We’ve talked a lot lately about how to record your own family history like with Google Docs and voice typing or digitizing your photographs, for example. There are lots of great ways to get your grandkids involved in the project, especially when it comes to using social media and other new technology to gather and share information. While recording one’s own family history is very important, it’s also important to gather and share the history of your community. Community in this context can mean many different things. Maybe you only want to involve other family members. You can get in contact with your siblings, cousins, and other relatives and ask them to share their reminiscences.
If you want a fuller history, it can be a good idea to register for a family tree website. This can help you to contact relatives further along the family tree. They may be willing to share their memories and stories with you, too. You can collaborate to create a family blog with photos, videos, and audio recordings. Bringing many people together will give all the families involved a broader picture of their ancestors and lineage.
“Holiday gatherings offer a great time to create a multimedia digital archive of interviews with your relatives so they can share their memories with the current — and future — branches of the tree.” J. D. Biersdorfer, NYTimes
As you broaden your notion of what type of community or shared history you want to tell, you should start thinking in terms of the town you grew up in, the high school or college where you graduated, or perhaps the place of worship that was important to your family. Nowadays, people tend to move to where they can find a good job. However, until the last few decades, it was common for people to stay in the same area for generations. Often these communities came together along a shared ethnic or religious background. As the older generations pass away and the younger generations move on, these communities are scattering. Connecting with others with a similar background to yours can help to save these histories from being forgotten. And your notes don’t have to start as digital records. Even an index card system helps!
“A card index system can also be useful when recording family history because you can use a card for each ancestor you discover detailing key events in their lives, allocating each ancestor and their siblings the same number as described above.” FamilyTreeResources.com
It’s important to do research online, check social media, and be curious. Create an Online Community History and share with your friends and new connections. The internet is making it easier to preserve these histories and expand them. If this is a project that interests you, start researching your family’s community online. You may find a website or Facebook group already in existence; most surnames have Facebook Groups. If so, you should share it with your family members. Your kids and grandkids may be interested to learn more about the community where you grew up. Many of these groups are actively looking for more people to contribute stories and photos. Try contacting the group administrator and offering to share your experiences.
If you can’t find resources already in existence online, create your own! It’s relatively simple to create a website or Facebook Page. You probably have a tech-savvy relative who would be interested in helping you. Maybe you’ve already created a family blog together. This can serve as the basis for the larger project. Be sure to have an easy-to-use contact form so people who find you can help expand the history. Let friends and family members know what you’re doing. Email them and post to your social media sites.
Don’t do social media? Now is the time to start! Social media platforms facilitate bringing people together which is perfect for creating a shared history. In addition to Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, check out the NextDoor app. This is a community-based app that allows locals to post about what’s happening around town. If you’re collecting history from your old hometown, put out a call for stories and information on NextDoor. Even if not many people that you know still live there, the current residents can put you in touch with people who may have moved away. The key to creating a shared history is collaborating with the community in as many ways as you can.
Working with family, friends, and your new second cousins twice removed who share your background is fun. Besides, shared history is a real service to the larger community. It’s good for people to think about how life used to be, how it’s changed, and whether all the changes are for the best. If nothing else, it’s nice for people to know who their ancestors were and help shape who we want to become. This knowledge can help them feel more connected. The process of creating a shared history is also a great opportunity to make new friends for everyone involved.
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