In an effort to document your ancestry, you have searched online, poked around in libraries, haunted countless cemeteries and accumulated a mountain of research along the way. What are you going to do with it? Whatever you do, do not let your research just sit there and get dusty.
Your heritage is more than just a name on a piece of paper. These were your people; they were real. They lived! You are here because of them. Do not let your ancestors’ stories die with them. Pick up a pen or turn on your computer and write. Write their story and let them live on through you. Make your ancestors come to life by telling the story of their journey from their point of view.
If your ancestors immigrated, whether voluntarily or involuntarily, think about how perilous their trip must have been. Choose an ancestor or two and write the story of their lives. Write it from the viewpoint of both an adult and a child. Research the reasons why people immigrated and the length of an average journey.
Close your eyes and imagine what it must have been like crossing an endless ocean of blue and not seeing land for days. Can you smell the salty ocean; can you feel the breeze and hear the creaking of the ship? It must have taken a giant leap of faith just to cross the ocean and to put all their trust in the captain to bring them safely to their destination. Even after the ship had landed at their port of entry, many immigrants still had a long journey ahead of them.
Read the newspaper archives to get a glimpse of your ancestors’ daily lives. Even if you cannot find mention of them, it still gives you an idea of what life was like in that time. Look at the advertisements and note the cost of groceries, furniture or that new wonder tonic that will cure all ailments. Entertainment of the time may have been a dancing party, church social or visiting relatives on a Sunday afternoon.
Visit places where your ancestors lived and worked even though those places may be vastly different now. Maybe your grandparents or great grandparents met at church. Church was not just for a weekly restoration of faith but also a chance to socialize with neighbors and catch up on the events of the week. If the church is active or still standing, take pictures and try to talk to locals who may know the history of the church. Check with the local library to see if any records or historical pictures are available.
All the research is finished so bring your ancestors to life by writing their story. Flesh out the story by using your imagination and weave in the facts as you know them. Your relatives and future generations will thank you for preserving the past and making your ancestors come to life.