This is another in an ongoing series of my organizational efforts – here and here, for example. It’s an important part of how I work, so I’m documenting it here for my reference. This is my personal record, after all!
Last July I returned from a visit with Dad with this in tow.
All of my mother’s genealogy research and information was filed in this box, categorized by just a few broad labels like “Roberts” or “Pratt.” Mother had been researching her ancestry for years (I found several letters of inquiry dated in the 1960’s) and she had accumulated a wide assortment of documents. Dad was happy to see the box go; he had no plans to continue the research on the Pratt/Roberts side of the family, and I think it made him feel good to know that even if I never did anything with the information, at least I had it available.
I rifled through the files and decided that I probably had a treasure chest of genealogy information, but many of the names were unfamiliar to me. I knew I had heard “Buker” before, but I had no idea what family line that name belonged. “Benoni Pratt” kept turning up, and I finally realized that name belongs to two different ancestors – my great-grandfather and his grandfather. I wasn’t really sure how to make sense out of my inheritance, and I was very overwhelmed, so I did the natural thing and ignored the box for several months.
One day when I couldn’t ignore the hodgepodge any longer, I read about a filing system that made sense to me. So armed with file folders in 4 colors – indicating my four direct lines – I sorted and filed. Going into this project, I was very afraid that my need for organization coupled with my ignorance and inexperience in the field of genealogy could result in the loss of valuable information. So as a precaution, I threw almost nothing away, which is highly unusual for me. I simply filed every document where I thought it belonged, knowing that I would have to do some rearranging later. The file folders were still bulging, but it was a more organized bulging!
That system was a great improvement, but I still didn’t know which documents I had for which people or what information they verified. So following a genealogy class at the local library, I knew I had to do something to create easier access. About this same time, I saw this Organizational Checklist on Dear Myrtle’s blog, and I was pretty sure I had found my answer.
So now I’m in the process of creating my surname binders, printing family group sheets, scanning pictures and documents and getting everything for each family name all in one place. It’s great! I’m only making slow progress, because scanning and labeling scans and pictures is a time consuming and tedious process.
But I am making progress. And I’m finding some amazing things – like the death certificate for my great-great grandfather. I’m almost through with the Pratt binder – then it’s on to Berrett, Butler, Carpenter, and all the names within those families. . . Don’t look for this project to be completed this week!
I’ve accepted this challenge! I’m going to make a concerted effort to record stories from my personal history. I don’t expect they’ll be in any specific order, but I’m excited to write my memories. So watch this blog . . . we’ll be traveling from Saginaw to Saudi, Uniopolis to Isfahan, and many places in between. We’ll meet a lot of people along the way and learn a little of their stories also. Because really, our personal histories are greatly influenced by those who have come before and after us.
The challenge is for the month of February. I’m hoping to continue throughout the year and maybe even have something to publish by early next year. . .
I’m drowning in a sea of pictures this week. I’ve assigned myself the job of gathering, sorting, and organizing by year all of the pictures we have taken/acquired since we married in 1973. No small task. I do have a system in place, and it’s working well, but the sheer volume of pictures is still daunting – even on my third day of this project.
But on the bright side, I’m finding some great shots and reliving a lot of fun times as I wade through almost four decades of our family’s history.
And just when I thought I couldn’t look at another picture, I discovered this treasure – and I laughed out loud. Really loud. And for a long time.
I’m excited to see what else is waiting for discovery!
I came home from my dad’s house last week with this.
And as I’ve starting sorting, I’ve created some messy piles.
I’m attempting to work the new treasures into my current filing system.
I think I’m going to need another file box.
And a lot more hours in my days.
But I don’t lack for enthusiasm.
Maybe I’ll create another blog like this one, for my side of the family.
I love this stuff.
I realize that I am very fortunate to be able to spend my days in projects that are dear to my heart. Family history in all its forms – genealogy research, written histories, preserving pictures – can keep my interest for hours and days on end. And although I quit a part time job to pursue this unpaid work, it doesn’t feel like my JOB. If it’s fun and fulfilling, it doesn’t really count as work, right?
Sometimes I find my self almost apologetic when stumbling through a response to the question, “Do you work?”
“Well, sort of, but not really. I do family history. My husband and I feel that preserving our family history is really important. . . ” Even to my own ears, my wandering explanations of family history, genealogy and scrapbooks don’t seem convincing. My job is to scrapbook?
And the casual conversation really turns awkward when the questioner struggles to make sense of what I’ve just said. I imagine her thoughts, “Your job is to scrapbook?”
As a result of my skewed perspective that work cannot be enjoyable, I put off starting projects that I want to do and need to do, because I keep thinking I should be doing something IMPORTANT. I have to fill my days with WORK. Fun activities come after the work is done.
In years past, I have compiled scrapbooks for Emily, Nathan and Peter. I’ve found the time between obligations of work and family to organize and display their histories.
I started Emily’s book just before she was married, and completed it about a year later. This month I’ve scanned each page, so I have a digital copy of all that hard work.
It’s been fun to study those pictures again and laugh at fashion, style, and personality from days gone by.
* * * * * * *
I’ve been working on Peter’s pictures for years. When I first started, an experienced scrapbooker suggested that I start with the youngest child so I wouldn’t have so much catching up to do.
So Pete’s has been a work in progress, and with a couple more pages to document his post high school years, it will be ready for the scanner. I know Brittney’s anxious to have the finished product.
Mark (but mostly Kate) is still patiently waiting for his personal record to take its place on their bookshelf. But this week I’m moving forward with the idea that it’s okay to spend my day in activities that I love. I’ve finally started his albums, and I’m doing it in the middle of the day during prime work time. Imagine that!
After an inspiring phone conversation with Emily yesterday, I gave some serious thought to my goals and my somewhat haphazard efforts to attain them. I have an hazy idea of my big picture, but wonder if I am spending my time in activities that will help achieve that. I felt a little anxious when I realized that my plan was vague, and my path leading to that plan was poorly marked and wandering. Because I work best in an organized environment, I knew I needed a tangible, visible method of tracking my progress.
First, I gave careful consideration to my goals and dreams for my life and wrote them down – because a goal without a plan is just a dream. Then, building on an idea Emily uses, I created a personal system to track the activities that are important to me and will lead me in the direction I say I want to go. A handy Excel spreadsheet – because who doesn’t love a great spreadsheet – allows me to see at a glance if I am making progress towards my targeted aspirations. As Nikki posted about exercise, personal accountability is key. One check mark on a list is gratifying, and a whole page of them can be cause for celebration!
In addition to my monthly tracker, I have created a list of projects I want to complete this year. That list includes things like painting the cedar chest, making Nikki’s Christmas stocking, and completing Mark’s scrapbook. Those will be added to my monthly list as I am ready to tackle them, but not all at once, because that just overwhelms me.
And last, but not least, I’ve created a list of things I want to do before I die. I dream about a visit to the villages in England that were the birthplaces of my Berrett ancestors. I get really excited at the thought of a cross country road trip in a small RV – check out the Roadtrek and you’ll want one too. Several other dreams have a place on this list; just seeing them written makes them more realistic to me. I’m excited about what I can accomplish.
So I’m on my way, and February promises to be awesome!
“Because how we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.”
– Annie Dillard, author
One of my projects for the new year is to clean, purge, and organize the many and varied files in our office. Because if I’m going to research and preserve family history in the manner I envision, I’ve got to have an organized work space. A big project to be sure, but the kind of thing I can really get behind when I’m in the right frame of mind.
Today that mind set took over!
So armed with these:
I tackled these:
It’s more work than I anticipated.
and I’m not done yet.
Not even halfway.
I’ll be sorting and shredding for days.
But I’ve uncovered some treasures and a lot of trash.
Anticipating the delivery of Don’s birthday TV, and realizing that it would never fit into the old entertainment center, I knew that I had to find some kind of stand for the new Samsung – and fast! Because I had spent plenty on the television itself, I was feeling kind of frugal (actually very cheap), but I knew that laminated pressed board from Wal-Mart was not going to go over well with my consultants (kids and spouses) even though it might fit my budget.
So with Don gone for the day on a Church youth activity, Emily and I set out for the thrift store, hoping the perfect piece would simply present itself. Half price Saturdays at the local Arc are wildly popular with Greeleyites, because let’s face it – 50% off at the thrift store is frugal living at its finest. The store was crowded with bargain hunters, and the checkout lines were long as patient customers waited to purchase jeans, dishes, school clothes – and even lingerie.
But we were two on a mission and (once Emily made peace with the thrift store smell), we made a beeline for the back of the store. Because we weren’t sure what we wanted, we weren’t sure we’d recognize IT when we saw it. Our first look around the furniture department identified a couple of possibilities – not ideal, but worth consideration. But after Emily talked me out of a couple of false positives, and she had gone to check on the kids who were delightedly perusing the toy department, I spotted a piece that I thought had great potential. I couldn’t go find her, because furniture is a hot item on half-price day, and I couldn’t risk somebody else staking a claim on what could be our piece of promise.
Shortly they all returned to check on my progress, and Jack proudly showed me their fabulous find – Don’t Break the Ice” game for $1.00. Emily thoughtfully examined the old dresser I was hovering over, and agreed that it was a great find and would fix up well. And for $25 how wrong could we go?
We decided to go for it, and quickly paid (watching closely that the helpful employee tagged my piece with a SOLD sign), made arrangements to pick it up later and hurried to the car. Emily had just about reached her limit on the Arc ambiance and she passed disinfecting hand wipes all around.
A quick trip in and out of Home Depot yielded sandpaper, primer, black paint and polyurethane finish and we were ready to get to work. Taking confidence from our success with the Great China Hutch Makeover of 2002, Emily and I set up shop in the garage. We sanded, primed, painted and finished and then suggested Don spray paint the drawer pulls – tricky, huh!
About three days and several tall tales later (most of which Don probably didn’t believe, but was too polite to challenge) we finished in time for the paint to be dry before the television arrived.
Now I wonder if I can do a make over on a couch . . .