As the New Year gets started, many individuals will make resolutions to spend more time with beloved family members. What better way to spend your time? But how are you going to spend that time with them? By sitting around and watching television? That’s nice but what about the quality of time you are spending with them? Are you really going to sit there and flip through the channels of endless reruns munching numbly on stale popcorn from the Christmas holiday?

How about you do something different with your loved one to show them how much they really mean to you? How about doing something that shows you treasure the time spent together and the chance to make new memories and learn about old ones? Why not start doing some family history research?

Right about now is when you start thinking one of the following: What family history? My parents or grandparents never talk about their childhood. How do I start? I don’t even know my grandparent’s full names. They have always been Grammy and Gramps. How will I find time to do any research? I work, the kids, my spouse. How do I handle Aunt Susie who isn’t really married to Uncle Bob? Oh no, what about Cousin Joe? Didn’t he go away when he was in his early twenties because of –gulp—he lived life on the not so legal side of the law.

Yes, there are some challenges in properly recording a factual family history. While these challenges are sometimes called “brick walls”, it really is quite simple to get started. Start with what you know to be factual and record it on a Family Group Sheet. Family Group Sheets can be downloaded for free from several sites simply use Bing or Google to do a search for family group sheet. Once you begin using one of these forms, there will probably be some “issues” come up that you might not know how to handle.

First, let me give you a few helpful hints in filling out these forms. It is tradition amongst those in the genealogy world to write all surnames in CAPITALS such as James JOHNSON. Dates are also traditionally written day/month/year such as 29 April 1829. Also, when documenting a place, it is traditionally written as City, County/Parish, State, Country such as Telferner, Victoria, Texas, United States of America. Always document your sources—there are approved ways of doing this, and I will get into that in a future blog. You never know when you will have to prove through state or federal records to Aunt Tracy that Great Aunt Minnie has a real name and it is Minnesota—even though everyone called her Minnie and even her headstone reads Minnie!

I urge you to not be a “gatherer” of names but a historian of family history. Gatherers try to get as many names in a family tree as possible and rarely document their sources. Gatherers are also prone to believe any family stories such as the one that says they are related to royalty, are the descendant of or related to a famous person, and they came over on the Mayflower or other great historical event. A family historian listens to the stories for leads, gathers the info, verifies with at least three documented facts from archives, and sites the sources.

So, until my next Reflections on Ancestors blog, start with what you know and spend some of that quality time teaching your loved ones about their family…after all, as the old saying goes, we give our children two things, one is roots and one is wings…let’s make 2014 the year we give our children roots…and our parents or grandparents wings to remember the memories of days gone by...