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Keep a Family History Journal

Researching and preserving your family heritage is usually done over quite some time - years in fact.  Some feel that it really never ends!  The research time you spent probably had many special memories associated with it - the meeting of a third cousin, the day trip to a county library with lunch at that cozy restaurant, and so on.  Have you thought about keeping a journal of your family heritage search?  Not only will it record special memories, but also little facts and oddities you may uncover.  Here are some tips:

  • Don't confuse a journal with a research log.  Logs are for the discovered facts, such as your notes from viewing a census microfilm.  A journal is for the thoughts, emotions, and memories from finding the facts.  Recording the location of my great-great-great grandmother's grave in a cemetery is a fact found in a library reference book.  Finding her grave was a heady, emotional experience and worthy of a journal note. 
  • On the other hand, if a new third cousin shares a story about a great uncle you just discovered, put the experience in your journal.  Not only the story, but how it made you feel to share the experience.
  • Your journal can also record ideas for future research.  As you sit and ponder your family, a research idea may occur.  Put it in your journal and it'll be waiting on you the next time hit the trail!
  • Do you ever ponder some facts, trying to figure out why certain events occurred?  Why did great grandpa move the family to the other side of town?  You may have a theory, if so, put it in your journal.  Then you won't have to reconstruct your theory every time you look at the same facts.  (See our article "e;The Missing Story!"e; for ideas on creating theories.)
  • Your family heritage journal is also a record of your life, as much as it's a record of your search.  You should make sure all entries have a date, where you were or went, and who you met.  Not only will you be able to reconstruct a memory, but future generations can appreciate the effort you undertook to discover the family.
  • Your journal is also a great source for color commentary for heritage scrapbook albums.  Consider adding those family stories mentioned above to the page about a particular ancestor.  Or add a journal entry you made when researching an ancestor.  For example, if you noted in your heritage journal about getting lost finding a remote cemetery, add those comments to that ancestor's album page.  This will make you a part of the album.

The search is as much fun as finding the facts.  So record your heritage life in a journal!

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