freedom to share your memories with others. It could be:
  • A childhood memory
  • Something you remember about your Dad
  • A memory of your mother who always said _______________.
  • A school field trip.
  • Summer trip to visit ______________.
  • Why you love to eat ______________, when initially you didn't like it one bit.
  • Something your grandmother told you about her parents.
  • Your grandfather's opinion about _____________.
  • Something one of your children did when he was two or three.
  • The story of how you broke your arm, or skinned your knee, but it was totally worth it.
  • What grandpa said life was like when he was a child.
  • The house where your grandparents first lived.
  • The silly family story about ______________.
  • How saving for _____________ was the hardest thing you ever did.
  • What surprised you to learn about your grandmother's mother.
  • Great Uncle ______ who went to war.

 2. Mix it up a little. Anyone can write an email, but is that what will really make the "younger set" get excited about the family stories you've collected? Consider:
  • Setting 3-5 photos and documents on the kitchen table each day, then ask a grandchild or some other youngster in your neighborhood to record your with your smart phone. Upload the file to your free YouTube or FamilySearch account, and share the link to the video with your family and closest friends. For more info see:

  • If you are lucky enough to have inherited an old quilt, pair of glasses, a rocking chair or desk from your parents or grandparents, why not share the story of that treasure? Believe me, it's going to become a treasure when  your great-grandchildren can hear your voice as you tell about someone one or two generations older than you are.
So go on! Let's SHARE. You can bet Ol' Myrt will be doing this as well.

MARCH PARTICIPANTS are eligible for a $250 Amazon Gift Card, but must complete the form here:

Want to Hangout?
We will be discussing this week's checklist during our Mondays with Myrt hangout. Here's the link to register using LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter or Google+. Now everyone can view and comment. With my new hangout interface, you only need a Google account if you want to appear as a filmstrip panelist.

Here's the link to the calendar of other upcoming DearMYRTLE genealogy hangouts:

Check out all previous DearMYRTLE's Finally Get Organized! Checklists.

Hangouts: Pay what you want. So it's simple. If you value the work Ol' Myrt, +Cousin Russ and our beloved panelists do week in and week out on your behalf, please:

Check the DearMYRTLE Hangouts Calendar for upcoming study groups and hangouts. There you'll find links to the GeneaConference (in-person) and the GeneaWebinars Calendar with over over 200 hours of online genealogy classes, webinars, live streams and tweetchats from other hosts and presenters over the next 12 months.