Find Mom's place on the family tree - WHLT 22 Connecting the Pine Belt

Find Mom's place on the family tree

Using online tools, you can make a family tree that Mom will cherish. (©istockphoto/Wolfgang Amri) Using online tools, you can make a family tree that Mom will cherish. (©istockphoto/Wolfgang Amri)

By Daisy Whitney

So you're thinking about flowers. Or maybe a necklace. Even a day at the spa.

Those are all great ideas for Mother's Day gifts. But maybe this year, it's time for something totally different. More personal.

Like a personal history.

Increasingly, people are choosing to write their lives down, to tell the stories of themselves for loved ones in the form of a personal history. Memoirs and life stories are growing more valued in society. We want to know of a great uncle's escape from Germany during the Second World War or of our mom's efforts to fight for civil rights in the 1960s. At the same time, interest is rising in genealogical research, made possible through the Internet.

Even if her specialty was more simple, like baking a delicious pie or just being a great mom, she's still probably got a story worth telling.

You see, Ilil Arbel believes that everyone has a story.

That's why she's a personal historian, writing a column for the New York Jewish Herald and working with individuals to help them tell their life stories to both pass along to the next generation and to share with family and friends today.

"People sit down and tell me their stories, or they tell about relatives or friends, and then I write it in the column," she says. "If I am lucky, I get also some marvelous old pictures….As for the market for these services, it is really a growing one and there is a strong interest in it," Arbel says.

Here are some other tools that you can use to research mom's ancestry or to begin to compose a personal history for her, someone else or yourself.

Software and Online Tools

Lifescope's Living Time is a software program for recording and charting memorable moments and events of a person's life. " Users create a personalized timeline, complete with journal entries, photographs and small videos. In addition, users can import thousands of world events to help document the personalized memory," says Susan Kohl, spokesperson for the company.

The Internet has made genealogy more than just a popular pastime. The World Wide Web has lived up to its name and truly made it possible for families to connect and for individuals to seek information on their heritage and roots. Myfamily.com, for instance, is a network of online resources that includes tools to learn more about your own roots and to stay in touch with loved ones and to share personal history and family stories online. The sister sites include ancestry.com, genealogy.com, and rootsweb.com.

Software programs like Family Treemaker can do the same with tools to find ancestors, record their findings and create family trees. It's integrated with ancestry.com, a site that counts 750,000 subscribers and 6 billion records and includes: U.S. Federal Census images and indexes from 1790-1930, Social Security Death indexes as well as birth, death and marriage records, and U.S. Immigration Records with five centuries of immigration history for 100 different nationalities

Other software services can help in this quest, such as Passage Express that allows family history buffs to compile their findings into a multimedia presentation to share with family and friends.

Another way families are keeping in touch is through blogs. "Even though they are considered by many to be the province of political pundits and/or bored teenagers, blogs are really just another online tool," says Trudy Schuett, of Yuma, Ariz., who keeps such a blog. "They are easy to use and can be set up and published by anyone who has used word processing software, such as MSWord, and is comfortable using the Internet…A blog of this kind can be very helpful for families separated by geography, and give everyone a chance to participate without needing to be in the same place, at the same time. Family members with stories to contribute may do so, on their schedule."

You can also create an autobiography or write mom's biography with a web tool, such as www.lifebio.com. The site's Founder and President Beth Sanders shared these tips on creating a life history.

Here are some components of a complete life history, she says:

  • Our life has been filled with people who have shaped who you are. Talk about them and pass along what you remember of parents and grandparents especially. Now younger generations can actually "know" their great-grandparents—from your perspective. 
  • Go back to your childhood memories—school, childhood home, neighborhood. Some of your favorite stories to tell might have a profound life lesson for you and your children to learn. 
  • See the impact of many different historical events on your life. For example, think of September 11, 2001 from your point of view and write about it. 
  • Describe the events of your adulthood. Work, love, children, grandchildren, pets. Start to see the big picture coming together—the people, places, events that have affected your life. 
  • Say what matters most. Express your love, your hopes, and your dreams for the future. Is there something you've always wanted to do that you've never done? Now's the time. Writing it down may help to make it happen! 
  • Share your hopes for your family. "My hope and prayer is that you'll experience life with peace and joy."
  • Give them advice. "Don't be afraid to live each day to the fullest. Go skydiving if you get the chance." 
  • Pass along your wisdom. My grandma said, "If you do something, do it the best you can." · Most importantly, tell them you love them—for all time. "Always know that I love you very much."

Now you've got the tools and know where to turn. So go forth and tell your life story.

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