I was up at the courthouse recently gathering information for a story when it dawned on me I had never physically researched public records that weren't already on the web. There were shelves and shelves of books and binders available for reference. I didn't really know where to start.
After I was done looking through pages of birth records, I started feeling a little nostalgic of my own family history. I've always had an interest in genealogy. It stems from my grandma being quite the storyteller. Every time I would go to visit, she would have a tale or bit of information on somebody from our family. The kicker was, at a young age, I generally had no clue who she was talking about because the majority of our family had passed away before I was even born. Maybe that's why I had such a strong interest in our family history in the first place.
I would smile and nod as if I knew whom she was talking about. It took me years to piece together who was who in our family. Fortunately, I was helped out by a large amount of old-time photographs and albums she had accumulated through the generations. Usually she could point to just about anybody she was talking about in a photograph. All of the photos were clearly identified with names and dates on the backs for easy reference. I love collecting these old photographs. So much so that the majority of the photography in our house is black and white and at least two generations old. Even our wedding photos were intentionally taken to look rustic.
My grandma has since moved off her farm and into an assisted living facility. When she cleaned out her house, she had certain items she wanted to give to each of her family members. In my box I found folders of tattered family history and years of stories typed up on a typewriter. Someone at a family reunion had gathered years of events and put them in chronological order. Every year following, pages were added to the book. There were scraps of paper stuck inside with photos and newspaper clippings falling out everywhere. A gentle breeze could most likely destroy this book but it is one of my favorite things ever received from my grandma.
I decided I wanted to do something with all of her old photographs so she could still enjoy them. I scanned in numerous photos in hopes to preserve them if anything ever happened to the original prints. I made a framed family tree for my grandma spanning over as many generations as I could find pictures for. It's one of the few things that hangs on her wall at her new home.
The tree included six generations of families with a headshot, name and birthday of each person. Only nine photos were missing out of the 86 people included. I even added a shadow of a tree and the caption "Our Family" in the background. Both sides of my family loved them and ended up digging up more photos when they learned what I was doing. I have a feeling I'll be adding on to these trees for a long time. The only problem will be finding a printer big enough to print them.
Hopefully these will withstand the hands of time better than the sad looking binder in my possession and preserve a small portion of the past for future generations. It didn't take much effort on my part to organize our family history but there are numerous sources one can utilize to start looking into one's ancestry. Searching public records and talking to family members are great places to start. Even Iowa Lakes Community College offers a course designed to provide information on how to begin your genealogy quest. You never know what you may dig up.