Friday, September 16, 2011

What I've Been Doing For 15 Minutes Every Day!

And no smart aleck comments from the peanut gallery, please!  I've been WRITING for 15 minutes each day ~ and here's why:

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
Lisa encouraged us to have a focus - be it a person, a branch of the family, a geographic area etc. On the drive home from FGS I decided that my focus would be Emma ZAUGG, my great-great grandmother.

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
And I do have research holes as well.  I don't have any information pertaining to their land - and I know there would be some.  The farm where they eventually lived is still standing and I have this old picture from their daughter's photo album as well as a picture which I took a number of years ago.  One of my questions is why and how this ended up with their oldest daughter and her husband (my great-grandparents) and not with one of their sons. 

 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!!
 



17 comments:

  1. Diana, what a brilliant approach! I thought this was going to be a post about writing your own life story for 15 minutes a day. Something I've tried several times and fallen off the wagon each time. Putting it on a separate page on your blog is a fabulous idea. And so it picking one ancestor with a specific focus!

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  2. This is a good idea. I've found that focusing and writing about one ancestor does show the holes and makes me look for more information.

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  3. Diana,

    Michelle is right! This is a brilliant approach! Thank you so much for sharing what you learned. Both books that you mentioned are great, BTW. I bought the entire set, also about 20 years ago, and use them on a fairly regular basis.

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  4. Props to you for taking Lisa's suggestions and running with them! I've thought so long about doing this. Time to stop thinking and do it! I certainly fritter away far more than 15 minutes each day.

    Thanks so much for sharing your process. Great post!

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  5. Just thought I'd let you know I still drop by for a read ...even though I dont comment.
    What a great post ...and such good advice about 15 mins a day ...that could apply to almost anything that one puts off because the task seems so huge.

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  6. What a great idea! I am SO stealing this for my blog! Thanks Diana!

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  7. Excellent post on how much really CAN be accomplished in small bites of time!

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  8. I like this approach too...I do a post everyday, but it is not always 15 minutes worth of my thoughts and what I know and what I want to explore and find out. I think I am going to incorporate this in my writing too! Thank you for sharing!

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  9. Wow - I post something on my blog, go out to dinner and there was a party here while I was gone!! Thanks everyone for stopping by and commenting - I have to say that I have really been enjoying the experience of doing this.

    Michelle - I've tried the journal thing...writing my own life and it never sticks for me either.

    Kristin - It's been amazing to me to find holes I never even thought about!

    Cynthia - Is the whole set 4 or are there more? I have 4 books in this series but can't tell if there are supposed to be more or not. I'd be interested to know.

    SusanC - Well, we will see how I'm doing a month from now...that will be the test!

    Angie - HEY THERE COUSIN!!! I should have chosen one of our mutual Ritchie relatives...maybe for my next go-around I'll chose James.

    Amanda - Steal away...all of my best ideas are "borrowed" from other blogs!

    SusanP - I seem to remember a great post of your on a 20 minute search & find :-)

    Yvette - I don't post every day or even every week anymore...but I have been able to accomplish this because it doesn't have to be finished sentences or thoughts. Just totally random ramblings but it's been so helpful...not to mention fun!

    Well all, I need to get ready for Geneablogger Radio tonight...because Lisa Alzo is one of the guests!!

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  10. Diana, we must think alike, because I wrote a post today about how I was inspired by Lisa's talk too! Your idea to write on a separate page of your blog is great. It sounds like you've already got some good stuff to get started with. Have fun writing!

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  11. Hi, Diana, I just had to add my congratulations for putting into practice such a novel approach. I liked the way you identified all the issues your writing raised and what you still wanted to find out. I also liked the way you set up a "page tab " for it so it is always in front of you. I could see me doing something similar for my great grandmother who is at the heart of my family history. Thank you for sharing the idea.

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  12. Hey Shelly - absolutely great minds!! I was just reading your post on the subject and it made me think that I need to order Lisa's session so I can listen to it whenever I need fresh inspiration.

    Hi SusanD (Lots of Susans at this party!!) - Seems like there is always one or two ancestors that just call to us more than others!

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  13. Hi folks - First time I have found this blog and I will be back! What a great idea to spend 15 minutes writing. Maybe I will actually get something accomplished if I do this. Where in Ohio did your Emma live? Joanne in Ohio

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  14. Great advise. It certainly can feel overwhelming when you think about how many ancestors you need and wish to research and learn about. Taking it 15 minutes at a time makes it manageable and removes the stress. Baby steps will get you there faster than doing nothing.

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  15. Hi Joanne ~ Emma lived in Wayne County, Ohio...near Apple Creek. So did her daughter and her daughter's daughter, my grandmother. :-)

    Kathryn - That's often my problem that I get so overwhelmed I do nothing! This is better :-)

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  16. A very enjoyable blog post. 15 minutes a day is a wonderful idea. Soon you may find yourself expanding it to 30 minutes.

    My Mark family is from Wayne County, Ohio. I have taken research trips there. It is a beautiful area and I'm glad to know my roots are there.

    I have also have branches where I thought I knew all about a family. Then I put all the info together in a TIMELINE and discovered holes.I find timelines to be very useful tools to organize family information and to show what was happening in the state/country as the family was growing.

    Thanks for your post Diana.

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  17. Hi Diana - Just to follow up, I do believe there are four books in the series.

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