Psychology and Investing Time in Organizing Family History Projects: Boundless? Limitless?

What is the spark that ignites and keeps igniting our desire to work on exploring and sharing our family history? Is there “psychology” involved? What are ways to be motivated and productive and come to a point of satisfaction with our endgame plan to deal with family history?

Some are intimidated with diving in, and many dabble here and there. Some might even be put off thinking about it as: “Genealogy is a skill requiring preparation and planning, detailed and exhaustive research, and careful correlation, analysis and reporting.” How each person chooses to think about it matters.

In this blog I will explore how our attitudes, imagination, ambition, and discipline connect to personal choices in devoting time to our unique and personal short and long term family history projects.

Can we discover a very personal compass and metronome that can keep us on track and drive a satisfying and productive journey that might even follow a roadmap leading toward a foreseeable end point?

It appears many beginning genealogists experience confusion and seek guidance and ideas for getting one’s family history project on track. Common to many is a desire to achieve satisfaction and at least mark some progress along the way.

Consider this actual case: Quote……

Genealogy pursuits can become a long and winding road. Not all projects finish with closure.

Making Incremental Progress Can Be Motivating/Frustrating

Note: Speaking personally, I became increasingly motivated to engage in family history archives the longer I devoted time and energy.

Making progress, I set my end goal to produce a cohesive family legacy to pass on. Later, I became determined to focus on finding a way to share my grandma’s story beyond family. Deciding on a mission drove determination and persistence. Clarifying my psychological motives became a compelling, almost spiritually driving force.

To the reader: What drives your gumption and decisions to devote time to working on family history pursuits?

Like those who choose to assemble puzzle, some are attracted to engaging genealogy challenges, while others show little interest.

Making Up One’s Mind About Genealogy Project Goals and Making Time

Psychologist Paula Nicholson shares how our hidden psychology connections might link with driving our motivations and genealogy pursuits:

I found the book title intriguing but have not yet read this book.

Knowing our Genealogy Psychology Helps?

From the authors: Moore: Robinson, and Rosenthal some food for thought about the fundamental driving psychological thoughts that can influence how we engage in sustaining family history projects:

Note: I did not read this book.However, I do believe there is value in examining one’s motives and scrutinizing one’s plans including contemplating a establishing a rough timeline for completing project goals.

Genealogy Work Takes Time as We Put Our Mind To It

Building the ancient pyramids involved lots of labor guided by a plan.

Recently I came across what was proudly displayed as a unique way to warehouse one’s genealogy and family history. I share it with a smile, as surely I can imagine there are other many ways to ambitiously move our family history out into the light? I applaud the creativity for (temporary?) storage.

Accepting A Challenge to Share Our Findings

What can be done to bring out our family history treasures so that they can be enjoyed, admired, appreciated?

Speaking Personally: Not everyone who spends years working on one’s family history will decide to pursue publishing a book. In my case, I focused on one significant character in my family history: My Grandma Maja. First, I outlined and organized a way to illustrate and tell her story using an abundance of photos.

Making the decision to write a memoir telling her story while weaving in a tribute to her while sharing our story together was a challenge and took some time to plan and organize. More than five editors helped shape the storytelling. I am so relieved that I finished the project thanks in large measure to many helpful advisers. Looking back, I consider among the greatest challenge was to focus, focus, focus. Additionally, I agreed to keep to a timeline of deadlines. My final editor and I set a target to prepare a final product ready to be printed and viewed by the critical eyes of family and the public. (Note: I think it essential to give careful thought to clearly define some personal family history project aims and objectives.)

Family History Sharing: Theory and Practice

In this blog I share some theory and practice exploring coming to terms with discerning a plan concerning what do to with one’s family history project. There are many options to consider.

Role Model Examples

My friend, Rich Wemstrom wove together a most amazing unpublished booklet that combines: family history storytelling, travel to places of family origins, timelines, dates, historical anecdotes, family tree and more. The online “Shutterfly” booklet he created with his sister is a masterpiece. The cost to print is under $50. What talent!

One of Wemstrom’s Booklet Pages

Breakthroughs and Obstacles on A Family History Sharing Journey

What are obstacles that need to overcome to bring our family history out of the closet? How can imaginative ideas transform procrastination resulting in an unintended hiding of our treasures under a bushel basket?

Above: Good realistic advice from internet resources.

Personal Psychology: Emotions Are Involved In Sharing Our History

For me, a precipitous spark that prompted a deep desire to get in higher gear doing something tangible with my family history on my mother’s side was the death of my grandmother, Maja, the matriarch passed from this life in 1969. (At the time of Grandma’s death I was 21years old. Today, I am 72)

Moving things along toward genealogy output action was also influenced by the death of my mother in 2004. These events together provoked emotions and feelings that seemed to ignite a nudge to get busy and take a more active interest in my family history. In 2004, I traveled to Sweden to meet with relatives and discuss and share our family history archives, resources and perspectives.

Our Own Lifetimes Are Brief

At age 50 or so, I sensed that the time to engage and accept the role of taking the lead as designated family historian was falling to me. I felt an urge to take action so that our family history would not be neglected to the point where our ancestor’s lives are discarded and lost to an abyss. I understood a compelling reason for investing my time to satisfy myself and also leave behind a legacy.

Author’s great grandparents circa 1890

Additional Personal Motivation

More motivation to get busy into productivity came when my son and daughter-in-law named their child after my grandmother. I considered it a sort of mandate for me to prepare and be ready to share about her namesake.

Psychology and Acceptance of Responsibility

For now, I have adopted the personal challenge to serve as keeper of the light for future generations who might at some point discern an interest and perhaps add to family history, and light the way forward for others ahead.

In 2005, As I cleaned out the dusty attic of my aunt’s home. I rediscovered Grandma Maja’s steamer trunk. This highly valued heirloom accompanied her to America from Sweden in Inside, I found family photo albums, archives, including a well-researched family tree. I began combining all family history photos and documents. I began in earnest pursuing a piecing together of a complete family history. During this time (2005-present) I frequently consulted with US and Swedish mentors researching on line tech tools and apps.

Spending time analyzing stories of how others have become motivated and organized pursuing an end game I offer a synthesis from various sources:

Summary-Looking Back at Personal Steps in My Process: Organizing With A Basic Plan

Notebook #1 Photos

The first major step was inventory of photos and organize them into sleeves and labeled and displayed in a notebook.

Notebook #2 On-Line Library Research Assisted By Mentors

Tied to Grandma’s Well Documented Family Tree, Countless hours produced pages and pages of notes, names, dates, documents, places. This would be a work in progress but ready to be read and (enjoyed?) by anyone with the inclination. Photos and research narratives came with to a trip to Sweden. (Relatives reviewed and commented)

Notebook #3 Family History Stories

Twenty one years of family stories were drafted and redrafted. The stories came first from memory and then shared.

Notebook #4 Narrative Focus on Grandma

Thousands of hours were invested writing and rewriting the story of Grandma’s life in detail from Swedish birth in 1897 to her death in the US in Chicago 1969

Time for Synthesis and Output

In the Fall of 2020, with the assistance of an army of helpers, a completed book pulls together photos, archives, stories, recollections assembled in a self published book: My Maja A Grandson’s Tribute by KDP Amazon Books.

Miscellaneous Ideas and Suggestions for Organizing and Sharing One’s Family History

Create a photo book
Create an on-line book
Create a game
Create an original scrapbook
Create a family history cookbook
Create artwork to display including Christmas Ornaments
Start a BLOG
Display Your Family Tree

In this blog we have explored some of the thinking connected with choosing to engage in a family history project. In my mind the process offers both a journey and opportunities to make up one’s mind making a myriad of choices along the way.

Published for limited distribution originally for the Luck Museum in Wisconsin.

Published by Donnie: An Admiring Grandson

Living an inspired life modeled after my Grandma Maja, who stepped up as a Swedish immigrant widow and mom of 3, facing America’s Great Depression while demonstrating uncommon grit and valor. I am determined to share her life lessons so she is no longer forgotten. I have a book to share and the reader will preview the entire story by visiting here. You are most welcome.

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