5 Ways to Celebrate Family History Month

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October is national Family History Month. Whether you are just starting your family tree or you’ve been the designated family historian for years, now is a great time to celebrate and discover something new about your family’s history.

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#1 Plan a Family Reunion

Planning a family reunion is no easy task, but the rewards are priceless. These gatherings are great opportunities to share and collect family history data. If you don’t already have a regular family reunion on your calendar for 2019, make it a goal this month to get the ball rolling.

Send out a questionnaire to family members to determine a good date and place. Depending upon the size of your family you might need to recruit volunteers and delegate responsibilities.

For some helpful tips, check out the article 10 Steps to Family Reunion Success.

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#2 Hunt for Headstones

Did you know your ancestor’s headstone can reveal surprising details about their life not recorded anywhere else? Besides birth and death dates, often headstones have valuable information such as full legal names (and nicknames), photos, locations, occupations, family relations, and spiritual beliefs. They can even contain famous last words, causes of death, and even their favorite recipe. A new twist on taking it to the grave!

The surprising details you find on headstones can fill in the gaps in your ancestor’s life, give you a sense of their personality, and provide further clues for research.

For tips on locating and visiting your family headstones, read my blog post "Tombstone Tools - How to Locate Your Ancestors in Cemeteries" for a step-by-step getting started guide.

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#3 Ask Some Burning Questions - Interview a Relative

What would you give for one more chance to speak to a relative who has passed? Don’t wait for a holiday gathering to ask Great Aunt Myrna about the time she won that beauty pageant or asking great-grandpa Anthony about immigrating to New York from Italy. Often family gatherings are too loud or busy to conduct a good interview.

Instead, this month pick a relative, jot down a few questions and interview them. Recording your relatives on audiotape, videotape, or writing their answers in journals ensures that your relative’s life story will be preserved for future generations to enjoy.

For help on preparing for an interview and 30 interview questions to ask, read “Be a Family History Hero.”

#4 Dive Deep - Research a Specific Relative

Occasionally we get so focused on growing our family tree and adding more branches that we miss the stories our ancestors have to tell.

Pick one relative this month to focus your research on. Dive deep. What was their life story and how did it contribute to your family history?

What did they do? Where did they live and with whom? Search for them in newspapers and military records. Look at their neighbors in census records to get a sense of the communities they lived in. Gather photos and upload them to your tree. Did they own land, houses, businesses? Can you locate those locations today? Create a timeline of their life with all their life and historical events. Record their life story in a family journal.

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#5 Take a DNA Test

Whether you are looking to connect with a cousin, you want to find your ethnic roots, DNA tests are more popular than ever. They all do a good job of providing you with results, but not all the results are the same. Here’s a brief outline of the top 5.

Even if you have taken a DNA test before, you might consider taking a test from a different company for additional information. And, if you take it now, you’ll have the results back in time to invite your new second cousin over for Thanksgiving dinner.

Do you have a project in mind to celebrate National Family History Month that you’d like to share? Follow me on Facebook and let me know.

Kimberlie Guerrieri