At FGS 2011 I was inspired by a talk give by Lisa Alzo called Write Your Family History Step by Step. One of the things she addressed was our excuses for not writing. One of those excuses - the one I use - is "I don't have time." As she's talking I'm sitting there thinking, "But I really don't. I work, I go to school, I get home late because of a project I'm working on..." and then she said, "Even if it's just 15 minutes every night, write something."
OK, so how could I say that I didn't have 15 minutes in a day? Heck I spend that much time checking Facebook and tweeting or even watching TV. So, I decided to put a separate page on my blog to start putting in my 15 minutes a day. It's not ideal because I have to update the page each day, but I do like having it out there in the open so to speak. It keeps me more accountable!
|Emma Zaugg age 16|
After just six days, here's what I've learned.
I realize what I don't know and what I want to know. Oh I've always heard that writing helped to show the holes in your research, but then I didn't exactly think I had holes for this particular ancestor. I don't when it comes to the events in her life. I know and have documentation to show when she was born, married, when her children were born and when she died. I have visited the cemetery where she is buried many times. She lived her whole life in the same rural county in Ohio and I really didn't think there was much I needed to learn about Emma.
Boy, was I wrong! Trying to write her life as a story shows me how much background material I need to explore. While she didn't leave a diary, there would be many histories of the area and time that I could read. I've also pulled off my shelves, "The Expansion of Everyday Life: 1860 - 1876" and "Victorian America: Transformation in Everyday Life, 1876 - 1915" two books that I've had forever but not yet read. (and by forever I mean almost 20 years - I KNEW I'd need them at some point)
|The Graber Farm|
I also have a newspaper article written in 1980 featuring Emma's son Raymond Graber with a story about how his father Rudy had been the first cheese maker in the area. It briefly mentions Emma as well. There is a lot from that article that I could explore to add to Emma's story.
One of the totally unexpected benefits of this exercise has been that it takes my mind off my work problems. That's certainly a good thing right before I turn in at the night! Now, instead of tossing and turning as I think about my current project, I find myself thinking about Emma Zaugg Graber and what her life was like. With 8 children, a husband and a farm to care for, I'm sure she could have told me a thing or two about being busy!!